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!

 

The IFP Bainbridge Cup 2017 – Pickleball History in the Making

It’s a rare moment indeed when you can be part of an historic sporting event.

In 1927, when Great Britain visited the United States to play in the first Ryder Cup, they had no idea the spectacle it would become. Nor did fans or players foresee how big the World Cup would grow when they experienced the first Cup in Uruguay in 1930.

International Pickleball Tournament - Spain 2016

International Pickleball Tournament – Spain 2016

Now it’s pickleball’s turn to make history with the launch of the IFP Bainbridge Cup. Due to the rapid growth of Pickleball around the world, the future of pickleball’s Intercontinental Team Competition appears bright, with the inaugural event set to take place in Madrid Spain, September 15, 2017. The IFP is the International Federation of Pickleball, the governing body of the sport and the organizer of the Cup.

Bainbridge Cup Format

The Bainbridge Cup features two teams: “Team North America” and “Team Europe” (with the possibility of a third “Rest of the World” team). Each Team will compete to take home the first ever Bainbridge Cup trophy. Participation in the Cup is open to ALL players who register, thus players of all age and skill levels are invited to take part.

The format includes Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Doubles Matches, and all players are guaranteed a minimum of four matches. It will be a round robin format with players grouped by skill and age. The Team with the most points (match victories) over the course of the day will be crowned the winner.

Join the Team

Playing in the Cup offers a unique opportunity to join the Team of some of the biggest names in pickleball: Team “North America” players include Marcin Rozpedski, Jennifer Lucore, Kyle Yates, Simone Jardim, Alice Tym, Rob and Jodi Elliott, and Daniel Moore. For Team Europe, top players include Oliver Strecker, Ernesto Cardenas, Faye Plummer, Carlos Perez, Cyril Dirand, Leonardo Gonzalez, Gema Garcia and Ian Medhurst.

IFP Bainbridge Cup Logo - 2017 Spain

 5 Full Days of Pickleball

Immediately following the Cup competition (Friday, Sept. 15) will be another international competition: on September 16 and 17 the 3rd Annual International Pickleball Tournament will be held at the same location as the Cup. Therefore, there will be three consecutive days of competition at the same location: September 15, 16 and 17, 2017. In addition, the Pickleball Pros in attendance will be offering free clinics on the two days prior to the competition, on Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 13 and 14.

Venue and Early Registration

The Cup and International Tournament will be played at Ciudad de la Raqueta (Racquet City), one of Madrid’s premier racquet sport clubs. There will be 20 competitive courts and a Championship Court with stadium seating. Early registration runs until May 31st. The event is filling up fast so registration is encouraged now to ensure a spot. Registration and detailed Cup information is available at PickleballTournaments.com.

Podium Shot - Spain International Tournament 2016

Podium Shot – Spain International Tournament 2016

See the Sites of Spain

Madrid, Spain’s vibrant capital city, is full of history, culture, a festive environment and wonderful gastronomy. It is home to the Royal Palace as well as the Prado Museum, which features one of the finest art collections in the world. Tour activities have been organized to allow participants to make the most of their trip. For more information send an email to info@pickleballspain.org.

Be a Part of History

It all adds up to five days of fantastic pickleball and history being made. And you can be part of it all, as a player or spectator. Years from now, when Pickleball is an Olympic Sport and the Bainbridge Cup is televised by ESPN, you can say, “I was there at the very beginning of it all.”

 

— Mike Hess, President of the IFP

Pickleball in the Czech Republic: A Lesson in Fun

When a teacher and a sports trainer join forces, you know things will get done! Pickleball found its way into the Czech Republic thanks to a determined duo made up of US Open silver medalist Lenka Mišičková and teacher/counselor Jodi Oppenhuizen. These two players have plenty of expertise between them and use a friendly yet consistent process for integrating the game into local communities.

Lenka and Jodi

Jodi Oppenhuizen (left) and Lenka Mišičková (right)

Joining Forces

The first time pickleball found its way into the Czech Republic was in 2014 after Jodi was introduced to the game by her parents and learned to play in Michigan. She brought donated paddles and balls to the Christian International School in Prague where she works and started a pickleball club. Wanting more partners to play with, she also taught her friends about the game and created the Pickleball Czech Facebook page to share information.

A year later and worlds apart at the time, Lenka visited with a friend in Meadville, PA. There she was introduced to senior pickleball champion John Vicek. After sharing pictures from his matches, John and his wife invited Lenka to their home in Windsor, Canada to learn the game. Lenka quickly took to it, having been a ping pong champion in her teen years and an athlete her whole life.

Pickleball in Prague

Pickleball in Prague

It was only last year (2015) that Lenka and Jodi crossed paths. Lenka contacted Jodi after finding out about her efforts through a mutual contact in Amsterdam. After falling in love with pickleball, she wanted to help spread the word about the addictive game.

Gearing Up

Jodi lent equipment to Lenka so she could teach pickleball to kids at FIT Sports Club just south of Opava in Hradec nad Moravici, where she also trains them in ping pong, tennis, roller blading and floor ball (known in the U.S. as “floor hockey”).

Lenka’s first attempt was during the children’s summer camp, where they quickly became interested in the sport. As a follow-up, she continued to teach them pickleball during the 2015 – 2016 school year in the Czech Republic’s Moravian-Silesian region.

In spring 2016, Lenka purchased the domain for the Pickleball Czech website to better network with newcomers. Her and Jodi’s initiative was also strengthened by the head of the Ukraine Pickleball Association, David Conover.

A star of donated pickleball gear!

A star of donated pickleball gear!

In the following summer, Jodi participated in the Michigan State Games where she was recognized for her efforts to start pickleball in the Czech Republic. While there, she established a sister club relationship with the Grand Rapids Pickleball Club.

She also received support from Paddletek, Selkirk Sports and PickleballCentral when it came to acquiring more equipment, which is currently finding use on both sides of the country (Prague and Hradec nad Moravici)!

Despite having a decent amount of paddles and balls, one area where the Czech Republic lacks “equipment” is when it comes to the courts themselves. In fact, there are currently no pickleball-specific courts in the country. But Jodi and Lenka don’t let this slow them down!

“Although there are no courts that have been made exclusively for pickleball,” Jodi says, “there are many badminton courts. [Since] a doubles badminton court is the same size as a pickleball court, you can typically find a place to play indoors.”

Lenka adds, “[When] I train outside my house we just find level ground and use chalk for lines!”

Pop-Up Pickleball

When Lenka visited Jodi for the first time, they found another way to adapt to their surroundings. Jodi suggested they play pickleball on the Charles Bridge, one of the most famous tourist locations in the country.

Jodi and Lenka playing on Charles Bridge!

Jodi and Lenka playing on Charles Bridge!

“And we did!” She confirms. “We played many other unusual places in the city and were able to talk to people from various countries about pickleball. I appreciate Lenka’s humor and positivity.”

How’s that for pickleball guerilla marketing? No more excuses for not playing if you lack a “proper” court! Jodi shares another benefit of teaming up with Lenka aside from her open-minded attitude:

“She’s won several medals in tournaments, so it’s great to have an excellent Czech player in the country paving the way for future players.”

A Fighter’s Endurance

Indeed, it was Lenka who won the silver medal for women’s singles in the US Open. Amazingly, it was her very first pickleball tournament and she had to fight through an injury the whole way.

“The US Open was the first [pickleball] tournament in my life. I didn’t know what my level of play was, but because I have lots of experience in ping pong I felt I could adapt quickly. I had very good partners with me. In the women’s doubles we won 4th place and in mixed doubles we got 5th.”

“At the beginning of the second day my leg muscles started to hurt. I couldn’t take a step without intense pain. But because I’m great fighter I wanted to make it through to the end! I honestly have no idea how I won silver in those conditions. After every match I visited the tournament doctor who iced and bandaged my leg.”

Lenka fighting through the pain at the Amsterdam Tournament

Lenka fighting through the pain at the Amsterdam International Pickleball Tournament

“Afterwards I went to a hospital back in the Czech Republic and they determined it was inflammation of the muscles and tendons. I wasn’t allowed to play for nearly a month. After waiting things out I competed in the Amsterdam International Pickleball Tournament and had the same issue return… but I won another silver medal! Miracle.”

Lenka may attribute her wins to luck and divine intervention, but we give her credit for tons of grit, determination and skill. (Though we hope her legs have gotten some much-needed rest and fully recovered!)

In addition to teaching pickleball during the school year and during summer camp for kids in Opava and Ostrava, Lenka is sharing her talent by joining with the Osatrava Municipal Hall to organize exhibitions in primary schools.

Lenka with her silver medal at the US Open

Lenka with her silver medal at the US Open

Incredibly enough, coaching pickleball and numerous other sports isn’t even this champion’s day job. Lenka primarily teaches law and economics to people transitioning in the work force. In her remaining time, she has also published 3 books on sports. (Stop making us look bad, Lenka!)

Her endless supply of resiliency is perhaps no surprise when you hear Lenka has spent her life tracking down extended family after contact was lost between relatives in the U.S. in 1948 and 1968 due to the Czech Republic’s communist regime. Thankfully she has been able to find several aunts and uncles at this point, and shows no signs of slowing down.

We’re glad this determination has spread into other areas of her life and that picklers get to benefit!

Setting the Scene

The big push for Lenka and Jodi to establish pickleball in the Czech Republic will come when they’re able to host their own competition. Although there haven’t been any tournaments in the Czech Republic yet, several countries nearby have seen them, such as Amsterdam and Ukraine.

Lenka with Leonardo Gonzalez from Spain in the Kiev International Tournament

Lenka with doubles partner Leonardo Gonzalez from Spain in the Kiev International Tournament (with their gold medals!)

Europe in general has been making great progress, considering there was a pickleball tournament in Spain this past September and in the UK in October. As the number of players in the Czech Republic continues to grow, Pickleball Czech looks to the future with hope and plenty of spirit.


 

PickleballCentral offers a big round of applause for Lenka’s wins and both women’s dedicated efforts to continue growing the sport around the world. Thank you both for taking the time to share your work with us!

Let’s Help Spread the Pickleball Love to Japan!

Exciting news today as USAPA Nationals medalist Daniel Moore begins a crowdfunding campaign to bring pickleball to Japan. If you’re looking to share the gift of pickleball with international fans this season, this is a great place to start!

Pickleball players of all ages in Japan

What some people don’t know is that Daniel lived in Japan for 16 years growing up and currently serves as a tour guide for visitors through the organization Walk Japan. Japan has an aging population with many indoor gyms equipped with badminton courts that could be utilized for pickleball.

According to Daniel’s campaign, there are currently 2 locations that regularly play pickleball in Japan with a third arriving in January. He explains:

“The locations have around 15-20 players each… An additional three locations have played pickleball before but we haven’t had the time or the funding to continue supporting them so they don’t have any balls or paddles. Most importantly, they don’t have someone there to explain the rules, coach and teach… which is what will get people playing.”

Senior picklers in Japan

The funds will primarily go to the Japan Pickleball Association headed by Moore so that the group can travel around the country to provide clinics and demos. They are also planning to register the JPA as an official non-profit organization and put together local/national tournaments to coincide with Daniel’s annual pickleball Japan trip.

The campaign only needs $10,000 to be successfully funded, and if you make a donation above $25 you’ll receive a Japan Pickleball t-shirt!

Daniel and Japanese pickleball players

Please consider donating if you like the sound of a pickleball-crazy Japan and would enjoy visiting in the future, or if you just want to share the joy of pickleball around the globe. Click here to donate today.

Indian Pickleball Continues to Grow at the 4th National Tournament in Jaipur

AIPA’s (All India Pickleball Association) hard work and effort has clearly gotten the pickleball rolling as more Indian players take up the competitive mantle. On November 11 – 13th at the Sawai Mansingh Indoor Stadium in Jaipur, the 4th National Pickleball Tournament was a rousing success.

Kavita and Ashwin of Rajasthan

Kavita and Ashwin of Rajasthan (Runners-Up in Mixed Doubles)

Of the 29 states in India, 12 teams were present from 10 states to show off their pickleball talent, with observers from two additional states in the wings. The participating states included:

Bihar
Haryana
Jharkhand
Kerala
Madhya Pradesh
Maharashtra
Pondicherry
Rajasthan
Sikkim
Uttarakhand

The West Bengal and Tamil Nadu visitors expressed interest in throwing their hats in the ring for next year’s tournament in Uttarakhand.

AIPA Nationals 2016

Maharashtra Sets the Standard

The winners this year were actually repeat champions from 2015, with Team Maharashtra once again claiming victory! Rajasthan still made an impressive showing on their home ground, often coming in silver just behind the winners. At least the other states know who they have to knock off the podium when the next opportunity arrives!

In Men and Women’s Singles players from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh actually overcame the Maharashtra pros, but Doubles was a sweep. The Maharashtra pairs didn’t offer any quarter as they defeated opponent after opponent and claimed gold in all three categories.

Team Maharashtra 2016

Team Maharashtra 2016

Manish Rao and Bhushan Potnis of Maharashtra won the Men’s Doubles title by defeating Dr. Bharat Ram and Prashant Kalaniair from Rajasthan. Somewhat ironically,  in the 3rd national tournament held at Panipat last year, it was Ram/Kalaniair who defeated Rao and Potnis. Can you say “sweet revenge”? The final scores were 11-5 and  11-7.

Manish Rao and Bhushan of Maharashtra

Rao/Bhushan vs Bharat/Prashant in the Men’s Doubles

Similarly, Atul Edward and Natasha Beig from Maharashtra won the mixed title by defeating Kavita and Ashwini Wadhwa of Rajasthan. It wasn’t as easy of a battle, however, as the Wadhwas managed to hold the game until the 3rd set when Edward/Beig won the final. The scores: 11-1 , 5-11 and 11-6.

Atul and Natasha vs Kavita and Ashwin

Edward/Beig vs the Wadhwas in the Mixed Doubles

The Women Doubles gold medal went to Maharashtra’s Karishma and Rujuta who beat Rajashthan’s Madhulika and Garima. It was something of a rout with the final match scores coming in at 11-2 and 11-3.

Karishma and Rujuta vs Madhulika and Garima

Karishma and Rujuta vs Madhulika and Garima in the Women’s Doubles

Hard-Won Singles Matches

Moving on to the singles: the Men’s title was won by Nikhil Singh Rajput of Rajasthnan, who was presented with a tough fight from Aniket Durgawali,  a younger player from Maharashtra. The thrilling match lasted 3 sets and continued for an impressive 50 minutes!

Nikhil Singh Rajput from Rajashtan

Men’s Singles Winner Nikhil Singh Rajput from Rajashtan

Could you stand the heat? Nikhil managed to overcome the stress by putting his 5 years of pickleball expertise to work. The scores: 11-5, 8-11 and 11-2.

As expected, the Women’s Singles title was won by the defending champion from Madhya Pradesh, Shubhi Vyas. She handily won her gold by beating her rival from Rajasthan, Rekha Chowdhary, with scores of 11-5 and 11-3.

Shubhi Vyas

The Women’s Singles champion for the 3rd year in a row: Shubhi Vyas!

Pickleball in India Gaining Fans

This is the 4th consecutive year where AIPA has organized a national-level open tournament. Pickleball continues to gain wider acceptance in India, with players from across the country gathering to witness this event.

Playing the tournament at the Sawai Mansingh Indoor Stadium was something of a dream in itself for many players, with the location being one of the most prestigious sports arenas in the country. The Rajasthan State Pickleball Association made special efforts to book the world-class facility, with top quality housing and food arrangements as well.

There were 4 courts in the spacious indoor hall where nearly 130 matches were conducted in 2 days.

India National Tournament 2016

The Hidden Champions

Special thanks go to Mr. Karan Singh and Ms. Neetu Sharma, who took great pains to make the tournament a grand success. Mr. Raghu Raj, the President of Rajasthan State Pickleball Association, was also a major force in establishing a high-quality event.

The Chief Guest for the closing ceremony was the Commissioner of Police from Jaipur City, who was very impressed by the game of pickleball. He believes that pickleball will be an added attraction for tourists who visit Jaipur and suggested that a public court should be designed in the heart of the city.

Maharashtra at Jaipur National Tournament

Will Team Maharashtra be unseated next year? Who knows… for now, they celebrate!

Image credit goes to the Rajasthan State Pickleball Association and AIPA.