USA National Singles Wrap-up

Kelani (Bailey) Lawrence with the break-through win.

Congrats to your USA Racquetball 2019 Singles Champions:

Men’s Open: Jake Bredenbeck
Women’s Open: Kelani Lawrence

They take big steps towards putting themselves onto the plane to represent the USA at this August’s 2019 International Racquetball Federation – IRFPan American Games, the biggest event in our sport. See this link: https://www.teamusa.org/…/2018-19-US-National-Team-Qualific… for the current Men’s and Women’s team standings. USA Racquetball plans on making an announcement soon on the official team delegation to Peru.

R2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30549

Here’s a recap of the draw, noting results I found interesting:

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Men’s Singles:
PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/C39AD2

In the 16s:
– In the 8/9 game, Robert Collins got a solid win over Luis R Avila in a tie-breaker.
– #5 Adam Manilla took out hometown veteran favorite Woody Clouse and has a streamlined shot at the National Semis thanks to …
– #4 seed Jose Diaz, who I thought could win this event, was a no-show, giving Utahian Anthony Martin a walk-over into the quarters.
– Two IRT regulars met in Thomas Carter and Nicholas Nick Riffel, with Carter coming out on top in a tie-breaker.

In the Qtrs:
– #1 Jake Bredenbeck cruised past fellow IRT top 20 player Collins 4,2
– #5 Manilla similarly cruised past Utahian Anthony Martin 3,2
– #3 David Horn was stretched by #6 Carter, going 11-7 in the breaker. Another solid result for Carter, but a good step towards keeping his National team spot for Horn.
– #2 Charlie Pratt took out his local playing rival Dylan Reid 14,5.

In the Semis:
– #5 Manilla played lights out for stretches, but not enough of them to take out #1 Bredenbeck, falling in an 11-5 tiebreaker.
– #3 Horn got a great win over #2 Pratt, 11-7 in the breaker, to advance to the final and attempt to repeat as US Champion. Pratt has made the finals of the last two international events in which he’s represented the US … but a national title continues to elude him.

In the Final … Jake could do no wrong, and Bobby couldn’t do much to stop him. In an amazingly compete performance, Bredenbeck beat Horn 1,1 to take the US title. Its his third overall and he returns to the podium after a 3 year absence. Horn finishes runner-up for the 4th time.

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Women’s singles:
PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/3DB373

There was just one play-in/round of 16 match: 
Annie Roberts, the current 16U National champ and who still has 3 years remaining in the junior ranks, took on regular LPRT touring pro Cassie Lee in the 8/9 match and came out on top in a tie-breaker.

In the qtrs:
– #1 Rhonda Rajsich took out the precocious Roberts 6,2
– #5 Kelani Lawrence, drastically underseeded in this event, made a statement with an 11,1 win over #4 Sheryl Lotts
– #3 Hollie Rae Scott took out LPRT touring vet Adrienne Fisher Haynes 7,10
– #2 Seed Erika Manilla was a no-show, depriving the draw of one of its top players and making the lopsidedness of the seeding errors involving Lawrence even more severe.

In the Semis:
– #5 Lawrence got a career win, beating the 8-time defending US national champ Rajsich in an a tiebreaker. These two had met in the singles finals of the last three major US national team qualifying events, and Lawrence got this breakthrough win on the same weekend that her mother Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey was inducted into the US Racquetball hall of Fame.
– #3 Scott downed the legendary LPRT pro Cheryl Gudinas in two. Scott is going for a rather rare double: Intercollegiates and National titles in the same year. It’s only happened once before … in 1976, when Memphis State University’s Sarah Green won both events in the same year.

(side note: the 3rd place game, which we often don’t mention, thus is Rajsich vs Gudinas. Holy cow. That’s a combined 19 (!) US National titles between them to go along with 8 pro titles. In case you’re wondering … they’ve played no less than 50 times across pro, US nationals and IRF events now, with Rajsich leading 32-18. See http://rball.pro/A7470B).

In the Finals, Lawrence came from a game down and saved match point against to take the title 11-10 over Scott by running off two points at the end of the tie-breaker.

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Congrats to all who played. Later this week we’ll review the Canadian singles and Mexican Junior events form last week.

Next up on the rball schedule? There’s some lower tier IRT events in early June, one last LPRT Grand Slam in mid-june in Kansas, then the US Junior Olympics in late June in Portland.

Canada National Singles Preview

Sam Murray goes for another Men’s singles title. (photo via Rball Canada)

Just like their southern neighbors, Racquetball Canada uses the last weekend in May to host their National Singles events. They also host their National doubles (which ended yesterday and which we’ll wrap-up later this week)

r2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30409

This is the 45th iteration of Canada National Singles, as far as I can tell. First held in Winnipeg in 1975, the first Men’s champ was Wayne Bowes. Mike Green (who recently announced his retirement officially from competition) is tied with Canadian legend Sherman Greenfeld for the most singles titles in Canada with 10 each. Samuel Murray is your defending champ and is the #1 seed this weekend.

On the Women’s side, they also have records dating to 1975, with Monique Parent being the first ever Women’s singles champ. Jennifer Jen Saunders hholds the record for most ever Canadian singles titles with 10, and as the defending champ and #1 seed has a chance to take the outright lead and tie American Rhonda Rajsich for the most ever country national titles (with the caveat that we don’t have full records for Mexico and other countries).

click here for a full list of all Canada National Men’s Singles finals: http://rball.pro/DEA1C6

click here for a full list of all Canada National Women’s singles finals; http://rball.pro/D48335

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Here’s a preview of the singles events.

Men’s Singles:There’s 15 in the draw. Here’s some round of 16 matches to look for:
– in the 8/9 game, Tommy Murray takes on Tanner Prentice for a shot at #1. If Murray wins, he gets to go against his brother. If Prentice wins, it would be his first ever win at Adult nationals.
– In the 7/10 game, Lee Connell (who’s been playing in National events for more than 15 years) gets a match against current Canadian 18U champ Sean Sauve in his adult debut.

Projecting the quarters:
– #1 Murray vs #8 Prentice; Sam moves on.
– #4 Pedro Castro vs #5 Trevor Webb; they met in 2017, a Castro win, and Pedro will be looking to return to the semis for the 2nd year running.
– #3 Tim Landeryou vs #6 Nicolas Bousquet; they met at this juncture in Nationals last year, a tie-breaker win for Tim. 
– #2 Coby Iwaasa vs #7 Connell: also a rematch of 2018 National quarters, an easy 5,5 win. Can Connell push it closer?

Semis: Murray over Castro, Iwaasa over Landeryou. These are the exact same semis from 2018, and i’m predicting the same chalk results.

Final: Murray over Iwaasa in a tie-breaker. These two met in the 2018 National finals, and in the finals of both Canadian qualifiers leading up to this event, and have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the Canadian field.

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Women’s Singles: there’s 10 ladies in the draw, and no Frederique Lambert, which opens up the field significantly. Lets preview the draw.

In the 16s:
– Reigning Canadian 18U Junior champ Cassie Prentice takes on #8 seeded Murielle Boivin for a shot at the #1 seed.
– Sisters Juliette and Marjolaine Parent have to face off in the 7/10 match. Juliette is the reigning 16U Canadian champ, while Marjolaine just graduated 18Us and represented Canada at Junior Worlds last year. Tough matchup for the parents; who do you root for? 🙂

Projecting the Quarters:
– #1 Saunders over #9 Prentice, marching towards a record-setting title.
– #4 Danielle Drury vs #5 Erin Geeraert: Geeraert is fresh off of representing Canada at the 2019 PARCs and will look to get back on the team for the Pan Am Games later this year.
– #3  Michèle Morissette takes on the legend Linda Marie Ellerington, whose first entry in the database is the 1987 Canadian National singles competition. Linda hasn’t competed in this event since 2015 …when she was eliminated by Morissette. 
– #2 Christine Richardson faces a Parent … i’m not sure which one, but think Richardson will be favored to advance either way.

Possible Semis: Saunders over Geeraert, Richardson over Morissette.

Final: Saunders over Richardson, a rematch of the 2018 final and the 2017 semis.

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Look for streaming notifications over the weekend. Follow Racquetball Canada for sure to get notifications. I know that Timothy Baghurst is in Canada leading the announcing, so tune in and follow along

USA National Singles Preview

Rajsich looking for her 9th straight title this weekend.

Its the week before Memorial Day Weekend, which means that its time for USA Racquetball National Singles!

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30549

This year’s version of event is the 52nd iteration of the event, and is as far as I know the longest running racquetball tournament in existence. It was first held in 1968 in Milwaukee, where two legends competed in the final (Bill Schultz defeated Hall of Famer Bill Schmidtke in the final).

Here’s a list of every Men’s Open champ since 1968: http://rball.pro/896B5B.

In 1970, the first Women’s national champion was crowned: Fran Cohen won the first Women’s national title in St. Louis.

Here’s a list of every Women’s Open champ since 1970: http://rball.pro/A75737

Record holders for Most National Titles?
 Rocky Carson holds 7 National titles, winning his first in 2000 and his most recent in 2017. Interestingly, despite still being ranked #2 on the pro tour, Rocky did not compete in the 2018 version, nor is he in this weekend’s draw.

– Rhonda Rajsich holds 11 National titles, winning her first in 2004. She’s also the defending champ, the #1 seed this weekend and has won the last eight National events.

Your defending champs are David Horn and Rajsich. I’m not entirely sure how Horn drops to the #3 seed behind Jake in particular (who he has bested round for round in the last few national qualifying events)., but would have had to play Pratt in the semis regardless so its a minor seeding nit.

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Men’s Singles:

Lets preview some of the match-ups i’ll be looking for:
In the 16s:
– #8 Luis R Avila vs #9 Robert Collins; 8/9 match-ups are always tough, and this should be no different. Lefty touring pro Collins versus the defending outdoor 3-wall champ Avila, who periodically comes indoors and has some good wins on his resume. This is a good test for both.
– #5 Adam Manilla vs #12 Woody Clouse; Woody Clouse back in action competing for the National team … for the first time since 2006. Clouse qualified for the team in 2005 and represented the US in the Pan American Games in April 2006, losing in the final to Canadian Kris Odegard 11-9. He also had several top 10 pro tour finishes during the deep mid 90s tour days. Now he’s back at age 53, playing in his home town. He faces off against fellow lefty Manilla, fresh off of a second top 20 season on tour with some good results. I think Manilla moves on but it’ll be a fun L vs L match.
– #6 Thomas Carter vs #11 Nicholas Nick Riffel; two IRT regulars meet up; they faced each other 3 times in 3 months in early 2018, with Carter taking 2 of 3. Riffel had a tough end to his 2018-19 tour, forfeiting out of Syosset with an injury. Meanwhile Carter had a nice run at the end of the season, getting a couple of solid wins and making the main draw in both Florida and NY. Advantage Carter here. 
– #7 Dylan Reid vs #10 Jeff Stark; two West Coasters who have played more than a few times meet up in the first round. I think the podcasting Reid is favored here but they know each other’s game.

Man, lots of Lefties in action. At least four, maybe more. Something in the water in Denver maybe.

Projecting the Qtrs:
– #1 Jake Bredenbeck vs Avila: Jake struggled with upsets all season … then blew it out in NY, taking out Pratt, Daniel De La Rosa and nearly beating Andree Parrilla. So which Jake shows up? 
– #4 Jose Diaz vs #5 Manilla: they’ve only played a couple times, but both matches were 3- or 5-game tiebreakers. I like Diaz here … in a tiebreaker.
– #3 Horn vs #6 Carter: I don’t think they’ve ever played in a top-level event … so a first for everyone. Horn should win this one in two closer games.
– #2 Charlie Pratt vs #7 Dylan Reid: another match-up of two upper northwestern guys, both hailing from Portland. Fly all the way to Denver … have a repeat of your tuesday night game. Pratt’s solid and advances here.

So i’m predicting Chalk to the semis … and then for some upsets to happen.

Semis:
– #4 Diaz over #1 Jake: they’re pretty even career-wise h2h, but havn’t played in a year and a half. I like Diaz here. Diaz had the better season, nearly slipping into the top 10 and jumping Jake in the rankings. 
– #2 Pratt over Horn: They played in December in Portland, a close 2-game win for Pratt, and I like the year Pratt is having so far.

Final:
– #2 Pratt over Diaz. head to head, Diaz has never lost to Pratt. But something tells me Pratt is on a mission this year.

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Women’s Singles: just 9 in this draw, but some good match-ups towards the back and one incredibly poor seeding job:

In the Quarters:
– #1 Rajsich over #8 Cassandra Cassi Lee
– #5 Kelani Lawrence over #4 Sheryl Lotts; here’s a seeding question. Lawrence made the Women’s singles final of the 2018 qualifier at Nat’l doubles, made the finals at 2018 Nationals, and made the finals at the 2019 Qualifier at Nat’l Doubles. So that’s basically the last three major National events…. how exactly is she seeded 5th in this event?? What more does she have to do to demonstrate that she’s basically the 2nd best American woman player right now?
– #3 Hollie Rae Scott over #6 Adrienne Fisher Haynes
– #2 Erika Manilla holds off retired LPRT legend Cheryl Gudinas

In the semis:
– #1 Rajsich takes out Lawrence in a rematch of the last three major US national team final, instead of in the final like it should be
– #3 Scott takes out #2 Manilla in a rematch of this year’s Intercollegiates semis.

In the final: Rajsich takes her 9th straight US title over Scott.

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Lastly, a note on attendance. There’s some separate conversations about the # of participants this weekend going on. Here’s a list of the participation numbers for the last 14 National Singles events (these are the “# of participants” from the r2sports page and should indicate unique players, not # of draw entrants):

2019: 191 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2018: 221 Pleasanton
2017: 243 Tempe
2016: 268 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2015: 377 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2014: 292 Fullerton
2013: 435 Fullerton (also IRT and LPRT pro stop)
2012: 559 Fullerton (also IRT and LPRT pro stop)
2011: 514 Fullerton (also IRT stop)
2010: 535 Houston
2009: 501 Houston
2008: 523 Houston
2007: 528 Houston
2006: 515 Houston

The event held steady in the low 500s its last five years in H ouston, then spiked during its Fullerton years thanks to simultaneous IRT and LPRT events (some of the pro draws from those years were amazing; 70+ mens pros competing). But we’ve seen a precipitous drop in attendance over the last few years, including a 100+ attendee drop from 2015 to 2016, now not even able to clear 200 players this year. 191 players isn’t even close to what National Doubles got this year (306) and that number is basically halved from the beginning of the century.

I know there’s some fundamental industry issues that are driving down these numbers. But this is the NGB’s marquee event. You can’t turn back time and make it the mid 2000s again (to say nothing of the mid 1990s), but you can strategize other aspects of the event to make it more appealing to a larger audience, and I hope to see some turn around in the coming years.

2019 Costa Rica IRT Tier 2 Wrap-up

Parrilla a double winner in Costa Rica.

Congrats to Andree Parrilla, who wins the Costa Rica Open on the weekend. He took both the Pro and the Open draw, defeating a slew of touring players along the way.

r2sports link:https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30427

It may have only been a tier 2, but there were a slew of great matches in San Jose this past weekend.

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Lets recap the Pro Singles draw, highlight key match-ups.

In the play-ins:
– Cuban #1 Maikel Mollet beat #12 Alan Natera Chavez 11-8 in the breaker, a signature win for the Cuban.

In the 16s:
– #9 Andres Acuña crushed doubles partner and country-man #8 Felipe Camacho 3,3. He’s had a great season and will get a great test going against #1 seed and #2 ranked Carson next.
– #11 Ernesto Ochoa got a great win over #6 Mario Mercado 11-9. Ochoa has multiple wins over IRT top 10 players in the last year and probably has moved into the world top 20 at this point.
– #10 Javier Mar beat #7 David Horn 13,7 to advance to face Landa in a juicy quarter final.

In the Qtrs:
– #1 seed Rocky Carson made fast work over Acuna 6,4 in his opener.
– #4 Alvaro Beltran got his first win over #5 Rodrigo Montoya Solís since Mexicali 2017 … and just like in 2017 he won 11-10. Montoya still has a career winning h2h record over Alvaro but missed an opportunity here.
– #3 Andree Parrilla was stretched to a tiebreaker but took out #11 Ochoa 11-7. Hope to see more of Ochoa on tour going forward.
– #2 Alex Landa took out #10 Mar in two close games 14,13. Definitely an indication of just how close these two guys are despite their seeds.

So, we’re chalk into the semis, top four seeds competing, despite some really close matches in the quarters.

In the Semis … we had two upsets.
– #4 Beltran topped #1 Carson in a tie-breaker, continuing their current back-and-forth rivalry. The two veterans have played more than 50 times and have split their last 6 meetings.
– #3 Parrilla beat #2 Landa in two game 8,11 to advance to the final, where he’s likely favored, having beaten Beltran their last three times on the court.

In the final, Parrilla came from a game down to trounce Beltran 11-2 in the tie-breaker for the win.

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There was an even larger Men’s Open draw, with essentially the full Pro draw of participants but with completely different seeding, resulting in semis-quality early round match-ups. Here’s a review of the notable matches in Men’s Open singles.

In the 16s:
– Parrilla took out Montoya in two close games 14,12. These two have been playing forever; they’re the same year in juniors and traded back and forth junior Mexico and World titles. This is the first time they’ve met since Mexico Nationals in 2018, and it had been more than 2 years since Andree got a win over Rodrigo.
– Camacho got wiped out by Ochoa 5,4.
– Mollet got a rematch against Natera and lost in two 12,8. 
– Mercado beat Landa 11-8 in a match that I wonder how seriously Landa was playing (given that he’s into the pro semis, the doubles semis and was coming off a draining match over Mar).

In the Quarters:
– #1 Parrilla advanced easily over #25 Felipe Alonso
– #4 Horn beat #21 Ochoa by the slimmest of margins 14,14.
– #6 Mercado took out upset-minded #19 Natera in a tie-breaker
– #2 Acuna got a walkover from #7 Costa Rican Gabriel Garcia.

In the semis:
– Parrilla beat Horn handily to make the final … putting him in both singles finals Pro and Open.
– Mercado had a come-back tiebreaker win over Acuna to advance to the final.

In the final, Parrilla cruised past Mercado 8,7 for the double win.

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Lastly, they did play doubles, with some good pro teams playing. The draw went chalk to the semis, with 4 good teams of tour regulars playing.
– Mar/Montoya topped #1 seeds Beltran/Landa in the top semi.
– the CRC national doubles team of Camacho/Acuna beat two IRT vets Horn/Mercado in the other.

In what looked like an awesome final, the home-town team came from a game down and saved match points against to win 11-10 over the Mexican team of Mar/Montoya for the win.

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Points Implications of the Event: very little.

Here’s a quick points impact summary of these results:
– top 14 remain unchanged.
– Parrilla and Beltran each replaced missed results/0 point weekends with 120 and 90 points respectively, moving them up slightly but not enough to overtake Landa.
– Carson and Landa did not earn enough points to replace any lower result weekends, so their seasonal point totals remain the same.
– There was some slight movement up/down in the 15-20 range, as some players lost and gained points thanks to expiring/gained points on the weekend, but nothing major.

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If you missed any of the matches, they streamed on youtube all weekend. Go to Youtube.com and search for “10a edición Costa Rica Open Racquetball” to find the streams.

Next up: All the major countries are holding National events this coming weekend: USA Adult National singles, Canada national singles and doubles, and Mexican Junior Nationals. I believe Ecuador has some nationals next weekend as well. We’ll do previews of all events in what should be a busy weekend.

Next up for IRT: another lower tier event in Garden City, KS in two weeks time.

International Racquetball Tour USA Racquetball Racquetball CanadaFederación Mexicana de Raquetbol

2019 Costa Rica Open IRT Tier 2 Preview

Acuna welcomes a solid pro draw to his home country.

The IRT Tier 1 slate may be done for the 2018-19 season, but a bunch of lower tier events are on the schedule still, including the 2019 Costa Rica Open, being held at the Costa Rica Country Club in San Jose, CRC.

R2sports link here: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30427

There’s a solid Pro draw of 22 players, including 5 of the current top 10 players on the IRT, another 6-7 regular IRT touring pros, plus a number of internationals we normally only see at IRF events. We also get the #1 and #2 players from Cuba playing this event, which is a treat.

Lets preview the draw and predict the singles competition:

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In the Round of 32/Play-ins, some interesting match-ups;
– In the 16/17 two Guatemalan Internationals face off: Hanzel Martinez Perez versus Edwin Galicia
– #12 Alan Natera Chavez faces off against Cuban #1 Maykel Mollet; Natera should advance, but Mollet is a tough player.
– #11 Ernesto Ochoa takes on Cubvan #2 Enier Chacon, another relative unknown but who plays well in International events.

Projecting the 16s; here’s some fun round of 16 matches:
– #8 Felipe Camacho vs #9 Andres Andres Acuña; doubles partners in this event, they met in the IRT season opener, an Acuna 2-game win. Since then Acuna has had a magical run to the semis of PARC. They’re both on home ground; both players hailing from Costa Rica, so this could be a spirited match.
– #5 Rodrigo Montoya Solís vs #12 Natera: they just met in Syosset; a 2,2 Montoya crushing … which was kind of the reverse of 2019 Mexican Nationals, when Natera beat him in the quarters. I’m guessing Montoya advances here.
– #6 Mario Mercado vs #11 Ochoa: Here’s an interesting point: Ochoa has never entered a Tier 1 IRT event. But he’s got a ton of solid wins in Mexican Nationals (including a win over Beltran in 2018) and on WRT events close enough to his home in Chihuahua. Now he’s flown to Costa Rica and ends up facing an IRT top 10 player. Should be an interesting match. I suspect Ochoa can win this.
– #7 David Horn vs #10 Javier Mar; tough opener for Horn, having to face Mar, fresh off a Qtr final appearance in Syosset. Mar beat Garay, Montoya and Sebastian Franco in NY before falling to Kane; Horn has his work cut out for him here.

Possible Quarters:
– #1 Rocky Carson vs #9 Acuna; they last played at the 2017 US Open; Rocky is 3-0 lifetime over Acuna on tour. Somehow these frequent international players have avoided each other in IRF events. Carson cruises here despite Acuna having the home crowd rooting for him.
– #4 Alvaro Beltran vs #5 Montoya: they’ve already met twice on tour this year; both two game easy wins for Montoya. I think Montoya’s game is a bad match-up for Beltran right now, who can shoot and put balls away but not under pressure like he gets when Montoya’s power serve is on. 
– #3 Andree Parrilla vs #6 Mercado; Assuming Mercado gets past Ochoa, he runs into Parrilla, who drastically improved his ranking this year to finish 4th on tour. But, the last time they played it was Mercado dumping Parrilla out of the Bolivian Grand Slam on home soil. Look for Parrilla to junkball his way to a win here.
– #2 Alex Landa vs #10 Mar: wow, great match. Mar beat Landa in the 2017 FMR finals … and then Landa returned the favor beating Mar in the quarters of the 2019 event en route to the title. These are two very good players, very close in talent, and if Mar is on Landa will not be able to beat him. Any given sunday; this is a coinflip.

Projecting the Semis:
– Carson over Montoya; a rematch of Chicago semis, where Rocky won 11,2 and gave Montoya a lesson in the second game on match control.
– Landa over Parrilla: another tough match for Landa; if he gets to the finals here he’ll have more than earned it. If Landa gets by Mar though, I think he’s in jeopardy of losing here. Parrilla’s beaten him twice on tour this year and could do it again.

Final prediction: Carson over Parrilla. The last two times they’ve played, it was a Parrilla 11-8 win in Chicago 2018 … and a Laurel Carson 11-10 win where Parrilla blew a simple cross court pass on match-point to lose. I expect another close one but Rocky’s hard to beat.

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They’re also playing doubles in San Jose. The Mar/Montoya team is only seeded 4th somehow; they’ll likely face Beltran/Landa in one semi, while the Costa Rican national doubles team of Camacho/Acuna likely faces two IRT regulars paired together in Mercado/Horn.

I like Mar/Montoya over Camacho/Acuna in a loud final.

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International Racquetball Tour International Racquetball Federation – IRFFederación Mexicana de Raquetbol

IRT Season ending Standings Implications from Syosset

Kane wraps up his 13th pro tour title.

Syosset was the last Tier 1 of the season, and as noted in the previews for this event, the #1 spot for the season was technically in the balance heading into the event. Kane Waselenchuk entered the Syosset event with a 132 point lead over #2 Rocky Carson in the year end title race. They had both opened up a massive gap even to the #3 ranked player; nearly 700 points separated #2 and #3 heading into the event, and that gap has only widened after the event. So Syosset was all about determining #1 for this year.

By winning the event, Kane has now distanced himself by a sufficient amount of points from Rocky to have ensured himself the year end title. This post explains why (at least as I understand the system), and talks about the rest of the top 10 ramifications.

5/6/19 updated points standings are now online here: https://www.irt-tour.com/singles-rankings/

As the tour standings now sit, Kane leads Rocky by 234 points. This is roughly 100 more points of a lead than he had heading into Syosset, due to the difference of 100 points between winning a Tier 1 event (400 points) and losing in the final (300).

Now, there are still multiple events left on the IRT schedule between now and the end of June (notionally the end of the season each year); I postulated before the Syosset event that those events could actually come into play if the results went a certain way this past weekend. Players get 120 points for winning IRT Tier 2 events … and there are two Tier 2s still on the schedule (Costa Rica in two weeks time and Chihuahua Mexico in Mid June), at least one of which i’ve heard Carson is scheduled to attend.

So why can’t Rocky go win both of those Tier 2s and get 240 additional points to overtake Kane for the title, since he trails by 234 points? Because the tour only takes each players’ best 9 results for the season … and a potential 120 point Tier 2 win would not be enough to replace any bad results for Rocky this season. Plus, for the final season rankings players drop their lowest tournament result (which for Kane would be a 0 point missed event). Rocky made the semis or better in ALL NINE IRT events this year, guaranteeing him at least 220 points per event. So Rocky actually cannot improve his current points totals one bit from where they are now, hence Kane’s insurmountable points lead.

So, Congrats to Kane on his 13th pro title (click here for a season summary for Kane’s career: http://rball.pro/C08BD1) and Rocky finishes 2nd for the ninth season in his career (click here for the same for Rocky: http://rball.pro/610C77).

Once all the rest of the tourney slate plays out, I’ll capture the official season ending standings and update the database and links to show these results.

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Now, how about the rest of the top 10? What did Syosset do to their rankings and what remains to play for?

So, there’s a couple of noteworthy rankings achievements to work towards besides the #1 title for the rest of the tour:
– the top 4 players on tour avoid the seedings flip 
– More importantly … the top 8 players get protected seeds into the 16s at tier one events.
– less important; finishing in “the top 10” as a career achievement.

I know there’s lots of complaining about protected seeds on tour, especially in a tournament like Syosset with 49 guys in the draw and some players potentially having to play 3 matches to face a rested, seeded player in the 16s. I’d rather not get into it here, just noting that there were several reasons it was implemented and remains in place today: see this link http://www.proracquetballstats.com/…/guidry_post_roundof32.… for a good summary of why it was put in and how it actually *helps* lower ranked players instead of hurting them, both in terms of prize money and rankings points.

Nonetheless, while the protected seed system is in place, players really want to stay in the top 8.

Here’s how the Syosset event results shape the current top 10, and what may happen with the remaining non-Tier 1s:

– By virtue of making the semis this past weekend, #3 Alejandro Alex Landahas locked up #3 on the season. He has a 142 point lead over #4 and cannot be surpassed even if Parrilla plays tier 2s and wins them to replace his lowest scores. Landa finishes #3 for the second year running and had a nice solid run in the 2nd half of the season to get there.

– #4 Andree Parrilla should have guaranteed himself the #4 spot for year end by making the semis. This is a pretty remarkable one-season rise for a player; he finished ranked 11th last season, basically playing the tour just half time. This year though, he played all 9 events, made four quarterfinals and four semifinals and was a couple of unlucky points from doing even better. Twice this season Parrilla went out in the tie-breaker 11-10 or else maybe we’d be talking about him fishing 3rd.

– Andree’s lead over #5 Alvaro Beltran is only 107 points. And, Beltran missed the first event of the season, meaning he could possibly win a Tier 2 and add 120 points to his year end total to over take Andree for the #4 spot. But … Alvaro played (and won) the Lou Bradley Tier 2 earlier this season (see http://blog.proracquetballstats.com/…/lou-bradley-irt-tier…/ for the wrap-up of that event), meaning he’s already got a 120 tier2 win on the books, so I’m not sure how much Alvaro can improve upon his current #5 ranking with the remaining events. Alvaro did miss the first Tier 1 of the season, meaning in theory that’s a zero-point result he should be able to “replace” …

– With his early upset loss this past weekend, Daniel De La Rosa dropped to #6 on tour for the season, his lowest season-ending ranking since the 2012-13 season. He’s just 50 points behind Alvaro though for the #5 spot, and missed not one but two events on the year, so he could improve his year end standing markedly by playing (and winning) some of the remaining lower tier events. But I wonder what motivation there would be for DLR to go out of his way to play non-tier 1s just to try to improve from 6th to 5th. If he was planning on playing (say) Costa Rica, or Chihuahua, or the smaller events in Arkansas and Kansas already so be it, but with his likely focused on outdoor events and pickleball and family for the summer, we may not see him again on the IRT til the opener in August/September.

– There’s a huge gap from #6 to #7; 420 points, really showing how the guys in the 3-6 range have separated themselves from the pack, similarly to how the 1 & 2 guys have separated themselves even from #3.

– #7 Samuel Murray picked a great tournament to hold serve and make the quarters as per his seeding; he retains a 70 point lead over #8 Franco and is probably locked into that as a year end seeding.

– #8 Sebastian Franco was upset in Syosset, but so were all his possible competitors to the last coveted protected seeding #8 spot, meaning he’s in line to retain it heading into the next season. Franco also is a very active player, having two “extra” events on his resume already being dropped, so I’m not sure how much he could improve his ranking with the remaining events, or if he’d even travel to them (Franco skipped the Bolivian Grand Slam, likely for travel/family reasons, and traveling to Costa Rica/Chihuahua may also not be in the cards).

– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís was upset before the 16s thanks to a brutal draw (having to play Javier Mar to qualify for the main draw) and could not move from his #9 seeding in Syosset in the standings. Montoya missed a couple of tier 1s early in the season, but has himself played a couple of non-Tier1s this season, so i’m not sure if he can improve upon the 100 point gap between himself and the coveted #8 spot at this point without a deep dive into his full results on the season. Maybe if he goes to Chihuahua and wins it he could slip into the top 8.

– Both #10 Mario Mercado and #11 Jose Diaz got upset early in Syosset, costing them any shot at moving up. Despite his big run to the quarters as a #12 seed, Jake Bredenbeck remains locked into that year end seeding. #13 David Horn made the main draw but got no further and stays ranked #13 for the season.

– After #13, there’s a size-able gap to #14: Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo, who has all his points from just two events (the Bolivia grand slam and a non Tier 1), and who seems unlikely to be seen on the regular tour at this point. I’d love to see him get some sponsors … but regular flights from Bolivia to the US are pretty grueling and we may not see him again til the US Open.

– The Guys ranked 15th-20th are all within 100 points of each other. Gerardo Franco GonzalezJansen AllenLalo PortilloThomas CarterAdam Manillaand Robert Collins. I’d describe all these guys similarly; they play nearly every IRT event, sometimes get upset early, and are still mostly lacking that one big run to the semis where they get a couple of solid wins in a row over top 8 guys that they’d need to really kick start their rankings. Some of these guys are moving up in the world (especially Portillo), while others are slipping (Allen), and it’ll be interesting to see how next season plays out for this crew.

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So that’s it. Hope you enjoyed, and I hope i didn’t get any of this analysis egregiously wrong 🙂

LPRT Syosset Open Singles Wrap-Up

Longoria wins again.

Congrats to Paola Longoria on her win this weekend in NY.

With this win:
– this is Paola’s 90th tournament title in the database and 97th that she claims (we have yet to reconcile this difference with her media group).
– She remains undefeated on the season, improving to 33-0.
– Paola creates an insurmountable lead at the top of the season to date rankings, ensuring her 10th pro title (more on that later).
– Paola extends her current match winning streak to 37.
– She improves to 49-3 career on the LPRT over #2 Salas.

R2sports link: http://rball.pro/B39D6C

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/E8EB94

Here’s notable results by round:

In the 32s/qualifiers:
– #12 Brenda Laime Jalil needed four to get by Canadian Michèle Morissette, who just finished representing Canada at PARCs 2019 and played solidly.

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In the 16s:
– In a battle of two of the worlds best, far too early, #1 Paola Longoria avenged a loss in the 2019 Mexican Nationals final to top Montse Mejia 11-7 in the 5th. It was a battle though, a back and forth 5-game monster.

– #5 Rhonda Rajsich came from two games down to take out youngster Laime.

– #6 Natalia Mendez took a 3-game win over #11 Masiel Rivera Oporto 8,9,9. Closer than it seemed.

– #10 Amaya Cris got a nice win over #7 Nancy Enriquez 5,6,6.

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In the Quarters:
– #1 Paola Longoria took out last year’s 2nd ranked player and #8 seed Frederique Lambert in three straight.

– #5 Rajsich again came from 2 games down to top #4 Alexandra Herrera and remain undefeated against the lefty Mexican in her career.

– #3 Maria Jose Vargas topped her doubles partner #6 Mendez in straight sets, her 4th win over Natalia in the last few weeks.

– #2 Samantha Salas cruised past #10 Amaya to make the semis for the 8th time in 9 tries this season.

So nearly chalk into the semis: 1,2,3,5.

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In the semis:
– #1 Longoria had to come from two games down to top #5 Rajsich. After dropping the first game 4, a battle royale ensued in game two, with Rhonda topping Paola 13-11. From there though, all champion, as she cruised to win the next three games 2,3,1.

– #2 Salas beat Vargas in three straight advance to her 8th final in 9 events this year.

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In that final, Longoria improved to 49-3 on the pro tour over her doubles partner Salas … but she had to work to do so. A back and forth affair resulted in another 5 game match for Longoria before she came out on top.

Three 5-gamers in this event for Longoria; that doesn’t happen too often. But she comes out with the title.

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One more event for the LPRT; a grand slam in Kansas City in mid June. However, Paola has sewn up the year end title, having an insurmountable points lead at this point over Solis for #1. And Solis has a similarly insurmountable lead for #2. We’ll go through the points ramifications in the preview for the last event for the rest of the top 10 after the Kansas event.

But Longoria has now officially wrapped up her 10th pro title. Congrats to Paola on this great accomplishment!.

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LPRT Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Racquetball Canada USA Racquetball

IRT Syosset Open Singles Wrap-Up

Kane wins again … and wraps up his 13th pro tour title.

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk, who wins the Syosset Open on the weekend.

With this title:
– Kane’s 116th professional win.
– He improves to 26-2 on the season
– He improves to 76-3 over Rocky, his opponent in the final.
– Most importantly … Kane secures an insurmountable points lead and clinches his 13th pro tour title.

We’ll put up a separate post about the ramifications of this win for the year end’s rankings … this was the final Tier 1 event of the year.

r2sports link for brackets: http://rball.pro/CCDF9D

Match Report in PRS: http://rball.pro/A7214A

Here’s the matches I found notable, by round:

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In the 64s:
– #9 seed Rodrigo Montoya Solis absolutely pasted #41 Alan Natera Chavez2,2. Talk about turning the tables from the last time they played at Nationals.

– Similarly, #24 Javier Mar advanced with relative ease over #25 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez 5,10 to setup a fantastic 32 match up with each other.

– #16 Adam Manilla took out #33 Nick Montalbano with relative ease 5,3. I thought this would be closer, given Montalbano’s results on tour earlier this season.

– #13 David Horn was stretched to an 11-8 tiebreaker win, taking out Marylander #36 Mauricio MoMo Zelada.

– #11 Jose Diaz advanced over Mexican junior #38 Oscar Nieto 13,11. Nieto is playing in his age 18 season but missed last year’s Mexican Junior Nationals after advancing to the 2017 16U Mexican finals (where he lost to Fernandez, also playing here).

– #22 Andres Acuña made fast work of Georgia IRT frequenter #27 Maurice Miller 3,7.

– Teenager #26 Sebastian Fernandez downed #23 Mauro Daniel Rojas with relative ease 10,6. Like with several of these match-ups, I thought this would be closer.

– #42 Andres Gomez upset his fellow Colombian #10 Mario Mercado 11-9, making for another one-and-done for Mercado and likely killing his chances of finishing in the top 10 this season.

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In the 32s.

– Solid win by youngster #17 Lalo Portillo to beat #16 Adam Manilla to advance to the main draw.

– In the match of the round, #9 Montoya was ousted by his good friend and frequent doubles partner #24 Mar 12,7. Both games were neck and neck up to a point, and then featured Mar pulling away. Such a shame to see two top 10 players in the world meet in the 32s. But Mar survives the gauntlet of this little section of the draw to move on.

– #12 Jake Bredenbeck came from a game down to dominate #21 Charlie Pratt and advance (8),6,1. I thought Pratt had a deep run in him, given his PARC run last month, but Jake played really well, frustrating Pratt and dominated the tie-breaker.

– #19 Thomas Carter got a statement win over #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 1,10.

– Similarly, #22 Acuna dominated #11 seed Jose Diaz 4,12 to move on.

– #26 Fernandez dominated Gomez 8,0 to advance into the main draw.
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In the 16s.

– #1 Kane Waselenchuk seems to show little ill effects from last weekend, dominating the youngster Portillo in a 4,4 win to open his tournament.

– #24 Mar continued plowing through ranked players, topping #8 Sebastian Franco 7,13 to setup a rematch with Kane of a round of 16 last October at the US Open.

– #12 Bredenbeck makes his first IRT quarter final since Nov 2017 with a solid win over #5 Daniel De La Rosa.

– There he’ll face long-time WRT rival Andree Parrilla , who advanced for the 2nd week in a row with a 2-game win over fellow WRT veteran David Horn.

– #3 Alex Landa dispatched surprise main draw participant #19 Carter 5,6. Unless Parrilla makes the final, Landa has sewn up #3 with this win.

– #6 Alvaro Beltran was taken to a tie-breaker by the surprising Costa Rican Acuna before advancing.

– #7 Samuel Murray dropped a game to #26 Fernandez before coming back to advance in a tiebreaker.

– #2 Rocky Carson dispatched #15 Jansen Allen in two straight 4,10.

So, 6 of your top 8 seeds advance; only #3 and #8 are upset at this juncture.

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In the Quarters…
– #1 Waselenchuk left no doubt that he’s recovered from whatever ailed him in Florida, pounding one of the best players in the world in #24 Mar 6,3.

– #4 Parilla squandered match point in game two, but held on in the tiebreaker to advance over #12 Jake, ending Bredenbeck’s best run in a year and a half on tour.

– #3 Landa pulverized Beltran 4,4 in a rematch of last weekend’s final, throwing down the gauntlet on this event.

– #2 Carson cruised past Canadian #7 Murray 9,5.

So, despite the depth of this 49-man draw and the presence of a slew of top world players who don’t regularly play the tour … its chalk seeds into the semis. Cream rises.

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In the Semis:
– #4 Parilla came out swinging, taking Game 1 over Waselenchuk and putting into doubt not only the year end title race but also the state of Kane’s game right now given his loss last weekend. Kane rebounded though taking game 2 and donutting Parrilla in the tie-breaker to advance to thefinals.

– #2 Carson avenged a loss to #3 Landa last weekend by taking a solid 12,13 win to advance to the final.

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In the Final, Kane showed no mercy and showed no ill effects of any past physical ailments by dominating the tour’s #2 player 3,4 for the title.

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Next up; per the IRT schedule, there’s a few non-tier 1s between now and the end of June, including two Tier 2s that could theoretically juggle the year end rankings a bit. We’ll definitely cover them as they stand to have good draws, especially the “Black Gold” event in Mexico in mid-June.

Also notable; the tour plans on announcing a preliminary copy of the 2019-20 schedule next month and they’ve teased it a bit; it should include the return of several events that dropped off in the last year, plus the return of some of the great events that happened this year.

International Racquetball Tour Racquetball Canada USA RacquetballFederación Mexicana de Raquetbol Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora Fecoracquet Fecoracquet International Racquetball Federation – IRFInternational Racquetball Federation

LPRT Syosset Open Singles Preview

In addition to the huge International Racquetball Tour draw in NY this weekend, there’s also a big LPRT draw AND a solid mixed doubles events combining both pro tours for just the 3rd time in the last few seasons (that i can see).

r2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30716

Lets preview the ladies singles draw. 21 ladies present, including 14 of the top 15 ranked players (only missing the newly-retired Gaby Martinez, who still sits in the top 10 from results earlier this season) are here and the draw is solid.

Qualifying/round of 32 matches to watch:
– #16 Montse Mejia vs #17 Hollie Rae Scott; an interesting match between the reigning 18U junior world champ and the reigning USA RacquetballIntercollegiates champ. Mejia is favored here but Scott has wins over top 10 players in the past and won’t go easily.
– #20 Maricruz Ortiz, a finalist in the World 16U juniors in 2018 and who just represented Costa Rica at the 2019 PARCs, faces off against #13 LPRT touring regular Cassie Lee.
– In the 15/18 match, 18yr old Ana Laura Flores takes on Ceci Orozco Pratt, an infrequent but long-time LPRT player.

round of 16 matches to look for:
– #1 Paola Longoria vs Mejia: wow, what an opener. Paola Longoria beat Mejia at the 2018 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships, but then Mejia topped her in the final of the 2019 Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Nationals to claim the #1 seed at the 2019 International Racquetball Federation – IRF PARC championships. This is a semis or finals quality match right out of the gate. While Longoria remains the undisputed #1 player in the world, Mejia has the talent to be there some day. But on the pro tour, in the best of 5 format, Longoria’s superior fitness will win out and she’ll win on the day.

– #8 Frederique Lambert vs #9 Adriana Riveros; newly minted MD Lambert returns to the pro tour fold having shedded a ton of points as she finished off medical school. Lest anyone forget, Lambert was the #2 player on tour in both of the last two seasons … so she’s a threat to win whenever she plays. But how rusty is she? I think she advances here.

– #3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada vs #14 Yazmine Sabja Aliss; they’ve only played twice, both in the back end of IRF tourneys in 2018. Vargas held serve to top Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol to win the 2018 South American Games, then beat her again in the quarters of 2018 Worlds. Both native Bolivians, they meet in NY where Vargas has been playing really solid lately and advances.

– #6 Natalia Mendez vs #11 Masiel Rivera Oporto; Rivera has been playing well this season, making a quarter in her home country Bolivian Open. Natalia Mendez Erlwein has been pretty consistently advancing to pro tournament quarters and had a great run at the PARCs, making the semis.

Projected Quarters; this is almost identical to last weekend’s Quarters, with only Lambert replacing Amaya.

– #1 Longoria over #8 Lambert: well, if Longoria wants this event, she’ll be earning it, facing last year’s 2nd best player here in the quarters. That being said, Longoria is 26-1 career on the LPRT over Lambert, so she likely moves on here.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich over #4 Alexandra Herrera ; despite their seeds, Rajsich has never lost to Herrera (9-0 lifetime) and held on for a 5-game marathon win last weekend. I think she makes it 10-0 here.
– #3 Vargas over #6 Mendez: Argentina’s #1 and #2, long-time doubles partners, and now facing each other for the fourth time in the last six weeks. Vargas should triumph again.
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis over #7 Nancy Enriquez; they met in the quarters last week, a 3-game win for Solis who improved to 7-1 career on LPRT over Enriquez and should advance here again.

Semis and Finals: I’m predicting the exact same results as San Antonio; Longoria over Rajsich, Salas over Vargas, and for the 7th time this season a final featuring Longoria and Salas.

IRT Syosset Tier 1 Preview

IRT back in action.

Welcome to the final Tier 1 event on the International Racquetball Tour slate for the 2018-19 season, a return to Long Island for the 2019 Syosset Open. Long Island held a long-running IRT stop branded the “New York City” Pro-am, which ran annually from 2003 until 2016, so its great to see the pro tour return to one of its most important clubs.

R2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30716

Dean DeAngelo Baer posted the draws in the morning of 5/1/19 onto the IRT’s facebook page; make sure to follow it to get all the latest updates.

There’s a HUGE draw this weekend: 49 players in the IRT draw, which is the largest non-US Open draw we’ve seen on tour since Sept 2014 (see this link for the largest known draw sizes in pro tour history: http://rball.pro/797BF4). Because of the huge number of players, they’re they’re playing a round of 128. to get thing started early thursday.

This may be the most talented non-US Open draw i’ve seen since the days of Pro Nationals in Vegas. 28 of the top 30 IRT players are here (only missing two Bolivians Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo and Diego Garcia Quispe of the top 30), and 36 of the top 40 IRT ranked players are here. Amazing.

There’s also IRT tour debuts all throughout the qualifying draw, which we’ll highlight in the previews below.

Lets highlight some of the fantastic qualfiying matches to look forward to:

In the round of 128:
– Frequent tour player Nick Riffel takes on Canadian Junior Sean Sauve, fresh of last week’s Racquetball Canada 18U title. Sauve is in his age 17 season and makes his IRT debut.
– New Yorker and reigning Vegas 3-wall champion Nick Montalbano himself gets a Canadian traveler in his opener, going up against Michael Leduc.
– Canadian Pedro Castro plays in his first IRT tourney in more than 6 years and matches up against touring regular Michael Art ER Burn.
– New Jersey top amateur David Austin gets a shot at Colombian international Andres Gomez, fresh off of representing his country at the PARC championships.

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In the round of 64:
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís versus Alan Natera. Man, what a match we have here. Montoya is the highest seed forced to qualify and he runs right into a player who beat him handily at Federación Mexicana de RaquetbolNationals earlier this year. Alan Natera Chavez appears in his first ever IRT Tier 1 event; he won last week’s solid Tier 4 draw in San Antonio and has made the semis of Mexican Nationals two years running. Meanwhile, Montoya has gotten bounced in the round of 16 the last two IRT events, both against opponents he probably should have beaten. This is a coin flip; Natera is hot right now; is that going to be enough to cause the massive upset?

– #24 Javier Mar vs #25 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez; these “consecutive seed” match-ups never seem to disappoint, do they? Mar was your 2017 Mexican National champ and the last time we saw him he was giving Kane fits, losing in the 16s at the US Open 12,10. Garay has multiple wins over top 10 IRT players, including a win over Mercado in Florida last weekend. Mar is favored here in my book but this is a tough starter match.

– #16 Adam Manilla vs #33 Montalbano; A solid match for the 64s between a good infrequent tour player in Montalbano, playing on home turf, versus an up and coming tour regular who has some solid wins on tour this season.

– #22 Andres Andres Acuña vs #27 Maurice Miller; Miller plays his 5th pro event of the season, with some solid performances against regular tour players but no break through wins yet. Acuna had an amazing run to the semis of PARC last month, but then got wiped out by Landa the week after upsetting him in Colombia. These players both play solid, mistake-free ball and this could be a tight match.

– #23 Mauro Daniel Rojas vs #26 Sebastian Fernandez; The 2017 World Junior 18U champ (Rojas) versus the 2017 World Junior 16U champ (Fernandez) (see http://rball.pro/88ADAE for the complete IRF junior world champion matrix). Two of the best young players in the world meet … for the first time, amazingly. Neither has appeared on tour since January, but both had solid wins earlier in the season. I like Fernandez here, on the better track record of top wins.

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Projecting the round of 32

– #9 Montoya vs #24 Mar. So, on the off chance that both Montoya and Mar advance unscathed from very tough round of 64 matches … they get to play each other in a battle royale. This is the 2017 Mexican national champ versus the 2018 champ. These are regular tournament finalists, and who met twice in WRT finals in 2017 (splitting them). This would be another tough one to predict, as Mar can beat practically anyone in the world if he’s “on.” Meanwhile, we know what Montoya, the 2018 International Racquetball Federation – IRF World Champion can do. What a match. Oh, and instead if it was Natera vs Mar (Natera upset Mar as the 32 seed in the 2018 Mexican Nationals), or Montoya vs Garay (last time they faced it was an 11-9 tiebreaker win from the 2018 Longhorn Open), or even Natera vs Garay (who I don’t have a record of playing each other in a sanctioned event), it’ll still be a great match.

– #16 Manilla vs #17 Eduardo Lalo Portillo: 16/17s are always good, and this would be no different, whether it was Manilla or Montalbano. Portillo (the reigning 18U world champ) has really played well this season, with a couple of top-10 wins. I’d favor him here over either possible opponent.

– #12 Jake Bredenbeck vs #21 Charlie Pratt; A tough match-up for Jake, running into a criminally under-seeded Pratt, who has more than shown he can beat practically anyone not named Kane. Pratt is fresh off a very good run to the PARC finals, dispatching along the way Mercado, Moscoso and Acuna before running out of gas against Carlos Keller Vargas in the final. These two have played once before; a 2015 US Open Jake victory, but I sense Pratt’s going to neutralize Jake’s power here and move on. Question is, how deep will Pratt run in this event?

– #11 Jose Diaz vs #22 Acuna: I like this as an interesting contrast of styles. Acuna can frustrate shooters, but Diaz is lightening fast on the court and is a shooter. This could go fast Diaz’s way, or could be a 2 hour grind.

– #10 Mario Mercado vs #26 Fernandez. Mercado has been showing time and again this season the perils of dropping out of the top 8, and has suffered four one-and-dones in events this season. Here he’ll face a very tough young player who has the talent to beat him. Expect a dogfight here.

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Projected 16s:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #17 Portillo: they played at the 2017 US Open, and Portillo lost by the respectable scores of 6,9,9. I don’t think these two are *that* close though, but this will be the first test for Kane since his shock loss last weekend. What will we get out of Kane this weekend?

– #9 Montoya over #8 Sebastian Franco; If Montoya can survive the qualifying guantlet, he faces a fresh Franco here. By talent this is Montoya (or Mar) over Franco … but two potentially grueling matches thursday night may drain whoever advances to face Franco friday morning. we’ll see.

– #21 Pratt over #5 Daniel De La Rosa; my first big upset prediction. DLR hasn’t looked himself lately, taking three early losses this season, often by lopsided scores. Meanwhile, when Pratt shows up, he shows up to play, and has shown time and again the tactical mindset to develop a gameplan against any one in the world.

– #4 Andree Parrilla vs #13 David Horn; they met last weekend in Florida in the quarters, a dominant 2,6 win for Parrilla, who seems to be a safe bet to have guaranteed himself a top 4 spot for the season ending standings.

– #3 Alejandro Alex Landa vs #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; Franco has to beat a couple of tour regulars to get here, but once he does Landa likely ends his run easily.

– #6 Alvaro Beltran over #11 Diaz: they’ve split in two match-ups this season; Diaz got him at the UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championshipsbut then Beltran got him in Portland. I like Beltran’s trending lately; in his last 5 tourneys he’s made the Finals of Mexico Nats, Quarters in Chicago, Semis of Bolivia grand slam, Semis of PARC, and the finals of last weekend’s Florida stop, beating Kane along the way. Beltran’s on fire!

– #7 Samuel Murray vs #26 Fernandez: another interesting match-up. After making the final of the season opener in Laurel, Murray has not advanced past the quarters since, and has taken two one-and-done losses to players right in the same talent range as Fernandez. Murray’s in a dog-fight to retain his top 8 protected seeding and needs a result here, but may struggle if Fernandez plays like he can.

– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Jansen Allen; Allen was seeded as high as #3 in an event early last season, now he’s seeded 15th, having run into solid players over and again in the early rounds once he lost protected seeding. I think he fights his way through qualifying though here, only to lose to Rocky at this stage.

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Possible Quarters

– #1 Kane vs #9 Montoya; would *love* to see this happen, a lot has to go right for Montoya to make it this far. But if Kane’s not 100% from last weekend, he’ll have problems here.

– #21 Pratt vs #4 Parrilla: I like Pratt’s chances here too. Parrilla is a chameleon, adapting his game style to who he plays. But Pratt’s game style is to find your weakness and exploit it. I don’t believe they’ve ever played. Could be interesting.

– #3 Landa over #6 Beltran: a rematch of last week’s final, a close-but-comfortable Landa win over his long time Mexican rival.

– #2 Carson over #7 Murray: Rocky is 8-0 career h2h over Murray, including a win at the quarters in Chicago. He makes it 9-0 as he tries to overtake Kane for the year end points lead.

Possible Semis:
– Kane over Pratt; Kane’s 9-0 career over Pratt, and has never dropped a game. If he’s good, 10-0 here.
– Landa over Rocky: Landa is just 3-7 lifetime vs Rocky, but beat him handily last week 5,7 at this stage and seems like he’s on a roll.

Final: Kane over Landa.

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We’ll see how close my predictions come … if Kane’s still ailing from last weekend, we could really see some surprises coming out of the top of this draw. Pratt to the finals? Montoya finally making a run to an IRT final? What about Parrilla? Can’t wait.

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