MLP ATLANTA: DAY 4 RECAP – PREMIER LEVEL SEMIFINALS AND FINAL
Day 4 Recap
Peachtree Corners was jumping with Sunday funday pickleball energy! The tournament culminated with Premier Level Semifinals, featuring Arizona vs. Orlando, followed by Miami vs. D.C. before playoff darlings Orlando and D.C. battled it out for ultimate MLP Atlanta bragging rights. On a sun-drenched court, the Orlando Squeeze were crowned 2023 MLP Atlanta Premier Level Champions. Anna Bright was named Premier Level MVP.
Read on for all of Sunday’s match highlights.
PREMIER LEVEL SEMIFINALS
Arizona vs. Orlando
It was a brisk 57 degrees as the first Semifinal match between Arizona and Orlando kicked off at 8am ET. To quote Anna Bright’s post-game interview, “When you got ice in your veins, who cares if it’s a little chilly?”
Head-to-head team DUPR ratings gave the Squeeze ladies a 57% probability of taking the first game, which turned out to be an accurate prediction. Anna Bright and Rachel Rochrabacher got out to a 3-0 advantage before Vivian Glozman brought the Arizona heat to make it 3-3. Her partner Vivienne David’s defense and quick hands shined during firefights between the two teams. Rohrabacher/Bright struck back as David/Glozman made a couple errors at the net, leading to a 11-6 Squeeze advantage at the changeover. The Drive struggled to shake off their missteps, and the Women’s Doubles game went to the Squeeze, 21-13.
Arizona’s Arnold/Bar came out with a vengeance and took an early 5-1 lead in game two, largely thanks to Dekel Bar’s unanswered forehand flick and backhand counters. The Drive continued their mission, until Daescu parted the middle to cut the Orlando deficit down to 2 points, 19-17, and then tie it up at 20. Though not predicted by DUPR ratings, Arnold’s chest-beating “ANDIAMO” chants were a safe bet and served up in spades throughout the match. Arnold tied things up again at 21 with a forehand counter and finger wag. Bar gave AZ a game point advantage with a backhand counter that landed on the line and AZ took the game on the next rally, 23-21.
Orlando’s Daescu/Bright prepared for battle and worked together on a 7-3 lead against Arnold/David for the first Mixed Doubles game. Bright body-bagged Arnold off an impressive ATP to give her team even more momentum going into the changeover with the Squeeze up 11-7. A firefight between all four players at 14-9 ended with David helping Arizona close their 5 point gap. Daescu ran towards David’s forehand counter and got body-bagged. Bright had a line drive to Arnold’s backside, making it 19-14 Squeeze, and she was unstoppable with a backhand attack volley alongside Daescu as the two sealed the first Mixed Doubles game for the Squeeze.
In a crucial fourth game for the Drive, Bar/Glozman stood tall opposite Navratil/Rohrabacher. After back-to-back poaches from Bar, Glozman finished a shake-and-bake to make the game 6-1, Arizona. Trailing 11-6 at the side switch, the Squeeze earned the next few points, as Zane capped off a backhand ATP with a celebratory shoulder shimmy to tie things up at 11. Bar stacked up a couple body bags on both Squeeze opponents to give the Drive a 17-16 lead. Glozman’s net cord volley pushed AZ to 22-21 to win the game on the next rally and take the first match to a Dreambreaker.
Fueled by a robust fan presence, the Squeeze came out firing on all fronts. Zane’s flying backhand Erne gave Orlando a 4-2 lead. An incredible cat-and-mouse rally between Daescu and Arnold culminated with an amazing backhand winner for Orlando. Zane ripped a forehand shot to give his team a break away advantage at 15-8. Rachel Rohrabacher closed things out with a crazy angle on a forehand passing shot as Orlando clinched their spot in the final, taking the match 3 games to 2.
Miami vs. D.C.
Jade and Jackie Kawamoto put their twin power to the test against Miami’s Hurricane Tyra Black and Harris to get the match started with a Women’s Doubles face-off. Jackie’s speed-up followed by Jade’s overhead slam tied the game at 3-3, before Black/Harris showed their respective prowess on defense. The game was tied at 9-9 after a crafty down-the-middle shot from Harris. The Kawamotos ran away with it after a combination of deft moves, finishing the first game with a D.C. victory, 21-15.
Miami’s Tyson McGuffin entered the match and sought to amp up the crowd after a couple clever moves tied the Men’s Doubles game at 4-4. D.C.’s Riley Newman returned the favor with creative shot selection to give he and Christian Alshon an 8-7 lead. MPC’s Staksrud fired back with two incredible ATPs to make it 11-10 Miami at court changeover. It remained a tight game down the stretch as both sides exhibited backhand winners and were determined to win each firefight. Newman met Miami’s electric play with a flying Bert to tie the score at 19. Newman/Alshon teamed up on the last couple points to take the Men’s Doubles point, 21-19.
Jackie Kawamoto/Alshon entered the first Mixed Doubles against Harris/McGuffin game determined to take the match. Alshon had a perfectly timed Erne to give D.C. a 5-1 lead. Harris won a firefight for Miami with a backhand shot to bring Miami’s energy up as she and McGuffin fought back to make the game 6-6. Alshon responded with a 1-2 combo, a spectacular flying Erne, and an overhead slam to give D.C. a 12-8 lead. He continued to shine in the face of McGuffin’s resets as D.C. shot out to an 18-11 lead that Miami could not recover from. D.C. won the match 3-0 and marched their way into the Premier Level Final against Orlando.
PREMIER LEVEL FINALS
D.C. vs. Orlando
The 2023 MLP Atlanta Premier Level Final was full of dramatic momentum shifts in front of a packed house on Championship Court. To start the match, Jackie and Jade Kawamoto took on Anna Bright and MLP rookie Rachel Rohrabacher. DUPR’s Head-to-Head prediction gave either duo a 50% chance of taking this first game. Jackie K. finished a forehand putaway to tie the game at 3. Orlando punched it up and won a firefight to tie it at 5. The sister-sister connection proved strong as Jackie finished a Jade set-up to give D.C. a 9-7 lead. Bright and Rohrabacher pushed the tempo with a couple forehand throwdowns to cut Orlando’s deficit to 13-11. Jade read Anna’s shot correctly and finished with a forehand shot to give D.C. a 14-12 advantage. Rachel responded with a cross-court dink to narrow Orlando’s gap by 1. Jackie and Jade worked in unison to take the next few points, winning the first game for D.C., 21-16.
The Men’s Doubles teams showed up ready to rumble, as a Riley Newman backhand attack volley leveled the score at 2. Daescu and Navratil were in sync as they applied pressure to give Orlando a 7-6 lead. D.C.’s Newman stayed on his toes and used quick hands to swing D.C. up over Orlando, 14-7. D.C.’s performance prompted an Orlando timeout. The Squeeze looked refreshed after winning what was arguably the rally of the tournament – multiple resets from Newman/Alshon, huge firefights that eventually ended with Daescu’s forehand fireball down the line, bringing the score to 16-9 with D.C. still out front. Despite a nasty drop slice drop shot from Zane, Newman finished a dominating Men’s Doubles win with a backhand speed up, 21-12.
With the Squeeze running out of juice for the match, Bright and Daescu entered the third game hungry for a win against the on-fire Jackie Kawamoto and Alshon. Daescu used his length for a tie-it-up slam at 3. Bright won a firefight to give Orlando a 5-4 lead. Kawamoto defended Daescu’s ATP, which gave way to his speed-up, only for Alshon to read and counter for a tie-game at 9. The Squeeze picked up the pace as Daescu and Bright played their best pickleball. Andre’s overhead slams paired with Bright’s craftiness and multiple resets sent this point-for-point game to an overtime stand-off. Alshon just missed an Erne attempt to win the first Mixed Doubles point, 24-22.
Rohrabacher and Navratil came into the fourth and laid it all on the line, knowing they had to save the match with this game. Rachel’s speed up followed by an ATP gave Orlando a 5-2 lead. Zane followed suit with emphatic overhead slams and a flying Erne bodybag against Jade to give Orlando a 13-8 lead. Kawamoto and Newman came stomping back with a 5-0 run to cut their deficit down to 2, 15-13. A battle of incredible hands ended with Zane going down the middle to give Orlando a 20-18 lead, bringing fans to their feet as Zane fist pumped at the baseline. Rachel stayed ready for Newman’s speed up and slammed a forehand counter to give Orlando back-to-back Mixed Doubles wins and send this final match into a Dreambreaker.
Riding an energetic wave after coming back from a daunting deficit, the Orlando Squeeze stayed ignited for a crowd-pleasing Dreambreaker. Zane had fans on their feet with a forehand blast past Newman to give Orlando a 5-2 lead. Newman got the D.C. deficit down to 12-9, but then Anna Bright had Kawamoto guessing incorrectly as she stepped off to a 16-10 Squeeze lead. Orlando went on an 8-0 run to win the Dreambreaker, the match, and the 2023 MLP Atlanta Premier Title! Anna Bright was named MVP as her consistency and celebratory boosts were crucial to Orlando’s success. It was a fun end to a Season 2’s event debut!