Saturday 24th September marks the conclusion of the third edition of World Pickleball Championship (WPC) after 5 days of high quality competitive pickleball.
As much of Asia begins to emerge from lockdown, restrictions on travelling under Covid-19 is becoming much less of an obstacle for most countries. What better place to hold the WPC series than Bali, Indonesia, a land where the sun shines approximately 320 days throughout the year.
For the second time, WPC was sanctioned by Asia Federation of Pickleball (AFP). Jimmy Tan, AFP CEO together with AFP Associates members, Mr. Cak Susilo (Indonesia Pickleball Federation), Mr. Napajorn Yontarak and Ms. Thitiworada Nakarawong (Thai Pickleball Association) and Mr Jan Papi (Founder of Pickleball Global) formed the tournament committee to run this huge event.
A total of 351 players from 15 countries, playing 32 divisions and a grand finale Team challenge on the last day. The tournament committee, together with 35 officials, officiated 1,371 matches for this 5 days event.
The organizer painstakingly choose only the best venue for this tournament. LIGA Tennis Centre, which situated in Sanur, fits the bill perfectly. Sanur is a seaside town in the southeast of the island of Bali. The sunrise along the beaches of Sanur is a sight to behold. Jan Papi, the organizer of WPC will tell you "it's once in a lifetime experience". No wonder Bali is known as the land of the Gods. Looking at the sheer natural beauty of the lush terraced rice paddy fields that exude peace and tranquility will have you in absolute awe.
LIGA tennis courts are the best in Bali. These were converted into temporary pickleball courts for the purpose of this tournament. In addition, the management resurfaced its clay tennis court into 2 permanent international standard pickleball courts, liken to the ones at Minto, home of the US Nationals. Such a smart move, given the rapid growth of pickleball world wide. LIGA management has the foresight looking to maximize the value of their real estate - compare to a tennis court, pickleball court occupy about a fourth of the square footage.
On opening day, Jolene Tan from Singapore, welcoming the dignitaries and AFP ( Asia Federation of Pickleball ) executives. The following folks were introduced to the competitors, supporters, and officials :
Professor Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati (Vice Governor)
I gusti Nugraha Adyana (Representative Sport Committee of Bali)
Jan Papi (Founder of Pickleball Global)
Jimmy Tan (CEO of Asia Federation of Pickleball)
Professor Doctor Nurhasan M.Kes (President of Indonesia Pickleball Federation)
Professor Susilo (Secretary General of Indonesia Pickleball Federation)
And WPC Committee.
After opening addresses by the VIPs, the national anthem, "Indonesia Raya" were played.
Game On with men's singles to start the tournament. Excitement throughout the tournament from the opening game on day 1, reaching the climax with the team event on day 5, with Team US-India-Singapore winning the prestigious trophy, followed by Team India second, and Team Australia and Team Taiwan equal third.
With over 351 competitors, paddle in hand, chasing, hitting, caressing this yellowish color ball with 40 holes, for 5 straight days; one cannot help but to ask the question what it is about this game, that makes it so addictive ... almost like a weekly ritual to many players, that they keep on coming back for more?
My own conclusion is that I can actually play all four sports at one go: table tennis, badminton, tennis, and also squash, because in squash, the ball keeps on coming back ! What could be better? In all seriousness, I like to think that smart people with high IQs play this game because you seldom get the same shot twice in a row. Always a different height, speed and angle. It requires practice which yields exercise without feeling like you are working out. You can burn up to 350 calories per hour playing this game. Means I can drink Coke and eat New York style cheesecake without any guilt. It also provides me with plenty of opportunity to laugh at myself, which I dearly need to do on a daily basis.
Pickleball is a perfect way to meet new friends, and catching up with old friends for a chat. After all, the kitchen is only seven feet from the net, close enough to each other to have a meaningful conversation.....
A word of warning to potential picklers : it's almost a guarantee that you will have a hoarse voice because you are constantly shouting and laughing, to the extent that you won't be able to sing Phantom of the Opera anymore while having a shower.
To run a tournament of this magnitude, it takes much effort from the organizer to put it together. It demands a huge commitment. Not a job for the faint hearted. Thank you Jan, Jimmy, Susilo and your team of volunteer referees, technical officers and line judges mainly from the host country Indonesia. Much appreciated.
A big shout out to the live streaming technical set up crew, good work.
Scott Golden, the golden voice of Asia pickleball....thank you for camping behind the microphone for hours, bringing the big games live to our living room over the 5 days. Your knowledge of the game is an eye opener for many of us. The ability for pickleball to find an audience via social media is unprecedented. There is no better or quicker way to publicize and promote this game than live broadcasting. Good work, mate. You definitely deserve that vegemite sambo.
Finally, without the 350 plus players here in Bali, who are the backbone of any tournament, there will be no WPC in any shape or form. For many of you, your desire to compete is only second to your love of the sport. A lot of people world wide are getting into pickleball in recent years (this sport is the fastest growing sport in the US), because like you guys, they love the game....its all over the place in a good way. As competitors by nature, you embrace rivalry by competing in tournaments such as this one in Bali, at the same time, ever mindful of the unwritten rule of all competitions : Sportsmanship, fair play, and humility , all of which sit above medals. Well done, guys. Thank you so much for your steadfast support.
World pickleball governing bodies are aiming for inclusion in the 2028 Olympics as a demonstration sport. For now, pickleball fans are just happy that more players are finding their way to a sport that brings people together.
Stay happy, stay safe, and stay healthy picklers. See you all in the next AFP event.
Editor: John Ng
Photo credits: Jolene Tan