April 10-14, 2024

Navratil and Alshon pull off biggest win of the tournament

Author: Andrew Gilman | March 17, 2024

There was wind and rain, delays and venue changes.

And a huge upset in the mens’ draw at the Veolia Austin Open.

It’s hard to stay mentally focused when you have so many more factors than just pickleball,” said Christian Alshon.

“Trying to win is hard enough, but when you have to deal with the rain, it take a lot of mental strength.”

It took a lot of everything, including more than a handful of match points, but Alshon and partner Zane Navratil managed the biggest win of the tournament and their biggest win of the season when they topped the top-seeded Johns brothers in the quarterfinals, 11-6, 15-13.

“What bigger team could you beat?” Alshon rhetorically asked after the win Saturday afternoon that came after a several-hour rain delay and a few venue changes. “This is really cool.”

Cool because Alshon is officially on a heater. He won gold a week ago in Minnesota playing alongside Thomas Wilson. He’ll be in the semifinals with Navratil in just the third tournament they have played together. Navratil and Alshon, the No. 9 seed, will take on the third-seeded team of Federico Staksrud and Pablo Tellez Sunday in the semifinals.

“At the start of last year, I was playing with Rafa Hewett and he decided to drop me and look for other options, which happens all the time,” Alshon said. “I was like, ‘I have a bunch of free tournaments now, who do I text?’ Zane was the first one. That’s how it happened.”

The two teamed up for a fourth-place finish in one event last year, didn’t medal in the other, and here we are in Austin and the two have a massive win against the game’s top team.

“We’re excited,” Navratil said. “Christian has been playing awesome and I’m stoked to be by his side. We were just swinging and it was working. We both like a challenge and it’s fun to go out there with nothing to lose and just swing.”  

It was all aggression in the first game as Alshon and Navratil were quicker and more focused. The Johns brothers both looked out of sorts and even called a defensive timeout, something they rarely do as they fell behind 8-2.

Meanwhile, in the second game, the Johns brothers had a 10-8 lead but couldn’t close.

“Neither team had a difficult time scoring,” said Navratil, who was holding his dog Murray in the postgame interview. “We knew we could rattle off two or three points. We were doing a really good job on offense.”

The semifinals are later today and it will be a first chance this season for Navratil to get to the medal stand.

“I’ve been playing well,” he said, “despite what the results have shown.”

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