LPRT Sweet Caroline Grand Slam Preview

World Champ Ana Gabriela Martinez returns to the LPRT for the Sweet Caroline event.

r2sports.com tourney home page: http://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30141

The LPRT is back in action, with its 6th event of the 2018-19 season. So far, #1 ranked Paola Longoria has made it 5 for 5 in wins, with four of those wins coming over her frequent doubles partner Samantha Salas Solis.

The annual event in South Carolina is a Grand Slam, and as such has drawn back into play a couple of intriguing players, which should make this draw more interesting than most. There’s 26 pros in the draw, tying a season non US Open high.

Top 20 players missing: #5 Frederique Lambert who has fallen to her lowest ranking on tour since Nov 2015 as she juggles school and some early upsets in previous events. #11 Carla Muñoz Montesinos misses just her 2nd tourney in the last two seasons. #13 Jessica Leona Parrilla remains on the sidelines recovering from her knee injury suffered last spring. And lastly #18 Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol did not make the long flight. So we have 9 of the top 10, and 16 of the top 20 in the event.

Notably present is reigning World Champ Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez, who is back and ranked #9 (likely seeded 8th) after making the semis in the first two events of the season and then missing the next three.

Lets preview the draw.

Notable round of 32 matches; there’s a ton of tough openers in this tourney.

– #16 vs #17 Masiel Rivera Oporto versus Brenda Laime Jalil; tough match for both ladies right out of the gate. Both players are playing the tour full time this year and are both looking for a breakthrough win. And … they’re playing doubles together. 
– #14 vs #19: Maria Renee Rodríguez faces Kelani Lawrence in another tough opener for both. Lawrence has less pro experience but has proven her mettle in the USA amateur draws, while Rodriguez has a ton of international experience and has represented Guatemala in Juniors and Adult draws for nearly a decade.
Cassandra Lee vs Laura Brandt: youth versus experience here in an intriguing first rounder.
– #10 Adriana Riveros versus #23 Cecilia Ceci Orozco Pratt: Riveros should prevail but she probably would have hoped for an easier first rounder.
– #15 Susana Susy Acosta vus #18 Ana Laura Flores : two Mexican lefties representing the two major Rball-playing communities (Chihuahua and San Luis Potosi) in the country battle it out in the first round. They met at the US Open with the youngster coming out on top and I’d lean that way again.

Round of 16 interesting matches:
– #8 vs #9: Cristina Amaya Cris vs Ana Gabriela Martinez: tough match-up for both players. They met at this stage in this event three years ago, an Amaya win, but Martinez has a whole lot of silverware since. 
– #3 Alexandra Herrera vs the Rodriguez/Lawrence winner: i’m not sure who comes out of the feed-in match, but Herrera will have to hustle to advance out of the 16s. Ironically, Herrera topped both possible players in successive rounds as she was winning the 2011 Junior Girls 16U championship.
– #7 Natalia Mendez vs #10 Adriana Riveros: these two top 10 players have only met once on tour; a 4-game Mendez win in June 2017. 
– #2 Samantha Salas vs #18 Flores: assuming Flores comes out on top in the 32s, she gets a first shot at Salas in any competition. Flores can beat top talent, but i’m not sure she can beat one of the top 2 players in the world.

Projecting the Quarters:
– #1 Paola Longoria vs #8 Gaby Martinez; These two have met no less than 15 times in pro and IRF matches … but it was last summer’s World Championships that gave Martinez her one win in the series. Since then, they’ve met twice in the LPRT, both straight-forward Longoria wins. I see the same result here; Paola is just so dominant in the 5-game format.
– #4 Maria Jose Vargas vs #5 Rhonda Rajsich; these two have now met 28 times (26 on LPRT) and are dead even. 14 and 14 each. Along that same line, they’ve met twice this season … and split, Vargas winning in Chicago and Rhonda winning in Laurel. I’ll predict Rajsich makes it two tourneys in a row.
– #3 Herrera vs #6 Nancy Enriquez; Despite being the higher seed, Enriquez faces the easier path to the quarters in this event. But Herrera owns the career h2h record 5-1, just beat her in Boston, and should advance again.
– #2 Salas vs #7 Mendez; they’ve got a scant 3 career match-ups, all three straight-game wins for Salas. She makes it 4 of 4.

Semis:
– Longoria over Rajsich. Despite Rhonda’s demonstrated ability to still be able to top Paola, their only meeting on the pro tour in the last two seasons was a straight-game semis win in December. Expect the same here.
– Salas over Herrera; they’ve already met twice in the semis this season, and both times Salas advanced.

Finals: Longoria over Salas. You hate rooting for #1 vs #2, but these two players have represented the final in 4 of the 5 events so far this season … and the only one where it wasn’t Longoria v Salas was an event where Salas couldn’t make the tourney b/c of travel issues.

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In the doubles, we have some frequently-seen teams playing, including the reigning USA national champs Lawrence/Sharon Jackson, the US National runners-up in Rajsich and Lotts, The top team of Longoria & Salas, the Argentinian national team of Vargas & Mendez, and the Columbia team of Amaya & Riveros. Interestingly the top Guatemalans are not playing together this event.

I’m going with the top Mexicans versus the Argentinians in the final, with Longoria & Salas continuing their dominance with the win.

27th Annual LPRT Christmas Classic Pro-AM Preview

Welcome to the final pro tournament of the calendar year 2018. Its the LPRT Christmas Classic, being played in Laurel MD. This is the same club that held the IRT season-opener a few months back and is a great venue for playing and watching.

This is the 27th annual iteration of this event, making it one of the longer running tourneys in existence. Useless fact; I used to help organize this event, some 20 years ago. Since i’m a digital pack rat, I dug back and found the organizational docs and start times for the 7th annual iteration of this event in 1998. After a time, the mantle was passed to current tournament director Karen Grisz, who has taken it to different venues around the DC area and has made it a regular LPRT stop for years. This year also includes an 18-man IRT tier 5 draw that i’ll preview after the ladies info.

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LPRT Singles draw. 22 ladies are entered, but there are some significant absences. #2 Samantha Salas Solis is missing, as is #6 Nancy Enriquez and #9 Gaby Martinez. This gives several players bumps into the top 8 and out of qualifying matches.

Interesting players in the draw include several local players of note: Kelani Lawrence is in the draw, as is Amie LeBrun Brewer and Masiel Rivera Oporto. The tourney has also drawn a few New England-based players out of NY and CT.

Here’s the round of 32 play-in matches to watch for:
Kelani Lawrence vs Amie Brewer: two VA residents duke it out to face the #1 seed.
– 7-time junior world champ Lucia Gonzalez makes her first appearance on the LPRT this season and faces off against current World 16u champ Valeria Centellas in an interesting match. 
– Adrienne Fisher Haynes vs Danielle Danielle Maddux: Danielle Maddux (nee Key) makes her first pro appearance in more than 8 years. The former US and World junior champion joins her sister Michelle on the tour and will team up in doubles as well.
– Michelle De La Rosa vs Hollie Scott: De La Rosa makes her 3rd LPRT appearance this season, with a play-in to the #2 seed.

In the round of 16…
– #1 Paola Longoria likely faces her doubles partner for the event in Lawrence. 
– In the always competitive 8/9th seed match: two LPRT touring vets face off in Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos and Sheryl Lotts. They’re 2-2 head to head on the LPRT, but all four matches were years ago (last meeting Sept 2016).
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich vs the home-town favorite #12 Masiel Rivera. Rivera has been playing solid and could push Rhonda here.
– De La Rosa vs #2 Frederique Lambert; DLR is a dangerous opponent, and Lambert has a couple of early upsets on her resume lately.

Projected Quarters: I’m going basically chalk for the back end of this tourney.
– Longoria over Munoz; she’s 10-0 over Carla on the LPRT
– Vargas over Rajsich: Vargas is 14-11 h2h lifetime over Rhonda on the LPRT but is having a solid season.
– Alexandra Herrera over Natalia Mendez Erlwein; Herrera is 3-1 lifetime over Mendez on the LPRT
– Lambert over Cristina Amaya: Lambert is 8-5 career over Amaya, but has won 7 of their last 8 meetings.

Semis:
– Longoria over Vargas: amazingly, Longoria is 23-0 over Vargas on the pro tour
– Lambert over Herrera: Frederique holds an 8-1 h2h advantage.

Finals: Longoria over Lambert; Paola is 26-1 career on the pro tour over Fred.

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LPRT Doubles

Salas’ absence means the dominant #1 team of Longoria/Salas cannot win this doubles event like they most often do. Instead, Longoria will team with Lawrence for this tourney. I think this may open the door for a team like #2 seeds Lambert/Herrera or Argentinian team of Mendez/Vargas to slip through and take the title.

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IRT Tier 5. Laurel is home to a couple of IRT regulars, so it only makes sense for them to compete on their home courts. I’m posting this before the brackets are available, but the top four seeds seem to be Sebastian Franco,Maurice MillerTroy Warigon, and Mauricio MoMo Zelada. Some good local east coast players are entered too (Ross Ross WeinbergThomas Gerhardt,Brent WaltersJordan Walters, Geoff Heskett, and others). Should be a good tourney.

Post publishing update: once the brackets were posted, we added this quick prediction:

  • Quarters: Franco over Heskett, Zelada over Weinberg, Miller over Gerhardt, Warigon over Gaffney
  • Semis: Franco over Zelada, Miller over Warigon
  • Finals: Franco over Miller

LPRT Turkey Shoot Event wrap-up

Longoria wins again.

Congrats to #1 Paola Longoria, who was a double winner on the weekend, taking the Singles draw over #2 seeded Samantha Salas Solis, then teaming with Salas to win the pro doubles draw.

Longoria and Salas have now met in the finals of each of the season’s first four events, solidifying their lead at the top of the rankings table. Longoria improves to 46-3 against Salas on the pro tours with the win. This win represents Longoria’s 86th pro title in the database (though we may be missing some of her earlier tourney wins; a situation we’re working on rectifiying). Lastly, this tourney extends Paola’s current match winning streak to 21 games; she’s won the last 5 pro events.

Lets take a quick run through the singles draw. Here’s the match report in the database:

http://www.proracquetballstats.com/cg…/print_results_new.pl…

Upsets/notable results for me:
– Four regular touring players, coincidentally seeded 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th, were all upset in the first round of play. 4-time pro champ Cheryl Gudinas put a 5-game loss on Sheryl Lotts, then nearly beat Natalia Mendez, taking her to a 5th game tiebreaker.
– Junior up and coming player Angelica Barrios took out Adrienne Fisher Haynes and took a game off of #5 seed Rhonda Rajsich before bowing out.
– Michelle De La Rosa got a solid win over #10 Susy Acosta before falling in 3 closer games to #4 seed Maria Jose Vargas.  De La Rosa (nee Key) has now played in 3 events this season, after playing just a handful over the past few years, and could be a force on tour if she continues to play. She’s made a number of Quarters and even one Semi and is a dangerous opponent.
– Masiel Rivera Oporto played her 3rd event of the season and made her second round of 16; she’s right in the range of seeding where she could continue to get opportunistic match-ups and keep moving up the rankings.
– I liked what I saw out of youngster Brenda Laime, who got past Erin Rivera before taking a game off of #2 seed Solis.
– 16U world champ Valeria Centellas was one-and-done in the pro draw, running into the 7th seeded Colombian Amaya Cris, but she played very well in the Women’s Open draw, beating experienced American Sharon Jackson and then Lexi York before losing in two close games to experienced international player Adriana Riveros in the semis.
– Speaking of York; she made her pro tour debut after a pretty good juniors run (she was the 2015 USA 18U champ and made the semis of junior worlds that same year). Hope to see more of York in the coming years.

The quarters, semis and finals went almost perfectly chalk along the lines of seeds; the only discrepancy was #9 seeded Colombian Adriana Riveros defeating #8 Chilean Carla Muñoz Montesinos in the quarters. Neutral fans always want to root for upsets, but this tournament was missing four key names who normally would have provided some upsets to the current LPRT heirarchy. Namely, Montserrat Montse Mejia, Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez, Frederique Lambertand Nancy Enriquez.

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On the doubles side, the dominant team of Longoria/Salas easily took this tourney, crushing Alexandra Herrera & Munoz 2,9 in the final.

Here’s the Doubles draw Match report:

http://www.proracquetballstats.com/cg…/print_results_new.pl…

The Longoria/Salas team is now 71-3 together since we began tracking LPRT doubles in 2013. Longoria has won 36 of the 41 doubles draws she’s entered in that time, most of them won with Salas. I still can’t quite believe they were upset as a team at the 2018 Mexican selection event, thus preventing them from competing in Worlds this past summer.

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Next up for the LPRT: the Christmas Classic in Laurel, MD.

LPRT

LPRT 2018 Turkey Shoot Preview

16U World Champino Centellas makes her pro debut.

Hello all, welcome back to pro racquetball after a great World Juniors event. This weekend, the LPRT returns to action, visiting Chicago for their annual event. There’s an interesting draw, with a ton of young players and some pro tour debuts. Lets Review the draw.

Follow LPRT on Facebook; they’re streaming live matches starting at 11am EST (as in, after you’re reading this; they’re already playing!)

The draw is missing a couple of notable names: both finalists from the 18U world juniors Montse Mejia and Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez are missing; quite understanable in that the World Juniors event is a grueling event, especially when playing both singles and doubles. Also missing is #3 ranked Frederique Lambert,5th ranked Nancy Enriquez, which bumps up both Amaya and Munoz to top 8 seeds in this event.

Fun side note for this event: Chicago native and 4-time pro tour winner Cheryl Gudinas makes a rare appearance and makes her 182nd career appearance. She remains tied for the most appearances ever with fellow 4-time pro tour winner and #5 seed Rhonda Rajsich.

Here’s some interesting Round of 32 matches to watch for:

– DC native Masiel Rivera Oporto takes on Montserrat Perez in the always competitive 16/17 seed match
Lexi York, who we last saw in a top-level match making the semis of Girls 18U at World Juniors in 2005, returns to the court to take on #8 Seed Adriana Riveros.
– Bolivian Angelica Barrios, herself fresh off of a run to the semis of the Girls 18U at World Juniors, takes on LPRT veteran tour player Adrienne Fisher Haynes.
– Michelle De La Rosa, fresh from playing in the 2018 USA Pickleball championships in Indian Wells, faces up against long time tour vet Susana Susy Acosta in what could be a pretty tough opener. De La Rosa lost 12-10 in the fifth at the US Open and is clearly a threat to advance deep in any pro tour.
– Virginia native Kelani Lawrence makes just her 3rd pro draw of 2018 and faces off against Guatemalan vet Maria Renee Rodríguez in a tough opener for both players.
Sheryl Lotts gets to go up against the legend Cheryl Gudinas in her home town.
– And lastly, in what is the most interesting match for me, reigning World doubles champion and freshly crowned 16U world junior champion Valeria Centellas is in the draw as the lowest seed, playing #7 Colombian vet Amaya Cris in the opening round. I suspect Amaya may be too much for the 16-yr old to handle, but its a great way to get a debut to the pro circuit.

Projecting the 16s: There’s lots of 32s that could go either way; here’s some of the round of 16 matches that could be noteworthy:

Carla Munoz-Riveros as the 8/9 match: they’ve played a bunch both internationally and in the LPRT. Munoz owns the last 3 wins and seems to have gained the upper hand in this rivalry.
– #4 Seeded Maria Jose Vargas versus De La Rosa: Vargas can run hot or cold, has had some inconsistent results lately. These two have played 6 times before and Vargas is 6-0, but the matches include a number of 4 and 5 game marathons.

In the quarters, I’m going with:
– Paola Longoria over Munoz
– Rajsich upsetting Vargas
Alexandra Herrera handling Natalia Mendez
Samantha Salas handling Amaya.

From there, I’m going chalk, with a 1/2 final and Longoria prevailing over Salas like normal. Unfortunately a few of the rising players i’d expect to make noise in this draw (Martinez, Mejia, Enriquez) are missing so the old guard prevails).

2018 World Juniors Knockout Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Open LPRT Women’s Singles Quarters review

LPRT UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships

We’re to the business end of this big tourney now; lets take a look at yesterday’s quarters and project out the semis.

Three of the top four seeds are through, and the fourth player through was really no surprise to those watching the women’s world game these days.

– #1 Paola Longoria made quick work of #8 Argentinian Natalia Mendez 2,1,4.
– #12 Gaby Martinez “upset” #4 Alexandra Herrera in four close games, though this was probably the expected result based on Martinez’ win at IRF Worlds in August.
– #3 Samantha Salas Solis continued her recent form over #6 Rhonda Rajsich, winning in four games.
– #2 Frederique Lambert got a solid win over the upset-minded Bolivia Yazmine Sabja Aliss, reversing their historical h2h record.

Semis Preview:
– Martinez gets another shot at Longoria; she got the win at Worlds, but then fell in the first LPRT event of the season at this same gate. I suspect Longoria is “up” for this match again and moves on.
– Despite being the higher seed, Lambert is just 4-12 lifetime against Salas, which included a 3-game domination at the LPRT season opener. Salas moves on to setup yet another finals rematch with Longoria.

Finals prediction: Longoria over Salas in their 47th h2h meeting on tour.

LPRT 2018 US Open Singles Round of 32 and 16 preview

We’re through Ladies pro singles qualifying; no major surprises or upsets in the one round of Qualifying, but there are some fun matches to project for the main draw.

LPRT Main draw link at r2sports.

Lets talk about the main draw. Thursday features round of 32 and 16 action. Here’s some fun round of 32 matches to watch for:

– #4 Alexandra Herrera gets a tough first round against Michelle De La Rosa. De La Rosa has put losses on top LPRT pros in the past and will not be intimidated on the court. Herrera will need to be on her game to avoid a massive upset here.
– #3 Samantha Salas Solis was done no favors drawing Kelani Lawrence in the first round either. Lawrence (nee Bailey) doesn’t have a ton of pro experience, but has had a fantastic year on the amateur side and is a dangerous opponent.
– #14 Adrienne Fisher Haynes gets an upset-minded first round matchup against Mexican youngster #19 Montserrat Perez.
– #7 Maria Jose Vargas has an all-South America match versus Bolivian veteran Jenny Daza Navia.
– #10 Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos may have her hands full with the dangerous Bolivian international Jazmine Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol. Sabja beat her in a tiebreaker at IRF Worlds in August and will be favored to do so again.
– #15 Susy Acosta will be challenged by a country-woman less than half her age in 18U player #18 Ana Laura Flores .

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And here’s some potential round of 16 matches that could be fun to watch:
– #1 Paola Longoria probably doesn’t lose to Mexican junior phenom #17 Montse Mejia (the reigning 18U world champion who has yet to matriculate out of junior racquetball), but she could be in for a tougher match than she would have wanted in the 16s.
– #8/#9 match-ups are always close, and a match between Amaya Cris and Natalia Mendez will be too close to call; they’re 2-2 across LPRT and IRF and this could be a toss-up.
– #5 Nancy Enriquez and #12 Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez faced off in the quarters of the first LPRT event, with the world champion Martinez escaping with a 12-10 5th game win. I sense another close match with Martinez advancing again.
– #7 Vargas gets a potential match against Sabja here … a potential rematch of the quarters of IRF Worlds and the final of the 2018 South American games. Vargas won both those matches easily and makes it a 3rd here.

Back on Friday to preview the Q/S/F!