This past weekend, The PPA Masters event took place in Palm Springs, California. It was the first stop on the PPA Tour in 2024, and there were some really exciting matchups and upsets.
In addition, we got to see some big time tennis players enter the pickleball world for the first (or second) time!
One of the exciting things about The Masters is that it is considered a “Slam” PPA event, which earns players more points than other events. So right off the bat, we had a very important event in terms of season standings.
The PPA Tour has announced three levels of tournaments throughout the 2024 season:
- The Slams (2,000 points)
- Cups (1,500 points)
- Opens (1,000 points)
The winner of each event earns that many points. So a second place finish at a Slam is worth more than winning a Cup event.
Here are my Top 10 takeaways from The 2024 Masters:
- Genie Bouchard has A LONG way to go before she is competitive in pro pickleball
Let’s call a spade a spade. I thought Genie would have a chance to compete in singles right away - boy was I wrong. Bouchard had a few highlights in her competition, but there were many more blunders.
At one point in a doubles match while playing with Tyler Loong, she completely whiffed on a dink. She did not misshit the ball on a dink - she literally missed the ball entirely.
Here are Bouchard’s results on the weekend. Spoiler Alert: She didn’t win a match in any events:
- Women’s Singles: 1st rd Loss to Ekaterina Biakina - L 1-11, 7-11
- Women’s Doubles: Partner - Chao Yi Wang - 1st rd Loss to Malia Lum & Trang Huynh-McClain - L 11-5, 4-11, 5-11
- Mixed Doubles: Partner - Tyler Loong - 1st; Loss to Etta Wright & Pablo Tellez - L 5-11, 2-11
Bouchard is going to have to put in some real work to get her competing regularly in pro pickleball. I don’t know how much time she has to devote to the game while she is still touring in tennis.
Hopefully, she is able to work hard at her game enough to see results.
- Riley Newman and Thomas Wilson look like a great team for 2024
Riley had a very large breakup with Matt Wright half way through the 2023 season and then tried out some different partners in the second half of the year. AJ Koller seemed to have too many ups and downs and Julian Arnold definitely had more of the same.
Thomas Wilson is one of the most diverse and consistent players right behind Riley. Both can play the right and left super well, and they are play complimentary pickleball at an extremely high level.
I am predicting that Riley and Thomas are going to podium in at least 50% of the PPA events they enter this year. In addition, I believe they will beat the Johns brothers more than once to take some golds on tour.
- The AZ Pickleball League represented well during The Masters
The Dink has been broadcasting the Arizona Pickleball League since the second season in 2023. The broadcast quality is impeccable and the play is high level as well - great job, BoxCar Productions.
Sure, the top ten touring pros aren’t playing in it, but there are some very good players.
On the men’s side, Augie Ge and Craig Johnson made it all the way to the Round of 16 and took a game off of Tyson and Dekel in that round of 16. On their way, they beat Erik Pailet and Derek Shearer, Aanik Lohani and Alex Neumann.
By the way, PPA broadcasters, Ge is pronounced “Gah”, not “Gee.”
Michael Loyd and Patrick Kawka also made it to the Round of 16, beating Chris Haworth and Chase Holderman, Donald Young and Alvaro Terron, AND Chuck Taylor and AJ Koller.
In the Round of 16, they took a game off Julian Arnold and Christian Alshon and ended up losing the match in the last game 10-12. This duo really looks like they are up and coming.
Pesa Teoni played doubles with Quang Duong and won two games and lost to Jack Sock in the Round of 32. This partnership seems like it has some very high potential.
In Mixed Doubles, Patrick Kawka and Lauren Mercado played together and Michael Loyd and Brooke Revuelta started out in the Qualifying Bracket. Both teams made it through to the Main Draw.
Loyd/Revuelta lost in the first round to Lina Padegimaite and Erik Lange in three games. Kawka/Mercado got a HUGE win over Jade Kawamoto and DJ Young, 11-5, 11-8. They then took Leigh Waters and Christian Alshon to three games in the second round.
The ladies didn’t have as much success as the guys, but the young Revuelta and Mercado are showing a ton of potential.
The Arizona Pickleball League is alive and well and could continue to be a way for up and coming pros to get noticed on the national level.
- The PROGRESSIVE DRAW on the PPA Tour is a necessary addition
There was a lot of confusion among podcasters, broadcasters, and in the general media on what this draw is called. Progression or Progressive?
Well, the answer is right on the PPA website for all to see. The answer is, in fact, it is a PROGRESSIVE DRAW.
The biggest reason it is necessary is because we can now know who will be on the broadcast and at roughly what time.
Without the Progressive Draw, there is no way to know who will be playing who on Center Court because you don’t know who will win certain games.
With the Progressive Draw, you know which matchups you want to broadcast on the live stream. It is here to stay.
- I find the fact that Quang Duong had his normal paddle disqualified by Don Stanley due to having too much white on it, – while every player is literally forced to wear all white outfits – somewhat hypocritical
I just happened to be watching live as this unfolded. Duong was almost done warming up with Ben Johns, and then Don Stanley pulled him and his paddle off to the side.
Stanley said the paddle had too much white in it, so Duong had to run to the Pickleball Central stand to get a new paddle off the table. The delay seemed like it took at least 20 minutes. Then he went on to beat Ben Johns.
The fact that white was the entire dress code for The Masters, but the paddle face had too much white on it, is so ironic. I love the white outfit look, but if white really causes vision problems tracking the ball, I find the dress code contradictory.
- Bold Prediction: Catherine Parenteau and Anna Leigh Waters will lose this year
Catherine and Anna Leigh have won 54 matches in a row. They are very clearly the number one overall women’s team, and it’s not even really close. However, I think we are going to see them lose at least once this year.
Anna Bright and Rachel Rohrabacher are a VERY good team that will continue to get better together. The Kawamotos seem to continue to evolve and get better.
Hurricane Tyra Black and Lea Jansen seemed like a great duo, but that partnership may be one and done. I just think there are too many good players now that by the end of the year, CP and ALW will lose one.
- Is Rachel Rohrabacher a top 10 woman by the end of the year?
Rohrabacher is a SUPER strong, powerful woman. She came on the scene less than six months ago when Anna Bright made the (at the time) CRAZY draft pick in MLP.
Her and Anna Bright bring so much power and offense to the game. Rachel definitely needs to become more consistent when at the line, which obviously comes with more reps.
She is playing mixed doubles with Federico Staksrud, and that pairing looks like it has some very serious potential. Rohrabacher has all the potential in the world to become a top 10 woman on tour by the end of the year, if not sooner.
- Jack Sock has all the potential to take over the top spot on the men’s side, especially in mixed doubles
That forehand is unbelievably good. Jack Sock has the best forehand drive in pickleball, and I don’t think there is a close second. Right now, his obvious weakness is his backhand, both at the kitchen line and from the baseline.
He is a freak athlete who put that athleticism on display all weekend. If Sock can work in a two handed backhand dink and a serviceable backhand drop from the baseline, he will be unstoppable.
As he progresses, so too will his results with Catherine Parenteau.
- The PPA Tour still has TERRIBLE cameras for instant replay and needs to upgrade
With all of the money being thrown around in pickleball, I still do not understand this one. I mentioned the Arizona Pickleball League earlier in this article. They do video replays right.
BoxCar Productions is behind the scenes there. PPA, please do us all a favor and just hire BoxCar to produce your content.
So many times this weekend calls went to video replay, and then all of a sudden the video replay wasn’t available. Or, if it was available, the ball, while being slowed down near the line, looked like Halley’s Comet.
You could not tell when or where the ball landed, so overturning calls became very difficult. It should not be this hard to have a better video replay system in 2024.
- Men’s Singles is going to be the most volatile event BY FAR this year
There were over ONE HUNDRED entrants in the men’s singles field at The Masters. That includes the main draw and the qualifiers. There are so many good, athletic guys on tour now and if they are newer to the sport, the way to make a name for themselves is through singles.
Think Quong Duong, Connor Garnett, and Christian Alshon from last year. It is going to become harder and harder for the top singles players to podium regularly with such talent out there.
Last bold prediction is that Ben Johns wins less than 10 gold medals in men’s singles this year.
The Masters in Palm Springs is such a cool event to kick off the new season. We got to see some tennis stars play pickleball professionally for the first time.
The Progressive draw seems to be a regular thing now. The new Vulcan ball played great in the sun, but had some major problems getting out of round in the cold.
ALW got yet another triple crown, while Ben got upset early in singles. Ben and ALW are still the best players in their respective genders, but the gap keeps getting a little tighter.
Dylan Frazier had a crazy comeback victory to win the first men’s singles event of the year.
We are excited to see the players next in Phoenix, AZ, for the Desert Ridge Open at the JW Marriott from January 31st - February 4th.