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Fed Continues to Make a Statement While Johns Bros Get Pickled Among PPA Red Rock Takeaways

by Erik Tice on

This past weekend the Selkirk PPA Red Rock Open took place in St. George, Utah. This was the last of four consecutive tournaments on the PPA Tour in the month of April. 

While many top pros played in the event, the Red Rock Open didn’t have Anna Leigh Waters, Catherine Parenteau, Rachel Rohrabacher, Thomas Wilson, Riley Newman, among others. With these names missing, it gave the fans a chance to see some new names and faces make deep runs throughout the tournament.

Notable Takeaways

Federico is Here for the Long Term

Federico Staksrud has four gold medals and five silver medals in 2024 in men’s singles. He has been putting in the work and has proven not only is he uber talented, he is willing to work harder than everyone else.

What would you do if you played four tournaments in a row in April, with deep runs in all three disciplines, and you finally get two weeks off, before MLP Atlanta? Most people would take a break and rest their body. Fed? He is headed to Kansas City to work on his game with his coach.

Federico is looking to play with a different men’s doubles partner on the PPA Tour starting in May, so we will see where new pairings take his game. We know he is going to stay on top in men’s singles because it seems unstoppable right now.

Lea Jansen Used PPA Red Rock to Cement a Great April

Lea Jansen proved again on Sunday that she is a FIERCE competitor and mentally and physically tough. To say that Lea battled is an understatement. She had to take a medical timeout in her third game of singles on Sunday against Mary Brascia, after going down 0-1. She battled back in that third game after some big-time blood sugar issues, due to her Type 1 Diabetes.

Jansen is looking like she is playing some of her best pickleball in the last month. She has secured herself four medals on the PPA Tour in women’s singles in 2024, tying her with some elite company in Anna Leigh Waters and Kaitlyn Christian. Two wins in three weeks is an unbelievable accomplishment. Confidence and momentum is a very real thing in pickleball, and Lea is playing with both.

She has been playing well with Hayden Patriquin in mixed doubles, earning a bronze medal a couple of months ago in Minnesota, and getting some other good results.

The budding partnership with Tina Pisnik could really be a good thing moving forward. The duo earned a bronze medal in Houston and then followed that up in St. George with a gutsy gold medal. Pisnik and Jansen are easily a top five team right now on the PPA Tour. The idea of Jansen playing with confidence on the verge of the first MLP event – where she plays her best – should scare her opponents in MLP Atlanta.

With Catherine and Anna Leigh taking a break from the PPA Tour through most of April, Lea has firmly established herself in 2024 as an elite player in all three events, especially singles.

Welcome to Pro Pickleball Noe Khlif and Robert Slutsky

We met Slutsky earlier in the month with this ridiculous diving ATP. We have yet to really meet Noe Khlif on the PPA Tour until this weekend.

The Frenchman played his second ever PPA Tour event in St. George. At PPA Houston, Khlif was able to beat DJ Young in men’s singles as the No. 40 seed. PPA Red Rocks is where we really saw him succeed. 

In singles, he beat the following players on his way to a 5th-place finish. Eventually he lost to Tyson McGuffin in the quarterfinals.

  • 29 - Edward Perez - 11-1, 12-10
  • 6 - Dylan Frazier - 5-11, 11-6, 11-4
  • 10 - Jay Devilliers - 11-7, 11-6

In men’s doubles, we saw Slutsky and Khlif play together. They bring a lot of heat and provide a problem for other teams with their right hand/left hand in the middle combo. They are both ridiculously athletic, covering the court extremely well. Here was their run together in PPA Red Rock as a No. 38 seed:

  • 29 - Luke Wasson/Edward Perez - 11-6, 11-5
  • 6 - Pat Smith/Jay Devilliers - Withdrawal
  • 17 - Martin Emmrich/Michael Loyd - 11-5, 12-10

They eventually ran into the buzzsaw known as the Johns brothers. The duo gained some great experience in the tournament and we hope to see the men from Dallas in more events soon.

Gabe Tardio and Andrei Daescu Beat the Johns Brothers for the Second Time This Year

The tall duo are giants themselves and they are also giant killers. Tardio is getting better and better and is super deceptive with his movements. Both Daescu and Gabe use head fakes and jab steps to make their opponents think they are going one way, but go the other.

Now that Tardio is signed to the PPA Tour exclusively, hopefully we can see more of this partnership moving forward on the PPA Tour. 

We saw Tardio and Daescu beat the Johns brothers earlier in the year at the PPA Mesa Arizona Cup, doing so in two games, 11-6, 11-5. However, at PPA Red Rock it may have been even more dominant; Tardio and Daescu beat the Johns in the third game 11-0, pickling the brothers for what has to be the first time ever.

Appreciate the Excellence of Ben Johns

While it is really fun to root for the underdog, watching Ben Johns in his prime is a privilege. The 24-year-old has gone 19 straight tournaments with at least one gold medal. The competition is getting better every day but Ben continues to stay a step ahead. 

If you are a pro pickleball fan – and you obviously are because you're reading this – you have seen Ben on Championship Sunday of every PPA event. Let’s not take for granted Ben’s greatness. With over 100 PPA Tour titles, 24 triple crowns, and 19 straight events with a gold medal, we are watching the GOAT during the best run of his career. Take a moment to appreciate and admire the talent of Ben Johns.

Mary Brascia Gets Her First Ever Gold Medal in Women’s Singles

In what was a crazy, disjointed match, Mary beat Lea in three games – the score in the third game was 11-9. While Jansen was dealing with medical issues, Brascia had to stay focused and be ready to play.

PPA Red Rock was the third tournament in a row where Brascia was the No. 1 seed, but she had been unable to capture gold prior to Utah. In Houston, Brascia lost to No. 19 seed Sam Parker and then followed that up in LA by losing to No. 8 seed Kaitlyn Christian.

You could see the determination on Mary’s face throughout her run in Utah. Brascia didn’t lose a game in her first four matches, winning those matches a combined 88-27 – a very dominant performance. Mary also avenged her LA loss to Christian, beating her in the semis, 11-4, 11-8.

We will see Mary next at the Atlanta Open because she is not participating in Major League Pickleball in 2024.

Utah LOVES its Pickleball

Utah has some of the best pickleball players in the world. The fans are super supportive and they really understand pickleball. The event seemed to be packed all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. They love their pickleball so much in Utah that the PPA is going to hold another event in August: The PICKLR Utah Open.

In most sports there is a "homecourt advantage" and Utah may have the best one in pickleball. On Championship Sunday there were even several people who had placed a long braid in their hair similar to Callie Smith as an homage.

Here are the results for some of the top women players from Utah:

  • Allyce Jones - Bronze medal with Hurricane Tyra Black in women’s doubles
  • Callie Smith - Silver medal with Anna Bright in women’s doubles
  • Etta Wright - Gold medal with Ben Johns in mixed doubles
  • Alix Truong - Bronze medal with Connor Garnett in mixed doubles

Pickleball. It's what Utah does.

Best highlights from the weekend

  • Gabe Tardio hit this unbelievable ATP in Game 2 vs. Ben and Collin Johns
  • Tardio also hit this amazing Erne in Game 2 against Ben and Collin, in their big win
  • A great display of defense to offense by Alix Truong and Vivian Glozman wins them the point in Game 2 against the Brascia sisters
  • An insane point between the Johnson brothers and JW Johnson and Dylan Frazier
  • Jack Sock’s soft game is coming along so well, he just added a nonchalant tweener reset from the midcourt and won the point
  • PicklePod co-host Zane Navratil played singles for the first time in a long time and beat the No. 5 seed, JW Johnson, in three games
  • Jack Sock entertained the crowd in his first trip to a silver medal in singles in Utah
  • This point included an over the shoulder backhand overhead from Etta Wright, a disgusting reset from Ben Johns before hitting a sprinting forward backhand ATP winner
  • Tardio and Daescu beat the Johns brothers for the second time this year on their way to a silver medal.

Complete Results

Women’s Singles

  1. Mary Brascia
  2. Lea Jansen
  3. Kaitlyn Christian

Men’s Singles

  1. Federico Staksrud
  2. Jack Sock
  3. Christian Alshon

Women’s Doubles

  1. Tina Pisnik/Lea Jansen
  2. Callie Smith/Anna Bright
  3. Hurricane Tyra Black/Allyce Jones

Men’s Doubles

  1. Dylan Frazier/JW Johnson
  2. Gabe Tardio/Andrei Daescu
  3. Tyson McGuffin/Dekel Bar

Mixed Doubles

  1. Etta Wright/Ben Johns
  2. Anna Bright/James Ignatowich
  3. Alix Truong/Connor Garnett
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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