Here’s a fun one to discuss during this slight break in the rball tourney schedule; what’s the best Father/Son combo in our sports’ history? How about Husband/Wife or Brother/Sister?
Here’s some opinions on each category from yours truly, with others that I considered. Did I forget someone? Am I totally wrong? Feel free to chime in.
1. Best Husband/Wife combo: Jack Huczek and Christie Van Hees Only husband-wife team where both sides have won tour championships. Both retired way too soon; I would bet money Jack in particular could still be making the back end of pro tournaments if he was still playing (he was born in 1983, so hes younger right now than Kane/Rocky/Alvaro).
There’s actually a slew of Racquetball playing couples with pro experience on both sides … i limited this to just the best and the top 3 honorable mentions. If you want to include the Pratts, Fowlers, Wachtels, Kirches, Hawthornes, or others, I wouldn’t blame you.
Another category where there’s lots of honorable mentions; I left out the Paraisos, the Doyles, Kerrs, and Odegards in particular. I sense there’s a lot of younger players in the junior ranks that could qualify here too.
Lots of good examples of brothers playing right now. Bredenbecks, Murrays, Kurzbards, Garays, Kellers, Acunas, etc. And there might be more in the Latin Americas that i’m not aware of, since there’s so many players with common surnames.
I thought of a few other father/son combos where at least we knew both sides played at a high level (examples: Schopiearys, Ullimans, Elkins). But I couldn’t think of a single instance of a top pro from our entire sport’s history who has a son playing at a high level right now.
With the win, these players qualify to represent the US in this year’s two International Racquetball Federation – IRF events: the Pan American Racquetball Championships in Columbia in April, and the Pan American Games in August in Peru.
Both teams are no strangers to international competition nor National doubles championships: combined these four champions now have an astounding 29 combined US national doubles titles between them.
These titles represent the nth title for each player: – Carson: 11th career National title. He won 6 with Jack Huczek, then has won 1 each now with Ben Croft, Jose Diaz, Jose Rojas, Sudsy Monchik and now Pratt. Rocky won his first title in 2004. He now sits 5th for National doubles titles world-wide. – Pratt: This is his 1st National doubles title; he’s made the semis a few times in the past with various partners in National events, and has one pro IRT doubles title (with Jansen Allen in 2016). – Ruiz: 12th career National title. She won 2 with Laura Fenton, 5 with Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson, and now 5 with Tisinger. She is tied for 3rd globally for National doubles titles with Canadian Jen Saunders. First place is Canadian legend Josee Grand Maitre with 15 career national doubles titles, and 2nd all time is Ruiz’s former partner Paraiso, who has 14. – Tisinger earns her 5th title, all with Ruiz.
Click here for a list of all Amateur national doubles champions for the three major countries: http://rball.pro/4A22B0
Quick summary of the Men’s draw: the semis were chalk according to seeds: there #3 seeded Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz took out #2 seeded Bobby David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas to reach the final. There, the two finalists split games and headed to a tie-breaker, eventually taken by the champs 11-7.
Quick summary of the Women’s draw: it was upsets galore here, with the 5th seeded team of Michelle De La Rosa and sister Danielle Maddux upsetting defending champs and #1 seeds Kelani Lawrence and Sharon Jackson in an 11-10 tiebreaker win en route to the final. On the other side, 3rd seeded Ruiz/Tisinger took out 2nd seeded and last year’s finalists Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts in a tiebreaker to get to the final. The final was a 2-game win for the veterans.
—————————– The Tempe event also had a singles component, with players competing for qualifying points towards representing the USA in singles. Here’s a quick run-through these draws:
On the Men’s side, #1 seed Carson topped #2 Pratt in two games to take the draw. There were a few notable upsets by seeds in the earlier rounds (Thomas Carter over Mauro Rojas, and Erik Garcia over Robert Collins being perhaps the biggest), but the semis-onward more or less went as expected.
On the Women’s side, the #1 seed Rajsich also took the draw, taking out #3 seeded Lawrence in a rematch of the last two such National level singles draws. The quarters featured two pretty significant results: Hollie Scott trounced Sheryl Lotts in the quarters, and doubles specialist Tisinger took out #2 seeded Sharon Jackson 11-10.
(Reminder: I do not enter these non-National results into the database).
—————————– Lastly, a bit of opinion expression from yours truly based on a situation that arose and was talked about in some of the FB groups.
This was the USA National Doubles Championships. It determines the United States champions in the various divisions and helps select representatives (in both singles and doubles) of our country in international competitions.
So why were there foreign nationals who represent other countries internationally in the draw?
A bit of history: the “US National championships” were, for a time, open to all countries. In fact, the US National amateur singles champs in 75 and 75 were both Canadians (Wayne Bowes and Lindsay Myers respectively). In 82 the then named “AARA” changed the requirement to have the US national singles only be open for US citizens. This is (coincidentally or not) right around the time that the first “international” championships were held; in the 1970s there was just the tournaments held in the USA, and even the professional year end championships declared “National champions.” I don’t ever recall a situation where there was even a question about someone’s citizenship competing for the USA national team … until now.
It says pretty clearly on the entry form that you have to be a US citizen or “have a citizenship application in process.” Understood; some people hold dual citizenships. But how is it possible we’re letting players who have represented other countries internationally (quite recently) compete in the US championships?
There were three examples of this situation this past weekend: – Sebastian Fernandez: He competed in US team qualifying in doubles. Fernandez represents Mexico in juniors, where he was the runner-up in Junior worlds just last November, entered Mexican National Singles last February, and entered the Mexican World Selection event in June. How is he competing in a tournament to represent the USA just a couple months later? – Erik Garcia: hails from Chihuahua, now attending college in the USA … and represented Mexico in Junior worlds in 2013 and competed in Mexican amateur nationals in 2014. Yet he was entered into BOTH singles and doubles USA national team qualifying events.
(Note: post publishing i’ve been informed that Garcia is in fact a US Citizen, born in US. Which then begs the question; how is he playing in Mexican national events? Its the same issue but perhaps in reverse).
– Melania Sauma Masis: has been representing Costa Rica in various junior and senior events since 2009, including playing in the 2017 PARCs and the 2018 Caribbean games. Clearly grew up in CRC, but now attends the host college of this past event (ASU). Less of an issue for Sauma Masis in that she didn’t compete in the National team events (since the application says that “all other divisions are open to US Citizens and residents) … but she did compete for a “US National title” against US citizens, which some have a problem with.
I get that these players may have dual citizenship, which technically would have allowed them to enter the tourney (it was reported that Fernandez does; but I’m not sure how the other two possibly would). I suppose the bigger question is this: how can someone just switch back and forth like (especially) Fernandez has done? Olympic athletes can switch … but they have to wait a few years in-between competitions. Professional Soccer players can switch from one country to another, but only once, and only before officially representing a country at the senior/adult level (at which point they are permanently “capped” to a specific country).
Internationally, there’s a long history of players switching countries. Among others, Ruben Gonzalez, Veronique Guillemette, Natalia Mendez, Mario Mercado, Maria Jose Vargas, and most recently Brenda Laime have switched countries … but i’m not aware of anyone switching to and back like we’ve now seen out of Fernandez over his career.
To take this to the extreme, consider these hypotheticals. Daniel De La Rosa is married to a US citizen and now lives in Arizona (I have no idea if he now has a US passport, if he’s applied for citizenship, etc; this is a hypothetical). He has always and continues to represent Mexico … but lets say DLR plays in Mexican Nationals in February and gets knocked out early but really wants to go to Peru for the Pan Am games. Would you be ok with him then entering USA nationals in May to try to earn a spot? Also hypothetical: Kane Waselenchuk has now lived in Texas nearly as long as he lived in Canada, and marred a US citizen years ago; would you be ok if he entered US Nationals in May?
I think we need some guidelines going forward, where players have to declare to represent one country or another and stick with it. I’m ok with switching countries, but you have to have a legitimate connection, and you have to “sit out” a period of time to prevent venue shopping for IRF representation.
PS: I want to emphasize this point; i’m not making a political statement here. Its more about the inherent conflict of interest that exists.
Here’s a preview of the Men’s and Women’s National team draws.
In the Men’s Doubles draw: 9 teams competing. One half of the defending champ team is missing this year ( Sudsy Monchik), meaning defending champ Rocky Carson has a new partner: he’s playing with Charlie Prattand they’re seeded #1.
In the semis … – I’ll go with #1 Carson/Pratt over #4 Manilla/Riffel. – I’m predicting an upset by seed: #3 Bredenbeck/Diaz get revenge for last year’s match-up and down Horn/Rojas at this stage instead.
In the finals: Carson/Pratt earn their National team spot with a win over Jake/Diaz in a brutal tiebreaker. ——————-. In the Women’s doubles draw; just 5 teams competing. Last year saw somewhat of a changing of the guard, when 11-time champ Aimee Roehler Ruiz got upset in the semis with her partner Janel Tisinger-Ledkinsand 14-time winner Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson also getting upset in the semis with her partner Erika Manilla.
In the semis: – #1 and defending champs Kelani Lawrence and Sharon Jackson have their work cut out for them, having to face the (nee) Key Sisters. I’m going to go with Lawrence/Jackson in a tiebreaker to advance back to the finals. – #3 Ruiz and Tisinger face off against the same team that beat them last year at this juncture: #2 seeded Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts. Rajsich & Lotts have been playing together nearly all season in LPRT pro doubles and have been playing tough; I think they’ll use that familiarity with each other to advance past the veteran Ruiz/Tisinger team.
In the final: – A rematch of last year’s final, won by Lawrence & Jackson 11-8 in the breaker. I think Rajsich/Lotts turn the tide and take the title.
——————-. There’s also Singles Qualifying draws this weekend (similar to the Canadian National event from last weekend). Here’s a quick preview for this draw, which will help select the Singles team members who represent USA this year at PARC and (more importantly) at the Pan American Games. A big year for International Racquetball Federation – IRF this year.
On the Men’s Singles side: 14 guys playing and some very interesting match-ups. If you wondered what the IRT would look like without any foreign players … take a look at this draw. 10 of the top 11 ranked Americans on the IRT and ever American in the top 25 (save one; Jansen Allen) is here playing.
In the 16s, we see a number of first round match-ups against IRT touring regulars: – Diaz takes on Riffel – Manilla takes on Justus Benson – Rojas takes on Carter – … and we get a unique brother-on-brother match-up between the Bredenbecks (which I’m sure has happened in local tourneys before, but this is a first for a top-level tourney in PRS).
In the Quarters, I’m projecting these matches: – #1 Carson over #9 Collins in their third meeting in as many months. – #5 Diaz over #4 Manilla – #3 Horn vs #6 Jake: these guys have met no less than 16 times in the various pro tours: Jake leads h2h 9-7 in my database and won their most recent meeting … which was more than a year ago. Horn’s been struggling with fitness this year, while Jake has been struggling with results. I’ll go with Jake over Horn in this event in a tie-breaker, thinking perhaps Horn still isn’t 100%. – #2 Pratt over #7 Rojas; they met in December, a straight forward win for Charlie; no reason not to think it’ll happen again.
Projected Semis: – Carson over Diaz in a typical dog-fight. – Pratt over Jake in a tactical masterpiece.
Final: doubles partners face off, with Rocky handling Pratt for the title.
————————- On the Women’s Singles Side, 9 players face off in the Team singles event.
Quarters: – #1 Rajsich over Manilla (who should advance from the sole play-in) – #4 Lotts over Scott – #3 Lawrence over Adrienne Fisher Haynes in what could be a bit closer than you’d think. – #2 Jackson over Tisinger in an interesting match … this might be closer than you’d expect from the 2/7 match=up.
Projected Semis: – Rajsich over her doubles partner Lotts – Lawrence over her doubles partner Jackson.
Finals: we get the final we were robbed of in this singles event last year, when Lawrence’s flights couldn’t get changed and she had to forfeit. These two also met in the US National singles final in May. Rajsich wins, but Lawrence gets valuable points towards qualifying for IRF events later this year.
With this win, Paola extends some current personal records: – This is her 88th win in the PRS database – She extends her current match winning streak to 29 – She makes it 6 wins out of 6 tournaments on the season. – She’s built a nearly insurmountable lead over #2 Salas for the current season rankings, leading her by near 900 rankings points.
Here’s a review of the draw, highlighting notable results by round:
In the 32s; – Kelani Lawrence got a solid win over LPRT touring vet Maria Renee Rodríguez in four games. – Natalia Mendez took out Mary Mary Dee Kirchoff in three straight; this was a notable match up in that Kirchoff is literally three times Mendez’ age. Bravo for still competing in your 60s on tour. – Youngster Ana Laura Flores took out veteran Susy Acosta in four close games. – Biggest upset of the round: collegiate player Hollie Rae Scott took out the 39 seed Cristina Amaya 12-10 in the 5th. Career win for Scott.
In the 16s, mostly chalk and easy wins for the top seeds, but a couple of matches worth noting. – #5 Rhonda Rajsich had to face her doubles partner in Sheryl Lotts and won in three games. (Sheryl went on to take the Women’s Open draw 11-10 in a thrilling tiebreaker win over Amaya). – #3 Alexandra Herrera was donuted in the second game against Lawrence …then donuted her right back and won by the unique scores of 8,(0),0,8. Its not often you see someone both give and take a donut in a match. – But the big upset of the round was #10 Adriana Riveros taking out #7 Natalia Mendez 11-7 in the breaker.
In the Quarters… – #1 Paola Longoria advanced in 3 games over the woman who vanquished her in last year’s worlds final Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez 8,8,6. This is the third time they’ve met on tour this year, all 3 game wins for the champ. Longoria improves to 15-1 career h2h over Martinez in all competitions, making last year’s worlds final look like the aberration, not the predictor. – #4 Maria Jose Vargas took revenge over last tourney’s loss to Rajsich, beating her in four games to take the slim lead in their h2h matchups. – #6 Nancy Enriquez advanced to just her 3rd career semi-final with a come-from-behind win over #3 Herrera. Enriquez dropped the first two games, then blitzed by Herrera in games four and five, 2 and 1 respectively to advance. – #3 Samantha Salas Solis fought off the upset-minded Riveros 6,9,4 to try to continue her finals streak on tour this season.
In the semis… – #1 Longoria improved to 31-1 all time in all competitions over Vargas, though she had to come from a game down to do it. – #2 Salas improved to 6-2 all time in all competitions over Enriquez, but not without having to work for it, coming from 2-1 games down to win in a tiebreaker.
In the final: – Longoria improved to 55-3 all time over her doubles partner Salas with a relatively straight forward 1,2,6 three game win. Salas never seemed like she was a threat to Longoria on this day, leaving opportunities up and quickly becoming frustrated with her opponent’s consistency.
———————- In doubles, Longoria made it a double, winning the doubles title with her finals opponent Salas over the Argentine national doubles team of Vargas/Mendez.
As with Singles, Paola has now won all 6 pro doubles events this season, 5 of them with Salas. Longoria improves to 109-5 in pro doubles since we started tracking it in 2013, winning 38 of the 43 doubles events she’s now entered.
The LPRT is back in action, with its 6th event of the 2018-19 season. So far, #1 ranked Paola Longoria has made it 5 for 5 in wins, with four of those wins coming over her frequent doubles partner Samantha Salas Solis.
The annual event in South Carolina is a Grand Slam, and as such has drawn back into play a couple of intriguing players, which should make this draw more interesting than most. There’s 26 pros in the draw, tying a season non US Open high.
Top 20 players missing: #5 Frederique Lambert who has fallen to her lowest ranking on tour since Nov 2015 as she juggles school and some early upsets in previous events. #11 Carla Muñoz Montesinos misses just her 2nd tourney in the last two seasons. #13 Jessica Leona Parrilla remains on the sidelines recovering from her knee injury suffered last spring. And lastly #18 Yazmine Sabja Ráquetboldid not make the long flight. So we have 9 of the top 10, and 16 of the top 20 in the event.
Notably present is reigning World Champ Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez, who is back and ranked #9 (likely seeded 8th) after making the semis in the first two events of the season and then missing the next three.
Lets preview the draw.
Notable round of 32 matches; there’s a ton of tough openers in this tourney.
– #16 vs #17 Masiel Rivera Oporto versus Brenda Laime Jalil; tough match for both ladies right out of the gate. Both players are playing the tour full time this year and are both looking for a breakthrough win. And … they’re playing doubles together. – #14 vs #19: Maria Renee Rodríguez faces Kelani Lawrence in another tough opener for both. Lawrence has less pro experience but has proven her mettle in the USA amateur draws, while Rodriguez has a ton of international experience and has represented Guatemala in Juniors and Adult draws for nearly a decade. – Cassandra Lee vs Laura Brandt: youth versus experience here in an intriguing first rounder. – #10 Adriana Riveros versus #23 Cecilia Ceci Orozco Pratt: Riveros should prevail but she probably would have hoped for an easier first rounder. – #15 Susana Susy Acosta vus #18 Ana Laura Flores : two Mexican lefties representing the two major Rball-playing communities (Chihuahua and San Luis Potosi) in the country battle it out in the first round. They met at the US Open with the youngster coming out on top and I’d lean that way again.
Round of 16 interesting matches: – #8 vs #9: Cristina Amaya Cris vs Ana Gabriela Martinez: tough match-up for both players. They met at this stage in this event three years ago, an Amaya win, but Martinez has a whole lot of silverware since. – #3 Alexandra Herrera vs the Rodriguez/Lawrence winner: i’m not sure who comes out of the feed-in match, but Herrera will have to hustle to advance out of the 16s. Ironically, Herrera topped both possible players in successive rounds as she was winning the 2011 Junior Girls 16U championship. – #7 Natalia Mendez vs #10 Adriana Riveros: these two top 10 players have only met once on tour; a 4-game Mendez win in June 2017. – #2 Samantha Salas vs #18 Flores: assuming Flores comes out on top in the 32s, she gets a first shot at Salas in any competition. Flores can beat top talent, but i’m not sure she can beat one of the top 2 players in the world.
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria vs #8 Gaby Martinez; These two have met no less than 15 times in pro and IRF matches … but it was last summer’s World Championships that gave Martinez her one win in the series. Since then, they’ve met twice in the LPRT, both straight-forward Longoria wins. I see the same result here; Paola is just so dominant in the 5-game format. – #4 Maria Jose Vargas vs #5 Rhonda Rajsich; these two have now met 28 times (26 on LPRT) and are dead even. 14 and 14 each. Along that same line, they’ve met twice this season … and split, Vargas winning in Chicago and Rhonda winning in Laurel. I’ll predict Rajsich makes it two tourneys in a row. – #3 Herrera vs #6 Nancy Enriquez; Despite being the higher seed, Enriquez faces the easier path to the quarters in this event. But Herrera owns the career h2h record 5-1, just beat her in Boston, and should advance again. – #2 Salas vs #7 Mendez; they’ve got a scant 3 career match-ups, all three straight-game wins for Salas. She makes it 4 of 4.
Semis: – Longoria over Rajsich. Despite Rhonda’s demonstrated ability to still be able to top Paola, their only meeting on the pro tour in the last two seasons was a straight-game semis win in December. Expect the same here. – Salas over Herrera; they’ve already met twice in the semis this season, and both times Salas advanced.
Finals: Longoria over Salas. You hate rooting for #1 vs #2, but these two players have represented the final in 4 of the 5 events so far this season … and the only one where it wasn’t Longoria v Salas was an event where Salas couldn’t make the tourney b/c of travel issues.
—————————- In the doubles, we have some frequently-seen teams playing, including the reigning USA national champs Lawrence/Sharon Jackson, the US National runners-up in Rajsich and Lotts, The top team of Longoria & Salas, the Argentinian national team of Vargas & Mendez, and the Columbia team of Amaya & Riveros. Interestingly the top Guatemalans are not playing together this event.
I’m going with the top Mexicans versus the Argentinians in the final, with Longoria & Salas continuing their dominance with the win.
Welcome to the final pro tournament of the calendar year 2018. Its the LPRT Christmas Classic, being played in Laurel MD. This is the same club that held the IRT season-opener a few months back and is a great venue for playing and watching.
This is the 27th annual iteration of this event, making it one of the longer running tourneys in existence. Useless fact; I used to help organize this event, some 20 years ago. Since i’m a digital pack rat, I dug back and found the organizational docs and start times for the 7th annual iteration of this event in 1998. After a time, the mantle was passed to current tournament director Karen Grisz, who has taken it to different venues around the DC area and has made it a regular LPRT stop for years. This year also includes an 18-man IRT tier 5 draw that i’ll preview after the ladies info.
————— LPRT Singles draw. 22 ladies are entered, but there are some significant absences. #2 Samantha Salas Solis is missing, as is #6 Nancy Enriquez and #9 Gaby Martinez. This gives several players bumps into the top 8 and out of qualifying matches.
Here’s the round of 32 play-in matches to watch for: – Kelani Lawrence vs Amie Brewer: two VA residents duke it out to face the #1 seed. – 7-time junior world champ Lucia Gonzalez makes her first appearance on the LPRT this season and faces off against current World 16u champ Valeria Centellas in an interesting match. – Adrienne Fisher Haynes vs Danielle Danielle Maddux: Danielle Maddux (nee Key) makes her first pro appearance in more than 8 years. The former US and World junior champion joins her sister Michelle on the tour and will team up in doubles as well. – Michelle De La Rosa vs Hollie Scott: De La Rosa makes her 3rd LPRT appearance this season, with a play-in to the #2 seed.
In the round of 16… – #1 Paola Longoria likely faces her doubles partner for the event in Lawrence. – In the always competitive 8/9th seed match: two LPRT touring vets face off in Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos and Sheryl Lotts. They’re 2-2 head to head on the LPRT, but all four matches were years ago (last meeting Sept 2016). – #5 Rhonda Rajsich vs the home-town favorite #12 Masiel Rivera. Rivera has been playing solid and could push Rhonda here. – De La Rosa vs #2 Frederique Lambert; DLR is a dangerous opponent, and Lambert has a couple of early upsets on her resume lately.
Projected Quarters: I’m going basically chalk for the back end of this tourney. – Longoria over Munoz; she’s 10-0 over Carla on the LPRT – Vargas over Rajsich: Vargas is 14-11 h2h lifetime over Rhonda on the LPRT but is having a solid season. – Alexandra Herrera over Natalia Mendez Erlwein; Herrera is 3-1 lifetime over Mendez on the LPRT – Lambert over Cristina Amaya: Lambert is 8-5 career over Amaya, but has won 7 of their last 8 meetings.
Semis: – Longoria over Vargas: amazingly, Longoria is 23-0 over Vargas on the pro tour – Lambert over Herrera: Frederique holds an 8-1 h2h advantage.
Finals: Longoria over Lambert; Paola is 26-1 career on the pro tour over Fred.
————— LPRT Doubles
Salas’ absence means the dominant #1 team of Longoria/Salas cannot win this doubles event like they most often do. Instead, Longoria will team with Lawrence for this tourney. I think this may open the door for a team like #2 seeds Lambert/Herrera or Argentinian team of Mendez/Vargas to slip through and take the title.
Hello all, welcome back to pro racquetball after a great World Juniors event. This weekend, the LPRT returns to action, visiting Chicago for their annual event. There’s an interesting draw, with a ton of young players and some pro tour debuts. Lets Review the draw.
Follow LPRT on Facebook; they’re streaming live matches starting at 11am EST (as in, after you’re reading this; they’re already playing!)
The draw is missing a couple of notable names: both finalists from the 18U world juniors Montse Mejia and Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez are missing; quite understanable in that the World Juniors event is a grueling event, especially when playing both singles and doubles. Also missing is #3 ranked Frederique Lambert,5th ranked Nancy Enriquez, which bumps up both Amaya and Munoz to top 8 seeds in this event.
Fun side note for this event: Chicago native and 4-time pro tour winner Cheryl Gudinas makes a rare appearance and makes her 182nd career appearance. She remains tied for the most appearances ever with fellow 4-time pro tour winner and #5 seed Rhonda Rajsich.
Here’s some interesting Round of 32 matches to watch for:
– DC native Masiel Rivera Oporto takes on Montserrat Perez in the always competitive 16/17 seed match
– Lexi York, who we last saw in a top-level match making the semis of Girls 18U at World Juniors in 2005, returns to the court to take on #8 Seed Adriana Riveros.
– Bolivian Angelica Barrios, herself fresh off of a run to the semis of the Girls 18U at World Juniors, takes on LPRT veteran tour player Adrienne Fisher Haynes.
– Michelle De La Rosa, fresh from playing in the 2018 USA Pickleball championships in Indian Wells, faces up against long time tour vet Susana Susy Acosta in what could be a pretty tough opener. De La Rosa lost 12-10 in the fifth at the US Open and is clearly a threat to advance deep in any pro tour.
– Virginia native Kelani Lawrence makes just her 3rd pro draw of 2018 and faces off against Guatemalan vet Maria Renee Rodríguez in a tough opener for both players.
– Sheryl Lotts gets to go up against the legend Cheryl Gudinas in her home town.
– And lastly, in what is the most interesting match for me, reigning World doubles champion and freshly crowned 16U world junior champion Valeria Centellas is in the draw as the lowest seed, playing #7 Colombian vet Amaya Crisin the opening round. I suspect Amaya may be too much for the 16-yr old to handle, but its a great way to get a debut to the pro circuit.
Projecting the 16s: There’s lots of 32s that could go either way; here’s some of the round of 16 matches that could be noteworthy:
– Carla Munoz-Riveros as the 8/9 match: they’ve played a bunch both internationally and in the LPRT. Munoz owns the last 3 wins and seems to have gained the upper hand in this rivalry.
– #4 Seeded Maria Jose Vargas versus De La Rosa: Vargas can run hot or cold, has had some inconsistent results lately. These two have played 6 times before and Vargas is 6-0, but the matches include a number of 4 and 5 game marathons.
In the quarters, I’m going with:
– Paola Longoria over Munoz
– Rajsich upsetting Vargas
– Alexandra Herrera handling Natalia Mendez
– Samantha Salas handling Amaya.
From there, I’m going chalk, with a 1/2 final and Longoria prevailing over Salas like normal. Unfortunately a few of the rising players i’d expect to make noise in this draw (Martinez, Mejia, Enriquez) are missing so the old guard prevails).
In the quarters:
– Top seeds and winners of the last four LPRT doubles events Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas Solis advanced in two over Susy Acosta and Kelani Kelani Lawrence (the reigning USA amateur doubles champ)
– Sabja and Enriquez continued their upsetting ways, taking out #4 seeds Argentinian national team of Maria Jose Vargas and Natalia Mendez. Vargas & Mendez are the defending 2018 South American champs and were quarterfinalists at worlds; this is a solid win.
– The Bolivian team of Daza/Barrios upset another favored team in the quarters, taking out Colombian National team reps and #3 seeds Adriana Riveros and Amaya Cris. Riveros/Amaya were semi-finalists at IRF worlds earlier this year and have been representing Colombia as a team for two years now.
– The reigning Mexican national champs and 2018 World runners-up Alexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia advanced easily over Masiel Rivera Oporto and Daniela Molina.
In the semis:
– Top seeds Longoria and Salas put an end to the upset run of Sabja and Enriquez 7,9
– #2 seeds Herrera and Mejia destroyed the Bolivian team of Daza/Barrios 10,2.
The final represented a match-up of in-arguably the two top doubles teams in the world. This was a re-match of the World Open Doubles title in May, the Mexican National Selection event in June, and the first LPRT pro event in August.
In the end, the #1 seeds prevailed in a tight match 10,14 to capture the title.
Paola Longoria and Salas are now an astounding 65-3 together in pro doubles dating to Sept 2013 (the beginning of ladies pro doubles tracking) and have added numerous amateur and international titles on top.
Lets talk about the main draw. Thursday features round of 32 and 16 action. Here’s some fun round of 32 matches to watch for:
– #4 Alexandra Herrera gets a tough first round against Michelle De La Rosa. De La Rosa has put losses on top LPRT pros in the past and will not be intimidated on the court. Herrera will need to be on her game to avoid a massive upset here.
– #3 Samantha Salas Solis was done no favors drawing Kelani Lawrence in the first round either. Lawrence (nee Bailey) doesn’t have a ton of pro experience, but has had a fantastic year on the amateur side and is a dangerous opponent.
– #14 Adrienne Fisher Haynes gets an upset-minded first round matchup against Mexican youngster #19 Montserrat Perez.
– #7 Maria Jose Vargas has an all-South America match versus Bolivian veteran Jenny Daza Navia.
– #10 Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos may have her hands full with the dangerous Bolivian international Jazmine Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol. Sabja beat her in a tiebreaker at IRF Worlds in August and will be favored to do so again.
– #15 Susy Acosta will be challenged by a country-woman less than half her age in 18U player #18 Ana Laura Flores .
And here’s some potential round of 16 matches that could be fun to watch:
– #1 Paola Longoria probably doesn’t lose to Mexican junior phenom #17 Montse Mejia (the reigning 18U world champion who has yet to matriculate out of junior racquetball), but she could be in for a tougher match than she would have wanted in the 16s.
– #8/#9 match-ups are always close, and a match between Amaya Cris and Natalia Mendez will be too close to call; they’re 2-2 across LPRT and IRF and this could be a toss-up.
– #5 Nancy Enriquez and #12 Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez faced off in the quarters of the first LPRT event, with the world champion Martinez escaping with a 12-10 5th game win. I sense another close match with Martinez advancing again.
– #7 Vargas gets a potential match against Sabja here … a potential rematch of the quarters of IRF Worlds and the final of the 2018 South American games. Vargas won both those matches easily and makes it a 3rd here.
Rajsich & Lotts may have the toughest draw, going up against a solid Bolivian team of Jenny Daza Naviaand Angelica Barrios. De La Rosa/Munoz also have a tough match-up with the reigning world doubles champion Bolivian Yazmine Sabja teamed up with solid Mexican pro Nancy Enriquez. This match could go either way.
In the main draw, I’m going to predict a re-match of this past summer’s Mexican Worlds qualifying event, with #1 seeds Paola Longoriaand Samantha Salas Solis taking on #2 seedAlexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia. Herrera/Mejia scored a pretty large upset to take the Mexican spot at IRF Worlds this year over the Longoria/Salas team … but I don’t expect lightening to strike twice. The best doubles team in the world, by far, should win here again.