Pickleball is still new compared to other sports, and you may not know what players to look out for. There are many pickleball tournaments, and many players have become champions.
This post will examine the champions you should look out for.
If you want to know which players you should watch to improve your game, we’ve compiled a list of the ten best pickleball champions in the world.
With the help of our guide, you should be able to improve in singles or doubles by seeing how they play.
1. Ben Johns
Ben Johns is one of the biggest names in the world of pickleball. Among all the players ranked by the PPA and global rankings, he is number one in doubles, mixed doubles, and singles.
Born in 1999, he became a professional at 17 years old after first playing it on vacation in Florida.
The same year he began, he placed fifth in the Men’s Pro Singles. Barely a year passed when he earned gold in that same category.
Since he started his career, he’s won over 50 medals and was the first man to win a triple crown in one of the world’s three biggest pickleball events, the Tournament of Champions. In 2021, he would win the triple crown in the U.S. Open.
While playing mixed doubles, he is partnered with Anna Leigh Waters and was previously partnered with Simone Jardin. During doubles, he partners with his older brother: Collin Johns.
2. Anna Leigh Waters
Anna Leigh Waters was the youngest professional pickleball player in the world, having begun her career in 2019 at 12. Born in 2007, she is a regular doubles partner of her mother, Leigh Waters.
Anna Leigh and her mother are the only mother-daughter duo in professional pickleball.
She has won the 2021 doubles national championship and gold in singles at several tournaments, including the Newport Beach Showcase, Orlando Cup, Texas Open, and the Margaritaville USA Pickleball Nationals Championship.
She also won the bronze medal in singles at the U.S. Open that same year. She also won bronze and silver in mixed doubles and set doubles in the Acrytech Atlanta Open.
As of 2022, Anna Leigh Waters is the number-one player in the world for doubles, mixed doubles, and women’s singles. When playing mixed doubles, she is partnered with Ben Johns.
3. Simone Jardim
Born in 1979, Simone Jardim was ranked the number one woman player in the world from 2016 to 2020. She became a professional player in 2015, and it became her full-time profession in 2016 when she won her first U.S.
Open in women’s singles. She would then earn the triple crown in the U.S. Open in 2018.
In 2021, she stepped away from women’s singles and focused on her doubles career instead. She would play with her former student, Lucy Kovalova, for set doubles and pair with Ben Johns for mixed doubles.
Over the years, she has won 32 titles and was ranked number one in women’s doubles and mixed doubles with her partners by the PPA.
After the 2022 season, Simone Jardim retired from pickleball. However, you can still find her teaching pickleball to aspiring players on YouTube and through her yearly camps.
4. Collin Johns
Collin Johns is the doubles partner of Ben Johns, as well as his older brother. He used to play tennis professionally before focusing on pickleball in 2018.
After a year of playing casually, he would begin his professional pickleball career in 2019. By the end of his 2022 season, he was ranked the fifth-best doubles player in the world.
While he doesn’t specialize in singles matches, Collin Johns has won roughly 27 professional titles with his younger brother. As he only began in 2018, he has been quickly shooting up the ranks.
He attributes his success to his prior experience in tennis and table tennis and his brother’s tutelage.
Outside of championships, he coaches tennis, pickleball, and platform tennis. However, nowadays, he devotes more of his time to pickleball (see also: Is Pickleball Ready For Prime Time?)and even is a co-owner and founder of Pickleball 360, a video subscription service used to help you learn the sport.
5. Lucy Kovalova
Born in Slovakia, Lucy Kovalova was a Junior National tennis team member, and she moved to the U.S. to play at a college level for Wichita State. One day, she was introduced to pickleball, and in 2016, she switched to playing professionally.
She is one of the best women players in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. She used to partner with Simone Jardim before Jardim’s retirement. She also does mixed doubles with her long-time partner, Matt Wright.
While she doesn’t specialize in singles, she remains in the top 5 mixed doubles rankings with Matt Wright and the top three in set doubles. Outside of pickleball, she is known to teach it at the Wichita country club, where she works.
Zane Navratil was born in 1995 and started playing professional pickleball in 2020. In his youth, he won three state championships in tennis for The Prairie School and would continue to play at a collegiate level for UW-Whitewater.
In high school, he held no interest in pickleball but was convinced after being defeated by three older men and started treating it more seriously in 2018.
Since he became a professional pickleball player, he has been a consistent presence in the world singles rankings and has won two Major League Pickleball championships.
Nowadays, Zane Navratil doesn’t only enter tournaments but teaches players tips through YouTube videos and even created his own new spin serve. However, this spin serve would later be banned in tournaments.
7. JW Johnson
JW Johnson was nineteen when he won the men’s singles title, and he is one of the top players in this division. As part of the Johnson family, he, his mother, and his sister can be found on the national ranking boards.
The family all began to play when they moved to Florida from Kansas to get to know others in the community. Pickleball was the best place to start, as they always had a passion for racket sports.
He used to be number one for men’s pickleball, but he is now in the top three, which is impressive considering his young age. Over the years, he has won roughly 50 medals and has three triple crowns.
JW Johnson isn’t only good at singles but also a strong doubles player. You can find him in many tournaments; he even collaborates with Franklin Sports.
8. Catherine Parenteau
Born in 1994, Catherine Parenteau is one of the most well-known players in women’s pickleball. She consistently ranked in the top five players for tennis in Canada but has since found a liking for pickleball.
When she was studying at Michigan State University, her coach, Simone Jardim, introduced her to pickleball, and she immediately fell in love with the sport. Within six months of learning the sport, she competed in the U.S.
Open and won the 5.0 mixed bracket. After this, she trained hard until she claimed the U.S. Open Pro Women’s Doubles title with Callie Smith.
Nowadays, she can be found traveling the country, playing at various professional events, and teaching others about pickleball. She is now a certified instructor and dedicates much of her time to teaching others.
9. Tyson McGuffin
Tyson McGuffin is one of the best players in pickleball and is at the top bracket (see also: How To Use Pickleball Brackets [Ultimate Guide])of all three divisions. However, he is now famous for his rivalry with Ben Johns. He is known for being an ambassador for the sport and is involved in all areas of the sport.
Over the years, he has built formidable partnerships with other players to perform in doubles. Throughout his career, he has partnered with Riley Newman, Jay Devilliers, Lea Jansen, Lauren Stratman, and Tyler Loong.
When you don’t see him in tournaments, you’ll find McGuffin running clinics and releasing instructional videos about the sport. He firmly believes that anyone can learn and enjoy pickleball, which shows in his actions.
10. Lea Jansen
Born in 1992, Lea Jansen is a competitive and fiery player. She moved to Texas to improve her skills, and before this, she competed in tennis from the age of eight.
Over the years, she was a top-ranking tennis player of the Pacific Northwest and would go to play at a collegiate level at Washington State University.
In 2019, she began to play pickleball and became a full-time professional in 2021. She has received medals in numerous tournaments, including two PPA gold medals at the Orange County Cup and the Rocky Mountain Championship.
If you want to improve in pickleball, consider checking out these champions and how they play. As you can see, many pickleball players are still young, so it defies the expectation that pickleball is only for older players.
When playing pickleball, you can also learn by watching other players. If you watch the champions at work, you should be able to learn more to improve.