Hunter Johnson admitted something out loud what maybe a lot of people in the pickleball world were probably thinking.
“I’m a little shocked,” he said.
That’s what happens when you go from an 11-seed to earning a spot into Championship Sunday at the Baird Wealth Management Open in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“I’m going to get some rest and I have to change my flight,” Johnson said about having to stay in town to play the final on Sunday. “I really wasn’t expecting that.”
Hey, sometimes plans change, and it’s often for the best. It’s definitely worth it to pay a few extra bucks to get on that later flight when you have the prize money of a Grand Slam final to entice you.
Johnson had quite the run Thursday on singles day as he ran through the draw starting with a three-game victory over No. 22-seed Travis Rettenmaier, 10-12, 11-0, 13-11. Then came an upset over sixth-seeded James Ignatowich, 6-11, 12-10, 11-5 before getting another chance at a higher seed and then earning another victory, beating No. 3 Jay Devilliers, 11-9, 11-6.
The quarterfinal win over Devilliers gave Johnson some time to analyze his next match against Tyler Loong who had defeated Ben Johns just a bit earlier. Luckily enough, the Loong/Johns match had occurred on Championship Court, so Johnson was able to rewatch it via the PPA broadcast.
“I scouted the match on video,” Johnson said. “I needed to get a little fire in me, and it worked out. I hit some big serves and tried to stop him from playing the cat-and-mouse game.”
The result was an 11-5, 11-2 victory over Loong and a matchup Sunday against No. 1-seed Tyson McGuffin.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Johnson said.
And it’s going to be a double-medal Sunday for the Johnson boys, no matter what happens Sunday, because Johnson’s twin brother, Yates, also earned himself a bronze medal. Yates lost his second-round match to #2 seeded Ben Johns, but then rattled off five consecutive victories in the loser’s bracket, which included wins against the No. 9, 8, 4, 7 and 3-seeded players. Yates beat Devilliers, 11-7, 11-4 for the bronze.
Meanwhile, the top-seeded McGuffin didn’t lose a game until his semifinal matchup against veteran and fifth-seeded Frank Anthony Davis. McGuffin had a game-point, but wasn’t able to close it out in game two. However, he eventually earned the victory, 11-3, 10-12, 11-5.
Notably, second-seeded Ben Johns did not medal. Johns lost to Loong and then fell to Devilliers in the back-draw.
On the women’s side, it’s No. 1-seed Anna Leigh Waters against No. 3-seed Lea Jansen Sunday for the title.
Waters advanced to the final without losing a game, including a 11-2, 11-6 victory over Anna Bright in the semifinals.
And while Waters is certainly the top player in the world, it doesn’t mean it’s all easy for her. She got some coaching between games from her mother, Leigh, and you know how moms are, right?
“Trust me, she’ll find something I need to work on,” Anna Leigh said. “I like when she’s telling me what I’m doing wrong. It makes me feel like I can improve in the next game.”
Waters will take on Jansen, who advanced with a three-game win in the quarterfinals against Irina Tereschenko, 11-9, 2-11, 11-6 and then needed a second round of three games to get by seventh-seeded Salome Devidze, 11-3, 8-11, 11-9. Devidze earned a trip to the semis with an upset over second-seeded Catherine Parenteau. Devidze then beat Parenteau again in the bronze medal match, winning 11-4, 4-11, 11-4.
“I was just telling myself to wear her out,” Jansen said of her second-game loss to Devidze. “I just wanted to lengthen the match and then get my momentum going into game three. She’s an extremely tough player.”
Friday at the Baird Wealth Management is mixed doubles and the field is a good one with 17 teams. Johns and Waters are pairing up again as are the fourth-seed Jessie Irvine and Devillers, and the No. 1-seeded team for the event is Lucy Kovalova and Matt Wright.
Watch all the action today on PPA TV and Tennis Channel!