IRT 41st Lewis Drug Pro-Am Preview

Landa returns to Sioux Falls to defend his first ever Pro title.

Hello racquetball fans! This coming weekend is what has now become the 2nd biggest International Racquetball Tour event of the season and is the reported longest running Pro event in the land; the Lewis Drug Pro-Am held in Sioux Falls, SD. Thanks to the long-standing generosity of the sponsors, this event generally features the richest and best draws outside of the US Open.

r2sports.com home page for the event is here.

Quick note: keep IRT CEO John Scott in your thoughts; he underwent some emergency surgical procedures in the past couple of weeks and is recuperating at home.

This year, the event falls right on the same weekend as the massive annual Longhorn Open, which has a WRT event that unfortunately drew away a few of the names that may have considered entering. Nonetheless, there’s a solid draw of 39 pros entered into Lewis.

Ranking implications of this event: after months of kvetching about the IRT ranking system and the implications of Kane’s four missed events in the spring of 2017-18 season, this event likely rectifies the situation. This is the first event from last spring that Kane missed, meaning he has zero points to “defend” from the Lewis Drug event last season. Therefore, he has no where to go but up. Meanwhile, current #1 Landa won this event last year and therefore has 400 points to defend. If Kane wins … irrespective of who makes the final Kane should ascend back to #1 ranking. He will have gained more points than either of the two guys ahead of him could earn.

The only top 20 pros missing are #6 Sebastian Franco (on his Honeymoon as per IRT press release) and #10 Bobby David Horn, who was ill at the California Open, has been fighting through some injuries all season and seems to be taking off the weekend to recuperate for the busy spring schedule. These two absences give Jose Diaz his first ever top 8 seeding, which immediately gets “switched” to a #7 seed for the tourney.

Notable players we don’t regularly see in the draw include former IRT touring pro Tony Anthony Carson, who made waves in the Portland event earlier this season and will be a tough out. #18 ranked and reigning International Racquetball Federation World champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis is in the draw, hoping for a better result. Unfortunately he’s seeded 16th, which has him playing right into #1 Alex Landa yet again. We’ll cover that in the predictions. World 18U runner-up Sebastian Fernandez is back after making waves in Canoga Park. US Open Men’s Open champ Alejandro Herrera Azcarate has made the trip up from Miami for this tourney and is playing doubles with none other than US Open tourney director and rball legend Doug Ganim. Lastly the geographic proximity to Canada has drawn down some of 
Canada’s top players too, including Tim LanderyouLee Connell and Tanner Prentice.

Lets preview the draw. Here’s some round of 64 matches of interest:
– #21 Sebastian Fernandez goes up against fellow 18U recent graduate and current US Junior National champ Ricardo Ricky Diaz. Tough draw for Diaz, who runs into a guy who has been really making waves on tour so far this season.
– #20 Mauro Daniel Rojas vs Christian Longoria; a great first round match between contrasting styles; the shot-making control game of Longoria versus Rojas’ power. 
– #13 Adam Manilla vs Timmy Hansen; Manilla plays the youngster Timmy Hansen, who enters a pro tourney for the first time. Hansen is the reigning US 14U national champ and makes up one half of a potentially pretty darn good Father/Son team with his dad Tim Hansen (one of the most decorated amateur players of all time and USAR hall-of-fame inductee).
– #19 Nick Riffel vs Lee Connell: Connell has been playing Canadian National events since Riffel was in grade school; we’ll see if the veteran can handle the newbie.
– #11 Jake Bredenbeck vs Cesar Castillo; Castillo enters a pro tournament for the first time since 2015; he’s a long-time international representative of Venezuela, last playing for his country in the 2017 Bolivarian games. 
– #10 Jansen Allen gets a tough 1st round draw in Sioux Falls native John Goth. Goth only has a few major tourneys on his resume over the past few years … but rolled to the US National final in 2012 and has taken out touring pros like Sebastian Franco and Christian Longoria in recent WRT events. This could be a tough one for IRT regular Allen.
– #15 Felipe Camacho matches up against Matthew Ivar Majxner, a tough player who has been playing pro events since the late 1990s.
– #18 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez faces the always-tough Alejandro Herrera, last seen taking the Men’s Open draw in Minneapolis and who played Robbie Collins tough in the pro draw in Minneapolis before losing. Herrera plays with pace, and Franco will need to adjust.

Projecting to the 32s:
– Montoya over Robert Collins; tough draw for Collins, who has had a solid season, but I see a Montoya win here.
– #9 Mario Mercado vs Tony Carson: missing out on the bye comes back to haunt Mercado, who runs into former touring pro Carson, who has the wherewithall to advance here. I see a Carson win and Mercado’s tough season continuing.
Charlie Pratt versus Sebastian Fernandez: wow, tough match up here. Pratt has experience on his side but these two play a very similar game; all about control. I give the cerebral Pratt the advantage here over the youngster.
– Manilla vs Rojas: I like Rojas here, out-pacing the lefty Manilla in what should be a shoot out of power players swinging out of their shoes.
– Carter vs Riffel: these two buddies have met three times on tour, with Riffel taking two of them. I think Riffel wins again and advances to the main draw.
– Jake over the Ref Scott McClellan; at some point the Ref will force his way into making … someone else ref his back-of-the-tournament matches 🙂
– Allen vs Landeryou: I like this match-up; i think this could be a pretty tight game. I like Allen’s game lately; he has not been an easy out, but Landeryou’s game could frustrate.
– Franco over Camacho: assuming we don’t see a surprise upset, I like Gerardo Franco in this match. He’s got the game and has the capabilities to do a break through.

Main Draw: round of 16.
– #1 Landa vs #16 Montoya: for the 2nd straight event, and for the third time in two months, we get Landa v Montoya. Last time, I predicted the upset, and instead Landa cruised to the semis. This time … i’m predicting Landa returns to the site of his first ever pro victory energized and takes a 2 game win. A semis-quality match-up in the 16s yet again.
– #8 Alvaro Beltran v Tony Carson: Carson has beaten DLR and Parrilla the last two IRT events he’s entered; he can beat Beltran. But … they’ve met 6 times on the IRT and Beltran has won all 6. I’ll go with a tiebreaker win for Alvaro Beltran.
– #5 Samuel Murray v #12 Pratt: last time they played was at the 2018 Worlds, where Pratt waxed Murray in two. Can he repeat the favor? I think he can; since making the final in the season opener, Murray has four early exits in a row in pro events, including two round of 16 upsets. Pratt can make it another early exit here.
– #4 Daniel De La Rosa vs Rojas: DLR converts back to Racquetball from Pickleball and downs the youngster Rojas in the 16s for the 2nd tourney in a row.
– #3 Kane Waselenchuk gets his first match likely against Riffel and makes quick work of the youngster to advance.
– #6 Andree Parrilla vs #11 Jake Bredenbeck: these two have met a few times … and Jake has never lost to Andree. They havn’t met in a year and a half though, and in that time Parrilla has taken a big step ahead. I think Parrilla advances.
– #7 Jose Diaz vs #10 Allen: they’ve met 5 times and have gone back and forth; Allen got him in their most recent meeting in Laurel. This is an excellent opportunity for Allen to regain some of his momentum and get back to the quarters. Expect a tough match here. I’m not sure who I favor. I liked what I saw out of Allen in the last event; we’ll go with the Texan here.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs Gerardo Franco: they met in Laurel earlier this season and Rocky pasted him. No reason to expect a different result here.

Projected Quarters:
– #1 Landa over #8 Beltran: Landa has his number and has had it for a while.
– #4 DLR over #12 Pratt: they met at the US Open, a tight but 2-game win for DLR. I like the way DLR is trending this season … he seems like he’s been much more consistent this season than last. After missing the first event, he’s made two finals and a quarter and is a good bet to make at least the semis here.
– #3 Kane over #6 Andree: a rematch of the quarters from California, a 3,5 beat-down. No concrete courts in Sioux Falls, so perhaps Parrilla can keep it close, but expect a 2-game win for the King.
– #2 Rocky vs #10 Allen: they’ve played 13 times … and Rocky has won 13 times. Expect 14 for 14 here.

Semis:
– #1 Landa vs #4 DLR: these two met at the Lewis Drug in 2017 semis and in the 2018 finals (an 11-10 Landa win for his first ever pro title)… so its only fitting if they meet again in 2019. Landa has beaten him h2h 3 straight times now, but they’re always battles. Can DLR turn the tide? I’d like to see Kane vs Landa in the final but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was Kane-DLR again.
– #3 Kane vs #2 Rocky; they’ve met 76 times (!) … but if they meet here it’ll be the first time they’ve faced off in a match that was NOT a final since 2009. That’s 10 years of match-ups for tourney titles. Nonetheless, Kane makes it 74-3.

Finals: Kane over Landa. Or maybe DLR. Or perhaps Montoya if I get my predictions way wrong.

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There’s also a solid Doubles draw for only the third official IRT doubles event of the year., with 10 teams playing and the regular suspects (Beltran/DLR, Landa/Murray, Montoya/Parrilla). Beltran & DLR are unvanquished in nearly a year of doubles competition and remain the team to beat.

2019 IRT California Open Wrap-up

Kane Wins again.

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk for winning the 2019 International Racquetball Tour California Open. With the win, he captures his 113th career Tier1/Grand Slam event, extends his current match winning streak to 74 matches (3rd longest ever streak), and extends his current game winning streak to 48. He’s yet to drop a game since the tour went to best of 3.

With this win, he rises to #3 in the tour rankings; this was the event in which he got injured last season, so from here until May he’s got no points to defend and should pretty quickly rise up the rankings. He’s got 300+ point advantage in season-to-date rankings already and is well positioned to claim another year end title.

r2sports link for event: http://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=29824

Proracquetballstats.com Match report for the event is here.

Lets review the draw, with comments on notable (to me) results.

In the round of 64:
– In the battle of reigning world Junior champs, the elder 18U champ Eduardo Portillo Rendon outlasted 16U champ Diego Garcia Quispe 12,11. Garcia showed a lot of power, with a sneaky fast serve, but Portillo’s smooth approach kept him just ahead of the Bolivian.
– Mexican Junior Oscar Nieto Valadez snuck by the Ref Scott McClellan 11-10. Nieto made the Mexican National 16U final in 2017 … then seems to have missed the 2018 Nationals and Selection events. But he’s still got a year of juniors and looks like a pretty solid player.
Robert Collins took out Sebastian Longoria in 2 straight … which isn’t normally notable except that Longoria is just 16 years old. He lost in the final of the Jr Worlds 14U in Minneapolis in 2017. 
Nick Riffel outlasted outdoor champ  Luis R Avila 11-8 in the breaker, in a close match between two solid players.

In the round of 32, we had some surprises:
– Rodrigo Montoya Solis cruised past Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 9,6, setting up a match against #1 Alejandro Alex Landa .
– Portillo took out #9 seeded David Horn 11,13. This is a pretty significant result for me, demonstrating how far Portillo has come in the past year. Its also another early loss for Horn on the season, who now in four events has lost in the 32s twice and the 16s once. Reports are that Horn was under the weather, contributing to his loss, and he forfeited out of doubles after this result.
– Sebastian Fernandez took out Adam Manilla 8,12. Also a notable result, in that its another 18-yr old taking out a pretty experienced IRT touring pro. Both Portillo and Fernandez are flexing their muscles on tour right now.
– Nieto took Jake Bredenbeck to a tiebreaker before falling 11-3. Not a bad result for a kid playing in his age 18 season.
Mauro Daniel Rojas took out veteran Felipe Camacho 11-6 in a breaker. Very good result for Rojas.
– In the 15/18 match-up, Robert Collins earned another match against Rocky with a solid 2-game win over Riffel.

In the round of 16…
– The highly anticipated match between #1 Alejandro Landa and IRF world Champ Montoya, the fans were not disappointed. Landa came out on top after dropping the first and racing away with the second. Landa dominated the tiebreaker, jumping out to a 9-2 lead, then held on for a 11-6 win. These two matched up in the Mexico City Open in Dec and Montoya came out on top; this time it was Landa. 
– With his greatest ever IRT victory, Portillo downed #8 seeded Samuel Murray 14,14. 
– Andree Parrilla held off the other 18U champion in the draw Fernandez, holding on for an 11,13 win.
– Kane Waselenchuk left nothing to chance, dominating Bredenbeck 8,3
– Daniel De La Rosa cruised past the youngster Rojas 4,13
– Jose Diaz indeed got the upset of Sebastian Franco in a tie-breaker, continuing his fantastic season. Diaz now has two quarter-final appearances on the new season and is on track to break into the top 8 based on performance.
– Alvaro Beltran held off the solid Jansen Allen in a tie-breaker.
Rocky Carson left nothing to chance, giving Collins a donut en route to a 2-game win.

In the Quarters…
– Landa pounded the 18U champ Portillo 3,5, ending his tournament quickly. Still, this is easily Portillo’s best ever IRT event (prior career best was a round of 32 exit at the 2017 US Open).
– Waselenchuk made quick work of Parrilla, ironically by the same 3,5 score as Landa’s win. Kane’s serves were just outstanding, Parrilla could do little with his match all night, and to add insult to injury Kane hit splats from down the line positions at 39 feet and rolled out between-the-legs shots. Just unfair.
– DLR outlasted Diaz in a back and forth tiebreaker.
– Carson got revenge and came from a game down to beat Beltran.

In the Semis:
– Kane gave #1 Landa a donut before he caught his breath, then outlasted him in the second to advance to the final 0,9.
– DLR won a fantastic 11-10 tiebreaker over Rocky Carson, a scintillating match where each player had multiple shots at match point.

In the Final, DLR was making shots and was pressing Kane most of the way, but in a common refrain Kane controlled the end game like a chess master, and quickly turned a game that was close up until the 8-8 or 10-10 range into a 15-8 or 15-10 game win. DLR tried some unconventional (to say the least) tactics to try to throw Kane’s service game off, to some success it should be said, and really experimented with his service game, but it was to no avail. A sharp Kane and concrete walls proved to be unstoppable.

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In the doubles draw, it came down to #1 vs #2. In the end, DLR rebounded from his singles loss to team with Beltran to top #2 seeded Landa/Murray in two straight. These two teams are separating themselves this year, playing together nearly every event and making a name for themselves (along with the Kane/Ben Croft team) as the best in the world.

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We have a rare break in the schedule; nothing on the books for the weekend of 1/13/19. But the following weekend we have the great annual Lewis Drug Pro-Am in South Dakota and the equally good Longhorn Open in Austin. I’ll publish some content in the interim related to some new reports and bug fixes i’ve been working on.

2019 IRT California Open Preview

Landa is seeded #1 .. but faces a long road in California.

Happy New Year. Just as the hangovers from NYE have abated, we’re back in action on the IRT for one of the tour’s biggest annual stops; the 2019 California Open, held in Canoga Park, CA.

37 Pros are entered, a 20% increase over last year at this event and continuing a healthy trend of improved IRT event participation over the past year and a half of tourneys. There’s also some surprise entrants to this event thanks in part to RYDF sponsorships for distant players.

Top 20 players missing: #9 Mario Mercado didn’t make the cross-country trip. #13 Charlie Pratt continues to be a part-time tour player and also didn’t make the long trip. #16 Thomas Carter misses his first event in a while. So just 3 of the top 20 missing.

Lets preview the qualifying and draw.

Notable Round of 64 matches:
– Diego Garcia Quispe vs Eduardo Portillo Rendon; a fun match-up of the current reigning 18U World Junior champ and 16U World Junior Champ. I think you have to favor the older player. Bummer these two guys couldn’t go against more established tour players to see how far they’ve advanced.
Mauro Daniel Rojas vs Dane Elkins: Northern California versus Southern California, and even though Elkins has the home town advantage Rojas advances here.
Felipe Mercado Sandy vs Felipe Camacho; notable in that I believe this is the first time two players named “Felipe” have met on tour. I might be wrong though. Advantage Camacho here.
John Wolfe vs Erick Cuevas; an interesting match-up of two frequent IRT tour players; this is a good opportunity for both to get a tour win.
Luis R Avila – Nick Riffel; an interesting contrast in styles, as Avila (reigning WOR outdor 3-wall champ) faces off against one of the newer IRT touring regulars.

Possible round of 32s to watch for:
– #16 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #17 Rodrigo Montoya Solis; tough draw for Gerardo Franco here, running into the reigning World Champ Montoya, who enters an IRT event for just the 6th time in the last three seasons.
– #9 David Horn vs Portillo: Horn is the highest ranked player who has to play an extra match and gets a tough but winnable match-up against the quickly improving Portillo. I think Horn still advances here.
– Sebastian Fernandez vs Adam Manilla; fun match-up between the 18U Junior World runner-up in Fernandez and recent Intercollegiate champ Manilla, who has been playing tough on tour this year. Advantage Manilla.
– Rojas vs Camacho; excellent match to see if Rojas can take the next step, heading up against the veteran Camacho, who is a tough out.
– Robert Collins vs Riffel: Collins, who is coming off a great tourney where he took Rocky to a tie-breaker, gets another shot to qualify for a main draw against Riffel. Expect a close match.

Projecting the 16s. Lots of play-in matches, but here’s how I’m seeing the round of 16 playing out.
– #1 Alejandro Alex Landa vs #17 Montoya. Landa is the one who gets screwed by Montoya’s presence, having to play him in the 16s instead of the semis or finals of an event. For those of you who saw my personal top 50, you know that I think these two are neck and neck. Montoya beat him a couple weeks ago, and I like Montoya again here, paving the way for him to make a semi final on the weekend. But expect a battle; Landa doesn’t generally lose easily or quickly.
– #8 Samuel Murray vs #9 Horn: Horn beat Sam the only time they met before (April 2018), but I like Murray’s form over Horn’s right now. 
– #5 Andree Parrilla vs Manilla: Parrilla should advance here, unless he’s looking ahead at his potential quarter final opponent.
– #4 Kane Waselenchuk vs #13 Jake Bredenbeck; an interesting match up for Kane, who goes against the guy who gave him his most recent on-the-court (albeit still involving an injury forfeit) loss. Jake beat Kane in May 2016 in a 5th game default. I wonder if Kane will want to “make amends” here.
– #3 Daniel De La Rosa vs Rojas: DLR gets started against the hard-hitting youngster, but controls the game as he is apt to do and advances.
– #6 Sebastian Franco vs #11 Jose Diaz; hard one to predict here; we know Franco has been nursing an injury and that Diaz has been playing well. I’ll go with Diaz in an upset here.
– #7 Alvaro Beltran vs #10 Jansen Allen; Jansen has beaten Alvaro the last couple times they’ve played on tour … but they havn’t met since Nov 2017. Beltran has had the break to rest up from his typically busy playing schedule and he made the final of the last IRT event, so i’ll give him the nod here.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs Collins: Collins gets a re-match of the round of 16 match from last IRT event; Carson still advances.

Projecting the Quarters: it could be a fun event:
– Montoya-Murray: they’ve met in the past; Murray beat Montoya at the Lewis Drug event last year. So this is not a cut and dried mach. But for me, Montoya is hot and moves on.
– Parrilla-Kane: last time they met was in the semis of the US Open, where Kane won 3,12. Parrilla is a tough out, and can make life miserable for even the likes of Kane. I’d expect another similar match, where one of the two games goes long.
– DLR vs Diaz: they last met in the qtrs of the US Open, a two game win for DLR 10,9. I’d expect a similar result here.
– Carson vs Beltran: these guys have met 48 times on the IRT so far, i think they’ll meet again. They met in the semis of the Portland event and Alvaro advanced in a testy tiebreaker. I’ll gamble and predict he wins again.

Semis: 
– Montoya – Kane: this would be my ideal semi; these guys have met twice, most recently in a very anticipated 2017 season opener that was won by Kane by the lopsided score of 1,0,3 but which also high-lighted what could be for the back end of IRT tourneys if we could get Montoya playing more frequently. 
– DLR-Beltran: another match-up between best buddies and doubles partners. They met in Portland and Beltran dominated him … but then DLR turned around and won the Mexican Open in a draw that featured every top Mexican player (including Beltran) in the game today. I’ll go with DLR here.

Final: Kane over DLR.

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There’s a solid Doubles draw: 10 teams. I like the #1 vs #2 teams to meet (DLR/Beltran and Landa/Murray), but wouldn’t count out the #4 team of Diaz/Jake to make some noise.

IRT Portland Pelham ToC Wrap-Up

Kane wins again.

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk on his win at the latest International Racquetball Tour pro stop. This represents Kane’s 112th career tourney win and extends his current on-court match winning streak to 70 (good for 3rd longest in history).

Match report in the database: http://www.proracquetballstats.com/cg…/print_results_new.pl…

Despite all the discussion on rankings from the week leading up to this event, Alejandro Landa will retain the #1 ranking for the time being (he did not play this event last year so had zero points to defend) and will hope for a better draw next time. Kane’s showing should improve his current ranking to #4 if I’m calculating the points correctly. The other two major points moves should involve Mario Mercado dropping out of the top 8 (he made the final of this event last year but got upset early in 2018), and Andree Parrilla moving INTO the top 8 despite his early upset to Kane since Andree did not play this event last season and only gains points.

Lets review the event, with comments on notable results (to me) by round:

In the round of 64…no major upsets, but some tough tiebreakers.

– #17 Thomas Carter outlasted Portland local Tim Prigo in a tie-breaker.
Tony Anthony Carson took out fellow Oregonian and podcast maven Dylan Reid 13,10.
– #19 Nicholas Nick Riffel outlasted junior phenom Ricardo Ricky Diaz 11-8 in the breaker after dropping the first 15-14 then handing out a donut in the second.
– Colombian international veteran Set Cubillos Ruiz outlasted tour ref Scott McClellan in a tough tiebreaker 11-8.
– #15 Felipe Camacho was stretched to a tiebreaker by Oregon State Student Sam Bredenbeck.

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In the round of 32…we had some fireworks.
– In what I think is a pretty significant upset, former IRT touring pro Carson took out #9 seed Andree Parrilla 7,12 to advance to the main draw. On the one hand, Carson has more than proven his ability to beat quality players; in this event last year he beat De La Rosa in the 16s and took the first two games off of Murray in the quarters before losing in 5. On the other hand, Parrilla made the semis of the US Open (vanquishing current #1 Landa along the way), had the match-winning point on his racquet before losing to Carson 11-10 in the quarters at Laurel, and has been roughly the 5th or 6th best player over the past calendar year results wise. I watched part of this match after the fact … and it was not as close as the scores suggest. Parrilla could do little with Carson’s drive serve, and I saw a lot of 3-point rallies with Parrilla flailing. Andree took a curiously early loss last weekend at the SLP Open, so it could definitely be a slight end of year down-turn in form for him (I recall something similar happening a couple years back; he suffered from some serious burn out playing both a full WRT schedule, part IRT schedule plus local events in Mexico), but with fewer IRT events on the schedule every event counts.
– Defending champ and #13 seed Charlie Pratt eased past his junior team member Mauro Mauro Daniel Rojas to advance to the main draw.
– #14 seed Adam Manilla took out his buddy Riffel to advance to the main draw.
– #10 Jansen Allen took a close game one 15-14 over reigning outdoor champ Nick Montalbano and then cruised to the win.
– #18 Robert Collins took a tightly-contested match over #15 Camacho in the tie-breaker to advance to his first main draw since March.

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In the 16s:

– #1 seed Alex Landa cruised past Jake Bredenbeck 6,12.
– #8 Kane Waselenchuk took out home-town favorite and upset minded Tony Carson 11,4.
– #12 and #13 seeded Bobby David Horn and Charlie Pratt took out higher seeded players Mario Mercado and Sebastian Franco respectively. Upsets by seed, but not by expectations.
– #14 Adam Manilla continued his impressive run of form, taking #3 seed Daniel de La Rosa to a tiebreaker.
– #7 Samuel Murray left nothing in doubt and beat #10 Jansen Allen handily for his first win in their h2h meetings.
– #2 Rocky Carson was stretched to a tiebreaker by #18 Collins in their first-ever top-level meeting. Excellent showing by Collins, who was looking for his second career quarter-final.

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In the Quarters…

– Waselenchuk took out #1 seed Landa 9,8 in a streaky match that probably wasn’t as close as the scores indicated. Landa kept it close-ish for the early parts of both games, but (in a similar pattern to the last couple of times they’ve played), Kane dominated the end-game in both games.
– Pratt committed “coach on coach” crime and took out Horn in two close games 10,14. Despite the win, Pratt stands to take a tumble in the rankings because he’ll lose a significant chunk of the points he won at this event last year unless he manages to win again.
– Beltran completely dominated his doubles partner DLR and advanced 8,8. This is his best result since April and should help kick start the slow start to his season.
– Carson controlled Murray with ease 4,10 for his 7th win in 7 times against the Canadian national champ.

This left the tournament definitely trending to the “veteran” status. Kane, Alvaro, Rocky and Charlie basically are the four oldest players on tour, at ages 37, 40, 39 and 32 respectively.

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In the Semis…Alvaro Beltran upset #2 Rocky Carson in an argumentative tie-breaker (neither player was terribly happy with the refereeing), while Kane blasted defending champ Pratt 3,5.

In the Final, Kane took the match in two games 6,12 … but the 15-12 game was an hour+ tactical marathon where Beltran held out with excellent play and really made Kane work for the win.
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Next up for the IRT is the ever popular Coast to Coast open in Canoga Park, one of the biggest draws of the year.

IRT Pelham Tourney of Champs Preview

Pratt returns to the scene of his career accomplishment.

IRT Pelham Tourney of Champs Preview

We’re back! The International Racquetball Tour returns to action this coming weekend, returning to Portland and the legendary Multnomah Athletic Club for the 3rd event of the season; the SPC John A. Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions for 2018.

The r2sports home page for the event is http://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=29358 . The Men’s draw is available right now at IRT’s home page here: www.irt-tour.com.

Being that its Portland, there’s a good Junior component involved with this event with High school brackets. No less than 220 players are entered overall, and the pro draw has a healthy 36 players, including a ton of local players to the Northwest that we don’t normally see in national events. The top 18 players from the IRT tour rankings are present; only Gerardo Franco Gonzalez and Rodrigo Montoya Solis are missing from the top 20 players in the world current rankings.

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Lets review the draw. Here’s some interesting round of 64 qualifiers. I thought there were a bunch of compelling first rounders … many more so than normal. Should be a fun tourney.

– #17 seed Thomas Carter vs Tim Prigo: Carter is one of the highest ranked tour vets to not get a bye into the 32s, and gets rewarded with a tough match against local player Prigo, who could upset him and move on.
– Jake Bredenbeck vs Kadim Carrasco: the tour gets a rare appearance from the Bolivian Carrasco, an experienced IRT veteran but who had only appeared in US Opens previously. He’s a hard-hitter, which should make this match-up with fellow slugger Bredenbeck a fun one. Jake takes it and moves on.
– Dylan Reid vs Tony Anthony Carson; an unfortunate match-up for both guys; they literally just played in a lower tier IRT event a few weeks back. Carson is a former full time IRT touring pro who finished in the top 10 four years running, with 3 career semi-finals appearances and is a tough draw for whoever he runs into. Reid is most famous in the rball community for his excellent Podcast series (check it out at this FB page: https://www.facebook.com/racquetballshow/ …. and as a disclaimer I was a guest this past summer talking stats and Kane’s then-retirement). Oh, as for the match, I think Carson takes it (sorry Dylan!) and moves on.
– Experienced Canadian international Tim Landeryou heads south of the border to take on IRT regular Justus Benson. A tough first round for the Texan, as Landeryou could give him trouble.
Ricardo Ricky Diaz vs Nick Riffel: another tough draw for touring regular Riffel; he faces off against the current 18U national champ Diaz. Could go either way.
– The Ref Scott McClellan goes against long-time international Set Cubillos Ruiz in a tight first rounder.

——————
Here’s some potential round of 32 matches (projecting some winners from 64s) that could be fun:
– #9 Andree Parrilla vs Tony Carson: Parrilla, in case you havn’t been paying attention, is on a tear. He’s 4th in season-to-date rankings and has made a ton of later rounds in events over the past season. Carson will be a tough match, expect a 3-game Parrilla win here.
– #13 Charlie Pratt, the defending champion of this tourney, gets a potential match against Mauro Rojas to make the main draw. Pratt, who serves as the
US Junior National team coach, goes against one of his team members in his attempt to defend his title. Not to mention the points that go with it; Pratt stands to plummet in the rankings after this weekend due to the expiration of his tourney win from last season and his part-time playing status.
– Adam Manilla – Ricky Diaz: a nice match-up between two younger guys on tour. Manilla has been playing well lately, making the Quarters in Laurel with a couple of solid wins.
– #10 seed Jansen Allen goes against New Yorker Nick Montalbano, who makes the cross-country flight for this event.

——————
Lets talk about the 16s. First a comment for those looking at the seedings and wondering what the heck is going on. Kane Waselenchuk, as was thoroughly discussed and debated in a FB thread off of the IRT’s page last week about rankings and the ranking system, is currently ranked 6th. So why is he seeded 8th in this event? Because of the “flip policy” in the IRT, that regular scrambles the 5-8 seeds so that the 8th ranked player does not consistently have to face the #1 ranked player tourney after tourney. You can read more about it here: http://www.irt-tour.com/current-ranking…/irt-ranking-system/

None the less, its a really tough blow for current #1 player Alejandro Alex Landa , who has to face Kane in the quarters instead of the Finals. Fans get better matches earlier of course … but a situation like this does lend credence to the push for a slightly modified ranking system to account for this. It’s an even worse blow for #9 seeded Parrilla, who now faces an early exit at the hands of a player who he previously met in the finals of an IRT event.

I’m in favor of using a separate system to Seed events versus the one currently Ranking players to help avoid this in the future. If you want to see some alternative ranking systems, see this blog post: http://blog.proracquetballstats.com/index.php/2018/11/27/irt-points-system-alternatives/

Off my soapbox, onto the preview.

———————–
In the 16s:
– #1 seed Alex Landa vs Bredenbeck: these two have met 6 times on the IRT and WRT, and Landa has won all 6 previously. He’ll look to make it 7 for 7 here.
– #8 Kane Waselenchuk vs #9 Parrilla: Kane famously gave Andree a triple donut at the US Open a couple years back … then faced off against him in a final later that season where Parrilla played him pretty tough. You don’t predict against Kane these days … you just predict how close the match will be. Parrilla is a grinder, a tough player to play b/c he gets everything and doesn’t make mistakes. He’s also clever on the court and has the kind of off-speed serve that can do a decent job of forcing awkward shots out of Kane on the service return. Still, Kane advances.
– #5 Mario Mercado vs #12 Bobby David Horn; despite the disparity in seeding, Horn has dominated their h2h meetings historically. He leads 6-1 h2h … So look for an upset here.
– #4 Sebastian Franco vs #13 Pratt: again, don’t look at the rankings/seedings here. Pratt has never lost to Franco, and beat him in the semis of Worlds just this past August. Its Pratt’s home town; i expect him to advance here.
– #3 Daniel de la Rosa vs #14 Manilla: Manilla has been playing well, but probably not well enough to down DLR.
– #6 Alvaro Beltran vs #11 Jose Diaz: these two met in the 16s in Minneapolis in October too … with Diaz pulling out the upset. I think these two are heading in opposite directions and Diaz can win again.
– #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Jansen Allen: fresh off of his win at Canadian Nationals last week, Murray surprisingly has never beaten Allen in a top level match. Jansen’s now fallen to #10 in the rankings and may struggle to get back into the top 8; can he get another win over Murray to advance here? I’m giving the nod to Murray but wouldn’t be surprised by an upset.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs Camacho: straight forward win for Carson here.

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Possible Quarters:
– Kane over Landa: what should have been the final is instead a quarter. Last time they played, Landa played Kane tough, losing 11,9 in Canoga Park. Lets see how this one goes.
– Pratt over Horn: this is a tough one to predict. Horn has beaten Pratt 2 of the 3 times they’ve played, including the last two. On a neutral court I think i pick Horn. But this is not a neutral court, and Horn has been scuffling lately with two early exits in the first two IRT events. Pratt advances.
– DLR vs Diaz: they met in the quarters of the US Open in October, a 10,9 win for DLR. I sense the same would happen here.
– Carson v Murray; They’ve met 6 times on the IRT, including the final of the Laurel season opener, and Rocky has won all 6 times. He makes it 7 for 7 here.

——-
My projected Semis and finals:
– Kane over Pratt: Kane ends Pratt’s second straight attempt at a Cinderella run in Portland.
– DLR over Rocky: a repeat of the US Open Semi, a tie-breaker win for DLR. Maybe this is the year DLR takes over #2 from Rocky after all these years (not that Landa wouldn’t have something to say about that).

Project final: Kane over DLR, also a rematch from Minneapolis.

US Open IRT Mens Pro Doubles Wrap-up

Congrats to Alvaro Beltran and Daniel De La Rosa on their US Open Title.

Here’s the match report for the tourney: https://bit.ly/2C188Lc

Here’s a review of the event.

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First off… for racquetball fans of top-level tournament play, you cannot ask for more out of this doubles draw. Out of the 22 matches in this draw, 14 went to tiebreaker.  13 of the first 19 went tiebreaker, including two 11-10 matches. Every time we run another top-end doubles tourney, we seem to get more and more great play. I love this new focus on doubles in the Men’s Pro game.

An opinion from this observer: I wish the doubles qualified into the 16s and not the quarters: if there’s 23 teams entered it does seem unfair to give byes to four teams and force everyone else to play 2 or even 3 qualifiers.  I’m not sure how this decision was arrived at, if its driven by court availability (possibly) or just attempting to protect the top seeds (also a distinct possibility), but the 5th seeds really have a massive disadvantage as compared to the 4th seeds.

Here’s some notable 1st and 2nd round events for me:
– First, we have to start with the unbelievable match we saw in the round of 32; The 5th overall seeds Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz, who together as a team have made 3 finals in the last year, faced off against a team of 17-yr old phenoms in Sebastian Fernandez and Diego Garcia Quispe. Fernandez and Garcia had the 5th seeds completely flummoxed in the tie-breaker, running out to a 10-0 lead. However, Jake and Jose fought back, and saved off at least 8 attempts at match point across several trades of serves and came completely back to win 11-10. An amazing come-back that I can’t quite say i’ve ever seen in the pro game before. A quick note about the two juniors; they played top-level pro rball in this match and made a bunch of statement wins all weekend on the singles side.

– Andres Acuña and Felipe Camacho got a solid win over a tough doubles team of Charlie Pratt and Dylan Reid.

– Semi-regular IRT players Maurice Miller and DC-area native Troy Warigon teamed up to take out two accomplished IRT pros in Andree Parrilla and Gerardo Franco Gonzalez.

– College buddies from Baldwin-Wallace Thomas Carter and Kyle Ulliman shocked the team of Jansen Allen and Nick Montalbano in the first round.

—————–
The round of 16 had all four “seeded” teams end up winning to qualify to the main draw … but all four matches went tiebreaker.
– David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas were stretched to 11-9 by the Miller/Warigon team.
– Bredenbeck/Diaz went 11-8 to advance past the Costa Rican team Acuna/Camacho.
– Top Bolivian team Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo and Roland Keller (the 2018 South American Games champs and 2018 Pan Am Games finalists) took out the Baldwin Wallace alumni team 11-0 in the breaker.
– Lastly, the tough Mexican team of Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Javier Mar had to go to extras to top the Denver duo of Adam Manilla and Nick Riffel.

—————–
The Main draw featured some immediate upsets.
– Jose and Jake kept living on the edge, advancing again 11-10 over the Colombian pairing of Sebastian Franco and Mario Mercado.
– the Mexican team of Montoya & Mar took out the #3 seeds Alejandro Alex Landa and Samuel Murray in a tiebreaker.
– The #2 seeds and reigning IRF doubles champs Alvaro Beltran and Daniel De la Rosa ousted the Bolivian pairing of Moscoso/Keller in a rematch of the 2018 IRF Worlds semi final.
– Lastly, the #1 team of Kane Waselenchuk and Ben Croft, who havn’t lost a doubles match together since 2016, advanced over Horn and Rojas.

——————–

In the semis:
– #1 Croft/Waselenchuk ended the Jake/Jose run, advancing 13,6
– #2 Beltran/DLR were pushed to the edge by country-mates Montoya/Mar, advancing with an 11-8 tiebreaker win.

——————-
The Final represented a rematch of several notable pro doubles matches over the past year: this was the final of last year’s US Open, which resulted in an epic match some called “the greatest match ever played.” This was also the final of the World Doubles event in Denver last May, which ended in a controversial call/walking off the court.

On this night in 2018 in Minneapolis though, the Mexicans could do no wrong and took the doubles title by the surprising score of 11 and 6. It has been quite a year so far for Beltran and DLR; they won the Mexican Nationals, tnen won the world doubles title in Costa Rica, then took the 3-wall WOR doubles crown in Vegas just two weeks ago.


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US Open IRT pro Singles 32 and 16 review, Quarters preview

Today, the Thursday of the US Open, is perhaps my favorite day of pro racquetball all season. Two rounds of top-level pro racquetball on both the men’s and women’s side. Lets take a look at the notable Men’s matches from today and preview the Quarters tomorrow.

IRT round of 32 notable matches.

– Felipe Camacho got a solid win over Thomas Carter in the always-competitive 16-17 match-up, taking the tie-breaker 11-8.
– In his first game back since his retirement talk this past off-season, #3 Kane Waselenchuk took out a player less than half his age, defeating Mexican 18U and current 16U world titlist Sebastian Fernandez in two. The kid is just 17 years old and played fantastically this weekend in both singles and doubles.
– Alvaro Beltran, playing in his 19th US Open, was the first to advance to the 16s on the day, downing country-man Rodrigo Rodriguez, who was making just his second ever IRT appearance.
– Veteran Charlie Pratt ended Bolivian 16U player Diego Garcia Quispe run 12,5 . Just to re-iterate; both Fernandez and Garcia are in their age 17 seasons.
Javier Mar upset #14 Adam Manilla 5,14.
Daniel de la Rosa took out Ricardo Diaz, the reigning US 18U champ, in his IRT debut. A great showing from Diaz on his pro debut beating two very solid IRT semi-regulars in Nick Montalbano and Troy Warigon.
– Huge upset win for Andres Acuña, downing #11 David Horn in a tiebreaker. Two straight one-and-dones in the first two IRT events for Horn, who lost his opener in Laurel as well. Not a great start to the season for Horn, who made a big step forward last year by making his first semi and first final.
Mauro Daniel Rojas stretched #6 seed Sebastian Franco, but the Colombian prevailed 11-8.
– Maurice Miller gave #2 Alex Landa a scare, taking the first game before falling in a tie-breaker.
– Samuel Murray got a fantastic win, holding off the dark horse Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo in a tie-breaker; this was a quarter-finals quality matchup
in the 32s and sends home Moscoso much earlier than last year (when he ran to the quarters in his only prior IRT appearance.

IRT round of 16 notables matches:

– In a surprise to me, #8 Mario Mercado came back from a game down to top current IRF World Champ Rodrigo Montoya Solís. This observer thought Montoya had a good shot at making the finals in this event; I wonder how much Montoya’s recent ankle injury has affected him this week.
– #12 Jose Diaz got perhaps the best win of his career with a tie-breaker win over #5 Beltran.  Some post-game drama; reportedly Diaz was 25 minutes late to this match but was not penalized or forfeited.
Javier Mar more than held his own in losing to #3 Waselenchuk 12,10.
– #10 Andree Parrilla easily handled #7 Murray, perhaps worn out from a brutal earlier victory. Parrilla has now made the quarters in 4 of the last 5 IRT events he’s played, and 7 of the last 11 stretching well into last season; that includes a win and a final too. He’s a dangerous opponent who is one or two more big results from being a protected seed going forward.

Quarter Finals Preview:
6 of the top 8 seeds ended up advancing, setting up some very solid match-ups in the quarters. Run the top-20 tour-wide Head to Head matrix (link here: https://bit.ly/2yf522N) to fire off a new Head-to-Head “Tale of the Tape” report complete with pictures, biographical information and detailed match history for players in the IRT top 20.
– #1 Carson v #8 Mercado: Rocky is 6-0 lifetime against Mercado on the IRT, and despite Mercado’s great win today, I see Rocky making it 7-0. Both are control players, but Rocky will out-control Mario’s control game.
– #4 De La Rosa vs #12 Diaz: DLR is 4-0 against Diaz on the IRT, and is playing really solidly this week. Diaz fights for every point and punches above his weight class though, and won’t go down without a fight.
– #3 Waselenchuk vs #6 Franco: Kane is 2-0 over Franco lifetime, but despite Franco’s crisp play you never bet against the king.
– #2 Landa vs #10 Parrilla: Landa is 2-1 over Parrilla on the IRT, but 6-2 lifetime across multiple tours and Mexican National events. They’ve had close games and blow-outs. Parrilla seems like he’s in every match these days, and quietly he’s made the quarters in 4 of the last 5 events, and 7 of the last 11 pro events, a span that includes a win and a finals appearance. Landa will need to be “on” out of the gate.

Prediction: going chalk; 1,4,3 and 2 into the semis.

IRT Season Opener in Laurel Wrap-up

Rocky Carson takes the season’s first pro stop.

The first event of the new International Racquetball Tour is in the books; lets recap the event. Great turn-out to watch matches Thursday night; we thought there might have been 150 people present at peak capacity watching matches.

R2sports link for the tourney.

The draw was impacted late in the game, when a points shuffle resulted in Alejandro Landa overtaking Kane Waselenchuk for #2 on tour, and then Kane withdrawing after the draws had been finalized due to a car accident. This meant 3 of the top 8 players were out … but 16 of the top 20 and 22 of the top 30 were present, representing a very solid draw.

Match Report here for this event at www.proracquetballstats.com

Congrats to Rocky Carson on his win. This is his 26th IRT tier 1/GS win; he is now just 3 titles behind Jack Huczek for 5th all-time on tour.  Click here for a list of most titles won on tour.

Here’s a review of the matches I found notable per round, highlighting upsets and tough wins.

In the 64s:

  • Gerardo Franco got a solid win over country-man Jordy Alonso, a player he hadn’t beaten on the professional ranks before.
  • Atlanta native Maurice Miller got a good win over veteran Colombian Set Cubillos.
  • Adam Manilla outlasted the 16-yr old Bolivian phenom Diego Garcia in a tie-breaker; Garcia played quite well for his pro debut and went on to make the Open finals in a very deep draw, taking Acuna to a tiebreaker.
  • Felipe Camacho beat home town favorite Dan Fowler despite the local rooting interest.
  • Legendary New Jersey player Mitch Posner managed to score a point, losing to Andres Acuna 1,0.
  • Playing on his home court, Troy Warigon took a tight match 14,14 over Costa Rican Sergio Acuna.
  • Robert Collins took out another local favorite, North Carolina’s Brent Walters 14,12.
  • Long Island’s Nick Montalbano beat “the Ref” Scott McClellan in two.

In the 32s:

  • Gerardo Franco continued his run, topping Nick Riffel to qualify for the main draw.
  • Andree Parrilla won the last match of the night Thursday night, ending at nearly 11pm, topping Miller in a solid 11,8 win featuring back and forth action.
  • Andres Acuña topped fellow veteran IRF player Camacho 11,6 to advance to the main draw.
  • In one of the best matches of the night, Jake Bredenbeck topped Stocktonian Mauro Rojas in two tight games 14,11. These two big hitters blasted balls at each other all match and Jake came out on top. Look out for Rojas, who just graduated from 18U; he has every much the power as Jake and could surprise a top 8 player soon.
  • The longest match of the 32s may have been Thomas Carter outlasting Texan Justus Benson in a tie-breaker that lasted an hour and a half. His prize? A walk-over into his first career quarter-final.
  • Jose Diaz took out local favorite Warigon in two games … and had to do it despite the largest crowd of the night rooting against him the whole way.
  • Montalbano continued his good run, topping another IRT touring vet in Collins to advance to the main draw. Montalbano becomes the only non-touring pro/local player to advance to the main draw at this event.

In the 16s:

  •  #1 Rocky Carson advanced with ease over G. Franco.
  • #9 Parrilla surprised #8 David Horn, showing no signs of fatigue from his two-match qualifying late into the previous night, winning in 2 to force a Carson showdown.
  •  Manilla earned his third ever quarter, topping DC-area resident and #5 seed Mario Mercado 11-10. Great tourney for Manilla, who I thought was a candidate to get upset in the 64s … serves me right for picking against him; now he’s in the 8s.
  • #4 Sebastian Franco cruised into the quarters, topping Acuna.
  • #14 Carter got his walk-over over #3 Waselenchuk and his first career quarter finals appearance.
  • #6 Samuel Murray had a solid win over Bredenbeck, advancing in two games 13,7. I thought this had upset potential, especially after Murray’s struggles at Worlds, but this was a solid win.
  • #7 Jansen Allen held off Jose Diaz’s upset attempt to get to the quarters.
  • #2 Landa advanced easily over Montalbano, ending the local player’s run.

In the Quarters…

  • #9 seed Parrilla had the match on his racquet at 10-10 in the breaker, and blew a game-winning pass into the ground. #1 Carson took advantage and won the ensuing rally to advance by the skin of his teeth.
  • #4 Franco ended Manilla’s excellent tourney 9,4.
  • #6 Murray outclassed Carter 2,11 to advance to the semis.
  • #2 Landa overcame a big 1st game deficit to the cruise over #7 Allen.

The semis thus represent a “chalk” draw of remaining pros, featuring #1, #2, #6 and #4 seeds.

  • In the upper semi, #1 Carson rebounded from his near defeat in the quarters to trounce home-town favorite #4 Sebastian Franco in two.
  • In the other semi, #6 Murray secured his first pro win over #2 Landa, and also his first ever pro Tier 1 final, with a solid tiebreaker victory over his frequent doubles partner.

In the final, Carson and Murray met for the 6th time professionally …. and Carson made it 6-6 with a solid 2-game victory to claim the season’s first title and extend his grip on the #1 ranking on tour.


Next up for the tour is the US Open. I had a great time Thursday night meeting players and talking stats with the IRT staff. I got some great, great suggestions for site augmentation and hope to spare some time coming up to develop and add some awesome new functionality. Stay tuned for announcements here to that end.

IRT Laurel Season Opener preview

(Editor’s Note! I’ve modified this post in the predictions section: after its publication Kane withdrew and the rankings/seedings flipped Kane and Landa, so I’ve corrected the text to account for this).

Welcome to the 2018-19 International Racquetball Tour season!

The draw is up for the first event so lets talk about it.  Click here for the r2sports.com Tournament link.  Or, if you cannot read this link, go to www.irt-tour.com and click on the link directly from the home page. Or wait til Thursday when the brackets for the whole tourney are released in full on r2sports.com.

After a summer of angst over the status of 12-time champ Kane Waselenchuk, the sports most dominant player is in the first draw of the season and will be looking to extend his current on-court winning streak of 61 matches, which was interrupted for months last season by a knee injury that eventually cost him the year end title. However, after the draws were posted; Kane reportedly suffered injuries in a car accident and withdrew. He’ll remain in the draw and a lucky qualifier will get a bye into the quarters.

This is the first ever Men’s pro event held at the well-known (to Mid-Atlantic tournament players anyway) Sportfit Laurel club, which currently also hosts the annual LPRT Christmas classic and which has hosted an annual event called the Wintergreen Classic in Jan/February for more than 30 years. This is also the first time the Men’s pro tour has played in Maryland since the early 1990s, when the Merritt Security club outside of Baltimore used to host one of the VCI challenger series events every year. It is also the first time the Men’s tour has returned to the Washington DC area since 2003, and as a DC-area resident i’m obviously excited to be able to *drive* to see the Men’s pros for the first time in 15 years.

The Laurel club is unique for its court construction. They are panel courts, but a construction design choice spaced out the support beams a bit too far, leaving the courts being quite “slow,” even for panel courts. I wonder if this will be a source of frustration for players, especially those who are used to playing faster, concrete courts or who are used to playing at elevation.

One other personal note about the club: Sportfit Laurel was the first racquetball club where I ever played. I joined in early 1994 and played there until moving to Northern Virginia in December 1997. It has long held a large, vibrant racquetball community and was an awesome place to learn how to play.

I’ll be at the club Thursday night (Hurricane willing) for all of qualifying and look forward to catching up with the community.

———————————–

Enough about the club and my personal history there; Lets take a quick look at the draw: There’s 40 players entered, a healthy draw that is the largest non-US Open draw since Sept 2014 and portends well for the depth on tour this year.

Top 20 IRT players missing: three: #4 Daniel De La Rosa, #5 Alvaro Beltran, and #12 Charlie Pratt. Beltran and Pratt were in the draw as of Monday but were late withdrawals (Beltran to injury, Pratt to the Hurricane). These two missing top 8 players gives Sebastian Franco a #4 seed, a career best and a potential semi against Rocky Carson, a good early test for the defending champ.

Interesting international players attending: Andres Acuña and Sergio Acuna from Costa Rica, Jordy Alonso, Set Cubillos Ruiz, Erick Cuevas Fernandez, and lastly Bolivian Diego Garcia, a 16U player who made the semis of worlds this year who is coming up on a RYDF sponsorship to get a taste of the IRT in person. He could be the next best thing from the racquetball-mad country of Bolivia and he could be an interesting watch.

East coast top players entered who we don’t normally see elsewhere: David Austin, Geoff Heskett, Maurice MillerNick Montalbano, Troy Moore, Pedro MeruviaJamal HarrisBrent Walters and semi-regular IRT tour player Troy Warigon, who is the only pro entered who plays out of the Laurel club (that technically may not be totally true; I think Sebastian Franco also plays out of Laurel but don’t quote me on that).

Special Mention in the draw; former top-10 touring pro Dan Fowler is entered into the draw, looking to appear in a Men’s pro event for the first time in nearly 10 years. His last on-court pro appearance was in January 2009, and he stopped touring professionally in Oct 2004. Fowler and his wife Doreen Fowler (herself a former touring ladies pro) are both DC-area residents, have a long history of giving lessons and clinics in the Suburban Maryland area, and currently own and run a health club in Suburban MD. Its great to see Fowler back on tour even if its just for one event.

One other Special Mention: New Jersey legend Mitch “Captain Charisma” Posner is attending … he’s entered into Pros … and 60+. I’m sure he’ll be decked out in his trademark all-Red for his pro match.

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Lets get to previewing the draw:

Qualifying match-ups: here’s the Thursday night matches to look forward to:
– Gerardo Franco v Alonso: tough opener for both Mexicans, who fly an awful long way to play each other. Alonso owns a 2-0 h2h lead over Franco on the WRT, but it was Franco who had two top-10 wins on the IRT last season to leave an impression. could be pretty close.
– Garcia-Adam Manilla; this could be a shocker; Garcia is an unknown junior from Bolivia who could be a sleeper. Possibly a tough opener for Manilla, or perhaps a cake-walk facing a youngster who is an awful long way from home.
– Felipe Camacho – Fowler: an interesting match between the veteran IRT player Camacho and the former top-10 player Fowler. Can the retired veteran return to his top 10 form for a night? If so Camacho may be in trouble.
– Heskett – Thomas Carter: its a cross-state match-up of PIttsburgh area-based Heskett and Philadelphia area-native Carter. And its a golden ticket into the quarters so expect a heavily contested match.
– Robert Collins – Walters; a tough match up of regional top player Walters and IRT veteran Collins; could be an upset here.

Round of 32 interesting potential match-ups
– b vs Mauro Daniel Rojas; a tough round of 32 for both players; Rojas has been touring regularly since graduating from Juniors and has had a number of really tough early round match-ups
– Garcia-Cuevas Fernandez: an intriguing match=up of younger international players … which may not happen since both face tough first rounders against regular touring vets; this could easily be Manilla-Wolfe instead.

Round of 16 projections:
– Carson over Alonso
– Bobby Horn vs Andree Parrilla; 8/9 is always tight; Horn owns h2h 3-1 across IRT, WRT and IRF. Advantage Horn.
Mario Mercado – Garcia: Mercado ends the cinderella run of the 16 yr old.
– S. Franco over Acuna: this IRF-style match between two veteran int’l players should be an easy victory for the “home town” Franco.
– Carter over Kane in a walkover
– Bredenbeck over Samuel Murray; first big upset; Bredenbeck has beaten Murray before and has the power to keep up with him. Jake is better than his seeding and ranking and will take a big step forward this tourney towards improving both.
Jose Diaz over Jansen Allen ; Diaz beat Allen in two in April but they’re 2-2 h2h on the IRT: I expect a close Diaz win for the upset.
Alejandro Landa over Walters: Landa’s been given a clear path to the finals and may not be stopped.

Quarters projections
– Carson-Horn: Horn has never beaten Carson, but Horn has also never been better. He’ll look to draw upon his international summer and his increased training to topple the 2017-18 champ.
– Franco over Mercado: these two country-men have never met officially in any capacity that I track, though i’m certain they’ve played a thousand times both hailing from Cali, Colombia. I’ll go with Franco.
– Bredenbeck over Carter: Jake’s string of unlucky draws ends here.
– Landa- Diaz: Landa handles the Stocktonian

Semis and Finals predictions: I’ve gone pretty much chalk: 1-4 versus 3-2.
– Carson over Franco; he’s 8-0 lifetime over Sebastian and has had the summer to recover from his knee operation.
– Landa-Bredenbeck; wow, interesting match of contrasting styles here. Landa is 5-0 lifetime over Jake and has historically done a good job of mitigating Jake’s power game. I’ll predict he makes it 6-0 here.

Final: Carson over Alex Landa

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Welcome to the new season! Can’t wait to see some racquetball!