Over the Pond Again
English Open Pickleball Tournament
This will be one of my personal favorite posts ever, and I hope you enjoy it. It’s covers two days at the English Open Pickleball Tournament and it's about a couple of the funnest and the best days I've had in my 5+ years of playing pickleball.
We showed up in Southampton, hired our car (that’s "rented" for the Americans :-), and checked in to our newest pet sit. We are taking care of Balou the cat, a beautiful Russian Blue with the sweetest personality, and tiniest and most infrequent of meows. He’s curious and playful, and he just wants to be in the same room with us all of the time, not insisting on being petted or cuddled, but just wanting company.
A few days later we headed to the David Lloyd Club, the one on Frogmore Lane to be clear. It is a beautiful center, and Pickleball England rented out a huge portion of the facility to host the tournament. We arrived early to drop off gear that we had transported from Selmeston (where the Mitchell’s live), to Southampton for the tournament.
An army of volunteers arrived soon after to make an incredible conversion to the eight tennis courts. The surface is acrylic on concrete with just the right amount of grit and fantastic bounce. It was one the best of any surfaces we’ve ever played on (out of over 275 courts). After I tell you how much pickleball we played in just two days, the fact that the surface was easy on our knees and feet will make that fact more impressive.
Sixteen glorious pickleball courts were created with tape, including one center court for the medal matches. It was an extremely time consuming process, but in the end, it looked like a professional job. The list of tasks being tackled was daunting, but just like eating an elephant, it happened over time. Kudos to Pickleball England and all the volunteers for a job well done!
On to the pickleball. As reported in a Facebook post, Ky played Men’s 60+ 4.0/4.5 with his partner, Mark - a leftie. They were undefeated until the gold medal match, until conceding two games in the two out of three gold medal match, yielding a silver medal. Considering they had just met the previous day it was cool to see the synergy they had from the get go. They were bested by our friends Chris and Stan who battled valiantly to snatch gold away from Ky & Mark’s necks! We still love them. :-)
I played with Karen Mitchell, co-director of Pickleball England. We had fun but couldn’t replicate the gold success we had in Madrid a few years ago. But, it was truly about getting to play with Karen again. She is an amazing woman who does so much for our sport here in England, and the whole world over as a director on the board of the World Pickleball Federation. How she even managed to play while running a tournament is beyond my comprehension. She did have the awesome Sam Basford, co-director, to back her up while (whilst for you Brits) she played though.
The next day Ky and I played in Mixed Doubles 4.0/4.5 60+. The players here in England have really upped their game since we were here last in 2019. We faced fierce competition in the round robin to barely squeak in to the knockout rounds. We were fourth seed so we faced the number one seed team, Simon Profitt from Isle of Wight and Bonnie Stephenson from Columbus, OH. Much to everyone’s surprise, most especially ours, we won the match!
Here is a tournament tip for you: Other people see your games more clearly than you do while you are playing. Ask around for advice on strategy. We shall ever be indebted to one Elaine Shallcross who gave us just the advice we needed. We tweaked our play and it paid off.
That win pushed us to the gold medal match where we played against the reigning King and Queen of Pickleball England, Chris and Karen Mitchell. They won the first match, we won the second, and they soundly trounced us in the third. And again, we still love them… well… we’re having to think about Chris, JJ. That’s pickleball for you. :-) A huge thank you to the small but loyal cheering squad rooting for us! We fully understand the loyalty that the rest of you had for your home team. We still love you all too.
So… after a full tournament, I did a thing. I played a SECOND full tournament. The Pro-Am event sounded like a once in a lifetime opportunity to bid on the right to play in a round robin tournament with the pros. I happily won England’s top player, Louis Laville. He is an absolutely amazing player, and on top of that, since he’s local, I figured that he would be in top form over all the others since he wouldn’t be jet lagged! That, as my father-in-law used to say, is “Using the old kidney” while pointing to his brain. In addition, the funds raised are going to the good cause of buying pickleball gear to send to Uganda. There are many people in Uganda interested in learning to play, and desperately needing paddles, nets and balls.
If you’ve ever watched the television series called “The Amazing Race”, you know they always have a token more mature (old) couple on the show. They usually make it one or two rounds, then obviously the younger contestants whip them mercilessly. To be honest, I felt like I was the token old person. I literally prayed that I just wouldn’t suck and get pickled every game!
Having just the chance just to meet these pros that I’ve watched on YouTube and live streams was wonderful. Actually getting to play with them turned out to be my absolute favorite thing I have ever done in pickleball. The pros were Irena Terashinko, Rob Cassidy, Lee Whitwell, Sandra Gehrke, Michelle Esquivel, Daniel Roditi and Louis Laville. And on the right is the infamous ref, Ron Ponder - a great funny guy and the best ref ever. Check back here soon, because I learned so much that my next post is going to be the 10th in my series of 12 “Lessons With a Pro. This was truly “Lessons with 7 Pros” at once.
Many more photos will be posted on our Facebook Coffeys2Go Pickleball page. Be sure to like or follow the page to know when they go up.
P.S. this is also where I've been posting much more frequently than this website.
After my SECOND tournament in one day, I had zero energy to hang around. We headed home and I sat on the sofa for an hour petting Balou and in all truth, just not being able to move. I was dreading walking up the stairs to go to bed. Balou was happy to see us, and I was the happiest, but the most exhausted that I have probably ever been, not including childbirth. Come to think of it, childbirth was likely less exhausting, I had epidurals for those!
Hugs from Southampton, England!