Saturday, January 28, 2023
What an exciting day at Major League Pickleball in Mesa, Arizona. We had tons of drama, entertaining matchups and some notable paddle switch-ups.
Seattle Pioneers & Ben Johns Ben Johns is the goat. His versatility with whomever he plays with is unmatched. He has been playing mixed with Etta Wright and men's with Tyler Loong. Wright has filled her right side duties with Johns extremely well and is clearly on her way to becoming a top 5 female in the sport. The Seattle Pioneers choice of Loong as a men's partner for Johns was an interesting one as they are both players that are closers; they have the ability to finish points and do it well. This makes their mixed games extremely strong but the question was how would it work with them in men's doubles? So far so good as they haven't lost a match and they are playing in the semi-finals.
Ignatowich and the Distraction Call
James Ignatowich was playing a heated mixed match with Anna Leigh Waters against Erik Lange and Allyce Jones. The score after a heated debate was 20-19 in favor of Ignatowich/Waters. The distraction call in question was Ignatowich running to the net and stomping his feet as he split step as Allyce Jones was hitting. The referee called a distraction and awarded a point (as the rules indicate) to Jones/Lange to tie the game at 20-20. The whole 5's team went bonkers when they heard the call and argued how could a split step be a distraction when everyone does it.
This split step sounded and looked extra loud and deliberate which is why the referee made the call. It's a matter of it being a potential distraction to his opponent and truthfully, an unsportsmanlike move. This ruling is a judgement call based on what the referee sees and if people prefer the referee not have to make a judgement call then the rules need to be more explicit. Our poll online indicated that 681 people disagreed with the referee's call and 190 people agreed with it. The people have spoken. Paddle Change-ups
Joola came out with a post yesterday welcoming Lea Jansen to the team. Jansen was with Franklin for a year and has been playing with the Joola paddle since October. Kyle Yates was not using a Paddletek paddle during MLP. This would be a big loss for Paddletek as players are leaving the company left and right because of their lack of innovation. It looked like he was using a CRBN paddle or maybe Julian Arnolds' Volair paddle. Lauren Stratman is a free agent after leaving Electrum no doubt looking for a better contract. She played the PPA Masters with the CRBN paddle as well as this weekends MLP. Will she stick with CRBN or play with her boyfriend Julian Arnolds new Volair paddle? Rafa Hewett was clearly playing with a Joola paddle but in the post match interviews holding his Adidas paddle, obviously his new sponsor. He also blocked out the Nike sign on his shirt and put the Adidas symbol on the back of his shirt. Nothing has been noted on his social media about the new partnership yet, but we are sure it's coming.
Buy Stock in Rafa Hewett
Unless you weren't watching MLP, Rafa Hewett seems to be MLP's MVP. To see a player thrive in such pressure situations feels unbelievably exciting. The more that is on the line for him and his New York Hustlers, the more clutch he gets. Owners take note this Idaho native has grit flowing through his veins. This definitely can be earned through experience but we believe what Hewett has cannot be taught. He has no fear and it truly is amazing to watch. We saw some comments in the youtube chat that Hewett was carried by his former MLP teammates when he was on team BLQK and won in the 2022 season. Not that he needed to but he shut those comments down for good with his performance all day yesterday in doubles and singles. It's hard not to root for this father of three, GO RAFA!
Women Playing Men in Sports
One of the most different attributes of Major League Pickleball is that if teams tie they go to a tiebreak round called a dreambreaker. A dreambreaker is a series of singles points that all four of your teammates must play. One team sets their lineup and the other team follows and they play a game to 21, win by 2. In this format men and women could be matched up in a singles match against one another. Not many other sports, if any, will you see a head to head match up of males versus females. We think this makes pickleball and MLP unique and thrilling to watch.
Camryn Irwin, Adam Stone and Michelle McMahon were a stellar trio on the mics. Irwin is very knowledgable about the sport and can spar with Stone in an informative, intriguing way. Stone as usual impresses us with his professionalism and brings his playing experience to the commentating booth. Dominic Catalano and Kamryn Blackwood are veterans in the booth and at side line reporting. Blackwood always brings great energy and Catalano brings his years of pickleball expertise. Thumbs up to MLP for this rockstar cast.