USA Racquetball National Doubles Wrap-up

Ruiz captures her 12th career US National doubles title with partner Tisinger.

Congrats to Rocky Carson and Charlie Pratt on their win in the 2019 Men’s USAR National Doubles championships. Also, congratulations to Aimee Roehler Ruiz and Janel Tisinger-Ledkins on their win in the Women’s doubles draw.

With the win, these players qualify to represent the US in this year’s two International Racquetball Federation – IRF events: the Pan American Racquetball Championships in Columbia in April, and the Pan American Games in August in Peru.

Both teams are no strangers to international competition nor National doubles championships: combined these four champions now have an astounding 29 combined US national doubles titles between them.

These titles represent the nth title for each player:
– Carson: 11th career National title. He won 6 with Jack Huczek, then has won 1 each now with Ben CroftJose DiazJose RojasSudsy Monchik and now Pratt. Rocky won his first title in 2004. He now sits 5th for National doubles titles world-wide.
– Pratt: This is his 1st National doubles title; he’s made the semis a few times in the past with various partners in National events, and has one pro IRT doubles title (with Jansen Allen in 2016).
– Ruiz: 12th career National title. She won 2 with Laura Fenton, 5 with  Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson, and now 5 with Tisinger. She is tied for 3rd globally for National doubles titles with Canadian Jen Saunders. First place is Canadian legend Josee Grand Maitre with 15 career national doubles titles, and 2nd all time is Ruiz’s former partner Paraiso, who has 14.
– Tisinger earns her 5th title, all with Ruiz.

Click here for a list of all Amateur national doubles champions for the three major countries: http://rball.pro/4A22B0

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Men’s doubles match report in the database: http://rball.pro/9BA2E3

Quick summary of the Men’s draw: the semis were chalk according to seeds: there #3 seeded Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz took out #2 seeded Bobby David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas to reach the final. There, the two finalists split games and headed to a tie-breaker, eventually taken by the champs 11-7.

Women’s doubles match report in the database: http://rball.pro/E5DEC6

Quick summary of the Women’s draw: it was upsets galore here, with the 5th seeded team of Michelle De La Rosa and sister Danielle Maddux upsetting defending champs and #1 seeds Kelani Lawrence and Sharon Jackson in an 11-10 tiebreaker win en route to the final. On the other side, 3rd seeded Ruiz/Tisinger took out 2nd seeded and last year’s finalists Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts in a tiebreaker to get to the final. The final was a 2-game win for the veterans.

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The Tempe event also had a singles component, with players competing for qualifying points towards representing the USA in singles. Here’s a quick run-through these draws:

On the Men’s side, #1 seed Carson topped #2 Pratt in two games to take the draw. There were a few notable upsets by seeds in the earlier rounds (Thomas Carter over Mauro Rojas, and Erik Garcia over Robert Collins being perhaps the biggest), but the semis-onward more or less went as expected.

On the Women’s side, the #1 seed Rajsich also took the draw, taking out #3 seeded Lawrence in a rematch of the last two such National level singles draws. The quarters featured two pretty significant results: Hollie Scott trounced Sheryl Lotts in the quarters, and doubles specialist Tisinger took out #2 seeded Sharon Jackson 11-10.

(Reminder: I do not enter these non-National results into the database).

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Lastly, a bit of opinion expression from yours truly based on a situation that arose and was talked about in some of the FB groups.

This was the USA National Doubles Championships. It determines the United States champions in the various divisions and helps select representatives (in both singles and doubles) of our country in international competitions.

So why were there foreign nationals who represent other countries internationally in the draw?

A bit of history: the “US National championships” were, for a time, open to all countries. In fact, the US National amateur singles champs in 75 and 75 were both Canadians (Wayne Bowes and Lindsay Myers respectively). In 82 the then named “AARA” changed the requirement to have the US national singles only be open for US citizens. This is (coincidentally or not) right around the time that the first “international” championships were held; in the 1970s there was just the tournaments held in the USA, and even the professional year end championships declared “National champions.” I don’t ever recall a situation where there was even a question about someone’s citizenship competing for the USA national team … until now.

It says pretty clearly on the entry form that you have to be a US citizen or “have a citizenship application in process.” Understood; some people hold dual citizenships. But how is it possible we’re letting players who have represented other countries internationally (quite recently) compete in the US championships?

There were three examples of this situation this past weekend:
Sebastian Fernandez: He competed in US team qualifying in doubles. Fernandez represents Mexico in juniors, where he was the runner-up in Junior worlds just last November, entered Mexican National Singles last February, and entered the Mexican World Selection event in June. How is he competing in a tournament to represent the USA just a couple months later?
Erik Garcia: hails from Chihuahua, now attending college in the USA … and represented Mexico in Junior worlds in 2013 and competed in Mexican amateur nationals in 2014. Yet he was entered into BOTH singles and doubles USA national team qualifying events. 

(Note: post publishing i’ve been informed that Garcia is in fact a US Citizen, born in US. Which then begs the question; how is he playing in Mexican national events? Its the same issue but perhaps in reverse).

Melania Sauma Masis: has been representing Costa Rica in various junior and senior events since 2009, including playing in the 2017 PARCs and the 2018 Caribbean games. Clearly grew up in CRC, but now attends the host college of this past event (ASU). Less of an issue for Sauma Masis in that she didn’t compete in the National team events (since the application says that “all other divisions are open to US Citizens and residents) … but she did compete for a “US National title” against US citizens, which some have a problem with.

I get that these players may have dual citizenship, which technically would have allowed them to enter the tourney (it was reported that Fernandez does; but I’m not sure how the other two possibly would). I suppose the bigger question is this: how can someone just switch back and forth like (especially) Fernandez has done? Olympic athletes can switch … but they have to wait a few years in-between competitions. Professional Soccer players can switch from one country to another, but only once, and only before officially representing a country at the senior/adult level (at which point they are permanently “capped” to a specific country).

Internationally, there’s a long history of players switching countries. Among others, Ruben Gonzalez, Veronique Guillemette, Natalia Mendez, Mario Mercado, Maria Jose Vargas, and most recently Brenda Laime have switched countries … but i’m not aware of anyone switching to and back like we’ve now seen out of Fernandez over his career.

To take this to the extreme, consider these hypotheticals. Daniel De La Rosa is married to a US citizen and now lives in Arizona (I have no idea if he now has a US passport, if he’s applied for citizenship, etc; this is a hypothetical). He has always and continues to represent Mexico … but lets say DLR plays in Mexican Nationals in February and gets knocked out early but really wants to go to Peru for the Pan Am games. Would you be ok with him then entering USA nationals in May to try to earn a spot? Also hypothetical: Kane Waselenchuk has now lived in Texas nearly as long as he lived in Canada, and marred a US citizen years ago; would you be ok if he entered US Nationals in May?

I think we need some guidelines going forward, where players have to declare to represent one country or another and stick with it. I’m ok with switching countries, but you have to have a legitimate connection, and you have to “sit out” a period of time to prevent venue shopping for IRF representation.

PS: I want to emphasize this point; i’m not making a political statement here. Its more about the inherent conflict of interest that exists.

LPRT Sweet Caroline Grand Slam Preview

World Champ Ana Gabriela Martinez returns to the LPRT for the Sweet Caroline event.

r2sports.com tourney home page: http://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30141

The LPRT is back in action, with its 6th event of the 2018-19 season. So far, #1 ranked Paola Longoria has made it 5 for 5 in wins, with four of those wins coming over her frequent doubles partner Samantha Salas Solis.

The annual event in South Carolina is a Grand Slam, and as such has drawn back into play a couple of intriguing players, which should make this draw more interesting than most. There’s 26 pros in the draw, tying a season non US Open high.

Top 20 players missing: #5 Frederique Lambert who has fallen to her lowest ranking on tour since Nov 2015 as she juggles school and some early upsets in previous events. #11 Carla Muñoz Montesinos misses just her 2nd tourney in the last two seasons. #13 Jessica Leona Parrilla remains on the sidelines recovering from her knee injury suffered last spring. And lastly #18 Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol did not make the long flight. So we have 9 of the top 10, and 16 of the top 20 in the event.

Notably present is reigning World Champ Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez, who is back and ranked #9 (likely seeded 8th) after making the semis in the first two events of the season and then missing the next three.

Lets preview the draw.

Notable round of 32 matches; there’s a ton of tough openers in this tourney.

– #16 vs #17 Masiel Rivera Oporto versus Brenda Laime Jalil; tough match for both ladies right out of the gate. Both players are playing the tour full time this year and are both looking for a breakthrough win. And … they’re playing doubles together. 
– #14 vs #19: Maria Renee Rodríguez faces Kelani Lawrence in another tough opener for both. Lawrence has less pro experience but has proven her mettle in the USA amateur draws, while Rodriguez has a ton of international experience and has represented Guatemala in Juniors and Adult draws for nearly a decade.
Cassandra Lee vs Laura Brandt: youth versus experience here in an intriguing first rounder.
– #10 Adriana Riveros versus #23 Cecilia Ceci Orozco Pratt: Riveros should prevail but she probably would have hoped for an easier first rounder.
– #15 Susana Susy Acosta vus #18 Ana Laura Flores : two Mexican lefties representing the two major Rball-playing communities (Chihuahua and San Luis Potosi) in the country battle it out in the first round. They met at the US Open with the youngster coming out on top and I’d lean that way again.

Round of 16 interesting matches:
– #8 vs #9: Cristina Amaya Cris vs Ana Gabriela Martinez: tough match-up for both players. They met at this stage in this event three years ago, an Amaya win, but Martinez has a whole lot of silverware since. 
– #3 Alexandra Herrera vs the Rodriguez/Lawrence winner: i’m not sure who comes out of the feed-in match, but Herrera will have to hustle to advance out of the 16s. Ironically, Herrera topped both possible players in successive rounds as she was winning the 2011 Junior Girls 16U championship.
– #7 Natalia Mendez vs #10 Adriana Riveros: these two top 10 players have only met once on tour; a 4-game Mendez win in June 2017. 
– #2 Samantha Salas vs #18 Flores: assuming Flores comes out on top in the 32s, she gets a first shot at Salas in any competition. Flores can beat top talent, but i’m not sure she can beat one of the top 2 players in the world.

Projecting the Quarters:
– #1 Paola Longoria vs #8 Gaby Martinez; These two have met no less than 15 times in pro and IRF matches … but it was last summer’s World Championships that gave Martinez her one win in the series. Since then, they’ve met twice in the LPRT, both straight-forward Longoria wins. I see the same result here; Paola is just so dominant in the 5-game format.
– #4 Maria Jose Vargas vs #5 Rhonda Rajsich; these two have now met 28 times (26 on LPRT) and are dead even. 14 and 14 each. Along that same line, they’ve met twice this season … and split, Vargas winning in Chicago and Rhonda winning in Laurel. I’ll predict Rajsich makes it two tourneys in a row.
– #3 Herrera vs #6 Nancy Enriquez; Despite being the higher seed, Enriquez faces the easier path to the quarters in this event. But Herrera owns the career h2h record 5-1, just beat her in Boston, and should advance again.
– #2 Salas vs #7 Mendez; they’ve got a scant 3 career match-ups, all three straight-game wins for Salas. She makes it 4 of 4.

Semis:
– Longoria over Rajsich. Despite Rhonda’s demonstrated ability to still be able to top Paola, their only meeting on the pro tour in the last two seasons was a straight-game semis win in December. Expect the same here.
– Salas over Herrera; they’ve already met twice in the semis this season, and both times Salas advanced.

Finals: Longoria over Salas. You hate rooting for #1 vs #2, but these two players have represented the final in 4 of the 5 events so far this season … and the only one where it wasn’t Longoria v Salas was an event where Salas couldn’t make the tourney b/c of travel issues.

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In the doubles, we have some frequently-seen teams playing, including the reigning USA national champs Lawrence/Sharon Jackson, the US National runners-up in Rajsich and Lotts, The top team of Longoria & Salas, the Argentinian national team of Vargas & Mendez, and the Columbia team of Amaya & Riveros. Interestingly the top Guatemalans are not playing together this event.

I’m going with the top Mexicans versus the Argentinians in the final, with Longoria & Salas continuing their dominance with the win.

LPRT Turkey Shoot Event wrap-up

Longoria wins again.

Congrats to #1 Paola Longoria, who was a double winner on the weekend, taking the Singles draw over #2 seeded Samantha Salas Solis, then teaming with Salas to win the pro doubles draw.

Longoria and Salas have now met in the finals of each of the season’s first four events, solidifying their lead at the top of the rankings table. Longoria improves to 46-3 against Salas on the pro tours with the win. This win represents Longoria’s 86th pro title in the database (though we may be missing some of her earlier tourney wins; a situation we’re working on rectifiying). Lastly, this tourney extends Paola’s current match winning streak to 21 games; she’s won the last 5 pro events.

Lets take a quick run through the singles draw. Here’s the match report in the database:

http://www.proracquetballstats.com/cg…/print_results_new.pl…

Upsets/notable results for me:
– Four regular touring players, coincidentally seeded 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th, were all upset in the first round of play. 4-time pro champ Cheryl Gudinas put a 5-game loss on Sheryl Lotts, then nearly beat Natalia Mendez, taking her to a 5th game tiebreaker.
– Junior up and coming player Angelica Barrios took out Adrienne Fisher Haynes and took a game off of #5 seed Rhonda Rajsich before bowing out.
– Michelle De La Rosa got a solid win over #10 Susy Acosta before falling in 3 closer games to #4 seed Maria Jose Vargas.  De La Rosa (nee Key) has now played in 3 events this season, after playing just a handful over the past few years, and could be a force on tour if she continues to play. She’s made a number of Quarters and even one Semi and is a dangerous opponent.
– Masiel Rivera Oporto played her 3rd event of the season and made her second round of 16; she’s right in the range of seeding where she could continue to get opportunistic match-ups and keep moving up the rankings.
– I liked what I saw out of youngster Brenda Laime, who got past Erin Rivera before taking a game off of #2 seed Solis.
– 16U world champ Valeria Centellas was one-and-done in the pro draw, running into the 7th seeded Colombian Amaya Cris, but she played very well in the Women’s Open draw, beating experienced American Sharon Jackson and then Lexi York before losing in two close games to experienced international player Adriana Riveros in the semis.
– Speaking of York; she made her pro tour debut after a pretty good juniors run (she was the 2015 USA 18U champ and made the semis of junior worlds that same year). Hope to see more of York in the coming years.

The quarters, semis and finals went almost perfectly chalk along the lines of seeds; the only discrepancy was #9 seeded Colombian Adriana Riveros defeating #8 Chilean Carla Muñoz Montesinos in the quarters. Neutral fans always want to root for upsets, but this tournament was missing four key names who normally would have provided some upsets to the current LPRT heirarchy. Namely, Montserrat Montse Mejia, Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez, Frederique Lambertand Nancy Enriquez.

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On the doubles side, the dominant team of Longoria/Salas easily took this tourney, crushing Alexandra Herrera & Munoz 2,9 in the final.

Here’s the Doubles draw Match report:

http://www.proracquetballstats.com/cg…/print_results_new.pl…

The Longoria/Salas team is now 71-3 together since we began tracking LPRT doubles in 2013. Longoria has won 36 of the 41 doubles draws she’s entered in that time, most of them won with Salas. I still can’t quite believe they were upset as a team at the 2018 Mexican selection event, thus preventing them from competing in Worlds this past summer.

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Next up for the LPRT: the Christmas Classic in Laurel, MD.

LPRT

US Open LPRT Singles 32 and 16 review, Quarters Preview

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

LPRT round of 32 surprises:

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

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

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

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