What’s exciting about the Peachtree Classic Powered by Invited in Atlanta? The Baird Wealth Management Open concluded just a few days ago, so the PPA’s most talented players will be as match-fit as ever at the Peachtree Classic. What’s even more exciting? The list of gold medal contenders is as long as it’s ever been!
The event arguably contains more contenders than any other in men’s singles with a draw of 53 players. The men’s singles draw in Atlanta is loaded with top-ranked names and unfamiliar faces. Just last week, Frank Anthony Davis fought his way into the Cincinnati semis and played a thriller with PPA men’s singles No. 1 Tyson McGuffin.
Davis is a 34-year-old with the energy of someone half his age, and his performance in Cincinnati could boost his confidence enough to pull off a surprise at the Peachtree Classic. Davis will head to Atlanta along with McGuffin and Ben Johns, two pickleball household names who are gold medal contenders at any PPA tournament.
Tyler Loong, who stunned the pickleball world by upsetting Johns in Cincinnati, will also travel to the Peachtree State to compete. J.W. Johnson, ranked third in men’s singles, returns to the PPA Tour after some time away and will likely shake things up in Atlanta. Other contenders include Tournament of Champions silver medalist Dylan Frazier, PPA singles No. 4 Jay Devilliers, Acrytech Atlanta Open champion Federico Staksrud and underrated talent AJ Koller.
Women’s doubles has also been getting interesting lately. Anna Bright and Jessie Irvine shocked Anna Leigh and Leigh Waters en route to a gold medal finish in Cincinnati last week. Bright and Irvine are an athletic duo that incorporate a wide variety of strategies into their doubles game, including switching sides in the middle of a point and standing in unorthodox places prior to serving.
Catherine Parenteau and Lea Jansen also managed to fight past top-seeded Lucy Kovalova and Callie Smith in straight sets at the Baird Wealth Management Open. Parenteau and Jansen had a hot streak earlier this year, so could this be the beginning of another? The Waters duo and Kovalova/Smith no longer appear to have full control of women’s doubles, so get ready for an enthralling four-way battle for the Peachtree crown!
Anna Leigh Waters and Lea Jansen have been leading the way in women’s singles recently, but new faces have created obstacles in the rounds leading up to their last two meetings in the finals. In Cincinnati, Salome Davidze and Irina Tereschenko came just a few points away from upsetting Jansen. Tereschenko charges the net more than many of her opponents, and the tactic helped her win a quick 11-2 game against Jansen.
Davidze gave Jansen even more of a challenge at the Baird Wealth Management Open, and went on to defeat Catherine Parenteau for a bronze medal. Another player who shouldn’t fly under the radar is Parris Todd, the Select Medical Cup singles champion. Todd knocked out the top two PPA women’s singles players, Catherine Parenteau and Anna Leigh Waters, on her way to capturing the title. Anna Bright scored an upset against Callie Smith in Cincinnati, so consider her a dark horse as well.
Although there have been close matches recently in the latter rounds of men’s doubles, the top two teams appear unbeatable at the moment. Collin and Ben Johns unseated Matt Wright and Riley Newman as the No. 1 PPA men’s doubles team after their first-place finish in Cincinnati last week, but many are saying that was only because Wright/Newman didn’t play together! There’s no doubt Wright/Newman want their chance to best Johns/Johns in the Peachtree final. Who are the challengers who could stop these two teams from clashing once more?
If any team can stop them, it will likely be Tyson McGuffin and Jay Devilliers. McGuffin and Devilliers reached the Cincinnati final last week and defeated Wright, along with his partner Spencer Smith, in their semifinal. McGuffin/Devilliers can frustrate opponents by playing short balls at the net repeatedly until their opponents become impatient and make an error. Another pair of young contenders, J.W. Johnson and Dylan Frazier, could also create some fireworks in the men’s doubles bracket with their insane defensive skills.
Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters are the undisputed favorites in mixed doubles. Johns and Waters won gold at the Baird Wealth Management Open, the Tournament of Champions, and went undefeated together at the Skechers Invitational. If a mixed team can overcome Johns and Waters this week, it would likely be considered the biggest surprise at the Peachtree Classic. However, Lucy Kovalova/Matt Wright still retain the No. 1 ranking and without a doubt belong on the list of contenders.
Two more teams round out the mixed doubles contenders list in Atlanta: Jessie Irvine/Jay Devilliers and Callie Smith/AJ Koller. Irvine/Devilliers eked out a victory against Kovalova/Wright in the Cincinnati semifinals, and Smith/Koller pushed Waters/Johns to a 12-10 first game in the other semifinal matchup. Smith and Koller have incredible reflexes at the net, so they’ll need to bait Waters and Johns into giving them more volleys to score the upset in Atlanta.
Who will finish the summer season with a gold medal? Find out by live streaming the Peachtree Classic on PPA TV from Thursday, September 15 to Sunday, September 18. Broadcast of evening play each day will be hosted on Tennis Channel, in addition to PPA TV. Check out our TV Guide for more details.