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ALW Banks Another Triple While Line Calls Create Tension at PPA Atlanta Slam

by Erik Tice on

The PPA Atlanta Slam dodged weather all week and witnessed plenty of upsets throughout, but some things remain the same – Anna Leigh Waters pulled out another triple crown.

Rain caused delays and forced play indoors throughout the week. As the sport continues to grow, having these indoor alternatives for every event will be even more important. The PPA staff was able to move players and fans inside and back outside whenever possible.

Staff always erred on the side of caution, going inside whenever any player thought the outdoor conditions were unplayable. It was all hands on deck, as new UPA-A President, Jason Aspes was seen blowing off the courts in order to dry them for play.

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Ben and Collin Johns go down in the semis

For the second straight tournament, Ben and Collin Johns lost in the semifinals of men’s doubles. Three weeks ago they lost to Gabe Tardio and Andrei Daescu, being pickled in the third game at the PPA Red Rock Open

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This week in Atlanta, Collin and Ben were able to exact some revenge on Tardio and Daescu, beating them 11-7, 11-5 in the quarterfinals. That's when they ran into a buzzsaw.

The new team of Matt Wright and Federico Staksrud ran over Collin and Ben, 11-5, 11-3. Staksrud and Wright were gritty, chaotic, and on offense the entire time. Ben and Collin looked like they were kind of lost throughout the match. A rare sight indeed.

The knock on the Johns brothers has been if you get them early, you might have a chance – and Caden Nemoff and Aanik Lohani proved that, taking the Johns to three games. Collin and Ben barely squeaked that one out, 11-0, 7-11, 12-10.

Are these two semifinal upsets of the Johns brothers an anomaly, or could the field be catching up to them more consistently?

Nice to meet you, Madalina Grigoriu

Grigoriu, a 25-year old from South Miami, had herself a week at the PPA Atlanta Slam. She didn’t have enough PPA Points to make the women’s singles main draw, so she had to play through qualifiers.

Here are her qualifier results:

  • Win - Ellen Jang-Milsten - 15-2
  • Win - Jojo Suwannamora - 15-3

Here are her results as the No. 45 seed:

  • Win (Round of 64) - No. 17 seed Liz Truluck - 11-4, 11-7
  • Win (Round of 32) - No. 16 seed Taylor Garcia - 11-5, 5-11, 11-7
  • Loss (Round of 16) - No. 4 seed Lea Jansen - 8-11, 7-11

If you haven’t seen her name yet, you should get used to it. Grigoriu is a former D-1 tennis player at University of Lousiana - Monroe (ULM), graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 2019. The Romanian then went on to obtain her MBA from ULM and is now an auditor for Deloitte, according to her LinkedIn profile. 

Grigoriu is balancing her full-time role with Deloitte and her budding pickleball career. I am sure we will see more from her in the upcoming events.

Another Triple Crown for ALW

Anna Leigh Waters proved that some time off in April was beneficial. When ALW is fresh and has a ton of positive energy, it is very tough stopping her. She registered her fifth triple crown of the year in Atlanta.

In singles, she was down early in both games against Parris Todd in the finals, coming back from 0-4 in both games. Her mental fortitude is second to none.

In women’s doubles, ALW and Catherine Parenteau are continuing to show that they are the undisputed No. 1 doubles team in the world. They beat Koop/Kawamoto 11-9, 11-2, 11-8. The second best team – Rachel Rohrabacher and Anna Bright – missed a medal for just the second time in 2024. 

In mixed, Ben Johns and Anna Leigh have only lost once in the last year and that was to Anna Bright and Andrei Daescu at PPA Austin. Even though the doubles matches are best three out five, ALW never seems to lose focus and is consistently at the top of her game.

Line calls continue to be a problem

In one of the most heated women’s doubles matches I have seen in a while, line calls became a huge issue late in the match between Jade Kawamoto/Andrea Koop and Lea Jansen/Callie Smith.

The match took over an hour, after having to move indoors due to inclement weather. With no video challenges available at the indoor part of the venue, not much could be done about the calls made. 

At 6-3 in the third, Andrea Koop called a ball out that both Lea Jansen and Callie Smith saw very in. With no challenges, Jansen became visibly upset and said, "You’re the biggest hook in pickleball, my goodness," referring to Koop.

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A few minutes later, the broadcast showed two other angles of the controversial call made by Koop, both clearly showing the ball in

Finally, at 11-10 in the third game, Koop and Kawamoto made a controversial line call on a Jansen volley to win the match. With no way of challenging the call and without either referee being able to overturn the call, Jansen and Smith lost the match on two very controversial line calls.

Afterward, Jansen went over to the Kawamoto bench and fist bumped Jade, and then exchanged some heated words with Koop, not shaking hands and walking off.

Line calls were also an issue at MLP Atlanta, with the Ranchers and Dallas Flash having some line call issues late in the match, but since it wasn’t televised, there were no challenges in that match either. 

Since line calls have become an issue this year, here are some potential fixes:

Short Term Solutions

  • Ensure all quarterfinals and beyond are televised and video challenges are available
    • Whenever this is not possible, bring a total of nine referees to each of those matches:
      • 1 head referee
      • 1 second referee
      • 1 tracking referee
      • 4 lines judges
  • Same thing as above for ALL Major League Pickleball matches

Long Term Solution

  • The UPA must invest in better camera technology within the next year or two – the video replay system as it stands isn’t able to slow down enough to show exactly where the ball is hitting compared to the lines
  • This isn’t as easy as it sounds, because the PPA/MLP are constantly moving facilities/venues and each one is set up differently. Fans cite the production quality of the Arizona Pickleball League as an example of a great replay system, which it is. However, they have the luxury of always being in the same place week in and week out, which makes a huge difference.

JW Johnson and Dylan Frazier earn their sixth win in '24

This is the second men’s doubles win for JW and Dylan after the PPA Red Rock Open a few weeks ago. They also have three wins on the APP Tour, but they are now exclusively signed PPA/MLP players. Additionally, they won the US Open in April as well.

Frazier and Johnson beat the new team of Staksrud and Wright in the finals in four games, 4-11. 11-3, 11-7, 11-5. On their way to the finals, Frazier and Johnson beat No. 6 seed Connor Garnett/Christian Alshon in three games, and No. 5 seed Tyson McGuffin/Dekel Bar in two games.

Are they the flashiest duo on tour? Not even close. Baby Dyl and JW are SUPER consistent dinkers, great third-shot makers and have the heaviest counters on tour. Their only Achilles heel seems to be playing the Johns brothers. Otherwise, they are nearly unstoppable.

Even with all of that, they keep adding to their game, with Dylan slowly becoming an elite offensive dinker at the kitchen line. JW has started to speed up a little more off the bounce as well.

Keep looking for these two to be playing on Championship Sunday for the foreseeable future.

Paddle manufacturer medal count

  1. JOOLA - 9
  2. PaddleTek - 6
  3. Selkirk - 4
  4. Franklin - 3
  5. Onix, Head - 1

With Ben, Collin, Fed, Tyson, Anna Bright, and Dekel part of the JOOLA team, this is no surprise. Time will tell how quickly the USAP will reinstate the Gen 3 paddles on the approved list.

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MLP team medal count

  • Orlando Squeeze - 4
  • Seattle Pioneers, New Jersey 5’s, Dallas Flash - 3
  • LA Mad Drops, DC Pickleball Team - 2
  • AZ Drive, St. Louis Shock, Utah Black Diamonds, NY Hustlers, Texas Ranchers - 1

Top points this weekend

Catherine Parenteau’s athletic ATP in singles against Parris Todd

Tyson McGuffin showing he still has it.

Allyce Jones diving to save a rally - I am now convinced Allyce has dive incentives built into her contract with CRBN.

One of the best women’s teams – Lacy Schneemann and Vivian Glozman – playing exceptional defense.

Christian Alshon with a ridiculous ATP defense angled winner.

Ernes have become an extremely common occurrence in today’s game, but a Bert from the right side in mixed doubles from the man? Very rare play from Jay Devilliers.

Even more surprisingly, Matt Wright ended game 1 of the men’s doubles finals with his own walk off Bert.

Milly Rane catches Anna Leigh with her hand in the cookie jar, denying her a shake and bake opportunity, hitting a cross court winner.

A crazy defensive point early in game two from Catherine and Anna Leigh against Etta and Meghan in the women’s doubles semifinals.

Complete results from PPA Atlanta Slam

Women’s Singles

  1. Anna Leigh Waters
  2. Parris Todd
  3. Salome Devidze

Men’s Singles

  1. Ben Johns
  2. Federico Staksrud
  3. Christian Alshon

Mixed Doubles

  1. Anna Leigh Waters/Ben Johns
  2. Anna Bright/James Ignatowich
  3. Jorja Johnson/JW Johnson

Women’s Doubles

  1. Catherine Parenteau/Anna Leigh Waters
  2. Jade Kawamoto/Andrea Koop
  3. Lea Jansen/Callie Smith

Men’s Doubles

  1. Dylan Frazier/JW Johnson 
  2. Matt Wright/Federico Staksrud
  3. Dekel Bar/Tyson McGuffin
Erik Tice

Erik Tice

Erik produces content for The Dink related to pro and collegiate pickleball. He is an avid watcher of pickleball and became passionate about the sport in early 2022.

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