USA Racquetball National Doubles Wrap-up

Ruiz captures her 12th career US National doubles title with partner Tisinger.

Congrats to Rocky Carson and Charlie Pratt on their win in the 2019 Men’s USAR National Doubles championships. Also, congratulations to Aimee Roehler Ruiz and Janel Tisinger-Ledkins on their win in the Women’s doubles draw.

With the win, these players qualify to represent the US in this year’s two International Racquetball Federation – IRF events: the Pan American Racquetball Championships in Columbia in April, and the Pan American Games in August in Peru.

Both teams are no strangers to international competition nor National doubles championships: combined these four champions now have an astounding 29 combined US national doubles titles between them.

These titles represent the nth title for each player:
– Carson: 11th career National title. He won 6 with Jack Huczek, then has won 1 each now with Ben CroftJose DiazJose RojasSudsy Monchik and now Pratt. Rocky won his first title in 2004. He now sits 5th for National doubles titles world-wide.
– Pratt: This is his 1st National doubles title; he’s made the semis a few times in the past with various partners in National events, and has one pro IRT doubles title (with Jansen Allen in 2016).
– Ruiz: 12th career National title. She won 2 with Laura Fenton, 5 with  Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson, and now 5 with Tisinger. She is tied for 3rd globally for National doubles titles with Canadian Jen Saunders. First place is Canadian legend Josee Grand Maitre with 15 career national doubles titles, and 2nd all time is Ruiz’s former partner Paraiso, who has 14.
– Tisinger earns her 5th title, all with Ruiz.

Click here for a list of all Amateur national doubles champions for the three major countries: http://rball.pro/4A22B0

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Men’s doubles match report in the database: http://rball.pro/9BA2E3

Quick summary of the Men’s draw: the semis were chalk according to seeds: there #3 seeded Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz took out #2 seeded Bobby David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas to reach the final. There, the two finalists split games and headed to a tie-breaker, eventually taken by the champs 11-7.

Women’s doubles match report in the database: http://rball.pro/E5DEC6

Quick summary of the Women’s draw: it was upsets galore here, with the 5th seeded team of Michelle De La Rosa and sister Danielle Maddux upsetting defending champs and #1 seeds Kelani Lawrence and Sharon Jackson in an 11-10 tiebreaker win en route to the final. On the other side, 3rd seeded Ruiz/Tisinger took out 2nd seeded and last year’s finalists Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts in a tiebreaker to get to the final. The final was a 2-game win for the veterans.

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The Tempe event also had a singles component, with players competing for qualifying points towards representing the USA in singles. Here’s a quick run-through these draws:

On the Men’s side, #1 seed Carson topped #2 Pratt in two games to take the draw. There were a few notable upsets by seeds in the earlier rounds (Thomas Carter over Mauro Rojas, and Erik Garcia over Robert Collins being perhaps the biggest), but the semis-onward more or less went as expected.

On the Women’s side, the #1 seed Rajsich also took the draw, taking out #3 seeded Lawrence in a rematch of the last two such National level singles draws. The quarters featured two pretty significant results: Hollie Scott trounced Sheryl Lotts in the quarters, and doubles specialist Tisinger took out #2 seeded Sharon Jackson 11-10.

(Reminder: I do not enter these non-National results into the database).

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Lastly, a bit of opinion expression from yours truly based on a situation that arose and was talked about in some of the FB groups.

This was the USA National Doubles Championships. It determines the United States champions in the various divisions and helps select representatives (in both singles and doubles) of our country in international competitions.

So why were there foreign nationals who represent other countries internationally in the draw?

A bit of history: the “US National championships” were, for a time, open to all countries. In fact, the US National amateur singles champs in 75 and 75 were both Canadians (Wayne Bowes and Lindsay Myers respectively). In 82 the then named “AARA” changed the requirement to have the US national singles only be open for US citizens. This is (coincidentally or not) right around the time that the first “international” championships were held; in the 1970s there was just the tournaments held in the USA, and even the professional year end championships declared “National champions.” I don’t ever recall a situation where there was even a question about someone’s citizenship competing for the USA national team … until now.

It says pretty clearly on the entry form that you have to be a US citizen or “have a citizenship application in process.” Understood; some people hold dual citizenships. But how is it possible we’re letting players who have represented other countries internationally (quite recently) compete in the US championships?

There were three examples of this situation this past weekend:
Sebastian Fernandez: He competed in US team qualifying in doubles. Fernandez represents Mexico in juniors, where he was the runner-up in Junior worlds just last November, entered Mexican National Singles last February, and entered the Mexican World Selection event in June. How is he competing in a tournament to represent the USA just a couple months later?
Erik Garcia: hails from Chihuahua, now attending college in the USA … and represented Mexico in Junior worlds in 2013 and competed in Mexican amateur nationals in 2014. Yet he was entered into BOTH singles and doubles USA national team qualifying events. 

(Note: post publishing i’ve been informed that Garcia is in fact a US Citizen, born in US. Which then begs the question; how is he playing in Mexican national events? Its the same issue but perhaps in reverse).

Melania Sauma Masis: has been representing Costa Rica in various junior and senior events since 2009, including playing in the 2017 PARCs and the 2018 Caribbean games. Clearly grew up in CRC, but now attends the host college of this past event (ASU). Less of an issue for Sauma Masis in that she didn’t compete in the National team events (since the application says that “all other divisions are open to US Citizens and residents) … but she did compete for a “US National title” against US citizens, which some have a problem with.

I get that these players may have dual citizenship, which technically would have allowed them to enter the tourney (it was reported that Fernandez does; but I’m not sure how the other two possibly would). I suppose the bigger question is this: how can someone just switch back and forth like (especially) Fernandez has done? Olympic athletes can switch … but they have to wait a few years in-between competitions. Professional Soccer players can switch from one country to another, but only once, and only before officially representing a country at the senior/adult level (at which point they are permanently “capped” to a specific country).

Internationally, there’s a long history of players switching countries. Among others, Ruben Gonzalez, Veronique Guillemette, Natalia Mendez, Mario Mercado, Maria Jose Vargas, and most recently Brenda Laime have switched countries … but i’m not aware of anyone switching to and back like we’ve now seen out of Fernandez over his career.

To take this to the extreme, consider these hypotheticals. Daniel De La Rosa is married to a US citizen and now lives in Arizona (I have no idea if he now has a US passport, if he’s applied for citizenship, etc; this is a hypothetical). He has always and continues to represent Mexico … but lets say DLR plays in Mexican Nationals in February and gets knocked out early but really wants to go to Peru for the Pan Am games. Would you be ok with him then entering USA nationals in May to try to earn a spot? Also hypothetical: Kane Waselenchuk has now lived in Texas nearly as long as he lived in Canada, and marred a US citizen years ago; would you be ok if he entered US Nationals in May?

I think we need some guidelines going forward, where players have to declare to represent one country or another and stick with it. I’m ok with switching countries, but you have to have a legitimate connection, and you have to “sit out” a period of time to prevent venue shopping for IRF representation.

PS: I want to emphasize this point; i’m not making a political statement here. Its more about the inherent conflict of interest that exists.

2019 USA National Doubles Preview

Rocky Carson tries to defend his title

The first major National championship for 2019 from the “big 3” (I.e. USA RacquetballRacquetball Canada and Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol) is upon us: USA National Doubles in Tempe, AZ.

R2sports home page for the event: http://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30098

Here’s a preview of the Men’s and Women’s National team draws.

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In the Men’s Doubles draw: 9 teams competing. One half of the defending champ team is missing this year ( Sudsy Monchik), meaning defending champ Rocky Carson has a new partner: he’s playing with Charlie Pratt and they’re seeded #1.

Quarters prediction: 
– #1 Carson/Pratt over the young team of Sebastian Fernandez and Luis R Avila. (a question: how is Fernandez playing USA National doubles … but representing Mexico in juniors and playing in Mexican National Singles as he did in 2018??)
– #4 Adam Manilla / Nick Riffel (aka team Colorado) over #5 Thomas Carter and Fernando Rivera .
– #3 Jake Bredenbeck and partner Jose Diaz, the 2016 champs who got upset in the semis last year, should down the California amateur team of Michael Myers and Tim Hansen.
– #2 David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas, who lost in the final last year to earn their #2 seed, face a lefty/right pair in IRT players Robert Collins and Sam Bredenbeck.

In the semis …
– I’ll go with #1 Carson/Pratt over #4 Manilla/Riffel.
– I’m predicting an upset by seed: #3 Bredenbeck/Diaz get revenge for last year’s match-up and down Horn/Rojas at this stage instead.

In the finals: Carson/Pratt earn their National team spot with a win over Jake/Diaz in a brutal tiebreaker.
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In the Women’s doubles draw; just 5 teams competing. Last year saw somewhat of a changing of the guard, when 11-time champ Aimee Roehler Ruiz got upset in the semis with her partner Janel Tisinger-Ledkinsand 14-time winner Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson also getting upset in the semis with her partner Erika Manilla.

Lets see how it goes this time.

In the quarters:
– #5 seeded Sister-team of Michelle De La Rosa and Danielle Madduxshould oust #4 seeded Erika Manilla and Hollie Scott.

In the semis:
– #1 and defending champs Kelani Lawrence and Sharon Jackson have their work cut out for them, having to face the (nee) Key Sisters. I’m going to go with Lawrence/Jackson in a tiebreaker to advance back to the finals.
– #3 Ruiz and Tisinger face off against the same team that beat them last year at this juncture: #2 seeded Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts. Rajsich & Lotts have been playing together nearly all season in LPRT pro doubles and have been playing tough; I think they’ll use that familiarity with each other to advance past the veteran Ruiz/Tisinger team.

In the final:
– A rematch of last year’s final, won by Lawrence & Jackson 11-8 in the breaker. I think Rajsich/Lotts turn the tide and take the title.

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There’s also Singles Qualifying draws this weekend (similar to the Canadian National event from last weekend). Here’s a quick preview for this draw, which will help select the Singles team members who represent USA this year at PARC and (more importantly) at the Pan American Games. A big year for International Racquetball Federation – IRF this year.

On the Men’s Singles side: 14 guys playing and some very interesting match-ups. If you wondered what the IRT would look like without any foreign players … take a look at this draw. 10 of the top 11 ranked Americans on the IRT and ever American in the top 25 (save one; Jansen Allen) is here playing.

In the 16s, we see a number of first round match-ups against IRT touring regulars:
– Diaz takes on Riffel 
– Manilla takes on Justus Benson
– Rojas takes on Carter 
– … and we get a unique brother-on-brother match-up between the Bredenbecks (which I’m sure has happened in local tourneys before, but this is a first for a top-level tourney in PRS).

In the Quarters, I’m projecting these matches:
– #1 Carson over #9 Collins in their third meeting in as many months.
– #5 Diaz over #4 Manilla 
– #3 Horn vs #6 Jake: these guys have met no less than 16 times in the various pro tours: Jake leads h2h 9-7 in my database and won their most recent meeting … which was more than a year ago. Horn’s been struggling with fitness this year, while Jake has been struggling with results. I’ll go with Jake over Horn in this event in a tie-breaker, thinking perhaps Horn still isn’t 100%.
– #2 Pratt over #7 Rojas; they met in December, a straight forward win for Charlie; no reason not to think it’ll happen again.

Projected Semis:
– Carson over Diaz in a typical dog-fight.
– Pratt over Jake in a tactical masterpiece.

Final: doubles partners face off, with Rocky handling Pratt for the title.

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On the Women’s Singles Side, 9 players face off in the Team singles event.

Quarters:
– #1 Rajsich over Manilla (who should advance from the sole play-in)
– #4 Lotts over Scott 
– #3 Lawrence over Adrienne Fisher Haynes in what could be a bit closer than you’d think.
– #2 Jackson over Tisinger in an interesting match … this might be closer than you’d expect from the 2/7 match=up.

Projected Semis:
– Rajsich over her doubles partner Lotts
– Lawrence over her doubles partner Jackson.

Finals: we get the final we were robbed of in this singles event last year, when Lawrence’s flights couldn’t get changed and she had to forfeit. These two also met in the US National singles final in May. Rajsich wins, but Lawrence gets valuable points towards qualifying for IRF events later this year.

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Should be a great tourney!

LPRT Sweet Caroline Wrap-Up

Longoria wins again.

Congrats to Paola Longoria on her win in the 2019 LPRT Sweet Caroline grand slam from Greenville, SC.

click here for the Match report in the database; http://rball.pro/68F46B

With this win, Paola extends some current personal records:
– This is her 88th win in the PRS database
– She extends her current match winning streak to 29
– She makes it 6 wins out of 6 tournaments on the season.
– She’s built a nearly insurmountable lead over #2 Salas for the current season rankings, leading her by near 900 rankings points.

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Here’s a review of the draw, highlighting notable results by round:

In the 32s;
– Kelani Lawrence got a solid win over LPRT touring vet Maria Renee Rodríguez in four games.
Natalia Mendez took out Mary Mary Dee Kirchoff in three straight; this was a notable match up in that Kirchoff is literally three times Mendez’ age. Bravo for still competing in your 60s on tour.
– Youngster Ana Laura Flores took out veteran Susy Acosta in four close games.
– Biggest upset of the round: collegiate player Hollie Rae Scott took out the 39 seed Cristina Amaya 12-10 in the 5th. Career win for Scott.

In the 16s, mostly chalk and easy wins for the top seeds, but a couple of matches worth noting.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich had to face her doubles partner in Sheryl Lotts and won in three games. (Sheryl went on to take the Women’s Open draw 11-10 in a thrilling tiebreaker win over Amaya).
– #3 Alexandra Herrera was donuted in the second game against Lawrence …then donuted her right back and won by the unique scores of 8,(0),0,8. Its not often you see someone both give and take a donut in a match.
– But the big upset of the round was #10 Adriana Riveros taking out #7 Natalia Mendez 11-7 in the breaker.

In the Quarters…
– #1 Paola Longoria advanced in 3 games over the woman who vanquished her in last year’s worlds final Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez 8,8,6. This is the third time they’ve met on tour this year, all 3 game wins for the champ. 
Longoria improves to 15-1 career h2h over Martinez in all competitions, making last year’s worlds final look like the aberration, not the predictor.
– #4 Maria Jose Vargas took revenge over last tourney’s loss to Rajsich, beating her in four games to take the slim lead in their h2h matchups.
– #6 Nancy Enriquez advanced to just her 3rd career semi-final with a come-from-behind win over #3 Herrera. Enriquez dropped the first two games, then blitzed by Herrera in games four and five, 2 and 1 respectively to advance.
– #3 Samantha Salas Solis fought off the upset-minded Riveros 6,9,4 to try to continue her finals streak on tour this season.

In the semis…
– #1 Longoria improved to 31-1 all time in all competitions over Vargas, though she had to come from a game down to do it.
– #2 Salas improved to 6-2 all time in all competitions over Enriquez, but not without having to work for it, coming from 2-1 games down to win in a tiebreaker.

In the final:
– Longoria improved to 55-3 all time over her doubles partner Salas with a relatively straight forward 1,2,6 three game win. Salas never seemed like she was a threat to Longoria on this day, leaving opportunities up and quickly becoming frustrated with her opponent’s consistency.

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In doubles, Longoria made it a double, winning the doubles title with her finals opponent Salas over the Argentine national doubles team of Vargas/Mendez.

As with Singles, Paola has now won all 6 pro doubles events this season, 5 of them with Salas. Longoria improves to 109-5 in pro doubles since we started tracking it in 2013, winning 38 of the 43 doubles events she’s now entered.

LPRT Doubles match report: http://rball.pro/4DE601

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Next on the schedule for the LPRT is the big Bolivian Grand Slam, a combo IRT/LPRT event in Cochabamba, the first time either pro tour has ever been held in Bolivia.

27th Annual LPRT Christmas Classic Pro-AM Preview

Welcome to the final pro tournament of the calendar year 2018. Its the LPRT Christmas Classic, being played in Laurel MD. This is the same club that held the IRT season-opener a few months back and is a great venue for playing and watching.

This is the 27th annual iteration of this event, making it one of the longer running tourneys in existence. Useless fact; I used to help organize this event, some 20 years ago. Since i’m a digital pack rat, I dug back and found the organizational docs and start times for the 7th annual iteration of this event in 1998. After a time, the mantle was passed to current tournament director Karen Grisz, who has taken it to different venues around the DC area and has made it a regular LPRT stop for years. This year also includes an 18-man IRT tier 5 draw that i’ll preview after the ladies info.

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LPRT Singles draw. 22 ladies are entered, but there are some significant absences. #2 Samantha Salas Solis is missing, as is #6 Nancy Enriquez and #9 Gaby Martinez. This gives several players bumps into the top 8 and out of qualifying matches.

Interesting players in the draw include several local players of note: Kelani Lawrence is in the draw, as is Amie LeBrun Brewer and Masiel Rivera Oporto. The tourney has also drawn a few New England-based players out of NY and CT.

Here’s the round of 32 play-in matches to watch for:
Kelani Lawrence vs Amie Brewer: two VA residents duke it out to face the #1 seed.
– 7-time junior world champ Lucia Gonzalez makes her first appearance on the LPRT this season and faces off against current World 16u champ Valeria Centellas in an interesting match. 
– Adrienne Fisher Haynes vs Danielle Danielle Maddux: Danielle Maddux (nee Key) makes her first pro appearance in more than 8 years. The former US and World junior champion joins her sister Michelle on the tour and will team up in doubles as well.
– Michelle De La Rosa vs Hollie Scott: De La Rosa makes her 3rd LPRT appearance this season, with a play-in to the #2 seed.

In the round of 16…
– #1 Paola Longoria likely faces her doubles partner for the event in Lawrence. 
– In the always competitive 8/9th seed match: two LPRT touring vets face off in Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos and Sheryl Lotts. They’re 2-2 head to head on the LPRT, but all four matches were years ago (last meeting Sept 2016).
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich vs the home-town favorite #12 Masiel Rivera. Rivera has been playing solid and could push Rhonda here.
– De La Rosa vs #2 Frederique Lambert; DLR is a dangerous opponent, and Lambert has a couple of early upsets on her resume lately.

Projected Quarters: I’m going basically chalk for the back end of this tourney.
– Longoria over Munoz; she’s 10-0 over Carla on the LPRT
– Vargas over Rajsich: Vargas is 14-11 h2h lifetime over Rhonda on the LPRT but is having a solid season.
– Alexandra Herrera over Natalia Mendez Erlwein; Herrera is 3-1 lifetime over Mendez on the LPRT
– Lambert over Cristina Amaya: Lambert is 8-5 career over Amaya, but has won 7 of their last 8 meetings.

Semis:
– Longoria over Vargas: amazingly, Longoria is 23-0 over Vargas on the pro tour
– Lambert over Herrera: Frederique holds an 8-1 h2h advantage.

Finals: Longoria over Lambert; Paola is 26-1 career on the pro tour over Fred.

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LPRT Doubles

Salas’ absence means the dominant #1 team of Longoria/Salas cannot win this doubles event like they most often do. Instead, Longoria will team with Lawrence for this tourney. I think this may open the door for a team like #2 seeds Lambert/Herrera or Argentinian team of Mendez/Vargas to slip through and take the title.

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IRT Tier 5. Laurel is home to a couple of IRT regulars, so it only makes sense for them to compete on their home courts. I’m posting this before the brackets are available, but the top four seeds seem to be Sebastian Franco,Maurice MillerTroy Warigon, and Mauricio MoMo Zelada. Some good local east coast players are entered too (Ross Ross WeinbergThomas Gerhardt,Brent WaltersJordan Walters, Geoff Heskett, and others). Should be a good tourney.

Post publishing update: once the brackets were posted, we added this quick prediction:

  • Quarters: Franco over Heskett, Zelada over Weinberg, Miller over Gerhardt, Warigon over Gaffney
  • Semis: Franco over Zelada, Miller over Warigon
  • Finals: Franco over Miller

LPRT US Open Pro Women Qualifying Preview

The Ladies pro singles event at the 23rd annual US Open kicks off Wednesday afternoon with one round of qualifying. A solid draw of 40 professionals matches the 2017 draw and continues a solid showing at this event for the Ladies pros. 17 of the top 20 women in the world are present, and 24 of the top 30 players. Notably absent is #8 Jessica Leona Parrilla, still recovering from a major knee injury. Also missing from the top 20 is Guatemalan vet Maria Renee Rodriguez and #19 Mexican Eleni Guzman Velgis.

r2sports.com link for the event is here.

A quick note: here’s direct links to four US-Open specialty reports of interest. These links are for the LPRT version of these reports:
LPRT US Open Player Participation summary . Mexican vet Susana Susy Acosta is breaking the US Open appearance record this year, playing her 21st. Only Rocky Carson has played more (he missed just one of the 23 events held since 1996).
– LPRT US Open Draw sizes: 40 is solid, but is a bit below the even’ts best ever showing of 50 ladies pros in 2003.
– LPRT US Open Quarters/Semis/Finals historically: A nice way to quickly see all the top finishers for all 22 events.
– LPRT US Open Results summary: all players and all finishes, throughout time

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The top 24 women qualified into the main draw; the remaining 16 face off in qualifiers. Here’s a quick preview of those 8 matches, being played Wednesday morning and early afternoon:

– Veteran Jennifer Jennifer Mayadas-Dering faces off against Mexican Anna RiveraDering first played a US Open back in 1998, when the event was still held in Memphis.

– US Collegiate player Erika Manilla (sister of IRT touring pro Adam Manilla) takes on veteran LPRT player Laura Brandt. Brandt first played the US Open in 2008, while Manilla graduated Juniors in 2016 with an 18U world title.

– Michelle De La Rosa, fresh off two finals appearances at the 2018 3WallBall WOR event held last weekend in Vegas, will take on fellow Southwestern US player, Texan Linda Tyler.

– An IRF-flavored qualifier awaits Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz and Bolivian Angelica Barrios.

– Two younger Mexican players Denisse Maldonado and Daniela Rico face off for a shot at 4-time US Open winner Rhonda Rajsich

Kelani (Bailey) Kelani Lawrence, who made the finals of US nationals earlier this year but had to pass on the ticket to Worlds because it conflicted with her wedding, is back in action post nuptuals and faces off against the veteran Korean player Young Ock Lee. Lee is playing in her 8th straight US Open, making the trip halfway around the world every year.

Hollie Scott faces off against long-time Canadian threat Michele Michèle Morissette.

– Lastly, Bolivian veteran Jenny Daza Navia gets a match with Maiko Sato, who has been representing Japan at IRF Worlds for more than a decade.

Follow the LPRT on facebook and sign up to get Facebook Live notifications to get streaming broadcasts all weekend.