Florida Pickleball Finds It’s Place In The Sun

Let the games begin!!….The US Open in Naples, Fl. is an Olympic sized pb tournament!!…Well, I exaggerate a bit, but it may be the event that brings our sport to the attention to millions of people who have never heard of this sport. CBS sports will be televising the Saturday finals sometime in May. Our little sport is becoming the ”next big thing”.

*Here is the link to some info on the big show: www.usopenpickleballchampionship.com

When you get to the site, you can click on Events/Schedule to see a video on the Zing Zang Challenge….This is skill type competition that looks like it will be fun for players to test their reaction times. Maybe next year they can get ZZ Top to play during the warm up period:-)

*Here is a link to a Pickleball Channel video about the tournament:

News Update – A New Tournament Format at the US Open



One family that has a ”home state” advantage at the US Open are the players that I am featuring next. They live in the ”PB Paradise” of The Villages in Florida. It is a lifestyle townsite/resort located about 240 miles north of Naples. Lets get the insiders viewpoint from:

Robert and Jodi Elliott       In Their Own Words

1. Hi folks, would you tell me what the excitement level is like among the pbers from the Villages to have an event in their home state?

Jodi – It is really exciting and fun to see the US Open actually starting to take place. We have been looking forward to this event for over a year. Previously we always had to travel out west for a huge tournament and now with a big event in our own backyard we can easily drive and be there in no time. It is nice to see all our pb friends from out west here in the Sunshine State. The venue at the Open looks terrific and the stadium is incredible. I got to warm up on centre court with Robert and the #1 player in the country, Marcin Rozpedski…It felt different than any court I have played on…you could feel something special about the atmosphere, even though only a handful of people were there watching.

2. Robert, your doubles partner is Matt Staub….Are you two going to be doing a stacking strategy? Do you guys practice together a lot?….With your pb playing kids, Josh and Rachel–do you coach them in an organized way, or, just play together and let them learn the game in their own way?

Robert – Yes, Matt and I will be stacking with Matt’s backhand and my forehand in the middle, which we both prefer, which works out great. We used to play a lot, but since Matt moved to Arizona, about a year ago, we have not played together.

We try to teach our children in an organized way, but they are teenagers (15 and 13) so, of course they would rather play than drill. Although, we do get some drilling in there. We are firm believers that to improve, one must drill more than play. Now that they are at the 4.5 level, they can take the techniques we have taught them and adapt them for their own playing style. As a family, we really do have fun playing together. It is so nice not to have to call around looking for people to play. We have our own built in partners and really good competition. We are hoping to team up together for the US Open next year.

3. Jodi, your husband is also your doubles partner. Do you two spend a lot of time practicing on the court together when you’re getting ready for a big match?…Are there a lot of 5.0 players at the Villages that you can play against?….Your ladies doubles partner is Stephanie Lane. Have you competed with Stephanie before? What do you like about her game?….How does it feel for you to see Rachel and Josh doing so well in their matches?

Jodi – I have to say, I love playing pb with my husband. He’s so much fun to be with on the court. I hope this US Open he flies around like I know he can…He is truly fun to watch…We used to drill everyday, even Sundays, and play most days afterwards. Since we started EngagePickleball, almost a year ago, our drill times have diminished to once a week. We tried to pick up our practicing the last ten days getting ready for the big event…. There are a few ”go to” guys we can call to set up matches with in the Villages….Stephanie and I have played a few local matches together and some at the Pro Exhibition in the Villages. I think we play well together. She has great blocking abilities, a smashing forehand and a superb lob. I wish we could practice together more often. Her Nashville energy and fan base is stimulating!

Well, my children tell me they can hear me gasping from the sidelines. I have to watch them with my hand over my mouth. I actually, didn’t realize there was crying in pb….a few matches I have welled up in tears of proudness–seeing little Rachel returning bullet overheads repeatedly and Joshua setting himself up to roll a ball down the middle is an awesome sight. I am amazed by them now…I can’t imagine when they are 16 and 18…look out..already I am soon to be the worst player in the family!

If you have any other questions we are available for answers. I hope we gave you something to work with. Thank you for giving us a great opportunity to share our thoughts with you and your followers. I wish we were going to Canada this summer…we had a lovely time last year.

Kindest regards,

Jodi and Robert Elliott.

I enjoyed hearing from you Jodi and Robert. I will be following, with interest, the pb performances of the whole Elliott family….Here is the link to the site where you can learn about Engage Pickleball and their paddle that is transforming the high performance pb game!


This is the link for Kerry E. Baser, their Operations Manager   kerry@engagepickleball.com


Here are some links to Robert and Jodi’s instructional videos. This first one is a clever idea for saving yourself from a ball in the eyeball:-)

Jodi Elliott   Protect Eyes      https://youtu.be/Ayl1gf_IMzc


This next tip is one I’ve been studying carefully. If you get this technique down it helps you avoid ”sardine shots”–the ones that end up in the net:-)

Robert and Jodi  The Volley  https://youtu.be/xyr4TaLvWiw


Here is a match featuring the Elliotts in action against Kyle Yates and Stephanie Lane–the bronze medalists from last years open mixed doubles play.

USAPA Nationals OMXD   https://youtu.be/paNz6gYgJa0


In the April 5th edition of my blog I interviewed Kyle Yates…He is another player who calls Florida home. This next video shows Kyle honing his skills with Robert, and 2 other great pros, at the Villages:

Pickleball Rec Play at the Villages       https://youtu.be/qquxKTKgOGk 


This next one shows a great look on how to serve hard and with accuracy:

Power Serve With SloMo   Rob Elliott    https://youtu.be/zLV2xZeobk8


This video is from a qualifying round in last years Nationals. Robert and his partner Raphael Siebenschien went on to win a bronze medal. Their opponents, Matthew Blom and Daniel Moore, were knocked out in the 19+ doubles, but, later at the tournament, won gold in open mens doubles.

2015 Nationals VII MD 19+    https://youtu.be/hX_8B2XXCuA

Simply The Best

Who is the best male pb player in the world today?… I think that one competitor who would be in the conversation would be Daniel Moore. He has missed the early tournaments this year because he has been working in Japan, but Daniel has made the long journey home to play at the US Open. I asked him a few questions about his return:

* Hi Daniel, I think your fans would be interested in hearing what it’s like for you to be ”back in the USAPA”!!….Also I noticed you have some awesome partners for the big show in Naples. Have you competed before with Wes Gabrielson, Brian Ashworth and Sarah Ansboury?….I will be intrigued to see how you do with Irina Tereschenko in MXD +25. I think she has an interesting playing style. Great luck, and all the best to you in your matches.

Daniel Moore – Hey Doug, first of all, it’s great to be back in the US! A little jet lagged, but I’m feeling good and trying to get lots of practice in before the tournament struts tomorrow….I have never competed with any of my partners before. Wes, Sarah, Brian and Irina–they are all top-notched players and I’m looking forward to seeing what damage we can do. Thanks for cheering for me!


* Here is a link to Daniel Moore’s travel tour and clinic that is taking place in Japan in October 2016. Daniel will be joined in the clinic by his pb ”rock star” father Scott Moore….Wow!… Talk about a once in a lifetime cultural and pickleball-high experience!!



Thaaat’s all folks that I have, for now, about the US Open, but I’m going to try to get some more commentary from the pros as the tourney proceeds. Until then…

Thanks for the game,

DJ Baker.


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