IRT 2019 Florida Pro-Am Preview

IRT back in action.

International Racquetball Tour

r2sports home page for the tourney: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30402

Draws: at the r2sports page eventually; early release at IRT’s facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/…/racquetb…/posts/10157094029691737

The tour heads to its regular April Florida stop for the penultimate event of the 2018-19 season. This is the 12th straight year this event has been on the schedule and has historically been a solid, important stop on the schedule given its timing. Last year, it was the last event of the season and led to the end of the 9-straight pro title run of Kane Waselenchuk at the hands of Rocky Carson.

This year though, the tables are turned; Kane heads into the Florida event with a solid lead in the rankings (https://www.irt-tour.com/singles-rankings/) despite missing the Bolivian grand slam. Kane would essentially have to miss his flight to Florida in order for Rocky to overtake him for the tour lead this coming weekend. And, with one additional event on the books and a 300+ points lead the odds of Kane missing out on his 13th tour title seem slim.

That being said, there’s lots to play for. Alejandro Alex Landa and David Horn made the semis last year and are defending large amounts of rankings points. meanwhile, Daniel De La Rosa and Andree Parrilla, who are currently sitting 5th and 4th respectively in the rankings, could easily overtake Landa in the rankings with solid results this weekend. DLR missed this event last year so has zero points to defend, while Parrilla was upset in the 16s and could really improve on his rankings heading into the final NY event.

So, that being said, lets preview the draw. 35 players in this draw, another solid pro draw, and some dark horses present. Here’s some good matches to look for in the qualifying.

In the 64s:
Eduardo Garay faces off against tour regular Justus Benson in the first round, a tough draw for both players. Garay brings a ton of power and has been making waves with solid wins lately and is a name to watch for this weekend.
– Maryland native Troy Warigon makes the trip down the coast and gets a solid opener versus Costa Rican international Sergio Acuna.
Andres Acuña, Sergio’s brother, Costa Rican #1 and coming off of a very impressive semi-final showing at the Pan American Racquetball Championships, faces off against the best 50yr old player in the land, long time Japanese veteran Hiroshi Shimizu
Scott McClellan faces off against Colombian international Set Cubillos Ruiz.

In the 32s:
– #16 vs #17: Felipe Camacho versus Thomas Carter; the 16/17 match is always tough and this should be no different. They’ve already met twice this season, both Camacho wins but both 11-8 tiebreakers. Can Carter break through and get on the right side of what projects to be a close match?
– #9 Mario Mercado vs Garay: they met at the 2016 US Open and Garay got him 12-10 in the 5th. This could be a similarly close battle here, but I suspect Garay moves forward despite Mercado’s semis appearance in the Bolivian Grand Slam.
– #13 Jake Bredenbeck vs #20 Maurice Miller; Miller makes the quick drive down from Atlanta to compete, and heads up against Bredenbeck. These two have met 3 times in the past 4 years, all Jake wins. Miller will need to find a weakness to advance.
– Acuna vs #14 Jansen Allen; Allen continues to fall down the rankings after getting as high as the #3 seed in an event in March 2018, and he runs into a guy who just took out Landa in the PARC event. These two play a similar style, solid, tactical, but Acuna has the hot hand.
– #10 Rodrigo Montoya Solís vs Kadim Carrasco; an interesting match between two extremely hard hitters. Lots of broken balls in this one, but Montoya should advance with the more complete game.
– #15 Robert Collins vs #18 Lalo Portillo; the 15/18 match, like the 16/17 match, always seems intriguing and this is no different. The reigning junior world 18U champ Portillo versus IRT touring regular Collins; this is a good test for Portillo, facing a tough lefty.

Projected 16 matches:
– #1 Kane over Camacho; they met in Chicago at this gate, a blow out Kane win.
– #8 Alvaro Beltran vs Garay; assuming Garay gets past Mercado, we would get a rematch of the round of 16 match these two played in Bolvia. That was a close, two game win for Beltran. If Mercado wins, we get a rematch of a round of 16 match from last weekend’s PARC championship, a tie-breaker Beltran win. Either way, advantage Beltran, who is having a nice rebound 2nd half to the season.
– #5 Samuel Murray vs #12 Horn: Murray crushed him in Chicago in March; both are coming off of the long travel to PARC where Murray logged twice the court time, playing both singles and doubles. I’d still favor Murray here but it could be an upset win.
– #4 Parrilla vs #13 Jake Bredenbeck: they met in South Dakota, a tiebreaker win for Parrilla, his first win over Jake in 4 tries across tours. I’d expect another close match here but for Parrilla to eventually move on and continue his fantastic season.
– #3 Landa vs Acuna; a rematch of the huge upset from last weekend’s PARC championships, when Landa was the #1 seed and lost in the quarters by Acuna. Can Acuna do it again? Landa sits 3rd in the standings and really has no shot of getting much higher on the season, but should have incentive to stay in the top 4 to avoid “the flip” going forward. I’ll go with Landa holding serve and avenging last week’s loss.
– #6 Sebastian Franco vs #11 Jose Diaz; they’ve already met twice this calendar year and split; Diaz won in California when Franco was coming off injury, while Franco won in Chicago in two close games. I’m guessing Franco wins again, and again in two close games here.
– #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Montoya. Thanks to the “flip” seeding, DLR (who was the 3rd seed last event) falls into the 5-8 range and gets a scrambled seed to #7 … and runs into frequent recent nemesis Montoya at this stage. These two go back and forth lately; DLR crushed Rodrigo in Chicago, but got similarly crushed in South Dakota. In 2018, Montoya beat DLR for the Mexican Nat’l title with a solid win, but then got whipped in the Worlds qualifying event later in the summer. So this could go either way. I’m going to flip a coin and go with DLR, who didn’t have to travel and compete for a week straight in the PARC.
– #2 Carson faces Portillo. Carson debuted on tour in 1995; Portillo was BORN in 1999 and is less than half his age. No matter; Carson should control this match and advance.

Projected Quarters:
– #1 Kane vs #8 Beltran; thanks to the seedings flip, these two have a rare quarterfinals meeting. Ironically, they last met in the quarters in this event last year, a 12,2 Kane win. Notably, 12 points is the most Kane has had scored on him in a single game since the movement to a 3-game format, a feat Beltran repeated in the Portland final in November. Look for another Kane 2 game win, with scores like 8,11.
– #4 Parrilla vs #5 Murray: Andree is 3-0 over Murray, and makes it 4-0 here. This is the year of Parrilla, who finished last season ranked 11th and is now in real position to finish ranked 3rd this year.
– #3 Landa vs #6 Franco: a rare meeting between these two players; they’ve only met 5 times since 2011, and the only time Franco won was to take his sole tier 1 victory in San Antonio in March of 2018. I’d favor Landa normally, but he’s coming off the brutal travel trip to Colombia for the PARC, so Franco is more rested. 
– #2 Carson vs #7 De La Rosa. Or maybe Montoya, depending on the coin flip round of 16 event between two of Mexico’s top players. Either match will be compelling. Carson really gave Montoya a lesson when they met in the semis of Chicago. but DLR has topped Rocky the last 3 times they’ve played. So we know who Rocky is rooting for. I’ll go with DLR over Rocky here.

Semis:
– Kane over Parrilla, who looks to avoid the 5,2 beating he took the last time they played in Chicago in March.
– Landa over DLR: they’re close, but Landa has the edge of late, having won their last 4 meetings across tours.

Finals: Kane over Landa, who keeps the games close as he typically does for about the first half of each game, then loses out as Kane goes on a 5-6 point run to close each game out. Kane wins 8,7.

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This is a tough tourney to predict; I’ve got Landa going to the finals … but he very well may lose in the 16s to a guy who just beat him a week ago. I could have DLR in the semis … or be one-and-done to a tough countryman in Montoya. Either way, I see lots of good matches through out the weekend in all the rounds; look forward to Dean DeAngelo Baer broadcasting from Florida and calling out all the “flatties” as they happen.

IRT Shamrock Shootout Wrap-up

Kane is the double winner on the weekend.

Congrats to the winners on the weekend:
– Singles; Kane Waselenchuk 
– Doubles: Kane Waselenchuk & Ben Croft

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

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Lets wrap-up the Singles event. Here’s the matches I found notable for each round:

Singles Match Report: http://rball.pro/3A30E4

In the 128s and 64s … there were a few closer games but no upsets in my mind:
– Jansen Allen and Hiroshi Shimizu were both extended to tiebreakers against Alok Mehta and Juan Salvatierra respectively but advanced.
– Felipe Camacho won 10,10 over Kyle Ulliman
– Troy Warigon played a closer-than-expected match to beat Ferd Samson11,13
– MoMo Zelada made it twice in two months over Georgian Maurice Miller 11,10. Miller subsequently caught fire in the Men’s Open draw, racing to the final with a number of what i’d characterize as “Career Best” wins.
– Adam Manilla took out Jordy Alonso 12,10
– David Horn got a solid win over Eduardo Garay 10,11.

The 32s were played Friday morning, with a couple of “upsets” by seeding and a couple of tie-breakers.
– #9 Jose Diaz dropped the first game to long-time IRT veteran Hiroshi Shimizu but recovered to take the match. Shimizu looked pretty darn good for someone who is north of 50. 
– The 16/17 match, as always, was a tight one, with Felipe Camacho coming out on top of Thomas Carter 11-8 in the breaker. A close match.
Eduardo Lalo Portillo blasted Jake Bredenbeck 5,8 to advance in the upset by seedings. We know Portillo is no slouch and this win doesn’t surprise me, but the score does. Jake is definitely in a rut this season.
Rodrigo Montoya blitzed by countryman Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 15-1, then dropped the second game before racing to the tiebreaker win. Final score: 1,(10),3.
– In the 15/18 match, Adam Manilla won the lefty-on-lefty crime match, topping Robert Collins in two tight games 13,11.

In the 16s… several matches that surprised me and went against my predictions, but in the end was nearly chalk by seeding:
– In the 8/9 match, Sebastian Franco turned the tide on his results lately and took out Jose Diaz in two tight games 12,12.
– #4 Alejandro Alex Landa took out the upset-minded Eduardo Portillo 5,12 to eliminate the highest advancing seed out of the 16s.
– In the biggest upset of the night, #14 Montoya took out #3 Daniel De La Rosa with relative ease 3,9. While these two are neck and neck in true world power rankings … DLR has had the better of him lately, including a shellacking in Sioux Falls two months ago. Surprising result for me … and opens up the draw for Rodrigo completely.
– #7 Samuel Murray dominated #10 David Horn 3,7. I thought this match might have gone the other way … but a 3,7 win is pretty convincing.

So your seeds into the quarters are 1,2,4,5,6,7,8 … and 14. Pretty chalk. But i’m guessing that 14 seed may make some more noise here.

In the Quarters…
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk let #8 Sebastian Franco hang with him til about 6-6 in the first, then ran off more than 20 unanswered points, winning the first game 15-7 and donuting the Colombian 15-0 in the second. 
– #5 Andree Parrilla continues his dominance at this event (his two best career finishes are at this event over the last two seasons), cruising to a win over #4 Alejandro Landa 8,9. Parrilla has beaten Landa now twice in a row, improving his career h2h record against the former #1 to 4-6 across all competitions.
– #14 Montoya made it 3-0 against Alvaro Beltran on the IRT tour, taking this match and beating the #6 seed 8,9. Montoya advances to his 3rd career IRT semi final (out of 8 career IRT tourneys) and second this season (he made the Semis in Sioux Falls after beating #1 seed Landa in the 16s).
– #2 Rocky Carson dropped a game to #7 Samuel Murray for just the second time ever, but Murray ran out of gas in the tiebreaker and lost a 2+ hour marathon 7,(13),2.

In the Semis…
– Kane blitzed by Parrilla 5,2, never really giving Andree a chance to junk ball his way into the match.
– Carson took the first ever meeting against Montoya 11,2. The first game was a shot-maker’s paradise, with the players going toe to toe and firing at all cylinders. In the second game, Carson put on a master class of game management, completely controlling the match and bewildering the young Mexican to a crushing 15-2 defeat. Make no mistake; there is still a gulf between the 2nd ranked Carson and his challengers.

In the Finals…
– Kane won a match that he really controlled throughout by the not-as-close-as-it-looked scores of 10 and 10. Lots of lob serving from Kane, who put in twice the court time he normally does this weekend and may have been conserving his arm by not drive serving in the title match.

With the win…
– Kane captures his 115th career IRT Tier 1/Grand Slam title.
– Kane improves to an amazing 75-3 against Rocky, the lions share of which were tournament finals.
– Kane raises his current match winning streak to 82 matches, good for 3rd best ever streak. He’s got a long way to go to top his record of 134 straight.
– Kane extends his current GAME winning streak to 72 games, and moves into 2nd place all time to his own 113 game winning streak that I previously thought was his career achievement. He’d have to win 21 more matches w/o dropping a game to top it, or probably 6 more tourneys… and there’s no end in sight to his current dominance.

Ranking Implications on the weekend: Using my personal points projections (which aren’t exactly in line with IRT total points but are pretty close), here’s what I think this weekend’s events means for the points race:
– Kane now has a nearly 500 point lead … and still has one more tournament to play without defending any points from last season’s injury, which means a win in Bolivia and its double points would lead to a nearly 900 point advantage with just two events left. Which means … if Kane wins in Bolivia he’s clinched the title.
– Landa and DLR should switch places with DLR’s early upset.
– Beltran should rise to #5.
– Franco should rise to #6.
– Parrilla drops from 5 to 7 despite making the semis.
– Murray drops from 7 to 8.
– Horn drops from 10 to 13.

– Montoya rises from 14 to 12, meaning he’s away from the top 3 in terms of a potential round of 16 match-up now. He’d now project to play the 5th seed in a round of 16, which gets him away from the top 4 players and just increases his chances of gaining more rankings points.

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Wrap-up of the doubles:

Match Report: http://rball.pro/2865FD

No upsets in the full round of 16. In the quarters, in the 4/5 match-up Jake/Diaz got a solid win over Montoya/Parrilla, and the 6th seeded favorites Kane/Croft “upset” the 3rd seeded Colombian pairing of Mercado/Franco.

In the semis, DLR/Alvaro got a solid win over Jake/Diaz, while Kane/Croft got an injury-driven walkover win against #2 seed Landa/Murray to setup the final everyone wanted to see.

In that sat. night final, Kane/Croft recovered from losing the first game to out-shoot DLR/Beltran and improve to 4-1 head-to-head against the reigning World Doubles champions on the pro circuit.

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Thats it, thanks for reading!

Next up is the Bolivian Grand Slam. Can’t wait to see this event, since there’s 5-6 really quality Bolivian players who we rarely get to see. Moscoso, the Keller brothers, Ruiz Michel, Gerson, Garcia, Mercado and Carrasco all could be in this draw and make noise. Maybe even the legendary Ricardo Monroy could come out of “retirement” to play; if you’ve never heard of Monroy, he was the first non-North American international player to win a major IRF title, taking the 2010 Pan American Championships. And there’s also a Women’s pro stop, with lots of quality Bolivian female pros too.

WRT Longhorn Open Wrap-Up

Mar takes the Longhorn Open.

Congrats to Javier Mar for winning the big Longhorn Open WRT draw on the weekend. He comes out on top of a 22-player draw that ended up having a very Mexican-flavor from the 16s on-wards.

NOTE: this is a correction post-publishing; the wrong winner was initially put into the bracket on r2sports.com. My apologies. Corrected now thanks to feedback from Jaime Martell.

Here’s the match report: http://rball.pro/FFDFB6

Lets review the draw.

In the 32s, a couple of surprises for this observer:
Lukas Le took out Alexi David Cocco Hayes in a tie-breaker.
– Nico Miramontes downed fellow Mexican 18U player Mauricio Delgadillo 11-9 in the breaker.
Erik Garcia took out Sebastian Longoria, who is still playing in 16U, in two straight.

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In the 16s…
Edson Martinez saved match point against before advancing against long time Japanese International player Hiroshi Shimizu.
– Javier Estrada upset #3 seeded IRT regular Justus Benson in two straight, an unfortunate underseeding match-up that cost Benson a too-tough early round match.

10 of the 16 players in the round of 16 were Mexican … and all 8 of the quarterfinalists also hailed from south of the border.

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In the Quarters:
– #1 Jaime Martell Neri played a solid match to down #9 Edson Martinez in two.
– #4 Eduardo Garay was stretched to a breaker but downed #5 Jordy Alonso.
– #6 Javier Mar took out the under-seeded #19 Estrada in two
– #2 Alex Cardona looked fantastic taking out the solid #7 Alan Natera Chavez by the dominant scores of 6,1

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In the semis, 
– #4 Garay outlasted an at-times frustrated Martell in a tie-breaker. 
– #6 Mar took a close two game win over a rejuvenated Cardona 14,11.

In the final, Mar got a solid win over Garay 12,11 to take the title.

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In the doubles finals, the two singles finalists teamed up to take on the upset-minded Estrada/Alonso team, making Mar the double winner on the weekend.

Doubles Match report: http://rball.pro/00C90F

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Next up for the WRT? No idea. The website is back up, but still shows data and tourneys from 2017 (which seems to indicate to me they suffered a pretty significant data crash and restored a very old backup). In 2018, the next event after the Longhorn Open wasn’t until May (the Georgia Open in Atlanta). Lets hope we get some announcements soon.

2019 WRT Longhorn Open Preview

Javier Mar could make some waves in Austin this weekend.

After a down year in 2018 and a website outage that fueled rumors of its demise, the World Racquetball Tour returns to action with its annual event held in conjunction with the most popular amateur event in the land, the 2019 Longhorn Open Racquetball Tournament held on the University of Texas campus in Austin.

Despite falling on the same weekend as the IRT event in Sioux Falls, the WRT pro draw has a solid 22 players, mostly local and Mexico based. We have several WRT regulars and should see a good tournament. As we’ll see below the bottom half of this draw is definitely the tougher side, and whoever comes out of it will have well-earned it.

Click here for the r2sports.com home page for the tourney.

Here’s a preview of possibly interesting matches by round:

In the 32s…
– Texas native and collegiate player Lukas Le takes on Mexican vet Alexi David Cocco Hayes.
– Alejandro Almada takes on Louisiana native Joseph Lee in an interesting first rounder.
– Underseeded Javier Estrada takes on fellow Mexican Juan Loreto in the first round.

In the 16s, here’s some matches of possible note:
– Edson Martinez faces off against long-standing pro Hiroshi Shimizu. Shimizu’s first entry in the database was in an IRT event in March, 2002.
Jordy Alonso takes on the winner of the Hayes/Le match
– #4 seed Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on the Almada/Lee winner.
– #3 seed Justus Benson gets a tough draw in his home-town tourney, having to face Estrada in the 16s.
– #7 Alan Natera Chavez kicks off the tourney against another long-playing IRT pro in Shai Manzuri. Shimizu’s first appearance on tour was in 2002? Manzuri’s first was all the way back in Jan 1997, and he continues to represent Argentina internationally to this day. Amazing.

Projecting the Quarters: we could be seeing some good ball here.

– #1 Jaime Martell Neri is set to face #9 Edson Martinez. This is a winnable match for Martell, but the enigmatic Martinez can put losses on players easily enough.
– #4 Eduardo Garay versus Jordy Alonso; Alonso is improving, but Garay has nearly arrived, with wins over top WRT and IRT pros and should advance here.
– #6 Javier Mar would be my #1 seed if you were seeding this by my rankings; he takes on the equally dangerous #19 seed Javier Estrada. While Estrada has some marquee wins in the past year (Landa, Beltran), Mar is among the world’s elite and should advance.
– #2 Alex Cardona takes on #7 Alan Natera. These two are neck and neck in my rankings; Natera getting great wins lately while Cardona’s ranking is slipping due to outside interests. This could go either way; i’ll give it to the former WRT champ on this day.

Projecting the Semis;
– Martell v Garay: I like Garay’s game … but I think Martell wins on this day.
– Mar vs Cardona: An old-school match-up of two of Mexico’s best. I don’t have them meeting in a pro event since 2015, and a lot has happened since.
Mar takes the match on this day.

Final: Mar over Martell.

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In the doubles draw, I’m going with a #1 vs #2 final, with Mar making it a double on the weekend paring with Garay to take out Martell/Natera.

PRS Current top 50 Men’s World Rankings

No surprise who #1 is. The intrigue starts a bit later.

Happy Holidays! During this little break in the tournament action, here’s some content for everyone to argue about. 🙂 This is my current Men’s World Top 50. Thanks to the ever-widening popularity of the sport, multiple tours and the inability for some top players to play the 
International Racquetball Tour regularly, the IRT rankings do not really give a full picture of the current state of the world game. This attempts to do so.

I have rankings divided into “groups” so this isn’t a hard and fast 1-50 necessarily, as I’ll explain as we go.

Usual caveats: this is my opinion. No offense intended if you think someone is too high or too low. This is for entertainment purposes only. Its mostly stat/match result based. Its tough to do pure 1-50 b/c of game style match-ups (i.e., a guy in the 30s always beats a guy in the 20s for some reason, but can’t beat anyone in-between). Also, one big win over a top 10 player does not make you a top 10 player … i’ve noted solid wins for players below the top of this list, but look for consistent results over and again before rising up the ranks.

I hope you enjoy!

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1. Kane Waselenchuk
Large Gap to #2: Kane is head and shoulders ahead of anyone else.

2. Rocky Carson
Smaller Gap to #3-6; Rocky still has a lead over the next group and continues to demonstrate it on the court.

3. Rodrigo Montoya Solis
4. Alex Landa 
5. Daniel De La Rosa
6. Andree Parrilla

I have these guys 3-6, and they’re constantly changing positions. Up until the Mexico Open I had Landa above Montoya, but then Montoya got him H2H. Honestly, I think they’re a coin flip for #3 and #4 right now. Meanwhile, DLR is 3-6 H2H against Landa across senior events so i’ve got him just below Landa … just beat Parrilla and Montoya to win in Monterrey, but lost to Montoya at Mexican Nats earlier this year. Parrilla beat Landa at the past US Open but for me day in, day out is slightly below these other three. On any given Sunday though, these four can all put losses on each other. It is not a surprise that these four were then fou semi-finalists in Monterrey earlier this month.

7. Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo
8. Javier Mar
9. Samuel Murray
10. Alvaro Beltran

Moscoso has wins over the guys ranked 3-6, but just lost to Montoya at Worlds and lost to Murray at US Open. I know some people think he should be higher (ahem, Sudsy 🙂 ) but i’ve got him just a hair below. Mar is an enigma; he’s demonstrated the ability to beat all the guys ranked 3-6 and has in the last couple of years, but not quite consistently enough to break into that group. Murray has wins over Montoya, Landa and Moscoso in the last few events; he’s becoming much more consistent winner as of late. Lastly you have Alvaro, who has been showing his age but then turns around and trounces the likes of DLR in Portland. He’s still a tough out, week in and week out but has been consistently slipping down this ranking over the past couple of years.

One last comment on my current top 10: a quick breakdown by country:

  • 2 Canadians
  • 1 Bolivian
  • 1 American
  • 6 Mexicans

And the one American player is nearly 40. The next generation of dominance in our sport is coming from south of the US border.

11. Jose Rojas
12. Gilberto Mejia
13. Marco Markie Rojas
14. Tony Anthony Carson

I call this group the “retired but could still make noise if they weren’t” group. Jose retired after three straight finishes at #5 on tour, and he didn’t retire because he was losing suddenly. Mejia hasn’t played in a while, enough that we may want to remove him, but when we last saw him playing WRT events he was beating consistently those ranked just behind him in the next grouping. Marco Rojas retired after two 7th place finishes on tour, and has winning career records against DLR and Landa, and against guys in the next grouping (Horn, Jake), so its no surprise he’s still this high. Lastly Tony Carson consistently demonstrates he can continue to win, with wins over DLR and Parrilla in the last two IRT events he’s entered.

15. Polo Polito Gutierrez
16. Bobby David Horn
17. Charlie Pratt
18. Sebastian Franco
19. Mario Mercado
20. Coby Iwaasa
21. Carlos Keller Vargas
22. Jake Bredenbeck

Here’s where it starts getting tough. This group here is a mix of international players we rarely see, leading World Racquetball Tour players, and mid-ranged IRT players. You may argue that I have Polo too high; but every time he plays an IRT event he makes noise. He’s coming off an elbow injury and is 35 though, so he may be slipping. Horn has some wins against higher ranked players and won 2018 US Nationals in a draw that included Jake, Pratt and Jose Rojas. Pratt has some h2h wins over players in this group, over Beltran, and beat Mar en route to the 2017 Pan Am final. Franco has recent wins over Landa and DLR, and has a solid argument to be higher. Mercado too; he’s 2-2 vs Murray career but just 1-5 against Horn and this feels about right. Iwaasa took several years off, but has not lost his touch, taking Mercado to the edge at Worlds twice and making the Finals in the WRT Canada event in a draw that featured several guys in this group. Keller Vargas won the 2018 Pan Ams over Montoya and Horn, but lost to Franco at Worlds; I used to have him much higher and wonder if he’d be a top 10 player if he played the tour regularly. Lastly Jake; he’s one of the few players to have wins over Kane, DLR and Rocky ever, but has struggled to beat players in this group or the grouping above lately and has been slightly slipping down in this ranking after having some early IRT season struggles.

23. Ben Croft
24. Javier Estrada
25. Alan Natera Chavez
26. Ernesto Ochoa
27. Alejandro Alex Cardona
28. Sudsy Monchik
29. Jansen Allen
30. Jose Diaz
31. Mauro Daniel Rojas

Croft is pretty much retired, so not much recent to go on; he beat Horn but lost to Jake in a singles event in Denver earlier this year. Estrada, Natera and Ochoa are all rising Mexican players to watch out for. Estrada beat Landa at Mexican world selection event, just beat Beltran in Monterrey and has played Montoya tough twice this fall. Natera has recent wins over Mar and others in this grouping. Ochoa has recent wins over Beltran, Parrilla, and Mar and may very well be higher. Cardona used to be in the next group up as the reigning king of the hill in the WRT but has been losing ground to the likes of Horn and Jake and the youngsters rising up in Mexico over the past year or so.

Sudsy made the semis of the US Open last year by beating Allen, then beat Diaz but lost to Jake in an WRT event so this seems about right (thought I wouldn’t argue if you thought he was higher). Allen has had some solid wins against the likes of Beltran, Mercado, Murray lately, and beat Diaz in the Laurel season opener, and may be a bit higher. Lastly you have the younger Rojas, who has consistently beaten players below here but not too many above and who has the game to start breaking through and moving up.

This grouping could benefit from more head to head meetings; would Allen beat the likes of Estrada, Natera and Ochoa if they played? Here’s hoping for some more IRT events held in Mexico to get more full draws.

32. Cliff Swain; even though he hasn’t played in more than a year, I still think he could beat anyone listed below here. I’m hoping he plays some more pro events and tries to break some of Ruben Gonzalez‘s more amazing feats of reaching the end stages of pro tourneys at advanced ages.

33. Gerardo Franco Gonzalez
34. Eduardo Portillo Rendon
35. Sebastian Fernandez
36. Jaime Martell Neri
37. Eduardo Garay Rodriguez
38. Jordy Alonso
39. Tim Landeryou
40. Dylan Reid
41. Mike Green
42. Christian Longoria
43. Adam Manilla

As with the group above, its tougher in this area to really rank guys sequentially because there’s not a lot of h2h to go on. Gerardo Franco probably has an argument to be higher, with recent wins over Sebastian Franco, over DLR and Jake in Cincy18, etc. I’ve got Lalo just ahead of Sebastian on account of his h2h win at Junior Worlds, but Lalo has lost multiple times to Gerardo Franco in the last year so this trio feels right. Martell has great wins (Landa, Jake, Horn), but then also has early tourney losses in recent WRT and amateur events. Garay has wins over guys in this grouping and against the likes of Parrilla and might be higher. Alonso plays the guys in this grouping tough, has wins over Parrilla in the past but needs more consistency.

Landeryou has h2h wins over both the next two guys below him hence the ranking, but not much else to go on. Reid has a win over Mercado and a US Open title in Men’s open in a draw that featured many players in this group or just below, so this ranking makes sense. Green has reigned over Canada racquetball for two decades but may be retiring and most recently lost to Landeryou at Canadian Nationals. Longoria has some wins over the likes of GFranco and Estrada and may have a case to be a bit higher. Lastly Manilla just took out Mercado in Laurel18 and has had a promising start to the new season, so this seems about right.

44. Alejandro Herrera Azcarate
45. Andres Andres Acuña
46. Fernando Rios
47. Diego Garcia Quispe
48. Maikel Mollet
49. Felipe Camacho
50. Nick Nicolas Bousquet

Herrera is a long-time IRT vet, just took the 2018 US Open Men’s Open draw over Acuna in the final and beating several Honorable Mention players along the way. Acuna has some solid wins recently (Portillo, Camacho, even Horn at the US Open) and may have a good argument to be higher. Rios doesn’t have much to go on recently but has good wins internationally in the past. Garcia is the 16U reigning world champ who has beaten a few of the HM players in limited adult tourneys. Mollet is the Cuban #1 who makes noise whenever he enters (beat Camacho h2h at Central American games in 2018 for example). Camacho has some wins over higher players (Fernandez, Allen) but has losses to players right in this group so this feels about right. Bousquet had some solid wins over HM players in 2017.

And it should be noted, there’s a slew of HM players below who might very well be in this group, or slightly higher. In fact, as I typed this I wondered if any number of the below players shouldn’t be in this 40-50 range.

Honorable Mentions: I can’t tag more than 50 players per post, so nobody below is tagged, but here’s the players just outside the top 50 by category:

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HM Int’l players: Fernando Kurzbard, Jose Daniel Ugalde, Juan Salvatierra, Francisco Troncoso, Andres Gomez, Teobaldo Fumero, Luis Perez, Christian Wer, Hiroshi Shimizu, Lee Connell, Set Cubillos, David Garcia

HM Mexican Players: Edson Martinez, Rodrigo Garay, Rodrigo Rodrigez, Alejandro Almada, Edwin Galicia, Miguel Rodriguez Jr., Daniel Neri, Erick Cuevas Fernandez, Alan Palomino

HM USA IRT Regulars: Thomas Carter, Robert Collins, Scott McClellan, Troy Warigon, John Wolfe

HM USA periodic players: Taylor Knoth, Nick Montalbano, Majeed Shaheen, Matthew Majxner, Maurice Miller, Brad Schopiery, Luis Avila, Brent Walters, Tim Prigo

HM USA Up and comers: Kevin Vasquez, Erik Garcia, Jordan Barth, Nick Riffel, Mauricio Zelada, Wayne Antone IV, Justus Benson, Danny Lavely, Lukas Le,Dylan Pruitt, Kyle Ulliman, A.J. Fernandez, Sam Bredenbeck, Sunji Spencer

HM retired pro players: Alex Ackermann, Gilberto De Los Rios, Kris Odegard, Ricardo Monroy, Anthony Herrera, Shai Manzuri, Javier Moreno 
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Phew. Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone; let me know in the comments if you think I did. Look forward to your commentary. Happy Holidays!

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

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

r2sports main draw link here.

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

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Round of 32 matches to watch for:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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