Pickleball McNasty Who is Pickleball McNasty?

Pickleball McNasty Matt Manasse Jun 01, 2021
Who is Pickleball McNasty?

My journey from newbie to pro in 151 days.

My name is Matt Manasse but everyone in pickleball has a clever nickname so feel free to call me Pickleball McNasty. The word “community” is so important to me because that is what has drawn me to pickleball and has kept me so invested in it. I love the people I play with and I am so grateful for all the new people that have come into my life because of the sport.

It is my hope that Royal Pickleball becomes an extended family for you where you can fully immerse yourself in the game, expand your own community, and look, feel, and play like a pro.

With that, I would love to share how my pickleball journey started. Like many, it started on a tennis court...

My pickleball story started out in March 2020 in Indian Wells, CA at The BNP Paribas Open, a WTA 1000 event, where I was coaching Shelby Rogers, an american professional tennis player. COVID-19 hit the desert, the tournament was cancelled, Shelby and I split, and I flew home to Boca Raton, FL...for 5 hours.

My mom thought I had been exposed to the virus and was afraid I’d give it to her. I believe her exact words were “go to your room, throw your clothes in the wash, and don’t pet the dog”. Well, the dog was too cute so I pet him but I ended up flying to my childhood home in Erie, PA later that day where I would spend the next 4-5 months alone in quarantine. Little did I know that this would be such a blessing in disguise.

My first few weeks were filled with horrendous cooking of my own doing, filming endless TikToks, and watching Dr. Fauci explain to me that this schedule wasn’t going to end anytime soon. Luckily, the weather in dreary Erie was surprisingly good in early April and the aging tennis community invited me to a game of pickleball. I had played once before so I understood the basic concepts but I felt like I could handle my own from the beginning. Maybe it was because of my tennis background combined with my naturally quick hands or because I was younger than everyone on the court by at least 15 years, but I was hooked. I went to Lowes the next day and bought multicolored duct tape to construct a court at home. Imagine Kevin McCallister (Home Alone) doing something productive—that was me.

Getting the lines set up by myself in 35 degree weather wasn’t the easiest process in the world but as most things in life, you just get it done.

Although the lines were set up, I didn’t even have a real net yet. I borrowed a quick-start tennis net from the local country club that we put on cinder blocks to get the correct height. Then we tied one corner of the net to the fence to make sure it had enough tension. The setup wasn’t pretty in the slightest but we were committed to playing. 3-4 times a week turned into 5-6 times a week and I even recruited some of my best non-tennis friends to play. All 8 of them got hooked as well.

The "original" makeshift pickleball court at Matt's parents' house in Erie, PA.

I spent my birthday in May on a pickleball court and most of my summer days for that matter. Sure, there is beer and food involved at times (Labatt Blue Light if you’re wondering), but I don’t think that is what makes pickleball the fastest growing sport in the US. I think everyone at any level of athletic ability can go on the court with friends and enjoy it. Whether you’re a beginner to racket sports or someone like me, aspiring to climb the pro ranks, pickleball brings out your competitive fire and gives you something to work towards. Plus, the warm-up never takes too long!

But back to my journey, I was self-proclaimed the best pickleball player in town sometime in late June. I had the competitive itch and I wanted to see how I stacked up against the pros. A great friend of mine, Tony Giannoni, had been seeing my IG stories (since I’m an influencer now 🤣) and told me I should come down to Florida for a tournament. I declined but told him I wanted to play soon. Fast forward to late July with an introduction by Tony, I was on the phone with the Florida gator legend Ryan Sherry talking about partnering up for a pro event in Newport Beach, CA in August. Ryan, being the mover and shaker that he is, flew me down to Florida to train in Ft. Myers for the week.

Posing for a picture with Simone Jardim, Ben Johns and fellow pickleballers at the Orlando clinic. That's me in the AO shirt with a big smile on my face.

We got in some great games before I was introduced to Simone Jardim and Ben Johns. In case you didn’t know, they are kind of good at pickleball. I decided to sign up for a clinic they were hosting in Orlando and they even drove me there. Getting to stay with and learn from the best two pickleball players in the world after just a few months of playing was invaluable. Besides picking up a Starbucks addiction from them, I can promise you it was well worth the trip.

I signed up for the professional event in Newport Beach in August, so I went out West on Marriott Points and a dream. I decided to travel to California early to get some training in between frequent visits to In-and-Out Burger. Another good friend, Wes Burrows, is basically the mayor of Southern California pickleball and he was able to get me into the best games in the area. Despite cramping from playing so much, I had a blast and I was officially a pickleball junkie. The tournament was extremely fun and I realized I could compete at the pro level.

Just finished a great training session with my doubles partner Ryan Sherry and Doug Ellin, the creator and producer of the popular HBO series Entourage.

Before the end of the year, I have competed in 2 more PPA Events in Atlanta and Las Vegas. I have played against the top 4 players in the world in competition and have even been featured on ESPN 3 for a match. Not too shabby for starting in April. Don’t ask the outcome of those matches, that’s not that important yet haha.

My pickleball story just began in March and I think it’s still the beginning for me professionally. If guys like Matt Wright and Dave Weinbach can serve as an example, I hope to have many years left playing at a high level—as long as my 3rd shot drop doesn’t fail me!

That being said, my playing career in the sport isn’t what is most important to me now. I began describing my journey with the word “community” and that is still what drives me. The pickleball community is so unique and so inviting that you wake up each day excited to play and create new memories. My original group of picklers in my hometown is one that I’ll be close with forever. Heck, one of them is my business partner here at Royal Pickleball. I am now living in California and this new group of picklers has taken me in as their own too. That immediate connection and community environment is what led me to create the idea of Royal Pickleball. No matter your journey or story into the game, I want to help create a community that you feel comfortable in while playing and improving in the sport we all love.

Again, thank you for joining me here at Royal Pickleball and as always, stay out of the kitchen!

Matt "Pickleball McNasty" Manasse