Collin Shick got to the courts at about 6am on Thursday morning and didn’t leave until nearly 6pm at night.
Completely unknown in the pickleball world, Shick entered the Red Clay Florida Open as the No. 31 seed.
And he came through the qualifier bracket. Yeah. Think of it as a “play-in” mini tournament.
The qualifier bracket isn’t the main bracket. It doesn’t feature the names you know on the PPA Tour like Johns or Frazier. The qualifer draw or the “qualies” is where you start when you’re an unknown like Shick, and yes, that’s fair to call the former North Carolina State tennis player an unknown.
It’s not an insult. It’s a fact.
“Well, I had played in some local tournaments in North Carolina,” Shick said. “Mostly doubles.”
OK, there’s that. He had played in some local tournaments, and turns out, Shick had played in a handful of pro tournaments too, but he showed up to Pictona, ready for the qualies and his first-ever PPA Tour tournament.
Yes, you heard that right—his first-ever.
By the time Shick finished Thursday evening, he had won three qualifer matches, earned his way into the main draw, then went all “March Madness,” busting brackets from the Sweet 16 to the Final 4, beating the No. 3 seed, the No. 19 seed, the No. 6 seed, and then the No. 7 seed. And not just any wins—wins against names we know, like Dylan Frazier, Julian Arnold, and Wyatt Stone.
And now he’s in the final against Ben Johns.
Shick happens. Not bad for his first PPA event and just his third pro singles tournament so far.
“I think being an unknown player has its advantages and disadvantages,” Shick said. “It’s nice no one has a clear game plan against you and that can translate to some early leads before guys figure you out. I think it can be a bit of a disadvantage as well in not being an established player so no other players fear you and everyone thinks and believes they should beat you. You don’t really get anything for free in those situations.”
Well, Shick can play freely at this point. He said his goal was just to get out of the qualifying round, which, when it was all said and done, was pared down to just eight players from a field of 56 registrants.
“It’s definitely icing on the cake in that it’s such an amazing opportunity to play a final against the best player in the world [Johns] in my first PPA event,” Shick said. “The main thing was just to make the main draw. However, I will treat it [Sunday’s final] the same as all the other matches, from qualies to deep in the main.”
A win against Johns would certainly vault Shick into the ether of the pickleball world, but he said it’s likely not going to change his life arc. Shick is in medical school at the University of North Carolina and doesn’t have plans—at least at this point—to give up medicine.
“I think I’m going to stay in med school,” Shick admitted. “This first year, my time has been my own, and I can shape how things go. “Years three and four are going to be harder, but right now things are manageable.”
Things looked really manageable for Shick Thursday. He swept through the first matches in the main draw without giving up more than six points.Then, after losing the first game to Arnold, 11-4, Shick gave up just four points total in the final two games. That win put Shick in the semifinal against Frazier where he won the first game, 11-8. Frazier rallied in the second game for an 11-7 win, then jumped out to a 4-0 lead in game three. Shick came back to tie the game at 6-6 and won 11-6 with an aggressive, relentless, attacking style that showed no trace of nerves or fear.
Shick might just be one of the most physically gifted men on tour right now, based on his endurance and natural ability. Don’t believe us? Take a look for yourself at some of the highlights from yesterday if you missed the action or hit up PPA YouTube to watch some of Shick’s matches in full.
Now Shick gets to play Johns, a two-time singles champ already this season and the No. 1 player in the world. Dealing with that kind of pressure will be something a bit different.
“College tennis helped me a lot,” Shick said. “I’m used to some of the bigger matches, the crowds, and having to deal with nerves.
Can Shick keep the fire alive Sunday and pull off, not only the most shocking tournament run we’ve ever seen, but also the biggest upset in pickleball history? Only time will tell. Tune in via PPA TV on Sunday to see the result.
What can you say. First CP reaches the final after taking out ALW and then the other huge surprise in the men’s. An unknown in PB by the name of Collin Shick out of N.Carolina comes through the qualifying rounds all the way to the finals. Stunning performance to now face the number 1 ranked player, BJ himself. W🤔W! Now that’s a first in pro PB and it’ll be interesting to say the least to watch them go at it. Cheers!
Us Charlotte Pickleballers and I’m sure all of the NC pickleball players are very proud of you Collin Shick! #KeepPounding
Great story , have to cheer for the underdog unknown player , kinda tired of seeing BJ win old the time and ALW , PickleBall needs new blood
Collin,your performance this last week was simple amazing. You lose only one game going into Sunday and then beat Ben in the first game to continue to shock the pickleball world. Hope you get good doubles partners in Austin so we can watch more of you.
Hope all the Pickleball sponsors are taking notice and sign you while they can for your ceiling is very high.