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At one of the most beautiful tour stops of the year, the mixed doubles again proved why it is the favorite event for a majority of pickleball fans. For the 2022 Select Medical Orange County Cup in San Clemente, California, several pairings kept us captivated until the final ball was struck in the Bronze Medal match.

A few storylines were worth watching with great interest: ever-competitive Jay Devilliers finally returned from France after getting his visa troubles straightened out; Lindsey Newman returned to competition for the first time since giving birth to her second daughter in March of this year; Catherine Parenteau, coming off back-to-back championships, would change partners as Riley Newman paired with his aforementioned sister, Lindsey; and finally, Anna Leigh Waters teamed up with her neighbor and friend, JW Johnson.

As the day moved into the afternoon, no major upsets occurred, where the near-perfect weather was rivaled only by the grandeur of the facility. The quarterfinals would prove to be exceedingly competitive:

  • #1 seed Lucy Kovalova and Matt Wright dispatched with the always competitive team of Irina Tereschenko and Dylan Frazier, 11-0, 12-10.
  • #5 seed Parenteau and new partner, Collin Johns, looked comfortable in the 1st and 3rd set against Jay Devilliers and his regular teammate, Jessie Irvine, 13-11, 4-11, 11-4. After the match, Parenteau complimented Johns, calling him one of the smartest players in the game, and appreciating that he encouraged her to attack – especially surprising Devilliers on multiple occasions.
  • The Newmans (#2 seed) looked like twin brick walls in a 3-set thriller over #7 seed AJ Koller and Callie Smith (would they get their revenge later in the day?), 11-6, 6-11, 11-2.
  • In the final quarters match, #3 seeded Anna Leigh and JW proved too much for the veteran #6 seed, Tyson McGuffin and Lauren Stratman, sending them to the back draw, 11-6, 11-1.

The semi-finals would mean the first time in three tournaments Riley Newman won’t be playing for Gold on Championship Sunday, as Anna Leigh Waters and JW Johnson rallied from a first game loss to eventually pull away, 8-11, 11-8, 11-2. After the match, Waters said she felt as though she and JW were in control, even after losing the first game. When asked what contributed to their success against the supremely talented Newman duo, Johnson stated, “We just knew we had to play it safe and wait to speed it up at the right time.”

Meeting Waters and Johnson on Championship Sunday will be the #1 seed, veterans Kovalova and Wright. They won a thrilling 3 game back-and-forth against Parenteau and Johns, 11-9, 7-11, 11-8. The combined ages of Waters/Johnson are… well, let’s just say Sunday will be a classic matchup of youthful talent against veteran experience.

Closing out Friday’s mixed doubles, #7 seed Koller and Smith got their opportunity for revenge against the Newmans, who knocked AJ and Callie into the back draw earlier in the day. “We believe in our stuff,” said AJ Koller after the match, as he and Callie pulled off the upset, 11-3, 11-9, to avenge the earlier loss.

Watch men’s and women’s doubles play on Saturday where coverage will be carried by Tennis Channel for 2-6pm PT!

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