Pickleball Hits the Big Apple

By Kim Taddei and Bruce Hill

In 1978, the U.S. Open moved from Forest Hills to the National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows in the NYC borough of Queens. The U.S. Open is the fourth major tennis Grand Slam tournament held annually, following the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon. The courts at Flushing Meadows have been graced by tennis legends such as Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams, and Roger Federer. But…why are we talking about tennis in a pickleball column? The reason is that in February of this year, the APP (Association of Pickleball Professionals) announced an historic 3-year agreement to hold the New York City Open on the hallowed grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows. This is the first time the home of the U.S. Open would host a pickleball tournament, bridging the gap between the two sports. The first of these tournaments was held in May of this year, and our coach, Adam MacKinnon, was part of this important symbolic event for pickleball. The emphasis throughout the week was on promoting the sport by holding the tournament at a prestigious location and garnering publicity through high profile media events like opening the NY Stock Exchange.
Adam was also selected to play for Team West in a special Senior Pro competition to open the week, the Melissa McCurley Cup, a Ryder Cup-type format with Team East vs Team West, and although Team West lost, Adam did well, going 4-2 in his matches.

The alliance with Flushing Meadows is an indication that pickleball is changing rapidly. Competing alliances (see the controversial PB article in Sports Illustrated, May 2022) make the future configuration of professional pickleball hard to predict. But one thing everyone can agree on is the importance of making pickleball a “TV friendly” sport. New competition formats (for example MLP: Major League Pickleball with its 4-person teams), the development of fierce rivalries between competing Pro tours, better commentary and the emergence of colorful personalities will lead to the evolution of the sport as viable entertainment. An infusion of capital in the form of guaranteed appearance money for players, product endorsement and televised matches on subscription sports channels will result in the emergence of pickleball as a serious sport, worthy of a spot in the Olympic line up.

Tennis has paved the way for us in this regard. Maybe one day pickleball will have its own Grand Slam tournaments and legendary players that will keep us glued to our TV sets on a Saturday afternoon.
For information about working with Adam, you can visit oakmontpickleballclub.com or email him at adammackinnon@gmail.com.

New Player Orientation: Arrangements can be made by contacting Nancy Lande at 978-2998 to schedule a session. Demo loaner paddles are available by contacting Doc Savarese at 349-9065. If you know of someone in need of a card to cheer them up or for condolences, please contact Helen Selenati at 595-3413.

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