In the 32s, a couple of surprises for this observer: – Lukas Le took out Alexi David Cocco Hayes in a tie-breaker. – Nico Miramontes downed fellow Mexican 18U player Mauricio Delgadillo 11-9 in the breaker. – Erik Garcia took out Sebastian Longoria, who is still playing in 16U, in two straight.
————- In the 16s… – Edson Martinez saved match point against before advancing against long time Japanese International player Hiroshi Shimizu. – Javier Estrada upset #3 seeded IRT regular Justus Benson in two straight, an unfortunate underseeding match-up that cost Benson a too-tough early round match.
10 of the 16 players in the round of 16 were Mexican … and all 8 of the quarterfinalists also hailed from south of the border.
—————— Next up for the WRT? No idea. The website is back up, but still shows data and tourneys from 2017 (which seems to indicate to me they suffered a pretty significant data crash and restored a very old backup). In 2018, the next event after the Longhorn Open wasn’t until May (the Georgia Open in Atlanta). Lets hope we get some announcements soon.
With his latest win, Kane extends some amazing records: – this is his 114th career pro title, 43 more than the player in 2nd place (Cliff Swain). By way of comparison … Sudsy Monchik won 43 titles in his whole career … and now Kane leads the 2nd place tourney winner by that same amount. See http://rball.pro/B173E8 for more. – This extends his current match winning streak to 78 matches, 3rd longest ever. See http://rball.pro/8696B9 for more. – This extends his current GAME winning streak to 64, which is still a long ways from his amazing 113-game winning streak record, now that the tour has gone to best of 2. He’ll need to win the next 7 tourneys w/o dropping a game in order to challenge that record.
Its also notable that Kane has yet to drop a game since the tour went to best-of-three scoring. In fact the closest someone has come in a game has been 12 points. Nobody’s gone any higher.
The results of this event will result in a shake-up of the current rankings. Kane should ascend to #1. Landa will drop to #3, just barely ahead of DLR for now. Parrilla should rise from #8 to #5. Montoya will rise from #18 to #16 … but the next time he enters he should be on the opposite side of the draw from the #1 seed, making it easier for him to advance deeper.
Meanwhile, in terms of Season-to-Date rankings, DLR sits just behind Carson in 3rd place, and would be easily in 2nd had he not missed the first event of the season. Given that DLR has 3 finals on the season and Rocky has just one … DLR is well positioned to ascend to the #2 ranking by the time the season is over.
Here’s a review of the notable results (to me) by round:
In the 64s… – North Carolinian and infrequent IRT player Brent Walters played the World Champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis tough, losing 7,13. Good showing by Mr. Walters. – Racquetball Canada‘s Tanner Prentice took IRT pro Robert Collins to a tie-breaker before falling. His country-man Lee Connell also played an IRT regular tough, falling in two close games to Nick Riffel – USA Racquetball 18U national champ Ricardo Ricky Diaz played 18U World finalist Sebastian Fernandez tough, falling 12,12. – Charlie Pratt took out Andrew Gleason, who was making his pro debut. This is notable in that Gleason just competed in the 14U (!) division of Junior Worlds, losing in the finals. He still has at least four junior years underneath his belt and played well against a former IRT pro tournament winner in Pratt.
– Biggest upset of the round may have been Sam Bredenbeck taking out #14 Thomas Carter in an 11-9 breaker. Big win for the younger brother of Jake. – Another upset was Iowan Brad Hansen, playing in his first pro event, taking out #22 Scott McClellan in a tough 11-8 breaker.
– #10 Jansen Allen reportedly fell ill and withdrew from the event after the draw was published, giving local player John Goth a walkover into the 32s. This was the first time Allen has missed an event since the 2012-13 season, and it breaks a consecutive appearance streak of 64 matches, the 12th longest ever such streak in the pro tour history.
In the 32s: – Montoya made quick work of Collins in the 16/17 match to setup the anticipated rematch against #1Alex Landaon Friday. – #9 Mario Mercado was the unlucky tour vet forced to play former IRT pro Tony Anthony Carson in qualifying … and indeed he lost in two quick games. – Teenager Sebastian Fernandez got a career win, topping the veteran Charlie Pratt in a tiebreaker. In case you were wondering why we marvel at the continued success of Fernandez … he’s still got one year left of junior racquetball! He’s just now entering his age 18 season, having won Mexican 18U junior nationals over Eduardo Portillo Rendon but then losing in the Junior World finals to Portillo later in 2018. – Adam Manilla played a tough, close match against Mauro Daniel Rojasand advanced 11,14. – Sam Bredenbeck got his second “career best” win in a row, downing another IRT touring player in Nick Riffel 12,13. – John Goth got a solid win over Canadian Tim Landeryou 13,7 to advance and face Jose Diaz. We havn’t seen Goth on the IRT since 2013, and not in a pro event in more than a year, but he’s definitely a solid player and will be a tough out for Jose (who lost to him in the 2012 US Nationals). – Gerardo Franco got a solid win in the #15/#18 seed match over veteran Felipe Camacho to advance to another main draw. I often wonder about players like Franco, who get “stuck” right in that 15-18 Seed range on tour and thus constantly play right into the #1 and #2 seeds. He’ll likely need a stunning round of 16 win to get out of that range and start playing into “easier” opponents in the main draws.
Qualifying summary: only three of the eight “seeded” players in qualifying advanced (#11, #13 and #16 seeds), but several of the upsets we saw by seeding were definitely not upsets by talent. We should see some great main draw matches.
In the 16s: – Landa and Montoya went head to head and it was as close as it could be: 11-10 in the tiebreaker. Montoya came out on top this time, beating the #1 seed and defending champ in the 16s. This represents one of the earliest exits for a #1 seed in the last decade or so, thanks to unfortunate seeding. – Alvaro Beltran handled the upset-minded Tony Carson in 2. – Samuel Murray blitzed the 18yr old Fernandez 7,1, ending any shot at further upsets by the teen-ager. – Daniel De La Rosa played a closer-than-he may have liked match against Manilla, advancing 13,10. – Kane Waselenchuk made quick work of the younger Bredenbeck in his first main draw match 5,2 – Andree Parrilla got his first h2h win over Jake Bredenbeck by the odd-looking scores of 14,(14),0. – #7 Jose Diaz continued his strong season by advancing to the quarters over the tough amateur John Goth. – #2 Rocky Carson outlasted Gerardo Franco 10,4.
Last event, I predicted Montoya would beat Landa at this stage, and the reverse happened. This time, I predicted a Landa win at this juncture … and the reverse happened. These two are so close; any given sunday either one can beat the other.
———————— In the Quarters… – #16 Montoya downed country-man Beltran in two to advance to the semis. – #4 DLR took out Canadian Murray in two – #3 Waselenchuk beat Parrilla in a rematch of the quarters from last event, this time by the more respectable scores of 8,11 – #2 Carson took out #7 Diaz in two.
——————— The semis were two interesting match-ups: – DLR absolutely trounced Montoya in two games 1,4. This was a pretty shocking result for me, given their history. Here’s some of the match-ups between them in the last year: o Montoya beat DLR in the Men’s Mexico National final in Feb 2018 3,12 o DLR then beat Montoya in the Worlds selection event final in June 0,8 (but I wonder about that score, since both qualified for Worlds by virtue of making that final). o DLR took out Montoya in the final of the Dec 2018 Mexican Open.
So, it looks like DLR has Montoya’s number for now. We can only hope we continue to see Montoya in IRT draws. – Kane beat Rocky for the 74th time in 77 meetings to advance to the final.
—————- The final represented the third meeting between Kane and DLR for a tourney title this season, establishing a clear trend of some movement in the eventual season ending rankings. Unfortunately, all the momentum DLR gained in his excellent run to the final was for naught, as he came out very flat against the ever-consistent Kane and was wiped out in the final 4,2. This represented one of the most one-sided finals in the history of the pro tour, tied for the 2nd worst finals beating (in two or three game formats).
—————- In the doubles …. the top team in the world (Beltran & DLR) got upset in controversial fashion in the semis, losing to eventual winners Montoya/Parrilla 11-10 in a match ended with an avoidable hinder call. They beat #2 seeded Landa/Murray in a close final 11,11 to take the crown.
Hello racquetball fans! This coming weekend is what has now become the 2nd biggest International Racquetball Tour event of the season and is the reported longest running Pro event in the land; the Lewis Drug Pro-Am held in Sioux Falls, SD. Thanks to the long-standing generosity of the sponsors, this event generally features the richest and best draws outside of the US Open.
Quick note: keep IRT CEO John Scott in your thoughts; he underwent some emergency surgical procedures in the past couple of weeks and is recuperating at home.
This year, the event falls right on the same weekend as the massive annual Longhorn Open, which has a WRT event that unfortunately drew away a few of the names that may have considered entering. Nonetheless, there’s a solid draw of 39 pros entered into Lewis.
Ranking implications of this event: after months of kvetching about the IRT ranking system and the implications of Kane’s four missed events in the spring of 2017-18 season, this event likely rectifies the situation. This is the first event from last spring that Kane missed, meaning he has zero points to “defend” from the Lewis Drug event last season. Therefore, he has no where to go but up. Meanwhile, current #1 Landa won this event last year and therefore has 400 points to defend. If Kane wins … irrespective of who makes the final Kane should ascend back to #1 ranking. He will have gained more points than either of the two guys ahead of him could earn.
The only top 20 pros missing are #6 Sebastian Franco (on his Honeymoon as per IRT press release) and #10 Bobby David Horn, who was ill at the California Open, has been fighting through some injuries all season and seems to be taking off the weekend to recuperate for the busy spring schedule. These two absences give Jose Diaz his first ever top 8 seeding, which immediately gets “switched” to a #7 seed for the tourney.
Notable players we don’t regularly see in the draw include former IRT touring pro Tony Anthony Carson, who made waves in the Portland event earlier this season and will be a tough out. #18 ranked and reigning International Racquetball Federation World champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis is in the draw, hoping for a better result. Unfortunately he’s seeded 16th, which has him playing right into #1 Alex Landayet again. We’ll cover that in the predictions. World 18U runner-up Sebastian Fernandezis back after making waves in Canoga Park. US Open Men’s Open champ Alejandro Herrera Azcarate has made the trip up from Miami for this tourney and is playing doubles with none other than US Open tourney director and rball legend Doug Ganim. Lastly the geographic proximity to Canada has drawn down some of Canada’s top players too, including Tim Landeryou, Lee Connell and Tanner Prentice.
Lets preview the draw. Here’s some round of 64 matches of interest: – #21 Sebastian Fernandez goes up against fellow 18U recent graduate and current US Junior National champ Ricardo Ricky Diaz. Tough draw for Diaz, who runs into a guy who has been really making waves on tour so far this season. – #20 Mauro Daniel Rojas vs Christian Longoria; a great first round match between contrasting styles; the shot-making control game of Longoria versus Rojas’ power. – #13 Adam Manilla vs Timmy Hansen; Manilla plays the youngster Timmy Hansen, who enters a pro tourney for the first time. Hansen is the reigning US 14U national champ and makes up one half of a potentially pretty darn good Father/Son team with his dad Tim Hansen (one of the most decorated amateur players of all time and USAR hall-of-fame inductee). – #19 Nick Riffel vs Lee Connell: Connell has been playing Canadian National events since Riffel was in grade school; we’ll see if the veteran can handle the newbie. – #11 Jake Bredenbeck vs Cesar Castillo; Castillo enters a pro tournament for the first time since 2015; he’s a long-time international representative of Venezuela, last playing for his country in the 2017 Bolivarian games. – #10 Jansen Allen gets a tough 1st round draw in Sioux Falls native John Goth. Goth only has a few major tourneys on his resume over the past few years … but rolled to the US National final in 2012 and has taken out touring pros like Sebastian Franco and Christian Longoria in recent WRT events. This could be a tough one for IRT regular Allen. – #15 Felipe Camacho matches up against Matthew Ivar Majxner, a tough player who has been playing pro events since the late 1990s. – #18 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez faces the always-tough Alejandro Herrera, last seen taking the Men’s Open draw in Minneapolis and who played Robbie Collins tough in the pro draw in Minneapolis before losing. Herrera plays with pace, and Franco will need to adjust.
Projecting to the 32s: – Montoya over Robert Collins; tough draw for Collins, who has had a solid season, but I see a Montoya win here. – #9 Mario Mercado vs Tony Carson: missing out on the bye comes back to haunt Mercado, who runs into former touring pro Carson, who has the wherewithall to advance here. I see a Carson win and Mercado’s tough season continuing. – Charlie Pratt versus Sebastian Fernandez: wow, tough match up here. Pratt has experience on his side but these two play a very similar game; all about control. I give the cerebral Pratt the advantage here over the youngster. – Manilla vs Rojas: I like Rojas here, out-pacing the lefty Manilla in what should be a shoot out of power players swinging out of their shoes. – Carter vs Riffel: these two buddies have met three times on tour, with Riffel taking two of them. I think Riffel wins again and advances to the main draw. – Jake over the Ref Scott McClellan; at some point the Ref will force his way into making … someone else ref his back-of-the-tournament matches 🙂 – Allen vs Landeryou: I like this match-up; i think this could be a pretty tight game. I like Allen’s game lately; he has not been an easy out, but Landeryou’s game could frustrate. – Franco over Camacho: assuming we don’t see a surprise upset, I like Gerardo Franco in this match. He’s got the game and has the capabilities to do a break through.
Main Draw: round of 16. – #1 Landa vs #16 Montoya: for the 2nd straight event, and for the third time in two months, we get Landa v Montoya. Last time, I predicted the upset, and instead Landa cruised to the semis. This time … i’m predicting Landa returns to the site of his first ever pro victory energized and takes a 2 game win. A semis-quality match-up in the 16s yet again. – #8 Alvaro Beltran v Tony Carson: Carson has beaten DLR and Parrilla the last two IRT events he’s entered; he can beat Beltran. But … they’ve met 6 times on the IRT and Beltran has won all 6. I’ll go with a tiebreaker win for Alvaro Beltran. – #5 Samuel Murray v #12 Pratt: last time they played was at the 2018 Worlds, where Pratt waxed Murray in two. Can he repeat the favor? I think he can; since making the final in the season opener, Murray has four early exits in a row in pro events, including two round of 16 upsets. Pratt can make it another early exit here. – #4 Daniel De La Rosa vs Rojas: DLR converts back to Racquetball from Pickleball and downs the youngster Rojas in the 16s for the 2nd tourney in a row. – #3 Kane Waselenchuk gets his first match likely against Riffel and makes quick work of the youngster to advance. – #6 Andree Parrilla vs #11 Jake Bredenbeck: these two have met a few times … and Jake has never lost to Andree. They havn’t met in a year and a half though, and in that time Parrilla has taken a big step ahead. I think Parrilla advances. – #7 Jose Diaz vs #10 Allen: they’ve met 5 times and have gone back and forth; Allen got him in their most recent meeting in Laurel. This is an excellent opportunity for Allen to regain some of his momentum and get back to the quarters. Expect a tough match here. I’m not sure who I favor. I liked what I saw out of Allen in the last event; we’ll go with the Texan here. – #2 Rocky Carson vs Gerardo Franco: they met in Laurel earlier this season and Rocky pasted him. No reason to expect a different result here.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Landa over #8 Beltran: Landa has his number and has had it for a while. – #4 DLR over #12 Pratt: they met at the US Open, a tight but 2-game win for DLR. I like the way DLR is trending this season … he seems like he’s been much more consistent this season than last. After missing the first event, he’s made two finals and a quarter and is a good bet to make at least the semis here. – #3 Kane over #6 Andree: a rematch of the quarters from California, a 3,5 beat-down. No concrete courts in Sioux Falls, so perhaps Parrilla can keep it close, but expect a 2-game win for the King. – #2 Rocky vs #10 Allen: they’ve played 13 times … and Rocky has won 13 times. Expect 14 for 14 here.
Semis: – #1 Landa vs #4 DLR: these two met at the Lewis Drug in 2017 semis and in the 2018 finals (an 11-10 Landa win for his first ever pro title)… so its only fitting if they meet again in 2019. Landa has beaten him h2h 3 straight times now, but they’re always battles. Can DLR turn the tide? I’d like to see Kane vs Landa in the final but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was Kane-DLR again. – #3 Kane vs #2 Rocky; they’ve met 76 times (!) … but if they meet here it’ll be the first time they’ve faced off in a match that was NOT a final since 2009. That’s 10 years of match-ups for tourney titles. Nonetheless, Kane makes it 74-3.
Finals: Kane over Landa. Or maybe DLR. Or perhaps Montoya if I get my predictions way wrong.
——————– There’s also a solid Doubles draw for only the third official IRT doubles event of the year., with 10 teams playing and the regular suspects (Beltran/DLR, Landa/Murray, Montoya/Parrilla). Beltran & DLR are unvanquished in nearly a year of doubles competition and remain the team to beat.
After a down year in 2018 and a website outage that fueled rumors of its demise, the World Racquetball Tour returns to action with its annual event held in conjunction with the most popular amateur event in the land, the 2019 Longhorn Open Racquetball Tournament held on the University of Texas campus in Austin.
Despite falling on the same weekend as the IRT event in Sioux Falls, the WRT pro draw has a solid 22 players, mostly local and Mexico based. We have several WRT regulars and should see a good tournament. As we’ll see below the bottom half of this draw is definitely the tougher side, and whoever comes out of it will have well-earned it.
Here’s a preview of possibly interesting matches by round:
In the 32s… – Texas native and collegiate player Lukas Le takes on Mexican vet Alexi David Cocco Hayes. – Alejandro Almada takes on Louisiana native Joseph Lee in an interesting first rounder. – Underseeded Javier Estrada takes on fellow Mexican Juan Loreto in the first round.
In the 16s, here’s some matches of possible note: – Edson Martinez faces off against long-standing pro Hiroshi Shimizu. Shimizu’s first entry in the database was in an IRT event in March, 2002. – Jordy Alonso takes on the winner of the Hayes/Le match – #4 seed Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on the Almada/Lee winner. – #3 seed Justus Benson gets a tough draw in his home-town tourney, having to face Estrada in the 16s. – #7 Alan Natera Chavez kicks off the tourney against another long-playing IRT pro in Shai Manzuri. Shimizu’s first appearance on tour was in 2002? Manzuri’s first was all the way back in Jan 1997, and he continues to represent Argentina internationally to this day. Amazing.
Projecting the Quarters: we could be seeing some good ball here.
– #1 Jaime Martell Neri is set to face #9 Edson Martinez. This is a winnable match for Martell, but the enigmatic Martinez can put losses on players easily enough. – #4 Eduardo Garay versus Jordy Alonso; Alonso is improving, but Garay has nearly arrived, with wins over top WRT and IRT pros and should advance here. – #6 Javier Mar would be my #1 seed if you were seeding this by my rankings; he takes on the equally dangerous #19 seed Javier Estrada. While Estrada has some marquee wins in the past year (Landa, Beltran), Mar is among the world’s elite and should advance. – #2 Alex Cardona takes on #7 Alan Natera. These two are neck and neck in my rankings; Natera getting great wins lately while Cardona’s ranking is slipping due to outside interests. This could go either way; i’ll give it to the former WRT champ on this day.
Projecting the Semis; – Martell v Garay: I like Garay’s game … but I think Martell wins on this day. – Mar vs Cardona: An old-school match-up of two of Mexico’s best. I don’t have them meeting in a pro event since 2015, and a lot has happened since. Mar takes the match on this day.
Final: Mar over Martell.
In the doubles draw, I’m going with a #1 vs #2 final, with Mar making it a double on the weekend paring with Garay to take out Martell/Natera.
Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk for winning the 2019 International Racquetball Tour California Open. With the win, he captures his 113th career Tier1/Grand Slam event, extends his current match winning streak to 74 matches (3rd longest ever streak), and extends his current game winning streak to 48. He’s yet to drop a game since the tour went to best of 3.
With this win, he rises to #3 in the tour rankings; this was the event in which he got injured last season, so from here until May he’s got no points to defend and should pretty quickly rise up the rankings. He’s got 300+ point advantage in season-to-date rankings already and is well positioned to claim another year end title.
Lets review the draw, with comments on notable (to me) results.
In the round of 64: – In the battle of reigning world Junior champs, the elder 18U champ Eduardo Portillo Rendon outlasted 16U champ Diego Garcia Quispe 12,11. Garcia showed a lot of power, with a sneaky fast serve, but Portillo’s smooth approach kept him just ahead of the Bolivian. – Mexican Junior Oscar Nieto Valadez snuck by the Ref Scott McClellan 11-10. Nieto made the Mexican National 16U final in 2017 … then seems to have missed the 2018 Nationals and Selection events. But he’s still got a year of juniors and looks like a pretty solid player. – Robert Collins took out Sebastian Longoria in 2 straight … which isn’t normally notable except that Longoria is just 16 years old. He lost in the final of the Jr Worlds 14U in Minneapolis in 2017. – Nick Riffel outlasted outdoor champ Luis R Avila 11-8 in the breaker, in a close match between two solid players.
In the round of 32, we had some surprises: – Rodrigo Montoya Soliscruised past Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 9,6, setting up a match against #1 Alejandro Alex Landa. – Portillo took out #9 seeded David Horn 11,13. This is a pretty significant result for me, demonstrating how far Portillo has come in the past year. Its also another early loss for Horn on the season, who now in four events has lost in the 32s twice and the 16s once. Reports are that Horn was under the weather, contributing to his loss, and he forfeited out of doubles after this result. – Sebastian Fernandez took out Adam Manilla 8,12. Also a notable result, in that its another 18-yr old taking out a pretty experienced IRT touring pro. Both Portillo and Fernandez are flexing their muscles on tour right now. – Nieto took Jake Bredenbeck to a tiebreaker before falling 11-3. Not a bad result for a kid playing in his age 18 season. – Mauro Daniel Rojas took out veteran Felipe Camacho 11-6 in a breaker. Very good result for Rojas. – In the 15/18 match-up, Robert Collins earned another match against Rocky with a solid 2-game win over Riffel.
In the round of 16… – The highly anticipated match between #1 Alejandro Landa and IRF world Champ Montoya, the fans were not disappointed. Landa came out on top after dropping the first and racing away with the second. Landa dominated the tiebreaker, jumping out to a 9-2 lead, then held on for a 11-6 win. These two matched up in the Mexico City Open in Dec and Montoya came out on top; this time it was Landa. – With his greatest ever IRT victory, Portillo downed #8 seeded Samuel Murray 14,14. – Andree Parrilla held off the other 18U champion in the draw Fernandez, holding on for an 11,13 win. – Kane Waselenchuk left nothing to chance, dominating Bredenbeck 8,3 – Daniel De La Rosa cruised past the youngster Rojas 4,13 – Jose Diaz indeed got the upset of Sebastian Franco in a tie-breaker, continuing his fantastic season. Diaz now has two quarter-final appearances on the new season and is on track to break into the top 8 based on performance. – Alvaro Beltran held off the solid Jansen Allen in a tie-breaker. – Rocky Carson left nothing to chance, giving Collins a donut en route to a 2-game win.
In the Quarters… – Landa pounded the 18U champ Portillo 3,5, ending his tournament quickly. Still, this is easily Portillo’s best ever IRT event (prior career best was a round of 32 exit at the 2017 US Open). – Waselenchuk made quick work of Parrilla, ironically by the same 3,5 score as Landa’s win. Kane’s serves were just outstanding, Parrilla could do little with his match all night, and to add insult to injury Kane hit splats from down the line positions at 39 feet and rolled out between-the-legs shots. Just unfair. – DLR outlasted Diaz in a back and forth tiebreaker. – Carson got revenge and came from a game down to beat Beltran.
In the Semis: – Kane gave #1 Landa a donut before he caught his breath, then outlasted him in the second to advance to the final 0,9. – DLR won a fantastic 11-10 tiebreaker over Rocky Carson, a scintillating match where each player had multiple shots at match point.
In the Final, DLR was making shots and was pressing Kane most of the way, but in a common refrain Kane controlled the end game like a chess master, and quickly turned a game that was close up until the 8-8 or 10-10 range into a 15-8 or 15-10 game win. DLR tried some unconventional (to say the least) tactics to try to throw Kane’s service game off, to some success it should be said, and really experimented with his service game, but it was to no avail. A sharp Kane and concrete walls proved to be unstoppable.
——————- In the doubles draw, it came down to #1 vs #2. In the end, DLR rebounded from his singles loss to team with Beltran to top #2 seeded Landa/Murray in two straight. These two teams are separating themselves this year, playing together nearly every event and making a name for themselves (along with the Kane/Ben Croft team) as the best in the world.
We have a rare break in the schedule; nothing on the books for the weekend of 1/13/19. But the following weekend we have the great annual Lewis Drug Pro-Am in South Dakota and the equally good Longhorn Open in Austin. I’ll publish some content in the interim related to some new reports and bug fixes i’ve been working on.
Happy New Year. Just as the hangovers from NYE have abated, we’re back in action on the IRT for one of the tour’s biggest annual stops; the 2019 California Open, held in Canoga Park, CA.
37 Pros are entered, a 20% increase over last year at this event and continuing a healthy trend of improved IRT event participation over the past year and a half of tourneys. There’s also some surprise entrants to this event thanks in part to RYDF sponsorships for distant players.
Top 20 players missing: #9 Mario Mercado didn’t make the cross-country trip. #13 Charlie Pratt continues to be a part-time tour player and also didn’t make the long trip. #16 Thomas Carter misses his first event in a while. So just 3 of the top 20 missing.
Lets preview the qualifying and draw.
Notable Round of 64 matches: – Diego Garcia Quispe vs Eduardo Portillo Rendon; a fun match-up of the current reigning 18U World Junior champ and 16U World Junior Champ. I think you have to favor the older player. Bummer these two guys couldn’t go against more established tour players to see how far they’ve advanced. – Mauro Daniel Rojas vs Dane Elkins: Northern California versus Southern California, and even though Elkins has the home town advantage Rojas advances here. – Felipe Mercado Sandy vs Felipe Camacho; notable in that I believe this is the first time two players named “Felipe” have met on tour. I might be wrong though. Advantage Camacho here. – John Wolfe vs Erick Cuevas; an interesting match-up of two frequent IRT tour players; this is a good opportunity for both to get a tour win. – Luis R Avila – Nick Riffel; an interesting contrast in styles, as Avila (reigning WOR outdor 3-wall champ) faces off against one of the newer IRT touring regulars.
Possible round of 32s to watch for: – #16 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #17 Rodrigo Montoya Solis; tough draw for Gerardo Franco here, running into the reigning World Champ Montoya, who enters an IRT event for just the 6th time in the last three seasons. – #9 David Horn vs Portillo: Horn is the highest ranked player who has to play an extra match and gets a tough but winnable match-up against the quickly improving Portillo. I think Horn still advances here. – Sebastian Fernandez vs Adam Manilla; fun match-up between the 18U Junior World runner-up in Fernandez and recent Intercollegiate champ Manilla, who has been playing tough on tour this year. Advantage Manilla. – Rojas vs Camacho; excellent match to see if Rojas can take the next step, heading up against the veteran Camacho, who is a tough out. – Robert Collins vs Riffel: Collins, who is coming off a great tourney where he took Rocky to a tie-breaker, gets another shot to qualify for a main draw against Riffel. Expect a close match.
Projecting the 16s. Lots of play-in matches, but here’s how I’m seeing the round of 16 playing out. – #1 Alejandro Alex Landavs #17 Montoya. Landa is the one who gets screwed by Montoya’s presence, having to play him in the 16s instead of the semis or finals of an event. For those of you who saw my personal top 50, you know that I think these two are neck and neck. Montoya beat him a couple weeks ago, and I like Montoya again here, paving the way for him to make a semi final on the weekend. But expect a battle; Landa doesn’t generally lose easily or quickly. – #8 Samuel Murray vs #9 Horn: Horn beat Sam the only time they met before (April 2018), but I like Murray’s form over Horn’s right now. – #5 Andree Parrilla vs Manilla: Parrilla should advance here, unless he’s looking ahead at his potential quarter final opponent. – #4 Kane Waselenchuk vs #13 Jake Bredenbeck; an interesting match up for Kane, who goes against the guy who gave him his most recent on-the-court (albeit still involving an injury forfeit) loss. Jake beat Kane in May 2016 in a 5th game default. I wonder if Kane will want to “make amends” here. – #3 Daniel De La Rosa vs Rojas: DLR gets started against the hard-hitting youngster, but controls the game as he is apt to do and advances. – #6 Sebastian Franco vs #11 Jose Diaz; hard one to predict here; we know Franco has been nursing an injury and that Diaz has been playing well. I’ll go with Diaz in an upset here. – #7 Alvaro Beltran vs #10 Jansen Allen; Jansen has beaten Alvaro the last couple times they’ve played on tour … but they havn’t met since Nov 2017. Beltran has had the break to rest up from his typically busy playing schedule and he made the final of the last IRT event, so i’ll give him the nod here. – #2 Rocky Carson vs Collins: Collins gets a re-match of the round of 16 match from last IRT event; Carson still advances.
Projecting the Quarters: it could be a fun event: – Montoya-Murray: they’ve met in the past; Murray beat Montoya at the Lewis Drug event last year. So this is not a cut and dried mach. But for me, Montoya is hot and moves on. – Parrilla-Kane: last time they met was in the semis of the US Open, where Kane won 3,12. Parrilla is a tough out, and can make life miserable for even the likes of Kane. I’d expect another similar match, where one of the two games goes long. – DLR vs Diaz: they last met in the qtrs of the US Open, a two game win for DLR 10,9. I’d expect a similar result here. – Carson vs Beltran: these guys have met 48 times on the IRT so far, i think they’ll meet again. They met in the semis of the Portland event and Alvaro advanced in a testy tiebreaker. I’ll gamble and predict he wins again.
Semis: – Montoya – Kane: this would be my ideal semi; these guys have met twice, most recently in a very anticipated 2017 season opener that was won by Kane by the lopsided score of 1,0,3 but which also high-lighted what could be for the back end of IRT tourneys if we could get Montoya playing more frequently. – DLR-Beltran: another match-up between best buddies and doubles partners. They met in Portland and Beltran dominated him … but then DLR turned around and won the Mexican Open in a draw that featured every top Mexican player (including Beltran) in the game today. I’ll go with DLR here.
Final: Kane over DLR.
——————– There’s a solid Doubles draw: 10 teams. I like the #1 vs #2 teams to meet (DLR/Beltran and Landa/Murray), but wouldn’t count out the #4 team of Diaz/Jake to make some noise.
Congrats to Paola Longoria on her win at the latest LPRT event. This is her 5th win out of 5 on the season, her 6th straight tournament win on tour, extends her current match winning streak to 25 matches, and she opens up an even larger lead on her two closest competitors (#2 Samantha Salas Solis, who reportedly had travel issues and did not attend, and #3 Frederique Lambert, who was upset in the round of 16). This win represents Paola’s 87th tournament win in our database.
Here’s a wrap-up of the notable matches (for me) in each round:
In the 32s: – Lucia Gonzalez outlasted 16U world champ Valeria Centellas in four to advance in a battle of young up-and-coming players. – In a battle of two long-time pro players, Laura Brandt (first pro appearance in 2005) outlasted Jennifer Mayadas-Dering (first pro appearance in 1996) in a five-game breaker. – Danielle Maddux outlasted #11 Adrienne Fisher Haynes, the highest seeded player not getting a bye into the 16s, in a 5-game marathon. – Michelle De La Rosa (DLR) also played a 5-game marathon, just eking by Hollie Scott 12-10 in the fifth in a back-and-forth encounter.
In the 16s, just one upset but several close matches. – #8 Carla Muñoz Montesinos outlasted #9 Sheryl Lotts in four close games. – #5 Rhonda Rajsich needed a 5th game tie-breaker to down home-town favorite Masiel Rivera Oporto – #4 Maria Jose Vargas seemed to be battling leg or ankle issues but came back from a 2-game deficit to down Lucia Gonzalez in five. – The big upset though was De La Rosa ousting #2 Frederique Lambert. This is one of the biggest upets of the season and the first time in more than a year that a top 2 seed was upset at this juncture. DLR dominated, winning 6,4,7 and is in a great position to challenge for her second ever pro semi final.
In the Semis: – Longoria took out Rajsich in 3 straight games 4,5,7. – Herrera ended DLR’s run by blitzing past her 1,0,8.
In the Final, Longoria improved to 10-0 lifetime on the pro tour against her country-mate Herrera 8,4,7.
————— In the doubles.. Just one upset in the quarters (#5 over #4). In the semis the top two seeded teams advanced to the final. In the final. Longoria made it a double on the weekend, teaming with Virginia-based Kelani Lawrence to top #2 Lambert/Herrera 7,10.
In the semis, Franco took a close one over fellow local Zelada, while Atlanta-based Miller scored the upset over home-club favorite Warigon. In the final, Miller (who has been playing pretty tough lately) took a game off of the #5 ranked Franco but fell in a tiebreaker.
—————- Happy Holidays to you from PRS: next event isn’t until the new year, with the always popular Canoga Park event on the IRT.
Welcome to the final pro tournament of the calendar year 2018. Its the LPRT Christmas Classic, being played in Laurel MD. This is the same club that held the IRT season-opener a few months back and is a great venue for playing and watching.
This is the 27th annual iteration of this event, making it one of the longer running tourneys in existence. Useless fact; I used to help organize this event, some 20 years ago. Since i’m a digital pack rat, I dug back and found the organizational docs and start times for the 7th annual iteration of this event in 1998. After a time, the mantle was passed to current tournament director Karen Grisz, who has taken it to different venues around the DC area and has made it a regular LPRT stop for years. This year also includes an 18-man IRT tier 5 draw that i’ll preview after the ladies info.
————— LPRT Singles draw. 22 ladies are entered, but there are some significant absences. #2 Samantha Salas Solis is missing, as is #6 Nancy Enriquez and #9 Gaby Martinez. This gives several players bumps into the top 8 and out of qualifying matches.
Here’s the round of 32 play-in matches to watch for: – Kelani Lawrence vs Amie Brewer: two VA residents duke it out to face the #1 seed. – 7-time junior world champ Lucia Gonzalez makes her first appearance on the LPRT this season and faces off against current World 16u champ Valeria Centellas in an interesting match. – Adrienne Fisher Haynes vs Danielle Danielle Maddux: Danielle Maddux (nee Key) makes her first pro appearance in more than 8 years. The former US and World junior champion joins her sister Michelle on the tour and will team up in doubles as well. – Michelle De La Rosa vs Hollie Scott: De La Rosa makes her 3rd LPRT appearance this season, with a play-in to the #2 seed.
In the round of 16… – #1 Paola Longoria likely faces her doubles partner for the event in Lawrence. – In the always competitive 8/9th seed match: two LPRT touring vets face off in Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos and Sheryl Lotts. They’re 2-2 head to head on the LPRT, but all four matches were years ago (last meeting Sept 2016). – #5 Rhonda Rajsich vs the home-town favorite #12 Masiel Rivera. Rivera has been playing solid and could push Rhonda here. – De La Rosa vs #2 Frederique Lambert; DLR is a dangerous opponent, and Lambert has a couple of early upsets on her resume lately.
Projected Quarters: I’m going basically chalk for the back end of this tourney. – Longoria over Munoz; she’s 10-0 over Carla on the LPRT – Vargas over Rajsich: Vargas is 14-11 h2h lifetime over Rhonda on the LPRT but is having a solid season. – Alexandra Herrera over Natalia Mendez Erlwein; Herrera is 3-1 lifetime over Mendez on the LPRT – Lambert over Cristina Amaya: Lambert is 8-5 career over Amaya, but has won 7 of their last 8 meetings.
Semis: – Longoria over Vargas: amazingly, Longoria is 23-0 over Vargas on the pro tour – Lambert over Herrera: Frederique holds an 8-1 h2h advantage.
Finals: Longoria over Lambert; Paola is 26-1 career on the pro tour over Fred.
————— LPRT Doubles
Salas’ absence means the dominant #1 team of Longoria/Salas cannot win this doubles event like they most often do. Instead, Longoria will team with Lawrence for this tourney. I think this may open the door for a team like #2 seeds Lambert/Herrera or Argentinian team of Mendez/Vargas to slip through and take the title.
In case you missed any of the matches, marquee matches were streamed live by RKT and were well covered in the Streaming Racquet sports facebook group.
Lets review the draw and the notable matches by round:
In the 32s, most every match went as I expected except for…
– Gerardo Franco Gonzalez blasted IRT #5 ranked Sebastian Franco 9,5. That was a long flight for a one-and-done for S.Franco, and is a very solid win for Gerardo.
– Daniel De La Rosa (DLR) played a closer-than-expected match against #31 seed Jordy Alonso winning 11,13.
– Juan Loreto made his opener with Polito Gutierrez a little closer than I would have expected, losing 9,11.
– Erick Cuevas eked out an 11-9 tiebreaker win over Daniel Neri in the 15/18 match-up.
– … But the big upset was Javier Estrada taking out IRT #6 Alvaro Beltran in a tiebreaker. Not an upset by seeding, but certainly a very solid win for Estrada. Beltran looked sluggish on the court … almost as if he was a 40-yr old who in the last 5 days has had to play an hour and a half final against the best player in the world, fly home, rest a day, fly to Monterrey and then play a match against a red-hot Estrada. Lets see if Estrada can build on this win and make a run.
In the 16s…
– #1 Rodrigo Montoya Solis played a close one against Alejandro Alex Cardonafighting off a furious 2nd game comeback to advance 11,14.
– #9 Eduardo Portillo Rendon got a statement win over WRT regular #8 Jaime Martell Neri 7,8
– #5 Javier Mar took out the veteran Polo Gutierrez 9,10 by playing an aggressive match and turning up the pressure on his opponent.
– #13 Alejandro Alex Landa“upset” #4 seed Alan Natera Chavez 14,3. In the first, Landa stormed back after Natera jumped out to a big lead … then just rolled in the second game, consistently sending Natera the wrong way on serves and just controlling the match.
– #3 Andree Parrilla ended Gerardo Franco’s upset run 3,12.
– #11 Christian Longoria got a solid win over #6 Estrada in a tiebreaker. One of Longoria’s best career wins for me.
– #7 Sebastian Fernandez controlled Edson Martinez for a comfortable 2 game win.
– #2 DLR advanced with ease over Erick Cuevas 4,5.
So 5 of top 8 seeds advance into the quarters.
In the Quarters…
– Montoya handled Portillo, though Lalo certainly improved his performance over the last time they played, going down 7,11. Portillo has made great strides in his game over the past calendar year and could be a force on the pro tours quite soon.
– In the Match of the quarters, two of the worlds best went head to head, with Landa taking out Mar 3,(12),2. Landa dominated the first game with his classical pressure game; he relentlessly drive serves, often puts his opponents in positions where they have to take defensive shots, and is a world-class shot maker/kill shot artist from any point in the court. Mar turned the tables by winning a close one in the second, but Landa turned back up the pressure and ran away with the tiebreaker. In my prediction piece I thought perhaps Landa would get upset here, but he’s playing with a spring in his step that you don’t often see. I think he’s motivated and a threat to win this draw now that he’s gotten past two dangerous opponents.
– Parrilla cruised past Longoria 8,12. Parrilla is a sneaky opponent; he adapts to any playing stile, is a world-class retreiver, and is in good enough shape to outlast most any opponent. He’s still a little inconsistent (he’s had some upsets early in amateur events of late) and got a little unlucky in the Portland draw (having to face Kane in the 16s), but I think he’s headed towards a top 8 IRT season.
– DLR blasted newly matriculated junior Sebastian Fernandez 5,3. Both these guys have similar playing styles, and can look quite “casual” with their serves and demeanor on the court. Fernandez stepped it up, especially at the US Open in October, but clearly has a ways to go to compete with his country’s best.
Its notable that the last 8 of this event included both kids who made the 18U national and junior worlds finals this year; both Portillo and Fernandez seems well equipped to compete with the adults going forward.
In the Semis, we saw just how great top-level racquetball can be, with two fantastic matches that include (for me) the four best players in the world behind Kane and Rocky.
– Montoya and Landa played a scintillating match, with Montoya edging Landa 15-14 in the first game fittingly on a blistering killshot from deep in the court. Landa jumped way ahead in game 2, leading 10-3 at one point … then Montoya took over, scoring 12 unanswered points to take the match 14,10. Landa and Montoya have now split 4 head-to-head matches in big-time events over the past couple of seasons and the margin between them is razor thin.
– DLR and Parrilla were one point away from the “perfect match,” splitting two games 15-14 before DLR took the tiebreaker 11-9. Parrilla took a slight knock at 8-7 in the breaker, took a few minutes injury time, then traded clutch shots at match point for and against before DLR got a service winner to take the match.
In the final…DLR played a complete game and really shut down Montoya, winning 8.8. DLR was his same consistent self, with a controlled game plan, while Montoya’s game seemed a bit off and that was enough to make for a not-very-close final.
There was also a very healthy Doubles draw, featuring all the top players. Unfortunately, the current World IRF doubles champ team of Beltran & DLR forfeited out (presumably b/c Beltran lost in the first round of singles, but that’s an assumption), robbing the draw of a great team. Nonetheless, the other 3 top seeds all advanced to the semis. There:
– Landa/Gutierrez downed Cardona/GFranco, who were the beneficiaries of the forfeit loss of the top team. They were made to work for it though, winning two close games 13 and 14.
– Mar/Montoya faced Parrilla/Edson Martinez and also advanced in two closer games 13,11.
In the final, Mar/Montoya run away with the first game 15-3, and held on the second to win in two.
Also, congrats to Paola Longoria for taking the small Women’s draw over three of her LPRT top 10 compatriots.
In the semis, Longoria put a dominating win on the current 18U Junior World champ Montse Mejia 7,2, while Alexandra Herreraovercame a first game loss to donut Nancy Enriquez in the second and then take the tiebreaker 11-5.
In the Final, Longoria ran away from Herrera by the same scores that she downed Montserrat by: 7 and 2.
Summary of the event: a fantastic inaugural event if it becomes a regular fixture on the circuit. You couldn’t ask for much more in terms of domestic talent. I’d have loved to see the rest of the top IRT touring players there; imagine a 50 person pro draw with the breadth of the IRT players showing up and making every round of 16 match even more competitive. Hope to see more from RKT going forward.
Congrats to #1 Paola Longoria, who was a double winner on the weekend, taking the Singles draw over #2 seeded Samantha Salas Solis, then teaming with Salas to win the pro doubles draw.
Longoria and Salas have now met in the finals of each of the season’s first four events, solidifying their lead at the top of the rankings table. Longoria improves to 46-3 against Salas on the pro tours with the win. This win represents Longoria’s 86th pro title in the database (though we may be missing some of her earlier tourney wins; a situation we’re working on rectifiying). Lastly, this tourney extends Paola’s current match winning streak to 21 games; she’s won the last 5 pro events.
Lets take a quick run through the singles draw. Here’s the match report in the database:
Upsets/notable results for me:
– Four regular touring players, coincidentally seeded 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th, were all upset in the first round of play. 4-time pro champ Cheryl Gudinas put a 5-game loss on Sheryl Lotts, then nearly beat Natalia Mendez, taking her to a 5th game tiebreaker.
– Junior up and coming player Angelica Barrios took out Adrienne Fisher Haynes and took a game off of #5 seed Rhonda Rajsich before bowing out.
– Michelle De La Rosa got a solid win over #10 Susy Acosta before falling in 3 closer games to #4 seed Maria Jose Vargas. De La Rosa (nee Key) has now played in 3 events this season, after playing just a handful over the past few years, and could be a force on tour if she continues to play. She’s made a number of Quarters and even one Semi and is a dangerous opponent.
– Masiel Rivera Oporto played her 3rd event of the season and made her second round of 16; she’s right in the range of seeding where she could continue to get opportunistic match-ups and keep moving up the rankings.
– I liked what I saw out of youngster Brenda Laime, who got past Erin Rivera before taking a game off of #2 seed Solis.
– 16U world champ Valeria Centellas was one-and-done in the pro draw, running into the 7th seeded Colombian Amaya Cris, but she played very well in the Women’s Open draw, beating experienced American Sharon Jackson and then Lexi York before losing in two close games to experienced international player Adriana Riveros in the semis.
– Speaking of York; she made her pro tour debut after a pretty good juniors run (she was the 2015 USA 18U champ and made the semis of junior worlds that same year). Hope to see more of York in the coming years.
The Longoria/Salas team is now 71-3 together since we began tracking LPRT doubles in 2013. Longoria has won 36 of the 41 doubles draws she’s entered in that time, most of them won with Salas. I still can’t quite believe they were upset as a team at the 2018 Mexican selection event, thus preventing them from competing in Worlds this past summer.
Next up for the LPRT: the Christmas Classic in Laurel, MD.