Hometown Triple Crown

Hometown Triple Crown

A record-breaking 1400-plus pickleball players and their biggest fans were treated to quite the spectacle this past weekend at The Tennis and Pickleball Club at Newport Beach, highlighted by “Championship Sunday,” as it is affectionately known, on Sunday, July 2nd.

Deborah Lew
|
July 5, 2023
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A record-breaking 1400-plus pickleball players and their biggest fans were treated to quite the spectacle this past weekend at The Tennis and Pickleball Club at Newport Beach, highlighted by “Championship Sunday,” as it is affectionately known, on Sunday, July 2nd.

The fifth day of the six-day APP Newport Beach Open event, a Golden Ticket qualifier, started bright and early, as by 7:00 a.m. vendors in Vendor Village were eagerly awaiting the day’s crowd. In Vendor Village, pickleball fans could delight in an array of giveaways from APP sponsors and affiliates, shop at the APP store, as well as test paddles, shoes and sample metabolism-boosting beverages. There was a podium set up where amateurs could pick up their medals and have their photos taken.

All 31 pickleball courts were abuzz, with the Amateur Doubles and Super Senior Men’s Pro Doubles matches going on. It was shoulder-to-shoulder at times in the walkways, and people watching and waiting for their next matches had folding chairs and almost camp-like conveniences set up. Pop-up bars were in place to cater to those in attendance. There were people cheering and yelling encouragement to players on the courts, conversations happening everywhere, and the exhilarating sounds of points won and points lost.

The big draw was of course, the matches on Championship Court 1. The first match began at 10:11 a.m. local time - the Women’s Pro Singles gold medal match between Parris Todd and Megan Fudge. It was an entertaining match as each took one of the first two games before Todd won the last game, 11-5.

The Pink Dink, featuring Grey Goose Le Citron as the base liquor, was offered at The Boca Raton VIP Lounge at the 2023 APP Newport Beach Open.

The Boca Raton VIP Lounge was in full swing as fans vied for prime views of Championship Court 1, while indulging in small bites and sipping on beverages such as “The Pink Dink,” a play on the iconic pickleball shot, with Grey Goose Le Citron as the base liquor.

The second match saw Hunter Johnson square off against Quang Duong, a native of Manhattan Beach, California, who advanced to the Men’s Pro Singles Final all the way from the qualifying rounds. Johnson took the first two games to win the title, but the crowd was extremely supportive of their SoCal underdog.

The crowd reacts as pickleballs are thrown into the crowd during Championship Sunday at the 2023 APP Newport Beach Open.

The sun made its way out for the third championship match of the day, which was intentionally delayed because Johnson was playing back-to-back matches. He and partner, Todd, who is also his girlfriend off the court, played the newly formed team of Allison Harris and Andre Mick for Mixed Pro Doubles gold. After Harris and Mick took game one, Todd and Johnson came back to win the next two to take home the championship. During one of the timeouts, APP staff, in an effort to excite the crowd, threw pickleballs into the stands to enthusiastic fans. One ball was headed toward a boy, perhaps around the age of eight, when it was snagged by the couple sitting next to him. The couple promptly and good-naturedly handed the ball to the boy, who smiled, content with his prize.

The packed crowd then played witness to a rematch from Saturday - the Men’s Pro Doubles Final, featuring Andrei Daescu and Pesa Teoni, who took on Next Gen National Team members, Richard Livornese Jr. and Spencer Lanier. Some of the other Next Gen players were there to support Livornese Jr. and Lanier, and one could be seen with a sign that read “Spence the Fence.” Daescu and Teoni, having two Men’s Pro Doubles golds on their resumes so far this season, won the first two games handily. The crowd was extremely knowledgeable, offering rousing ovations after long rallies and for impressive points. After the match, Daescu made his way to the rapid recovery tent for some post-match stretching and therapy.

Many of the other APP Tour pros who weren’t playing on Sunday, including Yates Johnson and Alix Truong, were in attendance to cheer on their friends and tour mates, and even more stayed after their matches were over to peek out from the APP pros’ tent and watch the action.

Todd opened Championship Sunday, and she also closed it, as just over five hours after her first game began, she and Women’s Pro Doubles partner, Simone Jardim, beat Genie Erokhina and Rianna Valdes, who were playing in a gold medal match for the first time this season. After the match Jardim could be seen taking photos with adoring fans. The third gold of the day for Todd gave her the Triple Crown win, in her hometown of Newport Beach nonetheless.

“It’s been amazing to be back here in Newport Beach. I grew up playing tennis here, and to be back here winning the Triple Crown and being part of an amazing sport is so incredible,” said Todd, who learned to play pickleball at The Tennis and Pickleball Club at Newport Beach. “It takes a lot of hard work. Seeing the pickleball community evolving and helping people’s lives is so cool, and I’m so grateful to be part of it.”

Many of the medalists, during their post-match interviews, thanked the crowd and noted that they enjoyed playing in front of a full house. The Tennis and Pickleball Club at Newport Beach is known as the hub of pickleball in Orange County and it showed on Sunday, as the Amateur Doubles competition continued well into the evening.

With a total of 1442 players registered, the Newport Beach Open set an APP Tour record, and due to the rising popularity of the sport of pickleball for all ages, it won’t be long before that record is smashed.

Tune in on Thursday, July 6 at 9 p.m. Eastern on ESPN to catch all the Championship Sunday highlights.

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