When Tyson McGuffin and Jay Devilliers announced their partnership for 2022, there was an immediate expectation that two of the best pickleball players in the world to form one of the best teams on the pro tour.
But that is not how it is working in the first few tournaments of 2022. In fact, McGuffin & Devilliers haven’t even got close enough to the medal stand to get a sniff of it. The smell is something completely different.
Here are Tyson Mcguffin and Jay Devilliers’ results so far:
1/29 PPA Phoenix – Loss to Rob Cassidy & Chuck Taylor in round 2 (11-4, 11-4); eliminated by Dylan Frazier & JW Johnson
2/19 PPA Mesa – 4th place finish: Loss to Ben Johns & Collin Johns in winners bracket semifinal (11-1, 11-6); eliminated by Tyler Loong & AJ Koller
2/26 PPA Ororo– Loss to Chuck Taylor & Spencer Smith in round 2 (11-7, 11-5); eliminated by Riley Newman & Matt Wright
As most readers know, McGuffin spent much of 2021 playing the PPA (Professional Pickleball Association) tour with Riley Newman while Devilliers teamed with fellow Wichita resident Patrick Smith on both the PPA and APP (Association of Pickleball Professionals) tours.
Both teams found considerable success and frequent trips to the medal stand in both tours while trailing only the team of Ben Johns and Matt Wright (another Wichita resident) in podium appearances.
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With the sale of the PPA to Dundon Capital (the same Tom Dundon who is the majority owner of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, Carvana, and Top Golf, major pressure was applied to professional players to join the PPA and play their events almost exclusively.
With the financial incentives, both Devilliers and Smith, who were not under previous PPA contracts (unlike Johns, Wright, and McGuffin), signed with the PPA for the 2022 season (rumor has it that the agreements are for a minimum of three years).
When Ben Johns declared he was playing the 2022 season with older brother Collin Johns, new partnerships would have to be assembled. Newman and Wright were the next duo to align, and then McGuffin and Devilliers announced their partnership.
In what was a surprise to some pros and several fans, this left Patrick Smith without a permanent men’s doubles partner for the current PPA season.
THE DUD-NAMIC DUO: Tyson McGuffin & Jay Devilliers
Though on paper the McGuffin/Devilliers partnership appeared powerful, the results to date have been nothing short of disastrous.
The closest effort to a quality win was a three-game victory over relative newcomer Thomas Wilson and veteran workhorse John Cincola. Two top pros we talked to said they envision the struggles for McGuffin and Devilliers to continue.
Do these two incredible pickleball players just need more time to develop their partnership or, perhaps, are their playing styles too closely aligned such that their games do not complement each other? Devilliers is an incredible athlete, and his conditioning is par excellence.
At almost 6’3”, he covers the court with prowl and prowess. McGuffin shares a similar strength: his raw physical ability is a marvel and an asset. Whereas Devilliers hits consistent drop shots with the best of the pros, McGuffin drives the ball with authority, precision, and command.
Nonetheless, 90% of professional pickleball points are won/lost at the net, and this is where McGuffin and Devilliers appear to be struggling. Both men tend to play best when moving at the kitchen line—being creative and dictating the speed of play.
While this type of player is clearly needed as a part of an effective pickleball partnership, having two players with this similar style of play may not be ideal.
Neither has the lightning-fast hands that a right-side player needs to protect against attacks and speed-ups. No matter how athletic the two men are, this duo isn’t getting it done.
HOW LONG, O’ LORD?
With losses to arguably the three best teams in the world, Johns/Johns, Wright/Newman, Johnson/Frazier, McGuffin and Devilliers can say they are learning to play together and take those lumps and bumps without much shame.
On the other hand, dropping matches where they would traditionally be favored has to be disheartening to two incredibly fiery players.
Here at The Pickle Sports, we give McGuffin and Devilliers four more tournaments together to straighten things out. If they still haven’t found the medal stand, we don’t see them working together through the long summer months ahead.
That would put the over/under at seven tournaments together – do you think McGuffin and Devilliers stay partnered for more or fewer tournaments than seven if they don’t make it to the medal stand by mid-May?
Both Devilliers and McGuffin have considerable experience giving podium speeches with hardware hanging around their necks – just not as part of the same team.
We will refrain from writing them off too quickly this season. However, they will need to make considerable improvement in their approach and execution if they are going to be a serious men’s doubles contender.