Well… its been six months since I wrote a pro tournament preview in this space. I almost forgot how to write one of these things. But somehow, we have pro racquetball happening this weekend.
The 2020 IRT Atlanta Open, which was initially set to be the 2020-21 Tier 1 slate season opener, has been repurposed as a Tier 4 event and is being held this weekend at Recreation Atlanta in Lilburn, GA.
Interestingly, the draw features a huge chunk of the Colombian national team playing, including its top three ranked singles players and some players who have traveled up from Cali. I’ll call them out in the preview below.
There’s 16 players in the pro singles draw and 9 pro doubles teams. Its a solid draw, featuring a slew of touring pros, so its worth running through a preview.
Lets preview the draw. Here’s some interesting matches from the round of 16. – #1 Alex Landa vs #16 Andres Ramirez; interesting first rounder for the current #2 player in the world. He takes on a long-time Florida star Ramirez, who has been playing pro events for nearly two decades and has even played internationally in the past. This is no cakewalk for Landa. – #5 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on home-town favorite #12 Marquis Miller , the twin brother of regular tour player Maurice Miller. – #6 Maurice Miller takes on traveling Colombian @Juan Pablo Rodriguez in his opener. – #7 MoMo Zelada gets a tough first rounder in solid Florida amateur Matt Fontana.
Projected Qtrs – #1 Landa over #9 Austin Cunningham, to advance over Jim Douglas. – #5 Garay over #4 Mario Mercado; two Colombian teammates battle it out in the 4/5 spot. Mercado has been an enigma on the court; sometimes he’s lights out and sometimes he’s one-and-done. His 2019-20 season had a final reached and three round-of-32 exits. Garay topped him for the second Colombian team spot earlier this year, and that could be a trend for the young ex-Mexican junior national team member. I like Garay’s game but this could be a close one. Garay to edge Mercado in the breaker. – #3 Sebastian Franco vs #6 Miller: Franco also had an up-and-down season, making two semis but also getting upset in the qualifiers a couple times and missing a bunch of events. He faces the tough Miller playing on his home courts under interesting circumstances. Has Franco been playing? The court availability in the DC area isn’t the same as Atlanta, where the clubs have been open for a bit. Upset watch here, but Franco advances. – #2 Daniel De La Rosa vs #7 MoMo Zelada; DLR makes the bit trip eastward to compete in this event and gets DC-area native Zelada. I like MoMo (shoutout to Formulaflow) but DLR outclasses him here and moves on.
Projected Semis: – #1 Landa over #5 Garay: these two met twice last season and split, so Garay won’t be intimidated by Landa’s game. This is a contrast in style; Landa plays controlled and clinical, while Garay plays powerful and passionate. Landa ekes it out. – #2 DLR over #3 Franco: they’ve met 9 times in top level competition (IRT and IRF) and DLR leads 7-2. Interestingly, they have not met professionally since Jan 2017 despite both being regular tour players for the past few years. DLR finished the season on fire, and I like him to keep going. DLR in two.
Finals: Landa over DLR. Yes, Landa owns the head to head record between these two, and it has been more than 3.5 years since DLR beat Alex on the court. But when they do play, they play close. Multiple 11-10 or 12-10 in the fifth encounters between them. Both have similar game styles; both are shot makers who rely more on skill than on power. If DLR is on, he’s hard to beat. But these two have played so much that they find it hard to get into their preferred game against each other. Look for Landa to win 11-9.
Doubles review Nine teams entered, with a good mix of locals playing with traveling pros. I like the #1 seed of Landa/Zelada advancing over #4 Mercado/Miller on the top, with DLR/Donald Williams topping two teams with Colombian pros in the bottom. In the final, Look for Landa/Zelada to take the win and give landa the double.
Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Dean DeAngelo Baer Favio Soto , Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!
Here’s some more reports we’ve added lately. There will be a part 3 of this post: we’ve added a lotta a stuff in the last year or so.
– I added a couple of specific IRF queries around the time of the Pan Am games in Aug 2019 that i’ll cover in a separate post, probably revisiting the next time we actually have an IRF event (they have cancelled the Pan American Racquetball Confederation – PARC championships for 2020 thanks to Covid-19). But if you’re bored you can fire up the IRF section and run all sorts of new reports.
– Player Lefty-Righty W/L Splits: great suggestion from Brian Pineda (who still owes me $10 from a bet made during a match last fall), who surmised that some players are better than others against lefties. Well, now you can query that. Here’s Alex Landa ‘s splits L vs R: http://rball.pro/28335A
– Head to Head Summary report: interesting suggestion by Timothy Baghurst to emulate a graphic we saw posted on a Squash broadcast: if you fire up the “Tale of the Tape” report, you can now select this H2H Match Summary report, which breaks down the h2h wins/losses, plus gives details on 3-game wins, 4-game wins and 5-game wins in both the best-of-3 and best-of-5 format. Here’s an example of this data for matches between Kane Waselenchuk and Rocky Carson: http://rball.pro/49B9BA
– Slight improvement to the Player Summary report as suggested by Evan Pritchard (aka Kramer X, aka the guy who writes The Racquetball Blog) to add in # of tournaments played along side # missed and total per player, per year. This does make the report more readable definitely. Here’s an example of a player summary for Paola Longoria showing the new column: http://rball.pro/7F61BB
– Addition of Player Home pages as suggested by JT R Ball. We don’t know too many stand alone pages for players, so I’ve added in some known “Facebook home pages” that some players are using in lieu of an external page. This data is now seen on the Player Profile reports. I’ll continue to add home pages as I encounter them. JT also just sent me some youtube playlist links that I may use instead of home pages for some players.
– Added functionality to the “Oldest to…” and “Youngest to…” reports after a conversation where Keerti Kumar asked whether Lalo Portillo99 was the youngest player ever to break into the top 10. I’ve modified the “Youngest to..” and “Oldest to…” queries to also list the Youngest and Oldest players to ever finish a season ranked in the top 10 on tour.
The answer to the question, “was Lalo the youngest ever to break into the top 10?” requires a bit of a history lesson.
Short Answer: No.
Longer Answer: Prior to 1982 there wasn’t a points system on tour used to determine the year end winner; the year end Nationals tournament determined the winner. They did have a ranking system, but it was just used to seed events properly. In the early days of racquetball, the tour was dominated by very young players succeeding at an early age. Marty Hogan (racquetball) for example finished as runner up in the Nationals in 1976 and 1977 at the ages of 18 and 19 respectively. Brett Harnett amazingly played most of the 1980-1 season at the age of 16, then made the semis of Nationals just after turning 17. Newly elected Hall of Famer Gregg Peck was just a few months younger than Harnett and played alongside of him, making the quarters of the 1981 nationals also at the age of 17.
Harnett then finished ranked 4th on tour the first year there was a ranking system in 1982. Other teenagers to finish in the top 10 once there was a ranking system include Gregg Peck, Gerry Price in 1983, Cliff Swain in 1985, Jack Huczek in 2002 and most recently Daniel De La Rosa in 2013.
– Added a section to the “Oldest to..” report to have a “non Ruben Gonzalez version of the “Oldest players to make the round of 16” on the Men’s tour. Ruben held 19 of the top 20 spots; now you can see who else is getting close.
——————- We’ll do part 3 next week to spread out the rball content!
—————- In the 128s: no surprises. Local @Victor Migliore took Guatemalan veteran Christian Wer to a tie-breaker but fell 11-9. The other three traveling members of the Guatemala national team all won their openers and moved on. Oregon’s Jim Douglas, an active member of the online rball community, went down in a tie-breaker to local player Nadeem Sharifudden.
In the 64s, a couple of notable matches: – Guatemalan Juan Salvatierra downed IRT touring regular Justus Benson in two close games 12,13. Solid win by Salvatierra to move on. – Semi-regular IRT regular Kyle Ulliman was stretched by another traveling Guatemalan in Edwin Galicia before advancing in a breaker.
—————- In the 32s, we got some upsets and close matches. – In the 16/17 match, a tiebreaker as expected. #16 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez held off the Costa Rican number one Andres Acuña 11-7 in the breaker. – Jaime Martell Racquetball showed he came to play, crushing the #9 seed Mario Mercado 7,2 to make the main draw as a #24 seed. – #13 Thomas Carter crushed the upstart #20 Sam Bredenbeck 1,9 to make the main draw. – #19 Robert Collins pushed #14 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez to a breaker before falling. – In the 15/18 match, a surprise. #18 Adam Manilla outplayed and outhustled #15 Javier Mar to advance 9,9. Mar was off, but Manilla was definitely on. can he make another run (he made the Semis in Austin in January?
—————- In the 16s: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk got his tourney started off against the upstart youngster #16 Sebastian Fernandez, who lost 6,9. Good showing here against the king. – #8 Lalo Portillo99 got a very solid win against #24 Martell 13,13 to move on. Martell pushed but couldn’t break through here, though there wasn’t much between these players on the day. – #5 Andree Parrilla reversed his recent one-and-done trend with am emphatic win over #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 0,11. – #4 Alvaro Beltran held serve against #13 Carter 8,8 to move on. – #3 Rocky Carson was stretched to a tiebreaker by #14 Garay before advancing 11-7. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa went to the limit against #11 Jake Bredenbeck, saving match point against to win 11-10. – #7 Samuel Murray dominated #10 Rodrigo Montoya Solís 11,3 to get another quarter final appearance and put some distance between him and Rodrigo in the race for the top 10. Montoya, who had been as high as #8 this season, will dip down to #12 with these results, and he has to be thinking about what he can do to turn things around. – #2 Alex Landa advanced by the skin of his teeth, beating upstart lefty #18 Manilla 11-10.
So, the quarters are chalk, with the top 8 seeds advancing, but it could have gone either way with a number of these matches.
—————- In the Quarters
– #1 Kane held serve against #8 Portillo, advancing to the semis 6,7. – #5 Parrilla continued his best pro showing in months, coming from a game down to take out veteran Beltran in a breaker. – #6 DLR crushed #3 Carson 5,5. This is Rocky’s 5th exit this season at the quarters or earlier … last season he made the semis or better in every event. Meanwhile DLR continues his resugence; these results will be enough for him to supplant Moscoso for #6 on tour, and within shouting distance of #5 and #4. – #2 Landa cruised by his doubles partner #7 Murray in two shorter games.
————— In the Semis – #1 Kane showed how formidable he can be, coming down from a large game two deficit to cruise into the final 6,11 past #5 Parrilla. With this semis appearance, Parrilla nearly catches back up with Beltran for 4th on tour; its going to be a great battle for that 4/5 spot the rest of the way. – #2 Landa ended the DLR freight train but needed a tiebreaker to do so. Landa extends his recent dominance over DLR (he’s won their last 7 meetings).
In the Finals, it was one-way traffic like it often is with Kane, who took about 10 minutes to take the first game 15-3 and eventually the match 3,5.
—————- Points Implications of results; This tourney replaces the same event last season, so there’s some players defending higher than average points. In Chicago last season, Kane d Rocky in the final and Andree/Montoya made the semis. Also notably, DLR got upset in the 16s, so he had great gains here this weekend.
Notable ranking moves: – DLR overtakes Moscoso for #6 – Bredenbeck should jump to #10; he was #13 entering the event. Jake and Mercado are now separated by just 2 points in my worksheet for the #10 spot, which would be the first time Jake finishes in the top 10 if he can retain the spot. – Horn’s injury-driven absence costs him 3 spots in the rankings; he falls to #18 from #15 last week. – Sam Bredenbeck jumps back into the top 30; he is now #28. – Jaime Martell makes a huge jump from #42 to #35
Chalk to the quarters, though both the #1 and #2 seeds went tiebreaker to get there.
In the semis, the top to Mexican teams advanced yet again to the final to face off. #1 DLR/Beltran dropped a game to the quickly improving Portillo/Parrilla pairing before moving, while Montoya/Mar dominated the #2 seeds Landa/Murray 11,3 to force a rematch of the Mexican Nationals event that happened just a few weeks ago.
In the final, DLR/Beltran got back the upper hand in their burgeoning rivalry with their younger Mexican teammates, taking a closely fought 10,13 match for the title. Its their 7th pro doubles title together since Jan 2017.
—————- Other Draws:
Men’s Open went nearly chalk into the quarters, and chalk to the semis with the top 4 seeds (all IRT regulars) advancing.
In one semi Fernandez topped Franco in two, while in the other Acuna spanked Mercado to make the final. There, both guyts played like they had a plane to catch (both are very fast workers), and Acuna took out his Mexican rival 11,13.
Women’s Open; a decent 8-woman draw was taken by Erika Manilla, who beat top junior Erin Slutzky in the semis and then Costa Rican international Melania Sauma in the final.
Men’s Open Doubles was taken by Cuevas/Franco over top seed Illinois locals Keith Minor and Fernando Javier Rivera.
Mixed Open Doubles was taken by Slutzky and India international Alok Mehta.
—————– Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Dean Baer, Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew
—————— Next up?
Well. I have no idea what is next.
Its pretty amazing what has transpired in this country in just the last 7 days. A week ago we were finishing up the Boston Open on the Ladies side without any real national movement on this Covid-19 Corona Virus. Then in the last week, from a rball perspective we’ve seen every major tournament planned for the next month cancelled. WOR Beach Bash, a number of state singles competitions, an IRT tier 5 in Monroe, LA, USAR intercollegiates, and most notably the annual PARC event to be held in Bolivia.
That clears out the racquetball schedule through at least mid April. But who knows what will transpire between now and then. We’re already seeing travel bans; it seems unlikely that a “tour” based sport like pro racquetball could function if none of the traveling players could travel to the events.
So who knows. Is it possible we’ve seen the last pro events until well into the summer? Maybe. Depends on how dangerous this virus turns out to be, how exponentially it expands, and how much more of an impact it makes on society. Crazy times.
The full Mens tour is back in action for the 35th Annual KWM Gutterman, Inc. Shamrock Shootout Tier 1 Pro Stop Presented by MyPillow, being held in Lombard, just outside of Chicago IL.
The 35th annual running event, which makes it one of the longer running events in the land. It has been a full tier 1 stop for the past 5 years. Chicago itself has been a regular home to IRT stops in general, for years hosting Pro Nationals, and then for years before that the famous Halloween Open. A lot of this was due to former tour commissioner and long time rball organizer Dave Negrete being Chicago-based.
is it a flip draw? Nope, this is a straight draw 1-8.
—————————— Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:
In the round of 128: – Thanks to the proximity of the upcoming Pan American Racquetball Championships, we’ve got the full Guatemalan team here (Edwin Galicia, Javier Martinez, Juan Salvatierra and Christian Wer). Each of these four is playing a local IRT debutant in the opening round of 128, so welcome all first time pro players.
———————————- In the round of 64: things start to heat up. – #17 Andres Acuña manages to be the highest player not getting a bye into the 32s; for his trouble he likely gets a juicy central american match-up against Guatemalan Martinez. – #24 Jaime Martell Racquetball vs #25 Anthony Martin; great opener, as we would expect from a 24/25 match-up. Martel makes a rare appearance on tour, while Martin plays his 6th event of the season. – #19 Robert Collins likely takes on Guatemalan veteran Christian Wer. – #26 Guatemalan Edwin Galicia likely takes on #23 Kyle Ulliman in what could be a close match.
——————————- Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible match-ups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot: – #16/#17 looks like a potential doozy: #16 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez, who has been stuck at the #17 seed the last couple of tournaments, jumps a spot and thus gets the bye into the 32s. He’ll likely face #17 Acuna, who has been getting solid wins all season. Tough one to predict: I like Patata to build on his Mexican Nationals showing and move on. – #9 Mario Mercado versus likely #24 Martell: Rough possible draw for Mercado, who has faced Martell a few times before and never beaten him. I like a run for the Mexican here. – #13 Thomas Carter versus likely #20 Sam Bredenbeck; fun match here between two of the younger guys on tour. Sam beat Carter in 2019 Sioux Falls but it was tight. – #11 Jake Bredenbeck vs likely #22 Justus Benson: lots of broken balls in this one; two hard hitters. – #15 Javier Mar versus likely #18 Adam Manilla: this is the highest i can recall seeing Mar seeded in an event; he’ll fancy his chances to move on and face a familiar opponent in the 16s.
——————————- round of 16: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk versus the Fernandez/Acuna winner; neither will be favored to beat the King of course, but I like what i’ve seen lately out of Fernandez and i’d like to see what his confident game style brings against Kane. – #24 Martell vs #9 Lalo Portillo: this is a stretch, but if Martell pulls off the upset of Mercado he could very well also upset Portillo. They faced off in 2019’s Mexican Nationals, a straight forward 2-game win for Jaime. Portillo won the Minnesota event last weekend and had a very solid Mexican nationals in 2020 (topped Montoya, took DLR to a breaker). This could be a fascinating match. – #5 Andree Parrilla vs #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez: Parrilla is in a rut; he’s gone one and done the last three pro events, he lost in the 16s at Mexican Nationals to a player he should have beat, and one of those pro round of 16 losses was to Franco. I sense another upset here until Andree can right the ship. – #4 Alvaro Beltran faces the Carter/Bredenbeck winner: either way i like Beltran, though Carter did put a Loss on Alvaro in Portland in December. – #3 Rocky Carson returns to action after a rare missed pro event in January and likely faces the tough Eduardo Garay Rodriguez in the 16s. Garay has been playing increasingly well against top opponents, while Carson topped Landa in his last on-the-court match, seemingly having fully recovered at this point from his knee issue in December. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #11 Bredenbeck: Jake has a couple of wins over DLR … but DLR has been playing some great ball lately. He advances. – #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Rodrigo Montoya Solís; just a couple of meetings between these two on the books; they’re 1-1 h2h. This is the kind of match Montoya needs to win in order to establish his spot in the rball elite. Both players have had kind of up and down seasons; this could be a win to build on. – #2 Alex Landa vs #15 Mar: Neither guy here can be happy with this draw; they’re pretty evenly matched, they have split a couple of meetings at Mexican Nats over the years but have not played professionally. I think it could be tight but will favor Landa to move on.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – #1 Kane over #24 Martel – #4 Beltran over #12 Franco: they’ve played 4 times, Beltran has never dropped a game to him. – #3 Carson vs #6 DLR: they’ve been trading wins back and forth for a few years now. DLR topped him earlier this year in Sioux Falls and has been playing really consistent ball; i’ll go with the upset here. – #2 Landa vs #10 Montoya; when they do play, its often close: last meeting was an 11-10 win for Rodrigo in Sioux Falls in 2019. I’ll go with Landa here.
Semis: – Kane over Beltran in what would be their 54th pro meeting. – Landa over DLR; Landa has beaten DLR the last 6 times they’ve played and seems to have his number. But, its always close.
Finals: Kane over Landa.
——————————- Doubles review
We’re playing pro doubles this weekend too; 10 teams with three of the best teams in the world present, plus the Bredenbeck brothers and the two national Guatemalan teams playing.
I like a rematch of the Mexican national finals to happen between #1 Beltran/DLR and #3 Montoya/Mar, but both teams will have to earn it to get t here against tough semi-finalists.
——————————— Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Dean DeAngelo Baer, Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!
Welcome to the last event of the 2020 IRT mid-west swing, and its a special one. “The Lou,” a long-running IRT satellite in Sun Prairie, WI (outside of Madison), has stepped up this year for the first time to become a Tier 1 event.
This represents the first time the IRT has had a full tier 1 in the state of Wisconsin since 2004, and this is the first time ever going anywhere except Milwaukee within the state for a major event.
Fun fact: the very first US Amateur Nationals event was held in Milwaukee in 1968. The first major racquetball tournament ever held, won by Bill Schultz over Hall of Famer Bill Schmidtke in the final.
There’s 34 players in this singles draw. There’s not a pro doubles draw but there is a healthy Men’s Open draw filled with top players that will be fun to watch.
The draw is missing two major names: #3 Rocky Carson picked up an injury (or perhaps came back a bit too soon from his Dec 2019 surgery) and misses the event. This is pretty notable; in 20 years on tour full time this is just the third event he’s missed. Also missing the draw is last week’s champ #6 Daniel De La Rosa (also reportedly out with a knock), which has to be a bummer b/c he’s been playing some of the best ball of his career this month.
Other top 20 players missing: #14 David ” Bobby” Horn (who has stated he’s stepping back from touring for financial reasons), and #18 Andres Acuña, who may be heading back to his home country to help with a big tourney starting up next week.
is it a flip draw? Yes. The 5th-8th seeds are: – Moscoso: ranked 7th, 5th highest seed in draw, seeded 8th – Murray: ranked 8th, 6th highest seed in draw, seeded 5th – Portillo: ranked 9th, 7th highest seed in draw, seeded 6th – Bredenbeck: ranked 10th, 8th highest seed in draw, seeded 7th.
Obviously, Moscoso is hardest done by, flipped into the #8 spot meaning a meeting with Kane in the quarters. Jake would have been in the same quarter he got flipped into anyway without the missing top seeds. Portillo gets a big break and is in line to face #3 seed Parrilla, who he beat recently. Biggest benefactor has to be Murray, who gets out of a Kane quarter and instead feeds into #4 Beltran (who he’s never beaten, but has been playing close).
A comment about the impact of 3 straight events; it seems to have taken a toll on some the tour’s older full-time players: – Kane (age 38): missed the middle event – Rocky (age 40): missed 2 of the 3 events – Landa (age 31) fft’d out of Lewis, wonder if he’s still showing any ill effects of the injury this weekend.
Of course that being said the tour’s oldest regular (Beltran, age 41) has made all three and shown no ill effects, so maybe its more coincidence and less causation.
—————————— Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:
In the round of 64: – #28 Minnesota native Lee Meinerz takes on former top-10 touring vet Costa Rican #21 Felipe Camacho. I like what I saw from Meinerz last week; he can give Camacho a match here for sure. He puts pressure on the ball on every shot and could push for an upset. – #22 Mexican Alan Natera Chavez takes on #27 Anthony Martin in a solid first rounder. Natera lost out to Pratt in the 64s last weekend but will shoot for a better result this weekend. – #23 Bolivian Kadim Carrasco takes on #26 American Justus Benson in the opener; 21-yr old Texan Benson has gone one-and-done in four straight tourneys and will be looking to break that streak here.
——————————- Projecting the 32s: – #16 Javier Mar likely takes on #17 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez in a very tasty match between two solid players. Somehow Fernandez gets exactly the 17th seed for the second straight event, meaning he has to play that extra match before facing a top opponent. Last week he qualified into the #1 seed; this time around he won’t be favored to repeat the feat. Mar slots into the brutal #16 seed, meaning that with a win he faces Kane in the first round of the main draw instead of the quarters (as he did in last year’s US Open) or later. A great match either way to see where Fernandez’ game is these days. – #13 Thomas Carter likely takes on #20 Javier Estrada for the second week running. Estrada took him out in a breaker last week; will we see a different result here? – #11 Mario Mercado Valenzuela likely vs #22 Natera; Both these players were taken out last week by the same guy (Charlie Pratt Racquetball): now they slate to face off for a spot in the main draw. Mercado’s season has been hit and miss: he’s got solid wins and surprising losses. its anyone’s guess here. – #15 Eduardo Garay likely takes on #18 Adam Manilla. Manilla surprised everyone with his run in Austin and has committed to the tour full time; he has his hands full though with Colombian Garay, who beat Landa in Austin two weeks ago and is moving up in the world.
——————————- Projecting the round of 16: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk takes on the Mar/Fernandez winner; Kane took last week off and should be refreshed as compared to either player here, who are doing play-ins and working on two-three straight weeks of play. – #8 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís]; Great match for the 16s. Montoya beat Moscoso in both 2018 Worlds (en route to the gold medal) and in the 2019 Pan Am games (en route to the gold medal). Both matches were close. Both are hard hitters, with great diving abilities. Moscoso has a slight knock sustained in Austin that still seemed to be bothering his mobility on the court in Sioux Falls. I’ll favor Montoya here. – #5 Samuel Murray likely vs #12 Carlos Keller Vargas: another intriguing match; Murray knocked Keller out of the 2019 Pan Am games in the quarters, but Keller upset Murray in the 32s of the US Open (a big loss in the season’s biggest event for a top 8 seed). I like Murray here. – #4 Alvaro Beltran likely vs #20 Estrada: These two met just last week at this same gate, an 8,9 win for Beltran. Can Estrada flip the script in a week’s time? Is three straight weeks and a ton of court time too much for the 41-yr old Beltran? – #3 Andree Parrilla likely vs #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; Parrilla has not been enjoying the mid-west swing so far: two one-and dones in a row in Austin and Sioux Falls. He’s now been beaten in the 16s three times this season: he had just one upset prior to the quarters the entirety of last season. If he wants to keep his top 4 seed, he needs to be making semis regularly. First up: an old WRT adversary in Franco. Parrilla is 4-0 against him in the old tour; they havn’t met professionally since 2017. I suspect Andree advances. – #6 Lalo Portillo vs the Natera/Mercado winner. Match-ups matter: Portillo has a couple of wins over Natera in RKT local events in the last year, but lost to Mercado two weeks ago in Austin. Which Portillo shows up this week? The guy who looked absolutely dominant in a run to the finals last week? Or the guy who lost three straight round of 16 openers in Nov, Dec and Jan? I’m going to go with the former and project another run here for the youngster. – #7 Jake Bredenbeck vs #10 Sebastian Franco; they’ve met 7 times in pro/IRF events over the years: Jake leads 4-3 and won their most recent skirmish; a RR affair at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Peru. I like Jake here; he’s been playing more consistent all season, while Franco has been missing events and taking upset losses. – #2 Alex Landa vs #15 Garay. How hurt is Landa? He was really struggling against Murray last week before retiring. Next week is US Nationals, where he’s playing with Sudsy Monchik in an attempt to qualify for the US team … which I have to think is pretty darn important to him given all that transpired with the Mexican federation last year. Meanwhile, Garay is tough and just beat an un-injured Landa in Austin two weeks ago. I sense another upset here, whether its Garay beating him on the level or Landa protecting his arm.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – #1 Kane over #9 Montoya: Kane’s 3-0 against the young world champ … but their most recent meeting in Portland in Dec was closer than it had been before. I sense a pattern in kane’s “close” matches; when a top player is playing well, they’ll hang with Kane for most of each game .. you’ll see scores like 8-8 or 10-9 … then poof, Kane hits another gear and suddenly its 15-10 game over. Its tough to play flawless racquetball for two straight hours against the GOAT; how close can Montoya come this time? – Beltran/Estrada winner vs Murray; Which ever Mexican advances, i’ll favor over the big Canadian. It’ll be either Beltran (who’s never lost to Murray), or Estrada (who, if he beats Beltran it means he’s “on” this week and will be tough to stop). – Parrilla over Portillo: I don’t think Parrilla is going to get upset three tourneys in a row; he’s never lost to Portillo in an IRT or WRT event (but did lost to him last year in SLP local event). But it’d be quite a statement if Lalo made another run. – Garay over Jake/SFranco; if Garay tops Landa, no reason not to think he’d also get a win here.
I know I keep predicting wins for Estrada and Garay in particular; something about their games really strikes me as solid. Maybe i’m crazy, but both players have power, athleticism, good wins on their resumes and are growing tourney by tourney. What can I say, i’m a sucker for upsets.
——————————- Semis: – Kane over Estrada – Parrilla over Garay
Finals: Kane over Parrilla.
Andree has come an awful long way from the 0,0,0 beating he took in the US Open 2016 at the hands of the king. Parrilla took a game from Kane in Syosset last season (though, to be fair Kane was nursing a hand injury), and was dominated in their most recent meeting (Portland semis). Look for Andree to find unique ways to keep this close but for Kane to pull away.
Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Dean DeAngelo Baer, Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!
– Both tours for all the efforts you make with streaming matches so that we nerds can watch from home. Jerry J Josey Jr.osey Jr. and Pablo Fajre n particular.
– Speaking of broadcasts, special thanks to the lead broadcasters on the pro tours Timothy Baghurst and Dean DeAngelo Baer. Also thanks to those who help out on broadcasts JP Edwards, Favio Saravia and many others who help out and make the streaming entertaining for those of us at home.
– thanks to Ryan and Tish Rodgers for R2 Sports App; where would we be without that system and its prevalent use to provide real-time tracking of tournaments. IRF: take note! can we please move to r2sports and move away from PDFs stored in dropbox?
– Thanks to Kramer X for everything you do with The Racquetball Blog, the only person out there really writing about the sport in a blog-format.
– Thanks to all the skilled photographers out there associated with the various organizations; keep up your great work. I’m talking Ken Fife, Kevin Savory, Mike Augustin, Freddy Ramirez, Roby Partovich, Geoff Thomsen, Mike Boatman, and others who I may have forgotten.
The IRT has released the draws for this coming weekend’s Arizona IRT Pro-Am, so its time to do a preview!
(to see the released draws before they’re available on R2, follow the IRT on facebook where they’ve been posted as of Noon Tuesday 10/22/19).
The IRT returns to Arizona for the first time in many years; the tournament is being held on the campus of Arizona State University, which has become a popular spot to host major tournaments. ASU’s campus in Tempe has held USAR National doubles every year since 2005, has hosted a slew of USAR intercollegiates championships in that same time (including 2019’s tournament), and hosted the USAR National singles event in 2017.
But, its been a while since we’ve seen either pro tour head to Arizona at all. The last time a tier 1 Men’s event was in Arizona was in May 2003, when the school hosted the season ending Pro Nationals event. For some historical context of that event and season: Huczek beat Alvaro Beltran in the final, it was the last event in Mannino sole year end title, and the top 4 seeded players in the event were all were upset in the quarters (Mannino, Swain, Waselenchuk and Ellis). Waselenchuk lost to Carson … one of the three career wins Rocky has on his long-time nemesis. Before 2003, you have to go all the way back to the mid 1990s, when a regular tour stop was held in Phoenix for several seasons, and before that the mid 1980s when the Arizona Pro-Am featured winners like Hogan and Brett Harnett.
The Ladies tour hasn’t been to Arizona in more than decade itself; in Feb 2008 the WPRO Fireball Pro-Am featured a final between the 1 and 2 seeds, as Rhonda downed Cheryl on her way to the 2008 year end title (Longoria was just starting on tour and finished 6th that season).
So, great to have pro racquetball back in Arizona. Thanks to tournament director Jim Winterton for his efforts and sponsorship.
The Men’s draw has 37 players, a good mix of southwest-locals and traveling regulars. Who is missing this weekend? The top 8 players are here, including Bolivian Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball, who moved up to being ranked 8th on the back of his US Open final appearance. However both the 9th and 10th ranked players (Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Sebastian Franco) are missing. Other top 20 players missing include #13 Mario Mercado, #15 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez, and #16 Jose Diaz. Diaz missed the first two events on the year, both east-coast based, perhaps for travel related issues. But now he misses a west-coast event; are we seeing him stepping back officially from touring? Perhaps so. Along the same note, former top 8 player Mercado has now slipped to 13, and former top 8 player Jansen Allen is now outside the top 20.
Also missing from this draw are a slew of players from Mexican hot-beds like Juarez and Chihuahua; both of which are easy drives to Tempe. I would have initially expected, like we used to see with WRT events in the south western part of the country, a junket of carpooling of Mexican players heading to the event. But, unfortunately, there are a couple competing events this weekend (an IRT Tier 4 in El Paso,Texas State Singles & Doubles, but most notably, a big RKT tournament in Mexico City). The Mexican event’s top 8 seeds (GFranco, Mar, Estrada, Natera, Ochoa, Cardona, Nieto, and Cuevas) are all IRT regulars these days and players who would be pushing for the 16s or the quarters if they were here. Furthermore the El Paso event pulled two other top Mexican players (Eduardo Garay Rodriguez and Jaime Martell Neri) away from the Arizona event. We’ll do quick previews/wrap-ups of those events later this week, but if you’re wondering where these guys are … well there’s your answer.
The Arizona draw does the “flip” seeding, so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled. 5th ranked Parrilla is seeded 6th, 6th ranked DLR is seeded 7th, 7th ranked Murray is seeded 8th, and 8th ranked Moscoso is seeded 5th. Probably goes without saying that this flip most benefits Moscoso, who achieves a top 8 rank and seed for the first time in his career and avoids Kane until a possible semi-final meeting, and most penalizes Murray, who is forced into Kane’s quarter.
One last thing worth noting: the IRT has listened to fan requests with the streaming schedule and will be streaming significantly more matches this weekend. Check out the match times on the bracket; the streaming schedule allows for double the matches to be shown at each round throughout the weekend. The plan is to stream no less than 8 qualifying matches on Friday, then have staggered start times Saturday to show more of the 16s before streaming all the qtrs/semis/finals as normal.
Broadcast schedule; 8 friday, 5 sat, 1 sun. That’s a lot of matches for us fans, and a lot for Mr. Dean DeAngelo Baer to call … but is awesome for those of us remote.
Lets preview the draw highlighting matches that I think are compelling.
In the 128s: five play-in matches to get to the 32s, mostly with Texas/Arizona locals battling it out, but also including traveling players like Jim Douglas (Oregon) and Thomas Gerhardt (from VA).
In the 64s: – Ruben Baez takes on Chilean veteran Francisco Troncoso. So, in case you don’t know who Baez is … he played in the Pueblo lower tier IRT event in March, entered as the 27th seed, beat Jake Bredenbeck in the quarters and lost to Horn in the semis 13,14. He’s a very solid player who can make waves in this event if he plays the way he did in Pueblo and gets the right match-ups.
– Set Cubillos Ruiz continues his challenging travel schedule by returning to the states just a few days after competing in (and winning) the Barranquilla Open in his home country of Colombia, right on the back of competing in the US Open, to take on a play-in winner between Douglas and Arizona’s Preston Tribble.
– Gerhardt vs Justus Benson: Gerhardt is a tough player from Virginia who frequently competes in both indoor and outdoor venues: if he gets past Arizona’s Coy Jay Rogers, he can make life difficult for Benson. Justus is coming off of two straight one-and-dones in IRT events, including a loss in Laurel to Pennsylvania amateur Geoff Heskett, and needs to get his season going.
– Nick Riffel vs Anthony Martin: Martin is a Utah local with just a couple of results on his resume; he played the Atlanta IRT event earlier this season and took Gerardo Franco to a breaker. This might be a closer match than IRT touring regular Riffel wants at this juncture.
– The younger Bredenbeck brother Sam Bredenbeck gets a solid opener against infrequent IRT participant Daniel Neri; Bredenbeck has some really solid results lately, with wins over IRT regulars like Carter and Riffel at the 2019 Lewis Drug.
In the 32s: – #16 Adam Manilla takes on #17 Andrés Acuña; great match between two solid up and coming young players. I like Acuna here; he’s on a roll and has been improving at every stop.
– #9 David ” Bobby” Horn takes on Baez in a re-match of the CSU-Pueblo shootout semis that was so close. Can Baez turn the table here? Horn missed the first two events of the season with injury, played solidly at the US Open and then took a dominant win on his home court two weekends ago to win the Bay Club Open over a solid draw that included a win over Charlie Pratt in the final. I expect a close match here.
– #14 Thomas Carter takes on the winner beween Gerhardt and Benson; Carter’s been playing solid lately, with a win over Diaz at the US Open and taking two very good players to breakers in losses (Keller and Carson). I like Carter to move on here.
– #10 Lalo Portillo takes on the younger Bredenbeck; Eduardo is now in the top 10 and he’s earned it. He’ll move on here despite the challenge from the improving Bredenbeck.
——————————- Projecting the 16s: Assuming qualifying goes as I expect, here’s some interesting 16s to look for
– #8 Samuel Murray vs #9 Horn: 8/9 is always tough, and these players have split their 3 meetings somewhat evenly. Horn won their most recent meeting, in Florida in April, in two close games. I’ll go with Horn backing up his excellent win in Pleasanton with the upset here to move into the qtrs.
– #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz vs #12 Sebastian Fernandez: another brutal draw for the teenager Fernandez, who had to play former top 5 touring pro Marco Rojas in the first round of the Bay Open and lost in a breaker, and now funnels into the red-hot Moscoso, fresh off of a solid run to the US Open finals. This is the hard part about being a player ranked in the teens: you have to start getting wins over top 8 players to move into the top 8, and every draw is an uphill battle.
– #6 Andree Parrilla vs #11 Jake Bredenbeck: a great throw-back match-up between two long time WRT players. They’ve met 6 times in top level events: Jake won their first 3 meetings (all in the 2015 time-frame), while Andree has won the last three meetings (all in the 2019 calendar year). The matches are always close, so I’ll predict another Parrilla tie-breaker win. After a solid opening to the season, Parrilla has lost two winnable matches in Laurel and the US Open to see his ranking (which had peaked at #3) slip a bit, and he needs to be making semis regularly to take the next step.
– #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Portillo: These two met in Atlanta in Sept, and DLR advanced in a tie-breaker. Portillo has been rapidly moving up the rankings, but has also now exited at this juncture (the round of 16) in seven straight IRT events. He needs a high-profile win over a top 8 player. But, is DLR the right guy? This event is essentially a home event for him, hailing from Mexico but now living in Arizona the next town over from Tempe. He’ll have family cheering him on and could be primed for a solid run.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Carlos Keller Vargas: wow, two straight brutal round of 16 draws for Carson, who gets no benefit from the #2 seed in having to play a solid international player in Keller who has more than a few titles to his credit. They’ve played twice: at the 2011 Pan Am games and at the 2019 Bolivian grand slam, both two-game quarter final wins for Carson. So advantage Rocky … but Keller ran through this list of names to take the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships title: Coby Iwaasa, Horn, Beltran and Pratt. So if he gets hot, he can get wins.
Possible Qtrs: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #9 Horn; they’ve only played a handful of times, All Kane wins. Their last meeting was in Florida in April 2018, Kane’s first event back after his knee injury, and Horn played a solid game against the hobbling and distracted Kane before losing in two. Kane’s got his focus back now, and will try not to look past this match at his possible semis opponent.
– #5 Moscoso over #4 Beltran: they’ve met twice; once a dominant Beltran win at the 2015 Pan Am games, the other a dominant Moscoso win at the Bolivian grand slam earlier this year. I think we’re more likely to see the latter result than the former here; Moscoso has the same shooter mentality as Beltran, but can drive serve with the best of them, keeping Beltran from setting his feet and likely leading to a lot of 3-point rallies on his serve.
– #3 Alex Landa vs #6 Parrilla: Landa has had a nice start to his season; two semis and a quarter, to maintain his #3 ranking for now. But Parrilla matches up well here: he’s beaten Landa 5 of the last 6 times they’ve faced each other going back several years. Parrilla’s playing style matches up well with Landa, he can hang with his shots and can retrieve well. I look for Landa to hold serve, but barely. And an upset here would not surprise me.
– #2 Carson vs #7 DLR: Carson waxed a possible disinterested DLR in their last meeting (the season finale in Sarasota in April), but DLR had three straight defeats of Rocky before that and could be looking at this as a way to get his season back on track. Meanwhile, Rocky needs to rebound from his round of 16 loss on the sport’s biggest stage; he’s still safely in the #2 spot, but needs to continue to make finals to stay there. I like DLR here in the upset.
—————— Projected Semis:
– #1 Waselenchuk vs #5 Moscoso; well, this is what the people want. I think it may happen. A rematch of the US Open final, which featured a tight back and forth game 1 before Kane ran away with it in game 2. What did Moscoso take from that match? Hopefully he took away the need to work on his serving motion so that foot faults don’t dominate the conversation surrounding his game. A more consistent serving game with first/drive serves pacing his game will do wonders to help him drive the conversation against Kane. I still think Kane has the upper hand, but cannot wait to see this possible match-up if it happens.
– #7 DLR vs #3 Landa: two old adversaries meet again; i’ve got them meeting 13 times across pro and Mexican Nationals events over the years, with Landa holding a 6-5 advantage overall. Landa’s won their last 5 meetings … but those include two 11-10 wins (including the quarters in Atlanta in September). Point is this: these guys play close every time, they know each other’s game, and there’s just a knife’s edge between them. I will go with DLR getting the slightest of home court advantages and moving to the final.
My predicted final: Kane over DLR. DLR’s sole win over Kane was in the ill-fated 2018 California Open, when Kane hurt his knee the round prior to DLR’s meeting and withdrew with the injury that ended up costing him 4 months and the 2017-18 title. They havn’t played since the final of the Lewis Drug in January, a 4,2 shellacking by Kane to take the high profile Sioux falls event. I like DLR showing some spunk in this match, perhaps with flashes of brilliance at times, but Kane winning in the end.
——————– As always, follow IRT for streaming options throughout the weekend, say high to Dean Baer online, and support pro racquetball 🙂
Rocky Carson will be participating in his 23rd US Open this weekend; per our records he’s only missed one (and he very well may have played in it; we only have the main draw in the database for the 1997 US Open; if Rocky played but didn’t qualify he’s made every one). On the ladies side, Cheryl Gudinas will be making her 21st appearance this year, moving into a tie for 1st all time among women with Susy Acosta.
This year’s Men’s pro draw of 94 is the biggest draw we’ve seen in a decade and dwarfs last year’s 69 entries. On the ladies side, the pro draw of 41 players is right in line with the last few seasons of participation. The peak of participation for both the Men and the Women was in 2003 (110 men, 50 women).
– US Open Tourney Qtrs/Semis/Finals historically: Historical summary of Q/S/F Participants in the US Open (1996-present). http://rball.pro/70639E
Only 11 men in the history of the event have even made the final of a US Open; Kane Waselenchuk of course has 14 titles. On the ladies side just 10 players have even made a US Open final, with Paola Longoria owning 9 titles.
In one of my more interesting factoids, Kane is simultaneously the youngest and the oldest ever Male US Open winner. On the ladies side, Longoria is youngest winner (at the age of 19 in 2008), while Gudinas is the oldest winner, taking the title in 2004 at the age of 37.
Dean DeAngelo Baer had a great new suggestion to add for this year; US Open-specific W/L records per player. So, you can select “Player W-L in US Open” report per player to get just isolated W/L records at the biggest event on the stage.
Here’s kane’s US Open only W/L: http://rball.pro/39C5FF . As you might imagine for someone who has won the last 14 US Open’s he’s entered … his W/L record is pretty solid. He’s 85-3 lifetime in this event. Here’s Paola’s record: http://rball.pro/514386 . She’s 60-7 in this event.
Men’s Pro Singles: Kane Waselenchuk Men’s Open Singles: Andres Acuna Men’s Open Doubles: Carlos Keller/Kadim Carrasco
Note: no pro doubles this weekend, so we had pretty solid Open Singles and Open Doubles draws. The Men’s singles open draw featured three players who made the quarters (or better) of the pro draw and a great draw of east coast amateurs to challenge the traveling pros.
And, a reminder; the 5-8 seeds were “flipped” this tournament. Seeds listed below are for this event, not of the actual rankings on tour at the moment of the event.
I had the opportunity to be at the Sportfit Laurel club for Thursday night round of 64 and 32 matches, so I’ll describe some of the more interesting matches I witnessed in a bit more detail.
Lets review the matches of note by round:
Round of 64:
#24 Mauricio Zelada, playing on his home courts and with the cheering of the home crowd, eked out a brutal tiebreaker against #25 Kyle Ulliman. Zelada is a protege of former touring pro and fellow Maryland native Dan Fowler, and his game-style is really familiar to those who remember Fowler’s days on tour. Similar stroke mechanics, similar drive serve setup, and a similar game style. Zelada plays consistent ball, always putting solid consistent contact on the ball. Ulliman’s game style is flashier, more of a shooter style, taking chances and succeeding often. It was a fantastic match-up that went down to the wire, with Zelada winning on a gimme-error from Kyle after a long match.
#20 Maurice Miller faced off against #33 Joe Kelley in a battle of top east coast amateurs (Miller from GA, Kelley from PA). It did not disappoint, and was a back and forth athletic match between two guys with great getting ability. In the end Miller pulled away in the tie-breaker to advance.
#22 Hometown favorite Troy Warigon, spurred on by a vocal local cheering section, went tiebreaker against Atlanta newcomer #27 Yacouba Keita before advancing. Definitely the “loudest” crowd of the night, cheering Warigon on.
Colombian #23 Set Cubillos was taken tie-breaker by New Jersey top amateur #26 David Austin before advancing.
The biggest upset of the round and the sole upset by a local player over a traveling pro was #30 Pennsylvanian Geoff Heskett taking out #18 Justus Benson 10,12. Both players really put some power into the ball, and Heskett was able to really control the points with his excellent drive serve to Benson’s backhand.
Round of 32:
In a marathon evening match, #16 Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas took a barn-burner over #17 Colombian Eduardo Garay (13),11,7. This match was a contrast in styles: Keller’s drive serve approach is controlled power, with emphasis on the location and efficiency of the drive, while Garay has as much power as anyone on tour. The ball just sounds different off of Garay’s racquet on the drive serve. But, once the ball is in play, Keller’s putting as much pace on it as anyone else. Garay flings himself around the court, with incredible getting ability, while Keller’s length (he’s well over 6-feet tall) enables him to reach a lot of shots and cover a lot of court. This match went on so long that I believe Garay soaked four shirts. Vargas outlasted Garay in the end, but both of these players if playing full time are top 10 material.
In the evening’s other latest running match, two players with DC-area ties fought to the end. #9 Mario Mercado split two close games with home-town favorite #24 Zelada, who (like Warigon) plays out of the club and had a large local cheering section. The toll of the earlier match got to MoMo though, as he ran out of gas in the tiebreaker. Mercado efficiently advanced 11-1 to get to the main draw. This match won the award for biggest crowd of the night.
#23 Cubillos nearly forfeited his match against #10 Jake Bredenbeck before showing up just before the deadline. Jake seemed distracted as a result in the first game but eventually advanced 11,2.
#14 Andres Acuna dispatched Bolivian veteran #19 Kadim Carrasco in two games to advanced to the main draw yet again. Acuna is quietly moving his way up the ranks and putting his name into the discussion for top 10.
Round of 16 Action:
#1 Kane Waslenechuk kicked off his tournament with a 1,3 pasting of #16 Keller. I don’t know if Keller was beat from two matches the night before, or if Kane was especially fired up to play. I looked forward to this match and was rather surprised to see it be such a dominant beat-down. If you wondered about the difference between an IRF champ and the Pro champ … well here you go.
For the second tournament in a row, #8 Rodrigo Montoya could not advance out of the round of 16 against an opponent he’d normally be favored against. He loses in two straight to #9 Mercado 14,11. This second early loss in as many events to start the season should drop him right back out of the top 8.
In a battle of Francos (not related), #5 Sebastian Franco was taken to the edge by #12 Gerardo Franco, eventually advancing 11-9 in the breaker. Sebastian gets past an important hurdle on his home courts.
Both #4 Alejandro Landa and #2 Rocky Carson were stretched to tiebreakers in surprising fashion by tour regulars, by lefties Robert Collins and Thomas Carter respectively. Landa in particular has a habit of being a slow starter, something that’s harder and harder to overcome in the 3-game format.
In the upset of the round, perhaps the tournament, Costa Rican #1 and #14 seed Andres Acuna continues an impressive year of results by taking out #3 Andree Parrilla 4,(7),7. Parrilla made the final of the first event of the year and had ascended to the #3 ranking, but gets upset early by the solid play of Acuna and will drop back to #4 for the US Open. Meanwhile, Acuna achieves his first ever pro quarterfinal appearance in his 9th season of playing pro events.
#6 Samuel Murray staved off an upset attempt from #11 Eduardo Portillo, splitting the first two games by razor thin margins before pulling away in the tiebreaker.
In the quarters…
#1 Waselenchuk took out #9 Mercado in two straight forward games 6,8. Even a favorable crowd couldn’t push Mercado forward. Mercado will stay ranked 10th on tour despite the quarter-final finish, but he’s significantly narrowed the gap to the 9th spot on tour.
#5 Franco gets a key win on home soil, taking out #4 Landa for just the second time professionally. Sebastian crushed Landa in game one 15-3, but then had to work for it, saving game point before serving out the match 15-14. Franco gets his second semi-final in a row to open the season after making just one semi all last season, a great sign for his battle to retain a top 8 ranking this year. Despite the loss, Landa will regain the #3 seed for the US Open by virtue of Parrilla’s upset early loss.
#6 Murray traded 15-3 game blow-outs with #14 Acuna before closing out the match in a tiebreaker. Acuna improves his ranking to #18 with this result, pushing him to his highest ever ranking.
#2 Carson met #7 Alvaro Beltran for the 50th time on the pro tour and improved to 28-22 against him, advancing in (what else) a tie-breaker. Thanks to Daniel de la Rosa‘s absence here, Beltran widened his lead over DLR for the 5th ranking on tour and gained a bit on the now-4th ranked Parrilla.
In the Semis:
#5 Franco pushed #1 Kane on his home courts to make game one close, but Kane dominated game two to advance to the finals 11,7. With this result, Franco jumps to the #7 spot on tour, which means he avoids the likes of Montoya in an 8/9 match-up and avoids Kane in the quarters at the US Open.
#2 Carson met #6 Murray for the 11th time professionally and improved to 11-0 over the Canadian #1 11,4. Murray just couldn’t execute shots against Carson in game two and the match slipped away from him quickly. With this semis showing, Murray bumps Montoya for the last of the top 8 protected seeds for the US Open, a significant event that means Murray avoids possible dangerous qualifiers while Montoya may run into a tough player in the 24-25 range on tour.
The final was #1 vs #2 as it normally is; Rocky vs Kane has been the final in eight events over the last two seasons. this was their 80th meeting on tour. And like 76 times before, Kane topped Rocky for the title. But it was an adventurous match: Rocky was on his way to a donut in game one and was assessed a technical towards the end; game one score of 15 to -1. But Carson rebounded to take game 2; it had been nearly 2 years since Rocky took a game off of Kane. But Kane rebounded in the breaker and won -1,(11),4 to take the title.
Its Kane’s 117th career pro win.
Quick Recap of Men’s Open Singles: 4th Seeded Mercado survived a brutal quarter against Eduardo Garay (a rematch of last week’s Colombian National championships, won by Garay) to then cruise to the final over Set Cubillos from the top half (#1 seed Murray withdrew after making the pro semis). The bottom half of the draw went chalk amongst all top seeds, with #2 seed Andres Acuna topping #3 Maurice Miller to make the final. In the final, Acuna took out Mercado 11,9 to turn the tides on their meetings as of late.
Quick Recap of Men’s Open Doubles: it was #1 vs #2, Colombia vs Bolivia in the final, with two quality teams battling it out. #1 Mercado/Garay battled against #2 Keller/Carrasco in the final. There, the #2 seeded Bolivians put a second consecutive Sunday afternoon loss on Mercado, winning the Open Doubles title 7,12
Congrats to Tournament Director Tracy Valentine for all her hard work, thanks to IRT staff Mike Grisz, Dean Baer, Pablo Fajre for all their hard work. Great to meet IRT statistician-in-training JP Edwards, who I hope gets more involved going forward.
Also, a quick shout-out to Kane, who took to the court Thursday night upon arriving to play some pro-am doubles with tournament sponsors. The normal Thursday night sponsor doubles got cancelled, but some boosters had put up money specifically to have a shot at playing with Kane, and kudos to him for taking the court to help with sponsorship efforts.
Next up? 3-Wall championships next weekend in Las Vegas, then the US Open in Minneapolis.
Welcome to US Junior Nationals, 2019, held this year in Portland, Oregon. Its the first time they’ve held this event in Portland since 2011 (though Portland basically holds every other HS national championship right now).
——————————– We have several 2018 winners back to defend championships, and we’re guaranteed to have some new winners especially at the older levels thanks to graduations from the Junior ranks.
Cayden Akins is #1 seed; he was 3rd place in 18U and 2nd place in 16U last year, and represented USA at World Juniors in 16U, losing in the qtrs.
#2 seed is Antonio Rojas, who made the semis two years running in 16U, being eliminated last year by #1 seed Akins. Rojas is the reigning US High School champ and will be looking to make it a double (or triple) this weekend.
#3 Ben Baron made the qtrs of 16U two years running, then missed his first 18U tourney last year. #4 seed Dylan Pruitt made the semis of both 16U and 18U last year, losing the 3rd place game to Akins. #5 Micah Farmer made the qtrs of 18U last year, losing to Pruitt, and setting up a possible rematch in the qtrs of this year’s event. #6 Lucas Shoemaker made the qtrs of both 16U and 18U in 2018 and will be looking to improve. #7 Ivan Hernandez and #8 Cody Boucher will be looking to improve on qtr and round of 16 results last year.
Girls 18U: #1 Briana Jacquet is the defending champ and will look to defend her title. #2 seed Nikita Chauhan was also the #2 seed last year and lost in the final to Jacquet. #3 Graciano Wargo was also #3 last year, lost in the semis but represented USA at Junior Worlds (losing in the qtrs). #4 Megan Carver will be looking to improve on last year’s qtrs appearance.
——————————– 16-U Draws:
Boys 16U: #1 Antonio Rojas (who is the #2 seed in 18s) leads the way and is looking for his first title since 2016. #2 is Timmy Hansen, who won 14s last year and is moving up an age group. #3 is Andrew Gleason, who made the finals of 14U Junior Worlds last November. #4 is Krish Thakur, who has 3 US jr titles but none since 2016. Other interesting players in the draw include #6 Julius Ellis, son of John Ellis and the latest from the Stockton junior pipeline.
#1 Annie Roberts is back to defend her title; and she’s also the reigning High School national champ. #2 Erin Slutzky was also the #2 seed in 16s last year, losing in the final to Roberts. Both represented the US in Junior Worlds and ended up meeting again in the knockout stages, where Roberts advanced before losing in world quarters.
Trying to knock the top two players off will be the likes of #3 Heather Mahoney, last year’s 14U champ and losing finalist in 14U worlds. Mahoney has 6 US Junior titles to her name and will be gunning for the top players here. #4 Shane Diaz made the semis of 16s and the qtrs of 18 last year and will be a tough out.
——————————– Other defending champs back to defend titles include:
– Boys 14U: Timmy Hanson, graduated to 16U and is the #3 seed – Boys 12U: Nikhil Prasad, graduated to 14U and is #1 seed – Boys 10U: Eshan Ali, graduated to 12U and is #2 seed there – Boys 8U : Ashton Guiraud, graduated to 10U and is #2 seed there. – Boys 8UMB: Ayan Shama graduates to 8U.
– Girls 14U Heather Mahoney; entered 14s and 16s – Girls 12U: Ava Kaiser: graduated to 14u, where she’s #3 seed – Girls 10U: Lilian Ford-Cirmi: graduated to 12U and is the #4 seed – Girls 8U: Alea Guiraud graduates to 10U and is #1 seed
———————————- Other names of note playing: – Ellis’ kids Jordan Ellis and Julius. – Tyler Aldinger, son of top PA amateur Travis Aldinger – Olivia Baer, son of IRT board member and broadcasting afficionado Dean DeAngelo Baer, who undoubtedly will be cheering her on and asking her to hit more “flattys.” – California rball enthusiast Knox La Rue‘s daughter Tess in 14/16s. –
———————————- Look forward to Leo Ray Vasquez broadcasting all weekend; follow USA Racquetball on facebook for streaming and interviews.