While the US was recovering from a long holiday weekend, the Canadians were holding the first of their three national-level events used to select teams for next year’s international events. This past weekend’s event was held in Edmonton, AB, CAN.
In the Men’s Open, IRT top 10 player Samuel Murray continued his dominance over Canadian men’s racquetball, running to the title without giving up more than 8 points in a game, defeating #2 seed Coby Iwaasa in the final 5,8.
Murray has not lost in a top-level Canadian event since the final of the 2017 nationals and remains in pole position to continue to represent Canada at next year’s slate of IRF events (which will include PARCs and Worlds).
————— In Women’s Open, former LPRT top player Frederique Lambert took time off from her new Medical career to take the Women’s Open over #2 seed Christine Rchrdsn. Lambert has not lost a top-level Canadian event herself since 2014, though she’s had to take an understandable step back from competition with the commencement of her new career.
—————– PRS doesn’t load these National team qualifying events into the database, but we do have them captured and staged for possible future use.
we’re catching up on the LPRT action from yesterday; here’s a review of the 32s and 16s.
In the 32s, here was the notable results for me:
– #17 Adrienne Fisher Haynes took out #16 Sheryl Lotts in a tie-breaker for a surprising result (for me). Haynes turns the tide on Lotts from the last time they played at the 2018 Nationals and moves on.
– #9 Masiel Rivera Oporto made a statement with a dominant win over #24 Jessica Parrilla 8,4. I thought this was an upset special; instead it was a dominant performance by Rivera, who continues to impress this season and is racing up the LPRT rankings.
– Big upset by #25 Erin Rivera who took out #8 Amaya Cris in two close games 13,13.
– #12 Montse Mejia defeated #21 Maria Renee Rodriguez 12,4 to move on. Credit to MRR for staying in game one against a tough opponent, but Mejia ran away in game two.
– #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein dominated #27 Bolivian Jenny Daza Navia 4,3 to move on. No hiccup here for Mendez; she kept the pressure on Daza relentlessly and controlled the match from the start.
– #11 Adriana Riveros Racquetball dominated #22 Kelani Lawrence 6,12 in a somewhat surprising result to me. Lawrence played Vargas really tight in Chesapeake but couldn’t get anything going against the Colombian on this day.
– #7 Nancy Enriquez took on #26 Hollie Rae Scott in a tense, contested match that was tight all the way through. Enriquez fought off game-point against in game two when it was looking like this might go tie-breaker and won 12,14 to advance. Not much between these two players on the day.
– #9 Rivera held on and ousted upset-minded #25 Groves in a tie-breaker to move into just her fifth ever career quarter final.
– #12 Mejia wiped out #5 Rhonda Rajsich 6,8 in a match that seemed to take about 15 minutes. Mejia showed the whole arsenal today; power drive serves, touch in the front court, rally control, and Rhonda couldn’t get anything going. Mejia plays fast, Rhonda couldn’t slow her down and she looks pretty focused for this event.
– #4 Alexandra Herrera ended #20 Munoz’ run, taking a close first game then moving on in two 13,8.
– #3 Maria Jose Vargas dominated former world number two and #14 seed Lambert 4,9; we heard during the match that Lambert was working in the ER til 2am on the day of hte match, caught a same-day flight then played two pro matches. Yeah; i think we understand why she may have lost to one of the best players in the world.
– #6 Mendez showed some mettle and outlasted #11 Riveros in a tiebreaker to setup yet another showdown in the quarters of a pro event against her doubles partner Vargas.
– #7 Enriquez got a solid win over outdoor specialist #23 Michelle De la Rosa, who pushed her to 11-7 in the breaker but held on.
– In the dominant performance of the day, #2 Samantha Salas Solis made a statement by downing 2018 world champ #18 Ana Gabriela Martínez12,4. Salas has been “upset” early in both pro events so far this season and faced a stiff challenge here, but she made a statement in this win.
——– 16s seed review: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 (seven of the top eight), then 9,11,12,14,17,18,20,23 … only one qualifier in #25 Groves into the 16s.
Then, the seeds into the qtrs: 1,9,12,4,3,6,7,2; mostly chalk, with #9 and #12 breaking in.
Same question for the men; is this the first time a US Open has not featured a single American into the quarters? here’s the QSF report by Nationality for LPRT: http://rball.pro/032ACA
Answer: yes it is the first time the US Open has not featured an American into at least the qtrs. It has happened multiple times before though (a LPRT event w/o an American into the quarters) before this; first time was Nov 2016 in Monterrey.
– Jenny Daza Navia took out US junior Annie Roberts 8,5 in Robert’s debut. Daza feeds into the 6th seeded Mendez, a player she can beat.
– Legend Cheryl Gudinas qualifies for another US Open main draw, downing Mexican youngster Anna Rivera 13,9.
Here’s some round of 32 matches to watch for:
– #9 Masiel Rivera Oporto vs #25 Jessica Parrilla; man, what a tough first rounder for Rivera, who has shot up the rankings in the last year and is on the cusp of a top8 ranking (Rivera was seeded 22nd in this event last year by way of comparison). Parrilla is of course on the come back trail from being a former top-4 pro. Expect a hard-hitting battle here and a possible upset by seed.
– #12 Montse Mejia vs #21 Maria Renee Rodriguez; they havn’t played in several years, and the draw is well positioned for Mejia to make a semis run this year. This is a first test. Rodriguez is trying to build on some solid wins in 2019 on the court.
– #14 Frederique Lambert vs #19 Angelica Barrios; Two years ago this would be a predicted blow out, as Lambert was ranked #2 on tour and Barrios was still in juniors. Now this is a dangerous match: Barrios dispatched two top-10 players in the Bolivian grand slam to make the semis and made the quarters of the Pan Am games before losing to Longoria. This one may come down to how rusty Lambert is.
– #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein vs #27 Daza; The veteran Bolivian has been known to take out top ranked players; in this event last year she topped Vargas, for example. Mendez needs to be on her A-game for this South American match-up.
– #7 Nancy Enriquez takes on #26 Hollie Rae Scott; this should be an interesting one. Scott is the reigning intercollegiates champ and was the losing US national finalist in 2019. I’m not sure Scott has faced someone with the power of Enriquez before (this is their first meeting) so this should be an interesting match.
– #10 Brenda Laime Jalil vs #23 Michelle De La Rosa; people forget, but in 2015 mDLR (nee Key) finished 7th on tour in her sole full-time season of touring before stepping back for family reasons. She’s a player. Laime has climbed into the top 10 on tour with some solid results, but this is a different challenge for her.
——————— We’ll regroup for the round of 16s later today.
After an incredibly busy summer of events, the pro racquetball season is back. Welcome to the 2019-20 season; first up; the LPRT kicks off with a Grand Slam event; the Paola Longoria Experience in her home town of San Luis Potosi, SL, Mexico1
22 pros are in SLP for this event; lets take a look at the draws.
The top 8 players are here, setting up some frequently seen possible quarter finals from last season. We’re missing the 9th, 10th, and 11th ranked players ( Frederique LambertAdriana Riveros and Gaby Martinez), which has elevated Masiel Rivera Oporto all the way to a 9th seed. Its an odd absence for Riveros, who only missed three events in the last two seasons.
Lets preview the draw;
Interesting play-in/round of 32 matches: – #16/#17 Mexican lefty youngster Monserrat Perez Hellman takes on Guatemalan international Maria Renee Rodriguez, who is fresh off of a solid Pan Am Games showing (she and Martinez made the women’s doubles final). I like MRR here. – #12 Montse Mejia gets a chance to avoid the #1 seed in a pro event for the first time in a while, and starts out playing country-woman Carolina Rivera in the opener. – #14 Sheryl Lotts made the trip and gets an early test against another young Mexican player Denisse Maldonado. – #11 Ana Laura Flores , the reigning Mexican 18U champ, takes on the 2018 Mexican 14U champ Daniela Rico in a generational junior battle. – #15 Veteran Susy Acosta takes on a player nearly half her age in #18 Erin Rivera.
Possible Round of 16 matches of note: – #8 Amaya Cris vs #9 Rivera: these two played at the final LPRT stop of last season, a 4-game win for Amaya, who has not stopped traveling or playing this summer. I like Amaya here to advance. – #5 Rhonda Rajsich vs #12 Mejia: they just played each other in LIma, a beat-down by Rajsich. But this is a great opportunity for Mejia (who has the talent to challenge for the top) to make a run. Will she learn from her Pan Am Games early exit? – #4 Alexandra Herrera vs #13 Jessica Parrilla: Herrera has knocked Parrilla out in the round of 16 in both her top-level tournaments back so far, and likely does it again here. Despite it being more than a year removed from her knee injury, Parrilla still is not back to top form.
Projecting the Quarters: i like the top 8 seeds to advance with a lot of chalk here on out. – #1 Paola Longoria vs #8 Amaya: Longoria will be looking to win her namesake tournament as she did last year to kick off the season. – #4 Herrera vs #5 Rajsich: Alexandra finally broke her losing streak to Rajsich at the end of last pro season, while Rajsich is coming off a long two week period in Lima (where, to be fair, Herrera also was … but was merely on the Mexican team and did not play). I like Herrera here. – #3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada vs #6 Natalia Mendez; as I frequently noted last spring, these two long-time Argentinian team-mates and doubles partners had not never met, now cannot stop facing each other. Vargas has never lost to Mendez, and I don’t see that starting here. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis vs #7 Nancy Enriquez: If Enriquez does not slip up against up-and-comer Brenda Laime Jalil, she’ll fall at this stage. Salas was shut out of the Mexican singles team at the Pan Ams, but raced to the doubles gold with Longoria.
Semis and Finals: Longoria over Herrera, Salas over Vargas, and Longoria over Salas, This was the semis and finals of the final LPRT event from last season, and I think they pick right back up where they left off.
———————- Doubles preview:
10 teams here; I like the top two Mexican teams of Longoria/Salas and Mejia/Herrera to meet in the final, with the Pan Am Gold medalists to take another title.
Reminder: LPRT has a new scoring system, and i’ll put up a post this weekend with a look back at the scoring systems used by the ladies pro tour over the years.
Congratulations to all the winners on the weekend:
Men’s Singles: Rodrigo Montoya Women’s Singles: Paola Longoria Men’s Doubles: Rodrigo Montoya/Javier Mar Women’s Doubles: Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas
A sweep for Mexico, establishing their dominance. Two double gold medalists in Montoya and Longoria. The finalists in the four categories: Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia and Guatemala, demonstrating how diverse the talent pool is in our sport. The two historically dominant countries of USA and Canada ended up with bronze medals at best.
We’ll cover the team results after they wrap-up in a separate post.
In the 16s, a few notable matches/surprises: – #8 Coby Iwaasa got another solid win, topping IRT top-10 player #9 seed Colombian Sebastian Franco in a tie-breaker. – #6 Samuel Murray took out #11 Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas, ensuring that we’ll have a new IRF Men’s singles champion at this event (Keller was the PARC champ earlier this year). – #7 USA Charlie Pratt was taken to a breaker by Dominican #1 and 10th seed Luis Perez before advancing.
In the Qtrs: – #1 Alvaro Beltran advanced over the challenge of Iwaasa by the thinnest of margins, winning 14,13. Great showing by Iwaasa in a major yet again. – #4 Mario Mercado and #5 Jake Bredenbeck had a great back-and-forth match, with Mercado advancing 8,(8),8. Both players were blasting the ball and really making shots, but Mercado pulled it out in the end. – #3 Rodrigo Montoya Solis advanced in 2 solid games over #6 Murray 7,10. Montoya has quietly put together a really solid tournament, not yet dropping a game to this point and having Murray’s 10 points being the most scored against him in any game. – #2 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo got revenge against #7 Charlie Prattfor his loss in the qtrs of PARC19 by beating him handily 7,7 to move on.
So much for my predicting powers in this event: I predicted all four top seeds to fall here; instead all four top seeds advanced into the semis. In fact … the entire men’s knockout draw has gone chalk so far, with zero upsets into the qtrs and all four top seeds advancing.
In the Semis… – Beltran d Mercado 7,5 in a match that was far closer than the scores suggested. They were on the court for well over an hour for these two games. Mercado just couldn’t get his serves working against the shot-maker Beltran, and Beltran time and again put away shots and setups to pick away at the game. – Montoya d Moscoso 14,10. This is a match-up i’m always wanting to see; power versus power. Two of the best young talents in the world who rarely meet. I’ve got just one prior meeting: Montoya winning a tiebreaker in the qtrs of 2018 worlds en route to the title. Montoya holds on for game 1 and then gets the win to move to the finals again.
(Historical oddity of this match: Moscoso nearly forfeited the match after getting caught in 2+ hours of traffic; he hitched a ride with a motorcycle cop to get to the venue just in time; had the ladies semi finals before him not gone on as long, this would have been a walk-over).
In the finals:
It was an all Mexican affair … and also a generational one featuring Beltran at the age of 40 versus Montoya at the age of 23. Beltran first competed in an IRF event in 1996; Montoya was born in 1996. Montoya is 3-1 in my database over Beltran in his career, and the one loss was an 11-10 match.
Beltran took game one and then, with a diving hip check, slammed into the door in game two, shattering it. After recovering, he seemed to have the wind taken out of his sails, dropping game two and getting blanked in the tiebreaker. Montoya wins (9),6,0 to improve to 4-1 over his countryman and take the title.
In the 16s, a slew of great matches and surprising results: – #9 Kelani Lawrence eked out a strong tiebreaker win over #8 Carla Muñoz Montesinos 11-7. – #12 Colombian Adriana Riveros got a solid win over #5 Bolivian Valeria Centellas in a tie-breaker. – #3 Argentine Natalia Mendez got a career victory, topping the reigning World Champ Guatemalan Gaby Martinez in a tie-breaker. – #6 Ecuadorian Pazita Muñoz Albornoz got a great win over #11 Montse Mejia in a tie-breaker. Despite the seeding, I had Mejia favored in this match based on past results, including her defeat of Frederique Lambert in the RRs. – #7 Angelica Barrios advanced past Amaya Crisby the thinnest of margins, 11-10 breaker. Amaya managed to lose to both Bolivians in this event; one 11-9 and the other 11-10.
So, despite a couple of top-level players as double-digit seeds in the 16s, we had just two upsets by seed into the quarters.
In the qtrs: – #1 Maria Jose Vargas Parada advanced in two solid games over USA’s Lawrence 9,13. fun Fact: This was a rematch of the 2010 world Juniors 16U final. – #12 Riveros continued her great tournament, topping American veteran Rhonda Rajsich in two, ending Rhonda’s great tournament. – #3 Mendez topped #6 Maria Paz Munoz in a tiebreaker. – #2 Paola Longoria made quick work of the Bolivian youngster Barrios 6,4 to advance to the semis.
In the semis: – Riveros’ run ended at the hands of Vargas 8,9 – Longoria had to work for it a bit, but downed Mendez 10,10 to advance to yet another international tournament final.
In the final, the two top seeds faced off, also the two top LPRT pros represented here in Peru. Longoria improved her career record over Vargas to 33-1 across both IRF and LPRT by taking the final in two games 7,9.
Longoria wraps up her 19th career international title. Those 19 titles include 3 Pan Am games, 8 PARC titles, 2 World Games, 3 World Championships and 3 Central American/Caribbean games titles.
The draw went basically chalk to the semis, where the #4 seeded Mexican team of Montoya/ Javier Mar came from a game down to top the #1 USA team of Rocky Carson and Pratt. On the bottom half, the #2 Bolivian team of Moscoso/ Roland Keller also had to come from a game down to beat the quality Costa Rican team of Andres Acuña / Felipe Camacho to make the final.
In the highly anticipated final, the Mexican team dominated the Bolivians, winning 10,1 to take the title.
The Pan Am games round robin rounds for both singles and Doubles are done and the knockout draws have been published.
Lets do a quick run through of the notable/interesting RR results, then preview the knockout Draws.
An editorial: I think IRF needs to go back to having the two top seeds in the group play last, not first. I hate that the best match of the group stage happens on the opening day, when nobody knows the courts, everyone’s still jet lagged or perhaps rusty, and nobody has any tournament play under their belt yet.
—————- Interesting Men’s Singles RR results: – USA #1 Jake Bredenbeck got a solid win over IRT top-10 and Colombian #1 Sebastian Franco in their RR opener. Jake improved to 4-3 and broke a string of three straight losses to Franco. – Bolivian and #1 overall seed Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo was stretched to a tie-breaker by the dangerous Costa Rican #1 Andres Acuña. – Cuban #2 Enier Chacon took out Argentinian #2 Fer Kurzbard 12,12, a solid win for the Cuban #2. – Colombian #2 Mario Mercado got a great win, topping the 2-time reigning Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC) champ Bolivian #2 Carlos Keller Vargas 14,11. Mercado gets the inside track to jump his pre-tourney seeding from 12 to a 3rd seed in the knockouts. – Canadian #2 Coby Iwaasa got a career win, topping USA #2 Charlie Prattin a close tiebreaker. Iwaasa lost two close matches to Mercado in PARC19 and nearly won the last pro event held in Canada … but the last time we saw him on the IRT was in 2015. Would love to see him more. – Ecuadorian #2Jose Daniel Ugalde Albornozin a huge upset, took out top overall seed Moscoso 11-10 in the final RR, throwing Group A into chaos with all three competitors finishing 1-1; by points differential Costa Rican Acuna is left out by just one cumulative point. – DR #1 Ramon De Leon took out Cuban #1 Maikel Mollet in an 11-10 breaker as well, securing his passage to the knock outs.
—————- Interesting Women’s Singles RR results: -Argentina’s Natalia Mendez got a solid win over Colombian Adriana Riveros10,13. – USA’s Rhonda Rajsichdestroyed Mexico’s Montse Mejia 4,7, a pretty surprising result. I thought Rajsich might win, but certainly not by these scores. – Bolivia’s Valeria Centellas topped Colombia Amaya Cris by the incredibly close scores of (14),14,9. One point from the perfect match, and the youngster Centellas saved of match point against at 14-14 in the second to win. – Ecuador’s Pazita Muñoz Albornoz topped USA #1 Kelani Lawrence 5,6 in a match that still took nearly 50 minutes. (coincidentally: I love the timing provided in each match on the Pan Am website). Munoz later held on over improving Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz 13,14 to secure the group. – Argentina’s #1 overall seed Maria Jose Vargas met reigning world champ Gaby Martinez 11-9 in the tiebreaker. Tough opener for both; Martinez is clearly better than a double digit seed. – Improving DR international player Merynanyelly Delgado took out LPRT touring vet Maria Renee Rodriguez in a tiebreaker. – In the “Group of Death” Rajsich beat Canadian #1 Frederique Lambert 10,5 to top the group. Mejia salvaged 2nd place by topping Lambert herself 9,8. This knocked Lambert out of the knockout stages … a tough break for the former #2 player in the world.
—————- Men’s Singles Knockout round preview and predictions:
Unlike in other IRF competitions … the RR performance matters and qualified just 14 of the original 25 competitors to the knockouts. And, I have to be honest, I don’t entirely understand the knockout seedings. Beltran was elevated to #1 over Moscoso (who dropped from 1 to 2) despite Moscoso winning his group (albeit by the skin of his teeth). Mercado should have had the #3 seed but instead is 4th behind Montoya. Lastly, inexplicably, Pratt retains his 7th seed ahead of Iwaasa (who is seeded 8th) despite the fact that Iwaasa beat him head to head literally three days ago. I don’t get it.
Best players left out of the knockouts? Probably Acuna (the unlucky odd-man left out of the Group A logger-jam, who misses the knockout stages by two cumulative points over 3 matches). It was a bummer to see both Cubans knocked out; they have really improved lately. Otherwise the seeds mostly held and the top players are in the round of 16.
Here’s a preview of the Men’s singles knockout; Beltran and Moscoso get byes into the quarters.
– #9 Franco vs #8 Iwaasa: Iwaasa’s present for winning his group is to get a lesser seed than Pratt and to play into the current 7th ranked pro on the IRT. Tough match, but if Iwaasa keeps playing the way he has been, he could move on. – #5 Bredenbeck gets a tricky opener against #12 De Leon but should advance. – #4 Mercado gets a familiar opponent in #13 Felipe Camacho; they’ve played 4 times in the past three years and Mercado leads 3-1. – #3 Rodrigo Montoya Solis who cruised through the group stage, gets the Moscoso-beating Ugalde; can the Ecuadorian keep it up? – #6 Samuel Murray, for his troubles of winning the group, gets two-time defending PARC champ Keller as the 11th seed, a match Keller probably wins. – #7 Pratt gets a heck of a lot easier opener than Iwaasa, going against DR’s Luis Perez.
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 Álvaro Beltrán vs #8 Iwaasa: Beltran has his hands full here. Iwaasa can beat Franco, and Iwaasa can beat Beltran too. – #4 Mercado vs #5 Bredenbeck: I like the way Jake is playing, I think his win over Franco in the RRs is proof enough of his focus and he should beat Mercado here. – #3 Montoya vs Keller: Tough matchup for Montoya; last time they played was the semis of PARC18, and Keller got him in the breaker. I’m not entirely sure what to make of Keller’s loss to Mercado in the group stage; is he still hurt from earlier this summer? Montoya wasn’t really challenged in his RR group, making it tough to gauge how he’s playing. I think Keller advances here. – #2 Moscoso vs #7 Pratt; great re-match of PARC19 quarters, when Pratt shocked the rball world and took out Moscoso 11-10 just weeks after Moscoso had won the Bolivian grand slam. Can he do it again? On the one hand, Moscoso has shown some chinks in the armor here (taken to tiebreaker by Acuna, beaten by Ugalde). On the other hand … so has Pratt shown he’s vulnerable with the Iwaasa loss. Pratt out-strategized Moscoso in Colombia and I think he can do it again.
Yes; i’m predicting that all four top seeds fall in the quarters. This is a testament to the depth of the international game these days.
Projected Semis: – #8 Iwaasa over #5 Bredenbeck; I just like the way Iwaasa is playing. – #11 Keller over #7 Pratt; a rematch of PARC19 final, won by Keller in a breaker. If Keller is healthy, he advances again.
Final: Keller over Iwaasa, cementing Keller’s international status by winning his third major title in the last two years.
—————- Women’s Singles Knockout round preview and predictions:
Unlike in the Men’s knockout draw … there seemed to be no discretion taken with the Women’s seeds; they are exactly driven from the group stage results, no deviations. (Again, why would the Men’s singles draw deviate from this formula?)
As with the Men’s draw; the top 2 seeds earn byes in the 16s and only 14 of the original 24 players advance to the knockout stages. Best player left out of the knockouts? Lambert obviously, then Rodriguez from Guatemala.
Here’s a preview of the knockout round: In the 16s: – #9 Lawrence over #8 Carla Muñoz Montesinos: despite the fact that they met in PARC19 and Munoz won, I like the way Lawrence is playing and think she can take this. – #5 Centellas over #12 Riveros: the 17yr old continues to play well over her head; if she can bet Colombia’s #1 player (Amaya, as she did in the group stage), then she should be able to beat Colombia’s #2 player in Riveros – #4 Rajsich should hold serve against #13 Delgado. – #3 Natalia Mendez has her hands full with #14 Martinez. On paper this is a no brainer win for Martinez: she’s 4-0 lifetime over Mendez, including an 8,3 semis win at the 2018 Worlds en route to her currently held World title. But … Martinez hasn’t played competitive rball since January while Mendez has been showing solid results both internationally and professionally. I’ll go with Martinez here but it’s going to be close. – #6 Maria Paz Munoz vs #11 Mejia; another brutal match-up for a top seed. Munoz’s award for winning her group is a match-up with a player who beat three of the top 5 players in the world en route to the Mexican national title earlier this year. I’m not sure what to make of Mejia’s loss in the RRs to Rajsich, but do think she can regroup and advance here. – #7 Barrios vs #10 Amaya; a South American duel that, surprisingly, hasn’t happened before. Its the second Bolivia versus Colombia match-up in the round of 16 here; Amaya dropped a close one to Bolivia’s #1 player in the RRs, but Barrios may be just as good. I expect another close one here, as Amaya has really stepped up her game lately, but think Barrios still advances.
In the Qtrs: – #1 Vargas makes quick work of #9 Lawrence – #4 Rajsich gives a veteran lesson in tournament play to the youngster #5 Centellas – #11 Mejia over #14 Martinez: these two have met over and over throughout the years; they’re the same age and met in the finals of Junior Worlds at least 7 times. Martinez owned their earlier match-ups … but Mejia has won three straight and should win here as well. – #2 Paola Longoria cruises over the youngster #7 Barrios.
Semis projection: – #1 Vargas over #4 Rajsich: these two have met no less than 30 times on the LPRT and internationally … and they’re 15-15 against each other. Vargas dominated Rajsich when they met in PARC19 and I think she’ll win again. – #2 Longoria vs #11 Mejia: I don’t see Longoria losing to Mejia at this stage, not when it comes to winning titles.
Finals prediction: Longoria improves to 33-1 over Vargas in a rematch of the PARC19 final to win her 19th IRF tournament.
—————- Doubles Knockout round predictions:
On the Men’s side: no elimination at the RR stage, which is a sigh of relief for some of the teams who took surprising losses.
Also, more completely inexplicable seedings: Montoya/Mar destroyed Acuna & Camacho 2,0 in the RR stage, and won the group as the 3rd seed going in … then are seeded below them in the knockouts?? How does that happen?
I like Montoya/Mar over Carson/Pratt in one semi, Moscoso/Roland Kellerover Acuna/Camacho in the other semi, and for the Bolivians to win the final as they won the PARC final earlier this year.
On the Women’s side:
I like Longoria/Samantha Salas Solis over USA’s Rajsich/Lawrence in one semi, and for the Guatemalan team of Martinez and Rodriguez to upset the Argentinian team of Vargas/Mendez to make the final. however, in that final Longoria and Salas should capture their 14th international title together.
Phew! Lots of matches in a short amount of time, but now we’re to the “business end” of this event. Lots of streaming available; individuals, country federations, etc. Check the regular places on Facebook for streaming notifications.
Welcome to perhaps the grandest international event in our sport; the quadriennial Pan American Games.
This is as close as our sport gets to the Olympic games right now. And they’re starting up this weekend, held in Lima,Peru.
This will be the 6th time Racquetball has participated in these games: they debuted in 1995, then have been in every iteration since (with the exception of 2007, when host country Brazil dropped the sport).
The first Pan Am games Men’s singles champion was John Ellis in his final amateur match; he avenged a loss in the previous year’s Tournament of the Americas event to long time US international player Michael Bronfeld. The first Pan Am games Women’s champion was the legendary Michelle Gouldwho won a slew of international events along with nearly every Pro match she played in the 1990s.
The Women’s singles competition this year will feature two-time defending champ Paola Longoria who won in 2011 and 2015. She’ll be challenged by her country-woman Montse Mejia, who beat her earlier this year in the Mexican Nationals. She’ll also have to fend with top LPRT pros and international veterans like Maria Jose Vargas, Frederique Lambert, Rhonda Rajsich and the like. And, just to add some intrigue, Guatemala’s Gaby Martinez has come out of “retirement” to compete … the same Martinez who beat Longoria in the 2018 Worlds final.
The two-time defending Men’s single’s champ Rocky Carson will only be playing doubles this event, so we’ll have a new champ. The 2015 finalist Alvaro Beltran will be playing singles, and one of 2015’s semi-finalists Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo may be the favorite in the event. But, don’t count out Moscoso’s Bolivian teammate Carlos Keller Vargas, who is the 2-time defending PARC champ, nor the USA #1 Jake Bredenbeck, who destroyed the competition in May to earn his spot, nor Canada’s Samuel Murray, who finished another solid IRT season and is a tough out.
Round Robins start this weekend, and then we’ll preview the knockout draw once it is announced.
Facebook news has been sparse on the event; unlike an IRF event, the host country more or less controls things and by all accounts it was difficult event to secure streaming rights on facebook. Which is a shame … since this should be the biggest event in our sport. Nonetheless, keep an eye out for enthusiasts posting live streaming links in the usual spots.
– June 2018: Jessica Parrilla, just finishing up the 2017-18 season ranked 3rd on tour, suffers a knee ligament injury while competing in the 2018 Mexican Worlds Selection event. She does not return to the LPRT until the last event of the 2018-19 season.
– August 2018: Guatemalan Gaby Martinez shocks the women’s racquetball world by upsetting #1 Longoria in the 2018 Worlds final in Barranquila, Colombia. She made a statement early, downing Vargas in the RRs, then easily beat Salas in the qtrs, Mendez in the semis before taking out Longoria in a tie-breaker final.
– Dec 2018: at the half-way point of the new season, #1 Paola Longoria and #2 Samantha Salas Solis have separated themselves from the rest of the pack; five of the six tournaments have been #1 vs #2 in the finals, and they’ve opened up a significant gap to the next tier of players. Frederique Lambert has fallen nearly out of the top 10 thanks to school commitments: she’s finishing Medical school.
– Mar 2019: Jessica Parrilla returns to the court for the first time since her June 2018 injury, competing in the Mexican Nationals. She played both singles and doubles in the event but did not travel to the subsequent LPRT event in Bolivia. She ends up playing just one LPRT event on the year, the season’s last tourney in Kansas in June.
– Mar 2019: Ana Gabriela Martinez suddenly announces her retirement from the sport at age 19, to focus on her studies and other interests. She retires ranked #9 on the tour despite only playing part time. In 2018 she defeated Longoria to take the IRF World Championship as an 18yr old, then later in the year missed out on a rare chance at the Adult/Junior double by losing to Mejia in the 18U world Junior final.
– Mar 2019: The Bolivian Grand Slam event happens, the first time an LPRT event has been held in the country. Unfortunately, Paola Longoria suffered a slight injury and missed the event. Despite Longoria’s absensce, the Ladies had a strong showing, with 8 of the top 10 players traveling (Lambert also missed the event). The local Bolivian players had a great showing, with Angelica Barrios making the semis and upsetting several top LPRT pros, and naturalized Bolivian Maria Jose Vargas taking the title in a hard fought 5-game tiebreaker over Samantha Salas.
– Jun 2019: Paola Longoria completes another undefeated season, with Samantha Salas making the finals of 9 of the 10 events on the year, clearly establishing themselves as the two top players on tour. Last season’s #2 Lambert has fallen all the way to #9 on the season, having finished medical school in May.
that’s it for the season. We anxiously await the announcement of the 2019-20 slate of events.
———————– Analysis/thoughts on Year End Rankings and notable player movement.
#1 Paola Longoriafinishes the year undefeated, 37-0 It is the 5th time she’s accomplished this feat, and she now has just four on-court losses in the last 8 professional seasons. She sews up her 10th career pro title. With her win in Kansas City, she gets her 91st career title in the Database (we’re aware of the discrepancy between our systems and her records and are working to figure out the delta actively).
She now sits as an astounding 439-30 in her pro career, a .936 winning percentage. She still trails Michelle Gould in this metric, whose database W/L percentage currently sits at 147-9 and which will only improve as we eventually fill in tournament detail in the mid 1990s. By way of comparison, both of these marks are better than Kane Waselenchuk‘s career mark of .918, which is considered in awe on the men’s pro racquetball circles.
#2 Samantha Salas Solis had as good of a season as you could have given that the #1 player went undefeated: she made 9 finals in 9 tries (missing one event due to travel issues mid-season). She’ll be kicking herself she didn’t claim the title in the one event that Paola missed … that being the Bolivian Grand Slam and the big check that comes with it. But a great season for Salas, who started the season ranked outside the top 10 due to injury comeback and is now firmly entrenched at #2 for the forseeable future.
Salas is now just 3-50 against Longoria though, and needs to find a way to beat her long-time rival if she wishes to put her name in the record books. She did stretch Paola to 5 games once this season, in Syosset, but most of their finals were 3-game affairs.
#3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada, like Salas, also started the year still working her way back into touring status thanks to a hiatus to have a kid. But thanks to her title in Bolivia, she ascended to #3, where she stayed the rest of the way out. She maintains a slight lead for 3rd over Herrera. Vargas is just 2-8 career over #2 Salas, which includes the win in Bolivia, so she has her work cut out for her if she wishes to ascend any higher.
#4 Alexandra Herrera had a very consistent season; she started it ranked 3rd, finished it ranked 4th, made a bunch of semis, never got upset prior to the qtrs … but really only had one break through tourney, making the final when the #2 seed Lambert got upset very early in Laurel. On the bright side, at season’s end she broke a career duck against Rajsich, finally beating her head to head in the season’s final event to secure #4 on the season.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich kept chugging in her 20th pro season, finishing in the top 5 for the 18th time. A couple of early season upsets dropped her to the 6th-7th seed, but then stronger results as the season went on got her back. She treads water from last season, finishing 5th for the second season in a row. Rajsich overtook Cheryl Gudinas this season and now has the most ever appearances in pro tour history, a streak she seems set to continue for the forseeable future.
– #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein started the season seeded 6th and ended it 6th, and made 8 quarters in 10 pro tourneys. She had an interesting 2nd half of the season, where her specific seeding drove four consecutive quarter-final match-ups with countrymate and doubles partner Vargas … resulting in four of her eight quarter final defeats on the season. There’s a significant points gap from Rhonda to Natalia, one that only a breakthrough tourney will solve. Her four-straight match-ups against Vargas has me thinking that maybe the LPRT should consider seed flipping like the IRT does; there were also a number of other repeated qtr final match-ups (Herrera-Rajsich, Salas-Enriquez) that would be mixed up and give the 5-8 seeded players a different look in the qtrs.
– #7 Nancy Enriquez took a slight step back from last season, taking a couple of early upsets and dropping from 6th last season to 7th this season. Her 7-seed routes her to #2 Salas each quarterfinal, a tough spot to be in considering how well Salas is playing and considering that Salas has just one career loss to Enriquez (way back in 2011).
– #8 Amaya Cris finished ranked 8th for the 2nd season in a row, and had a similar performance this year to last. She was able to fight back into the top 8 by season’s end, having dropped out of the top 8 mid-way through the season. She made 5 quarter finals in 10 tourneys but wasn’t able to break through to the semis.
– #9 Frederique Lambert missed half the season and dropped from #2 last season to finish 9th. As is well known, she completed Medical school this year and graduated in May, and even making half the tourneys this year seems like a pretty amazing accomplishment for someone finishing such a rigorous academic schedule. This breaks a streak of four straight seasons ranked in the top 4 for Frederique. One has to wonder what the future holds; after you finish medical school usually medical training commences and I have a hard time believing Lambert will be able to do a time-intensive internship and frequently take off 4-day weekends to compete in tourneys. We all await to see what happens as it pertains to the tour; nobody likes losing a top player.
– #10 Adriana Riveros finished 10th on the season, improving from 12th last season and now is the fourth straight season in this 10-14 range for the Colombian. She made two quarter finals in 10 tourneys on the year
———————– 11th-20th ranked players:
– #11 Gaby Martinez earned enough points from early events to finish 11th despite announcing her retirement from the sport to focus on school earlier this season. She made two semis in three events this year and got a career win over Longoria in 2018’s worlds final, making this observer wonder if she wasn’t the heir-apparent to the crown (or at the least, a good competitor for the top spot going forward). I hope she can find time to continue to play and compete at some point in the future, because (as with Lambert) its a bummer to lose a top competitor.
– #12 Masiel Rivera Oporto played a full season and was rewarded with her top ever finish. She made one quarter on the year thanks to probably her best win on the season, over Riveros at the Bolivian grand slam on home turf.
– #13 Brenda Laime Jalil made 6 main draws in 9 events, a big improvement from last season (when she failed to advance to the 16s all year) and enough to get her into the top 16.
– #14 Ana Laura Flores Saavedra made one quarter with a solid win over Mendez in the season opener, and played in 6 of the 10 events on the year.
– #15 Cassie Lee improved from #21 last year, making 5 main draws out of 9 tournaments attended.
– #16 Yazmine Sabja Aliss played just 4 events, being based in Bolivia, but made two quarters and got some solid wins along the way. One has to think that her playing the tour FT would have her challenging for a top 8 spot. too bad Bolivia is so far away.
– #17 Montse Mejia had an interesting season: she played 5 pro events and lost in the 16s each time (3 times to Longoria, once each to Lambert and Vargas). But, outside of the pro tour she won World 18U juniors (beating Gaby Martinez twice along the way), then at Mexican Nationals beat in order Enriquez, Salas and Longoria to take the title. She faltered at the PARCs as the #1 seed (losing to Mendez in the qtrs), but one has to wonder what she’s capable of if she can get out of the 14-16 seed range and get some deeper runs on the pro tour. I think she’s one of the top 5 women in the world right now and hope she can play a full slate next season.
– #18 Adrienne Fisher Haynes dropped in the season ending rankings for the 3rd successive season, getting upset in the 32s 5 times in 8 events this season.
– #19 Angelica Barrios made the semis of the Bolivian grand slam, beating two top 8 players along the way, which propelled her to a top 20 finish despite just three appearances. She’s also put her name into the mix for the Bolivian national team, representing her country at PARCs earlier this year.
– #20 Carla Muñoz Montesinos had a qtr and two main draws in 6 appearances this year, a busy one for her as she finished up school in Colorado, made the finals of NCAA intercollegiates and represented Chile at three different IRF events.
———————– commentary on players ranked 21st on-wards:
– #22 Susy Acosta finished 22nd … in her 21st pro season.
– #24 Michelle De La Rosa made a semi and played top ranked pros tough in limited appearnces this year.
– #25 Kelani Lawrence finished 25th in limited appearances but won the US National title.
– #31 Valeria Centellas finished 31st … and is the reigning World junior 16U champ. She played #1 for Bolivia at the PARC games in April and made the quarters … in her age 17 season.
– #37 Jessica Parrilla finished 37th after missing basically the entire season recovering from a bad knee injury. She will fight back to regain her status on tour starting next season after finishing 3rd last season. ———————–
That’s it for the season. We look forward to seeing what next year has in store. I sense a step up in events, I hope to see more dual tour events like what is done in Minneapolis and Bolivia, and I hope to see more events in Mexico that draw the local player base.
Thanks to their performance at the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships earlier this year, Team Canada qualified two men and two women to the event, so these players will be pulling double duty singles and doubles in Peru.
On the Men’s side … the choices were pretty obvious. Murray and Iwaasa were the two finalists in all three qualifying events (the 1st National team Qualifier in Nov 2018, the 2nd Qualifier in February 2019, and Canadian Nationals In May 2019). Murray topped Iwaasa in all three events, and these two players have clearly established themselves as the top Canadian Men.
Murray plays the IRT tour full time and finished 7th on tour this year. He should be a favorite to advance deep into the knockout stages, given his tour accomplishments and his international experience. Murray has represented Canada 8 times before internationally; his best IRF result is making the 2016 world semis, losing toDaniel De La Rosa.
Iwaasa played just one pro event this season, the WRT event that occurred in Calgary in October. In that event (PRS match report here: http://rball.pro/E7785F) he topped a number of IRT semi-regulars before falling toAndree Parrilla in the final. This will be Iwaasa’s 6th international appearance; his best results previously were a quarter final apperance at the 2014 Pan American Sports Festival (where he lost to David ” Bobby” Hornand the 2015 Pan American Games (where he lost to Alvaro Beltran).
On the Women’s side, the two players selected are in-arguably the top two players in Canada, but some questions may arise from the qualification process. Lambert and Saunders were the finalists in the 1st qualifier, with Lambert winning. But, Lambert did not play in the 2nd qualifier nor Canada Nationals; there Saunders beat Christine Richardson in the finals both times. As it turns out, Canada’s team qualification guidelines specify exceptions for top-ranked IRT and LPRT pros, automatically qualifying them if they’re in the top 8 at the time of the team selection. See http://www.racquetball.ca/download/2019Racquetball_INP_PAGs.pdf for the guidelines (h/t to Frederique Lambert for the link).
Lambert obviously gives the team a better chance at medaling in Peru, but it comes at the expense of Richardson, who made a semis and two finals during qualifying and thus has a claim to the team based on the overall qualifying results.
Lambert finished the pro season ranked 9th on tour despite missing 5 of the 10 events (dropping out of the top 8 only at the last event). This after finishing the prior year ranked 2nd and making 5 pro tournament finals. She finished off Medical school, which limited her travel schedule. This will be the 10th time Lambert represents Canada; she has made two international finals, losing the 2012 and 2016 PARC finals to Longoria.
The limits of players on both teams also means that the selected players will be forced doubles partners. But luckily, the players do have some experience playing with each other.
– Murray/Iwaasa teamed up to win the 2018 Canadian National title – they also played together at PARC earlier this year, losing in the final.
– Lambert/Saunders first played together at the 2014 Worlds, losing in the qtrs. – They teamed up at the 2016 PARC event, losing in the semis to eventual champs Mexico – They made the semis at 2016 Worlds together, losing to the USA team. – They won 2018 Canada Nationals together – they last played at 2018 Worlds, struggling in the RRs and losing in the 16s.