Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk, who wins the Syosset Open on the weekend.
With this title: – Kane’s 116th professional win. – He improves to 26-2 on the season – He improves to 76-3 over Rocky, his opponent in the final. – Most importantly … Kane secures an insurmountable points lead and clinches his 13th pro tour title.
We’ll put up a separate post about the ramifications of this win for the year end’s rankings … this was the final Tier 1 event of the year.
– #16 Adam Manilla took out #33 Nick Montalbano with relative ease 5,3. I thought this would be closer, given Montalbano’s results on tour earlier this season.
– #13 David Horn was stretched to an 11-8 tiebreaker win, taking out Marylander #36 Mauricio MoMo Zelada.
– #11 Jose Diaz advanced over Mexican junior #38 Oscar Nieto 13,11. Nieto is playing in his age 18 season but missed last year’s Mexican Junior Nationals after advancing to the 2017 16U Mexican finals (where he lost to Fernandez, also playing here).
– In the match of the round, #9 Montoya was ousted by his good friend and frequent doubles partner #24 Mar 12,7. Both games were neck and neck up to a point, and then featured Mar pulling away. Such a shame to see two top 10 players in the world meet in the 32s. But Mar survives the gauntlet of this little section of the draw to move on.
– #12 Jake Bredenbeck came from a game down to dominate #21 Charlie Pratt and advance (8),6,1. I thought Pratt had a deep run in him, given his PARC run last month, but Jake played really well, frustrating Pratt and dominated the tie-breaker.
So, 6 of your top 8 seeds advance; only #3 and #8 are upset at this juncture.
———————- In the Quarters… – #1 Waselenchuk left no doubt that he’s recovered from whatever ailed him in Florida, pounding one of the best players in the world in #24 Mar 6,3.
– #4 Parilla squandered match point in game two, but held on in the tiebreaker to advance over #12 Jake, ending Bredenbeck’s best run in a year and a half on tour.
– #3 Landa pulverized Beltran 4,4 in a rematch of last weekend’s final, throwing down the gauntlet on this event.
– #2 Carson cruised past Canadian #7 Murray 9,5.
So, despite the depth of this 49-man draw and the presence of a slew of top world players who don’t regularly play the tour … its chalk seeds into the semis. Cream rises.
———————- In the Semis: – #4 Parilla came out swinging, taking Game 1 over Waselenchuk and putting into doubt not only the year end title race but also the state of Kane’s game right now given his loss last weekend. Kane rebounded though taking game 2 and donutting Parrilla in the tie-breaker to advance to thefinals.
– #2 Carson avenged a loss to #3 Landa last weekend by taking a solid 12,13 win to advance to the final.
———————- In the Final, Kane showed no mercy and showed no ill effects of any past physical ailments by dominating the tour’s #2 player 3,4 for the title.
———————- Next up; per the IRT schedule, there’s a few non-tier 1s between now and the end of June, including two Tier 2s that could theoretically juggle the year end rankings a bit. We’ll definitely cover them as they stand to have good draws, especially the “Black Gold” event in Mexico in mid-June.
Also notable; the tour plans on announcing a preliminary copy of the 2019-20 schedule next month and they’ve teased it a bit; it should include the return of several events that dropped off in the last year, plus the return of some of the great events that happened this year.
Welcome to the final Tier 1 event on the International Racquetball Tour slate for the 2018-19 season, a return to Long Island for the 2019 Syosset Open. Long Island held a long-running IRT stop branded the “New York City” Pro-am, which ran annually from 2003 until 2016, so its great to see the pro tour return to one of its most important clubs.
Dean DeAngelo Baer posted the draws in the morning of 5/1/19 onto the IRT’s facebook page; make sure to follow it to get all the latest updates.
There’s a HUGE draw this weekend: 49 players in the IRT draw, which is the largest non-US Open draw we’ve seen on tour since Sept 2014 (see this link for the largest known draw sizes in pro tour history: http://rball.pro/797BF4). Because of the huge number of players, they’re they’re playing a round of 128. to get thing started early thursday.
This may be the most talented non-US Open draw i’ve seen since the days of Pro Nationals in Vegas. 28 of the top 30 IRT players are here (only missing two Bolivians Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo and Diego Garcia Quispe of the top 30), and 36 of the top 40 IRT ranked players are here. Amazing.
There’s also IRT tour debuts all throughout the qualifying draw, which we’ll highlight in the previews below.
Lets highlight some of the fantastic qualfiying matches to look forward to:
In the round of 128: – Frequent tour player Nick Riffel takes on Canadian Junior Sean Sauve, fresh of last week’s Racquetball Canada 18U title. Sauve is in his age 17 season and makes his IRT debut. – New Yorker and reigning Vegas 3-wall champion Nick Montalbano himself gets a Canadian traveler in his opener, going up against Michael Leduc. – Canadian Pedro Castro plays in his first IRT tourney in more than 6 years and matches up against touring regular Michael Art ER Burn. – New Jersey top amateur David Austin gets a shot at Colombian international Andres Gomez, fresh off of representing his country at the PARC championships.
In the round of 64: – #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solísversus Alan Natera. Man, what a match we have here. Montoya is the highest seed forced to qualify and he runs right into a player who beat him handily at Federación Mexicana de RaquetbolNationals earlier this year. Alan Natera Chavezappears in his first ever IRT Tier 1 event; he won last week’s solid Tier 4 draw in San Antonio and has made the semis of Mexican Nationals two years running. Meanwhile, Montoya has gotten bounced in the round of 16 the last two IRT events, both against opponents he probably should have beaten. This is a coin flip; Natera is hot right now; is that going to be enough to cause the massive upset?
– #24 Javier Mar vs #25 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez; these “consecutive seed” match-ups never seem to disappoint, do they? Mar was your 2017 Mexican National champ and the last time we saw him he was giving Kane fits, losing in the 16s at the US Open 12,10. Garay has multiple wins over top 10 IRT players, including a win over Mercado in Florida last weekend. Mar is favored here in my book but this is a tough starter match.
– #16 Adam Manilla vs #33 Montalbano; A solid match for the 64s between a good infrequent tour player in Montalbano, playing on home turf, versus an up and coming tour regular who has some solid wins on tour this season.
– #22 Andres Andres Acuña vs #27 Maurice Miller; Miller plays his 5th pro event of the season, with some solid performances against regular tour players but no break through wins yet. Acuna had an amazing run to the semis of PARC last month, but then got wiped out by Landa the week after upsetting him in Colombia. These players both play solid, mistake-free ball and this could be a tight match.
– #23 Mauro Daniel Rojas vs #26 Sebastian Fernandez; The 2017 World Junior 18U champ (Rojas) versus the 2017 World Junior 16U champ (Fernandez) (see http://rball.pro/88ADAE for the complete IRF junior world champion matrix). Two of the best young players in the world meet … for the first time, amazingly. Neither has appeared on tour since January, but both had solid wins earlier in the season. I like Fernandez here, on the better track record of top wins.
————————— Projecting the round of 32
– #9 Montoya vs #24 Mar. So, on the off chance that both Montoya and Mar advance unscathed from very tough round of 64 matches … they get to play each other in a battle royale. This is the 2017 Mexican national champ versus the 2018 champ. These are regular tournament finalists, and who met twice in WRT finals in 2017 (splitting them). This would be another tough one to predict, as Mar can beat practically anyone in the world if he’s “on.” Meanwhile, we know what Montoya, the 2018 International Racquetball Federation – IRF World Champion can do. What a match. Oh, and instead if it was Natera vs Mar (Natera upset Mar as the 32 seed in the 2018 Mexican Nationals), or Montoya vs Garay (last time they faced it was an 11-9 tiebreaker win from the 2018 Longhorn Open), or even Natera vs Garay (who I don’t have a record of playing each other in a sanctioned event), it’ll still be a great match.
– #16 Manilla vs #17 Eduardo Lalo Portillo: 16/17s are always good, and this would be no different, whether it was Manilla or Montalbano. Portillo (the reigning 18U world champ) has really played well this season, with a couple of top-10 wins. I’d favor him here over either possible opponent.
– #12 Jake Bredenbeck vs #21 Charlie Pratt; A tough match-up for Jake, running into a criminally under-seeded Pratt, who has more than shown he can beat practically anyone not named Kane. Pratt is fresh off a very good run to the PARC finals, dispatching along the way Mercado, Moscoso and Acuna before running out of gas against Carlos Keller Vargas in the final. These two have played once before; a 2015 US Open Jake victory, but I sense Pratt’s going to neutralize Jake’s power here and move on. Question is, how deep will Pratt run in this event?
– #11 Jose Diaz vs #22 Acuna: I like this as an interesting contrast of styles. Acuna can frustrate shooters, but Diaz is lightening fast on the court and is a shooter. This could go fast Diaz’s way, or could be a 2 hour grind.
– #10 Mario Mercado vs #26 Fernandez. Mercado has been showing time and again this season the perils of dropping out of the top 8, and has suffered four one-and-dones in events this season. Here he’ll face a very tough young player who has the talent to beat him. Expect a dogfight here.
————————— Projected 16s: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #17 Portillo: they played at the 2017 US Open, and Portillo lost by the respectable scores of 6,9,9. I don’t think these two are *that* close though, but this will be the first test for Kane since his shock loss last weekend. What will we get out of Kane this weekend?
– #9 Montoya over #8 Sebastian Franco; If Montoya can survive the qualifying guantlet, he faces a fresh Franco here. By talent this is Montoya (or Mar) over Franco … but two potentially grueling matches thursday night may drain whoever advances to face Franco friday morning. we’ll see.
– #21 Pratt over #5 Daniel De La Rosa; my first big upset prediction. DLR hasn’t looked himself lately, taking three early losses this season, often by lopsided scores. Meanwhile, when Pratt shows up, he shows up to play, and has shown time and again the tactical mindset to develop a gameplan against any one in the world.
– #4 Andree Parrilla vs #13 David Horn; they met last weekend in Florida in the quarters, a dominant 2,6 win for Parrilla, who seems to be a safe bet to have guaranteed himself a top 4 spot for the season ending standings.
– #3 Alejandro Alex Landavs #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; Franco has to beat a couple of tour regulars to get here, but once he does Landa likely ends his run easily.
– #6 Alvaro Beltran over #11 Diaz: they’ve split in two match-ups this season; Diaz got him at the UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championshipsbut then Beltran got him in Portland. I like Beltran’s trending lately; in his last 5 tourneys he’s made the Finals of Mexico Nats, Quarters in Chicago, Semis of Bolivia grand slam, Semis of PARC, and the finals of last weekend’s Florida stop, beating Kane along the way. Beltran’s on fire!
– #7 Samuel Murray vs #26 Fernandez: another interesting match-up. After making the final of the season opener in Laurel, Murray has not advanced past the quarters since, and has taken two one-and-done losses to players right in the same talent range as Fernandez. Murray’s in a dog-fight to retain his top 8 protected seeding and needs a result here, but may struggle if Fernandez plays like he can.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Jansen Allen; Allen was seeded as high as #3 in an event early last season, now he’s seeded 15th, having run into solid players over and again in the early rounds once he lost protected seeding. I think he fights his way through qualifying though here, only to lose to Rocky at this stage.
————————— Possible Quarters
– #1 Kane vs #9 Montoya; would *love* to see this happen, a lot has to go right for Montoya to make it this far. But if Kane’s not 100% from last weekend, he’ll have problems here.
– #21 Pratt vs #4 Parrilla: I like Pratt’s chances here too. Parrilla is a chameleon, adapting his game style to who he plays. But Pratt’s game style is to find your weakness and exploit it. I don’t believe they’ve ever played. Could be interesting.
– #3 Landa over #6 Beltran: a rematch of last week’s final, a close-but-comfortable Landa win over his long time Mexican rival.
– #2 Carson over #7 Murray: Rocky is 8-0 career h2h over Murray, including a win at the quarters in Chicago. He makes it 9-0 as he tries to overtake Kane for the year end points lead.
Possible Semis: – Kane over Pratt; Kane’s 9-0 career over Pratt, and has never dropped a game. If he’s good, 10-0 here. – Landa over Rocky: Landa is just 3-7 lifetime vs Rocky, but beat him handily last week 5,7 at this stage and seems like he’s on a roll.
Final: Kane over Landa.
We’ll see how close my predictions come … if Kane’s still ailing from last weekend, we could really see some surprises coming out of the top of this draw. Pratt to the finals? Montoya finally making a run to an IRT final? What about Parrilla? Can’t wait.
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In the 32s: – Thomas Carter got his first career win over Felipe Camacho with a pretty solid 6,13 win. He advances into the main draw for just the 2nd time this season. – Eduardo Garay Rodriguez upset 9th seeded Mario Mercado 11-9 in the breaker. A solid win for Garay, which earns him a rematch with Beltran. – #13 Jake Bredenbeck saved game point against Miller in game 1, then cruised to a two game win, avoiding this pitfall and advancing to his 7th main draw in 8 IRT events this season. – Andres Acuña won a hard-fought tiebreaker win over #14 Jansen Allen. Allen’s tough season continues; he’s only qualified for the main draw now in 4 of the 8 events, after cashing in all 11 events last season. – Lalo Portillo got a solid win over tour vet Robert Collins to continue his impressive season.
In the 16s: – David Horn got a solid win over #5 Samuel Murray 11,12. He avenges a bad loss a month ago to Murray and moves on to his second QF of the season. – Alvaro Beltran made quicker work of Eduardo Garay than I thought he would, winning 7,9. – #3 Alejandro Alex Landaabsolutely destroyed Acuna 3,2. Where was this dominance at the Pan Am Games? – #7 Daniel De La Rosa got an easier-than-expected win over Rodrigo Montoya Solís 12,3, the latest in a back-and-forth rivalry with Montoya. #6 Sebastian Franco got a solid win over Jose Diaz to advance.
Nearly 100% chalk into the quarters, with only Horn’s upset of #5 Murray a blemish on the resumes of the top 8 seeds.
In the Quarters: – In a shocking result, #8 Beltran topped #1 seed Kane Waselenchuk in an 11-8 tiebreaker. I’ll do a separate post on this result, which streaks it ends for Kane, and what it means for the title race later on. – #4 Andree Parrilla dominated his former WRT rival #12 Horn 2,6. – #3 Landa took a close one over Franco – #2 Rocky Carson wiped out #7 De La Rosa 7,3.
Semis: – Beltran came back from looking like he’d get wiped off the court to take Parrilla in an 11-10 thriller. – Landa played one of the more complete games of his career, beating Carson 5,7 to advance to the final.
In that final, a rematch of the Mexican National championship, Landa fended off the veteran Beltran to take home his 3rd career title.
——————————- Next up; the Syosset Open, the last Tier 1 of the season!
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 Landaand 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 Bensonin 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.
———————– 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.
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 Landatook 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.
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.
———————- 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.
(as of this posting, the draws are not yet active but can be gotten from IRT’s facebook page postings…)
There’s a huge draw in Chicago; 43 pros entered into singles. That’s the biggest non-US Open draw since Sept 2014, and this draw is stacked. There’s great representation from the top pros: 19 of the top 20 players are entered (missing only #13 Charlie Pratt, who’s playing Oregon State Singles this weekend instead), and the draw includes reigning World champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis to mix things up. He’ll be seeded 14th, playing into his Mexican national nemesis #3 Daniel De La Rosa for what could be a heck of a round of 16 match (we’ll get to that later)…
Because its Chicago, we get some Midwestern guys entered such as Geoff Goldblatt, Juan Martinez III, Alok Mehta, Ferd Samson and Nadeem Sharifuddin. Some of these guys are long-time players with match histories that go back a ways (Goldblatt’s first pro tourney on record was in 2006), some we havn’t seen since the 2018 Worlds (Mehta represented India at the 2014 and 2018 IRF events), and some are making their pro tour debuts (like Sharifuddin).
Interestingly, what looks like the entire Guatemalan national team is entered, and the qualifying rounds will include Edwin Galicia, Javier Martinez, Hanzel Martinez Perez, Jeovany Mendoza, Juan Salvatierra, and long-time veteran Christian Wer, all hailing from the Central American country. Its great to see so many great internationals in one place.
Lets preview the draw. There’s such a huge draw that they needed three round of 128 matches, one of which features two of the traveling Guatemalans. That’s a bummer: fly all the way up here and have a rematch of every Tuesday night at the home club.
We pick up in the 64s; here’s some matches to watch for: – #9 Jose Diaz is the highest ranked player w/o a bye into the 16s, and for his trouble he has to play twice in qualifying; he’s rewarded at first with a crap-shoot against the winner of the Mendoza-Martinez all-Guatemalan play-in. – #17 Long-time Costa Rican vet Felipe Camacho gets a tough opener against mid-westerner Kyle Ulliman. Ulliman has played a couple of pro stops already this year but doesn’t have a break-through win yet and Camacho is a tough out. – #20 Eduardo Lalo Portillo faces off against long-time Guatemalan #1 Edwin Galicia in a tough opener for both. Galicia has been representing Guatemala at International Racquetball Federation – IRF events for 6 years running, while Lalo (the reigning 18U junior world champ) is coming off a disappointing 1st round exit at Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Nationals last month. – #12 Jansen Allen (who has now fallen completely out of the top 10), has a tough 1st rounder against regular Guatemala international representative Juan Salvatierra in his quest to get back into the top 10. – #22 Maurice Miller faces off against Mauricio MoMo Zelada, a rematch of the final of the February Open final at the Wintergreen event in Laurel, MD. Zelada won 6,12 then and seems a good bet to advance again. – IRT regular Justus Benson is the unlucky first round match for reigning IRF World Champion Rodrigo Montoya, looking to make a splash and keep his IRT ranking on the rise. – #15 Adam Manilla gets a tough Mexican up and comer Jordy Alonso as his 1st round opponent. – #18 Robbie Robert Collins faces off against long-time Guatemalan international Christian Wer, who I first have playing for his country in 2004 and who was on the Worlds team in 2018. That’s a pretty long int’l career. – #10 David Horn has the unenviable task of facing off against one of the more unheralded Mexican players today in Eduardo Garay Rodriguez. Garay has wins over IRT top 10 players on his resume in the past couple of seasons and has the ability to win here too.
In the 32s…here’s some projections based on potential match-ups:
– the #16/#17 match-up looks solid: Camacho vs Thomas Carter. A great test for both players; I sense the veteran Camacho advances to the main draw and a date with Kane. – #13 Jake Bredenbeck vs #20 Portillo: I like Portillo’s chances here against Bredenbeck, who has yet to get out of the 16s this season after multiple quarter-finals appearances in prior seasons and is coming off an upset loss in Pueblo to a guy who has never played a pro match. – #12 Allen over #21 Troy Warigon; the solid playing Allen should advance over part time IRT player Warigon here. – #11 Mario Mercado over Zelada: the all-DC Metro area match-up, with the two relative neighbors facing off for a chance at the 16s. Mercado has the edge but it wouldn’t surprise me if this went Zelada’s way. – Montoya vs Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; tough break for Franco, who runs into his countryman at this stage for the 2nd time in 3 months. He’s trying to build on the momentum of his run to the Mexican national quarters last month, but Montoya should advance here. – #15 Manilla vs #18 Collins: the very-rare lefty vs lefty match-up, likely a win for the up and coming Manilla.
In the 16s… – #1 Kane Waselenchuk starts off his title quest against the veteran Camacho and cruises to a win. – the #8/#9 looks like a dog-fight: Diaz versus Sebastian Franco. After a solid start to the season, Franco has faltered, with two straight round of 16 exits and having missed Sioux Falls (for his Honeymoon; can’t fault him there). One of those early exits was at the hands of Diaz, who may very well do it again here. – #5 Parrilla vs #12 Allen: Andree has been on a tear, but Allen plays solid, consistent racquetball and may cause Parrilla some troubles here. – #4 Alejando Alex Landavs Portillo: the newly crowned Mexican champ faces off against one of his country’s best young players; Landa should dominate this match based on playing styles. – #3 De La Rosa vs #14 Montoya; this is the match of the round. 3 vs 14 by seeds, but two of the best 5 players in the world by capabilities. They met in Sioux Falls and DLR destroyed Rodrigo 1,4. In fact, Montoya may be the reigning world champ, but DLR has beaten him 3 out of 4 times they’ve played in the past year. I think DLR advances and Montoya misses out on an opportunity to gain valuable IRT ranking points yet again due to the luck of the draw. – #6 Alvaro Beltran vs #11 Mercado; fresh off his surprise National finals appearance, Beltran runs into the mercurial Mercado (alliteration intended), who has beaten Alvaro in the past, but seems to be in a bit of a rut this season. Mercado has three one-and-done events this season and will have his work cut out for him to make it to this point. Alvaro advances. – #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Horn; tough match for Murray here. Bobby beat Sam in April of 2018, but has three one-and-dones on the season and missed Sioux Falls b/c of injury. Horn did make the final of the Pueblo Shootout before getting waxed by Kane and seems to be healthy; can he outlast Murray here and put himself back on the winning ways? If he’s healthy, I think so. – #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Manilla: these two havn’t played in years on the pro tour, and while Adam can put up a fight against top players he should fall at this gate.
In the Quarters… – #1 Kane over #9 Diaz. I’ll bet the versatile Diaz conjurs up some 209-magic and stays in rallies longer than expected, but Kane advances. – #4 Landa over #5 Parrilla: I like Landa here, despite the fact that Parrilla took him in their last meeting (2018 US Open). Landa played so solidly at Mexican Nationals, its hard to envision him losing to Parrilla’s game-style. – #6 Beltran takes out his doubles partner #3 DLR in a classic let-down game after DLR’s tough win over Montoya. They played in Portland in December, and Alvaro trounced him in two there, and I’m betting on a similar result here. Beltran is on a career renaissance this season and continues his stretch of solid play. – #2 Carson defeats Horn in a battle of contrasting pace of play styles. Carson will slow it down, while Horn tries to speed it up. Neither are happy with the referee at the end of the match.
In the semis… – #1 Kane defeats former #1 Landa, but Landa puts up a fight and makes the scores 15-11, 15-9 or so. If Landa is on and making shots, Kane needs to find a slightly higher gear to beat him, which he eventually does since he’s such a master at the end-game of matches. – #6 Beltran goes up against his long time rival #2 Carson for the third time this season and makes it 2 out of 3 with an upset win.
In the final, Kane takes out Beltran with ease, but not before Alvaro plays his typical shooter’s delight game plan and makes Kane sweat for a while. Its worth noting that Alvaro is the last player to take a game off of Kane (the 2017 US Open) and still has the capability to run off a game even against a guy who is currently working on a streak of 64 straight games won in competition.
——————– There’s also a massive Pro doubles draw; a full 16 team draw. The #1 team is, as normal, DLR/Beltran, who just got upset at Mexico Nationals and will not have the opportunity to compete for 2019 IRF crowns. They’ll have to possibly work their way through 1/2 of the team that dethroned them in Montoya, playing here with Parrilla, who themselves have to get by the Columbian National #1 doubles team of Mercado & Franco.
On the other side of the draw, the other “best doubles team in the world” in Kane & Ben Croft makes a rare appearance, seeded 6th. They likely face #3 seeds of Jake/Diaz for an excellent quarter final match before likely facing the excellent #2 seeded pairing of Landa & Murray in the semis. However, Landa/Murray may have to get past Rocky Carson, who plays pro doubles for the first time since Sept 2017 (!). He’s playing with Manilla for a nice little lefty-righty combo, perhaps a nod by Carson to help get ready for the upcoming WOR championships (where doubles is king).
I like Kane/Croft over DLR/Beltran in the final, a slight reversal of how this match-up has gone the last couple of times … but also an indicator that DLR/Beltran may have some cracks in the armor after their upset in Chihuahua last month.
With his latest win, Kane extends some amazing records: – this is his 114th career pro title, 43 more than the player in 2nd place (Cliff Swain). By way of comparison … Sudsy Monchik won 43 titles in his whole career … and now Kane leads the 2nd place tourney winner by that same amount. See http://rball.pro/B173E8 for more. – This extends his current match winning streak to 78 matches, 3rd longest ever. See http://rball.pro/8696B9 for more. – This extends his current GAME winning streak to 64, which is still a long ways from his amazing 113-game winning streak record, now that the tour has gone to best of 2. He’ll need to win the next 7 tourneys w/o dropping a game in order to challenge that record.
Its also notable that Kane has yet to drop a game since the tour went to best-of-three scoring. In fact the closest someone has come in a game has been 12 points. Nobody’s gone any higher.
The results of this event will result in a shake-up of the current rankings. Kane should ascend to #1. Landa will drop to #3, just barely ahead of DLR for now. Parrilla should rise from #8 to #5. Montoya will rise from #18 to #16 … but the next time he enters he should be on the opposite side of the draw from the #1 seed, making it easier for him to advance deeper.
Meanwhile, in terms of Season-to-Date rankings, DLR sits just behind Carson in 3rd place, and would be easily in 2nd had he not missed the first event of the season. Given that DLR has 3 finals on the season and Rocky has just one … DLR is well positioned to ascend to the #2 ranking by the time the season is over.
Here’s a review of the notable results (to me) by round:
In the 64s… – North Carolinian and infrequent IRT player Brent Walters played the World Champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis tough, losing 7,13. Good showing by Mr. Walters. – Racquetball Canada‘s Tanner Prentice took IRT pro Robert Collins to a tie-breaker before falling. His country-man Lee Connell also played an IRT regular tough, falling in two close games to Nick Riffel – USA Racquetball 18U national champ Ricardo Ricky Diaz played 18U World finalist Sebastian Fernandez tough, falling 12,12. – Charlie Pratt took out Andrew Gleason, who was making his pro debut. This is notable in that Gleason just competed in the 14U (!) division of Junior Worlds, losing in the finals. He still has at least four junior years underneath his belt and played well against a former IRT pro tournament winner in Pratt.
– Biggest upset of the round may have been Sam Bredenbeck taking out #14 Thomas Carter in an 11-9 breaker. Big win for the younger brother of Jake. – Another upset was Iowan Brad Hansen, playing in his first pro event, taking out #22 Scott McClellan in a tough 11-8 breaker.
– #10 Jansen Allen reportedly fell ill and withdrew from the event after the draw was published, giving local player John Goth a walkover into the 32s. This was the first time Allen has missed an event since the 2012-13 season, and it breaks a consecutive appearance streak of 64 matches, the 12th longest ever such streak in the pro tour history.
In the 32s: – Montoya made quick work of Collins in the 16/17 match to setup the anticipated rematch against #1Alex Landaon Friday. – #9 Mario Mercado was the unlucky tour vet forced to play former IRT pro Tony Anthony Carson in qualifying … and indeed he lost in two quick games. – Teenager Sebastian Fernandez got a career win, topping the veteran Charlie Pratt in a tiebreaker. In case you were wondering why we marvel at the continued success of Fernandez … he’s still got one year left of junior racquetball! He’s just now entering his age 18 season, having won Mexican 18U junior nationals over Eduardo Portillo Rendon but then losing in the Junior World finals to Portillo later in 2018. – Adam Manilla played a tough, close match against Mauro Daniel Rojasand advanced 11,14. – Sam Bredenbeck got his second “career best” win in a row, downing another IRT touring player in Nick Riffel 12,13. – John Goth got a solid win over Canadian Tim Landeryou 13,7 to advance and face Jose Diaz. We havn’t seen Goth on the IRT since 2013, and not in a pro event in more than a year, but he’s definitely a solid player and will be a tough out for Jose (who lost to him in the 2012 US Nationals). – Gerardo Franco got a solid win in the #15/#18 seed match over veteran Felipe Camacho to advance to another main draw. I often wonder about players like Franco, who get “stuck” right in that 15-18 Seed range on tour and thus constantly play right into the #1 and #2 seeds. He’ll likely need a stunning round of 16 win to get out of that range and start playing into “easier” opponents in the main draws.
Qualifying summary: only three of the eight “seeded” players in qualifying advanced (#11, #13 and #16 seeds), but several of the upsets we saw by seeding were definitely not upsets by talent. We should see some great main draw matches.
In the 16s: – Landa and Montoya went head to head and it was as close as it could be: 11-10 in the tiebreaker. Montoya came out on top this time, beating the #1 seed and defending champ in the 16s. This represents one of the earliest exits for a #1 seed in the last decade or so, thanks to unfortunate seeding. – Alvaro Beltran handled the upset-minded Tony Carson in 2. – Samuel Murray blitzed the 18yr old Fernandez 7,1, ending any shot at further upsets by the teen-ager. – Daniel De La Rosa played a closer-than-he may have liked match against Manilla, advancing 13,10. – Kane Waselenchuk made quick work of the younger Bredenbeck in his first main draw match 5,2 – Andree Parrilla got his first h2h win over Jake Bredenbeck by the odd-looking scores of 14,(14),0. – #7 Jose Diaz continued his strong season by advancing to the quarters over the tough amateur John Goth. – #2 Rocky Carson outlasted Gerardo Franco 10,4.
Last event, I predicted Montoya would beat Landa at this stage, and the reverse happened. This time, I predicted a Landa win at this juncture … and the reverse happened. These two are so close; any given sunday either one can beat the other.
———————— In the Quarters… – #16 Montoya downed country-man Beltran in two to advance to the semis. – #4 DLR took out Canadian Murray in two – #3 Waselenchuk beat Parrilla in a rematch of the quarters from last event, this time by the more respectable scores of 8,11 – #2 Carson took out #7 Diaz in two.
——————— The semis were two interesting match-ups: – DLR absolutely trounced Montoya in two games 1,4. This was a pretty shocking result for me, given their history. Here’s some of the match-ups between them in the last year: o Montoya beat DLR in the Men’s Mexico National final in Feb 2018 3,12 o DLR then beat Montoya in the Worlds selection event final in June 0,8 (but I wonder about that score, since both qualified for Worlds by virtue of making that final). o DLR took out Montoya in the final of the Dec 2018 Mexican Open.
So, it looks like DLR has Montoya’s number for now. We can only hope we continue to see Montoya in IRT draws. – Kane beat Rocky for the 74th time in 77 meetings to advance to the final.
—————- The final represented the third meeting between Kane and DLR for a tourney title this season, establishing a clear trend of some movement in the eventual season ending rankings. Unfortunately, all the momentum DLR gained in his excellent run to the final was for naught, as he came out very flat against the ever-consistent Kane and was wiped out in the final 4,2. This represented one of the most one-sided finals in the history of the pro tour, tied for the 2nd worst finals beating (in two or three game formats).
—————- In the doubles …. the top team in the world (Beltran & DLR) got upset in controversial fashion in the semis, losing to eventual winners Montoya/Parrilla 11-10 in a match ended with an avoidable hinder call. They beat #2 seeded Landa/Murray in a close final 11,11 to take the crown.
Hello racquetball fans! This coming weekend is what has now become the 2nd biggest International Racquetball Tour event of the season and is the reported longest running Pro event in the land; the Lewis Drug Pro-Am held in Sioux Falls, SD. Thanks to the long-standing generosity of the sponsors, this event generally features the richest and best draws outside of the US Open.
Quick note: keep IRT CEO John Scott in your thoughts; he underwent some emergency surgical procedures in the past couple of weeks and is recuperating at home.
This year, the event falls right on the same weekend as the massive annual Longhorn Open, which has a WRT event that unfortunately drew away a few of the names that may have considered entering. Nonetheless, there’s a solid draw of 39 pros entered into Lewis.
Ranking implications of this event: after months of kvetching about the IRT ranking system and the implications of Kane’s four missed events in the spring of 2017-18 season, this event likely rectifies the situation. This is the first event from last spring that Kane missed, meaning he has zero points to “defend” from the Lewis Drug event last season. Therefore, he has no where to go but up. Meanwhile, current #1 Landa won this event last year and therefore has 400 points to defend. If Kane wins … irrespective of who makes the final Kane should ascend back to #1 ranking. He will have gained more points than either of the two guys ahead of him could earn.
The only top 20 pros missing are #6 Sebastian Franco (on his Honeymoon as per IRT press release) and #10 Bobby David Horn, who was ill at the California Open, has been fighting through some injuries all season and seems to be taking off the weekend to recuperate for the busy spring schedule. These two absences give Jose Diaz his first ever top 8 seeding, which immediately gets “switched” to a #7 seed for the tourney.
Notable players we don’t regularly see in the draw include former IRT touring pro Tony Anthony Carson, who made waves in the Portland event earlier this season and will be a tough out. #18 ranked and reigning International Racquetball Federation World champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis is in the draw, hoping for a better result. Unfortunately he’s seeded 16th, which has him playing right into #1 Alex Landayet again. We’ll cover that in the predictions. World 18U runner-up Sebastian Fernandezis back after making waves in Canoga Park. US Open Men’s Open champ Alejandro Herrera Azcarate has made the trip up from Miami for this tourney and is playing doubles with none other than US Open tourney director and rball legend Doug Ganim. Lastly the geographic proximity to Canada has drawn down some of Canada’s top players too, including Tim Landeryou, Lee Connell and Tanner Prentice.
Lets preview the draw. Here’s some round of 64 matches of interest: – #21 Sebastian Fernandez goes up against fellow 18U recent graduate and current US Junior National champ Ricardo Ricky Diaz. Tough draw for Diaz, who runs into a guy who has been really making waves on tour so far this season. – #20 Mauro Daniel Rojas vs Christian Longoria; a great first round match between contrasting styles; the shot-making control game of Longoria versus Rojas’ power. – #13 Adam Manilla vs Timmy Hansen; Manilla plays the youngster Timmy Hansen, who enters a pro tourney for the first time. Hansen is the reigning US 14U national champ and makes up one half of a potentially pretty darn good Father/Son team with his dad Tim Hansen (one of the most decorated amateur players of all time and USAR hall-of-fame inductee). – #19 Nick Riffel vs Lee Connell: Connell has been playing Canadian National events since Riffel was in grade school; we’ll see if the veteran can handle the newbie. – #11 Jake Bredenbeck vs Cesar Castillo; Castillo enters a pro tournament for the first time since 2015; he’s a long-time international representative of Venezuela, last playing for his country in the 2017 Bolivarian games. – #10 Jansen Allen gets a tough 1st round draw in Sioux Falls native John Goth. Goth only has a few major tourneys on his resume over the past few years … but rolled to the US National final in 2012 and has taken out touring pros like Sebastian Franco and Christian Longoria in recent WRT events. This could be a tough one for IRT regular Allen. – #15 Felipe Camacho matches up against Matthew Ivar Majxner, a tough player who has been playing pro events since the late 1990s. – #18 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez faces the always-tough Alejandro Herrera, last seen taking the Men’s Open draw in Minneapolis and who played Robbie Collins tough in the pro draw in Minneapolis before losing. Herrera plays with pace, and Franco will need to adjust.
Projecting to the 32s: – Montoya over Robert Collins; tough draw for Collins, who has had a solid season, but I see a Montoya win here. – #9 Mario Mercado vs Tony Carson: missing out on the bye comes back to haunt Mercado, who runs into former touring pro Carson, who has the wherewithall to advance here. I see a Carson win and Mercado’s tough season continuing. – Charlie Pratt versus Sebastian Fernandez: wow, tough match up here. Pratt has experience on his side but these two play a very similar game; all about control. I give the cerebral Pratt the advantage here over the youngster. – Manilla vs Rojas: I like Rojas here, out-pacing the lefty Manilla in what should be a shoot out of power players swinging out of their shoes. – Carter vs Riffel: these two buddies have met three times on tour, with Riffel taking two of them. I think Riffel wins again and advances to the main draw. – Jake over the Ref Scott McClellan; at some point the Ref will force his way into making … someone else ref his back-of-the-tournament matches 🙂 – Allen vs Landeryou: I like this match-up; i think this could be a pretty tight game. I like Allen’s game lately; he has not been an easy out, but Landeryou’s game could frustrate. – Franco over Camacho: assuming we don’t see a surprise upset, I like Gerardo Franco in this match. He’s got the game and has the capabilities to do a break through.
Main Draw: round of 16. – #1 Landa vs #16 Montoya: for the 2nd straight event, and for the third time in two months, we get Landa v Montoya. Last time, I predicted the upset, and instead Landa cruised to the semis. This time … i’m predicting Landa returns to the site of his first ever pro victory energized and takes a 2 game win. A semis-quality match-up in the 16s yet again. – #8 Alvaro Beltran v Tony Carson: Carson has beaten DLR and Parrilla the last two IRT events he’s entered; he can beat Beltran. But … they’ve met 6 times on the IRT and Beltran has won all 6. I’ll go with a tiebreaker win for Alvaro Beltran. – #5 Samuel Murray v #12 Pratt: last time they played was at the 2018 Worlds, where Pratt waxed Murray in two. Can he repeat the favor? I think he can; since making the final in the season opener, Murray has four early exits in a row in pro events, including two round of 16 upsets. Pratt can make it another early exit here. – #4 Daniel De La Rosa vs Rojas: DLR converts back to Racquetball from Pickleball and downs the youngster Rojas in the 16s for the 2nd tourney in a row. – #3 Kane Waselenchuk gets his first match likely against Riffel and makes quick work of the youngster to advance. – #6 Andree Parrilla vs #11 Jake Bredenbeck: these two have met a few times … and Jake has never lost to Andree. They havn’t met in a year and a half though, and in that time Parrilla has taken a big step ahead. I think Parrilla advances. – #7 Jose Diaz vs #10 Allen: they’ve met 5 times and have gone back and forth; Allen got him in their most recent meeting in Laurel. This is an excellent opportunity for Allen to regain some of his momentum and get back to the quarters. Expect a tough match here. I’m not sure who I favor. I liked what I saw out of Allen in the last event; we’ll go with the Texan here. – #2 Rocky Carson vs Gerardo Franco: they met in Laurel earlier this season and Rocky pasted him. No reason to expect a different result here.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Landa over #8 Beltran: Landa has his number and has had it for a while. – #4 DLR over #12 Pratt: they met at the US Open, a tight but 2-game win for DLR. I like the way DLR is trending this season … he seems like he’s been much more consistent this season than last. After missing the first event, he’s made two finals and a quarter and is a good bet to make at least the semis here. – #3 Kane over #6 Andree: a rematch of the quarters from California, a 3,5 beat-down. No concrete courts in Sioux Falls, so perhaps Parrilla can keep it close, but expect a 2-game win for the King. – #2 Rocky vs #10 Allen: they’ve played 13 times … and Rocky has won 13 times. Expect 14 for 14 here.
Semis: – #1 Landa vs #4 DLR: these two met at the Lewis Drug in 2017 semis and in the 2018 finals (an 11-10 Landa win for his first ever pro title)… so its only fitting if they meet again in 2019. Landa has beaten him h2h 3 straight times now, but they’re always battles. Can DLR turn the tide? I’d like to see Kane vs Landa in the final but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was Kane-DLR again. – #3 Kane vs #2 Rocky; they’ve met 76 times (!) … but if they meet here it’ll be the first time they’ve faced off in a match that was NOT a final since 2009. That’s 10 years of match-ups for tourney titles. Nonetheless, Kane makes it 74-3.
Finals: Kane over Landa. Or maybe DLR. Or perhaps Montoya if I get my predictions way wrong.
——————– There’s also a solid Doubles draw for only the third official IRT doubles event of the year., with 10 teams playing and the regular suspects (Beltran/DLR, Landa/Murray, Montoya/Parrilla). Beltran & DLR are unvanquished in nearly a year of doubles competition and remain the team to beat.
Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk for winning the 2019 International Racquetball Tour California Open. With the win, he captures his 113th career Tier1/Grand Slam event, extends his current match winning streak to 74 matches (3rd longest ever streak), and extends his current game winning streak to 48. He’s yet to drop a game since the tour went to best of 3.
With this win, he rises to #3 in the tour rankings; this was the event in which he got injured last season, so from here until May he’s got no points to defend and should pretty quickly rise up the rankings. He’s got 300+ point advantage in season-to-date rankings already and is well positioned to claim another year end title.
Lets review the draw, with comments on notable (to me) results.
In the round of 64: – In the battle of reigning world Junior champs, the elder 18U champ Eduardo Portillo Rendon outlasted 16U champ Diego Garcia Quispe 12,11. Garcia showed a lot of power, with a sneaky fast serve, but Portillo’s smooth approach kept him just ahead of the Bolivian. – Mexican Junior Oscar Nieto Valadez snuck by the Ref Scott McClellan 11-10. Nieto made the Mexican National 16U final in 2017 … then seems to have missed the 2018 Nationals and Selection events. But he’s still got a year of juniors and looks like a pretty solid player. – Robert Collins took out Sebastian Longoria in 2 straight … which isn’t normally notable except that Longoria is just 16 years old. He lost in the final of the Jr Worlds 14U in Minneapolis in 2017. – Nick Riffel outlasted outdoor champ Luis R Avila 11-8 in the breaker, in a close match between two solid players.
In the round of 32, we had some surprises: – Rodrigo Montoya Soliscruised past Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 9,6, setting up a match against #1 Alejandro Alex Landa. – Portillo took out #9 seeded David Horn 11,13. This is a pretty significant result for me, demonstrating how far Portillo has come in the past year. Its also another early loss for Horn on the season, who now in four events has lost in the 32s twice and the 16s once. Reports are that Horn was under the weather, contributing to his loss, and he forfeited out of doubles after this result. – Sebastian Fernandez took out Adam Manilla 8,12. Also a notable result, in that its another 18-yr old taking out a pretty experienced IRT touring pro. Both Portillo and Fernandez are flexing their muscles on tour right now. – Nieto took Jake Bredenbeck to a tiebreaker before falling 11-3. Not a bad result for a kid playing in his age 18 season. – Mauro Daniel Rojas took out veteran Felipe Camacho 11-6 in a breaker. Very good result for Rojas. – In the 15/18 match-up, Robert Collins earned another match against Rocky with a solid 2-game win over Riffel.
In the round of 16… – The highly anticipated match between #1 Alejandro Landa and IRF world Champ Montoya, the fans were not disappointed. Landa came out on top after dropping the first and racing away with the second. Landa dominated the tiebreaker, jumping out to a 9-2 lead, then held on for a 11-6 win. These two matched up in the Mexico City Open in Dec and Montoya came out on top; this time it was Landa. – With his greatest ever IRT victory, Portillo downed #8 seeded Samuel Murray 14,14. – Andree Parrilla held off the other 18U champion in the draw Fernandez, holding on for an 11,13 win. – Kane Waselenchuk left nothing to chance, dominating Bredenbeck 8,3 – Daniel De La Rosa cruised past the youngster Rojas 4,13 – Jose Diaz indeed got the upset of Sebastian Franco in a tie-breaker, continuing his fantastic season. Diaz now has two quarter-final appearances on the new season and is on track to break into the top 8 based on performance. – Alvaro Beltran held off the solid Jansen Allen in a tie-breaker. – Rocky Carson left nothing to chance, giving Collins a donut en route to a 2-game win.
In the Quarters… – Landa pounded the 18U champ Portillo 3,5, ending his tournament quickly. Still, this is easily Portillo’s best ever IRT event (prior career best was a round of 32 exit at the 2017 US Open). – Waselenchuk made quick work of Parrilla, ironically by the same 3,5 score as Landa’s win. Kane’s serves were just outstanding, Parrilla could do little with his match all night, and to add insult to injury Kane hit splats from down the line positions at 39 feet and rolled out between-the-legs shots. Just unfair. – DLR outlasted Diaz in a back and forth tiebreaker. – Carson got revenge and came from a game down to beat Beltran.
In the Semis: – Kane gave #1 Landa a donut before he caught his breath, then outlasted him in the second to advance to the final 0,9. – DLR won a fantastic 11-10 tiebreaker over Rocky Carson, a scintillating match where each player had multiple shots at match point.
In the Final, DLR was making shots and was pressing Kane most of the way, but in a common refrain Kane controlled the end game like a chess master, and quickly turned a game that was close up until the 8-8 or 10-10 range into a 15-8 or 15-10 game win. DLR tried some unconventional (to say the least) tactics to try to throw Kane’s service game off, to some success it should be said, and really experimented with his service game, but it was to no avail. A sharp Kane and concrete walls proved to be unstoppable.
——————- In the doubles draw, it came down to #1 vs #2. In the end, DLR rebounded from his singles loss to team with Beltran to top #2 seeded Landa/Murray in two straight. These two teams are separating themselves this year, playing together nearly every event and making a name for themselves (along with the Kane/Ben Croft team) as the best in the world.
We have a rare break in the schedule; nothing on the books for the weekend of 1/13/19. But the following weekend we have the great annual Lewis Drug Pro-Am in South Dakota and the equally good Longhorn Open in Austin. I’ll publish some content in the interim related to some new reports and bug fixes i’ve been working on.
Happy New Year. Just as the hangovers from NYE have abated, we’re back in action on the IRT for one of the tour’s biggest annual stops; the 2019 California Open, held in Canoga Park, CA.
37 Pros are entered, a 20% increase over last year at this event and continuing a healthy trend of improved IRT event participation over the past year and a half of tourneys. There’s also some surprise entrants to this event thanks in part to RYDF sponsorships for distant players.
Top 20 players missing: #9 Mario Mercado didn’t make the cross-country trip. #13 Charlie Pratt continues to be a part-time tour player and also didn’t make the long trip. #16 Thomas Carter misses his first event in a while. So just 3 of the top 20 missing.
Lets preview the qualifying and draw.
Notable Round of 64 matches: – Diego Garcia Quispe vs Eduardo Portillo Rendon; a fun match-up of the current reigning 18U World Junior champ and 16U World Junior Champ. I think you have to favor the older player. Bummer these two guys couldn’t go against more established tour players to see how far they’ve advanced. – Mauro Daniel Rojas vs Dane Elkins: Northern California versus Southern California, and even though Elkins has the home town advantage Rojas advances here. – Felipe Mercado Sandy vs Felipe Camacho; notable in that I believe this is the first time two players named “Felipe” have met on tour. I might be wrong though. Advantage Camacho here. – John Wolfe vs Erick Cuevas; an interesting match-up of two frequent IRT tour players; this is a good opportunity for both to get a tour win. – Luis R Avila – Nick Riffel; an interesting contrast in styles, as Avila (reigning WOR outdor 3-wall champ) faces off against one of the newer IRT touring regulars.
Possible round of 32s to watch for: – #16 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #17 Rodrigo Montoya Solis; tough draw for Gerardo Franco here, running into the reigning World Champ Montoya, who enters an IRT event for just the 6th time in the last three seasons. – #9 David Horn vs Portillo: Horn is the highest ranked player who has to play an extra match and gets a tough but winnable match-up against the quickly improving Portillo. I think Horn still advances here. – Sebastian Fernandez vs Adam Manilla; fun match-up between the 18U Junior World runner-up in Fernandez and recent Intercollegiate champ Manilla, who has been playing tough on tour this year. Advantage Manilla. – Rojas vs Camacho; excellent match to see if Rojas can take the next step, heading up against the veteran Camacho, who is a tough out. – Robert Collins vs Riffel: Collins, who is coming off a great tourney where he took Rocky to a tie-breaker, gets another shot to qualify for a main draw against Riffel. Expect a close match.
Projecting the 16s. Lots of play-in matches, but here’s how I’m seeing the round of 16 playing out. – #1 Alejandro Alex Landavs #17 Montoya. Landa is the one who gets screwed by Montoya’s presence, having to play him in the 16s instead of the semis or finals of an event. For those of you who saw my personal top 50, you know that I think these two are neck and neck. Montoya beat him a couple weeks ago, and I like Montoya again here, paving the way for him to make a semi final on the weekend. But expect a battle; Landa doesn’t generally lose easily or quickly. – #8 Samuel Murray vs #9 Horn: Horn beat Sam the only time they met before (April 2018), but I like Murray’s form over Horn’s right now. – #5 Andree Parrilla vs Manilla: Parrilla should advance here, unless he’s looking ahead at his potential quarter final opponent. – #4 Kane Waselenchuk vs #13 Jake Bredenbeck; an interesting match up for Kane, who goes against the guy who gave him his most recent on-the-court (albeit still involving an injury forfeit) loss. Jake beat Kane in May 2016 in a 5th game default. I wonder if Kane will want to “make amends” here. – #3 Daniel De La Rosa vs Rojas: DLR gets started against the hard-hitting youngster, but controls the game as he is apt to do and advances. – #6 Sebastian Franco vs #11 Jose Diaz; hard one to predict here; we know Franco has been nursing an injury and that Diaz has been playing well. I’ll go with Diaz in an upset here. – #7 Alvaro Beltran vs #10 Jansen Allen; Jansen has beaten Alvaro the last couple times they’ve played on tour … but they havn’t met since Nov 2017. Beltran has had the break to rest up from his typically busy playing schedule and he made the final of the last IRT event, so i’ll give him the nod here. – #2 Rocky Carson vs Collins: Collins gets a re-match of the round of 16 match from last IRT event; Carson still advances.
Projecting the Quarters: it could be a fun event: – Montoya-Murray: they’ve met in the past; Murray beat Montoya at the Lewis Drug event last year. So this is not a cut and dried mach. But for me, Montoya is hot and moves on. – Parrilla-Kane: last time they met was in the semis of the US Open, where Kane won 3,12. Parrilla is a tough out, and can make life miserable for even the likes of Kane. I’d expect another similar match, where one of the two games goes long. – DLR vs Diaz: they last met in the qtrs of the US Open, a two game win for DLR 10,9. I’d expect a similar result here. – Carson vs Beltran: these guys have met 48 times on the IRT so far, i think they’ll meet again. They met in the semis of the Portland event and Alvaro advanced in a testy tiebreaker. I’ll gamble and predict he wins again.
Semis: – Montoya – Kane: this would be my ideal semi; these guys have met twice, most recently in a very anticipated 2017 season opener that was won by Kane by the lopsided score of 1,0,3 but which also high-lighted what could be for the back end of IRT tourneys if we could get Montoya playing more frequently. – DLR-Beltran: another match-up between best buddies and doubles partners. They met in Portland and Beltran dominated him … but then DLR turned around and won the Mexican Open in a draw that featured every top Mexican player (including Beltran) in the game today. I’ll go with DLR here.
Final: Kane over DLR.
——————– There’s a solid Doubles draw: 10 teams. I like the #1 vs #2 teams to meet (DLR/Beltran and Landa/Murray), but wouldn’t count out the #4 team of Diaz/Jake to make some noise.