The #1 Pro Pickleball Player in the World

The #1 pickleball player, according to the numbers

Pickleball made its way into a couple more tiny publications to cap off the epic month of August. The Washington Post and TIME magazine, ever heard of 'em?

The Post focused on the game's contribution to social capital while TIME explained its many benefits for seniors. TIME also highlighted a study that found "An hour of pickleball three days a week showed improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure, and cardiorespiratory fitness."

The Johnson family got the VIP treatment at Guaranteed Rate Field on Wednesday night and yeah, the pictures were just as wholesome as you'd expect. Aw.

Let's dive into pickleball's big week in the Windy City.

This Kids Toy Can Improve Your Dink Game

John Cincola has been busy unloading a pickleball master class on YouTube. His latest tip here features equipment you're more likely to find in a Toys 'R' Us (RIP) than a sporting goods store.

Cincola suggests that a kids butterfly net can help rid your game of pop-ups (which means less pickleball-shaped tattoos for you and your partner). The idea is to re-think your point of contact with the ball. Instead of simply hitting the ball, imagine catching the ball with your paddle and tossing it where you want it to go.

As Toys 'R' Us loyalists, it pains us to do this, but you can order a butterfly net on Amazon here.

  1. Start at NVZ and use the net to intercept and catch would-be dinks. Your goal is to position the butterfly net at the ball's arrival point early, before the ball gets there. "Beat the ball to the spot."

  2. Then swap the net for your paddle but keep your motion the same. Your paddle should be stationary at contact like you're catching the ball. Steady your paddle.

  3. Finally, add in a followthrough. Cincola explains that the length of the followthrough controls how far the dink will travel.

Check out the full library of videos here. Clear eyes, soft hands, can't lose.

Think Outside the Box

Zane Navratil famously introduced a serve that completely changed the game. Provisional COVID rules allowed Navratil to use his paddle during the serve toss to add additional RPMs and bamboozle opponents with crazy spin.

"Why do you think you're above the rules?" we asked him in a 2021 interview in Mesa. After the 'Zanesaw' was outlawed, Navratil found another loophole that with a minor adaptation, allowed him to continue his unpredictable, ace-producing serves.

Yesterday, Navratil showed us that he's not done exploiting the rules of the game. In a singles match at the APP Chicago Open, Navratil stunned fans when he dropped his paddle and kicked the ball for a winner. He won the point.

"I am a certified public accountant, I read the fine print," Navratil said, as he explained how USA Pickleball's current rulebook does not explicitly outlaw kicking the ball, as long as your paddle is not in-hand and it is 'one fluid motion.'

You can watch the clip here.

All of this to say, good pickleball isn't just about fundamentals. Sometimes you just need to spend some time reading through the rules. Identify a gap or loophole that speaks to your play style...and exploit it.

It's a dog eat dog world out there. The best of the best do what is necessary to win.

Just kidding. But isn't that clip hilarious?

Everything You Need For Pickleball Under One Roof

Rhino Pickleball has paddles, balls and portable nets perfect for players at all levels. It's the best selection of training aids to support player development. Up your game with court markers, cones and other fitness accessories that take drill work to the next level.

More Than a Game

Leroy Archibald has an epic name, and somehow, he has an even more epic story. His struggle with addiction lasted decades, but after years of treatment and while seeking a more positive force in his life, he came across pickleball at a recreation center.

Fast forward and "It’s like a family," he told the Chicago Sun Times.

Today, Leroy and a group of other Chicagoans are trying to bring attention to the family that's outgrown its home. Somehow, there is only one dedicated court accessible to the public within city limits, while smaller cities have 10, 20, or more dedicated pickleball courts.

Despite the limited access to courts, Archibald was able to connect with the game and its growing group of players. He's a living testament to what is possible when healthy outlets are publicly accessible.

“The game saved my life, how many others could it save?”

APP Chicago Open Singles Recap

Last week's champion, Federico Staksrud continued his hot streak yesterday. He swept the men's bracket and punched his ticket to Championship Sunday. Staksrud defeated James Ignatowich (Iggy) in a brutal, three-game winner's bracket final.

Iggy left everything he had on the court including mom's spaghetti. The former Vanderbilt tennis player got sick during game three and couldn't recover against the red-hot Staksrud.

Ignatowich had a big win over JW Johnson earlier in the day, but a fatigued and dehydrated Iggy was no match for the tour's top dog in their bronze medal rematch. Johnson will face Staksrud for gold on Sunday.

Salome Devidze has been deadly on the APP Tour this year. Two weeks after a big win over Catherine Parenteau, she is back in the driver's seat. Devidze won the women's winner bracket in Chicago and will have the advantage going into Sunday.

Her opponent will be Anna Bright who battled through the loser's bracket after she dropped her first match of the day. Bright lost to Rosie Johanson in that early matchup but got revenge in the bronze medal match. Johanson's bronze is her first pro medal on the APP Tour.

Mixed doubles action starts this morning and all eyes will be on the new combination of Jade Kawamoto and Dekel Bar. They will need to gel quickly if they hope to survive in a loaded mixed doubles field.Tune into mixed doubles on APPTV today, gender doubles on Saturday and Championship Sunday get it.

Mid-Season Medal Count

DUPR tallied up the medal count for the pro and senior pro divisions and it is no surprise that JW Johnson stands atop the leader board. Johnson has been lights out in 2022 and has had one of the busiest tournament schedules in pro pickleball history.

So who is the #1 player in 2022? At first glance, it's got to be JW Johnson, right?

Well, if you extrapolate the data a bit, Johnson has played 4.2x the number of events as Ben Johns. If we apply that multiple to Johns' medal count, we're looking at 80 medals, almost double Johnson's 44. Moreover, despite Johns' relatively low event volume, he's still managed to rack up 16 golds, which is the 4th highest overall. Sheesh.

In the senior division, Beth Bellamy is the name that competitors don't want to see in the draw. She's racked up 27 gold medals this year, more than any other pro in the game. AND, let's give some props to Rick Witsken. 110 events player. My back hurts just looking at that number.

Check out the expanded list from DUPR.

Pickleball in the Mitten

Michigan is one of the most underrated pickleball states in the US. The mitten has produced pro players (Andrea Koop, Eva Welsher) birthed pickleball brands (Paddletek, yours truly) and hosts one of the most coveted tournaments on the pro schedule, the Beer City Open.

Its universities are responsible for refining the tennis careers of Matt Wright, Catherine Parenteau, Corrine Carr and Simone Jardim, to name a few.

And the state that houses thousands of players is finally catching up in court count. Hundreds of courts have been built in the past two years. Notable cities that have bought in on pickleball include Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Kalamazoo, Saginaw and of course, the city of Detroit.

Sporting events like the Beer City Open have a direct economic impact on the state. "More than 40 events were hosted by Discover Kalamazoo Sports in 2021, resulting in $15.4 million in estimated direct visitor spending" -

For a state that has embraced pickleball, more courts mean more economic opportunity. Courts add to the tourism allure of the Great Lakes State and increase the recreational activity of locals. And that my friends, is Pure Michigan.

If you're a Michigander and a sports fan then subscribe to GordieBarry, our all-inclusive Detroit sports newsletter that doesn't judge if you bleed blue or like to Sparty.

Episode 3: It Feels Right

It Feels Right

Rob and Stone analyze the MLP Shuffle Draft and debate which team made the best offseason moves. Another shot was fired in the Tour Wars as the PPA announces an event on MLP weekend. Listen here or watch here.

Headlines & Quick Hits


Homecourt Havens

Midway, UT

The dink fam came through with another glorious homecourt in Utah. The stamped concrete surface is the first that we've seen but is noted to not affect the bounce. The backyard is also decked out with a putting green that accommodates nine par 3 holes, bravo.

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