The progression draw, a format common to tennis tournaments, is coming to professional pickleball.
The Biofreeze USA Pickleball National Championships powered by Invited and the PPA Tour is already gearing up to be a historic event with over three thousand players registered, but it will also feature this format for the first time at the pro level.
Under this format, each competitor will play only one match per event per day. With three events, the maximum number of matches a player will play on a given day is three.
The Round of 32, Round of 16, quarterfinals, and semifinals for each event will be played on the same day, with the gold medal matches for each bracket taking place on Championship Sunday.
This format differs considerably from the traditional PPA tournament format, where the entirety of each bracket (apart from the gold medal matches on Sunday) is completed on a specific day.
The hope is that this format will allow for a more concrete schedule of play that fans can confidently refer to.
“It’s really about the fan experience,” said USA Pickleball managing director of National Championships Donn Paben.
This concrete schedule will also give spectators the opportunity to watch the events they want to see and the players they want to see on any given day.
“You can really tailor your schedule or your viewing experience around exactly what you want to see,” said Tennis Channel director of programming and strategy Adam Friedman.
From a fan’s perspective, using a progression draw brings a lot of positives. But this format also has certain implications for the tournament’s competitors.
For PPA Tour veteran and USA Pickleball Pro Player Council member Jessie Irvine, one of the main benefits revolves around the more stable scheduling that the draw will allow for.
“Now we know what time we’re playing,” she said. “There’s no guesswork. I know what times I can eat. I know what times I can stretch.”
That being said, this format does present a strategic challenge with players having to play matches in more than one event per day.
“Each event—singles, gender doubles and mixed doubles—requires something different strategically,” Irvine said.
This wasn’t a worry in the traditional format, except if a player made it to Championship Sunday in more than one event.
Irvine also says that the transition from mixed doubles to gender doubles in the afternoon could be especially challenging.
“It’s the idea of, ‘Okay, well now I have to warm up with my other partner and readjust and mentally reset for a completely different event,’” she explained.
The introduction of this progression draw will be just one of many storylines to keep track of during the tournament.
You can find a detailed schedule of events and match session times on the USA Pickleball website here.