Two more for Ben Johns.
Two more for Anna Leigh Waters, too.
Another “major” statement for the two best pickleball players in the world as Johns and Waters teamed up for the mixed doubles title in Ohio and then won an additional title each at the Baird Wealth Management Open in Cincinnati – one of the PPA Tour’s Grand Slams this year.
Waters took the singles title with a three-game victory over Lea Jansen and then paired with Johns to beat Jay Devilliers and Jessie Irvine for the mixed doubles title. Meanwhile, Johns played alongside brother Collin for a victory on the men’s side, making it a double victory kind of day at the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
Waters topped the third-seeded Jansen, 11-1, 11-8, 11-9 in a match that had Waters rally from an 8-1 deficit in game three. She and Johns had less trouble in their final together, sweeping through Devilliers and Irvine in three games, 11-3, 11-1, 11-6.
“I try not to think about the losses too much,” said Waters about coming up short of playing for a triple crown after losing alongside her mother Leigh Waters in Saturday’s women’s bracket. “I didn’t make the finals yesterday with my mom, but I had two finals today and I wanted to put the loss in the back of my head. At the end of the tournament, I’ll go back and watch and learn from it. It pains me to watch myself lose on TV, but you can always learn from it.”
Johns fell to Tyler Loong in the singles bracket and didn’t medal in the division, but his loss Thursday didn’t seem to affect his play Sunday. In Johns’ words, “It’s about how you bounce back and you hope it doesn’t happen, but you have to deal with it.”
The Johns brothers beat Tyson McGuffin and Jay Devilliers, who were also both vying for double golds on Sunday, 11-8, 11-2, 9-11, 11-4.
“It was more about getting focused again,” Collin said afterwards about losing game three. “We may have let up a little. We just needed to make them earn every point.”
#1 seed McGuffin went on to win the singles title with a four-game victory over 11th-seeded Hunter Johnson, 6-11, 11-4, 11-7, 12-10.
“You got to give a shout-out to Hunter,” McGuffin said. “He’s got a lot of upside. He’s a stud. I served pretty well. […] There’s just so much depth these days.” Earning himself a good laugh from the crowd, McGuffin went on to say, “They [the other pros on tour] are getting younger, and I’m getting older and having more kids.”
Johnson was in his first PPA final as was another of the tour’s “younger” players that McGuffin spoke about: Anna Bright.
Bright teamed with Irvine and the two earned their first gold together by taking down Catherine Parenteau and Jansen, 11-8, 11-1, 11-6. Irvine and Bright maintained their control and laser focus throughout the match, showing the audience how much they wanted that title.
“She could have won with anyone beside her today,” Bright said. “Luckily it was me. We’ve played a few tournaments. We’ve gotten a bronze. We have been close to that breakthrough moment, and the more we’ve played, the more comfortable we’ve gotten.”
All these winners meant that Jansen went home on Sunday with silvers in women’s singles and women’s doubles – still a strong finish for the fiery competitor. Devilliers also drew the second place finish in men’s doubles and mixed doubles, but spoke positively about his performance in Cincinnati, remarking that he was finally starting to feel like himself again after more than a month off from pickleball while stuck abroad in France.
“Amazing tournament and an amazing crowd,” said Ben Johns. “I’m glad to do it with AL (Waters) here. I’m happy with all the results.”
No time off for the pros. The PPA Tour is in Atlanta next week for the Peachtree Classic, Powered by Invited. More than 20 teams in the mixed doubles pro field, thirty teams in the pro men’s division, and more than 50 players in men’s singles, so we’re set for a weekend full of action.