Ambassador Series – Meet Denise Donald, District Ambassador for all of New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Ambassador Series – Meet Denise Donald, District Ambassador for all of New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Denise Donald, Mid-Atlantic District Ambassador

Denise Donald, Mid-Atlantic District Ambassador

It has been a delight talking with USAPA Mid-Atlantic District Ambassador Denise Donald about how pickleball has taken over her life. Here is some of her story. Enjoy!

I started playing pickleball in 2011 and became instantly addicted. When I started there were only 8 folks playing pickleball in South Jersey. We used masking tape to mark pickleball lines on a tennis court. The township got wind of it and painted pickleball lines on 2 tennis courts. I love encouraging folks to play. I use Meetup.com to get folks to participate. I did meetups for drills and skills, but people complained about them using the only courts available for drills, so the local rec. center let me be on their schedule for drills and skills sessions. Now I get paid $50 for each class!

I love seeing people enjoy themselves. All retirees I meet seem to want to fill their time with activity, but a lot of sports don’t have time to play during the day. Retirees used to say to me, “I don’t know what I’m going to do in retirement,” so I suggest trying pickleball, and now they play pickleball every day. Pickleball makes folks feel like they are a part of something bigger. It’s a grass roots movement that has become a national movement.

I have been very busy since I first signed up to be a USAPA Ambassador 6 years ago. I have done 2 podcasts on NPR with Marty Masowarin about how to grow the sport. I get calls every week to help start pickleball. When I started, there were less than 12 Ambassadors in the District. Now there are 61; 31 in Pennsylvania, and 30 in Jersey, with more people interested. The Area Team includes Bill Gionetti, Egg Harbor Township. Bill Gionetti does pickleball classes weekly. He’s 82 and has been dedicated to growing pickleball for 10-15 years. We have a lot of folks do the ground work and do hours of work just for the enjoyment of and growing the game. South Jersey has a Facebook page.

If growing pickleball is the goal, you can be sure that pickleball has been growing by leaps and bounds in my district. In Jersey Shore, every town now has put in pickleball courts. In June of 2016, I located an unused basketball court and turned it into 4 dedicated pickleball courts. 8 of the dozen who started playing pickleball still play. One township is building 5 more courts from scratch. Another township had no money, but offered to power wash a court and put down lines. Altogether, we have courts at the Croc Center, a Tennis Club and 2 skate rings. In Mashpeh, a court was added in a church, and have had 8 players since November. The county has been very receptive to supporting the growth of pickleball. They have provided grants and masking tape to mark pickleball lines on a tennis court. 

We have some great pros in the area, some of whom are IPTPA certified trainers, including Sarah Ansboury, Aspen Kern,  Christine McGrath and Ben Johns. Some IPTPA-trained folks do Boy Scout programs teaching pickleball. Ben Johns will be teaching pickleball clinics in the fall. Christine, Aspen, Ben and Kyle also did a fundraiser recently.

Most folks here are 3.0/3.5 recreational players. In the area, we have up to 4.5 players, but no 5.0. 4.0s say we focus too much on older folks/recreational. 7 miles from Philadelphia there is an elite group of 4.5 and 5.0 players. Folks from North Jersey have to travel an hour to play with them. I am getting requests to get tournaments going for the 4.5 and 5.0 players, but my strength is introducing pickleball to communities and folks new to pickleball.

Have you ever taken the time to thank an Ambassador for all they do to promote the game of pickleball?  If in your travels your path crosses with Denise Donald, please thank her.  She is one hard-working USAPA Pickleball Ambassador.

 

Pickleball in the 2018 Singapore National Games

Pickleball in the 2018 Singapore National Games

We are delighted to be able to share this wonderful news from Singapore. Enjoy!

Greeting from Singapore! It is our exciting “pickleball” time in Singapore. Our tournament season is drawing near. Pickleball is finally recognized and included into the 2018 Singapore National games. It will be a national tournament and will spread over 2 weekends, organized by our sport body in Singapore. There will be appropriately 300+ players participating. We are co-organizing the event and details of the tournament can be found on our website pickleball: https://www.pickleball.sg/sng-2018.

History of pickleball in Singapore

Singapore started to introduce pickleball in 1998. It started in a small community with very limited places to play and  little awareness on the sport. Having said that, in the past 5-6 years we have experienced a tremendous growth in the sport. Many community clubs in Singapore started to organize interest groups for pickleball and our sport halls have had a steady growth of players joining their morning groups. In the Hillview area, we have a small group of senior playing pickleball on our only outdoor court. Our neighborhood community has also started a pickleball interest group.

Weekend Pickleball Group

Hillview Pickleball Group

We started to play indoor pickleball when our new community center was completed in 2017. Three months later, we re-established the group as Bukit Gombak CSC Pickleball Interest Group, serving more residents in Bukit Gombak and Chua Chu Kang. The Interest Group reached the max membership in October 2017 and we decided to setup a Weekend Pickleball group in December 2017 after securing 8 courts in Hillgrove & Lianhua Indoor Sports Hall. Weekend Pickleball hit the target of 100 members in March 2018. We have 2 new indoor badminton courts that we now play pickleball on regularly, Mondays (6-9:30 pm) and Wednesdays (9:30-12:30am).

Hillview Community Center

Hillview Community Center

Our weekend pickleball clubs are also booming! In a short span of 3 months, we have 100+ members. Every Sunday we open 8 courts to accommodate 50+ players, the largest pickleball indoor courts in Singapore! Here is the link for Bukit Gombak CSC pickleball: sg/bukit-gombak-csc-pickleball. Our weekend pickleball website is:  https://www.pickleball.sg/weekend-pickleball-lianhua.

Bukit Gombak CSC Pickleball Interest Group

Weekend Pickleball Group

Since we have been so well established, we have hosted an inter-constituency tournament (Hillview meets Nanyang) and a few more mini-tournaments within our club (such as Jingle & Mingle and Million Hongbao Challenge).

With our many successes and connections to on-line media such as Facebook, we are now connected to many players overseas and have hosted games for our visitors from the USA, India, New Zealand, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, etc. It is a great opportunity to meet players from other countries and exchange skills to improve our games. We have formally established our affiliation with the Pickleball Association of Hong Kong, China to host our members when they travel to our countries. Likewise, we are extending our invitation to your readers for games if they are visiting Singapore.

Pickleball.sg

Pickleball.sg is a volunteer network for all communities and interest groups to share and promote pickleball activities in Singapore. We have started to chart down the places to play within Singapore and we are sharing tournament invitations on the internet. We are hoping to establish more affiliation with the other countries especially in Asia to promote and raise the standard for pickleball in Singapore and Asia.

Singapore National Games 2018

This is the 2nd year ActiveSG (our sport government body) to organise the Singapore National Games and pickleball.sg will be their official partner for this year tournament which will be held the end of July. Details of the SNG 2018 can be found in this link https://www.pickleball.sg/sng-2018.  It will be the largest pickleball event in Singapore, this year we are anticipating 300+ players for this tournament.

The tournament is open for players above 21 yrs and we have a master group (women above 55 yrs and men above 60 yrs old). We don’t have player rating like in the USA, so the skill sets are simply divided into Novice, Intermediate and Advanced. Besides the individual event, this year we have added a team zone event. Each team comprises of 10 players of different age groups to compete to be the team champion. Bukit Gombak CSC Pickleball will be sending 2 teams for this tournament!

Thank you Michelle for sharing this wonderful story about the growth of pickleball in Singapore. I am sure some of our readers will be planning a trip to visit you soon to play pickleball. 

Quick and Easy Tips to Master the Backhand

If you play with a strong partner in doubles then you may find yourself becoming complacent by letting them take every ball that flies toward their forehand.

While it is typically easier for most players to use their forehand, if the ball is coming to your side of the court, letting your partner take the shot/poach can cause them to become fatigued more quickly or leave them out of position for the return volley.

To counter these problems, it’s important to learn how to adequately utilize a backhand stroke. Those coming from a tennis background are usually more familiar with this tactic, but the motion may feel unusual for those without an extensive racquet sport background.

With the help of pro player and trainer Deb Harrison, here are a few ways to easily improve your backhand:

 

There are two types of backhand you can utilize: topspin or underspin/slice. The only difference between them when it comes to setup is how you initially position your paddle.

For a right-handed player to produce topspin (lefties should perform the following in reverse), place your right thumb against your left hip, causing your shoulder to rotate toward the net, take a step forward, then allow your arm to follow through. Your left hand should also extend behind you to provide additional balance.

For underspin, you simply start the swing of your paddle a bit higher—near your chest rather than hip. Prepare your positioning early, then allow your paddle to drop down to meet the ball before following through.

A few common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Ensure your shoulder is turned before hitting the ball. So long as your paddle is near your hip or chest, your shoulder should be facing the net and properly aligned for the shot.
  2. Hit the ball in front of your forward-positioned knee. If you try to take the ball at or behind your hip, then you won’t be able to generate any power or may send the ball in the wrong direction.
  3. Follow through on your swing by drawing your paddle hand toward your target and letting your opposite arm extend behind you. This ensures proper placement and also helps you avoid becoming unbalanced.

With enough practice you’ll be able to take any ball that heads your way on the court regardless of whether you need to use your forehand or backhand. Keep these tips in mind and don’t let anyone catch you off guard!

ProLite Cypher Pro Brings Aggressive Torque and Huge Sweet Spot to Players of All Levels

If you think you know where you stand when it comes to elongated paddles, you may have to reconsider thanks to ProLite’s Cypher Pro.

The newest entry in their “Black Diamond” series, the Cypher Pro mirrors ProLite’s earlier Chrome N-R-G in shape, but uses the line’s special carbon fiber material to completely change the paddle’s feel and accessibility.

Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a pickleball veteran, this paddle has been blowing away players’ expectations and creating exceptional torque and power on the courts.

This is a piece of equipment that truly needs to be played with in order to experience why it’s so unique. For those who haven’t already heard about ProLite’s Black Diamond paddles, their main draw is the use of a carbon fiber face.

While many players know of graphite (which is a form of carbon), these carbon fibers are literally arranged in a “weave” which causes them to play in a very different manner.

The Carbon Fiber Difference

Listening to ProLite’s R&D team, we found that carbon fiber is renowned for its ability to create friction at slow speeds. This is why, despite the Cypher Pro’s glossy surface, players are still able to create plenty of spin with each swing. When viewed under a microscope, you can literally see the small hairs which help grip the ball.

Even more interesting is that these fibers decay over time and use, but rather than weakening the paddle, this further contributes to the amount of torque you can generate. This may be the first paddle which gets better with age!

Bill Ritchie with Cypher Pro

Bill Ritchie with Cypher Pro at the FCTC Spring Swing 2018

Additionally, carbon fiber disperses energy throughout its composition rather than absorbing it. This not only reduces shock to the joints, but allows players to “defuse” fast shots and return pickleballs softly over the net for maximum control. When you do want to add power, since the fibers correspondingly create less friction at high speeds, the surface feels stiffer and allows for the execution of hard-hitting slams.

The Black Diamond surface also keeps the Cypher Pro within its current 7.3 – 7.6 oz weight range, which many find ideal when it comes to balance. In comparison, the Chrome N-R-G is more head-heavy while the Cypher Pro feels evenly weighted along its body.

Standout Sweet Spot

The Cypher Pro’s carbon fiber surface is certainly its main draw, but we can’t ignore the design’s exceptional sweet spot either. Due to the tapered shape, the Cypher Pro provides a larger sweet spot than many other elongated paddles, meaning it creates an incredible “snap” that feels truly responsive.

ProLite president Neil Friedenberg likens the paddle’s shape to certain golf clubs and their ability to create long drives.

“When you look at long drive champions in golf you’ll notice the clubs they use are correspondingly elongated to generate a high level of impact and torque. That’s crucial in pickleball as well. The Cypher Pro’s length allows it to create that snappy response, while the slightly lighter weight generates more swing speed. The tapered neck has an aerodynamic shape, so despite the size it can move very quickly.

“Comparing this with our Titan, you still get the Black Diamond series’ great energy dispersal, but the Cypher Pro eliminates excess surface area while increasing the size of the sweet spot thanks to its rounded top. It took us quite a bit of time to develop the shape in a way that evenly distributed power throughout the paddle, but the results have definitely been worth it.”

Cypher Pro Sweet Spot

At PickleballCentral we don’t always recommend elongated paddles to beginners due to the smaller amount of surface area found in such models, usually requiring precision that newbies haven’t developed yet. Yet impressively, Neil also noted that many play testers and current users of the paddle have found it to be very accessible.

Adaptable Design

“It’s been interesting! I was surprised to find that beginners were able to adapt so quickly to the shape as well. The tapering and rounded top really do increase the sweet spot to such an extent that players find it adequate for their needs, and the weight distribution feels comfortable in their hands. I think that’s something we sometimes discount too easily—simply the way a paddle feels. But if a paddle is comfortable then you find many people gravitate toward it. It really hasn’t taken more than a game for players to adjust to.

“What I’ve also noticed is that players who are middle-aged or older really appreciate the paddle’s length, since it allows them to reach for balls without having to bend as much. They’re covering more ground without feeling it in their body. So the shape actually ends up working to their advantage.”

In our own play testing, we can certainly confirm the Cypher Pro’s predilection for spin—just check out the reviews in our Expert’s Corner. Neil agrees that using the paddle, players can focus on their third shot drop to create more of a “dip” in trajectory, leaving opponents off guard with a shot below their waist which then quickly pops back up. Even when returning volleys at lower angles, the Cypher Pro allows you to whip the ball back and keep others on edge.

The Cypher Pro’s versatility, balance and aggressive play style have made it a popular choice across the board, but for the curious, several pros have already made it their top choice on the courts including Bill Ritchie and Craig Schaper.

If you want to be able to redirect shots with high velocity and low effort, the carbon fiber in the Cypher Pro will do its job every time.

Give the Cypher Pro the play test it deserves by taking advantage of our 30-day test drive policy, but we think you’ll likely end up keeping this adaptable option!

Meet The Pros – Dave Fleming

Meet The Pros – Dave Fleming

Dave Fleming action

Dave Fleming – Photo Credit to Pickleball Photos

Dave Fleming loves pickleball, loves a good laugh and loves his family!  He’s an all-around good guy. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2018 –  Cedar Park Championships Mixed Doubles with Helen Wilhelm
2018 –  US Open 35+ Men’s Doubles with Adam Stone – Gold, 50+ Mixed Doubles with Helen Wilhelm – Bronze
2018 –  USAPA Mid-South Regional 5.0 50+ Gold in Singles and Men’s Doubles with Scott Baker
2017 –  USAPA National Championships 4.5 50+ Men’s Doubles Gold

What paddle do you play with and why?

I currently use the Engage Elite Pro, but I’m testing several others to find the perfect combination of power and control… more to come.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

In December of 2016, a friend on my 5.0 tennis team invited me to play pickleball at his church gym where his wife is in charge of the rec programs. So I show up and laughter ensues. We serve and volley. We charge the net. And then we started learning the rules. And the strategy. And we entered tournaments. And it was (and is) glorious.

My tennis rackets have not left the bag since September—and I love tennis. But, I am all-in on playing pickleball.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

Outdoors for sure. Having played tennis since I was 5, I am used to and enjoy the challenges that the elements present.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

Dave Fleming and Adam Stone

USOPEN GOLD – Dave Fleming and Adam Stone

Doubles. The camaraderie of having 4 people on the court, competing but also laughing, is the best. I love the strategy required to complement my partner’s game. And the thrill of winning a big match with a partner is tremendous. My 2018 US Open experience is why I love doubles—I played with 3 awesome players (Steve Dawson, Adam Stone and Helen Wilhelm) against some extraordinary competition, battling for hours each day, and it was truly the best pickleball can be.

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

I love playing anywhere there is good competition and always pack my paddle when I travel. If I had to choose just one, it would be the Bobby Riggs tennis and paddle center which is owned and operated by two phenomenal people and pickleball players: Steve and Jennifer Dawson.

The competition is great, the location is amazing, and after a day of great pickleball, it’s a short drive down the hill for a stunning and colorful California sunset. I’m going back to play two tournaments there this summer.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

My two-handed backhand. Very few guys use it. I can blast drives, hit cut dinks with extreme spin, and disguise volleys with both placement and pace. Tip: Don’t listen to people who say you can’t play a certain way or can’t use a certain shot in pickleball. Pickleball is great because people come to it from a variety of different backgrounds—mold your game to use your strengths, no matter where they come from.

Dave Fleming bronze

2018 Cedar Park Paddle Battle: Helen Wilhelm/Dave Fleming – Bronze, Darija Klaic/Steve Kuhn – Gold, Natali Pouchet/Daniel Toureilles – Silver

What is your day job?

I run the Dallas office of the global ad agency We Are Alexander. I was also voted the number 2 corporate comedian in the US by CBSNews.com—I perform an 80-minute comedic one man show about corporate America called Man vs. Office.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I try to get to 15, with one outing focused solely on drills. It’s a priority in my schedule and always a great workout.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I am known for always wearing black and gold (I am a huge, diehard fan of the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates). I always hold the same side of the grip, so I have 4 dots on the paddle face, representing my family, that are always face up. I also crank “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi before the first match of every day.

Dave Fleming: Steelers Fan

Dave Fleming: Pittsburgh Steelers Fan

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

Keep improving and adding new shots to my arsenal. Play with and against the best players in the world on a consistent basis across the country. Grow the game at all levels here in Dallas and wherever else I can.

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

Truly anything is possible if you are passionate about it. I hope you can feel the love I have for this sport through these words and answers. I will never stop learning. I encourage everybody at all levels to embrace a weekly session where you only do drills. Take a goal to the court every time you play a rec match. And never stop laughing. That’s what makes this game so great. Thank you very much for the chance to share my pickleball story.

Prince Pickleball: Changing The Shape of Pickleball With The New Reponse Pro and Spectrum Pro Pickleball Paddles

Many players can recognize a traditional pickleball paddle shape—a lightly tapered neck above the handle with squared-off parallel edges and a somewhat boxy square or rectangular shape.  As time has passed, some manufacturers have experimented with more elongated shapes, revolutionized by Glen Peterson’s GP short-handle designs (first introduced by Engage and now popularized with the Selkirk Omni) and then by some truly narrow designs like the Encore Blade, Amped Maxima, and Gamma Needle.

The goals of these paddles were sometimes to increase reach, sometimes to increase power, and sometimes to increase the sweet spot.  Mostly these designs tended towards players seeking extra reach and a forward-weighted (head weighted) feel.  Last fall, ProLite introduced the Chrome NRG which looked like it took inspiration from racquetball and squash, creating an elongated teardrop shape that put the mass (and sweet spot) further out for more power, with a rounded sweet spot more natural to actual spot patterns, and they have updated it with their new Cypher Pro.

Prince Pickleball

Now it’s time for Prince Pickleball to take paddle design in a new direction yet again… one you’ll excuse us for saying is quite “well-rounded.” In the 1970s Prince revolutionized tennis by designing new racquets with larger heads and much bigger sweet spots. Prince is doing it again, this time in Pickleball, and they are literally “changing the shape of pickleball” with their new designs.

We at PickleballCentral are pleased to be the official and exclusive launch partner for Prince’s Response Pro and Spectrum Pro composite paddles! These designs feature a highly circular shape that’s sure to satisfy players who love touch, and an oversized, super consistent, naturally round shaped sweet spot.

Changing The Shape:  A Circular Design

The engineering team at Prince Pickleball explained to us that their goal was to create a paddle that provides an amazingly large, naturally shaped sweet spot while delivering incredible touch and power. They explained it like this: “When you drop a pebble in a pool of water, you immediately think of the many ripples that are dispersed from the center; this is what Prince Pickleball replicates in the Response Pro and Spectrum Pro paddles.

The energy spreads out evenly over the paddle and isn’t disrupted by the traditional straight edges that most paddles have. Those straight edges impede energy transfer, and artificially reduce the size and shape of the sweet spot.  You don’t see square racquets in tennis, racquetball, or squash.  There is a reason – it’s about consistent energy dispersion and sweet spot expansion.”

We recently tested a prototype paddle in our lab and on our courts, and the paddle had a solid white face.  We used this paddle to learn visually what the typical shot pattern is like for a typical 3.5 – 4.5 player, and the results were interesting. The shot patterns show mis-hits (off center hits) as much side to side, as top to bottom. But the pattern itself was circular.

As we were listening to the engineers at Prince Pickleball, this resonated with us, and we immediately set out to play with their new circular shaped paddles to see if they really expanded the size of the sweet spot.

Our experience was amazing – balls played consistently in the sweet spot, closer to the edge than almost any paddle we’ve played with. Balls striking almost anywhere on the paddle face transfer energy out to a rounded perimeter, giving you the sense of consistent energy transfer whether you hit in the middle, or off center.

Changing The Shape:  A Thicker, High Performance “Progressive Core”

To maximize the size and consistency of the sweet spot, optimize vibration reduction, and provide a soft feel (similar to graphite paddles), the cores in Prince paddles are made of a thick 9/16-inch polymer honeycomb that generates plenty of power. Prince Pickleball calls this “Progressive Core Technology”.  Softer shots play consistently whether played on the center, or off center of the face, helpful when reaching soft volleys and dinks.

Many players describe the paddles playing like a graphite faced paddle due to this incredible control, helping keep dinks down, and reset points when volleys are blasted at you.  But when you power up on the paddle and hit a power shot, the paddle plays more like a fiberglass paddle, imparting progressively more power in a linear way.  The “Progressive Core” enables players to get the best of both worlds – power, and soft touch.

Proven Quality

Players will enjoy the high level of control they feel while benefiting from a design built to last. These paddles are wholly engineered and manufactured in the U.S. and come with a 5-year guarantee against dead spots.  While Prince is just now entering the pickleball market, they have been a leader in tennis and squash products since the 1970s. The first company to patent an oversized tennis racquet, Prince continued to innovate and influence trends in racquet sports for many decades.

Simone Jardim with Response Pro

Simone Jardim with the Response Pro

To ensure high quality design right from the start, they’ve partnered with top pickleball paddle manufacturer Paddletek to create these unique new offerings. The result is Prince’s launch of innovative paddles leveraging Paddletek’s advanced technology developed through seven years of perfecting pickleball paddle design.

It’s not just Prince and Paddletek’s expertise that supports the quality of the Response and Spectrum Pro paddles. National champion and 2018 US OPEN Triple Crown winner Simone Jardim dominated the courts with her signature Prince Response Pro paddle at this year’s US Open Pickleball Championships, winning Gold in pro singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

The Right Fit

The two models of Prince pickleball paddles guarantee a perfect fit for a wide range of player preferences. Players like Jardim who like a longer handle for two-handed backhands or for extra leverage and power prefer the Response Pro’s 5.5-inch handle. If a shorter handle better suits your style of play, the Spectrum Pro’s 5-inch handle may be just the right fit.

Simone Jardim and Response Pro

Simone Jardim and Response Pro

In either case, to top off the Prince quality and flexibility, both models offer your choice of grip size and weight when ordering a paddle. The Spectrum Pro comes in light weight models (7.2 – 7.6 ounces) and standard weights (7.7 – 8.3) and the Response Pro comes in light weight (7.1 – 7.6 ounces) and standard weights (7.7 – 8.1 ounces).

Both models are available in a 4-1/8” and 4-3/8” grip size. No more having to settle for equipment that’s just outside your preferred weight range or fiddling with overgrips! Both paddles also come in four appealing colors so there is a combination sure to please anyone. Simply pick out your preferences during checkout at our PickleballCentral store.

You’ll feel connected to your paddle like never before with these attractive and functional designs. Visit our Prince paddle page today and feel the power of the Response and Spectrum Pro for yourself.

Pickleball Continues Its International Takeover This July at Bainbridge Cup and 1st Italian Open

The Bainbridge Cup made its debut in Spain last year with Team North America winning the inaugural event. This year the competition is taking place in another beautiful European destination: Montesilvano, Italy.

In exciting news, the Bainbridge Cup will not be the only tournament to take place this July. Immediately afterwards, the first Italian Open will begin with players guaranteed a minimum of 4 matches in round robin and double-elimination brackets.

The man behind these exciting developments is Zelindo Di Guilio, the founder and president of the Italian Pickleball Association. After meeting IFP (International Federation of Pickleball) president Mike Hess at last year’s Spanish Open, he realized “the strong socialization and friendship, international spirit and healthy competitive atmosphere [that pickleball fosters].”

This atmosphere was one he wanted to help promote, with the Italian Pickleball Association now a proud member of the IFP.

Italian Pickleball Association

Zelindo has been heavily involved in tennis since the 80s, competing as a junior and running a club in Pescara where he organizes federal tournaments and championships. His interest in pickleball was ignited when he and his colleague, Marco Iacuone, were browsing a catalog from Gamma as part of their tennis distribution business. Along with the tennis equipment they noticed the arrival of pickleball gear, which was completely new to them at the time.

The Start of the Italian Pickleball Association

Zelindo explains how his curiosity and sense of adventure were piqued after he experienced pickleball:

“Marco and I participated in the Spanish Open and Bainbridge Cup in Madrid with limited pickleball experience. Our technical knowledge of pickleball was only through online videos. We trained every day for a month and signed up, asking to join the Elite bracket with some of the best players in the world. In the open play practice days, as soon as we took to the court, everyone immediately recognized us as tennis players, making common tennis player mistakes on the pickleball court. The thing that struck us most was the fact that everyone, especially the Spaniards, immediately gave us advice and provided us with a sort of intensive course!

“Basically, it was a very educational international event where we had the chance to train and play with some of the world’s top players like Marcin Rozpeski, Daniel Moore, Kyle Yates, Irina Tereschenko, Jennifer Lucore and many others. Our most memorable match was against the team formed by the Italian-American duo of Roberto Donati and Steve Wong. The overall experience was incredible from beginning to end.”

Zelindo Di Giulio and Marco Iacuone

Zelindo Di Giulio (with sunglasses) and Marco Iacuone at the Spanish Open

After enjoying the Spanish Open, Zelindo explains that “the curiosity and the intuition of being pioneers of a new sport along with [pickleball’s] strong potential in Italy and Europe immediately led us to experimentation and practice.” This progressed into the formation of the IPA and Italy’s bid to host the Bainbridge Cup.

“For us [hosting the Cup] was an unbelievable opportunity as a new IFP member, so we submitted our bid a few days after being accepted. To present a strong host bid, we secured support from the local government, confirmed a venue large enough to host the event and strengthened our event management staff. Our enthusiasm and perseverance was rewarded, and we’re now very excited to collaborate.”

Pickleball’s Growth in Italy

Racquet sport players in Italy were initially skeptical of pickleball, but as it so often happens, many became addicted to the game after relenting and giving it a try. The government was even quicker to catch on, with Zelindo receiving early support from Tocco Da Casauria. The public now has access to 3 permanent outdoor pickleball courts and has established a large local group, along with other clubs in L’Aquila and Montesilvano.

The city of Montesilvano, through the Vice Mayor Ottavio De Martinis, has graciously allowed the IPA the use of their facilities for the Italian Open and Bainbridge Cup at the sporting venue Pala Dean Martin.

Montesilvano is a popular seaside town located in Abruzzo on the Adriatic Sea. The area is called the “Green Region of Europe” due to its three national parks. The venue is located only 200 meters from the beach, and Montesilvano is 8 km from Pescara, the main city of the region.

Montesilvano

Montesilvano

“Our region offers excellent local food, characterized by mountain dairy products such as sheep’s cheese, plenty of pasta and the excellent seafood dishes of our marine cuisine. We’ve organized an exclusive tour to one of the local wineries, called ‘Cantina Zaccagnini,’ where we’ll dine and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. For people wanting to see more of Italy, Rome is only two hours away, making it very easy to visit the capital of Italy and some of the world’s most historic attractions.”

Zelindo also notes that Mattia Astori, a friend he met at the Spanish Open, is working on the development of pickleball in the Milan area and that pickleball should gain a foothold in Rome in the coming months.

“Our short-term objectives are to create clubs in Rome, Milan, Florence and Venice, the most important Italian cities. I believe that the link between sport and tourism can facilitate pickleball growth in Italy, giving the opportunity to bring together new Italian players with experienced North American players. The short-medium term objectives, on the other hand, are those of having professionals who can represent Italy in international competitions like the Bainbridge Cup, as well as developing a training program with qualified instructors.”

The 2018 Bainbridge Cup and Italian Open

The 2018 Bainbridge Cup will start on Friday, July 20th with the Italian Open following on Saturday and Sunday, July 21-22nd. Players can find more information on the IPA’s website and register for both events at PickleballTournaments.com. The registration deadline is July 15th.

Some of the world’s best players will arrive in Italy as team captains. Scott Moore, Christine McGrath and Alice Tym will be leading Team North America, and Irina Tereshenko and Ernesto Cardenas will be heading Team Europe, with more captains to join.

Italian Open 2018

Considering Team North America’s advantage when it comes to pickleball’s longer history and broader presence, what does Zelindo think of Team Europe’s chances this year?

“Pickleball in Europe is developing very fast and the quality and level of the players is rising. It will be very hard to win the Cup, but I’m sure that many first-class matches can be won by European teams. The Spaniards are strong; in England, in France, in Finland and in Holland they play all year round now. Germany has started playing. Europe has a very high level of tennis so we’re optimistic it won’t take long until we can win the Cup… and who knows what might happen this year in Italy!”

If you’re interested in seeing how the Cup plays out firsthand, be sure to arrange your travel plans now, or participate personally be signing up for the Bainbridge Cup and Italian Open. It’s certain to be an exciting series of events!

We sign off with Zelindo’s farewell:

“We are very encouraged to see such a positive response from around the world. The Cup and Open are filling up fast, so we encourage anyone who is interested to sign up soon. It is sure to be an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. We look forwarding to hosting players from around the world with our warm Italian hospitality. Speriamo di vedervi presto! (We hope to see you soon!)”

 


Have any questions? 

Pat Murphy is one of the Bainbridge Cup organizers and can provide answers regarding accommodations or the events themselves. If you would like to ask him anything, you can get in touch at 317mmpm@gmail.com or (623)-363-6952.