Some storylines in sports just write themselves. Like the Kelce brothers meeting in Superbowl LVII or Kirk Gibson pinch-hitting for a home run in the 1988 World Series.
This year, two teams in MLP traded their first-round picks in the draft. As luck would have it, these two teams would meet in the finals to decide who won the deal. More on that below.
Nationals will be bigger and better than ever in 2023. And massive news: we’re sending you and your partner to Dallas to experience it for yourself!
🍊 A Fresh Squeezed Victory
🏆 Tennis Legend Climbs Pickleball Podium
🧠 Open Play Done Right
Splitting the Middle
One of the best feelings in pickleball is sneaking an attack down the middle for a winner. Your opponents look silly, you look like a genius and you win the point.
The problem is that this move can backfire very quickly. If either of them see it coming, you could take a counterattack to the chest.
Allison Harris executed it to perfection this weekend in Atlanta.
She recognizes that her cross-court opponent has settled in for some cross-court dinking. Her opponent down the line has to protect the line and can’t cover the middle.
Harris holds the shot until the last second. She moves her body but lags the paddle behind to keep her options open. It freezes the other team in place. She slides the ball safely down the middle for the point.
Recognize when there is an opening
- If one player is hugging the line or late to recover to their spot there’s usually an opening in the middle.
Don’t give it away
- Hide the attack until the last second. Make it look like you're going to hit another cross-court dink or an attack down the line.
Go ahead and try this one yourself. Just be ready for the next ball. What you think is the winner might actually be the start of a firefight.
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A Fresh Squeezed Victory
The Orlando Squeeze made the most noise at the MLP draft in July. They surprisingly dealt their third overall pick to move back in the draft to five. With that pick, they selected Anna Bright and gave up the seemingly obvious pick of Riley Newman at three.
It was a questionable call at the time, but boy oh boy did it pay off. Bright led the Squeeze on-court and off-court all weekend long. The Squeeze finished group play 3-0 and earned the top seed heading into the knockout round. Opposite of them on the bracket was Riley Newman and the DC Pickleball Team.
In Quarterfinal 1, the AZ Drive broke the Breakers led by the efforts of Julian Arnold.
In Quarterfinal 2, the energy of the Miami Pickleball Club devoured Ben Johns and the Chicago Slice.
The nightlife energy of the Miami Club did not carry over to Sunday morning. They fell to DC 3-0 in the semifinals.
In the other semifinal, the AZ Drive ran out of gas in a Dreambreaker against the Squeeze.
Orlando Squeeze vs DC Pickleball Team
Bright, Navratil, Rohrabacher, Daescu vs Newman, Kawomoto x2, Alshon
Luck would have it, the results from the trade 3 months ago would be put to the test in the MLP Atlanta finale.
DC won a crucial women’s doubles match to give the squad a 1-0 lead and hand control over to Newman. Newman and Christian Alshon made it look easy in men’s doubles winning 21-12.
It was looking grim for the Squeeze entering mixed doubles. Bright and Andrei Daescu squeaked out a win in the first mixed match to keep them alive.
In the second mixed match, it felt inevitable that Newman would take over and wring out the Squeeze. But Orlando’s other draft day shocker, Rachel Rohrabacher, had other plans. Together with the unmatched energy of Zane Navratil, they evened up the match and sent the finals into a Dreambreaker.
The momentum, the crowd, and the luck were all on the side of the Squeeze. They couldn’t miss a shot in the tiebreaker and earned the young franchise their first MLP title. The cherry on top? Bright was crowned MVP.
A huge congratulations to a close friend of The Dink and PicklePod co-host Zane Navratil. His own co-host, Thomas, didn’t even pick the Squeeze to advance out of the group stage. Where’s the love?
Champions Andrei Daescu, Rachel Rohrabacher, Anna Bright, Zane Navratil
Zane & Thomas will be recording a fresh episode with fellow champion Rachel Rohrabacher. It will air on Wednesday morning.
Open Play Done Right
Open play can be great. In some ways, it is the backbone of what pickleball is today. Everyone shows up at the courts. Puts their paddle in the rack. Players meet, mix, play, and move on.
That is great in theory. But when you have a 5.0 on the same court as a first-timer it’s not that fun for anyone.
Sure, we believe that players of different skill levels should mix it up every now and then. High-level players should help out the newcomers. Everybody started somewhere.
But going out to the courts for 3 hours and not playing one competitive game doesn’t help anyone.
One solution is to host different skill levels on different nights of the week. Also great in theory but what happens when it rains on Tuesday and Thursday and the intermediate folks are itching to get back out there?
Belknap Park, home of the Beer City Open has found a unique solution. First of all, they put in 21 courts to help with the demand.
Second, they assigned skill-based distinctions to all of the courts on site.
Beginners have courts where they can all mix together.
Advanced players have a challenge court where they can take on the best of the best.
There are even 4-on-4-off courts where you can stick with your group of 4 if that’s your preference.
There is plenty of signage to help organize the flow and keep things civil. As more parks add 10, 15, and 20 courts, this model should be replicated to help keep players happy. It’s all made possible by the hard-working Grand Rapids Pickleball Club.
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Tuesday Night Pickleball Returns
Season 2 of the Arizona Pickleball League is ready to rock…
Week 1 is a rematch of last season’s Orchard Championship Cup – the Peoria Pythons seek to avenge their loss to the Season 1 champs, the Scottsdale Scorchers!
Tickets are completely sold out. But you can tune in to watch the livestream on The Dink’s YouTube Channel – Tue Sep 26 @ 9pm ET / 6pm PT.
Tennis Legend Finds Pickleball Podium
It has become a yearly tradition in Atlantic City. Hundreds of pickleball players invade the Atlantic City Convention Center for pickleball action.
USA Pickleball hosted their Indoor National Championships last weekend in AC. If you haven’t seen a convention center takeover before, it is worth the trip. For fans of the game, it is awe-inspiring to see so many courts under one roof.
This year, a tennis legend snuck into the mixed doubles open bracket. Kim Clijsters entered the draw and actually won silver alongside Max Filippov.
The East Coast is still severely lacking on pickleball courts, but the yearly contest at the convention center is a great chance for players in the area to connect and compete.