In addition to the huge International Racquetball Tour draw in NY this weekend, there’s also a big LPRT draw AND a solid mixed doubles events combining both pro tours for just the 3rd time in the last few seasons (that i can see).
Lets preview the ladies singles draw. 21 ladies present, including 14 of the top 15 ranked players (only missing the newly-retired Gaby Martinez, who still sits in the top 10 from results earlier this season) are here and the draw is solid.
Qualifying/round of 32 matches to watch: – #16 Montse Mejia vs #17 Hollie Rae Scott; an interesting match between the reigning 18U junior world champ and the reigning USA RacquetballIntercollegiates champ. Mejia is favored here but Scott has wins over top 10 players in the past and won’t go easily. – #20 Maricruz Ortiz, a finalist in the World 16U juniors in 2018 and who just represented Costa Rica at the 2019 PARCs, faces off against #13 LPRT touring regular Cassie Lee. – In the 15/18 match, 18yr old Ana Laura Flores takes on Ceci Orozco Pratt, an infrequent but long-time LPRT player.
– #8 Frederique Lambert vs #9 Adriana Riveros; newly minted MD Lambert returns to the pro tour fold having shedded a ton of points as she finished off medical school. Lest anyone forget, Lambert was the #2 player on tour in both of the last two seasons … so she’s a threat to win whenever she plays. But how rusty is she? I think she advances here.
– #3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada vs #14 Yazmine Sabja Aliss; they’ve only played twice, both in the back end of IRF tourneys in 2018. Vargas held serve to top Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol to win the 2018 South American Games, then beat her again in the quarters of 2018 Worlds. Both native Bolivians, they meet in NY where Vargas has been playing really solid lately and advances.
– #6 Natalia Mendez vs #11 Masiel Rivera Oporto; Rivera has been playing well this season, making a quarter in her home country Bolivian Open. Natalia Mendez Erlwein has been pretty consistently advancing to pro tournament quarters and had a great run at the PARCs, making the semis.
Projected Quarters; this is almost identical to last weekend’s Quarters, with only Lambert replacing Amaya.
– #1 Longoria over #8 Lambert: well, if Longoria wants this event, she’ll be earning it, facing last year’s 2nd best player here in the quarters. That being said, Longoria is 26-1 career on the LPRT over Lambert, so she likely moves on here. – #5 Rhonda Rajsich over #4 Alexandra Herrera ; despite their seeds, Rajsich has never lost to Herrera (9-0 lifetime) and held on for a 5-game marathon win last weekend. I think she makes it 10-0 here. – #3 Vargas over #6 Mendez: Argentina’s #1 and #2, long-time doubles partners, and now facing each other for the fourth time in the last six weeks. Vargas should triumph again. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis over #7 Nancy Enriquez; they met in the quarters last week, a 3-game win for Solis who improved to 7-1 career on LPRT over Enriquez and should advance here again.
Semis and Finals: I’m predicting the exact same results as San Antonio; Longoria over Rajsich, Salas over Vargas, and for the 7th time this season a final featuring Longoria and Salas.
Congrats to your 2019 Mexican National Team, set to represent Mexico at both the International Racquetball Federation – IRF major events this year: – Men Singles Finalists: Alejandro Landa & Alvaro Beltran – Women Singles finalists: Montserrat Mejia & Paola Longoria – Men’s Doubles champions: Rodrigo Montoya & Javier Mar – Women’s Doubles champions: Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas
In the 32s…there were no major upsets, no amazing #32 over #1 upsets like we’ve seen in the past. Best matches of the round: – Jaime Martell Neri topped Eduardo Lalo Portillo with a solid 10,7 win to avenge a h2h loss at Monterrey mid last year. – Alvaro Beltran cruised by Polo Polito Gutierrez 4,13 to avoid an early upset. – Gerardo Franco Gonzalez got a solid win, topping the hot Ernesto Ochoa 13,10 for the upset by seed, if perhaps not by talent.
In the 16s… – #1 seed Daniel De La Rosa overcame a slow start to get past Rodolfo Esparza 12,8. – 2-time WRT champ #9 seed Alejandro Alex Cardona pasted Sebastian Fernandez 6,4 to advance to the quarters. This result surprised me; usually 8/9 match-ups are close, and Fernandez has a number of solid showings on tour lately while Cardona has stepped back a bit from touring … but this is a dominant win. – Former world #1 Alex Landacruised by the over-seededChristian Longoria9,6 to setup an excellent quarters match with Mar. – #4 Seed Javier Mar blew out #13 seeded Martell in the first, but then it turned into the close match we expected and he held on for the win 2,(14), 7 – #14 Beltran, as under-seeded in this draw as Landa, was calm and collected while controlling his match against #3 Andree Parrilla, advancing in two games that probably weren’t as close as the scores suggest (8,13). – #22 seed Gerardo Franco beat #6 seed Javier Estrada 11-10 in a marathon match that featured the players diving on nearly every point. Two really solid wins in a row for Franco here over two solid players. – #10 seed Alan Natera Chavez saved match point against and advanced over #7 seeded Edson Martinez in another 2-hour marathon (9),14,6. – Reigning World Champ and #2 seed Rodrigo Montoya Solis raced past the veteran Javier Moreno 3,4.
Quarter final seeds: #1, #2, #4 … then #9, #10, #12, #14, and #22. When 5 of your top 8 seeds fall, you know the seeds were out of whack.
In the Quarters: – #1 DLR had to work for it, topping #9 Cardona in a drawn-out tiebreaker. Final score: 12,(13),3. A solid tourney for Cardona, who has really limited his tourney playing schedule lately but looked great this weekend. – #12 Landa played a complete game and advanced over #4 seed Javier Mar in two straight games. Landa was in control throughout, was playing his typical crisp shots and Mar could do little to turn the tides. I predicted Landa to fall at this gate, the third tourney in a row where i’ve called for his upset early. From now on, i’ll take the opposite of what I think for Landa predictions 🙂 – #14 Beltran played his typical controlled match and outlasted #22 Gerardo Franco 8,13. Beltran has really played well so far this event, playing smart, controlling racquetball and outlasting younger and (perhaps) better players. – In the upset of the event, #10 Natera topped #2 seed and presumptive favorite to return to the finals for the 3rd major Mexican Singles event in a row Rodrigo Montoya 9,9. This marks the second National singles finals in a row that Natera has made the semis in, both times as a drastic underdog and with significant wins over major players. If you’ve never heard of Natera it is understandable; he has yet to play in a single IRT event.
Montoya’s loss means that Mexico will have a new singles representative in this year’s PanAms/Pan Am Games, and that Montoya will not have a chance to defend his 2018 World title in the next set of international events.
So your semis are #1, … and #10, #12 and #14 seeds. Mexican Nats always seems to bring out the upsets.
In the Semis… – #12 Landa was in control from the start and never seemed in jeopardy of losing to his long-time rival #1 De La Rosa, hitting shot after shot and advancing 11,10. Landa improves to 7-5 in all top-level competitions against DLR. Landa returns to the finals for the first time since 2017, and returns to the Mexican National team for the first time since he won the 2017 PARC tournament. – #14 Beltran dominated his semis match against upset-minded #10 Natera, advancing to his first Mexican final since 2015. This will also be the first time he has represented Mexico in singles since that 2015 year, where he made the quarters of PARC and the finals of the Pan Am Games.
So the final ends up being the #12 and #14 seeds, ironically the two players I called out as being most under-seeded in this event in the preview. Coincidentally, if you’re wondering how i’d have seeded this draw, I’d have gone DLR, Montoya, Landa, Parrilla, Beltran, Mar, Cardona, Natera. Maybe we’d still have the same final, maybe not. The top three guys in Mexican racquetball all seem capable of beating each other week in, week out.
In the Final, Landa controlled his long-time rival Beltran, dominating in the final for (what I believe is) his first Mexican National title 8,7.
In the 16s… a couple of notable matches: – #9 Ana Laura Flores raced past #8 seed Erin Rivera 11,3. – In her return to the court after 8 months off, #5 Jessica Leona Parrilla split two games with her fellow LPRT touring pro (and drastically under-seeded) Alexandra Herrera before running out of gas and falling in a tie-breaker 13,(11),0. – #13 Montserrat Perez waxed #4 Diana Aguilar 10,3, and in doing so confirmed that the 5/12 and 4/13 match-ups probably should have been reversed seed-wise
In the Quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria dominated the youngster lefty #9 Flores 7,2 – #12 Herrera cruised past #13 Perez in two 11,5 – #6 Monste Montse Mejia got one of the best wins of her career, coming back from a game down to move past #3 Nancy Enriquez (10),4,6. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis advanced past the veteran #7 Susana Acosta in two 7,2
So your semis seeds are #1, #2, #6 and #12. Not too bad, since the #12 seed probably should have been the #4 seed.
In the Semis, we saw a couple of regular LPRT match-ups: – #1 Longoria waxed #12 Herrera 4,3. They’ve played 12 times (10 times on the LPRT) and Longoria has now won all 12. Longoria returns to the Mexican National team in search of extending her current IRF title record of 17 international titles. She’ll get two more shots in 2019. – #6 Mejia got her second major upset in a row, downing #2 Salas in relative ease 11,4. This was a rematch of last year’s quarters, a close Salas win, and now Mejia has earned her first Adult national team appearance.
In the Final, Mejia shocked the racquetball world and took out the world #1 Longoria in two games 8,14. She accomplished the unique task of defeating the #1, #2 and #3 players in the draw on the weekend, and now holds simultaneously both the Adult and 18U Mexican National titles.
A huge upset in the semis, when the #4 team of Landa/Cardona upset the reigning pro and world champion #1 seeded team of DLR/Beltran, knocking them out of the international events for 2019. On the other side, the #2 team of Montoya/Mar fought off the tough #3 team of Parrilla/Martinez to play for the National team berth.
In the final: the two teams traded games before Montoya/Mar caught fire in the tie-breaker to win 11-0 and clinch their first national doubles title and berths in Columbia & Peru later this year.
The semis went according to seeding, though the #2 team of Longoria/Salas was taken to tiebreaker by the young Rivera/Perez team before advancing. The #1 defending champs Herrera//Mejia fought off the #4 team of Parrilla/Enriquez 11,12 to advance to the final to defend their title and national team berth.
In that final, Longoria/Salas got revenge for last year’s finals defeat and took out the #1 seeds 13,5 to clinch the IRF berths for 2019.
This is the singular tournament (at least as far as I read the website) that will determine Mexico’s team that will play both the Pan Am Racquetball championships in Columbia in April and the Pan Am Games in Peru in August. Both singles finalists and the winning doubles team will represent the country. So this is a pretty big event for Mexican players.
———————– This is one of my favorite tourneys of the year to cover. We generally get the full force of the current state of Mexican racquetball in one place, all competing to represent the country at future International Racquetball Federation – IRF events. It isn’t like International Racquetball Tour events, where several of the top Mexican players rarely play, and it isn’t like the World Racquetball Tour where the top Mexicans committed to the IRT cannot play. Its everybody.
The Men’s draw features 34 players this year, and it is a who’s who of Mexican male singles players. The only men missing from my personal top 50 I see are Eduardo & Rodrigo Garay and Jordy Alonso. Even Javier Moreno came out of “retirement” to play the singles draw.
As always with Mexican National events, I find myself questioning the seeding. The Men’s draw is seeded 1-4 DLR, Montoya, Parrilla, Mar, which is fine and defend-able based on talent, past results and the RKT rankings. But 5-8 goes Longoria, Estrada, Martinez and Fernandez. That is the 11th, 9th, 13th and 7th ranked players by RKT. Meanwhile clearly superior players like Landa and Beltran are in the teens, and other players currently in RKT top 8 are nowhere to be found. This really makes no sense to me. And, it makes for unfair matches early on. And, I’d like to point out, it goes directly against the claim on the FMR website that they use the RKT rankings for “seeding of nationals.”
The Women’s draw is similarly stacked; it features every LPRT touring professional ranked in the top 30. The big news is the return to the court of Jessica Leona Parrilla, who has been recovering from injury since damaging her knee ligaments last June. She’s back after “only” 8 months recovery, so I’d temper expectations, but she is playing doubles with her regular partner Nancy Enriquez (who she was on the court with competing when she injured herself). The seeding is more or less accurate, with a couple of oddities: why is Herrera, current ranked 3rd in the world, seeded 12th?? And, i’m not sure how Diana Aguilar is seeded 4th. But lets move on.
———————– Here’s a preview of the Men’s Singles Draw:
In the 32s, matches to look for: – Right out of the gate, #1 seed Daniel De La Rosa gets a solid match, going up against accomplished junior Juan Loreto (if Loreto can win the play-in of course). – The best round of 32 match projects to be Eduardo Lalo Portillo vs Jaime Martell Neri. Both players are relatively under-seeded (13th and 20th) based on their accomplishments (world 18U junior reigning champ and current WRT #1). In talent rankings i’ve got these two neck and neck; this should be a really entertaining match. – Another too-early match-up of talented veterans is the 14/19 match-up between Alvaro Beltran and Polo Polito Gutierrez. This was the Mexican National singles FINAL in 2014, and now its a round of 32 match. They’ve met 7 times that I have in the databases, and Beltran has won every time. Polo has essentially retired from pro playing at this point, while Beltran continues to tour and make the back ends of IRT events. I’m going with Beltran here. – Ernesto Ochoa vs Gerardo Franco Gonzalez. Another excellent 1st round match-up between two talented players. I have Franco slightly higher in my personal rankings, but believe Ochoa can win this and advance based on his past results. This will be a dog-fight.
In the 16s, the match-ups get even better: – #8 Sebastian Fernandez vs #9 Alejandro Alex Cardona. Two-time WRT champ Cardona has really slowed down his tourney schedule lately, with just a handful of events in the last two years. Meanwhile Fernandez has rebounded from his 18U World junior finals loss to get some really solid wins on the IRT. I favor Fernandez slightly, though wouldn’t be surprised at all if Cardona went on a run. – #12 Alejandro Alex Landafaces #5 Christian Longoria, in a case where really the two seeds should have been switched. Longoria is a solid young player, but should prove no match for two-time IRT tourney winner Landa. – #4 Javier Mar vs #13 Portillo: Assuming Lalo gets by Martell, the enigmatic Mar awaits. Mar entered the 2018 Mexican Nationals as the defending champ and #1 seed … and was promptly beaten in the round of 32. In more recent events he played Kane Waselenchuk as tough as he’s been played lately, losing at the US Open 12,10 and won the 2019 Longhorn Open. Mar and Portillo have met a couple times in top-level events … but they’re long enough ago that they’re relatively meaningless. Portillo should give Mar a run for his money but should fall here. – #3 Andree Parrilla vs #14 Beltran; another too-early match-up of (arguably) two of the best six players in this draw. Parrilla has been on fire this season in the IRT, projecting to easily finish in the top 8. Beltran meanwhile keeps hanging on and is also holding onto that top 8 ranking. They’ve met 7 times in my database: Beltran holds the advantage 4-3 AND won their most recent meeting … but this seems like a Parrilla win. I sense that Beltran’s much more interested in winning the doubles at this event and may be distracted in singles. – #6 Javier Estrada vs #11 Ochoa; this could be an awesome match: I have these two neck and neck in my personal rankings. Ochoa has wins in the last year over Parrilla, Beltran and Mar, and was beating Montoya in Sonora when Montoya went down with injury. Estrada meanwhile has wins over Landa, Beltran, Cardona, and has played Montoya tough. Both players have the capability to win a stacked event … but only one can advance. Advantage slightly to Estrada here. – #10 Alan Natera Chavez vs #7 Edson Martinez; Natera came out of nowhere as the #32 seed in last year’s event to advance to the semis, beating Mar, Longoria and Franco along the way. Martinez was a semi finalist in this event in both 2014 and 2015, but has not come close to repeating that performance since. I give the edge to Natera here. – #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solis should advance easily over #18 Javier Moreno.
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 DLR over #8 Fernandez: they play similar games … but DLR plays it a lot better right now. – #4 Mar vs #12 Landa: This is a rematch of the 2017 Mexican Men’s final, won by Mar in a tiebreaker 11-7. Its the only time i’ve got these two playing in the database. Since ascending to #1 on the IRT, Landa has struggled; in 5 IRT events this season he’s got two semis, two quarters and one round of 16 loss (to Montoya in a tough seeding match-up). Landa also has a recent history of getting upset early in these events: he lost in the 16s of this event last year to Martell, and in the 16s of the Worlds selection event last June to Estrada. I’m going with Mar here, but it’ll be a marathon. – #3 Parrilla takes out #6 Estrada; I like Estrada’s game, but don’t think he can match-up with the grinding capabilities of Parrilla. – #2 Montoya takes out #10 Natera. Same story; while I like where Natera’s game is, Montoya is one of the sport’s elites right now.
Semis: – DLR over Mar: this would be a rematch of the 2016 Mexican Nationals final, a straight-forward two game win by DLR. Mar may play with more power, but DLR can and will out control the match throughout, and can match Mar shot for shot. For Mar to win this game, he needs to be more perfect than DLR typically is. – Montoya over Parrilla; these two have plenty of experience playing each other; they’re the same age, and battled all throughout juniors. On the adult/pro stage, this is a rematch of last year’s semis (a 2-game Montoya win). Montoya leads h2h over time and has won the last couple times they’ve played, and advances here.
Final: DLR beats Montoya. A rematch of both the 2018 Mexican Nationals final (a Montoya win), the 2018 Mexican Worlds selection event (a DLR win), and more recently, the semis of the 2019 IRT Lewis Drug Pro-Am event (a DLR blow-out win), these two continue to show why they’re the top two seeds. The problem is … no matter who wins this final, both players advance to the international events, so sometimes we see players cruise through the final knowing they’ve guaranteed their national team spots. This could especially be the case here, since both of these players project to make the doubles finals and have the chance to double-represent the country. I think, when the chips are down, DLR is the better player and his on-the-court results generally prove it.
———————– Here’s a preview of the Women’s Singles Draw and matches to look for.
In the 16s, we have tough matches right out of the gate: – In the 8/9: two young players face off in Ana Laura Flores and Erin Rivera. Flores still has a year in 18U (I believe), while Rivera made the finals of Mexican 18U in 2018 in her last year of competition. When Rivera couldn’t travel to 2018 junior worlds, Flores took her place and made it to the semis. But I don’t have them ever having played in my records. I’ll go with Flores, based on her recent LPRT wins. – #5 Parrilla vs #12 Alexandria Herrera: poor seeding makes a semis-quality match-up happen here, even more unfortunate for Parrilla in her first event back. Herrera has gotten the better of Parrilla on the pro tour the last couple times they’ve played and I’ll favor her in this match as well. – #4 Diana Aguilar vs #13 Montserrat Perez: perhaps a reader can help here: how exactly is Aguilar seeded 4th here? I don’t have her entered into a Mexican National singles event since 2014. Is this a typo and should be Delia Aguilar? I’m not sure who wins this match: both players are young and seem to be in the same age group; they’ve met for the finals of multiple Mexican junior championships, always won by Aguilar, so I’ll give her the nod here.
In the quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria faces the lefty Flores and should advance easily. – #12 Herrera should overpower the youngster Aguilar. – #3 Nancy Enriquez faces #6 Montse Mejia in an interesting battle of youth and experience. Mejia, the reigning 18u Mexican and junior world champ, has not played since her Nov 2018 worlds triumph. Meanwhile, Enriquez has been busy making the back ends of LPRT events. Mejia has shown she can take games off of the world’s best; can she string together a complete match against a tough player? I’ll give Enriquez the edge in a tiebreaker. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis faces off against long time adversary Susana Susy Acosta. This is a rematch of the semis of the 2016 Nationals, a Salas win then, and another in this event.
Projected Semis: – Longoria over Herrera: this is a rematch of last year’s semis too. They’ve met 11 times in all formats, all 11 Paola wins. – Salas over Enriquez: this would also be a rematch of last year’s semis. Enriquez does have some wins over Salas in their career (she topped Samantha for the 2005 Junior world title for example), but Salas has dominated otherwise.
Finals: Longoria over Salas. They’ve met 58 times across pro tours, Mexican national events that I have records for, and international events. Longoria is 55-3 in that time. These two have also met in 5 of the 6 LPRT pro events so far this season … all Paola wins as well. Its possible Salas pulls the upset, but not likely. Look for Paola to take her 6th Mexican national singles title (that we have records for … she likely has many more but we have no records for anything prior to 2014. If you’re reading this FMR; i’d love to get access to your past records and enter them into the PRS database!)
———————– They’re also playing doubles in Chihuahua with all the best teams playing together. Here’s how I think they’ll end up.
Men’s Doubles: 15 teams battling it out, but its hard not to go with 1 vs 2 again, in a rematch of last year’s Nationals final. The DLR/Beltran team is the best in the world and have proven it time and again (at the US Open, at Worlds, etc). The #2 seed Mar/Montoya is no slouch though, and they’ll both have their hands full with excellent #3 and #4 teams in Parrilla/Martinez and Landa/Cardona respectively.
Javier Moreno, who holds the Men’s record for most international doubles titles, is not entered, so he does not have an opportunity to extend that record 🙂
Women’s Doubles: the dominant team of Longoria/Salas was upset in the final of the 2018 worlds selection event and hence are the #2 seeds here. I wouldn’t count on another upset. I think Longoria/Salas take this draw, beating all comers. The interesting part may be their finals opponents: Parrilla/Enriquez were beating the #1 seeded Herrera/Mejia team in last year’s selection event before defaulting due to Parrilla’s injury; if Parrilla can compete, this may result in a new finals pair.
(Notable; there was not a 2018 National doubles final in the database for Mexico … the event was cancelled/not held during last year’s nationals).
——————- Phew, that’s it for the preview. Can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
With this win, Paola extends some current personal records: – This is her 88th win in the PRS database – She extends her current match winning streak to 29 – She makes it 6 wins out of 6 tournaments on the season. – She’s built a nearly insurmountable lead over #2 Salas for the current season rankings, leading her by near 900 rankings points.
Here’s a review of the draw, highlighting notable results by round:
In the 32s; – Kelani Lawrence got a solid win over LPRT touring vet Maria Renee Rodríguez in four games. – Natalia Mendez took out Mary Mary Dee Kirchoff in three straight; this was a notable match up in that Kirchoff is literally three times Mendez’ age. Bravo for still competing in your 60s on tour. – Youngster Ana Laura Flores took out veteran Susy Acosta in four close games. – Biggest upset of the round: collegiate player Hollie Rae Scott took out the 39 seed Cristina Amaya 12-10 in the 5th. Career win for Scott.
In the 16s, mostly chalk and easy wins for the top seeds, but a couple of matches worth noting. – #5 Rhonda Rajsich had to face her doubles partner in Sheryl Lotts and won in three games. (Sheryl went on to take the Women’s Open draw 11-10 in a thrilling tiebreaker win over Amaya). – #3 Alexandra Herrera was donuted in the second game against Lawrence …then donuted her right back and won by the unique scores of 8,(0),0,8. Its not often you see someone both give and take a donut in a match. – But the big upset of the round was #10 Adriana Riveros taking out #7 Natalia Mendez 11-7 in the breaker.
In the Quarters… – #1 Paola Longoria advanced in 3 games over the woman who vanquished her in last year’s worlds final Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez 8,8,6. This is the third time they’ve met on tour this year, all 3 game wins for the champ. Longoria improves to 15-1 career h2h over Martinez in all competitions, making last year’s worlds final look like the aberration, not the predictor. – #4 Maria Jose Vargas took revenge over last tourney’s loss to Rajsich, beating her in four games to take the slim lead in their h2h matchups. – #6 Nancy Enriquez advanced to just her 3rd career semi-final with a come-from-behind win over #3 Herrera. Enriquez dropped the first two games, then blitzed by Herrera in games four and five, 2 and 1 respectively to advance. – #3 Samantha Salas Solis fought off the upset-minded Riveros 6,9,4 to try to continue her finals streak on tour this season.
In the semis… – #1 Longoria improved to 31-1 all time in all competitions over Vargas, though she had to come from a game down to do it. – #2 Salas improved to 6-2 all time in all competitions over Enriquez, but not without having to work for it, coming from 2-1 games down to win in a tiebreaker.
In the final: – Longoria improved to 55-3 all time over her doubles partner Salas with a relatively straight forward 1,2,6 three game win. Salas never seemed like she was a threat to Longoria on this day, leaving opportunities up and quickly becoming frustrated with her opponent’s consistency.
———————- In doubles, Longoria made it a double, winning the doubles title with her finals opponent Salas over the Argentine national doubles team of Vargas/Mendez.
As with Singles, Paola has now won all 6 pro doubles events this season, 5 of them with Salas. Longoria improves to 109-5 in pro doubles since we started tracking it in 2013, winning 38 of the 43 doubles events she’s now entered.
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 Ráquetboldid 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.
—————————- 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.
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.
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.
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 Iwaasain 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.
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.
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.
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.
– #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.
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 .
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.
Lets recap the event, which may have had a “normal” final but definitely featured some upsets and big wins.
Notables missing: #3 Jessica Leona Parrilla , who suffered a knee ligament injury at Mexican Nationals over the summer and looks to miss a sizable chunk of this season. Other Notable top 20 players include #13 Sheryl Lotts (probably exhausted from her trip to Worlds), #19 Jenny Daza Navia (also a busy international player this summer), and #20 Eleni Guzman Velgis .
In the play-ins/Round of 32, some surprise results:
– Mexican youngster Diana Aguilar surprised Chilean #1 Carla Muñoz Montesinos, coming back from 2 games down to win in the 5th. Aguilar was looking like “the next big thing” a few years ago, winning two consecutive 16U World Championships in 2013 and 2014 before dropping off the Juniors radar, playing just one more time in any Junior tournament. Now 21, she has played just one pro tournament in the past three years; lets hope this is the start of a come-back.
– Another young Mexican player Montserrat Perez (who was the same year as Aguilar coming up), also pulled off a nice upset win over a tough veteran player in Guatemalan Marie Renee Rodriguez, coming back from 2-1 games down to also win in the 5th 11-9. Its the second time she’s taken out Rodriguez in as many appearances on the tour, the last time coming in April 2018 in San Antonio.
In the 16s…
– #13 seed Ana Gabrielle Gaby Martinez continued her great summer of 2018 and upset #4 seeded Rhonda Rajsich in four. Martinez is looking more and more like one of the top 2-3 players in the world based on results this summer, and she got a statement win here.
– Ana Laura Flores, who is in her age 17 season (!), got a walkover win in the 32s then promptly defeated #6 Natalia Mendez 12-10 in the fifth. Mendez had an amazing Worlds run and was my choice to make the semis here; instead Flores gets easily the best win of her career and makes her first pro quarterfinal. Add her name to the list of amazing Mexican juniors
making waves on the world scene.
– Samantha Salas Solis continued her climb back up the rankings post-injury with a tough win over #7 seed Cris Amaya, taking a brutal 5 game match.
– Longoria advanced past Maria Jose Vargas in three straight 0,4,4. Vargas still has not beaten Longoria on the pro tour (she’s now 0-22 lifetime) but had some success in IRF events this summer (winning the South American games) and is looking (like Salas) to rebuild ranking points after an absence from the tour.
– Martinez’s run continues with a fantastic come from behind win over Nancy Enriquez, 12-10 in the 5th. Martinez was down 2 games to 0 and was just a couple points from elimination before coming all the way back.
– Salas trounced Lambert in a match-up of the 2nd and 3rd best players on tour right now, making a statement about how the tour rankings may eventually look at the end of this season.
The Semis featured two rather anti-climactic results, with Longoria geting revenge for her World’s loss with a 3-game easy win over Martinez, while Salas advanced easily over her country-mate Alexandra Herrera.
The final was the 46th ever pro meeting between doubles partners Longoria and Salas … and Longora won for the 43rd time 7,1,3 to capture the title.
In the doubles event, Paola Longoria made it a double on the weekend, taking the doubles title with Partner Salas in a rematch of the Mexican Worlds selection event from earlier this year. They defeated Herrera/Mejia 10,9 in the final.