LPRT 2018 Turkey Shoot Preview

16U World Champino Centellas makes her pro debut.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 World Juniors 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 World Juniors Knockout Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Open LPRT Ladies Pro Doubles Wrap-Up

Congrats to Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas on their US Open doubles title. Lets review the event.

In the qualifying rounds:
– Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol and Nancy Enriquez first took out accomplished international doubles player Aimee Aimee Roehler Ruiz, playing with Erika Manilla. Ruiz holds 6 career major international titles and is a tough out in every doubles tourney.
– Sabja and Enriquez turned around and defeated the #5 seeded Michelle De La Rosa and Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos in two. 

– In another surprise result, the Bolivian team of Jenny Daza Navia and Angelica Barrios took out the experienced USA team of Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts to advance to the main draw.

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In the quarters:
– Top seeds and winners of the last four LPRT doubles events Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas Solis advanced in two over Susy Acosta and Kelani Kelani Lawrence (the reigning USA amateur doubles champ)
– Sabja and Enriquez continued their upsetting ways, taking out #4 seeds Argentinian national team of Maria Jose Vargas and Natalia Mendez. Vargas & Mendez are the defending 2018 South American champs and were quarterfinalists at worlds; this is a solid win.
– The Bolivian team of Daza/Barrios upset another favored team in the quarters, taking out Colombian National team reps and #3 seeds Adriana Riveros and Amaya Cris. Riveros/Amaya were semi-finalists at IRF worlds earlier this year and have been representing Colombia as a team for two years now.
– The reigning Mexican national champs and 2018 World runners-up Alexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia advanced easily over Masiel Rivera Oporto and Daniela Molina.

In the semis:
– Top seeds Longoria and Salas put an end to the upset run of Sabja and Enriquez 7,9
– #2 seeds Herrera and Mejia destroyed the Bolivian team of Daza/Barrios 10,2.

The final represented a match-up of in-arguably the two top doubles teams in the world. This was a re-match of the World Open Doubles title in May, the Mexican National Selection event in June, and the first LPRT pro event in August.

In the end, the #1 seeds prevailed in a tight match 10,14 to capture the title.

Paola Longoria and Salas are now an astounding 65-3 together in pro doubles dating to Sept 2013 (the beginning of ladies pro doubles tracking) and have added numerous amateur and international titles on top.


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US Open LPRT Pro Doubles Preview

The last of our four previews for the US Open; Ladies Pro Doubles. Like with the men, the top 4 teams qualify into the quarters; the rest of the 14-team field has to qualify.

r2sports.com link here.

We’re predicting a more or less chalk qualifying round with these four teams making it to the main draw:
– Michelle De La Rosaand Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos
– Susy Acosta and Kelani Lawrence
Montserrat Perez and Erin Groves
– Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts

Rajsich & Lotts may have the toughest draw, going up against a solid Bolivian team of Jenny Daza Navia and Angelica Barrios. De La Rosa/Munoz also have a tough match-up with the reigning world doubles champion Bolivian Yazmine Sabja teamed up with solid Mexican pro Nancy Enriquez. This match could go either way.

In the main draw, I’m going to predict a re-match of this past summer’s Mexican Worlds qualifying event, with #1 seeds Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas Solis taking on #2 seed Alexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia. Herrera/Mejia scored a pretty large upset to take the Mexican spot at IRF Worlds this year over the Longoria/Salas team … but I don’t expect lightening to strike twice. The best doubles team in the world, by far, should win here again.

Champs: Longoria & Salas

LPRT US Open Pro Women Qualifying Preview

The Ladies pro singles event at the 23rd annual US Open kicks off Wednesday afternoon with one round of qualifying. A solid draw of 40 professionals matches the 2017 draw and continues a solid showing at this event for the Ladies pros. 17 of the top 20 women in the world are present, and 24 of the top 30 players. Notably absent is #8 Jessica Leona Parrilla, still recovering from a major knee injury. Also missing from the top 20 is Guatemalan vet Maria Renee Rodriguez and #19 Mexican Eleni Guzman Velgis.

r2sports.com link for the event is here.

A quick note: here’s direct links to four US-Open specialty reports of interest. These links are for the LPRT version of these reports:
LPRT US Open Player Participation summary . Mexican vet Susana Susy Acosta is breaking the US Open appearance record this year, playing her 21st. Only Rocky Carson has played more (he missed just one of the 23 events held since 1996).
– LPRT US Open Draw sizes: 40 is solid, but is a bit below the even’ts best ever showing of 50 ladies pros in 2003.
– LPRT US Open Quarters/Semis/Finals historically: A nice way to quickly see all the top finishers for all 22 events.
– LPRT US Open Results summary: all players and all finishes, throughout time

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The top 24 women qualified into the main draw; the remaining 16 face off in qualifiers. Here’s a quick preview of those 8 matches, being played Wednesday morning and early afternoon:

– Veteran Jennifer Jennifer Mayadas-Dering faces off against Mexican Anna RiveraDering first played a US Open back in 1998, when the event was still held in Memphis.

– US Collegiate player Erika Manilla (sister of IRT touring pro Adam Manilla) takes on veteran LPRT player Laura Brandt. Brandt first played the US Open in 2008, while Manilla graduated Juniors in 2016 with an 18U world title.

– Michelle De La Rosa, fresh off two finals appearances at the 2018 3WallBall WOR event held last weekend in Vegas, will take on fellow Southwestern US player, Texan Linda Tyler.

– An IRF-flavored qualifier awaits Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz and Bolivian Angelica Barrios.

– Two younger Mexican players Denisse Maldonado and Daniela Rico face off for a shot at 4-time US Open winner Rhonda Rajsich

Kelani (Bailey) Kelani Lawrence, who made the finals of US nationals earlier this year but had to pass on the ticket to Worlds because it conflicted with her wedding, is back in action post nuptuals and faces off against the veteran Korean player Young Ock Lee. Lee is playing in her 8th straight US Open, making the trip halfway around the world every year.

Hollie Scott faces off against long-time Canadian threat Michele Michèle Morissette.

– Lastly, Bolivian veteran Jenny Daza Navia gets a match with Maiko Sato, who has been representing Japan at IRF Worlds for more than a decade.

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