USA National Singles Wrap-up

Kelani (Bailey) Lawrence with the break-through win.

Congrats to your USA Racquetball 2019 Singles Champions:

Men’s Open: Jake Bredenbeck
Women’s Open: Kelani Lawrence

They take big steps towards putting themselves onto the plane to represent the USA at this August’s 2019 International Racquetball Federation – IRFPan American Games, the biggest event in our sport. See this link: https://www.teamusa.org/…/2018-19-US-National-Team-Qualific… for the current Men’s and Women’s team standings. USA Racquetball plans on making an announcement soon on the official team delegation to Peru.

R2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30549

Here’s a recap of the draw, noting results I found interesting:

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Men’s Singles:
PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/C39AD2

In the 16s:
– In the 8/9 game, Robert Collins got a solid win over Luis R Avila in a tie-breaker.
– #5 Adam Manilla took out hometown veteran favorite Woody Clouse and has a streamlined shot at the National Semis thanks to …
– #4 seed Jose Diaz, who I thought could win this event, was a no-show, giving Utahian Anthony Martin a walk-over into the quarters.
– Two IRT regulars met in Thomas Carter and Nicholas Nick Riffel, with Carter coming out on top in a tie-breaker.

In the Qtrs:
– #1 Jake Bredenbeck cruised past fellow IRT top 20 player Collins 4,2
– #5 Manilla similarly cruised past Utahian Anthony Martin 3,2
– #3 David Horn was stretched by #6 Carter, going 11-7 in the breaker. Another solid result for Carter, but a good step towards keeping his National team spot for Horn.
– #2 Charlie Pratt took out his local playing rival Dylan Reid 14,5.

In the Semis:
– #5 Manilla played lights out for stretches, but not enough of them to take out #1 Bredenbeck, falling in an 11-5 tiebreaker.
– #3 Horn got a great win over #2 Pratt, 11-7 in the breaker, to advance to the final and attempt to repeat as US Champion. Pratt has made the finals of the last two international events in which he’s represented the US … but a national title continues to elude him.

In the Final … Jake could do no wrong, and Bobby couldn’t do much to stop him. In an amazingly compete performance, Bredenbeck beat Horn 1,1 to take the US title. Its his third overall and he returns to the podium after a 3 year absence. Horn finishes runner-up for the 4th time.

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Women’s singles:
PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/3DB373

There was just one play-in/round of 16 match: 
Annie Roberts, the current 16U National champ and who still has 3 years remaining in the junior ranks, took on regular LPRT touring pro Cassie Lee in the 8/9 match and came out on top in a tie-breaker.

In the qtrs:
– #1 Rhonda Rajsich took out the precocious Roberts 6,2
– #5 Kelani Lawrence, drastically underseeded in this event, made a statement with an 11,1 win over #4 Sheryl Lotts
– #3 Hollie Rae Scott took out LPRT touring vet Adrienne Fisher Haynes 7,10
– #2 Seed Erika Manilla was a no-show, depriving the draw of one of its top players and making the lopsidedness of the seeding errors involving Lawrence even more severe.

In the Semis:
– #5 Lawrence got a career win, beating the 8-time defending US national champ Rajsich in an a tiebreaker. These two had met in the singles finals of the last three major US national team qualifying events, and Lawrence got this breakthrough win on the same weekend that her mother Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey was inducted into the US Racquetball hall of Fame.
– #3 Scott downed the legendary LPRT pro Cheryl Gudinas in two. Scott is going for a rather rare double: Intercollegiates and National titles in the same year. It’s only happened once before … in 1976, when Memphis State University’s Sarah Green won both events in the same year.

(side note: the 3rd place game, which we often don’t mention, thus is Rajsich vs Gudinas. Holy cow. That’s a combined 19 (!) US National titles between them to go along with 8 pro titles. In case you’re wondering … they’ve played no less than 50 times across pro, US nationals and IRF events now, with Rajsich leading 32-18. See http://rball.pro/A7470B).

In the Finals, Lawrence came from a game down and saved match point against to take the title 11-10 over Scott by running off two points at the end of the tie-breaker.

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Congrats to all who played. Later this week we’ll review the Canadian singles and Mexican Junior events form last week.

Next up on the rball schedule? There’s some lower tier IRT events in early June, one last LPRT Grand Slam in mid-june in Kansas, then the US Junior Olympics in late June in Portland.

USA National Singles Preview

Rajsich looking for her 9th straight title this weekend.

Its the week before Memorial Day Weekend, which means that its time for USA Racquetball National Singles!

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30549

This year’s version of event is the 52nd iteration of the event, and is as far as I know the longest running racquetball tournament in existence. It was first held in 1968 in Milwaukee, where two legends competed in the final (Bill Schultz defeated Hall of Famer Bill Schmidtke in the final).

Here’s a list of every Men’s Open champ since 1968: http://rball.pro/896B5B.

In 1970, the first Women’s national champion was crowned: Fran Cohen won the first Women’s national title in St. Louis.

Here’s a list of every Women’s Open champ since 1970: http://rball.pro/A75737

Record holders for Most National Titles?
 Rocky Carson holds 7 National titles, winning his first in 2000 and his most recent in 2017. Interestingly, despite still being ranked #2 on the pro tour, Rocky did not compete in the 2018 version, nor is he in this weekend’s draw.

– Rhonda Rajsich holds 11 National titles, winning her first in 2004. She’s also the defending champ, the #1 seed this weekend and has won the last eight National events.

Your defending champs are David Horn and Rajsich. I’m not entirely sure how Horn drops to the #3 seed behind Jake in particular (who he has bested round for round in the last few national qualifying events)., but would have had to play Pratt in the semis regardless so its a minor seeding nit.

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Men’s Singles:

Lets preview some of the match-ups i’ll be looking for:
In the 16s:
– #8 Luis R Avila vs #9 Robert Collins; 8/9 match-ups are always tough, and this should be no different. Lefty touring pro Collins versus the defending outdoor 3-wall champ Avila, who periodically comes indoors and has some good wins on his resume. This is a good test for both.
– #5 Adam Manilla vs #12 Woody Clouse; Woody Clouse back in action competing for the National team … for the first time since 2006. Clouse qualified for the team in 2005 and represented the US in the Pan American Games in April 2006, losing in the final to Canadian Kris Odegard 11-9. He also had several top 10 pro tour finishes during the deep mid 90s tour days. Now he’s back at age 53, playing in his home town. He faces off against fellow lefty Manilla, fresh off of a second top 20 season on tour with some good results. I think Manilla moves on but it’ll be a fun L vs L match.
– #6 Thomas Carter vs #11 Nicholas Nick Riffel; two IRT regulars meet up; they faced each other 3 times in 3 months in early 2018, with Carter taking 2 of 3. Riffel had a tough end to his 2018-19 tour, forfeiting out of Syosset with an injury. Meanwhile Carter had a nice run at the end of the season, getting a couple of solid wins and making the main draw in both Florida and NY. Advantage Carter here. 
– #7 Dylan Reid vs #10 Jeff Stark; two West Coasters who have played more than a few times meet up in the first round. I think the podcasting Reid is favored here but they know each other’s game.

Man, lots of Lefties in action. At least four, maybe more. Something in the water in Denver maybe.

Projecting the Qtrs:
– #1 Jake Bredenbeck vs Avila: Jake struggled with upsets all season … then blew it out in NY, taking out Pratt, Daniel De La Rosa and nearly beating Andree Parrilla. So which Jake shows up? 
– #4 Jose Diaz vs #5 Manilla: they’ve only played a couple times, but both matches were 3- or 5-game tiebreakers. I like Diaz here … in a tiebreaker.
– #3 Horn vs #6 Carter: I don’t think they’ve ever played in a top-level event … so a first for everyone. Horn should win this one in two closer games.
– #2 Charlie Pratt vs #7 Dylan Reid: another match-up of two upper northwestern guys, both hailing from Portland. Fly all the way to Denver … have a repeat of your tuesday night game. Pratt’s solid and advances here.

So i’m predicting Chalk to the semis … and then for some upsets to happen.

Semis:
– #4 Diaz over #1 Jake: they’re pretty even career-wise h2h, but havn’t played in a year and a half. I like Diaz here. Diaz had the better season, nearly slipping into the top 10 and jumping Jake in the rankings. 
– #2 Pratt over Horn: They played in December in Portland, a close 2-game win for Pratt, and I like the year Pratt is having so far.

Final:
– #2 Pratt over Diaz. head to head, Diaz has never lost to Pratt. But something tells me Pratt is on a mission this year.

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Women’s Singles: just 9 in this draw, but some good match-ups towards the back and one incredibly poor seeding job:

In the Quarters:
– #1 Rajsich over #8 Cassandra Cassi Lee
– #5 Kelani Lawrence over #4 Sheryl Lotts; here’s a seeding question. Lawrence made the Women’s singles final of the 2018 qualifier at Nat’l doubles, made the finals at 2018 Nationals, and made the finals at the 2019 Qualifier at Nat’l Doubles. So that’s basically the last three major National events…. how exactly is she seeded 5th in this event?? What more does she have to do to demonstrate that she’s basically the 2nd best American woman player right now?
– #3 Hollie Rae Scott over #6 Adrienne Fisher Haynes
– #2 Erika Manilla holds off retired LPRT legend Cheryl Gudinas

In the semis:
– #1 Rajsich takes out Lawrence in a rematch of the last three major US national team final, instead of in the final like it should be
– #3 Scott takes out #2 Manilla in a rematch of this year’s Intercollegiates semis.

In the final: Rajsich takes her 9th straight US title over Scott.

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Lastly, a note on attendance. There’s some separate conversations about the # of participants this weekend going on. Here’s a list of the participation numbers for the last 14 National Singles events (these are the “# of participants” from the r2sports page and should indicate unique players, not # of draw entrants):

2019: 191 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2018: 221 Pleasanton
2017: 243 Tempe
2016: 268 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2015: 377 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2014: 292 Fullerton
2013: 435 Fullerton (also IRT and LPRT pro stop)
2012: 559 Fullerton (also IRT and LPRT pro stop)
2011: 514 Fullerton (also IRT stop)
2010: 535 Houston
2009: 501 Houston
2008: 523 Houston
2007: 528 Houston
2006: 515 Houston

The event held steady in the low 500s its last five years in H ouston, then spiked during its Fullerton years thanks to simultaneous IRT and LPRT events (some of the pro draws from those years were amazing; 70+ mens pros competing). But we’ve seen a precipitous drop in attendance over the last few years, including a 100+ attendee drop from 2015 to 2016, now not even able to clear 200 players this year. 191 players isn’t even close to what National Doubles got this year (306) and that number is basically halved from the beginning of the century.

I know there’s some fundamental industry issues that are driving down these numbers. But this is the NGB’s marquee event. You can’t turn back time and make it the mid 2000s again (to say nothing of the mid 1990s), but you can strategize other aspects of the event to make it more appealing to a larger audience, and I hope to see some turn around in the coming years.

IRT Season ending Standings Implications from Syosset

Kane wraps up his 13th pro tour title.

Syosset was the last Tier 1 of the season, and as noted in the previews for this event, the #1 spot for the season was technically in the balance heading into the event. Kane Waselenchuk entered the Syosset event with a 132 point lead over #2 Rocky Carson in the year end title race. They had both opened up a massive gap even to the #3 ranked player; nearly 700 points separated #2 and #3 heading into the event, and that gap has only widened after the event. So Syosset was all about determining #1 for this year.

By winning the event, Kane has now distanced himself by a sufficient amount of points from Rocky to have ensured himself the year end title. This post explains why (at least as I understand the system), and talks about the rest of the top 10 ramifications.

5/6/19 updated points standings are now online here: https://www.irt-tour.com/singles-rankings/

As the tour standings now sit, Kane leads Rocky by 234 points. This is roughly 100 more points of a lead than he had heading into Syosset, due to the difference of 100 points between winning a Tier 1 event (400 points) and losing in the final (300).

Now, there are still multiple events left on the IRT schedule between now and the end of June (notionally the end of the season each year); I postulated before the Syosset event that those events could actually come into play if the results went a certain way this past weekend. Players get 120 points for winning IRT Tier 2 events … and there are two Tier 2s still on the schedule (Costa Rica in two weeks time and Chihuahua Mexico in Mid June), at least one of which i’ve heard Carson is scheduled to attend.

So why can’t Rocky go win both of those Tier 2s and get 240 additional points to overtake Kane for the title, since he trails by 234 points? Because the tour only takes each players’ best 9 results for the season … and a potential 120 point Tier 2 win would not be enough to replace any bad results for Rocky this season. Plus, for the final season rankings players drop their lowest tournament result (which for Kane would be a 0 point missed event). Rocky made the semis or better in ALL NINE IRT events this year, guaranteeing him at least 220 points per event. So Rocky actually cannot improve his current points totals one bit from where they are now, hence Kane’s insurmountable points lead.

So, Congrats to Kane on his 13th pro title (click here for a season summary for Kane’s career: http://rball.pro/C08BD1) and Rocky finishes 2nd for the ninth season in his career (click here for the same for Rocky: http://rball.pro/610C77).

Once all the rest of the tourney slate plays out, I’ll capture the official season ending standings and update the database and links to show these results.

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Now, how about the rest of the top 10? What did Syosset do to their rankings and what remains to play for?

So, there’s a couple of noteworthy rankings achievements to work towards besides the #1 title for the rest of the tour:
– the top 4 players on tour avoid the seedings flip 
– More importantly … the top 8 players get protected seeds into the 16s at tier one events.
– less important; finishing in “the top 10” as a career achievement.

I know there’s lots of complaining about protected seeds on tour, especially in a tournament like Syosset with 49 guys in the draw and some players potentially having to play 3 matches to face a rested, seeded player in the 16s. I’d rather not get into it here, just noting that there were several reasons it was implemented and remains in place today: see this link http://www.proracquetballstats.com/…/guidry_post_roundof32.… for a good summary of why it was put in and how it actually *helps* lower ranked players instead of hurting them, both in terms of prize money and rankings points.

Nonetheless, while the protected seed system is in place, players really want to stay in the top 8.

Here’s how the Syosset event results shape the current top 10, and what may happen with the remaining non-Tier 1s:

– By virtue of making the semis this past weekend, #3 Alejandro Alex Landahas locked up #3 on the season. He has a 142 point lead over #4 and cannot be surpassed even if Parrilla plays tier 2s and wins them to replace his lowest scores. Landa finishes #3 for the second year running and had a nice solid run in the 2nd half of the season to get there.

– #4 Andree Parrilla should have guaranteed himself the #4 spot for year end by making the semis. This is a pretty remarkable one-season rise for a player; he finished ranked 11th last season, basically playing the tour just half time. This year though, he played all 9 events, made four quarterfinals and four semifinals and was a couple of unlucky points from doing even better. Twice this season Parrilla went out in the tie-breaker 11-10 or else maybe we’d be talking about him fishing 3rd.

– Andree’s lead over #5 Alvaro Beltran is only 107 points. And, Beltran missed the first event of the season, meaning he could possibly win a Tier 2 and add 120 points to his year end total to over take Andree for the #4 spot. But … Alvaro played (and won) the Lou Bradley Tier 2 earlier this season (see http://blog.proracquetballstats.com/…/lou-bradley-irt-tier…/ for the wrap-up of that event), meaning he’s already got a 120 tier2 win on the books, so I’m not sure how much Alvaro can improve upon his current #5 ranking with the remaining events. Alvaro did miss the first Tier 1 of the season, meaning in theory that’s a zero-point result he should be able to “replace” …

– With his early upset loss this past weekend, Daniel De La Rosa dropped to #6 on tour for the season, his lowest season-ending ranking since the 2012-13 season. He’s just 50 points behind Alvaro though for the #5 spot, and missed not one but two events on the year, so he could improve his year end standing markedly by playing (and winning) some of the remaining lower tier events. But I wonder what motivation there would be for DLR to go out of his way to play non-tier 1s just to try to improve from 6th to 5th. If he was planning on playing (say) Costa Rica, or Chihuahua, or the smaller events in Arkansas and Kansas already so be it, but with his likely focused on outdoor events and pickleball and family for the summer, we may not see him again on the IRT til the opener in August/September.

– There’s a huge gap from #6 to #7; 420 points, really showing how the guys in the 3-6 range have separated themselves from the pack, similarly to how the 1 & 2 guys have separated themselves even from #3.

– #7 Samuel Murray picked a great tournament to hold serve and make the quarters as per his seeding; he retains a 70 point lead over #8 Franco and is probably locked into that as a year end seeding.

– #8 Sebastian Franco was upset in Syosset, but so were all his possible competitors to the last coveted protected seeding #8 spot, meaning he’s in line to retain it heading into the next season. Franco also is a very active player, having two “extra” events on his resume already being dropped, so I’m not sure how much he could improve his ranking with the remaining events, or if he’d even travel to them (Franco skipped the Bolivian Grand Slam, likely for travel/family reasons, and traveling to Costa Rica/Chihuahua may also not be in the cards).

– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís was upset before the 16s thanks to a brutal draw (having to play Javier Mar to qualify for the main draw) and could not move from his #9 seeding in Syosset in the standings. Montoya missed a couple of tier 1s early in the season, but has himself played a couple of non-Tier1s this season, so i’m not sure if he can improve upon the 100 point gap between himself and the coveted #8 spot at this point without a deep dive into his full results on the season. Maybe if he goes to Chihuahua and wins it he could slip into the top 8.

– Both #10 Mario Mercado and #11 Jose Diaz got upset early in Syosset, costing them any shot at moving up. Despite his big run to the quarters as a #12 seed, Jake Bredenbeck remains locked into that year end seeding. #13 David Horn made the main draw but got no further and stays ranked #13 for the season.

– After #13, there’s a size-able gap to #14: Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo, who has all his points from just two events (the Bolivia grand slam and a non Tier 1), and who seems unlikely to be seen on the regular tour at this point. I’d love to see him get some sponsors … but regular flights from Bolivia to the US are pretty grueling and we may not see him again til the US Open.

– The Guys ranked 15th-20th are all within 100 points of each other. Gerardo Franco GonzalezJansen AllenLalo PortilloThomas CarterAdam Manillaand Robert Collins. I’d describe all these guys similarly; they play nearly every IRT event, sometimes get upset early, and are still mostly lacking that one big run to the semis where they get a couple of solid wins in a row over top 8 guys that they’d need to really kick start their rankings. Some of these guys are moving up in the world (especially Portillo), while others are slipping (Allen), and it’ll be interesting to see how next season plays out for this crew.

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So that’s it. Hope you enjoyed, and I hope i didn’t get any of this analysis egregiously wrong 🙂

IRT Syosset Open Singles Wrap-Up

Kane wins again … and wraps up his 13th pro tour title.

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk, who wins the Syosset Open on the weekend.

With this title:
– Kane’s 116th professional win.
– He improves to 26-2 on the season
– He improves to 76-3 over Rocky, his opponent in the final.
– Most importantly … Kane secures an insurmountable points lead and clinches his 13th pro tour title.

We’ll put up a separate post about the ramifications of this win for the year end’s rankings … this was the final Tier 1 event of the year.

r2sports link for brackets: http://rball.pro/CCDF9D

Match Report in PRS: http://rball.pro/A7214A

Here’s the matches I found notable, by round:

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In the 64s:
– #9 seed Rodrigo Montoya Solis absolutely pasted #41 Alan Natera Chavez2,2. Talk about turning the tables from the last time they played at Nationals.

– Similarly, #24 Javier Mar advanced with relative ease over #25 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez 5,10 to setup a fantastic 32 match up with each other.

– #16 Adam Manilla took out #33 Nick Montalbano with relative ease 5,3. I thought this would be closer, given Montalbano’s results on tour earlier this season.

– #13 David Horn was stretched to an 11-8 tiebreaker win, taking out Marylander #36 Mauricio MoMo Zelada.

– #11 Jose Diaz advanced over Mexican junior #38 Oscar Nieto 13,11. Nieto is playing in his age 18 season but missed last year’s Mexican Junior Nationals after advancing to the 2017 16U Mexican finals (where he lost to Fernandez, also playing here).

– #22 Andres Acuña made fast work of Georgia IRT frequenter #27 Maurice Miller 3,7.

– Teenager #26 Sebastian Fernandez downed #23 Mauro Daniel Rojas with relative ease 10,6. Like with several of these match-ups, I thought this would be closer.

– #42 Andres Gomez upset his fellow Colombian #10 Mario Mercado 11-9, making for another one-and-done for Mercado and likely killing his chances of finishing in the top 10 this season.

———————-
In the 32s.

– Solid win by youngster #17 Lalo Portillo to beat #16 Adam Manilla to advance to the main draw.

– In the match of the round, #9 Montoya was ousted by his good friend and frequent doubles partner #24 Mar 12,7. Both games were neck and neck up to a point, and then featured Mar pulling away. Such a shame to see two top 10 players in the world meet in the 32s. But Mar survives the gauntlet of this little section of the draw to move on.

– #12 Jake Bredenbeck came from a game down to dominate #21 Charlie Pratt and advance (8),6,1. I thought Pratt had a deep run in him, given his PARC run last month, but Jake played really well, frustrating Pratt and dominated the tie-breaker.

– #19 Thomas Carter got a statement win over #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 1,10.

– Similarly, #22 Acuna dominated #11 seed Jose Diaz 4,12 to move on.

– #26 Fernandez dominated Gomez 8,0 to advance into the main draw.
———————-
In the 16s.

– #1 Kane Waselenchuk seems to show little ill effects from last weekend, dominating the youngster Portillo in a 4,4 win to open his tournament.

– #24 Mar continued plowing through ranked players, topping #8 Sebastian Franco 7,13 to setup a rematch with Kane of a round of 16 last October at the US Open.

– #12 Bredenbeck makes his first IRT quarter final since Nov 2017 with a solid win over #5 Daniel De La Rosa.

– There he’ll face long-time WRT rival Andree Parrilla , who advanced for the 2nd week in a row with a 2-game win over fellow WRT veteran David Horn.

– #3 Alex Landa dispatched surprise main draw participant #19 Carter 5,6. Unless Parrilla makes the final, Landa has sewn up #3 with this win.

– #6 Alvaro Beltran was taken to a tie-breaker by the surprising Costa Rican Acuna before advancing.

– #7 Samuel Murray dropped a game to #26 Fernandez before coming back to advance in a tiebreaker.

– #2 Rocky Carson dispatched #15 Jansen Allen in two straight 4,10.

So, 6 of your top 8 seeds advance; only #3 and #8 are upset at this juncture.

———————-
In the Quarters…
– #1 Waselenchuk left no doubt that he’s recovered from whatever ailed him in Florida, pounding one of the best players in the world in #24 Mar 6,3.

– #4 Parilla squandered match point in game two, but held on in the tiebreaker to advance over #12 Jake, ending Bredenbeck’s best run in a year and a half on tour.

– #3 Landa pulverized Beltran 4,4 in a rematch of last weekend’s final, throwing down the gauntlet on this event.

– #2 Carson cruised past Canadian #7 Murray 9,5.

So, despite the depth of this 49-man draw and the presence of a slew of top world players who don’t regularly play the tour … its chalk seeds into the semis. Cream rises.

———————-
In the Semis:
– #4 Parilla came out swinging, taking Game 1 over Waselenchuk and putting into doubt not only the year end title race but also the state of Kane’s game right now given his loss last weekend. Kane rebounded though taking game 2 and donutting Parrilla in the tie-breaker to advance to thefinals.

– #2 Carson avenged a loss to #3 Landa last weekend by taking a solid 12,13 win to advance to the final.

———————-
In the Final, Kane showed no mercy and showed no ill effects of any past physical ailments by dominating the tour’s #2 player 3,4 for the title.

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Next up; per the IRT schedule, there’s a few non-tier 1s between now and the end of June, including two Tier 2s that could theoretically juggle the year end rankings a bit. We’ll definitely cover them as they stand to have good draws, especially the “Black Gold” event in Mexico in mid-June.

Also notable; the tour plans on announcing a preliminary copy of the 2019-20 schedule next month and they’ve teased it a bit; it should include the return of several events that dropped off in the last year, plus the return of some of the great events that happened this year.

International Racquetball Tour Racquetball Canada USA RacquetballFederación Mexicana de Raquetbol Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora Fecoracquet Fecoracquet International Racquetball Federation – IRFInternational Racquetball Federation

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.

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IRT Florida Pro Am Wrap-up

Landa gets his 3rd career singles IRT title.

International Racquetball Tour

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30402

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/6A2E20

Congrats to Alejandro Landa, who wins his 3rd career title on the weekend.

Here’s a review of the event, citing notable matches (to me) by round:

In the 64s:
– Maurice Miller advanced by the skin of his teeth over Kyle Ulliman 11-10. 
– Set Cubillos Ruiz got a solid win over “the ref’ Scott McClellan to advance.

In the 32s:
– Thomas Carter got his first career win over Felipe Camacho with a pretty solid 6,13 win. He advances into the main draw for just the 2nd time this season.
– Eduardo Garay Rodriguez upset 9th seeded Mario Mercado 11-9 in the breaker. A solid win for Garay, which earns him a rematch with Beltran.
– #13 Jake Bredenbeck saved game point against Miller in game 1, then cruised to a two game win, avoiding this pitfall and advancing to his 7th main draw in 8 IRT events this season.
– Andres Acuña won a hard-fought tiebreaker win over #14 Jansen Allen. Allen’s tough season continues; he’s only qualified for the main draw now in 4 of the 8 events, after cashing in all 11 events last season. 
– Lalo Portillo got a solid win over tour vet Robert Collins to continue his impressive season.

In the 16s:
– David Horn got a solid win over #5 Samuel Murray 11,12. He avenges a bad loss a month ago to Murray and moves on to his second QF of the season.
– Alvaro Beltran made quicker work of Eduardo Garay than I thought he would, winning 7,9.
– #3 Alejandro Alex Landa absolutely destroyed Acuna 3,2. Where was this dominance at the Pan Am Games? 
– #7 Daniel De La Rosa got an easier-than-expected win over Rodrigo Montoya Solís 12,3, the latest in a back-and-forth rivalry with Montoya.
#6 Sebastian Franco got a solid win over Jose Diaz to advance.

Nearly 100% chalk into the quarters, with only Horn’s upset of #5 Murray a blemish on the resumes of the top 8 seeds.

In the Quarters:
– In a shocking result, #8 Beltran topped #1 seed Kane Waselenchuk in an 11-8 tiebreaker. I’ll do a separate post on this result, which streaks it ends for Kane, and what it means for the title race later on.
– #4 Andree Parrilla dominated his former WRT rival #12 Horn 2,6.
– #3 Landa took a close one over Franco
– #2 Rocky Carson wiped out #7 De La Rosa 7,3.

Semis:
– Beltran came back from looking like he’d get wiped off the court to take Parrilla in an 11-10 thriller.
– Landa played one of the more complete games of his career, beating Carson 5,7 to advance to the final.

In that final, a rematch of the Mexican National championship, Landa fended off the veteran Beltran to take home his 3rd career title.

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Next up; the Syosset Open, the last Tier 1 of the season!

Bolivia Open Grand Slam preview – IRT

Is this Moscoso’s time on home soil?

Bolivia Open Grand Slam preview – International Racquetball Tour

Open Bolivia American Iris

Hello Racquetball Fans; it is a historic week for professional racquetball as the first ever pro tournament is being held in Racquetball-mad Raquet Bolivia.

R2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30507

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 and Carlos 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.

On the Women’s pro side, Bolivian Trail-blazers such as Yazmine Sabja RáquetbolCarola Loma and Jenny Daza Navia have made finals of international events for a decade, but have yet to push through with a major adult international victory.

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.
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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 MurraySebastian 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 Landa starts 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.

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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.

IRT Shamrock Shootout Wrap-up

Kane is the double winner on the weekend.

Congrats to the winners on the weekend:
– Singles; Kane Waselenchuk 
– Doubles: Kane Waselenchuk & Ben Croft

R2sports link for the event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30236

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Lets wrap-up the Singles event. Here’s the matches I found notable for each round:

Singles Match Report: http://rball.pro/3A30E4

In the 128s and 64s … there were a few closer games but no upsets in my mind:
– Jansen Allen and Hiroshi Shimizu were both extended to tiebreakers against Alok Mehta and Juan Salvatierra respectively but advanced.
– Felipe Camacho won 10,10 over Kyle Ulliman
– Troy Warigon played a closer-than-expected match to beat Ferd Samson11,13
– MoMo Zelada made it twice in two months over Georgian Maurice Miller 11,10. Miller subsequently caught fire in the Men’s Open draw, racing to the final with a number of what i’d characterize as “Career Best” wins.
– Adam Manilla took out Jordy Alonso 12,10
– David Horn got a solid win over Eduardo Garay 10,11.

The 32s were played Friday morning, with a couple of “upsets” by seeding and a couple of tie-breakers.
– #9 Jose Diaz dropped the first game to long-time IRT veteran Hiroshi Shimizu but recovered to take the match. Shimizu looked pretty darn good for someone who is north of 50. 
– The 16/17 match, as always, was a tight one, with Felipe Camacho coming out on top of Thomas Carter 11-8 in the breaker. A close match.
Eduardo Lalo Portillo blasted Jake Bredenbeck 5,8 to advance in the upset by seedings. We know Portillo is no slouch and this win doesn’t surprise me, but the score does. Jake is definitely in a rut this season.
Rodrigo Montoya blitzed by countryman Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 15-1, then dropped the second game before racing to the tiebreaker win. Final score: 1,(10),3.
– In the 15/18 match, Adam Manilla won the lefty-on-lefty crime match, topping Robert Collins in two tight games 13,11.

In the 16s… several matches that surprised me and went against my predictions, but in the end was nearly chalk by seeding:
– In the 8/9 match, Sebastian Franco turned the tide on his results lately and took out Jose Diaz in two tight games 12,12.
– #4 Alejandro Alex Landa took out the upset-minded Eduardo Portillo 5,12 to eliminate the highest advancing seed out of the 16s.
– In the biggest upset of the night, #14 Montoya took out #3 Daniel De La Rosa with relative ease 3,9. While these two are neck and neck in true world power rankings … DLR has had the better of him lately, including a shellacking in Sioux Falls two months ago. Surprising result for me … and opens up the draw for Rodrigo completely.
– #7 Samuel Murray dominated #10 David Horn 3,7. I thought this match might have gone the other way … but a 3,7 win is pretty convincing.

So your seeds into the quarters are 1,2,4,5,6,7,8 … and 14. Pretty chalk. But i’m guessing that 14 seed may make some more noise here.

In the Quarters…
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk let #8 Sebastian Franco hang with him til about 6-6 in the first, then ran off more than 20 unanswered points, winning the first game 15-7 and donuting the Colombian 15-0 in the second. 
– #5 Andree Parrilla continues his dominance at this event (his two best career finishes are at this event over the last two seasons), cruising to a win over #4 Alejandro Landa 8,9. Parrilla has beaten Landa now twice in a row, improving his career h2h record against the former #1 to 4-6 across all competitions.
– #14 Montoya made it 3-0 against Alvaro Beltran on the IRT tour, taking this match and beating the #6 seed 8,9. Montoya advances to his 3rd career IRT semi final (out of 8 career IRT tourneys) and second this season (he made the Semis in Sioux Falls after beating #1 seed Landa in the 16s).
– #2 Rocky Carson dropped a game to #7 Samuel Murray for just the second time ever, but Murray ran out of gas in the tiebreaker and lost a 2+ hour marathon 7,(13),2.

In the Semis…
– Kane blitzed by Parrilla 5,2, never really giving Andree a chance to junk ball his way into the match.
– Carson took the first ever meeting against Montoya 11,2. The first game was a shot-maker’s paradise, with the players going toe to toe and firing at all cylinders. In the second game, Carson put on a master class of game management, completely controlling the match and bewildering the young Mexican to a crushing 15-2 defeat. Make no mistake; there is still a gulf between the 2nd ranked Carson and his challengers.

In the Finals…
– Kane won a match that he really controlled throughout by the not-as-close-as-it-looked scores of 10 and 10. Lots of lob serving from Kane, who put in twice the court time he normally does this weekend and may have been conserving his arm by not drive serving in the title match.

With the win…
– Kane captures his 115th career IRT Tier 1/Grand Slam title.
– Kane improves to an amazing 75-3 against Rocky, the lions share of which were tournament finals.
– Kane raises his current match winning streak to 82 matches, good for 3rd best ever streak. He’s got a long way to go to top his record of 134 straight.
– Kane extends his current GAME winning streak to 72 games, and moves into 2nd place all time to his own 113 game winning streak that I previously thought was his career achievement. He’d have to win 21 more matches w/o dropping a game to top it, or probably 6 more tourneys… and there’s no end in sight to his current dominance.

Ranking Implications on the weekend: Using my personal points projections (which aren’t exactly in line with IRT total points but are pretty close), here’s what I think this weekend’s events means for the points race:
– Kane now has a nearly 500 point lead … and still has one more tournament to play without defending any points from last season’s injury, which means a win in Bolivia and its double points would lead to a nearly 900 point advantage with just two events left. Which means … if Kane wins in Bolivia he’s clinched the title.
– Landa and DLR should switch places with DLR’s early upset.
– Beltran should rise to #5.
– Franco should rise to #6.
– Parrilla drops from 5 to 7 despite making the semis.
– Murray drops from 7 to 8.
– Horn drops from 10 to 13.

– Montoya rises from 14 to 12, meaning he’s away from the top 3 in terms of a potential round of 16 match-up now. He’d now project to play the 5th seed in a round of 16, which gets him away from the top 4 players and just increases his chances of gaining more rankings points.

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Wrap-up of the doubles:

Match Report: http://rball.pro/2865FD

No upsets in the full round of 16. In the quarters, in the 4/5 match-up Jake/Diaz got a solid win over Montoya/Parrilla, and the 6th seeded favorites Kane/Croft “upset” the 3rd seeded Colombian pairing of Mercado/Franco.

In the semis, DLR/Alvaro got a solid win over Jake/Diaz, while Kane/Croft got an injury-driven walkover win against #2 seed Landa/Murray to setup the final everyone wanted to see.

In that sat. night final, Kane/Croft recovered from losing the first game to out-shoot DLR/Beltran and improve to 4-1 head-to-head against the reigning World Doubles champions on the pro circuit.

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Thats it, thanks for reading!

Next up is the Bolivian Grand Slam. Can’t wait to see this event, since there’s 5-6 really quality Bolivian players who we rarely get to see. Moscoso, the Keller brothers, Ruiz Michel, Gerson, Garcia, Mercado and Carrasco all could be in this draw and make noise. Maybe even the legendary Ricardo Monroy could come out of “retirement” to play; if you’ve never heard of Monroy, he was the first non-North American international player to win a major IRF title, taking the 2010 Pan American Championships. And there’s also a Women’s pro stop, with lots of quality Bolivian female pros too.

IRT Shamrock Shootout Preview

Beltran will look to make another run to the Finals in Chicago.

The International Racquetball Tour is back, and in Chicago for the 34th annual Shamrock Shootout, sponsored by frequent IRT patron KWM Gutterman.

R2sports home page for the event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30236

(as of this posting, the draws are not yet active but can be gotten from IRT’s facebook page postings…)

There’s a huge draw in Chicago; 43 pros entered into singles. That’s the biggest non-US Open draw since Sept 2014, and this draw is stacked. There’s great representation from the top pros: 19 of the top 20 players are entered (missing only #13 Charlie Pratt, who’s playing Oregon State Singles this weekend instead), and the draw includes reigning World champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis to mix things up. He’ll be seeded 14th, playing into his Mexican national nemesis #3 Daniel De La Rosa for what could be a heck of a round of 16 match (we’ll get to that later)…

Because its Chicago, we get some Midwestern guys entered such as Geoff Goldblatt, Juan Martinez III, Alok Mehta, Ferd Samson and Nadeem Sharifuddin. Some of these guys are long-time players with match histories that go back a ways (Goldblatt’s first pro tourney on record was in 2006), some we havn’t seen since the 2018 Worlds (Mehta represented India at the 2014 and 2018 IRF events), and some are making their pro tour debuts (like Sharifuddin).

Interestingly, what looks like the entire Guatemalan national team is entered, and the qualifying rounds will include Edwin Galicia, Javier Martinez, Hanzel Martinez Perez, Jeovany Mendoza, Juan Salvatierra, and long-time veteran Christian Wer, all hailing from the Central American country. Its great to see so many great internationals in one place.

Lets preview the draw. There’s such a huge draw that they needed three round of 128 matches, one of which features two of the traveling Guatemalans. That’s a bummer: fly all the way up here and have a rematch of every Tuesday night at the home club.

We pick up in the 64s; here’s some matches to watch for:
– #9 Jose Diaz is the highest ranked player w/o a bye into the 16s, and for his trouble he has to play twice in qualifying; he’s rewarded at first with a crap-shoot against the winner of the Mendoza-Martinez all-Guatemalan play-in. 
– #17 Long-time Costa Rican vet Felipe Camacho gets a tough opener against mid-westerner Kyle Ulliman. Ulliman has played a couple of pro stops already this year but doesn’t have a break-through win yet and Camacho is a tough out.
– #20 Eduardo Lalo Portillo faces off against long-time Guatemalan #1 Edwin Galicia in a tough opener for both. Galicia has been representing Guatemala at International Racquetball Federation – IRF events for 6 years running, while Lalo (the reigning 18U junior world champ) is coming off a disappointing 1st round exit at Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Nationals last month.
– #12 Jansen Allen (who has now fallen completely out of the top 10), has a tough 1st rounder against regular Guatemala international representative Juan Salvatierra in his quest to get back into the top 10.
– #22 Maurice Miller faces off against Mauricio MoMo Zelada, a rematch of the final of the February Open final at the Wintergreen event in Laurel, MD. Zelada won 6,12 then and seems a good bet to advance again.
– IRT regular Justus Benson is the unlucky first round match for reigning IRF World Champion Rodrigo Montoya, looking to make a splash and keep his IRT ranking on the rise.
– #15 Adam Manilla gets a tough Mexican up and comer Jordy Alonso as his 1st round opponent.
– #18 Robbie Robert Collins faces off against long-time Guatemalan international Christian Wer, who I first have playing for his country in 2004 and who was on the Worlds team in 2018. That’s a pretty long int’l career.
– #10 David Horn has the unenviable task of facing off against one of the more unheralded Mexican players today in Eduardo Garay Rodriguez. Garay has wins over IRT top 10 players on his resume in the past couple of seasons and has the ability to win here too.

In the 32s…here’s some projections based on potential match-ups:

– the #16/#17 match-up looks solid: Camacho vs Thomas Carter. A great test for both players; I sense the veteran Camacho advances to the main draw and a date with Kane.
– #13 Jake Bredenbeck vs #20 Portillo: I like Portillo’s chances here against Bredenbeck, who has yet to get out of the 16s this season after multiple quarter-finals appearances in prior seasons and is coming off an upset loss in Pueblo to a guy who has never played a pro match.
– #12 Allen over #21 Troy Warigon; the solid playing Allen should advance over part time IRT player Warigon here.
– #11 Mario Mercado over Zelada: the all-DC Metro area match-up, with the two relative neighbors facing off for a chance at the 16s. Mercado has the edge but it wouldn’t surprise me if this went Zelada’s way.
– Montoya vs Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; tough break for Franco, who runs into his countryman at this stage for the 2nd time in 3 months. He’s trying to build on the momentum of his run to the Mexican national quarters last month, but Montoya should advance here.
– #15 Manilla vs #18 Collins: the very-rare lefty vs lefty match-up, likely a win for the up and coming Manilla.

In the 16s…
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk starts off his title quest against the veteran Camacho and cruises to a win.
– the #8/#9 looks like a dog-fight: Diaz versus Sebastian Franco. After a solid start to the season, Franco has faltered, with two straight round of 16 exits and having missed Sioux Falls (for his Honeymoon; can’t fault him there). One of those early exits was at the hands of Diaz, who may very well do it again here.
– #5 Parrilla vs #12 Allen: Andree has been on a tear, but Allen plays solid, consistent racquetball and may cause Parrilla some troubles here.
– #4 Alejando Alex Landa vs Portillo: the newly crowned Mexican champ faces off against one of his country’s best young players; Landa should dominate this match based on playing styles.
– #3 De La Rosa vs #14 Montoya; this is the match of the round. 3 vs 14 by seeds, but two of the best 5 players in the world by capabilities. They met in Sioux Falls and DLR destroyed Rodrigo 1,4. In fact, Montoya may be the reigning world champ, but DLR has beaten him 3 out of 4 times they’ve played in the past year. I think DLR advances and Montoya misses out on an opportunity to gain valuable IRT ranking points yet again due to the luck of the draw.
– #6 Alvaro Beltran vs #11 Mercado; fresh off his surprise National finals appearance, Beltran runs into the mercurial Mercado (alliteration intended), who has beaten Alvaro in the past, but seems to be in a bit of a rut this season. Mercado has three one-and-done events this season and will have his work cut out for him to make it to this point. Alvaro advances.
– #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Horn; tough match for Murray here. Bobby beat Sam in April of 2018, but has three one-and-dones on the season and missed Sioux Falls b/c of injury. Horn did make the final of the Pueblo Shootout before getting waxed by Kane and seems to be healthy; can he outlast Murray here and put himself back on the winning ways? If he’s healthy, I think so.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Manilla: these two havn’t played in years on the pro tour, and while Adam can put up a fight against top players he should fall at this gate.

In the Quarters…
– #1 Kane over #9 Diaz. I’ll bet the versatile Diaz conjurs up some 209-magic and stays in rallies longer than expected, but Kane advances.
– #4 Landa over #5 Parrilla: I like Landa here, despite the fact that Parrilla took him in their last meeting (2018 US Open). Landa played so solidly at Mexican Nationals, its hard to envision him losing to Parrilla’s game-style.
– #6 Beltran takes out his doubles partner #3 DLR in a classic let-down game after DLR’s tough win over Montoya. They played in Portland in December, and Alvaro trounced him in two there, and I’m betting on a similar result here. 
Beltran is on a career renaissance this season and continues his stretch of solid play. 
– #2 Carson defeats Horn in a battle of contrasting pace of play styles. Carson will slow it down, while Horn tries to speed it up. Neither are happy with the referee at the end of the match.

In the semis…
– #1 Kane defeats former #1 Landa, but Landa puts up a fight and makes the scores 15-11, 15-9 or so. If Landa is on and making shots, Kane needs to find a slightly higher gear to beat him, which he eventually does since he’s such a master at the end-game of matches.
– #6 Beltran goes up against his long time rival #2 Carson for the third time this season and makes it 2 out of 3 with an upset win.

In the final, Kane takes out Beltran with ease, but not before Alvaro plays his typical shooter’s delight game plan and makes Kane sweat for a while. Its worth noting that Alvaro is the last player to take a game off of Kane (the 2017 US Open) and still has the capability to run off a game even against a guy who is currently working on a streak of 64 straight games won in competition.

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There’s also a massive Pro doubles draw; a full 16 team draw. The #1 team is, as normal, DLR/Beltran, who just got upset at Mexico Nationals and will not have the opportunity to compete for 2019 IRF crowns. They’ll have to possibly work their way through 1/2 of the team that dethroned them in Montoya, playing here with Parrilla, who themselves have to get by the Columbian National #1 doubles team of Mercado & Franco.

On the other side of the draw, the other “best doubles team in the world” in Kane & Ben Croft makes a rare appearance, seeded 6th. They likely face #3 seeds of Jake/Diaz for an excellent quarter final match before likely facing the excellent #2 seeded pairing of Landa & Murray in the semis. However, Landa/Murray may have to get past Rocky Carson, who plays pro doubles for the first time since Sept 2017 (!). He’s playing with Manilla for a nice little lefty-righty combo, perhaps a nod by Carson to help get ready for the upcoming WOR championships (where doubles is king).

I like Kane/Croft over DLR/Beltran in the final, a slight reversal of how this match-up has gone the last couple of times … but also an indicator that DLR/Beltran may have some cracks in the armor after their upset in Chihuahua last month.

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Can’t wait for more IRT action!

USA Racquetball National Doubles Wrap-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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