Major League Pickleball brings world-class team play to Pictona this week; Ben Johns returns

HOLLY HILL — It’s many of the same players and basically the same game (with a scoring twist), as big-league pickleball returns to Pictona this week under the umbrella of Major League Pickleball.

MLP includes 24 four-player teams, with two men and two women on each — 12 in its upper Premier Level, 12 in the Challenger Level — with teams squaring off in head-to-head matches: Men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and two mixed-doubles matches. If tied 2-2 after the four matches, there’s a tiebreaker to determine who advances.

The scoring is also different than normal pickleball — the “rally” format is used, where teams can win a point regardless of which team serves, with games played to 21.

Ben Johns, part of the Seattle Pioneers roster, returns this week to Pictona, where he swept all three divisions earlier this month in the PPA's Florida Open.
Ben Johns, part of the Seattle Pioneers roster, returns this week to Pictona, where he swept all three divisions earlier this month in the PPA's Florida Open.

BIG-MONEY PROJECTPictona gets $2.5M from Volusia County to double the size of pickleball facility

PICKLEBALL PALACEPictona at Holly Hill looks to double number of pickleball courts after a year in business

Returning to Holly Hill as headliner this week is the world’s top player, Ben Johns, who swept all three events two weeks ago during the PPA’s Red Clay Florida Open — singles, doubles and mixed. Johns competes for the Seattle Pioneers franchise, which opens play at 8 a.m. Friday morning against the Milwaukee Mashers.

The Professional Pickleball Association merged with MLP last fall, bringing together the world’s top pro tour with the MLP, which has gained a high profile due to a number of celebrities and athletes who have joined the roster of franchise owners.

Among the team owners in the 12-team Premier Level: Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas), Tom Brady (Las Vegas), Drew Brees (Los Angeles), and LeBron James (New York). The Challenger Level ownership roster includes Patrick Mahomes (Miami), Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona) and Heidi Klum, Chris Evert and Tracy Austin (Chicago).

The 2023 MLP season consists of a pair of three-tournament mini-seasons — Season 1 and Season 2. This week is the second event of Season 1.

The 12 Challenger teams are alone on the courts Thursday, while the Premier foursomes begin tournament play Friday.


All matches will be played on four courts in Pictona’s new section — the Championship Court, Grandstand Court, and Courts 3 and 4.


12 Challenger Level teams compete, with matches starting from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Challenger Level quarterfinals at 10 a.m., semifinals at 4 p.m.

Premier Level matches begin at 8 a.m. and final matches start at 6 p.m.


Challenger Level finals at 2 p.m.

Premier Level Round 3 matches from 8 a.m. to noon; quarterfinals start at 4 and 6 p.m.


Premier Level semifinals start at 9 and 11 a.m.; finals at 3 p.m.


Thursday: Free.

Friday through Sunday: A daily grounds pass is $32 each day. Courtside VIP boxes, for the championship court, with access to a dining tent, include four seats and are $1,500 each day.

More info:


Rosters for Major League Pickleball’s 12 Premier Level franchises, which will be competing this week at Pictona in Holly Hill.

Group A

California BLQK Bears: Maggie Brascia, Dylan Frazier, Andrea Koop, Federico Staksrud.

Frisco Clean: Yana Grechkina, Zane Navratil, Lina Padegimaite, Matt Wright.

Milwaukee Mashers: Andrei Daescu, Lucy Kovalova, Callie Jo Smith, DJ Young.

Seattle Pioneers: Meghan Dizon, Ben Johns, Tyler Loong, Etta Wright.

Group B

Las Vegas Night Owls: Dekel Bar, Vivienne David, Lauren Stratman, Kyle Yates.

New Jersey 5’s: James Ignatowich, Lea Jansen, Hayden Patriquin, Anna-Leigh Waters.

New York Hustlers: Anna Bright, Rafa Hewett, Tyson McGuffin, Lacy Schneemann.

Southern Cal Hard Eights: Mary Brascia, AJ Koller, Lindsey Newman, Riley Newman.

Group C

ATX (Austin) Pickle Ballers: JW Johnson, Jackie Kawamoto, Jade Kawamoto, Gabriel Tardio.

Florida Smash: Jessie Irvine, Collin Johns, Jorja Johnson, Travis Rettenmaier.

Los Angeles Mad Drops: Julian Arnold, Catherine Parenteau, Irina Tereschenko, Thomas Wilson.

St. Louis Shock: Jay Devilliers, Simone Jardim, Allyce Jones, Erik Bjorn Lange.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Major League Pickleball brings team play to Pictona; Ben Johns returns