Venice Beach will host the US Open National Championship Pop Tennis/Paddle Tennis tournament on November 6-7, 2021.  It will be the first national championship held in Venice Beach since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic. All of the major Pop Tennis/paddle tennis organizations nationwide are cooperating to support the event to ensure its success.  

Pop Tennis (also known as paddle tennis) is a sport scored the same as tennis but played with paddles on a court about 60% the size of a tennis court.  Similar to Pickleball in court size, paddle tennis has been played since 1898 and is played with a tennis ball, making it more like tennis than Pickleball which uses a plastic ball similar to a Wiffle ball.  The 11 Venice Beach courts adjacent to the Venice Beach boardwalk are known as the “Mecca of Paddle Tennis” and most of the world’s top players can be found playing there regularly since the 1960s when the first three Venice Beach courts were built.  

Like the grand slam tennis event – the US Open – the US Open Nationals will feature many of the paddle sport’s top players who are coming from across the country to compete for the national championship.  The doubles tournament is open to players at all levels and features Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Doubles categories.  The Open category, the highest level, will offer prize money.  The A Level is for advanced players or older former open players while the B Level is for intermediate and beginner level players.

“I’m very excited to compete for the Nationals and thrilled that the different paddle groups are working with the City to bring our sport back for our players and fans,” said Daniel Wulff, a top Open player from Venezuela.  Known in the community as “Wulff,” he is also a popular leader in the Venice Beach paddle community and founder of Street Paddle, a movement formed during the pandemic when the streets and parking lots were used to play the sport while all the city courts were closed. 

To hold the tournament during the pandemic, the groups are working hand-in-hand with the City of Los Angeles Venice Beach Recreation Center and will follow protocols set up by the City to ensure a safe event.  This cooperation with the City working with this many paddle tennis organizations is unprecedented and the groups credit Sonya Young-Jimenez, Venice Beach Superintendent and Melody Valenzuela Gutierrez, Senior Recreation Director, City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks for helping bring the Nationals to fruition.

“We have been working very hard with the City to make this tournament happen so our sport won’t suffer two years without our national championship,” said Christine Lee of Pop Paddle Venice whose organization is run by a core group of five individuals along with many dedicated volunteers who have helped run fun and popular tournaments since May 2019.  

A very important stepping-stone for the Nationals was the success of the First Annual Venice Beach Summer Sports Day on August 21, 2021.  Held in conjunction with the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, Venice Beach Recreation Center, and L.A. City Council District 11 and sponsored by Councilman Mike Bonin, the event brought the various paddle organizations together to showcase the courts and the sport.  It drew record crowds and featured many different Venice Beach organizations. 

“The pandemic has caused some of our groups to work together instead of competing against each other because at the end of the day we all want our great sport to thrive.  It truly is the best tennis-related sport for spectators due to the incredible speed of the ball in a tight space.  It makes Pickleball seem like it’s in slow-motion,” said Daryl Lemon, president of the United States Paddle Tennis Association (USPTA).  Lemon and the long-standing USPTA were instrumental in holding the US Open in time for this year and Lemon will serve as a Tournament Director along with Daniel Wulff.  

In September, many of the organizations and top players met in St. Augustine Florida for the National St. Augustine Beach POP Tennis Tournament over Labor Day Weekend in Florida.  The tournament, played on the hard sands of St. Augustine Beach, was a great success. 

Coming together In St. Augustine after a year off enabled the groups to connect and understand that by working together, they could pull off a major event like the US Open in very little time.  

The paddle organizations supporting the tournament are Pop Paddle Venice, United States Paddle Tennis Association, Street Paddle, POP Tennis, St. Augustine Beach Florida POP Tennis Association, PTBrandVenice, Michigan POP Tennis and Hit With Marcus. For those interested in sponsoring the tournament, please contact Pop Paddle Venice on Instagram or Daniel Wulff @ 305-773-5267.

The tournament will be located at the Venice Beach Paddle Tennis Courts at 1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, Ca 90291. Those interested may register online at www.streetpaddle.co.  The entry deadline is November 3, 2021. 

Submitted by Steve Gumplo