Mixed Doubles day is always an exciting battle of strategy and partnership, but the Takeya Showcase brought us something extra special this time around. Matches were played on Friday, August 6, with the Mixed Doubles Final taking place on Saturday evening after play of Men’s and Women’s Doubles had concluded.
The day started off with strong wins from the #1 and #2 seeded teams, Ben Johns/Simone Jardim and Matt Wright/Lucy Kovalova (respectively) with neither team dropping a game until the semifinals.
Lea Jansen and Rob Nunnery came out ready to play, taking down Collin Johns and Martina Kochli in their first round match, then taking Catherine Parenteau and Riley Newman to three games, before ultimately falling to them 11-6, 6-11, 11-2.
Irina Tereschenko and Adam Stone narrowly made it by the combined power of Dekel Bar and Corrine Carr – both of whom routinely play doubles with Stone – but managed it in three: 9-11, 11-9, 11-2. They then fell to Johns/Jardim in their quarterfinal match 11-9, 11-1.
Both semifinals were nail-biters with long rallies and great intensity on all sides. Callie Smith and Steve Deakin were playing excellent and took the first game in their match against Jardim/Johns 9-11. However, Johns/Jardim came firing back and rolled through to capture game two 11-5. Game three was closely contested, but John/Jardim ultimately seized the victory 12-10.
On the other side of the draw, Newman/Parenteau faced off against Wright/Kovalova. This semifinal was also not one to miss, as all four players stepped on the court already dialed in and ready to play. Wright and Kovalova’s combined firepower, along with Wright’s aggressive style and Kovalova’s unbeatable backhand, proved to be too much, however, and Newman/Parenteau fell to them 11-9, 4-11, 13-11.
In the backdraw, Patrick Smith and Lauren Stratman had a good run after an early loss in the main draw to Jocelyn Devilliers (Smith’s long-time doubles partner) and Michelle Esquivel with a score of 5-11,11-9,11-4. Their streak ended when they met the not-so-happy Newman/Parenteau duo, who were hungry for another chance at the podium after their recent loss to Wright/Kovalova.
This put Newman/Parenteau in the bronze medal match against Devilliers/Esquivel – both of whom are fiery, passionate competitors who are not afraid to get noisy on-court. Fans commented that they loved to see Frenchman Devilliers and Esquivel (who has Mexican heritage) conversing fluently in Spanish, pumping each other up, talking to the crowd, and smiling freely throughout the match.
During the second game, the pickleball audience was treated to something relatively unheard of when the referee stopped play saying, “ball on-court!” Spectators and players looked around in confusion, as Center Court is placed away from the interference from other courts. It turned out that a golf ball had made its way over the back fence from the adjacent golf course and was bouncing around Parenteau/Newman’s side of the court. There were smiles all around as Parenteau scooped the ball up and pretended to throw it back where it came from before giving it to the ref and resuming play.
After a long battle, Parenteau/Newman ultimately proved to be too much for Devilliers/Esquivel and captured the bronze 11-8, 6-11, 11-3.
The Mixed Doubles Final took place on Saturday and turned out to be one for the history books. While Johns/Jardim have lost something like 2-3 matches over the course of their career playing together, the duo had never lost an actual title in any of the tournaments they played together in. The match-up initially felt like a record on repeat as Johns/Jardim and Wright/Kovalova have met each other in most of the mixed doubles finals over the last year or so. However, the tables were about to be flipped as Wright/Kovalova came out with renewed motivation and determination. It was clear that they felt they were prepared, right there with the competition, and that today was their day to break their losing streak against Johns/Jardim.
The teams played a tight first game, with Wright/Kovalova winning it 11-9. However, Johns/Jardim were playing well and were able to come back strong in game two, taking it 4-11. Wright/Kovalova came cruising back and looked positive and confident as they settled in for a long match, winning game three 11-5. Although Johns/Jardim were able to pull off winning a hotly contested game four 9-11, their morale and energy looked low, making their odds in the final game uncertain.
Throughout the match, Wright was a force to be reckoned with at the kitchen line – constantly looking for the Erne, playing aggressively, and moving the ball around. Kovalova stayed rock-solid all day long, cracking backhands, winning insane hands battles and tracking down every ball. This turned out to be too much for Johns/Jardim, who lost the final game (and subsequently, the match) 11-5.
This was a massive win for team Wright/Kovalova, who had been patiently waiting for the chance to take down their #1 rivals. As Wright and Kovalova wrote in their celebratory Facebook post: “Nobody beats us 13 times!” We look forward to seeing what these two can do together in the future and can’t help but ask ourselves… was their win a one-hit wonder or does this victory herald a changing of the guard?
Results at a Glance
|GOLD||Matt Wright/Lucy Kovalova|
|SILVER||Ben Johns/Simone Jardim|
|BRONZE||Riley Newman/Catherine Parenteau|