We’re down to the top 32, having played 2-3 rounds of qualifiers Wednesday to whittle the field from 94.
here’s the matches I found notable or upset-worthy from Wednesday’s marathon qualifying.
In the 256s: – fellow Virginian Rich Benderoth took a tiebreaker win over Erik Solter. Shout out to Rich, who regularly spanked me a decade ago when I used to actually play this sport. Unfortunately he injured himself in the process and forfeited his next round.
– USA 18U junior Lucas Shoemaker gets a win in his professional debut, downing Bolivian Vladimir Fernando Salas in a tie-breaker.
– Colorado native Jacob Kingsford gets a win in his debut pro/national level event over Ecuadorian Fabian Cuesta].
– In a battle of two IRT veterans, Colombian Alejandro Herrera Azcarate took out Japanese legend Hiroshi Shimizu in two close games to advance.
———————- In the 64s.
– Kansas amateur Bradley Rogers upset the highest ranked player in qualifying, 17th seeded Robert Collins 12,8 to earn a main draw berth. Rogers gets his best win on tour in four years.
– Javier Estrada advanced over Bolivian junior phenom Diego Garcia Quispe, who had to retire mid-game2 with injury. The two were playing close though, with the score 13-14 at the point of injury.
– Javier Mar dominated Ernesto Ochoa 13,5 to advance to the main draw and a meeting with his doubles partner. Tough draw for Ochoa, who was making his IRT Tier 1 debut here after putting up some very impressive results in 2019.
– Big upset of a dark horse candidate for me: Colombian Francisco Reyes Gomez upset Natera in a tiebreaker to advance. We don’t know much about Reyes; he’s got a few US Open appearances in the past but this is probably his best career win.
– Martel gets a great win to advance into the main draw, topping Garcia 14,6.
now for the 32s. And there’s some amazing matches today. Here’s what i’m looking for:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #33 Estrada: Estrada made a statement at the Black Gold cup, topping 4 top 10 players to take the title. Well, now he can measure up against the worlds best for a status check.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #24 Mar: these two ran into each other in the round of 32 at the Syosset open as well; just a function of unlucky seeding. Mar took that last meeting en route to a quarter final appearance. Expect a close match between these doubles partners that know each other’s game pretty well.
– #8 Samuel Murray vs #25 Keller: pay no attention to the seedings here: this is a battle of two evenly matched players. They met in the 16s of the Pan Am Games in Lima, a tie-breaker win for the Canadian. But Keller is no easy out; he’s an experienced, accomplished international player with two PARC titles on his resume
#13 David Horn vs #77 Martell; This is an interesting matchup between two long stalwards of the WRT. These two met 9 times on the old WRT, with Horn leading 5-4 h2h but Jaime Martell Racquetball taking the most recent meeting (May 2018 in Atlanta). This could go either way; Horn has missed time with an injury this season; is he 100%? He’ll need to be to beat his long time rival. (post-publishing correction; initially I had Martell playing into Landa here; my staging tables were incorrect and hence this correction after publishing).
– #14 Lalo Portillo vs #19 Charlie Pratt; Watch out for the upset here; every time Pratt enters a draw he makes noise. Pratt could lose here to the rapidly improving Portillo, or he could run to the semis. Expect a tactical battle here.
– #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #27 Garay: I like this match; Garay’s power versus DLR’s guile. Daniel won’t be surprised by Garay’s pop; they met in teh 2016 Mexican nationals prior to Garay’s re-flagging and he advanced in a tiebreaker. I like DLR here but I think it goes breaker.
– #10 Mario Mercado vs #23 Sebastian Fernandez; this is a fascinating match-up between Mercado, who despite having (in my opinion) improving results on the court lately is treading water from a rankings perspective thanks to rising pressure of up and coming players, and Fernandez, who seems set to jump straight from 18U into the pro ranks and make a splash. I think this goes down to the wire with the veteran advancing.
– #15 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #18 Andres Acuña; this should be another barn burner; they’ve met four times in IRF junior and senior events and 3 times it has gone breaker. All four are Moscoso wins … but Acuna always make sit hard on the Bolivian number one.
We’ll circle back for the 16s once the 32s are done.
Men’s Pro Singles: Kane Waselenchuk Men’s Open Singles: Andres Acuna Men’s Open Doubles: Carlos Keller/Kadim Carrasco
Note: no pro doubles this weekend, so we had pretty solid Open Singles and Open Doubles draws. The Men’s singles open draw featured three players who made the quarters (or better) of the pro draw and a great draw of east coast amateurs to challenge the traveling pros.
And, a reminder; the 5-8 seeds were “flipped” this tournament. Seeds listed below are for this event, not of the actual rankings on tour at the moment of the event.
I had the opportunity to be at the Sportfit Laurel club for Thursday night round of 64 and 32 matches, so I’ll describe some of the more interesting matches I witnessed in a bit more detail.
Lets review the matches of note by round:
Round of 64:
#24 Mauricio Zelada, playing on his home courts and with the cheering of the home crowd, eked out a brutal tiebreaker against #25 Kyle Ulliman. Zelada is a protege of former touring pro and fellow Maryland native Dan Fowler, and his game-style is really familiar to those who remember Fowler’s days on tour. Similar stroke mechanics, similar drive serve setup, and a similar game style. Zelada plays consistent ball, always putting solid consistent contact on the ball. Ulliman’s game style is flashier, more of a shooter style, taking chances and succeeding often. It was a fantastic match-up that went down to the wire, with Zelada winning on a gimme-error from Kyle after a long match.
#20 Maurice Miller faced off against #33 Joe Kelley in a battle of top east coast amateurs (Miller from GA, Kelley from PA). It did not disappoint, and was a back and forth athletic match between two guys with great getting ability. In the end Miller pulled away in the tie-breaker to advance.
#22 Hometown favorite Troy Warigon, spurred on by a vocal local cheering section, went tiebreaker against Atlanta newcomer #27 Yacouba Keita before advancing. Definitely the “loudest” crowd of the night, cheering Warigon on.
Colombian #23 Set Cubillos was taken tie-breaker by New Jersey top amateur #26 David Austin before advancing.
The biggest upset of the round and the sole upset by a local player over a traveling pro was #30 Pennsylvanian Geoff Heskett taking out #18 Justus Benson 10,12. Both players really put some power into the ball, and Heskett was able to really control the points with his excellent drive serve to Benson’s backhand.
Round of 32:
In a marathon evening match, #16 Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas took a barn-burner over #17 Colombian Eduardo Garay (13),11,7. This match was a contrast in styles: Keller’s drive serve approach is controlled power, with emphasis on the location and efficiency of the drive, while Garay has as much power as anyone on tour. The ball just sounds different off of Garay’s racquet on the drive serve. But, once the ball is in play, Keller’s putting as much pace on it as anyone else. Garay flings himself around the court, with incredible getting ability, while Keller’s length (he’s well over 6-feet tall) enables him to reach a lot of shots and cover a lot of court. This match went on so long that I believe Garay soaked four shirts. Vargas outlasted Garay in the end, but both of these players if playing full time are top 10 material.
In the evening’s other latest running match, two players with DC-area ties fought to the end. #9 Mario Mercado split two close games with home-town favorite #24 Zelada, who (like Warigon) plays out of the club and had a large local cheering section. The toll of the earlier match got to MoMo though, as he ran out of gas in the tiebreaker. Mercado efficiently advanced 11-1 to get to the main draw. This match won the award for biggest crowd of the night.
#23 Cubillos nearly forfeited his match against #10 Jake Bredenbeck before showing up just before the deadline. Jake seemed distracted as a result in the first game but eventually advanced 11,2.
#14 Andres Acuna dispatched Bolivian veteran #19 Kadim Carrasco in two games to advanced to the main draw yet again. Acuna is quietly moving his way up the ranks and putting his name into the discussion for top 10.
Round of 16 Action:
#1 Kane Waslenechuk kicked off his tournament with a 1,3 pasting of #16 Keller. I don’t know if Keller was beat from two matches the night before, or if Kane was especially fired up to play. I looked forward to this match and was rather surprised to see it be such a dominant beat-down. If you wondered about the difference between an IRF champ and the Pro champ … well here you go.
For the second tournament in a row, #8 Rodrigo Montoya could not advance out of the round of 16 against an opponent he’d normally be favored against. He loses in two straight to #9 Mercado 14,11. This second early loss in as many events to start the season should drop him right back out of the top 8.
In a battle of Francos (not related), #5 Sebastian Franco was taken to the edge by #12 Gerardo Franco, eventually advancing 11-9 in the breaker. Sebastian gets past an important hurdle on his home courts.
Both #4 Alejandro Landa and #2 Rocky Carson were stretched to tiebreakers in surprising fashion by tour regulars, by lefties Robert Collins and Thomas Carter respectively. Landa in particular has a habit of being a slow starter, something that’s harder and harder to overcome in the 3-game format.
In the upset of the round, perhaps the tournament, Costa Rican #1 and #14 seed Andres Acuna continues an impressive year of results by taking out #3 Andree Parrilla 4,(7),7. Parrilla made the final of the first event of the year and had ascended to the #3 ranking, but gets upset early by the solid play of Acuna and will drop back to #4 for the US Open. Meanwhile, Acuna achieves his first ever pro quarterfinal appearance in his 9th season of playing pro events.
#6 Samuel Murray staved off an upset attempt from #11 Eduardo Portillo, splitting the first two games by razor thin margins before pulling away in the tiebreaker.
In the quarters…
#1 Waselenchuk took out #9 Mercado in two straight forward games 6,8. Even a favorable crowd couldn’t push Mercado forward. Mercado will stay ranked 10th on tour despite the quarter-final finish, but he’s significantly narrowed the gap to the 9th spot on tour.
#5 Franco gets a key win on home soil, taking out #4 Landa for just the second time professionally. Sebastian crushed Landa in game one 15-3, but then had to work for it, saving game point before serving out the match 15-14. Franco gets his second semi-final in a row to open the season after making just one semi all last season, a great sign for his battle to retain a top 8 ranking this year. Despite the loss, Landa will regain the #3 seed for the US Open by virtue of Parrilla’s upset early loss.
#6 Murray traded 15-3 game blow-outs with #14 Acuna before closing out the match in a tiebreaker. Acuna improves his ranking to #18 with this result, pushing him to his highest ever ranking.
#2 Carson met #7 Alvaro Beltran for the 50th time on the pro tour and improved to 28-22 against him, advancing in (what else) a tie-breaker. Thanks to Daniel de la Rosa‘s absence here, Beltran widened his lead over DLR for the 5th ranking on tour and gained a bit on the now-4th ranked Parrilla.
In the Semis:
#5 Franco pushed #1 Kane on his home courts to make game one close, but Kane dominated game two to advance to the finals 11,7. With this result, Franco jumps to the #7 spot on tour, which means he avoids the likes of Montoya in an 8/9 match-up and avoids Kane in the quarters at the US Open.
#2 Carson met #6 Murray for the 11th time professionally and improved to 11-0 over the Canadian #1 11,4. Murray just couldn’t execute shots against Carson in game two and the match slipped away from him quickly. With this semis showing, Murray bumps Montoya for the last of the top 8 protected seeds for the US Open, a significant event that means Murray avoids possible dangerous qualifiers while Montoya may run into a tough player in the 24-25 range on tour.
The final was #1 vs #2 as it normally is; Rocky vs Kane has been the final in eight events over the last two seasons. this was their 80th meeting on tour. And like 76 times before, Kane topped Rocky for the title. But it was an adventurous match: Rocky was on his way to a donut in game one and was assessed a technical towards the end; game one score of 15 to -1. But Carson rebounded to take game 2; it had been nearly 2 years since Rocky took a game off of Kane. But Kane rebounded in the breaker and won -1,(11),4 to take the title.
Its Kane’s 117th career pro win.
Quick Recap of Men’s Open Singles: 4th Seeded Mercado survived a brutal quarter against Eduardo Garay (a rematch of last week’s Colombian National championships, won by Garay) to then cruise to the final over Set Cubillos from the top half (#1 seed Murray withdrew after making the pro semis). The bottom half of the draw went chalk amongst all top seeds, with #2 seed Andres Acuna topping #3 Maurice Miller to make the final. In the final, Acuna took out Mercado 11,9 to turn the tides on their meetings as of late.
Quick Recap of Men’s Open Doubles: it was #1 vs #2, Colombia vs Bolivia in the final, with two quality teams battling it out. #1 Mercado/Garay battled against #2 Keller/Carrasco in the final. There, the #2 seeded Bolivians put a second consecutive Sunday afternoon loss on Mercado, winning the Open Doubles title 7,12
Congrats to Tournament Director Tracy Valentine for all her hard work, thanks to IRT staff Mike Grisz, Dean Baer, Pablo Fajre for all their hard work. Great to meet IRT statistician-in-training JP Edwards, who I hope gets more involved going forward.
Also, a quick shout-out to Kane, who took to the court Thursday night upon arriving to play some pro-am doubles with tournament sponsors. The normal Thursday night sponsor doubles got cancelled, but some boosters had put up money specifically to have a shot at playing with Kane, and kudos to him for taking the court to help with sponsorship efforts.
Next up? 3-Wall championships next weekend in Las Vegas, then the US Open in Minneapolis.
The IRT returns to Laurel, MD for the second year in a row for the 2019 Valentine Open, named after its tournament director Tracie D Valentine and her daughter Imanii Valentine. The tour is back at one of the legendary east coast venues of Sportfit Laurel for this event.
Lets preview the draw. there’s 33 players entered this year including a ton of internationals and some MD/VA/PA locals. As noted last week, there’s some movement in the top 8, notably Parrilla taking over 3rd and Montoya moving into 7th … but the “flip” seeding is in place here so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled from their normal spots.
Missing top players: The biggest name missing is #6 Daniel De La Rosa who misses the event sandwiched in between 3-wall in Vegas and a major pickleball event, so he may have had to take a schedule break. We’re also missing a lot of tour regulars from last season in the 11-20 range, including #11 Jose Diaz, #13 David ” Bobby” Horn, and #18-20 Charlie Pratt, Jansen Allen and Felipe Camacho. Two tourneys missed in a row for these guys: it look like maybe there’s a changing of the guard on tour.
Here’s some round of 64 matches to watch for:
– MoMo Zelada versus Kyle Ulliman: Zelada plays on his home courts and gets the traveling Ulliman, who returns to Laurel for the 2nd year in a row. Could be a tight one. – MD native Jamal Harris takes on The Ref, Scott McClellan in an opener. Hopefully McClellan doesn’t have any avoidables taken away from him… (inside joke on a FB discussion after last event). – Veteran Bolivian Kadim Carrasco takes on 18U local player Dylan Pruitt also playing on his home courts. – Justus Benson takes on a tough lefty from Pennsylvania Geoff Heskett.
Projecting the 32s: – #16 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez vs #17 Carlos Keller Vargas; 16/17 matches are always tough, and this South American battle will be no different. Garay was just crowned Colombian Champ, while Keller is the 2-time reigning Pan American Racquetball Championships winner. I like Garay in a tie-breaker and I like seeing him make a push on tour early. – #9 Mario Mercado vs #24 Zelada: just another night at the club for these two native Bolivians, who both lived in the DC area for a while and got more than a few local tournament match-ups. Mercado has been playing solid lately and will look to advance. – #14 Andres Acuña vs #19 Carrasco: another international flavor match between two guys who have never managed to meet. – #15 Thomas Carter vs #18 Benson: Just like the 16/17, the 15/18 meeting will be tight as well. I like Carter here to return to the 16s in Laurel.
Projecting the Main draw: assuming seeds hold in the qualifiers, here’s some fun 16s to look for: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #16 Garay: I can’t wait to see Kane taking on a good young hard hitting player like Garay. If its Keller instead, we’re talking about a solid tactician unmoved by power play given how much he plays @Luis Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo back home. Either way, a great round of 16 that’s likely on the show/streaming court. – #8 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #9 Mercado; Montoya missed a chance in the 8/9 match last tourney … now he gets a match against a guy who beat him in Lima just a few weeks ago. Look for a solid match but Montoya to advance. – #6 Samuel Murray vs #11 Lalo Portillo; upset warning: Portillo beat Murray in California in Jan 2019 and has done nothing but improve since. Portillo continues his push for the top 10. – #7 Alvaro Beltran vs #10 Jake Bredenbeck; A nice match-up; Bredenbeck was nursing an injury earlier this summer that reportedly kept him out of the season opener; if he’s not 100% he’ll struggle to beat Beltran, who continues to impress even as he approaches his 41st birthday.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Kane vs #8 Montoya: would love to see this one; power v power. Montoya has just two meeting with Kane, both pretty dominant wins for the World #1. – #4 Alex Landavs #5 Sebastian Franco; Franco gets Landa on his (Franco’s) home courts. Franco made the semis last year and will be looking for an upset; these two always seem to play tight, and Franco beat Landa to win his sole pro title. Watch out for the upset here. – #3 Andree Parrilla vs #6 Murray; if Murray gets past Portillo, he runs into a tough one in Parrilla, who lost 11-10 in the quarters last year in Laurel and won’t want to lose his #3 ranking at this juncture. – #2 Rocky Carson vs #7 Beltran. These two have met no less than 49 times on tour; they’re more than familiar with each other and played a rather testy tiebreaker in their last meeting in January. This is no cakewalk for Carson. Combined age: more than 81 years between the two of them.
Semis: – Kane over Landa: these two seem to play the same way each time: Landa keeps it close up to about 10-10, then Kane breaks away for a 15-10 win. Look for a two game victory with the scores like 10,8 – Carson over Parrilla: So here’s the interesting match up. These two met in the quarters of this event last year, and Parrilla had match point on his racquet and blew a simple cross court into the ground before losing 11-10. Then they didn’t play again until last weekend’s Atlanta final (a 13,8 win for Rocky). I like Andree’s chances here of pushing for a tie-breaker on these slower courts but won’t predict a win.
Final: Kane over Rocky, yet again.
That’s how I see it for this weekend. I’ll be at the club all day thursday to take in the 64s and 32s before jetting back home. Hope to see you out there, and maybe we’ll do some test broadcasting later thursday night.
The tour returns to Lilburn after a one-season absence, and is rewarded with a great 38-man draw and both both singles and doubles action. The top 10 players are here, then we’re missing the 11th-14th ranked players inclusive ( Jose Diaz, Jake Bredenbeck (injured reportedly),David Horn and Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo all miss this event, somewhat surprisingly for the first three). We’re also missing last weekend’s winner Charlie Pratt depriving the draw a bit of its mid-section talent.
This combination of missing players elevates Lalo Portillo all the way to the #11 seed here, his highest ever seeding in an IRT event. We’re also missing frequent tour participants like Jansen Allen, Adam Manilla, and Felipe Camacho; all three treaded water or slipped in the rankings last season; is this a one-tourney blip or are we seeing a changing of the guard on tour? More to come here later. In the meantime…
—— Lets preview the singles draw first.
NOTE: post publishing this analysis and the draw, Kane Waselenchuk withdrew from the event due to a personal issue. Take that into mind reading the below. I could see this most benefiting Javier Mar, who could get a walkover in the 16s and very well could run to the finals.
Notable round of 64 matches: – #24 Maurice Miller vs Troy Warigon; a solid match-up between two solid players, who also happen to be playing doubles together this weekend. They met in the semis of the pro draw of the LPRT event in December on Troy’s home court (a Miller win); now the tides are reversed as Warigon travels to play Miller on Miller’s home court. Miller should advance here. – #21 Kadim Carrasco vs MoMo Zelada; Carrasco is one of several Bolivian-based players to enter this draw. These two met in the opener of the Bolivian Grand Slam last March, a dominant Carrasco win. I like Zelada keeping it close but ultimately falling again to Carrasco. – #19 Justus BensonvsAustin Cunningham; Benson takes on a talented local in a first rounder that could be closer than he wants. – #23 Scott McClellan vs Michael Arterburn: two frequent IRT entrants face off in the opener. – #18 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on long-time touring pro Dan Fowler, who plays just his third IRT event in the last decade, making the drive down from Maryland along with Warigon and Zelada.
———— Notable round of 32s, assuming some early upsets don’t occur: – #16 Javier Mar vs #17 Sebastian Fernandez; tough match-up for both players, fitting of a 16/17 draw. I like both players chances of breaking into the top 10 with a full season on tour … but we generally only see Mar part time (He’s played just 7 events in the past 5 seasons). But Mar’s results speak for themselves; he’s always a threat to advance when he plays. I like Mar over the younger Mexican player here, but I like Patata’s chances this season. – #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #21 Carrasco: Franco takes advantage of the missing 11-15 ranked players to secure a top 16 seed and gets a winnable match against the Carrasco/Zelada winner. – #20 Carlos Keller Vargas takes on #13 Thomas Carter, a tough draw for Carter facing the two-time defending PARC champ. – #15 Andres Acuña vs #18 Garay: great match of two internationals; last time they knowingly played was in the 2014 Junior worlds (a tight Acuna win). Acuna has continued to impress with his international accomplishments, but Garay beat a number of top players last year and is looking to make some noise this season. Garay to advance but its a toss-up.
—————— Projecting the 16s. – #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #16 Mar: they’ve met 3 times; Kane crushed him at Syosset last spring, but Mar played Kane as tough as he’s been played in the best-of-three format at last year’s US Open. Mar’s tactical game can keep him in a match with Kane if he’s shooting well, but that only goes so far. Kane gets a quality match out of the gate but advances in two. – #8 Sebastian Franco vs #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis: the first of potentially many critical openers for both players as Rodrigo makes a run at the tour top 8. I don’t have any prior meetings between the two, so this should be telling for now, as both guys remain neck and neck at the 8/9 spot and should continue to meet at this 8/9 juncture for a bit until points settle out. I predict Montoya to advance. – #5 Alvaro Beltran vs #12 G.Franco: they’ve played 3 times since Jan 2018, all three Beltran wins. I’d expect the same here; a win for Alvaro in 2 closer games. – #4 Andree Parrilla vs #20 Keller; brutal draw for Parrilla. Keller was handily beating Parrilla at the Black Gold cup this summer when Keller had to retire; this will be a setback for Parrilla’s pursuit of the #3 spot on tour right out of the gate, because I think Keller wins this match in two. – #3 Alex Landavs #14 Robert Collins: just one meeting between these two; a 3-game win at the 2016 US Open. Landa should advance here. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #11 Portillo; this should be an interesting match; Portillo has gotten a ton of solid wins this summer, while DLR fell to his lowest ranking in a while. Is DLR in? This is just the kind of match that can trip him up if he isn’t focused. I’d expect DLR to advance here because his game is just too complete for Portillo right now, but Portillo has the talent to win. – #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Mario Mercado: 4 meetings between them, none in the last few years. They’re split 2-2, with all four going 4 or 5 games. I like Mercado here, building on his great Pan Am Games showing. – #2 Rocky Carson vs #18 Garay; little to go on here but I suspect Garay will get a lesson in match management as the veteran advances in two.
—————– Possible Quarters: – #1 Waselenchuk vs #9 Montoya: just two prior meetings between the two, both dominant Kane wins. It will be interesting to see if Montoya’s game has added the facets he needs to compete with Kane; i look forward to this meeting if it occurs nonetheless because there’s not too many other guys who hit it this hard on tour. – #20 Keller vs #5 Beltran: Keller’s beaten Alvaro twice in the PARCs, including in the semis of the 2019 event en route to his title. I see another Keller tight 2-game win. – #3 Landa vs #6 DLR; a frequent match-up between two top Mexican players: I now have Landa 7-5 in both pro and Amateur meetings with DLR, and you have to go back to 2017 to find a DLR win. I think Landa wins here to move on. – #2 Carson vs #10 Mercado; 8 meetings, 8-0 for Carson, but Mercado took him to a tiebreaker on home soil in the Bolivian Grand Slam earlier this year. Look for a Carson win.
—————– Semis: – #1 Kane over #20 Keller; Keller’s solid, but not this solid. It could be a fun match to watch though, in that Keller’s game does not really overpower players, but he hangs in. Can he hang with Kane’s power? – #2 Carson vs #3 Landa; Carson leads 7-4 all time … but they’re dead even split in the last 3 seasons 4-4, alternating wins. Carson won in Syosset to end last season … but Landa beat him handily in Florida the week before en route to that title. I like Rocky here.
Final: Kane over Rocky. 1 vs 2 yet again. I know nobody wants to predict the obvious 1-2 final, but as we saw last year when Rocky and Kane had locked up the top two slots with a couple of events yet to go … there’s still a gap between them and the rest of the tour.
—————— Men’s Doubles preview
Love this Doubles draw. The top of the draw is stacked, and there’s 11 solid teams. Portillo and Parrilla have decided to play together every event, adding to the intrigue of doubles draws with more and more “regular” teams showing up. All four quarter finals look like they’ll be great.
In the top half, look for Ben Croft/Waselenchuk to get stretched to the limit by the Mar/Montoya team (who just won gold at the Pan Am games) before advancing to face their frequent nemesis team of DLR/Beltran in one semi.
In the bottom half, I like the Colombian national team of Mercado/Franco to top Parrilla/Portillo and to face the #2 seeded Landa/Murray team, who continues to have great success playing with each other semi.
Croft/Waselenchuk took out DLR/Beltran the last time they played (Mar 2019) and we’ll go with that again, as they then continue to beat Landa/Murray in the final.
—————— Lets get it on. Look for Streaming announcements in all the usual places all weekend.
In the semis: – #4 Pratt took out #1 Franco in one semi 8,7. Pratt remains perhaps the most dangerous non-full time touring pro in the world, with a slew of solid wins, a semis finish in Portland last season, and a finals appearance at the 2019 PARC. – #2 Montoya beat #3 Mercado in the other semi in two straight forward games, avenging a loss in the Pan Am team competition.
In the final, Pratt again took out a favored player in Montoya, playing more consistent ball and putting away opportunities to win the title 12,9. I thought Montoya struggled with accuracy early and then struggled to maintain his focus as he battled calls that didn’t go his way on top of the ever-consistent Pratt.
—————- Women’s Singles recap: #1 Hollie Rae Scott beat local player Laurie Dreneck in one semi, and #3 Linda Tyler beat #2 seeded Ceci Orozcoin the other.
In the final… #1 Scott took out Tyler in two games for the title.
—————– Open Doubles results: the Canadian duo of Iwaasa and Brayley took out Josh Doniak and Mercado in the final.
—————– Congrats to all the organizers for bringing pro racquetball to Montana. Thanks to Matthew Ivar Majxner for sending me draw sheets and results and helping me write the preview and this summary….
We have one more lower-tiered IRT event on the schedule prior to the beginning of the tier 1 slate in Atlanta in two weeks’ time, and its this coming weekend in Missoula, Montana.
We’ve never had either a Men’s or a Women’s full-slate pro stop in Montana (at least as per what’s in the database for the IRT and LPRT), so its great to see the sport getting to a market where there’s clearly some players.
There’s 25 players in the draw, including 6 IRT regulars, three top-10 players, a couple other well-known amateurs and internationals, and a slew of top local players. 25 players with 5 countries and 13 states represented.
Lets preview the singles draw:
—————- The 32s are play-ins among locals for the most part.
In the 16s, here’s some potential match-ups to look for, assuming no upsets-by-seed in the 32s.
– #8 Andrew Gale vs #9 Hr Coe; Gale is a long-time pro player, with IRT appearances dating to 2006 and with some solid wins on his resume (he beat current #4 Andree Parrilla back in 2012 and even beat Cliff Swain in 2013). Coe has significantly less pro experience (just one result in the DB, a 1999 loss to Swain in Denver) but is a solid local player. – #5 Justus Benson vs #12 Rich Carter; Benson may have his hands full here against a guy in Carter who played a couple of pros tough in WRT events in Seattle over the past few years. – #6 Dylan Reid vs #11 Mitch Brayley; Brayley mostly plays locally in Canada regional and national events and has never ventured south to play a top-level USA-domestic event. Reid has some solid wins over IRT-touring pros on his resume and has qualified for several main draws in IRT events in the last few years. He also is, of course, the master of the Racquetball Podcast, a must-listen for fans everywhere of the sport. See https://podcasts.apple.com/…/the-racquetball-s…/id1310228396 for subscription information in Itunes. Disclosure: Reid interviewed me in June of last year (see https://podcasts.apple.com/…/episode-12-todd-…/id1310228396… for that episode).
Projecting the quarters: – #1 Sebastian Franco vs #8 Gale: Franco is fresh off the Pan Am Games, where he represents Colombia and was knocked out early in the round of 16 by Canadian Iwaasa (more on him later). He faces someone of a make or break season this year on tour, with a slew of names looking to push him out of the top 8. He shouldn’t have trouble with Gale here. – #4 Charlie Pratt Racquetball vs #5 Benson: Pratt also is a veteran of the 2019 Pan Am Games, having represented USA and played both singles and doubles. In singles, he also suffered an upset loss at the hands of Iwaasa, then exited in the quarters at the hands of Bolivian Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo(a rematch of the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships semis, where Pratt shocked the sport with an 11-10 defeat of the Bolivian Grand Slam champ. Pratt should advance easily here. – #3 Mario Mercado vs #6 Reid: Mercado also represented Colombia at the Pan Ams (playing #2 to Franco), and really had a solid tournament, taking out two-time defending PARC champ Carlos Keller Vargas and USA #1 Jake Bredenbeck before falling in the semis to #1 seed Alvaro Beltran. He also managed to beat Keller a second time in the team competition, along with both Iwaasa and Montoya to wrap up a fantastic tournament. Mercado’s attendance here indicates to me he’s going to plan on a full slate of tournaments, which is great news for the tour and could spell some trouble for the IRT players in the 7-10 range, based on the wins he got in Lima. Mercado should advance over Reid here. – #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #7 Coby Iwaasa; This is a finals-quality match-up that happens in the quarters, since Iwaasa has no ranking points. That’s a shame, because Iwaasa has demonstrated his ability to beat top IRT players. Representing Canada in Lima, he beat both Pratt and Franco before losing to Beltran in the quarters 13,14. The last time he played a pro event, he made the finals (WRT Calgary open in oct 2018). Meanwhile, Montoya took his second major international title in two years by winning the 2019 Pan Am gold over his countryman/teammate Beltran in a match that will long be remembered for Beltran’s hip check/shattered glass door (which just made ESPN’s top 10 plays of the day). I think Montoya wins this in the end, but it’ll be in two close games or perhaps drawn to a tiebreaker.
Projected Semis: – #4 Pratt over #1 Franco: they’ve played 4 times in pros and IRF events in the last three years and Pratt is 4-0. I think Pratt has Franco’s number, and should advance here. – #3 Mercado over #2 Montoya: they’ve played once in the DB; a Mercado win over Montoya at the 2018 US Open. They also played in the team event in Pan Ams, also a win for Mercado. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict the upset, even though I think Montoya is the better player.
Finals prediction: – #4 Pratt over #3 Mercado: they’ve played 3x in the database, and Pratt has never lost to Mercado. It goes tie-breaker but Charlie prevails.
—————- On the women’s side, there’s also a few solid players in town to compete: Hollie Rae Scott , Linda Tyler , and Cecilia Pratt head up the Ladies Open draw.
Lastly they populated the Open doubles draw with teams selected by raffle, to make for a fun integration of traveling pros with local players.
In the 32s: – Carlos Keller Vargas took out IRT touring regular Justus Benson 1,14. Good come-back by Benson to make game 2 competitive. – #5 Rodrigo Montoya Solis got a walk-over win over Roland Keller, who had to take injury time-out time in his earlier victory and may have been preserving himself for doubles. – #12 Javier Mar got stretched by American youngster Garcia to a tie-breaker before advancing. – Giant killer Alan Natera Chavez took out #13 Charlie Pratt in a tiebreaker. I thought Pratt had a solid run to the qtrs or semis here; will that now be Natera? – #19 Javier Estrada trounced #14 Sebastian Fernandez 2,6. In my personal world rankings I have these two literally one after the other but this was a pretty dominant win. – #7 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo took out long-time Ecuadorian veteran Jose Daniel Ugalde 5,10 to get his tourney started with a solid win. – #15 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez got revenge for last week’s loss by topping #18 Ernesto Ochoa in two close games. – #2 Alvaro Beltran was taken to the limit by long time Ecuadorian vet Fernando Rios, saving match point against and advancing 11-10.
In the 16s, we started to see some serious upsets – #1 Andree Parrilla lost game one 15-8, then got an injury walkover to advance over two-time defending PARC champ Keller. Carlos looked like he was in discomfort from the latter portions of game one and didn’t event take the court for game 2. A shame, because I’d have liked to see if Keller could make a run to the semis or finals here. – #9 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez took an 11-9 close win over Lalo Portillo in the latest iteration of their rivalry (they were one year apart in Juniors and faced each other often growing up). – #5 Montoya downed doubles partner Mar 13,6, in a reverse of their match-up in Syosset. – Natera kept up his upsetting ways, this time topping IRT top8 player Sebastian Franco 11-9. – #19 Estrada continued to dominate, this time taking out top IRT pro Daniel De La Rosa 11-9 in the breaker. Estrada is another example of a dominant Mexican player who rarely plays the IRT: his sole IRT appearance was in 2010, as a 14yr old, when the tour made a stop in Chihuahua (his home town) – #6 Mario Mercado beat Costa Rican #1 Andres Acuña for the 2nd time in as many weeks to advance. – #7 Moscoso wiped out Costa Rican #2 Felipe Camacho to advance. – #2 Beltran recovered from his earlier match to take out the upset-minded Garay 11,1.
So your quarter final seeds are: 1,9,5,20,19,7,2. – #1 Parrilla advanced eily over #9 Franco 9,6 – #5 Montoya dropped the first game but came back to beat Natera in a breaker. – Hard hitting #19 Estrada came from 7-10 down in the breaker to score four unanswered and top IRT top 10 player and #6 seed Mercado 11-10. – #7 Moscoso took a close first game in controversial fashion over #2 Beltran, who then hobbled off the court midway through the second in an injury fft.
Semis: 1,5,19 and 7 seeds.
In the semis: – #5 Montoya trounced #1 Parrilla 6,3. This was technically their first IRT meeting; they’d met 8 times previously that I could track in the database (and likely more, since they’re the exact same age and were frequent competitors on the junior circuit). – #19 Estrada, if he hadn’t already made a statement in this tournament, made an even larger one in taking out #7 Moscoso in a streaky tiebreaker win. He raced to a 6-0 lead, then fell behind 12-6, then raced to a 15-12 first game win. In the second, Moscoso cruised to a 15-3 win. in the breaker, Estrada really bore down and broke away with solid play to dominate and take teh breaker 11-5. I had Moscoso winning this event, now I wonder if Estrada can beat the winner of Parrilla/Montoya.
In the final, Estrada indeed got the breakthrough win, beating Montoya (14),9,3.
Quite a weekend for the home-town 24-yr old. He beat 3 of the top 10 players in the world to win this event and, for me combined with past results is now clearly himself in that same category.
———————————- Doubles event:
The draw went mostly chalk to the quarters as expected, though the #10 seeded Pratt/Garcia team easily advanced over Guatemalans Christian Wer and Javier Martinez.
In the quarters: Beltran/DLR got a walkover, the CRC team of Acuna/Camacho took a scintillating 11-10 win over Parrilla/Portillo, Montoya/Mar beat a hobbled Bolivian team of Moscoso/Keller handily, and Pratt/Garcia took out #2 Colombian team 11-10.
In the semis, the two top Mexican teams both advanced to force a rematch of the 2018 Mexican National finals; Beltran/DLR over the Costa Ricans Acuna/Camacho, and Montoya/Mar over Pratt/Garcia.
In the final, Montoya/Mar got the better of Beltran/DLR 7,12 to take the title.
———————————– That’s a wrap for the 2018-19 IRT season! When the points post to the website, i’ll scrape it and update the PRS sites with end-of-year season rankings and what not, and will do a notification post to that end with all the yearly artifacts updated. We look forward to the initial publishing of the 2019-20 IRT calendar.
Next up on the rball calendar is US Junior Nationals next weekend in Portland. After that, we have more solid Mexican non-sanctioned events, WOR outdoor nationals in July, Mexican Junior natioanls in July, and then the Pan American games in august.
There is a massive, fabulous Men’s pro draw this weekend, with 46 players entered into Singles and no less than 22 pro doubles teams. The draw features 4 of the top 8 IRT pros, nearly the full contingent of Mexican pro players, all the top Ecuadorians, Guatemalans and Costa Ricans, and the top three Bolivian players who have made the flight up to make what should be a fantastic draw.
What’s at stake: from an IRT rankings perspective there shouldn’t be any change to the top 8-10 rankings on the IRT tour based on where things stood at the finish of the last tier 1 in Syosset. More likely is that we’ll see some movement (with solid results) with the players ranked in the 11-30 range.
Play runs from Tues to Saturday, starting this afternoon 6/11/19.
—————————— Here’s a preview of the draw;
In the round of 64, there’s some good play-in matches to watch, especially: – Bolivian Roland Keller takes on top Mexican pro Jaime Martell Neri in a tough first rounder for both. Keller is more known for his doubles play (he is currently the reigning 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships double champ with Moscoso), while Martell is one of the top WRT players. – #30 Jordy Alonso takes on #35 Ruben Estrada, a long time player who has a couple of quarter final Nationals appearances in the last few years. – Long-time IRT touring pro Javier Moreno, whose first pro tour appearance was in Dec 1995, takes on youngster Erick Cuevas, who was born in 1997. – Erik Garcia plays David Ortega, one of the most decorated Junior players ever but who stopped playing pro matches more than a decade ago. Ortega won 11 junior world titles, including one in every age group from 8 to 18, during his junior career. – Top Ecuadorians Esteban de Janon, Juan Flores, Juan Francisco Cueva and Jose Daniel Ugalde all have made the flight and have entered. Ugalde in particular faces Alex Cardona in what could be a great first rounder. – Guatemalans entered include long-time player Edwin Galicia, Javier Martinez, Juan Salvatierra and Christian Wer. Its great to see such a solid international draw.
In the 32s, matches to watch out for: – Bolivan Carlos Keller Vargas, the two-time reigning PARC singles champion, takes on IRT regular Justus Benson for a shot at the #1 in the 16s. – #5 Rodrigo Montoya Solis takes on the Roland Keller/Martell winner in a tough opener for the top seed. – #12 seeded Javier Mar likely takes on NCAA intercollegiate reigning champ Erik Garcia. Mar as a 12 seed is a tough one; he’s more than capable of running to the finals from the top of this draw. – #13 Charlie Pratt likely takes on giant-killer Alan Natera Chavez. Natera has made the semis of the last two Mexican Nationals events and played his first ever IRT event in Syosset last month. – #14 Sebastian Fernandez likely takes on Javier Estrada, fresh off a finals appearance last week at the Copa RKT event. I’ve got them neck and neck in my personal power rankings and i’m not sure who i favor here. I like Fernandez’s game lately, but Estrada is a serious player. – #7 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo, a player who most everyone is looking forward to seeing, gets a fun opener against the criminally -and hard-hitting Alex Cardona. Cardona is the 2-time WRT tour champ who has gone to part-time pro playing lately, but is still a tough out. – In the 15/18 match, Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on Ernesto Ochoa … which we know is close b/c they just played last week in Monterrey, with Ochoa advancing in an 11-10 win.
Projecting the 16s: – #1 Andree Parrilla vs Keller Vargas. Great round of 16 match-up; the #4 player on the IRT, who’s knocking on the door to move higher, versus one of the best international players out there. I like Parrilla, but just barely and wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Keller Vargas win here. – In the 8/9 match, two old adversaries go at it; #8 Lalo Portillo versus #9 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez. Franco was upset last weekend early while Portillo lost a tough one to Cardona. These two have played a number of times in the past few years, and mostly Franco has had Portillo’s number. But, Lalo beat him the last time they played in Mar19 and is trending higher. I’m going with Lalo here. – #5 Montoya vs #12 Mar. A rematch of the brutal round of 32 in Syosset. They have faced each other more than a few times in WRT and Mexican local events. Its a back and forth affair, with the frequent doubles partners trading wins when they face each other. Mar won last weekend, beat Montoya in Syosset, and i’ll favor him to advance here. – #4 Sebastian Franco vs #13 Pratt; assuming Pratt gets by Natera, he stands a good chance of upsetting Franco here. They’ve played 4 times in the past three years and Pratt has never lost. – #3 Daniel De La Rosa vs Fernandez/Estrada winner. I like DLR in the opener here, even though it’ll be a tough match. – #6 Mario Mercado likely faces #11 Andres Acuña. An interesting potential match-up; Mercado has struggled this season on tour while Acuna has gotten some solid wins. They met once in juniors in 2014 (an Acuna win). I’ll give Acuna the win here. – #7 Moscoso vs #10 Felipe Camacho; assuming Moscoso powers his way past Cardona, he has a much easier path into the quarters facing Camacho. – #2 Alvaro Beltran vs the Garay/Ochoa winner: Either way, Beltran faces some trouble here. Ochoa beat Beltran in the 2018 Mexican nationals event. Don’t be surprised if there’s an upset here.
Interestingly, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see a majority of the top 8 seeds lose in the round of 16 here. That’s how deep this draw is, and how many good non-regular IRT pros there are out there.
Possible Qtrs: – Parrilla vs Portillo; advantage Parrilla over the increasingly tough Portillo. – Mar vs Pratt: Pratt beat him in the 2017 PARC semis, but I feel like Mar is in a better spot right now. These two play a very similar game style, so expect a close tiebreaker nonetheless. – DLR vs Acuna: DLR advances easily, even if Mercado holds serve to advance here. – Moscoso vs Beltran: Moscoso beat Beltran pretty handily in the Bolivian Open earlier this year and has the kind of game that gives Beltran fits. Advantage to the hard-hitting Bolivian no matter who advances here.
Semis: – Parrilla vs Mar: advantage Mar; he’s won their last two meetings, though its usually a tiebreaker. – Moscoso vs DLR; they played twice internationally in 2015, splitting wins but with Moscoso getting the better of DLR in a knockout setting en route to his run to the PARC semis. Which DLR shows up? The one who can handle the kind of power that Conrrado brings and offset it with his touch shots? Or will Moscoso bring his A-game, which is good enough to beat nearly anyone in the world? I like Moscoso here.
Final: Moscoso over Mar, as Moscoso overpowers the touch game of Mar.
Doubles preview: 20 teams, a massive doubles draw, that features some of the top teams in the world. The seeded teams include the (IMHO) top doubles team in the world in Beltran/DLR, the Colombian na’tl team of Mercado/Franco, the 2nd best Mexican pairing (who’s been nipping on the heels of #1) in Montoya/Mar, and the Costa Rican nat’l team of Acuna/Camacho.
Also present are the likely favorites; the reigning PARC champs Bolvian pairing of Moscoso/Keller and the likely Pan Am Games representative teams from Ecuador and Guatemala.
Fun Quarter final matches to watch for: Montoya/Mar and Moscoso/Keller in a rematch of the PARc semis. And, Pratt/Garcia taking on Franco/Mercado; could be an upset.
Semis prediction: Beltran/DLR and Portillo/Parrilla on the top, Moscoso/Keller and Franco/Mercado from the bottom.
Finals prediction: Beltran/DLR beat the bolivians for the 3rd time in a year.
——————————- Follow along on facebook; the irt’s broadcast team including Dean DeAngelo Baer is heading down to watch and broadcast.
The tour heads to its regular April Florida stop for the penultimate event of the 2018-19 season. This is the 12th straight year this event has been on the schedule and has historically been a solid, important stop on the schedule given its timing. Last year, it was the last event of the season and led to the end of the 9-straight pro title run of Kane Waselenchuk at the hands of Rocky Carson.
This year though, the tables are turned; Kane heads into the Florida event with a solid lead in the rankings (https://www.irt-tour.com/singles-rankings/) despite missing the Bolivian grand slam. Kane would essentially have to miss his flight to Florida in order for Rocky to overtake him for the tour lead this coming weekend. And, with one additional event on the books and a 300+ points lead the odds of Kane missing out on his 13th tour title seem slim.
That being said, there’s lots to play for. Alejandro Alex Landaand David Horn made the semis last year and are defending large amounts of rankings points. meanwhile, Daniel De La Rosa and Andree Parrilla, who are currently sitting 5th and 4th respectively in the rankings, could easily overtake Landa in the rankings with solid results this weekend. DLR missed this event last year so has zero points to defend, while Parrilla was upset in the 16s and could really improve on his rankings heading into the final NY event.
So, that being said, lets preview the draw. 35 players in this draw, another solid pro draw, and some dark horses present. Here’s some good matches to look for in the qualifying.
In the 64s: – Eduardo Garay faces off against tour regular Justus Bensonin the first round, a tough draw for both players. Garay brings a ton of power and has been making waves with solid wins lately and is a name to watch for this weekend. – Maryland native Troy Warigon makes the trip down the coast and gets a solid opener versus Costa Rican international Sergio Acuna. – Andres Acuña, Sergio’s brother, Costa Rican #1 and coming off of a very impressive semi-final showing at the Pan American Racquetball Championships, faces off against the best 50yr old player in the land, long time Japanese veteran Hiroshi Shimizu. – Scott McClellan faces off against Colombian international Set Cubillos Ruiz.
In the 32s: – #16 vs #17: Felipe Camacho versus Thomas Carter; the 16/17 match is always tough and this should be no different. They’ve already met twice this season, both Camacho wins but both 11-8 tiebreakers. Can Carter break through and get on the right side of what projects to be a close match? – #9 Mario Mercado vs Garay: they met at the 2016 US Open and Garay got him 12-10 in the 5th. This could be a similarly close battle here, but I suspect Garay moves forward despite Mercado’s semis appearance in the Bolivian Grand Slam. – #13 Jake Bredenbeck vs #20 Maurice Miller; Miller makes the quick drive down from Atlanta to compete, and heads up against Bredenbeck. These two have met 3 times in the past 4 years, all Jake wins. Miller will need to find a weakness to advance. – Acuna vs #14 Jansen Allen; Allen continues to fall down the rankings after getting as high as the #3 seed in an event in March 2018, and he runs into a guy who just took out Landa in the PARC event. These two play a similar style, solid, tactical, but Acuna has the hot hand. – #10 Rodrigo Montoya Solís vs Kadim Carrasco; an interesting match between two extremely hard hitters. Lots of broken balls in this one, but Montoya should advance with the more complete game. – #15 Robert Collins vs #18 Lalo Portillo; the 15/18 match, like the 16/17 match, always seems intriguing and this is no different. The reigning junior world 18U champ Portillo versus IRT touring regular Collins; this is a good test for Portillo, facing a tough lefty.
Projected 16 matches: – #1 Kane over Camacho; they met in Chicago at this gate, a blow out Kane win. – #8 Alvaro Beltran vs Garay; assuming Garay gets past Mercado, we would get a rematch of the round of 16 match these two played in Bolvia. That was a close, two game win for Beltran. If Mercado wins, we get a rematch of a round of 16 match from last weekend’s PARC championship, a tie-breaker Beltran win. Either way, advantage Beltran, who is having a nice rebound 2nd half to the season. – #5 Samuel Murray vs #12 Horn: Murray crushed him in Chicago in March; both are coming off of the long travel to PARC where Murray logged twice the court time, playing both singles and doubles. I’d still favor Murray here but it could be an upset win. – #4 Parrilla vs #13 Jake Bredenbeck: they met in South Dakota, a tiebreaker win for Parrilla, his first win over Jake in 4 tries across tours. I’d expect another close match here but for Parrilla to eventually move on and continue his fantastic season. – #3 Landa vs Acuna; a rematch of the huge upset from last weekend’s PARC championships, when Landa was the #1 seed and lost in the quarters by Acuna. Can Acuna do it again? Landa sits 3rd in the standings and really has no shot of getting much higher on the season, but should have incentive to stay in the top 4 to avoid “the flip” going forward. I’ll go with Landa holding serve and avenging last week’s loss. – #6 Sebastian Franco vs #11 Jose Diaz; they’ve already met twice this calendar year and split; Diaz won in California when Franco was coming off injury, while Franco won in Chicago in two close games. I’m guessing Franco wins again, and again in two close games here. – #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Montoya. Thanks to the “flip” seeding, DLR (who was the 3rd seed last event) falls into the 5-8 range and gets a scrambled seed to #7 … and runs into frequent recent nemesis Montoya at this stage. These two go back and forth lately; DLR crushed Rodrigo in Chicago, but got similarly crushed in South Dakota. In 2018, Montoya beat DLR for the Mexican Nat’l title with a solid win, but then got whipped in the Worlds qualifying event later in the summer. So this could go either way. I’m going to flip a coin and go with DLR, who didn’t have to travel and compete for a week straight in the PARC. – #2 Carson faces Portillo. Carson debuted on tour in 1995; Portillo was BORN in 1999 and is less than half his age. No matter; Carson should control this match and advance.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Kane vs #8 Beltran; thanks to the seedings flip, these two have a rare quarterfinals meeting. Ironically, they last met in the quarters in this event last year, a 12,2 Kane win. Notably, 12 points is the most Kane has had scored on him in a single game since the movement to a 3-game format, a feat Beltran repeated in the Portland final in November. Look for another Kane 2 game win, with scores like 8,11. – #4 Parrilla vs #5 Murray: Andree is 3-0 over Murray, and makes it 4-0 here. This is the year of Parrilla, who finished last season ranked 11th and is now in real position to finish ranked 3rd this year. – #3 Landa vs #6 Franco: a rare meeting between these two players; they’ve only met 5 times since 2011, and the only time Franco won was to take his sole tier 1 victory in San Antonio in March of 2018. I’d favor Landa normally, but he’s coming off the brutal travel trip to Colombia for the PARC, so Franco is more rested. – #2 Carson vs #7 De La Rosa. Or maybe Montoya, depending on the coin flip round of 16 event between two of Mexico’s top players. Either match will be compelling. Carson really gave Montoya a lesson when they met in the semis of Chicago. but DLR has topped Rocky the last 3 times they’ve played. So we know who Rocky is rooting for. I’ll go with DLR over Rocky here.
Semis: – Kane over Parrilla, who looks to avoid the 5,2 beating he took the last time they played in Chicago in March. – Landa over DLR: they’re close, but Landa has the edge of late, having won their last 4 meetings across tours.
Finals: Kane over Landa, who keeps the games close as he typically does for about the first half of each game, then loses out as Kane goes on a 5-6 point run to close each game out. Kane wins 8,7.
———————– This is a tough tourney to predict; I’ve got Landa going to the finals … but he very well may lose in the 16s to a guy who just beat him a week ago. I could have DLR in the semis … or be one-and-done to a tough countryman in Montoya. Either way, I see lots of good matches through out the weekend in all the rounds; look forward to Dean DeAngelo Baer broadcasting from Florida and calling out all the “flatties” as they happen.
(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 Landavs 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.
——————– 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.