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. 

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.

Through the Falls: A Norwegian Exploration of Pickleball

Last year our Director of Sales, John Cowley, took part in a sister city program between Kent and the Sunnfjord area in Norway.

It’s a beautiful place home to “artists, handcrafters, folk musicians and dancers” and is called the home of waterfalls due to its beautiful landscape streaked with over 50 waterfalls tumbling over mountainsides and into Norway’s deepest fjord, the Sognefjord.

 

Sunnfjord Waterfall

 

Being the pickleball fanatic that he is, John decided to bring pickleball supplies along with him on his trip to introduce the sister city members to our favorite game!

The result was a rousing success, especially since fellow participant Inge Larsen was already involved with the recreation center in Sogn og Fjordane where John stayed. Both the kids and adults took to the game easily and enjoyed getting in on the action.

 

Sunnfjord Pickleball Courts

 

In addition to his pickleball play time, John got to try freshly-made beer tapped directly from a birch tree (which he said was fantastic) and explored the gorgeous surroundings with new friends.

A particularly amusing story is that of Stigen, an area on the western side of the fjord where two farms sit just above some extremely steep paths. The name comes from the Norwegian word “stiger,” meaning ladder, because once you reach the highest part of the hill ladders must be used to reach the farms.

 

Stigen

Stigen – we wouldn’t want to make that climb!

 

In older times when the church’s men would travel around the area collecting tithes, the clever farmers of Stigen would grab their ladders and make themselves scarce, preventing the tax collectors from taking their hard-earned coin!

John had a wonderful time and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend others explore sister cities and other ways to share pickleball across the globe. As we’ve found again and again as pickleball reaches international locations, people love its simple rules and addictive gameplay just as much as we do.

 

John and Norway Group

 

Check out this quick video John shot of some Norwegian players learning the ropes!

And maybe relate to that moment when you’re ready to slam a winner and end up driving the ball into the net instead of the opponent’s feet…

 

 

Have you ever gone on a sister city trip, or would it be something you’re interested in? What opportunities would you like to spread pickleball internationally?

Pro Player Daniel Moore on Pickleball Tourism and Why You Should Get Your Karaoke On in Japan

Daniel Moore and his father, Scott Moore, have been popular pros around the tournament circuit for years now. But even we were impressed when we found out just how far that circuit actually runs!

Daniel has only recently returned from a whirlwind of pickleball-related travel ranging from London, France, Spain and Japan to the recent USAPA Nationals, where he won three bronze medals in the age events, along with silver in the mixed doubles open event with Simone Jardim and gold in the men’s doubles open event with Matt Wright.

It would be wrong to say this jet-setting lifestyle is a recent development. Daniel grew up in Japan for 16 years before moving to LA, where he then studied abroad in Mexico before traveling to Kenya to work at a social enterprise organisation.

Daniel with Bainbridge Cup

As part of Team North America, Daniel helped us take home the Bainbridge Cup

Not wanting to give up pickleball or travel, what was the Moore family to do? Run a pickleball tourism company!

Today, the Moores (including Daniel’s mom, Susan) manage PickleballTrips.com where they lead groups of picklers to beautiful international locations to see the sights, meet friendly locals and of course, test their pickleball skills on foreign soil. Such destinations include Mexico, Spain, Vietnam, Thailand and Daniel’s “home away from home,” Japan.

Working not only as an official Paddletek representative but a tour leader for WalkJapan, Daniel has extensive experience finding great locations to share off the beaten path.

PickleballTrips

We feel extremely fortunate Daniel made time amid his busy schedule to share his work and why he believes picklers should broaden their horizons by signing up for a tour. Enjoy the interview below!

PBC: How did you and your family decide to start Pickleballtrips.com, and what sort of difficulties have you faced?

DM: My dad and I got involved in pickleball a few years ago. I was already in the tourism business in Japan, bringing international tourists over for walking tours of the Japanese countryside. So doing a pickleball trip to Japan was the first obvious step. We both liked travel and pickleball, and pickleball trips was an excuse to get paid for being able to do both of those things.

Obviously there is a lot of hard work that goes into the trips, but that’s just part of any business. After Japan though, we kind of said, why can’t we do this all over the world? Doing camps across North America was the easiest place to start since that’s where my dad is based, and from there we have branched off into Spain, Mexico for now, with hopefully a lot more destinations in 2019.

PickleballTrips in Barcelona

PickleballTrips in Barcelona, Spain

PBC: What are some of the things you think separate the typical “tourist experience” from a trip that stays with people on a more meaningful level? 

DM: Our trips are totally different from your typical sightseeing vacation because we endeavor to do three main things. First, our customers receive top notch instruction from certified professional pickleball players. The instructors are usually myself and my dad but we are branching out and bringing in different pros on the trips.

Jennifer Lucore is coming to the May 2018 Japan pickleball trip, for example. Everyone has a slightly different perspective on teaching so we want to provide that as well as the chance to come on a trip with different top players. Second, we connect people around the world through pickleball. We give our customers the chance to grow pickleball in a new country while making friends and doing things most tourists would never be able to do.

I think this is a huge reason why people come back on multiple trips with us: the relationships with local players and other participants on the trip. Finally, we do a few typical tourist activities because some places are popular for a reason!

PBC: Are there any particularly fun or amusing events that have stood out to you during your previous pickleball trips to Japan?

DM: On this year’s Japan trip we had a karaoke party in Osaka that was absolutely insane. After karaoke, we played bingo and the locals had prepared these gag gifts that our customers wore. You can see the photos below for the result. 🙂

PickleballTrips Karaoke   PickleballTrips Karaoke

The language barrier can slow things down, but I speak fluent Japanese and Spanish and translate as much as I can. Hotels, trains, restaurants and so on are pretty English-friendly. The local players don’t always speak that much, but pickleball is a common language and people manage fairly well.

I find that hand gestures and a desire to communicate will take you a long way when traveling internationally and people appreciate any effort to learn their language.

PBC: What are some of the main things your groups have taken away from their experiences in Japan?

DM: Being able to help spread pickleball across the world is a huge benefit for our trip participants. People feel like they are part of something bigger than just improving their own game. And like I said previously, it really is about the relationships formed with local players and other people on the trip.

PBC: You wrote about your first time introducing pickleball to Japan and experienced some difficulties, but it turned out to be a learning experience. How have things progressed and what does the pickleball scene look like these days?

DM: Pickleball in Japan right now is still small but definitely growing. We have about 5 clubs between Tokyo and Nagano Prefecture, where I live. I would guess that over 1,000 people have actually played pickleball and around 250 are playing consistently.

The hardest part right now is not court space (every gym in Japan has badminton courts lined) but finding someone to manage the local clubs. The goal is to grow the number of clubs across the country and get people playing consistently, not just one time.

Daniel Starting Pickleball in Japan

Daniel at one of his first pickleball events in Japan

I travel around a lot, but funding and time are always issues. The JPA (Japan Pickleball Association) has done a great job translating materials and introducing people to the sport, though, so I think it will continue to grow steadily.

We have a pretty diverse mix of sports backgrounds that people come from. Badminton and table tennis are big in Japan, but probably because of my tennis background, at the moment we have more people who came from that. And just like in the States, we’ve had people join who have never even played sports before, which I think is awesome.

PBC: How have you managed to get the necessary funding and equipment over to Japan? Has it mostly been a labor of love?

DM: I have definitely invested a lot of time and money into growing the sport in Japan. Paddletek has given me some paddles and apparel, and some people in Japan have put a lot of their time and money into it.

That seems to be how it always is though; someone has to do it for a while out of a love of the sport before you see any results.

PickleballTrips in Saku

PickleballTrips in Saku, Japan

PBC: It looks like the Hachioji PBA has really taken off! If someone was visiting Japan on their own, would they be able to drop by the club for practice?

Yes, Hachioji is probably the biggest club in Japan right now, but Saku is up there too. Hachioji has been playing the longest so they have that advantage. But mostly it’s the dedication of people like Makoto Sato who organize play and manage the club.

At first everyone was playing at one location but as the number of people has grown, they’ve expanded to multiple gyms and play almost every day of the week. It’s also branched off into places around Hachioji like Yokohama, so that’s cool to see.

They love having people join! Hachioji is actually on the USAPA places to play, but the best way to find out about the time/location is to e-mail Makoto directly, makoto.sato@jpickleball.org.

Some solid play from locals at the Hachioji Club

PBC: We noticed you were covered in the newspaper/on TV during a trip to an Okayama school. What was the response from kids and how did the opportunity come about? 

DM: A friend of mine had a connection with Mimasaka University in Okayama Prefecture so we went down to teach a PE class. The students absolutely loved it! We taught about 80 kids in 3 different classes and they want us to come back sometime next year.

High school students in Japan are pretty busy with their traditional school sports and studying, so the goal is to get it into college campuses across Japan where kids have a little more free time. Then when they graduate and move around the country, hopefully they’ll take pickleball with them.

Pickleball in Okayama

PBC: Is there anything you’d like to add about your tours or pickleball in Japan in general? Why would you recommend people sign up for a tour?

DM: The pickleball trips we provide are experiences of a lifetime. Japan can be a little tough to access on your own, but through our tours we can show you how beautiful and welcoming it really is by getting a local’s perspective. It’s an amazing place you won’t want to miss!

If you’re curious about other locations as well, please check out our site because we have many more trips on the way, especially starting in 2019. I’m thinking China, India and Kenya…

At PBC we greatly appreciate the Moores’ contributions to the pickleball community and believe these irresistible tours are packed with value. Want to see the world while enjoying your favorite game?

Sign up at PickleballTrips.com (click the images to see full itineraries) or surprise friends and family with an experience they’ll never forget. They will be visiting Japan twice in 2018 in May and October

An Exciting Recap of the 1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship

1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship – An Event to Cherish
Please enjoy this report on the 1st Indian Open Pickleball Championship presented by Manish Rao:

1st Indian Open Pickleball Championships

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 –

Men’s Doubles:

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.

2017 India Open Championship Men's Doubles

2017 India Open Championship Men’s Doubles: With Manish Rao, Mk Pickleball, Bhushan Potnis, Nikhil Singh Rajput and Ajay Chaudhari.

Mixed Doubles:

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!

2017 India Open Mixed Doubles

2017 India Open Mixed Doubles

Women’s Doubles:

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!

The First Bangkok Open Pickleball Tournament

“This tournament will go down in pickleball history!” Manisha exclaimed, one of over seventy players taking part in the first Bangkok Open.

As new competitions spring up all around the world, we have Mr. Sunil Valavalkar of AIPA (All India Pickleball Association) to thank for giving us a dink by dink breakdown of some fresh action in Thailand and how this event came to be.

Team India - Bangkok Open 2017

The Bangkok Open Pickleball Tournament took place at the Santisuk English School on February 19th this year and involved an international cast including players from Thailand, India, the US, Australia, Vietnam and several other Asian countries.

Although it wasn’t an IFP-sanctioned tournament, the event reflected a high standard of organization and competition.

It all started in December 2016 when Steve Cable sent an email to Sunil Valavalkar inviting Indian players to join the tournament.

The two didn’t expect a huge response, but a week before the sign-up deadline, Sunil had received over 30 requests from players all across India. The picklers responded out of pure passion, willing to cover all travel costs on their own.

The rush of feedback was a double-edged sword for Steve. He’d only accounted for an additional 10 players at the tournament, but with a bit of finagling, he managed to accept 22 participants from India. In the end, there were 5 players from state of Maharashtra, 9 from Rajasthan, 4 from Bihar, 2 from Jharkhand and 3 from Uttarakhand.

Karan-Kavita - Bangkok Open 2017

Once the player selection was finalized, Rahul Wani took over the task of giving Team India a professional look.

He created playing kits for the whole team consisting of blazers, trousers and shirts displaying AIPA’s logo and the Indian national flag. Team India was ready to represent!

Even though high-level Indian picklers like Manish Rao, Atul Edward, Shanai Mehta and Anish Mehta have competed in international tournaments before, none have ever done so on behalf of their country.

As such, it was a special treat to see a pickleball team in their national colors for the first time.

At 8 am sharp, the tournament began after a brief introduction by Steve. It consisted of three events: men’s doubles, mixed doubles and women’s doubles.

The initial rounds were played in a round-robin style, where 4 groups had to play 3 matches. The top 2 teams from each group qualified for the knock-out rounds.

Santisuk English School - Bangkok Open 2017

Every match was played with a competitive yet sporting spirit. Three courts were made across the parking area of the school, but the organizers had to stay on their toes to maintain the time schedule. There were a large number of matches, with many lasting over 30 minutes.

The following pairs from India reached the qualifying rounds in men’s doubles: Manish and Sachin, Dr. Bharat and Ashwani, Anand and Siddarth, and Gajendra and Gourav.

The 3 medal positions would all be won by Indian players, but it was anyone’s guess as to which pair would come out on top.

Everyone thought Manish and Sachin would be the winners, since Manish is a proven international player and has great chemistry with his partner. Yet there’s a reason why people say pickleball is a great leveler.

While playing the semi-finals against Anand and Siddarth, Sachin started cramping. He tried to continue through the pain, but ended up collapsing on the court due to a pulled muscle.

Fifteen minutes were allowed for injury time, but Sachin couldn’t recover that quickly, so both Sachin and Manish decided to forfeit.

Anand-Siddarth - Bangkok Open 2017

The incident proved very lucky for Anand/Siddharth, who went on to overcome Dr. Bharat/Ashwani to become the men’s doubles gold medalists.

This was a fairy tale ending for the pair, who had lost the first set 11;0 due to nerves, then regained their composure to beat the favored pair of Dr. Bharat/Ashwani 11;0, 9:11, 4;11.

The mixed doubles finals came down to Steve Cable/Fang vs Niraj/Megha. The Thai pair was very aggressive and won the first set 11:4 , then Niraj/Megha pulled up their socks and won the second set against all odds. The final set was an epic one, with Megha in particular pushing herself to the limit, but it wasn’t enough to save the team. Steve and Fang kept their nerves to win the third set, and with that, mixed doubles gold.

The final scores were 11:4 , 5 :11 and 11:5.

Sunil and Manisha with Nopaluck Cable - Bangkok Open 2017

The women’s doubles had a different format: Instead of fixed partners, the players had a chance to partner with and against every other player over several matches. It was a unique experience, with the results declared on an individual basis.

Thai pickler Fang was declared the winner based on overall points, with Rekha from India nabbing 2nd.

Each participating player received a certificate and the winners were given gold/silver/bronze medals with t-shirts as mementos.

Thanks to the Bangkok Open, many players from India and Thailand developed a mutual respect for one another. During the closing ceremony, Sunil expressed his desire to set up an Asian Federation of Pickleball—a wish that was applauded by all players present.

Indian Team - Bangkok Open 2017

Some teams won and others lost… but the big winner was pickleball! “Victory is in the quality of the competition and not the final score.“

We wish the best to all the competitors, and for an eventual repeat of the Bangkok Open!

Sunil and Nopaluck - Bangkok Open 2017

Sunil and Nopaluck

Meet The Pros: Manish Rao

Meet the Pros: Manish Rao – #change is inevitable #Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change

playing pickleball in Bangkok, Thailand.

#proliterebel #reverethegear #bangkokopen #bronze with My partner Sachin Mandrekar All well that ends well — playing pickleball in Bangkok, Thailand.

We are always on the lookout for good news stories about the game of pickleball.  Manish Rao is very happy about pickleball coming into his life.  He posted on Facebook recently:

This (Facebook) post is not about ego-boosting or self-marketing, it’s just a post to show gratitude to people who have made a big difference in my life. In 2011 I was reduced to minimal activity due to my back issue, sciatica. It kept me away from all sports and thus resulted in a huge weight increase, and signs of prosperity by means of hair loss. I was living in the world of fooling myself and kept saying I can’t change as it’s destiny. But its not destiny which has to change but the mind has to. Will power is important, but more important is to find the right people in the walk of life who can make this change happen through their positive thoughts.

In March, 2014 one lazy Sunday evening I met Sunil Valavalkar, who, along with his team, gave me a demonstration of an unknown game called pickleball. At that time I didn’t know that my life would change so drastically because of that Sunday. My great friend Ravi Shetty and I took the demonstration of this sport to our building and since then this sport has become my life. Its been 2-3 years that I have been playing this sport and this sport is responsible for me being happy and healthy, along with that it has given me friends all across the world. I am totally indebted to sir Sunil Valavalkar and pickleball. Not only the mental agility has increased but my physical ability is at an all time high. Sports can elevate self-confidence to a level which cannot be imagined. I am thankful to all these people in my life who were there for me at the right time and hence my life changed for the better. If not for all those people who have been a part of my wonderful journey, I would have been a Mr. Nobody sulking in life and just existing in life and not living life. I am not saying that I am the happiest person in life and no worries or stress at all. All I am saying is that my life is much better than what I had expected. Today I have a great family, a lovely sports career and a bunch of great friends. #bepositive #nevergiveup

There is always more to the story, so we asked him the following Meet The Pros questions. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major tournament wins?

Gold : Men’s Doubles  : Atlantic Regional ( Portland Maine) June 2016 : Partner Ravi Shetty ( New York ) 3.5 level
Gold : Men’s Doubles : 2016 : Nationals  winner : Venue : Jaipur : Partner Bhushan Potnis

 Silver : Doubles : 2015 : Nationals : @ Haryana , Panipat : partner Sachin Mandrekar
Gold :  Mumbai Open : 2017 : Jan : Partner Bhushan Potnis
Gold :  State Open : 2016 : Partner Bhushan Potnis
Gold :  Mumbai District : 2015 : Partner Sachin Mandrekar
Silver: Mumbai District : 2016 : Partner : Bhushan Potnis

Rebel PowerSpin

Rebel PowerSpin

What paddle do you play with and why?

Early on I used to play with the Paddletek Bantam EX-L. In 2016, I shifted to  thePro-Lite Rebel. I’m loving it for the balance and spin control. I totally feel like a Rebel with this paddle and can’t imagine playing pickleball with with anything but this piece of art. #proliteproud: #Rebel  I really am thankful to Pro-Lite for providing me with these amazing paddles.

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

In my childhood I used to play a modified sport kind of like pickleball in our building premises. We played the game with a tennis ball and handmade paddles on the badminton court. So when we participated in the demo of this sport in 2014, we were totally hooked on the game immediately. It’s been almost 3 years now since I started this game and I’m a total addict; on days I don’t play pickleball I get withdrawal symptoms. We’ve made a dedicated court on our building premises, so every day is pickleball day!

What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

I love playing outdoors!

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I am a doubles player and love the doubles game as its a game of strategy and planning unlike in single. I love the patience involved in the doubles game and the bonding with the partner makes it special, hence I always prefer the doubles game.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

Manish withbuddies

Pickleball buddies Sachin Mandrekar, Saumitra Korgaonkar, Bhushan Potnis, Sunil Joshi, Abhijit Madbhavi and Ashutosh Madbhavi.

My favorite place to play pickleball is my Home Court @ Mumbai, Mangal Kripa. This has been my residence since childhood and to have a dedicated court for this amazing sport makes it special. I love playing on this court as we are a group of highly passionate pickleball players under one roof.

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

The secret is nothing but just love of this sport and having a passion for the game. Once the passion is there it’s just a matter of time to master the game. The main thing about this game is to have patience. This game is like chess, its more mind work than power. The less the errors, the more wins.

What’s your day job?

I am the CEO of my own Business of Security Automation systems, Electromech Automation Pvt Ltd. I have been involved with this firm for the last 25 years.

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

I play approximately 7 to 9 hours in a week. We play in the evening every day after work on week days from 9:00 pm to 10:30 pm, and on weekends we try to play twice a day.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I don’t believe in luck much; however, the harder I work , the luckier I get! The only ritual before the tournament is to FOCUS and not get distracted!

Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?

Personally, the only goal I have for pickleball is to see this game grow in India exponentially. I want to play in the USOPEN in 2018 and every year after that! That’s a goal I want to fulfill. Personally this game has given me immense pleasure in life and changed my complete outlook for life! 

Anything else you’d like to share about your pickleball experience?

Oh, this is very tricky question; I can go on and on about my experience of pickleball. I will try to give a few.

I always was a sports man, but in 2010 an injury to my back got me into lazy mode resulting in putting on lots of weight. It has changed only by the addition of pickleball into my life. I got back to sports as this sport is non-invasive and easy on the body initially. The addiction of this sport gave me the will power to over come my back injury and made my goal to lose weight fast. Totally I have lost 14 kilograms in one year, all due to pickleball!

I am a short-tempered person, but I can safely say that due to this game and its very nature of requiring patience with the shots, especially dinks, it  has worked wonders with my temperament. I am much more relaxed and generally don’t lose my top over silly things! My confidence level is at the highest level nowadays and the interaction with the younger generation for coaching of pickleball gets me energized. I am also happy to be the First Indian Player to be officially in a sports gear contract for Pickleball in India, thanks to team PROLITE! This has been a real boost to me to make this game grow more and more. This game has been a game-changer for me and for my family. I am happy that my wife Ashwini and my daughter Tanya are a avid pickleballers too.

Thank you Manish for sharing your enthusiasm for this wonderful game of Pickleball.  See you at the USOPEN in 2018!