The big day arrived and pickleball did not disappoint.
Thanks to CBS and Skechers, the PPA kicked off the second half of the 2022 season with the most watched event in the sport’s history on Saturday. With a series of exhibition matches and the world’s best pros playing in televised main events, we are giddy with excitement for the second half of the year.
Although the CBS coverage featured the main events, all of the PPA pros were highlighted with a series of fun matchups on Saturday. The Tour’s familiar faces battled it out in fun, dynamic games that brought ex-partners and brand-new partners together. Plus, a fun new tie-breaker to settle a 1-1 tie of games was introduced – the “fast-breaker” – which turned out to be a heartbreaker for some of the competitors.
To start the day, viewers were treated to a back-and-forth duel between two top-notch mixed doubles teams, Jessie Irvine and Jocelyn “Jay” Devilliers, against Catherine Parenteau and Riley Newman. Jay and Jessie dropped the first game 5-11, but rallied in the second, winning 11-7. This forced the teams to a fast-breaker – a playoff where each player theoretically gets to serve – where Catherine and Riley squeaked out a 1-0 win, partially in thanks to some keen officiating which caught Devilliers’ push-off within the non-volley zone.
The next match saw two of the strongest mixed doubles teams in the history of professional pickleball face off: Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters vs. Matt Wright and Lucy Kovalova. Though Matt and Lucy have a solid track record against other top-notch players, today was not to be their day. The day belonged to the youth as Ben and Anna Leigh won in two straight games 11-4, 11-7. After the match, Ben Johns spoke warmly of playing with Anna Leigh, saying:
”She is always my natural pep talk. Her whole persona is pretty energetic, so that keeps me going for sure.”
In the two main events, even though the sport was new to broadcast television, the competitors were familiar to anyone who follows pickleball. For the men’s match, it was the top two teams in the world, Matt Wright and Riley Newman competing against Ben Johns and big brother, Collin Johns. Saturday’s Skechers Invitational Trophy would go to the Johns brothers, who won in convincing fashion 11-6, 11-7.
On the women’s side, our favorite mother/daughter duo, Leigh and Anna Leigh Waters looked dominant in their straight games victory over Lucy Kovalova and Callie Smith. Although Kovalova and Smith looked as though they were trying to avoid Anna Leigh by isolating Leigh, the Waters’ potent offense never seemed to dry up. Winning with patience and power, Leigh and Anna Leigh won, 11-6, 11-3.
PPA TV Coverage
The only other mixed doubles match of the day saw Lea Jansen and Spencer Smith take on Lea’s old mentor, Tyson McGuffin, and his partner Allyce Jones. Saturday would end with Lea and Spencer besting Allyce and Tyson, 11-7, 11-5.
As the men took the court, veterans Callen Dawson and Tyler Loong paired up against two highly competitive and athletic opponents, AJ Koller and Jay Devilliers. After dropping game 1 11-4, Koller and Devilliers came to life. An 11-9 victory meant another fast-breaker for Devilliers. To his chagrin, the fast-breaker again failed to go his way, giving Jay and AJ the loss 4-0.
Yet another match ended up going to a fast-breaker. In men’s doubles, Collin Johns and Tyson McGuffin battled in a back-and-forth match that was settled by one point – and yes, that one point was earned in the fast-breaker against Patrick Smith and Spencer Smith (no blood relation), 11-9, 9-11, 1-0. When asked how it was playing with a relatively new partner in McGuffin, Collin Johns had this to say:
“We have played against each other so much, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s a big help.”
In women’s doubles, Lindsey Newman and Jessie Irvine took on the always entertaining Lea Jansen and Catherine Parenteau. Emotions ran high on-court as Irvine competed against her ex-partner, Parenteau. With near impenetrable defense, Newman and Irvine were able to win in two games, 11-7, 11-8.
The action continued with Meghan Dizon and Allyce Jones taking the first game from Irina Tereschenko and Yana Grechkina, 11-7. However, they couldn’t maintain their early edge, as Russian teammates Tereschenko and Grechkina came back to win game 2 11-8, then just managed to edge out Dizon and Jones in the fast-breaker 1-0.
After the match, Tereschenko, a long-time veteran competitor in pickleball was asked how her participation in other sports relates to pickleball:
“[Playing other sports] gives you better physical literacy and the ability to adapt. It takes pressure off your body to not do too much repetition.”