The scores between Jansen and Waters this year haven’t been all that close, with their last matchup ending in a 1 & 3 victory for Anna Leigh in Charlotte but Sunday had a completely different look and feel to it. Jansen jumped out to an early lead as her length and athleticism at the kitchen line posed problems for Waters in the very slow Texas conditions. After 38 minutes of play the scoreboard read 11-3 7-2 in favor of Jansen and it looked as if we were in for one of the more shocking score lines of the year. However after a bit of a stalemate Waters was finally able to gain some momentum, reeling off 7 serve points to take a 10-7 lead. This was the point in the match where we all thought Lea had missed her opportunity, as history between the two has heavily favored the 16 year old, but this wasn’t just another singles match for Lea, this was arguably the biggest match of her career. After a missed sitter at the net by Anna Leigh to close out game 2 Jansen suddenly found herself serving for the match at 12-11. Off a short return she lined up a backhand she had been making all match long but sailed it wide of the mark. To make matters worse a controversial foot fault call at 12-12 went against her and we headed to game 3 with all the momentum in the camp of team Waters. The wheels could have easily fallen off for Lea given what she had just gone through but she refused to give in. Game 3 was a seesaw back and forth battle but it was Jansen that once again found herself at match point up 10-8. Unfortunately the backhand let her down once more and Waters ran away with the next 4 points on serve to win the match 12-10. I mentioned in the lead up to the event that singles may be underrated in pro pickleball and this is another example of why. Seeing two players fight through the roller coaster emotions of a back and forth singles match is unique and should allow singles to exist in some capacity as the pro game continues to grow. 


Federico Staksrud is a name most of us are familiar with at this point, having burst onto the scene last year with some great singles results but the doubles game often takes a lot longer to learn, especially at the highest level. The few that make it to the top are names that become staying powers in the sport and Staksrud is becoming one of those names. His mixed doubles results of late are proof of that as he has now made a QF and SF in back to back weekends with two different partners. He and Tellez also have 2 medals together in men’s doubles and are coming off a QF performance in Texas where they pushed the Johns brothers to 3 games. Federico is no longer a single threat or a double threat even, he’s a triple threat, with the ability to make a deep run in all three draws, something only a handful of men on the tour can say right now. It begs the question where does Staksrud land in the next MLP draft? A mid third round pick in December, he is now a serious candidate to be a first round pick and be the leader of a team rather than a piece.  Given all the players he has jumped to get where he is now he is one of if not the top candidate for most improved player in 2023. 


With 32 team draws and 11 tournaments in the books there are only so many head to head matchups we get to see throughout the year. However, JW Johnson/Dylan Frazier and Riley Newman/Matt Wright have now played 6 times and have split those 6 meetings, alternating wins and losses along the way. In my opinion the best rivalries in sports are two sided and although there may be ones out there with more history (McGuffin/Johns, Jansen/Waters come to mind) they are for the most part one sided. This is the best rivalry we have going in 2023 for a few reasons. For one we get to see it often and two we don’t really know what the outcome is going to be each time they step out on the court. They are also battling for that coveted #2 spot in men’s doubles and with one tournament to go before the halfway point in the PPA season you could make a case for either one right now.


What we are seeing Anna Leigh Waters and Ben Johns do on the PPA tour this year is something we may never see again. Waters is now 99-2 across all 3 events while Ben Johns is 101-5 (yes you read that correctly). Pro pickleball is still in its infancy stage so we don’t have a ton of history to compare this to but we may very well look back on this one day and appreciate it more then than we do now. What amazed me this weekend the most though was the physical condition that they are both in. In a tournament where we saw multiple players struggle with the heat, Ben and Anna Leigh never showed signs of slowing down as they made their way through all 3 draws, playing three high stakes matches on Sunday (4 for Anna Leigh due to the weather issues on Saturday). Yes they will eventually lose and become beatable but for now they aren’t so let’s take a moment to recognize the achievements of two very special individuals.

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