Q: At the 2017 USAPA Nationals you won gold in open men’s doubles with Matt Wright and silver with Simone Jardim in open mixed doubles. During your games with Matt Wright against Wes Gabrielsen and Kyle Yates the level of play was much faster with more driving shots. It seemed you would wait until the 5th shot before doing a drop shot. Was that intentional?
A: Sometimes when your opponent hits a deep, spinning return it can be hard to hit a perfect third shot in the kitchen. Wes and Kyle were hitting great returns so Matt and I decided to try driving the 3rd ball sometimes. This set us up better for the 5th ball, which we then hit as a drop shot. Either way you have to hit a drop shot at some point to come into the kitchen, but if you’re not as confident hitting it off the return, you can drive one to set yourself up for a better shot.
Q: Can you explain how pickleball is changing at the top level?
I think individual points are getting longer at the top level. No one gives you any easy points so you have to be patient, then create openings and hit them perfectly. I think you are seeing a lot fewer unforced errors.
Q: What do these changes mean for the lower skill level players? Is the 3rdshot drop no longer relevant?
A: I don’t think it’s irrelevant but lower skill level players should know that they don’t have to hit a drop shot on the 3rd shot. They can drive the 3rd shot, wait for an easier ball to come back, then hit a 5th shot drop. But you still have to hit a soft ball at some point, otherwise you can never get into the kitchen.
Q: In open mixed doubles you played with Simone Jardim and the two of you won silver. She is such a passionate player. What was it like having her as a partner? Or should I ask how much of a difference does it make who your partner is when you are playing at the top level?
A: Of course your partner makes a difference, especially when that partner is Simone. I like playing with people who get excited and have a lot of positive energy and Simone definitely has that. We fought through some fatigue at the end of the tournament, came all the way back to the final, then played a great match that we lost in a close game that went to 15 so I’m happy with the result.
Q: What changes if any do you think are needed to help facilitate the growth of pickleball as a spectator sport?
A: I think to break into the market as a major spectator sport, we have to go to rally scoring. Volleyball and badminton had to do the same thing a few years ago and they have both been fine. People say it will change the game, and it will, but I think TV audiences are impatient if there's not immediate scoring and rally scoring also makes the timing of games more predictable.
Q: What is your preferred ball?
A: I definitely prefer the outdoor Dura ball to anything else out there. I like the new Franklin ball too though
Q: Are there any drills you would recommend for players to improve their game?
A: I would just say that players at every level need to drill more. Not enough people go out there and spend time drilling. It’s definitely more fun to play games, but drilling is how you improve. Think of the skill you want to improve and try to think of a drill or game to work specifically on that.
Q: You play men’s doubles and mixed doubles with the Tempest Wave but you use to use the Bantam EXL. Can you explain the difference between the two paddles?
A: The Tempest gives me a lot more control, which I need when playing doubles. I can still generate some speed but I don’t need as much as I do in singles. With singles, I like having some more weight behind the paddle. When I’m running full speed and swinging, I need the paddle to generate some of the speed and the Bantam has done that. Having said that, I have moved to the Sabre GS lately for singles and I am really liking it. It feels more like a paddle-sized tennis racket.
Q: After your wins at Nationals many players might be wondering when your next big tournament will be. What are your upcoming tournaments?
A: Well, I’m actually not playing the US Open next year so my next tournament will be TOC. I only play about 3 tournaments a year currently so I’m right on track.
Q: Pickleball is growing all over the world. What response are you seeing in Japan and other Asian countries?
A: There has been a huge response, especially in China. They want to grow the sport and compete at the international level so that is exciting. Japan is growing too but more slowly. We have a really solid group of people there that are fun to hang out with and be around. I also live there so I help out whenever I can.
Q: You and your father do pickleball trips around the world. What pickleball adventures do you have lined up for 2018?
A: We have trips to Japan, Spain, Mexico and probably Hawaii next year with pickleball trips. On the Japan trip for example we tour the country, sightsee, play pickleball with local Japanese clubs, go out to dinner with them and make lots of friends. It’s a really cool cultural experience for people who would never have gone to Japan otherwise. We also have a lot of tours coming up in 2019 including China, somewhere else in Europe and probably Kenya for a safari pickleball trip. It’s fun getting to travel the world and play pickleball, I never thought I would be able to do this for a living.
Daniel Moore is a pro pickleball player who lives in Japan. Daniel plays with the Tempest Wave in doubles and the new Sabre GS in singles.