JoAnne Russell of Linville Ridge Takes Gold, Bronze at US Open Pickleball Championships

Published Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at 11:46 am

JoAnne Russell, 61, won the Wimbledon doubles championship with partner Helen Gourlay in 1977, upsetting the top seeded team of Martina Navratilova and Betty Stove in the final and the No. 2 seeded duo of Chris Evert and Rosie Casals in the first round. She played professionally for 13 years and is now a teaching professional at Linville Ridge in Linville, NC and Grey Oaks Country Club in Naples, FL, but tennis is not her only sport.  Russell also plays pickleball.

Dominic Catalano & JoAnne Russell US Open Pickleball 2016

Dominic Catalano & JoAnne Russell US Open Pickleball 2016

Pickleball, sometimes described as “ping pong on steroids,” has elements of tennis, ping pong and badminton. The sport was created in 1965 and has become immensely popular over the last decade. “I thought it was the weirdest thing,” Russell said of her initial reaction to the sport’s name. As for how it got its name, no theories can be substantiated.

Russell began playing pickleball last January when a member of her club began inquiring about the sport. She decided to take a crash course and she’s now an accomplished player.

Russell recently competed in the first-ever US OPEN Pickleball Championships held April 26 through May 1, 2016, in Naples, Florida, winning the gold medal with Dominic Catalano in the 4.5 Mixed Doubles Skill Group defeating Kristen Meyer and Archie Adams, 11-2, 11-7 and the bronze medal with Nancy Robertson in the 60+ Women’s Doubles Age Group defeating Jo Ellen Southerland and Ann Penstone, 11-4, 11-1.

Unlike tennis where powerful serves can make for very short rallies, long rallies are a regular feature of pickleball.  For starters, overhead serves are not allowed, serves must be underhand and good players need a range of shots. “You have to dink, you have to lob. . .It’s really about skill and touch,” Russell said.  And the learning curve, she added, “Anybody can play.” That’s a point other players also make. Pickleball is a very easy sport to learn, it’s fun, addictive and can be played by people of all ages and athletic abilities.

Linville Ridge is currently building four PicklePave® pickleball courts for the 2016 season.  “The surface by California Sports Surfaces, the world leader in athletic surfacing, is “fully endorsed by the USA Pickleball Association,” says Steve Sheets, Property & Operation Director at Linville Ridge.  PicklePave is a durable, 100% acrylic textured surface, which will provide superior, consistent footing for the game.

Russell added that she has fun playing pickleball no matter what she’s up against – somebody much younger or older, better or worse and is “incredibly excited that Linville Ridge is adding Pickleball to their array of family activities on the mountain. . .Families are going to love this sport!” Russell said.

About Pickleball

Pickleball, a racquet sport blending elements of tennis, ping pong and badminton, was created in 1965, in which two to four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a polymer perforated ball (similar to a wiffle ball) over a net. The court is similar in dimension to a doubles badminton court, measuring 20 by 44 feet (about a quarter the size of a tennis court) and a net and rules similar to tennis with a few modifications. According to a study by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country with 2.5 million people playing in 2015 and that number is expected to increase to 8 million by 2018.

About Linville Ridge

Linville Ridge is an established private residential community near Blowing Rock, North Carolina – a short drive from Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, Winston-Salem and Asheville.  Developed by The Lutgert Companies in 1982, Linville Ridge boasts the highest elevation golf course east of the Mississippi River which was redesigned by Bobby Weed Golf Design in 2009; five dining venues; eight Har-Tru® tennis courts; four DecoTurf® pickleball courts; two regulation–sized croquet lawns; bocce, heated mountainside swimming pool; hiking trails; youth activities; and a full service hair salon and spa. Linville Ridge Country Club offers a variety of membership categories for golf and social members alike. Linville Ridge offers a range of ownership opportunities from estate homes, mountain cottages, town homes and homesites, through their on-site brokerage, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. For more information,

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