Last week, the joint paddle testing effort between USA Pickleball, Major League Pickleball, and the Professional Pickleball Association produced anonymous results from the MLP Daytona event. Those post-event results showed at least 6 players whose paddles deviated from regulations.
Now, we have our first onsite paddle disqualification from tests conducted during the PPA Tour's OGIO Doubles Shootout this weekend.
Jill Braverman and Sarah Ansboury were disqualified after Sarah's Gamma Obsidian Raw Carbon 16mm paddle failed on-site testing:
🚨BREAKING🚨Sarah Ansboury’s Gamma Obsidian Raw Carbon 16mm paddle has failed on-site testing following her QF match.— CARVANA PPA TOUR (@PPAtour) April 23, 2023
Her & her partner are defaulted & won’t be moving forward in the women’s doubles draw.
Lina Padegimaite & Lacy Schneemann will move on to the semifinals in…
This confused both the players and their followers on social media. In a statement made from her Facebook account, Jill says that their paddles were tested prior to the quarterfinals along with every other players' paddle.
"Sarah's paddle passed as did mine. We then went on to win our QF match (against Lina Padegimaite & Lacy Schneemann) 11-8, 11-9. Lacy and Lina then challenged both of our paddles after the match," Jill says in her statement.
After the challenge, Sarah's paddle failed secondary testing, and the two were informed that it exhibited 'unusual breakdown of integrity of the facial plies, bond and core within the paddle' and that they would be forfeited from the semis, according to the statement.
Players, fans raise concerns with testing legitimacy
The obvious question these players and fans have raised on social media following the tournament: how can a paddle pass an initial test only to fail a secondary one during the same tournament?
Gamma Sports even chimed in soon after the news broke:
These feelings of skepticism seem to be bolstered by another part of Jill's statement, which claims the two were told that many players' paddles failed the second test.
"...Meaning players had played rounds 1-3 with failing paddles. But because none of those players’ paddles were challenged, there was no penalty for them. When they were informed their paddles failed, they swapped in a new paddle, which had passed the test," her statement says.
PPA Tour responds
"Sarah was informed before the quarterfinal that her paddle’s core and surface bonding had deteriorated considerably over the course of the tournament,” said Carl Schmits, USA Pickleball Managing Director of Pickleball Standards.
According to the PPA's official statement, Sarah was given a warning before the semifinal match that her paddle had a high likelihood of crossing the legal threshold.
“The paddle [Ansboury’s] was found to have a breakdown in the integrity of the facial plies and core within the paddle,” the statement says.
PPA says it is true that other players' paddles failed the initial mandatory testing process, but in those cases, everyone else chose to retire their paddles before playing with them.
"...this incident was the first time testing had been conducted directly following a match after a player challenge. For this reason, this was the only occasion on which additional steps were taken, per PPA Tour standard protocols – all of which had been communicated to players prior to the tournament."
In addition, PPA's statement provided some context as to how their testing is performed and what it identifies.
Unlike the surface roughness test, which has some variation and therefore, must be performed several times and averaged, disbonding and crushed core testing is a single binary result that shows without ambiguity whether a paddle is legal or not.
The PPA Tour tests for several “failure” issues on a paddle:
- Surface roughness
- Delamination, disbonding, and/or crushed core – which shows whether a paddle has a cavity which allows for a trampoline effect
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Full statements from Braverman & Ansboury
For background— my partner, Sarah Ansboury, and I had our paddles tested prior to the quarterfinals. Every player is required to have their paddle tested prior to the Quarters and Finals (but not semis). Sarah’s paddle passed as did mine.
We then went on to win our QF match against @lina_padegimaite & @lacyschneemann.pb 11-8,11-9. Lacy and Lina then challenged both of our paddles after the match.
Sarah’s failed. We were informed that her paddle exemplified “Unusual breakdown of integrity of the facial plies, bond and core within the paddle” and that we would be forfeited from the semis and Lina and Lacy would take our spot.
Here’s what’s fascinating to me: We were told that many players failed their quarterfinal test. Read that again. Meaning players had played rounds 1-3 with failing paddles. But because none of those players’ paddles were challenged, there was no penalty for them. When they were informed their paddles failed, they swapped in a new paddle, which had passed the test.
These are fascinating times indeed for a sport experiencing growing pains. I give credit to the PPA for being professional through and through and as Sarah said - the rules were clearly communicated to us prior to the tournament and is very binary.
I’m sad to lose our prize money, points, and my second ever PPA women’s semi-final spot. I’m sad for my partner who played absolutely lights out. And I’m sad that players are being put in the middle of what feels like either an antiquated rule that needs to be re-examined and/or broad scale manufacturing flaws by numerous paddle manufacturers.
If you’ve seen me play you know how much I love the game, love to compete, smile, make fun of myself, support my partner—and laugh (a lot).
I literally cannot wait to be back on the court with Sarah again at the PPA Charlotte in two short weeks.
I know a lot of people have these questions. Thank you to Gamma and all of of the support I have gotten the last few hours. After we were forfeited we I was told I should not play with my other paddles that tested even lower than the paddle they said was illegal.
I played with a paddle that Jill was sent to be tested and got less than 5 minutes to warm up. I did not want to give up on my partner after everything. Players are hiding behind anonymity.
Release the names of those who failed their tests today. Seems not in the spirit of equity that those players were not punished simply because their paddles were not challenged. To be clear, you’re only punished if challenged, but others had failed.
Let’s publish those names.
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