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Tony Romo, Dirk Nowitzki, Jordan Spieth, Scott Scheffler, and John Isner teamed up with prominent PPA athletes for nearly two hours of mind–boggling pickleball points and hilarious banter at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Celebrity Battle earlier this month. 2022 PPA Championships women’s doubles gold medalist Leigh Waters and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo helped broadcast the unforgettable event, earning pickleball close to 40 million impressions around the globe.

Although the Celebrity Battle’s main purpose was to put on a show for the in-person and TV audiences, the celebrities were also competing. Whoever won the most games was the champion, and bragging rights were on the line. 

“Getting to play with one of the greatest basketball players of all time and two future golf hall-of-famers is an unbelievable treat,” Isner said. 

Match #1 (Celeb Battle)

Most people called Isner the favorite to win, and he took part in the first match of the night. Isner and Nowitzki took on Spieth/Scheffler, with the former team using the height difference to their advantage. Isner (6”9’) and Nowitzki (7”0’) dominated the early stages of the match by overpowering the golfers. During one point, Nowitzki put so much force behind his shot that he lost his balance and fell into the kitchen.

Isner, who was coming off an injury sustained at the US Open Tennis Championships, played the best pickleball of the four throughout the match. Being a tennis star, he certainly had quite the experience advantage over the others. Scheffler, for example, had only played pickleball for a couple months prior to the Celebrity Battle. Nonetheless, Scheffler and Spieth made the match competitive with some remarkable defense at the baseline. After some epic rallies, the big men used strong net play to seal the deal by a score of 11-6.

Match #2 (Play-In Match)

The second match brought PPA stars into the mix. Tony Romo and Meghan Sheehan-Dizon faced Nowitzki/Lea Jansen. There were fireworks right out of the gate, as Nowitzki almost hit Sheehan-Dizon with a huge groundstroke on the first point. Nowitzki continued to grab the crowd’s attention with an impressive no-look shot and a mis-hit one-handed backhand blast that sailed straight into the stands. 

Once a team reached 6 points in the match, the female PPA players were replaced by the male PPA players. That pitted Romo and Spencer Smith against Nowitzki and Riley Newman. 

Newman dazzled the audience quickly with a ridiculous tweener and behind-the-back shot. Newman helped Nowitzki come back from a 4-0 deficit, and Romo began to get flustered. The former Dallas Cowboy dumped an easy overhead into the net and jokingly slapped the net repeatedly in frustration. Newman picked up on that and began attempting to distract his opponents by waving his hands at the net and riling the crowd up. 

Despite Romo picking up his game with what the sportscasters called “Federer-like” one-handed backhands, Nowitzki/Newman completed the comeback with an 11-7 victory.

“This is a great experience, especially watching these PPA pros,” Nowitzki said. “They play so fast, it’s awesome to watch them playing live.” 

Match #3 (Semifinal)

The next match-up pitted the golfers and top two PPA women’s singles players against each other. Scheffler and Anna Leigh Waters challenged Spieth/Catherine Parenteau, and the golfers had a long stare-down to get the match started. 

Things quickly turned from long stare-downs to long rallies that included Scheffler diving for a ball and plenty of sky-high lobs from both teams. Soon after Leigh Waters told Romo that Waters plays a powerful game, Anna Leigh delivered a lightning body-shot right into Spieth. The peg must’ve fueled Spieth, who responded with an excellent dropshot on the next point. 

After a couple entertaining lob battles, the PPA men once again subbed in for the women. This time, Ben Johns teamed up with Scheffler and faced Tyler Loong/Spieth. As expected, Johns quickly took over the match. Scheffer actually comically left the court in the middle of a point, but Johns still managed to win the point 1-on-2 against Loong/Spieth. Johns inspired the golfers, who suddenly raised their game and surprisingly kept up with the PPA stars. In the end, Scheffler and Johns closed the match out 11-5.

“It was a treat playing against Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters,” Spieth said. Scheffler also expressed his amazement with them, adding, “I definitely fell asleep at the wheel watching Johns and Waters play.”

Match #4 (Semifinal)

The next match determined who would meet Team Scheffler in the final – either Nowitzki or Isner. Nowitzki reunited with Jansen and Isner joined forces with Jessie Irvine. Nowitzki’s level of play was exposed early on by the other three racket sport professionals, and Isner/Irvine raced to a 5-0 lead. 

At that point, Nowitzki began to unleash the basketball player within and splashed a couple dunk-like overheads to keep his hopes alive. Another PPA switch sent Jay Devilliers in to compete with Isner, while Newman went to the other side to rescue Nowitzki. 

Newman brought back his explosive shot-making, which miraculously got Nowitzki back into the match and gave him a 9-7 lead! Devilliers, whose wife just gave birth prior to the Celebrity Battle, raised his game and helped propel Isner to the final. An amazing point that included an around-the-net shot would win them the match, 11-9.

Match #5 (Final)

And then there were two: Team Scheffler vs. Team Isner in the final. Waters rejoined Scheffler, and Irvine returned to play with Isner. There was a secret rivalry on the court, but it wasn’t between Isner and Scheffler. Romo revealed on the broadcast that Isner lost to Waters in 2019 and was seeking revenge.

Scheffler overheard Romo make this announcement and immediately pegged Isner to get the fire blazing. Waters and Scheffler then teamed up on Isner, feeding him overheads repeatedly to tire him out. Scheffler was so impressed with Waters that he tried to stand off the court and let her do all the playing, while he analyzed the replay after the points ended. 

Irvine also impressed the celebs, with Romo praising her incredible touch. She and Isner jumped to a 9-2 lead, but it was time for one last set of substitutions. Johns returned to help revive Scheffler, while Devilliers got back on court with Isner. The crowd began chanting, “Scottie, Scottie!” 

The effort to get Scheffler back in the match paid off, but Johns was carrying the team. Johns hilariously made Scheffler stand off the court by the net to hit ernes. The strategy kept things close until Isner and Devilliers clamped down and claimed the title with an 11-7 win. 

Match #6 (Celeb Battle Encore)

The celebs had so much fun that they came back for an encore celebrity rematch: Isner/Nowitzki vs. Spieth/Scheffler. Despite Isner meting out a few aces with his legendary (and totally illegal for pickleball!) tennis serve amid laughter from the crowd, Spieth and Scheffler earned their revenge with an entertaining 11-6 win. 

“Playing a team sport like pickleball is a lot of fun, I enjoyed playing against these guys,” Scheffler said.

After this compelling pickleball charity event concluded, event sponsor Dick’s Sporting Goods donated $50,000 to the celebrity winner’s charity of choice.

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