– June 2018: Jessica Parrilla, just finishing up the 2017-18 season ranked 3rd on tour, suffers a knee ligament injury while competing in the 2018 Mexican Worlds Selection event. She does not return to the LPRT until the last event of the 2018-19 season.
– August 2018: Guatemalan Gaby Martinez shocks the women’s racquetball world by upsetting #1 Longoria in the 2018 Worlds final in Barranquila, Colombia. She made a statement early, downing Vargas in the RRs, then easily beat Salas in the qtrs, Mendez in the semis before taking out Longoria in a tie-breaker final.
– Dec 2018: at the half-way point of the new season, #1 Paola Longoria and #2 Samantha Salas Solis have separated themselves from the rest of the pack; five of the six tournaments have been #1 vs #2 in the finals, and they’ve opened up a significant gap to the next tier of players. Frederique Lambert has fallen nearly out of the top 10 thanks to school commitments: she’s finishing Medical school.
– Mar 2019: Jessica Parrilla returns to the court for the first time since her June 2018 injury, competing in the Mexican Nationals. She played both singles and doubles in the event but did not travel to the subsequent LPRT event in Bolivia. She ends up playing just one LPRT event on the year, the season’s last tourney in Kansas in June.
– Mar 2019: Ana Gabriela Martinez suddenly announces her retirement from the sport at age 19, to focus on her studies and other interests. She retires ranked #9 on the tour despite only playing part time. In 2018 she defeated Longoria to take the IRF World Championship as an 18yr old, then later in the year missed out on a rare chance at the Adult/Junior double by losing to Mejia in the 18U world Junior final.
– Mar 2019: The Bolivian Grand Slam event happens, the first time an LPRT event has been held in the country. Unfortunately, Paola Longoria suffered a slight injury and missed the event. Despite Longoria’s absensce, the Ladies had a strong showing, with 8 of the top 10 players traveling (Lambert also missed the event). The local Bolivian players had a great showing, with Angelica Barrios making the semis and upsetting several top LPRT pros, and naturalized Bolivian Maria Jose Vargas taking the title in a hard fought 5-game tiebreaker over Samantha Salas.
– Jun 2019: Paola Longoria completes another undefeated season, with Samantha Salas making the finals of 9 of the 10 events on the year, clearly establishing themselves as the two top players on tour. Last season’s #2 Lambert has fallen all the way to #9 on the season, having finished medical school in May.
that’s it for the season. We anxiously await the announcement of the 2019-20 slate of events.
———————– Analysis/thoughts on Year End Rankings and notable player movement.
#1 Paola Longoriafinishes the year undefeated, 37-0 It is the 5th time she’s accomplished this feat, and she now has just four on-court losses in the last 8 professional seasons. She sews up her 10th career pro title. With her win in Kansas City, she gets her 91st career title in the Database (we’re aware of the discrepancy between our systems and her records and are working to figure out the delta actively).
She now sits as an astounding 439-30 in her pro career, a .936 winning percentage. She still trails Michelle Gould in this metric, whose database W/L percentage currently sits at 147-9 and which will only improve as we eventually fill in tournament detail in the mid 1990s. By way of comparison, both of these marks are better than Kane Waselenchuk‘s career mark of .918, which is considered in awe on the men’s pro racquetball circles.
#2 Samantha Salas Solis had as good of a season as you could have given that the #1 player went undefeated: she made 9 finals in 9 tries (missing one event due to travel issues mid-season). She’ll be kicking herself she didn’t claim the title in the one event that Paola missed … that being the Bolivian Grand Slam and the big check that comes with it. But a great season for Salas, who started the season ranked outside the top 10 due to injury comeback and is now firmly entrenched at #2 for the forseeable future.
Salas is now just 3-50 against Longoria though, and needs to find a way to beat her long-time rival if she wishes to put her name in the record books. She did stretch Paola to 5 games once this season, in Syosset, but most of their finals were 3-game affairs.
#3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada, like Salas, also started the year still working her way back into touring status thanks to a hiatus to have a kid. But thanks to her title in Bolivia, she ascended to #3, where she stayed the rest of the way out. She maintains a slight lead for 3rd over Herrera. Vargas is just 2-8 career over #2 Salas, which includes the win in Bolivia, so she has her work cut out for her if she wishes to ascend any higher.
#4 Alexandra Herrera had a very consistent season; she started it ranked 3rd, finished it ranked 4th, made a bunch of semis, never got upset prior to the qtrs … but really only had one break through tourney, making the final when the #2 seed Lambert got upset very early in Laurel. On the bright side, at season’s end she broke a career duck against Rajsich, finally beating her head to head in the season’s final event to secure #4 on the season.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich kept chugging in her 20th pro season, finishing in the top 5 for the 18th time. A couple of early season upsets dropped her to the 6th-7th seed, but then stronger results as the season went on got her back. She treads water from last season, finishing 5th for the second season in a row. Rajsich overtook Cheryl Gudinas this season and now has the most ever appearances in pro tour history, a streak she seems set to continue for the forseeable future.
– #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein started the season seeded 6th and ended it 6th, and made 8 quarters in 10 pro tourneys. She had an interesting 2nd half of the season, where her specific seeding drove four consecutive quarter-final match-ups with countrymate and doubles partner Vargas … resulting in four of her eight quarter final defeats on the season. There’s a significant points gap from Rhonda to Natalia, one that only a breakthrough tourney will solve. Her four-straight match-ups against Vargas has me thinking that maybe the LPRT should consider seed flipping like the IRT does; there were also a number of other repeated qtr final match-ups (Herrera-Rajsich, Salas-Enriquez) that would be mixed up and give the 5-8 seeded players a different look in the qtrs.
– #7 Nancy Enriquez took a slight step back from last season, taking a couple of early upsets and dropping from 6th last season to 7th this season. Her 7-seed routes her to #2 Salas each quarterfinal, a tough spot to be in considering how well Salas is playing and considering that Salas has just one career loss to Enriquez (way back in 2011).
– #8 Amaya Cris finished ranked 8th for the 2nd season in a row, and had a similar performance this year to last. She was able to fight back into the top 8 by season’s end, having dropped out of the top 8 mid-way through the season. She made 5 quarter finals in 10 tourneys but wasn’t able to break through to the semis.
– #9 Frederique Lambert missed half the season and dropped from #2 last season to finish 9th. As is well known, she completed Medical school this year and graduated in May, and even making half the tourneys this year seems like a pretty amazing accomplishment for someone finishing such a rigorous academic schedule. This breaks a streak of four straight seasons ranked in the top 4 for Frederique. One has to wonder what the future holds; after you finish medical school usually medical training commences and I have a hard time believing Lambert will be able to do a time-intensive internship and frequently take off 4-day weekends to compete in tourneys. We all await to see what happens as it pertains to the tour; nobody likes losing a top player.
– #10 Adriana Riveros finished 10th on the season, improving from 12th last season and now is the fourth straight season in this 10-14 range for the Colombian. She made two quarter finals in 10 tourneys on the year
———————– 11th-20th ranked players:
– #11 Gaby Martinez earned enough points from early events to finish 11th despite announcing her retirement from the sport to focus on school earlier this season. She made two semis in three events this year and got a career win over Longoria in 2018’s worlds final, making this observer wonder if she wasn’t the heir-apparent to the crown (or at the least, a good competitor for the top spot going forward). I hope she can find time to continue to play and compete at some point in the future, because (as with Lambert) its a bummer to lose a top competitor.
– #12 Masiel Rivera Oporto played a full season and was rewarded with her top ever finish. She made one quarter on the year thanks to probably her best win on the season, over Riveros at the Bolivian grand slam on home turf.
– #13 Brenda Laime Jalil made 6 main draws in 9 events, a big improvement from last season (when she failed to advance to the 16s all year) and enough to get her into the top 16.
– #14 Ana Laura Flores Saavedra made one quarter with a solid win over Mendez in the season opener, and played in 6 of the 10 events on the year.
– #15 Cassie Lee improved from #21 last year, making 5 main draws out of 9 tournaments attended.
– #16 Yazmine Sabja Aliss played just 4 events, being based in Bolivia, but made two quarters and got some solid wins along the way. One has to think that her playing the tour FT would have her challenging for a top 8 spot. too bad Bolivia is so far away.
– #17 Montse Mejia had an interesting season: she played 5 pro events and lost in the 16s each time (3 times to Longoria, once each to Lambert and Vargas). But, outside of the pro tour she won World 18U juniors (beating Gaby Martinez twice along the way), then at Mexican Nationals beat in order Enriquez, Salas and Longoria to take the title. She faltered at the PARCs as the #1 seed (losing to Mendez in the qtrs), but one has to wonder what she’s capable of if she can get out of the 14-16 seed range and get some deeper runs on the pro tour. I think she’s one of the top 5 women in the world right now and hope she can play a full slate next season.
– #18 Adrienne Fisher Haynes dropped in the season ending rankings for the 3rd successive season, getting upset in the 32s 5 times in 8 events this season.
– #19 Angelica Barrios made the semis of the Bolivian grand slam, beating two top 8 players along the way, which propelled her to a top 20 finish despite just three appearances. She’s also put her name into the mix for the Bolivian national team, representing her country at PARCs earlier this year.
– #20 Carla Muñoz Montesinos had a qtr and two main draws in 6 appearances this year, a busy one for her as she finished up school in Colorado, made the finals of NCAA intercollegiates and represented Chile at three different IRF events.
———————– commentary on players ranked 21st on-wards:
– #22 Susy Acosta finished 22nd … in her 21st pro season.
– #24 Michelle De La Rosa made a semi and played top ranked pros tough in limited appearnces this year.
– #25 Kelani Lawrence finished 25th in limited appearances but won the US National title.
– #31 Valeria Centellas finished 31st … and is the reigning World junior 16U champ. She played #1 for Bolivia at the PARC games in April and made the quarters … in her age 17 season.
– #37 Jessica Parrilla finished 37th after missing basically the entire season recovering from a bad knee injury. She will fight back to regain her status on tour starting next season after finishing 3rd last season. ———————–
That’s it for the season. We look forward to seeing what next year has in store. I sense a step up in events, I hope to see more dual tour events like what is done in Minneapolis and Bolivia, and I hope to see more events in Mexico that draw the local player base.
———————– Team Results: we are waiting for the full team results top to bottom, but we do know the top 4 in each draw: – Team Men: Bolivia, Mexico, USA, Costa Rica – Team Women: Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia – Team Combined: Mexico, Bolivia, USA, Argentina.
Here’s some quick fun Team facts: – This is Bolivia’s first ever Team competition win. – this is Mexico’s 10th straight PARC Combined title – This was also Mexico’s 10th straight Women’s team PARC title.
round of 32: – Ecuador’s long-time veteran Fernando Rios eliminated Costa Rican IRT touring vet Felipe Camacho in two close games 14,12. – Guatemala’s Juan Salvatierra took out Colombia’s Andres Gomez by the closest of margins; 14,14.
round of 16: – Rios couldn’t eliminate both Costa Ricans, falling to CRC’s number one and #8 seed Andres Acuna 14,2 – #5 seed Bolivian number one Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo took out Canadian number one Samuel Murray by the dominant scores of 6,6. Murray, who sits ranked 7th on the International Racquetball Tour, previously topped Moscoso when they met at the 2018 US Open, and I expected a tough match here. I did not expect Murray to fall 6 and 6. An early statement win here for Moscoso. – #3 seed Mexican Alvaro Beltran came from a game down to top #14 seed Colombian Mario Mercado in this battle of IRT top-10 touring pros. – #6 Dominican Republic number one Luis Perez took a hard-fought match against Ecuadorian veteran Jose Daniel Ugalde Albornoz to advance. – #7 Carlos Keller Vargas played a tough match against Canadian Coby Iwaasa and advanced in two straight 10,9.
These results ensured a perfect chalk round of 16, with all top 8 seeds advancing. Two each from Mexico, Bolivia, USA, then the #1s from Costa Rica and Dominican Republic comprise your quarters.
in the Quarters though … huge upsets. – #1 Mexican Alejandro Alex Landacan’t convert on match point and loses in the tiebreaker to #8 Acuna (6),14,7. A great win for the solid Acuna, who avenges a loss to Landa in the Semis of the 2017 PARC. – #4 American Charlie Pratt came back from 1-8 down in the tiebreaker to shock the Bolivian Open champ #5 seed Conrrado Moscoso 11-10. I had predicted Moscoso would win this event, but Pratt found a way (as he usually does) to peck away at Moscoso’s game, kept his focus, used some excellent serving and kept forcing Moscoso to make that one additional shot and came out on top. – #3 Beltran eased past #6 Perez 9,6 in a match that probably wasn’t as close as it seemed; the match was tied 8-8 early, then Beltran ran away with the first and continued dominating the second to advance. – #7 Keller took a solid 12,10 win over #2 seed American David Bobby David Horn. The defending champ scores the “upset” by seeding but beats Horn in a rematch of last year’s PARC final.
Semis: – Pratt won a back and forth close match against Acuna to advance to the final. Both players play a very similar game, more tactical than explosive, more cerebral than showy, and Pratt outlasted Acuna to return to his third major international Men’s singles final in his 3rd IRF appearance. – Keller advanced past Beltran in two
In the Final, Keller avenged a loss to Pratt in the 2017 PARC to win the final and defend his title. Pratt loses in the final for the third time in three international appearances.
The round of 32 contained no surprises. In the round of 16, we got some upsets, both by seed and by talent:
– After struggling in the RR phase (apparently due to illness), Argentinian #24 seed Natalia Mendez Erlwein dominated #8 Bolivian Angelica Barrios 3,11 to advance. Mendez really pushed the game and took Barrios out of her game early on. – #12 seed Maria Jose Vargas Parada obliterated #5 seed Guatemalan Maria Renee Rodríguez 2,0. – #13 seed Rhonda Rajsich got a solid win over #4 seed Chilean Carla Muñoz Montesinos 10,14 to keep her 3-peat dreams alive. – #6 Bolivian Valeria Centellas got a solid win over American Kelani Lawrence7,8. Its hard to emphasize this enough … but Centellas is only 17. She’s got two years remaining in juniors and is making the back end of Adult major international championships (and, it should be noted, was the #1 Bolivian here, ahead of Barrios and presumably ahead of Sabja unless she didn’t compete in the singles qualification ahead of this event). – #15 Ecuadorian Maria Paz Munoz pulled off the biggest upset of the event though, topping #2 Colombian and home-town favorite Amaya Cris 11-8 in a tie-breaker. Great win for Munoz.
So that’s Two from Mexico, two from Argentina, and one each from USA, Bolivia, Dominican Republic and Ecuador into the quarters.
In the Quarters, more upsets – Mendez continued her great run, downing the #1 seeded Mexican Monste Montse Mejia 13,13. This may be the best win of Mendez’ career and it comes after an 0-3 showing in the group stage. – Vargas trounced the hobbled Rajsich 4,8. – #3 seeded Paola Longoria dropped a game to the Bolivian 17yr old Centellas before rebounding and advancing. – Maria Paz Munoz ran away in the tiebreaker after two close games against Dominican #7 seed Merrynanyelly Delgado to advance to the semis.
So that’s the #24, #12, #3 and #15 seeds into the PARC19 semis.
In the semis, no real surprises as Vargas outlasted her countryman Mendez for the second time this year, while Longoria dominated the Ecuadorian Maria Paz Munoz in two.
In the final, Longoria downed Vargas for the 32nd time in 33 career meetings to secure her 8th PARC title.
———————- Men’s Doubles: After vanquishing the #1 Mexican team, the Bolivian team of Moscoso and Roland Keller got their second big title in as many months and their first international major title together by coming back from a first game embarrassment to top the Canadian pair of Murray & Iwaasa in a tiebreaker.
———————- Women’s Doubles: Longoria and Samantha Salas proved again why they’re the best doubles team in the world, never giving up more than 9 points in any single game en route to a dominant finals win over the host country team of Amaya & Riveros. With the win, the pair secured their 13th international doubles title together.
We’re through the round robin/group stages of the 32nd annual Pan American Racquetball Championships; lets review the interesting and upset results from the singles RRs and then preview the knockouts. A reminder; the results are re-seeded after the group stages for the knockouts.
Men’s singles RR matches of note: – #4 seed Charlie Pratt took out #13 Mario Mercado in his home country in an 11-7 tiebreaker. – #3 seedAlvaro Beltran saved match point against versus Chilean journeyman Francisco Troncoso before finishing off a tie-breaker win. – #8 seed Canadian Coby Iwaasa was upset in the RR stage by Costa Rican #1 Andres Andres Acuña 8,7. Acuna took out Horn in the 2018 US Open and has made the quarters or better of the last three PARCs, so this is no fluke. – Dominican #1 Luiz Perez lost 11-10 to unknown Venezuelan Roberto Leyes … but then took out two IRT veterans in Felipe Camacho and top-8 player Samuel Murray to win his group. This is not the first time Perez has made noise in IRF events: he’s got wins over Acuna and Montoya in 2018 and now gets a seed in the knockouts.
Women’s Singles RR matches of note: – #1 Montse Mejia was stretched to a tie-breaker by long-time IRF Ecuadorian vet Maria Paz Munoz. – #13 Amaya Cris scored the biggest RR upset, taking out #2 Rhonda Rajsich in a close tie-breaker 14,(14),8. Amaya is the home-court favorite here and has now put herself in a great position to advance deep. – #3 Paola Longoria outlasted Maria Jose Vargas Parada 12,13. Vargas’ sole career win over Longoria was at this event in 2018 but could not repeat the feat. – #5 Maria Renee Rodríguez played a solid game to beat Natalia Mendez Erlweinand remain the favorite to advance as the seeded player out of the group. Mendez then lost to long-time Venezuelan player Mariana Tobon before defaulting the last match of the group.
————————— Singles Knockout Predictions:
In the Men’s singles draw, just two of the top 8 seeds were upset in RRs: Murray and Iwaasa. So here’s some projections of the Men’s singles draw here on out:
Matches to watch for in the 32s: – The 16/17 match between Cuban #1 Maikel Mollet and Chilean #1 Francisco Troncoso should be close. – Ecuadorian #1 and #9 seed Fernando Rios gets a tough test against Costa Rican veteran Felipe Camacho. Could go either way. – #10 Coby Iwaasa gets an interesting match against long time Argentinian veteran Diana-Shai Manzuri, who has been representing Argentina in international events for more than 20 years now.
Matches to look for in the 16s: – If Camacho can take out Rios, he likely faces his country-man Andres Acuna, who beat Camacho on the IRT twice in 2018. – #5 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #12 Samuel Murray: a brutal round of 16 here; these two met at the 2018 US Open and Murray topped Moscoso in a tie-breaker. So Murray can beat the newly crowned Bolivian champ. What to make of Murray’s upset in the RRs? This is a hard one to predict but the winner could go pretty far. I think i’ll go with the hot-hand Moscoso here. – #14 Mario Mercado vs #3 Alvaro Beltran; another tough draw for a seeded player; Beltran has to face Mercado on his home soil. Beltran beat Mercado handily in Chicago in March … but Mercado played lights out at the Bolivian Open in making the semis. I think this is close and Beltran ekes it out. – #7 Carlos Keller Vargas, your defending champ, faces a tough out in Canadian Coby Iwaasa in the 16s. I think Keller advances, but Iwaasa makes it hard on him.
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 Alejandro Landa over #8 Acuna: this is a rematch of the 2017 PARC semis, a 2 game close win for Landa. They also met at the 2018 Florida IRT championship. Landa prevails. – #5 Moscoso over #4 Pratt: Moscoso’s firepower overcomes Pratt’s tactical game. – #3 Beltran takes out the upstart Dominican #6 Perez. – #7 Keller over #2 David Horn; this is a rematch of the final of last year’s event, a tie-breaker win for Keller. I’m going to predict it happens again.
Semis: – #5 Moscoso over #1 Landa; they met in Bolivia, in the semis of that Grand Slam … and Moscoso won in an epic donut tie-breaker. I think we see a similarly close game this time around with the same result. – #7 Keller over #3 Beltran: they met in the quarters of the 2015 PARC and Keller got him then. I think Keller can do it again.
Final: an all-Bolivian final, with #1 over #2 as Moscoso downs his countryman for the title. If it happens this way, Moscoso will have more than earned t his win.
————————— In the women’s singles draw … 3 of the 7 group top seeds were upset, leading to some interesting looking seedings in the knockout and some tough matches out of the get go:
Matches to look for in the 32s: – #9 Cuban Maria Regla Viera gets to play the 24th seeded Natalia Mendez; is Mendez hurt? Why did she default her final RR match? Either way, the LPRT top 10 player has a tough one against a tough Cuban. – #12 Vargas gets the precocious Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz. Ortiz was the losing finalist to Centellas at world 16U juniors in 2018 but is already representing her country at the Adult level. – #15 Maria Paz Munoz gets a tough match against the other Cuban in the draw, Yurisleidis Alluie. Munoz should advance but as we’ve seen, the unknown Cuban competitors can make waves.
Matches in the 16s to look for: – #8 Angelica Barrios faces off against the Mendez/Regla Viera winner, in what could be a pretty good match. Either way, I like the Bolivian junior to advance. – Vargas vs #5 Maria Renee Rodriguez; a tough draw for Rodriguez, who wins her group and earns the bye but gets current top 4 LPRT player Vargas for her troubles. – #4 Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos vs Rajsich; tough break for Munoz, who wins her group and then gets the two-time defending PARC champion. – #6 Valeria Centellas vs #11 Kelani Lawrence; this could be a good match-up. I think Lawrence could pull the upset-by-seed here over the reigning 16U world junior champ.
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 Montse Mejia vs #8 Barrios: they met in the 18U world juniors semis in both 2017 and 2018; both Mejia wins. I think Mejia continues her run. – #12 Vargas vs #13 Rajsich: they’ve met 29 times across all competitions and are just about dead even; Rajsich currently leads h2h 15-14, and has won their last two meetings. But Rajsich was struggling in Bolivia with a knee issue; is she recovered? I’m going with Vargas here to ensure a new PARC champion. – #3 Longoria over #11 Lawrence: Longoria has something to prove here, having lost to Mejia at Mexican Nats and having been the losing finalist the last two tournaments. She outclasses Lawrence here, looking for more. – #2 Amaya takes out #7 Delgado on home soil.
Possible Semis: – Vargas over Mejia: they’ve only met once; in April 2018 on the LPRT, a 3 game dominant Vargas win, and even thought Mejia has really stepped up on the world stage lately, Vargas has been on fire. – Longoria over Amaya: they’ve met 12 times across LPRT and IRF and Amaya has never won. I don’t think she breaks that duck here.
Final: Longoria over Vargas. Longoria has owned Vargas in their careers (30-1 in 31 matches in LPRT and IRF). If Mejia takes out Vargas… then this is a whole new ball game. Mejia’s solid win over Longoria on home soil was a big step up in the world and a Longoria/Mejia final would be pretty compelling to watch. Longoria is basically unbeatable in the pro format, but has taken losses here and there over the past few years in the amateur format; can it happen again here?
——————————- Men’s doubles thoughts: no real surprises in the RR sections, as the pre-tourney 1,2,4 and 6 seeds won their group. I think the knockout draw is top-heavy, with the semis featuring the two best teams (that being the Mexican team of Rodrigo Montoya Solís & Javier Mar and the Bolivian team of Moscoso and Roland Keller). The Bolivians fell to the Mexican teams at both the 2018 PARCs and Worlds, albeit with different players. I think the same happens here, despite Moscoso & Keller coming off of the Bolivian slam win.
I think the Canadians (Murray & Iwaasa) take out the American team of Jake Bredenbeck and Mauro Mauro Daniel Rojas in the quarters, on the bottom half, then get past the Costa Rican team of Acuna/Camacho before losing to the Mexican pair in the final.
——————————- Women’s doubles thoughts: As with the Men’s side … the top half of this draw is packed, and the projected semis is the best match of the event, featuring the dominant Mexican pair of Longoria & Samantha Salas Solis vs the current World champion Bolivian side of Yazmine Sabja Aliss and Centellas. But to get there, the Mexicans have to take out the talented Argentian team of Vargas & Mendez (they who just took the Bolivian Grand slam title) while the Bolivians have to take out the American team of Lawrence & Sheryl Lotts
I think the Mexicans down the Bolivians in one semi, then take out the home-town Colombian pair of Riveros and Amaya for the title.
——————————- Follow @IRF on Facebook to get Tim Timothy Baghurst calling all the streaming matches.
visit www.internationalracquetball.com to follow along Mens and Womens, Singles and Doubles draws. Follow the IRF on facebook for live streaming as Tim Baghurst has flown down to the tourney to provide streaming commentary all week.
The time has come for the first big International Racquetball Federationevent of 2019; the 32nd annual Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC). This event was first held in 1986 in San Jose, Costa Rica and was initially known as the “Tournament of the Americas.” The initial tournament results have been lost to the wind as we can find no records for it. But, nearly every year since the tourney has moved around North and South America.
The tournament skipped a couple of years when Racquetball was included into the Pan Am Games (but, not this year), and skipped one year in 2000 when civil unrest in the host country rose up, but otherwise has been an annual event that has done a great job of introducing top players to the scene who don’t normally travel to the states to play domestic IRT events.
Women’s #1 Paola Longoria has 7 career PARC titles … but has lost to long-time rival Rhonda Rajsich a few times in this event (including the last two finals). The Men’s singles draw has been an interesting competition over the years, with 9 different players winning the last 10 titles. There’s plenty of opportunity this year, with 3 past champions in the men’s draw plus both the losing American finalists in the last two iterations.
The competition features days of round robins that are seeded, then the competition is re-seeded for the knockouts. Players are seeded not by individual accomplishment but by past country performance.
————————— Singles draw previews
The top 8 seeds on the Men’s side are: 1. Alejandro Alex Landa; the reigning Mexican champ and 2017 PARC winner. 2. David Horn, the 2018 USA National Champion 3. Alvaro Beltran, the 2019 Mexican National finalist and a 3-time PARC winner 4. Charlie Pratt, who made the semis of 2018 USA Nationals and the finals of the qualifier held at national doubles earlier this year to earn his spot. Pratt’s seeding has been done no favors as he has current IRT top 10 pro Mario Mercado in his round robin grouping, seeded 13th here. 5. Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo is seeded 5th as Bolivia’s #1 player; Moscoso just won the Bolivian Open Grand Slam and beat a couple of the players seeded above him here and is clearly a threat to win his first major international title. 6. Samuel Murray is seeded 6th as the clear #1 Canadian male, having swept Canadian qualifiers leading up to this event. 7. Carlos Keller is seeded 7th; he’s Bolivia’s #2 but is also the reigning champion of this event, having beaten Horn in the 2018 final. 8. Canadian Coby Iwaasa is the 8th seed; he was the losing finalist to Murray in the last three major Canadian singles events.
We won’t do predictions until the knockout draw is announced … but if these seeds hold we stand to have some really good quarter final matches throughout.
———— On the Women’s side, the top 8 seeds are:
1. Montse Mejia, who upset Paola Longoria to take the Mexican Nationals in February and is thus the #1 overall seed. She’s also the reigning 18U junior world champ and could make a statement in this event. Mejia gets LPRT touring vet Adriana Riveros in the group stage. 2. Rhonda Rajsich, still reigning as the USA #1 having won the qualifier and the 2018 US nationals events. Rajsich has Colombian #1 Amaya Cris to deal with in her RR group. 3. Paola Longoria, a 7-time winner here but entering as the Mexican #2 due to her loss to Mejia at Mexican Nats earlier this year. Paola heads up against Maria Jose Vargas (an under-seeded #12 here despite being top 4 on the LPRT and having just won the Bolivian grand slam) right out of the gate. 4. Kelani Lawrence, my fellow Virginian and now unquestioned USA #2 having been a losing finalist to Rajsich in three straight USA qualifying events. She faces a tough RR draw, with Chilean #1 and LPRT top pro Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos in her draw. 5. Maria Renee Rodríguez slips into the #5 seed thanks to the recent and sudden retirement of former Guatemalan #1 and reigning World Champ Gaby Martinez. For her troubles, she gets LPRT top 10 player Natalia Mendez right out of the gate. 6. Bolivian Junior Valeria Centellas is the 6th seed. She’s the reigning 16U junior champ and was an 11-9 5th game tiebreaker loser at the Bolivian grand slam to eventual titlist Vargas. She has a manageable group though, with her toughest match coming against Canadian #1 Michele Morrissette. 7. Marie Gomar slides into the #7 seed as the Guatemalan #2, and gets #8 seeded Bolivian junior phenom Angelica Barrios right out of the gate. Barrios made the semis of the Bolivian Grand Slam, knocking out two top-10 LPRT players, and can make a deep run here.
Thanks to a really international feel on the LPRT, nearly all the RR groups feature LPRT regulars going at it, and we should see some upsets by seeds before the knockout brackets are set.
—————— In doubles…there’s 15 Men’s teams competing and there’s probably 5-6 Men’s teams who think they can win this thing, including the reigning Mexican champs Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Javier Mar, plus the just-crowned Bolivian grand slam champs of Moscoso and Roland Keller.
On the women’s side, the dominant Mexican team of Longoria & Samantha Salas Solis are the favorites. we’ll talk more about doubles once the knock out draws are set.
In the opening round/Round of 32s, no real surprises. There were 7 matches, and there were 6 three-game wins by higher seeded players. The sole upset was #18 Romina Rivero over #15 Daniela Molina, which earns her a shot at the 2nd seeded player.
In the 16s … a few upsets. – #1 Samantha Salas dropped the first game to Bolivian youngster Micaela Meneses before advancing in four. – #9 Bolivian Yazmine Sabja Aliss put together a solid match, downing #8 Colombian Amaya Cris in three games. – #12 Bolivian Angelica Barrios shocked #5 seeded Nancy Enriquez in three straight 5,6,3. Barrios was the 2017 16U champ and is playing in her age 18 season, and this win avenges a loss Barrios had to Enriquez at the 2018 US Open. – #4 Rhonda Rajsich took out home-town Bolivian veteran Jenny Daza Naviain three straight to move on. – #3 Maria Jose Vargas was stretched to the brink before downing Bolivian 16U world champ Valeria Centellas 11-9 in the 5th. – #6 Natalia Mendez took out Bolivian native Brenda Laime Jalil in three straight forward games. – #10 Masiel Rivera Oporto, Bolivan native now living outside the DC area, avenged a loss earlier this pro season and took out #7 Adriana Riveros in a barn burner 11-9 in the 5th. – #2 Alexandra Herrera downed Bolivian junior Romina Rivero in three.
Before moving on, i wanted to point out the nature of the Bolivian players who advanced into the 16s. Meneses is the 2x defending 14U world champ, playing in her age 15 season. Barrios was the world junior 16U title in 2017 and thus is in her age 18 season. Centellas is the reigning 16U champ and also has one more year in 18s. Rivero was the 14U champ in 2015 and 2016 and thus is in her age 17 season this year. All told including Sabja (world 18U winner in 2009) there’s 5 different former Bolivian junior national champs in this draw.
The future is coming for women’s pros, and its coming from Bolivia.
In the Qtrs, one significant upset: – #1 Salas was taken to the brink against Bolivian #1 Sabja, advancing by the quite-close scores of 10,10,11. There really was not that much between these two players on the day. – #12 Barrios took out her second top seed in as many rounds, defeating Rajsich in four. – #3 Vargas took out her doubles partner #6 Mendez 6,5,4 in the first ever competitive singles meeting between the Argentinian #1 and #2 players. – #2 Herrera dropped the first against Bolivian Rivera, but then took over the match and dominated the rest of the way, advancing in four games (2),6,2,2.
In the Semis: – #1 Salas split games with #12 Bolivian junior Barrios before taking over and cruising to the final in four games. – #3 Vargas looked to be cruising to an easy win, but then dropped games 3 and 4 and barely held on with an 11-9 5th game win over #2 Herrera.
In the Finals, Vargas over came a 2 games to 1 deficit and outlasted Salas with a great comeback, winning 11-9 in the fifth. Vargas wins her 4th pro title of her career and also gives her just her 2nd pro win over Salas in 7 meetings.
——————- On the doubles side, the Argentian #1 team of Vargas & Mendez (both of whom are naturalized Bolivians) outlasted the #1 seed of Salas & Rajsich (playing together for the first time) in the final to take the win and give Vargas the double on the weekend.
My preview was so big, I had to split it up between the IRT and the LPRT so I could keep tagging the players. See the IRT version for the overall history of Raquet Bolivia racquetball and the larger preview for this event.
On the LPRT side, the #1 player Paola Longoria is missing (as per @the racquetball blog & Evan Pritchett reporting; she has a shoulder injury), which robs this event of the ladies #1. Of the remaining top 10, only Frederique Lambertand newly-retired Gaby Martinez are missing. Its such a long flight, such a tough ask of pro players to give up basically a week to compete, that it isn’t terribly surprising that many have opted not to make the trip (especially those with rigid obligations or kids or work commitments). Paola Longoria has such a huge lead on even #2 Salas though that this absence means little for the year end title race. Like with the men, about half of the 23 person ladies pro draw are locals, several of whom will make noise in this draw.
There’s 7 round of 32/play-in matches, mostly featuring all-Bolivian match-ups and the lowest ranking touring LPRT pros.
We start to get fun matches in the 16s: – In the #8/#9 match, a doozy: Yazmine Sabja Aliss vs Cristina Amaya Cris they’ve met three times in international play (all three Sabja wins) and I’m guessing Sabja will ride the home crowd to a win here. – #5 Nancy Enriquez vs #12 Angelica Barrios; they met at the US Open; a four game win for Enriquez. Since that time, Barrios made the semis of World Juniors 18U (losing to eventual champ Montserrat Montse Mejia for the 2nd year running in the semis) and made the round of 16 in Chicago. She’s definitely an up and comer … but probably doesn’t quite yet have the chops to take out Enriquez. – #4 Rhonda Rajsich vs #13 Jenny Daza Navia these two last met at the 2016 worlds, an 11-10 RR win for Rajsich. This is no walk-over for the 4-time pro tour champ. – #3 Maria Jose Vargas vs #14 Valeria Centellas: I don’t expect the 16-yr old to win here, especially given Vargas’ power .. but she could make things interesting. – #7 Adriana Riveros vs #10 Masiel Rivera Oporto; another tough match of regular tour pros; they met at the US Open in October and Riveros took a four game win. I’d expect a closer game here as Rivera plays on her native soil.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Samantha Salas vs #9 Sabja: they played at the 2018 PARCs, an 11,12 win for Salas. I think the pro format may make this a closer match. – #5 Enriquez over #4 Rajsich: Nancy is a bit more rested than Rhonda, who just finished playing a ton of outdoor matches at Beach Bash last weekend. – #3 Vargas over her country-woman #6 Mendez – #2 Alexandra Herrera over Riveros
Semis: Salas over Enriquez, Vargas over Herrera.
Finals: Salas over Vargas.
———— LPRT Doubles
There’s also an 8-team doubles draw that features some interesting match-ups. Current World Doubles champs Sabja & Centellas are seeded last and face off against Salas & Rajsich … who have never played with each other. Because Mejia is missing, Herrera is playing with Enriquez at the #2 seed. The Argentinian National team of Vargas & Mendez is seeded 3rd, while the Colombian #1 team of Amaya/Riveros is 4th.
I think the Bolivian champs can make the final and win this draw over the Argentinians in the final.
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 Crisin 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.