Day Three of the Carvana PPA Masters Tournament at the beautiful Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, CA started off under very grey, overcast skies. The dark looming clouds did not detract from the incredible action packed into the first two rounds of play, however.
On the men’s doubles side, eight teams qualified into the main draw of 32 teams, which meant that #1 seeds, Ben and Collin Johns, played their first match against qualifiers Ryan Ali and Jaume Martinez Vich. The 32nd seeds qualifying team played an unexpectedly thrilling match as they came out firing against the Johns brothers. Although they ultimately lost to the Johns brothers in two sets (11-4, 11-5), their speed, agility, and counter punches were impressive and gave the Championship Court crowd an exciting match to start the day.
No. 4 seeds and newly partnered-up McGuffin and Ignatowich barely survived their second round match, dropping a set to the 20th seeds, Tellez and Staksrud. Tellez, a left handed player, demonstrated that he is becoming a force to be reckoned with, thanks to his amazing ability to reset and impart incredible control and spin on his balls.
Rain suspended play early on Day Three and all mens and womens quarterfinal matches were played on Day Four on Championship Sunday before the finals kicked off.
The women’s draw, for the first tournament stop of the 2023 PPA tour, was composed of 23 teams, many of which were debuting brand-new partnerships in 2023.
A big upset early on came from No. 12 seeds and sisters Maggie and Mary Brascia, who beat the No. 5 seeds Jorja Johnson and Vivienne David 8-11, 11-5, 11-3 to capture a quarterfinal spot. Ultimately, the sisters were knocked out of the main draw by No. 4 seeds Grechkina and Parenteau (11-3, 11-2), who were one of the many first-time partnerships in the draw.
All top 8 seeds on the men’s side made it in the quarterfinals. Matt Wright and Riley Newman, the No. 2 seeds who formed a very solid and familiar partnership in 2022, took on DJ Young and Jay Devilliers (who had never played together) in the semifinals. Young and Devilliers had some moments of brilliance, but ended up losing 11-6, 11-7. Many watching prophesied that as Devilliers and Young become more familiar with each other’s style of play and spend more time on the court together, they could become a very real threat to the top seeds on the tour.
”Kudos to DJ and Jay,” Newman said after the match. “They played lights out.”
”DJ is playing with a new paddle,” Wright added. “We just really felt his shots.”
The Johns brothers had their hands full in their semifinal match-up against the No. 5 seeds, JW Johnson and Dylan Frazier where Frazier and Johnson got off to a quick 3-0 lead in the first game. The Johns brothers caught up and the game stayed very tight, but Frazier/Johnson went on to win the first game in nailbiting fashion 9-11. The hands battles were lightning quick in this match and the skill, patience, grit, and determination of all four players was very impressive to watch. After warding off match points, the Johns brothers took the second game and then managed to convert in the third, winning themselves the match and securing their spot in the finals with a score of 9-11, 11-9, 11-6.
On the women’s side, it was the very familiar team of Lucy Kovalova and Callie Smith (No. 1 seeds) who took on the still-developing partnership of Grechkina and Parenteau in the semifinals. In the first game, it was easy to see that Smith and Kovalova were determined to set the tone during the first tournament of the year. However, after winning the first game, they lost the second to a team who was now feeling more comfortable playing together. Parenteau and Grechkina steam-rolled through the second game, with blazing shots and incredible hustle. In yet another flip-flop, Parenteau and Grechkina led 6-2 in the third game, only to be overpowered in the eleventh hour by the formidable duo of Smith and Kovalova, who managed to win the match 11-3, 6-11, 11-9.
”They are fighters, always have been fighters,” Smith said about Parenteau and Grechkina after the match. “They were never going to give up.”
”I’d like to say thank you to Callie today for carrying the team,” Kovalova added graciously as they addressed the fans after their match.
Pickleball fans around the globe were anxious to see how the new partnership of Anna Bright and Anna Leigh Waters would play out, and they were not disappointed with the result. The No. 2 seeds made it to the semifinals without dropping a game and both young ladies showcased excellent court coverage and the phenomenal ability to blast two handed backhands.
Bright/Waters proved to be too much of a force for the No. 3 seeds Tereschenko and Irvine to handle, earning themselves a spot in the finals with a convincing 11-6, 11-2 win.
“I think we got really comfortable with each other,” Waters said. “We came out strong and played our game.”
“I’m really lucky to be on court with [AL],” Bright said, confirming that the partnership was as good of a fit as they could have hoped for.
Waters and Bright look to be the team to beat on the women’s side, but Kovalova/Smith might have something to say about that.
Rain delays meant the doubles draws were not able to play out backdraws, which left Young/Devilliers and Johnson/Frazier as 3rd and 4th finishers on the men’s side and Grechkina/Parenteau and Tereschenko/Irvine as 3rd/4th on the women’s.