It’s been a little over a year since I started my hobby of writing about our sport. At first I commented about issues affecting my local pickleball community. In the last few months I’ve found it fascinating to hear what the pro players have to say about their lives, their playing philosophies and tournament experiences. Eventually I may have to go back to concentrating on what is happening with Victoria pickleball. The reason–the ”stars” are getting featured in publications that are covering their exploits in a professional manner. Also, our little sport is growing and changing quickly. The best players are now winning cash prizes to go along with their medals….Will they soon dwell in a world of millions of fans, lucrative endorsement contracts and sports agents?….It is easy to foresee what it will be like for those rare individuals who inhabit that playing level above the 5.0 ranking. They are the big winners…However, I still have time to hear from some of them before they move to a different place–before the top players become the ”pay for view pickleballers”.
In this edition I will be having a look back at the gargantuan pb show that took place April 26th – May 1st in Naples, Florida. First off here is a link to some postcards from the event. If you’re a groupie like me, see how many players you can identify:
US Open In Pictures: https://youtu.be/oDEEjNlaf9I
”Only On The CBS Sports Network You Say…..Pity.”
There will be televised coverage of US Open Pickleball– Men’s Pro Doubles Finals and highlights from Women’s and Mixed Finals. The date for this historic event is Friday, May 20th, 7pm Eastern….The catch??…I haven’t heard of anyone who gets the CBS Sports Network in Canada…..
If anyone has a solution to this viewing problem, please let me know: email@example.com
An interesting story from the Open was the participation of the team from Great Britain. I was able to get a few comments from one of the players on their team–Sheena Maclean-Bell, on her winning a medal in women’s doubles (age group bracket) with Karli Mandie.
* Sheena, I’m wondering if you are the top women’s pickleballer in Britain?….How did you like playing in the tropical climate of Florida?
SMB – Doug, thanks for your message, apologies for the delay in responding. Florida climate is lovely–although not so battling it out in the midday heat…Yes, I am the top women’s player in the UK in my age group (we take home silver from the US Open which is also a bit of history as I am the first female 35+ to win a USAPA event in this category)…Would be great to feature on your website and thank you for contacting me.
You can see some pictures of Sheena at the Open by searching for her on Facebook:
Motiv8 Sports Director Sheena Maclean-Bell
Here is a link to a short video about Team GB – https://youtu.be/Ay-VR4twPaY?
Lynn Syler is a high level 5.0 player from Ruston, Washington. She won 2 medals at the Open–gold in MX+40 with Jack Oxler, and silver in WD+40 with Emy Williams. I got in touch with Lynn after her first event.
* Hi Lynn, congrats on your medal in the WD age group. I’m wondering how you enjoyed the competition today?….Do you usually compete in indoor or outdoor events?…Is the tropical climate an issue for a Washington lady?….Good luck the rest of the way.
LS – Doug, thanks for the message…Outdoor ball is a challenge for me as I do play indoor all winter. This is the 2nd day I’ve hit outdoor ball since Nationals in November (don’t tell anyone until Sunday) lol….It’s also a bit sticky.
* Here is a link to a video with Lynn and Enrique Ruiz. They are talking about how they won gold at the State Games of Oregon in July 2015: https://youtu.be/RLJ_lv2n3EA
* I don’t have any video links to the next player….You’ll find out why in a moment. His name is Jack Oxler and he played remarkably well at the Open. If you’re good at visualization, Jack is medium tall, slim, 40-something fellow with short dark hair.
* Great going at the US Open, Jack….Lots of medals (3 gold, 1 silver)…Was this your first major tournament?…Are you going to the Nationals in November?….How is pb in Wichita, Kansas?
JO – Hi Doug. This was my first major tournament. I probably will play Nationals. Pickleball in Kansas is definitely growing! We started playing about 7 months ago and we are completely addicted. Lynn Syler deserves all the credit for our success! (gold in MX 40+)
* Amazing Jack!…Only 7 months and you’re winning against the pros!…I’ll be interested to see how you do in November when you’ve got another 6 months experience:-)
JO – Thanks Doug. That is very nice to hear. We did play a bunch of paddle tennis the year before and I have played tennis my whole life, so transitioning to pickleball was very similar. Pickleball is definitely the most fun to play!! I plan on playing pickleball the rest of my life. I think pb doubles is amazing. Pickleball singles is like mini tennis instead of pickleball. If tennis singles was played on a tennis doubles court it would completely change the game. Tennis has different dimensions for singles and doubles but pickleball does not.
* That’s an interesting point, Jack…PB singles on a smaller court?…Who knows…I would like to see a test match.
I hope we get to see Jack Oxler in action on youtube if he makes it to the US Nationals. There are usually lots of videos posted from that event.
Time To Soar
* I recently was able to contact Simone Jardim–one of the very top lady pickleball players in the world. At last year’s US Nationals VII she won some prestigious medals–a gold and silver in doubles play and a gold in women’s open singles play….Because of Simone’s work schedule, she was only able to find time to compete in singles play at the US Open….I asked her some questions on April 27th, a few days before her match.
* Simone, I see you are going to be playing singles at the US Open. That should be exciting, since you’re the best singles player in the world:-)…Are you in Florida now?….Do you compete in tennis tournaments?….What’s more fun–winning pb medals or tennis trophies?
SJ – So, I’m a tennis coach now, so I played division 1 tennis and I’m a two time All-American in doubles. I have been coaching for about 12 years now, last eight as a head coach at Michigan State University. My job is year round but I have some flexibility. I’m in Michigan tomorrow. We are playing in the Big Ten tournament, so I’m not heading down till we are out of the tournament….Pickleball has been so much fun for me because it has given me the opportunity to be competitive again in another sport. I have also made some new friends and have found myself hooked on pickleball and everything that goes with it.
* On May 1st Simone Jardim played her singles match at Naples. She took home the gold medal. From the scores it appeared she was in a different zone than the other ladies–only one game where an opponent was close (12-10 vs Irina Tereshenko)….Great playing!!…I’m hoping that some of the matches make it to youtube.
Here is a link from last year’s Nationals. Watch as Simone Jardim (in the gray tee and white visor) teams up with Rafael Siebenschien in a spirited contest vs Christine McGrath and Matt Staub. Simone and Rafael won gold in this MX event.
The Fantastic Four
There were many great players at Naples, Florida, for the inaugural US Open Pickleball Championship. For trivia buffs, Cookie Drake from Alberta won the first gold medal at the tournament, with her partner Rachel Kroog, in 55+ WD. Cookie and Rachel also went on to capture a silver in WD pro division…. One of my favourite stars, Irina Tereshenko, took home 2 gold medals in doubles play and a silver in singles….A stand out player on the men’s side was Scott Moore who won 2 gold medals in 50+ age bracket doubles events and a bronze in MD pro division. Marcin Rozpedski continues to impress his fans, winning a gold in mens doubles 30+ with Morgan Evans and a gold in open mens singles. Wes Gabrielsen, Daniel Moore and Gigi LeMaster are three players that had great success and many medals at the Open…but, I have talked about how much I admire their play in other court editions.
*These are, in my opinion, the top four stories from the Open:
Dave Weinbach – Dave continues to impress his fans and fellow players. He captured 2 gold medals and 2 silver. The big win was in the MD pro division with Kyle Yates.
Kyle Yates – Since he’s from Fort Meyers, Florida, Kyle had a lot of the locals rooting for him. He won 2 gold medals and 2 silver medals. As well as his prestigious MD pro gold medal, I was impressed that Kyle made it to the finals in men’s singles.
Christine McGrath – When are a bronze medal and 2 gold medals extra shiny?…When you’re playing 7 months into your pregnancy!!….This has to be one of the most remarkable pickleball stories ever!!
Sarah Ansboury – What can you say about Sarah’s play?….How about some cliches–Sarah came to play!…Ansboury gave 110%!…Sarah Ansboury owned the courts!….Or, how about the facts?… Sarah took home 3 gold medals, a silver and a bronze and is the Queen of the US Open 2016. You read about her experiences at the tournament by going to this blog site: rvpicklers.com
Here is a video with the Badger (Dave Weinbach) from the LeMaster-Davison Classic. Dave is the guy with the red ball cap: https://youtu.be/TluFFovCmLU
Here are some exerts from US Open Singles play with Marcin Rozpedski and Kyle Yates:
Here is the link to the US Open Women’s Gold Medal Match in the 19-35 age bracket. It features Gigi LeMaster and Irina Tereschenko vs Christine McGrath and Sarah Ansboury.
* I am hoping that in time the more videos will be posted on youtube from the ”really big shoe”. The pickleball channel was at Naples so I’m thinking Rusty will be putting some stuff out soon….
* Here is the website of the PBX club. Their latest installment features the US Open Post Game Show.
* In my next post, you will hear about some Canadians who made the trip to Florida….You’ll probably never guess where one of the ”hot beds” for pb is located in our “North Country Fair”….That’s next time,…’till then,
Thanks for the game,