We’re to the finals of the Pro singles draws. Lets review the semis, which together went according to prediction but also were surprising.
On the Women’s side,
– #1 Paola Longoria blasted #12 Gaby Martinez 5,0,3 to leave no doubt about who is the current top-dog in the sport. Longoria advances to the final in pursuit of her 9th US Open title.
– #3 Samatha Samantha Salas Solis left no doubt about who the 2nd best player on tour is, advancing past current #2 Frederique Lambert in 3 games. It likely takes the first half of this season for Salas to make up the points gap, but she’s well on her way to regaining her #2 ranking on tour.
So we get the expected final; the 47th LPRT meeting between doubles partners Longoria and Salas. Longoria leads the series 43-3 (https://bit.ly/2QAnMBA) and its a stretch to predict anything but another US Open title for Paola.
– Martinez gets another shot at Longoria; she got the win at Worlds, but then fell in the first LPRT event of the season at this same gate. I suspect Longoria is “up” for this match again and moves on.
– Despite being the higher seed, Lambert is just 4-12 lifetime against Salas, which included a 3-game domination at the LPRT season opener. Salas moves on to setup yet another finals rematch with Longoria.
Finals prediction: Longoria over Salas in their 47th h2h meeting on tour.
Here’s a review of Thursday LPRT singles action and a preview of Friday’s quarters.
LPRT round of 32 surprises:
– Argentinian Maria Jose Vargas (the #7 seed) was upset in the 32s, losing to Bolivian veteran international player Jenny Daza Navia.
– Brenda Laime Jalil got an upset win over American Sheryl Lotts in 4.
– #4 Alexandra Herrera was stretched as far as you can go by Michelle De La Rosa , winning 12-10 in the 5th. These two spent an awful long time on the court; the first game was 16-14 and two other games went “extra time.” Tough match.
– Montserrat Perez came from 2 games down to upset #14 Adrienne Fisher Haynes.
– Ana Laura Flores got a upset win over #15 Susy Acosta in 4.
– Bolivian star Yazmine Sabja took out #10 Carla Muñoz Montesinos in 5 games, opening a pathway to the quarters.
– #1 Paola Longoria put two donuts on Erika Manilla … then was stretched to 13-11 in game three to advance by the odd-looking score of 0,0,11.
LPRT round of 16 notables:
– Ana Gabrielle Gaby Martinez had a much easier time with Enriquez this time around, advancing in four (they went 12-10 in the 5th earlier this season).
– Herrera rebounded from nearly being upset in the 32s to advance past Laime in 4.
– Mexican junior phenom Montse Mejia took a game off the #1 Longoria before the champ advanced in 4.
– In a battle of Bolivians, Sabja downed country-mate Daza in a battle of upset seeds to advance to the quarters.
– #1 Longoria v #8 Natalia Mendez: Longoria 2-0 lifetime on LPRT against Natalia and does not seem likely to fall at this stage.
– #12 Martinez v #4 Herrera: Martinez is the underdog here by seed, but has been on a tear lately and is the favorite to advance.
– #3 Salas v #6 Rhonda Rajsich: Salas is just 6-11 lifetime against Rhonda, but has one 4 of the last 6 meetings on the LPRT. Salas has nearly completed her comeback from surgery last season and is the favorite to advance here.
– #2 Frederique Lambert vs #23 Sabja; They’ve met twice; once in an IRF event, once last year on the LPRT. Sabja took both. I sense her continuing her upset streak at this event. Sabja in 4.
Lets talk about the main draw. Thursday features round of 32 and 16 action. Here’s some fun round of 32 matches to watch for:
– #4 Alexandra Herrera gets a tough first round against Michelle De La Rosa. De La Rosa has put losses on top LPRT pros in the past and will not be intimidated on the court. Herrera will need to be on her game to avoid a massive upset here.
– #3 Samantha Salas Solis was done no favors drawing Kelani Lawrence in the first round either. Lawrence (nee Bailey) doesn’t have a ton of pro experience, but has had a fantastic year on the amateur side and is a dangerous opponent.
– #14 Adrienne Fisher Haynes gets an upset-minded first round matchup against Mexican youngster #19 Montserrat Perez.
– #7 Maria Jose Vargas has an all-South America match versus Bolivian veteran Jenny Daza Navia.
– #10 Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos may have her hands full with the dangerous Bolivian international Jazmine Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol. Sabja beat her in a tiebreaker at IRF Worlds in August and will be favored to do so again.
– #15 Susy Acosta will be challenged by a country-woman less than half her age in 18U player #18 Ana Laura Flores .
And here’s some potential round of 16 matches that could be fun to watch:
– #1 Paola Longoria probably doesn’t lose to Mexican junior phenom #17 Montse Mejia (the reigning 18U world champion who has yet to matriculate out of junior racquetball), but she could be in for a tougher match than she would have wanted in the 16s.
– #8/#9 match-ups are always close, and a match between Amaya Cris and Natalia Mendez will be too close to call; they’re 2-2 across LPRT and IRF and this could be a toss-up.
– #5 Nancy Enriquez and #12 Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez faced off in the quarters of the first LPRT event, with the world champion Martinez escaping with a 12-10 5th game win. I sense another close match with Martinez advancing again.
– #7 Vargas gets a potential match against Sabja here … a potential rematch of the quarters of IRF Worlds and the final of the 2018 South American games. Vargas won both those matches easily and makes it a 3rd here.
Rajsich & Lotts may have the toughest draw, going up against a solid Bolivian team of Jenny Daza Naviaand Angelica Barrios. De La Rosa/Munoz also have a tough match-up with the reigning world doubles champion Bolivian Yazmine Sabja teamed up with solid Mexican pro Nancy Enriquez. This match could go either way.
In the main draw, I’m going to predict a re-match of this past summer’s Mexican Worlds qualifying event, with #1 seeds Paola Longoriaand Samantha Salas Solis taking on #2 seedAlexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia. Herrera/Mejia scored a pretty large upset to take the Mexican spot at IRF Worlds this year over the Longoria/Salas team … but I don’t expect lightening to strike twice. The best doubles team in the world, by far, should win here again.
The Ladies pro singles event at the 23rd annual US Open kicks off Wednesday afternoon with one round of qualifying. A solid draw of 40 professionals matches the 2017 draw and continues a solid showing at this event for the Ladies pros. 17 of the top 20 women in the world are present, and 24 of the top 30 players. Notably absent is #8 Jessica Leona Parrilla, still recovering from a major knee injury. Also missing from the top 20 is Guatemalan vet Maria ReneeRodriguez and #19 Mexican Eleni Guzman Velgis.
– Michelle De La Rosa, fresh off two finals appearances at the 2018 3WallBall WOR event held last weekend in Vegas, will take on fellow Southwestern US player, Texan Linda Tyler.
– An IRF-flavored qualifier awaits Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz and Bolivian Angelica Barrios.
– Two younger Mexican players Denisse Maldonado and Daniela Rico face off for a shot at 4-time US Open winner Rhonda Rajsich
– Kelani (Bailey) Kelani Lawrence, who made the finals of US nationals earlier this year but had to pass on the ticket to Worlds because it conflicted with her wedding, is back in action post nuptuals and faces off against the veteran Korean player Young Ock Lee. Lee is playing in her 8th straight US Open, making the trip halfway around the world every year.
Lets recap the event, which may have had a “normal” final but definitely featured some upsets and big wins.
Notables missing: #3 Jessica Leona Parrilla , who suffered a knee ligament injury at Mexican Nationals over the summer and looks to miss a sizable chunk of this season. Other Notable top 20 players include #13 Sheryl Lotts (probably exhausted from her trip to Worlds), #19 Jenny Daza Navia (also a busy international player this summer), and #20 Eleni Guzman Velgis .
In the play-ins/Round of 32, some surprise results:
– Mexican youngster Diana Aguilar surprised Chilean #1 Carla Muñoz Montesinos, coming back from 2 games down to win in the 5th. Aguilar was looking like “the next big thing” a few years ago, winning two consecutive 16U World Championships in 2013 and 2014 before dropping off the Juniors radar, playing just one more time in any Junior tournament. Now 21, she has played just one pro tournament in the past three years; lets hope this is the start of a come-back.
– Another young Mexican player Montserrat Perez (who was the same year as Aguilar coming up), also pulled off a nice upset win over a tough veteran player in Guatemalan Marie Renee Rodriguez, coming back from 2-1 games down to also win in the 5th 11-9. Its the second time she’s taken out Rodriguez in as many appearances on the tour, the last time coming in April 2018 in San Antonio.
In the 16s…
– #13 seed Ana Gabrielle Gaby Martinez continued her great summer of 2018 and upset #4 seeded Rhonda Rajsich in four. Martinez is looking more and more like one of the top 2-3 players in the world based on results this summer, and she got a statement win here.
– Ana Laura Flores, who is in her age 17 season (!), got a walkover win in the 32s then promptly defeated #6 Natalia Mendez 12-10 in the fifth. Mendez had an amazing Worlds run and was my choice to make the semis here; instead Flores gets easily the best win of her career and makes her first pro quarterfinal. Add her name to the list of amazing Mexican juniors
making waves on the world scene.
– Samantha Salas Solis continued her climb back up the rankings post-injury with a tough win over #7 seed Cris Amaya, taking a brutal 5 game match.
– Longoria advanced past Maria Jose Vargas in three straight 0,4,4. Vargas still has not beaten Longoria on the pro tour (she’s now 0-22 lifetime) but had some success in IRF events this summer (winning the South American games) and is looking (like Salas) to rebuild ranking points after an absence from the tour.
– Martinez’s run continues with a fantastic come from behind win over Nancy Enriquez, 12-10 in the 5th. Martinez was down 2 games to 0 and was just a couple points from elimination before coming all the way back.
– Salas trounced Lambert in a match-up of the 2nd and 3rd best players on tour right now, making a statement about how the tour rankings may eventually look at the end of this season.
The Semis featured two rather anti-climactic results, with Longoria geting revenge for her World’s loss with a 3-game easy win over Martinez, while Salas advanced easily over her country-mate Alexandra Herrera.
The final was the 46th ever pro meeting between doubles partners Longoria and Salas … and Longora won for the 43rd time 7,1,3 to capture the title.
In the doubles event, Paola Longoria made it a double on the weekend, taking the doubles title with Partner Salas in a rematch of the Mexican Worlds selection event from earlier this year. They defeated Herrera/Mejia 10,9 in the final.
Welcome to the 2018-19 Pro Racquetball season! Fresh on the heels of an amazing World Championships event, we have the first Ladies pro event of the season, and we start of with a bang; the Paola Longoria Experience Grand Slam event.
There’s 24 ladies entered, meaning a round of byes for the top 8 seeds. Here’s a preview.
Round of 32 Notable matches:
– Susy Acosta kicks off her 21st pro season by playing up and coming player Cassandra Lee in the 16/17 first round match-up for the right to play #1 Longoria.
– Samantha Salas Solis comes into the event seeded 10th thanks to missing a chunk of last season to shoulder injury; she has to play-in against fellow Mexican Carolina Luque.
– Mexican phenom junior Montserrat Mejia, fresh off a doubles final appearance at Worlds, takes on fellow country-woman Erin Rivera early.
Notable round of 16 projections::
– #9 Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos faces off against #8 Maria Jose Vargas in a tough early match for both players. Vargas is also rebuilding ranking points thanks to an extended absence on tour, but made the semis at Worlds and should advance here.
– #13 Ana Gabriel Martinez comes up against #4 Rhonda Rajsich, and this could be a very early test to see just how repeatable Martinez’ worlds performance will be. Rhonda suffered an early knockout of Worlds and will be looking to play better here.
– #14 Jugadores Racquetbol Guatemala player Maria Renee Rodriguez could give #3 Alexandra Herrera a tough match in this round; Herrera struggled at times in Costa Rica while Rodriguez took a game off of Vargas before losing in the 16s at Worlds.
– #6 Natalia Mendez had a phenomenal Worlds, knocking off two of the top 4 women in the world, and should advance past Colombian #11 seed Adriana Riveros.
– Tough luck draw for #7 Cristina Amaya Cris, who faces off against an underseeded Salas early.
– #2 Frederique Lambert gets a tough early test against junior phenom Mejia in the 16s … Lambert was upset early at Worlds; can Mejia pull another upset here?
– #1 Longoria will have to earn it, facing off against a top 4 player in Vargas in the round of 8. I see a tiebreaker win for Longoria here, but Vargas will make some noise this season.
– #13 Martinez over #4 Nancy Enriquez; I think Martinez is on a run and can only be stopped by one person in this draw.
– #6 Mendez over #3 Herrera: Mendez continues her excellent form and takes out the lefty Herrera in the quarters.
– #10 Salas over #2 Lambert: Salas owns the LPRT head-to-head record 11-4 over Lambert and, despite both players losing early at worlds, seems like she may have the slight edge here.
– #1 Longoria over #13 Martinez: I think Longoria is favored over Martinez right now in the pro format due to fitness and experience; she outlasts the Guatemalan and gets some revenge for the Worlds loss.
– #10 Salas over #6 Mendez: Mendez’ luck runs out against the motivated Salas.
Predicted Final: Longoria over Salas, which is anticlimactic given that its a very common LPRT final and given all the possible upsets we may see earlier.
The doubles draw is stacked, with the #1 overall team of Longoria/Salas, the World finliasts Herrera/Mejia, World semi finalists Rodriguez/Martinez, World Quarter-finalists Vargas/Mendez, and an intriguing new team of Lambert and Enriquez that could be tough to beat.
I’m going with a Mexico-Guatemala final, a rematch of the 2018 central American & Caribbean games final of Longoria/Salas vs Martinez/Rodriguez.