Man, the matches come fast at US Open on Wednesday and Thursday. Here’s a review of the 2nd half of Thursday’s matches, the round of 16. There were some big time results.
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk dominated #16 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez to move into the quarters. I feel like Kane’s path this year has been more straight-forward than last year, though he gets a tough player in Mar (who he beat 12,10 in the 16s last year) next.
– #24 Javier Mar outlasted #25 Carlos Keller Vargas in a tiebreaker, dropping the first then cruising in games 2 and 3.: Mar had about 20 minutes to get ready for this match after a marathon win over his doubles partner Rodrigo Montoya Solis in the earlier round. Despite their seeds, these two players would both be pushing for the top 10 if they played the tour regularly.
– #4 Alex Landa was pushed by long-time WRT rival David ” Bobby” Horn, and had some “disagreements” on the court at times, but advanced in 2 straight to setup a rematch of the 2019 Mexican national singles final in the qtrs with Beltran. This sets up a rematch between these two long rivals, who met for the 2019 Mexican Nationals final and in the final of the 2018 Florida pro-am just after Beltran had beaten Kane.
– In the upset of the round, #15 Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball defeated #2 Rocky Carson for the second time in as many meetings in Grand Slam events 13,5. This was a dominant performance from Moscoso, much more-so than his win in Bolivia, where he was in real jeopardy of losing in two quick games before catching fire. This could open up a path for him to the finals; if he can beat Carson, he can beat anyone not named Kane in this draw.
———- So, the 16s were comprised of these seeds: 1,2,3,4,5,6 of top top seeds, then 11,13,14,15,16 from the next set, and then 21,23,24,25,26 seeds of qualifiers.
Now, your quarter finalists are 1,3,4,5,6,15,23,24.26. So two qualifiers remain to the quarters, but 5 of the top 8 seeds are through.
Nationalities in the quarters: 6 Mexicans, 1 Canadian and 1 Bolivian. No Americans. Someone asked yesterday if this was a first? Here’s a Q/S/F report by nationality to help: http://rball.pro/F834D0
Answer: Yes this is the first time a US Open has not featured at least one American in the quarters of the Men’s draw. In 2007, 7 of the 8 quarter finalists were from the USA … now its nearly reversed to have 6 of the 8 be from Mexico.
But not only is this the first time an American has not made at least the quarters of the US Open … this is the first time in the history of the IRT that an American has not made a pro quarter … ever.
———— Quarters start today at 10am CDT. All four should be streamed.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #24 Javier Mar: the doubles partners and good friends battled it out to the end with Mar taking out Montoya for the second straight IRT event early, 11-9. Tough way to go out for Montoya.
– #8 Samuel Murray lost to Bolivian #25 Carlos Keller Vargas (10),10,8. Keller is always one of the tough underseeded outs of this event (along with Mar and Moscoso), and he proved it again by taking out the #8 seed.
– Great win for #21 Thomas Carter, who took out #12 Jose Diaz 11-9 in the breaker. They’ve played a couple times before and Diaz had won handily; now Carter moves on.
– #13 David “Bobby” Horn improved to 6-4 all-time against #77 Jaime Martell Neri with a solid 13,6 win. Martell more than showed why he’s better than a 77 seed, and Horn shows little ill effects from a recent injury.
– #14 Lalo Portillo absolutely dominated #19 Charlie Pratt 7,2 to move on to the 16s and a match-up against Parrilla. This result is surprising to me; Pratt is known for sticking in matches and out thinking players; rarely do you see him take a beating like this. Great showing by Lalo, who continues to move up the chain.
– #23 Sebastian Fernandez played a solid game and took out #10 Mario Mercado in two, 14,5 to make another statement (with Portillo) on behalf of the next generation of young Mexican players rising up.
– In the upset of the round, perhaps the tourney so far, #7 Sebastian Franco was dominated by #26 Adam Manilla 4,7. Manilla has finished 15th and 19th in the last two pro seasons, and missed the first to pro events this season to see his ranking drop. Franco has to be disappointed with this showing after making the semis of both the first two events this season.
– #15 @Luis Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #18 Andres Acuña looked like it could be a barn burner, and indeed it was. Acuna took the first game, but Moscoso stormed back to take the second and tiebreaker to advance (10),6,5.
———– The 16s are underway as we speak; here’s matches to watch for:
– Keller vs Mar: what a battle. – Doubles Partners Parrilla and Portillo going at it – Jake/DLR: always a battle – Manilla/Fernandez: Brian Pineda and I have a bet on this one. – Moscoso/Carson; the final of the Bolivian Grand Slam, won by Moscoso; can he win again?
We’re down to the top 32, having played 2-3 rounds of qualifiers Wednesday to whittle the field from 94.
here’s the matches I found notable or upset-worthy from Wednesday’s marathon qualifying.
In the 256s: – fellow Virginian Rich Benderoth took a tiebreaker win over Erik Solter. Shout out to Rich, who regularly spanked me a decade ago when I used to actually play this sport. Unfortunately he injured himself in the process and forfeited his next round.
– USA 18U junior Lucas Shoemaker gets a win in his professional debut, downing Bolivian Vladimir Fernando Salas in a tie-breaker.
– Colorado native Jacob Kingsford gets a win in his debut pro/national level event over Ecuadorian Fabian Cuesta].
– In a battle of two IRT veterans, Colombian Alejandro Herrera Azcarate took out Japanese legend Hiroshi Shimizu in two close games to advance.
———————- In the 64s.
– Kansas amateur Bradley Rogers upset the highest ranked player in qualifying, 17th seeded Robert Collins 12,8 to earn a main draw berth. Rogers gets his best win on tour in four years.
– Javier Estrada advanced over Bolivian junior phenom Diego Garcia Quispe, who had to retire mid-game2 with injury. The two were playing close though, with the score 13-14 at the point of injury.
– Javier Mar dominated Ernesto Ochoa 13,5 to advance to the main draw and a meeting with his doubles partner. Tough draw for Ochoa, who was making his IRT Tier 1 debut here after putting up some very impressive results in 2019.
– Big upset of a dark horse candidate for me: Colombian Francisco Reyes Gomez upset Natera in a tiebreaker to advance. We don’t know much about Reyes; he’s got a few US Open appearances in the past but this is probably his best career win.
– Martel gets a great win to advance into the main draw, topping Garcia 14,6.
now for the 32s. And there’s some amazing matches today. Here’s what i’m looking for:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #33 Estrada: Estrada made a statement at the Black Gold cup, topping 4 top 10 players to take the title. Well, now he can measure up against the worlds best for a status check.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #24 Mar: these two ran into each other in the round of 32 at the Syosset open as well; just a function of unlucky seeding. Mar took that last meeting en route to a quarter final appearance. Expect a close match between these doubles partners that know each other’s game pretty well.
– #8 Samuel Murray vs #25 Keller: pay no attention to the seedings here: this is a battle of two evenly matched players. They met in the 16s of the Pan Am Games in Lima, a tie-breaker win for the Canadian. But Keller is no easy out; he’s an experienced, accomplished international player with two PARC titles on his resume
#13 David Horn vs #77 Martell; This is an interesting matchup between two long stalwards of the WRT. These two met 9 times on the old WRT, with Horn leading 5-4 h2h but Jaime Martell Racquetball taking the most recent meeting (May 2018 in Atlanta). This could go either way; Horn has missed time with an injury this season; is he 100%? He’ll need to be to beat his long time rival. (post-publishing correction; initially I had Martell playing into Landa here; my staging tables were incorrect and hence this correction after publishing).
– #14 Lalo Portillo vs #19 Charlie Pratt; Watch out for the upset here; every time Pratt enters a draw he makes noise. Pratt could lose here to the rapidly improving Portillo, or he could run to the semis. Expect a tactical battle here.
– #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #27 Garay: I like this match; Garay’s power versus DLR’s guile. Daniel won’t be surprised by Garay’s pop; they met in teh 2016 Mexican nationals prior to Garay’s re-flagging and he advanced in a tiebreaker. I like DLR here but I think it goes breaker.
– #10 Mario Mercado vs #23 Sebastian Fernandez; this is a fascinating match-up between Mercado, who despite having (in my opinion) improving results on the court lately is treading water from a rankings perspective thanks to rising pressure of up and coming players, and Fernandez, who seems set to jump straight from 18U into the pro ranks and make a splash. I think this goes down to the wire with the veteran advancing.
– #15 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #18 Andres Acuña; this should be another barn burner; they’ve met four times in IRF junior and senior events and 3 times it has gone breaker. All four are Moscoso wins … but Acuna always make sit hard on the Bolivian number one.
We’ll circle back for the 16s once the 32s are done.
The IRT returns to Laurel, MD for the second year in a row for the 2019 Valentine Open, named after its tournament director Tracie D Valentine and her daughter Imanii Valentine. The tour is back at one of the legendary east coast venues of Sportfit Laurel for this event.
Lets preview the draw. there’s 33 players entered this year including a ton of internationals and some MD/VA/PA locals. As noted last week, there’s some movement in the top 8, notably Parrilla taking over 3rd and Montoya moving into 7th … but the “flip” seeding is in place here so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled from their normal spots.
Missing top players: The biggest name missing is #6 Daniel De La Rosa who misses the event sandwiched in between 3-wall in Vegas and a major pickleball event, so he may have had to take a schedule break. We’re also missing a lot of tour regulars from last season in the 11-20 range, including #11 Jose Diaz, #13 David ” Bobby” Horn, and #18-20 Charlie Pratt, Jansen Allen and Felipe Camacho. Two tourneys missed in a row for these guys: it look like maybe there’s a changing of the guard on tour.
Here’s some round of 64 matches to watch for:
– MoMo Zelada versus Kyle Ulliman: Zelada plays on his home courts and gets the traveling Ulliman, who returns to Laurel for the 2nd year in a row. Could be a tight one. – MD native Jamal Harris takes on The Ref, Scott McClellan in an opener. Hopefully McClellan doesn’t have any avoidables taken away from him… (inside joke on a FB discussion after last event). – Veteran Bolivian Kadim Carrasco takes on 18U local player Dylan Pruitt also playing on his home courts. – Justus Benson takes on a tough lefty from Pennsylvania Geoff Heskett.
Projecting the 32s: – #16 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez vs #17 Carlos Keller Vargas; 16/17 matches are always tough, and this South American battle will be no different. Garay was just crowned Colombian Champ, while Keller is the 2-time reigning Pan American Racquetball Championships winner. I like Garay in a tie-breaker and I like seeing him make a push on tour early. – #9 Mario Mercado vs #24 Zelada: just another night at the club for these two native Bolivians, who both lived in the DC area for a while and got more than a few local tournament match-ups. Mercado has been playing solid lately and will look to advance. – #14 Andres Acuña vs #19 Carrasco: another international flavor match between two guys who have never managed to meet. – #15 Thomas Carter vs #18 Benson: Just like the 16/17, the 15/18 meeting will be tight as well. I like Carter here to return to the 16s in Laurel.
Projecting the Main draw: assuming seeds hold in the qualifiers, here’s some fun 16s to look for: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #16 Garay: I can’t wait to see Kane taking on a good young hard hitting player like Garay. If its Keller instead, we’re talking about a solid tactician unmoved by power play given how much he plays @Luis Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo back home. Either way, a great round of 16 that’s likely on the show/streaming court. – #8 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #9 Mercado; Montoya missed a chance in the 8/9 match last tourney … now he gets a match against a guy who beat him in Lima just a few weeks ago. Look for a solid match but Montoya to advance. – #6 Samuel Murray vs #11 Lalo Portillo; upset warning: Portillo beat Murray in California in Jan 2019 and has done nothing but improve since. Portillo continues his push for the top 10. – #7 Alvaro Beltran vs #10 Jake Bredenbeck; A nice match-up; Bredenbeck was nursing an injury earlier this summer that reportedly kept him out of the season opener; if he’s not 100% he’ll struggle to beat Beltran, who continues to impress even as he approaches his 41st birthday.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Kane vs #8 Montoya: would love to see this one; power v power. Montoya has just two meeting with Kane, both pretty dominant wins for the World #1. – #4 Alex Landavs #5 Sebastian Franco; Franco gets Landa on his (Franco’s) home courts. Franco made the semis last year and will be looking for an upset; these two always seem to play tight, and Franco beat Landa to win his sole pro title. Watch out for the upset here. – #3 Andree Parrilla vs #6 Murray; if Murray gets past Portillo, he runs into a tough one in Parrilla, who lost 11-10 in the quarters last year in Laurel and won’t want to lose his #3 ranking at this juncture. – #2 Rocky Carson vs #7 Beltran. These two have met no less than 49 times on tour; they’re more than familiar with each other and played a rather testy tiebreaker in their last meeting in January. This is no cakewalk for Carson. Combined age: more than 81 years between the two of them.
Semis: – Kane over Landa: these two seem to play the same way each time: Landa keeps it close up to about 10-10, then Kane breaks away for a 15-10 win. Look for a two game victory with the scores like 10,8 – Carson over Parrilla: So here’s the interesting match up. These two met in the quarters of this event last year, and Parrilla had match point on his racquet and blew a simple cross court into the ground before losing 11-10. Then they didn’t play again until last weekend’s Atlanta final (a 13,8 win for Rocky). I like Andree’s chances here of pushing for a tie-breaker on these slower courts but won’t predict a win.
Final: Kane over Rocky, yet again.
That’s how I see it for this weekend. I’ll be at the club all day thursday to take in the 64s and 32s before jetting back home. Hope to see you out there, and maybe we’ll do some test broadcasting later thursday night.
The tour returns to Lilburn after a one-season absence, and is rewarded with a great 38-man draw and both both singles and doubles action. The top 10 players are here, then we’re missing the 11th-14th ranked players inclusive ( Jose Diaz, Jake Bredenbeck (injured reportedly),David Horn and Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo all miss this event, somewhat surprisingly for the first three). We’re also missing last weekend’s winner Charlie Pratt depriving the draw a bit of its mid-section talent.
This combination of missing players elevates Lalo Portillo all the way to the #11 seed here, his highest ever seeding in an IRT event. We’re also missing frequent tour participants like Jansen Allen, Adam Manilla, and Felipe Camacho; all three treaded water or slipped in the rankings last season; is this a one-tourney blip or are we seeing a changing of the guard on tour? More to come here later. In the meantime…
—— Lets preview the singles draw first.
NOTE: post publishing this analysis and the draw, Kane Waselenchuk withdrew from the event due to a personal issue. Take that into mind reading the below. I could see this most benefiting Javier Mar, who could get a walkover in the 16s and very well could run to the finals.
Notable round of 64 matches: – #24 Maurice Miller vs Troy Warigon; a solid match-up between two solid players, who also happen to be playing doubles together this weekend. They met in the semis of the pro draw of the LPRT event in December on Troy’s home court (a Miller win); now the tides are reversed as Warigon travels to play Miller on Miller’s home court. Miller should advance here. – #21 Kadim Carrasco vs MoMo Zelada; Carrasco is one of several Bolivian-based players to enter this draw. These two met in the opener of the Bolivian Grand Slam last March, a dominant Carrasco win. I like Zelada keeping it close but ultimately falling again to Carrasco. – #19 Justus BensonvsAustin Cunningham; Benson takes on a talented local in a first rounder that could be closer than he wants. – #23 Scott McClellan vs Michael Arterburn: two frequent IRT entrants face off in the opener. – #18 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on long-time touring pro Dan Fowler, who plays just his third IRT event in the last decade, making the drive down from Maryland along with Warigon and Zelada.
———— Notable round of 32s, assuming some early upsets don’t occur: – #16 Javier Mar vs #17 Sebastian Fernandez; tough match-up for both players, fitting of a 16/17 draw. I like both players chances of breaking into the top 10 with a full season on tour … but we generally only see Mar part time (He’s played just 7 events in the past 5 seasons). But Mar’s results speak for themselves; he’s always a threat to advance when he plays. I like Mar over the younger Mexican player here, but I like Patata’s chances this season. – #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #21 Carrasco: Franco takes advantage of the missing 11-15 ranked players to secure a top 16 seed and gets a winnable match against the Carrasco/Zelada winner. – #20 Carlos Keller Vargas takes on #13 Thomas Carter, a tough draw for Carter facing the two-time defending PARC champ. – #15 Andres Acuña vs #18 Garay: great match of two internationals; last time they knowingly played was in the 2014 Junior worlds (a tight Acuna win). Acuna has continued to impress with his international accomplishments, but Garay beat a number of top players last year and is looking to make some noise this season. Garay to advance but its a toss-up.
—————— Projecting the 16s. – #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #16 Mar: they’ve met 3 times; Kane crushed him at Syosset last spring, but Mar played Kane as tough as he’s been played in the best-of-three format at last year’s US Open. Mar’s tactical game can keep him in a match with Kane if he’s shooting well, but that only goes so far. Kane gets a quality match out of the gate but advances in two. – #8 Sebastian Franco vs #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis: the first of potentially many critical openers for both players as Rodrigo makes a run at the tour top 8. I don’t have any prior meetings between the two, so this should be telling for now, as both guys remain neck and neck at the 8/9 spot and should continue to meet at this 8/9 juncture for a bit until points settle out. I predict Montoya to advance. – #5 Alvaro Beltran vs #12 G.Franco: they’ve played 3 times since Jan 2018, all three Beltran wins. I’d expect the same here; a win for Alvaro in 2 closer games. – #4 Andree Parrilla vs #20 Keller; brutal draw for Parrilla. Keller was handily beating Parrilla at the Black Gold cup this summer when Keller had to retire; this will be a setback for Parrilla’s pursuit of the #3 spot on tour right out of the gate, because I think Keller wins this match in two. – #3 Alex Landavs #14 Robert Collins: just one meeting between these two; a 3-game win at the 2016 US Open. Landa should advance here. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #11 Portillo; this should be an interesting match; Portillo has gotten a ton of solid wins this summer, while DLR fell to his lowest ranking in a while. Is DLR in? This is just the kind of match that can trip him up if he isn’t focused. I’d expect DLR to advance here because his game is just too complete for Portillo right now, but Portillo has the talent to win. – #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Mario Mercado: 4 meetings between them, none in the last few years. They’re split 2-2, with all four going 4 or 5 games. I like Mercado here, building on his great Pan Am Games showing. – #2 Rocky Carson vs #18 Garay; little to go on here but I suspect Garay will get a lesson in match management as the veteran advances in two.
—————– Possible Quarters: – #1 Waselenchuk vs #9 Montoya: just two prior meetings between the two, both dominant Kane wins. It will be interesting to see if Montoya’s game has added the facets he needs to compete with Kane; i look forward to this meeting if it occurs nonetheless because there’s not too many other guys who hit it this hard on tour. – #20 Keller vs #5 Beltran: Keller’s beaten Alvaro twice in the PARCs, including in the semis of the 2019 event en route to his title. I see another Keller tight 2-game win. – #3 Landa vs #6 DLR; a frequent match-up between two top Mexican players: I now have Landa 7-5 in both pro and Amateur meetings with DLR, and you have to go back to 2017 to find a DLR win. I think Landa wins here to move on. – #2 Carson vs #10 Mercado; 8 meetings, 8-0 for Carson, but Mercado took him to a tiebreaker on home soil in the Bolivian Grand Slam earlier this year. Look for a Carson win.
—————– Semis: – #1 Kane over #20 Keller; Keller’s solid, but not this solid. It could be a fun match to watch though, in that Keller’s game does not really overpower players, but he hangs in. Can he hang with Kane’s power? – #2 Carson vs #3 Landa; Carson leads 7-4 all time … but they’re dead even split in the last 3 seasons 4-4, alternating wins. Carson won in Syosset to end last season … but Landa beat him handily in Florida the week before en route to that title. I like Rocky here.
Final: Kane over Rocky. 1 vs 2 yet again. I know nobody wants to predict the obvious 1-2 final, but as we saw last year when Rocky and Kane had locked up the top two slots with a couple of events yet to go … there’s still a gap between them and the rest of the tour.
—————— Men’s Doubles preview
Love this Doubles draw. The top of the draw is stacked, and there’s 11 solid teams. Portillo and Parrilla have decided to play together every event, adding to the intrigue of doubles draws with more and more “regular” teams showing up. All four quarter finals look like they’ll be great.
In the top half, look for Ben Croft/Waselenchuk to get stretched to the limit by the Mar/Montoya team (who just won gold at the Pan Am games) before advancing to face their frequent nemesis team of DLR/Beltran in one semi.
In the bottom half, I like the Colombian national team of Mercado/Franco to top Parrilla/Portillo and to face the #2 seeded Landa/Murray team, who continues to have great success playing with each other semi.
Croft/Waselenchuk took out DLR/Beltran the last time they played (Mar 2019) and we’ll go with that again, as they then continue to beat Landa/Murray in the final.
—————— Lets get it on. Look for Streaming announcements in all the usual places all weekend.
Thanks to their performance at the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships earlier this year, Team Canada qualified two men and two women to the event, so these players will be pulling double duty singles and doubles in Peru.
On the Men’s side … the choices were pretty obvious. Murray and Iwaasa were the two finalists in all three qualifying events (the 1st National team Qualifier in Nov 2018, the 2nd Qualifier in February 2019, and Canadian Nationals In May 2019). Murray topped Iwaasa in all three events, and these two players have clearly established themselves as the top Canadian Men.
Murray plays the IRT tour full time and finished 7th on tour this year. He should be a favorite to advance deep into the knockout stages, given his tour accomplishments and his international experience. Murray has represented Canada 8 times before internationally; his best IRF result is making the 2016 world semis, losing toDaniel De La Rosa.
Iwaasa played just one pro event this season, the WRT event that occurred in Calgary in October. In that event (PRS match report here: http://rball.pro/E7785F) he topped a number of IRT semi-regulars before falling toAndree Parrilla in the final. This will be Iwaasa’s 6th international appearance; his best results previously were a quarter final apperance at the 2014 Pan American Sports Festival (where he lost to David ” Bobby” Hornand the 2015 Pan American Games (where he lost to Alvaro Beltran).
On the Women’s side, the two players selected are in-arguably the top two players in Canada, but some questions may arise from the qualification process. Lambert and Saunders were the finalists in the 1st qualifier, with Lambert winning. But, Lambert did not play in the 2nd qualifier nor Canada Nationals; there Saunders beat Christine Richardson in the finals both times. As it turns out, Canada’s team qualification guidelines specify exceptions for top-ranked IRT and LPRT pros, automatically qualifying them if they’re in the top 8 at the time of the team selection. See http://www.racquetball.ca/download/2019Racquetball_INP_PAGs.pdf for the guidelines (h/t to Frederique Lambert for the link).
Lambert obviously gives the team a better chance at medaling in Peru, but it comes at the expense of Richardson, who made a semis and two finals during qualifying and thus has a claim to the team based on the overall qualifying results.
Lambert finished the pro season ranked 9th on tour despite missing 5 of the 10 events (dropping out of the top 8 only at the last event). This after finishing the prior year ranked 2nd and making 5 pro tournament finals. She finished off Medical school, which limited her travel schedule. This will be the 10th time Lambert represents Canada; she has made two international finals, losing the 2012 and 2016 PARC finals to Longoria.
The limits of players on both teams also means that the selected players will be forced doubles partners. But luckily, the players do have some experience playing with each other.
– Murray/Iwaasa teamed up to win the 2018 Canadian National title – they also played together at PARC earlier this year, losing in the final.
– Lambert/Saunders first played together at the 2014 Worlds, losing in the qtrs. – They teamed up at the 2016 PARC event, losing in the semis to eventual champs Mexico – They made the semis at 2016 Worlds together, losing to the USA team. – They won 2018 Canada Nationals together – they last played at 2018 Worlds, struggling in the RRs and losing in the 16s.
Rocky gets a chance to defend his two straight running Pan Am games titles; he was the 2011 and 2015 singles champion.
This limited number of players on the US team leads to some interesting decisions: – Thanks to 3 Men players … one player is pulling double duty playing both Singles and Doubles, while one player only gets to play doubles. Looking at this delegation, i’ll guess that its Rocky & Jake who play singles, and Jake/Pratt who play doubles. – Thanks to just 2 Women; they both have to play both singles and doubles … and they are a “forced” doubles team who may very well have never played before. I have no record of Rhonda and Kelani playing doubles together … so they’ll have to get some practice in.
———— Now for some discussion, because the selection of Rocky may be a bit controversial.
After the 2019 National singles results, the official US National team standings sat as follows on this page:
Rocky Carsondid not enter National Singles, and dropped to 4th in the standings … enough to keep him in the team discussions, and thus enough to make him eligible for his eventual selection. The US committed has selected Carson over Horn, which seems unfair given Horn’s pedigree and participation. Of course, this writer doesn’t know if Horn had a conflict and had to bow out, or if the committee made a judgement that Carson (who is inarguably the better player) was a better selection to bring back a medal in Peru.
This decision is also interesting to me because: – Pratt as a singles player has made the finals of the last two international events he’s entered. – Jake and Horn are frequent doubles partners, and represented the US in two recent Pan American Championships. – Carson is the 2x defending singles champ and still the 2nd best player in the world.
So it’d make sense to have Jake and Horn play doubles together, and it’d make sense to have both Carson and Pratt play singles. But … the team only got 3 spots, costing the team its preferred/full delegation. It will be interesting to see how the men’s team lines up.
are 1-2, with Hollie Rae Scottclose behind. Then there’s a size-able gap to the 4th ranked US player at current. But, only two players can go. Lawrence had to miss out the last time she qualified to represent the US internationally due to prior commitments (she got married the same weekend as the event) and isn’t missing out again.
In the end though, the selection of Rhonda and Kelani are supported by results on the court and are the best two US female players right now.
POST PUBLISHING UPDATE: the roles of the players were announced just ahead of the event, and Rocky is only playing doubles. That means no chance for him to defend his 2x title. An odd choice Rocky has made, not to attempt to compete for the Singles team spot.
In the 16s: – In the 8/9 game, Robert Collins got a solid win over Luis R Avila in a tie-breaker. – #5Adam Manilla took out hometown veteran favorite Woody Clouse and has a streamlined shot at the National Semis thanks to … – #4 seed Jose Diaz, who I thought could win this event, was a no-show, giving Utahian Anthony Martin a walk-over into the quarters. – Two IRT regulars met in Thomas Carter and Nicholas Nick Riffel, with Carter coming out on top in a tie-breaker.
In the Qtrs: – #1 Jake Bredenbeck cruised past fellow IRT top 20 player Collins 4,2 – #5 Manilla similarly cruised past Utahian Anthony Martin 3,2 – #3 David Horn was stretched by #6 Carter, going 11-7 in the breaker. Another solid result for Carter, but a good step towards keeping his National team spot for Horn. – #2 Charlie Pratt took out his local playing rival Dylan Reid 14,5.
In the Semis: – #5 Manilla played lights out for stretches, but not enough of them to take out #1 Bredenbeck, falling in an 11-5 tiebreaker. – #3 Horn got a great win over #2 Pratt, 11-7 in the breaker, to advance to the final and attempt to repeat as US Champion. Pratt has made the finals of the last two international events in which he’s represented the US … but a national title continues to elude him.
In the Final … Jake could do no wrong, and Bobby couldn’t do much to stop him. In an amazingly compete performance, Bredenbeck beat Horn 1,1 to take the US title. Its his third overall and he returns to the podium after a 3 year absence. Horn finishes runner-up for the 4th time.
There was just one play-in/round of 16 match: – Annie Roberts, the current 16U National champ and who still has 3 years remaining in the junior ranks, took on regular LPRT touring pro Cassie Leein the 8/9 match and came out on top in a tie-breaker.
In the Semis: – #5 Lawrence got a career win, beating the 8-time defending US national champ Rajsich in an a tiebreaker. These two had met in the singles finals of the last three major US national team qualifying events, and Lawrence got this breakthrough win on the same weekend that her mother Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey was inducted into the US Racquetball hall of Fame. – #3 Scott downed the legendary LPRT pro Cheryl Gudinas in two. Scott is going for a rather rare double: Intercollegiates and National titles in the same year. It’s only happened once before … in 1976, when Memphis State University’s Sarah Green won both events in the same year.
(side note: the 3rd place game, which we often don’t mention, thus is Rajsich vs Gudinas. Holy cow. That’s a combined 19 (!) US National titles between them to go along with 8 pro titles. In case you’re wondering … they’ve played no less than 50 times across pro, US nationals and IRF events now, with Rajsich leading 32-18. See http://rball.pro/A7470B).
In the Finals, Lawrence came from a game down and saved match point against to take the title 11-10 over Scott by running off two points at the end of the tie-breaker.
—————- Congrats to all who played. Later this week we’ll review the Canadian singles and Mexican Junior events form last week.
Next up on the rball schedule? There’s some lower tier IRT events in early June, one last LPRT Grand Slam in mid-june in Kansas, then the US Junior Olympics in late June in Portland.
This year’s version of event is the 52nd iteration of the event, and is as far as I know the longest running racquetball tournament in existence. It was first held in 1968 in Milwaukee, where two legends competed in the final (Bill Schultz defeated Hall of Famer Bill Schmidtke in the final).
Record holders for Most National Titles? –Rocky Carson holds 7 National titles, winning his first in 2000 and his most recent in 2017. Interestingly, despite still being ranked #2 on the pro tour, Rocky did not compete in the 2018 version, nor is he in this weekend’s draw.
– Rhonda Rajsich holds 11 National titles, winning her first in 2004. She’s also the defending champ, the #1 seed this weekend and has won the last eight National events.
Your defending champs are David Horn and Rajsich. I’m not entirely sure how Horn drops to the #3 seed behind Jake in particular (who he has bested round for round in the last few national qualifying events)., but would have had to play Pratt in the semis regardless so its a minor seeding nit.
————– Men’s Singles:
Lets preview some of the match-ups i’ll be looking for: In the 16s: – #8 Luis R Avila vs #9 Robert Collins; 8/9 match-ups are always tough, and this should be no different. Lefty touring pro Collins versus the defending outdoor 3-wall champ Avila, who periodically comes indoors and has some good wins on his resume. This is a good test for both. – #5 Adam Manilla vs #12 Woody Clouse; Woody Clouse back in action competing for the National team … for the first time since 2006. Clouse qualified for the team in 2005 and represented the US in the Pan American Games in April 2006, losing in the final to Canadian Kris Odegard 11-9. He also had several top 10 pro tour finishes during the deep mid 90s tour days. Now he’s back at age 53, playing in his home town. He faces off against fellow lefty Manilla, fresh off of a second top 20 season on tour with some good results. I think Manilla moves on but it’ll be a fun L vs L match. – #6 Thomas Carter vs #11 Nicholas Nick Riffel; two IRT regulars meet up; they faced each other 3 times in 3 months in early 2018, with Carter taking 2 of 3. Riffel had a tough end to his 2018-19 tour, forfeiting out of Syosset with an injury. Meanwhile Carter had a nice run at the end of the season, getting a couple of solid wins and making the main draw in both Florida and NY. Advantage Carter here. – #7 Dylan Reid vs #10 Jeff Stark; two West Coasters who have played more than a few times meet up in the first round. I think the podcasting Reid is favored here but they know each other’s game.
Man, lots of Lefties in action. At least four, maybe more. Something in the water in Denver maybe.
Projecting the Qtrs: – #1 Jake Bredenbeck vs Avila: Jake struggled with upsets all season … then blew it out in NY, taking out Pratt, Daniel De La Rosa and nearly beating Andree Parrilla. So which Jake shows up? – #4 Jose Diaz vs #5 Manilla: they’ve only played a couple times, but both matches were 3- or 5-game tiebreakers. I like Diaz here … in a tiebreaker. – #3 Horn vs #6 Carter: I don’t think they’ve ever played in a top-level event … so a first for everyone. Horn should win this one in two closer games. – #2 Charlie Pratt vs #7 Dylan Reid: another match-up of two upper northwestern guys, both hailing from Portland. Fly all the way to Denver … have a repeat of your tuesday night game. Pratt’s solid and advances here.
So i’m predicting Chalk to the semis … and then for some upsets to happen.
Semis: – #4 Diaz over #1 Jake: they’re pretty even career-wise h2h, but havn’t played in a year and a half. I like Diaz here. Diaz had the better season, nearly slipping into the top 10 and jumping Jake in the rankings. – #2 Pratt over Horn: They played in December in Portland, a close 2-game win for Pratt, and I like the year Pratt is having so far.
Final: – #2 Pratt over Diaz. head to head, Diaz has never lost to Pratt. But something tells me Pratt is on a mission this year.
—————- Women’s Singles: just 9 in this draw, but some good match-ups towards the back and one incredibly poor seeding job:
In the Quarters: – #1 Rajsich over #8 Cassandra Cassi Lee – #5 Kelani Lawrence over #4 Sheryl Lotts; here’s a seeding question. Lawrence made the Women’s singles final of the 2018 qualifier at Nat’l doubles, made the finals at 2018 Nationals, and made the finals at the 2019 Qualifier at Nat’l Doubles. So that’s basically the last three major National events…. how exactly is she seeded 5th in this event?? What more does she have to do to demonstrate that she’s basically the 2nd best American woman player right now? – #3 Hollie Rae Scott over #6 Adrienne Fisher Haynes – #2 Erika Manilla holds off retired LPRT legend Cheryl Gudinas
In the semis: – #1 Rajsich takes out Lawrence in a rematch of the last three major US national team final, instead of in the final like it should be – #3 Scott takes out #2 Manilla in a rematch of this year’s Intercollegiates semis.
In the final: Rajsich takes her 9th straight US title over Scott.
———————- Lastly, a note on attendance. There’s some separate conversations about the # of participants this weekend going on. Here’s a list of the participation numbers for the last 14 National Singles events (these are the “# of participants” from the r2sports page and should indicate unique players, not # of draw entrants):
The event held steady in the low 500s its last five years in H ouston, then spiked during its Fullerton years thanks to simultaneous IRT and LPRT events (some of the pro draws from those years were amazing; 70+ mens pros competing). But we’ve seen a precipitous drop in attendance over the last few years, including a 100+ attendee drop from 2015 to 2016, now not even able to clear 200 players this year. 191 players isn’t even close to what National Doubles got this year (306) and that number is basically halved from the beginning of the century.
I know there’s some fundamental industry issues that are driving down these numbers. But this is the NGB’s marquee event. You can’t turn back time and make it the mid 2000s again (to say nothing of the mid 1990s), but you can strategize other aspects of the event to make it more appealing to a larger audience, and I hope to see some turn around in the coming years.
It may have only been a tier 2, but there were a slew of great matches in San Jose this past weekend.
————— Lets recap the Pro Singles draw, highlight key match-ups.
In the play-ins: – Cuban #1 Maikel Mollet beat #12 Alan Natera Chavez 11-8 in the breaker, a signature win for the Cuban.
In the 16s: – #9 Andres Acuña crushed doubles partner and country-man #8 Felipe Camacho 3,3. He’s had a great season and will get a great test going against #1 seed and #2 ranked Carson next. – #11 Ernesto Ochoa got a great win over #6 Mario Mercado 11-9. Ochoa has multiple wins over IRT top 10 players in the last year and probably has moved into the world top 20 at this point. – #10 Javier Mar beat #7 David Horn 13,7 to advance to face Landa in a juicy quarter final.
In the Qtrs: – #1 seed Rocky Carson made fast work over Acuna 6,4 in his opener. – #4 Alvaro Beltran got his first win over #5 Rodrigo Montoya Solís since Mexicali 2017 … and just like in 2017 he won 11-10. Montoya still has a career winning h2h record over Alvaro but missed an opportunity here. – #3 Andree Parrilla was stretched to a tiebreaker but took out #11 Ochoa 11-7. Hope to see more of Ochoa on tour going forward. – #2 Alex Landatook out #10 Mar in two close games 14,13. Definitely an indication of just how close these two guys are despite their seeds.
So, we’re chalk into the semis, top four seeds competing, despite some really close matches in the quarters.
In the Semis … we had two upsets. – #4 Beltran topped #1 Carson in a tie-breaker, continuing their current back-and-forth rivalry. The two veterans have played more than 50 times and have split their last 6 meetings. – #3 Parrilla beat #2 Landa in two game 8,11 to advance to the final, where he’s likely favored, having beaten Beltran their last three times on the court.
In the final, Parrilla came from a game down to trounce Beltran 11-2 in the tie-breaker for the win.
—————- There was an even larger Men’s Open draw, with essentially the full Pro draw of participants but with completely different seeding, resulting in semis-quality early round match-ups. Here’s a review of the notable matches in Men’s Open singles.
In the 16s: – Parrilla took out Montoya in two close games 14,12. These two have been playing forever; they’re the same year in juniors and traded back and forth junior Mexico and World titles. This is the first time they’ve met since Mexico Nationals in 2018, and it had been more than 2 years since Andree got a win over Rodrigo. – Camacho got wiped out by Ochoa 5,4. – Mollet got a rematch against Natera and lost in two 12,8. – Mercado beat Landa 11-8 in a match that I wonder how seriously Landa was playing (given that he’s into the pro semis, the doubles semis and was coming off a draining match over Mar).
In the Quarters: – #1 Parrilla advanced easily over #25 Felipe Alonso – #4 Horn beat #21 Ochoa by the slimmest of margins 14,14. – #6 Mercado took out upset-minded #19 Natera in a tie-breaker – #2 Acuna got a walkover from #7 Costa Rican Gabriel Garcia.
In the semis: – Parrilla beat Horn handily to make the final … putting him in both singles finals Pro and Open. – Mercado had a come-back tiebreaker win over Acuna to advance to the final.
In the final, Parrilla cruised past Mercado 8,7 for the double win.
—————- Lastly, they did play doubles, with some good pro teams playing. The draw went chalk to the semis, with 4 good teams of tour regulars playing. – Mar/Montoya topped #1 seeds Beltran/Landa in the top semi. – the CRC national doubles team of Camacho/Acuna beat two IRT vets Horn/Mercado in the other.
In what looked like an awesome final, the home-town team came from a game down and saved match points against to win 11-10 over the Mexican team of Mar/Montoya for the win.
—————- Points Implications of the Event: very little.
Here’s a quick points impact summary of these results: – top 14 remain unchanged. – Parrilla and Beltran each replaced missed results/0 point weekends with 120 and 90 points respectively, moving them up slightly but not enough to overtake Landa. – Carson and Landa did not earn enough points to replace any lower result weekends, so their seasonal point totals remain the same. – There was some slight movement up/down in the 15-20 range, as some players lost and gained points thanks to expiring/gained points on the weekend, but nothing major.
—————- If you missed any of the matches, they streamed on youtube all weekend. Go to Youtube.com and search for “10a edición Costa Rica Open Racquetball” to find the streams.
Next up: All the major countries are holding National events this coming weekend: USA Adult National singles, Canada national singles and doubles, and Mexican Junior Nationals. I believe Ecuador has some nationals next weekend as well. We’ll do previews of all events in what should be a busy weekend.
Next up for IRT: another lower tier event in Garden City, KS in two weeks time.