1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship – An Event to Cherish
Please enjoy this report on the 1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship presented by Manish Rao:
Many of us dream of playing pickleball at the highest level among the best competitors. This is exactly what we Indian players got to experience on October 28-29 at the 1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship held at the Jamnabai Narsee International School in Juhu, Mumbai.
This event, hosted by the All India Pickleball Association (AIPA) and organized by event managers, Sports Wizards, saw many firsts in Indian pickleball. It was the first time Indians had a chance to witness international players at a tournament in their home country. Both groups had an amazing time interacting with each other and sharing their love of pickleball.
The biggest attraction was the squad from Bangkok, Thailand, captained by the group’s passionate mentor, Steve Cable. There were also participants from the USA and UK. We had the pleasure of hosting one of the kindest pickleball souls in the world during the tournament: the one and only Elaine Shallcross from the UK. She’s such an inspiring lady that even at the age of 64, she gave every player a run for their money!
Teaming up with the iconic Atul Edward of India, Elaine bagged the coveted gold in the Mixed Doubles category. She not only showed us her pickleball skills, but her people skills! Elaine’s positive attitude brightened every player’s day. Even for those who didn’t medal, interacting with Elaine felt like being showered in gold dust.
I have to throw out a mention to Emmett Williams from Alaska as well, a gentleman on a business trip to India who stayed back to play at the Open. In spite of the extreme heat and humidity, Emmett was amazing. He freely shared his enjoyment of the game with his Indian partner, and that’s what pickleball is all about! It’s not just the win or the loss, it’s playing to inspire others.
Footage from the Men’s Doubles semifinal featuring Nikhil Singh / Prashant Kalani (Rajasthan) vs Mayur Patil / Ajay Choudhari (Maharashtra)
It’s not easy to conduct back-to-back matches in the extreme heat of Mumbai. We made sure every match had a referee, scorer and linemen for all matches, including the league match. We required many dedicated and skilled volunteers to give their best throughout the event regardless of the tough conditions. The fact that everyone held out is a demonstration of the power of pickleball and the passion surrounding the sport in India.
The event was supported by many sponsors, including PickleballCentral. The national TV channel, Doordarshan, recorded all the finals and were aired a week later. The venue itself was an icon! We appreciate the Jamnabai Narsee Trust for providing us with a world-class facility where setting up 3 courts was possible. It took the event to the next level. Thanks to Mr Sujay Jairaj, the Indian Open saw some amazing competition and great friendships formed.
Every match was on schedule due to the great team effort from Tournament Director Rahul Wani and company. Each event had 16 teams with 4 groups each, meaning a total of 96 players took part in this inaugural event.
The highlights include –
This was a fight between the traditional rival states of Rajasthan & Maharashtra. Nikhil Rajput / Prashant Kalani beat Manish Rao / Bhushan Potnis 11-7, 5-11,11-5 in a cliffhanger which went to 3 sets. The young and energetic Rajasthan duo kept their nerve and got the better of the “Old Fox” duo from Mumbai. Pickleball itself was a winner too; the match was carried out in a cordial manner off the court while all cylinders were firing on court.
Atul Edward (India)/Elaine ShallCross (UK) beat Steve Cable/Suprarat (Thailand) 9-11, 11-0, 6-11. After winning the first set, Atul and Elaine let their guard down to be rolled over by Steve / Suprarat 11-0 in the second set. The 3rd set was an amazing contest of skill and mental toughness. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going, and that’s what Atul / Elaine did by utilizing clever tactics and closing on the kill. What a match, with a standing ovation to Elaine for her grit!
Suprarat & ThitiWorada (Thailand) beat Karishma & Rutuja (India) 11-9, 11-8. The “Smiling Assassins” and “Thailand Duo” showed the importance of teamwork and made the win look easy. The Indian women were overawed by the occasion but still put up a great fight.
The Indian Open was not just about winning or losing. Every participant and organization involved in the planning of this event was a winner. Pickleball has been in India for the last 10 years and this tournament has shown the world that we have arrived in style.
To pull off an event of such magnitude shows that Indian pickleball is in right hands. Our passion and persistence is paying off and we hope to host many more international events!
Mixed Doubles semifinal with Atul Edward (Mumbai, India) / Elain Shallcross (UK) vs Ashwani Kumar Wadhawa & Geetam Sharma (Jaipur, India)
The bar has been set extremely high for the next Indian Open tournaments. We are well on our way to becoming the top pickleball event in Asia. We’d love to welcome even more competitors the next time around!