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Riley Newman Won't Accept Anything But First Place, and The Reason Isn't Just Money

by The Dink Media Team on

If you're unfamiliar with pro pickleball player Riley Newman, consider this week's PicklePod episode an introduction. He's at the top of the game with 19 PPA Tour wins and the last MLP event under his belt.

But if you're a big pro pickleball fan, you already know that.

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On the latest episode of PicklePod, we welcomed Riley as a very special guest and learned about his new doubles partnership with Thomas Wilson, the driving force behind his competitive spirit, and whether or not paddles really make a difference in high-level play.

Why leave Matt Wright? (28:30)

When Riley announced last year that he was ending his longstanding doubles partnership with Matt Wright, many were surprised.

They won medal after medal – so why change? Riley says it's all about getting to the number one spot, and to do that, he needs to find someone who can help him beat the Johns Bros.

"At the end of the day, I don't play just to keep earning silvers and bronze. I thought [the Johns brothers] had figured us out."

Riley says Thomas Wilson, his new partner, may just be athletic and driven enough to help him get the W over the Johns'.

The crazy story behind his competitive personality (29:15)

Doesn't it always boil down to the parents? Riley says his "did some pretty crazy things."

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"If we were playing ping pong or tennis or whatever the sport was, the loser would have to do chores."

Apparently, if Riley didn't perform to standard in a tournament, his father wouldn't feed him or his siblings for the entirety of the hours-long car ride home. So we can begin to see where this first-only mentality comes from.

What's the story behind Riley's unique 'pancake' grip? (31:04)

If you've seen him play, you may have noticed Riley's odd grip. It looks like he literally pickled up his paddle from where it was laying flat, rather than adjusting his hand to the typical continental or Eastern grip.

Why is his grip like this? Once again, it goes back to his youth.

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"Some guy at my high school tennis courts taught me to angle the racket like this to get more topspin, and it worked," he says.

"I would never teach someone the forehand pancake just because there's limitations to the forehand drive – you can't hit a flat drive with it, more like a topspin/loopy shot ... but there's benefits to that as well."

These are just a few of the interesting twists and turns of our conversation with Riley. Watch the full episode above, or find it on our fast-growing YouTube channel.


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