Meet the Pickleball Pros – Lydia Willis

Lydia Willis playing pickleballLydia “heard it through the grapevine” that I was interested in interviewing her for our “Meet the Pickleball Pros” blog series.  We had a wonderful conversation over the phone about her love of all racquet sports and her new love: pickleball.  Thanks so much, Lydia, for sharing your enthusiastic story with us!

Can you list for us some of your accomplishments?

I have been competing at the USAPA Nationals since 2010, and I have earned a medal every time in Mixed Doubles:

2014 – Open with Kyle Yates, Bronze Medal
2013 – Open with Enrique Ruiz, Bronze Medal
2012 – Open with Steve Wong, Gold Medal
2011 – 19+ with Steve Wong, Silver Medal
2010 – Senior 50+ with Jeff Shank
, Gold Medal
2010 – Open with Steve Wong, Bronze Medal
In Women’s events:
2014 Women’s Doubles 35+ with Jodi Elliott, Bronze Medal
2013 Women’s Doubles 50+ with Mona Burnett, Gold Medal
2012 Open Women’s Doubles with Heidi Hancock, Silver Medal
2011 Women’s Doubles 50+ with Deb Harrison, Silver Medal
2011 Women’s Singles, Silver Medal
2010 Women’s Singles 50+, Gold Medal

What paddle do you play with and why?

Lydia Willis

I used to play with the Legacy paddle. I play with Paddletek paddles now, and the most recent paddle I use is the Paddletek Element paddle.

Paddletek Element

I like the durability and I like the pop of this paddle. It has great power and touch. It is the best paddle I’ve put in my hand so far.

What’s your Pickleball story? How were you introduced to Pickleball?

I was introduced to pickleball when I moved to The Villages, Florida 10 ½ years ago. I was big into racquetball before moving to The Villages. If I had had a coach when I was young, I could have been a tennis pro. Raquet sports have been a life-long practice of mine.  Steve Wong saw me play, he needed a partner and invited me to play with him.  That’s how I got started competing in tournaments.

Lydia Willis and Steve Wong  What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

OUTDOORS! I’ve never played indoors.

  Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

  I like doubles better. I like how you really have to connect with your partner. Communication is important, like calling out if you can return the ball. In competition, together you scope out the other team and share with each other their strengths and weaknesses. Doubles play also seems to have a nicer flow to it.


What are your favorite places to play? Why?

I live in The Villages! Need I say more? We don’t have many tournaments, but I love to play here. In March we’ll be having a Pro Exhibition. Lots of folks from across the country plus good local folk will be playing. We have fun. We work to make each other look good. We can also be a bit goofy, which adds to the fun of the game.

What’s your “secret sauce”? Any tips for players?

Learn how to land the 3rd shot drop. Always stop before you hit the ball. Always keep the ball in play. Let the opponent make the mistakes. Hit the ball out front, not from behind.

What is your day job?

I am retired.

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

I play 7 days a week and about 4 hours a day.

Do you have any Pickleball goals that you would like to share?

I received lots of compliments on my game at Nationals. I played my best in the 19+ Mixed, playing with the “kids”. That being said, I’m ready to play more in my own league. I’m tired of playing the Wes Gabrielsen types. I’m looking at playing more in the “Legacy” category and hope to do well in the 50+ category.  When I “grow up” I hope to be as good as Hilary Marold.

Anything else you’d like to say as one of the best Pickleball players in the world?

It is an honor to represent the Villages as one of the top women players. It’s incredible. In my first year, no one knew me. Now, lots of folks know me and appreciate how I play.  And this is how I grow in the game:
I remain teachable!

Thank you so much, Lydia for sharing your pickleball story with us, and thanks for the tip on playing with my co-workers!  Pickle on!

6 thoughts on “Meet the Pickleball Pros – Lydia Willis

  1. Pingback: Local Pickleball Guide – The Villages, FL |

  2. Lydia, congrats on your wonderful skills. I have been a competitive team tennis player for the last 12years. I took up Pickle Ball last July and have been most fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with 3.5 players. However last week I took a very bad fall on my head and face. I was wearing Kay Swift 7.0 shoes and my toe stuck. What brand of shoe do you wear?. I have since been advised that pickle ball shoes should have the herringbone pattern on the sole. It would be a great help if you could give me some insight.
    Thank you, Janet Docherty, Sun City, S.C.

    • Lydia wrote: Thanks for the text sorry about your fall Pickleball can be a dangerous sport I’ve seen many injuries I started wearing asics tennis shoes I order them on line at the tennis warehouse I love the colors I like the solution 2 they are narrow in width but I like the weight light great movement on the courts hopefully that helped Lydia

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  5. Lydia is a over achiever. ..that I fantasize becoming. Talented & earned it. I just got pickleball started at our community center in Gardnerville Nevada. Lydia come teach us Please! !

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