Pickleball had one of its most significant events this past weekend. And of course, it came with some controversy. Margaritaville, USA, Pickleball National Championships took place at the historic Indian Wells Tennis facility in California, one of the best venues in the world.
This is a standalone event and not associated with any of the three main tours, and there’s $150,000 in prize money, and almost all the top players in the world are competing.
And we got some different pairings this weekend than we normally do. In the mixed division, Catherine Parenteau has partnered with Ben Jones, and Anna Leigh Waters is partnered with Riley Newman. Ben has been playing with Anna Leigh all year but wasn’t sure if he could make it out to this event.
And so Anna Leigh decided to pair with Riley Newman ahead of time. Ben does end up making it out here and he ends up pairing with Catherine Parenteau, who has been playing with Riley most of the year.
And then we have in women’s doubles Parenteau, who usually plays with Lea Jansen but instead is committed to playing with Elise Jones in this tournament. This is probably due to Lea making some prior commitments. Pairings, as you can see, are a bit wonky in this tournament.
So Mix Doubles is on Friday, Tyson McGuffin and Leigh Waters are playing in the back row and Leigh Waters injures herself and is visibly in pain.
Leigh tried to continue playing but eventually ended up withdrawing. So this leaves Anna Leigh without a partner for women’s doubles on the following day. Extremely last minute everyone already has partners, so not a good situation to be in.
USA Pickleball definitely doesn’t want their star player to not play in one of the top events. Not many options left and little time remaining, but what ends up happening is Catherine Parenteau ends up leaving her partner Elise Jones, to go play with Anna Leigh the next day.
This is less than 24 hours before the women’s doubles event. So Elise Jones is left without a partner and Catherine Parenteau and Anna Leigh are presumably the favorites now to win in women’s doubles. No one publicly knows how all this came to fruition in regards to who reached out to who.
But Dane Gingrich, who is friends and coached with Elise, had this to share on Facebook. “Because Elise is a player I work with. I may be biased, but I highly doubt it. Catherine Parenteau Dumping Elise at Nationals the day before the first round of play with an elite day and leaving Elise with no partner is absolutely horrendous.
Not only did she bail last minute, but she never called or texted Elise herself. She had her manager do her dirty work for her. If the governing bodies aren’t going to do anything about such nonsense, the other pro-women need to take a stance. Effin ridiculous!
And a ton of other pros are coming in defense of Elise and commenting on this post and criticizing Catherine and Anna Leigh for the way how they handled this.
Is There Any Rule For This
You’d think there’d be a rule that would prevent this sort of thing from happening. The only thing from USA pickleball comes from Rule 12 J and which says Partner change may be made prior to the first-round match with the consent of the tournament director if the change is due to injury, illness, or circumstance beyond the control of the player.
So USA Pickleball allowed this partner change to occur, which completely screwed over Elise Jones. It doesn’t say anything about being allowed to drop an already agreed partnership with someone. So I think technically this move was within the rule book.
But that begs the question of whether should have been legal. I’d assume with all the public outrage, there will end up being a rule change. This also brings to light some of the more darker side of pickleball and partnerships. What becomes ethical and what isn’t ethical.
Partners change all the time. Players get opportunities to play with better players as a strictly business decision. They abandon their old partners to partner with someone who they perceive as better.
There’s a way of doing this and a way not to do this. From the perspective of Parenteau, she got a last-minute opportunity to partner with the best female player in the world, and they ended up taking home gold this weekend.
Did she screw over her prior commitment to someone else?
Yes. Another pro player, Lindsey Newman, shared a statement on Facebook about this situation and her own. It’s extremely sad and disappointing, but unfortunately, giving someone your word means nothing in pro pickleball nowadays for some players.
Elise Jones joins the list of players who have been utterly screwed over by other players who committed to playing and then bailing for a better partner. I’m including myself in this list. I got a text a couple of days after giving birth to my second child that I was being dumped a few weeks before the U.S. Open.
And for all the remaining 2022 tournaments, if these people’s fans only knew what some of their favorite pro players do when no one is watching, thanks for bringing this to light. Dayne Gingrich.
And Yates Johnson, another pro player, had this to say: Messed up situation but I think it all comes down to USA pickleball or either tour allowing this to happen. There’s no way that the rules should allow a team currently in the draw to drop and swap players.
Imagine if multiple teams did this would be chaos. You should only be able to swap in an alternate or someone who doesn’t already have a partner and special circumstances like injury or sickness. Just like in tennis. Whoever you sign up with, you’re locked in with them.
I think everyone completely understands this from a strictly business decision. Anna Leigh Waters gives Catherine a better chance to win. But was the reputational risk really worth it from fans and other players who now have a negative view of you after this decision?
This is a factor you have to weigh whether winning in the short term is worth it versus the long term. There’s probably a bunch more information we don’t know about what’s going on behind the scenes. So before casting full blame on one party or another, just remember and take that into account.
There also hasn’t been a public statement by anyone involved either. This definitely brings up an interesting discussion in pickleball, and I think a lot of people are happy as It’s becoming an open topic to discuss because it seems like this stuff happens more often than not.
I would like to hear what your guy’s opinions are on the matter, so leave a comment down below in the comment section.