IRT Lou Bradley Memorial Wrap-Up

Kane dominates in Wisconsin for the win. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk on his 122th career IRT Tier 1 title on the weekend. He triumphed over a trio of top Mexican players then blasted Mercado in the final to take the title.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31897

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Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/EB643C

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In the 64s:
– #25 Sam Bredenbeck eked out a tie-breaker win over #24 Scott McClellan
– Both Kelley brothers (Sam and Joe), travelling from the NJ/PA area, fell in two to traveling pros. Great job supporting the event though, along with all the traveling players.
– #23 Kadim Carrasco] took a close match from #26 Justus Benson.

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In the 32s, we started to see some interesting results.
– As suspected, the 16/17 match was close, with #16 Javier Mar taking out younger countryman #17 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez] in a tie-breaker.
– #12 Carlos Keller Vargas was stretched by Costa Rican veteran #21 Felipe Camacho, winning two closer games.
– #13 Thomas Carter got revenge from last week, topping #20 Javier Estrada in a breaker to move on. Sold win for Carter to reverse his two-tourney one-and-done streak.
– #11 Mario Mercado Valenzuela held serve against #22 Alan Natera Chavez, winning in two closer games.
– #10 Sebastian Franco was stretched by South American neighbor Carrasco, advancing 14,13.
– #15 Eduardo Garay played a complete match and dominated #18 Adam Manilla 8,8 to move on.

So, the 32s went perfectly chalk; all the seeds from 9-16 advanced into the next round. I think I predicted at least 2-3 upsets here but the seeds prevailed this time around.

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In the 16s:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk got his tourney started against a tough foe in #16 Mar, but advanced 7,8. We saw a similar pattern in game 2 to a lot of Kane’s games against solid opponents; it was even for a while … then it was 8-8 … then you blink your eye and its 15-8 as Kane turns up the pressure and moves on.
– In a fascinating result, #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís] dominated #8 Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball 12,4 to remain unbeaten against the Bolivian Iris Grand Slam winner and move on.
– #5 Samuel Murray held serve against Keller, moving on after taking a close game one.
– #4 Álvaro Beltrán stifled any chance of another upset at the hands of the lefty Carter (as had happened in December in Portland), cruising to a 4,12 win.
– #3 Andree Parrilla is ready to put this month behind him; the player I thought could make a run to the final here instead was upset in the round of 16 for the third successive week, this time at the hands of Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 11-7 in the breaker. Franco advances to his 4th pro quarter final.
– #6 Lalo Portillo‘s dreams of back to back finals ended early; he was dropped by #11 Mercado in the round of 16s for the 2nd time in three weeks, this time by the overwhelming scoreline of 4,7.
– #10 S.Franco evened up his career h2h line with #7 Jake Bredenbeck, taking him out in two to advance.
– #2 Alex Landa showed little ill-effects from his arm injury of last weekend, advancing over a tough foe in #15 Garay 6,(7),5.

So, three upsets at this stage; the top is nearly chalk 1,9,5,4 in the quarters, while the bottom is 14,11,10,2. I had predicted some upsets here … but none of them came to pass.

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In the Quarters
– #1 Kane topped #9 Montoya to move on, but not with out a bit of controversy. Early in the second game a long rally had the players come together and Kane seemed to almost shove Montoya to get out of the way of a shot. It was kind of reminiscent of the early physical days of the sport. No penalty was given and nothing seemed to come of it … but at the end of the tourney Montoya scored the most points of any player against Kane in a game on the weekend, and seems to be getting incrementally better against the King each time they face each other.
– #4 Alvaro Beltran came from a game down to top Canadian #1 Murray and keep his perfect h2h record alive over him.
– #11 Mercado advanced to his first pro semi since the Bolivian Grand Slam by topping upstart GFranco 13,2. Franco looked frisky in game one … but collapsed once he lost the close opening game.
– #2 Landa made short work of #10 S.Franco 5,5.

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In the Semis; two interesting matches.
– #4 Beltran dominated #1 Kane …. for a quarter of their match. Beltran led 5-0 and 7-3 in the first …. and then didn’t score again. Kane ran off 27 unanswered points from 3-7 down in the first game to win the match 7,0. Just a complete white washing where Kane played textbook ball for most of the match.
– #11 Mercado saved game point in the first and then took a close one from #2 Landa to advance to just his second ever pro final 14,11. He becomes the rare double-digit seed to make a pro final.

In the Finals…. it was one way traffic. Kane crushed Mercado 2,3 to take the title. 5 total points against represents the 2nd most dominant final scoreline in the history of the tour (see http://rball.pro/C1E703 for the full list … not surprisingly Kane owns most of the top scorelines on this report).

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Points Implications of results;

There’s no expiring tier 1 from last season to drop off, but there’s still a lot of movement in the top 20 on tour after this event:
– Parrilla’s 3-tourney swoon finally costs him in the rankings: he’ll drop to #5 behind Beltran.
– DLR’s absence costs him too; despite Moscoso’s early upset exit, he’ll pip Daniel for #6 on tour.
– Montoya and Mercado will both jump over Jake in the tightly bunched set of players in the 10-13 range. Around 30 ranking points separate 10th from 13th and these three players along with Sebastian Franco continue to juggle spots based on tournament results.
– Gerardo Franco jumps to #16, Mar continues to rise up (now #19), and the missing Acuna gets dumped three spots to #21.

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Other Draws:

In the Men’s Open, a solid bracket included several former top-8 IRT players plus a ton of locals. As it turned out, two of the pro quarter-finalists were the 1 and 3 seeds in the Open (and both forfeited out, thinning the draw) and the 8 quarter-finalists ended up being 6 touring internationals plus mid-western top amateurs Lee Meinerz and Anthony Martin.

In the qtrs:
– SFranco topped Meinerz 8,11
– Fernandez crushed Garay 4,1 to advance.
– Camacho got a walkover when Mercado withdrew.
– Portillo topped Martin 8,4

In the semis:
– Fernandez walks over Franco
– Portillo crushes Camacho 2,3

In the final, a familiar battle. Mexican nationals Fernandez and Portillo are a year apart and often met in the back end of junior nationals and junior worlds events. Some of their recent match history includes these notable finals:
– Portillo d Fernandez in the 16U World junior finals in 2016
– Fernandez d Portillo in the Mexican 18U natioanls final in 2018
– then, 3 months later the two met in the 18U junior worlds final, Portillo’s last junior event, and Portillo won.

So how about on this day? They played a back and forth match eventually won by Patata Fernandez (4),7,8.

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In the Men’s Open Doubles, in the absence of an official IRT pro doubles draw we saw a 15-team bracket headlined by the reigning Pan Am Games gold medalists Mar/Montoya. Also in the doubles draws were a couple of old friends from the East Coast, Brent Walters and Russ Bruns, both of whom have strong ties to the Virginia Racquetball scene.

In the end though, the top two seeds, both all-Mexican traveling teams, advanced to the final. #1 Montoya/Mar, one of the best teams in the world and the reigning Pan American Games gold medalists, ended up topping Natera/Estrada in two tight games for the title.

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Next up?

The IRT takes a break until mid-march when they return to Chicago. Meanwhile, USA National Doubles is next weekend, featuring a juicy pairing of 5-time pro champ Sudsy Monchik teaming up with IRT #2 Landa, who has to represent the USA.

In fact, there’s almost nothing going on that we’d normally track in February; I may have to come up with some fun ideas to discuss during the break.

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International Racquetball Tour
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
International Racquetball Federation
USA Racquetball
Racquetball Canada
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Racquetball Colombia
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball

IRT Men’s Qualifying wrap-up and round of 32 preview

Jaime Martel lis the higest seeded player to qualify for the 2019 main draw. Photo via Roby Partovich/US Open 2015

We’re down to the top 32, having played 2-3 rounds of qualifiers Wednesday to whittle the field from 94.

here’s the matches I found notable or upset-worthy from Wednesday’s marathon qualifying.

In the 256s:
– fellow Virginian Rich Benderoth took a tiebreaker win over Erik Solter. Shout out to Rich, who regularly spanked me a decade ago when I used to actually play this sport. Unfortunately he injured himself in the process and forfeited his next round.

– USA 18U junior Lucas Shoemaker gets a win in his professional debut, downing Bolivian Vladimir Fernando Salas in a tie-breaker.

– Colorado native Jacob Kingsford gets a win in his debut pro/national level event over Ecuadorian Fabian Cuesta].

– An intra-Dallas inter-generational battle was taken by the veteran; Diana-Shai Manzuri took out Lukas Le 5,6 to advance.

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In the 128s:
– Andrew Gale took out IRT regular Nick Riffel in a tie-breaker; very solid win for the veteran player Gale, who first played in the US Open in 2006.

– Francisco Reyes took out IRT touring regular Justus Benson 6,12.

– Erik Garcia took out the tough Mexican Christian Longoria by the scores of 10,2.

– Troy Warigon dominated rematch of a qualifier in Laurel two weeks ago against Yacouba Keita, advancing by the dominant scores of 3,1.

– Sam Bredenbeck took out Colombian international Andres Gomez in two solid games.

– Sebastian Fernandez himself still an 18U junior, was stretched to a tiebreaker by a fellow Mexican junior (albeit a younger one) in Guillermo Ortega before advancing.

– Pennsylvania amateur Joe Kelley stretched Alan Natera Chavez to a tiebreaker before the Mexican advanced.

– Former top WRT pro Jaime Martell Neri took out 20th ranked Costa Rican Felipe Camacho.

– In a battle of two IRT veterans, Colombian Alejandro Herrera Azcarate took out Japanese legend Hiroshi Shimizu in two close games to advance.

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In the 64s.

– Kansas amateur Bradley Rogers upset the highest ranked player in qualifying, 17th seeded Robert Collins 12,8 to earn a main draw berth. Rogers gets his best win on tour in four years.

– Javier Estrada advanced over Bolivian junior phenom Diego Garcia Quispe, who had to retire mid-game2 with injury. The two were playing close though, with the score 13-14 at the point of injury.

– Javier Mar dominated Ernesto Ochoa 13,5 to advance to the main draw and a meeting with his doubles partner. Tough draw for Ochoa, who was making his IRT Tier 1 debut here after putting up some very impressive results in 2019.

– Bolivian vet Kadim Carrasco was pushed to a tiebreaker by Colombian Set Cubillos Ruiz before advancing.

– Big upset of a dark horse candidate for me: Colombian Francisco Reyes Gomez upset Natera in a tiebreaker to advance. We don’t know much about Reyes; he’s got a few US Open appearances in the past but this is probably his best career win.

– Martel gets a great win to advance into the main draw, topping Garcia 14,6.

– Eduardo Garay Rodriguez held serve and topped MoMo Zelada 11,9 to advance into the main draw.

– Maurice Miller ended Gale’s upset run to qualify.

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now for the 32s. And there’s some amazing matches today. Here’s what i’m looking for:

– #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #33 Estrada: Estrada made a statement at the Black Gold cup, topping 4 top 10 players to take the title. Well, now he can measure up against the worlds best for a status check.

– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #24 Mar: these two ran into each other in the round of 32 at the Syosset open as well; just a function of unlucky seeding. Mar took that last meeting en route to a quarter final appearance. Expect a close match between these doubles partners that know each other’s game pretty well.

– #8 Samuel Murray vs #25 Keller: pay no attention to the seedings here: this is a battle of two evenly matched players. They met in the 16s of the Pan Am Games in Lima, a tie-breaker win for the Canadian. But Keller is no easy out; he’s an experienced, accomplished international player with two PARC titles on his resume

#13 David Horn​ vs #77 Martell; This is an interesting matchup between two long stalwards of the WRT. These two met 9 times on the old WRT, with Horn leading 5-4 h2h but Jaime Martell Racquetball​ taking the most recent meeting (May 2018 in Atlanta). This could go either way; Horn has missed time with an injury this season; is he 100%? He’ll need to be to beat his long time rival. (post-publishing correction; initially I had Martell playing into Landa here; my staging tables were incorrect and hence this correction after publishing).

– #14 Lalo Portillo vs #19 Charlie Pratt; Watch out for the upset here; every time Pratt enters a draw he makes noise. Pratt could lose here to the rapidly improving Portillo, or he could run to the semis. Expect a tactical battle here.

– #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #27 Garay: I like this match; Garay’s power versus DLR’s guile. Daniel won’t be surprised by Garay’s pop; they met in teh 2016 Mexican nationals prior to Garay’s re-flagging and he advanced in a tiebreaker. I like DLR here but I think it goes breaker.

– #10 Mario Mercado vs #23 Sebastian Fernandez; this is a fascinating match-up between Mercado, who despite having (in my opinion) improving results on the court lately is treading water from a rankings perspective thanks to rising pressure of up and coming players, and Fernandez, who seems set to jump straight from 18U into the pro ranks and make a splash. I think this goes down to the wire with the veteran advancing.

– #15 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #18 Andres Acuña; this should be another barn burner; they’ve met four times in IRF junior and senior events and 3 times it has gone breaker. All four are Moscoso wins … but Acuna always make sit hard on the Bolivian number one.

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We’ll circle back for the 16s once the 32s are done.

International Racquetball Tour
Racquetball Canada
UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships

International Racquetball Federation – IRF
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Fecoracquet Fecoracquet
USA Racquetball

2019 Valentine Open Wrap-up

Kane wins again. Photo credit: unknown

Congrats to your champions on the weekend:

Men’s Pro Singles: Kane Waselenchuk
Men’s Open Singles: Andres Acuna
Men’s Open Doubles: Carlos Keller/Kadim Carrasco

Note: no pro doubles this weekend, so we had pretty solid Open Singles and Open Doubles draws. The Men’s singles open draw featured three players who made the quarters (or better) of the pro draw and a great draw of east coast amateurs to challenge the traveling pros.

And, a reminder; the 5-8 seeds were “flipped” this tournament. Seeds listed below are for this event, not of the actual rankings on tour at the moment of the event.

R2sports link:
https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30994

PRS match Report: http://rball.pro/001AE9

I had the opportunity to be at the Sportfit Laurel club for Thursday night round of 64 and 32 matches, so I’ll describe some of the more interesting matches I witnessed in a bit more detail.

Lets review the matches of note by round:

Round of 64:

  • #24 Mauricio Zelada, playing on his home courts and with the cheering of the home crowd, eked out a brutal tiebreaker against #25 Kyle Ulliman. Zelada is a protege of former touring pro and fellow Maryland native Dan Fowler, and his game-style is really familiar to those who remember Fowler’s days on tour. Similar stroke mechanics, similar drive serve setup, and a similar game style. Zelada plays consistent ball, always putting solid consistent contact on the ball. Ulliman’s game style is flashier, more of a shooter style, taking chances and succeeding often. It was a fantastic match-up that went down to the wire, with Zelada winning on a gimme-error from Kyle after a long match.
  • #20 Maurice Miller faced off against #33 Joe Kelley in a battle of top east coast amateurs (Miller from GA, Kelley from PA). It did not disappoint, and was a back and forth athletic match between two guys with great getting ability. In the end Miller pulled away in the tie-breaker to advance.
  • #22 Hometown favorite Troy Warigon, spurred on by a vocal local cheering section, went tiebreaker against Atlanta newcomer #27 Yacouba Keita before advancing. Definitely the “loudest” crowd of the night, cheering Warigon on.
  • Colombian #23 Set Cubillos was taken tie-breaker by New Jersey top amateur #26 David Austin before advancing.
  • The biggest upset of the round and the sole upset by a local player over a traveling pro was #30 Pennsylvanian Geoff Heskett taking out #18 Justus Benson 10,12. Both players really put some power into the ball, and Heskett was able to really control the points with his excellent drive serve to Benson’s backhand.

Round of 32:

  • In a marathon evening match, #16 Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas took a barn-burner over #17 Colombian Eduardo Garay (13),11,7. This match was a contrast in styles: Keller’s drive serve approach is controlled power, with emphasis on the location and efficiency of the drive, while Garay has as much power as anyone on tour. The ball just sounds different off of Garay’s racquet on the drive serve. But, once the ball is in play, Keller’s putting as much pace on it as anyone else. Garay flings himself around the court, with incredible getting ability, while Keller’s length (he’s well over 6-feet tall) enables him to reach a lot of shots and cover a lot of court. This match went on so long that I believe Garay soaked four shirts. Vargas outlasted Garay in the end, but both of these players if playing full time are top 10 material.
  • In the evening’s other latest running match, two players with DC-area ties fought to the end. #9 Mario Mercado split two close games with home-town favorite #24 Zelada, who (like Warigon) plays out of the club and had a large local cheering section. The toll of the earlier match got to MoMo though, as he ran out of gas in the tiebreaker. Mercado efficiently advanced 11-1 to get to the main draw. This match won the award for biggest crowd of the night.
  • #23 Cubillos nearly forfeited his match against #10 Jake Bredenbeck before showing up just before the deadline. Jake seemed distracted as a result in the first game but eventually advanced 11,2.
  • #14 Andres Acuna dispatched Bolivian veteran #19 Kadim Carrasco in two games to advanced to the main draw yet again. Acuna is quietly moving his way up the ranks and putting his name into the discussion for top 10.

Round of 16 Action:

  • #1 Kane Waslenechuk kicked off his tournament with a 1,3 pasting of #16 Keller. I don’t know if Keller was beat from two matches the night before, or if Kane was especially fired up to play. I looked forward to this match and was rather surprised to see it be such a dominant beat-down. If you wondered about the difference between an IRF champ and the Pro champ … well here you go.
  • For the second tournament in a row, #8 Rodrigo Montoya could not advance out of the round of 16 against an opponent he’d normally be favored against. He loses in two straight to #9 Mercado 14,11. This second early loss in as many events to start the season should drop him right back out of the top 8.
  • In a battle of Francos (not related), #5 Sebastian Franco was taken to the edge by #12 Gerardo Franco, eventually advancing 11-9 in the breaker. Sebastian gets past an important hurdle on his home courts.
  • Both #4 Alejandro Landa and #2 Rocky Carson were stretched to tiebreakers in surprising fashion by tour regulars, by lefties Robert Collins and Thomas Carter respectively. Landa in particular has a habit of being a slow starter, something that’s harder and harder to overcome in the 3-game format.
  • In the upset of the round, perhaps the tournament, Costa Rican #1 and #14 seed Andres Acuna continues an impressive year of results by taking out #3 Andree Parrilla 4,(7),7. Parrilla made the final of the first event of the year and had ascended to the #3 ranking, but gets upset early by the solid play of Acuna and will drop back to #4 for the US Open. Meanwhile, Acuna achieves his first ever pro quarterfinal appearance in his 9th season of playing pro events.
  • #6 Samuel Murray staved off an upset attempt from #11 Eduardo Portillo, splitting the first two games by razor thin margins before pulling away in the tiebreaker.

In the quarters…

  • #1 Waselenchuk took out #9 Mercado in two straight forward games 6,8. Even a favorable crowd couldn’t push Mercado forward. Mercado will stay ranked 10th on tour despite the quarter-final finish, but he’s significantly narrowed the gap to the 9th spot on tour.
  • #5 Franco gets a key win on home soil, taking out #4 Landa for just the second time professionally. Sebastian crushed Landa in game one 15-3, but then had to work for it, saving game point before serving out the match 15-14. Franco gets his second semi-final in a row to open the season after making just one semi all last season, a great sign for his battle to retain a top 8 ranking this year. Despite the loss, Landa will regain the #3 seed for the US Open by virtue of Parrilla’s upset early loss.
  • #6 Murray traded 15-3 game blow-outs with #14 Acuna before closing out the match in a tiebreaker. Acuna improves his ranking to #18 with this result, pushing him to his highest ever ranking.
  • #2 Carson met #7 Alvaro Beltran for the 50th time on the pro tour and improved to 28-22 against him, advancing in (what else) a tie-breaker. Thanks to Daniel de la Rosa‘s absence here, Beltran widened his lead over DLR for the 5th ranking on tour and gained a bit on the now-4th ranked Parrilla.

In the Semis:

  • #5 Franco pushed #1 Kane on his home courts to make game one close, but Kane dominated game two to advance to the finals 11,7. With this result, Franco jumps to the #7 spot on tour, which means he avoids the likes of Montoya in an 8/9 match-up and avoids Kane in the quarters at the US Open.
  • #2 Carson met #6 Murray for the 11th time professionally and improved to 11-0 over the Canadian #1 11,4. Murray just couldn’t execute shots against Carson in game two and the match slipped away from him quickly. With this semis showing, Murray bumps Montoya for the last of the top 8 protected seeds for the US Open, a significant event that means Murray avoids possible dangerous qualifiers while Montoya may run into a tough player in the 24-25 range on tour.

The final was #1 vs #2 as it normally is; Rocky vs Kane has been the final in eight events over the last two seasons. this was their 80th meeting on tour. And like 76 times before, Kane topped Rocky for the title. But it was an adventurous match: Rocky was on his way to a donut in game one and was assessed a technical towards the end; game one score of 15 to -1. But Carson rebounded to take game 2; it had been nearly 2 years since Rocky took a game off of Kane. But Kane rebounded in the breaker and won -1,(11),4 to take the title.

Its Kane’s 117th career pro win.

Quick Recap of Men’s Open Singles: 4th Seeded Mercado survived a brutal quarter against Eduardo Garay (a rematch of last week’s Colombian National championships, won by Garay) to then cruise to the final over Set Cubillos from the top half (#1 seed Murray withdrew after making the pro semis). The bottom half of the draw went chalk amongst all top seeds, with #2 seed Andres Acuna topping #3 Maurice Miller to make the final. In the final, Acuna took out Mercado 11,9 to turn the tides on their meetings as of late.

Quick Recap of Men’s Open Doubles: it was #1 vs #2, Colombia vs Bolivia in the final, with two quality teams battling it out. #1 Mercado/Garay battled against #2 Keller/Carrasco in the final. There, the #2 seeded Bolivians put a second consecutive Sunday afternoon loss on Mercado, winning the Open Doubles title 7,12


Congrats to Tournament Director Tracy Valentine for all her hard work, thanks to IRT staff Mike Grisz, Dean Baer, Pablo Fajre for all their hard work. Great to meet IRT statistician-in-training JP Edwards, who I hope gets more involved going forward.

Also, a quick shout-out to Kane, who took to the court Thursday night upon arriving to play some pro-am doubles with tournament sponsors. The normal Thursday night sponsor doubles got cancelled, but some boosters had put up money specifically to have a shot at playing with Kane, and kudos to him for taking the court to help with sponsorship efforts.

Next up? 3-Wall championships next weekend in Las Vegas, then the US Open in Minneapolis.

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