It’s one of the fastest-growing sports in the world and there has been a tremendous increase in the popularity of pickleball, a fast-paced paddle sport. Both casual players and competitive athletes have enjoyed pickleball due to its combination of elements from tennis, badminton, and ping pong.
There are a number of talented players emerging in the pickleball world as the sport grows. Some starting out and others switching from other racket sports. This article will examine some of the best players in the world, their achievements, and their impact on the sport. It is hard to believe that the game of pickleball has only been a professional sport in recent years where there are major tournaments and players now compete for serious prize money and titles.
List of Top 10 Men Pickleball Players (World Pickleball Rankings as of July 2023)
1. JW Johnson
This guy is on a tear. An incredible athlete who little over four years ago was playing competitive tennis in Florida, is now the leading pickelball player in the world. He comes from a family that are very talented at the game. The Johnson family moved to Florida in order to focus on Johnson’s tennis career after he grew up in Pittsburg, Kan. He is a professional pickleball player who has been playing since 2011 and is currently ranked number 1 in the world today and in the top 3 doubles and mixed doubles rankings. Among the sponsors of Johnson are Franklin, Yobow, and Day One.
2. Ben Johns
Benjamin was born on March 18, 1999, in Laytonsville and considered to be one of the greatest pickleball players to have played the game so far. He is ranked No. 1 in the world for doubles, mixed doubles, and No. 2 in singles by the Pro Pickleball Association (PPA). He has over 80 PPA Titles to his name, and more Triple Crowns than any other male in professional pickleball history, he is destined for the Pickleball Hall of Fame. Outside of pickleball, Johns recently completed his Materials Science and Engineering degree from the University of Maryland
Johns is regarded as one of the sport’s biggest ambassadors.
A rising talent in the game for sure. He grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was able to make the transition from tennis to pickleball through the opportunity to train with some of the top pickleball players in the world, such as Simone Jardim, CJ Klinger, Kyle Yates, Pablo Tellez, Brendon Long, and Ryan Sherry. A major sponsor of Staksrud is Joola and Patak Meats.
As one of the best male pickleball players in the world, Navratil has won more than 80 titles in his career. It is difficult to compete against the 27-year-old because of his impressive speed and court coverage. In high school, Zane Navratil won three state tennis championships in Wisconsin before he started playing pickleball. The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater awarded him an Academic All-American degree and a Division III tennis scholarship. His first job after graduation was as an auditor for Deloitte & Touche, where he earned his CPA license. After leaving the business world in 2020, he began teaching and playing pickleball as a full-time job.
Tyson McGuffin, a professional pickleball player, was born on December 16, 1989, in Lake Chelan, Washington. He has established himself as one of the top-ranked pickleball players in the world. McGuffin is a two-time US Open Champion and a five-time National Champion and his outspokenness and passion on the court make him one of the most popular players on tour.
Julian is a passionate player from San Luis Obispo, California. Julian started playing tennis when he was 7 years old and continued to play until he eventually earned a spot on the UCLA tennis team. In April of 2021, Julian began playing pickleball after being introduced to the sport by a few tennis friends. Within a year of starting to play, he turned professional. With his Los Angeles Mad Drops team, Arnold has won 14 medals and won MVP of the February, 2023 event of Major League Pickleball. One to watch for sure.
His sponsors are Volair, Best Day Brewing, and Chicken N Pickle.
Dylan Frazier is a professional pickleball player from Ashland, Missouri. He was introduced to pickleball in 2016 and has since become a rising star in the sport. Frazier is currently ranked No. 12 in the world for doubles and has achieved a world ranking of 7 in singles and 5 in mixed doubles. Despite being only 19 years old, Frazier has already made a name for himself in the professional pickleball community and he is currently balancing his career as a professional pickleball player with his studies as a full-time student at the University of Missouri. He is also sponsored by Selkirk Sport, a leading manufacturer of pickleball paddles and equipment.
It is clear that the 20-year-old is rapidly becoming one of the most promising talents in the world of pickleball as he continues to climb the official rankings.
When Hunter Johnson started playing pickleball, he was among the top 200 tennis players in the world. In addition to playing with his twin brother, Yates Johnson, he is an SMU graduate from New Braunfels, Texas. Tyson McGuffin and JW Johnson have beaten Hunter in his quest to become the number one player in the world. So far!
Jim Ignatowich is a resident of Delray Beach, Fla., who was born and raised in Darien, Conn. As part of the winning team at the Newport Beach, Calif., event in 2022, he is a top-10 singles player. He is a naturally aggressive player and really looks to take on his opponents with pace and flair.
He is sponsored by Selkirk. A gold medal and a silver medal were awarded to him recently at the PPA Tour’s 2023 Indoor National Championship.
10. Jay Devilliers
Jay is one of the most popular pickleball players on tour. Due to his trademark “come on” and positive communication with his partners, fans don’t need to see Devilliers in action to know he is on-court. Devilliers regularly qualifies for tournament finals and places on the podium. As a team with Jessie Irvine, he won the Mixed Doubles title at the PPA Championship in Las Vegas in 2021. Whenever he is not competing, Devilliers teaches and shares his knowledge in his home country of France, where he represents the French Pickleball Federation as an ambassador. No matter where he is in the world, he is able to communicate with others thanks to his ability to master four different languages – French, English, Spanish, and Serbian!
List of Top 10 Women Pickleball Players
Anna is 16 years of age making her one of the youngest players on tour and the face of women’s pickleball at this point. She started playing the game in 2017, when her family had to evacuate their Florida home during Hurricane Irma. Anna Leigh plays alongside her mother Leigh Waters and have won doubles tournaments together. Anna Leigh is ranked in the top spot for singles and mixed doubles and continues to grow as a player with her fiercely competitive nature— she has won gold medals in tournaments across the nation, including the US Open and USA Pickleball Nationals.
As a result of her fascinating life, Salome Devidze ended up playing pickleball. Over the course of her life, she has traveled to 42 different countries and learned 5 languages. Tennis was Salome’s first sport at the age of four, and she competed on the junior circuit before moving on to play professionally. Salome was introduced to pickleball by a friend after her tennis career was over due to back injuries. One of the world’s top 3 singles pickleball players, she eventually turned pro!
3. Lea Jansen
At 29, the Washington native is currently ranked No. 3 in the world and a serious threat on the women’s tour. With only a few years of professional experience, Jansen is already establishing herself as one of the game’s top players with her competitiveness and fiery approach to the game.
4. Anna Bright
Anna Bright fell in love with pickleball while playing with her parents in October of 2021. After participating in her first tournament, she became hooked on the sport and has been devoted to it ever since. Bright made a name for herself in the sports world with a 20-3 record at Cal, where she played college tennis. As an MLP Team Rancher and APP athlete prior to joining the PPA, Bright dominated the circuits before joining the PPA. Her company, the New York Hustlers MLP, features notable athletes like Tyson McGuffin, Rafa Hewett, Lacy Schneemann as Gold Card touring professionals. JOOLA also sponsors Bright.
During her tennis career, Bright developed fast hands, consistency, and good anticipation, which gave her an edge in pickleball. After working for DUPR for a few months, Bright decided to switch to the PPA tour and become a full-time pickleball player.
As one of the most complete pickleball players, Parenteau has been playing pro pickleball since 2016. A former college tennis player and then a coach, Catherine came to Pickleball in 2020 having not played at all before.
A top women’s doubles team, she is sponsored by Paddletek and she regularly plays with Callie Smith in doubles and they have won a number of titles.
6. Parris Todd
Paris has quickly risen through the ranks of pickleball after playing professional tennis for several years. She was introduced to the game by her grandparents (she used to think it was a sport for older people!) After beating Anna Leigh Waters recently, Todd has become one of pickleball’s biggest talents. She also plays for Team BLQK in Major League Pickleball.
Another rising star on this list, Jorja is only 16 years old. She comes from a family of pickleball stars and has rapidly become one herself. As one of the youngest pros, she is one to watch with an exciting style of play. Having a brother who plays, JW Johnson, and mom Julie Johnson have had a major impact her on performance. Jorja plays for the Hard Eights and has already won 19 pro medals.
8. Megan Fudge
Her senior year at school in England was marked by a national championship win. Originally from Germany. She played #1 singles and doubles for the University of Illinois DI team, reached the top 50 in singles, and reached the top 25 in doubles on the ITA.
Four times named Team MVP and four times honored with All Conference accolades. Leading her team to a top 25 finish her senior year earned her the prestigious Cissy Leary Regional Sportsmanship Award. Earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sports Management and Communications.
She began her coaching career at Seminole, Florida’s DeHeart academy with her husband Ryler (now a member of MLP’s Chicago Slice). They travel around the country in their RV to tournaments with their two children, Lily and JR.
9. Callie Smith
Originally from Utah and another former tennis player on this list. Callie began playing on the Pro Tour in 2018 and has risen the ranks of this sport quickly. Callie has medaled in almost every tournament she has played in, and in April of the year 2021, she became a U.S. Open Champion in Women’s Doubles. Callie uses the Evoke Onix Premier paddle when playing competitively as it suits her competitive style.
Having played racquet sports for over 20 years, Tereschenko is one of the most experienced players on the professional tour. During her college tennis career at Texas Tech University, the Russian native won five major titles.
What attributes make a great pickleball player?
A great pickleball player possesses technical skills, agility, court awareness, shot selection, mental resilience, and consistency.
Can anyone improve their pickleball skills?
Yes, anyone can improve their pickleball skill level with regular practice, seeking guidance from experienced players or coaches, and analyzing their gameplay.
Are there international pickleball tournaments?
Yes, pickleball has gained international recognition, and there are various tournaments where players from different countries compete against each other.
How can I get started playing pickleball?
To get started, you can find local pickleball clubs or facilities in your area and inquire about beginner-friendly sessions or lessons. Many communities offer introductory classes for newcomers.
There has been an explosion of exceptional pickleball players who have pushed the boundaries of the sport. Pro players such as these have inspired others to embrace pickleball with their skills, dedication, and passion.
It remains exciting to watch this sport grow and with it the talent of the world’s best pickleball players reach new heights in both women’s and men’s singles. We look forward to watching this amazing game and pro circuit continue to blossom.