July 20, 2022
The English OPEN is Back, Bigger and Better!
By Karen Mitchell
Director, Pickleball England
The first English OPEN in 2019 was blessed with alchemy—everything working together to make something magical happen. The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 and 2021 events, but June 29-July 3 saw the magic return. Nearly 500 players, six USA pro players and 50 volunteers converged for five days for the 2022 English OPEN tournament at the David Lloyd Southampton venue. There were 1,512 matches played plus a Pro-Am tournament and MLP English Style Event.
Sam Basford, my co-tournament director, and I collaborated with the APP and DUPR to bring the pro players to England for the event and to give Europe’s finest players some stiff competition. Lee Whitwell assembled a great group of players: Michelle Esquivel, Rob Cassidy, Daniel Roditi, KaSandra Gehrke, and Irina Tereschenko as well as Lee herself. Louise Stephens organized the airport pick-up and drop-off logistics on top of her t-shirt printing and production line for the tournament as well as lots of other behind-the-scenes tasks.
Months of planning and intense work was required to ensure that the tournament was a success. In the later stages, we were joined by Chris Mitchell and Frank Arico to ready the Pickleball England Tournament Software (PETS) for the tournament.
Salli Griffith developed all the graphics that looked so great at the venue, including court dividers, medal backdrop, banners, and souvenir program. The professional look of the graphics is integral to leveraging the tournament as our shop window for future sponsorships and partnerships.
Our technology partner, Scan, provided a PA system and screens for our welcome desk and the scrolling screens that told players who was playing on which court at any given time. Players could also get this information on their phones.
On Friday, the first Major League Pickleball English Style event outside the USA was played within the tournament, making pickleball history. Irina Tereschenko’s Team Rainbow won the event, meaning that Irina has now won all three MLP events she has played in. Irina said, “There are a bunch of people with triple crowns but no one else has three MLP victories! I want to thank my teammates, KaSandra, Louis and Carlos, for bringing incredible energy to the team—and the energy the crowd provided was exciting.”
She added, “Many players, who were seeing the format live for the first time, said how exciting it was to watch. The livestreaming of the games on the championship court contributes to bringing this unique team format to the world. The scoring format meant a lot of games were close and made it exciting. I didn’t think I was playing with amateurs as they all played well. Everyone contributed and matched us with skill level and intensity.”
Ken Hermann visited the tournament since it was the first APP event outside of the USA. Lauren McLoughlin commentated throughout on the livestream—we hope she found some time for lunch breaks!
South West Regional Director Richard Thoms manned a stall that was selling Franklin merchandise. Paddle sales might have been boosted by the fact that Chris Mitchell won four gold medals at the tournament after recently switching to the Signature paddle. Chris won the 60+ 4.5+ Men’s Doubles with Stan Johnson, 60+ 4.5+ Mixed Doubles with me, 60+ 4.5+ Singles (all by himself!), and 50+ 4.5+ Men’s Doubles with Bill Evans. He had to make do with silver in the 50+ 4.5+ Mixed Doubles with his partner Louise Stephens (thwarted by Steve Vozza and Penny Elfrig). His favorite event, though, was the Pro-Am where he won bronze with Rob Cassidy.
A heartfelt thank-you to all the volunteers who made the tournament work so efficiently and were friendly and welcoming to all the players. Local players from Southampton and Gosport were joined by players from all over the country including London Pickleball and the North West. We finished virtually on time every day due to the support of the volunteers. It will be the support of volunteers that will persuade us to do it all again next year!
For all medal winners, visit evregsys.com/PBE/englishopen2022/medals2.php?id=jzZxlNRsXuOk. •