2018 World Juniors Wrap-Up

Eduardo “Lalo” Portillo finishes off his junior career with an 18U world title.
… as does Montserrat “Montse” Mejia.

The final International Racquetball Federation – IRF event of the season has finished up and new World Junior titlists have been crowned. Congrats to all the winners.

Here’s a review of the four eldest-most age categories (the ones that www.proracquetballstats.com currently tracks) and how the tournaments played out.

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In the Boys 18U (PRS Match report: https://bit.ly/2DyPnRc)…

The two Americans both fought hard but fell at the quarter-final stage. Los Angeles native Dane Elkins took #1 overall seed Fernando Ruiz Michel to a tiebreaker, and Stocktonian Ricardo Ricky Diaz (brother of IRT pro Jose Diaz) played #3 seed Bolivian Gerson Miranda tough, eventually falling 13,12. The two Mexican top seeds both advanced tot he semis with ease.

In the semis, it was Bolivia vs Mexico on both sides of the draw … and it was both Mexican’s advancing to the final to force a rematch of the Mexican Nationals final in May. #4 Eduardo Portillo Rendon took out #1 seeded Fernando Ruiz Michel in two hard fought games, while #2 Sebastian Fernandez cruised past #3 seeded Gerson Miranda.

In the Final, we got a rematch of the Mexican 18U Junior National final from past May (won by Fernandez), the 18U selection event final in Mexico (again won by Fernandez) and a rematch of the 2016 16U World Juniors final (won by Portillo). On this day though, Portillo was the better player, dropping the first game 14 then cruising to the title (14),4,7.

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In the Girls 18U (match report here: https://bit.ly/2AYIYMx)…

The knock-out rounds featured all four top seeds advancing with relative ease into the semis; only #4 Gaby Martinez had more than 3 points scored against her in any quarter-final game, downing Canadian Alexis Iwaasa 9,5.

In the semis, Martinez took out the #1 seeded Mexican Ana Laura Flores with ease 5,3, while #3 Montse Mejia took a close match against #2 Angelica Barrios 14,8.

The Final thus was a rematch of 2017’s 18U world championship (won by Mejia), and of the 2016 16U World championship (won by Martinez), and represents a fitting end to both players’ junior careers. A fantastic match ensued, with Mejia taking the first game 14, dropping the second game 8, then controlling the tiebreaker to down the reigning World Champ and defend her 18U world championship. Final score: 14,(8),6. Martinez is denied a chance at becoming just the second player ever to hold both a Junior and World Adult singles title simultaneously.

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In the Boys 16U (match report here: https://bit.ly/2AYIYMx)…

The two top seeds advanced to the semis with little fan fare, with #1 Jose Carlos Ramos topping Texan Cayden Aikens in two, and #2 Bolivian Diego Garcia Quispe getting an injury fft win. #12 seed Mexican Guillermo Ortega “upset” the #4 seeded Bolivian Adrian Jaldin (though Ortega was the #3 seed entering the round robins) to make the semis. Lastly American #6 seed Sahil Thakur could not capitalize on a one-game lead and fell in a tiebreaker to #3 seed Ecuadorian Juan Sebastian Flores.

In the semis, Ramos topped fellow Mexican Ortega a rematch of the 16U National selection event in August (also won by Ramos), while pre-tourney favorite Garcia pasted Flores 3,2 to advance to the World final.

In the final, Garcia took a dominant win 4,10 over the #1 seed to take the title. Garcia did not drop a game in this tournament, and the 15-10 second game in the finals was the most any player scored on him in this tournament. He’s set to be a force to be reckoned with going forward.

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In the Girls 16U (match report here: https://bit.ly/2qESWg9)…

The top four seeds advanced to the semis, taking out both Canadians (Juliette Parent and Cassie Prentice) as well as the lone remaining American (Annie Roberts).

In the semis, #1 seed Valeria Centellas advanced over the Mexican Guadalupe Griffin 5,10 while #3 Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz topped the Mexican #1 Maria Fernanda Gutierrez, making for the only of these four finals to feature no Mexican juniors.

In the final, Centellas dropped the first game 9, then dominated the rest of the way, taking the final (9),4,3 to take the world 16U title for Bolivia.

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Quick wrap of Doubles action:
– Boys 18U final featured four of the best singles players in the tourney, as Mexico and Bolivia went at it in a rematch of the scintillating RR match. In the final, the Mexican team of Fernandez and Rodrigo Rodriguez came out on top, getting revenge for their RR loss to the Bolivian team of Fernando Ruiz and Gerson Miranda for the title.

– Girls 18U final featured the top Mexican team versus Ecuador. The Mexican team of Ana Laura Flores and Abril Sacristan cruised to a world title.

– Boys 16U also featured Mexico vs Bolivia in the final (like the 16U). The Mexican team had to play just one match to get to the final (getting a bye and an inj-fft), but could not overcome the Bolivian team powered by the singles champ Garcia.

– Girls 16U was Bolivia vs Canada, who ousted the higher seeded Mexican team in the semis. On this day the Bolivians cruised to the title 8,7 over team Canada.

The Girls 16U final was notable for this fact; Bolivian Valeria Centellas won the Adult World doubles championships earlier this year with Yazmine Sabja Aliss and now holds the 16U junior worlds doubles championship … as far as we can tell, this is a first in the international game (having a player hold both the Adult and the junior world title in doubles).

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A quick note: as we’ve clearly been seeing for a while, the balance of power both in Juniors and on the pro tours is clearly no longer with the originating countries of the sport. USA and Canadian players failed to advance to even the semis in either 16U or 18U. Team USA did experience some success; the Americans swept the 14U doubles titles, made the finals of both 14U singles events and American Nikil Prasad won the boys 12U in dominant fashion. But the older levels were completely dominated by Mexico and Bolivia.

2018 World Juniors Knockout Preview

The 2018 30th annual International Racquetball Federation – IRF World Juniors event has been underway since Saturday in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The round robin matches are now complete and the knockout brackets are set. We’re to the business end of this tourney, so lets preview the draws and make some predictions.

Draws are available at IRF’s website http://www.internationalracquetball.com/ by clicking on the event and then the direct link for draws. Follow the IRF on facebook to get notified of live feeds; Timothy Baghurst is broadcasting all day every day for a week straight and is doing a great job.

Note: we only really track 16U and 18U (for now), so here’s a preview of the 16 and 18U knockout draws for both Boys and Girls. Lots of familiar names in these draws, especially for fans of international racquetball and the growing international game.

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In the Boys 18U, USA 18U champ and pre-tourney #1 seed Ricardo Ricky Diaz lost twice in the RRs, dropping his knock-out seed to #11 Similarly, USA #2 Dane Elkins saw his pre-tourney seed take a hit with two round-robin upsets himself. The two favorites to make the final (the two top Mexicans) Sebastian Fernandez and Eduardo Portillo Rendon both cruised through the round robins to maintain their top four seeds in the knockout phase.

Predictions for the knockouts: I can see some minor upsets in the early rounds, especially with the two now under-seeded Americans, but I still see the top four seeds (the two Bolivians and the two Mexicans) advancing to the semis.

In the semis, I see the two Mexican players advancing over their Bolivian rivals; Portillo over #1 seed Fernandoz Ruiz Michel and Fernandez over #3 Gerson Miranda (which would be a rematch of the 2017 16U world final). This would setup a re-match of the 2018 Mexican Junior 18U final, won by Fernandez in a tiebreaker. I see Fernandez taking this title and becoming a force to be reckoned with on the pro tours soon.

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In the Girls 18U, the top four seeds entering round robin play maintained their seeds into the main draw, and gave us a likely preview of the final on day one. Looking ahead at the draw:
– Look for the two Americans Elyse Duffy and Graciana Wargo to advance to the quarters but run into heavy favorites.
– In the Quarters, the top 3 seeds Ana Laura Flores, Bolivian Angelica Barrios and #3 Montserrat Montse Mejia should advance easily to the semis. #4 seed and current reigning adult World Champion Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez fell to Mejia in the round robins and has to face #5 seeded Alexis Iwaasa in the quarters.  Martinez beat Iwaasa at this same stage in last year’s World Juniors and should win again.

– In the semis, Martinez should outlast the #1 seeded Flores to setup a rematch with Mejia of the 2017 World 18U girls final (2017 18U match report here: https://bit.ly/2RCPMVu).

– In the final, I predict Martinez returns the favor and captures the first ever double-double world title of Adult and 18U.

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In the Boys 16U, there’s a couple of familiar names in the draw to those following the IRT this year. #2 seeded Diego Garcia Quispe played in both the Laurel event and in the US Open and acquitted himself quite well. I predict he runs to the title, defeating American Sahil Thakur in the semi and #1 seeded Mexican Jose Ramos in the final.

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In the Girls 16U…the two Americans Annie Roberts and Erin Slutzky have to play each other in the first knock out round, but the winner plays into the #2 seed Mexican Maria Gutierrez. It may not matter; the #1 overall seed is current reigning World doubles champion Valeria Centellas, who played 18U last year in World Juniors (as a 15 yr old) and still made the semis. I predict Centellas over Gutierrez in the final.

Sonora Open wrap-up

Ochoa completely earned this win, with victories over several good players.

Another weekend, another strong Mexican draw for a non-Tier 1 IRT event. Lets review the Sonora Open.

R2link for the event.

The Sonora open draw was a bit deeper than last week’s Torreon draw, with a number of up-and-coming players falling in the round of 16. Among them; Rogelio Castillo, Daniel Maldonado, and Juan Loreto.

From the Quarters on-wards:

– #1 Rodrigo Montoya Solís, looking for two wins in two weekends, downed the youngster Eduardo Lalo Portillo with ease 3,7. Portillo couldn’t do much with the World Champ on this day.

– #4 seeded Javier Estrada took out #5 seeded two-time World Racquetball Tour year end champ Alex Cardona in two tight games 12,14. An excellent win for Estrada, who has now put himself in a position to make waves every time he plays.

– #3 Alan Natera Chavez could not continue his good run of form, losing to #6 Jaime Martell in a tiebreaker.

– #7 Ernesto Ochoa got revenge for last week’s quarter-finals loss by thoroughly dominating #2 seed Javier Mar 6,7. Ochoa did not miss on opportunities, made his shots and completely earned this win.

In the Semis:
– #1 Montoya earned a tough close win over #4 Estrada 10,14.
– #7 Ochoa continued his great run, beating #6 Martell in a tiebreaker.

In the final:
– Ochoa took game one over Montoya, thoroughly earning the win with incredible court coverage and crisp shot making. Mid-way through Game 2 ahead 10-6, Montoya hit the side wall awkwardly on his ankle and had to retire. So Ochoa gets the win, but wasn’t able to quite put the exclamation point on the event like he seemed he was capable of.

For me, the events of the last two weekends have now escalated the status of both Estrada and Ochoa into near top-20 realm world-wide. Great playing, great ball.
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Also a fun doubles draw, with all the top players teaming up for a solid doubles draw. In the final, the top team of Montoya/Mar had to forfeit after Rodrigo’s injury, defaulting to #3 seeded Natera/Martell. Natera and Martell had easily downed the two aforementioned players on great form (Estrada and Ochoa) in the semis while Montoya/Mar had taken out the excellent doubles players teaming up in Cardona/Martell 11-8.

Gran Torneo Del San Isidro Wrap-Up

World Champ Montoya takes the tier-4 event in a walk-over final.

Gran Torneo Del San Isidro Wrap-Up

Hello Fans. We have a break in the schedule this week, but there was an interesting non-Tier 1 IRT event last weekend in Mexico, and another this weekend in Sonora. We don’t normally cover non-Tier 1 IRT events (and we do not load them to the databases), but this draw featured strong local draws of top players that I wanted to cover. So here’s a wrap up of the Tier 4 International Racquetball Tour​ event called Gran Torneo Del San Isidro, held in Torreon, Mexico.  We’ll wrap the Sonora Open early next week.

The Men’s Pro draw from Torreon is here at r2sports.com.

Here’s a quick wrap of the event from the quarters on:

In the Quarters
– #1 seed Javier Mar topped Ernesto Ochoa in a tiebreaker. Ochoa made a great run to the 2017 Alamo City open, topping both Gerardo Franco Gonzalez​ and Andree Parrilla​ along the way.

– #4 seed Jaime Martell Neri​ was upset by #5 seed Javier Estrada. Martell won the 2018 WRT Georgia Open, downing both David Horn​ and Jake Bredenbeck​ along the way.

– #3 seed Alan Natera Chavez​ squeaked by #6 Eduardo Lalo Portillo​ 11-10 in the breaker. Portiollo is still playing in 18U, lost in the 18U World Juniors last year but has a 16U World Juniors title under his belt. He’s part of a crew of players in the 18-22 range in Mexico right now who are all world class.

– #2 seed Rodrigo Montoya Solís​ defeated #10 seed Rogilio Ramirez in two.

In the Semis:
– #1 Mar was stretched to a tiebreaker by #4 Estrada but advanced. Estrada and Mar met in the semis of the 2017 Mexican Nationals, but his career win may be his round of 16 win over world #2 Alejandro Alex Landa ​in the Mexican Worlds selection event in June, knocking Landa out of contention for a spot on the Mexican world’s team.
– #2 Montoya cruised by #5 Natera 6,5. Natera has had a fantastic year, making the semis of the 2018 Mexican Nationals as the #32 seed, beating #1 seeded Mar, Gerardo Franco and Christian Longoria​ before falling to world #4 Daniel De La Rosa in the semis.

The final unfortunately was a walk-over win by Montoya over Mar, robbing the fans of a potentially fantastic match. Montoya is of course the defending world champ, and Mar beat two top 10 IRT players in Mario Mercado​ and Samuel Murray​ en route to the US Open quarters last October. Mar also topped Montoya in the final of the WRT 2017 La Loma event. Meanwhile Montoya’s capabilities are well known, winning a stacked 2018 World’s event by topping the likes of Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo​, Horn and Charlie Pratt​ in the final.

 

LPRT Paola Longoria Grand Slam Review

World #1 Longoria captures the first event of the new season, one named after her.

The first event of the new LPRT season is in the books, and normalcy has returned to the Women’s game. Congrats to tourney namesake Paola Longoria on her title to open the new season.

Click here for the full Singles match report: https://bit.ly/2MRS1Wg

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.

– #2 Seed Frederique Lambert survived an upset attempt and advanced past Montse Mejia in four tough games.

In the Quarters:

– 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.

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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.

2018 LPRT Paola Longoria Experience Preview

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.

Here’s a preview of the draw, available now at this link at r2sports.com:http://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=29373

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?

Projected Quarters:
– #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.

Possible Semis:
– #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.
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Doubles:

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.