It was a jam packed day of professional pickleball. Major League Pickleball completed their group stage and held the first round of knockout matches but it wasn't without some controversy. The PPA Tour played late into the evening setting up their championship matchups for Sunday.
Major League Pickleball: Alternates Abound
Day 2 of MLP is must win pickleball. If your're a team that went 1-1 on Friday you have to win on day 2 to solidify a spot in the playoffs. That was the case about half the league coming into Saturday.
Controversy struck in the first match of the day with The 5's taking on The Bus. After 4 close games, the teams were knotted 2-2. The match was set to enter a singles tie-breaker aka the Dreambreaker.
As many know singles pickleball is a lot more physically demanding on the body than doubles. It is almost a seperate category than doubles. Some players that excel at singles don't make it into the top ranks in doubles and vice versa.
Because of this, The 5's elected to sub out Rob Nunnery for the tie-breaker. Nunnery is still recovering from knee surgery earlier this summer and is not as mobile as he would like to be. They brought in 16 year old Gabe Tardio fresh off the bench.
Nunnery has not been competing in pro singles for some time now. Tardio on the other hand is climbing the ranks in singles. You have to look at this as an upgrade especially considering the injury.
Now here is where it gets a little dicey. According to the rules, there is nothing wrong with this substitution. MLP management even cleared it before the start of the tiebreak, despite protests from The Bus. In fact, The 5's were planning to make a substitution all along. Either for Nunnery who is battling the injury or for Simone Jardim who also doesn't play singles often anymore.
Although within the rules, this seems against the spirit of MLP. But that is for the maturing league to decide as it works through some growing pains.
The 5's won the dreambreaker with the help of Tardio and knocked The Bus out of the playoffs with the win.
MLP then had to decide if Nunnery would be allowed back into the competition after being subbed out. Like pulling a pitcher from a game in the MLB, once you're out you can't come back in. Their next match, however, was a must-win match against Florida Smash in the quarterfinals. They decided that Nunnery had to miss the match.
Other Group Stage Play
Florida Smash beat the Chimeras in the morning to punch their ticket into the playoffs. Team BLQK crushed the playoff dreams of the Lions with an extremely close match to end the morning. BLQK was also playing with an alternate after Parris Todd suffered a pulled muscle on day 1. Rachel Rettger filled in and helped earned them a first-round bye.
The 5's vs Florida Smash
In the quarterfinals, two of the league favorites collided in a budding MLP rivalry. The 5's (without Nunnery) matched up with Florida Smash. Florida Smash knocked The 5's out of MLP Austin in an epic semi-final match that ended in a Dreambreaker.
The alternate, Tardio, stole the show in this matchup. He was a force in men's doubles and mixed doubles producing highlights left and right. The crucial win for The 5's came in the first mixed doubles game where he and Jardim defeated JW Johnson and Michelle Esquivel.
This win helped push them to a 3-1 match victory and a spot in the semi-finals. They will take on BLQK for a spot in Sunday's Championship.
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Hard Eights vs ATX Pickleballers
The second quarterfinal matchup looked like a runaway in favor of the Hard Eights. They won the first two games putting all of the pressure on the ATX Pickleballers.
ATX made a surprising call entering mixed by sending out Pablo Tellez and Sarah Ansboury, who injured her knee earlier in the match. You would expect to see the team's top pairing of Dylan Frazier and Jade Kawamoto to be the first off the bench in a must win game.
This questionable strategy worked for ATX, they won not only the first mixed game but both mixed games forcing a Dreambreaker. Here we saw another alternate get called into play. Ansboury could not compete due to injury and brought in Lacy Schneemann.
This dreambreaker match up was neck and neck until the end change at 11. The Hard Eights won eight straight points to jump to a massive 18-10 lead. It was all over from there and the Hard Eights advanced to the semis where they will play The Ranchers.
Selkirk Labs Showdown
Up in Tarzana, CA the PPA Tour entered bracket play in Selkirk Labs Showdown. The best match of the morning came in a 3 game slugfest between Tyson McGuffin/Ben Newell and Collin Johns/Matt Wright. Newell is relatively unknown but definitely able to hang at this level as we mentioned yesterday.
McGuffin and Newell won the slugfest and denied the anticiapted Johns vs Johns finals matchup. Instead we will have a Ben vs Ben final and McGuffin taking on his current part Jay Devilliers. Don't be surprised if new Ben, Ben Newell isn't one of your favorite players by the end of the weekend.
In the women's game, Anna Leigh Waters won the matchup between mother and daughter. She and Callie Smith advanced to finals where they will play Jessie Irvine and Lucy Kovalova. That finals matchup will be one you don't want to miss.
In mixed doubles, the fans got to see Ben Johns take on both of his current partners, Collin and Anna Leigh. This match went to three games and had some of the best firefights of the day. It was great to see these four players on the court in a different formation. Ben and Jessie Irvine won the match and paved their way to a second appearance on Championship Sunday.
Entering the day as a six seed, Matt Wright and Callie Smith were able to win three big matches to make their way to Championship Sunday. In the post game interview. Wright mentioned they have played together before but never really had success. Today they were able to get the timing right and put together a run to the final.
Al of the finals will take place on Championship Sunday starting at 1:00 pm ET.