LPRT 2020 Boston Open Preview

2018 World Champ Ana Gabriela Martinez makes a rare LPRT appearance.

Hot on the heels of Mexican Nationals last weekend (which involved a good percentage of the current LPRT regular touring squad), the LPRT returns after a five week break in the schedule.

We’re in Boston this week for the 2020 Boston Open. The Boston Open first popped up on the schedule in Oct 2016, was held three years running, missed 2019 but its great to see them back on the schedule for 2020.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31948

24 Pros in the draw, a good sized draw and one of the bigger turnouts of the season so far. Notables playing this week include Amaya Cris, who just had hand surgery on her non-playing hand but will gut it out and play on the weekend. #12 Ana Laura Flores is here after curiously missing Mexican Nationals last week.

Notables missing this week: #4 Alexandra Herrera and #7 Montse Mejia. Herrera’s absence is odd; she has missed just two pro events in the last 5 seasons combined. Mejia continues to balance school and travel and probably could not miss two straight weeks of time.

From the 11-20 ranked players, only tour stalwart Adrienne Fisher Haynes is missing, meaning that the event is stacked, with 17 of the top 20 players present.

And, just to make this an even deeper draw, we have 2019 US champ Kelani Lawrence, the 2020 US qualifier champ Hollie Rae Scott, and 2018 World Champ Ana Gabriela Martínez making a rare appearance to make this one of the best LPRT draws in some time. All these top non-regular touring players will make the opening rounds brutal.

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Lets preview the singles draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:

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In the 32s, here’s some matches to look for:

– #21 Scott versus #12 Flores: Great opener; Scott defeated Flores in the sole h2h match I have on record … in 2017. Flores started off the 2019-20 season with a bang, making the quarters, but has been one-and-done in 3 straight pro events since. Scott is hot (hey! I’m a poet and i didn’t even know it), is coming off a great showing in Tempe to take the qualifier title and essentially guarantee herself a spot on the US National team, and will be looking to make noise here. Look for Scott with the “upset” here.
– #13 Adriana Riveros vs #20 Susy Acosta; interesting match here; they met earlier this season and Acosta got the upset win, but otherwise Riveros has a ton of really solid wins lately on her resume. She was fantastic at the Pan Am Games in Lima, downing Centellas and Rajsich to make the semis. I’d favor Riveros here but the match-up with the veteran lefty may make for an upset as it did earlier this season.
– #14 Valeria Centellas vs #19 Kelani Lawrence; Centellas has raised some eyebrows on tour this year, with multiple wins over top 10players, but to get there in Boston she’ll have to go through a player who just topped her dominantly in a local event a month ago in Lawrence. This should be a really competitive match.
– #11 Carla Muñoz Montesinos vs #22 Lexi York; Munoz keeps climbing up the rankings on tour, now on the brink of the top 10. She’ll have a tough younger opponent in York to start her tournament this weekend.
– #10 Brenda Laime Jalil vs #23 Martinez: The presence of Martinez in the draw is the ultimate wild-card; when she’s playing regularly, she’s a top 4-5 player in the world and a threat to make the semis or better of any event she enters. But since “retiring” to go to school she’s played sporadically with mixed results. Here she runs into Laime, who has had a hit or miss season, missing more events than she’s played but making a quarter final in Virginia Beach in September. I think Martinez moves on here.
– #15 Erin Nocam vs #18 Maria Renee Rodriguez; An intriguing match between Rivera, the righy with an unconventional swing path and a number of solid wins this season, versus MRR, who seems stuck in a rut right now with five straight one-and-dones. I think Rivera moves on.

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Round of 16; here’s a look at the round as it may play out if my round of 32 predictions come to pass:
– #1 Paola Longoria vs #16 Sheryl Lotts; 9 times they’ve played, mostly in the 2012-13 time frame, Longoria is 9-0 against the American. Paola is fresh of a double win in Tijuana and hopefully shows no ill-effect of the nasty-looking turned ankle.
– #9 Jessica Parrilla vs #8 Masiel Rivera Oporto: Rivera unfortunately draws Parrilla, who took out defending Mexican champ Mejia en route to the final and qualified for the Mexican national team for the first time in years. Rivera beat Parrilla handily at the US Open earlier this season, but has suffered some early upsets since, while Jessica has been red-hot. Look for the upset here.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich vs #22 Scott; Hollie didn’t have to play Rhonda at the doubles qualifier but won it by defeating the player who downed Rhonda in the final. Is it a changing of the guard in US Racquetball? Every time Rhonda does NOT win a title we have the same talk. But Scott is candidate 1-A right now to take over the mantle of the “Best American” based on results. This will be a good test for both player, and I think Scott moves on.
– #4 Natalia Mendez likely takes on #13 Riveros: a nice south american matchup; Mendez leads 4-1, Riveros beat her in jan 2019 but not since, and the matches are often close.
– #3 Samantha Salas Solis vs the Lawrence/Centellas winner: Salas has never lost to either player, and crushed Lawrence when they played in Greenville in January. Look for Salas to move on here in a close match.
– #6 Nancy Enriquez vs #11 Munoz: these two played three times in 2017, never since. Munoz has been creeping up the rankings, now sitting at #13 while Enriquez has been showing some vulnerabilities in earlier rounds this season. I think Munoz can get the upset here.
– #7 Amaya vs likely #23 Martinez: On paper Martinez is the better player, but she’s not playing full time. Meanwhile Amaya just had surgery and isn’t 100%. Not knowing just how sharp Martinez is … i’ll go out on a limb and predict the upset here.
– #2 Maria Jose Vargas Parada likely takes on #15 Rivera, in what I believe is a debut meeting for the two players. Vargas to move on.

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Projected Qtrs:
– #1 Longoria over #9 Parrilla: a rematch of last week’s Mexican National final, won by Longoria in two.
– #4 Mendez vs #22 Scott: these two are nearly the same age and have prior junior worlds meetings. But that was a while ago. I see a tough match here that could go either way, but I’ll go with the higher ranked Mendez to move on.
– #3 Salas vs #11 Munoz; if this meeting comes to pass, Munoz has a win already over Salas this season and should be able to repeat the feat. Salas took a slight knee knock last weekend; not sure if it was serious or not (it did not seem to affect her in the doubles final), but something to look out for.
– #2 Vargas vs #23 Martinez. Great match-up. They met at 2018 worlds (a Martinez win) and 2019 PARC (a Vargas tiebreaker win). I like Vargas here over the non-touring Martinez.

Semis:
– #1 Longoria over #4 Mendez; Natalia has never beaten the #1 player, and that won’t change here.
– #2 Vargas over #11 Munoz: Argentina vs Chile, a battle of two of the best Syrah-growing countries in the world. Oh, and two solid players. I have Vargas 8-0 lifetime over Munoz in pro and IRF competitions; she makes it 9-0 here.

Finals: #1 over #2 Longoria over Vargas.

6 of the first 7 finals this season have been Longoria v Vargas, might as well make it 7 of 8.

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Doubles review

13 teams entered. Some interesting teams this time around trying to dethrone Longoria/Salas. We have a number of internationally flavored teams: the #2 Argentinian national team pairing of Vargas/Mendez, a promising all-american team of #6 Lawrence/Lotts, the Guatemalan national team #9 Martinez/Rodriguez, and an interesting “all veteran” team of Rajsich/Acosta, with more than 40-years of pro experience between them. One last team of note: María Paz Riquelme steps in for Amaya to partner with Riveros this time around; Riquelme and I used to play at the same club in Arlington VA. If you’re reading this Maria … hello!

In the end, I’m going with the #1 team to prevail over the #2 Argentines in the final.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the LPRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live.
Look for Timothy Baghurst], Jerry J Josey Jr., JP Edwards and Tj Baumbaugh on the mike, calling the shots!

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LPRT
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Racquetball Colombia
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball
Asociación Argentina de Racquetball
Federación Chilena Racquetball
Jugadores Racquetbol Guatemala

2020 High School Nationals Preview

Annie Roberts defends her 2019 HS title on her home courts in Portland. Photo 2019 Junior Nationals, photographer Kevin Savory

This coming weekend is the 33rd annual High School Nationals, being held in Portland, Oregon at the same Multnomah Athletic club that hosted last year’s Junior Nationals and the annual John Pelham Memorial IRT event.

Fun Facts about HS Nationals:

– this is the 33rd event: the first was held in 1988 and won by Jim Floyd (Michigan) and Holly Grey (Virginia). Holly would later marry hall of famer Ed Remen and now lives in North Carolina.
– There’s been two 4-time HS champions: Adrienne Fisher Haynes from 2000-2004 and Lexi York from 2012-2016.
– There’s never been a 4-time male champ; the closest we got was Taylor Knoth, who took it 2007-2009. Knoth lost in the quarters his freshman year to the 2006 winner Chris Coy.
– The tournament has been dominated by players from California and Oregon: 30 of the 66 singles titles awarded in its history have come from these two states.
– The list of past champs is littered with eventual pro tour champions. Sudsy Monchik won this title in 1991, Jack Huczek won it twice, in 2000 and 2001. Michelle Gould won it in 1989, Rhonda Rajsich twice in 96 and 97.
– Three different members of the Rojas clan have HS national titles: Marco Rojas in 2010, Mauro Daniel Rojas in 2014 and 2016 and current title holder Antonio Rojas.
– Interestingly, current IRT pro Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez took the title in 2015 as a freshman, then again in 2018 as a senior, missing the two events in-between. He would presumably have had a great chance of a 4-peat.

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Here’s a quick preview of the Gold #1 Singles draw, looking at the top 8 seeds. They’re dominated at the top by players from Northern California.

In the Boys #1:
– Defending HS National champ and Stockton native Antonio Rojas is back and is the #1 seed. Rojas is the current reigning 16U and 18U US Junior national champ and is already one of the most decorated junior players in US history. He’s going to be tough to beat. See this link for a matrix of all US Junior National boys title holders: http://rball.pro/68C60E
– Last year’s finalist and East Bay resident Vedant Chauhan is the #2 seed. Chauhan has several junior national titles himself, was the runner-up in 14U in 2019 and lost in world 14U juniors in the quarters to the eventual winner Bolivian Jhonatan Flores. See this link for Chauhan’s match history in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/1EB9AD
– #3 is the player who vanquished Chauhan in last year’s 14U US final and who advanced to the final of 14U at Junior worlds, Fremont native Nikhil Prasad. Prasad himself owns 5 junior national titles and will be a favorite to make the final here. Prasad enters HS nationals for the first time.
– #4 Cody Boucher has competed at US Junior Nationals for the past few years, was the #3 seed here last year and was upset early.
– #5 is another Stocktonian, one with a great pedigree in Julius Ellis (son of long time IRT vet John Ellis. Ellis and Boucher met in the 2018 16U junior nationals event, and are slated to play into each other in the quarters here.
– #6 Cody Thomas made it to the quarters of the 2019 16U nationals event in 2019.
– #7 Rory Lampe was taken out of the 16U junior Nationals last year by #1 seed Rojas
– #8 Nathan Soltis made the 16s the last two years in the 16U draw at junior nationals.

Predictions: Its hard not to see Rojas repeating, and the #2/#3 re-match of last year’s 14U final between Prasad and Chauhan could be great.

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In the Girls #1,

– Defending champ Annie Roberts is the #1 seed and is playing in her home-town. Roberts is the two-time defending US 16U junior national champ and had a great run to the semis of Junior worlds last November.
– Roberts will not have last year’s finalist as a competitor, as Nikita Chauhan has graduated despite still having one year remaining in 18U. We look forward to seeing Chauhan at intercollegiates this year competing for UC Berkeley (my father’s alma mater).

Roberts and Chauhan, coincidentally, were both just named the USA Racquetball 2020 scholarship recipients: see https://www.facebook.com/…/pb.164703169…/10158179520804529/…

– the #2 seed this year is Heather Mahoney, the two-time defending USA junior 14U champ and an incoming freshman for 2020. She already holds 8 USA junior national titles and is the reigning 2019 World Junior 14U champ and will be a favorite here.
– #3 is Alondra Canchola, a semi-finalist last year here.
– #4 is Arya Cyril, also a semi-finalist at this event last year and who lost 11-10 to Chauhan in the semis.
– #5 is Erin Slutzky, the 3rd seed last year and who is coming off a quarter final appearance at 16U junior worlds last November.
– #6 is Shane Diaz, who made the semis of US 18U junior nationals last year.
– #7 is Megan Carver, who lost in the quarters of last year’s 18U junior nationals to Diaz.
– #8 is Karena Mathew, who holds 4 junior national titles but none since she was in grade school. She’s coming off a 3rd place showing at last year’s 14U nationals and is a rising freshman ready to make some waves.

click here for a full matrix of all US Junior girls title holders: http://rball.pro/6D7917

Predictions: I think Roberts makes the final but loses to Mahoney.

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Follow USA Racquetball on Facebook for streaming, and look for Leo Ray Vasquez on the mike as always for US National events.

US Open LPRT Women’s Pro Singles round of 32 and 16s review

Mejia an upset winner into the quarters of the US Open. Photo unk.

we’re catching up on the LPRT action from yesterday; here’s a review of the 32s and 16s.

In the 32s, here was the notable results for me:

– #17 Adrienne Fisher Haynes took out #16 Sheryl Lotts in a tie-breaker for a surprising result (for me). Haynes turns the tide on Lotts from the last time they played at the 2018 Nationals and moves on.

– #9 Masiel Rivera Oporto made a statement with a dominant win over #24 Jessica Parrilla 8,4. I thought this was an upset special; instead it was a dominant performance by Rivera, who continues to impress this season and is racing up the LPRT rankings.

– Big upset by #25 Erin Rivera who took out #8 Amaya Cris in two close games 13,13.

– #12 Montse Mejia defeated #21 Maria Renee Rodriguez 12,4 to move on. Credit to MRR for staying in game one against a tough opponent, but Mejia ran away in game two.

– #20 Carla Muñoz Montesinos got a great result, topping #13 Ana Laura Flores Saavedra in a tie-breaker to move on. She’ll get her second lefty in a row later this afternoon in the 16s.

– #14 Frédérique Lambert vs #19 Angelica Barrios went as close as it could go, with Lambert squeaking by in two games over the Bolivian youngster 14,13.

– #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein dominated #27 Bolivian Jenny Daza Navia 4,3 to move on. No hiccup here for Mendez; she kept the pressure on Daza relentlessly and controlled the match from the start.

– #11 Adriana Riveros Racquetball dominated #22 Kelani Lawrence 6,12 in a somewhat surprising result to me. Lawrence played Vargas really tight in Chesapeake but couldn’t get anything going against the Colombian on this day.

– #7 Nancy Enriquez took on #26 Hollie Rae Scott in a tense, contested match that was tight all the way through. Enriquez fought off game-point against in game two when it was looking like this might go tie-breaker and won 12,14 to advance. Not much between these two players on the day.

– #10 Brenda Laime Jalil was taken out in two straight forward games by #23 Michelle De La Rosa.

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16s Review

– #1 Paola Longoria dominated #17 Haynes to move into the quarters.

– #9 Rivera held on and ousted upset-minded #25 Groves in a tie-breaker to move into just her fifth ever career quarter final.

– #12 Mejia wiped out #5 Rhonda Rajsich 6,8 in a match that seemed to take about 15 minutes. Mejia showed the whole arsenal today; power drive serves, touch in the front court, rally control, and Rhonda couldn’t get anything going. Mejia plays fast, Rhonda couldn’t slow her down and she looks pretty focused for this event.

– #4 Alexandra Herrera ended #20 Munoz’ run, taking a close first game then moving on in two 13,8.

– #3 Maria Jose Vargas dominated former world number two and #14 seed Lambert 4,9; we heard during the match that Lambert was working in the ER til 2am on the day of hte match, caught a same-day flight then played two pro matches. Yeah; i think we understand why she may have lost to one of the best players in the world.

– #6 Mendez showed some mettle and outlasted #11 Riveros in a tiebreaker to setup yet another showdown in the quarters of a pro event against her doubles partner Vargas.

– #7 Enriquez got a solid win over outdoor specialist #23 Michelle De la Rosa, who pushed her to 11-7 in the breaker but held on.

– In the dominant performance of the day, #2 Samantha Salas Solis made a statement by downing 2018 world champ #18 Ana Gabriela Martínez12,4. Salas has been “upset” early in both pro events so far this season and faced a stiff challenge here, but she made a statement in this win.

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16s seed review: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 (seven of the top eight), then 9,11,12,14,17,18,20,23 … only one qualifier in #25 Groves into the 16s.

Then, the seeds into the qtrs: 1,9,12,4,3,6,7,2; mostly chalk, with #9 and #12 breaking in.

Quarters Nationalities represented: 5 mexicans, 2 Argentinians, 1 Bolivian.

Same question for the men; is this the first time a US Open has not featured a single American into the quarters? here’s the QSF report by Nationality for LPRT: http://rball.pro/032ACA

Answer: yes it is the first time the US Open has not featured an American into at least the qtrs. It has happened multiple times before though (a LPRT event w/o an American into the quarters) before this; first time was Nov 2016 in Monterrey.

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LPRT
UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships
USA Racquetball
Racquetball Canada
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Asociación Argentina de Racquetball

LPRT by the Beach Preview

Longoria goes for her 100th tourney win. Photo via Fran Davis Racquetball

A busy weekend for racquetball includes the 2nd LPRT event of the season, the LPRT by the Beach in Chesapeake, VA.

Hosted by women’s racquetball legend Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey, its the first time the Ladies pros have ever been to the area, and the its the first time pro racquetball has returned to the Virginia Beach/Tidewater area since April 2006 (when the IRT had a stop for a couple years at the same host club).

R2 Sports App link for the event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30697

Of note for this weekend: Paola Longoria goes for her 100th career Women’s Pro event win, an amazing accomplishment, and more than double any other known win total for women’s pros in the history of the game.

Who’s here and who’s missing: 9 of the top 10 are here (missing only #7 Amaya Cris), and then four from the ladies ranked 11-20 are present (missing several part-time players or Bolivian-based players who only sporadically travel). 20 total pros are in the singles draw,

Lets preview the singles draw:

Post publishing Note: clearly the hurricane has caused some travel issues; #4 Alexandra Herrera dropped out, basically forcing a complete redo-of the draw from #4 downward, so basically this post and analysis is now moot.

In the round of 32:
– #16 Leona Parrilla vs #17 Erin Rivera: Parrilla continues to work her way back, this time setup to run right into #1 Longoria in the 16s.
– #13 Adrienne Fisher Haynes vs #20 Malia Bailey; Malia finished in the top 3 three straight seasons in the early 1990s, including two tourney wins, and has just one pro appearance since 1993 (a round of 32 loss in Gaithersburg, MD in 2006). Can she take out the regular touring pro Haynes? Kelani says Malia’s still playing tough … 
– #15 Kelani Lawrence vs #18 Amie LeBrun Brewer: The reigning US national champ and daughter of Malia takes on a tough local Virginia player in Brewer, who’s working her way back from injury.

In the 16s:
– #1 Paola Longoria vs #16 Parrilla: Longoria kicks off her run to 100 against former top 4 player Parrilla, a tougher match than normally expected in the 16s.
– #8 Masiel Rivera Oporto vs #9 Adriana Riveros: these two met twice last year, with Rivera getting a career win over Riveros at the Bolivian grand slam. I think Riveros advances here.
– #7 Nancy Enriquez vs #10 Brenda Laime Jalil; they’ve met in the 16s now three tourneys in a row; two weeks ago Enriquez triumped 11-7 in the breaker; can Laime break through?

Qtrs projection:
– #1 Longoria over #9 Riveros
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich over #4 Alexandra Herrera: i’m playing a hunch that the 3-game format will favor Rajsich here.
– #3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada over #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein; the two Argentinian doubles partners renew their now frequent singles rivalry; they played each other in 5 consecutive pro/IRF events last season. Vargas is 5-0 over her teammate; she makes it 6-0h ere.
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis over #7 Enriquez

Semis:
– #1 Longoria over #5 Rajsich
– #3 Vargas over #2 Salas: this is now suddenly the most compelling match on tour; Salas had been dominating the head to heads lately, including three straight semi finals wins in the last three pro events of last year, but Vargas took a tense 11-9 win in the semis of the season’s opener to make a statement on this season. Expect another barn burner, and i’ll go with another tight Vargas tiebreaker win.

Final: Longoria vanquishes Vargas for her 100th.

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Quick doubles preview:

The #1 world team of Longoria/Salas looms large over this 8-team draw, missing the 2nd best team of Herrera and Montse Mejia due to the latter’s missing this event. I’d expect #1 vs #2 in the final, with the Mexican pair taking on the Argentinian national team of Vargas/Mendez, with a Mexican victory.

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Look for streaming in all the regular places by following LPRTTimothy Baghurst will be in town to broadcast, and I hope to get there for at least the friday matches, being that its in my home state and all.

LPRT Year End Rankings, Player Analysis and Season in Review

Longoria finishes up an undefeated season, her 10th pro title.

With the last event in Kansas completed, the LPRT 2018-19 season is officially complete.

With the completion of the season, we’ve updated a number of files and data within the database:

– http://rball.pro/05916A is a direct link to the Year Ending standings

– http://rball.pro/B0643F is the Season Summary report per player, a nice query summarizing the Wins/Finals/Semis/etc per player on tour.

– http://rball.pro/A020CA is the Season Seed Report, a great report showing how players’ seeds varied throughout the year.

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The Static links are now updated with 2018-19 results (all of these are located at the bottom of the Report Selection Page for each tour):

– List of Year End title winners: http://www.proracquetballstats.com/…/lprt_year_end_titles.h…

– Tour History: http://www.proracquetballstats.com/l…/lprt_tour_history.htmlhas been updated for significant events this season.

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Analysis/thoughts on Year End Rankings and notable player movement.

#1 Paola Longoria finishes the year undefeated, 37-0 It is the 5th time she’s accomplished this feat, and she now has just four on-court losses in the last 8 professional seasons. She sews up her 10th career pro title. With her win in Kansas City, she gets her 91st career title in the Database (we’re aware of the discrepancy between our systems and her records and are working to figure out the delta actively).

She now sits as an astounding 439-30 in her pro career, a .936 winning percentage. She still trails Michelle Gould in this metric, whose database W/L percentage currently sits at 147-9 and which will only improve as we eventually fill in tournament detail in the mid 1990s. By way of comparison, both of these marks are better than Kane Waselenchuk‘s career mark of .918, which is considered in awe on the men’s pro racquetball circles.

#2 Samantha Salas Solis had as good of a season as you could have given that the #1 player went undefeated: she made 9 finals in 9 tries (missing one event due to travel issues mid-season). She’ll be kicking herself she didn’t claim the title in the one event that Paola missed … that being the Bolivian Grand Slam and the big check that comes with it. But a great season for Salas, who started the season ranked outside the top 10 due to injury comeback and is now firmly entrenched at #2 for the forseeable future.

Salas is now just 3-50 against Longoria though, and needs to find a way to beat her long-time rival if she wishes to put her name in the record books. She did stretch Paola to 5 games once this season, in Syosset, but most of their finals were 3-game affairs.

#3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada, like Salas, also started the year still working her way back into touring status thanks to a hiatus to have a kid. But thanks to her title in Bolivia, she ascended to #3, where she stayed the rest of the way out. She maintains a slight lead for 3rd over Herrera. Vargas is just 2-8 career over #2 Salas, which includes the win in Bolivia, so she has her work cut out for her if she wishes to ascend any higher.

#4 Alexandra Herrera had a very consistent season; she started it ranked 3rd, finished it ranked 4th, made a bunch of semis, never got upset prior to the qtrs … but really only had one break through tourney, making the final when the #2 seed Lambert got upset very early in Laurel. On the bright side, at season’s end she broke a career duck against Rajsich, finally beating her head to head in the season’s final event to secure #4 on the season.

– #5 Rhonda Rajsich kept chugging in her 20th pro season, finishing in the top 5 for the 18th time. A couple of early season upsets dropped her to the 6th-7th seed, but then stronger results as the season went on got her back. She treads water from last season, finishing 5th for the second season in a row. Rajsich overtook Cheryl Gudinas this season and now has the most ever appearances in pro tour history, a streak she seems set to continue for the forseeable future.

– #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein started the season seeded 6th and ended it 6th, and made 8 quarters in 10 pro tourneys. She had an interesting 2nd half of the season, where her specific seeding drove four consecutive quarter-final match-ups with countrymate and doubles partner Vargas … resulting in four of her eight quarter final defeats on the season. There’s a significant points gap from Rhonda to Natalia, one that only a breakthrough tourney will solve. Her four-straight match-ups against Vargas has me thinking that maybe the LPRT should consider seed flipping like the IRT does; there were also a number of other repeated qtr final match-ups (Herrera-Rajsich, Salas-Enriquez) that would be mixed up and give the 5-8 seeded players a different look in the qtrs.

– #7 Nancy Enriquez took a slight step back from last season, taking a couple of early upsets and dropping from 6th last season to 7th this season. Her 7-seed routes her to #2 Salas each quarterfinal, a tough spot to be in considering how well Salas is playing and considering that Salas has just one career loss to Enriquez (way back in 2011).

– #8 Amaya Cris finished ranked 8th for the 2nd season in a row, and had a similar performance this year to last. She was able to fight back into the top 8 by season’s end, having dropped out of the top 8 mid-way through the season. She made 5 quarter finals in 10 tourneys but wasn’t able to break through to the semis.

– #9 Frederique Lambert missed half the season and dropped from #2 last season to finish 9th. As is well known, she completed Medical school this year and graduated in May, and even making half the tourneys this year seems like a pretty amazing accomplishment for someone finishing such a rigorous academic schedule. This breaks a streak of four straight seasons ranked in the top 4 for Frederique. One has to wonder what the future holds; after you finish medical school usually medical training commences and I have a hard time believing Lambert will be able to do a time-intensive internship and frequently take off 4-day weekends to compete in tourneys. We all await to see what happens as it pertains to the tour; nobody likes losing a top player.

– #10 Adriana Riveros finished 10th on the season, improving from 12th last season and now is the fourth straight season in this 10-14 range for the Colombian. She made two quarter finals in 10 tourneys on the year

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11th-20th ranked players:

– #11 Gaby Martinez earned enough points from early events to finish 11th despite announcing her retirement from the sport to focus on school earlier this season. She made two semis in three events this year and got a career win over Longoria in 2018’s worlds final, making this observer wonder if she wasn’t the heir-apparent to the crown (or at the least, a good competitor for the top spot going forward). I hope she can find time to continue to play and compete at some point in the future, because (as with Lambert) its a bummer to lose a top competitor.

– #12 Masiel Rivera Oporto played a full season and was rewarded with her top ever finish. She made one quarter on the year thanks to probably her best win on the season, over Riveros at the Bolivian grand slam on home turf.

– #13 Brenda Laime Jalil made 6 main draws in 9 events, a big improvement from last season (when she failed to advance to the 16s all year) and enough to get her into the top 16.

– #14 Ana Laura Flores Saavedra made one quarter with a solid win over Mendez in the season opener, and played in 6 of the 10 events on the year.

– #15 Cassie Lee improved from #21 last year, making 5 main draws out of 9 tournaments attended.

– #16 Yazmine Sabja Aliss played just 4 events, being based in Bolivia, but made two quarters and got some solid wins along the way. One has to think that her playing the tour FT would have her challenging for a top 8 spot. too bad Bolivia is so far away.

– #17 Montse Mejia had an interesting season: she played 5 pro events and lost in the 16s each time (3 times to Longoria, once each to Lambert and Vargas). But, outside of the pro tour she won World 18U juniors (beating Gaby Martinez twice along the way), then at Mexican Nationals beat in order Enriquez, Salas and Longoria to take the title. She faltered at the PARCs as the #1 seed (losing to Mendez in the qtrs), but one has to wonder what she’s capable of if she can get out of the 14-16 seed range and get some deeper runs on the pro tour. I think she’s one of the top 5 women in the world right now and hope she can play a full slate next season.

– #18 Adrienne Fisher Haynes dropped in the season ending rankings for the 3rd successive season, getting upset in the 32s 5 times in 8 events this season.

– #19 Angelica Barrios made the semis of the Bolivian grand slam, beating two top 8 players along the way, which propelled her to a top 20 finish despite just three appearances. She’s also put her name into the mix for the Bolivian national team, representing her country at PARCs earlier this year.

– #20 Carla Muñoz Montesinos had a qtr and two main draws in 6 appearances this year, a busy one for her as she finished up school in Colorado, made the finals of NCAA intercollegiates and represented Chile at three different IRF events.

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commentary on players ranked 21st on-wards:

– #22 Susy Acosta finished 22nd … in her 21st pro season.

– #24 Michelle De La Rosa made a semi and played top ranked pros tough in limited appearnces this year.

– #25 Kelani Lawrence finished 25th in limited appearances but won the US National title.

– #27 Hollie Rae Scott finished 27th but won the NCAA Intercollegiate title.

– #29 Laura Brandt finished 29th … at the age of 56.

– #31 Valeria Centellas finished 31st … and is the reigning World junior 16U champ. She played #1 for Bolivia at the PARC games in April and made the quarters … in her age 17 season.

– #37 Jessica Parrilla finished 37th after missing basically the entire season recovering from a bad knee injury. She will fight back to regain her status on tour starting next season after finishing 3rd last season.
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That’s it for the season. We look forward to seeing what next year has in store. I sense a step up in events, I hope to see more dual tour events like what is done in Minneapolis and Bolivia, and I hope to see more events in Mexico that draw the local player base.

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LPRT USA Racquetball International Racquetball Tour International Racquetball Federation – IRF

USA Junior Nationals Wrap-up.

Antonio Rojas a triple winner on the weekend; two singles and one doubles gold.

Congrats to all the winners from this past weekend’s 46th Junior Nationals in Portland.

Boys:
– 18U: Antonio Rojas 
– 16U: Antonio Rojas 
– 14U: Nikhil Prasad
– 12U: Joseph Marshall 
– 10U: Nathan Rykhus
– 10Udb: Alejandro Robles Picon
– 8U: Alejandro Robles Picon
– 8Umb; Kabir Sethi

Girls:
– 18U: Briana Jacquet 
– 16U: Annie Roberts 
– 14U: Heather Mahoney
– 12U: Sonya Shetty
– 10U: Andrea Perez-Picon 
– 10Udb: Addison Thomas 
– 8U: Natalia Canchola
– 8Umb: Natalia Canchola

We currently load full draws for 14,16 and 18s, just winners for the younger draws. Here’s links to the match reports for the three oldest divisions:

Boys:
– 18U: http://rball.pro/383AFC
– 16U: http://rball.pro/F824DC
– 14U: http://rball.pro/7B90DA

Girls:
– 18U: http://rball.pro/B9FF39
– 16U: http://rball.pro/FADF97
– 14U: http://rball.pro/2C7CC4

And lastly, here’s a direct link to the “Matrix report” for every junior winner in every category across time. These are my “go to” reports for seeing all junior champs very quickly.

Boys USA Junior Champs Matrix: http://rball.pro/A48C21
Girls USA Junior champs Matrix: http://rball.pro/61FFEC

These reports are available for USA, Mexico, Canada and World Juniors throughout the history we have loaded up (which is complete for USA and IRF, not so much for Canada and Mexico).

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Here’s some observations/highlights about some of the draws:
– Boys 18U: Antonio Rojas takes the 18U title as the #2 seed over #4 seed Micah Farmer. Farmer survived match-point against in the qtrs to cruise past #1 seed Cayden Akins to make the final, while Rojas topped #3 seed Ben Baron in the semis en route to the final.

– Boys 16U: Antonio Rojas takes the 16U title without dropping a game. The draw went chalk from the quarters on, with Rojas topping Krish Thakur in one semi and finalist Timmy Hansen topping #3 seed Andrew Gleason in the other.

Antonio Rojas becomes just the 3rd ever junior boy to hold both 16U and 18U titles simultaneously; previously done by Jack Huczek in 2000 and Antonio’s cousin Jose Rojas in 2007. Rojas also secures his 7th and 8th junior national titles, tying him for 4th all time for USA boys. He adds to his 2019 haul, having won HS nationals earlier this year.

Top winner in history for US Jr titles? Huczek, who won 13 titles (two each in every available jr category from 8 to 18 plus an extra18U title).

– Boys 14U: Nikhil Prasad took the 14U title as the #1 seed over #3 seeded Vedant Chauhan. Prasad topped Gatlin Sutherland in one semi, Chauhan upset #2 seeded Josh Shea in the other. This is Prasad’s 5th US junior title.

– Girls 18U: #1 Seed Briana Jacquet cruised to the title, defending her 2018 18U championship and representing her 5th career junior title. She missed 2018 jr worlds, and probably looks forward to competing at worlds one last time. She topped #2 Nikita Chauhan in the final, with #3 Graciano Wargo and #5 seed Shane Diaz comprising the semi-finalists.

– Girls 16U; #1 seed Annie Roberts earned her 3rd jr title and added to her earlier 2019 High School Nationals title by defending her 16U title. The draw went mostly chalk the entire way, with Roberts topping #4 Shane Diaz in the semis, while finalist #3 Heather Mahoney topped #2 Erin Slutzky in the sole upset-by-seed in this draw. Roberts came from a game down in both the semis and finals to win.

– Girls 14U: #1 Seed Heather Mahoney defended her 14U champ and won her 8th career US junior title, topping #3 Ava Kaiser in a tie-breaker final. #4 Karina Matthew and #2 Arya Cyril to the semis. She stands a chance to beat Adrienne Fisher Haynes‘s record for most ever female junior titles if she can continue to win year over year.

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A reminder; we don’t load Junior doubles results. But doubles winners are an important part of the Jr National teams.

Singles and Doubles winners on the weekend qualify to represent hte US at this year’s World Juniors event. 2019’s World Juniors event is going to be in mid-November in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Congrats to all the winners, thanks to Leo Ray Vasquez for traveling and broadcasting all weekend.

Next on the schedule? We have a couple of RKT/Mexican summer tournaments, which sometimes get solid draws. Mid July features WOR outdoor nationals in Huntington Beach, and then Mexican Junior Nationals.

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USA Racquetball Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol WOR – World Outdoor Racquetball International Racquetball Federation – IRF

LPRT Teamroot.com Grand Slam Wrap-up

Longoria finishes up an undefeated season with two wins.

Congrats to your winners in the final LPRT event of the season:

Singles: Paola Longoria
Doubles: Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30791

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Here’s a summary of the event on the singles side:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/2D8EB8

In the play-ins/round of 32: 
– #17 Montse Mejia took out #16 Carla Muñoz Montesinos in three games.
– #12 Cassie Lee was stretched to five games by #21 Marie Gomar, winning 11-8 in the 5th. 
– #20 Jessica Parrilla‘s first match back was a win over LPRT vet #13 Adrienne Fisher Haynes.
– #12 Sheryl Lotts was stretched to a 12-10 5th game win over #19 Erin Rivera.
– #15 Susy Acosta got a solid win over #18 Maria Renee Rodríguez to advance.

In the round of 16,, results went exactly chalk. All top 8 seeds advanced. There were a couple of notable results though.
– Unlike in Syosset, the Paola Longoria – Mejia match was a 3-game blow out, Longoria winning 3,1,4. 
– #8 Amaya Cris dropped the first game against #9 Masiel Rivera Oporto but won in 4.
– Similarly, #4 Alexandra Herrera dropped the first game to Parrilla before winning in 4.
– In a battle of Mexican LPRT vets, Susy Acosta Racquetball took a game off of Samantha Salas Solis before falling in four.

In the quarters, the draw went chalk … but not with out some tough matches:
– #1 Paola Longoria trounced #8 Amaya in 3
– #4 Herrera got her first ever win over #5 Rhonda Rajsich, breaking a long-running streak and solidifying her top 4 finish on the year.
– #3 Maria Jose Vargas was stretched to a 5th game against doubles partner #6 Natalia Mendez before advancing.
– #2 Salas came from 2 games down to win a very close one against #7 Nancy Enriquez, 11-9 in the 5th.

The semis and finals went chalk; Longoria over Herrera in 4, Salas over Vargas in 4. In the final Salas took the first game off of Longoria but Paola prevailed, completing an undefeated season.

———————————-
Doubles wrap-up:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/5BAB23

– All four top seeds advanced to the semis … but the #2 seeded Argentinian team of Vargas/Mendes had to save match point against before advancing against the all-Mexican team of Parrilla & Enriquez.

In the semis, both the top Mexican teams cruised to two game wins to face off in the finals.

In the final, the top seeded Longoria/Salas team dropped game 2, but held on for the title.

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that’s it for the season! A dominant season for Longoria, and for Salas, who have really established themselves as the #1 and #2 players in the world. Once the final rankings post to lprtour.com, I’ll scrap them and do all the year end processing and send out a separate post summarizing the season.

Next up: we’ll wait for the final points standings to post and then do typical PRS end of season work and will send out a seasonal summary after that.

next up on the rball calendar? US Junior Nats, then WOR outdoors, then Mexican Jr Nats, ,then the Pan Am games in august.

LPRT

2019 Teamroot.com LPRT Grand Slam Preview

Jessica Parrilla returns to the pro tour for the first time in more than a year.

The last event on the LPRT slate is a big one: the 2019 Teamroot.com Grand Slam, held at the JCC in Overland Park, Kansas.

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30791

In a rarity; there are basically only pro draws in this event; singles and doubles (with a smaller Open singles draw). This is definitely a high-light event for the women’s pros. 21 pros are in Kansas to compete in the last event of the year.

A couple of interesting entrants here that i’d like to point out:
– Former top-10 pro Jessica Parrilla has finally returned to the tour after badly injuring her knee last spring: her last appearance was in April of 2018. She did play Mexican Nationals this year in March as her first tourney back, and now starts from square one. She’s seed 20th out of 21 entrants here (only Gomar is lower) and will have to fight starting next season to get back into the top 8.
– Guatemalan Marie Gomar is entered; she’s got just one previous LPRT appearance (in 2014), and didn’t have any international appearances for more than 5 years. With the retirement of Gaby Martinez, Gomar has ascended to #2 in Guatemala and is representing her country for the first time in years.

What’s at stake from a rankings perspective? The top 2 are locked in for the year, and there’d have to be a pretty big upset of the 3-5 players for any change to happen there. The players ranked 6-10 however are each separated by smaller numbers of points, where a run to the semis could make a big change in the rankings thanks to the double points in this Grand Slam event.

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Lets preview the Singles draw:

Round of 32:
– In the 16/17 match, current Mexican champ and reigning world 18U champ Montse Mejia takes on Chilean #1 Carla Muñoz Montesinos. A tough opener for both, with Mejia favored to advance.
– #21 Gomar takes on regular touring pro Cassie Lee in her return to the tour.
– #20 Parrilla takes on regular touring pro Adrienne Fisher Haynes in her return to the tour. 
– the 15/18 match looks tough as well: Susy Acosta versus Guatemalan #1 Maria Renee Rodríguez.

Interesting round of 16 projected matches:
– #1 Paola Longoria likely takes on Mejia in the 16s … again. They’ve met in the 16s two times already this year, including in the most recent pro event in Syosset (a brutal 5-game win for Paola Longoria). They also met in the finals of Mexican Nationals, an upset win for Mejia. Mejia seems to be in a points rut and needs a round of 16 win to get out of the 16-17 rankings range. Will it happen here? I favor Longoria, but i sense it’ll be a 5-gamer again.
– The 8/9 match looks compelling: Amaya Cris versus Masiel Rivera Oporto . Colombia vs Bolivia, and two players who have very little history playing each other (just one match-up in 2014). Should be a good test for both.
– #4 Alexandra Herrera vs Parrilla; Interestingly, Parrilla’s first match back from her knee injury in March was also against Herrera, in March at Mexican Nats. They’re 4-4 career h2h, but Herrera has won the last three. Parrilla’s had 3 months to improve fitness and knee stability; can she get the upset here?

Otherwise, i’m mostly predicting chalk in the round of 16.

Projecting the quarters: 
– #1 Longoria over #8 Amaya; Longoria is 9-0 versus Amaya on the LPRT, 13-0 including IRF events. 
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich over #4 Herrera; despite their ranks, Rajsich has never lost to Herrera, holding a 10-0 career h2h record. They’ve met in the quarters of the last two pro events too, both Rajsich wins … but they’ve both been 5-game marathons. I think Rajsich advances again, and once again its 5 games.
– #3 Maria Jose Vargas vs #6 Natalia Mendez; these two just can’t get away from each other; after never playing prior to March … they’ve played each other 4 times in the last 3 months, including in the qtrs of the last three pro events. The two Argentinians (who are also doubles partners) likely face off again …and Vargas likely wins for the 5th straight time.
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis vs #7 Nancy Enriquez; they are projected to meet for the 3rd time this season. Enriquez has a couple of career wins over Salas, but they’re forever ago and Salas advances here.

projected Semis:
– Longoria over Rajsich; this would be the 5th semis meeting between these two this season … Paola’s got the first four, but it was a 5-gamer in Syosset.
– Salas over Vargas: they’ve met in the last three pro events; Vargas won on home soil in Bolivia, but Salas won the last two meetings rather easily.

Predicted final: Longoria over Salas. This has been the final in 7 of the 9 pro events this season … so might as well be the final in the last one too.

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Doubles preview

This event is serving as a warm-up event for a few national doubles teams for the forthcoming Pan Am games: the two top Mexican teams, the Argentinian team, and the Guatemalan team are all competing here (interestingly it seems like the Ecuadorian women’s team went to the Black Gold event instead of Kansas City to practice, competing in the Men’s open doubles event).

I’m going with #1 Longoria/Salas vs #5 Lotts/Munoz in one semi, #3 Herrera/Mejia vs #2 Vargas/Mendex in the other semi, and an all-mexican final with the top team winning.

Fun fact: LPRT commissioner Tj Baumbaugh is signed up, her first playing appearance on the pro tour since Aug 2016.

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Follow LPRT on facebook for streaming; veteran broadcaster Timothy Baghurst is making the short drive from OK to KS to help broadcast this weekend.

LPRT Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol International Racquetball Federation – IRF

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.

USA National Singles Preview

Rajsich looking for her 9th straight title this weekend. Photo Src: © Mike Boatman 2010

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.