If there was any doubt that pickleball or San Clemente was “major league,” there were hundreds of fans and a national live broadcast from Life Time Rancho San Clemente on Monday, June 19, that would beg to differ.
After a Father’s Day weekend welcomed thousands of pickleball fans to South Orange County, hundreds surrounded center court on Monday to provide an energetic championship atmosphere for the inaugural Major League Pickleball Super Finals, where the Los Angeles Mad Drops stunned the Seattle Pioneers in a sweep, 3-0, for the Season One Premier Level championship and the Chicago Slice outlasted the Bay Area Breakers in an MLP Dreambreaker, 3-2, for the Season One Challenger Level championship.
“It was amazing,” MLP Commissioner Brooks Wiley said of the league’s first-ever Super Final weekend. “Better than any expectation we had. It’s the most picturesque venue, for sure. This sunken stadium is really cool. The clouds, the ocean, Catalina Island in the background. The local fans came out and showed out on days when you wouldn’t expect people to.”
It was the second weekend in a row that a professional pickleball circuit played at Life Time Rancho San Clemente, as the individuals and pairs-based PPA Tour held its third-annual Orange County Cup at the venue on June 8-11. San Clemente will also play host to the MLP Season Two Super Finals from Dec. 7-11 a week after hosting the PPA Tour’s Finals from Nov. 30-Dec. 3.
“I love this so much for the residents,” San Clemente Mayor Chris Duncan said. “This is a pickleball town. Our pickleball community is thriving and growing. So much energy, and you see that in these final events. They love coming here because the fans bring it and a lot of these people are playing. Couldn’t be happier for our city.”
Duncan was on hand to help award the Premier Level championship after the Los Angeles Mad Drops, with part-owner and legendary NFL quarterback Drew Brees on the sidelines, upset the top-ranked Seattle Pioneers.
Unlike the PPA Tour, MLP is team-based with four games making up one match: women’s doubles, men’s doubles and two mixed doubles matches.
The Mad Drops came out with a hard charge as Catherine Parenteau and Irina Tereschenko dominated the Pioneers pair of Meghan Dizon and Etta Wright, 21-6, in an opening women’s doubles win. In men’s doubles, Julian Arnold and Thomas Wilson upset world No. 1 Ben Johns and partner Tyler Loongs, 21-19, to up Los Angeles up 2-0 going into mixed doubles. This was Johns’ first loss in MLP play this season.
Parenteau and Arnold teamed up for what would be the final match of the day as the Mad Drops pair grabbed the opening lead over Johns and Wright and outpaced the Pioneers pair, 21-17, to capture the MLP Super Finals title and a $240,000 check.
“That was crazy. I didn’t expect for us to be up 2-0,” Parenteau said, “but once we’re up 2-0, okay, let’s just finish it out. Put the pressure on them right off the bat. I think having more of a veteran team really helped us with the experience to stay in the present moment.”
Parenteau was also victorious last weekend in the PPA Tour’s Orange County Cup with a win in women’s doubles, and she was a runner-up in women’s singles. With that success, the Montreal native and Florida resident has taken a liking to San Clemente.
“This is my favorite facility in the whole United States,” Parenteau said. “The fans, the environment, how beautiful it is, the weather. Oh my gosh. People have been saying this weather has been so crappy, I’m so sorry. I’m like no! I’m from Florida, and it’s so hot and humid. This has been perfect weather.”
“The stadium, it’s very high end,” Parenteau continued. “It’s got that high-end kind of feel. When you play on center court, it makes it feel very special. You have this amazing view of the ocean. What more would you want?”
Fans were primed for the rush of the Premier Level Super Final by a lively and competitive Challenger Level Super Final.
The Chicago Slice and Bay Area Breakers traded blows before reaching the MLP tiebreaker round: the Dreambreaker. The Breakers won women’s doubles, 21-19; the Slice won men’s doubles and the first mixed doubles, both 21-19; and the Breakers tied it up with a win in the second mixed doubles match, 21-18.
In the Dreambreaker, both teams play singles with each player rotating through every four points played. Chicago captured this tiebreaker round, 21-17, to claim the MLP Super Finals Challenger Level title.