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2017 APTA Men's Nationals Preview
As the two-time defending champions, Drew Broderick and Jared Palmer are the favorites heading into the 2017 Nationals in Philadelphia, but other teams have made their mark on the APTA tour this year and have to be considered contenders for the title.
The most obvious obstacle in Broderick/Palmer’s path is the team of Johan du Randt and Mark Parsons. Runners-up in the 2015 and 2016 Nationals, du Randt/Parsons turned the tables on Broderick/Palmer by winning their only meeting of the 2016-2017 season. In a wildly entertaining battle in the Chicago Charities finals, du Randt/Parsons dropped the first set 6-1 before settling down and winning the match in three sets.
The top two men’s teams have had a stranglehold on the Nationals in recent years, with Broderick/Palmer the 2015 and 2016 champions, du Randt and Parsons victorious in 2013 and 2014, and either du Randt, Parsons, or Broderick taking the title in 2010-2012, albeit with different partners. The only team that’s come close this season to making the “big two” a “big three” is Juan Arraya and Jeff Morneau. A new team this season, Arraya and Morneau discovered how well their contrasting styles complement each other, winning the Western New England NRT and the Boston Open Grand Prix, and reaching the finals of the Sound Shore Invitational, and at The Midwesterns Grand Prix, and Short Hills Grand Prix. Most impressively, Arraya/Morneau saved a match point to beat du Randt/Parsons in the finals of the Grand Prix event in Boston, proving that they are a real threat to contend for the National Championship.
The other teams seeded in the top eight, John Hughes and Marc Powers, Scott Kahler and Casey Watt, Max LePivert and George Wilkinson, Mikk Irdoja and Dan Regan, and Marek Czerwinski and Chris Gambino, have all posted good results in the highly competitive men’s game this season and will look to distinguish themselves at the Nationals. Hughes/Powers reached the semis of all four Grand Prix events they entered, and Kahler Watt were three-time Grand Prix semifinalists, giving these teams a very slight edge in the rankings over Western New England and Patterson finalists LePivert/Wilkinson and Duane Hayden LI Invitational winners Irdoja/Regan.
There is so much depth in the men’s game that only a few ranking points separate the eighth team from the next few down the list; Steve DeRose and Jon Lubow, Martin Bostrom and Sebastian Bredberg, and Ryan Baxter and Ricky Heath are all seasoned teams who have had success in major tournaments. Look for local favorites, Scott Falatek and Vlatko Najdek, to get a boost from the home crowd and play their best paddle at this event.
As the top men’s teams converge in Philadelphia and set their sights on the most coveted title in paddle, one wonders if anyone can break the monopoly that Broderick/Palmer and du Randt/Parsons have had on the National Championships in the second half of this decade. If so, will it be Arraya/Morneau, or someone else? Whoever comes through, they will have to make their way through one of the deepest draws in APTA history to claim the title.