Meet The Pros: Rafael Siebenschein
Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?
2016 Tournament Of Champions - Mixed Open with Simone Jardim, Silver
2016 US OPEN - Mixed Doubles Pro Event with Corrine Carr– Bronze
2015 USAPA Nationals – Mixed Doubles Open with Simone Jardim - Gold
2015 USAPA Nationals - Mixed Age 19+ with Gigi LeMaster - Silver
2015 USAPA Nationals - Men's Doubles Age 19+ with Rob Elliott - Bronze
What paddle do you play with and why?
The Engage Encore. I think it's got the best surface for former tennis players to allow for optimal balance of power, touch and topspin.
What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?
I started playing in Grand Rapids, MI, in spring of 2013. There was a park with pickleball courts just down the hill from a place I moved to and my landlord suggested I give it a try when I told him I missed playing tennis. I also met my wife, Corrine Carr Siebenschein, through pickleball.
What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?
I definitely prefer playing outdoors. Indoor pickleball is often tricky due to the different ball(s) and having to deal with multiple drawn lines and the glare of a wooden court.
Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?
I like them both. Coming from tennis, I enjoy playing singles every now and then as it's very fast and a great workout. It's quite hard to find people to play with though. Overall, I do prefer doubles as the rallies last much longer and require a lot of patience and finesse.
What’s your favorite place to play? Why?
I really enjoyed playing at Belknap Park in Grand Rapids. The facility has come a long way and it's fun playing with the people who introduced me to the game. I also enjoy the big tournaments - the US Open, TOC, Nationals - as they generally attract all the top players and the facilities are getting better each year!
What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?
I think the combination of a tennis background and the Engage Encore Paddle enable me to hit with more topspin than most players. This enables me, especially on my forehand, to hit the ball at a high speed with relatively short travel distance.
And patience! For players from a racket sport background, I would recommend finding some top-level players to play against. Playing against weaker players, many tennis players think that the key is to hit as hard as possible. For me, practicing with Kyle Yates and Matt Staub in The Villages back in the day for the first time really was an eye-opener. I recognized the importance of dinking and being able to keep the ball in play while waiting for the opportune time to be aggressive.
What’s your day job?
I am working in IT as a Systems Developer and Analyst.
How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?
Since we've moved to West Virginia this past summer I hardly get to play - mainly due to difficulties finding outdoor courts and time constraints. Ideally, I would like to play once a week or so for maybe 2 hours.
Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?
Tennis players are often superstitious and have rituals they go through before every match. However, I don't think any of these have transferred to pickleball for me. Generally, I try to just eat as much as possible for breakfast as tournament days are usually quite long with little time to grab food between matches.
Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?
Become more patient and consistent. And play more than once every couple of months!
Anything else you’d like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?
One of my favorite things about the sport is the pickleball community. In tournaments, everybody fights hard and competes against each other. But at the end of the day, people hang out, get a drink and have a blast together. In rare instances, you may even get to listen to Daniel Moore sing karaoke. I've had fun at every tournament I've traveled to, even when not performing as well in an event as I had hoped! I've met many amazing friends through the sport - including my wife. ;)