San Clemente is the new center of the professional pickleball world.
While locals undoubtedly have noticed the sport on the rise recreationally at parks and tennis courts all around South Orange County, the professional side of the game has descended on San Clemente for a 12-day stretch, and it won’t be the last time in 2023.
Life Time Rancho San Clemente is the venue for this pickleball bonanza, as for the third consecutive year the facility hosted the Carvana PPA Tour in the Select Medical Orange County Cup from Thursday, June 8, to Sunday, June 11. Lifetime will also host the finale of Major League Pickleball’s 2023 Season One, beginning Thursday, June 15, and concluding with the Season One Super Finals on Monday, June 19.
San Clemente will also be the host for the championship week for professional pickleball with the PPA Tour returning for The Finals from Nov. 30-Dec. 3, and Major League Pickleball is coming back for its Season Two Super Finals from Dec. 7-11.
The top talents in professional pickleball have taken a liking to the venue and atmosphere at Life Time Rancho San Clemente, and that was showcased again last weekend at the PPA Tour’s Orange County Cup.
Women’s No. 1 player Anna-Leigh Waters captured her fourth consecutive triple crown on the PPA Tour, with wins in women’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.
“It feels amazing. I honestly can’t believe it,” Waters told the PPA Tour. “It’s really cool, especially here, because I don’t think I’ve ever won a triple crown here (in San Clemente). I don’t even think I’ve ever won two gold medals at this facility, and this is my favorite facility, so this is definitely a special triple crown, and I can’t wait for next year.”
The 16-year-old Waters opened her Championship Sunday by teaming up with men’s No. 1 Ben Johns in a three-set sweep, 11-3, 11-6, 11-9, over women’s No. 3 Catherine Parenteau and men’s No. 3 Tyson McGuffin for the mixed doubles title. It was the pair’s 19th mixed doubles title.
Waters then joined up with Parenteau to take the women’s doubles title in four sets, 11-2, 10-12, 11-9, 11-3, over the sixth-seeded pairing of Etta Wright and Irina Tereschenko. This was the fifth gold medal of the PPA Tour season for the Waters-Parenteau pair.
Waters then closed the day by beating her doubles teammate, Parenteau, in a two-set sweep, 11-7, 11-7. The win clinched the 16th triple crown weekend of the 16-year-old’s PPA Tour career.
In men’s singles, McGuffin reached another final and was victorious in a two-set sweep, 12-10, 11-3, to defeat seventh-seeded Connor Carnett for McGuffin’s fifth PPA Tour singles gold. McGuffin rallied from a 10-5 deficit in the first set.
In men’s doubles, Ben Johns also returned to the championship round with his brother Collin Johns to rally past the No. 2 seed of Matt Wright and Riley Newman in five sets, 6-11, 11-7, 5-11, 11-0, 11-1.
Every player from the PPA Tour’s championship matches will be back on the Lifetime Rancho San Clemente courts for Major League Pickleball this weekend.
Unlike the individual nature of the PPA Tour, Major League Pickleball is a team concept with only doubles matches. Each team has four players—two men and two women—that compete in a men’s doubles match, a women’s doubles match and two mixed doubles matches. Major League Pickleball has grabbed headlines in recent years with investments and team ownership from sports stars including Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and others, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Major League Pickleball is made up of 24 teams with 12 teams split into two levels—the Premier Level, which features the top 48 players, and the Challenger Level, which features the next 48 players. The San Clemente event opens with Challenger Level group play on Thursday, June 15, beginning at 8 a.m.
The Premier Level group stage begins on Friday, June 16, at 10 a.m., as Anna-Leigh Waters and the New Jersey 5’s open against the California BLQK Bears, and Riley Newman and the SoCal Hard 8’s take on Tyson McGuffin and the New York Hustlers. Ben Johns and the Seattle Pioneers begin against Collin Johns and the Las Vegas Night Owls at noon. Catherine Parenteau and Irina Tereschenko team up on the Los Angeles Mad Drops, who also start at noon against the Frisco Pandas.
Challenger Finals are Saturday at 2 p.m., and Premier Finals are Sunday at 4:30 p.m. After all the matches are complete and the Season One standings finalized, the top two teams in each level will meet for the MLP Super Finals on Monday. The Challenger Super Finals are at 3 p.m., and the Premier Super Finals are at 6 p.m.
Ticket and schedule information for Major League Pickleball can be found at majorleaguepickleball.net/events/san-clemente. Grounds passes for Thursday’s opener and Monday’s Super Finals are free. The full five-day pass is $102, and daily passes for Friday, Saturday or Sunday are $40.