Int’l Black Gold Racquetball Cup 2019 Preview

Moscoso travels up to Mexico and is a favorite to bring home some silverware.

The final sanctioned IRT event of the season is this coming weekend, the 2019 International Black Gold Racquetball Cup, held at the Club Campestre in Chihuahua, CH Mexico.

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30578

There is a massive, fabulous Men’s pro draw this weekend, with 46 players entered into Singles and no less than 22 pro doubles teams. The draw features 4 of the top 8 IRT pros, nearly the full contingent of Mexican pro players, all the top Ecuadorians, Guatemalans and Costa Ricans, and the top three Bolivian players who have made the flight up to make what should be a fantastic draw.

What’s at stake: from an IRT rankings perspective there shouldn’t be any change to the top 8-10 rankings on the IRT tour based on where things stood at the finish of the last tier 1 in Syosset. More likely is that we’ll see some movement (with solid results) with the players ranked in the 11-30 range.

Play runs from Tues to Saturday, starting this afternoon 6/11/19.

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Here’s a preview of the draw;

In the round of 64, there’s some good play-in matches to watch, especially:
– Bolivian Roland Keller takes on top Mexican pro Jaime Martell Neri in a tough first rounder for both. Keller is more known for his doubles play (he is currently the reigning 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships double champ with Moscoso), while Martell is one of the top WRT players.
– #30 Jordy Alonso takes on #35 Ruben Estrada, a long time player who has a couple of quarter final Nationals appearances in the last few years.
– Long-time IRT touring pro Javier Moreno, whose first pro tour appearance was in Dec 1995, takes on youngster Erick Cuevas, who was born in 1997. 
Erik Garcia plays David Ortega, one of the most decorated Junior players ever but who stopped playing pro matches more than a decade ago. Ortega won 11 junior world titles, including one in every age group from 8 to 18, during his junior career.
– Top Ecuadorians Esteban de Janon, Juan Flores, Juan Francisco Cueva and Jose Daniel Ugalde all have made the flight and have entered. Ugalde in particular faces Alex Cardona in what could be a great first rounder.
– Guatemalans entered include long-time player Edwin Galicia, Javier Martinez, Juan Salvatierra and Christian Wer. Its great to see such a solid international draw.

In the 32s, matches to watch out for:
– Bolivan Carlos Keller Vargas, the two-time reigning PARC singles champion, takes on IRT regular Justus Benson for a shot at the #1 in the 16s.
– #5 Rodrigo Montoya Solis takes on the Roland Keller/Martell winner in a tough opener for the top seed.
– #12 seeded Javier Mar likely takes on NCAA intercollegiate reigning champ Erik Garcia. Mar as a 12 seed is a tough one; he’s more than capable of running to the finals from the top of this draw.
– #13 Charlie Pratt likely takes on giant-killer Alan Natera Chavez. Natera has made the semis of the last two Mexican Nationals events and played his first ever IRT event in Syosset last month. 
– #14 Sebastian Fernandez likely takes on Javier Estrada, fresh off a finals appearance last week at the Copa RKT event. I’ve got them neck and neck in my personal power rankings and i’m not sure who i favor here. I like Fernandez’s game lately, but Estrada is a serious player.
– #7 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo, a player who most everyone is looking forward to seeing, gets a fun opener against the criminally -and hard-hitting Alex Cardona. Cardona is the 2-time WRT tour champ who has gone to part-time pro playing lately, but is still a tough out.
– In the 15/18 match, Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on Ernesto Ochoa … which we know is close b/c they just played last week in Monterrey, with Ochoa advancing in an 11-10 win.

Projecting the 16s:
– #1 Andree Parrilla vs Keller Vargas. Great round of 16 match-up; the #4 player on the IRT, who’s knocking on the door to move higher, versus one of the best international players out there. I like Parrilla, but just barely and wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Keller Vargas win here.
– In the 8/9 match, two old adversaries go at it; #8 Lalo Portillo versus #9 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez. Franco was upset last weekend early while Portillo lost a tough one to Cardona. These two have played a number of times in the past few years, and mostly Franco has had Portillo’s number. But, Lalo beat him the last time they played in Mar19 and is trending higher. I’m going with Lalo here.
– #5 Montoya vs #12 Mar. A rematch of the brutal round of 32 in Syosset. They have faced each other more than a few times in WRT and Mexican local events. Its a back and forth affair, with the frequent doubles partners trading wins when they face each other. Mar won last weekend, beat Montoya in Syosset, and i’ll favor him to advance here.
– #4 Sebastian Franco vs #13 Pratt; assuming Pratt gets by Natera, he stands a good chance of upsetting Franco here. They’ve played 4 times in the past three years and Pratt has never lost.
– #3 Daniel De La Rosa vs Fernandez/Estrada winner. I like DLR in the opener here, even though it’ll be a tough match.
– #6 Mario Mercado likely faces #11 Andres Acuña. An interesting potential match-up; Mercado has struggled this season on tour while Acuna has gotten some solid wins. They met once in juniors in 2014 (an Acuna win). I’ll give Acuna the win here.
– #7 Moscoso vs #10 Felipe Camacho; assuming Moscoso powers his way past Cardona, he has a much easier path into the quarters facing Camacho.
– #2 Alvaro Beltran vs the Garay/Ochoa winner: Either way, Beltran faces some trouble here. Ochoa beat Beltran in the 2018 Mexican nationals event. Don’t be surprised if there’s an upset here.

Interestingly, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see a majority of the top 8 seeds lose in the round of 16 here. That’s how deep this draw is, and how many good non-regular IRT pros there are out there.

Possible Qtrs:
– Parrilla vs Portillo; advantage Parrilla over the increasingly tough Portillo.
– Mar vs Pratt: Pratt beat him in the 2017 PARC semis, but I feel like Mar is in a better spot right now. These two play a very similar game style, so expect a close tiebreaker nonetheless.
– DLR vs Acuna: DLR advances easily, even if Mercado holds serve to advance here.
– Moscoso vs Beltran: Moscoso beat Beltran pretty handily in the Bolivian Open earlier this year and has the kind of game that gives Beltran fits. Advantage to the hard-hitting Bolivian no matter who advances here.

Semis:
– Parrilla vs Mar: advantage Mar; he’s won their last two meetings, though its usually a tiebreaker.
– Moscoso vs DLR; they played twice internationally in 2015, splitting wins but with Moscoso getting the better of DLR in a knockout setting en route to his run to the PARC semis. Which DLR shows up? The one who can handle the kind of power that Conrrado brings and offset it with his touch shots? Or will Moscoso bring his A-game, which is good enough to beat nearly anyone in the world? I like Moscoso here.

Final: Moscoso over Mar, as Moscoso overpowers the touch game of Mar.

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Doubles preview: 20 teams, a massive doubles draw, that features some of the top teams in the world. The seeded teams include the (IMHO) top doubles team in the world in Beltran/DLR, the Colombian na’tl team of Mercado/Franco, the 2nd best Mexican pairing (who’s been nipping on the heels of #1) in Montoya/Mar, and the Costa Rican nat’l team of Acuna/Camacho.

Also present are the likely favorites; the reigning PARC champs Bolvian pairing of Moscoso/Keller and the likely Pan Am Games representative teams from Ecuador and Guatemala.

Fun Quarter final matches to watch for: Montoya/Mar and Moscoso/Keller in a rematch of the PARc semis. And, Pratt/Garcia taking on Franco/Mercado; could be an upset.

Semis prediction: Beltran/DLR and Portillo/Parrilla on the top, Moscoso/Keller and Franco/Mercado from the bottom.

Finals prediction: Beltran/DLR beat the bolivians for the 3rd time in a year.


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Follow along on facebook; the irt’s broadcast team including Dean DeAngelo Baer is heading down to watch and broadcast.

Can’t wait to see how this event turns out!

International Racquetball Tour Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol RKTInternational Racquetball Federation – IRF

2019 Costa Rica Open IRT Tier 2 Preview

Acuna welcomes a solid pro draw to his home country.

The IRT Tier 1 slate may be done for the 2018-19 season, but a bunch of lower tier events are on the schedule still, including the 2019 Costa Rica Open, being held at the Costa Rica Country Club in San Jose, CRC.

R2sports link here: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30427

There’s a solid Pro draw of 22 players, including 5 of the current top 10 players on the IRT, another 6-7 regular IRT touring pros, plus a number of internationals we normally only see at IRF events. We also get the #1 and #2 players from Cuba playing this event, which is a treat.

Lets preview the draw and predict the singles competition:

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In the Round of 32/Play-ins, some interesting match-ups;
– In the 16/17 two Guatemalan Internationals face off: Hanzel Martinez Perez versus Edwin Galicia
– #12 Alan Natera Chavez faces off against Cuban #1 Maykel Mollet; Natera should advance, but Mollet is a tough player.
– #11 Ernesto Ochoa takes on Cubvan #2 Enier Chacon, another relative unknown but who plays well in International events.

Projecting the 16s; here’s some fun round of 16 matches:
– #8 Felipe Camacho vs #9 Andres Andres Acuña; doubles partners in this event, they met in the IRT season opener, an Acuna 2-game win. Since then Acuna has had a magical run to the semis of PARC. They’re both on home ground; both players hailing from Costa Rica, so this could be a spirited match.
– #5 Rodrigo Montoya Solís vs #12 Natera: they just met in Syosset; a 2,2 Montoya crushing … which was kind of the reverse of 2019 Mexican Nationals, when Natera beat him in the quarters. I’m guessing Montoya advances here.
– #6 Mario Mercado vs #11 Ochoa: Here’s an interesting point: Ochoa has never entered a Tier 1 IRT event. But he’s got a ton of solid wins in Mexican Nationals (including a win over Beltran in 2018) and on WRT events close enough to his home in Chihuahua. Now he’s flown to Costa Rica and ends up facing an IRT top 10 player. Should be an interesting match. I suspect Ochoa can win this.
– #7 David Horn vs #10 Javier Mar; tough opener for Horn, having to face Mar, fresh off a Qtr final appearance in Syosset. Mar beat Garay, Montoya and Sebastian Franco in NY before falling to Kane; Horn has his work cut out for him here.

Possible Quarters:
– #1 Rocky Carson vs #9 Acuna; they last played at the 2017 US Open; Rocky is 3-0 lifetime over Acuna on tour. Somehow these frequent international players have avoided each other in IRF events. Carson cruises here despite Acuna having the home crowd rooting for him.
– #4 Alvaro Beltran vs #5 Montoya: they’ve already met twice on tour this year; both two game easy wins for Montoya. I think Montoya’s game is a bad match-up for Beltran right now, who can shoot and put balls away but not under pressure like he gets when Montoya’s power serve is on. 
– #3 Andree Parrilla vs #6 Mercado; Assuming Mercado gets past Ochoa, he runs into Parrilla, who drastically improved his ranking this year to finish 4th on tour. But, the last time they played it was Mercado dumping Parrilla out of the Bolivian Grand Slam on home soil. Look for Parrilla to junkball his way to a win here.
– #2 Alex Landa vs #10 Mar: wow, great match. Mar beat Landa in the 2017 FMR finals … and then Landa returned the favor beating Mar in the quarters of the 2019 event en route to the title. These are two very good players, very close in talent, and if Mar is on Landa will not be able to beat him. Any given sunday; this is a coinflip.

Projecting the Semis:
– Carson over Montoya; a rematch of Chicago semis, where Rocky won 11,2 and gave Montoya a lesson in the second game on match control.
– Landa over Parrilla: another tough match for Landa; if he gets to the finals here he’ll have more than earned it. If Landa gets by Mar though, I think he’s in jeopardy of losing here. Parrilla’s beaten him twice on tour this year and could do it again.

Final prediction: Carson over Parrilla. The last two times they’ve played, it was a Parrilla 11-8 win in Chicago 2018 … and a Laurel Carson 11-10 win where Parrilla blew a simple cross court pass on match-point to lose. I expect another close one but Rocky’s hard to beat.

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They’re also playing doubles in San Jose. The Mar/Montoya team is only seeded 4th somehow; they’ll likely face Beltran/Landa in one semi, while the Costa Rican national doubles team of Camacho/Acuna likely faces two IRT regulars paired together in Mercado/Horn.

I like Mar/Montoya over Camacho/Acuna in a loud final.

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International Racquetball Tour International Racquetball Federation – IRFFederación Mexicana de Raquetbol

Bolivian Grand Slam IRT Wrap-Up

Moscoso the double winner on the weekend.

International Racquetball Tour Open Bolivia American Iris

Congrats to the winners on the weekend:
– Pro Singles: Conrrado Moscoso
– Pro doubles: Conrrado Moscoso & Roland Keller

R2sports link for tourney: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30507

The altitude really played into these matches; normal kill shots were way up, rallies extended, lots of ceiling balls off the back wall. And, the size of the venue and the size of the crowds made it really seem like a major international event, especially when home town players were playing.

Here’s the notable Singles results by round to me:

Singles Match Report: http://rball.pro/273997

In the 64s:
– Carlos Keller Vargas pounded 18U Junior team member Gerson Miranda 9,0, showing the gulf between Bolivia’s adult and junior champs.
– Similarly pre-tournament favorite Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo blasted 18U junior team member Fernando Ruiz Michel 6,2.
– Several local Bolivian players took out seeded/traveling players: Sebastian Oata surprised #22 Christian Wer 6,14, Franco Gutierrez beat #21 Edwin Galicia 11,5, Jairo Perez took out #20 Hanzel Martinez Perez and Fabian Gutierrez beat #14 Set Cubillos.

In the 32s:
– #16 Kadim Carrasco topped #17 MoMo Zelada in two, the only real surprise to me of this round. Carrasco really took it to Zelada, who has been playing solid ball lately, winning 1,9 to advance to the main draw.
– #24 Carlos Keller Vargas took out #9 touring pro Thomas Carter 11-7. I thought Keller (a former PARC champ) would win here, but kudos to Carter for stretching him to the breaker. 
– #23 Moscoso blasted #10 Felipe Camacho 3,4 to make the main draw. Again, an expected result based on both players’ past international results, but surprised by the lop-sidedness of the win.
– #15 Diego Garcia Quispe beat Guatemalan veteran #18 Juan Salvatierra 10,10 to advance to the main draw, an excellent result for the 17yr old.

In the 16s:
– #1 Rocky Carson took it to Carrasco and won 2,4. Carson took advantage of the high altitude and really ramped up his drive-serve game. 
– #8 Jake Bredenbeck couldn’t convert on game point in the first game, opening a path for home town favorite Keller Vargas to advance 14,6. A loud, partisan crowd cheered Keller to victory.
– #5 Mario Mercado took care of business against #12 Robert Collins 10,11.
– #4 Andree Parrilla saved game point in the first game and then battled to a close two-game win over Eduardo Lalo Portillo 14,9. A back and forth match went Andree’s way on this day, but Portillo continues to improve and show that he will soon be among the elite on tour.
– #3 Alvaro Beltran outlasted upset-minded Eduardo Garay Rodriguez 10 and 13. Garay dove all over the court and came at Beltran with significant pace, but Alvi made shots when he had to and put balls away when it counted.
– The biggest upset of the tournament: #11 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez took out #6 Rodrigo Montoya Solis 11-10. Montoya reportedly arrived at the tournament just the morning of this match and it may have cost him against a player he should have beaten. Franco earned this win though, saving off match point against and diving all over the court. 
– #23 Moscoso blitzed by #7 seed David Horn to setup a fantastic quarter final against Landa.
– #2 Alex Landa let the youngster Garcia get way up in game one, came back, then blew him away in game 2 to advance 13,2.

In the Qtrs:
– #1 Carson left no doubt as to who the #1 seed was, advancing past home-town favorite Keller 8,11. Before the tournament I thought perhaps Carson would be at a disadvantage in this event thanks to his match load last weekend and the travel, but his fitness and his game has elevated here this weekend.
– #5 Mercado, Bolivian native who now lives in the DC area and represents Colombia, really controlled #4 seed Parrilla throughout and advanced 7,11. I thought Parrilla was a dark-horse to make the final before this tournament, and was really surprised by how solid Mercado played here.
– #3 Beltran left little doubt about his quality, downing upset-minded #11 Franco 11,5 to move on and ensure that the two oldest players in the draw made the semis.
– In the most anticipated match of the event, #2 seed Landa was beaten by Bolivian #1 Moscoso in a scintillating match 9,(11),0. Moscoso drove the action with blistering drive serves, fantastic kill shots from all over the court and with knee-sliding re-kills that perpetually caught Landa off-guard. After losing steam in the middle of the second game, Conrrado caught fire in the tie-breaker and ran away to the 11-0 defeat. Its not often a former #1 player in the world gets donuted, and indeed this match elevates Moscoso to near the top of the world game.

In the semis…
– #1 Carson fought back the upset-minded #5 Mercado, advancing in a tie-breaker win.
– #23 Moscoso dominated #3 Beltran 10,6.

In the final, Rocky ran of 15 unanswered points to cruise to a game one win and was well on his way towards and embarrassing 2-game crushing when suddenly Conrrado made it a game, saved a couple of match points, and got a fluky rally win to take game 2 15-14 and get it to the tiebreaker. There, Rocky had no answers for Moscoso’s confident shot-making and the game got away from Carson quickly … Conrrado re-killed shots from absurd angles and frustrated Carson over and again and took the breaker 11-2 in dominant fashion. Moscoso found a serve that Carson struggled with, and Rocky couldn’t adjust in time to stay in the game.

Moscoso becomes the 40th ever IRT pro tour champ and earned it on the weekend, downing the #1, #2 and #3 seeds en route to victory.

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On the doubles side:

Match Report: http://rball.pro/CA8C9A

The Bolivian #1 pair of Moscoso & Roland Keller took the doubles title against Carson & Camacho 9,9, giving Moscoso the double on the weekend.

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Wrap: An amazing tournament that saw the surprise winner and the expected “what if” questions about the absence of Kane Waselenchuk. Rocky should ascend to #1 with the finals appearance, while Conrrado’s points total should put him just outside the top 10 (not that it matters; we likely won’t see him again until the US Open). Post publishing update: I guess the 2018 points expired earlier than I thought; Rocky remains at #2 while Moscoso rises to #17 based on irt-tour.com points standings updated as of 4/1/19.

I think I now agree with Sudsy Monchik, who has been extolling Conrrado’s skills for a while. I think you have to start thinking about Moscoso as being at the top of the tier of players just past Kane and Rocky, and we can only hope as fans of the sport that he finds more ways to play the tour and give us what we want; regular match ups against Kane, Rocky, Landa, DLR, Montoya and the rest of the world’s best.

Bolivia Open Grand Slam preview – IRT

Is this Moscoso’s time on home soil?

Bolivia Open Grand Slam preview – International Racquetball Tour

Open Bolivia American Iris

Hello Racquetball Fans; it is a historic week for professional racquetball as the first ever pro tournament is being held in Racquetball-mad Raquet Bolivia.

R2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30507

Bolivian racquetball burst onto the scenes internationally in 2010, when Ricardo Monroy won the 2010 Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC) topping the #1, #2 and #4 seeds along the way. Fellow Bolivians Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo and Carlos Keller Vargas have since followed-up with significant international results on the Men’s side, with Keller taking the 2018 PARCs and a young Moscoso making the 2014 Worlds final, losing to Rocky Carson.

On the Women’s pro side, Bolivian Trail-blazers such as Yazmine Sabja RáquetbolCarola Loma and Jenny Daza Navia have made finals of international events for a decade, but have yet to push through with a major adult international victory.

In the mean-time, the Bolivian juniors are starting to dominate; Bolivians took the 14U and 16U titles at last year’s World Juniors (Luis Antonio Aguilar and Diego Garcia Quispe respectively), and both Bolivian 18U players made the semis before losing to the eventual Mexican finalists. It was a similar story on the Girls side, with Valeria Centellas taking the 16U title while simultaneously holding the World Adult Doubles title with Sabja from last summer. Bolivian junior girls have won 11 world junior titles in the last 5 years, more than any other country.

And now, with the first ever pro stop in Bolivia, nearly every player just mentioned is playing, along with a good collection of traveling IRT and LPRT regulars. In addition, we get a few South American regular internationals plus a good chunk of the Guatemalans who were in Chicago two weeks ago.

All told; this tournament has a reported 359 total participants, including equally massive Men’s Skill divisions and a ton of juniors playing. Bravo to the community to make this such a huge hit.

Lets get to the draws.
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On the IRT side; half the current top 10 did not make the trip; Kane Waselenchuk could have basically sewn up the 2018-19 IRT title with a win in Cochabamba but chose to stay with family. Daniel De La Rosa, Samuel MurraySebastian Franco and Jose Diaz also miss the event out of the current IRT top 10, leaving a relatively wide-open field and a pretty solid opportunity for Carson in particular to put himself back in the driver’s seat for the year end IRT title. Rocky will return to #1 with at least a finals appearance, and DLR likely drops to 6th on the season with little chance of getting back into the top 4. None the less, there’s a massive 40-person draw that’s about half Bolivian locals, half traveling pros. Oddly, despite this being a “Grand Slam” the top 8 qualified into the 16s, meaning the typical huge advantage over the locals. Lets see how it affects the Bolivian dark horses.

In the round of 64, a couple of interesting matches right off the top:

– #24 Carlos Keller Vargas vs Gerson Miranda: tough first match for both players. Keller (as noted above) is a PARC champ and a regular Bolivian national team representative, while Miranda is one of the top juniors in the country, representing Bolivia at World Juniors last November and losing in the semis in his age 17 season. Keller likely takes this, but Miranda is a name to watch going forward internationally.
– #23 Conrrado Moscoso vs Fernando Ruiz Michel: the other member of Bolivia’s 2018 18U team ironically faces off against the other regular member of Bolivia’s adult national team. I really wanted both Miranda and Ruiz Michel to have shots at traveling IRT players instead of being eliminated by the two Bolivian nationals who i think can make serious noise in this event, but the draw was not favorable to the juniors here.

The action heats up in the 32s:
– #16/#17 MoMo Zelada vs Kadim Carrasco; Another regular member of the Bolivian adult team, Carrasco has some serious power, and has a long history of traveling to the states for pro events. However, Maryland resident and Bolivian native Zelada is no slouch and should handle Carrasco here.
– #9 Thomas Carter vs #24 Keller Vargas: Carter’s the highest player to not get a bye and it catches him here, having to face the former Pan Am champ on home soil. 
– #12 Robert Collins vs #21 Edwin Galicia; Collins should be able to handle the Guatemalan here to advance to the main draw.
– #23 Moscoso vs #10 Felipe Camacho; they’ve met twice in international competitions, both easy Conrrado wins. Moscoso advances with eyes on making a deep run in this event.

In the main draw, we get the first action out of the traveling seeded pros:
– #1 Carson takes on Zelada, a match between two almost identical game styles. Both play focused, tactical racquetball with thought put into every service choice. Unfortunately for Zelada, Carson is the best at it and advances in two straight.
– #8 Jake Bredenbeck continues to struggle on the season by running into Bolivian international Keller Vargas at this juncture and loses in two straight. This may be an upset by seed, but not by world power ranking, as Keller has more than a few wins over top IRT pros.
– #5 Mario Mercado dodges the landmines of local players and gets a straight-forward match against #12 Collins. Collins has played well this season but this is a win for Mercado here.
– #4 Andree Parrilla faces off against his countryman Eduardo Lalo Portilloand handles him in two, but not before Portillo makes some noise and gives Parrilla a scare.
– #3 Alvaro Beltran faces off against #19 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez, formerly from Mexico but now playing out of Cali, Colombia. This is a brutal draw for Beltran, as Garay has multiple wins over top 8 IRT pros and didn’t have to make four flight connections to arrive in Bolivia. I think Beltran can win this, but wouldn’t be surprised if Garay played him lights out.
– #6 Rodrigo Montoya celebrates easily his best ever tourney seeding by taking down countryman Gerardo Franco Gonzalez at this juncture.
– #7 David Horn is the unlucky seeded player who gets to face Moscoso, who has the talent to make the semis of any IRT event, full draw or not. They’ve met twice; Moscoso beat him in 3 at the 2017 US Open while Horn got him a the 2015 PARCs. I think Moscoso advances on home soil here.
– #2 Alex Landa starts his tourney against Bolivian World Junior 16U champ Diego Garcia, who can make some noise but doesn’t have the game to beat Landa at this point in his career.

If the 16s go as I predict, we may have some quarter final match-ups for the Ages:
– #1 Carson vs #24 Keller Vargas: they’ve played before internationally, and while Keller can beat some players he’s not going to beat Carson on this day.
– #4 Parrilla handles #5 Mercado and continues his relatively easy draw into the semis here.
– #6 Montoya takes out whoever advances between Beltran and Garay. If its Beltran, it’ll be the third time they’ve met in the quarters in three months and the first two have been relatively easy Rodrigo wins. If its Garay … Montoya has beaten Garay twice in WRT events in the last couple of years, one of which was a pretty close 11-9 barn burner.
– #2 Landa vs Moscoso. Well, here it is. Sudsy Monchik tells me that Moscoso is one of the best in the world and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the tier of players just below Kane & Rocky; here’s his chance. Landa has shedded rankings points all season (it was inevitable; with Kane back Landa wasn’t going to win multiple events this season), and will have to really hustle to win here. I’m going to go with my gut and say that Moscoso wins this to advance and firmly cement his place among the game’s elite.

Semis projection:
– #1 Carson vs #4 Parrilla: Parrilla had the match-winning point on his racquet and skipped the winner before losing 11-10 in Laurel to open this season the last time he played Rocky, and the two times before then Andree beat him. Four of Andree’s five losses this season are to Kane. I think he’s ready to take the next step. I’m going out on a limb here and predicting a Parrilla upset here.
– #6 Montoya vs #23 Moscoso. This is a heck of a match. Its also a re-match of a highly anticipated 2018 Worlds quarter final last November won by Montoya in a tiebreaker. Who would take this rematch? I’m tempted to go with Montoya again. But honestly I could see a Moscoso win on home soil in front of a frenzied packed house too, bringing all the energy of an international competition.

Final: Moscoso over Parrilla to shock the pro world. If the final comes down to this, its a rematch of a classic 2017 US Open round of 16 match, won by Moscoso 11-8 in the 5th. I can see a similarly close match here.

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IRT Doubles:

14 teams battling it out, and a whole slew of interesting teams playing. Beltran is teamed with Landa (not DLR, his regular partner) at #1, Carson is playing with Camacho and seeded 5th, Jake & Horn are seeded #3, the fantastic Bolivian #1 team of Keller & Moscoso is seeded 6th, and the semi-regular team of Parrilla & Montoya (who have more than a few pro titles together) are seeded 2nd.

I’m going with Landa/Beltran over Carson/Camacho in one semi, Keller/Moscoso over Parrilla/Montoya in the other, and the Bolivians winning on home soil in the final for a possible double for Moscoso on the weekend.

IRT Shamrock Shootout Preview

Beltran will look to make another run to the Finals in Chicago.

The International Racquetball Tour is back, and in Chicago for the 34th annual Shamrock Shootout, sponsored by frequent IRT patron KWM Gutterman.

R2sports home page for the event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30236

(as of this posting, the draws are not yet active but can be gotten from IRT’s facebook page postings…)

There’s a huge draw in Chicago; 43 pros entered into singles. That’s the biggest non-US Open draw since Sept 2014, and this draw is stacked. There’s great representation from the top pros: 19 of the top 20 players are entered (missing only #13 Charlie Pratt, who’s playing Oregon State Singles this weekend instead), and the draw includes reigning World champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis to mix things up. He’ll be seeded 14th, playing into his Mexican national nemesis #3 Daniel De La Rosa for what could be a heck of a round of 16 match (we’ll get to that later)…

Because its Chicago, we get some Midwestern guys entered such as Geoff Goldblatt, Juan Martinez III, Alok Mehta, Ferd Samson and Nadeem Sharifuddin. Some of these guys are long-time players with match histories that go back a ways (Goldblatt’s first pro tourney on record was in 2006), some we havn’t seen since the 2018 Worlds (Mehta represented India at the 2014 and 2018 IRF events), and some are making their pro tour debuts (like Sharifuddin).

Interestingly, what looks like the entire Guatemalan national team is entered, and the qualifying rounds will include Edwin Galicia, Javier Martinez, Hanzel Martinez Perez, Jeovany Mendoza, Juan Salvatierra, and long-time veteran Christian Wer, all hailing from the Central American country. Its great to see so many great internationals in one place.

Lets preview the draw. There’s such a huge draw that they needed three round of 128 matches, one of which features two of the traveling Guatemalans. That’s a bummer: fly all the way up here and have a rematch of every Tuesday night at the home club.

We pick up in the 64s; here’s some matches to watch for:
– #9 Jose Diaz is the highest ranked player w/o a bye into the 16s, and for his trouble he has to play twice in qualifying; he’s rewarded at first with a crap-shoot against the winner of the Mendoza-Martinez all-Guatemalan play-in. 
– #17 Long-time Costa Rican vet Felipe Camacho gets a tough opener against mid-westerner Kyle Ulliman. Ulliman has played a couple of pro stops already this year but doesn’t have a break-through win yet and Camacho is a tough out.
– #20 Eduardo Lalo Portillo faces off against long-time Guatemalan #1 Edwin Galicia in a tough opener for both. Galicia has been representing Guatemala at International Racquetball Federation – IRF events for 6 years running, while Lalo (the reigning 18U junior world champ) is coming off a disappointing 1st round exit at Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Nationals last month.
– #12 Jansen Allen (who has now fallen completely out of the top 10), has a tough 1st rounder against regular Guatemala international representative Juan Salvatierra in his quest to get back into the top 10.
– #22 Maurice Miller faces off against Mauricio MoMo Zelada, a rematch of the final of the February Open final at the Wintergreen event in Laurel, MD. Zelada won 6,12 then and seems a good bet to advance again.
– IRT regular Justus Benson is the unlucky first round match for reigning IRF World Champion Rodrigo Montoya, looking to make a splash and keep his IRT ranking on the rise.
– #15 Adam Manilla gets a tough Mexican up and comer Jordy Alonso as his 1st round opponent.
– #18 Robbie Robert Collins faces off against long-time Guatemalan international Christian Wer, who I first have playing for his country in 2004 and who was on the Worlds team in 2018. That’s a pretty long int’l career.
– #10 David Horn has the unenviable task of facing off against one of the more unheralded Mexican players today in Eduardo Garay Rodriguez. Garay has wins over IRT top 10 players on his resume in the past couple of seasons and has the ability to win here too.

In the 32s…here’s some projections based on potential match-ups:

– the #16/#17 match-up looks solid: Camacho vs Thomas Carter. A great test for both players; I sense the veteran Camacho advances to the main draw and a date with Kane.
– #13 Jake Bredenbeck vs #20 Portillo: I like Portillo’s chances here against Bredenbeck, who has yet to get out of the 16s this season after multiple quarter-finals appearances in prior seasons and is coming off an upset loss in Pueblo to a guy who has never played a pro match.
– #12 Allen over #21 Troy Warigon; the solid playing Allen should advance over part time IRT player Warigon here.
– #11 Mario Mercado over Zelada: the all-DC Metro area match-up, with the two relative neighbors facing off for a chance at the 16s. Mercado has the edge but it wouldn’t surprise me if this went Zelada’s way.
– Montoya vs Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; tough break for Franco, who runs into his countryman at this stage for the 2nd time in 3 months. He’s trying to build on the momentum of his run to the Mexican national quarters last month, but Montoya should advance here.
– #15 Manilla vs #18 Collins: the very-rare lefty vs lefty match-up, likely a win for the up and coming Manilla.

In the 16s…
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk starts off his title quest against the veteran Camacho and cruises to a win.
– the #8/#9 looks like a dog-fight: Diaz versus Sebastian Franco. After a solid start to the season, Franco has faltered, with two straight round of 16 exits and having missed Sioux Falls (for his Honeymoon; can’t fault him there). One of those early exits was at the hands of Diaz, who may very well do it again here.
– #5 Parrilla vs #12 Allen: Andree has been on a tear, but Allen plays solid, consistent racquetball and may cause Parrilla some troubles here.
– #4 Alejando Alex Landa vs Portillo: the newly crowned Mexican champ faces off against one of his country’s best young players; Landa should dominate this match based on playing styles.
– #3 De La Rosa vs #14 Montoya; this is the match of the round. 3 vs 14 by seeds, but two of the best 5 players in the world by capabilities. They met in Sioux Falls and DLR destroyed Rodrigo 1,4. In fact, Montoya may be the reigning world champ, but DLR has beaten him 3 out of 4 times they’ve played in the past year. I think DLR advances and Montoya misses out on an opportunity to gain valuable IRT ranking points yet again due to the luck of the draw.
– #6 Alvaro Beltran vs #11 Mercado; fresh off his surprise National finals appearance, Beltran runs into the mercurial Mercado (alliteration intended), who has beaten Alvaro in the past, but seems to be in a bit of a rut this season. Mercado has three one-and-done events this season and will have his work cut out for him to make it to this point. Alvaro advances.
– #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Horn; tough match for Murray here. Bobby beat Sam in April of 2018, but has three one-and-dones on the season and missed Sioux Falls b/c of injury. Horn did make the final of the Pueblo Shootout before getting waxed by Kane and seems to be healthy; can he outlast Murray here and put himself back on the winning ways? If he’s healthy, I think so.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Manilla: these two havn’t played in years on the pro tour, and while Adam can put up a fight against top players he should fall at this gate.

In the Quarters…
– #1 Kane over #9 Diaz. I’ll bet the versatile Diaz conjurs up some 209-magic and stays in rallies longer than expected, but Kane advances.
– #4 Landa over #5 Parrilla: I like Landa here, despite the fact that Parrilla took him in their last meeting (2018 US Open). Landa played so solidly at Mexican Nationals, its hard to envision him losing to Parrilla’s game-style.
– #6 Beltran takes out his doubles partner #3 DLR in a classic let-down game after DLR’s tough win over Montoya. They played in Portland in December, and Alvaro trounced him in two there, and I’m betting on a similar result here. 
Beltran is on a career renaissance this season and continues his stretch of solid play. 
– #2 Carson defeats Horn in a battle of contrasting pace of play styles. Carson will slow it down, while Horn tries to speed it up. Neither are happy with the referee at the end of the match.

In the semis…
– #1 Kane defeats former #1 Landa, but Landa puts up a fight and makes the scores 15-11, 15-9 or so. If Landa is on and making shots, Kane needs to find a slightly higher gear to beat him, which he eventually does since he’s such a master at the end-game of matches.
– #6 Beltran goes up against his long time rival #2 Carson for the third time this season and makes it 2 out of 3 with an upset win.

In the final, Kane takes out Beltran with ease, but not before Alvaro plays his typical shooter’s delight game plan and makes Kane sweat for a while. Its worth noting that Alvaro is the last player to take a game off of Kane (the 2017 US Open) and still has the capability to run off a game even against a guy who is currently working on a streak of 64 straight games won in competition.

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There’s also a massive Pro doubles draw; a full 16 team draw. The #1 team is, as normal, DLR/Beltran, who just got upset at Mexico Nationals and will not have the opportunity to compete for 2019 IRF crowns. They’ll have to possibly work their way through 1/2 of the team that dethroned them in Montoya, playing here with Parrilla, who themselves have to get by the Columbian National #1 doubles team of Mercado & Franco.

On the other side of the draw, the other “best doubles team in the world” in Kane & Ben Croft makes a rare appearance, seeded 6th. They likely face #3 seeds of Jake/Diaz for an excellent quarter final match before likely facing the excellent #2 seeded pairing of Landa & Murray in the semis. However, Landa/Murray may have to get past Rocky Carson, who plays pro doubles for the first time since Sept 2017 (!). He’s playing with Manilla for a nice little lefty-righty combo, perhaps a nod by Carson to help get ready for the upcoming WOR championships (where doubles is king).

I like Kane/Croft over DLR/Beltran in the final, a slight reversal of how this match-up has gone the last couple of times … but also an indicator that DLR/Beltran may have some cracks in the armor after their upset in Chihuahua last month.

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Can’t wait for more IRT action!

IRT 2018 US Open Qualifying Review and Round of 32 and 16 Preview

We’re through two rounds of (often grueling) qualifying and are to the main draw. Here’s some thoughts about notable matches or surprises (to me) from qualifying and a look ahead at the first two rounds of the main draw.

r2sports main draw link here.

Qualifying Results of note:
– #17 Seed Thomas Carter(aka, the highest seed forced to qualify) lost the first game 0 before recovering to advance to the main draw.
Dylan Reid took a solid 11-8 win over veteran Guatemalan Edwin Galicia.
Scott “the Ref” McClellan fought back from dropping the first game to advance to the main draw.
– Daniel Maldonado saved match point in game 2 before advancing in breaker over David Austin.
Ricardo Diaz got a solid win over WOR Vegas singles titlist Nick Montalbano.
Jay Munoz got a win over Set Cubillos Ruiz in his IRT debut
– Ohio’s Kyle Ulliman got a solid W over Wayne Antone IV.
– Costa Rican Alexander Pirie took a solid win over Austin Cunningham.
Mauro Daniel Rojas had to work to get past IRT veteran Hiroshi Shimizu, who first played on the IRT tour in 2002. When Rojas was 4.
– Touring pro Robert Collins got a close 2-game win over long-time IRT player Alejandro Herrera Azcarate to advance to the main draw.

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Round of 32 matches to watch for:

– #9 Jansen Allen v #24 Rodrigo Montoya Solís; though this may be an upset by seed, few consider Montoya the underdog here. The big question for rball fans is the state of his ankle. Allen is no slouch and if Montoya is hobbled we’ll know pretty quickly.

– #12 Jose Diaz vs #23 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; both players are capable of upsets and this should be an interesting contrast in playing styles.

– #13 Charlie Pratt vs Diego Garcia Quispe; great matchup of youth versus experience. Pratt’s cerebral playing style will likely control the youngster in this match … but Garcia plays like a veteran. Still amazing that a 16U player has made it this far already.

– #14 Adam Manilla vs #19 Javier Mar; upset alert here. Manilla went deep in the tour’s first event, making the quarters … but Mar has WRT titles and Mexican national titles and a run to the US Open quarters last year. Which Mar will show up though? Manilla has his hands full here.

– #6 Sebastian Franco vs #27 Mauro Rojas; Rojas beat Franco once before on the IRT, two years ago in Kansas … when he was just 16. Now freshly graduated from Juniors he’s been saddled with tough draws as he plays the tour full time. I like his game; he hits the ball really heavy and its just a matter of time before he gets a breakthrough win.

– #7 Samuel Murray vs #26 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo; tough break for Murray, who made the final of the first IRT event of the season. Like with Allen-Montoya, this will look like an upset by seed but Moscoso has more than established himself as one of the world’s top players by now irrespective of his IRT points.

Round of 16s that look interesting, if results go as I think they will:

– #24 Montoya – #8 Mario Mercado; Despite their international experience and long juniors history (they’re the same junior year, both born in 1996), I don’t have these two ever meeting in a senior event. If Montoya is healthy, he’ll be favored.

– #4 Daniel De La Rosa v #13 Pratt ; Pratt has wins over DLR in the past, and can play him tough. This could be a very tactical, strategic match.

– #26 Moscoso vs #10 Andree Parrilla; they met in the US Open last year, a 5-game brutal 11-8 win for the Bolivian. Parrilla plays everyone tough; there are no easy losses to Parrilla, who scraps and scrapes every point. Look for another marathon.

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We’ll be back Friday to preview the Q/S/Finals.

IRF Worlds 2018 Review

Montoya

The International Racquetball Federation‘s 19th annual Worlds are over; congrats to winners:
Men’s Singles: Rodrigo Montoya, Mexico
Women’s Singles: Ana Gabriel Martinez, Guatemala
Men’s Doubles: Daniel De La Rosa/Alvaro Beltran, Mexico
Women’s Doubles: Yazmine Sabja/Valeria Centellas, Bolivia

Historical Note: this is the first time in history that at the end of Worlds, not one of the four champions hailed from the USA. Its also the first World title for both Guatemala and Bolivia, joining Colombia’s 2014 Men’s double triumph as the only non-North American world titles in existence.

Lets do a quick review of the notable matches and how the tourney played out:

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Men’s Singles:

No major upsets in the 64s or 32s; the only upset by seed was #18 Andres Acuna (the Costa Rican home town favorite) ousting the Dominican Luis Perez in two games.

In the 16s,
– The match of the 16s was a re-match of the game of the RRs, with Colombian Mario Mercado again outlasting Canadian Coby Iwaasa, this time by an 11-9 tiebeaker win. They went 11-10 in the group stage. Tough way for Iwaasa to exit the tourney.
– #1 Bobby Horn survived a 15-14 first game to take out Guatemalan veteran Edwin Galicia in 2 games.
– Sebastian Franco got a very solid win and took out defending Pan American champ Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas 14,13. A testament to the depth of this draw; Franco-Keller was a worthy semi or final, featuring two guys who both had the capability to win this draw.
– #2 Daniel De La Rosa eased past home-town favorite Andres Acuña, who wasn’t able to pull off an upset run like he did the last time a major tourney was in Costa Rica.

In the Quarters…
– The #5/#4 Rodrigo MontoyaConrrado Moscoso Ortiz match lived up to the hype; these two guys played a finals-quality match that lasted more than 2 hours and ended up with the Mexican champion pulling away in a tiebreaker win.
– #1 Horn continued his career dominance over Mercado with a 2 game win.
– #3 Charlie Pratt got a surprise win over #6 Samuel Murray; Pratt definitely came to play this tourney
– But the biggest upset of the Men’s draw so far was #10 seeded Franco pulling out a 11-10 win over #2 seed and tourney favorite De la Rosa. Franco has the talent to beat anyone in this draw, but De la Rosa has consistently been the better player for years on the IRT. He’ll face off against Pratt, whom he’s never beaten.

In the semis, Rodrigo Montoya Solís outslugged #1 seed Bobby David Horn 9,8 in a 2 hour match that featured more than its fair share of questioned calls to advance to his first senior international final. In the other, crafty american veteran Pratt controlled his match against Franco and advanced 8,13.

In the finals, the crowd was given fantastic racquetball, with an amazing end to game one (a 15-14 game with two potential game winning points for either player over turned on appeal) before Montoya dove his way to a 14,9 win and a World Championship.

Champion: Rodrigo Montoya, Mexico.

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Women’s Singles:

The upset of the 32s had to be Canadian veteran Jen Saunders pounding American Sheryl Lotts 10,1. Saunders had lost all three group matches and suffered an injury, but came out firing to take down the American.

In the 16s:
– two LPRT pros duked it out and a surprising result came; Argentinian Natalia Mendez controlled the match over an emotional Frederique Lambert and advanced 8,8. This is Mendez’ first win in four tries against the 2nd ranked LPRT player and a rather large upset to this observer (who thought Lambert was good for the Semis if not further).
– Colombian doubles partners Adriana Riveros and Cris Amaya had a heck of a #8/#9 match, with Riveros pulling the slight upset and coming out on top 11-9.
– Bolivian darkhorse Yazmine Sabja Aliss outlasted LPRT regular Chilean Carla Muñoz Montesinos in a tough breaker as well.
Maria Jose Vargas shook off her group struggles and upset 4th seeded Maria Renee Rodriguez in a tiebreaker.

In the quarters, upsets abounded.
– Huge upset when Guatemalan Ana Gabriel Martinez took out the #3 seeded Samantha Salas Solis 4,12. Martinez has been putting up statement wins over and over; a win over Vargas in the group stage, now this knock out win. She made the finals of the 2016 Worlds with a similar win over Salas, and will be looking to do so again.
– Possibly even bigger upset when #7 seeded Argentinian Natalia Mendez wiped out American Rhonda Rajsich in game one before winning the second game 13.
– Vargas continued to advance, downing Bolivian #4 seed Sabja with ease to setup a meeting with #1 Paola Longoria.

This meant that the semis were comprised of the 1,20, 6 and 7 seeds.

In the Semis…Longoria rebounded from a 15-6 first game loss to dominate game 2 and outlast Vargas in the tiebreker to advance. In the other semi, Martinez trounced Argentine Mendez 8,3 to continue her excellent tournament.

The final was a rematch of the 2016 Worlds final, the 2017 Pan Am semis, and the 2018 Caribbean & Central American games final between Longoria and Martinez. They had played 8 times in the IRF and Paola owned all 8 wins …. but after cruising to a first game win, Martinez fought back and shocked the racquetball world by taking the title over the world #1 (8),6,6.

What’s amazing about this result is this: Martinez is still a junior! She becomes easily the youngest ever world Champion in the history of the Worlds competitions. She is playing in her age-18 season and will compete in Junior Worlds later this year to attempt to complete an unheard of double-world championship Junior and Seniors.  Martinez lost the 2017 world 18U final to Montserrat Mejia as the #1 seed but should make a strong case this fall in her final junior’s event.

Champion: Ana Gabriel Martinez, Guatemala

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Men’s Doubles.

No real upsets in the 16s. In the quarters, USA team of Sudsy Monchik and Rocky Carson got an early test, beating the talented Colombian team of IRT vets Franco and Mercado 11 and 13. The Canadian team of Samuel Murray and Tim Landeryou “upset” the #2 seeded Argentine team of Fernando Kurzbard and Shai Manzuri to move on.

In the semis, the Mexican #1 team of De La Rosa and Alvaro Beltran had the much tougher match-up, going up against the talented Bolivian team of Moscoso and Roland Keller. They squeaked out the first game 14 then closed it out 14,8. On the other side, the star-studded American team rolled easily over the Canadian team 12 and 2 to setup a classic final of IRT veterans.

In the final…the Mexican team seemed to play a deliberate, tactical strategy attempting to slow down the power of Monchik, and eventually they broke through, splitting the first two games then dominating the tie-breaker to take the title (10),9,2. This gives Beltran a 4th World doubles title, tying him with his long-time partner Javier Moreno for most ever Men’s World doubles titles. It also represents Beltran’s 10th international doubles title, 2nd only to Moreno.

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Women’s Doubles Review

In the 16s, the veteran Ecuadorian team of Vero Sotomayor and Maria Paz Munoz upset the Canadian team of Frederique Lambert and Jen Saunders in the 8/9 match up.

In the quarters, the most notable surprise was the elimination of the US team of Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts by the Bolivian team of Yazmine Sabja Aliss and Valeria Centellas 12,10. Sabja has had great results as of late and continued her great Worlds tourney. We don’t get to see Sabja on the LPRT very often, but she’s got a ton of solid results in IRF events.

In the semis, the Mexican #1 seeded team of Alexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia cruised to a win over the Colombian team of Amaya and Riveros, while in the other semi the surprising Bolivian team were perhaps already on their way to victory over the excellent Guatemalan team of Martinez/Rodriguez when an injury forfeit gave the Bolivians the win into the final.

In the final, Mexico was running away with the match early; Bolivia won a tight second game 15-14 then blew away the Mexican pair in the tiebreaker to become the first world champion from outside North America. Final: (8),14,2.

A quick comment on the champion Bolivian team; I did not know this until weeks after the event, but Centellas is just *16* years old.  She’s still playing 16U in worlds.  That’s an amazing accomplishment to see a team with a 16-yr old win a world title.

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Thanks for reading, congrats to all the participants, it was a fantastic event. All the draws are now loaded online to www.proracquetballstats.com.

Next up …we head *right* into the LPRT season, with the first ladies pro event happening next weekend in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Maybe we’ll get another Longoria-Martinez final as i’m sure both players (and a huge chunk of the draw here) will be there.