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June 5, 2023

James Ignatowich-Main.jpg


By Alice Tym

Hometown:   Kalamazoo, Michigan, and five months of the year in Surprise, Arizona

Age:   75

Level:   4.5

Favorite Tournaments:   Indian Wells, Huntsman and the US Open

What’s your secret for playing together?

Jim: Winning! Ha-ha. It is better when we win.

Yvonne: We are there to encourage each other and be a team.

What is your best pattern play in Mixed Doubles?

Yvonne: We stack with Jim on the left.

Jim: When we are back serving, Yvonne hits a low drop and I go in. It is the “Hack Attack.”

What drills do you practice for Singles?

Jim: Lots of groundstrokes. I work on baseline angles and down-the-line drives.

Yvonne, you and Hilary Marold have a very successful record in platform tennis, including being in the Platform Hall of Fame. How did that begin?

We began teaming up when we played the same tournaments. She was in Chicago at the time. We have been wonderful friends and pickleball partners since our platform tennis days.

What advice would you give the female partners in Mixed Doubles?

Jim: Know your strengths. Be consistent. Keep it in play. Be patient with your male partner.

What about male partners in Mixed Doubles?

Yvonne: If we need a reset, call a time-out and talk. What should he do? Problem-solve. Be aggressive.

How did you meet?

Yvonne: We were college sweethearts. Our first date was on the tennis court. We still go on dates. We go to the movies and have game nights with friends. Our favorite games are Carbles, Swoop, and Times Up. We play guys against the girls.

What’s the secret of staying in shape together?

Jim: It is a lifestyle. We are cutting back on sugar and alcohol. We try to do some cardio and weight training.

Where do you see pickleball heading?

Jim: It will continue to grow and hope to see it in the Olympics.Yvonne: I see it going to rally scoring. We are deeply grateful for the friendships and experiences that pickleball has given us.

You both are a class act. Where does that come from?

Jim: We have great parents, Midwestern values and a strong faith. Yvonne had early training in tennis. Her coach, Dr. A.B. Hodgman, was very influential. My father worked two jobs. He is currently 104. Yvonne’s mother is 98 and still plays pickleball! Now we referee and are ambassadors. We started a nonprofit called Kalamazoo Pickleball Outreach.

Where would you like to introduce pickleball?

Yvonne: We introduced it in New Zealand. We would go back to New Zealand. We loved the home stays. It is the most romantic place we have ever been. We celebrated our 50th anniversary with a glass of wine overlooking Queenstown. Maybe go to France, too.Your grandkids are athletes.

What advice do you give them?

They have gotten good advice from their parents. Do your best. They play pickleball when they are with us.  •

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