Avalon, NJ – The crack of paddles meeting pickleballs echoed through the courts last week as the top pro pickleball players in the world competed at the Sunmed New Jersey Open. Hosted by the Association of Pickleball Players (APP), the 5-day event featured electrifying matches in men’s and women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles.
In the men’s singles final, #1 seed Ben Johns defeated rival Austin Smith to capture the title. Johns, known as the “GOAT” of pickleball for his dominance of the sport, used his lethal forehand and precise dinks to control points. Though Smith’s two-handed backhand posed problems, Johns’ fitness and strategy secured a 6-3, 7-6 victory.
The women’s singles title went to #1 seed Catherine Parenteau, who bested Canada’s Michelle Enright in straight sets. Parenteau’s accurate serves kept Enright scrambling across the non-volley zone. With masterful drop shots and net play, Parenteau stayed calm under pressure to win 6-2, 6-4.
Doubles action saw familiar champions emerge. The men’s doubles final pitted two American teams against each other, with partners Ben Johns and Jason Watkin defeating Riley Newman and Austen Smith 6-2, 7-5. Johns claimed his second title of the tournament by tactfully poaching volleys at the net while Watkin smashed forehand winners from the baseline.
The women’s doubles final also went the top seeds’ way. Catherine Parenteau and young phenom CoCo Gauff took out fellow Americans Catherine Bell and Jaimee Floyd 6-3, 6-2. The pair’s chemistry was evident in their synchronized maneuvers and wordless communication.
Finally, in mixed doubles, underdogs Austin Smith and Sarah Ansboury upset Canadians Mike Day and Michelle Enright 6-4, 7-5. Their contrasting styles meshed perfectly, with Ansboury firing angled volleys from the kitchen while Smith blasted groundstrokes from the baseline.
The APP Sunmed Open dished up dazzling rallies and edge-of-your-seat excitement. With a prize pool of $100,000, the event attracted over 450 top competitors vying for the largest payouts in pickleball. As the sport’s popularity explodes, tournaments like this showcase pickleball’s emergence as a professional game.
These champs left everything on the courts. Through tactical mastery and mental toughness, they carved their names into the pickleball history books. If this tournament is any indication, pickleball’s future looks bright and the best is yet to come. My only thought is the sport seems fun to play and watch! The pros make it look so easy but it requires a lot of skill. I’d love to try it someday!