* I was quite excited to see the CBS pickleball videos are now out on YouTube. That gave me the incentive to do another edition on the inaugural US Open that took place April 26th – May 1st at Naples, Florida. I was also quite excited to hear from two of the best male players in the whole pb universe!!….
Their comments are coming up in a bit, but first I would like to introduce you to a young lady who could become a top pro player. I congratulated this young woman from Kansas for winning 1 silver and 3 gold medals at the US Open. I also asked her about her future tournament plans. She was kind enough to send me a reply:
LK – Thank you, Doug! I appreciate your support My plan for the future is to play three major tournaments in a year. I will focus on mix with my partner Matt Wright (we played together in Naples), singles, and doubles (but I have to find a partner for me). I’m pretty new to the pickleball world so it’s difficult to find a women’s partner….My next tournament will be the Tournament of Champions in Utah and then Nationals
* I’ll be looking forward to see how you do later this year, Lucy. Since Lucy Kovalova is a new competitor, I could only find one short video of her in action….It is from the pro level women’s singles from the US Open. She had a great run and defeated top players Corrine Carr and Sarah Ansboury to get to the finals. Lucy Kovalova is dressed in pink and is playing against the eventual winner of the gold medal, Simone Jardim.
* Good news… I heard through the ”cucumber vine” that Lucy was able to get a partner for women’s doubles at the TOC.
* One of the most entertaining matches from the mens pro doubles action at Naples was the battle for the bronze medal. It was a close match in all 3 games. The combatants were Marcin Rozpedski and Morgan Evans vs the eventual winners Brian Ashworth and Scott Moore…I asked Brian a few questions about his partner and the match:
* Hey Brian, how was it for you with Scott Moore? Is he easy to get in sync with?….That must have been some match you two had against Marcin and Morgan for the bronze?
Brian (the Beard) Ashworth – Yeah, super easy with Scott! Our styles are very compatible, he is aggressive and wants the forehand in the middle, I am patient and defensive and prefer the backhand side, and I have little ego so if he wants to be the alpha and take every shot then so be it, dude is an absolute beast$
* Thanks for that Brian….When you watch the games you’ll see that the Beard was a big part of the victory….Scott Moore, although he was the oldest player in the match, was looking young with his skillful moves–especially with his ”jive” break during one of the timeouts!! Below is the link…. You won’t want to skip this one:
Bronze Medal Match – Mens Doubles Pro Level US Open
Tips From Bronze Winners – Scott Moore and Brian Ashworth
Mens Pro Level Finalists
* The two teams competing in mens doubles at the US Open were Daniel Moore and Wes Gabrielsen vs the eventual golden team of Dave Weinbach and Kyle Yates….The link to the match will be at the end of two mini interviews.
* I’ve wanted to hear from Wes Gabrielsen for awhile so I thought this was a good time. He was kind enough to give me his feedback on the match and his overall game.
1. You’ve had a great start to the year, Wes…I’ve lost count of how many medals you earned so far. I don’t know how the pb seeding works, but are you the #1 men’s player, or is there a formal ranking of pickleball players?
WG – Thanks Doug. It sure has been a fun and successful start to the new year. My partners have been playing ”lights out” and it’s been fun to be teamed up with them on the path to success. And no, I am far from the number one player. There are so many top notch athletic guys I am trying to emulate strokes from. There is much room for improvement for me. In terms of rankings, there is a USAPA points system that awards points based on placing on each tournament, but the problem with that is that a player could play small local tournaments with little competition, accumulate a lot of points and be considered top of the top without playing a lot of competition. Also several top players play two or three events a year and do well but the points system doesn’t reflect their true ranking. Overall, tournament directors have done a great job seeding tournaments.
2. Anyone who watches you play will notice that you play with your left hand. In doubles you use the stacking strategy, which I believe is de rigueur since you, as a lefty, are always teamed up with a right handed player. As a twist, I notice that you serve with your right hand and sometimes switch hands to get a sideline shot…Are you fully ambidextrous?
WG – I am ambidextrous. I always serve right handed and hit overheads right handed. Everything else is lefty. From a young age I was very ambidextrous. All daily functions like eating, writing, etc are left. So racquet sports became all lefty for me. While my two best sports growing up were baseball and soccer–which I was right handed and footed in. So when I started tennis and golf I had more power naturally for serving and driving on my right side. Overall I’m just confused…That’s how I classify it.
3. You had great success at the US Open. In the early matches you won 2 medals in the doubles age brackets. A gold with Alex Hamner in MX 30+, and a gold in MD 19+ with Kyle Yates. Then on Saturday you were in the big event….The men’s pro level doubles on the championship court! You were partnered with Daniel Moore against Kyle Yates and Dave Weinbach…You’re a seasoned competitor, but were you nervous at all knowing that the match was to be televised by CBS Sports?
WG – Yes. Kyle and Alex are great partners. We sure had fun. Alex and I had a good run in open mixed too but our opponents were too tough in the end. I sure enjoyed playing with Daniel in pro men’s. We’d battled too many times across the net from each other so decided that being on the same side of the net might be a good idea for us. You know, as far as the championship court goes, I had played my two age finals on that court earlier in the week so I was used to the venue and setting…So fun. I love that big atmosphere. It’s just fun. The noisy crowd and cheering are great. So fun to be part of it. Truthfully I was not nervous. I just treated it like any other match as I was extremely focused and pumped to play. Overall it was so fun to be on court with all of those guys and to be a part of pickleball history.
4. I know he’s a great player, but can you tell me what your partner Daniel Moore was like to compete with?…How was your synergy and communication together?
WG – First of all, Daniel is a great person…He comes from a great family of wonderful people. He and I are good friends and our friendship enabled us to play well together as this was our first time teaming up. We have a similar mindset of relaxed competitiveness and the same strategy for success. Our communication was fine and we had a great run.
5. Last question Wes….You have been a great friend to the Canadian Nationals and made the trip up to Kelowna in 2015 and 2014. Do you enjoy your time in B.C.?…Do you like interacting with your Canuck fans?
WG – I sure love Canada. I have only been in the country twice now, which were both for that event. The first year was in Abbotsford and I met some great people. It was an indoor event and my goal is to always play outdoors during summer. The thought of Kelowna and an outdoor venue enticed me to return. What a great venue, area and a well run event. You’ll see more and more folks from the States coming now it’s a great event. I love the Canadian fans as they’re more vocal and banter during matches. It was so fun and I can’t wait to play in July.
* Thanks Wes…You are definitely one of my favourite players, and you have an entertaining style of play….I think ALL left handed players would do well to study your tournament matches carefully….There are numerous videos of Wes on YouTube, including his mixed final from last year’s Canadian Nationals….There is also some early bio info about Wes in the Pickleball Central Blog – Meet the Pickleball Pros from Oct 1st, 2014
* Here is the link to Wes and Alex Hamner’s gold medal performance in at the US Open vs Sarah Ansboury and Chris Miller.
US Open MX 30+ Final – https://youtu.be/5rds2cAH_ZU
* Up next is some feedback from another player who also has had great success at tournament play so far this year, including impressive matches at the US Open. I first talked with Kyle Yates in the April 5th, 2016 edition of CC. If you haven’t seen it, please take the time to check out that interview. It was generous of Kyle to take the time to share further insights on his experiences at Naples.
1. First off Kyle, congratulations on your performance at the US Open–2 silver and 2 gold medals! Since you were playing in your home state of Florida, you had a lot of people rooting for you. Did you feed off the fan support in your matches? Do their cheers help you to do your best?
KY – Thanks Doug…Yeah, the atmosphere at the US Open was incredible! I had a lot of friends there and they were heard after every point. It’s such a confidence boost knowing that all those people believe you can win. I felt that was a huge part of the men’s doubles final. Especially when I knew I was playing on national television…The nerves were inevitable, but feeling the energy of the crowd after you finally make a good play really gets the adrenaline going. In the singles as well, I felt the majority of the crowd were friends of mine and, as a player, let me say that it really does help to hear and feel your support…It was fun just to cheer sometimes too.
2. Many of my readers are snowbirds that head down to the desert in the winter. We don’t know Florida…Can you describe what the pb scene is like in your area? Has it been a nurturing environment for your own development as a competitive player?
KY – Well, I’m based out of Fort Meyers, Fl and we have 12 public outdoor courts as well as a few indoor. There are several other clubs nearby – shoutout to: Punta Gorda-with their 8 gorgeous riverfront courts! IPTPA Pro Scott Tingley….Naples (you know that new 48 court facility with stadium seating? Yeah, they still play there every day). Also Veterans Park with IPTPA Pro Don Catalano….Many private communities are adding pickleball courts as well….The whole group back home, for the past year or two, has been really committed to improving their game and it’s been so great to see so many friends having more success and constantly pushing me to improve as well.
3. I want to ask you about your pro level doubles match at the US Open…Dave Weinbach and you were making some incredible plays vs Wes Gabrielsen and Daniel Moore. How did it feel for you to share the championship court with the Badger?…What do you like about his game?
KY – Well it was pretty obvious on CBS Sports that Dave Weinbach has got game….We had a great time. He’s a friend of mine and we’ve played a few tournaments together already beforehand with great success and we were confident going in. I’m happy to share it with Dave. He has been taking a lot of gold from tournaments lately so I was thrilled to be part of his streak. In all honesty, I like his determination and Pickleball IQ–how mentally strong he is. Those are good qualities in a partner and he has skills to back it up. Even when we were in tight matches we never got down on ourselves. Only positive vibes.
4. You made it to the finals in men’s singles at Naples. I’m including the link to an excerpt from the match so people can get an idea of the skill involved in top flight singles action. You were facing the same opponent that you played at LeMaster-Davison earlier this year–Marcin Rozpedski…At the US Open singles final, you won the first game and then Marcin took the last two for gold…Are you looking forward to a rematch if you meet him in a future event?
KY – I’m very eager to play Marcin again and I hope it’s in the TOC final….I’ve got a lot of work to do before then, but luckily I have some time. Marcin has proven now that he is the best singles player in the world, and it will be interesting to see who, if anyone, will upset him? This guy is incredible and I have the utmost respect for his game.
5. Last question Kyle, have you made any adjustment to your technique or training this year that has helped you to pb gold?
KY – Sorry Doug, I can’t give away my secret workout routine. Although I do feel like my pickleball improves every day. The main part is enjoying it and the playing comes naturally.
* Thanks Kyle…That is a wise pb philosophy for everyone at the end there…Play happy, and whoever has the most fun, wins!!
* Here is the link to the big game:
Mens Pro Level Doubles Final, US Open https://youtu.be/hEPXLp1kR7o
* Here is an excerpt from Marcin and Kyle’s singles match. You can get the idea from this video of the extreme athletic skill it takes to compete in pro level singles:
Men’s Pro Singles Final, US Open https://youtu.be/MbrsuxxD00s
* The singles video is courtesy of Jennifer’s Pickleball Blog. I have a feeling that Jennifer Lucore has a soft spot for pb singles action. If you go to her great blog, and look under the video category, she has other singles matches taped. While your at it, make sure to subscribe to her site:
Moore Summer Camps
If you are an advanced player, here is an incredible opportunity to improve your game…Go to one of Daniel and Scott Moore’s bootcamps!… Scott informed me that the Redmond, Oregon sessions are for 4.0 or higher men, and 4.5 women. There is another camp at Palm Creek for 5.0 women and 4.5+men. Here are the info links to the camps and other travel opportunities:
* The CBS Sports coverage of the pro finals at the US Open were done up in a higher quality than I have ever seen in pb events. That includes the colour commentary that was done by Robert Elliott. You can here more from Rob and the Elliott family by going to the April 27th edition of CC.
* I may have more about the Open in a later blog article. I will try to get some commentary from the players who participated in the women’s and mixed finals….. I’m not sure what I will have in my next edition, but I have a number of ideas that are still percolating in my pickle head…More later.
McMinn Park and Kings Rd
* I would like to hear from you if you would like to participate in outdoors pickleball on Sundays. There is a morning session at a Kings Rd court from 9am-11am. The contact person is:
Carene Morton firstname.lastname@example.org
* Also, I would like to do a regular session, all levels welcome, at McMinn Park, on Sundays from 4pm-6:30pm. If you are interested send me an email:
Doug Baker email@example.com
* As usual, send me any comments you would like to convey to the pro players that have given us their insights into the game…’Till next time…
Thanks for the game,