Pickleballers to Watch — Interview with Queen of Pickleball, Simone Jardim — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, May 10, 2022

Happy Tennis Tuesday, y’all! A few weeks ago, I was told about the 2022 Minto US Open Pickleball Championships Powered by Margaritaville in Naples, Florida. It is called the “biggest pickleball party in the world,” with 2,880 players and 35,000 spectators attending the tournament. Now, I know pickleball is on the rise and sweeping across all ages throughout the country, not just “old people.” I’ve dabbled in following the professional tour and I felt this event would be a good way for you to hear about a few names in the women’s game that were involved with tennis first! You also won’t want to miss my Five at The IX with Simone Jardim, the greatest female pickleball player of all time, who is retiring this year.

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Now, there are two professional pickleball tours, the APP Tour and the PPA Tour. From my research, the difference comes down to opportunity, money and appearance fees. Most players play on both, but the PPA Tour gears towards more select players and basically creating Invitationals while the APP Tour is more like the ITF World Tour where anyone can enter and attempt to play. As someone pretty unfamiliar to pickleball, this is already too confusing and a little bit of a turn-off. I already would love to see them merge at some point — because of course Tennis United is still in the back of my mind. Speaking of tennis and pickleball, I’d love to see both the ATP and WTA collaborate with professional pickleball in some fashion. Perhaps an invitational at some of the 1000 events? Grand Slams? Most pickleball players and fans are also into tennis, so I think it would be a no-brainer to intersect.

Anyways, pickleballtournaments.com has a rankings list that factors in multiple organizations and is nearly universally-renowned. Here are some recent tennis players-turned professional pickleballers you might want to follow:

  • Lea Jansen
    Ranking: #2
    Tennis experience: Washington State (2012-14), Aquinas College (2014-16), NAIA All-American
    Jansen is the sister of two-time NCAA doubles champion Maya Jansen and played collegiate tennis for two years at Washington State before transferring to Aquinas College, an NAIA school. She then pursued her Master’s Degree at Grand Valley State University, where she acted as the Graduate Assistant. She picked up pickleball in 2019 after connecting with childhood friend, Tyson McGuffin, one of the world’s best male pickleball players before taking on the pro circuit last year. Not only is she a recent Type I Diabetic, she’s been forthcoming about working with a mental coach and a special Neuro-Fit program.
  • Lauren Stratman
    Ranking: #2
    Tennis experience: Columbia University (2012-13), Westmont College (2013-16), 3x NAIA All-American, WTA doubles career-high No. 992
    Stratman was a Top 50 recruit out of high school and moved across the country to play at Columbia, before ultimately returning home and playing at NAIA Westmont College. While there, she played in some ITF World Tour events and earned a WTA doubles ranking. Realizing a full career on the tennis circuit was likely not going to come to fruition, she quit and became a tennis instructor. In 2018, she began playing pickleball, which re-ignited her competitive spirit and she said she was instantly hooked. She eventually quit her full-time job to pursue pickleball on the professional circuit in 2020. On top of her playing, she works for Electrum Pickleball, promoting their brand across the country.
  • Anna Bright
    Ranking: #11
    Tennis experience: Cal (2017-21), #27 ITA singles ranking, #13 ITA doubles ranking, NCAA singles championship participant, two-time All-Pac 12 Second Team
    Bright is essentially the new kid on the block and not to get too punny, her future sure is bright. At Cal, she led the Bears to their first Pac-12 title her senior year. Though she could’ve taken a COVID year, she graduated last year and didn’t pursue professional tennis. This past November, she tweeted that she was debating pursuing professional pickleball and four months later in her first tournament, she won the doubles tournament. She’s a self-proclaimed pickleball addict and last month accepted a job as an Account Manager with Dreamland Universal Pickleball Rating, pickleball’s version of UTR. Last year, she began playing tournaments below the Open level and had immediate success to guide her to pursue playing on tour. She brings an aggressive style to pickleball, where finesse and “dink shots” rule the game, so I’m already a fan. She’s only played a few tournaments and is already on the verge of being at the top of the women’s game, so she may challenge current superstar Anna-Leigh Waters in the near future.

Now, onto links!

This Week in Women’s Tennis

Ons Jabeur continues to break the ceiling for Arab tennis. The Tunisian won the biggest title of her career at the Mutua Madrid Open, outlasting Jessica Pegula, 7-5, 0-6, 6-2. The doubles title went to two Friends of The IX, Gaby Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos. The pair knocked out Desirae Krawczyk and Demi Schuurs, 7-6(1), 5-7, [10-7], to win their first title as a duo. Don’t miss WTA Insider’s Champions Corners with Jabeur and Dabrowski/Olmos.

While the tournament was high-quality, the schedule was not:

At the L’ Open 35 de Saint-Malo, Beatriz Haddad Maia won her first WTA-level title with a 7-6(3), 6-3, win over Anna Blinkova. The doubles title went to Eri Hozumi and Makoto Ninomiya, who downed Estelle Cascino and Jessika Ponchet.

WTA Insider caught up with Iga Swiatek, who is recharged as she defends her Rome title following her Madrid withdrawal last week.

Bianca Andreescu, now back in the Top 100, isn’t focusing on results as she comes back, but staying fresh mentally and enjoying the process.

Congratulations to Johanna Konta, who announced she is expecting her first child:

In college tennis news:

  • The NCAA Division I Team Championships have their Sweet Sixteen set.
  • The University of Dallas announced their plans to join Division III tennis.
  • NCAA No. 1 and reigning singles champion Emma Navarro doesn’t mind the big target on her back.
  • Peyton Stearns, a UTR College Ambassador, hopes to continue the momentum she’s brought to the University of Texas.

Alex Macpherson of wtatennis.com profiled Jasmine Paolini, who’s playing the best tennis of her career, ahead of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. He also covered Media Day with Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu.

Learn more about 2018 NCAA singles champion Arianne Hartono, who earned her career-best win at the $100,000 ITF World Tour event in Wiesbaden.

This week’s ITF World Tour results:

  • $100,000 Wiesbaden, Germany:
    • Danka Kovinic def. Nastasja Schunk, 6-3, 7-6(0)
    • (4) Amina Anshba/Panna Udvardy def. Andrea Gamiz/Eva Veddar, 6-2, 6-4
  • $100,000 Bonita Springs, Florida:
    • (Q) Gabriela Lee def. (7) Katarzyna Kawa, 6-1, 6-3
    • (4) Timea Babos/Nao Hibino def. (3) Olga Govortsova/Katarzyna Kawa, 6-4, 3-6, [10-7]
  • $60,000 Prague, Czech Republic:
    • Maja Chwalinska def. (1) Ekaterine Gorgodze, 7-5, 6-3
    • (1) Barbara Gatica/Reveca Pereira def. (2) Miriam Kolodziejova/Jesika Maleckova, 6-4, 6-2
  • $60,000 Koper, Slovenia:
    • Kathinka von Diechmann def. (6) Andrea Lazaro Garcia, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
    • (1) Xenia Knoll/Samantha Murray Sharan def. (2) Conny Perrin/Joanne Zuger, 6-3, 6-2
  • $25,000 Split, Croatia:
    • (3) Anastasia Kulikova def. (2) Yuki Naito, 7-6(4), 6-1
    • (4) Lea Boskovic/Veronika Erjavec def. (1) Mana Kawamura/Funa Kozaki, 4-6, 6-1, [10-1]
  • $25,000 Monastir, Tunisia:
    • Adithya Karunaratne def. Sakura Hosogi, 6-3, 6-3
    • (4) Fangzhou Liu/Erika Sema def. (2) Nigina Abduraimova/Aleksandra Pospelova, 6-3, 6-2
  • $25,000 Nottingham, United Kingdom:
    • (8) Sonay Karal def. (2) Danielle Lao, 6-1, 6-0
    • Mana Ayukawa/Alana Parnaby def. (1) Eudice Chong/Hong Yi Cody Wong, 7-5, 6-4
  • $25,000 Daytona Beach, Florida:
    • (3) Katrina Scott def. Reese Brantmeier, 6-2, 6-4
    • (1) Yu-Chieh Hsieh/Chieh-Yu Hsu def. Chelsea Fontenel/Hina Inoue, 7-5, 6-0
  • $25,000 Bastad, Sweden:
    • (1) Ipek Oz def. (3) Irina Khromacheva, 6-3, 6-1
    • (1) Mona Barthel/Baijsa Wilda Hennemann def. (4) Julie Belgraver/Fanny Ostlund, 6-1, 6-4
  • $25,000 Santa Margherita di Pula, Italy:
    • Finals between (1) Sara Bejlek vs. (4) Weonika Falkowska and (1) Angelica Moratelli/Camilla Rosatello vs. (4) Francisca Jorge/Metilde Jorge are being played today due to weather
  • $25,000+H Tossa de Mar, Spain:
    • Rosa Vicens Mas def. (Q) Isabella Kruger, 7-5, 6-3
    • (1) Marina Bassola Ribera/Ioana Loredana Rosca def. (2) Yvonne Cavalle-Reimers/Celia Cervino Ruiz, 7-5, 6-0
  • $15,000 Cairo, Egypt:
    • (Q) Ya Yi Yang def. (3) Melanie Klaffner, 6-3, 6-3
    • (1)Melanie Klaffner/Anastasia Zolotareva def. (2) Oceane Babel/Noa Liauw A Fong, 6-1, 7-5
  • $15,000 Antalya, Turkey:
    • Rina Saigo def. (5) Daria Lodikova, 6-3, 6-0
    • (1) Dia Evitmova/Ines Murta def. (3) Rina Saigo/Yukina Saigo, 6-0, 6-2
  • $15,000 Curitiba, Brazil:
    • Bianca Behulova def. (2) Martina Capurro Taborda, 6-4, 7-6(2)
    • (2) Martina Capurro Taborda/Fernanda Labrana def. (1) Ana Filipa Santos/Noelia Zeballos Melgar, 6-1, 6-4

Stephanie Livaudais discussed Adidas’ place in tennis’ fashion bubble, but also reflected with David Kane on the 2012 Mutua Madrid Open – the year of blue clay. Personally, I would love to see it make a return.

Reem Abulleil chatted with Coco Gauff, who is coming into her own this year with some inspiration from Iga Swiatek.

Guadalajara is apparently getting another tournament this year, but at the 1000 level:

Venus and Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Genie Bouchard were among the stars that attended the F1 Miami Grand Prix this past weekend.

This week’s UTR Pro Tennis Tour Results:

  • $25,000 Newport Beach, California:
    • 1st place playoff: Aspen Schuman def. Paris Corley, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4
    • 2nd place playoff: Krisha Mahendran def. Caroline Pozo, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
    • 3rd place playoff: Sankavi Gownder def. Ellie Gyuro, 6-0, 6-0
    • 4th place playoff: Seha Yu def. Isabella Asenov, 6-3, 6-2
    • 5th place playoff: Emmie Moore def. Tomi Main, 6-4, 6-4
  • $25,000 Cornellà de Llobregat, Spain:
    • 1st place playoff: Mina Hodzic def. Gabriella Da Silva-Fick, 7-6(5), 6-1
    • 2nd place playoff: Lara Escauriza def. Ana Lantigua De La Nuez, 6-2, 6-0
    • 3rd place playoff: Esther Lopez def. Eleanor Baglow, 6-4, 3-2, retired
    • 4th place playoff: Valeria Koussenkova def. Elizabeth Jurna, 6-3, 6-3
    • 5th place playoff: Taisia Yakunina def. Valeria Avdeeva, 6-1, 6-3

In Madrid, cancer survivors Martina Navratilova and Carla Suarez Navarro led a panel with the WTA and Hologic as they discussed the importance of women’s health and their screenings.

Tweet of the Week

I mean, c’mon. The cuteness is off the charts

Five at The IX: Simone Jardim

Simone Jardim is considered the “Queen of Pickleball” and the greatest female player to play the sport. She’s won 36 PPA titles and nearly $150,000 in prize money since she turned pro in 2015. Originally a collegiate standout at Fresno State, she ended up becoming a coach and worked her way up to a Power Five position at Michigan State. With us, she discusses why she left that to pursue pickleball, her surprise announcement of retirement this year and more. You can follow her on Instagram and Youtube.

Joey: You had a decorated tennis career as a junior and collegiate player, but you didn’t pursue a professional career after becoming an All-American at Fresno State. Instead, you became a coach and eventually became the head coach at Michigan State for nearly ten years. What spurred your switch over to pickleball?
Simone: I was a little burnt out with coaching tennis and pickleball kind of happened by accident. Also, as a family we were ready to move as Michigan winters are hard especially with little kids.

Joey: I’m curious, since you’ve been both a player and coach in collegiate tennis, how Title IX has impacted you? Have you noticed some improvements that are still needed today?
Simone: We definitely had more scholarships than the guys because of football taking so many. Title IX has given the women an opportunity to play and earn scholarships which gives girls something to strive for early on in their junior years.
The improvements needed may not be so much about Title IX but more so with Olympic sports that don’t get the budget to succeed at a top tier level.

Joey: You’re known as the “Queen of Pickleball” with nearly 40 PPA titles. On both a player and coaching front, what are the biggest similarities and differences between pickleball and tennis? 
Simone: Mental part of the game is crucial in both. I’ve always considered myself as someone who can rise to the occasion and that is something tough to teach. The coaching transition came easy as I’ve always enjoyed helping others achieve their goals.

Joey: After seven years on the circuit, you announced that this season will be your last. Is it a full-stop or just retiring from a full calendar of playing the tour? What led you to make that decision and what does the future hold?
Simone: I’ve spent most of my life traveling for tennis or pickleball tournaments. I learned a lot and I’m very grateful for my experiences. However, all that traveling takes a toll on the body and mind. Being away from my family hasn’t been easy and I’m looking forward to spending more time with them. I might show up at a tournament here and there but it won’t be much. I will continue teaching for as long as I enjoy it. I want to be able to travel with my family for fun. I don’t have anything out of the ordinary planned yet, other than being more present with my family.

Joey: Pickleball has exploded the last few years, so where do you personally see the sport progressing? Could you see it ever blending into the ATP/WTA structure or calendar? If you had your way, what would you incorporate into the sport?
Simone: The future of the sport is unknown but I do believe that a player organization is needed to help players not only because of the money involved but also to prevent injuries and burn outs.

Joey: What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and who gave it? If you could go back in time, what would you tell 18-year-old Simone?
Simone: My parents, they made me fearless of going after what I want and what makes me and the people I love have happy moments. I believe things happen for a reason and I’m happy and thankful for everything that I’ve experienced so far. No regrets

Joey: For our tennis and pickleball readers, what is one tip for each that they can do to improve their game?
Simone: Play to win, that way you will always learn and have no regrets whether you win or lose.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon