Staksrud Stakes His Claim To Number One On The Professional Pickleball Association Tour with Houston Win (2024)

The second stop in a four-straight weekend stretch for the Professional Pickleball Association saw the tour head west from last weekend’s rainy North Carolina event to sunny Houston for the 2024 Veolia Houston Open. The tour continues its partnership with Life Time Fitness, which hosts a slew of PPA PPA events across the nation, and is holding this event at the Kingwood location in the upper northeast suburbs of Houston.

The Houston event is a 1000-level PPA event, and because of the packed schedule this month, the draw was a little thinned from normal. The tour’s two top females (#1 Anna Leigh Waters & #2 Catherine Parenteau) both bowed out here, leaving the Women’s and Mixed draws wide open.

Click here for the home page for the event, where you can get tournament details, draw sheets, and results.

Let’s Recap the action.


Men’s Pro Singles Recap

The Men’s Singles draw was as stacked as always, with nearly the entire top ten playing and more than 60 trying to qualify in. The newly signed Johnson twins (Hunter and Yates) continue to make waves despite being mired with seeds in the 30s: #31 Yates crushed #7 Pablo Tellez in the round of 32 2,4 before falling to the youngster #10 Quong Duong a round later. #34 Hunter played into #3 Connor Garnett and took a game off of the frequent PPA medalist before falling. Two other 20-something seeds advanced into the 16s: Florida teenage sensation #21 Cason Campbell took out #12 Julian Arnold in two, while #23 Roscoe Bellamy scored the mini-upset over #16 Anton Gutz to get a shot at #1 Johns.

For the second time in 2024, Quang Duong topped #1 Ben Johns, this time in the quarter finals. In the season’s first event at the Hyundai Masters, the two met in a progression draw round of 16, meaning that Duong had already played several matches while Johns was just starting up, and the narrative was that Ben is a notorious slow starter and got caught flat footed in the tour’s first event. That wasn’t the story here: in a 1000-level event both players had already played two rounds of singles matches, and Duong took it to Johns to win rather easily 5,9. Duong then crushed #6 Jaume Martinez Vich 3,4 to make the final, ensuing his first ever PPA medal.

The story of this draw though has to be the performance of #35 Donald Young, one of the former big-name tennis pros signed by the PPA during last August’s tour wars. He’s had little impact so far in his pickleball career, but he went off in Houston. First he topped singles specialist #29 Frank Anthony Davis in the 64s, then he got a stunning come-from-behind victory over the surging #8 Jay Devilliers in the 32s. Normally we’d expect to see a let-down from a surprise winner like this, but Young kept going, topping #21 Cason Campbell in the 16s. Facing his biggest challenge yet in the quarters, Young got his best ever win, topping #3 Connor Garnett 12-10 in the third. His run was ended by the singles machine that is #2 Federico Staksrud.

In the final, Staksrud showed that there’s still a bit of a gap for Duong to cover, trouncing the young Californian 6,2 to claim his third gold medal of the season.

A quick note on the tour rankings race in Singles: in seven Men’s Singles events so far this year, Johns has three golds and three head-to-head wins over Staksrud, but he also now has three early upsets. Meanwhile, Staksrud has now made the singles final all seven times (X golds, X silvers) and has taken a commanding lead in the season-to-date points race. Johns still holds the overall lead, but one more superior result and Staksrud will supplant Johns at the top.

Gold: Federico Staksrud. Silver: Quang Duong. Bronze: Jaume Martinez Vich.


Women’s Pro Singles Recap

With both #1 and #2 out, as well as most of the rest of the current top 10 ranked singles players, the seeds in Houston looked a little different. Mary Brascia and Lea Jansen secured the two top seeds (they’re #3 and #4 on tour right now), but the rest of the players securing top eight seeds are mostly outside the top ten. This means there was a huge opportunity for not only some new matches in the back end of the event, but an opportunity for first time gold medalists. And boy did we get some fresh faces in the back half of this draw.

Half the top 8 seeds didn’t even get to the quarters, led by #19 Samantha Parker topping #1 Brascia in the round of 16 in three-games. #33 Alix Truong dominated #7 Kaitlyn Christian in the round of 32, then continued over #11 Jamie Haas to make the quarters. Newly MLP drafted player #21 Martina Frantova took out the #12 and #8 seeds to make the quarters. Lastly, #14 Christine Maddox took out #3 Lina Padegimaite in the 16s.

Parker, who likely would have exited at the hands of #1 Waters two rounds earlier, took full advantage of the situation, beating Frantova in the quarters and then topping #4 Lacy Schneemann in a tight (10),9,9 match in the semis to push through to the Sunday final from the top-half of the draw. She guarantees herself her first pro medal in any discipline, on any pro tour. The bottom half went a little more to seeds, with #2 Lea Jansen surviving a scare from #5 Dominique Schaefer in the quarters, then easing past #6 Parris Todd in the semis to secure the Sunday final. Todd, who was seeded #37 in the first PPA event of the year, continues to push up the singles rankings.

In the final, Jansen had a chance to win her first PPA singles gold since August 2021, and didn’t take long to do so, crushing Parker 3,2 to take the gold. Schneemann got a walkover for the Bronze.

Gold: Lea Jansen. Silver: Samantha Parker. Bronze: Lacy Schneemann


Mixed Pro Doubles Recap

With Waters missing, Ben Johns picked up an old friend in Etta Wright but fell to the #2 seed in the draw, giving the #1 seed to Anna Bright & James Ignatowich. However, James aggravated the shoulder injury he’s been nursing for a few weeks, so the pair withdrew. This left a gaping hole at the top of the bracket, one which #14 Parris Todd & Zane Navratil pounced upon to slide into the quarters. There, they met #11 Tina Pisnik & Dekel Bar, surprise finalists last week. Pisnik & Bar showed they are not a one-and-done fluke, topping Todd & Navratil in three, then out-lasted #4 Jesse Irvine & Pablo Tellez with a tactical masterpiece in the semis to return to the final for a second week in a row.

From the bottom-half, Ben had a rare face-off against his brother Collin (playing with Regina Goldberg) in the round of 16, advancing with ease. The #2 seeds then downed a tough #10 Callie Smith & Jay Devilliers (now teammates in MLP) in the quarters to move into the semis. There, they faced the ever-improving #12 seed of Christian Alshon & Jackie Kawamoto, who surprised the #6 team of Dylan Frazier & Hurricane Tyra Black in the round of 16, then got a great win over #3 Thomas Wilson & Vivienne David in the quarters to book their semis spot. Alshon and Kawamoto fought, but fell 4,9 to give Ben & Wright a spot in the finals.

In the final, Ben had a chance to win a Mixed Pro gold with someone not named Anna Leigh for the first time since late 2021, and did not miss out on the opportunity. Pisnik & Bar were kept under control for most of the match, and fell 4,5,5 to Johns & Wright. Despite the loss, Bar finishes off a two-medal weekend.

Gold: Wright & Johns. Silver: Pisnik & Bar. Bronze: Kawamoto & Alshon.


Men’s Pro Doubles Recap

The Men’s doubles draw was missing a few top 10 ranked players, but certainly did not suffer for depth as the first couple of rounds mostly went to seed. Only a couple of non-withdrawal based upsets occurred in the round of 64, and just one upset-by-seed occurred in the round of 32 (#18 CJ Klinger & Jaume Martinez Vich taking out #12 Spencer Smith & Todd Fought). The improving Klinger & Vich continued their run, getting a great win over #8 Jay Devilliers & Pat Smith before falling in the quarters to the #1 seeds Ben & Collin Johns 8,8. Dylan Frazier swapped one Johnson (JW) for another (Yates) but fell in the quarters to #5 Thomas Wilson & Dekel Bar. The Johns brothers were not seriously challenged on Saturday, cruising through the upper half of the draw to make the final without dropping a game.

The bottom half of the draw featured a big upset early: #2 Matt Wright & James Ignatowich were taken out early by #13 Rafa Hewett & Will Howells in three games. Ignatowich withdrew from mixed a day earlier, but tried to compete as the left-side dominant player in Men’s on his still-ailing shoulder and failed. The lefty-righty pair of Hewett & Howells fell in the quarters to another lefty-righty pair in #7 Tyler Loong & Christian Alshon. The loss of the #2 seed cleared the way for yet another lefty-righty team of Federiko Staksrud & Pablo Tellez to get to the final from the bottom half, though they had to survive a 13-11 third game scare in the quarters against #6 Connor Garnett & DJ Young.

In the final, the Johns brothers absolutely dominated the #3 seeds Staksrud & Tellez, winning 0,2,2 in a match that might not have been that close.

Gold: Johns & Johns. Silver: Staksrud & Tellez. Bronze: Wilson & Barr.


Women’s Pro Doubles Recap

In the absence of the regular #1 ranked team, Anna Bright & Rachel Rohrabacher ascended to the top spot, looking to avenge a very-early loss last week. Avenge the performance they did, cruising through the top half of the draw, winning 8 games/4 matches and giving up just 23 points along the way to secure the final. #5 Lacy Schneemann & Jesse Irvine came the closest to them, losing 5,6. #8 Lea Jansen & Tina Pisnik fell in the semis from the top-half, but salvaged the bronze for the event.

From the bottom half, long time partners #2 Lucy Kovalova & Callie Smith survived a quarter final challenge from #9 Parris Todd & Hurricane Tyra Black, but fell in the semis to the solid team of #4 Vivienne David & Jackie Kawamoto.

In the final, Bright & Rohrabacher were pressed by the excellent play from David & Kawamoto, but ultimately finished the task of the weekend and won 8,4,9. It is their third gold medal in the last two months and tightens the gap for #1 on tour. Despite the loss, Kawamoto finishes off a two-medal weekend.

Gold: Bright & Rohrabacher. Silver: David & Kawamoto. Bronze: Jansen & Pisnik.


Senior Competition Quick Recap

There was not a single “Senior Open” event competed at the Houston event, likely due to all the Seniors who would generally play such events being in Naples for the US Open.


The Pro Pickleball Medal Tracker has now been updated with these results; check out this link online for a complete pro medal history for all tours and all pro events dating to the beginnings of all the major pro tours, plus pro events that predated 2020.

Next up on the Pickleball Calendar? According to my Master Pickleball Schedule, by the time you read this the 2024 US Open will have already begun.

Next up for PPA tour? They immediately head to Los Angeles for the 2024 Veolia LA Open, the third event in a row in the month of April.

Staksrud Stakes His Claim To Number One On The Professional Pickleball Association Tour with Houston Win (2024)
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