Looking back to the weekend, looking ahead to 2024
December 5, 2023|
The end of the 2023 PPA season finished like it started.
Without a surprise.
What did we learn from this past weekend’s Tour Championship?
And what should we expect in 2024?
What we saw: Total domination. Anna Leigh Waters won again. OK, not a surprise. She lost just one match all season in singles, to Tyra Black, and wrapped up the year with 15 titles, beating Catherine Parenteau Sunday in San Clemente, Calif.
What’s going to happen in 2024: Waters isn’t going anywhere and to suggest she won’t continue her dominant ways would be foolish. But with the merger of the PPA and MLP, we will start to see new faces and new styles in women’s singles. That means more Salome Devidze, Megan Fudge, Jenna Hessert, and others who could step up and challenge Waters. Of course, Parenteau, who had a match point against Waters in Dallas at the National Championships, isn’t any slouch either. Lea Jansen, who has said she won’t be playing any more singles, had a fantastic season in 2023. We’ll see if she changes her mind and makes a return to the discipline.
What we saw: No. 1 Ben Johns did it again. He lost his opening match on Thursday and then was perfect after that, beating Christian Alshon in three games on Sunday to take the title. It was the third win of the day Sunday for Johns and his 11th of the season in singles.
What’s going to happen in 2024; Certainly, Johns will head into next season as the player to beat, but his grip on the event isn’t a stranglehold. There are plenty of challenges, including Federico Staksrud, who won gold three times, finished second five times, and finished third twice.
How deep is the talent pool? In addition to Johns here are all the winners in singles in 2023: James Ignatowich, Staksrud, Tyson McGuffin, J.W. Johnson, and Gabriel Joseph. Meanwhile, Alshon, Connor Garnett, Collin Shick, Jaume Martinez Vich, Jay Devilliers, and Pablo Tellez were all multiple medalists. And if you add in that we may see Hunter Johnson, Chris Haworth, and a few other big names from the APP Tour, singles should be extremely competitive in 2024.
What we saw: Another tournament, another win for the best two players in the game. Waters and Johns won again and did so after losing their first match on Friday morning to Ignatowich and Anna Bright. Waters and Johns beat Jorja and J.W. Johnson in the final in three games, 11-1, 11-3, 11-4.
What’s going to happen in 2024: Waters and Johns are the best team in the world. There’s no doubt about that. They were undefeated in 2022 and won 16 titles. The question is who is the next-best team? Ignatowich and Bright seem to be the frontrunner. They beat Waters and Johns on Friday and won a gold, three silvers, and three bronze medals for the season. Riley Newman, who didn’t win gold in any discipline since before this summer, has teamed up with a number of partners and has had a lot of success, including winning a title with his D.C. team in Major League Pickleball. Newman medaled with Jessie Irvine, Parris Todd, Lindsey Newman, Allyce Jones and won a gold with Anna Bright back in January.
Are there any players who can make a stronger case for challenging Waters and Johns? The best bet would be the consistent pairing of the Johnsons – J.W. and Jorja. The brother-sister duo has a gold this year and has seven medals in all, including two silvers in a row to finish the year.
What we saw: Another win for Waters and Parenteau. The two were unbeaten this season and wound up with 11 titles together in 2023. The two won the final event of the season over Vivienne David and Anna Bright in three games.
What’s going to happen in 2024: This can definitely be a Bright start. Partnered with Waters, she won seven golds. Bright also medaled six other times with six different partners, an impressive accomplishment that shows Bright’s versatility. She also had an MLP win and an MLP runner-up with her team, the Orlando Squeeze.
One other name, but two players to watch, is Kawamoto. Jackie and Jade have had success on both the PPA and MLP stages. They are formidable together, as well, finishing second to Waters and Parenteau back in September.
What we saw: Thirteen titles this year, 26 titles overall. Of course, the season ended with another win by the Johns brothers. Only makes sense. They went unbeaten in pool play and lost just a single game to Thomas Wilson and Newman in the final, taking the championship.
What’s going to happen in 2024: Watching Newman will be key. If he can find a partner to settle on, you have to figure out who will be the best team. The most drama of the year circulated around Newman when he made his decision to split with long-time partner Matt Wright back in July. Since then, Newman hasn’t won gold. Neither has Wright.
Newman and Wilson made a good pairing this past weekend, running to the final before losing and Dylan Frazier and J.W. Johnson are set for a solid year, as both of them regularly play together. Another pairing that’s gained some ground this season is Staksrud and Tellez, who, like the Johns brothers and Frazier and Johnson, don’t play with other partners.
Ignatowich is one of the most dynamic players in the game, and if he becomes exclusive with a partner in 2024, he’s a name to watch for.