That’s all folks. The Margaritaville USA Pickleball Nationals are over, and what an absolutely incredible week it was! It was a no-brainer to host one of the biggest pickleball events of the year in Palm Springs, CA, a city that sees 269 sunny days on average and posts daily highs in the mid 70’s all December long. But what really caught our eye was the event itself. Held at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the host of the BNP Paribas Open - the largest two-week tennis event outside the four Grand Slam events - it’s clear that the investment into pickleball is here to stay.
For the crew at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, putting on a luxury event seems like a piece of cake. (Although in reality, we can’t imagine how hard they worked to pull it off!) The likely thousands of hours of work, sweat, tears, (and maybe even some blood) all came together to show the most beautiful courts imaginable, incredible grand stands for viewing, vendor tents, and so much more. They made this event feel like you’re at a luxury resort, and not a pickleball tournament. Hats off to USA Pickleball, Margaritaville, the staff at The Indian Wells Tennis Garden, and everyone involved for helping solidify pickleball as no longer just a fun game, but a legitimate professional sport.
We saw some intense matches, mind-blowing rallies, and some of the best sportsmanship you’ll find anywhere on a grand stage.
McGuffin, Newman, and Waters Reign Supreme, Leave Palm Springs with Multiple Titles
Men’s Pro Singles:
Tyson McGuffin def. Zane Navratil (withdrawal)
One of the stranger stories to come out of the weekend was McGuffin’s forfeit victory over Zane in the finals of the Men’s Singles. After being defeated earlier in the draw, Tyson McGuffin battled back through the double elimination draw, dominating a tough JW Johnson, and forcing his way back into the main draw and a chance at revenge against Navratil. Navratil’s longtime girlfriend, was recently crowned Miss Wisconsin and unfortunately his finals event and the Miss America pageant collided on the same day, forcing Navratil to choose between a potential national championship and missing what might be a once in-a-lifetime opportunity - watching his girlfriend compete to win the Miss America crown. Zane ultimately chose to support his girlfriend at the pageant, and withdrew from the Men’s Singles event, handing the ‘ship to Tyson. (Unfortunately, withdrawing from an event due to a non-injury forced Navratil to withdraw from the Men’s Doubles event as well.)
Needless to say, we would have loved to watch one of the fiercest competitors pickleball will ever know, Tyson McGuffin take on Navratil, but something tells us we will see this matchup again one day soon!
Women’s Pro Singles
Anna Leigh Waters def. Jillian Braverman (11-7, 11-3)
Continuing her recent dominance, Anna Leigh Waters came out firing against a highly-talented Jillian Braverman. Anna Leigh started off strong and never looked back. Firing forehand winners at will and tracking down seemingly every ball, Waters looked like a seasoned veteran, not an athlete early in her high school career. If anyone was crazy enough to think Waters’s Masters victory was a fluke, her dominating performance in sunny Palm Springs should have put that to rest. The only question moving forward is will there be anyone that can stop her as she continues her hockey-stick curve of improvement?
Men’s Pro Doubles
McGuffin/Newman def. Johnson/Dawson (11-3, 11-1, 11-6)
McGuffin and Newman proved to be the best team in the draw, cruising in the finals to what felt like an easy victory over Johnson and Dawson. Having only dropped one game all tournament, McGuffin and Newman had rallies that dropped the spectator’s jaws to the floor, where they still might be! McGuffin’s gritty battle style along with Newman’s effortless brick-wall defense proved to be too much to handle for the field. After the event, rumors swirled that McGuffin and Newman will not be playing together again in 2022. Leaving us with so many questions after such a dominating performance in the desert.
Women’s Pro Doubles
Waters/Waters def. Jansen/Tereschenko (11-2, 11-5, 11-5)
One of the coolest stories of the weekend, and in pickleball in history, is the Waters cruising to victory in Palm Springs. Winning a National Championship is undoubtedly something a player will never forget, but winning it with your mother (or daughter) is something that a very select few will ever have the honor of doing. The mother/daughter duo looked exactly like water, flowing together in perfect unison like only a mother and daughter could. After watching the final point, as the two celebrated many hard-fought victories, I was curious which Waters was more proud of the other! A special moment for two one-of-a-kind ambassadors for our sport.
Mixed Pro Doubles
Newman/Newman def. Kovalova/Wright (12-10, 8-11, 15-9)
Another headline story was the brother/sister duo Riley and Lindsey Newman battling for the title of the top Mixed Pro Doubles team in the country. Coming off a victory at the PPA Masters, many expected Wright/Kovalova to come out on top, but the Newman Crew had something to say about that. After sneaking out the first game 12-10, a seasoned Matt and Lucy had a near flawless second game, coming out on top 11-8. Sensing the urgency, Newman and Newman’s chemistry in the tie-breaker was too much, and ultimately placed them atop the podium. Watching their celebration was something special.
Overall, it’s obvious that all of these national events are pushing each other to get better. Every event seems to have one extra layer added to it to separate their event from the others. This evolution has left us very excited for the future of pickleball!
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