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A Return to Normalcy for Johns and Waters

Author: Andrew Gilman | July 11, 2023

2023 has been an eventful year on the PPA Tour, and it’s just getting started.

There have been upsets and qualifiers, new faces, new partnerships, a bit of sun, rain, and cold, too.

But as the PPA Tour takes a week off so its players can head to Major League Pickleball’s second event of the season in Dayton Beach, Fla., we saw a bit of normalcy return to the courts.

The Austin Showdown proved one thing for sure: the best players in the game aren’t going anywhere.

Ben Johns won all three events he played in. So did Anna Leigh Waters. And after an early part of the season where both lost some upset matches (think Staksrud, Parenteau, and the Johnson siblings), both returned with some power and attitude in Austin.

“I don’t think I’ve wanted a Triple [Crown] this much,” Waters admitted. “Even more than my first one, this one feels the best, honestly.”

The last time we saw Waters play singles she had just finished losing to Catherine Parenteau – the first loss for Waters since June 2022. But Waters outlasted Parenteau in a tight one on Sunday, 12-10, 9-11, 11-1 and finished the day with another singles title.

“I was in the zone that last game,” Waters said. “By the end, I felt like myself again. I’m happy to leave Austin with a Triple Crown.”

Another Triple Crown for Johns, too, and a bit of revenge as well. Johns lost earlier this season to Federico Staksrud, but dismissed the South American superstar on Sunday, 11-8, 11-2.

A homecoming title and a pretty decent 24th birthday for Johns who lives in Austin and had huge support throughout the weekend. His birthday was Saturday, and Johns said he didn’t celebrate too hard, but did get the benefit of some quality rest.

“Sometimes I start slow, but today I felt energetic,” Johns said after opening the day with the singles win. “It might have had something to do with me sleeping at home in my own bedc.”

In other action Sunday …

Johns and Waters team up for a title 

Johns and Waters had a bit of a problem in game two but weren’t tested after that, beating Anna Bright and James Ignatowich, 11-8, 11-13, 11-4, 11-5 for the mixed doubles title.

It was the first pairing of Bright and Ignatowich and it was fruitful. The two are in a relationship together and both have admitted to things working out a lot better on the court now that they aren’t facing each other. 

“Just a really fun match,” said Waters. “Ben and me just forgot about that second game and moved forward.”

Johns and Johns stay perfect

The brothers Johns haven’t lost in 2023 and fought off a handful of game points against Matt Wright and Riley Newman before winning in straight games, 12-10, 11-3, 11-6. 

“I can’t think of a better start to the year,” Collin Johns said. “We didn’t expect that. Five straight titles? It’s been a great start. We have Major League Pickleball next week and then we’ll go for No. 6.”

Anna Squared for the win

Bright and Waters earned the women’s title with an aggressive, fast-paced, explosive victory over Vivienne David and Meghan Sheehan-Dizon, 11-2, 11-7, 11-6.

David and Dizon were making their first showing together on Championship Sunday as the No. 7 seed after having a great day of epic upsets on Saturday.

“We wanted to play aggressive and that’s when we’re at our best,” Bright said. “It was pretty simple. Not a lot of dinking out there.”

Major League Pickleball kicks off its second event of the year on Friday this week. The PPA Tour jumps back into action on April 5th with the Selkirk Red Rock Open.

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