Teenagers Chase McCrimmon and Jaden Jones pulled off a major upset by winning the men’s 3.5-3.99 title at the Bermuda Pickleball Open earlier this week. The 13-year-olds took down the father-son duo of Mason and Peter Illston in the finals, winning 11-9, 11-5.
The victory was made even more impressive by the fact that McCrimmon and Jones had to defeat several opponents with far more experience. As Liana Carrick, manager of the host Pomander Gate Tennis and Pickleball Club noted, “It was not an easy route to get to the final for them and they had very strong competition.”
“They have been playing quite a bit of pickleball through the summer but they were up against people that have been playing for quite a few years. They definitely showed what talent they have between them,” Carrick added.
The unlikely journey of McCrimmon and Jones captivated spectators on the final day of the tournament. Carrick said the bleachers were filled with enthusiastic fans and the atmosphere was “fabulous” as the teens battled through their final match.
Their championship caps off a meteoric rise for McCrimmon and Jones, who only picked up pickleball over the summer. However, their natural athleticism and determination powered them through a grueling tournament schedule. They ultimately won eight matches against more seasoned competitors.
The victory sends a message that the next generation of pickleball players is coming up fast. McCrimmon and Jones displayed maturity beyond their years in handling the pressure of a final. They now establish themselves as names to watch in the pickleball world.
The teens weren’t the only story of the tournament, however. Bermuda’s top tennis player Gavin Manders also made headlines by teaming with fellow Davis Cup star James Finnigan to win the men’s 4.0 doubles title.
In the women’s events, Laura Bardgett and Ailish Byrne edged out a tight 11-10, 11-9 victory in the 3.0-3.49 doubles final. Sheila Fisher and Janice Bucci were awarded the 3.5 title by default.
The mixed doubles also produced some fireworks. John Stephens combined with Tracy Shott to best Ricardo Larranago and Elin Daniels for the 3.0-3.49 crown. Nancy Kempe and Mike Burns had to battle for an 11-9, 11-9 win in the 3.5-3.99 bracket over Tori and Tucker Powell.
While there was plenty of exciting action on the court, the tournament almost never happened due to Hurricane Lee. Friday’s play for juniors was cancelled and Opening Day was pushed to Saturday morning. Still, Lee’s impacts were minimal and near perfect weather prevailed after Saturday.
We pretty much made it all up except for the singles event, so we’ll have to try and incorporate that into a future tournament because there seems to be a steadily growing interest in playing singles pickleball,” said Carrick.
The tournament drew praise from sponsors and has increased interest in pickleball at the junior level in Bermuda. Over $3,500 was raised through entry fees for 120 participants. The funds will be donated to the Pickleball Association of Bermuda to support growth of the sport among youth.
In the end, the prevailing storyline was McCrimmon and Jones defeating the odds to win a title against adult competitors. Their triumph ushers in an exciting new era for Bermudian pickleball. If this tournament was any indication, the island’s next generation of talent runs deep.