2019 Valentine Open Preview

Rocky Carson looks to go back to back. Photo courtesy of Rocky’s twitter @rockycarsonRB

The IRT returns to Laurel, MD for the second year in a row for the 2019 Valentine Open, named after its tournament director Tracie D Valentine and her daughter Imanii Valentine. The tour is back at one of the legendary east coast venues of Sportfit Laurel for this event.

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30994

Lets preview the draw. there’s 33 players entered this year including a ton of internationals and some MD/VA/PA locals. As noted last week, there’s some movement in the top 8, notably Parrilla taking over 3rd and Montoya moving into 7th … but the “flip” seeding is in place here so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled from their normal spots.

Missing top players: The biggest name missing is #6 Daniel De La Rosa who misses the event sandwiched in between 3-wall in Vegas and a major pickleball event, so he may have had to take a schedule break. We’re also missing a lot of tour regulars from last season in the 11-20 range, including #11 Jose Diaz, #13 David ” Bobby” Horn, and #18-20 Charlie PrattJansen Allen and Felipe Camacho. Two tourneys missed in a row for these guys: it look like maybe there’s a changing of the guard on tour.

Here’s some round of 64 matches to watch for:

– MoMo Zelada versus Kyle Ulliman: Zelada plays on his home courts and gets the traveling Ulliman, who returns to Laurel for the 2nd year in a row. Could be a tight one.
– MD native Jamal Harris takes on The Ref, Scott McClellan in an opener. Hopefully McClellan doesn’t have any avoidables taken away from him… (inside joke on a FB discussion after last event).
– Veteran Bolivian Kadim Carrasco takes on 18U local player Dylan Pruitt also playing on his home courts.
– Justus Benson takes on a tough lefty from Pennsylvania Geoff Heskett.

Projecting the 32s:
– #16 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez vs #17 Carlos Keller Vargas; 16/17 matches are always tough, and this South American battle will be no different. Garay was just crowned Colombian Champ, while Keller is the 2-time reigning Pan American Racquetball Championships winner. I like Garay in a tie-breaker and I like seeing him make a push on tour early.
– #9 Mario Mercado vs #24 Zelada: just another night at the club for these two native Bolivians, who both lived in the DC area for a while and got more than a few local tournament match-ups. Mercado has been playing solid lately and will look to advance.
– #14 Andres Acuña vs #19 Carrasco: another international flavor match between two guys who have never managed to meet.
– #15 Thomas Carter vs #18 Benson: Just like the 16/17, the 15/18 meeting will be tight as well. I like Carter here to return to the 16s in Laurel.

Projecting the Main draw: assuming seeds hold in the qualifiers, here’s some fun 16s to look for:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #16 Garay: I can’t wait to see Kane taking on a good young hard hitting player like Garay. If its Keller instead, we’re talking about a solid tactician unmoved by power play given how much he plays @Luis Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo back home. Either way, a great round of 16 that’s likely on the show/streaming court.
– #8 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #9 Mercado; Montoya missed a chance in the 8/9 match last tourney … now he gets a match against a guy who beat him in Lima just a few weeks ago. Look for a solid match but Montoya to advance.
– #6 Samuel Murray vs #11 Lalo Portillo; upset warning: Portillo beat Murray in California in Jan 2019 and has done nothing but improve since. Portillo continues his push for the top 10.
– #7 Alvaro Beltran vs #10 Jake Bredenbeck; A nice match-up; Bredenbeck was nursing an injury earlier this summer that reportedly kept him out of the season opener; if he’s not 100% he’ll struggle to beat Beltran, who continues to impress even as he approaches his 41st birthday.

Projected Quarters:
– #1 Kane vs #8 Montoya: would love to see this one; power v power. Montoya has just two meeting with Kane, both pretty dominant wins for the World #1.
– #4 Alex Landa vs #5 Sebastian Franco; Franco gets Landa on his (Franco’s) home courts. Franco made the semis last year and will be looking for an upset; these two always seem to play tight, and Franco beat Landa to win his sole pro title. Watch out for the upset here.
– #3 Andree Parrilla vs #6 Murray; if Murray gets past Portillo, he runs into a tough one in Parrilla, who lost 11-10 in the quarters last year in Laurel and won’t want to lose his #3 ranking at this juncture.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #7 Beltran. These two have met no less than 49 times on tour; they’re more than familiar with each other and played a rather testy tiebreaker in their last meeting in January. This is no cakewalk for Carson. Combined age: more than 81 years between the two of them.

Semis:
– Kane over Landa: these two seem to play the same way each time: Landa keeps it close up to about 10-10, then Kane breaks away for a 15-10 win. Look for a two game victory with the scores like 10,8
– Carson over Parrilla: So here’s the interesting match up. These two met in the quarters of this event last year, and Parrilla had match point on his racquet and blew a simple cross court into the ground before losing 11-10. Then they didn’t play again until last weekend’s Atlanta final (a 13,8 win for Rocky). I like Andree’s chances here of pushing for a tie-breaker on these slower courts but won’t predict a win.

Final: Kane over Rocky, yet again.

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That’s how I see it for this weekend. I’ll be at the club all day thursday to take in the 64s and 32s before jetting back home. Hope to see you out there, and maybe we’ll do some test broadcasting later thursday night.

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LPRT at the Beach Chesapeake Wrap-Up

Vargas gets her first ever pro win over Longoria to take the Chesapeake event. Photo via usaracquetballevents.com

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Singles: Maria Jose Vargas
– Doubles: Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas

R2 Sports Tournaments link: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30697

The big story ahead of this event was LPRT #1 Paola Longoria going for her 100th professional win. She had family and media on site for the event, but lost in the final. I’m sure she’s under a bit of pressure to hit a milestone win that’s been pushed in social media for months … and now she’ll have another opportunity to do so at the sport’s biggest event, the US Open.

As some of you may have noticed from the broadcasts, yours truly was at this event Friday night to see the 32s and 16s, and I got to help with the broadcast for the quarter final matches on the show court. It is the first time in a while I’ve seen the Ladies pros up close, and I had a blast working along side Timothy Baghurst, LPRT Commissioner Tj Baumbaugh and LPRT gadget king Jerry J Josey Jr., who work tirelessly to put on these events. My first time on the mike was a lot of fun and I hope you all enjoyed listening to the commentary as much as I had calling the matches.

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Lets recap the event, and I’ll provide some additional commentary for the matches I saw up close.

Singles Wrap-up:

PRS Singles Match report in the DB: http://rball.pro/CAAD42

There were three round of 32 matches, all involving traveling pros and local VA players, including tournament director and Hall of Famer Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey (who fell in two to Jessica Parrilla).

Notable Round of 16 matches:
– #9 Brenda Laime Jalil got a solid win over #8 Adriana Riveros 3,14. 
– #4 Rhonda Rajsich was somewhat fortunate to get by #13 Carla Muñoz Montesinos in their round of 16 match, advancing by the scores of (14),14,4. This was a back and forth match for the entirety of the first two games, with the ladies trading points back and forth, trading leads, etc. Both veteran players played solid tactical games. Munoz had the advantage in game two, leading 14-12 when an odd sequence of events occurred; the referee asked for a replay of a point well after it was completed due to a belated ruling on the serve; this seemed to slightly unnerve Munoz, who lost the 2nd game and wasn’t competitive in the tie-breaker. Credit to Rajsich though; she sensed something was amiss, got the call she needed and kept her composure to win out.
– #3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada advanced over reigning US National champ #14 Kelani Lawrence in two tight games 13,10. Lawrence was playing on the courts she grew up on and had the home town crowd rooting her on against one of the world’s best. I must also note; it’s not too often we see two generations competing in the same event like we did here with Mom Malia and daughter Kelani. That was cool to see.
– #6 Nancy Enriquez outlasted #11 Sheryl Lotts (12),8,0. Lotts really played a solid game to take the first, but Enriquez settled in, took over game two with her power, and then went on a run that Lotts couldn’t stop in the tie-breaker to secure the 11-0 tiebreaker win. Enriquez has sneaky power; you don’t realize it until you’re up close how much pace she hits with.
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis topped former top-4 touring pro Jessica Parrilla7,8. Salas struggled even to get to this event on time, pushing through the same local storms in the Monterrey region of Mexico that prevented 4th ranked Alexandra Herrera from traveling. She arrived in time though to face off against a tough opponent in Parrilla, and a slug-fest ensued. Both players really put some velocity onto the ball, but i’m not sure i’ve ever seen a harder hitter than Salas. Towards the end of game two, Parrilla started working Salas’ backhand more on the serve, had some success, but it was too little, too late as Salas moved on.

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In the Quarters, thanks to Alexandra Herrera‘s absence we had some unexpected match-ups … in fact three of the four quarter final matches featured players who had never played each other professionally. It made for some unexpected results.

– #1 Longoria cruised past #9 Laime 1,4. Laime was outclassed by the veteran, but credit to her for getting this far (a career best showing).
– #4 Rajsich squeaked past #5 Natalia Mendez in the first game, then cruised to a two game win 14,1. This is only the 2nd time these two have met in a pro setting.
– #3 Vargas dominated #6 Enriquez 6,3 to move into the semis.
– But the surprise of the round, perhaps the surprise of the last two seasons, was #7 Masiel Rivera Oporto beating #2 Salas 12,14. Rivera hung with the hard-hitting Salas, worked her backhand well, and got a career win to advance to her first semi final. Salas played 9 pro events last season and made the final of all nine, but now has been upset in both events so far this season.

In the Semis:
– #1 Longoria raced past #4 Rajsich 5,3 to move into the finals, continuing her dominant tourney.
– #3 Vargas mashed her way past Rivera 11,9 to move into her second final of the season.

In the final, Longoria took game one in her quest for 100 … but Vargas had other ideas, winning game two and the tiebeaker to spoil Longoria’s record-setting win attempt. Vargas gets her first ever professional win over Longoria and gets an early lead in the points rankings in her quest to take over the #2 spot from Salas, or perhaps to challenge for the year end title.

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Doubles re-cap:

PRS Report: http://rball.pro/C41D72

Longoria and Salas bounced back from losses to take the doubles crown, cruising to the title without dropping a game. They topped the #2 seeded Argentinian team of Vargas/Mendez in the final.

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Next up for the LPRT? The US Open in Minneapolis!

Thanks to the Chesapeake crew for bringing Ladies pro racquetball to the Tidewater region for the first time ever.

IRT Atlanta Open Wrap-Up

Rocky Carson wins the season opener in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Rocky’s twitter @rockycarsonRB

Congrats to your winners on the weekend: 
Men’s Singles: Rocky Carson
Men’s Pro Doubles: No Winner; see below for explanation.

R2 Sports App link for tourney:

#1 Kane Waselenchuk had to withdraw at the last minute, giving him a forfeit loss in the 16s and opening up the tournament for the taking, as happens when he misses an event.

Here’s a wrap-up of Singles, citing notable results by round:

PRS Reports in the DB: http://rball.pro/529EA0

In the 64s:
– Set Cubillos Ruiz got a solid 2-game win over IRT regular #22 Nick Riffel. Cubillos is really active in the game in his home country of Colombia and its good to see him active in IRT events.
– MoMo Zelada reversed the result from the Bolivian Grand Slam and topped #21 Kadim Carrasco in two straight for a solid win.
– Utah amateur Anthony Martin stretched #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez to a tiebreaker before falling; solid showing.

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In the 32s:
– #17 Sebastian Fernandez gets a career win, topping #16 Javier Mar 10,11. With Kane’s withdrawal, I thought Mar had a good shot at the final here. Instead, Fernandez gets one of the better wins in his career and gets a pass into the quarters for the first time in his pro career. 
– #12 Gerardo Franco was stretched to a tiebreaker by Zelada before advancing.
– #20 Carlos Keller Vargas was taken to a tiebreaker by #13 Thomas Carter before advancing. This was a closer match than I expected and makes me wonder if Keller is still nursing the injury that he was struggling with this summer (with all due respect to Carter, who played solid ball all night).
– #18 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez got a solid win over #15 Andres Acuña 11-8 in the breaker to advance. 15/18 matches are usually close, and this was no different.

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In the 16s, we saw some matches that didn’t quite go as I thought they would in my preview;
– #8 Sebastian Franco took the first round of many 8/9 matchups against #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis taking an 11-7 tiebreaker. 
– #4 Andree Parrilla got a dominant win over 2-time defending PARC champ Carlos Keller 8,8. Parrilla was able to really put balls away and wore out Keller over the course of the night.
– #6 Daniel De La Rosa was taken to a tiebreaker by the precocious #11 Lalo Portillo before advancing. Portillo continues to impress.
– #7 Samuel Murray took a solid win over #10 Mario Mercado, a match-up not unlike the Franco-Montoya rivalry that could be one we see a lot this season. Notably, it looks like Mercado is a full timer on tour this year; he’s made both IRT events so far on the schedule.

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In the Quarters, all four matches went to tie-breaker.

– #8 Franco ended #17 Fernandez’s run, but was made to work for it, winning 11-9 in the end.
– #4 Parrilla couldn’t close out game 2’s match point opportunities, but advanced 11-4 in the breaker.
– #3 Alex Landa had his typical barn-burner against #6 DLR, winning 11-10 to move on. There’s a slew of razor-thin matches between these two over the years; this is just the latest in a series.
– #2 Rocky Carson improved to 10-0 over #7 Murray, but had to go tiebreaker to do so.

In the semis:
– #4 Parrilla dominated #8 Franco to earn his 3rd career IRT pro final.
– #2 Carson beat #3 Landa in two tight games 11,12.

In the final; Rocky earns his 27th career pro win, topping Parrilla 13,8. He now sits just 2 behind Jack Huczek for 5th place in tourney wins all-time.

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Ranking Implications of this event:

Because there was no Atlanta event this weekend last season, points earned here should just add on to existing rankings and will have some effects on the Laurel event’s seedings. For this week, Rocky overtakes Kane for #1 … but only for this week week. On 9/16/19, last year’s points fall off and Kane should be back at #1, and should be the #1 seed in Laurel.

What’s more interesting is what happens when the 9/16/19 date hits. if i have my data right:
– Parrilla will over take Landa for #3.
– Montoya will move to #7, finally getting a top-8 seed and setting up an intriguing qtr with Carson if seeds hold.
– Murray drops to #9; he loses a ton of points from last year’s Laurel event, where he made the final. He’ll have to battle Franco just to make the quarters now.
– Portillo moves up to #13, Fernandez jumps to #21.

So, pretty important ranking moves for the next Tier 1 event in Laurel in two weeks’ time.

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Doubles wrap

PRS Report in DB: http://rball.pro/34FD97

With the withdraw of Kane, the Ben Croft /Kane team that I thought would win this draw was taken out of the equation.

The #1 seeds of DLR/Beltran battled their way through two of the toughest teams in the draw, outlasting Vargas/Carrasco in the qtrs and then their Mexican nemesis team of Montoya/Mar in the semis. The #2 seeds of Landa/Murray beat the upset-minded Parrilla/Portillo team (who had upset #3 seeds Franco/Mercado in the qtrs) in the other semi.

Unfortunately, the final was not played and a Double Forfeit was declared. As per an IRT announcement, the players had a misunderstanding about scheduling (most of the time, Doubles final is sat. night, but in Atlanta it was scheduled for Sunday instead). So flights were already arranged in conflict with the final.

This is a first for me, I think. I cannot recall ever entering “Double Forfeit” in for a final, in more than 3,100 tournament draws now entered into the database. I’ve seen some 3rd place games abandoned like this before, but even that’s pretty rare. Lets hope this is a one-off and doesn’t happen again. Nobody looks good here.

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Next up on the schedule (after I wrap up the LPRT event tomorrow); we do have a small break in the schedule, possibly an RKT event in Mexico we can cover, before the IRT’s next Tier 1 in Laurel, MD.

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International Racquetball Tour
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Racquetball Canada
USA Racquetball

LPRT by the Beach Preview

Longoria goes for her 100th tourney win. Photo via Fran Davis Racquetball

A busy weekend for racquetball includes the 2nd LPRT event of the season, the LPRT by the Beach in Chesapeake, VA.

Hosted by women’s racquetball legend Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey, its the first time the Ladies pros have ever been to the area, and the its the first time pro racquetball has returned to the Virginia Beach/Tidewater area since April 2006 (when the IRT had a stop for a couple years at the same host club).

R2 Sports App link for the event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30697

Of note for this weekend: Paola Longoria goes for her 100th career Women’s Pro event win, an amazing accomplishment, and more than double any other known win total for women’s pros in the history of the game.

Who’s here and who’s missing: 9 of the top 10 are here (missing only #7 Amaya Cris), and then four from the ladies ranked 11-20 are present (missing several part-time players or Bolivian-based players who only sporadically travel). 20 total pros are in the singles draw,

Lets preview the singles draw:

Post publishing Note: clearly the hurricane has caused some travel issues; #4 Alexandra Herrera dropped out, basically forcing a complete redo-of the draw from #4 downward, so basically this post and analysis is now moot.

In the round of 32:
– #16 Leona Parrilla vs #17 Erin Rivera: Parrilla continues to work her way back, this time setup to run right into #1 Longoria in the 16s.
– #13 Adrienne Fisher Haynes vs #20 Malia Bailey; Malia finished in the top 3 three straight seasons in the early 1990s, including two tourney wins, and has just one pro appearance since 1993 (a round of 32 loss in Gaithersburg, MD in 2006). Can she take out the regular touring pro Haynes? Kelani says Malia’s still playing tough … 
– #15 Kelani Lawrence vs #18 Amie LeBrun Brewer: The reigning US national champ and daughter of Malia takes on a tough local Virginia player in Brewer, who’s working her way back from injury.

In the 16s:
– #1 Paola Longoria vs #16 Parrilla: Longoria kicks off her run to 100 against former top 4 player Parrilla, a tougher match than normally expected in the 16s.
– #8 Masiel Rivera Oporto vs #9 Adriana Riveros: these two met twice last year, with Rivera getting a career win over Riveros at the Bolivian grand slam. I think Riveros advances here.
– #7 Nancy Enriquez vs #10 Brenda Laime Jalil; they’ve met in the 16s now three tourneys in a row; two weeks ago Enriquez triumped 11-7 in the breaker; can Laime break through?

Qtrs projection:
– #1 Longoria over #9 Riveros
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich over #4 Alexandra Herrera: i’m playing a hunch that the 3-game format will favor Rajsich here.
– #3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada over #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein; the two Argentinian doubles partners renew their now frequent singles rivalry; they played each other in 5 consecutive pro/IRF events last season. Vargas is 5-0 over her teammate; she makes it 6-0h ere.
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis over #7 Enriquez

Semis:
– #1 Longoria over #5 Rajsich
– #3 Vargas over #2 Salas: this is now suddenly the most compelling match on tour; Salas had been dominating the head to heads lately, including three straight semi finals wins in the last three pro events of last year, but Vargas took a tense 11-9 win in the semis of the season’s opener to make a statement on this season. Expect another barn burner, and i’ll go with another tight Vargas tiebreaker win.

Final: Longoria vanquishes Vargas for her 100th.

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Quick doubles preview:

The #1 world team of Longoria/Salas looms large over this 8-team draw, missing the 2nd best team of Herrera and Montse Mejia due to the latter’s missing this event. I’d expect #1 vs #2 in the final, with the Mexican pair taking on the Argentinian national team of Vargas/Mendez, with a Mexican victory.

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Look for streaming in all the regular places by following LPRTTimothy Baghurst will be in town to broadcast, and I hope to get there for at least the friday matches, being that its in my home state and all.

IRT Atlanta Open Preview

Here it is; the moment you’ve been waiting for. The first Men’s pro tier 1 of the new 2019-20 season.

Draws are up on www.irttour.com and on R2 Sports Event Software here: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30291

The tour returns to Lilburn after a one-season absence, and is rewarded with a great 38-man draw and both both singles and doubles action. The top 10 players are here, then we’re missing the 11th-14th ranked players inclusive ( Jose DiazJake Bredenbeck (injured reportedly), David Horn and Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo all miss this event, somewhat surprisingly for the first three). We’re also missing last weekend’s winner Charlie Pratt depriving the draw a bit of its mid-section talent.

This combination of missing players elevates Lalo Portillo all the way to the #11 seed here, his highest ever seeding in an IRT event. We’re also missing frequent tour participants like Jansen AllenAdam Manilla, and Felipe Camacho; all three treaded water or slipped in the rankings last season; is this a one-tourney blip or are we seeing a changing of the guard on tour? More to come here later. In the meantime…

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Lets preview the singles draw first.

NOTE: post publishing this analysis and the draw, Kane Waselenchuk withdrew from the event due to a personal issue. Take that into mind reading the below. I could see this most benefiting Javier Mar, who could get a walkover in the 16s and very well could run to the finals.

Notable round of 64 matches:
– #24 Maurice Miller vs Troy Warigon; a solid match-up between two solid players, who also happen to be playing doubles together this weekend. They met in the semis of the pro draw of the LPRT event in December on Troy’s home court (a Miller win); now the tides are reversed as Warigon travels to play Miller on Miller’s home court. Miller should advance here.
– #21 Kadim Carrasco vs MoMo Zelada; Carrasco is one of several Bolivian-based players to enter this draw. These two met in the opener of the Bolivian Grand Slam last March, a dominant Carrasco win. I like Zelada keeping it close but ultimately falling again to Carrasco.
– #19 Justus Benson vs Austin Cunningham; Benson takes on a talented local in a first rounder that could be closer than he wants.
– #23 Scott McClellan vs Michael Arterburn: two frequent IRT entrants face off in the opener.
– #18 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on long-time touring pro Dan Fowler, who plays just his third IRT event in the last decade, making the drive down from Maryland along with Warigon and Zelada.

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Notable round of 32s, assuming some early upsets don’t occur:
– #16 Javier Mar vs #17 Sebastian Fernandez; tough match-up for both players, fitting of a 16/17 draw. I like both players chances of breaking into the top 10 with a full season on tour … but we generally only see Mar part time (He’s played just 7 events in the past 5 seasons). But Mar’s results speak for themselves; he’s always a threat to advance when he plays. I like Mar over the younger Mexican player here, but I like Patata’s chances this season.
– #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #21 Carrasco: Franco takes advantage of the missing 11-15 ranked players to secure a top 16 seed and gets a winnable match against the Carrasco/Zelada winner.
– #20 Carlos Keller Vargas takes on #13 Thomas Carter, a tough draw for Carter facing the two-time defending PARC champ.
– #15 Andres Acuña vs #18 Garay: great match of two internationals; last time they knowingly played was in the 2014 Junior worlds (a tight Acuna win). Acuna has continued to impress with his international accomplishments, but Garay beat a number of top players last year and is looking to make some noise this season. Garay to advance but its a toss-up.

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Projecting the 16s.
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #16 Mar: they’ve met 3 times; Kane crushed him at Syosset last spring, but Mar played Kane as tough as he’s been played in the best-of-three format at last year’s US Open. Mar’s tactical game can keep him in a match with Kane if he’s shooting well, but that only goes so far. Kane gets a quality match out of the gate but advances in two.
– #8 Sebastian Franco vs #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis: the first of potentially many critical openers for both players as Rodrigo makes a run at the tour top 8. I don’t have any prior meetings between the two, so this should be telling for now, as both guys remain neck and neck at the 8/9 spot and should continue to meet at this 8/9 juncture for a bit until points settle out. I predict Montoya to advance.
– #5 Alvaro Beltran vs #12 G.Franco: they’ve played 3 times since Jan 2018, all three Beltran wins. I’d expect the same here; a win for Alvaro in 2 closer games.
– #4 Andree Parrilla vs #20 Keller; brutal draw for Parrilla. Keller was handily beating Parrilla at the Black Gold cup this summer when Keller had to retire; this will be a setback for Parrilla’s pursuit of the #3 spot on tour right out of the gate, because I think Keller wins this match in two.
– #3 Alex Landa vs #14 Robert Collins: just one meeting between these two; a 3-game win at the 2016 US Open. Landa should advance here.
– #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #11 Portillo; this should be an interesting match; Portillo has gotten a ton of solid wins this summer, while DLR fell to his lowest ranking in a while. Is DLR in? This is just the kind of match that can trip him up if he isn’t focused. I’d expect DLR to advance here because his game is just too complete for Portillo right now, but Portillo has the talent to win.
– #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Mario Mercado: 4 meetings between them, none in the last few years. They’re split 2-2, with all four going 4 or 5 games. I like Mercado here, building on his great Pan Am Games showing.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #18 Garay; little to go on here but I suspect Garay will get a lesson in match management as the veteran advances in two.

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Possible Quarters:
– #1 Waselenchuk vs #9 Montoya: just two prior meetings between the two, both dominant Kane wins. It will be interesting to see if Montoya’s game has added the facets he needs to compete with Kane; i look forward to this meeting if it occurs nonetheless because there’s not too many other guys who hit it this hard on tour.
– #20 Keller vs #5 Beltran: Keller’s beaten Alvaro twice in the PARCs, including in the semis of the 2019 event en route to his title. I see another Keller tight 2-game win.
– #3 Landa vs #6 DLR; a frequent match-up between two top Mexican players: I now have Landa 7-5 in both pro and Amateur meetings with DLR, and you have to go back to 2017 to find a DLR win. I think Landa wins here to move on.
– #2 Carson vs #10 Mercado; 8 meetings, 8-0 for Carson, but Mercado took him to a tiebreaker on home soil in the Bolivian Grand Slam earlier this year. Look for a Carson win.

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Semis:
– #1 Kane over #20 Keller; Keller’s solid, but not this solid. It could be a fun match to watch though, in that Keller’s game does not really overpower players, but he hangs in. Can he hang with Kane’s power? 
– #2 Carson vs #3 Landa; Carson leads 7-4 all time … but they’re dead even split in the last 3 seasons 4-4, alternating wins. Carson won in Syosset to end last season … but Landa beat him handily in Florida the week before en route to that title. I like Rocky here.

Final: Kane over Rocky. 1 vs 2 yet again. I know nobody wants to predict the obvious 1-2 final, but as we saw last year when Rocky and Kane had locked up the top two slots with a couple of events yet to go … there’s still a gap between them and the rest of the tour.

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Men’s Doubles preview

Love this Doubles draw. The top of the draw is stacked, and there’s 11 solid teams. Portillo and Parrilla have decided to play together every event, adding to the intrigue of doubles draws with more and more “regular” teams showing up. All four quarter finals look like they’ll be great.

In the top half, look for Ben Croft/Waselenchuk to get stretched to the limit by the Mar/Montoya team (who just won gold at the Pan Am games) before advancing to face their frequent nemesis team of DLR/Beltran in one semi.

In the bottom half, I like the Colombian national team of Mercado/Franco to top Parrilla/Portillo and to face the #2 seeded Landa/Murray team, who continues to have great success playing with each other semi.

Croft/Waselenchuk took out DLR/Beltran the last time they played (Mar 2019) and we’ll go with that again, as they then continue to beat Landa/Murray in the final.

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Lets get it on. Look for Streaming announcements in all the usual places all weekend.

International Racquetball Tour
International Racquetball Federation – IRF

IRT 2018-19 Completed Season Re-Cap

Before we get into the new IRT season (and the draws for Atlanta are already up, preview coming tomorrow), I wanted to wrap-up last season with the notification that we have some annual files that we update at the end of each season. I meant to post this more towards the end of the IRT season in June, but its been such a busy summer that I never got to it. So now with the first 2019-20 event days away, here’s a quick recap of where we are.

– http://rball.pro/1BF3BA is a direct link to the Year Ending standings for last season.

– http://rball.pro/E79E17 is the Season Summary report per player, a nice query summarizing the Wins/Finals/Semis/etc per player on tour.

– http://rball.pro/6545A5 is the Season Seed Report, a great report showing how players’ seeds varied throughout the year.

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The Static links are now updated with 2018-19 results (all of these are located at the bottom of the Report Selection Page for each tour):

– List of Year End title winners: http://www.proracquetballstats.com/irt/year_end_titles.html
– Counts of Titles: http://www.proracquetballstats.com/irt/number_of_titles.html 
– List of Major Title winners: http://www.proracquetballstats.com/irt/major_titles.html
– Tour History: http://www.proracquetballstats.com/irt/tour_history.html
– Season by Season summary: http://www.proracquetballstats.com/…/year_end_summaries.html

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We’ve already seen a ton of news items too since the end of last season:
– new website www.irttour.com
– Hiring of Aimee Roehler Ruiz to do Social Media
– Naming of Pablo Fajre to direct both streaming and satellite events
– The official return of Andy Kulback to tour management

And the schedule is looking fantastic. Last season there were 9 events. Already the IRT schedule has 11 planned Tier 1 or Grand Slam events with a 12th likely coming soon for sure, and they havn’t event started really working on the spring schedule yet. So things are looking really promising for the new season already.

Can’t wait for the first Tier 1 this coming weekend!

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International Racquetball Tour
USA Racquetball
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
Reaching Your Dream Foundation
WOR – World Outdoor Racquetball

Montana Tier 3 Wrap-Up

Pratt upsets two to win the Montana Tier 3.

Congrats to the winners on the weekend:
– Men’s Pro singles: Charlie Pratt
– Open doubles: Iwaasa/Brayley
– Women’s Open singles: Hollie Scott

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Here’s a recap of the Men’s pro draw.

In the play-ins, Rich CarverTyler ThielenGavin UsherGarrett TylerMitch Brayley and Cody Mattucci advanced to face top seeded touring players.

In the 16s, seeds held perfectly chalk; #8 Andrew Gale took out #9 Hr Coein two tight games, #5 Justus Benson was stretched a bit by Carver, but all top 8 seeds advanced in 2 straight.

In the Quarters, again we saw the draw go chalk:
– #1 Sebastian Franco dominated #8 Gale
– #4 Charlie Pratt took out #5 Benson in 2 straight forward games.
– #3 Mario Mercado was challenged a bit but took out #6 Dylan Reid in two game 8,11
– #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solis played well and beat #7 Coby Iwaasa in two games that weren’t as close as I thought they’d be.

In the semis:
– #4 Pratt took out #1 Franco in one semi 8,7. Pratt remains perhaps the most dangerous non-full time touring pro in the world, with a slew of solid wins, a semis finish in Portland last season, and a finals appearance at the 2019 PARC.
– #2 Montoya beat #3 Mercado in the other semi in two straight forward games, avenging a loss in the Pan Am team competition.

In the final, Pratt again took out a favored player in Montoya, playing more consistent ball and putting away opportunities to win the title 12,9. I thought Montoya struggled with accuracy early and then struggled to maintain his focus as he battled calls that didn’t go his way on top of the ever-consistent Pratt.

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Women’s Singles recap:
#1 Hollie Rae Scott beat local player Laurie Dreneck in one semi, and #3 Linda Tyler beat #2 seeded Ceci Orozcoin the other.

In the final… #1 Scott took out Tyler in two games for the title.

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Open Doubles results: the Canadian duo of Iwaasa and Brayley took out Josh Doniak and Mercado in the final.

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Congrats to all the organizers for bringing pro racquetball to Montana. Thanks to Matthew Ivar Majxner for sending me draw sheets and results and helping me write the preview and this summary….

Next up? Three big events next weekend:
– International Racquetball Tour‘s first Tier 1 of the season is in Atlanta, where we’ll likely see at least 5-6 of the Montana competitors in action.
– LPRT will be in my home state of Virginia as Paola Longoria goes for her 100th career pro title (I’ll be there at the tournament Friday for the round of 16 action)
– the European Racquetball Federation‘s 20th annual European championships are being held in Germany. I’ve never loaded up the European champs, but may put in some place holders into the International Racquetball Federation – IRF match database.

Montana Open Preview

We have one more lower-tiered IRT event on the schedule prior to the beginning of the tier 1 slate in Atlanta in two weeks’ time, and its this coming weekend in Missoula, Montana.

We’ve never had either a Men’s or a Women’s full-slate pro stop in Montana (at least as per what’s in the database for the IRT and LPRT), so its great to see the sport getting to a market where there’s clearly some players.

See the FB page for the event for news, draws and information on the weekend: https://www.facebook.com/Themontanatier3/

There’s 25 players in the draw, including 6 IRT regulars, three top-10 players, a couple other well-known amateurs and internationals, and a slew of top local players. 25 players with 5 countries and 13 states represented.

Lets preview the singles draw:

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The 32s are play-ins among locals for the most part.

In the 16s, here’s some potential match-ups to look for, assuming no upsets-by-seed in the 32s.

– #8 Andrew Gale vs #9 Hr Coe; Gale is a long-time pro player, with IRT appearances dating to 2006 and with some solid wins on his resume (he beat current #4 Andree Parrilla back in 2012 and even beat Cliff Swain in 2013). Coe has significantly less pro experience (just one result in the DB, a 1999 loss to Swain in Denver) but is a solid local player. 
– #5 Justus Benson vs #12 Rich Carter; Benson may have his hands full here against a guy in Carter who played a couple of pros tough in WRT events in Seattle over the past few years.
– #6 Dylan Reid vs #11 Mitch Brayley; Brayley mostly plays locally in Canada regional and national events and has never ventured south to play a top-level USA-domestic event. Reid has some solid wins over IRT-touring pros on his resume and has qualified for several main draws in IRT events in the last few years. He also is, of course, the master of the Racquetball Podcast, a must-listen for fans everywhere of the sport. See https://podcasts.apple.com/…/the-racquetball-s…/id1310228396 for subscription information in Itunes. Disclosure: Reid interviewed me in June of last year (see https://podcasts.apple.com/…/episode-12-todd-…/id1310228396… for that episode).

Projecting the quarters:
– #1 Sebastian Franco vs #8 Gale: Franco is fresh off the Pan Am Games, where he represents Colombia and was knocked out early in the round of 16 by Canadian Iwaasa (more on him later). He faces someone of a make or break season this year on tour, with a slew of names looking to push him out of the top 8. He shouldn’t have trouble with Gale here.
– #4 Charlie Pratt Racquetball vs #5 Benson: Pratt also is a veteran of the 2019 Pan Am Games, having represented USA and played both singles and doubles. In singles, he also suffered an upset loss at the hands of Iwaasa, then exited in the quarters at the hands of Bolivian Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo (a rematch of the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships semis, where Pratt shocked the sport with an 11-10 defeat of the Bolivian Grand Slam champ. Pratt should advance easily here.
– #3 Mario Mercado vs #6 Reid: Mercado also represented Colombia at the Pan Ams (playing #2 to Franco), and really had a solid tournament, taking out two-time defending PARC champ Carlos Keller Vargas and USA #1 Jake Bredenbeck before falling in the semis to #1 seed Alvaro Beltran. He also managed to beat Keller a second time in the team competition, along with both Iwaasa and Montoya to wrap up a fantastic tournament. Mercado’s attendance here indicates to me he’s going to plan on a full slate of tournaments, which is great news for the tour and could spell some trouble for the IRT players in the 7-10 range, based on the wins he got in Lima. Mercado should advance over Reid here.
– #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #7 Coby Iwaasa; This is a finals-quality match-up that happens in the quarters, since Iwaasa has no ranking points. That’s a shame, because Iwaasa has demonstrated his ability to beat top IRT players. Representing Canada in Lima, he beat both Pratt and Franco before losing to Beltran in the quarters 13,14. The last time he played a pro event, he made the finals (WRT Calgary open in oct 2018). Meanwhile, Montoya took his second major international title in two years by winning the 2019 Pan Am gold over his countryman/teammate Beltran in a match that will long be remembered for Beltran’s hip check/shattered glass door (which just made ESPN’s top 10 plays of the day). I think Montoya wins this in the end, but it’ll be in two close games or perhaps drawn to a tiebreaker.

Projected Semis:
– #4 Pratt over #1 Franco: they’ve played 4 times in pros and IRF events in the last three years and Pratt is 4-0. I think Pratt has Franco’s number, and should advance here.
– #3 Mercado over #2 Montoya: they’ve played once in the DB; a Mercado win over Montoya at the 2018 US Open. They also played in the team event in Pan Ams, also a win for Mercado. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict the upset, even though I think Montoya is the better player.

Finals prediction: 
– #4 Pratt over #3 Mercado: they’ve played 3x in the database, and Pratt has never lost to Mercado. It goes tie-breaker but Charlie prevails.

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On the women’s side, there’s also a few solid players in town to compete: Hollie Rae Scott , Linda Tyler , and Cecilia Pratt head up the Ladies Open draw.

Lastly they populated the Open doubles draw with teams selected by raffle, to make for a fun integration of traveling pros with local players.

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Congrats to Tourney Director Matthew Ivar MajxnerJosh DoniakWayne LeBlanc and Gavin Usher for making this event happen.

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International Racquetball Tour
International Racquetball Federation – IRF

Paola Longoria Experience Wrap-up

Longoria wins her namesake tournament to kick off the new season.

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:

Singles: Paola Longoria
Doubles: Monserrat Mejia & Alexandra Herrera

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31123

Here’s a wrap of the Singles matches of note by round:

Match report in the database: http://rball.pro/624927

In the 32s:
– #19 Denisse Maldonado took out #14 Sheryl Lotts in a tie-breaker for a career win.
– #11 Ana Laura Flores Saavedra was stretched to a tie-breaker by 15yr old Daniela Rico before advancing.

In the 16s:
– #8 Amaya Cris dominated #9 Masiel Rivera Oporto 3,9 to advance. This should be an interesting season for Amaya with her renewed training regiment.
– #12 Montse Mejia got a solid 2-game win over #5 Rhonda Rajsich, reversing the result from their meeting in Lima a few weeks ago.
– #4 Alexandra Herrera barely held off #13 Jessica Parrilla 11-9 in the breaker. Its the third straight defeat in the 16s for Parrilla at the hands of Herrera, but she keeps getting closer. 
– #19 Maldonado fared well against #3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada losing in two 9,10. A good showing for the 20-yr old.
– #11 Flores got the biggest (only) upset of the round, topping #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein in two. Its the 2nd year in a row they’ve met in this event … and the 2nd year in a row Flores upset the Argentinian.
– #7 Nancy Enriquez was stretched to a tiebreaker by #10 Brenda Laime Jalil before advancing. Laime continues to make main events, solidifying her ranking in the 12-16 range, but she has yet to have a break through win.

In the quarters:
– #1 Paola Longoria took out #8 Amaya 8,9 to advance.
– #12 Mejia continued her upsetting ways, taking out #4 Herrera in two games and perhaps making a statement about the current heirarchy on the tour.
– #3 Vargas advanced in two straight over 18U champ Flores.
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis blitzed past #7 Enriquez 1,6.

In the semis; two heavyweight battles and two interesting matches:
– #1 Longoria and #12 Mejia were neck and neck in game one, with Longoria pulling out a close one, then she broke away in game two to advance 13,5. 
– #3 Vargas got just her 3rd pro win over Salas in a tense, back and forth 11-9 tiebreaker win.

In the final, Vargas mounted a furious comeback in Game 1 but fell slightly short, then Longoria took over in game 2 to win her namesake title 13,6.

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Doubles review:

Match report in the database: http://rball.pro/A430D7

The two top Mexican teams advanced to the final as #1 and #3 seeds. #3 Mejia/Herrera downed the #2 Argentinian national team of Vargas/Mendez 12,13 to advance.

The final was a rematch of several major events in the last couple of years (these are all Finals);
– 2016 US Open
– 2017 Chihuahua Pro stop
– 2018 Battle at the Alamo
– 2018 World Doubles
– 2018 Mexican Worlds selection
– 2018 Paola Longoria Experience
– 2018 US Open
– 2019 Mexican Nationals
– 2019 Kansas City pro stop.

The #1 team had won every one of these finals matchups save for the 2018 Worlds selection event.

On this day though, the younger team of Herrera/Mejia stuck with the hard-hitting veteran team, mounted a solid comeback in game 2 after letting game 1 slip away, then just out-shot the #1 team behind really solid serving from Herrera and took the title.

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Next up: IRF 35th Annual World Seniors is next week in Albequerque, then there’s three major tourneys the following weekend: IRT kicks off in Atlanta, the LPRT visits my home state of Virginia for the LPRT By the Beach or LPRT Chesapeake event, and the 20th annual European championships kick off in Germany.
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LPRT
International Racquetball Tour
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol

LPRT Scoring changes and history of scoring on the tour

This past week, the LPRT became the last of the major racquetball organizations to convert to standard/amateur/international scoring standards, abandoning the 3 out of 5 games to 11 structure that had been in place for years.

This is the first time a change in the scoring system for the ladies pros has occurred since 2002. But prior to that, the ladies pro tour changed scoring constantly, and its an interesting history. I’ve kept track of the scoring system changes over the years here: http://www.proracquetballstats.com/…/lprt_scoring_changes.h… . Here’s a brief review:

– 1974: In the beginning, the NRC’s standard scoring system was best 2/3 games to 21, tiebreaker also win by 1. 
– 1975: some qualifying rounds were one game to 31. See Aurora 76 as an example.
– 1976 est: 3rd game not to 21 but to 11. Believe this happened in 1976 along with Men’s side, fixing the tiebreaker to not be such a grind.
– 1980: Scored in two sets of best of five games to 11, tiebreaker best of three; with rally scoring. 
Example score: 3-1, 2-3, 2-1. This scoring method has wreaked havoc on the PRS results code, coincidentally.
– 1981: The third set is replaced with a single game.
Still rally scoring. Example Score: 2-3, 3-2, 15-11.
– 1983: Best of five, to 21; rally-scoring. Example score: 13, 17, (14), 18. 
– 1986: Best of five, to 11, win by one. More or less Consistent with the Men’s scoring by this point. 
– 1995 est: Same best of five to 11, but win by two instead of win by one. The Men’s tour had a similar change at some point in his time-frame as well.
– Aug 2000: Back to Rally scoring and games to 21, win by 2. “Ping Pong” style serving where each player would serve five times in a row. It was said at the time this change was done to try to counter-act the dominance of Michelle Gould on tour.
– Aug 2001: Scoring change again: best of five games format, with games played to 15, and scoring on every rally. But no more ping pong
– Sept 2002: Abandoned rally scoring for 2002-03 season, back to “normal” best of five to 11, win by two conventional pro scoring.
– Aug 2019: conversion to amateur/international scoring.

I may be missing some smaller variations in the scoring, but these are the major changes over the years.

We’ve updated the code in a similar fashion to what we did in Jan 2019 when the International Racquetball Tour made this same change, but we’ll have to wait until we get some data entry to ensure that the code correctly interprets the new scoring method.

My two cents on the change? Well, i’m bummed there’s no more crazy 5 game scores from a code perspective; I love watching 15-13 matches or the thrill of a 12-10 5th game super tiebreaker. But I’ve also come around on Doug Ganim‘s theories on the scoring system with respect to tiebreakers in later rounds. There’s many more of them now than there were longer matches in the old score format.

Last season on the IRT, which was the first entirely in the new scoring method, 21% of matches went to the tie-breaker (see http://rball.pro/8BD641) and 25% of matches from the Quarters on went to a tie-breaker. These stats are skewed of course by having one particular dominant player basically win every match in 2 irrespective of the round.

By way of comparison, In the last season where the IRT had 3 out of 5 games to 11 … 14% of matches from the Quarters on went to the tiebreaker 5th game. So the new scoring method is giving us more 3rd game tiebreakers than we had 5th game breakers in the previous system at the business end of tournaments.

I also feel (without much in the way of hard proof necessarily) that the 3-game format enables some players to get wins where they would have run out of gas in the 5-game format. Anecdotally we see more upsets of top players in the best-of-3 format versus best-of-5; Paola Longoria has taken losses in best-of-3 national and amateur competitions as of late, but has just two best-of-5 game losses in the last three pro seasons entirely. It is easier for a skilled but less-than-fit player to pull off a win in best-of-3 versus outlasting a fitter player in a 2 hour best-of-5 marathon.