PPA Hyundai Masters Analysis and Take-A-Ways

PPA Hyundai Masters Analysis and Take-A-Ways

This past weekend was the first PPA tournament and slam of 2024. It was loaded with a lot of exciting headlines, former tennis star debuts and high level pickleball. There were even some former professional athletes playing and in attendance that I will mention here as well! Most importantly, as a coach, my interests lies in the level of play, strategies and how the game is evolving. But I enjoy all the other fun stuff that comes along with the growth of the sport as well. Let's dive in!

I will say before I begin, a lot of my writing is personal opinion/observation and may come off a little "beat-writer-ish." ...so it may not be everyone's cup of tea ;)

The Return of Jack Sock - Jack Sock was by far the biggest headline leading up to the first tournament of the 2024 season. After his retirement from tennis and his new deal with Selkirk, we were amped to see how his game has evolved since his debut in Charlotte last year. His play didn't disappoint. I know there are a lot of pickleball fanatics that are rooting against this man; It's tough to see tennis players come in and dominate the sport that has taken many of us years of hard work to get good at, but that's where we are. Of course, Jack Sock isn't dominating and didn't find himself on Championship Sunday this past weekend, but it's coming. 

Jack showed us that he will definitely be one of the top players in men's singles. As soon as he get's more experience under his belt and figures out some of the nuances that are specific to pickleball singles, the man is going to be really tough to beat. He took home bronze this weekend without spending any time training singles...that's really scary. His doubles play has also shown some exponential growth. Many were concerned about his backhand dinking the first time we saw him play. He has shown that he is getting more comfortable dinking on the left without running around the forehand for every shot. From my observation, he already has top 5 hands on the men's side, and a forehand drive that is comparable, if not better, than Tyson McGuffin's. The more Jack plays and the more he trains, the more of a threat he is going to be in mixed and men's doubles. He WILL be at the top. 

The singles draws are getting stacked, but another male singles player that I'm excited about watching in 2024 is Quong Duong. His strong tennis background and work ethic make him an elite singles player. Shout out to D-Frazier on his first singles gold this weekend with a ballsy comeback over Staksrud. On the women's side, I'm looking at some names that can eventually start competing with AL and CP consistently. Names like Judit Castillo, Tyra Black and even Mary Brascia come to mind. It's going to be tough cracking these top 2 female players, but somebody eventually has to make a good run, right???

Riley is Still Little Brother - Last year, I really enjoyed covering and writing up analysis on the Johns vs. Wright/Newman rivalry. It's what this sport needed when they were going back and forth between gold and silver for both teams. And then the John's brothers eventually ran away with the rivalry and Newman/Wright couldn't adjust. So they broke up. 

The potential for Matt Wright and Newman to play against each other in a men's draw is something I always look at before a tournament starts. I love the chirping on the court, the intensity and what's on the line when these two play against each other. Just to preface, I am a Matt Wright fan, so I'm always looking for Matt to avenge the break-up. Unfortunately, Riley has been more successful in Men's Doubles on a consistent basis since the two split ways, but there are still two at the top whom he can't figure out how to beat, no matter who is partner is...So at the end of the day, Was Matt really the problem????

I love watching Thomas Wilson play, and I think that him and Riley make a great team, but it's going to take a lot of training time, adjustment and commitment to one another in order for them to make another rivalry against the Johns brothers. What makes Ben and Collin so great, is there dedication to playing with one another, the fact that they live in the same house (I think) and that they are willing to make necessary adjustments when they lose. It's going to take that same willingness and mindset to beat them regularly. Until Riley finds a partner that he can stick with and make those adjustments with, he is always going to be little brother. 

How long will AL and CP be unstoppable? - I don't know how many people want to admit this, or maybe I'm delusional, but I think we are very close to seeing AL and CP go down. Will it be regularly, no, but I am predicting that they get their first loss in 2024. As an aspiring high level coach, there are several things in their game that I believe are starting to be exposed. I can't share those things here, but there are a couple of teams that I believe have the ability to find those weaknesses and learn to exploit them consistently, making for some really great women's pickleball to watch over the next year. Let's look at some of these teams that can do it. 

*Anna Bright/Rachel Rohrabacher - We've all known that Anna has been top 3 in women's doubles for over a year now...some people like myself, believe she is top 2. but...we've all been waiting for her to team up with someone who can hang with her against CP and AL. Rachel IS the answer. Rachel brings the attacking, countering and fire power that will be good enough to compete with the top team, with some more experience and strategic adjustment, I believe this Anna/Rachel duo can be the first to take down the top team. 

*Meghan Dizon/Etta Wright - If I had to give a most improved award to any female player over the past year, it is Meghan Dizon. I don't believe that Meghan and Etta have the firepower to beat AL and CP, but I do believe they have a couple of things in their arsenal that can make life hard for them, ultimately leading to a win. They have one hand slice dinks that I have seen both AL and CP struggle with. Etta has the one handed backhand flick that gives her a little more reach for attacking some of those aggressive dinks out of the air (very CP like) and they both have the ability to stay in hand battles or reset when needed. That is going to be a crucial element to beating AL and CP. With some good strategy adjustments and high percentage execution, this team can also do it. 

*Honorable mention, the Brascia's - These two are very smart on the court. And they have the ability to drill with one another regularly. If they can clean up unforced errors, they could potentially upset the number 1 team as well. 

Although the timing was awful, we had an appearance interview with Super Bowl champ Nick Foles and a guest sighting of Matt Kuchar (PGA star.) As a Georgia Tech fan, (Kuchar's alma mater) this was good for me to see. I believe seeing some of these former athletes interested in the game is really good for the growth of our sport! I'm just waiting for the Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift appearances that are bound to happen...

After the next tournament, I plan on diving a little more into mixed doubles. There are some teams on the horizon that I believe can take down Ben and Anna Leigh! Ill give more insight into that next time :)

If you want to get more insights and analysis like this from PPA, MLP and APP, please subscribe to my email list with the link below and be sure to follow my socials. As the year progresses, I will be diving into more strategy and technical aspects of the pro game and plan on doing some point break downs from time to time as well.

See you all soon!

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