Meet the Pros – Michelle Esquivel
No doubt about it, Michelle Esquivel is a fierce competitor and dedicated instructor who is totally in love with pickleball. Enjoy!
Can you list for us your major wins, so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?
2018 USAPA Margaritaville Nationals, Women’s Singles 5.0 19+ – Gold
2018 Tustin Winter Classic, Women’s 5.0 Doubles with Lisa Naumu – Gold
+ Mixed 5.0 Doubles with Jeff Warnick – Gold
2018 International Indoor Championships, Mixed Open Doubles with David Wage – Silver
+ Women’s Doubles Open with Lindsey Newman – Gold
2018 SoCal Classic, Women’s Doubles Open with Gee Gee Garvin – Gold
2018 Engage Golden State Championships, Women’s Doubles Open with Lindsey Newman – Silver
+2018 Mixed Open Bronze with Jeff Warnick
2018 Las Vegas Open, Women’s Doubles Open with Gee Gee Garvin – Bronze
2018 Western Regional, Women’s Doubles 5.0, 19+ with Kris Anderson – Gold
+ Mixed Doubles 5.0 19+ with Jeff Warnick – Gold
What paddle do you play with and why?
I love playing with the Engage Poach Advantage! It has the perfect combination of control and power I need for my game.
What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?
While coaching tennis at Orange Coast College in 2015, my fellow colleague text me and invited me to play pickleball over at the courts in Tustin, CA. That was the first time I had ever heard of the sport and I even laughed and asked, “What the heck is pickleball?” Just like most, I was instantly hooked and addicted to the sport. I remember playing my first tournament at the 2016 SoCal Classic in Oceanside, CA, where I fell in love with competing. I knew I wanted to take my game to the next level after last year’s USAPA Nationals. Since then, I’ve been able to show some great results and compete against the top players in the game. It’s been such a blast so far.
What is your preference: playing indoors or outdoors?
I love playing pickleball both indoors and outdoors, but if I had a preference I would rather play outdoors. I come from a Southern California tennis background and love being outdoors as much possible. If not, playing indoors is just as great.
Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
I definitely enjoy playing doubles more but love the physical & mental challenge of singles.
What is your favorite place to play? Why?
I really loved playing at Nationals this year at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. I grew up watching the tennis pros play at the same venue during the PNB Paribas Open and never thought I’d be competing there for pickleball. It’s an amazing facility for both spectators and players. It was so much fun playing for the fans.
What is your secret sauce?
My tennis background really helps, especially with my footwork and positioning for doubles.
Any tips for players?
Work on your weaknesses! I personally love driving the ball and hitting hard, so I tend to focus and work on third shot drops and dinks as much as possible. In rec games, I’ll intentionally play balls I would usually feel uncomfortable hitting, so they become easier in tournaments. I also recommend challenging the stronger player on the court during practice games. I know winning is fun, but you’ll only get better by getting out of your comfort zone.
What is your day job?
I just changed career paths from being a tennis coach to teaching pickleball! I was just hired as a teaching pro at the Pickleball Zone Bend in Central Oregon. The brand-new indoor facility just opened a week ago right before Nationals. I’ll be teaching clinics, lessons and setting up events with Lisa Palcic who is the Head Director of the Oregon Pickleball Academy.
How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?
If there’s an opportunity to play, I’ll always take it. I’m at a point where I can’t get enough pickleball. I make it a top priority to routinely drill and set up games whenever I can. I try to get in 12-15 hours of games per week.
Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?
I don’t have any luckily rituals before a big tournament, but I prepare myself as much as I can by getting enough rest, making sure I hydrate and stretch.
Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?
I’ve accomplished one of my top goals by medaling at Nationals this year. I’m working hard to earn a place on the podium at the US Open and Tournament of Champions for next year.
Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?
Pickleball has surprisingly changed my life in such a positive light. I never thought I’d be so passionate about it. I love teaching it, competing and being a part of its unique community. I admire and respect all the ambassadors, volunteers, tournament directors and people who’ve made the sport what’s it’s become today. I also appreciate all the fans and pickleball addicts who just can’t get enough. We can all relate! Without all of you, it wouldn’t be the same, so a sincere THANK YOU