Davidson Resident and His Fellow Yanks Best Europeans at International Pickleball Tourney
Forget about the Ryder Cup, where the best American and best European golfers compete every other year to bring home a trophy declaring the supremacy of their side of the Atlantic. The big important international matchup now is for the Bainbridge Cup, which goes to the top international team in the burgeoning sport of pickleball!
Not familiar with Pickleball? Think of it as “tennis lite.” Invented on Bainbridge Island, Washington state, in 1964, pickleball combines elements of badminton and table tennis on a smaller court, using paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated ball back and forth over a net. It is increasingly popular because the game’s slower pace makes it accessible to people with a wide range of athletic skill and age.
The Lake Norman area is peppered with pickleball fanatics. One of the most skilled among them is Davidson resident Johan Middelthon, who played recently on the American team that bested the European team to bring home the 2018 Bainbridge Cup.
This was just the second year of the Bainbridge Cup competition, and was played in Monte Silvano, Italy. Each side fielded 26 two-person teams in a wide range of age groups. The European players represented 18 European countries.
Middelthon was selected for the U.S. Bainbridge Cup team by its coaches, based on his outstanding performance in several regional tournaments. In the age group competition in Italy, he won four doubles matches, and he won three more in the “open” 20-and-up matches. His 4-3 record contributed to the American team’s overall 106-82-point margin of victory.
Middelthon credited his victories to his skill at playing “in the kitchen.” The kitchen is a seven-foot area of the court behind each side of the net where it’s illegal to execute a volley shot. “Careful work in the kitchen is almost like playing chess,” he said. “If you play it right you can negate an opponent’s power game and give yourself an advantage.”
Middelthon took up pickleball 16 months ago, but now plays six or seven times a week on courts in Denver, Huntersville, and Mooresville. He is also founder of the company “Black Pickle Adventure Company,” which stages tournaments for amateur and beginning players. “It’s a very social sport,” he said. “You pick up a paddle and right away you’ve got 100 friends.”
If you would like to learn more about pickleball, please email Middelthon at [email protected]
Bill Giduz was the son who followed his father’s footsteps into journalism. He has been involved his entire life with news and photography in schools he attended and jobs he’s held. He believes now that he’s got a few good years left to devote to The News of Davidson.