2018 World Juniors Wrap-Up

Eduardo “Lalo” Portillo finishes off his junior career with an 18U world title.
… as does Montserrat “Montse” Mejia.

The final International Racquetball Federation – IRF event of the season has finished up and new World Junior titlists have been crowned. Congrats to all the winners.

Here’s a review of the four eldest-most age categories (the ones that www.proracquetballstats.com currently tracks) and how the tournaments played out.

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In the Boys 18U (PRS Match report: https://bit.ly/2DyPnRc)…

The two Americans both fought hard but fell at the quarter-final stage. Los Angeles native Dane Elkins took #1 overall seed Fernando Ruiz Michel to a tiebreaker, and Stocktonian Ricardo Ricky Diaz (brother of IRT pro Jose Diaz) played #3 seed Bolivian Gerson Miranda tough, eventually falling 13,12. The two Mexican top seeds both advanced tot he semis with ease.

In the semis, it was Bolivia vs Mexico on both sides of the draw … and it was both Mexican’s advancing to the final to force a rematch of the Mexican Nationals final in May. #4 Eduardo Portillo Rendon took out #1 seeded Fernando Ruiz Michel in two hard fought games, while #2 Sebastian Fernandez cruised past #3 seeded Gerson Miranda.

In the Final, we got a rematch of the Mexican 18U Junior National final from past May (won by Fernandez), the 18U selection event final in Mexico (again won by Fernandez) and a rematch of the 2016 16U World Juniors final (won by Portillo). On this day though, Portillo was the better player, dropping the first game 14 then cruising to the title (14),4,7.

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In the Girls 18U (match report here: https://bit.ly/2AYIYMx)…

The knock-out rounds featured all four top seeds advancing with relative ease into the semis; only #4 Gaby Martinez had more than 3 points scored against her in any quarter-final game, downing Canadian Alexis Iwaasa 9,5.

In the semis, Martinez took out the #1 seeded Mexican Ana Laura Flores with ease 5,3, while #3 Montse Mejia took a close match against #2 Angelica Barrios 14,8.

The Final thus was a rematch of 2017’s 18U world championship (won by Mejia), and of the 2016 16U World championship (won by Martinez), and represents a fitting end to both players’ junior careers. A fantastic match ensued, with Mejia taking the first game 14, dropping the second game 8, then controlling the tiebreaker to down the reigning World Champ and defend her 18U world championship. Final score: 14,(8),6. Martinez is denied a chance at becoming just the second player ever to hold both a Junior and World Adult singles title simultaneously.

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In the Boys 16U (match report here: https://bit.ly/2AYIYMx)…

The two top seeds advanced to the semis with little fan fare, with #1 Jose Carlos Ramos topping Texan Cayden Aikens in two, and #2 Bolivian Diego Garcia Quispe getting an injury fft win. #12 seed Mexican Guillermo Ortega “upset” the #4 seeded Bolivian Adrian Jaldin (though Ortega was the #3 seed entering the round robins) to make the semis. Lastly American #6 seed Sahil Thakur could not capitalize on a one-game lead and fell in a tiebreaker to #3 seed Ecuadorian Juan Sebastian Flores.

In the semis, Ramos topped fellow Mexican Ortega a rematch of the 16U National selection event in August (also won by Ramos), while pre-tourney favorite Garcia pasted Flores 3,2 to advance to the World final.

In the final, Garcia took a dominant win 4,10 over the #1 seed to take the title. Garcia did not drop a game in this tournament, and the 15-10 second game in the finals was the most any player scored on him in this tournament. He’s set to be a force to be reckoned with going forward.

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In the Girls 16U (match report here: https://bit.ly/2qESWg9)…

The top four seeds advanced to the semis, taking out both Canadians (Juliette Parent and Cassie Prentice) as well as the lone remaining American (Annie Roberts).

In the semis, #1 seed Valeria Centellas advanced over the Mexican Guadalupe Griffin 5,10 while #3 Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz topped the Mexican #1 Maria Fernanda Gutierrez, making for the only of these four finals to feature no Mexican juniors.

In the final, Centellas dropped the first game 9, then dominated the rest of the way, taking the final (9),4,3 to take the world 16U title for Bolivia.

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Quick wrap of Doubles action:
– Boys 18U final featured four of the best singles players in the tourney, as Mexico and Bolivia went at it in a rematch of the scintillating RR match. In the final, the Mexican team of Fernandez and Rodrigo Rodriguez came out on top, getting revenge for their RR loss to the Bolivian team of Fernando Ruiz and Gerson Miranda for the title.

– Girls 18U final featured the top Mexican team versus Ecuador. The Mexican team of Ana Laura Flores and Abril Sacristan cruised to a world title.

– Boys 16U also featured Mexico vs Bolivia in the final (like the 16U). The Mexican team had to play just one match to get to the final (getting a bye and an inj-fft), but could not overcome the Bolivian team powered by the singles champ Garcia.

– Girls 16U was Bolivia vs Canada, who ousted the higher seeded Mexican team in the semis. On this day the Bolivians cruised to the title 8,7 over team Canada.

The Girls 16U final was notable for this fact; Bolivian Valeria Centellas won the Adult World doubles championships earlier this year with Yazmine Sabja Aliss and now holds the 16U junior worlds doubles championship … as far as we can tell, this is a first in the international game (having a player hold both the Adult and the junior world title in doubles).

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A quick note: as we’ve clearly been seeing for a while, the balance of power both in Juniors and on the pro tours is clearly no longer with the originating countries of the sport. USA and Canadian players failed to advance to even the semis in either 16U or 18U. Team USA did experience some success; the Americans swept the 14U doubles titles, made the finals of both 14U singles events and American Nikil Prasad won the boys 12U in dominant fashion. But the older levels were completely dominated by Mexico and Bolivia.

2018 LPRT Boston Open Preview

The LPRT returns to action this weekend, traveling to Boston for the annual Boston Open. This event has been on the books this Halloween weekend for a few years now and has become a popular LPRT stop.

22 women are entered in the Singles draw, and the draw has some interesting participants and omissions.

Top 10 players missing include #9 Jessica Parrilla (still recovering from knee surgery) and more importantly #10 Ana Gabriele Martinez, who has made two semis in two tournaments this season and misses out on a chance to put herself into the top 8. The only other top 20 players missing are #17 Susy Acosta and #20 Montse Mejia.  (Post-publishing note: its likely that both Martinez and Mejia are missing this event due to its proximity to World Juniors, which starts the following weekend.  Both are favorites in their final juniors appearance to reach the 18U final).

There’s a few interesting “blast from the past” players in this draw; Laura Brandt first appeared on the pro tour in 2005 and plays her second pro event this month.  Jennifer Mayadas-Dering played events in the late 90s into the 2000s, then took 14 years off before re-appearing in pro draws lately. Lastly, four-time tour champ Cheryl Gudinas plays her third straight Boston Open, and for the time being remains tied with Rhonda Rajsich for most ever appearances on the pro tour with 181.

Lets run through the draw and note some possible good matches to watch for:

In the 32s:
– Adrienne Fisher Haynes gets the 4-time former champ Gudinas in the first round. Haynes is 2-16 lifetime versus Gudinas … and those two wins came in their two most recent meetings (in 2012 and 2013).
Cassi Lee faces off against Dering, making for a match-up of two New Yorkers.
– Guatemalan Maria Renee Rodriguez faces off against DC-area native Masiel Rivera Oporto.

In the 16s:
– Bolivian dark-horse player Yazmine Sabja Aliss gets an unlucky early match-up with #1 Paola Longoria. Sabja is a dangerous player who can hang with nearly every player in the world … but I think she’ll be hard-pressed to pull off an upset of this magnitude here.
– In the 8/9 seed, a South American battle between Colombian Amaya Cris and Argentinian Natalia Mendez.
– Representatives of these two countries will also battle in the bottom half of hte draw, when Colombian Adriana Riveros and Argentinian Maria Jose Vargas meet.

Possible  Quarters:

– Longoria should handle Mendez.
– A highly interesting all-Mexico quarter final between Nancy Enriquez and Alexandra Herrera awaits; Enriquez has been upset in both LPRT events this season by the same (missing) player in Martinez; now she has a path to the semis against a player who she has beaten. Herrera leads the h2h on tour 2-1 but they havn’t played in more than a year.
Samantha Salas faces off against Vargas; a few years ago Vargas seemed like she was perched to take over the #2 spot on tour (and in fact did in 2015). But she’s been hit and miss this season while Salas has come back energized from her injury last season.
– Dr to be Frederique Lambert is set to take on the legend Rajsich in the last quarter.

Projected Semis: Longoria, Enriquez, Salas and Lambert.

My predicted final: Longoria over Salas.

US Open LPRT Pro Singles Semis Review, Finals preview

We’re to the finals of the Pro singles draws. Lets review the semis, which together went according to prediction but also were surprising.

On the Women’s side,
– #1 Paola Longoria blasted #12 Gaby Martinez 5,0,3 to leave no doubt about who is the current top-dog in the sport. Longoria advances to the final in pursuit of her 9th US Open title.

– #3 Samatha Samantha Salas Solis left no doubt about who the 2nd best player on tour is, advancing past current #2 Frederique Lambert in 3 games. It likely takes the first half of this season for Salas to make up the points gap, but she’s well on her way to regaining her #2 ranking on tour.

So we get the expected final; the 47th LPRT meeting between doubles partners Longoria and Salas. Longoria leads the series 43-3 (https://bit.ly/2QAnMBA) and its a stretch to predict anything but another US Open title for Paola.

US Open LPRT Singles 32 and 16 review, Quarters Preview

Here’s a review of Thursday LPRT singles action and a preview of Friday’s quarters.

LPRT round of 32 surprises:

– Argentinian Maria Jose Vargas (the #7 seed) was upset in the 32s, losing to Bolivian veteran international player Jenny Daza Navia.
– Brenda Laime Jalil got an upset win over American Sheryl Lotts in 4.
– #4 Alexandra Herrera was stretched as far as you can go by Michelle De La Rosa , winning 12-10 in the 5th. These two spent an awful long time on the court; the first game was 16-14 and two other games went “extra time.” Tough match.
Montserrat Perez came from 2 games down to upset #14 Adrienne Fisher Haynes.
Ana Laura Flores got a upset win over #15 Susy Acosta in 4.
– Bolivian star Yazmine Sabja took out #10 Carla Muñoz Montesinos in 5 games, opening a pathway to the quarters.
– #1 Paola Longoria put two donuts on Erika Manilla … then was stretched to 13-11 in game three to advance by the odd-looking score of 0,0,11.

LPRT round of 16 notables:
Ana Gabrielle Gaby Martinez had a much easier time with Enriquez this time around, advancing in four (they went 12-10 in the 5th earlier this season).
– Herrera rebounded from nearly being upset in the 32s to advance past Laime in 4.
– Mexican junior phenom Montse Mejia took a game off the #1 Longoria before the champ advanced in 4.
– In a battle of Bolivians, Sabja downed country-mate Daza in a battle of upset seeds to advance to the quarters.

Quarterfinals Preview: don’t forget to run my LPRT top 20 Head to Head matrix to see the “Tale of the Tape” match-up reports for these matches

– #1 Longoria v #8 Natalia Mendez: Longoria 2-0 lifetime on LPRT against Natalia and does not seem likely to fall at this stage.
– #12 Martinez v #4 Herrera: Martinez is the underdog here by seed, but has been on a tear lately and is the favorite to advance.
– #3 Salas v #6 Rhonda Rajsich: Salas is just 6-11 lifetime against Rhonda, but has one 4 of the last 6 meetings on the LPRT. Salas has nearly completed her comeback from surgery last season and is the favorite to advance here.
– #2 Frederique Lambert vs #23 Sabja; They’ve met twice; once in an IRF event, once last year on the LPRT. Sabja took both. I sense her continuing her upset streak at this event. Sabja in 4.