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Meet Dylan Frazier, the One-Time 3.5 Who Is Now the No. 1 Player in Men's Doubles

by Erik Tice on

Dylan Frazier is a veteran of pickleball even though he is just 21 years old. He’s been playing since the age of 13, starting out at the 3.5 level, slowly working his way up through the ranks.

After his win with JW Johnson this past week at the PPA Orange County Cup, Frazier is now the PPA Tour’s top-ranked men’s doubles player, unseating none other than Ben Johns, regarded as the best men's player in the sport.

Growing up in Missouri

Frazier grew up in the small town of Ashland, Missouri, which is a southern suburb of Columbia. He played mostly baseball as a youngster and mixed in some basketball and football. He grew up in a large household with his mom, Cindy, dad, Shawn, and his three adopted siblings, who are all within four years of each other.

In 2016, the Frazier family was visiting Dylan’s grandparents in Florida, when they were all looking for something to do. The local rec center had some pickleball courts and paddles for rent so they played. Cindy, Dylan’s mom, had played recreationally during her time at Mizzou, so she knew the rules and the family picked it up, with Dylan really taking a liking to the sport.

From there Dylan was hooked. Back in Columbia, Dylan found a local pickleball group on Facebook, called Show-Me Pickleball, which had scheduled play times. Frazier and Cindy started playing regularly and eventually signed up for a tournament.

Dylan managed a silver medal in singles – at the 3.5 level. In mixed doubles, Dylan and Cindy didn’t even medal together. Back to the drawing board. 

Thanks to our friends over at Memes of Pickleball for this gem of Dylan and his mom, Cindy, being interviewed after a 3.5 tournament they played together. Dylan was 13 at the time.

Rising from 3.5 to 5.0

Putting in the work is what it’s all about. Dylan started playing regularly and drilling with friends throughout the Columbia area. Over the next year or two, Dylan continued playing tournaments and slowly rose to a 4.5 level.

The Dink’s Latest Top 20 Men’s Doubles Power Rankings
We have a new name atop our latest men’s doubles Power Rankings, as Dylan Frazier has emerged as the most dominant player in the field through the first half of the season.

That’s when everything changed. In 2019, Dylan traveled to Wichita, Kansas, where some of the best pros were playing. Pat Smith was kind enough to let Dylan stay at his house while training. Jay Devilliers and Chris Heck were regular drilling partners when Dylan visited Wichita. While Dylan had developed into a 4.5 - 5.0 player at this point, Jay, Pat and Chris were definitely playing down a level when playing with Dylan. 

Matt Wright and Lucy Kovalova were at the top of the pickleball world, and Dylan was even able to get some games in with them. He said he was extremely nervous the first time he played with them and said he played terrible. Matt and Lucy were extremely encouraging and patient and handled his nervousness with reassurance that he was going to get better. Slowly, but surely, Dylan was able to start competing with the group and more than hold his own.

Dylan being interviewed by his older sister, Ale, in 2022 ...

Frazier attributes a lot of his success and dramatic rise in level to playing in Wichita with that group and said he is forever grateful for that opportunity. 

5.0 to pro

A lot of people in pickleball argue over the biggest gap between levels, but Dylan thinks the biggest gap is from 5.0 to the pro level. Think about it like this – if two 5.0s play against JW and Dylan, the DUPR discrepancy is from 10.0 to 14.06 – a gap of over four points. 

This is why our guy Zane Navratil does crazy videos with him and another pro playing against 5.0 teams, but the pros always have some sort of restriction. 

The rise from 5.0 to the full pro level took Dylan another year and a half, give or take. In 2019-20, the pro tours existed, but there weren’t nearly as many tournaments. Additionally, many tournaments didn’t even have a "pro" level, as 5.0 was the highest level of play. 

Dylan and Lauren Stratman in 2021, before their bronze medal match at the APP Chicago ...

To see just how much the game has changed since Dylan started playing pro in 2021, just check out this point from the APP Chicago.

Zane Navratil serves his patented chainsaw serve (now illegal) and after that, very little spin is placed on any shot. Better paddles and better players have helped the game evolve to what it is today.

While Dylan was growing into the pro pickleball game, he was studying at the University of Missouri full time in Business Administration. He has taken a full course load since his freshman year and has one more semester left. Fortunately for him, those last few courses can be taken online.

Evolving his game

One of Dylan’s first partners was Lauren Stratman, and they had a good amount of success on both the APP and PPA Tours. Dylan credits Lauren with helping him find early success at the pro level. Additionally, it was Stratman, along with Lea Jansen, who helped introduce Dylan and his current men’s doubles partner, JW Johnson. Lauren knew Dylan and Lea knew JW, and they both thought it would be a good fit – both young guys (18 at the time), and on an upward trajectory in terms of skill and experience.

I think we can all agree that it was a good fit. Dylan and JW have been playing together for nearly three years. For a long time, Dylan would travel to Florida to drill and play with JW and his sister Jorja, who live in an area with up to 15 other pros.

Dylan found himself in Florida so frequently that he used to stay at the Johnsons house to play and drill. Dylan now has an apartment in Boca Raton with Pablo Tellez. 

When he is in Florida, Dylan is focused on playing and drilling. Back home in Columbia, he focuses more on working out at the gym, strength training, and drilling with a few friends that are 4.5 to 5.0s. 

Dylan has some of the fastest hands on tour – if you ask anyone who knows the pro pickleball scene who they think has the fastest hands - Dylan Frazier is always mentioned. I asked Dylan why he thought his hands were fast.

"A lot of it is anticipation of the ball and having an understanding of opponents’ patterns and tendencies," he said. "A lot of people associate hand speed with reflexes, but a lot of it is actually the preparation leading up to where you have to do a hands battle."

Adapting and always improving

Dylan is currently focused on upping his game in two specific ways.

First, he is continuously trying to improve his two-handed backhand. He’s working on every aspect of that shot – the drive, the hybrid drop, and kitchen line counters. Although there are some players on the pro tours who don’t have one, Dylan thinks it is going to be an essential tool that every pro player has within the next two to three years.

"A two-handed backhand is going to become a necessity as the game continues to evolve over the next few years," Frazier said. "You are more versatile and have more power when they attack your wing."

Additionally, Dylan is focused on consistency. He believes consistency is the biggest separator in all levels of pickleball.

In terms of consistency, Dylan has it in droves. The PPA Tour has a cool "Stats Wrap" after each tournament. Here is the “Stats Wrap” for the last tournament – the Orange County Cup.

In the last five PPA Tournaments, Frazier and Johnson have made the finals each time, losing only once. 

Frazier’s third shot percentage is 94.9 percent over those five men’s doubles championship matches. He hit 112 accurate third shots out of his 118 total shots. While he is more known as a counter attacker, Dylan is also very good at attacking himself. Over that same five-match span, Dylan has won 60 percent of the speedups he initiated.

While a lot of the men’s doubles game seems to be moving to a drive and crash type game, Dylan and JW are just focused on getting to the kitchen line. They change strategy on driving vs. dropping depending on their opponent. Frazier thinks understanding the patterns that work for you as a team and understanding what is working and what is not is vital to success in doubles pickleball.

Future looks bright

There are no secrets or crazy explanations for Dylan Frazier’s tremendous rise to being the No. 1-ranked men’s doubles player on the PPA Tour. The evolution began in 2016 and continues to this day.

Dylan’s biggest tip about improving is simple:

  • Drill with a purpose and play with players who are slightly better than you. Dylan’s biggest rise in level came when he started playing with the pros in Wichita. His focus on consistency when drilling with JW Johnson and others in Florida has paid dividends in his game.

Dylan also credits a lot of his success to his parents. Cindy helped him improve his game on the court, especially in the early years. Shawn, Dylan’s dad, handles all of the logistics, which is basically a full-time job. He has to juggle flights, accommodations, and ground transportation for all of his tournaments. Dylan said he wouldn’t be where he is today without the full support of his parents.

At the end of our interview, Dylan wanted to encourage everyone to get out and play more pickleball:

"Get out and try it! I am someone that doesn’t have a high-level tennis background. It really is about getting a lot of reps and being more consistent. If you can consistently dink and get up to the kitchen line, you can compete at a high level." - Dylan Frazier

There will continue to be young up-and-coming players as the sport of pickleball continues to grow, but Frazier is a great ambassador for the sport and is the consummate professional at a young age.

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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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