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While most teens her age are attending camps and enjoying their summer vacations, Anna Leigh Waters has been touring the country playing in professional pickleball events.
The Delray Beach 14-year-old recently made history when she became the youngest player ever to win a professional pickleball singles championship.
Waters topped Catherine Parenteau (Montreal, Canada) to win the Professional Pickleball Association Takeya Showcase $90K Payout at the Tennis & Pickleball Club at Newport Beach (California).
“It feels amazing,” said Waters, who won in thrilling fashion in a 5-set match. She won the first game against the world’s third-ranked player, 11-3, but dropped the next two 11-8 and 11-9 before rallying to win the next two sets and the match 11-6, 11-2.
“I’ve been working really hard to get there and I had to beat all the top pro women singles players to get to the finals,” Waters said. “Winning my first pro singles tournament is a big step in my pickleball career.”
After falling behind 2-1 in the championship match, Waters believed she could rally to win.
“Well I knew since I had won the first game that I could still win the match and I just told myself to keep trying to execute my plan,” she said. “In the fourth game, I really did execute my plan, which gave me the confidence to finish out the fifth game by winning 11-2.
By winning the tournament, she pocketed $2,500 and also received bonuses from her sponsors. She said she saves all of her money and puts it into a savings account.
In June, Waters fell in the Pro Women’s Singles Final match to Lea Jansen, 29, at the PPA Orange County Cup in San Clemente (California), 8-11, 10-12, 11-8, 11-7, 11-8.
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“I learned a lot from my last match of being in a final and I put a lot of those things toward this match,” Waters said. “There are a lot more people coming in (to playing pickleball) and I think the sport is evolving. The sport is getting faster. Some of the points we have are really incredible.”
Anna Leigh and her mother Leigh Waters, 42, first picked up the sport in 2017 when Hurricane Irma forced them to evacuate their Delray Beach home and stay with Leigh’s parents for a couple of weeks as they waited out the storm in Pennsylvania. Leigh’s father, Neil Eichelberger, introduced them to the sport and from there they were hooked.
Anna Leigh Waters is Top 10 in the world in women’s professional pickleball and competes in all three divisions — Women’s Doubles, Mixed Doubles, and Singles. At only 14, she is the youngest professional pickleball player in history.
Anna Leigh kept playing alongside her mother and two years later, they stunned the pickleball world by defeating US Open Triple Crown winner Simone Jardim and Corrine Carr at the Florida Grand Slam.
Anna Leigh continues to rank among the best in the world, taking home gold in tournaments across the nation, including the US Open and USAPA Nationals. Anna Leigh and her mother captured the 2019 USAPA Margaritaville National Championships at Indian Wells, California.
“Since I didn’t play in 2020 due to COVID and everyone else continued to play, I had zero points coming into this tournament,” she said. “Now that I won, I have the confidence to go forward and know that I can reach the No. 1 ranking.”