Relishing Pickleball: Notable National Championships and a TV Special

David Zapatka

I hope many of you made it to the Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships in Indian Wells, Calif. It was a blast. We attended the final three days watching all the pro events including Super Sunday when the finals of all five pro events were played.

Here are some notable milestones from this year’s national tournament.

* 5,522 fans watched Championship Sunday, setting a record for the highest attendance at a pickleball event. It was electric!

* 2,291 players including amateur, professional, and senior professional athletes created one of the largest-ever fields for a USA Pickleball-sanctioned tournament

* $150,000 in prize money making this tournament one of the richest in the history of our sport

* 102 USA Pickleball-certified referees

* 303 volunteers

* 60 singles brackets and 116 doubles brackets

* 3,455 hours of competition

* 4,158 total matches

* Anna Leigh Waters, 15 years of age, captured the first National Championships triple crown of her career, winning gold in the Women’s Singles, Women’s Doubles, and Mixed Doubles competitions.

* Anna Leigh Waters and top-ranked men’s player Ben Johns dominated the medal count in pro competition with Johns taking home gold in Men’s Singles and Men’s Doubles as well as silver in Mixed Doubles.

* This year’s tournament marked the first National Championships in which every match was officiated by a USA Pickleball-certified referee.

* The 2022 Pickleball Hall of Fame inductees were honored on Championship Court following the Induction Ceremony earlier in the week. The inductees were Norm Davis, Pat Kane, Larry Moon, and Wesley Gabrielsen.

Did you catch Stephen Colbert’s and CBS’s Special, Pickled? It was a hoot. It was a pickleball competition to raise funds for Comic Relief US. Participants included Kelly Rowland and Murray Bartlett as Dink Floyd, June Diane Raphael and Paul Scheer as The Paddle Snakes, Jaime Camil and Aisha Tyler as Take This Lob and Shove It, Sugar Ray Leonard and Emma Watson as the Volley Ranchers, Luis Guzmán and Daniel Dae Kim as Daniel Dae Luis, Max Greenfield and Jimmie Allen as Dill-I-Am, Dierks Bentley and Phil Keoghan as When Harry Net Rally, and Tig Notaro and Will Ferrell as Party ’Til You Cuke. Emma Watson and Sugar Ray Leonard were really into the competition and looked as though they were the favorites to win the event, but Dierks Bentley and Phil Keoghan, both well-known television personalities, were crowned the winners after a day of “grueling” pickleball. It was actually pretty hilarious. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out online. If nothing else, two hours of primetime television coverage on a major network is another example of just how mainstream pickleball has become.

Have a question about pickleball? Want to know more about the sport, the rules, equipment or have some pickilicious news you would like to share with our pickleball community? Email David Zapatka at [email protected].