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PPA Desert Ridge Open Preview and Predictions

by Erik Tice on

The Desert Ridge Open is the second PPA Tour stop in the early 2024 season. It'll take place at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, Arizona, starting Wednesday.

This is the first of three stops the pros are making in Arizona during the next month. There are 17 dedicated courts at the JW Marriott and there will be plenty of temporary courts available for this large tournament.

The Desert Ridge Open is considered an “Open” level tournament, meaning winners earn 1,000 PPA Points toward year end results.

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For context, the first tournament of the 2024 PPA Tour, The Masters, was a “Slam” and the winners earned 2,000 PPA Points. While this is a smaller tournament in terms of points, many of the top pros are attending largely because The Desert Ridge Open has been a staple on the tour for years.

In addition to pros, there are a lot of amateurs entered into the tournament – there are over 1,000 total competitors registered.

In addition to the point difference, the change from a “Slam” to an “Open” event means one other important fact.

The PPA has switched to a Progressive Draw in “Slams” and “Cups,” which we saw at The Masters. This allows for the PPA to know who is going to be televised on which court at approximately what time.

However, since The Desert Ridge Open is an “Open” the Progressive Draw is not in place, so the draw will be more like a traditional tournament style - one event each day.

Weather Conditions

While Phoenix is one of the nicest places in the US to be in January/February, there is sometimes some rain and/or wind.

The forecast is calling for a 50% chance of rain on both Thursday and Friday, with clouds on Saturday and Sunday.

Hopefully, the PPA Tour has an alternative indoor venue on standby, or else they may have to condense some of the brackets to ensure the entire tournament is able to go on.

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How to Watch the PPA Desert Ridge Open

You'll be able to watch the Desert Ridge Open all weekend on Pickleball TV and elsewhere sporadically; here is where you can find the streams of the event:

ALL TIMES EASTERN

  • Thursday, February 1 Singles 1pm - 9pm YouTube and PBTV
  • Friday, February 2 Mixed Doubles 1pm - 9pm YouTube and PBTV
  • Saturday, February 3 Gender Doubles 1pm - 9pm YouTube and PBTV Gender Doubles 6pm - 9pm Tennis Channel
  • Sunday, February 4 Championships 1pm - 7pm PBTV Championships 3pm - 6pm Tennis Channel

For more info on where to watch the PPA Desert Ridge Open, click here.

Notable Missing Players

There are many players missing for multiple reasons: injury, just resting, a possible suspension, the fact that this is an “Open” level event, and sitting out due to MLP/PPA merger contract issues:

  • JW Johnson
  • Jorja Johnson
  • Dylan Frazier
  • Gabe Tardio
  • Jack Sock
  • Genie Bouchard
  • DJ Young
  • Jessie Irvine
  • Andrei Daescu
  • Rob Nunnery
  • Pat Smith
  • Quang Duong
  • Lindsey Newman
  • Yana Newell
  • Judit Castillo

Event Predictions

Women’s Singles

Anna Leigh Waters is the clear cut favorite in Women’s Singles every time she plays.

There are two players of note who are not playing in singles this weekend: Catherine Parenteau, playing doubles; Hurricane Tyra Black, playing doubles.

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There are some formidable players who could push ALW, so her chances of winning this event are increased, especially with Catherine out.

Here are some top players who will be seeded well in the bracket and should be contenders to podium:

  • Lea Jansen
  • Brooke Buckner
  • Mary Brascia
  • Lacy Schneemann
  • Parris Todd
  • Dominique Schaefer

I do like some lesser-known players to make some runs this weekend.

I think at least one of these four players will make the podium in Phoenix:

  • Kaitlyn Christian
  • Christine Maddox
  • Liz Truluck
  • Chao Yi Wang

Predictions: Anna Leigh Waters wins the event. I really like Domi Schaefer to podium and I think we see Kaitlyn Christian make a deep run into the quarters or semis.

Men’s Singles

Again, usually one of the biggest draws in pro pickleball. There are 40 main draw entries and 51 qualifiers in the draw.

Ben Johns is the favorite in this event, but he isn’t favored nearly as much as ALW in women’s singles. Since men’s singles is so volatile, I am predicting that there will be over 10 men’s singles winners this year on tour.

Here are some notables who will be seeded high with the best chances of winning:

  • Ben Johns
  • Federico Staksrud
  • Tyson McGuffin
  • Connor Garnett
  • Christian Alshon
  • Jaume Martinez Vich

There are some players who will have lower seedings who I have my eye on in Phoenix:

Michael Loyd - Had lived in Phoenix for a while, and just moved to Austin. He had a super hot start to the 2024 season, getting a podium in men’s doubles at APP Punta Gorda and just winning the Hawaii Open in men’s doubles as well.

Gabe Joseph - The LA based player won the Takeya Showcase, held at his home courts in Los Cab. He is a monster in singles and could make a run.

Chris Haworth - Chris is coming off his first APP Tour Gold in Punta Gorda in men’s singles. He also got a bronze medal in men’s singles at Nationals in 2023. If he continues to play every weekend, his seeding is going to skyrocket throughout the year.

Predictions: I actually think going back to a regular PPA draw instead of the Progressive Draw favors Ben Johns.

He usually has slow starts and in the Progressive Draw, only gets one match a day in singles, and it was first. Now, he will get some fairly easy early round matchups to ease him into the day.

I predict Johns will win gold in Phoenix. Others I really like to make it at least to the quarters: Connor Garnett, Christian Alshon, and Tyson McGuffin.

Women’s Doubles

Women’s Doubles partnerships are usually some of the steadiest throughout the year, so be on the lookout for a lot of the same partnerships and matchups throughout 2024.

However, there was one big changeup after The Masters in California. The Lea Jansen and Hurricane Tyra Black partnership that was supposed to last all year lasted exactly two matches.

They beat Lina Padegimaite and Brooke Buckner 11-7, 11-9. The next day, they faced Anna Leigh Waters and Catherine Parenteau, losing 3-11, 5-11. That’s where their partnership ended.

This weekend in Phoenix, Tyra is partnering with Parris Todd and Lea is partnering with Susannah Barr.

Here are some of the more common partnerships that have a good chance to do well in Phoenix:

  • Anna Leigh Waters and Catherine Parenteau
  • Anna Bright and Rachel Rohrabacher
  • Lacy Schneemann and Vivienne David
  • Jackie and Jade Kawamoto
  • Mary and Maggie Brascia
  • Lucy Kovalova and Callie Smith

Predictions: While I predict ALW and Catherine Parenteau are going to lose sometime in the 2024 season, I don’t think it starts in Phoenix.

Bright/Rohrabacher, Schneemann/David, and Parris Todd/Hurricane Tyra Black make up my predictions for the semi-finals, if the seeding works.

Men’s Doubles

There are nearly 90 men’s doubles teams in the men’s doubles bracket between the main draw and qualifiers.

The partnerships are largely staying the same, with teams wanting to give a partnership a chance in a few tournaments before figuring out if it is the right partnership or not.

The biggest change from The Master’s is that Pat Smith isn’t playing in Desert Ridge. Instead, Jay Devilliers is playing with Ben Newell.

Here are some regular partnerships I expect to go far:

  • Ben and Collin Johns (naturally)
  • Tyson McGuffin and Dekel Bar
  • James Ignatowich and Matt Wright
  • Riley Newman and Thomas Wilson
  • Federico Staksrud and Pablo Tellez

There are also a couple of lesser known pairings that have a chance at making some upsets this weekend:

CJ Klinger and Jaume Martinez Vich - Both of these guys are in the running for most improved male player in 2023. Klinger brings a lot of reach and Martinez Vich brings a lot of power - could be a really fun duo to watch.

Michael Loyd & Patrick Kawka - Kawka has a ridiculous forehand drive and Loyd is super athletic. This team could be dangerous in shake and bake situations, and they have a lot of chemistry from the Arizona Pickleball League.

Predictions: Without JW Johnson and Dylan Frazier attending, this bracket opens up a little bit.

I believe the Johns brothers will definitely make it to Championship Sunday. However, who goes with them is up in the air. I like Wilson/Newman, Staksrud/Tellez, and Ignatowich/Wright to also make it to the semis.

Mixed Doubles

There are nearly 100 entrants in the pro mixed doubles draw between the main draw and the qualifiers. Friday is mixed doubles, with gender doubles on Saturday.

Since mixed doubles is a fan favorite, we are hopeful the weather allows them to play the entire bracket.

Here are some notable mixed doubles teams I like to make it out of the qualifying draw:

  • Jill Braverman and Jaume Martinez Vich
  • Patrick Kawka and Salome Devidze
  • Amanda Rosati and Marcel Chan
  • Genie Erokhina and Mario Barrientos

Here are some of the name stays that could make big runs:

  • Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters (of course)
  • Matt Wright and Lucy Kovalova
  • Riley Newman and Jackie Kawamoto
  • Tyson McGuffin and Meghan Dizon
  • Thomas Wilson and Vivienne David
  • James Ignatowich and Anna Bright
  • Federico Staksrud and Rachel Rohrabacher

Predictions: The field in mixed doubles keeps getting deeper and deeper. There are so many good partnerships in the field this week, and we are missing some of the top pros.

I actually LOVE the Christian Alshon and Catherine Parenteau partnership, as Alshon keeps advancing his game.

Ben Johns and ALW both win triple crowns. I like the following teams to make a run into the semis: Ignatowitch/Bright, Staksrud/Rohrabacher, and Alshon/Parenteau.

I think Alshon and Parenteau make the finals and take a game off of Ben and Anna Leigh. This could be a pairing to watch out for when Jack Sock isn’t playing moving forward.

Read Next: The 2023 Professional Pickleball Recap

Summary

The competition level will be very high for the PPA Desert Ridge Open. Yes, there are quite a few missing players, but overall, most of the top players are playing.

I am worried how the weather will affect play on Thursday and Friday.

I like Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters to win triple crowns. It would be Johns’ first one of 2024.

While I know this isn’t a crazy pick to make and seems like chalk, I just feel like Ben will be motivated since he didn’t win one in Palm Springs at The Masters. He should come out with a vengeance. I am also excited to see the Alshon/Parenteau matchup in mixed doubles.


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