Portland Tournament of Champions Preview

Pratt returns to the site of his sole IRT pro win; can he repeat this weekend? Photo US Open 2018, Photographer Kevin Savory

Welcome to the last IRT tier 1 tournament of 2019, and a return to one of the more unique spots on the IRT’s calendar; Portland. Its the 2019 SPC John A Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions event.

The Tournament of Champions has been held every year in Portland since 2013. Prior to that, there was a gap in holding the tournament back to 2001, when it was held pretty regularly throughout the 90s. It used to be a traditional season-ending event in the style of the ATP’s year end invitational. Now its a strong recurring event with a solid field.

Its also home to some interesting results. To wit:
– In April 2013, Ben Croft made the final in Portland, one of just 5 times he made a pro tour final in more than 120 tournaments (he lost to Kane).
– in May 2015, Daniel De La Rosa made just his 3rd ever pro final at the event, at the end of a successful pro season that saw him ascend to the #3 spot on tour (he also lost to Kane in the final).
– In Dec 2017, the tournament saw two first-time pro tour finalists in home town favorite Charlie Pratt and Mario Mercado reach the final. Pratt won in three straight games to claim the title, and to this day its the only time either player has so much as reached a final of a pro Tier 1 event.

#1 Kane Waselenchuk has taken the title here in 5 of the 6 times it has been held since 2013 (he missed the 2017 event), and is back to defend his title.

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Lets take a quick run through the draw. We’re missing some key names in the top 10, which will affect the seedings.

Top 10 players missing include #7 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo; this will give current #9 Lalo Portillo a top 8 seed for the second tournament running, coming off a solid win at the San Luis Potosi Open this past weekend.

Missing from the 11-20 range this event include #11 Sebastian Franco and #13 Mario Mercado, both east coasters who may have opted to skip this event that doesn’t have a doubles draw. Also missing is #14 David ” Bobby” Horn, a curious absence in that he’s a west-coaster with an easy flight. #15 Sebastian Fernandez, #16 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez and #20 Jose Diaz also miss out on the event, as do a lot of the regular Mexican players in the 20-30 ranges who may have balked at the longer flight to Portland given their busy schedule of local RKT events.

Despite these absences, there’s still a healthy 36-man draw. More than a few Canadians have made the trip south of the border for the event, and they join a solid group of Portland-area players in the pro draw.

No flip seeding this time, so we’ll get a true draw, which will (as we’ll see) should make for a lot of chalk at the back end. Also no doubles this weekend so its one and done for the singles players.

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Here’s some qualifiers to watch for:

In the 128s:
– Wayne Antone takes on Canadian Ian Frattinger , fresh off a quarters appearance in the Canadian National selection event.

In the 64s:
– Sam Bredenbeck likely takes on Matthew Ivar Majxner, who returns to Portland for the first time in a few years.
– Dylan Reid has an interesting match against Canadian veteran Lee Connell, also fresh off a quarters appearance in the Canadian National selection event.

Projecting possible round of 32s of note:
– In the 16/17 match, Costa Rican veteran Felipe Camacho likely takes on Bolivian veteran Kadim Carrasco for a spot against the #1 player. This could be a very close match between two players of similar style.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis likely faces Canadian veteran Tim Landeryou, who just finished 3rd at the Canadian selection event.
– The winner of the Bredenbeck/Majxner play-in takes on touring veteran Robert Collins in what could be a close match.
– The match of the round though projects to be a defending champ in this event Charlie Pratt, now having fallen to #32 on tour (and is seeded 19th here) as he steps back his playing time, taking on the surging Costa Rican champion Andres Acuña, who now sits 22nd on tour and who is seeded 14th here. The last two times Pratt has played this event, he’s lost in the semis (2018) and won it (2017); he’s a force to be reckoned with in Portland. Its a tough draw for Acuna, who has already achieved his career best result this season and is looking to build on that success.
– Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas has a challenging match against Utah amateur Anthony Martin, who plays his third pro event of the season and has some wins over touring pros in the past.
– #10 Jake Bredenbeck likely takes on local favorite Reid for a spot in the main draw.

Projecting the 16s: there’s more than a few compelling possible 16s matchups here.
– In the 8/9: Lalo Portillo likely takes on Montoya in the 16s. This is a great test for both players to see where they are right now. I thought this was the year for Montoya to really take a step forward on tour; instead he’s basically been treading water right in the 8-10 ranking all season, with no break through wins all season. Meanwhile, Portillo is coming off a win at the SLP open, where he topped both Alan Natera Chavez and Parrilla to take the title. If Portillo can beat Parrilla, he should be able to beat Montoya as well, but they’re two vastly different animals on the court in terms of game style. Can Lalo handle Montoya’s power? This will be a very telling result.
– #3 Alex Landa vs Pratt/Acuna winner: I’m assuming this is Pratt, which would make for a really compelling match here. Landa beat Pratt for the 2017 PARC title, but then Pratt turned around and beat Landa in Mar 2018 in Lombard. Pratt is a player who can give Landa some trouble. If Acuna prevails in the 32s, he’s also a player who has beaten Landa before, but under odd circumstances at the 2019 PARCs. I like Landa to advance here but it could be a battle and an upset isn’t out of the question.
– #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #11 Keller: Keller has played all five IRT events this season … and has exited at the round of 16 in all five, losing to five different players. He now projects to play a 6th distinct player in the 16s, and faces a familiar opponent. These two are the same age; Keller knocked DLR out of the 2009 and 2011 Junior Worlds, and they’ve met a handful of times since. But only once professionally, and that was more than two years ago. DLR seems vulnerable and Keller seems motivated at this stage of their careers; could be an upset to watch for here.
– #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Bredenbeck: these two good friends will celebrate the launch of Beast Made Clothing by .. likely having to play each other in the 16s. Two of the hardest hitters on tour, they both have wins over the other in top level competition. Look for a battle here.

Possible Qtrs:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #9 Montoya: would love to see another episode of this match-up to see if Montoya has improved against the King.
– #4 Andree Parrilla over #5 Alvaro Beltran; a frequent pairing this year, with Beltran getting a couple wins over his young rival and showing he’s not done yet. I like Parrilla to move on here though.
– #3 Landa over #6 DLR: if DLR advances, we get another episode of the razor-thin line that stands between these two long time rivals. Their match history is littered with 11-10 tiebreaker wins and 5-game marathons under the old scoring method. Landa again to advance.
– #2 Rocky Carson over #7 Murray; they’ve played professionally 11 times and Rocky is 11-0. Despite his recent win in the Canadian national selection event Murray hasn’t quite figured out how to top the long-time #2 player on tour.

Projected Semis:
– Kane over Andree
– Carson over Landa; they’ve split their last 2 meetings, they’ve split their last 4 meetings … in fact, they’ve split their last 10 meetings dating to 2014. Like with Landa vs DLR, its usually razor thin between them. Landa has the harder path to this semi, so i’ll give Carson the edge on the day.

Projected final: #1 vs #2; kane over Carson.

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International Racquetball Tour
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Racquetball Canada
USA Racquetball
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball

2019 IRT Los Compadres Auto Sales Open Wrap-Up

Landa gets his 4th IRT pro win in Fullerton. Photo via 2019 US Open; Photographer Kevin Savory

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Singles: Alejandro Landa
– Doubles: Daniel De La Rosa/Alvaro Beltran

Some quick stats on his win:
– This is his 4th win, tied for 19th all time
– As Kramer X noted in his re-cap, Landa has overtaken his country men to be the leading title winner of any Mexican player.
– He improves to 13-4 on the season, 121-65 for his IRT career (23rd all time).

R2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31129

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Here’s a review of the notable matches in Singles (doubles is below)

PRS Singles report: http://rball.pro/5ADEEB

In the 128s:
– #33 Majeed Shahin survived a tough opener against Canadian vet #32 Lee Connell 11-9 in the breaker.
– #31 Luis R Avila was pushed even further, saving match point against to survive 11-10 against Mexican 18U player #34 Manuel Moncada.

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In the 64s, one big surprise and a couple of close matches:
– #33 Shahin kept the ball rolling from his opening win and topped #17 Jose Diaz 5,14 to advance into the 32s. A great win for Shahin and kind of a shocking loss for Diaz, who was on the cusp of the top 10 the last two seasons but now has opened his season with two missed events and two first round losses.
– #24 Alan Natera Chavez took a close one against #25 Sam Bredenbeck 11,12. Solid showing from the younger Bredenbeck sibling.
– #26 Mexican 17yr old Oscar Nieto got his second win this calendar year over #23 Scott McClellan 9,10. He earns a shot at a top 10 player on tour for the first time.

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In the 32s, we started to see some of the talent out there in the player pool take over seeded players:
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís took out #24 Natera 11,2, dominating the match and putting down the upset attempt.
– #19 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez dominated #14 @Gerardo Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 8,2 to move into his second main draw of the season.
– #22 Javier Estrada took out #11 David Horn 11-9 in a back and forth match. Horn was down big in game one and came back to take it, but Estrada stormed to game 2. In the breaker, it looked like Horn was in control, but Estrada went on a run that Bobby couldn’t stop, and at the tail end of the tie-breaker Horn took a knock to his foot that hobbled him on match point against. A great win for Estrada, who advances into his first IRT pro draw since 2010

(fun fact: the IRT visited Chihuahua, Estrada’s home town, and had just a 17-man draw … so Estrada, as a 15-yr old, played in the round of 16. He’s the 4th youngest player ever to make the round of 16 in an IRT pro event.

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In the 16s:
– #8 Daniel De La Rosa improved to 3-1 on the IRT over #9 Montoya, taking the match in two solid games 7,10.
– #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz dropped the first game 15-9, then blized #12 Jake Bredenbeck 15-2, 11-1 to advance.
– #3 Alvaro Beltran fended off a furious upset bid by #19 Garay before advancing 11-9 in the breaker.
– #6 Samuel Murray dispatched #22 Estrada in two games, winning clinically 11,7.
– #10 Sebastian Franco provided the sole upset-by-seed of the round, coming back from a game down to oust the upstart Mexican @Lalo Portillo 11-8 in the breaker. Even though these two players are heading in different directions ranking-wise this season, there’s not a lot between them and I sense we’re going to see more of these kind of close matches between those players in the 7-12 range all season.
– #2 Alex Landa made fast work of Bolivia’s Carlos Keller Vargas 4,7. Keller has now played in all 5 IRT events so far this season and has fallen at the 16s all five times.

So, we have nearly a perfect chalk quarters in a tournament missing the #1 seed (which historically has meant a wide-open draw). In my preview I surmised we’ may see some upsets here, especially with two up and coming players Garay and Estrada in the mix, but the tour’s elite held on.

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In the Quarters:
– #1 Rocky Carson eked out a solid game 1 win 15-14, then held on to turn the recent tide of results versus #8 DLR and advance 14,9.
– #4 Andree Parrilla make a significant statement in defeating #5 Moscoso 13,7. These two met in the 2017 US Open, a 5-game Moscoso defeat that helped propel him onto the world rball stage. This time around, Parrilla gave a master class in defensive racquetball, continually retrieving shot after shot, making Moscoso hit ball after ball, until eventually a mistake was made going for too much. I thought Moscoso was the pre-tournament favorite once we heard that Kane was out, but he struggled all match to gain the upper hand against Parrilla and may have some things to think about heading into his next event.
– #3 Beltran blized past #6 Murray in the first game 15-1 then held on in a closer game two to make the semis for the first time this season. Beltran’s consistency this year has kept him in the top seeds, and a semis appearance will only help.
– #2 Landa took revenge on an earlier season defeat to Franco by blasting him 5,6 to move on. He makes the semis for the 4th time in 5 events this year and continues to play really solid ball. He must really rate his chances to get a win here in Kane’s absence.

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In the semis, more chalk.
– #1 Carson, coming off of two upset losses in the last two events, absolutely flummoxed #4 Parrilla en route to a 7,3 win. Parrilla just could not find a way past Rocky’s serves, and Carson’s consistency led to easy points throughout the day.
– #2 Landa topped his long time rival #3 Beltran for the 7th successive time in pro/top level competitions 12,12.

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In the singles final, Landa got his first win over Carson since April and improved to 5-8 for their careers with a gutsy (9),14,10 win that featured Landa saving match points in both game 2 and game 3.

With the win, Landa inches closer to Carson for #2 on tour, but more importantly opens up a significant gap between himself and #4 Beltran. Landa’s consistency so far this season has really paid off and he’s closer to overtaking Rocky right now than he is in getting surpassed.

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Here’s a review of the notable matches in Doubles

PRS Doubles report: http://rball.pro/7EE21E

In the 16s, a couple of great matches:
– The Bolivian pairing of Moscoso/Keller topped the great Mexican team of Estrada/Natera 11-7 in the breaker.
– Sebastian FernandezFelipe Camacho were taken to the limit by Bredenbeck & Connell, advancing 11-10.

In the qtrs:
– Moscoso/Keller played a very solid match to oust the #1 seeded Landa/Murray team 6,11.
– Both the #2 and #3 seeds were forced into tiebreakers to advance past solid doubles teams. Jake and Diaz took out Garay & Montoya, while Mercado/Franco took out Portillo/Parrilla.

In the semis:
– The upset run of the Bolivian team continued, with Moscoso/Keller taking out Bredenbeck/Diaz 12,8.
– The accomplished #2 Mexican team of DLR/Beltran was stretched to a breaker by the Colombian National team Mercado/Franco before advancing.

In the final, DLR and Beltran took the final over the Bolivians 12,8 to take the title. its their first IRT doubles title since Jan 2019.

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A quick comment on the Men’s Open draw: Mexican 16U player Guillermo Ortega took out Mexican 18U player Manuel Moncada in the final. Ortega defeated Set Cubillos Ruiz and Shahin enroute to the final, while Moncada defeated Francisco Troncoso and Connell en route to the final. Those are some accomplished players for two kids to take out.

Interestingly, neither Moncada or Ortega won their respective Mexican Junior titles this year: Moncada fell in the semis to Sebastian Fernandez while Ortega Jr. was defeated in the 16s.

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Next Up on the schedule:
– IRF World Juniors in Costa Rica kicks off 11/8/19 and runs for a week
– 17th Annual turkey Shootout, Portland, OR IRT Tier 5 event.
– Marigold Resources Quad City Open, Eldridge, IA: IRT Tier 5 event
– There’s supposedly an RKT event called the Copa Prince event somewhere in Mexico; if it happens we’ll cover it.

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International Racquetball Tour
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Racquetball Canada
USA Racquetball
Fecoracquet Fecoracquet
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball

2019 IRT Los Compadres Auto Sales Open Preview

With Waselenchuk out of the draw, is Moscoso the favorite? Photo US Open2019, Photographer = Kevin Savory

R2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31129

Hot on the heels of last weekend’s event in Tempe, the pros are back in action at the legendary Meridian club in Fullerton. The club has played host to a number of major amateur events over the years, but hasn’t hosted the men’s pros since the old Ektelon Nationals event ended in May of 2013.

There’s 36 pros in action this weekend, including a very solid top of the draw with 18 of the top 20 currently ranked players in action. Notably missing is #1 Kane Waselenchuk, who misses the event with an injury picked up in Tempe last weekend. The only other missing top 20 pro is Ohioan Thomas Carter who misses just his 4th event in the last three seasons.

Another notable missing player is Costa Rica’s Andres Acuña, who has been making waves on tour this season but who is headlining the 5th annual Costa Rican National event in his home country (and which has been going on since Tuesday).

For the 2nd event in a row the IRT is using a staggered qualifying system versus the “everybody not in the top 8 qualifies” system often seen. This gives the top 8 byes into the 16s, then gives the 9th-16th ranked players byes into the 32s to ease the qualifying demands on the IRT regulars who havn’t made it into the top 8 yet. Lastly this is another “flip” seeding event, so the 5th-8th ranked players are slightly jumbled to mix up quarter final matches.

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Lets review the singles draw:

Round of 128 matches to look for:
– SoCal player #33 Majeed Shahin takes on Canadian veteran #32 Lee Connell in what should be a close match between two players who each have a lot of IRT experience
– Former outdoor national champ #31 Luis R Avila takes on Mexican 18U player #34 Manuel Moncada..

In the round of 64:
– #17 Jose DIAZ is the highest ranked player to miss out on the staggered qualifying; for his troubles he gets a match-up against the winner of the 32/33 play-in that should be winnable.
– The #24/#25 match-ups are always fun; this time its Sam Bredenbeck versus dark horse Mexican Alan Natera Chavez. Natera plays hot and cold; he can get victories over top-10 players or he can go one-and-done to players well below his talent level. Should be an interesting match.
– We get a rare appearance from #22 Javier Estrada, fresh off a solid win at the Mexico City event last week. He starts off against Chilean vet #27 Francisco Troncoso.

In the round of 32, some really great projected matches:
– #16/#17 will be two Californians: Sebastian Fernandez versus Diaz. Its Tijuana/SoCal vs the 209. This will be a fascinating match; Fernandez was looking primed for a push up the rankings with a quarter-final appearance at the US Open, but has scuffled since. Diaz seems to be stepping back from full-time touring but has top-10 talent.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis likely takes on #24 Natera; a tough match-up for Montoya. Natera took out Montoya in the Mexican Nationals earlier this year during a run to the semis, so he knows how to beat him. But then Montoya destroyed Natera in Syosset a few weeks afterwards. Montoya took off last week while the rest of the field played; will this be an edge?
– #21 Jake Bredenbeck vs #21 Set Cubillos Ruiz: normally i’d rate this a straight-forward Jake win, but Cubillos played fantastically in Arizona; is this an upset-watch?
– #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #19 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez: Franco beat Garay in Syosset, but Garay has the talent to move on here. Look for a battle and look for Franco to try to reign in Garay’s power.
– #11 David ” Bobby” Horn vs #22 Estrada: a really tough round for Horn, having to face Estrada, who comes off a weekend when he topped Cardona, Mar and Ochoa to take a stacked singles draw in Mexico City. Estrada though has proved to be inconsistent; with fantastic wins one week then curious upsets the next; can he put it together on the tier 1 stage and take out an experienced touring vet like Horn? One thing seems sure: Horn plays fast, while Estrada plays deliberately and slow … the contrast in styles may be a factor.

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Projected 16s matches to watch for:
– #8/#9: thanks to the flip seeding: Daniel De La Rosa gets popped to #8, where he likely faces frequent Mexican National team opponent Montoya. DLR is 4-1 over Montoya on the various big stages and seems to be able to handle his game well. If Montoya exits at this stage, it would mean the fourth straight IRT event to start the season where he exits at the first round of the main draw.
– #5/#12: Conra Moscoso Ortiz] gets moved to the 5th seed with the flip and likely faces big Jake. Look for a bunch of broken balls between these two power hitters but for the shooter Moscoso to advance.
– #3 Alvaro Beltran] vs #19 Garay: I like Garay to advance over Franco, and I like his chances against Beltran here. Two straight weekends of play combined with doubles may be too taxing for Alvaro versus the fitness of Garay.
– #6 Samuel Murray vs #22 Estrada: if this comes to pass, I also like Estrada’s chances of moving on here.
– #7 Lalo Portillo vs #10 Sebastian Franco; ironically, these two seeds would have been switched just a few weeks ago, but a great run in Arizona by Portillo now has him in the top 8 while Franco is now outside looking in. But Franco is a former tour winner and this will be a solid test for Portillo’s staying power in the top 10.
– #2 Alex Landa vs #18 Carlos Keller Vargas]: a tough opener for #2 Landa, facing two-time defending PARC champ in Keller. This might be closer than people would expect given the seeds. Keller won the 2019 event, it should be noted, in a draw that included Landa. Keller has now played all 5 of the IRT events so far this season but has fallen at this round of 16 gate each time.

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Possible qtrs: I seem to be predicting an awful lot of upsets, which could be great in a Kane-less draw but also could mean that the top seeds rise to the top and go chalk.

– #1 Rocky Carson over #8 DLR: I know DLR has some recent success over Carson, but I also sense that DLR is not sharp right now (as evidenced by his one-and-done in Tempe). Carson moves on unless DLR comes to play.
– #5 Moscoso over #4 Andree Parrilla: I like Moscoso here as a shooter who can overpower Parrilla and get the win here.
– #22 Estrada over #19 Garay: its crazy to predict a 22nd seed into a pro semis, but I like the way the draw opens up here. Both guys have winnable 16s if they play to expectations.
– #2 Landa over #7 Portillo: Landa waxed the youngster just 4 days ago 5,9; I can see Lalo learning from that outing and making it closer, but still falling here.

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Projected Semis:
– Moscoso over Carson: Moscoso really wasn’t troubled too much by Carson at the US Open and will be emboldened here without Kane in the draw to think he’s the obvious favorite. I don’t disagree.
– Landa over Estrada: If this match comes to pass, look for the tactical Estrada to try to will his way into a win. Estrada has wins over the top tier of players like Landa in the past, but Landa looked really solid in AZ and should move on.

My predicted final: Moscoso over Landa; they met in the quarters of the Bolivian Open, a 11-0 tiebreaker win for Moscoso. I think we could see a similar match. Moscoso has all the same tools that frustrate Landa when he matches up with kane, and I look for the Conrrado win here.

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Doubles preview

They’re playing doubles too in California; 13 teams are entered into what looks to be a solid draw.

#1 Landa/Murray have jumped #2 DLR/Beltran in the rankings: these four players are head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the doubles player rankings. But I don’t think they’re a lock to make the final; the draw is stacked with really solid teams.

#1 has to play through the tough Bolivian team of Moscoso/Keller in the quarters … and thats if they can beat the really solid Estrada/Natera team in the 16s. #4 Jake/Jose have to likely face the tough Garay/Montoya team, #3 Colombian team of Franco/Mercado likely faces the newly formed and improving team of Portillo/Parrilla.

I like #2 DLR/Beltran to make the final and take on Moscoso/Keller, with the Mexicans taking the win.

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Looks like it will be a great tourney, with a ton of really compelling matches early on. Can’t wait!

International Racquetball Tour
Racquetball Canada
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federacion Boliviana Tiro Deportivo
Fecoracquet Fecoracquet

2019 Arizona IRT Pro-Am Wrap-Up

Kane wins again. Photo US Open 2019 by Kevin Savory

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk on his win in Tempe this past weekend. Notable facts and stats on the win:

– 119th title
– W/L now 552-53 for his career, 13-1 for the current season
– He increases his lead at the top of the rankings to more than 800 points over #2 Carson (that’s two Tier 1 wins worth of points, btw).

Match Report in the database: http://rball.pro/DCB7BC

r2sports link for the event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30719

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Here’s a re-cap of notable matches by round:

In the 128s:
– only one upset by seed: Arizona’s Preston Tribble took out Oregon’s Jim Douglas in two.

In the 64s, some upsets:
– Texan Ruben Baez took out Chilean veteran international Francisco Troncoso 11-9 in the breaker.
– IRT regular Justus Benson fell to top Virginia amateur Thomas Gerhardt 9,8. Solid night of qualifying for Gerhardt, who wins both Thursday matches to move into the 32s in (and I had to check this twice) his first ever IRT Tier 1 appearance. Local players to the east coast know him well as one of the top players in Virginia and a frequent local area tournament participant; can he keep the run going in the next round?
– Similarly to Gerhardt, Utah amateur Anthony Martin also took out a regular IRT touring pro in Nick Riffel 9,8 to move on. Solid win for Martin, who earns a spot against #11 Jake (and a spot on the live streaming) on Friday morning.

In the 32s, a couple of surprises:
– Colombian Set Cubillos Ruiz got perhaps his best ever career win, playing solid ball to oust #12 Sebastian Fernandez in a breaker. After taking a close first game, Fernandez came out on fire in game two to win it 15-3 … but then couldn’t keep up the pressure as Cubillos really earned it.

– #14 Thomas Carter played two solid games to oust #30 Gerhardt in two 12,9. Great showing by Gerhardt in his tour debut.

– #15 Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas was taken to the limit in game one against Costa Rican veteran #18 Felipe Camacho, then ran away in game two to advance 14,4.

– The final round of 32 to complete featured a close match that may have surprised some observers: relative unknown player Ruben Baez, making his IRT Tier 1 debut, took it to the #9 seed David ” Bobby” Horn, beating him in game one before running out of gas in the tiebreaker to fall (14),10,3. Baez’s USAR ranking, per the comment box, is #626. He certainly doesn’t play like the 626th ranked player in the land.

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Round of 16 observations: just one upset by seed, but some solid matches.

– #17 Andres Acuña really pushed #1 Kane Waselenchuk , nearly taking game two from him before falling 8,14. As I’ve mentioned in this space a lot over the past few months, Acuna’s game has improved by leaps and bounds in the past year, he made his first pro quarter in Laurel in Sept, and I think he can continue to rise.

– #9 Horn could not follow-up on his solid Bay Club win, falling to #8 Samuel Murray in two.

– #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz‘s first match since the US Open was up against the surprising Colombian Cubillos, a nice all-South American match-up. Moscoso made short work of Cubillos though, winning 4,6 to move on.

– #14 Carter played pretty well to push #3 Alex Landa, falling in two 11,11.

– #6 Andree Parrilla continued his recent head-to-head dominance over his long-time WRT rival #11 Jake Bredenbeck, advancing 9,11.

– In the round’s sole upset by seed, #10 Eduardo Portillo Rendon took out home-town favorite #6 Daniel De La Rosa in two close games 13,12. They met in Atlanta earlier in the season, but Portillo was able to turn the tide here. He advances to just his second ever pro quarter final, while DLR surprisingly is one-and-done in his home-town tournament (one that I thought he’d leverage the crowd support to make a finals run). This win is nearly enough to put Portillo into the top 10 for the first time, while DLR continues his uneven start to the new season.

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In the Qtrs:
– Kane committed canuck-on-canuck crime, defeating his country-man Murray comprehensively 5,4

– #5 seed Moscoso was stretched to a tiebreaker by #4 Álvaro Beltrán before advancing.

– #3 Landa turned the tide on a recent trend of losing to #6 Parrilla head to head, completely dominating their quarter final and advancing 3,7.

– But the story of this event happened in the final quarter; #10 Portillo, playing in just his 2nd pro qtr … took out #2 Rocky Carson in two games 10,8 to reach his first ever pro semi. Portillo finished last season ranked 17th while playing the tour part time, but has consistently made the main draws of the last seven pro events he’s entered to push his ranking to the cusp of the top 10.

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In the semis;
– We got our highly anticipated re-match of the US Open final in the top half, with Kane and Moscoso going at it. Far fewer FFs this time from Moscoso, who introduced a new motion and clearly has worked on his footwork. It did not help; Kane does what he typically does against good opponents who hang with him for portions of game 1; he hung in there til about 10-10, then ran off 5 straight to take the first game. Demoralized about missing out on chances, Mosocos got wiped out in game two to lose 10,2. Kane is still the master, even if you watch Conrrado’s game plan and see a possible pathway forward for him at some point in the future. With this result, Moscoso will move up to 7th in the tour rankings despite only having points from four events.

– #3 Landa made fast work of the youngster Lalo, ending his run 5,9 to advance to his 5th ever IRT pro final. With this result, Portillo should move up to 9th on tour, putting himself in position to get a top8 seed if one of the existing top 8 misses an event.

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In the final, Kane demoralized Landa, put away mistakes on the service return with clinical precision, and dominated the match to win 4,7. He improves to 15-1 against Landa head to head (the sole loss was a fft/no-show).

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Points ramifications: based on my points projections, here’s the ramifications of this weekend on the tour rankings:
– Moscoso and Murray swap places at 7,8
– Portillo improves from 12 to 9
– By virtue of Portillo’s move, he pushes Montoya, Franco and Horn each down one slot.
– Collin’s moves up 2 spots from 18 to 16
– Acuna jumps up 4 spots to #22.
– Cubillos improves 10 spots from 39 to 29.

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Next up; the IRT moves to Fullerton for the Los Compadres Auto Sales Open, which should get a pretty solid draw. There’s also a big Costa Rican tourney, which may pull away the likes of Acuna and Camacho to compete on home soil

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International Racquetball Tour
USA Racquetball
Racquetball Canada
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball
Fecoracquet Fecoracquet

2019 Arizona IRT Pro-Am Preview

R2Sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30719

The IRT has released the draws for this coming weekend’s Arizona IRT Pro-Am, so its time to do a preview!

(to see the released draws before they’re available on R2, follow the IRT on facebook where they’ve been posted as of Noon Tuesday 10/22/19).

The IRT returns to Arizona for the first time in many years; the tournament is being held on the campus of Arizona State University, which has become a popular spot to host major tournaments. ASU’s campus in Tempe has held USAR National doubles every year since 2005, has hosted a slew of USAR intercollegiates championships in that same time (including 2019’s tournament), and hosted the USAR National singles event in 2017.

But, its been a while since we’ve seen either pro tour head to Arizona at all. The last time a tier 1 Men’s event was in Arizona was in May 2003, when the school hosted the season ending Pro Nationals event. For some historical context of that event and season: Huczek beat Alvaro Beltran in the final, it was the last event in Mannino sole year end title, and the top 4 seeded players in the event were all were upset in the quarters (Mannino, Swain, Waselenchuk and Ellis). Waselenchuk lost to Carson … one of the three career wins Rocky has on his long-time nemesis. Before 2003, you have to go all the way back to the mid 1990s, when a regular tour stop was held in Phoenix for several seasons, and before that the mid 1980s when the Arizona Pro-Am featured winners like Hogan and Brett Harnett.

The Ladies tour hasn’t been to Arizona in more than decade itself; in Feb 2008 the WPRO Fireball Pro-Am featured a final
between the 1 and 2 seeds, as Rhonda downed Cheryl on her way to the 2008 year end title (Longoria was just starting on tour and finished 6th that season).

So, great to have pro racquetball back in Arizona. Thanks to tournament director Jim Winterton for his efforts and sponsorship.

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The Men’s draw has 37 players, a good mix of southwest-locals and traveling regulars. Who is missing this weekend? The top 8 players are here, including Bolivian Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball, who moved up to being ranked 8th on the back of his US Open final appearance. However both the 9th and 10th ranked players (Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Sebastian Franco) are missing. Other top 20 players missing include #13 Mario Mercado,
#15 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez, and #16 Jose Diaz. Diaz missed the first two events on the year, both east-coast based, perhaps for travel related issues. But now he misses a west-coast event; are we seeing him stepping back officially from touring? Perhaps so. Along the same note, former top 8 player Mercado has now slipped to 13, and former top 8 player Jansen Allen is now outside the top 20.

Also missing from this draw are a slew of players from Mexican hot-beds like Juarez and Chihuahua; both of which are easy drives to Tempe. I would have initially expected, like we used to see with WRT events in the south western part of the country, a junket of carpooling of Mexican players heading to the event. But, unfortunately, there are a couple competing events this weekend (an IRT Tier 4 in El Paso,Texas State Singles & Doubles, but most notably, a big RKT tournament in Mexico City). The Mexican event’s top 8 seeds (GFranco,
Mar, Estrada, Natera, Ochoa, Cardona, Nieto, and Cuevas) are all IRT regulars these days and players who would be pushing for the 16s or the quarters if they were here. Furthermore the El Paso event pulled two other top Mexican players (Eduardo Garay Rodriguez and Jaime Martell Neri) away from the Arizona event. We’ll do quick previews/wrap-ups of those events later this week, but if you’re wondering where these guys are … well there’s your answer.

The Arizona draw does the “flip” seeding, so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled. 5th ranked Parrilla is seeded 6th, 6th ranked DLR is seeded 7th, 7th ranked Murray is seeded 8th, and 8th ranked Moscoso is seeded 5th. Probably goes without saying that this flip most benefits Moscoso, who achieves a top 8 rank and seed for the first time in his career and avoids Kane until a possible semi-final meeting, and most penalizes Murray, who is forced into Kane’s quarter.

One last thing worth noting: the IRT has listened to fan requests with the streaming schedule and will be streaming significantly more matches this weekend. Check out the match times on the bracket; the streaming schedule allows for double the matches to be shown at each round throughout the weekend. The plan is to stream no less than 8 qualifying matches on Friday, then have staggered start times Saturday to show more of the 16s before streaming all the qtrs/semis/finals as normal.

Broadcast schedule; 8 friday, 5 sat, 1 sun. That’s a lot of matches for us fans, and a lot for Mr. Dean DeAngelo Baer to call … but is awesome for those of us remote.

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Lets preview the draw highlighting matches that I think are compelling.

In the 128s: five play-in matches to get to the 32s, mostly with Texas/Arizona locals battling it out, but also including traveling
players like Jim Douglas (Oregon) and Thomas Gerhardt (from VA).

In the 64s:
– Ruben Baez takes on Chilean veteran Francisco Troncoso. So, in case you don’t know who Baez is … he played in the Pueblo lower tier IRT event in March, entered as the 27th seed, beat Jake Bredenbeck in the quarters and lost to Horn in the semis 13,14. He’s a very solid player
who can make waves in this event if he plays the way he did in Pueblo and gets the right match-ups.

– Set Cubillos Ruiz continues his challenging travel schedule by returning to the states just a few days after competing in (and winning) the Barranquilla Open in his home country of Colombia, right on the back of competing in the US Open, to take on a play-in winner between Douglas and Arizona’s Preston Tribble.

– Gerhardt vs Justus Benson: Gerhardt is a tough player from Virginia who frequently competes in both indoor and outdoor venues: if he gets past Arizona’s Coy Jay Rogers, he can make life difficult for Benson. Justus is coming off of two straight one-and-dones in IRT events, including a loss in Laurel to Pennsylvania amateur Geoff Heskett, and needs to get his season going.

– Nick Riffel vs Anthony Martin: Martin is a Utah local with just a couple of results on his resume; he played the Atlanta IRT
event earlier this season and took Gerardo Franco to a breaker. This might be a closer match than IRT touring regular Riffel wants at this juncture.

– The younger Bredenbeck brother Sam Bredenbeck gets a solid opener against infrequent IRT participant Daniel Neri; Bredenbeck has some really solid results lately, with wins over IRT regulars like Carter and Riffel at the 2019 Lewis Drug.

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In the 32s:
– #16 Adam Manilla takes on #17 Andrés Acuña; great match between two solid up and coming young players. I like Acuna here; he’s on a roll and has been improving at every stop.

– #9 David ” Bobby” Horn takes on Baez in a re-match of the CSU-Pueblo shootout semis that was so close. Can Baez turn the table here? Horn missed the first two events of the season with injury, played solidly at the US Open and then took a dominant win on his home court two weekends ago to win the Bay Club Open over a solid draw that included a win over Charlie Pratt in the final. I expect a close match here.

– #14 Thomas Carter takes on the winner beween Gerhardt and Benson; Carter’s been playing solid lately, with a win over Diaz at the US Open and taking two very good players to breakers in losses (Keller and Carson). I like Carter to move on here.

– #10 Lalo Portillo takes on the younger Bredenbeck; Eduardo is now in the top 10 and he’s earned it. He’ll move on here despite the challenge from the improving Bredenbeck.

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Projecting the 16s: Assuming qualifying goes as I expect, here’s some interesting 16s to look for

– #8 Samuel Murray vs #9 Horn: 8/9 is always tough, and these players have split their 3 meetings somewhat evenly. Horn won their most recent meeting, in Florida in April, in two close games. I’ll go with Horn backing up his excellent win in Pleasanton with the upset here to move into the qtrs.

– #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz vs #12 Sebastian Fernandez: another brutal draw for the teenager Fernandez, who had to play former top 5 touring pro Marco Rojas in the first round of the Bay Open and lost in a breaker, and now funnels into the red-hot Moscoso, fresh off of a solid run to the US Open finals. This is the hard part about being a player ranked in the teens: you have to start getting wins over top 8 players to move into the top 8, and every draw is an uphill battle.

– #6 Andree Parrilla vs #11 Jake Bredenbeck: a great throw-back match-up between two long time WRT players. They’ve met 6 times in top level events: Jake won their first 3 meetings (all in the 2015 time-frame), while Andree has won the last three meetings (all in the 2019 calendar year). The matches are always close, so I’ll predict another Parrilla tie-breaker win. After a solid opening to the season, Parrilla has lost two winnable matches in Laurel and the US Open to see his ranking (which had peaked at #3) slip a bit, and he needs to be making semis regularly to take the next step.

– #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Portillo: These two met in Atlanta in Sept, and DLR advanced in a tie-breaker. Portillo has been rapidly moving up the rankings, but has also now exited at this juncture (the round of 16) in seven straight IRT events. He needs a high-profile win over a top 8 player. But, is DLR the right guy? This event is essentially a home event for him, hailing from Mexico but now living in Arizona the next town over from Tempe. He’ll have family cheering him on and could be primed for a solid run.

– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Carlos Keller Vargas: wow, two straight brutal round of 16 draws for Carson, who gets no benefit from the #2 seed in having to play a solid international player in Keller who has more than a few titles to his credit. They’ve played twice: at the 2011 Pan Am games and at the 2019 Bolivian grand slam, both two-game quarter final wins for Carson. So advantage Rocky … but Keller ran through this list of names to take the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships title: Coby Iwaasa, Horn, Beltran and Pratt. So if he gets hot, he can get wins.

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Possible Qtrs:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #9 Horn; they’ve only played a handful of times, All Kane wins. Their last meeting was in Florida in April 2018, Kane’s first event back after his knee injury, and Horn played a solid game against the hobbling and distracted Kane before losing in two. Kane’s got his focus back now, and will try not to look past this match at his possible semis opponent.

– #5 Moscoso over #4 Beltran: they’ve met twice; once a dominant Beltran win at the 2015 Pan Am games, the other a dominant Moscoso win at the Bolivian grand slam earlier this year. I think we’re more likely to see the latter result than the former here; Moscoso has the same shooter mentality as Beltran, but can drive serve with the best of them, keeping Beltran from setting his feet and likely leading to a lot of 3-point rallies on his serve.

– #3 Alex Landa vs #6 Parrilla: Landa has had a nice start to his season; two semis and a quarter, to maintain his #3 ranking for now. But Parrilla matches up well here: he’s beaten Landa 5 of the last 6 times they’ve faced each other going back several years. Parrilla’s playing style matches up well with Landa, he can hang with his shots and can retrieve well. I look for Landa to hold serve, but barely. And an upset here would not surprise me.

– #2 Carson vs #7 DLR: Carson waxed a possible disinterested DLR in their last meeting (the season finale in Sarasota in April), but DLR had three straight defeats of Rocky before that and could be looking at this as a way to get his season back on track. Meanwhile, Rocky needs to rebound from his round of 16 loss on the sport’s biggest stage; he’s still safely in the #2 spot, but needs to continue to make finals to stay there. I like DLR here in the upset.

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Projected Semis:

– #1 Waselenchuk vs #5 Moscoso; well, this is what the people want. I think it may happen. A rematch of the US Open final, which featured a tight back and forth game 1 before Kane ran away with it in game 2. What did Moscoso take from that match? Hopefully he took away the need to work on his serving motion so that foot faults don’t dominate the conversation surrounding his game. A more consistent serving game with first/drive serves pacing his game will do wonders to help him drive the conversation against Kane. I still think Kane has the upper hand, but cannot wait to see this possible match-up if it happens.

– #7 DLR vs #3 Landa: two old adversaries meet again; i’ve got them meeting 13 times across pro and Mexican Nationals events over the years, with Landa holding a 6-5 advantage overall. Landa’s won their last 5 meetings … but those include two 11-10 wins (including the quarters in Atlanta in September). Point is this: these guys play close every time, they know each other’s game, and there’s just a knife’s edge between them. I will go with DLR getting the slightest of home court advantages and moving to the final.

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My predicted final: Kane over DLR. DLR’s sole win over Kane was in the ill-fated 2018 California Open, when Kane hurt his knee the round prior to DLR’s meeting and withdrew with the injury that ended up costing him 4 months and the 2017-18 title. They havn’t played since the final of the Lewis Drug in January, a 4,2 shellacking by Kane to take the high profile Sioux falls event. I like DLR showing some spunk in this match, perhaps with flashes of brilliance at times, but Kane winning in the end.

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As always, follow IRT for streaming options throughout the weekend, say high to Dean Baer online, and support pro racquetball 🙂

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International Racquetball Tour
LPRT
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball

Chihuahua YMCA Wrap-Up

Landa the double winner in Chihuahua this past weekend. Photo unk

A RKT-associated tourney was put on this past weekend with little fan fare…. but it featured most of the top Mexican pros and some excellent singles and doubles action.

Here’s a quick wrap-up. Follow RKT to get video streams of most of the good matches from the weekend.

Thanks to Jaime Martell Neri for the heads up and sending me the draws 🙂

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Singles wrap-up

In the qtrs:
– #1 Alex Landa advanced over a local player.

– #5 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez upset Alan Natera Chavez to move on; Natera was upset early in the US Open and I probably would have favored him in this match too. Garay has been trying to get it going this season but has been unlucky in match-ups on the pro tour thus far (his losses this season have been to Carson, DLR and Keller; a tough slate).

– #3 Javier Mar took out Javier Estrada, who was not able to replicate his success from the Black Gold event in his home town.

– #7 Alex Cardona upset #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solís to move on. This was much better than a 2/7 match-up; the two-time WRT winner holds a 4-2 career h2h lead over Montoya on that tour … and beat him again here.

In the semis:
– #1 Landa topped hard-hitting #5 Garay
– #3 Mar beat #7 Cardona (11),4,4; I wonder if this score-line indicates a lack of match fitness for Cardona; after beating the very top-quality Mar in game one, he gets wiped out in games 2 and 3.

In the final: #1 Landa eked by #3 Mar 14,10, a scoreline I would have expected knowing the quality of these two players. Mar has more than demonstrated that he’s a top 8 player in the world through his periodic IRT results.

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Doubles wrap-up:

The doubles draw was solid, and quality teams such as Ernesto Ochoa/Estrada, the Nateras and the Garays couldn’t even make the final.

The final ended up being #1 vs #2: Landa/Cardona d Montoya/Mar 11-7 to make Landa a double winner on the weekend. Its saying something when the defending Pan American champion team of Montoya/Mar is beaten by their countrymen on the depth of the doubles circuit right now.

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Good little tourney
International Racquetball Tour
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
RKT

US Open IRT Pro Singles Wrap-Up

Kane wins his 15th US Open. Photo via US Open RB facebookfeed/Kevin Savory

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk on his win at the 2019 US Open. He continues an unbelievable reign of dominance at this event, and over the sport in general. With this win:

– his 118th career pro title
– his 15th US Open title … in a row
– He improves his career W/L to 558-53 for a .917 winning pct
– He extends his lead at the top of the IRT rankings due to Carson’s early round upset.
– He improves his US Open W/L record to an astounding 90-3

Lets review the Q/S/F after the last post ran through the 32s and 16s.

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/B79567

In the Quarters:

– #1 Kane Waselenchuk played solidly to take out the talented #24 seed Javier Mar 5,3. These two have met a couple times in the last year and its a testament to Kane’s greatness how effortlessly he plays against a guy like Mar. With this result, Mar jumps up a few spots in the rankings, but not nearly enough to avoid qualification issues in future events.

– #4 Alex Landa topped his countryman #5 Álvaro Beltrán in two games 9,12. Landa was in control and Beltran kept it close, but never close enough that you thought he had a chance to win this one. With this result, Beltran will jump Parrilla for #4 on tour.

– #6 Daniel De La Rosa upset #3 Andree Parrilla in a tiebreaker; this is a solid showing for DLR after he’s spent most of the last two seasons slowly dripping down the rankings. He’ll have as good of a chance as he could hope for to return to the final with the upset of Rocky Carson. Despite making the quarters, Andree loses points from last year’s event (where he made the semis) and will drop down to 5th.

#15 Conra Moscoso Ortiz made short work of the 18U phenom Sebastian Fernandez 4,4. Moscoso’s got his eye on just one thing; a shot at the finals with Kane, and he did well not to look past the up and coming Fernandez. With this result, Sebastian will make a huge jump in the rankings, from #23 all the way up to #16.

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In the Semis:

– #1 Waselenchuk absolutely destroyed #4 Landa 1,2. No looking past Landa here; Kane could do no wrong. This is one of the worst defeats in the Q/S/F in tour history. Nonetheless, thanks to his result here Landa will return to #3 on tour for the next event.

– #15 Moscoso continues his great run, taking out #6 DLR in two close games 11,11. These two athletes put on a heck of a show, both diving all over the court and making fantastic shots. A match-up of two true-and-true shooters was taken in the end by the Bolivian, who moves into the final. With this win, Moscoso will jump into the IRT’s top 8 (specifically #7), an interesting fact given that he has results in just a few events. It does make you wonder where he’d rank if he played the tour full time.

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In the final:

Game one was really entertaining, as the shooter in Moscoso really came out firing. It was neck and neck for most of game 1 before Kane pulled away. In game 2, Kane’s relentless pressure wore down the young Bolivian and he took the game easily. Final score: 12,5.

My takeaway from the match is this: There might not be a more skilled power shooter in the world than Moscoso (except for Kane of course) … and make no mistake Moscoso put away a ton of balls and had spectacular returns of serve in this match. But Kane doesn’t make mistakes at the same rate as other players, and time and time again Moscoso would fail to put a ball away and then the next swing would be a Kane winner. Again and Again. You just cannot make mistakes against Kane; to beat him you have to play a perfect match, and as we’ve basically seen now for years, nobody has really been successful in putting together a long enough streak of perfection to take him down.

Also, we have to mention … Moscoso really needs to work on his foot work during his serves; we lost count how many foot faults he triggered in the final.

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International Racquetball Tour
UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships
US OPEN Racquetball
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Racquetball Canada
International Racquetball Federation – IRF

US Open IRT Pro doubles Wrap-Up

Kane and Ben win 3rd US open title. Photo via US Open FB page/Kevin Savory

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk and Ben Croft on their win at the 2019 US Open.

here’s a quick wrap-up of the Quarters onward:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/2D3D74

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In the qtrs:

– #1 seeds Daniel De La Rosa and Alvaro Beltran put an end to the geezer renaissance, ousting Cliff Swain and Rocky Carson (combined age: 93) in two.

– The #4 seed Colombian national team of Sebastian Franco & Mario Mercado Valenzuela were taken out by the Bolivian qualifiers #12 Carlos Keller Vargas & Kadim Carrasco in a tight tiebreaker.

– #3 seeds Alex Landa and Samuel Murray who have been playing solidly together for a while now, took out the experienced Bolivian national team pairing of Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball and Roland Keller in two easy games. Moscoso/Keller won the Bolivian Grand slam and the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships, and were losing finalists to Rodrigo Montoya Solis and Javier Mar at the 2019 Pan Am games and were a worthy qualifier here.

– #2 Kane Waselenchuk and Ben Croft cruised past Ernesto Ochoa and Javier Estrada in two. We hope to see more of Ochoa and Estrada on tour going forward.

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In the semis.

#1 DLR/Beltran defeated the upstart Bolivian team of Keller/Carrasco team (which had defeated the heavily favored #5 team of Jose Diaz and Jake Bredenbeck in qualifiers) in two.

#2 Kane/Croft played a complete match to down the very solid #3 Landa/Murray team 7,7.

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In the final, we got the two teams we wanted. This is a rematch of the last two US Open finals and the 2018 World Doubles final. The 2017 US Open doubles final was considered to be among the finest matches ever played on the pro circuit, a come from behind win for Kane/Croft. DLR/Beltran turned the tide in the 2018 US Open and dominated for a win. The World Doubles final was controversy filled, with the Mexican team walking off the court at match point against. What would we get here?

As it turned out, we got a solid match and a return to the winner’s circle for the now 3-time US Open champion team of Kane and Ben, who won the title 11,8. They’re now 28-5 as a team on the pro circuit with 7 titles since 2014.

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International Racquetball Tour
UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships
US OPEN Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
USA Racquetball
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Fecoracquet Fecoracquet
Racquetball Canada
International Racquetball Federation – IRF

2019 Valentine Open Wrap-up

Kane wins again. Photo credit: unknown

Congrats to your champions on the weekend:

Men’s Pro Singles: Kane Waselenchuk
Men’s Open Singles: Andres Acuna
Men’s Open Doubles: Carlos Keller/Kadim Carrasco

Note: no pro doubles this weekend, so we had pretty solid Open Singles and Open Doubles draws. The Men’s singles open draw featured three players who made the quarters (or better) of the pro draw and a great draw of east coast amateurs to challenge the traveling pros.

And, a reminder; the 5-8 seeds were “flipped” this tournament. Seeds listed below are for this event, not of the actual rankings on tour at the moment of the event.

R2sports link:
https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30994

PRS match Report: http://rball.pro/001AE9

I had the opportunity to be at the Sportfit Laurel club for Thursday night round of 64 and 32 matches, so I’ll describe some of the more interesting matches I witnessed in a bit more detail.

Lets review the matches of note by round:

Round of 64:

  • #24 Mauricio Zelada, playing on his home courts and with the cheering of the home crowd, eked out a brutal tiebreaker against #25 Kyle Ulliman. Zelada is a protege of former touring pro and fellow Maryland native Dan Fowler, and his game-style is really familiar to those who remember Fowler’s days on tour. Similar stroke mechanics, similar drive serve setup, and a similar game style. Zelada plays consistent ball, always putting solid consistent contact on the ball. Ulliman’s game style is flashier, more of a shooter style, taking chances and succeeding often. It was a fantastic match-up that went down to the wire, with Zelada winning on a gimme-error from Kyle after a long match.
  • #20 Maurice Miller faced off against #33 Joe Kelley in a battle of top east coast amateurs (Miller from GA, Kelley from PA). It did not disappoint, and was a back and forth athletic match between two guys with great getting ability. In the end Miller pulled away in the tie-breaker to advance.
  • #22 Hometown favorite Troy Warigon, spurred on by a vocal local cheering section, went tiebreaker against Atlanta newcomer #27 Yacouba Keita before advancing. Definitely the “loudest” crowd of the night, cheering Warigon on.
  • Colombian #23 Set Cubillos was taken tie-breaker by New Jersey top amateur #26 David Austin before advancing.
  • The biggest upset of the round and the sole upset by a local player over a traveling pro was #30 Pennsylvanian Geoff Heskett taking out #18 Justus Benson 10,12. Both players really put some power into the ball, and Heskett was able to really control the points with his excellent drive serve to Benson’s backhand.

Round of 32:

  • In a marathon evening match, #16 Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas took a barn-burner over #17 Colombian Eduardo Garay (13),11,7. This match was a contrast in styles: Keller’s drive serve approach is controlled power, with emphasis on the location and efficiency of the drive, while Garay has as much power as anyone on tour. The ball just sounds different off of Garay’s racquet on the drive serve. But, once the ball is in play, Keller’s putting as much pace on it as anyone else. Garay flings himself around the court, with incredible getting ability, while Keller’s length (he’s well over 6-feet tall) enables him to reach a lot of shots and cover a lot of court. This match went on so long that I believe Garay soaked four shirts. Vargas outlasted Garay in the end, but both of these players if playing full time are top 10 material.
  • In the evening’s other latest running match, two players with DC-area ties fought to the end. #9 Mario Mercado split two close games with home-town favorite #24 Zelada, who (like Warigon) plays out of the club and had a large local cheering section. The toll of the earlier match got to MoMo though, as he ran out of gas in the tiebreaker. Mercado efficiently advanced 11-1 to get to the main draw. This match won the award for biggest crowd of the night.
  • #23 Cubillos nearly forfeited his match against #10 Jake Bredenbeck before showing up just before the deadline. Jake seemed distracted as a result in the first game but eventually advanced 11,2.
  • #14 Andres Acuna dispatched Bolivian veteran #19 Kadim Carrasco in two games to advanced to the main draw yet again. Acuna is quietly moving his way up the ranks and putting his name into the discussion for top 10.

Round of 16 Action:

  • #1 Kane Waslenechuk kicked off his tournament with a 1,3 pasting of #16 Keller. I don’t know if Keller was beat from two matches the night before, or if Kane was especially fired up to play. I looked forward to this match and was rather surprised to see it be such a dominant beat-down. If you wondered about the difference between an IRF champ and the Pro champ … well here you go.
  • For the second tournament in a row, #8 Rodrigo Montoya could not advance out of the round of 16 against an opponent he’d normally be favored against. He loses in two straight to #9 Mercado 14,11. This second early loss in as many events to start the season should drop him right back out of the top 8.
  • In a battle of Francos (not related), #5 Sebastian Franco was taken to the edge by #12 Gerardo Franco, eventually advancing 11-9 in the breaker. Sebastian gets past an important hurdle on his home courts.
  • Both #4 Alejandro Landa and #2 Rocky Carson were stretched to tiebreakers in surprising fashion by tour regulars, by lefties Robert Collins and Thomas Carter respectively. Landa in particular has a habit of being a slow starter, something that’s harder and harder to overcome in the 3-game format.
  • In the upset of the round, perhaps the tournament, Costa Rican #1 and #14 seed Andres Acuna continues an impressive year of results by taking out #3 Andree Parrilla 4,(7),7. Parrilla made the final of the first event of the year and had ascended to the #3 ranking, but gets upset early by the solid play of Acuna and will drop back to #4 for the US Open. Meanwhile, Acuna achieves his first ever pro quarterfinal appearance in his 9th season of playing pro events.
  • #6 Samuel Murray staved off an upset attempt from #11 Eduardo Portillo, splitting the first two games by razor thin margins before pulling away in the tiebreaker.

In the quarters…

  • #1 Waselenchuk took out #9 Mercado in two straight forward games 6,8. Even a favorable crowd couldn’t push Mercado forward. Mercado will stay ranked 10th on tour despite the quarter-final finish, but he’s significantly narrowed the gap to the 9th spot on tour.
  • #5 Franco gets a key win on home soil, taking out #4 Landa for just the second time professionally. Sebastian crushed Landa in game one 15-3, but then had to work for it, saving game point before serving out the match 15-14. Franco gets his second semi-final in a row to open the season after making just one semi all last season, a great sign for his battle to retain a top 8 ranking this year. Despite the loss, Landa will regain the #3 seed for the US Open by virtue of Parrilla’s upset early loss.
  • #6 Murray traded 15-3 game blow-outs with #14 Acuna before closing out the match in a tiebreaker. Acuna improves his ranking to #18 with this result, pushing him to his highest ever ranking.
  • #2 Carson met #7 Alvaro Beltran for the 50th time on the pro tour and improved to 28-22 against him, advancing in (what else) a tie-breaker. Thanks to Daniel de la Rosa‘s absence here, Beltran widened his lead over DLR for the 5th ranking on tour and gained a bit on the now-4th ranked Parrilla.

In the Semis:

  • #5 Franco pushed #1 Kane on his home courts to make game one close, but Kane dominated game two to advance to the finals 11,7. With this result, Franco jumps to the #7 spot on tour, which means he avoids the likes of Montoya in an 8/9 match-up and avoids Kane in the quarters at the US Open.
  • #2 Carson met #6 Murray for the 11th time professionally and improved to 11-0 over the Canadian #1 11,4. Murray just couldn’t execute shots against Carson in game two and the match slipped away from him quickly. With this semis showing, Murray bumps Montoya for the last of the top 8 protected seeds for the US Open, a significant event that means Murray avoids possible dangerous qualifiers while Montoya may run into a tough player in the 24-25 range on tour.

The final was #1 vs #2 as it normally is; Rocky vs Kane has been the final in eight events over the last two seasons. this was their 80th meeting on tour. And like 76 times before, Kane topped Rocky for the title. But it was an adventurous match: Rocky was on his way to a donut in game one and was assessed a technical towards the end; game one score of 15 to -1. But Carson rebounded to take game 2; it had been nearly 2 years since Rocky took a game off of Kane. But Kane rebounded in the breaker and won -1,(11),4 to take the title.

Its Kane’s 117th career pro win.

Quick Recap of Men’s Open Singles: 4th Seeded Mercado survived a brutal quarter against Eduardo Garay (a rematch of last week’s Colombian National championships, won by Garay) to then cruise to the final over Set Cubillos from the top half (#1 seed Murray withdrew after making the pro semis). The bottom half of the draw went chalk amongst all top seeds, with #2 seed Andres Acuna topping #3 Maurice Miller to make the final. In the final, Acuna took out Mercado 11,9 to turn the tides on their meetings as of late.

Quick Recap of Men’s Open Doubles: it was #1 vs #2, Colombia vs Bolivia in the final, with two quality teams battling it out. #1 Mercado/Garay battled against #2 Keller/Carrasco in the final. There, the #2 seeded Bolivians put a second consecutive Sunday afternoon loss on Mercado, winning the Open Doubles title 7,12


Congrats to Tournament Director Tracy Valentine for all her hard work, thanks to IRT staff Mike Grisz, Dean Baer, Pablo Fajre for all their hard work. Great to meet IRT statistician-in-training JP Edwards, who I hope gets more involved going forward.

Also, a quick shout-out to Kane, who took to the court Thursday night upon arriving to play some pro-am doubles with tournament sponsors. The normal Thursday night sponsor doubles got cancelled, but some boosters had put up money specifically to have a shot at playing with Kane, and kudos to him for taking the court to help with sponsorship efforts.

Next up? 3-Wall championships next weekend in Las Vegas, then the US Open in Minneapolis.

@irt and other links

2019 Valentine Open Preview

Rocky Carson looks to go back to back. Photo courtesy of Rocky’s twitter @rockycarsonRB

The IRT returns to Laurel, MD for the second year in a row for the 2019 Valentine Open, named after its tournament director Tracie D Valentine and her daughter Imanii Valentine. The tour is back at one of the legendary east coast venues of Sportfit Laurel for this event.

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30994

Lets preview the draw. there’s 33 players entered this year including a ton of internationals and some MD/VA/PA locals. As noted last week, there’s some movement in the top 8, notably Parrilla taking over 3rd and Montoya moving into 7th … but the “flip” seeding is in place here so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled from their normal spots.

Missing top players: The biggest name missing is #6 Daniel De La Rosa who misses the event sandwiched in between 3-wall in Vegas and a major pickleball event, so he may have had to take a schedule break. We’re also missing a lot of tour regulars from last season in the 11-20 range, including #11 Jose Diaz, #13 David ” Bobby” Horn, and #18-20 Charlie PrattJansen Allen and Felipe Camacho. Two tourneys missed in a row for these guys: it look like maybe there’s a changing of the guard on tour.

Here’s some round of 64 matches to watch for:

– MoMo Zelada versus Kyle Ulliman: Zelada plays on his home courts and gets the traveling Ulliman, who returns to Laurel for the 2nd year in a row. Could be a tight one.
– MD native Jamal Harris takes on The Ref, Scott McClellan in an opener. Hopefully McClellan doesn’t have any avoidables taken away from him… (inside joke on a FB discussion after last event).
– Veteran Bolivian Kadim Carrasco takes on 18U local player Dylan Pruitt also playing on his home courts.
– Justus Benson takes on a tough lefty from Pennsylvania Geoff Heskett.

Projecting the 32s:
– #16 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez vs #17 Carlos Keller Vargas; 16/17 matches are always tough, and this South American battle will be no different. Garay was just crowned Colombian Champ, while Keller is the 2-time reigning Pan American Racquetball Championships winner. I like Garay in a tie-breaker and I like seeing him make a push on tour early.
– #9 Mario Mercado vs #24 Zelada: just another night at the club for these two native Bolivians, who both lived in the DC area for a while and got more than a few local tournament match-ups. Mercado has been playing solid lately and will look to advance.
– #14 Andres Acuña vs #19 Carrasco: another international flavor match between two guys who have never managed to meet.
– #15 Thomas Carter vs #18 Benson: Just like the 16/17, the 15/18 meeting will be tight as well. I like Carter here to return to the 16s in Laurel.

Projecting the Main draw: assuming seeds hold in the qualifiers, here’s some fun 16s to look for:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #16 Garay: I can’t wait to see Kane taking on a good young hard hitting player like Garay. If its Keller instead, we’re talking about a solid tactician unmoved by power play given how much he plays @Luis Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo back home. Either way, a great round of 16 that’s likely on the show/streaming court.
– #8 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #9 Mercado; Montoya missed a chance in the 8/9 match last tourney … now he gets a match against a guy who beat him in Lima just a few weeks ago. Look for a solid match but Montoya to advance.
– #6 Samuel Murray vs #11 Lalo Portillo; upset warning: Portillo beat Murray in California in Jan 2019 and has done nothing but improve since. Portillo continues his push for the top 10.
– #7 Alvaro Beltran vs #10 Jake Bredenbeck; A nice match-up; Bredenbeck was nursing an injury earlier this summer that reportedly kept him out of the season opener; if he’s not 100% he’ll struggle to beat Beltran, who continues to impress even as he approaches his 41st birthday.

Projected Quarters:
– #1 Kane vs #8 Montoya: would love to see this one; power v power. Montoya has just two meeting with Kane, both pretty dominant wins for the World #1.
– #4 Alex Landa vs #5 Sebastian Franco; Franco gets Landa on his (Franco’s) home courts. Franco made the semis last year and will be looking for an upset; these two always seem to play tight, and Franco beat Landa to win his sole pro title. Watch out for the upset here.
– #3 Andree Parrilla vs #6 Murray; if Murray gets past Portillo, he runs into a tough one in Parrilla, who lost 11-10 in the quarters last year in Laurel and won’t want to lose his #3 ranking at this juncture.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #7 Beltran. These two have met no less than 49 times on tour; they’re more than familiar with each other and played a rather testy tiebreaker in their last meeting in January. This is no cakewalk for Carson. Combined age: more than 81 years between the two of them.

Semis:
– Kane over Landa: these two seem to play the same way each time: Landa keeps it close up to about 10-10, then Kane breaks away for a 15-10 win. Look for a two game victory with the scores like 10,8
– Carson over Parrilla: So here’s the interesting match up. These two met in the quarters of this event last year, and Parrilla had match point on his racquet and blew a simple cross court into the ground before losing 11-10. Then they didn’t play again until last weekend’s Atlanta final (a 13,8 win for Rocky). I like Andree’s chances here of pushing for a tie-breaker on these slower courts but won’t predict a win.

Final: Kane over Rocky, yet again.

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That’s how I see it for this weekend. I’ll be at the club all day thursday to take in the 64s and 32s before jetting back home. Hope to see you out there, and maybe we’ll do some test broadcasting later thursday night.

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