IRT Syosset Tier 1 Preview

IRT back in action.

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.

R2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30716

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.

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In the round of 64:
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís versus 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 Chavez appears 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.

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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.

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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 Landa vs #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.

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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.

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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.

Follow the IRT on facebook and sign up for live video feeds.

Battle of the Alamo IRT Tier 4 and Mixed Pro Doubles wrap-up

Natera the double winner on the weekend in San Antonio.

It was quite a busy weekend for pro racquetball. A 35-man IRT tier 1 draw in Florida was actually missing a slew of quality players, who opted mostly to stay closer to home and compete in the IRT tier 4 draw held in conjunction with the LPRT Battle at the Alamo event in San Antonio, TX.

Because of the quality of the event, and the solid mixed pro doubles event, I thought i’d do a quick review of the draws here.

A note: we do not load lower IRT tier events into the database, but as a fan of the game here’s a draw review.

r2 sports IRT draw: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/drawsOut/view-bracket.asp…

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A 15-man pro draw; here were the notable results round by round.

In the 16s:
– Erik Garcia won a rematch of the USAR intercollegiate finals earlier this month, topping Texan Alejandro Almada in a tiebreaker. 
Alejandro Alex Cardona whitewashed the youngster Sebastian Longoria 0,0. Sebastian Longoria is playing in his age 17 season, while Cardona is one of the top 15-20 players in the world, so this is hopefully a good learning experience for Sebastian.

In the Quarters:
– #1 seed Gerardo Franco Gonzalez beat #9 seed A.J. Fernandez 4,5.
– #5 Seed Garcia got a very solid win over #4 Ernesto Ochoa in a tiebreaker. I have Ochoa in my top 30, and Garcia just took a big step up based on this win and his performance against Rocky Carson at qualifiers in Feb.
– Perpetually under-seeded Alan Natera Chavez took out #3 Javier Estrada7,7. Natera has wins over Javier Mar and Rodrigo Montoya in the past year and has made the semis of Mexican Nationals two years running … but has never appeared in a Tier 1 IRT event and thus has no points. 
– #7 seed Cardona topped #2 seed, IRT regular Nick Riffel11 and 12. A tough first match-up for Riffel in this event, coming up against the two-time WRT tour winner.

In the semis:
– #1 Franco topped Garcia 3,7, ending the collegiate champ’s run.
– #6 Natera squeaked by Cardona 11-10 in the breaker, probably a good indicator of where both players are right now. I think its probably fair to say the bottom half of this draw was more challenging than the top.

In the final, Natera defended his San Antonio title by wiping out Gerardo Franco 10 and 5. A solid weekend of victories over world top 30 players for Natera, who continues to impress.

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Mixed Pro Doubles.

Interestingly, the LPRT didn’t play ladies pros and instead opted for Mixed Pro doubles. So there was a solid draw of 14 Mixed pro teams that included most of the top LPRT pros playing with (primarily) the Mexican traveling pro players.

In the final, Paola Longoria teamed with Gerardo Franco to face Montse Mejia, who was playing Natera. Mejia and Natera came out on top, making Natera the double winner on the weekend.

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International Racquetball Tour LPRT USA Racquetball Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol

2019 32nd Pan American Championships Preview

Landa is the #1 Men’s seed.

visit www.internationalracquetball.com to follow along Mens and Womens, Singles and Doubles draws. Follow the IRF on facebook for live streaming as Tim Baghurst has flown down to the tourney to provide streaming commentary all week.

The time has come for the first big International Racquetball Federationevent of 2019; the 32nd annual Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC). This event was first held in 1986 in San Jose, Costa Rica and was initially known as the “Tournament of the Americas.” The initial tournament results have been lost to the wind as we can find no records for it. But, nearly every year since the tourney has moved around North and South America.

The tournament skipped a couple of years when Racquetball was included into the Pan Am Games (but, not this year), and skipped one year in 2000 when civil unrest in the host country rose up, but otherwise has been an annual event that has done a great job of introducing top players to the scene who don’t normally travel to the states to play domestic IRT events.

Here’s a list of Men’s PARC singles winners: http://rball.pro/347FCD , and here’s a list of past Women’s PARD singles winners: http://rball.pro/FEBF4E

Women’s #1 Paola Longoria has 7 career PARC titles … but has lost to long-time rival Rhonda Rajsich a few times in this event (including the last two finals). The Men’s singles draw has been an interesting competition over the years, with 9 different players winning the last 10 titles. There’s plenty of opportunity this year, with 3 past champions in the men’s draw plus both the losing American finalists in the last two iterations.

The competition features days of round robins that are seeded, then the competition is re-seeded for the knockouts. Players are seeded not by individual accomplishment but by past country performance.

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Singles draw previews

The top 8 seeds on the Men’s side are:
1. Alejandro Alex Landa; the reigning Mexican champ and 2017 PARC winner.
2.  David Horn, the 2018 USA National Champion
3. Alvaro Beltran, the 2019 Mexican National finalist and a 3-time PARC winner
4. Charlie Pratt, who made the semis of 2018 USA Nationals and the finals of the qualifier held at national doubles earlier this year to earn his spot. Pratt’s seeding has been done no favors as he has current IRT top 10 pro Mario Mercado in his round robin grouping, seeded 13th here.
5. Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo is seeded 5th as Bolivia’s #1 player; Moscoso just won the Bolivian Open Grand Slam and beat a couple of the players seeded above him here and is clearly a threat to win his first major international title.
6. Samuel Murray is seeded 6th as the clear #1 Canadian male, having swept Canadian qualifiers leading up to this event.
7. Carlos Keller is seeded 7th; he’s Bolivia’s #2 but is also the reigning champion of this event, having beaten Horn in the 2018 final.
8. Canadian Coby Iwaasa is the 8th seed; he was the losing finalist to Murray in the last three major Canadian singles events.

We won’t do predictions until the knockout draw is announced … but if these seeds hold we stand to have some really good quarter final matches throughout.

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On the Women’s side, the top 8 seeds are:

1. Montse Mejia, who upset Paola Longoria to take the Mexican Nationals in February and is thus the #1 overall seed. She’s also the reigning 18U junior world champ and could make a statement in this event. Mejia gets LPRT touring vet Adriana Riveros in the group stage.
2. Rhonda Rajsich, still reigning as the USA #1 having won the qualifier and the 2018 US nationals events. Rajsich has Colombian #1 Amaya Cris to deal with in her RR group.
3. Paola Longoria, a 7-time winner here but entering as the Mexican #2 due to her loss to Mejia at Mexican Nats earlier this year. Paola heads up against Maria Jose Vargas (an under-seeded #12 here despite being top 4 on the LPRT and having just won the Bolivian grand slam) right out of the gate.
4. Kelani Lawrence, my fellow Virginian and now unquestioned USA #2 having been a losing finalist to Rajsich in three straight USA qualifying events. She faces a tough RR draw, with Chilean #1 and LPRT top pro Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos in her draw. 
5. Maria Renee Rodríguez slips into the #5 seed thanks to the recent and sudden retirement of former Guatemalan #1 and reigning World Champ Gaby Martinez. For her troubles, she gets LPRT top 10 player Natalia Mendez right out of the gate.
6. Bolivian Junior Valeria Centellas is the 6th seed. She’s the reigning 16U junior champ and was an 11-9 5th game tiebreaker loser at the Bolivian grand slam to eventual titlist Vargas. She has a manageable group though, with her toughest match coming against Canadian #1 Michele Morrissette.
7. Marie Gomar slides into the #7 seed as the Guatemalan #2, and gets #8 seeded Bolivian junior phenom Angelica Barrios right out of the gate. Barrios made the semis of the Bolivian Grand Slam, knocking out two top-10 LPRT players, and can make a deep run here.

Thanks to a really international feel on the LPRT, nearly all the RR groups feature LPRT regulars going at it, and we should see some upsets by seeds before the knockout brackets are set.

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In doubles…there’s 15 Men’s teams competing and there’s probably 5-6 Men’s teams who think they can win this thing, including the reigning Mexican champs Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Javier Mar, plus the just-crowned Bolivian grand slam champs of Moscoso and Roland Keller.

On the women’s side, the dominant Mexican team of Longoria & Samantha Salas Solis are the favorites. we’ll talk more about doubles once the knock out draws are set.

2019 Campeonato Nacional Selectivo (Mexican Nationals) Wrap-up

Montserrat “Montse” Mejia shocks the world and takes the Mexican title over Longoria

Congrats to your 2019 Mexican National Team, set to represent Mexico at both the International Racquetball Federation – IRF major events this year:
– Men Singles Finalists: Alejandro Landa & Alvaro Beltran
– Women Singles finalists: Montserrat Mejia & Paola Longoria
– Men’s Doubles champions: Rodrigo Montoya & Javier Mar
– Women’s Doubles champions: Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas

Click here for the R2sports home page for the event: http://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30505 .

If you missed any of the matches, follow “RKT” on Facebook and they did a fantastic job of streaming throughout the weekend.

And see below for links to the match reports for the events within Proracquetballstats.com.

Lets review the event. Below by round are the matches I found interesting, including significant upsets, new champions and other noteworthy results.
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Men’s Singles:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/D38678

In the 32s…there were no major upsets, no amazing #32 over #1 upsets like we’ve seen in the past. Best matches of the round:
– Jaime Martell Neri topped Eduardo Lalo Portillo with a solid 10,7 win to avenge a h2h loss at Monterrey mid last year. 
– Alvaro Beltran cruised by Polo Polito Gutierrez 4,13 to avoid an early upset.
– Gerardo Franco Gonzalez got a solid win, topping the hot Ernesto Ochoa 13,10 for the upset by seed, if perhaps not by talent.

In the 16s…
– #1 seed Daniel De La Rosa overcame a slow start to get past Rodolfo Esparza 12,8.
– 2-time WRT champ #9 seed Alejandro Alex Cardona pasted Sebastian Fernandez 6,4 to advance to the quarters. This result surprised me; usually 8/9 match-ups are close, and Fernandez has a number of solid showings on tour lately while Cardona has stepped back a bit from touring … but this is a dominant win.
– Former world #1 Alex Landa cruised by the over-seeded Christian Longoria9,6 to setup an excellent quarters match with Mar.
– #4 Seed Javier Mar blew out #13 seeded Martell in the first, but then it turned into the close match we expected and he held on for the win 2,(14), 7
– #14 Beltran, as under-seeded in this draw as Landa, was calm and collected while controlling his match against #3 Andree Parrilla, advancing in two games that probably weren’t as close as the scores suggest (8,13).
– #22 seed Gerardo Franco beat #6 seed Javier Estrada 11-10 in a marathon match that featured the players diving on nearly every point. Two really solid wins in a row for Franco here over two solid players.
– #10 seed Alan Natera Chavez saved match point against and advanced over #7 seeded Edson Martinez in another 2-hour marathon (9),14,6.
– Reigning World Champ and #2 seed Rodrigo Montoya Solis raced past the veteran Javier Moreno 3,4.

Quarter final seeds: #1, #2, #4 … then #9, #10, #12, #14, and #22. When 5 of your top 8 seeds fall, you know the seeds were out of whack.

In the Quarters:
– #1 DLR had to work for it, topping #9 Cardona in a drawn-out tiebreaker. Final score: 12,(13),3. A solid tourney for Cardona, who has really limited his tourney playing schedule lately but looked great this weekend.
– #12 Landa played a complete game and advanced over #4 seed Javier Mar in two straight games. Landa was in control throughout, was playing his typical crisp shots and Mar could do little to turn the tides. I predicted Landa to fall at this gate, the third tourney in a row where i’ve called for his upset early. From now on, i’ll take the opposite of what I think for Landa predictions 🙂
– #14 Beltran played his typical controlled match and outlasted #22 Gerardo Franco 8,13. Beltran has really played well so far this event, playing smart, controlling racquetball and outlasting younger and (perhaps) better players.
– In the upset of the event, #10 Natera topped #2 seed and presumptive favorite to return to the finals for the 3rd major Mexican Singles event in a row Rodrigo Montoya 9,9. This marks the second National singles finals in a row that Natera has made the semis in, both times as a drastic underdog and with significant wins over major players. If you’ve never heard of Natera it is understandable; he has yet to play in a single IRT event.

Montoya’s loss means that Mexico will have a new singles representative in this year’s PanAms/Pan Am Games, and that Montoya will not have a chance to defend his 2018 World title in the next set of international events.

So your semis are #1, … and #10, #12 and #14 seeds. Mexican Nats always seems to bring out the upsets.

In the Semis…
– #12 Landa was in control from the start and never seemed in jeopardy of losing to his long-time rival #1 De La Rosa, hitting shot after shot and advancing 11,10. Landa improves to 7-5 in all top-level competitions against DLR. Landa returns to the finals for the first time since 2017, and returns to the Mexican National team for the first time since he won the 2017 PARC tournament.
– #14 Beltran dominated his semis match against upset-minded #10 Natera, advancing to his first Mexican final since 2015. This will also be the first time he has represented Mexico in singles since that 2015 year, where he made the quarters of PARC and the finals of the Pan Am Games.

So the final ends up being the #12 and #14 seeds, ironically the two players I called out as being most under-seeded in this event in the preview. Coincidentally, if you’re wondering how i’d have seeded this draw, I’d have gone DLR, Montoya, Landa, Parrilla, Beltran, Mar, Cardona, Natera. Maybe we’d still have the same final, maybe not. The top three guys in Mexican racquetball all seem capable of beating each other week in, week out.

In the Final, Landa controlled his long-time rival Beltran, dominating in the final for (what I believe is) his first Mexican National title 8,7.

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Women’s Singles:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/A54C5B

In the 16s… a couple of notable matches:
– #9 Ana Laura Flores raced past #8 seed Erin Rivera 11,3.
– In her return to the court after 8 months off, #5 Jessica Leona Parrilla split two games with her fellow LPRT touring pro (and drastically under-seeded) Alexandra Herrera before running out of gas and falling in a tie-breaker 13,(11),0.
– #13 Montserrat Perez waxed #4 Diana Aguilar 10,3, and in doing so confirmed that the 5/12 and 4/13 match-ups probably should have been reversed seed-wise

In the Quarters:
– #1 Paola Longoria dominated the youngster lefty #9 Flores 7,2
– #12 Herrera cruised past #13 Perez in two 11,5
– #6 Monste Montse Mejia got one of the best wins of her career, coming back from a game down to move past #3 Nancy Enriquez (10),4,6. 
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis advanced past the veteran #7 Susana Acosta in two 7,2

So your semis seeds are #1, #2, #6 and #12. Not too bad, since the #12 seed probably should have been the #4 seed.

In the Semis, we saw a couple of regular LPRT match-ups:
– #1 Longoria waxed #12 Herrera 4,3. They’ve played 12 times (10 times on the LPRT) and Longoria has now won all 12. Longoria returns to the Mexican National team in search of extending her current IRF title record of 17 international titles. She’ll get two more shots in 2019.
– #6 Mejia got her second major upset in a row, downing #2 Salas in relative ease 11,4. This was a rematch of last year’s quarters, a close Salas win, and now Mejia has earned her first Adult national team appearance.

In the Final, Mejia shocked the racquetball world and took out the world #1 Longoria in two games 8,14. She accomplished the unique task of defeating the #1, #2 and #3 players in the draw on the weekend, and now holds simultaneously both the Adult and 18U Mexican National titles.

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Men’s Doubles:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/DBA748

A huge upset in the semis, when the #4 team of Landa/Cardona upset the reigning pro and world champion #1 seeded team of DLR/Beltran, knocking them out of the international events for 2019. On the other side, the #2 team of Montoya/Mar fought off the tough #3 team of Parrilla/Martinez to play for the National team berth.

In the final: the two teams traded games before Montoya/Mar caught fire in the tie-breaker to win 11-0 and clinch their first national doubles title and berths in Columbia & Peru later this year.

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Women’s Doubles:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/81F0A4

The semis went according to seeding, though the #2 team of Longoria/Salas was taken to tiebreaker by the young Rivera/Perez team before advancing. The #1 defending champs Herrera//Mejia fought off the #4 team of Parrilla/Enriquez 11,12 to advance to the final to defend their title and national team berth.

In that final, Longoria/Salas got revenge for last year’s finals defeat and took out the #1 seeds 13,5 to clinch the IRF berths for 2019.

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That’s it. Thanks for reading, another fun event.

2019 Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Campeonato Nacional Selectivo (Mexican Nationals) Preview

DLR is your #1 seed and the favorite in both Singles and Doubles this weekend.

Home page for the event: http://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30505

Current RKT Rankings used (I believe) to seed the event: https://www.fmr.mx/ranking-rkt

This is the singular tournament (at least as far as I read the website) that will determine Mexico’s team that will play both the Pan Am Racquetball championships in Columbia in April and the Pan Am Games in Peru in August. Both singles finalists and the winning doubles team will represent the country. So this is a pretty big event for Mexican players.

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This is one of my favorite tourneys of the year to cover. We generally get the full force of the current state of Mexican racquetball in one place, all competing to represent the country at future International Racquetball Federation – IRF events. It isn’t like International Racquetball Tour events, where several of the top Mexican players rarely play, and it isn’t like the World Racquetball Tour where the top Mexicans committed to the IRT cannot play. Its everybody.

The Men’s draw features 34 players this year, and it is a who’s who of Mexican male singles players. The only men missing from my personal top 50 I see are Eduardo & Rodrigo Garay and Jordy Alonso. Even Javier Moreno came out of “retirement” to play the singles draw.

As always with Mexican National events, I find myself questioning the seeding. The Men’s draw is seeded 1-4 DLR, Montoya, Parrilla, Mar, which is fine and defend-able based on talent, past results and the RKT rankings. But 5-8 goes Longoria, Estrada, Martinez and Fernandez. That is the 11th, 9th, 13th and 7th ranked players by RKT. Meanwhile clearly superior players like Landa and Beltran are in the teens, and other players currently in RKT top 8 are nowhere to be found. This really makes no sense to me. And, it makes for unfair matches early on. And, I’d like to point out, it goes directly against the claim on the FMR website that they use the RKT rankings for “seeding of nationals.”

The Women’s draw is similarly stacked; it features every LPRT touring professional ranked in the top 30. The big news is the return to the court of Jessica Leona Parrilla, who has been recovering from injury since damaging her knee ligaments last June. She’s back after “only” 8 months recovery, so I’d temper expectations, but she is playing doubles with her regular partner Nancy Enriquez (who she was on the court with competing when she injured herself). The seeding is more or less accurate, with a couple of oddities: why is Herrera, current ranked 3rd in the world, seeded 12th?? And, i’m not sure how Diana Aguilar is seeded 4th. But lets move on.

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Here’s a preview of the Men’s Singles Draw:

In the 32s, matches to look for:
– Right out of the gate, #1 seed Daniel De La Rosa gets a solid match, going up against accomplished junior Juan Loreto (if Loreto can win the play-in of course).
– The best round of 32 match projects to be Eduardo Lalo Portillo vs Jaime Martell Neri. Both players are relatively under-seeded (13th and 20th) based on their accomplishments (world 18U junior reigning champ and current WRT #1). In talent rankings i’ve got these two neck and neck; this should be a really entertaining match.
– Another too-early match-up of talented veterans is the 14/19 match-up between Alvaro Beltran and Polo Polito Gutierrez. This was the Mexican National singles FINAL in 2014, and now its a round of 32 match. They’ve met 7 times that I have in the databases, and Beltran has won every time. Polo has essentially retired from pro playing at this point, while Beltran continues to tour and make the back ends of IRT events. I’m going with Beltran here.
Ernesto Ochoa vs Gerardo Franco Gonzalez. Another excellent 1st round match-up between two talented players. I have Franco slightly higher in my personal rankings, but believe Ochoa can win this and advance based on his past results. This will be a dog-fight.

In the 16s, the match-ups get even better:
– #8 Sebastian Fernandez vs #9 Alejandro Alex Cardona. Two-time WRT champ Cardona has really slowed down his tourney schedule lately, with just a handful of events in the last two years. Meanwhile Fernandez has rebounded from his 18U World junior finals loss to get some really solid wins on the IRT. I favor Fernandez slightly, though wouldn’t be surprised at all if Cardona went on a run. 
– #12 Alejandro Alex Landa faces #5 Christian Longoria, in a case where really the two seeds should have been switched. Longoria is a solid young player, but should prove no match for two-time IRT tourney winner Landa.
– #4 Javier Mar vs #13 Portillo: Assuming Lalo gets by Martell, the enigmatic Mar awaits. Mar entered the 2018 Mexican Nationals as the defending champ and #1 seed … and was promptly beaten in the round of 32. In more recent events he played Kane Waselenchuk as tough as he’s been played lately, losing at the US Open 12,10 and won the 2019 Longhorn Open. Mar and Portillo have met a couple times in top-level events … but they’re long enough ago that they’re relatively meaningless. Portillo should give Mar a run for his money but should fall here.
– #3 Andree Parrilla vs #14 Beltran; another too-early match-up of (arguably) two of the best six players in this draw. Parrilla has been on fire this season in the IRT, projecting to easily finish in the top 8. Beltran meanwhile keeps hanging on and is also holding onto that top 8 ranking. They’ve met 7 times in my database: Beltran holds the advantage 4-3 AND won their most recent meeting … but this seems like a Parrilla win. I sense that Beltran’s much more interested in winning the doubles at this event and may be distracted in singles.
– #6 Javier Estrada vs #11 Ochoa; this could be an awesome match: I have these two neck and neck in my personal rankings. Ochoa has wins in the last year over Parrilla, Beltran and Mar, and was beating Montoya in Sonora when Montoya went down with injury. Estrada meanwhile has wins over Landa, Beltran, Cardona, and has played Montoya tough. Both players have the capability to win a stacked event … but only one can advance. Advantage slightly to Estrada here.
– #10 Alan Natera Chavez vs #7 Edson Martinez; Natera came out of nowhere as the #32 seed in last year’s event to advance to the semis, beating Mar, Longoria and Franco along the way. Martinez was a semi finalist in this event in both 2014 and 2015, but has not come close to repeating that performance since. I give the edge to Natera here.
– #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solis should advance easily over #18 Javier Moreno.

Projecting the Quarters:
– #1 DLR over #8 Fernandez: they play similar games … but DLR plays it a lot better right now. 
– #4 Mar vs #12 Landa: This is a rematch of the 2017 Mexican Men’s final, won by Mar in a tiebreaker 11-7. Its the only time i’ve got these two playing in the database. Since ascending to #1 on the IRT, Landa has struggled; in 5 IRT events this season he’s got two semis, two quarters and one round of 16 loss (to Montoya in a tough seeding match-up). Landa also has a recent history of getting upset early in these events: he lost in the 16s of this event last year to Martell, and in the 16s of the Worlds selection event last June to Estrada. I’m going with Mar here, but it’ll be a marathon.
– #3 Parrilla takes out #6 Estrada; I like Estrada’s game, but don’t think he can match-up with the grinding capabilities of Parrilla.
– #2 Montoya takes out #10 Natera. Same story; while I like where Natera’s game is, Montoya is one of the sport’s elites right now.

Semis:
– DLR over Mar: this would be a rematch of the 2016 Mexican Nationals final, a straight-forward two game win by DLR. Mar may play with more power, but DLR can and will out control the match throughout, and can match Mar shot for shot. For Mar to win this game, he needs to be more perfect than DLR typically is.
– Montoya over Parrilla; these two have plenty of experience playing each other; they’re the same age, and battled all throughout juniors. On the adult/pro stage, this is a rematch of last year’s semis (a 2-game Montoya win). Montoya leads h2h over time and has won the last couple times they’ve played, and advances here.

Final: DLR beats Montoya. A rematch of both the 2018 Mexican Nationals final (a Montoya win), the 2018 Mexican Worlds selection event (a DLR win), and more recently, the semis of the 2019 IRT Lewis Drug Pro-Am event (a DLR blow-out win), these two continue to show why they’re the top two seeds. The problem is … no matter who wins this final, both players advance to the international events, so sometimes we see players cruise through the final knowing they’ve guaranteed their national team spots. This could especially be the case here, since both of these players project to make the doubles finals and have the chance to double-represent the country. I think, when the chips are down, DLR is the better player and his on-the-court results generally prove it.

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Here’s a preview of the Women’s Singles Draw and matches to look for.

In the 16s, we have tough matches right out of the gate:
– In the 8/9: two young players face off in Ana Laura Flores and Erin Rivera. Flores still has a year in 18U (I believe), while Rivera made the finals of Mexican 18U in 2018 in her last year of competition. When Rivera couldn’t travel to 2018 junior worlds, Flores took her place and made it to the semis. But I don’t have them ever having played in my records. I’ll go with Flores, based on her recent LPRT wins.
– #5 Parrilla vs #12 Alexandria Herrera: poor seeding makes a semis-quality match-up happen here, even more unfortunate for Parrilla in her first event back. Herrera has gotten the better of Parrilla on the pro tour the last couple times they’ve played and I’ll favor her in this match as well.
– #4 Diana Aguilar vs #13 Montserrat Perez: perhaps a reader can help here: how exactly is Aguilar seeded 4th here? I don’t have her entered into a Mexican National singles event since 2014. Is this a typo and should be Delia Aguilar? I’m not sure who wins this match: both players are young and seem to be in the same age group; they’ve met for the finals of multiple Mexican junior championships, always won by Aguilar, so I’ll give her the nod here.

In the quarters:
– #1 Paola Longoria faces the lefty Flores and should advance easily.
– #12 Herrera should overpower the youngster Aguilar.
– #3 Nancy Enriquez faces #6 Montse Mejia in an interesting battle of youth and experience. Mejia, the reigning 18u Mexican and junior world champ, has not played since her Nov 2018 worlds triumph. Meanwhile, Enriquez has been busy making the back ends of LPRT events. Mejia has shown she can take games off of the world’s best; can she string together a complete match against a tough player? I’ll give Enriquez the edge in a tiebreaker.
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis faces off against long time adversary Susana Susy Acosta. This is a rematch of the semis of the 2016 Nationals, a Salas win then, and another in this event.

Projected Semis:
– Longoria over Herrera: this is a rematch of last year’s semis too. They’ve met 11 times in all formats, all 11 Paola wins.
– Salas over Enriquez: this would also be a rematch of last year’s semis. Enriquez does have some wins over Salas in their career (she topped Samantha for the 2005 Junior world title for example), but Salas has dominated otherwise.

Finals: Longoria over Salas. They’ve met 58 times across pro tours, Mexican national events that I have records for, and international events. Longoria is 55-3 in that time. These two have also met in 5 of the 6 LPRT pro events so far this season … all Paola wins as well. Its possible Salas pulls the upset, but not likely. Look for Paola to take her 6th Mexican national singles title (that we have records for … she likely has many more but we have no records for anything prior to 2014. If you’re reading this FMR; i’d love to get access to your past records and enter them into the PRS database!)

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They’re also playing doubles in Chihuahua with all the best teams playing together. Here’s how I think they’ll end up.

Men’s Doubles: 15 teams battling it out, but its hard not to go with 1 vs 2 again, in a rematch of last year’s Nationals final. The DLR/Beltran team is the best in the world and have proven it time and again (at the US Open, at Worlds, etc). The #2 seed Mar/Montoya is no slouch though, and they’ll both have their hands full with excellent #3 and #4 teams in Parrilla/Martinez and Landa/Cardona respectively.

Javier Moreno, who holds the Men’s record for most international doubles titles, is not entered, so he does not have an opportunity to extend that record 🙂

Women’s Doubles: the dominant team of Longoria/Salas was upset in the final of the 2018 worlds selection event and hence are the #2 seeds here. I wouldn’t count on another upset. I think Longoria/Salas take this draw, beating all comers. The interesting part may be their finals opponents: Parrilla/Enriquez were beating the #1 seeded Herrera/Mejia team in last year’s selection event before defaulting due to Parrilla’s injury; if Parrilla can compete, this may result in a new finals pair.

(Notable; there was not a 2018 National doubles final in the database for Mexico … the event was cancelled/not held during last year’s nationals).

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Phew, that’s it for the preview. Can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

WRT Longhorn Open Wrap-Up

Mar takes the Longhorn Open.

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

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

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

Lets review the draw.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 WRT Longhorn Open Preview

Javier Mar could make some waves in Austin this weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final: Mar over Martell.

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

PRS Current top 50 Men’s World Rankings

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

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

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

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

I hope you enjoy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abierto Mexicano de Raquetbol 2018 Preview

There’s a break in the pro schedule this weekend. That wasn’t always meant to be the case, as this weekend’s huge tournament in San Nicholas (Monterrey), Mexico was initially scheduled to be an IRT event. The RKT/Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol and the IRT parted organizational ways … but the event is still huge. There’s a 32-man Open draw that’s a literally who’s who of Mexican racquetball today.

Just about the only top Mexican players I don’t see here is Ernesto Ochoa, who’s been red-hot this year with a bunch of good wins, and the Garay brothers.

Here’s the r2sports link: http://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=29995

Here’s a preview of the draw, which I’m really looking forward to:

First, a comment on the seeding. Much like the IRT has to go with its ranking system to seed tournaments, the RKT/FMR is clearly using its own internal country ranking system to seed this event. The top 2 seeds are also the finalists from the Worlds selection event in June, and the rest of the top 8 seems to be drawn from either that event or Mexican Nationals from February. That means that current IRT #1 Alex Landa is seeded a ridiculous #13, and the finalist from last weekend’s IRT event Alvaro Beltran is an even more ridiculous #27. But it also means we have pretty compelling matches from the round of 32 on-wards.

Here’s some round of 32 matches to watch for:
Polo Polito Gutierrez goes against Juan Loreto. Gutierrez in his prime was one of the most dangerous players in the world, routinely making waves in the few IRT events he entered. He’s back from an elbow injury and is always a threat to advance deep into a draw.
– Sebastian Franco versus Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; they’ve met four times in pro events that I track so they have some familiarity. Franco is in-arguably a top 8 player in the world, won an IRT event last year .. and is the #19 seed here. Tough draw for Gerardo Franco in the opener.
– Beltran versus Javier Estrada; easily the best match of the first round. Estrada made semis of Mexican Nationals in 2017, beat Landa in Worlds selection event in 2018, played Montoya tough the last couple times they’ve played .. he’s a darn good player. Despite the star power, this would not be a huge upset if Estrada beats Beltran here. Unfortunately this is a quarters match, not a round of 32. I’ll give it to Beltran, given how he played last weekend in Portland.
Daniel Neri vs Erick Cuevas Fernandez; 15/18 match-ups are always fun and this one could be tight. I’ll give the slight nod to Neri.
– Daniel De La Rosa goes up against Jordy Alonso in the opener, a tough draw for Mr. Alonso.

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Projections for Round of 16 match-ups:
– #1 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #16 Alex Cardona; this is a semis or finals on the WRT but the round of 16 here. Cardona leads h2h 4-2 but they havn’t met in a year. The current World champ Montoya should advance here based on form but i’m sure he’d have hoped for an easier early round match than this.
– #8 Jaime Martell Neri vs #9 Eduardo Lalo Portillo; a fun match between the current world 18U junior champ Portillo and one of the top ranked WRT players who has a WRT win on his 2018 resume. Portillo has the chops to win this match, having taken out top WRT pros in the past. Martell has been playing solid in non-pro events lately, making the finals in San Antonio last weekend. I’ll go with the youngster in a tie-breaker.
– #5 Javier Mar vs Polo Gutierrez: wow, what a great match this could be. Contrast in styles: Mar plays a control, tactically focused game while Polo’s unconventional but incredibly accurate swing throws players off. I like the way Mar is playing these days; he looked great against Kane Waselenchuk at the US Open and made two finals in two attempts in big local Mexican events, both times dropping the championship to Montoya. This will be a good test of how far Polo is back from injury.a
– #4 Alan Natera Chavez vs #13 Landa: man, tough match-up for Natera, coming off a nice win in San Antonio last weekend but having to face up against the current #1 ranked player in the world. Natera has literally never played an IRT event, but does have some WRT history and made the semis of Mexican Nationals in February. Landa has had some puzzling losses in big-time Mexican events lately (he lost in the 16s at both Mexican Nats and the Worlds selection event this year) but should win here.
– #3 Andree Parrilla vs Sebastian Franco: they have a couple of meetings h2h but they’re from several years ago. In the meantime, both have become first-time IRT winners. Andree Parrilla has been up and down lately; making the semis of the US Open but then getting upset early at SLP Open in November. I favor Parrilla.
– #6 Estrada/Beltran winner vs Christian Longoria; I think Longoria is an underdog to either player advancing here.
– #7 Sebastian Fernandez versus #10 Edson Martinez; Fernandez was the world junior 18U runner up, capping off a decorated juniors career both domestically and internationally. He also has had a number of sterling wins on both pro tours and is favored here against the mercurial Martinez.
– #2 DLR vs Neri: DLR, unlike a lot of his top-ranked compatriots, gets no surprises in either the 32s or the 16s.

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Projecting the Quarters. I’ll be the first to admit that the above projections may be totally wrong. Mexican events tend to have upsets, crazy upsets. So take the following with a grain of salt.

– #1 Montoya vs #9 Portillo: a meeting of the current reigning World Adult and World Junior champs could await. These two met a few weeks ago in the SLP open and Montoya won handily 2,2. I see another win here for the #1 seed.
– #5 Mar vs #13 Landa: Mar-Landa would be fantastic if it comes to pass. These two met in the finals of the 2017 Mexican Nationals (won by Mar, though Landa then went and won the Pan American Championships later that summer). I like Mar here; he’s in good form and plays Landa well. However, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this was Natera vs Polo. Just a tough quarter.
– #3 Parrilla vs Beltran: Parilla and Beltran have gone back and forth, last meeting in Sarasota in April. I think Parrilla takes this one.
– #2 DLR vs #7 Sebastian Fernandez: They’ve met once, in Mexican nationals in February, a straight-forward DLR win. I like the way DLR is playing (despite his early loss to doubles-partner Beltran in Portland last weekend). DLR in 2.

Semis prediction:
– Montoya over Mar for the 3rd time in the last couple of months
– Parrilla over DLR; they havn’t met in a while, but Parrilla has some wins over DLR in the past.

Final: Montoya over Parrilla; these two have met a number of times over the years, in both juniors and adult competitions. They’re the same rball year, and met in Mexican junior finals in 16U and 18U. Montoya had the early upper-hand, and has taken their matchups as of late. It’d be a great final if it comes to pass, and i’d favor Montoya.

Of course, if the semis were instead Montoya-Landa and DLR-Beltran, it could be a completely different final; I like Landa over Montoya and Beltran over DLR right now, and Landa taking it. These guys all play each other constantly, and there’s a lot of match-up based play.

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Coincidentally, if you had asked me to seed this tourney here’s how I would have seeded it:
– 1-8: Landa, Montoya, DLR, Parrilla, Mar, Beltran, Polo, Sebastian Franco
– 9-16: Natera, Estrada, Cardona, Martell, Gerardo Franco, Portillo, Sebastian Fernandez and Jordy Alonso.

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There is a small Ladies Open event coincidentally; four of the top Mexican women are present and face off in a simple single elimination draw.
– Paola Longoria faces junior world champion Montse Mejia in one semi
– LPRT #4 Alexandra Herrera faces LPRT #6 Nancy Enriquez.

I’ll go with Longoria and Herrera in the final with a Paola win.

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Enjoy the matches! Follow FMR and RKT for streaming, or join the Racquet streaming group that JT Rball does a great job of keeping up to date.

IRT Points System Alternatives

 

Is the current ranking system unfair to Waselenchuk?

On 11/20/18, the 12-month rolling IRT rankings shifted enough points away from last season to account for a pretty monumental set of movements in the rankings table: Alejandro Landa ascended to #1 for the first time ever, while the sports most dominant player Kane Waselenchuk fell to #6.

Kane’s descent was due to two primary factors:

1. he missed a number of events in the second half of the 2017-18 season, and

2. There was a sudden drop in the number of events in the first half of the 2018-19 season.

When the IRT posted the update to facebook, A predictable firestorm of comments arose, criticizing the rankings and the ranking system.  I weighed in, pondering initially why it mattered (other than tourney seeding of course) what the rankings were in November, but many believe a different ranking system is needed.

Here are some Ranking system alternatives with some personal analysis.  I tried to emulate all the solid suggestions on the facebook thread from various players and commenters.  The working spreadsheet is available at Google Spreadsheets here.  I’ll just list the top 10 players ranked though I extended the logic down to the top 20 running players or so throughout the last 2+ seasons.

Important Caveats to the below:

  • I have only included points earned in Tier 1s and Grand Slams.  Some players (especially Landa and Parrilla) in reality have a decent amount more points thanks to success in non-Tier 1 events that still remain on their books.
  • I have also only included the core point totals earned per tournament, not bothering to figure out the slight point additions based on games won for simplicity.  In other words; if you made the semis I gave you 220 points though you may have lost the semis in a breaker and thus really earned 222 or 224 points.
  • There’s a couple of players outside the top 10 with points discrepancies I cannot reconcile with this simplistic logic.  Its likely also due to playing non-tier 1 events.  In the grand scheme of this analysis though, it shouldn’t matter.

Current Ranking System: utilizes a 12-month rolling calendar schedule that expires points the 366th day after the event occurs on an automatic basis.  It also drops all low results to “baseline” the rankings at 9 events.   More is available describing the logic at this IRT link and at the Current online rankings.

The exact rankings as of 11/20/18 that started all of this:

playerPointsRank
Landa, Alejandro2116.31
Carson, Rocky2112.182
De La Rosa, Daniel1986.163
Franco, Sebastian1674.154
Murray, Samuel1628.035
Waselenchuk, Kane1500.426
Mercado, Mario1496.027
Beltran, Alvaro1490.018
Parrilla, Andree1432.159
Allen, Jansen1152.0210

Issue with this system: Kane is too low given he’s currently riding a 66 match winning streak, penalizes players too much for missing time with injury.


Alternative #1: just use Season To Date Rankings.  The current season has had just two events thanks to several events held in the fall of last year falling off the schedule.  The current Season-to-date rankings are:

PlayerPointsRank
Carson, Rocky8401
Waselenchuk, Kane8002
De La Rosa, Daniel6003
Parrilla, Andree5904
Landa, Alejandro5205
Franco, Sebastian5206
Murray, Samuel4807
Mercado, Mario3908
Diaz, Jose3909
Bredenbeck, Jake27010

So, the top of this table looks normal enough: Rocky Carson is above Kane, but Kane missed the first event of the year.   Thanks to a hot start and a semis appearance at the US Open, Andree Parrilla is ranked 4th season-to-date.  Alvaro Beltran, a mainstay in the top 10 for a decade, is nowhere to be seen (he missed the first event, and was upset early in the second event of the season).  Landa drops to #5 here even though he has the most wins on tour outside of Kane in the last two years.

Issue with this system: not enough data, too much recency bias.


Alternative #2: Rank based just on last 9 events played.  This system excludes any missed events and totals the points from the last 9 times the player got on the court.  In some cases, we had to go back to the beginning of the 2016-17 season to get 9 events.

PlayerPointsRank
Waselenchuk, Kane43001
Carson, Rocky24002
Landa, Alejandro23003
De La Rosa, Daniel22304
Franco, Sebastian17605
Parrilla, Andree17406
Pratt, Charlie16707
Murray, Samuel16208
Beltran, Alvaro15409
Mercado, Mario149010

This system obviously shows how dominant Kane is; by giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and removing all their missed events, all players are showing their absolute best possible results.  Two notably high players here are again Parrilla (who we had to dip well into the 2016-17 season to get the 9th played event) and Charlie Pratt, who required us to go back more than two calendar years to find enough played events to qualify.  Even then some top 20 players don’t have 9 events played (specifically guys like Rodrigo Montoya and Javier Mar).

Issues with this system: does not reward “touring” players, over-rewards players who miss a number of events, goes back “too far” to get results in some cases.


Alternative #3:  Just rank based on the last 9 running events, eliminating Calendar dates.

PlayerPointsRank
Carson, Rocky21001
Landa, Alejandro20802
De La Rosa, Daniel19203
Murray, Samuel16204
Franco, Sebastian16105
Waselenchuk, Kane15006
Mercado, Mario14907
Beltran, Alvaro13908
Parrilla, Andree13209
Allen, Jansen117010

This system keeps tournaments hanging on irrespective of the date, so should address the complaints about “not having tournaments to defend points.”  So to get the last 9 running Tier 1s and/or Grand Slams we just sum the points dating back to the 11/2/2017 event.

However, this ranking almost exactly mirrors the Current rankings.  Rocky and Landa are flipped at the top, Sebastian Franco and Samuel Murray are flipped at the 4/5 spot, and Kane is still at #6.   In fact, the players in spots #7 through #18 are also identical in this system to the current 12-month rolling calendar.  Why?  Because all these players are playing nearly all the events, rarely missing events, and thus the point totals are basically the same.

Issue with this system: Does not address the issue; Still penalizes Kane for missing so much time in early 2018.


Alternative #4: Total Points, running 2-year calendar.  This system is basically the same system as is in place now, except it uses a 2-year rolling calendar instead of one.  I dropped each player’s two lowest scores (to emulate dropping just one low score for the current 12-month calendar season) and then ranked them:

Playertotal PointsRank
Carson, Rocky48901
Waselenchuk, Kane47002
Beltran, Alvaro31603
Landa, Alejandro31104
De La Rosa, Daniel27505
Franco, Sebastian25706
Murray, Samuel24907
Parrilla, Andree21908
Mercado, Mario18209
Allen, Jansen157010

I think this is actually a pretty good ranking, taking into account results in events played plus tour event participation.  Rocky is 1, Kane is 2, so Kane’s missed time penalizes him slightly but not overtly so.  Its important to remember, not only did Kane miss the four events to injury in early 2018, he’s also missed four OTHER events in the last two running calendar years for various reasons.  For similar reasons (missed events), both Landa and Parrilla are lower than they might be, while Beltran may be slightly higher than he should be, based on recent rankings.

Issue with this system: none really for me.


Alternative #5: Keeping points for tourneys that drop off Calendar.  Kane noted he’s dropped so far because there’s been a lack of tournaments this fall for him to “defend” points from last season.  So I adjusted the points sums to go back further in time to capture more tournaments.  The numbers below basically are a sum of all points earned from every tournament that happened past the 2017 US Open, totaling 11 events in all:

PlayerPointsRank
Carson, Rocky27001
Landa, Alejandro23002
Waselenchuk, Kane23003
De La Rosa, Daniel22304
Franco, Sebastian19805
Murray, Samuel18606
Beltran, Alvaro16907
Mercado, Mario16408
Allen, Jansen14809
Parrilla, Andree132010

In this system, Rocky is #1, then Kane and Landa are tied for #2 (I put Landa 2nd because throughout all of this Landa has a number of points from non-Tier 1 events that slightly elevate his ranking over his peers).   The rest of the rankings 4-20 more or less mirror the current rankings that expire points after the 365th day.

I like this option too; it seems to address the issue of tournaments falling off the calendar in a rather simple way.

Issue with this system: i’m not sure this system would “protect” any players besides Kane who go out with injury.  Kane wins a lot of points per event played and can “make up” several tournaments worth of points for a normal tour player each time.  If someone ranked in the 10-15 range missed a significant amount of time … they’d be buried in the rankings.


Other Alternatives explored:

  • I looked at average points earned in tournaments for each player for a one-year and two-year rolling period.  The problem with using an average is that missed tournaments basically destroy the average.  Kane ranks just 9th in average tourney points earned in the last calendar year, while Landa drops to 5th if you extend that average to two years.  Both results do not seem valid.

Conclusion: I think the simplest solution may just be to expand the system from a rolling 1-year to a rolling 2-year calendar (Alternative #4).  This will smooth out periods of absence for Kane and reward a longer period of excellence overall.

This suggestion also has the added benefit of representing a simple additional burden on the tour (and John Scott) to maintain.  Any more complex system might be too much of a burden to maintain in an ongoing fashion.

However … I do believe that the end of season rankings should only take into account the points earned in that season.   It would make no sense to have last season’s results impact this season’s end-of-season rankings.  So perhaps this is all just an exercise to find a better “seeding” system that does a better job of smoothing out the rankings to better indicate at any given point in time who is ranked where.  I am not advocating at this time to really change the way the rankings are done for the purposes of declaring a season-ending champ.

If you have different suggestions, I can run other scenarios as well.  Feel free to comment or drop me a line.