US Nationals Wrap-Up

Landa secures the National team Doubles spot in his first US competition since switching countries. Photo Kevin Savory

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Men’s Doubles: Sudsy Monchik & Alejandro Landa
– Women’s Doubles; Aimee Ruiz & Erika Manilla

And the winners of the Singles qualifiers:
– Men’s Singles: Rocky Carson
– Women’s Singles: Hollie Scott

Sudsy/Landa win three straight 11-9 breakers over former USA National doubles championship teams to take the title. Ruiz secures her 12th title (13th won on the court) and brings along Manilla for her first ever National Doubles title.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31680

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Lets review the notable matches in the Men’s Doubles draw.

Men’s Doubles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/989C2B

All three round of 16 matches were two game wins that weren’t necessarily that close: #9 MoMo Zelada/ Robert Collins “upset” the #8 seeded team of Brent Walters and Thomas Gerhardt 13,3 as the round’s closest match.

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In the Quarters, we saw some fun matches.

– #1 Rocky Carson and Charlie Pratt Racquetball dominated the #9 seeded team of Zelada/Collins 9,3 to move on.

– The #5 team of Alex Landa and Sudsy Monchik barely got by a very good #4 seeded team of Tony Carson and Jansen Allen (13),12,9. Carson/Allen jumped out to a huge lead in game one and it looked for a time like the match would be a blow-out, but Landa/Monchik battled back and lost game one on a disputed call. Game two was more in Landa/Monchik control towards the end, leading to the inevitable tiebreaker.

In the breaker, a very tense match reached its crescendo. There was almost nothing between these teams and throughout the 3rd game rallies often ended with spectacular pinch winners or debatable hinders. Carson’s backhand was lethal throughout the match, and his backhand hard Z gave Sudsy fits all night. At the end, Landa was able to find a serve that Allen couldn’t (or didn’t) attack, which led to scoring opportunities that they didn’t miss to pull away and get the last two points to win 11-9.

– After dropping the first game, #6 David ” Bobby” Horn] and Erik Garcia] were able to get the upset over #3 Adam Manilla] and Nick Riffel (7),3,5.

– #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ were pushed to a breaker, but eventually advanced over #7 Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon.

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In the Semis
– #5 Landa/Monchik dethroned defending champs Carson/Pratt in a fascinating match that went down to the wire. After dropping the first game rather easily, the #5 seeds regrouped and forced a tie-breaker. There, it went down to the a couple of critical rallies, just as their match in the quarters. Carson & Pratt looked like they had the match in hand, up 8-4 with the serve … they missed two opportunities to push it further, giving the serve back. There, a skip, a funny bounce a mis-communication and a crack-ace quickly got the match to 8-8. From there, Landa crushed a service return for a half out, then Rocky buried a pinch kill from 39 feet for 9-8. Sudsy then crushed a pinch kill to get a side out … called a skip for 10-8 but overturned by both line judges for a critical side-out at 8-9 for Landa/Monchik. From there … destiny took over; Pratt got hit by a call heading for a setup for 9-9, Landa buried a kill shot for 10-9 and then Pratt skipped a service return for an anti-climactic end to a great match.

– #2 Jake/Diaz overcame a first game defeat to cruise to the win, advancing to the final for the third time in five years, defeating #6 Horn/Garcia (11),5,3.

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In the Finals, Sudsy/Landa looked for a time to be cruising to the title, jumping out to a big game one lead before Jake/Jose fought back to make it a game. Game two was one-way traffic, setting up yet another nail biting tiebreaker. There, the veterans jumped out to a big lead, only to have Jake/Jose grind back to 9-9. Then, as with the two previous matches, Landa/Monchik faced 9-9 down without the serve, got it back and served it out for the match.

The cardiac kid veterans beat three former champs, each time 11-9 in the breaker, to secure the title and claim National team spots.

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Women’s Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/846600

In the quarters, two matches:
– The young #4 seeds Jazmin Trevino and Erin Slutzky prevailed in a breaker over #5 Cassie Lee and Fran Transfiguracion 11-8.
– the #3 seeds of collegiate stars Hollie Scott and Lexi York dominated the team of Graciana Wargo and Jessica Chen 4.3.

In the Semis:
– #1 seeds Aimee Roehler Ruiz and Erika Manilla cruised to the final over the #4 team of Trevino/Slutzky 7,7
– #3 Hollie Scott and Lexi York] outplayed the #2 seeded team of Kelani Lawrence and Sheryl Lotts, winning in two games 8,13 to move into the final.

In the Finals: the #1 seeds dominated, led by Ruiz’ experience and cruised to the title 6,9.

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Men’s Singles Qualification:

(No match report in PRS database b/c we’re not loading this data right now).

Here’s a review of the singles qualifier:

round of 16 notable matches:
– #8 Maurice Miller got a solid win over #9 Erik Garcia 12,(6),5.
– #12 MoMo Zelada got the biggest upset of the night, playing a solid match to down #5 Charlie Pratt 12,11. Pratt made the semis of the last two US Nationals event, and Zelada has really been playing well lately.
– #6 Thomas Carter came back from a 15-0 first game defeat to down #11 Robert Collins (0),7,9 in a battle of lefty IRT tour veterans. Collins really couldn’t do anything wrong in the first, but Carter made some adjustments to advance.
– #7 Manilla took two solid games over the improving #10
Sam Bredenbeck 8,12 to move on.

In the Quarters: all four top seeds advanced in two games in the near-chalk draw:
– #1 Carson over #8 Miller
– #4 Horn over #12 Zelada
– #3 Bredenbeck over #6 Carter
– #2 Landa over #7 Manilla

In the Semis:
– #1 Carson remained undefeated against #4 Horn, but was pressed to a tie-breaker to advance.
– #2 Landa also remained undefeated against #3 Bredenbeck, winning in two straight.

In the final, a fatigued Landa fell to Carson in two games; it looked for a bit like Landa could rally for a breaker in the second game, but a couple of curious calls went against him at the tail end of game two, he lost focus and the match was over; Carson wins 6,14.

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Women’s Singles

Round of 16 notables:
– #8 Jessica Chen took out her doubles partner #9 Wargo in two.
– #6 York dropped the first game against junior Slutzky before advancing.

In the quarters: all four top seeds advanced.
– #1 Rhonda Rajsich over #8 Chen
– #4 Erika Manilla went tiebreaker to advance over #5 Lotts, dropping the first game 6 then winning (6),7,3.
– #3 Scott downed her doubles partner York 8,9
– #2 Lawrence took out fellow LPRT touring regular Cassie Lee 6,1.

In the semis:
– #4 Manilla got a career win, topping #1 Rajsich in a tie-breaker.
– #3 Scott upset #2 Lawrence in a rematch of last year’s US National singles final.

I said my peace on the seeding issues here in the preview; this event was mis-seeded, and these semis match-ups demonstrate why it was mis-seeded and why Lawrence in particular probably feels hard done by here.

In the final…Scott prevailed over Manilla in the breaker to put herself in the driver’s seat for a National team spot.

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National Team Standing Implications of these results.

(see https://www.teamusa.org/…/Team-U…/Qualifying-for-the-US-Team
for qualifying guidelines and point scoring here).

On the Men’s side, if my calculations are correct, then the top for candidates in the race for the two National team singles spots are:
1. Landa: 36
2. Carson: 32
3. Jake: 20
4. Horn.20

Despite losing the final here, Landa is in the lead for a national team spot thanks to the vast difference in US OPen results. Landa and Carson have a pretty sizeable lead over Jake and Horn; the only way Jake or Bobby could surpass Landa or Carson is to win US Nationals this coming May and have one of Landa/Carson upset prior to the semis.

On the Women’s side, here’s the current standings:
1. Scott: 31
2. Manilla: 24
3. Rhonda: 20
4. Kelani: 19

Hollie pretty much has a spot sewn up at this point: The second spot will come down to how 2 thru 4 play at Natioanls in May.

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Other notable draws from National Doubles:

– Miller and Warigon took the Men’s Open Doubles title.
– Trevino and Slutzky took the Women’s Open Doubles title.

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Next up?

There’s no major tournaments anywhere in the world (pro or amateur) until the first week of March. So we have a bit of a break.

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USA Racquetball
International Racquetball Tour
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US National Doubles (with Singles qualifier) Preview

Carson to go for the double this weekend as the #1 seed in both Singles and Doubles. Photo Portland 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Welcome to the first major Amateur Nationals event of Fy2020. Its the US National doubles event, being held in Tempe, AZ on the campus of Arizona State University.

This is the 53rd iteration of US National doubles: The first was held in 1968 in Madison, Wisconsin and the first Men’s US national title was won by the team of Simie Fein and Jim White. The Women’s event doesn’t seem to have started until 1972; the first winners I have on record were Jan Pasternak and Kimberly Hill, who won the title in Memphis in 1972.

Click here for a full list of all Men’s titlists: http://rball.pro/8862E4

Click here for a full list of Women’s titlists: http://rball.pro/A7F6CA

Rocky Carson holds the Men’s record for most National Doubles titles; he has 11 titles in 13 appearances. Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson holds the record on the Women’s side with 14 titles in 15 appearances.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31680

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Lets preview the Men’s Doubles draw:

The Men’s draw has 11 teams, highlighted by both of last year’s finalist teams as the #1 and #2 seeds. The big news of course this year is the entry of one team in particular: Alex Landa , the current #2 player on the IRT has entered with 5-time pro tour champ and Hall of Famer Sudsy Monchik.

Landa, who has represented Mexico his entire career, famously was left off the Mexican delegation to the Pan American Games last year despite winning the 2019 Mexican Nationals event. The Mexican federation made this decision based on rather “debatable” guidelines to say the least, and in the aftermath Landa asked for (and was granted) his release from the Mexican team. He’s a dual citizen and has resided in Texas for many years, and quickly was able to obtain clearance to enter in US national events. He’s an accomplished doubles player, currently ranked #3 on the IRT doubles ranking, and is a right-side (forehand) player. He’s teamed a legend and a great left-side (backhand) doubles player in Sudsy to make a pretty formidable team. They’re handed the #5 seed, meaning they’ll have to play through both top seeds to win it.

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Lets preview the Men’s doubles draw:

Round of 16: there’s three play-in round of 16 matches, with some interesting match-ups

– In the 8/9 matchup; an east coast flair: North Carolina native Brent Walters teams with top Virginia player Thomas Gerhardt to take on Maryland native MoMo Zelada and his partner, Hawaiian-turned-NorCal guy Robert Collins: Collins as a lefty gives that team an advantage here over the two east coast veterans.
– The solid #6 team of David ” Bobby” Horn and reigning intercollegiate champ Erik Garcia takes on #11 team of Arizona youngsters Ben Baron and Preston Tribble.
– #7 team of good friends from the east coast Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon take on #10 team Justus Benson and Sam Bredenbeck. Four semi-regular IRT players here battle it out and a ton of hard hitters.

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Projected Qtrs:
– #1 Defending champs Carson and Charlie Pratt Racquetball likely take on Zelada/Collins and should control the floor.
– #5 Monchik/Landa get started against the #4 team of Jansen Allen and Tony Carson, the 2013 champions. Both former top-10 IRT pros, Carson is just coming back from a year-long injury to his achilles heel and had to forfeit out of the last pro event he entered, while Allen has taken a step back from touring full time. This will be a good first test for Monchik/Landa and a tough draw for the former champs.
– #3 Adam Manilla and his college buddy Nick Riffel likely play Horn/Garcia. Manilla as a lefty gives this team a big advantage, but Garcia can be the x-factor here. Look for the upset.
– #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ likely face the #7 seeds Warigon/Miller and should advance.

Semis:
– I like Monchik/Landa to upset the #1 seeds Carson/Pratt here. My simple theory in predicting doubles matches is to look at the match-up on the right-hand side to predict matches; If there’s a weak link on the court, it often presents on the forehand side of the weaker team. Pratt is by no means a “weak” player, but Landa isn’t #2 in the world by accident. I think Sudsy hangs with Rocky on the backhand and Landa makes the difference on the forehand.
– I like #2 Jake/Diaz to make the final again; they’re just too experienced playing together and too good of a team.

Finals:
– Landa didn’t switch to the USA to not make the team; he’s on a mission in Arizona, and I like them for the upset win.

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Lets preview the Women’s Doubles draw:

Just 6 teams entered here. #1 seed includes one member of last year’s on-the-court champion team in Aimee Roehler Ruiz, who is second all-time to Paraiso-Larseen in career US National doubles titles with 11. She was part of the winning team last year before having the title vacated, but now she’s back with a new partner as the top seed. The #2 seeds from last year (the Key sisters Michelle De La Rosa and Danielle Maddox) are not entered, thus we’ve got a wide-open field.

In the Quarters i’m predicting chalk:
– #4 Jazmín Treviño and Erin Slutzky over #5 Cassie Lee and Fran Transfiguracion
– #3 Hollie Scott and Lexi York over #6 Graci Wargo & Jessica Chen.

In the semis:
– i like the #1 team of Ruiz and Erika Manilla to advance to the final.
– I think the #2 seeds of Kelani Lawrence] and Sheryl Lotts, two LPRT regulars who are impressing this season, will have their hands full with Scott and York but will prevail.

Predicted final: I like Lawrence/Lotts over Ruiz/Manilla. Ruiz’ leftiness helps, but I suspect that the overall talent level of the #2 seeded team will overcome the #1 seeds in the final.

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Singles qualifier Review:

The USA added the singles event to National Doubles in 2016 as part of a revamping of the way the National team is decided. US players now compete in three events to gain “points” towards team qualification; the US Open in October, National doubles in February and National singles in May. One may argue that using US Open pro results is unfair (it is; you’re often playing non-US players while competing towards a US team spot), but it is the only other “major” event we have at the moment.

A reminder: I have captured these non-Nationals events in my staging area, but they are NOT loaded into the database and are not currently queryable. I’ve had requests to add this data for a better head to head representation (especially for Canadians, who have been holding these types of events for years), or to get winners of these past events … but it would take significant retrofitting of the reports to do so, so its back burnered for now.

That being said, its a great draw in Tempe and I look forward to it as a fan.

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Men’s singles draw review:

Some questions have arisen related to the seedings here: if Landa just converted to USA … how is he seeded 2nd? Well that’s because USAR uses their internal rankings and Carson is ahead of Landa. See https://www.usaracquetballevents.com/rankings.asp . The USAR rankings do include basically all pro players, and is driven mostly by head to head match-ups. But, just because playerA beats playerB doesn’t automatically move them ahead; the last time Landa played Carson was in the final of the Nov 2019 Fullerton event, a Landa win … yet he remains behind Rocky until he beats him again.

Here’s some notable matches from the 16s I look forward to:
– 8/9 Erik Garcia vs Maurice Miller should be a great match; I think the collegiate champ moves on.
– 5/12 Zelada vs Pratt is interesting: Zelada doesn’t play every pro event but can hang with the players regularly in the 9-16 range. Pratt used to make noise in nearly every event he entered, but as he winds down from full time touring he’s been taking more and more earlier early round losses; in his last 7 pro stops over the last two years he’s made just 3 main draws.
– 6/11: Collins vs Thomas Carter: love the lefty on lefty matches.
– 7/10: Adam Manilla vs Sam Bredenbeck: could be an interesting match here; can Sam get the upset?

Projected Quarters:
– #1 Carson over #9 Garcia
– #4 Horn over #5 Pratt: Bobby beat Charlie in last year’s US Nationals and recently in a local event on his home court and I think he prevails again.
– #3 Jake Bredenbeck over #6 Carter
– #2 Landa over the Manilla

Semis:
– #1 Carson moves on over Horn; he’s 4-0 lifetime over Bobby.
– #2 Landa tops Jake Bredenbeck; he’s 8-0 lifetime over Jake.

Final: tough one to call; I think Landa is super motivated to win and get a big leg up on qualifying for the team. If this was actually Nationals i’d go with Landa, but here Rocky takes the title since by Sunday I perceive Rocky will be out of doubles while Landa will be shooting for two titles.

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Women’s singles draw review:

First, can someone explain the seeding in this event to me? Right now, on USAR’s ranking page Kelani Lawrence is ahead of Rhonda Rajsich. Kelani BEAT Rhonda in Nationals last year en route to the title and is the defending champ. How is Kelani not seeded #1? I don’t get it. You may say “oh seeding doesn’t matter you have to beat everyone to win” … but as you’ll see, Kelani now has a significantly harder semis match than the #1 seed has.

Nonetheless, here’s a preview of this draw. Notable early matches to watch:
– 8/9 Wargo vs Chen: young doubles partners square off early.
– 6/11: York vs Slutzky: can the junior Slutzky (just finishing her 16U year and making her adult debut) challenge York?

quarters projection:
– #1 Rajsich over Wargo
– #5 Lotts over #4 Manilla; this should be a great match.
– #3 Scott over #6 York, again doubles partners squaring off.
– #2 Lawrence over #7 Lee.

The rubber meats the road in the semis.

– #1 Rajsich vs #5 Lotts: Rhonda has had a tough pro season so far: four times she’s lost in the 16s, but she’s also made two semis. Lotts has competed well against top-8 players but has yet to break through with a round of 16 win. Rhonda has never lost to Lotts, and this may go deep but Rhonda prevails.
– #2 Lawrence vs #3 Scott: this is a rematch of last year’s final (which is why seeding accuracy is so important); Kelani prevailed there 11-10 but it could have gone either way. Since then, Lawrence has made a concerted effort to play the LPRT more, and has a slew of solid results. I think Lawrence has grown more in the last year as a player than Scott, and prevails here.

Final:

Lawrence and Rajsich again. These two met in US Nationals events in 2016, 2018 and 2019. They’ve also met in this qualifier event every year since it started: 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. So its only fitting that they meet in the 2020 iteration.

In all of these 7 matches, Rhonda is 6-1. But that one win was in last year’s Nationals event. Lawrence got that break through win and hasn’t looked back. Lawrence for the win here too.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow USA Racquetball on Facebook and register for live video notifications. Leo Ray Vasquez on the mike all weekend as usual.

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IRT 2020 Longhorn Open Preview

Moscoso is back in the States. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

One of the sports biggest amateur events has added the IRT men to its slate of competitors, making for a massive tournament in Austin this coming weekend. No less than 457 players are entered into this weekend’s Longhorn Open, with a healthy 39-man pro draw.

The IRT returns to the state of Texas for the first time since March of 2018 … and to Austin for the first time since Feb 2003. Its also the first time the tour’s #1 player Kane Waselenchuk has been able to play a “home” event since Oct 2015.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31338

In the 39 man singles draw, we have the hoped-for strong Mexican player contingent, which is going to make for some *great* preliminary rounds and some fascinating match-ups. We are missing some key names though from the draw:
– #3 Rocky Carson announced on FB last week that he’s decided to skip this event to give his surgically repaired knee a bit more time to heal. He had a small knee op done in mid-Dec and isn’t quite ready to go yet.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís also missing.

These two absences jump #10 Lalo Portillo into the top 8 … and then thanks to the flip seeding this event he secures a lofty #6 seed. FYI, in case you’re wondering why the 5-8 seeds look odd, the flip seeding has resulted in slightly altered seedings versus rankings this event:
– #5 seeded Samuel Murray is ranked 8th at current
– #6 seeded Portillo is ranked 10th as noted above
– #7 seeded Daniel De La Rosa is ranked 6th at current
– #8 seeded Conrrado Moscoso is ranked 7th at current.

The more apparent and obvious implication of the flip is the possible Moscoso-Waselenchuk match-up in the quarters.

Other top 30 players missing in this event are #18 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez, #27 Sam Bredenbeck and #29 Jansen Allen, the longtime touring pro who misses an event that’s drive-able from his home outside of Dallas.

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Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:

In the round of 128:
– #32 vs #33: Christian Longoria vs Andres Gomez; tough first rounder for the Colombian; Longoria is sneaky good and could be pressing for a main draw spot.
– #28 Justus Benson vs #37 Diana-Shai Manzuri; Manzuri continues to represent Argentina internationally well into his 40s, and will be a tough out for the regular tour player Benson. A home-state match-up for two Texas residents.
– #26 Kadim Carrasco vs #39 Edson Martinez: Martinez is seeded 39th of 39 players here, but he’s not the 39th best player in this draw. He’s made the quarters of this event twice in the last three years (albeit, when it was an WRT event). This could be a close match.

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In the round of 64:
– #33 Longoria vs #17 Robert Collins; Collins just misses out on the bye into the 32s, and may run into a player who can top him in Longoria.
– #20 Javier Mar vs #29 Alejandro Cardona; what a brutal match for these two. Mar is one of the top 6-7 players in the world, and Cardona isn’t far behind him. This is a quarter-final quality match happening way too early. I like Mar to move on and make a deep run here, as he frequently does during his rare IRT appearances.
– #19 Adam Manilla versus #30 Ernesto Ochoa; a great “show me” match-up between an IRT touring regular and an up and coming Mexican player with a ton of impressive wins on his resume. I like Ochoa for the upset.
– #23 Javier Estrada versus the Carrasco/Martinez winner; Estrada had a number of quality wins in the latter part of 2019, including two wins over Javier Mar. But he’s proven to be inconsistent. His last IRT appearance featured a win over Horn to make the main draw. Can he repeat here?

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Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible matchups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot:
– #9 Jake Bredenbeck vs #24 Alan Natera Chavez; Natera is another wild-card; he’s made the semis of Mexican Nationals two years running and has a ton of high-level wins, but he also can take curious losses. Which Natera will show up here? He can handle Jake’s power for sure; will that be enough? Jake looks to build on a solid pro season so far, which features no main draws missed and a semis appearance in Portland.
– #12 David ” Bobby” Horn vs #21 Jose Diaz; fly all the way to Texas to play the guy who lives down the road. Horn/Diaz know each other’s game pretty well, both being NorCal players frequenting the “209.” Who will have the upper hand on the day? I’m going to flip a coin and go with Diaz.
– #13 Carlos Keller Vargas vs #20 Mar: tough one for Keller; these two met at the US Open and Mar advanced. I think Keller’s streak of making the round of 16 ends here.
– #30 Ochoa vs #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; Ochao downed Franco the last time they played last year in an RKT event; i think he wins again.
– #10 Sebastian Franco vs #23 Estrada: This could be a great match-up; I think these two are pretty close talent wise and if both are on their games, expect a dog-fight. I’ll go with Estrada here.
– #15 Thomas Carter vs #18 Eduardo Garay: Garay if he’s on his game can overpower Carter here, despite the Ohioan’s good play as of late.

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round of 16:
– #1 Kane over Acuna
– #8 Moscoso over #9 Jake
– #5 Samuel Murray over #21 Diaz
– #20 Mar over #4 Alvaro Beltran; Beltran gets one of the few qualifiers who I think can beat him. Mar pipped Beltran in the 2016 Mexican nationals to take a natioanl team spot from him, and since then Mar has continued to exude class.
– #3 Andree Parrilla over #30 Ochao; Ochoa has beaten Parrilla in the past (San Luis Potosi in 2018), but Parrilla needs to take advantage of his seeding to try to make a run to the final. i think he’ll move on here.
– #11 Mario Mercado over #6 Portillo: Portillo has run into talented players and one-and-dones the last two tournaments at this stage, and he runs into another one in Mercado. Mercado has the patience to beat the youngster Portillo and will move on with a tactical approach.
– #23 Estrada over #7 Daniel De La Rosa: I don’t think DLR’s heart is in it right now; i think he’s vulnerable to upset and a fired up guy like Estrada, who beat DLR the last time they played, could spell a one-and-done for the pickleball pro.
– #2 Alex Landa vs #18 Garay: Garay’s power won’t phase Landa, who’s putting together his best season and has shown little in the way of cracks in the armor.

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Projected Qtrs:
– #1 Kane vs #8 Moscoso: the US Open final rematch, a scintillating match on the sport’s biggest stage that showed the world what we could be in store for, if only the Bolivian played the tour full time. They met a few weeks later in teh semis of Arizona and Kane issued a schooling 10,2. What may happy here? Has Conrrado fixed his foot fault issues? Can he press the King?
– #20 Mar over #5 Murray; they’ve played a few times, and I don’t think Mar has ever lost to the Canadian #1.
– #3 Parrilla over #11 Mercado
– #2 Landa over #23 Estrada; Estrada’s magic runs out, though notably i don’t have a meeting between these two in the database. Would love to see these two face off.

Semis and Finals:
– Kane over Mar
– Landa over Parrilla

Finals; Kane over Landa.

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No pro doubles this event, but the Men’s Open is a full 32 strong, headlined by a slew of touring players. Since Portillo is ranked outside the top 10, he’s “allowed” to enter the Men’s Open draw despite being the 6th pro seed, and he’s the favorite in that draw. But there’s a slew of top local and Mexican players also in that draw, making it as compelling to the neutrals as the pro draw.

I also wanted to point out that there’s 52 players in the Men’s A draw. 52. There weren’t 52 combined men in Open, Elite AND A at the 2019 US Nationals event. Its no wonder the USAR is moving its Nationals event to this part of the country.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; can’t wait for this event!

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Portland Tournament of Champions Preview

Pratt returns to the site of his sole IRT pro win; can he repeat this weekend? Photo US Open 2018, Photographer Kevin Savory

Welcome to the last IRT tier 1 tournament of 2019, and a return to one of the more unique spots on the IRT’s calendar; Portland. Its the 2019 SPC John A Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions event.

The Tournament of Champions has been held every year in Portland since 2013. Prior to that, there was a gap in holding the tournament back to 2001, when it was held pretty regularly throughout the 90s. It used to be a traditional season-ending event in the style of the ATP’s year end invitational. Now its a strong recurring event with a solid field.

Its also home to some interesting results. To wit:
– In April 2013, Ben Croft made the final in Portland, one of just 5 times he made a pro tour final in more than 120 tournaments (he lost to Kane).
– in May 2015, Daniel De La Rosa made just his 3rd ever pro final at the event, at the end of a successful pro season that saw him ascend to the #3 spot on tour (he also lost to Kane in the final).
– In Dec 2017, the tournament saw two first-time pro tour finalists in home town favorite Charlie Pratt and Mario Mercado reach the final. Pratt won in three straight games to claim the title, and to this day its the only time either player has so much as reached a final of a pro Tier 1 event.

#1 Kane Waselenchuk has taken the title here in 5 of the 6 times it has been held since 2013 (he missed the 2017 event), and is back to defend his title.

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Lets take a quick run through the draw. We’re missing some key names in the top 10, which will affect the seedings.

Top 10 players missing include #7 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo; this will give current #9 Lalo Portillo a top 8 seed for the second tournament running, coming off a solid win at the San Luis Potosi Open this past weekend.

Missing from the 11-20 range this event include #11 Sebastian Franco and #13 Mario Mercado, both east coasters who may have opted to skip this event that doesn’t have a doubles draw. Also missing is #14 David ” Bobby” Horn, a curious absence in that he’s a west-coaster with an easy flight. #15 Sebastian Fernandez, #16 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez and #20 Jose Diaz also miss out on the event, as do a lot of the regular Mexican players in the 20-30 ranges who may have balked at the longer flight to Portland given their busy schedule of local RKT events.

Despite these absences, there’s still a healthy 36-man draw. More than a few Canadians have made the trip south of the border for the event, and they join a solid group of Portland-area players in the pro draw.

No flip seeding this time, so we’ll get a true draw, which will (as we’ll see) should make for a lot of chalk at the back end. Also no doubles this weekend so its one and done for the singles players.

—————-

Here’s some qualifiers to watch for:

In the 128s:
– Wayne Antone takes on Canadian Ian Frattinger , fresh off a quarters appearance in the Canadian National selection event.

In the 64s:
– Sam Bredenbeck likely takes on Matthew Ivar Majxner, who returns to Portland for the first time in a few years.
– Dylan Reid has an interesting match against Canadian veteran Lee Connell, also fresh off a quarters appearance in the Canadian National selection event.

Projecting possible round of 32s of note:
– In the 16/17 match, Costa Rican veteran Felipe Camacho likely takes on Bolivian veteran Kadim Carrasco for a spot against the #1 player. This could be a very close match between two players of similar style.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis likely faces Canadian veteran Tim Landeryou, who just finished 3rd at the Canadian selection event.
– The winner of the Bredenbeck/Majxner play-in takes on touring veteran Robert Collins in what could be a close match.
– The match of the round though projects to be a defending champ in this event Charlie Pratt, now having fallen to #32 on tour (and is seeded 19th here) as he steps back his playing time, taking on the surging Costa Rican champion Andres Acuña, who now sits 22nd on tour and who is seeded 14th here. The last two times Pratt has played this event, he’s lost in the semis (2018) and won it (2017); he’s a force to be reckoned with in Portland. Its a tough draw for Acuna, who has already achieved his career best result this season and is looking to build on that success.
– Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas has a challenging match against Utah amateur Anthony Martin, who plays his third pro event of the season and has some wins over touring pros in the past.
– #10 Jake Bredenbeck likely takes on local favorite Reid for a spot in the main draw.

Projecting the 16s: there’s more than a few compelling possible 16s matchups here.
– In the 8/9: Lalo Portillo likely takes on Montoya in the 16s. This is a great test for both players to see where they are right now. I thought this was the year for Montoya to really take a step forward on tour; instead he’s basically been treading water right in the 8-10 ranking all season, with no break through wins all season. Meanwhile, Portillo is coming off a win at the SLP open, where he topped both Alan Natera Chavez and Parrilla to take the title. If Portillo can beat Parrilla, he should be able to beat Montoya as well, but they’re two vastly different animals on the court in terms of game style. Can Lalo handle Montoya’s power? This will be a very telling result.
– #3 Alex Landa vs Pratt/Acuna winner: I’m assuming this is Pratt, which would make for a really compelling match here. Landa beat Pratt for the 2017 PARC title, but then Pratt turned around and beat Landa in Mar 2018 in Lombard. Pratt is a player who can give Landa some trouble. If Acuna prevails in the 32s, he’s also a player who has beaten Landa before, but under odd circumstances at the 2019 PARCs. I like Landa to advance here but it could be a battle and an upset isn’t out of the question.
– #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #11 Keller: Keller has played all five IRT events this season … and has exited at the round of 16 in all five, losing to five different players. He now projects to play a 6th distinct player in the 16s, and faces a familiar opponent. These two are the same age; Keller knocked DLR out of the 2009 and 2011 Junior Worlds, and they’ve met a handful of times since. But only once professionally, and that was more than two years ago. DLR seems vulnerable and Keller seems motivated at this stage of their careers; could be an upset to watch for here.
– #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Bredenbeck: these two good friends will celebrate the launch of Beast Made Clothing by .. likely having to play each other in the 16s. Two of the hardest hitters on tour, they both have wins over the other in top level competition. Look for a battle here.

Possible Qtrs:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #9 Montoya: would love to see another episode of this match-up to see if Montoya has improved against the King.
– #4 Andree Parrilla over #5 Alvaro Beltran; a frequent pairing this year, with Beltran getting a couple wins over his young rival and showing he’s not done yet. I like Parrilla to move on here though.
– #3 Landa over #6 DLR: if DLR advances, we get another episode of the razor-thin line that stands between these two long time rivals. Their match history is littered with 11-10 tiebreaker wins and 5-game marathons under the old scoring method. Landa again to advance.
– #2 Rocky Carson over #7 Murray; they’ve played professionally 11 times and Rocky is 11-0. Despite his recent win in the Canadian national selection event Murray hasn’t quite figured out how to top the long-time #2 player on tour.

Projected Semis:
– Kane over Andree
– Carson over Landa; they’ve split their last 2 meetings, they’ve split their last 4 meetings … in fact, they’ve split their last 10 meetings dating to 2014. Like with Landa vs DLR, its usually razor thin between them. Landa has the harder path to this semi, so i’ll give Carson the edge on the day.

Projected final: #1 vs #2; kane over Carson.

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

2019 IRT Los Compadres Auto Sales Open Wrap-Up

Landa gets his 4th IRT pro win in Fullerton. Photo via 2019 US Open; Photographer Kevin Savory

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Singles: Alejandro Landa
– Doubles: Daniel De La Rosa/Alvaro Beltran

Some quick stats on his win:
– This is his 4th win, tied for 19th all time
– As Kramer X noted in his re-cap, Landa has overtaken his country men to be the leading title winner of any Mexican player.
– He improves to 13-4 on the season, 121-65 for his IRT career (23rd all time).

R2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31129

———–
Here’s a review of the notable matches in Singles (doubles is below)

PRS Singles report: http://rball.pro/5ADEEB

In the 128s:
– #33 Majeed Shahin survived a tough opener against Canadian vet #32 Lee Connell 11-9 in the breaker.
– #31 Luis R Avila was pushed even further, saving match point against to survive 11-10 against Mexican 18U player #34 Manuel Moncada.

——

In the 64s, one big surprise and a couple of close matches:
– #33 Shahin kept the ball rolling from his opening win and topped #17 Jose Diaz 5,14 to advance into the 32s. A great win for Shahin and kind of a shocking loss for Diaz, who was on the cusp of the top 10 the last two seasons but now has opened his season with two missed events and two first round losses.
– #24 Alan Natera Chavez took a close one against #25 Sam Bredenbeck 11,12. Solid showing from the younger Bredenbeck sibling.
– #26 Mexican 17yr old Oscar Nieto got his second win this calendar year over #23 Scott McClellan 9,10. He earns a shot at a top 10 player on tour for the first time.

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In the 32s, we started to see some of the talent out there in the player pool take over seeded players:
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís took out #24 Natera 11,2, dominating the match and putting down the upset attempt.
– #19 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez dominated #14 @Gerardo Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 8,2 to move into his second main draw of the season.
– #22 Javier Estrada took out #11 David Horn 11-9 in a back and forth match. Horn was down big in game one and came back to take it, but Estrada stormed to game 2. In the breaker, it looked like Horn was in control, but Estrada went on a run that Bobby couldn’t stop, and at the tail end of the tie-breaker Horn took a knock to his foot that hobbled him on match point against. A great win for Estrada, who advances into his first IRT pro draw since 2010

(fun fact: the IRT visited Chihuahua, Estrada’s home town, and had just a 17-man draw … so Estrada, as a 15-yr old, played in the round of 16. He’s the 4th youngest player ever to make the round of 16 in an IRT pro event.

———–

In the 16s:
– #8 Daniel De La Rosa improved to 3-1 on the IRT over #9 Montoya, taking the match in two solid games 7,10.
– #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz dropped the first game 15-9, then blized #12 Jake Bredenbeck 15-2, 11-1 to advance.
– #3 Alvaro Beltran fended off a furious upset bid by #19 Garay before advancing 11-9 in the breaker.
– #6 Samuel Murray dispatched #22 Estrada in two games, winning clinically 11,7.
– #10 Sebastian Franco provided the sole upset-by-seed of the round, coming back from a game down to oust the upstart Mexican @Lalo Portillo 11-8 in the breaker. Even though these two players are heading in different directions ranking-wise this season, there’s not a lot between them and I sense we’re going to see more of these kind of close matches between those players in the 7-12 range all season.
– #2 Alex Landa made fast work of Bolivia’s Carlos Keller Vargas 4,7. Keller has now played in all 5 IRT events so far this season and has fallen at the 16s all five times.

So, we have nearly a perfect chalk quarters in a tournament missing the #1 seed (which historically has meant a wide-open draw). In my preview I surmised we’ may see some upsets here, especially with two up and coming players Garay and Estrada in the mix, but the tour’s elite held on.

—————–
In the Quarters:
– #1 Rocky Carson eked out a solid game 1 win 15-14, then held on to turn the recent tide of results versus #8 DLR and advance 14,9.
– #4 Andree Parrilla make a significant statement in defeating #5 Moscoso 13,7. These two met in the 2017 US Open, a 5-game Moscoso defeat that helped propel him onto the world rball stage. This time around, Parrilla gave a master class in defensive racquetball, continually retrieving shot after shot, making Moscoso hit ball after ball, until eventually a mistake was made going for too much. I thought Moscoso was the pre-tournament favorite once we heard that Kane was out, but he struggled all match to gain the upper hand against Parrilla and may have some things to think about heading into his next event.
– #3 Beltran blized past #6 Murray in the first game 15-1 then held on in a closer game two to make the semis for the first time this season. Beltran’s consistency this year has kept him in the top seeds, and a semis appearance will only help.
– #2 Landa took revenge on an earlier season defeat to Franco by blasting him 5,6 to move on. He makes the semis for the 4th time in 5 events this year and continues to play really solid ball. He must really rate his chances to get a win here in Kane’s absence.

——————-
In the semis, more chalk.
– #1 Carson, coming off of two upset losses in the last two events, absolutely flummoxed #4 Parrilla en route to a 7,3 win. Parrilla just could not find a way past Rocky’s serves, and Carson’s consistency led to easy points throughout the day.
– #2 Landa topped his long time rival #3 Beltran for the 7th successive time in pro/top level competitions 12,12.

———–
In the singles final, Landa got his first win over Carson since April and improved to 5-8 for their careers with a gutsy (9),14,10 win that featured Landa saving match points in both game 2 and game 3.

With the win, Landa inches closer to Carson for #2 on tour, but more importantly opens up a significant gap between himself and #4 Beltran. Landa’s consistency so far this season has really paid off and he’s closer to overtaking Rocky right now than he is in getting surpassed.

———–
Here’s a review of the notable matches in Doubles

PRS Doubles report: http://rball.pro/7EE21E

In the 16s, a couple of great matches:
– The Bolivian pairing of Moscoso/Keller topped the great Mexican team of Estrada/Natera 11-7 in the breaker.
– Sebastian FernandezFelipe Camacho were taken to the limit by Bredenbeck & Connell, advancing 11-10.

In the qtrs:
– Moscoso/Keller played a very solid match to oust the #1 seeded Landa/Murray team 6,11.
– Both the #2 and #3 seeds were forced into tiebreakers to advance past solid doubles teams. Jake and Diaz took out Garay & Montoya, while Mercado/Franco took out Portillo/Parrilla.

In the semis:
– The upset run of the Bolivian team continued, with Moscoso/Keller taking out Bredenbeck/Diaz 12,8.
– The accomplished #2 Mexican team of DLR/Beltran was stretched to a breaker by the Colombian National team Mercado/Franco before advancing.

In the final, DLR and Beltran took the final over the Bolivians 12,8 to take the title. its their first IRT doubles title since Jan 2019.

————
A quick comment on the Men’s Open draw: Mexican 16U player Guillermo Ortega took out Mexican 18U player Manuel Moncada in the final. Ortega defeated Set Cubillos Ruiz and Shahin enroute to the final, while Moncada defeated Francisco Troncoso and Connell en route to the final. Those are some accomplished players for two kids to take out.

Interestingly, neither Moncada or Ortega won their respective Mexican Junior titles this year: Moncada fell in the semis to Sebastian Fernandez while Ortega Jr. was defeated in the 16s.

————
Next Up on the schedule:
– IRF World Juniors in Costa Rica kicks off 11/8/19 and runs for a week
– 17th Annual turkey Shootout, Portland, OR IRT Tier 5 event.
– Marigold Resources Quad City Open, Eldridge, IA: IRT Tier 5 event
– There’s supposedly an RKT event called the Copa Prince event somewhere in Mexico; if it happens we’ll cover it.

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

2019 IRT Los Compadres Auto Sales Open Preview

With Waselenchuk out of the draw, is Moscoso the favorite? Photo US Open2019, Photographer = Kevin Savory

R2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31129

Hot on the heels of last weekend’s event in Tempe, the pros are back in action at the legendary Meridian club in Fullerton. The club has played host to a number of major amateur events over the years, but hasn’t hosted the men’s pros since the old Ektelon Nationals event ended in May of 2013.

There’s 36 pros in action this weekend, including a very solid top of the draw with 18 of the top 20 currently ranked players in action. Notably missing is #1 Kane Waselenchuk, who misses the event with an injury picked up in Tempe last weekend. The only other missing top 20 pro is Ohioan Thomas Carter who misses just his 4th event in the last three seasons.

Another notable missing player is Costa Rica’s Andres Acuña, who has been making waves on tour this season but who is headlining the 5th annual Costa Rican National event in his home country (and which has been going on since Tuesday).

For the 2nd event in a row the IRT is using a staggered qualifying system versus the “everybody not in the top 8 qualifies” system often seen. This gives the top 8 byes into the 16s, then gives the 9th-16th ranked players byes into the 32s to ease the qualifying demands on the IRT regulars who havn’t made it into the top 8 yet. Lastly this is another “flip” seeding event, so the 5th-8th ranked players are slightly jumbled to mix up quarter final matches.

———————-
Lets review the singles draw:

Round of 128 matches to look for:
– SoCal player #33 Majeed Shahin takes on Canadian veteran #32 Lee Connell in what should be a close match between two players who each have a lot of IRT experience
– Former outdoor national champ #31 Luis R Avila takes on Mexican 18U player #34 Manuel Moncada..

In the round of 64:
– #17 Jose DIAZ is the highest ranked player to miss out on the staggered qualifying; for his troubles he gets a match-up against the winner of the 32/33 play-in that should be winnable.
– The #24/#25 match-ups are always fun; this time its Sam Bredenbeck versus dark horse Mexican Alan Natera Chavez. Natera plays hot and cold; he can get victories over top-10 players or he can go one-and-done to players well below his talent level. Should be an interesting match.
– We get a rare appearance from #22 Javier Estrada, fresh off a solid win at the Mexico City event last week. He starts off against Chilean vet #27 Francisco Troncoso.

In the round of 32, some really great projected matches:
– #16/#17 will be two Californians: Sebastian Fernandez versus Diaz. Its Tijuana/SoCal vs the 209. This will be a fascinating match; Fernandez was looking primed for a push up the rankings with a quarter-final appearance at the US Open, but has scuffled since. Diaz seems to be stepping back from full-time touring but has top-10 talent.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis likely takes on #24 Natera; a tough match-up for Montoya. Natera took out Montoya in the Mexican Nationals earlier this year during a run to the semis, so he knows how to beat him. But then Montoya destroyed Natera in Syosset a few weeks afterwards. Montoya took off last week while the rest of the field played; will this be an edge?
– #21 Jake Bredenbeck vs #21 Set Cubillos Ruiz: normally i’d rate this a straight-forward Jake win, but Cubillos played fantastically in Arizona; is this an upset-watch?
– #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #19 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez: Franco beat Garay in Syosset, but Garay has the talent to move on here. Look for a battle and look for Franco to try to reign in Garay’s power.
– #11 David ” Bobby” Horn vs #22 Estrada: a really tough round for Horn, having to face Estrada, who comes off a weekend when he topped Cardona, Mar and Ochoa to take a stacked singles draw in Mexico City. Estrada though has proved to be inconsistent; with fantastic wins one week then curious upsets the next; can he put it together on the tier 1 stage and take out an experienced touring vet like Horn? One thing seems sure: Horn plays fast, while Estrada plays deliberately and slow … the contrast in styles may be a factor.

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Projected 16s matches to watch for:
– #8/#9: thanks to the flip seeding: Daniel De La Rosa gets popped to #8, where he likely faces frequent Mexican National team opponent Montoya. DLR is 4-1 over Montoya on the various big stages and seems to be able to handle his game well. If Montoya exits at this stage, it would mean the fourth straight IRT event to start the season where he exits at the first round of the main draw.
– #5/#12: Conra Moscoso Ortiz] gets moved to the 5th seed with the flip and likely faces big Jake. Look for a bunch of broken balls between these two power hitters but for the shooter Moscoso to advance.
– #3 Alvaro Beltran] vs #19 Garay: I like Garay to advance over Franco, and I like his chances against Beltran here. Two straight weekends of play combined with doubles may be too taxing for Alvaro versus the fitness of Garay.
– #6 Samuel Murray vs #22 Estrada: if this comes to pass, I also like Estrada’s chances of moving on here.
– #7 Lalo Portillo vs #10 Sebastian Franco; ironically, these two seeds would have been switched just a few weeks ago, but a great run in Arizona by Portillo now has him in the top 8 while Franco is now outside looking in. But Franco is a former tour winner and this will be a solid test for Portillo’s staying power in the top 10.
– #2 Alex Landa vs #18 Carlos Keller Vargas]: a tough opener for #2 Landa, facing two-time defending PARC champ in Keller. This might be closer than people would expect given the seeds. Keller won the 2019 event, it should be noted, in a draw that included Landa. Keller has now played all 5 of the IRT events so far this season but has fallen at this round of 16 gate each time.

———-
Possible qtrs: I seem to be predicting an awful lot of upsets, which could be great in a Kane-less draw but also could mean that the top seeds rise to the top and go chalk.

– #1 Rocky Carson over #8 DLR: I know DLR has some recent success over Carson, but I also sense that DLR is not sharp right now (as evidenced by his one-and-done in Tempe). Carson moves on unless DLR comes to play.
– #5 Moscoso over #4 Andree Parrilla: I like Moscoso here as a shooter who can overpower Parrilla and get the win here.
– #22 Estrada over #19 Garay: its crazy to predict a 22nd seed into a pro semis, but I like the way the draw opens up here. Both guys have winnable 16s if they play to expectations.
– #2 Landa over #7 Portillo: Landa waxed the youngster just 4 days ago 5,9; I can see Lalo learning from that outing and making it closer, but still falling here.

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Projected Semis:
– Moscoso over Carson: Moscoso really wasn’t troubled too much by Carson at the US Open and will be emboldened here without Kane in the draw to think he’s the obvious favorite. I don’t disagree.
– Landa over Estrada: If this match comes to pass, look for the tactical Estrada to try to will his way into a win. Estrada has wins over the top tier of players like Landa in the past, but Landa looked really solid in AZ and should move on.

My predicted final: Moscoso over Landa; they met in the quarters of the Bolivian Open, a 11-0 tiebreaker win for Moscoso. I think we could see a similar match. Moscoso has all the same tools that frustrate Landa when he matches up with kane, and I look for the Conrrado win here.

—————-
Doubles preview

They’re playing doubles too in California; 13 teams are entered into what looks to be a solid draw.

#1 Landa/Murray have jumped #2 DLR/Beltran in the rankings: these four players are head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the doubles player rankings. But I don’t think they’re a lock to make the final; the draw is stacked with really solid teams.

#1 has to play through the tough Bolivian team of Moscoso/Keller in the quarters … and thats if they can beat the really solid Estrada/Natera team in the 16s. #4 Jake/Jose have to likely face the tough Garay/Montoya team, #3 Colombian team of Franco/Mercado likely faces the newly formed and improving team of Portillo/Parrilla.

I like #2 DLR/Beltran to make the final and take on Moscoso/Keller, with the Mexicans taking the win.

—————–
Looks like it will be a great tourney, with a ton of really compelling matches early on. Can’t wait!

International Racquetball Tour
Racquetball Canada
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federacion Boliviana Tiro Deportivo
Fecoracquet Fecoracquet

2019 Arizona IRT Pro-Am Preview

R2Sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30719

The IRT has released the draws for this coming weekend’s Arizona IRT Pro-Am, so its time to do a preview!

(to see the released draws before they’re available on R2, follow the IRT on facebook where they’ve been posted as of Noon Tuesday 10/22/19).

The IRT returns to Arizona for the first time in many years; the tournament is being held on the campus of Arizona State University, which has become a popular spot to host major tournaments. ASU’s campus in Tempe has held USAR National doubles every year since 2005, has hosted a slew of USAR intercollegiates championships in that same time (including 2019’s tournament), and hosted the USAR National singles event in 2017.

But, its been a while since we’ve seen either pro tour head to Arizona at all. The last time a tier 1 Men’s event was in Arizona was in May 2003, when the school hosted the season ending Pro Nationals event. For some historical context of that event and season: Huczek beat Alvaro Beltran in the final, it was the last event in Mannino sole year end title, and the top 4 seeded players in the event were all were upset in the quarters (Mannino, Swain, Waselenchuk and Ellis). Waselenchuk lost to Carson … one of the three career wins Rocky has on his long-time nemesis. Before 2003, you have to go all the way back to the mid 1990s, when a regular tour stop was held in Phoenix for several seasons, and before that the mid 1980s when the Arizona Pro-Am featured winners like Hogan and Brett Harnett.

The Ladies tour hasn’t been to Arizona in more than decade itself; in Feb 2008 the WPRO Fireball Pro-Am featured a final
between the 1 and 2 seeds, as Rhonda downed Cheryl on her way to the 2008 year end title (Longoria was just starting on tour and finished 6th that season).

So, great to have pro racquetball back in Arizona. Thanks to tournament director Jim Winterton for his efforts and sponsorship.

—————–

The Men’s draw has 37 players, a good mix of southwest-locals and traveling regulars. Who is missing this weekend? The top 8 players are here, including Bolivian Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball, who moved up to being ranked 8th on the back of his US Open final appearance. However both the 9th and 10th ranked players (Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Sebastian Franco) are missing. Other top 20 players missing include #13 Mario Mercado,
#15 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez, and #16 Jose Diaz. Diaz missed the first two events on the year, both east-coast based, perhaps for travel related issues. But now he misses a west-coast event; are we seeing him stepping back officially from touring? Perhaps so. Along the same note, former top 8 player Mercado has now slipped to 13, and former top 8 player Jansen Allen is now outside the top 20.

Also missing from this draw are a slew of players from Mexican hot-beds like Juarez and Chihuahua; both of which are easy drives to Tempe. I would have initially expected, like we used to see with WRT events in the south western part of the country, a junket of carpooling of Mexican players heading to the event. But, unfortunately, there are a couple competing events this weekend (an IRT Tier 4 in El Paso,Texas State Singles & Doubles, but most notably, a big RKT tournament in Mexico City). The Mexican event’s top 8 seeds (GFranco,
Mar, Estrada, Natera, Ochoa, Cardona, Nieto, and Cuevas) are all IRT regulars these days and players who would be pushing for the 16s or the quarters if they were here. Furthermore the El Paso event pulled two other top Mexican players (Eduardo Garay Rodriguez and Jaime Martell Neri) away from the Arizona event. We’ll do quick previews/wrap-ups of those events later this week, but if you’re wondering where these guys are … well there’s your answer.

The Arizona draw does the “flip” seeding, so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled. 5th ranked Parrilla is seeded 6th, 6th ranked DLR is seeded 7th, 7th ranked Murray is seeded 8th, and 8th ranked Moscoso is seeded 5th. Probably goes without saying that this flip most benefits Moscoso, who achieves a top 8 rank and seed for the first time in his career and avoids Kane until a possible semi-final meeting, and most penalizes Murray, who is forced into Kane’s quarter.

One last thing worth noting: the IRT has listened to fan requests with the streaming schedule and will be streaming significantly more matches this weekend. Check out the match times on the bracket; the streaming schedule allows for double the matches to be shown at each round throughout the weekend. The plan is to stream no less than 8 qualifying matches on Friday, then have staggered start times Saturday to show more of the 16s before streaming all the qtrs/semis/finals as normal.

Broadcast schedule; 8 friday, 5 sat, 1 sun. That’s a lot of matches for us fans, and a lot for Mr. Dean DeAngelo Baer to call … but is awesome for those of us remote.

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Lets preview the draw highlighting matches that I think are compelling.

In the 128s: five play-in matches to get to the 32s, mostly with Texas/Arizona locals battling it out, but also including traveling
players like Jim Douglas (Oregon) and Thomas Gerhardt (from VA).

In the 64s:
– Ruben Baez takes on Chilean veteran Francisco Troncoso. So, in case you don’t know who Baez is … he played in the Pueblo lower tier IRT event in March, entered as the 27th seed, beat Jake Bredenbeck in the quarters and lost to Horn in the semis 13,14. He’s a very solid player
who can make waves in this event if he plays the way he did in Pueblo and gets the right match-ups.

– Set Cubillos Ruiz continues his challenging travel schedule by returning to the states just a few days after competing in (and winning) the Barranquilla Open in his home country of Colombia, right on the back of competing in the US Open, to take on a play-in winner between Douglas and Arizona’s Preston Tribble.

– Gerhardt vs Justus Benson: Gerhardt is a tough player from Virginia who frequently competes in both indoor and outdoor venues: if he gets past Arizona’s Coy Jay Rogers, he can make life difficult for Benson. Justus is coming off of two straight one-and-dones in IRT events, including a loss in Laurel to Pennsylvania amateur Geoff Heskett, and needs to get his season going.

– Nick Riffel vs Anthony Martin: Martin is a Utah local with just a couple of results on his resume; he played the Atlanta IRT
event earlier this season and took Gerardo Franco to a breaker. This might be a closer match than IRT touring regular Riffel wants at this juncture.

– The younger Bredenbeck brother Sam Bredenbeck gets a solid opener against infrequent IRT participant Daniel Neri; Bredenbeck has some really solid results lately, with wins over IRT regulars like Carter and Riffel at the 2019 Lewis Drug.

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In the 32s:
– #16 Adam Manilla takes on #17 Andrés Acuña; great match between two solid up and coming young players. I like Acuna here; he’s on a roll and has been improving at every stop.

– #9 David ” Bobby” Horn takes on Baez in a re-match of the CSU-Pueblo shootout semis that was so close. Can Baez turn the table here? Horn missed the first two events of the season with injury, played solidly at the US Open and then took a dominant win on his home court two weekends ago to win the Bay Club Open over a solid draw that included a win over Charlie Pratt in the final. I expect a close match here.

– #14 Thomas Carter takes on the winner beween Gerhardt and Benson; Carter’s been playing solid lately, with a win over Diaz at the US Open and taking two very good players to breakers in losses (Keller and Carson). I like Carter to move on here.

– #10 Lalo Portillo takes on the younger Bredenbeck; Eduardo is now in the top 10 and he’s earned it. He’ll move on here despite the challenge from the improving Bredenbeck.

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Projecting the 16s: Assuming qualifying goes as I expect, here’s some interesting 16s to look for

– #8 Samuel Murray vs #9 Horn: 8/9 is always tough, and these players have split their 3 meetings somewhat evenly. Horn won their most recent meeting, in Florida in April, in two close games. I’ll go with Horn backing up his excellent win in Pleasanton with the upset here to move into the qtrs.

– #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz vs #12 Sebastian Fernandez: another brutal draw for the teenager Fernandez, who had to play former top 5 touring pro Marco Rojas in the first round of the Bay Open and lost in a breaker, and now funnels into the red-hot Moscoso, fresh off of a solid run to the US Open finals. This is the hard part about being a player ranked in the teens: you have to start getting wins over top 8 players to move into the top 8, and every draw is an uphill battle.

– #6 Andree Parrilla vs #11 Jake Bredenbeck: a great throw-back match-up between two long time WRT players. They’ve met 6 times in top level events: Jake won their first 3 meetings (all in the 2015 time-frame), while Andree has won the last three meetings (all in the 2019 calendar year). The matches are always close, so I’ll predict another Parrilla tie-breaker win. After a solid opening to the season, Parrilla has lost two winnable matches in Laurel and the US Open to see his ranking (which had peaked at #3) slip a bit, and he needs to be making semis regularly to take the next step.

– #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Portillo: These two met in Atlanta in Sept, and DLR advanced in a tie-breaker. Portillo has been rapidly moving up the rankings, but has also now exited at this juncture (the round of 16) in seven straight IRT events. He needs a high-profile win over a top 8 player. But, is DLR the right guy? This event is essentially a home event for him, hailing from Mexico but now living in Arizona the next town over from Tempe. He’ll have family cheering him on and could be primed for a solid run.

– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Carlos Keller Vargas: wow, two straight brutal round of 16 draws for Carson, who gets no benefit from the #2 seed in having to play a solid international player in Keller who has more than a few titles to his credit. They’ve played twice: at the 2011 Pan Am games and at the 2019 Bolivian grand slam, both two-game quarter final wins for Carson. So advantage Rocky … but Keller ran through this list of names to take the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships title: Coby Iwaasa, Horn, Beltran and Pratt. So if he gets hot, he can get wins.

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Possible Qtrs:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #9 Horn; they’ve only played a handful of times, All Kane wins. Their last meeting was in Florida in April 2018, Kane’s first event back after his knee injury, and Horn played a solid game against the hobbling and distracted Kane before losing in two. Kane’s got his focus back now, and will try not to look past this match at his possible semis opponent.

– #5 Moscoso over #4 Beltran: they’ve met twice; once a dominant Beltran win at the 2015 Pan Am games, the other a dominant Moscoso win at the Bolivian grand slam earlier this year. I think we’re more likely to see the latter result than the former here; Moscoso has the same shooter mentality as Beltran, but can drive serve with the best of them, keeping Beltran from setting his feet and likely leading to a lot of 3-point rallies on his serve.

– #3 Alex Landa vs #6 Parrilla: Landa has had a nice start to his season; two semis and a quarter, to maintain his #3 ranking for now. But Parrilla matches up well here: he’s beaten Landa 5 of the last 6 times they’ve faced each other going back several years. Parrilla’s playing style matches up well with Landa, he can hang with his shots and can retrieve well. I look for Landa to hold serve, but barely. And an upset here would not surprise me.

– #2 Carson vs #7 DLR: Carson waxed a possible disinterested DLR in their last meeting (the season finale in Sarasota in April), but DLR had three straight defeats of Rocky before that and could be looking at this as a way to get his season back on track. Meanwhile, Rocky needs to rebound from his round of 16 loss on the sport’s biggest stage; he’s still safely in the #2 spot, but needs to continue to make finals to stay there. I like DLR here in the upset.

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Projected Semis:

– #1 Waselenchuk vs #5 Moscoso; well, this is what the people want. I think it may happen. A rematch of the US Open final, which featured a tight back and forth game 1 before Kane ran away with it in game 2. What did Moscoso take from that match? Hopefully he took away the need to work on his serving motion so that foot faults don’t dominate the conversation surrounding his game. A more consistent serving game with first/drive serves pacing his game will do wonders to help him drive the conversation against Kane. I still think Kane has the upper hand, but cannot wait to see this possible match-up if it happens.

– #7 DLR vs #3 Landa: two old adversaries meet again; i’ve got them meeting 13 times across pro and Mexican Nationals events over the years, with Landa holding a 6-5 advantage overall. Landa’s won their last 5 meetings … but those include two 11-10 wins (including the quarters in Atlanta in September). Point is this: these guys play close every time, they know each other’s game, and there’s just a knife’s edge between them. I will go with DLR getting the slightest of home court advantages and moving to the final.

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My predicted final: Kane over DLR. DLR’s sole win over Kane was in the ill-fated 2018 California Open, when Kane hurt his knee the round prior to DLR’s meeting and withdrew with the injury that ended up costing him 4 months and the 2017-18 title. They havn’t played since the final of the Lewis Drug in January, a 4,2 shellacking by Kane to take the high profile Sioux falls event. I like DLR showing some spunk in this match, perhaps with flashes of brilliance at times, but Kane winning in the end.

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As always, follow IRT for streaming options throughout the weekend, say high to Dean Baer online, and support pro racquetball 🙂

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International Racquetball Tour
LPRT
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball

2019 Bay Club Open IRT Tier 4 Wrap-up

Horn captures the title at his home club. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

r2sports home page:

https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31326

In the wake of the massive 2019 US Open, Reaching Your Dream Foundation helped fund a lower tier IRT event this past weekend in Northern California (Pleasanton in particular), close enough to the “209” to get a good crew of Stockton players and a healthy Men’s singles pro draw of 21 players.

Here’s a quick review of the Singles draw.

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In the 32s.

– #21 Mitchell Forrest Jr. took out former Outdoor champion #12 Luis R Avila in two games, a solid win for Forrest, who honestly I have almost no results for in the national databases.

– Junior #20 Vedant Chauhan took out the 13th seeded Kalyan Kosetty 8,7. Chauhan is just *14 years old* this year, and made it to the final of USA Junior Nationals 14U earlier this year.

– Another California junior national champ #22 Nikhil Prasad defeated Chilean international #11 Johan Igor in two. Think Chauhan is young? Prasad won the World 12U juniors last year, defeated Chauhan in the 14U final this year and is playing in his age 13 season.

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In the 16s; some surprises and some great matches

– #5 Adam Manilla ended Forrest’s run 5,3.

– #4 Robert Collins was played tough by junior Chauhan but advanced 7,12. Chauhan certainly did not play like a 14yr old in this match, pressing Collins and making shots. He’s one to watch for.

– In the match I immediately looked at upon seeing this draw … former top 8 touring pro #14 seed Markie Rojas met up with up and coming pro #3 Sebastian Fernandez and the match did not disappoint. Rojas advanced 12,(9),10 to move on. Rojas, if he were playing full time, would probably be the favorite in this draw despite the presence of several top 20 pros; it should be interesting to see how far he goes.

– #6 Charlie Pratt ended junior Prasad’s run 7,10. Pratt is another guy to watch for in this draw; he only plays the tour part time but always seems to make noise when he enters tournaments. And, a solid showing for a 13yr old in a pro draw.

– #7 Bolivian 18U Diego Garcia Quispe, still hanging out state-side after traveling up for the US Open, took on another traveling South American in #10 Francisco Troncoso and beat his elder 7,11 to move on. Garcia is going to be a tough out in this fall’s Junior Worlds.

– #2 Jose Diaz ousted 4,4 the Chilean 18U player and #18 seed Rafael Gatica Negroni. I was thrown
for a loop here initially; they posted Gatica as the initial winner on r2sports and was getting ready to talk about what an upset it was. 🙂

So, two upsets by seed in the 16s, with the #9 over #8 and #14 over #3 (though the #14 wasn’t exactly a normal 14 seed).

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Qtrs:

– #1 David ” Bobby” Horn dominated the Mexican international #9 Christian Longoria 2,8 to advance to the semis.

– In a rare battle of lefties, #5 Adam Manilla got the upset-by-seed over #4 Robert Collins in a tiebreaker.

– #6 Pratt took advantage of a possibly spent Rojas and advanced 10,6 into the semis.

– #7 Garcia played two solid games but could not beat #2 Diaz, falling 12,11.

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Semis and Final:

– #1 Horn outlasted #5 Manilla 13,11 to move into the final.

– #6 Pratt advanced in two games over #2 Diaz 12,6.

In the final: Horn got a very solid win over Pratt, winning the title in two 13,11. Solid win for Horn over a solid field.

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Consolations: Avila and Troncoso made it to the consolation final after early round upsets, and Troncoso stomped Avila 11,4 to take the title.

In the Open/Elite doubles, a large/fast round robin draw played Sunday afternoon featuring no less than 15 teams. The four teams who made the semis were Diaz & Harold Jagoda, Collins & Tyrone E Snipes, Avila and Will Reynolds, and Rojas with RYDF patron Michael Lippitt.

Avila/Reynolds topped Collins/Snipes in the final

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Nice little tournament! I’ll wrap up another small tourney that went on this weekend in Chihuahua next, then we have a small break until a busy Halloween weekend of events that includes the next IRT Tier 1 in Arizona.

US Open IRT Pro doubles Wrap-Up

Kane and Ben win 3rd US open title. Photo via US Open FB page/Kevin Savory

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk and Ben Croft on their win at the 2019 US Open.

here’s a quick wrap-up of the Quarters onward:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/2D3D74

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In the qtrs:

– #1 seeds Daniel De La Rosa and Alvaro Beltran put an end to the geezer renaissance, ousting Cliff Swain and Rocky Carson (combined age: 93) in two.

– The #4 seed Colombian national team of Sebastian Franco & Mario Mercado Valenzuela were taken out by the Bolivian qualifiers #12 Carlos Keller Vargas & Kadim Carrasco in a tight tiebreaker.

– #3 seeds Alex Landa and Samuel Murray who have been playing solidly together for a while now, took out the experienced Bolivian national team pairing of Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball and Roland Keller in two easy games. Moscoso/Keller won the Bolivian Grand slam and the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships, and were losing finalists to Rodrigo Montoya Solis and Javier Mar at the 2019 Pan Am games and were a worthy qualifier here.

– #2 Kane Waselenchuk and Ben Croft cruised past Ernesto Ochoa and Javier Estrada in two. We hope to see more of Ochoa and Estrada on tour going forward.

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In the semis.

#1 DLR/Beltran defeated the upstart Bolivian team of Keller/Carrasco team (which had defeated the heavily favored #5 team of Jose Diaz and Jake Bredenbeck in qualifiers) in two.

#2 Kane/Croft played a complete match to down the very solid #3 Landa/Murray team 7,7.

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In the final, we got the two teams we wanted. This is a rematch of the last two US Open finals and the 2018 World Doubles final. The 2017 US Open doubles final was considered to be among the finest matches ever played on the pro circuit, a come from behind win for Kane/Croft. DLR/Beltran turned the tide in the 2018 US Open and dominated for a win. The World Doubles final was controversy filled, with the Mexican team walking off the court at match point against. What would we get here?

As it turned out, we got a solid match and a return to the winner’s circle for the now 3-time US Open champion team of Kane and Ben, who won the title 11,8. They’re now 28-5 as a team on the pro circuit with 7 titles since 2014.

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International Racquetball Tour
UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships
US OPEN Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
USA Racquetball
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Fecoracquet Fecoracquet
Racquetball Canada
International Racquetball Federation – IRF

IRT Pro Doubles Qualifying Wrap-up

Here’s a wrap-up of the Pro Doubles qualifying, which had some pretty amazing matches.

Before we get into it though, a bit of opining.

– 27 total teams entered, so that means 23 teams were competing for 4 spots in the main draw? I think the tour has to fix this going forward. That’s just too much of an advantage to the four teams that got byes into the quarters. At the very least it should have been 23 whittled to 8 spots in a round of 16. This would have given main draw exposure to one of several teams that ended up getting eliminated at the qualifying stage.

– Why did seeding for the Pro doubles deviate from the IRT pro doubles rankings? It looks like the doubles draw utilized the typical USAR method of automatically seeding last year’s finalists 1 and 2. On the one hand, yeah I think Kane/Croft deserve a top 2 seed b/c, well, I think they’re one of the two best teams. However, what I “think” shouldn’t be a factor; that’s why you have a ranking system and it should have been used irrespective of where the teams landed. Jose Diaz has a point.

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Here’s the notable qualifying matches on the Men’s doubles side:

In the 64s:

– #20 Alan Natera Chavez and Rodrigo Garay R took out the young #21 team of Sebastian Fernandez and Diego Garcia Quispe (combined age; 35) in a tiebreaker

– East Coasters #14 Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon were taken to the limit by the Mexican junior pairing #27 seeded Manuel Moncada and Guillermo Ortega 11-10.

– The “old guy” pairing #17 seeded Rocky Carson and Cliff Swain (combined age; 93) got their tourney started with a solid win over two tough Florida-based players in Mike Harmon and Alejandro Herrera Azcarate 5,10.

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In the 32s:

– #5 seeds and team most immediately affected by the a-formentioned seeding issue Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz got going with a solid 11,11 win over Natera/Garay.

– #16 Charlie Pratt and Dylan Reid took a solid game over an excellent doubles pairing of the Costa Rican national team and #9 seeded Andres Acuña / Felipe Camacho in a tiebreaker.

– Carson/Swain pulled a rabbit out of their hat by saving a slew of match-points in both game 2 and the tie-breaker to advance (9),14,10 over #8 Andree Parrilla and Lalo Portillo

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In the 16s

– #5 Jake/Diaz were upset by #13 seeded Bolivian pairing of Carlos Keller Vargas and Kadim Carrasco 11-8 in the breaker.

– In a rematch of the 2019 Pan Am Games final, #11 seeds Bolivians Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball and Roland Keller took out the Pan Am champs, Mexican #6 seeds Javier Mar and Rodrigo Montoya Solís in a tiebreaker. This is just too good of a match to happen this early, as these are clearly two of the best teams in the world and have demonstrated it on multiple occasions.

– the “old guys” continued their run, with Swain/Carson taking out Pratt/Reid to move on to face the top seeds.

– Estrada/Ochoa took care of business and advanced into the main draw; they’ll be dangerous in the next round.

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Great Pro doubles quarterfinals set to go for thursday night!