In the opening round/Round of 32s, no real surprises. There were 7 matches, and there were 6 three-game wins by higher seeded players. The sole upset was #18 Romina Rivero over #15 Daniela Molina, which earns her a shot at the 2nd seeded player.
In the 16s … a few upsets. – #1 Samantha Salas dropped the first game to Bolivian youngster Micaela Meneses before advancing in four. – #9 Bolivian Yazmine Sabja Aliss put together a solid match, downing #8 Colombian Amaya Cris in three games. – #12 Bolivian Angelica Barrios shocked #5 seeded Nancy Enriquez in three straight 5,6,3. Barrios was the 2017 16U champ and is playing in her age 18 season, and this win avenges a loss Barrios had to Enriquez at the 2018 US Open. – #4 Rhonda Rajsich took out home-town Bolivian veteran Jenny Daza Naviain three straight to move on. – #3 Maria Jose Vargas was stretched to the brink before downing Bolivian 16U world champ Valeria Centellas 11-9 in the 5th. – #6 Natalia Mendez took out Bolivian native Brenda Laime Jalil in three straight forward games. – #10 Masiel Rivera Oporto, Bolivan native now living outside the DC area, avenged a loss earlier this pro season and took out #7 Adriana Riveros in a barn burner 11-9 in the 5th. – #2 Alexandra Herrera downed Bolivian junior Romina Rivero in three.
Before moving on, i wanted to point out the nature of the Bolivian players who advanced into the 16s. Meneses is the 2x defending 14U world champ, playing in her age 15 season. Barrios was the world junior 16U title in 2017 and thus is in her age 18 season. Centellas is the reigning 16U champ and also has one more year in 18s. Rivero was the 14U champ in 2015 and 2016 and thus is in her age 17 season this year. All told including Sabja (world 18U winner in 2009) there’s 5 different former Bolivian junior national champs in this draw.
The future is coming for women’s pros, and its coming from Bolivia.
In the Qtrs, one significant upset: – #1 Salas was taken to the brink against Bolivian #1 Sabja, advancing by the quite-close scores of 10,10,11. There really was not that much between these two players on the day. – #12 Barrios took out her second top seed in as many rounds, defeating Rajsich in four. – #3 Vargas took out her doubles partner #6 Mendez 6,5,4 in the first ever competitive singles meeting between the Argentinian #1 and #2 players. – #2 Herrera dropped the first against Bolivian Rivera, but then took over the match and dominated the rest of the way, advancing in four games (2),6,2,2.
In the Semis: – #1 Salas split games with #12 Bolivian junior Barrios before taking over and cruising to the final in four games. – #3 Vargas looked to be cruising to an easy win, but then dropped games 3 and 4 and barely held on with an 11-9 5th game win over #2 Herrera.
In the Finals, Vargas over came a 2 games to 1 deficit and outlasted Salas with a great comeback, winning 11-9 in the fifth. Vargas wins her 4th pro title of her career and also gives her just her 2nd pro win over Salas in 7 meetings.
——————- On the doubles side, the Argentian #1 team of Vargas & Mendez (both of whom are naturalized Bolivians) outlasted the #1 seed of Salas & Rajsich (playing together for the first time) in the final to take the win and give Vargas the double on the weekend.
My preview was so big, I had to split it up between the IRT and the LPRT so I could keep tagging the players. See the IRT version for the overall history of Raquet Bolivia racquetball and the larger preview for this event.
On the LPRT side, the #1 player Paola Longoria is missing (as per @the racquetball blog & Evan Pritchett reporting; she has a shoulder injury), which robs this event of the ladies #1. Of the remaining top 10, only Frederique Lambertand newly-retired Gaby Martinez are missing. Its such a long flight, such a tough ask of pro players to give up basically a week to compete, that it isn’t terribly surprising that many have opted not to make the trip (especially those with rigid obligations or kids or work commitments). Paola Longoria has such a huge lead on even #2 Salas though that this absence means little for the year end title race. Like with the men, about half of the 23 person ladies pro draw are locals, several of whom will make noise in this draw.
There’s 7 round of 32/play-in matches, mostly featuring all-Bolivian match-ups and the lowest ranking touring LPRT pros.
We start to get fun matches in the 16s: – In the #8/#9 match, a doozy: Yazmine Sabja Aliss vs Cristina Amaya Cris they’ve met three times in international play (all three Sabja wins) and I’m guessing Sabja will ride the home crowd to a win here. – #5 Nancy Enriquez vs #12 Angelica Barrios; they met at the US Open; a four game win for Enriquez. Since that time, Barrios made the semis of World Juniors 18U (losing to eventual champ Montserrat Montse Mejia for the 2nd year running in the semis) and made the round of 16 in Chicago. She’s definitely an up and comer … but probably doesn’t quite yet have the chops to take out Enriquez. – #4 Rhonda Rajsich vs #13 Jenny Daza Navia these two last met at the 2016 worlds, an 11-10 RR win for Rajsich. This is no walk-over for the 4-time pro tour champ. – #3 Maria Jose Vargas vs #14 Valeria Centellas: I don’t expect the 16-yr old to win here, especially given Vargas’ power .. but she could make things interesting. – #7 Adriana Riveros vs #10 Masiel Rivera Oporto; another tough match of regular tour pros; they met at the US Open in October and Riveros took a four game win. I’d expect a closer game here as Rivera plays on her native soil.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Samantha Salas vs #9 Sabja: they played at the 2018 PARCs, an 11,12 win for Salas. I think the pro format may make this a closer match. – #5 Enriquez over #4 Rajsich: Nancy is a bit more rested than Rhonda, who just finished playing a ton of outdoor matches at Beach Bash last weekend. – #3 Vargas over her country-woman #6 Mendez – #2 Alexandra Herrera over Riveros
Semis: Salas over Enriquez, Vargas over Herrera.
Finals: Salas over Vargas.
———— LPRT Doubles
There’s also an 8-team doubles draw that features some interesting match-ups. Current World Doubles champs Sabja & Centellas are seeded last and face off against Salas & Rajsich … who have never played with each other. Because Mejia is missing, Herrera is playing with Enriquez at the #2 seed. The Argentinian National team of Vargas & Mendez is seeded 3rd, while the Colombian #1 team of Amaya/Riveros is 4th.
I think the Bolivian champs can make the final and win this draw over the Argentinians in the final.
Bolivian racquetball burst onto the scenes internationally in 2010, when Ricardo Monroy won the 2010 Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC) topping the #1, #2 and #4 seeds along the way. Fellow Bolivians Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo andCarlos Keller Vargas have since followed-up with significant international results on the Men’s side, with Keller taking the 2018 PARCs and a young Moscoso making the 2014 Worlds final, losing to Rocky Carson.
In the mean-time, the Bolivian juniors are starting to dominate; Bolivians took the 14U and 16U titles at last year’s World Juniors (Luis Antonio Aguilar and Diego Garcia Quispe respectively), and both Bolivian 18U players made the semis before losing to the eventual Mexican finalists. It was a similar story on the Girls side, with Valeria Centellas taking the 16U title while simultaneously holding the World Adult Doubles title with Sabja from last summer. Bolivian junior girls have won 11 world junior titles in the last 5 years, more than any other country.
And now, with the first ever pro stop in Bolivia, nearly every player just mentioned is playing, along with a good collection of traveling IRT and LPRT regulars. In addition, we get a few South American regular internationals plus a good chunk of the Guatemalans who were in Chicago two weeks ago.
All told; this tournament has a reported 359 total participants, including equally massive Men’s Skill divisions and a ton of juniors playing. Bravo to the community to make this such a huge hit.
Lets get to the draws. —————
On the IRT side; half the current top 10 did not make the trip; Kane Waselenchuk could have basically sewn up the 2018-19 IRT title with a win in Cochabamba but chose to stay with family. Daniel De La Rosa, Samuel Murray, Sebastian Franco and Jose Diaz also miss the event out of the current IRT top 10, leaving a relatively wide-open field and a pretty solid opportunity for Carson in particular to put himself back in the driver’s seat for the year end IRT title. Rocky will return to #1 with at least a finals appearance, and DLR likely drops to 6th on the season with little chance of getting back into the top 4. None the less, there’s a massive 40-person draw that’s about half Bolivian locals, half traveling pros. Oddly, despite this being a “Grand Slam” the top 8 qualified into the 16s, meaning the typical huge advantage over the locals. Lets see how it affects the Bolivian dark horses.
In the round of 64, a couple of interesting matches right off the top:
– #24 Carlos Keller Vargas vs Gerson Miranda: tough first match for both players. Keller (as noted above) is a PARC champ and a regular Bolivian national team representative, while Miranda is one of the top juniors in the country, representing Bolivia at World Juniors last November and losing in the semis in his age 17 season. Keller likely takes this, but Miranda is a name to watch going forward internationally. – #23 Conrrado Moscoso vs Fernando Ruiz Michel: the other member of Bolivia’s 2018 18U team ironically faces off against the other regular member of Bolivia’s adult national team. I really wanted both Miranda and Ruiz Michel to have shots at traveling IRT players instead of being eliminated by the two Bolivian nationals who i think can make serious noise in this event, but the draw was not favorable to the juniors here.
The action heats up in the 32s: – #16/#17 MoMo Zelada vs Kadim Carrasco; Another regular member of the Bolivian adult team, Carrasco has some serious power, and has a long history of traveling to the states for pro events. However, Maryland resident and Bolivian native Zelada is no slouch and should handle Carrasco here. – #9 Thomas Carter vs #24 Keller Vargas: Carter’s the highest player to not get a bye and it catches him here, having to face the former Pan Am champ on home soil. – #12 Robert Collins vs #21 Edwin Galicia; Collins should be able to handle the Guatemalan here to advance to the main draw. – #23 Moscoso vs #10 Felipe Camacho; they’ve met twice in international competitions, both easy Conrrado wins. Moscoso advances with eyes on making a deep run in this event.
In the main draw, we get the first action out of the traveling seeded pros: – #1 Carson takes on Zelada, a match between two almost identical game styles. Both play focused, tactical racquetball with thought put into every service choice. Unfortunately for Zelada, Carson is the best at it and advances in two straight. – #8 Jake Bredenbeck continues to struggle on the season by running into Bolivian international Keller Vargas at this juncture and loses in two straight. This may be an upset by seed, but not by world power ranking, as Keller has more than a few wins over top IRT pros. – #5 Mario Mercado dodges the landmines of local players and gets a straight-forward match against #12 Collins. Collins has played well this season but this is a win for Mercado here. – #4 Andree Parrilla faces off against his countryman Eduardo Lalo Portilloand handles him in two, but not before Portillo makes some noise and gives Parrilla a scare. – #3 Alvaro Beltran faces off against #19 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez, formerly from Mexico but now playing out of Cali, Colombia. This is a brutal draw for Beltran, as Garay has multiple wins over top 8 IRT pros and didn’t have to make four flight connections to arrive in Bolivia. I think Beltran can win this, but wouldn’t be surprised if Garay played him lights out. – #6 Rodrigo Montoya celebrates easily his best ever tourney seeding by taking down countryman Gerardo Franco Gonzalez at this juncture. – #7 David Horn is the unlucky seeded player who gets to face Moscoso, who has the talent to make the semis of any IRT event, full draw or not. They’ve met twice; Moscoso beat him in 3 at the 2017 US Open while Horn got him a the 2015 PARCs. I think Moscoso advances on home soil here. – #2 Alex Landastarts his tourney against Bolivian World Junior 16U champ Diego Garcia, who can make some noise but doesn’t have the game to beat Landa at this point in his career.
If the 16s go as I predict, we may have some quarter final match-ups for the Ages: – #1 Carson vs #24 Keller Vargas: they’ve played before internationally, and while Keller can beat some players he’s not going to beat Carson on this day. – #4 Parrilla handles #5 Mercado and continues his relatively easy draw into the semis here. – #6 Montoya takes out whoever advances between Beltran and Garay. If its Beltran, it’ll be the third time they’ve met in the quarters in three months and the first two have been relatively easy Rodrigo wins. If its Garay … Montoya has beaten Garay twice in WRT events in the last couple of years, one of which was a pretty close 11-9 barn burner. – #2 Landa vs Moscoso. Well, here it is. Sudsy Monchik tells me that Moscoso is one of the best in the world and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the tier of players just below Kane & Rocky; here’s his chance. Landa has shedded rankings points all season (it was inevitable; with Kane back Landa wasn’t going to win multiple events this season), and will have to really hustle to win here. I’m going to go with my gut and say that Moscoso wins this to advance and firmly cement his place among the game’s elite.
Semis projection: – #1 Carson vs #4 Parrilla: Parrilla had the match-winning point on his racquet and skipped the winner before losing 11-10 in Laurel to open this season the last time he played Rocky, and the two times before then Andree beat him. Four of Andree’s five losses this season are to Kane. I think he’s ready to take the next step. I’m going out on a limb here and predicting a Parrilla upset here. – #6 Montoya vs #23 Moscoso. This is a heck of a match. Its also a re-match of a highly anticipated 2018 Worlds quarter final last November won by Montoya in a tiebreaker. Who would take this rematch? I’m tempted to go with Montoya again. But honestly I could see a Moscoso win on home soil in front of a frenzied packed house too, bringing all the energy of an international competition.
Final: Moscoso over Parrilla to shock the pro world. If the final comes down to this, its a rematch of a classic 2017 US Open round of 16 match, won by Moscoso 11-8 in the 5th. I can see a similarly close match here.
————— IRT Doubles:
14 teams battling it out, and a whole slew of interesting teams playing. Beltran is teamed with Landa (not DLR, his regular partner) at #1, Carson is playing with Camacho and seeded 5th, Jake & Horn are seeded #3, the fantastic Bolivian #1 team of Keller & Moscoso is seeded 6th, and the semi-regular team of Parrilla & Montoya (who have more than a few pro titles together) are seeded 2nd.
I’m going with Landa/Beltran over Carson/Camacho in one semi, Keller/Moscoso over Parrilla/Montoya in the other, and the Bolivians winning on home soil in the final for a possible double for Moscoso on the weekend.
In the quarters:
– Top seeds and winners of the last four LPRT doubles events Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas Solis advanced in two over Susy Acosta and Kelani Kelani Lawrence (the reigning USA amateur doubles champ)
– Sabja and Enriquez continued their upsetting ways, taking out #4 seeds Argentinian national team of Maria Jose Vargas and Natalia Mendez. Vargas & Mendez are the defending 2018 South American champs and were quarterfinalists at worlds; this is a solid win.
– The Bolivian team of Daza/Barrios upset another favored team in the quarters, taking out Colombian National team reps and #3 seeds Adriana Riveros and Amaya Cris. Riveros/Amaya were semi-finalists at IRF worlds earlier this year and have been representing Colombia as a team for two years now.
– The reigning Mexican national champs and 2018 World runners-up Alexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia advanced easily over Masiel Rivera Oporto and Daniela Molina.
In the semis:
– Top seeds Longoria and Salas put an end to the upset run of Sabja and Enriquez 7,9
– #2 seeds Herrera and Mejia destroyed the Bolivian team of Daza/Barrios 10,2.
The final represented a match-up of in-arguably the two top doubles teams in the world. This was a re-match of the World Open Doubles title in May, the Mexican National Selection event in June, and the first LPRT pro event in August.
In the end, the #1 seeds prevailed in a tight match 10,14 to capture the title.
Paola Longoria and Salas are now an astounding 65-3 together in pro doubles dating to Sept 2013 (the beginning of ladies pro doubles tracking) and have added numerous amateur and international titles on top.
Here’s a review of Thursday LPRT singles action and a preview of Friday’s quarters.
LPRT round of 32 surprises:
– Argentinian Maria Jose Vargas (the #7 seed) was upset in the 32s, losing to Bolivian veteran international player Jenny Daza Navia.
– Brenda Laime Jalil got an upset win over American Sheryl Lotts in 4.
– #4 Alexandra Herrera was stretched as far as you can go by Michelle De La Rosa , winning 12-10 in the 5th. These two spent an awful long time on the court; the first game was 16-14 and two other games went “extra time.” Tough match.
– Montserrat Perez came from 2 games down to upset #14 Adrienne Fisher Haynes.
– Ana Laura Flores got a upset win over #15 Susy Acosta in 4.
– Bolivian star Yazmine Sabja took out #10 Carla Muñoz Montesinos in 5 games, opening a pathway to the quarters.
– #1 Paola Longoria put two donuts on Erika Manilla … then was stretched to 13-11 in game three to advance by the odd-looking score of 0,0,11.
LPRT round of 16 notables:
– Ana Gabrielle Gaby Martinez had a much easier time with Enriquez this time around, advancing in four (they went 12-10 in the 5th earlier this season).
– Herrera rebounded from nearly being upset in the 32s to advance past Laime in 4.
– Mexican junior phenom Montse Mejia took a game off the #1 Longoria before the champ advanced in 4.
– In a battle of Bolivians, Sabja downed country-mate Daza in a battle of upset seeds to advance to the quarters.
– #1 Longoria v #8 Natalia Mendez: Longoria 2-0 lifetime on LPRT against Natalia and does not seem likely to fall at this stage.
– #12 Martinez v #4 Herrera: Martinez is the underdog here by seed, but has been on a tear lately and is the favorite to advance.
– #3 Salas v #6 Rhonda Rajsich: Salas is just 6-11 lifetime against Rhonda, but has one 4 of the last 6 meetings on the LPRT. Salas has nearly completed her comeback from surgery last season and is the favorite to advance here.
– #2 Frederique Lambert vs #23 Sabja; They’ve met twice; once in an IRF event, once last year on the LPRT. Sabja took both. I sense her continuing her upset streak at this event. Sabja in 4.
Lets talk about the main draw. Thursday features round of 32 and 16 action. Here’s some fun round of 32 matches to watch for:
– #4 Alexandra Herrera gets a tough first round against Michelle De La Rosa. De La Rosa has put losses on top LPRT pros in the past and will not be intimidated on the court. Herrera will need to be on her game to avoid a massive upset here.
– #3 Samantha Salas Solis was done no favors drawing Kelani Lawrence in the first round either. Lawrence (nee Bailey) doesn’t have a ton of pro experience, but has had a fantastic year on the amateur side and is a dangerous opponent.
– #14 Adrienne Fisher Haynes gets an upset-minded first round matchup against Mexican youngster #19 Montserrat Perez.
– #7 Maria Jose Vargas has an all-South America match versus Bolivian veteran Jenny Daza Navia.
– #10 Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos may have her hands full with the dangerous Bolivian international Jazmine Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol. Sabja beat her in a tiebreaker at IRF Worlds in August and will be favored to do so again.
– #15 Susy Acosta will be challenged by a country-woman less than half her age in 18U player #18 Ana Laura Flores .
And here’s some potential round of 16 matches that could be fun to watch:
– #1 Paola Longoria probably doesn’t lose to Mexican junior phenom #17 Montse Mejia (the reigning 18U world champion who has yet to matriculate out of junior racquetball), but she could be in for a tougher match than she would have wanted in the 16s.
– #8/#9 match-ups are always close, and a match between Amaya Cris and Natalia Mendez will be too close to call; they’re 2-2 across LPRT and IRF and this could be a toss-up.
– #5 Nancy Enriquez and #12 Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez faced off in the quarters of the first LPRT event, with the world champion Martinez escaping with a 12-10 5th game win. I sense another close match with Martinez advancing again.
– #7 Vargas gets a potential match against Sabja here … a potential rematch of the quarters of IRF Worlds and the final of the 2018 South American games. Vargas won both those matches easily and makes it a 3rd here.
Rajsich & Lotts may have the toughest draw, going up against a solid Bolivian team of Jenny Daza Naviaand Angelica Barrios. De La Rosa/Munoz also have a tough match-up with the reigning world doubles champion Bolivian Yazmine Sabja teamed up with solid Mexican pro Nancy Enriquez. This match could go either way.
In the main draw, I’m going to predict a re-match of this past summer’s Mexican Worlds qualifying event, with #1 seeds Paola Longoriaand Samantha Salas Solis taking on #2 seedAlexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia. Herrera/Mejia scored a pretty large upset to take the Mexican spot at IRF Worlds this year over the Longoria/Salas team … but I don’t expect lightening to strike twice. The best doubles team in the world, by far, should win here again.
The Ladies pro singles event at the 23rd annual US Open kicks off Wednesday afternoon with one round of qualifying. A solid draw of 40 professionals matches the 2017 draw and continues a solid showing at this event for the Ladies pros. 17 of the top 20 women in the world are present, and 24 of the top 30 players. Notably absent is #8 Jessica Leona Parrilla, still recovering from a major knee injury. Also missing from the top 20 is Guatemalan vet Maria ReneeRodriguez and #19 Mexican Eleni Guzman Velgis.
– Michelle De La Rosa, fresh off two finals appearances at the 2018 3WallBall WOR event held last weekend in Vegas, will take on fellow Southwestern US player, Texan Linda Tyler.
– An IRF-flavored qualifier awaits Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz and Bolivian Angelica Barrios.
– Two younger Mexican players Denisse Maldonado and Daniela Rico face off for a shot at 4-time US Open winner Rhonda Rajsich
– Kelani (Bailey) Kelani Lawrence, who made the finals of US nationals earlier this year but had to pass on the ticket to Worlds because it conflicted with her wedding, is back in action post nuptuals and faces off against the veteran Korean player Young Ock Lee. Lee is playing in her 8th straight US Open, making the trip halfway around the world every year.
Lets recap the event, which may have had a “normal” final but definitely featured some upsets and big wins.
Notables missing: #3 Jessica Leona Parrilla , who suffered a knee ligament injury at Mexican Nationals over the summer and looks to miss a sizable chunk of this season. Other Notable top 20 players include #13 Sheryl Lotts (probably exhausted from her trip to Worlds), #19 Jenny Daza Navia (also a busy international player this summer), and #20 Eleni Guzman Velgis .
In the play-ins/Round of 32, some surprise results:
– Mexican youngster Diana Aguilar surprised Chilean #1 Carla Muñoz Montesinos, coming back from 2 games down to win in the 5th. Aguilar was looking like “the next big thing” a few years ago, winning two consecutive 16U World Championships in 2013 and 2014 before dropping off the Juniors radar, playing just one more time in any Junior tournament. Now 21, she has played just one pro tournament in the past three years; lets hope this is the start of a come-back.
– Another young Mexican player Montserrat Perez (who was the same year as Aguilar coming up), also pulled off a nice upset win over a tough veteran player in Guatemalan Marie Renee Rodriguez, coming back from 2-1 games down to also win in the 5th 11-9. Its the second time she’s taken out Rodriguez in as many appearances on the tour, the last time coming in April 2018 in San Antonio.
In the 16s…
– #13 seed Ana Gabrielle Gaby Martinez continued her great summer of 2018 and upset #4 seeded Rhonda Rajsich in four. Martinez is looking more and more like one of the top 2-3 players in the world based on results this summer, and she got a statement win here.
– Ana Laura Flores, who is in her age 17 season (!), got a walkover win in the 32s then promptly defeated #6 Natalia Mendez 12-10 in the fifth. Mendez had an amazing Worlds run and was my choice to make the semis here; instead Flores gets easily the best win of her career and makes her first pro quarterfinal. Add her name to the list of amazing Mexican juniors
making waves on the world scene.
– Samantha Salas Solis continued her climb back up the rankings post-injury with a tough win over #7 seed Cris Amaya, taking a brutal 5 game match.
– Longoria advanced past Maria Jose Vargas in three straight 0,4,4. Vargas still has not beaten Longoria on the pro tour (she’s now 0-22 lifetime) but had some success in IRF events this summer (winning the South American games) and is looking (like Salas) to rebuild ranking points after an absence from the tour.
– Martinez’s run continues with a fantastic come from behind win over Nancy Enriquez, 12-10 in the 5th. Martinez was down 2 games to 0 and was just a couple points from elimination before coming all the way back.
– Salas trounced Lambert in a match-up of the 2nd and 3rd best players on tour right now, making a statement about how the tour rankings may eventually look at the end of this season.
The Semis featured two rather anti-climactic results, with Longoria geting revenge for her World’s loss with a 3-game easy win over Martinez, while Salas advanced easily over her country-mate Alexandra Herrera.
The final was the 46th ever pro meeting between doubles partners Longoria and Salas … and Longora won for the 43rd time 7,1,3 to capture the title.
In the doubles event, Paola Longoria made it a double on the weekend, taking the doubles title with Partner Salas in a rematch of the Mexican Worlds selection event from earlier this year. They defeated Herrera/Mejia 10,9 in the final.