IRT 2020 Longhorn Open Preview

Moscoso is back in the States. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

One of the sports biggest amateur events has added the IRT men to its slate of competitors, making for a massive tournament in Austin this coming weekend. No less than 457 players are entered into this weekend’s Longhorn Open, with a healthy 39-man pro draw.

The IRT returns to the state of Texas for the first time since March of 2018 … and to Austin for the first time since Feb 2003. Its also the first time the tour’s #1 player Kane Waselenchuk has been able to play a “home” event since Oct 2015.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31338

In the 39 man singles draw, we have the hoped-for strong Mexican player contingent, which is going to make for some *great* preliminary rounds and some fascinating match-ups. We are missing some key names though from the draw:
– #3 Rocky Carson announced on FB last week that he’s decided to skip this event to give his surgically repaired knee a bit more time to heal. He had a small knee op done in mid-Dec and isn’t quite ready to go yet.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís also missing.

These two absences jump #10 Lalo Portillo into the top 8 … and then thanks to the flip seeding this event he secures a lofty #6 seed. FYI, in case you’re wondering why the 5-8 seeds look odd, the flip seeding has resulted in slightly altered seedings versus rankings this event:
– #5 seeded Samuel Murray is ranked 8th at current
– #6 seeded Portillo is ranked 10th as noted above
– #7 seeded Daniel De La Rosa is ranked 6th at current
– #8 seeded Conrrado Moscoso is ranked 7th at current.

The more apparent and obvious implication of the flip is the possible Moscoso-Waselenchuk match-up in the quarters.

Other top 30 players missing in this event are #18 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez, #27 Sam Bredenbeck and #29 Jansen Allen, the longtime touring pro who misses an event that’s drive-able from his home outside of Dallas.

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

In the round of 128:
– #32 vs #33: Christian Longoria vs Andres Gomez; tough first rounder for the Colombian; Longoria is sneaky good and could be pressing for a main draw spot.
– #28 Justus Benson vs #37 Diana-Shai Manzuri; Manzuri continues to represent Argentina internationally well into his 40s, and will be a tough out for the regular tour player Benson. A home-state match-up for two Texas residents.
– #26 Kadim Carrasco vs #39 Edson Martinez: Martinez is seeded 39th of 39 players here, but he’s not the 39th best player in this draw. He’s made the quarters of this event twice in the last three years (albeit, when it was an WRT event). This could be a close match.

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In the round of 64:
– #33 Longoria vs #17 Robert Collins; Collins just misses out on the bye into the 32s, and may run into a player who can top him in Longoria.
– #20 Javier Mar vs #29 Alejandro Cardona; what a brutal match for these two. Mar is one of the top 6-7 players in the world, and Cardona isn’t far behind him. This is a quarter-final quality match happening way too early. I like Mar to move on and make a deep run here, as he frequently does during his rare IRT appearances.
– #19 Adam Manilla versus #30 Ernesto Ochoa; a great “show me” match-up between an IRT touring regular and an up and coming Mexican player with a ton of impressive wins on his resume. I like Ochoa for the upset.
– #23 Javier Estrada versus the Carrasco/Martinez winner; Estrada had a number of quality wins in the latter part of 2019, including two wins over Javier Mar. But he’s proven to be inconsistent. His last IRT appearance featured a win over Horn to make the main draw. Can he repeat here?

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Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible matchups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot:
– #9 Jake Bredenbeck vs #24 Alan Natera Chavez; Natera is another wild-card; he’s made the semis of Mexican Nationals two years running and has a ton of high-level wins, but he also can take curious losses. Which Natera will show up here? He can handle Jake’s power for sure; will that be enough? Jake looks to build on a solid pro season so far, which features no main draws missed and a semis appearance in Portland.
– #12 David ” Bobby” Horn vs #21 Jose Diaz; fly all the way to Texas to play the guy who lives down the road. Horn/Diaz know each other’s game pretty well, both being NorCal players frequenting the “209.” Who will have the upper hand on the day? I’m going to flip a coin and go with Diaz.
– #13 Carlos Keller Vargas vs #20 Mar: tough one for Keller; these two met at the US Open and Mar advanced. I think Keller’s streak of making the round of 16 ends here.
– #30 Ochoa vs #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; Ochao downed Franco the last time they played last year in an RKT event; i think he wins again.
– #10 Sebastian Franco vs #23 Estrada: This could be a great match-up; I think these two are pretty close talent wise and if both are on their games, expect a dog-fight. I’ll go with Estrada here.
– #15 Thomas Carter vs #18 Eduardo Garay: Garay if he’s on his game can overpower Carter here, despite the Ohioan’s good play as of late.

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round of 16:
– #1 Kane over Acuna
– #8 Moscoso over #9 Jake
– #5 Samuel Murray over #21 Diaz
– #20 Mar over #4 Alvaro Beltran; Beltran gets one of the few qualifiers who I think can beat him. Mar pipped Beltran in the 2016 Mexican nationals to take a natioanl team spot from him, and since then Mar has continued to exude class.
– #3 Andree Parrilla over #30 Ochao; Ochoa has beaten Parrilla in the past (San Luis Potosi in 2018), but Parrilla needs to take advantage of his seeding to try to make a run to the final. i think he’ll move on here.
– #11 Mario Mercado over #6 Portillo: Portillo has run into talented players and one-and-dones the last two tournaments at this stage, and he runs into another one in Mercado. Mercado has the patience to beat the youngster Portillo and will move on with a tactical approach.
– #23 Estrada over #7 Daniel De La Rosa: I don’t think DLR’s heart is in it right now; i think he’s vulnerable to upset and a fired up guy like Estrada, who beat DLR the last time they played, could spell a one-and-done for the pickleball pro.
– #2 Alex Landa vs #18 Garay: Garay’s power won’t phase Landa, who’s putting together his best season and has shown little in the way of cracks in the armor.

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Projected Qtrs:
– #1 Kane vs #8 Moscoso: the US Open final rematch, a scintillating match on the sport’s biggest stage that showed the world what we could be in store for, if only the Bolivian played the tour full time. They met a few weeks later in teh semis of Arizona and Kane issued a schooling 10,2. What may happy here? Has Conrrado fixed his foot fault issues? Can he press the King?
– #20 Mar over #5 Murray; they’ve played a few times, and I don’t think Mar has ever lost to the Canadian #1.
– #3 Parrilla over #11 Mercado
– #2 Landa over #23 Estrada; Estrada’s magic runs out, though notably i don’t have a meeting between these two in the database. Would love to see these two face off.

Semis and Finals:
– Kane over Mar
– Landa over Parrilla

Finals; Kane over Landa.

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No pro doubles this event, but the Men’s Open is a full 32 strong, headlined by a slew of touring players. Since Portillo is ranked outside the top 10, he’s “allowed” to enter the Men’s Open draw despite being the 6th pro seed, and he’s the favorite in that draw. But there’s a slew of top local and Mexican players also in that draw, making it as compelling to the neutrals as the pro draw.

I also wanted to point out that there’s 52 players in the Men’s A draw. 52. There weren’t 52 combined men in Open, Elite AND A at the 2019 US Nationals event. Its no wonder the USAR is moving its Nationals event to this part of the country.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; can’t wait for this event!

International Racquetball Tour
USA Racquetball
Racquetball Canada
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Racquetball Colombia
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball

IRT Men’s Qualifying wrap-up and round of 32 preview

Jaime Martel lis the higest seeded player to qualify for the 2019 main draw. Photo via Roby Partovich/US Open 2015

We’re down to the top 32, having played 2-3 rounds of qualifiers Wednesday to whittle the field from 94.

here’s the matches I found notable or upset-worthy from Wednesday’s marathon qualifying.

In the 256s:
– fellow Virginian Rich Benderoth took a tiebreaker win over Erik Solter. Shout out to Rich, who regularly spanked me a decade ago when I used to actually play this sport. Unfortunately he injured himself in the process and forfeited his next round.

– USA 18U junior Lucas Shoemaker gets a win in his professional debut, downing Bolivian Vladimir Fernando Salas in a tie-breaker.

– Colorado native Jacob Kingsford gets a win in his debut pro/national level event over Ecuadorian Fabian Cuesta].

– An intra-Dallas inter-generational battle was taken by the veteran; Diana-Shai Manzuri took out Lukas Le 5,6 to advance.

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In the 128s:
– Andrew Gale took out IRT regular Nick Riffel in a tie-breaker; very solid win for the veteran player Gale, who first played in the US Open in 2006.

– Francisco Reyes took out IRT touring regular Justus Benson 6,12.

– Erik Garcia took out the tough Mexican Christian Longoria by the scores of 10,2.

– Troy Warigon dominated rematch of a qualifier in Laurel two weeks ago against Yacouba Keita, advancing by the dominant scores of 3,1.

– Sam Bredenbeck took out Colombian international Andres Gomez in two solid games.

– Sebastian Fernandez himself still an 18U junior, was stretched to a tiebreaker by a fellow Mexican junior (albeit a younger one) in Guillermo Ortega before advancing.

– Pennsylvania amateur Joe Kelley stretched Alan Natera Chavez to a tiebreaker before the Mexican advanced.

– Former top WRT pro Jaime Martell Neri took out 20th ranked Costa Rican Felipe Camacho.

– In a battle of two IRT veterans, Colombian Alejandro Herrera Azcarate took out Japanese legend Hiroshi Shimizu in two close games to advance.

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In the 64s.

– Kansas amateur Bradley Rogers upset the highest ranked player in qualifying, 17th seeded Robert Collins 12,8 to earn a main draw berth. Rogers gets his best win on tour in four years.

– Javier Estrada advanced over Bolivian junior phenom Diego Garcia Quispe, who had to retire mid-game2 with injury. The two were playing close though, with the score 13-14 at the point of injury.

– Javier Mar dominated Ernesto Ochoa 13,5 to advance to the main draw and a meeting with his doubles partner. Tough draw for Ochoa, who was making his IRT Tier 1 debut here after putting up some very impressive results in 2019.

– Bolivian vet Kadim Carrasco was pushed to a tiebreaker by Colombian Set Cubillos Ruiz before advancing.

– Big upset of a dark horse candidate for me: Colombian Francisco Reyes Gomez upset Natera in a tiebreaker to advance. We don’t know much about Reyes; he’s got a few US Open appearances in the past but this is probably his best career win.

– Martel gets a great win to advance into the main draw, topping Garcia 14,6.

– Eduardo Garay Rodriguez held serve and topped MoMo Zelada 11,9 to advance into the main draw.

– Maurice Miller ended Gale’s upset run to qualify.

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now for the 32s. And there’s some amazing matches today. Here’s what i’m looking for:

– #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #33 Estrada: Estrada made a statement at the Black Gold cup, topping 4 top 10 players to take the title. Well, now he can measure up against the worlds best for a status check.

– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #24 Mar: these two ran into each other in the round of 32 at the Syosset open as well; just a function of unlucky seeding. Mar took that last meeting en route to a quarter final appearance. Expect a close match between these doubles partners that know each other’s game pretty well.

– #8 Samuel Murray vs #25 Keller: pay no attention to the seedings here: this is a battle of two evenly matched players. They met in the 16s of the Pan Am Games in Lima, a tie-breaker win for the Canadian. But Keller is no easy out; he’s an experienced, accomplished international player with two PARC titles on his resume

#13 David Horn​ vs #77 Martell; This is an interesting matchup between two long stalwards of the WRT. These two met 9 times on the old WRT, with Horn leading 5-4 h2h but Jaime Martell Racquetball​ taking the most recent meeting (May 2018 in Atlanta). This could go either way; Horn has missed time with an injury this season; is he 100%? He’ll need to be to beat his long time rival. (post-publishing correction; initially I had Martell playing into Landa here; my staging tables were incorrect and hence this correction after publishing).

– #14 Lalo Portillo vs #19 Charlie Pratt; Watch out for the upset here; every time Pratt enters a draw he makes noise. Pratt could lose here to the rapidly improving Portillo, or he could run to the semis. Expect a tactical battle here.

– #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #27 Garay: I like this match; Garay’s power versus DLR’s guile. Daniel won’t be surprised by Garay’s pop; they met in teh 2016 Mexican nationals prior to Garay’s re-flagging and he advanced in a tiebreaker. I like DLR here but I think it goes breaker.

– #10 Mario Mercado vs #23 Sebastian Fernandez; this is a fascinating match-up between Mercado, who despite having (in my opinion) improving results on the court lately is treading water from a rankings perspective thanks to rising pressure of up and coming players, and Fernandez, who seems set to jump straight from 18U into the pro ranks and make a splash. I think this goes down to the wire with the veteran advancing.

– #15 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #18 Andres Acuña; this should be another barn burner; they’ve met four times in IRF junior and senior events and 3 times it has gone breaker. All four are Moscoso wins … but Acuna always make sit hard on the Bolivian number one.

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We’ll circle back for the 16s once the 32s are done.

International Racquetball Tour
Racquetball Canada
UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships

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

IRT Syosset Open Singles Wrap-Up

Kane wins again … and wraps up his 13th pro tour title.

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk, who wins the Syosset Open on the weekend.

With this title:
– Kane’s 116th professional win.
– He improves to 26-2 on the season
– He improves to 76-3 over Rocky, his opponent in the final.
– Most importantly … Kane secures an insurmountable points lead and clinches his 13th pro tour title.

We’ll put up a separate post about the ramifications of this win for the year end’s rankings … this was the final Tier 1 event of the year.

r2sports link for brackets: http://rball.pro/CCDF9D

Match Report in PRS: http://rball.pro/A7214A

Here’s the matches I found notable, by round:

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In the 64s:
– #9 seed Rodrigo Montoya Solis absolutely pasted #41 Alan Natera Chavez2,2. Talk about turning the tables from the last time they played at Nationals.

– Similarly, #24 Javier Mar advanced with relative ease over #25 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez 5,10 to setup a fantastic 32 match up with each other.

– #16 Adam Manilla took out #33 Nick Montalbano with relative ease 5,3. I thought this would be closer, given Montalbano’s results on tour earlier this season.

– #13 David Horn was stretched to an 11-8 tiebreaker win, taking out Marylander #36 Mauricio MoMo Zelada.

– #11 Jose Diaz advanced over Mexican junior #38 Oscar Nieto 13,11. Nieto is playing in his age 18 season but missed last year’s Mexican Junior Nationals after advancing to the 2017 16U Mexican finals (where he lost to Fernandez, also playing here).

– #22 Andres Acuña made fast work of Georgia IRT frequenter #27 Maurice Miller 3,7.

– Teenager #26 Sebastian Fernandez downed #23 Mauro Daniel Rojas with relative ease 10,6. Like with several of these match-ups, I thought this would be closer.

– #42 Andres Gomez upset his fellow Colombian #10 Mario Mercado 11-9, making for another one-and-done for Mercado and likely killing his chances of finishing in the top 10 this season.

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In the 32s.

– Solid win by youngster #17 Lalo Portillo to beat #16 Adam Manilla to advance to the main draw.

– In the match of the round, #9 Montoya was ousted by his good friend and frequent doubles partner #24 Mar 12,7. Both games were neck and neck up to a point, and then featured Mar pulling away. Such a shame to see two top 10 players in the world meet in the 32s. But Mar survives the gauntlet of this little section of the draw to move on.

– #12 Jake Bredenbeck came from a game down to dominate #21 Charlie Pratt and advance (8),6,1. I thought Pratt had a deep run in him, given his PARC run last month, but Jake played really well, frustrating Pratt and dominated the tie-breaker.

– #19 Thomas Carter got a statement win over #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 1,10.

– Similarly, #22 Acuna dominated #11 seed Jose Diaz 4,12 to move on.

– #26 Fernandez dominated Gomez 8,0 to advance into the main draw.
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In the 16s.

– #1 Kane Waselenchuk seems to show little ill effects from last weekend, dominating the youngster Portillo in a 4,4 win to open his tournament.

– #24 Mar continued plowing through ranked players, topping #8 Sebastian Franco 7,13 to setup a rematch with Kane of a round of 16 last October at the US Open.

– #12 Bredenbeck makes his first IRT quarter final since Nov 2017 with a solid win over #5 Daniel De La Rosa.

– There he’ll face long-time WRT rival Andree Parrilla , who advanced for the 2nd week in a row with a 2-game win over fellow WRT veteran David Horn.

– #3 Alex Landa dispatched surprise main draw participant #19 Carter 5,6. Unless Parrilla makes the final, Landa has sewn up #3 with this win.

– #6 Alvaro Beltran was taken to a tie-breaker by the surprising Costa Rican Acuna before advancing.

– #7 Samuel Murray dropped a game to #26 Fernandez before coming back to advance in a tiebreaker.

– #2 Rocky Carson dispatched #15 Jansen Allen in two straight 4,10.

So, 6 of your top 8 seeds advance; only #3 and #8 are upset at this juncture.

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In the Quarters…
– #1 Waselenchuk left no doubt that he’s recovered from whatever ailed him in Florida, pounding one of the best players in the world in #24 Mar 6,3.

– #4 Parilla squandered match point in game two, but held on in the tiebreaker to advance over #12 Jake, ending Bredenbeck’s best run in a year and a half on tour.

– #3 Landa pulverized Beltran 4,4 in a rematch of last weekend’s final, throwing down the gauntlet on this event.

– #2 Carson cruised past Canadian #7 Murray 9,5.

So, despite the depth of this 49-man draw and the presence of a slew of top world players who don’t regularly play the tour … its chalk seeds into the semis. Cream rises.

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In the Semis:
– #4 Parilla came out swinging, taking Game 1 over Waselenchuk and putting into doubt not only the year end title race but also the state of Kane’s game right now given his loss last weekend. Kane rebounded though taking game 2 and donutting Parrilla in the tie-breaker to advance to thefinals.

– #2 Carson avenged a loss to #3 Landa last weekend by taking a solid 12,13 win to advance to the final.

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In the Final, Kane showed no mercy and showed no ill effects of any past physical ailments by dominating the tour’s #2 player 3,4 for the title.

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Next up; per the IRT schedule, there’s a few non-tier 1s between now and the end of June, including two Tier 2s that could theoretically juggle the year end rankings a bit. We’ll definitely cover them as they stand to have good draws, especially the “Black Gold” event in Mexico in mid-June.

Also notable; the tour plans on announcing a preliminary copy of the 2019-20 schedule next month and they’ve teased it a bit; it should include the return of several events that dropped off in the last year, plus the return of some of the great events that happened this year.

International Racquetball Tour Racquetball Canada USA RacquetballFederación Mexicana de Raquetbol Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora Fecoracquet Fecoracquet International Racquetball Federation – IRFInternational Racquetball Federation

IRT Syosset Tier 1 Preview

IRT back in action.

Welcome to the final Tier 1 event on the International Racquetball Tour slate for the 2018-19 season, a return to Long Island for the 2019 Syosset Open. Long Island held a long-running IRT stop branded the “New York City” Pro-am, which ran annually from 2003 until 2016, so its great to see the pro tour return to one of its most important clubs.

R2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30716

Dean DeAngelo Baer posted the draws in the morning of 5/1/19 onto the IRT’s facebook page; make sure to follow it to get all the latest updates.

There’s a HUGE draw this weekend: 49 players in the IRT draw, which is the largest non-US Open draw we’ve seen on tour since Sept 2014 (see this link for the largest known draw sizes in pro tour history: http://rball.pro/797BF4). Because of the huge number of players, they’re they’re playing a round of 128. to get thing started early thursday.

This may be the most talented non-US Open draw i’ve seen since the days of Pro Nationals in Vegas. 28 of the top 30 IRT players are here (only missing two Bolivians Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo and Diego Garcia Quispe of the top 30), and 36 of the top 40 IRT ranked players are here. Amazing.

There’s also IRT tour debuts all throughout the qualifying draw, which we’ll highlight in the previews below.

Lets highlight some of the fantastic qualfiying matches to look forward to:

In the round of 128:
– Frequent tour player Nick Riffel takes on Canadian Junior Sean Sauve, fresh of last week’s Racquetball Canada 18U title. Sauve is in his age 17 season and makes his IRT debut.
– New Yorker and reigning Vegas 3-wall champion Nick Montalbano himself gets a Canadian traveler in his opener, going up against Michael Leduc.
– Canadian Pedro Castro plays in his first IRT tourney in more than 6 years and matches up against touring regular Michael Art ER Burn.
– New Jersey top amateur David Austin gets a shot at Colombian international Andres Gomez, fresh off of representing his country at the PARC championships.

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In the round of 64:
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís versus Alan Natera. Man, what a match we have here. Montoya is the highest seed forced to qualify and he runs right into a player who beat him handily at Federación Mexicana de RaquetbolNationals earlier this year. Alan Natera Chavez appears in his first ever IRT Tier 1 event; he won last week’s solid Tier 4 draw in San Antonio and has made the semis of Mexican Nationals two years running. Meanwhile, Montoya has gotten bounced in the round of 16 the last two IRT events, both against opponents he probably should have beaten. This is a coin flip; Natera is hot right now; is that going to be enough to cause the massive upset?

– #24 Javier Mar vs #25 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez; these “consecutive seed” match-ups never seem to disappoint, do they? Mar was your 2017 Mexican National champ and the last time we saw him he was giving Kane fits, losing in the 16s at the US Open 12,10. Garay has multiple wins over top 10 IRT players, including a win over Mercado in Florida last weekend. Mar is favored here in my book but this is a tough starter match.

– #16 Adam Manilla vs #33 Montalbano; A solid match for the 64s between a good infrequent tour player in Montalbano, playing on home turf, versus an up and coming tour regular who has some solid wins on tour this season.

– #22 Andres Andres Acuña vs #27 Maurice Miller; Miller plays his 5th pro event of the season, with some solid performances against regular tour players but no break through wins yet. Acuna had an amazing run to the semis of PARC last month, but then got wiped out by Landa the week after upsetting him in Colombia. These players both play solid, mistake-free ball and this could be a tight match.

– #23 Mauro Daniel Rojas vs #26 Sebastian Fernandez; The 2017 World Junior 18U champ (Rojas) versus the 2017 World Junior 16U champ (Fernandez) (see http://rball.pro/88ADAE for the complete IRF junior world champion matrix). Two of the best young players in the world meet … for the first time, amazingly. Neither has appeared on tour since January, but both had solid wins earlier in the season. I like Fernandez here, on the better track record of top wins.

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Projecting the round of 32

– #9 Montoya vs #24 Mar. So, on the off chance that both Montoya and Mar advance unscathed from very tough round of 64 matches … they get to play each other in a battle royale. This is the 2017 Mexican national champ versus the 2018 champ. These are regular tournament finalists, and who met twice in WRT finals in 2017 (splitting them). This would be another tough one to predict, as Mar can beat practically anyone in the world if he’s “on.” Meanwhile, we know what Montoya, the 2018 International Racquetball Federation – IRF World Champion can do. What a match. Oh, and instead if it was Natera vs Mar (Natera upset Mar as the 32 seed in the 2018 Mexican Nationals), or Montoya vs Garay (last time they faced it was an 11-9 tiebreaker win from the 2018 Longhorn Open), or even Natera vs Garay (who I don’t have a record of playing each other in a sanctioned event), it’ll still be a great match.

– #16 Manilla vs #17 Eduardo Lalo Portillo: 16/17s are always good, and this would be no different, whether it was Manilla or Montalbano. Portillo (the reigning 18U world champ) has really played well this season, with a couple of top-10 wins. I’d favor him here over either possible opponent.

– #12 Jake Bredenbeck vs #21 Charlie Pratt; A tough match-up for Jake, running into a criminally under-seeded Pratt, who has more than shown he can beat practically anyone not named Kane. Pratt is fresh off a very good run to the PARC finals, dispatching along the way Mercado, Moscoso and Acuna before running out of gas against Carlos Keller Vargas in the final. These two have played once before; a 2015 US Open Jake victory, but I sense Pratt’s going to neutralize Jake’s power here and move on. Question is, how deep will Pratt run in this event?

– #11 Jose Diaz vs #22 Acuna: I like this as an interesting contrast of styles. Acuna can frustrate shooters, but Diaz is lightening fast on the court and is a shooter. This could go fast Diaz’s way, or could be a 2 hour grind.

– #10 Mario Mercado vs #26 Fernandez. Mercado has been showing time and again this season the perils of dropping out of the top 8, and has suffered four one-and-dones in events this season. Here he’ll face a very tough young player who has the talent to beat him. Expect a dogfight here.

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Projected 16s:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #17 Portillo: they played at the 2017 US Open, and Portillo lost by the respectable scores of 6,9,9. I don’t think these two are *that* close though, but this will be the first test for Kane since his shock loss last weekend. What will we get out of Kane this weekend?

– #9 Montoya over #8 Sebastian Franco; If Montoya can survive the qualifying guantlet, he faces a fresh Franco here. By talent this is Montoya (or Mar) over Franco … but two potentially grueling matches thursday night may drain whoever advances to face Franco friday morning. we’ll see.

– #21 Pratt over #5 Daniel De La Rosa; my first big upset prediction. DLR hasn’t looked himself lately, taking three early losses this season, often by lopsided scores. Meanwhile, when Pratt shows up, he shows up to play, and has shown time and again the tactical mindset to develop a gameplan against any one in the world.

– #4 Andree Parrilla vs #13 David Horn; they met last weekend in Florida in the quarters, a dominant 2,6 win for Parrilla, who seems to be a safe bet to have guaranteed himself a top 4 spot for the season ending standings.

– #3 Alejandro Alex Landa vs #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; Franco has to beat a couple of tour regulars to get here, but once he does Landa likely ends his run easily.

– #6 Alvaro Beltran over #11 Diaz: they’ve split in two match-ups this season; Diaz got him at the UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championshipsbut then Beltran got him in Portland. I like Beltran’s trending lately; in his last 5 tourneys he’s made the Finals of Mexico Nats, Quarters in Chicago, Semis of Bolivia grand slam, Semis of PARC, and the finals of last weekend’s Florida stop, beating Kane along the way. Beltran’s on fire!

– #7 Samuel Murray vs #26 Fernandez: another interesting match-up. After making the final of the season opener in Laurel, Murray has not advanced past the quarters since, and has taken two one-and-done losses to players right in the same talent range as Fernandez. Murray’s in a dog-fight to retain his top 8 protected seeding and needs a result here, but may struggle if Fernandez plays like he can.

– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Jansen Allen; Allen was seeded as high as #3 in an event early last season, now he’s seeded 15th, having run into solid players over and again in the early rounds once he lost protected seeding. I think he fights his way through qualifying though here, only to lose to Rocky at this stage.

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Possible Quarters

– #1 Kane vs #9 Montoya; would *love* to see this happen, a lot has to go right for Montoya to make it this far. But if Kane’s not 100% from last weekend, he’ll have problems here.

– #21 Pratt vs #4 Parrilla: I like Pratt’s chances here too. Parrilla is a chameleon, adapting his game style to who he plays. But Pratt’s game style is to find your weakness and exploit it. I don’t believe they’ve ever played. Could be interesting.

– #3 Landa over #6 Beltran: a rematch of last week’s final, a close-but-comfortable Landa win over his long time Mexican rival.

– #2 Carson over #7 Murray: Rocky is 8-0 career h2h over Murray, including a win at the quarters in Chicago. He makes it 9-0 as he tries to overtake Kane for the year end points lead.

Possible Semis:
– Kane over Pratt; Kane’s 9-0 career over Pratt, and has never dropped a game. If he’s good, 10-0 here.
– Landa over Rocky: Landa is just 3-7 lifetime vs Rocky, but beat him handily last week 5,7 at this stage and seems like he’s on a roll.

Final: Kane over Landa.

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We’ll see how close my predictions come … if Kane’s still ailing from last weekend, we could really see some surprises coming out of the top of this draw. Pratt to the finals? Montoya finally making a run to an IRT final? What about Parrilla? Can’t wait.

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US Open IRT Men’s Qualifying Preview

It is upon us: the 23rd Annual US Open of Racquetball, held in Minneapolis, MN. Because of the size of this draw and the fact that it is our sport’s marquee event, I’ll do daily previews instead of talking about the whole tourney at once.

r2sports.com home page for the tourney is here.

Today, we preview the Men’s qualifying draw. There’s 69 players entered, slightly down from last year’s 73-person draw. The top 16 entered players get byes into the round of 32; the rest play two rounds of qualifying on Wednesday to earn their ticket into the main draw play starting Thursday.

This is the strongest draw you’ll likely see all season; 28 of the top 30 ranked IRT players are here (missing out of the singles draw is #25 Sudsy Monchik and #30 Ben Croft, who is only playing doubles this event). And a slew of dangerous international players ranked below the top 30 are here to make waves.

Just as a side note; I have several US Open-specialty queries at the site:
Matrix of all US Open finishes
Draw Sizes for all US Opens: (this year’s draw is solid … but comes nowhere close to the biggest ever pro draw in 2003).
Quarters/Semis/Final for all 22 US Opens
US Open Finish Summary, all players, all 22 events

Now, on to the qualifying preview…

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In the round of 128, here’s some interesting matches to watch out for:
– Dylan Reid, who does the fantastic Racquetball podcast “The Racquetball Show @racquetballshow is entered into the pro draw; he faces off against Canadian Jamie James Slamko in the first round (disclaimer; i’ve been a guest on Dylan’s show … so i can’t speak badly about him )
– Christian Longoria has a fun first rounder against Colombian veteran Andres Gomez.
– Tough Mexican Rodrigo Rodriguez makes just his second ever IRT appearance and faces off against IRT touring player John Wolfe.
– Mexican 18U player Oscar Nieto faces off against frequent IRT player Troy Warigon.
– Fresh off his WOR pro singles title last weekend, Long Island’s Nick Montalbano faces off against one of the Stockton crew; Ricardo Diaz.
– Bolivian 16U phenom Diego Garcia Quispe gets a first round date with fellow youngster from Mexico Erick Cuevas Fernandez. Both are still playing in the 16U ranks internationally.
– German Marcel Czempisz represents Europe for the first time in a while at this event, facing off against the reigning 16U world champ and 18U Mexican National champ in Sebastian Fernandez.
– Two up-and-coming American players face off in Wayne Antone and Kyle Ulliman.

Assuming some results, here’s some notable Round of 64 matches we may see and some highlights of the guys seeded in the 17-32 range who might make some noise this weekend.

– #17 seed Thomas Carter misses out on a protected seed by one slot; he’s fresh off his first ever pro quarter at the first IRT event of the year in Laurel. He should advance over either Daniel Maldonado or David Austin.
– #25 Scott McClellan (the Ref) may struggle to qualify for the main draw against the winner of Sergio Acuna & A.J. Fernandez.
– #24 Rodrigo Montoya Solís has shaken off an ankle injury sustained two weekends ago in the final of the Sonora Open. This is great news for this tourney, as the defending World Champion easily has the talent to advance deep into this draw. If he’s healthy, he has a relatively straight forward path into the quarters, perhaps deeper. He’ll get his first test, likely against Colorado’s Erik Garcia.
– #21 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez gets a brutal draw, with country-man Longoria playing into him. Franco is just 1-3 lifetime in top-level competitions against Longoria and may fall victim to the upset here.
– Montalbano and Warigon could have a good-ole East coast showdown to advance to the main draw; DC vs NY.
– #20 Nick Riffel is the unlucky recipient of a qualifying match against Garcia. I sense an upset here; Garcia played Adam Manilla tough in the pros at Laurel and made the Men’s Open final.
– #19 Javier Mar likely faces off against hard-hitting Bolivian Kadim Carrasco. Mar is a dangerous foe in any pro draw; he advanced to the quarters in last year’s US Open, downing two top 10 pros along the way. He’ll struggle to match that feat this year, playing into the #3 seed Kane Waselenchuk if he advances that far.
– #26 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo is one of the biggest names to watch this weekend; his ranking is solely based on his quarter finals appearance last US Open, where he played the King quite tough. He’s no unknown to the rball pro community though; he’s got enough international wins at this point to have long since made his name.
– Look for an all-Georgia winner take all and qualify match between Maurice Miller and Austin Cunningham.

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There’s some great racquetball to be had starting bright and early on Wednesday 10/3/18 (8:15am is the first pro qualifying matches).  Look for Facebook Live streaming from the IRT all day.