Imagine making it to an invitational pro event…only to be told you don’t know how to serve correctly. Yesterday was the preliminary day of PPA Masters play, and refs were spotted giving pro players some pointers in order to maintain a legal serve.
In case you didn’t know, the rules surrounding serves were temporarily changed for The Masters event:
There is no tossing the ball up on the serve
The ball must leave the hand in a downward motion
The ball must leave the hand at or below the top of the hip
In Jill Braverman’s Instagram story, you can hear a presumably frustrated player explain to a ref that his lack of height puts him at a disadvantage.
We’ll see if the new tennis converts can wrap their heads around these special rules in addition to the usual pickleball match regulations. More on that below.
In This Issue:
Different pickleballs, different picklegame
🌴 The Masters are out at Palm Springs
🎓 Undergrad domination
A Whole New Ball Game
By now you have likely heard there will be a new ball in play at both PPA and APP tournaments in 2024. The PPA Tour has switched to the Vulcan VPRO Flight and the APP will be debuting the OWL ball later this year.
So how does this affect you? With a new ball comes a new style of play.
Different balls change what is possible on the court. Until now, you might only have experience playing with a Franklin X-40 or Onix Dura Fast 40, both of which allow for different styles of play.
On the PicklePod, Zane and Thomas discuss how their games change when using a new ball:
The Dura plays fast, it is harder to control
Many top-level teams resort to a slower speed of play
Think of the Johns brothers in men’s doubles. They know a counterattack with a Dura is hard to return, so they extend dink rallies and are more selective with their speedups
Zane predicts we will see less of those long dink rallies with the new ball. Because it plays slower, teams will be less hesitant to speed up.
Counterattacks will not be as lethal. Navratil suspects that firefights will last longer.
The type of ball isn’t the only factor to consider. A huge variable in ball performance is the weather. Find out how Mother Nature is affecting your game here.
Side note: speaking of pickleballs…
Franklin Sports is offloading some of their X-40s in a buck-a-ball flash sale, today only…and apparently it crashed the site after only a few minutes.
Pickleballers crashing supplier sites. We love to see it.
The Franklin X-40 is an understandably popular ball. That’s why we included it in The Pickleball Box, pickleball’s #1 subscription box. Have you seen what else is in it?
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Tennis Superstars Tested at PPA Masters
The return of pro pickleball in 2024 went down in Palm Springs, CA yesterday.
Also making her return to action is Leigh Waters, who spent 2023 recovering from a knee injury. Mama Waters has teamed up with Christian Alshon and put a win under their belts in the early rounds.
Headlining the Masters are tennis superstars trading in their racquets for paddles:
Genie Bouchard will be all over center court today. You can catch her women's singles and mixed doubles debuts on pickleballtv
Jack Sock will take his second crack at pro pickleball and will play his first men's match today with Collin Shick
Donald Young already pulled an upset in men's doubles over Anderson Scarpa and Brandon French. Scarpa got his revenge in singles, he eliminated Young from the competition.
The main draw matches begin today, but if you're looking to see Ben Johns or Anna Leigh Waters, you'll have to wait one more day. The top eight seeds won't be tested until Thursday under the new progressive draw format.
That new format has left some players disgruntled.
But the PPA has built-in Committee’s Choice positions in the draw for situations like these. After all, it would be short-sighted not to broadcast Genie Bouchard’s pickleball debut if the goal is to increase viewership.
And what about the serve rule changes? We said above that some players seem confused to the point that refs see the need to teach them how to stay within this event’s special parameters.
But we’re also hearing that the Johns bros. are behind the rule changes. According to one source, Collin questioned an opposing serve’s legality at the CIBC PPA Tour Finals.
Then, to illustrate their point, Collin & Ben started serving illegally. We’ll see if PPA comes to any new conclusions about the serve after the dust settles, but we like the fact that they’re experimenting.
Get a full preview of the event including players and partnerships to look out for here.
The Best Way to Pay for School
The APP Tour kicked off the 2024 calendar with their first-ever U.S. Collegiate Championships. The tour transformed the Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, IN into a pickleball haven for the weekend.
Twelve teams from around the nation competed for $50K in scholarship prize money. A couple of known college juggernauts like the University of Florida and Utah Tech were joined by schools like the University of Iowa and UCONN displaying an expanded pool of teams in 2024.
The Utah Tech squad that was ranked number 1 in 2023 started the new year off on top. They defeated the Gators from UF 49-33 in finals. Congratulations to Averee Beck, Kami Bliss, Jared Brungard, Logan Rosenbach, and the rest of the Trailblazer team.
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Jumping Ship for the APP
The Association of Pickleball Players just keeps picking up top industry talent. Consider the new executive vice president of the APP’s competition initiatives, Melissa McCurley.
McCurley’s the former owner and CEO of PickleballTournaments.com, was the first person to run tournaments with more than 800 players, and will put this experience to the test overseeing the league’s competitions going forward.
But with McCurley coming aboard, we’re noticing a pattern in APP’s recent hires:
Jenny Klitch left MLP as the original commissioner, joined APP, and helped them roll out their new teams format
Tom Webb left MLP as a marketing consultant and joined APP as CMO
Now, Melissa McCurley leaves Pickleball Inc. (The PPA’s parent company) to run APP’s competitions
They’re recruiting some pretty impressive names…and combined with a slew of programming and partnership additions last year, it’s shaping up to be an intriguing year for the APP.
Headlines & Quick Hits
A review from the Dink Fam...