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U.S. Open Pickleball Championships back in Naples

It's not tennis, ping-pong, or's Pickleball!
Posted at 8:38 PM, Apr 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 06:07:26-04

NAPLES, Fla. — For the 6th year in a row, the Minto U.S. Open Pickleball Championships is back in Naples and bigger than ever.

Pickleball quickly becoming the fastest-growing court, according to Yahoo Finance - is a mix of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. Unlike tennis, it's on a shorter court and the pace is much faster. Like ping pong, players use paddles to hit a plastic ball with holes in it.

"We have over 100 pros playing for up to $100,000 dollars this year," said Terri Graham, Co-Founder of the US Open Pickleball Championships. "We started last year with 2,100 players and this year we have 2,800 in the event, plus we have a ton of spectators."

And for one team, it's a family affair. Mother-Daughter duo Julie and Jorja Johnson played in the new Split Age Pro Division.

"I'm competing in Split Age Women's Doubles with my mom," 15-year-old Jorja Johnson said. "That means one senior pro plays with one regular pro under 50 and they compete with other teams matched up the same way."

"We are thrilled to be here at the U.S. open together today," added mom Julie Johnson.

The pair ended up winning their first game Tuesday, which had to happen for 15-year-old Jorja, because on the other side of the tournament, her brother James 'JW' Johnson was also competing.

"I was hoping so, I didn't want to hear about it later," Jorja said.

James Johnson was also played in the Split Age Men's Division and also won that game.

"It was a lot of fast action up in the net as well as a lot of quick movement there, so it's a lot of fun for the elderly and the young too," Johnson said.

It's not only fun for the family, but for Collier County - it's a huge economic impact, as explained by Collier County Commissioner Penny Taylor spectating at the event Tuesday.

"Last year brought in $9 million, can't sneeze at that can you," Commissioner Taylor said.

The U.S. Open Pickleball Championships are at the East Naples Community Park all week through Saturday, April 30th. If you are interested in going, there is no cost to the public. Click here for more information on the event.