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Johns, Sock Play for First Time + New Women’s Finalists

Author: Andrew Gilman | March 15, 2024

Jack Sock may be the future of men’s singles on the PPA Tour, but Ben Johns is certainly the present.

Now, on the women’s side? Well, let’s just put a pin in that and circle back later, because for the second-consecutive tournament, the bracket is wide open.

Johns beat Sock in a wild, three-game circus of a match that included challenges, trick shots, smiles, laughter and more. Even Johns, who generally plays with the emotion of someone who is listening to a dissertation on the newest in paint drying dynamics, was laughing more than the people on the front row at a Dave Chappelle show.

And mind you, this was a semifinal – a chance at playing in a Championship Sunday final – a first match between the two, and it was full of cut-ups and giggles.

Johns won the first game, 11-3, rallying from an 8-3 deficit. Sock won the second game, 11-5, and then in the third, things turned before Johns went on to an 11-5 clincher.

Johns asked Sock if wanted to play a rally left-handed, Sock agreed, and Johns won the point. 

“Sadly, he missed the return,” Johns said. 

But Sock hasn’t missed too much since deciding to play full-time on the tour this season. He secured a bronze medal in 2024 and came into Austin, Texas, as a dangerous No.12 seed. Sock clearly favors his big forehand, but he’s part Globetrotter while holding a Selkirk, faking shots, going for crazy angles and doing it all with a giant grin.

If Sock is the future, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch the PPA Tour.

Meanwhile, despite breaking character from the super-serious normal demeanor he normally wears, Johns is quietly back in another final where he’ll face second-seeded Federico Staksrud who is in his fifth final in five tour stops in 2024.

Johns has gold this year, winning in Mesa, but he didn’t medal in each of the first two tournaments of the season and took last week off. 

“I tried to not make many errors,” Johns said of playing Sock. “You know he’s going to hit some winners and you have to accept that, so yeah, it’s important to buckle down on every point.”

Johns and Staksrud are definitely familiar faces on the Championship Court, but the women’s bracket is a bit different. For the second week in a row, Anna Leigh Waters is out of the tournament. She skipped the tournament in Minnesota and decided to withdraw this week in Austin. She’ll still be playing in women’s doubles and mixed doubles. 

And for the second tournament in a row, the second-best player in women’s singles won’t be playing a final. Catherine Parenteau lost in the quarterfinals to Jorja Johnson, 0-11, 11-0, 11-5. She lost in the semifinals last time out to eventual champion Salome Devidze. 

And without Parenteau or Waters in the field, it truly is a different feel. The semifinals were occupied by 16th-seeded Kaitlyn Christian, 21-seeded Parris Todd, 10th-seeded Johnson and 4th-seeded Judit Castillo. 

“I just want to say, thank you Anna Leigh for sitting this one out,” Christian said after her victory against Todd, who was back in the semis for a second-consecutive tournament. “It feels amazing. I don’t know a lot of the girls out here, so every experience is a learning one. I just came out with a smile, and it feels amazing.”

It should, Christian will be a medalist for the first time in her career and she’ll play Championship Sunday opposite Judit Castillo, who beat Johnson, 11-7, 1-11, 11-7. 

Like Christian, Castillo has never played for a gold. 

“I hope we put on a show today,” Castillo said. “I just want to have fun and leave the court with no regrets.” 

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