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First Round Trips Up Johns Again

Author: Andrew Gilman | December 2, 2023

Kind of a weird pattern Ben Johns is slipping into here at the PPA Championships.

It’s the same thing two days in a row now. Another early round loss for Johns. But Friday was a far rarer situation, and featured a matching comeback, albeit not a surprise at this point.

Johns lost in his first match of the day for the second day in a row, this time with partner Anna Leigh Waters, and for the second day in a row, Johns didn’t lose again after that, making it out of group play and making it to another Championship Sunday.

Maybe Johns can make it a triple crown of first-round flubs when he and partner Collin Johns get started in the men’s bracket here in San Clemente at the end-of-the-season Championships on Saturday.

“It was the same thing,” Johns said with a smile after he and Waters beat Lucy Kovalova and Matt Wright in the semifinals. “[Losing a match] is not something you want to do, but with this format, it’s not insurmountable.”

The friendly – well, at least to Johns – format is round robin play with the top two teams advancing out of the two four-team pools. Thursday, Johns lost his singles opener to Connor Garnett. Friday, he and Waters lost to James Ignatowich and Anna Bright, but then rolled off a pair of wins to take them to the semifinals. It was only the second time Johns and Waters have lost a mixed doubles match together this season.

“We were coming out for some redemption, just in general,” Waters said after the slow start.

Now, to their credit, playing a team like Bright and Ignatowich in a first match of the day isn’t exactly something Johns and Waters are used to. There’s no easing into a tournament when all of the teams are among the top eight on tour.

“You just have to put your head down and focus,” Johns said.

Thursday, Johns survived pool play thanks to the points-differential tiebreaker. Friday, he and Waters went 2-1, which secured them the second seed. In the other pool, there was a three-way tie at 2-1 and Riley Newman and Vivienne David were the odd team out, thanks to having the weakest points-differential. 

James and Jorja Johnson earned the top seed in the group, going 2-1. They beat Bright and Ignatowich, 8-11, 11-7, 11-9 in the semifinals and will take on Waters and Johns on Sunday.

“I’m glad we were able to close it out, “ Jorja Johnson said of getting out of group play on the tiebreaker. “We tried not to think about the points and said, ‘Whatever happens, happens.’”

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