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Newman beats Wright in last matchup between the two of 2023

Author: Andrew Gilman | December 3, 2023

In a season of drama on the PPA Tour, both on and off the court, the Matt Wright-Riley Newman soap opera is still going on.

A day after Wright and partner Lucy Kovalova knocked out Newman and Vivienne David and the courtside music blared Taylor Swift’s, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Newman and partner Thomas Wilson got a bit of revenge on Wright and his partner James Ignatowich.

It’s not just a soap opera. It’s the Neverending Story.

After a very public breakup back in July, Newman announced he and Wright would no longer be playing alongside each other – this despite the fact the two were clearly the second-best team in all of pickleball, winning 11 medals together since October of 2022 and four golds in a in a five-tournament span. Yet, they lost to Ben and Collin Johns 10 times in gold medal matches.

So, Newman made his announcement on Instagram and the talk dominated the pickleball scene in a summer of discontent. 

And here we are at the end of the season – the PPA’s Tour Championship – and the two faced each other two more times in a 24-hour span.

There was gesturing and talking from Wright on Friday in his pool play win in the mixed doubles bracket. It was all smiles from Riley on Saturday in men’s doubles.

“Oh, let’s not start something here,” Newman said after the 11-7, 11-8 semifinal victory which pushed he and Wilson into the Sunday championship against the Johns brothers and pushed Wright and Ignatowich out of the tournament.

“I needed this one for my sanity,” Newman said, clearly not taking his own advice of  “starting something.” And without prompting, Newman continued on. “If I had lost that one heading into the offseason, I don’t know if I would have played pro pickleball.”

Possibly a bit dramatic, but, hey, breakups will do that to people. Some go out and find a new partner. Some people cut their hair or get a new wardrobe. In Newman’s case, it’s been a process. He’s yet to find gold in either men’s or mixed doubles since the split. He has won a silver and two bronze medals in mixed doubles and a silver and a bronze in men’s doubles. Meanwhile, Wright has won a gold, getting back together with Ben Johns in August for a reunion while Collin Johns was injured. Wright earned a silver in mixed doubles with Kovalova in July. 

But it’s not like either has thrived without the other. 

“We had a heck of a run the last year and a half,” Newman said. “But at the end of the day other teams started to figure us out and we were getting second and third places. I want to enter and try and get first place. That’s the main goal, and I know some people, in public or social media gave me a lot of flack for it, but I trust my family and friends and they gave me the best advice.

“That was a huge one today.”

And Sunday we’ll get to see if Newman gets that breakthrough against the Johns, who have dominated 2023. 

The Johns went 3-0 in pool play and then beat Federico Staksrud and Pablo Tellez in the semifinals. Ben Johns will be playing for three titles Sunday, in singles as well as in mixed doubles with partner Anna Leigh Waters.

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