With this win, Paola extends some current personal records: – This is her 88th win in the PRS database – She extends her current match winning streak to 29 – She makes it 6 wins out of 6 tournaments on the season. – She’s built a nearly insurmountable lead over #2 Salas for the current season rankings, leading her by near 900 rankings points.
Here’s a review of the draw, highlighting notable results by round:
In the 32s; – Kelani Lawrence got a solid win over LPRT touring vet Maria Renee Rodríguez in four games. – Natalia Mendez took out Mary Mary Dee Kirchoff in three straight; this was a notable match up in that Kirchoff is literally three times Mendez’ age. Bravo for still competing in your 60s on tour. – Youngster Ana Laura Flores took out veteran Susy Acosta in four close games. – Biggest upset of the round: collegiate player Hollie Rae Scott took out the 39 seed Cristina Amaya 12-10 in the 5th. Career win for Scott.
In the 16s, mostly chalk and easy wins for the top seeds, but a couple of matches worth noting. – #5 Rhonda Rajsich had to face her doubles partner in Sheryl Lotts and won in three games. (Sheryl went on to take the Women’s Open draw 11-10 in a thrilling tiebreaker win over Amaya). – #3 Alexandra Herrera was donuted in the second game against Lawrence …then donuted her right back and won by the unique scores of 8,(0),0,8. Its not often you see someone both give and take a donut in a match. – But the big upset of the round was #10 Adriana Riveros taking out #7 Natalia Mendez 11-7 in the breaker.
In the Quarters… – #1 Paola Longoria advanced in 3 games over the woman who vanquished her in last year’s worlds final Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez 8,8,6. This is the third time they’ve met on tour this year, all 3 game wins for the champ. Longoria improves to 15-1 career h2h over Martinez in all competitions, making last year’s worlds final look like the aberration, not the predictor. – #4 Maria Jose Vargas took revenge over last tourney’s loss to Rajsich, beating her in four games to take the slim lead in their h2h matchups. – #6 Nancy Enriquez advanced to just her 3rd career semi-final with a come-from-behind win over #3 Herrera. Enriquez dropped the first two games, then blitzed by Herrera in games four and five, 2 and 1 respectively to advance. – #3 Samantha Salas Solis fought off the upset-minded Riveros 6,9,4 to try to continue her finals streak on tour this season.
In the semis… – #1 Longoria improved to 31-1 all time in all competitions over Vargas, though she had to come from a game down to do it. – #2 Salas improved to 6-2 all time in all competitions over Enriquez, but not without having to work for it, coming from 2-1 games down to win in a tiebreaker.
In the final: – Longoria improved to 55-3 all time over her doubles partner Salas with a relatively straight forward 1,2,6 three game win. Salas never seemed like she was a threat to Longoria on this day, leaving opportunities up and quickly becoming frustrated with her opponent’s consistency.
———————- In doubles, Longoria made it a double, winning the doubles title with her finals opponent Salas over the Argentine national doubles team of Vargas/Mendez.
As with Singles, Paola has now won all 6 pro doubles events this season, 5 of them with Salas. Longoria improves to 109-5 in pro doubles since we started tracking it in 2013, winning 38 of the 43 doubles events she’s now entered.
The LPRT is back in action, with its 6th event of the 2018-19 season. So far, #1 ranked Paola Longoria has made it 5 for 5 in wins, with four of those wins coming over her frequent doubles partner Samantha Salas Solis.
The annual event in South Carolina is a Grand Slam, and as such has drawn back into play a couple of intriguing players, which should make this draw more interesting than most. There’s 26 pros in the draw, tying a season non US Open high.
Top 20 players missing: #5 Frederique Lambert who has fallen to her lowest ranking on tour since Nov 2015 as she juggles school and some early upsets in previous events. #11 Carla Muñoz Montesinos misses just her 2nd tourney in the last two seasons. #13 Jessica Leona Parrilla remains on the sidelines recovering from her knee injury suffered last spring. And lastly #18 Yazmine Sabja Ráquetboldid not make the long flight. So we have 9 of the top 10, and 16 of the top 20 in the event.
Notably present is reigning World Champ Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez, who is back and ranked #9 (likely seeded 8th) after making the semis in the first two events of the season and then missing the next three.
Lets preview the draw.
Notable round of 32 matches; there’s a ton of tough openers in this tourney.
– #16 vs #17 Masiel Rivera Oporto versus Brenda Laime Jalil; tough match for both ladies right out of the gate. Both players are playing the tour full time this year and are both looking for a breakthrough win. And … they’re playing doubles together. – #14 vs #19: Maria Renee Rodríguez faces Kelani Lawrence in another tough opener for both. Lawrence has less pro experience but has proven her mettle in the USA amateur draws, while Rodriguez has a ton of international experience and has represented Guatemala in Juniors and Adult draws for nearly a decade. – Cassandra Lee vs Laura Brandt: youth versus experience here in an intriguing first rounder. – #10 Adriana Riveros versus #23 Cecilia Ceci Orozco Pratt: Riveros should prevail but she probably would have hoped for an easier first rounder. – #15 Susana Susy Acosta vus #18 Ana Laura Flores : two Mexican lefties representing the two major Rball-playing communities (Chihuahua and San Luis Potosi) in the country battle it out in the first round. They met at the US Open with the youngster coming out on top and I’d lean that way again.
Round of 16 interesting matches: – #8 vs #9: Cristina Amaya Cris vs Ana Gabriela Martinez: tough match-up for both players. They met at this stage in this event three years ago, an Amaya win, but Martinez has a whole lot of silverware since. – #3 Alexandra Herrera vs the Rodriguez/Lawrence winner: i’m not sure who comes out of the feed-in match, but Herrera will have to hustle to advance out of the 16s. Ironically, Herrera topped both possible players in successive rounds as she was winning the 2011 Junior Girls 16U championship. – #7 Natalia Mendez vs #10 Adriana Riveros: these two top 10 players have only met once on tour; a 4-game Mendez win in June 2017. – #2 Samantha Salas vs #18 Flores: assuming Flores comes out on top in the 32s, she gets a first shot at Salas in any competition. Flores can beat top talent, but i’m not sure she can beat one of the top 2 players in the world.
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria vs #8 Gaby Martinez; These two have met no less than 15 times in pro and IRF matches … but it was last summer’s World Championships that gave Martinez her one win in the series. Since then, they’ve met twice in the LPRT, both straight-forward Longoria wins. I see the same result here; Paola is just so dominant in the 5-game format. – #4 Maria Jose Vargas vs #5 Rhonda Rajsich; these two have now met 28 times (26 on LPRT) and are dead even. 14 and 14 each. Along that same line, they’ve met twice this season … and split, Vargas winning in Chicago and Rhonda winning in Laurel. I’ll predict Rajsich makes it two tourneys in a row. – #3 Herrera vs #6 Nancy Enriquez; Despite being the higher seed, Enriquez faces the easier path to the quarters in this event. But Herrera owns the career h2h record 5-1, just beat her in Boston, and should advance again. – #2 Salas vs #7 Mendez; they’ve got a scant 3 career match-ups, all three straight-game wins for Salas. She makes it 4 of 4.
Semis: – Longoria over Rajsich. Despite Rhonda’s demonstrated ability to still be able to top Paola, their only meeting on the pro tour in the last two seasons was a straight-game semis win in December. Expect the same here. – Salas over Herrera; they’ve already met twice in the semis this season, and both times Salas advanced.
Finals: Longoria over Salas. You hate rooting for #1 vs #2, but these two players have represented the final in 4 of the 5 events so far this season … and the only one where it wasn’t Longoria v Salas was an event where Salas couldn’t make the tourney b/c of travel issues.
—————————- In the doubles, we have some frequently-seen teams playing, including the reigning USA national champs Lawrence/Sharon Jackson, the US National runners-up in Rajsich and Lotts, The top team of Longoria & Salas, the Argentinian national team of Vargas & Mendez, and the Columbia team of Amaya & Riveros. Interestingly the top Guatemalans are not playing together this event.
I’m going with the top Mexicans versus the Argentinians in the final, with Longoria & Salas continuing their dominance with the win.
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.
PRS has entered the year-end rankings for the World Racquetball Tour. Congratulations to Jake Bredenbeck on claiming the 2018 WRT year end #1 title, wresting it away from 2017’s champ Bobby Horn, who finished #3. Alejandro Cardona, the 2015 and 2016 champ, missed one of the events and got upset early in another and finished 9th in the abbreviated season.
No other Player of the Year awards will be given for 2018, as per the WRT commissioner Pablo Fajre.
2018 was a small season for the WRT, hosting just 3 sanctioned events. Four players played in all three events on the year, and another 7 made two of the three tourneys. Jake won on the back of a win and a finals appearance, just pipping Andree Parrilla for #2 (he had a win and a quarter) and Horn for #3 (three semis appearances in 3 tourneys). #4 Jaime Martell Racquetball had a win and two round of 16 losses on the season.
After a outage earlier this month, the WRT’s website is back but has little details for the coming season. Details will be coming though for the new year soon. Contrary to rumor, the WRT is not dead, and we look forward to seeing what they come up with in 2019.
Happy Holidays! During this little break in the tournament action, here’s some content for everyone to argue about. 🙂 This is my current Men’s World Top 50. Thanks to the ever-widening popularity of the sport, multiple tours and the inability for some top players to play the International Racquetball Tour regularly, the IRT rankings do not really give a full picture of the current state of the world game. This attempts to do so.
I have rankings divided into “groups” so this isn’t a hard and fast 1-50 necessarily, as I’ll explain as we go.
Usual caveats: this is my opinion. No offense intended if you think someone is too high or too low. This is for entertainment purposes only. Its mostly stat/match result based. Its tough to do pure 1-50 b/c of game style match-ups (i.e., a guy in the 30s always beats a guy in the 20s for some reason, but can’t beat anyone in-between). Also, one big win over a top 10 player does not make you a top 10 player … i’ve noted solid wins for players below the top of this list, but look for consistent results over and again before rising up the ranks.
I hope you enjoy!
1. Kane Waselenchuk Large Gap to #2: Kane is head and shoulders ahead of anyone else.
2. Rocky Carson Smaller Gap to #3-6; Rocky still has a lead over the next group and continues to demonstrate it on the court.
I have these guys 3-6, and they’re constantly changing positions. Up until the Mexico Open I had Landa above Montoya, but then Montoya got him H2H. Honestly, I think they’re a coin flip for #3 and #4 right now. Meanwhile, DLR is 3-6 H2H against Landa across senior events so i’ve got him just below Landa … just beat Parrilla and Montoya to win in Monterrey, but lost to Montoya at Mexican Nats earlier this year. Parrilla beat Landa at the past US Open but for me day in, day out is slightly below these other three. On any given Sunday though, these four can all put losses on each other. It is not a surprise that these four were then fou semi-finalists in Monterrey earlier this month.
Moscoso has wins over the guys ranked 3-6, but just lost to Montoya at Worlds and lost to Murray at US Open. I know some people think he should be higher (ahem, Sudsy 🙂 ) but i’ve got him just a hair below. Mar is an enigma; he’s demonstrated the ability to beat all the guys ranked 3-6 and has in the last couple of years, but not quite consistently enough to break into that group. Murray has wins over Montoya, Landa and Moscoso in the last few events; he’s becoming much more consistent winner as of late. Lastly you have Alvaro, who has been showing his age but then turns around and trounces the likes of DLR in Portland. He’s still a tough out, week in and week out but has been consistently slipping down this ranking over the past couple of years.
One last comment on my current top 10: a quick breakdown by country:
And the one American player is nearly 40. The next generation of dominance in our sport is coming from south of the US border.
I call this group the “retired but could still make noise if they weren’t” group. Jose retired after three straight finishes at #5 on tour, and he didn’t retire because he was losing suddenly. Mejia hasn’t played in a while, enough that we may want to remove him, but when we last saw him playing WRT events he was beating consistently those ranked just behind him in the next grouping. Marco Rojas retired after two 7th place finishes on tour, and has winning career records against DLR and Landa, and against guys in the next grouping (Horn, Jake), so its no surprise he’s still this high. Lastly Tony Carson consistently demonstrates he can continue to win, with wins over DLR and Parrilla in the last two IRT events he’s entered.
Here’s where it starts getting tough. This group here is a mix of international players we rarely see, leading World Racquetball Tour players, and mid-ranged IRT players. You may argue that I have Polo too high; but every time he plays an IRT event he makes noise. He’s coming off an elbow injury and is 35 though, so he may be slipping. Horn has some wins against higher ranked players and won 2018 US Nationals in a draw that included Jake, Pratt and Jose Rojas. Pratt has some h2h wins over players in this group, over Beltran, and beat Mar en route to the 2017 Pan Am final. Franco has recent wins over Landa and DLR, and has a solid argument to be higher. Mercado too; he’s 2-2 vs Murray career but just 1-5 against Horn and this feels about right. Iwaasa took several years off, but has not lost his touch, taking Mercado to the edge at Worlds twice and making the Finals in the WRT Canada event in a draw that featured several guys in this group. Keller Vargas won the 2018 Pan Ams over Montoya and Horn, but lost to Franco at Worlds; I used to have him much higher and wonder if he’d be a top 10 player if he played the tour regularly. Lastly Jake; he’s one of the few players to have wins over Kane, DLR and Rocky ever, but has struggled to beat players in this group or the grouping above lately and has been slightly slipping down in this ranking after having some early IRT season struggles.
Croft is pretty much retired, so not much recent to go on; he beat Horn but lost to Jake in a singles event in Denver earlier this year. Estrada, Natera and Ochoa are all rising Mexican players to watch out for. Estrada beat Landa at Mexican world selection event, just beat Beltran in Monterrey and has played Montoya tough twice this fall. Natera has recent wins over Mar and others in this grouping. Ochoa has recent wins over Beltran, Parrilla, and Mar and may very well be higher. Cardona used to be in the next group up as the reigning king of the hill in the WRT but has been losing ground to the likes of Horn and Jake and the youngsters rising up in Mexico over the past year or so.
Sudsy made the semis of the US Open last year by beating Allen, then beat Diaz but lost to Jake in an WRT event so this seems about right (thought I wouldn’t argue if you thought he was higher). Allen has had some solid wins against the likes of Beltran, Mercado, Murray lately, and beat Diaz in the Laurel season opener, and may be a bit higher. Lastly you have the younger Rojas, who has consistently beaten players below here but not too many above and who has the game to start breaking through and moving up.
This grouping could benefit from more head to head meetings; would Allen beat the likes of Estrada, Natera and Ochoa if they played? Here’s hoping for some more IRT events held in Mexico to get more full draws.
32. Cliff Swain; even though he hasn’t played in more than a year, I still think he could beat anyone listed below here. I’m hoping he plays some more pro events and tries to break some of Ruben Gonzalez‘s more amazing feats of reaching the end stages of pro tourneys at advanced ages.
As with the group above, its tougher in this area to really rank guys sequentially because there’s not a lot of h2h to go on. Gerardo Franco probably has an argument to be higher, with recent wins over Sebastian Franco, over DLR and Jake in Cincy18, etc. I’ve got Lalo just ahead of Sebastian on account of his h2h win at Junior Worlds, but Lalo has lost multiple times to Gerardo Franco in the last year so this trio feels right. Martell has great wins (Landa, Jake, Horn), but then also has early tourney losses in recent WRT and amateur events. Garay has wins over guys in this grouping and against the likes of Parrilla and might be higher. Alonso plays the guys in this grouping tough, has wins over Parrilla in the past but needs more consistency.
Landeryou has h2h wins over both the next two guys below him hence the ranking, but not much else to go on. Reid has a win over Mercado and a US Open title in Men’s open in a draw that featured many players in this group or just below, so this ranking makes sense. Green has reigned over Canada racquetball for two decades but may be retiring and most recently lost to Landeryou at Canadian Nationals. Longoria has some wins over the likes of GFranco and Estrada and may have a case to be a bit higher. Lastly Manilla just took out Mercado in Laurel18 and has had a promising start to the new season, so this seems about right.
Herrera is a long-time IRT vet, just took the 2018 US Open Men’s Open draw over Acuna in the final and beating several Honorable Mention players along the way. Acuna has some solid wins recently (Portillo, Camacho, even Horn at the US Open) and may have a good argument to be higher. Rios doesn’t have much to go on recently but has good wins internationally in the past. Garcia is the 16U reigning world champ who has beaten a few of the HM players in limited adult tourneys. Mollet is the Cuban #1 who makes noise whenever he enters (beat Camacho h2h at Central American games in 2018 for example). Camacho has some wins over higher players (Fernandez, Allen) but has losses to players right in this group so this feels about right. Bousquet had some solid wins over HM players in 2017.
And it should be noted, there’s a slew of HM players below who might very well be in this group, or slightly higher. In fact, as I typed this I wondered if any number of the below players shouldn’t be in this 40-50 range.
Honorable Mentions: I can’t tag more than 50 players per post, so nobody below is tagged, but here’s the players just outside the top 50 by category:
———————— HM Int’l players: Fernando Kurzbard, Jose Daniel Ugalde, Juan Salvatierra, Francisco Troncoso, Andres Gomez, Teobaldo Fumero, Luis Perez, Christian Wer, Hiroshi Shimizu, Lee Connell, Set Cubillos, David Garcia
HM Mexican Players: Edson Martinez, Rodrigo Garay, Rodrigo Rodrigez, Alejandro Almada, Edwin Galicia, Miguel Rodriguez Jr., Daniel Neri, Erick Cuevas Fernandez, Alan Palomino
HM USA IRT Regulars: Thomas Carter, Robert Collins, Scott McClellan, Troy Warigon, John Wolfe
HM USA periodic players: Taylor Knoth, Nick Montalbano, Majeed Shaheen, Matthew Majxner, Maurice Miller, Brad Schopiery, Luis Avila, Brent Walters, Tim Prigo
HM USA Up and comers: Kevin Vasquez, Erik Garcia, Jordan Barth, Nick Riffel, Mauricio Zelada, Wayne Antone IV, Justus Benson, Danny Lavely, Lukas Le,Dylan Pruitt, Kyle Ulliman, A.J. Fernandez, Sam Bredenbeck, Sunji Spencer
HM retired pro players: Alex Ackermann, Gilberto De Los Rios, Kris Odegard, Ricardo Monroy, Anthony Herrera, Shai Manzuri, Javier Moreno ——————————
Phew. Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone; let me know in the comments if you think I did. Look forward to your commentary. Happy Holidays!