What Happened in the Michael Phelps vs. Larry Fitzgerald Pickleball Match?

The match we’ve all been waiting for, Hall of Famers Michael Phelps versus Larry Fitzgerald in a pickleball spectacular on Friday in Arizona, wound up being more fun and trash talk than high-level play for the two uber athletes.

It doesn’t appear that Phelps has played much pickleball, while Fitzgerald looks like he was a little more familiar with the game, but the two were both good sports about the competition, joking with their professional partners and the crowd on a jam-packed court in Phoenix.

The first match was mixed doubles play where Phelps started with 14-year old pickleball superstar Anna-Leigh Waters and Fitzgerald paired with top pro Callie Jo Smith. While most points ended with a Phelps shot long or into the net, the early effort of the 28-time Olympic medalist can’t be faulted – he wound up on the court at least once lunging for a ball.

Mid-match, partners were subbed, with Catherine Parentau subbing in to play with Fitzgerald and Lucy Kovalova joining Phelps.

Kovalova made an immediate impact, instructing Phelps and his 6’7″ wingspan to come to the net and not leave, and his play improved a little, but Fitzgerald and partners still wound up winning 11-1, 11-2, with the match ending on a Fitzgerald winner down the line.

Next up, Phelps and Fitzgerald paired up to play against pros 2 versus 1, with the pros rotating every few points. Even the advantage of an extra player couldn’t help the celebrity participants – the pros won 11-1, 11-2, 23-7.

The format broke down a little, and Fitzgerald wound up playing Anna-Leigh Waters in a singles match where he was given a 9-0 head start, and the teen phenom scored 11 straight points to win anyway.

The action starts below at the 5:37:30 mark.

This newly-announced event is part of a rapidly-evolving professional pickleball scene. The PPA Tour was founded in 2018, but recently received a major investment from billionaire Tom Dundon. Along with purchases of Pickleball Central, the sport’s biggest retailer, and PickleballTournaments.com, the sport’s biggest tournament platform, Dundon is pushing a lot of new money into the game in an evolution that feels similar to the inroads by billionaire Konstantin Grigorishin and his International Swimming League into the sport of swimming in the last few years.

Dundon is also the majority owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and of the TopGolf company, which is a chain of entertainment-focused golf driving ranges.

Besides winning a record 28 Olympic medals, 23 of which are gold, Phelps has achieved success in other sports as well. His 159-foot putt in 2012 is the longest putt ever made in a televised round of golf.

Now he’ll take to the pickleball courts where he’ll face off against future NFL Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald in a series of celebrity matches.

The 36-year old Phelps will face off against the 38-year old Fitzgerald, who played last season for the Arizona Cardinals but whose retirement from the NFL appears eminent. Fitzgerald ranks second all-time in NFL career receiving yards, second all-time in career receptions, and sixth all time in receiving touchdowns.

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6 months ago

I can’t help thinking that somebody here is jumping the shark.

Time Keeper
6 months ago

He always looked pretty uncoordinated on land like most swimmers who played nothing else growing up do. Him being good at golf is understandable but he would get picked last in our pick up basketball games.

Cate
Reply to  Time Keeper
6 months ago

He played both baseball and lacrosse as a kid. Pickleball requires some skill. If you haven’t played, you would look uncoordinated. He’s good at golf because he’s had lessons and he plays alot, like most other people, who are good at golf. However, he does have an athletic swing and good hand eye coordination

Gheko
6 months ago

He should take up mma fighting

Olympian.
6 months ago

Michael Phelps VS Jake Paul next?

Olympian.
6 months ago

Larry Fitzgerald proved himself better against MP than the History Channel’s shark

ACC fan
6 months ago

I’m truly surprised by how awful Phelps was at pickleball.

Cate
Reply to  ACC fan
6 months ago

Why? Do you believe swimming and pickleball are transferable sports?

ACC fan
Reply to  Cate
6 months ago

I believe athleticism can be transferable. Fitness level, muscle strength, speed, agility all possessed by Phelps and each important for pickleball. I’m much older and less athletic than MP and the first time I played pickleball ball I was WAY better than he demonstrated in this match. He literally hit the ball into the net multiple times. Did you watch it?

Ragnar
6 months ago

You ’bout to witness “rapidly-evolving professional pickleball scene” in its most purest
Most rawest form, flow almost flawless
Most hardest, most honest known artist
Chip off the old block, but MP is (hot)

Steve Nolan
6 months ago

You can tell Braden’s very ready to start up PicklePackle.

This broadcaster is just demolishing Phelps.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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