MLPA Captain's Thoughts

We are excited to announce a new segment coming every couple of weeks, highlighting 2 team captains for Major League Pickleball Australia. Sarah Burr, a decorated veteran who has been playing for years, and was drafted for Major League Pickleball in 2022, captains the Gold Coast Glory. Mitch Hargreaves is the captain of the Sydney Smash, and has experience playing events across the US and Australia. Here are their thoughts regarding the inaugural 2023 event.

Sarah Burr (Gold Coast Glory) Pictured Below:

As the captain of the Gold Coast Glory team, I am thrilled to recount the memorable moments from our first MLP Australia event in Blacktown, Sydney. The synergy within our team was remarkable right from the start – myself, Danni Townsend, Alex Fairbanks, and Roman Estareja shared a strong camaraderie, fostering an atmosphere filled with laughter, fun, and unwavering support for one another.

The venue in Blacktown was truly impressive, playing on Pickleroll surface and the introduction of Durafast 40 balls. The court conditions allowed my Engage Pursuit Pro MX to showcase its prowess, generating significant power and control with the ball on the unique surface. 

Our inaugural match pitted us against the Southern Stars Team captained by Jai Grewal. We managed to secure decisive wins in both gender doubles, but the mixed doubles matches proved to be intense battles, with both wins going to the Southern Stars at 26-24. This sent us to a Dreambreaker, and the drama was heightened when a lightning strike at 18-19 causing a temporary delay in play. Despite the challenging weather conditions and the emotional rollercoaster, we fought valiantly but ultimately fell short, losing the dream breaker 22-20.

Undeterred by the setback, we regrouped on Saturday with a renewed sense of determination. Facing off against the Western Vipers for round 2, we delivered a stellar performance, achieving a clean sweep with victories in all four matches. The closely contested rallies and the challenges posed by the Vipers only fueled our competitive spirit. Our dominant second-round performance secured our spot in the quarter-finals, marking our place among the top six teams in the tournament.

In the quarter-finals, we faced the Sydney Smash. The women's doubles match started with a convincing lead, but Emilia and AC Meyers fought back fiercely, leveling the score at 20-20. It was a nail-biting finish, but Danni and I managed to secure the win at 22-20. Roman and Alex exhibited exceptional teamwork in the men's doubles, taking down Mitch Hargreaves and David Richardson in a convincing fashion. This 2-0 lead heading into the mixed doubles set the stage for an intense showdown. Although Roman and I lost our mixed match, the remarkable performance by Alex and Danni in the second mixed doubles match up secured our overall victory, propelling us into the semi-finals on Sunday.

In the semi-finals, we faced off against the Northern Crocs, captained by Somer Dalla Bona. The women's doubles once again started with a convincing lead and featured some fantastic firefights. Roos and Somer managed to stage a late comeback, securing the women's doubles win for the Crocs . The men's doubles saw Alex and Roman finding their groove, taking down Armaan Bhatia and Neilson Chen convincingly. In the first mixed match, Roman and I emerged victorious against Somer and Neilson. The second mixed match, fought hard by Danni and Alex, unfortunately fell short. Another dream breaker ensued, and although we gave it our best shot, the Northern Crocs clinched the win, securing their place in the MLPA final against the South East Asia Surge team.

Despite the competitive nature of the tournament, the Gold Coast Glory team had an incredible time. The bonds formed and the mutual support among teammates were evident throughout the ups and downs of the weekend. The memories created – from the intense matches to the lightning-induced delay and the thrilling victories – are priceless. As we eagerly look forward to reconnecting in Auckland, New Zealand in a few weeks, the shared experiences in Sydney will undoubtedly fuel our pursuit of gold at the second event of the season. 

Mitch Hargreaves (Sydney Smash) Pictured Below:

As Captain of the Sydney Smash, I’m pleased to recount a promising start of the 2024 MLP Australia season for my team. Over the weekend, our lineup featured top Australian young gun Emilia Schmidt, US pro AC Meyer and experienced Australian David Richardson who stepped up under challenging circumstances as a last-minute reserve.
Coming into this event, we had our eyes set on qualifying for the playoffs. The draw was very unique and new to all players involved. Each team randomly drew 2 other teams they had to play against. The top 6 performing teams (based on match/games/points won) moved through to the playoffs while the top 2 performing teams moved straight into the Semi Finals.
We drew 2 very competitive teams in our opening rounds. Having the reigning champions from last season, the Brisbane Breakers Captained by Lu Sciaky first round, followed by the team with Lucas Pascoe, the number 1 draft pick on SEA Surge second round.
On Friday afternoon, after a long grueling Singles day in 40C heat played on tennis courts, we had to make a quick recovery and transition to the teams format on the pickleroll surface. Our women lead the Sydney Smash to a quick lead with a strong performance. David and I paired up for the first time together one of the top men’s teams in Australia, the Vine brothers. It was a tightly contested matchup with both teams not giving an inch. It wasn’t until the end we were able to break away and step up to win the game giving us a 2-0 lead. Having lost the first mixed, Emilia and I secured the win to close the match out 3-1 giving us a good chance to qualify for the playoffs the next day.
Saturday morning was gender doubles day followed by our last qualifying round of MLPA teams. Due to some stormy weather and persistent rain, gender doubles was cancelled and we had to wait around for our teams match against the SEA Surge. Emilia and AC took the first rubber in women’s doubles setting us up for a great start. Unfortunately, David and I were unable to secure the men’s rubber against a great team and we also split the mixed games. Our first Dreambreaker was underway. As a team, we decided to matchup against our opponents like for like. We stuck with them until the change of ends at 11-10 down, they ran away with it, playing some great points and a few too many errors on our end. Tough loss, but we soon realized that our efforts put us into 5th place and qualified us for the Quarter Finals playoffs.
Quarter Finals up against the Gold Coast Glory. We had about an hour to regather our composure and warm up for our next matchup. Our trusty women’s doubles team had an uncharacteristic start to their game going down quickly 11-20. I called a timeout to remind them that they’re still in it, keep the pressure on. They were on top of most points before making some wrong shot selections and errors. After changing it up to some high percentage pickleball they changed the momentum to their favor and levelled it to 20-20. Unfortunately, the comeback came to an end and they went down 22-20. After dropping the men’s doubles as well, going down 2-0 we decided to put our best foot forward for a must win mixed doubles. Emilia and I stepped up and won a convincing 21-13, giving our team one more chance to stay alive. Unfortunately, Gold Coasts second mixed team were too strong, and we lost 3-1 overall.
After dealing with some tight losses the Sydney Smash ended up in 5th place. We believe we’re in a great spot going forward to the next event in Auckland. All credit and thanks to David Richardson for stepping in last minute for this one event due to some technicalities and giving it his all for the team! Our team is only going to get stronger the more we play and we have a full lineup for the next event so I’m confident we will do well. The MLPA team did an excellent job at running this event and ensuring all athletes had a great time. Thanks to everyone who supported us at the venue and on the stream as well as everyone who made this event possible.