Solve this pickleball puzzle

Serve return debate. Peachtree Perfection.

It’s Saturday morning. You just opened the NYT daily crossword. You see the clue for 1-down…

You nearly spit out your cereal:

Like many shots in pickleball.”

Think you can parse it without any hints? Why don’t you mull on the answer for the remainder of the newsletter. Answer at the bottom.


In This Issue:

  • Return of serve: decisions, decisions

  • Playin’ the pros

  • Atlanta belongs to ALW

  • Koooooop on the pod

…annnnnnd go!

Serve Return Debate

What goes through your head when returning a serve? If you’re like most people, it’s “Keep it deep and slice the sh*t out of that thing.”

Just ask pro Tyler Loong:

But there is another school of thought. A slice return might actually aid the other team in hitting their third.

According to Rob Nunnery in a new Major League Pickleball video:

“Most people slice it. This is actually advantageous to the person hitting the third shot drop because nowadays with the paddle grit, most players are rolling their thirds, hitting topspin. So if you give them backspin, topspin is an easier shot to hit.”

So where do we go from here? Well, at least three things hold true:

  1. Return it deep

  2. If one player is struggling with thirds, keep sending it to them

  3. Keep it in play - no freebies

The merits of slice vs. no slice can be debated further…click here to read on. But as for a takeaway: be adaptable and know what to look for.

If they answer your slice with heavy topspin, try switching to topspin of your own. If your flat returns are driven back at you, switch to a slice and keep the ball low.

Keep them guessing and stay unpredictable.

Easy, Safe, Fun: Lectric

Forget the hassle of finding parking at pickleball courts.

The XP Lite is a unique eBike with easy maneuverability, a twist grip throttle option, a basket to hold your things, and five levels of pedal assist.

Learn more about this fun transportation option here.

Joe vs. The Pros

A recreational pickleball player just got to experience what it's like to play against his favorite men’s doubles pickleball team, Riley Newman and Matt Wright.

Joe Matthews, an avid pickleball fan and 4.0 player, was nervous to test his might against pickle royalty. But the experience gave him insights into the game that only playing up close and personal with the pros could give you.

“I learned that dinking is a great skill set neutralizer,” Joe reports. “An unattackable dink is just that, regardless of who hits it – a ‘Joe’ or a pro.”

“While pros can hit more unattackable dinks in succession, and a pro can be more patient or apply a bit more pressure than a Joe, a good dinker can hang in a dink rally with the pros.

Of course, the same can’t be said about speedups.

Joe describes a moment of pure hubris when he thought he was about to nail a put-away on an errant floater from Matt Wright. Naturally, it did not go as planned.

Watching the video Joe took of the experience gives us a humanized look into the world of professional-level play from the safety of being behind a screen, far away from a pro’s chest-bruising body shot.

Check out the hilarious first-hand account and corresponding video here.

Waters Capitalizes at ATL Major

Atlanta, much like every other stop on tour, now belongs to Anna Leigh Waters. The 16-year-old secured another triple crown in her dominant 2023 run.

Waters and Ben Johns kicked off Championship Sunday with a victory over Parris Todd and Riley Newman. She continues to be the X-factor in mixed doubles and routinely went toe-to-toe with Newman.

In women's doubles, ALW and Anna Bright confidently collected the title in three games 11-4, 11-3, 11-5 against Jorja Johnson and Vivienne David.

Mary Brascia brought home her first PPA silver medal. She earned a big win over Lea Jansen in the semis but couldn’t crack the ALW code in the final.

The men's singles final went down to the wire thanks to a late-game comeback by Connor Garnett. In game three, he rallied from a 4-10 deficit back to 9-10.

JW Johnson recovered at the eleventh hour and closed out the match 11-4, 7-11, 11-9.

There is no love lost between Riley Newman and Collin Johns these days. The Johns brothers continue to widen the gap in this rivalry with another clinical victory over Newman and Matt Wright.

The PPA Tour returns to action on June 1st with the Texas Open in Rockwall, TX.

Control the Court

Get ready to elevate your game and withstand the heat with the new Obsidian paddles from GAMMA Pickleball.

The GAMMA Obsidian pickleball paddles will be available in both 13mm and 16mm core thickness and feature a raw carbon hitting surface for massive spin.

Increase your swing speed and power today by purchasing one on

Big Bets on Exhibition Games

One of the top pros in the women’s game Andrea Koop joins It Feels Right this week.

Koooooop spills the deets on a new $50k bet between MLP owners in an upcoming exhibition match.

She weighs in on paddle testing, shares hilarious stories from her pickleball journey and explains the origin of the Beer City Open.

Listen to the full episode here or watch it here.

Headlines & Quick Hits


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Did you make it this far? Good.

We know you’re here for the answer to the crossword at the top. So, without further ado…

…it’s “LOBBED.” Clearly, the NYT doesn’t play much pickleball, otherwise they’d know only the brave rely on the lob.

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