32nd Annual PARC RR review, Knockout Previews

Mejia is the #1 women’s seed heading into the knockouts.

International Racquetball Federation

We’re through the round robin/group stages of the 32nd annual Pan American Racquetball Championships; lets review the interesting and upset results from the singles RRs and then preview the knockouts. A reminder; the results are re-seeded after the group stages for the knockouts.

Men’s singles RR matches of note:
– #4 seed Charlie Pratt took out #13 Mario Mercado in his home country in an 11-7 tiebreaker. 
– #3 seed Alvaro Beltran saved match point against versus Chilean journeyman Francisco Troncoso before finishing off a tie-breaker win.
– #8 seed Canadian Coby Iwaasa was upset in the RR stage by Costa Rican #1 Andres Andres Acuña 8,7. Acuna took out Horn in the 2018 US Open and has made the quarters or better of the last three PARCs, so this is no fluke. 
– Dominican #1 Luiz Perez lost 11-10 to unknown Venezuelan Roberto Leyes … but then took out two IRT veterans in Felipe Camacho and top-8 player Samuel Murray to win his group. This is not the first time Perez has made noise in IRF events: he’s got wins over Acuna and Montoya in 2018 and now gets a seed in the knockouts.

Women’s Singles RR matches of note: 
– #1 Montse Mejia was stretched to a tie-breaker by long-time IRF Ecuadorian vet Maria Paz Munoz.
– #13 Amaya Cris scored the biggest RR upset, taking out #2 Rhonda Rajsich in a close tie-breaker 14,(14),8. Amaya is the home-court favorite here and has now put herself in a great position to advance deep.
– #3 Paola Longoria outlasted Maria Jose Vargas Parada 12,13. Vargas’ sole career win over Longoria was at this event in 2018 but could not repeat the feat.
– #5  Maria Renee Rodríguez played a solid game to beat Natalia Mendez Erlwein and remain the favorite to advance as the seeded player out of the group. Mendez then lost to long-time Venezuelan player Mariana Tobon before defaulting the last match of the group.

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Singles Knockout Predictions:

In the Men’s singles draw, just two of the top 8 seeds were upset in RRs: Murray and Iwaasa. So here’s some projections of the Men’s singles draw here on out:

Matches to watch for in the 32s:
– The 16/17 match between Cuban #1 Maikel Mollet and Chilean #1 Francisco Troncoso should be close.
– Ecuadorian #1 and #9 seed Fernando Rios gets a tough test against Costa Rican veteran Felipe Camacho. Could go either way.
– #10 Coby Iwaasa gets an interesting match against long time Argentinian veteran Diana-Shai Manzuri, who has been representing Argentina in international events for more than 20 years now.

Matches to look for in the 16s:
– If Camacho can take out Rios, he likely faces his country-man Andres Acuna, who beat Camacho on the IRT twice in 2018.
– #5 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #12 Samuel Murray: a brutal round of 16 here; these two met at the 2018 US Open and Murray topped Moscoso in a tie-breaker. So Murray can beat the newly crowned Bolivian champ. What to make of Murray’s upset in the RRs? This is a hard one to predict but the winner could go pretty far. I think i’ll go with the hot-hand Moscoso here.
– #14 Mario Mercado vs #3 Alvaro Beltran; another tough draw for a seeded player; Beltran has to face Mercado on his home soil. Beltran beat Mercado handily in Chicago in March … but Mercado played lights out at the Bolivian Open in making the semis. I think this is close and Beltran ekes it out.
– #7 Carlos Keller Vargas, your defending champ, faces a tough out in Canadian Coby Iwaasa in the 16s. I think Keller advances, but Iwaasa makes it hard on him.

Projecting the Quarters:
– #1 Alejandro Landa over #8 Acuna: this is a rematch of the 2017 PARC semis, a 2 game close win for Landa. They also met at the 2018 Florida IRT championship. Landa prevails.
– #5 Moscoso over #4 Pratt: Moscoso’s firepower overcomes Pratt’s tactical game.
– #3 Beltran takes out the upstart Dominican #6 Perez.
– #7 Keller over #2 David Horn; this is a rematch of the final of last year’s event, a tie-breaker win for Keller. I’m going to predict it happens again.

Semis:
– #5 Moscoso over #1 Landa; they met in Bolivia, in the semis of that Grand Slam … and Moscoso won in an epic donut tie-breaker. I think we see a similarly close game this time around with the same result.
– #7 Keller over #3 Beltran: they met in the quarters of the 2015 PARC and Keller got him then. I think Keller can do it again.

Final: an all-Bolivian final, with #1 over #2 as Moscoso downs his countryman for the title. If it happens this way, Moscoso will have more than earned t his win.

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In the women’s singles draw … 3 of the 7 group top seeds were upset, leading to some interesting looking seedings in the knockout and some tough matches out of the get go:

Matches to look for in the 32s:
– #9 Cuban Maria Regla Viera gets to play the 24th seeded Natalia Mendez; is Mendez hurt? Why did she default her final RR match? Either way, the LPRT top 10 player has a tough one against a tough Cuban.
– #12 Vargas gets the precocious Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz. Ortiz was the losing finalist to Centellas at world 16U juniors in 2018 but is already representing her country at the Adult level.
– #15 Maria Paz Munoz gets a tough match against the other Cuban in the draw, Yurisleidis Alluie. Munoz should advance but as we’ve seen, the unknown Cuban competitors can make waves.

Matches in the 16s to look for:
– #8 Angelica Barrios faces off against the Mendez/Regla Viera winner, in what could be a pretty good match. Either way, I like the Bolivian junior to advance.
– Vargas vs #5 Maria Renee Rodriguez; a tough draw for Rodriguez, who wins her group and earns the bye but gets current top 4 LPRT player Vargas for her troubles.
– #4 Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos vs Rajsich; tough break for Munoz, who wins her group and then gets the two-time defending PARC champion. 
– #6 Valeria Centellas vs #11 Kelani Lawrence; this could be a good match-up. I think Lawrence could pull the upset-by-seed here over the reigning 16U world junior champ.

Projecting the Quarters:
– #1 Montse Mejia vs #8 Barrios: they met in the 18U world juniors semis in both 2017 and 2018; both Mejia wins. I think Mejia continues her run.
– #12 Vargas vs #13 Rajsich: they’ve met 29 times across all competitions and are just about dead even; Rajsich currently leads h2h 15-14, and has won their last two meetings. But Rajsich was struggling in Bolivia with a knee issue; is she recovered? I’m going with Vargas here to ensure a new PARC champion.
– #3 Longoria over #11 Lawrence: Longoria has something to prove here, having lost to Mejia at Mexican Nats and having been the losing finalist the last two tournaments. She outclasses Lawrence here, looking for more.
– #2 Amaya takes out #7 Delgado on home soil.

Possible Semis:
– Vargas over Mejia: they’ve only met once; in April 2018 on the LPRT, a 3 game dominant Vargas win, and even thought Mejia has really stepped up on the world stage lately, Vargas has been on fire.
– Longoria over Amaya: they’ve met 12 times across LPRT and IRF and Amaya has never won. I don’t think she breaks that duck here.

Final: Longoria over Vargas. Longoria has owned Vargas in their careers (30-1 in 31 matches in LPRT and IRF). If Mejia takes out Vargas… then this is a whole new ball game. Mejia’s solid win over Longoria on home soil was a big step up in the world and a Longoria/Mejia final would be pretty compelling to watch. Longoria is basically unbeatable in the pro format, but has taken losses here and there over the past few years in the amateur format; can it happen again here?

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Men’s doubles thoughts: no real surprises in the RR sections, as the pre-tourney 1,2,4 and 6 seeds won their group. I think the knockout draw is top-heavy, with the semis featuring the two best teams (that being the Mexican team of Rodrigo Montoya Solís & Javier Mar and the Bolivian team of Moscoso and Roland Keller). The Bolivians fell to the Mexican teams at both the 2018 PARCs and Worlds, albeit with different players. I think the same happens here, despite Moscoso & Keller coming off of the Bolivian slam win.

I think the Canadians (Murray & Iwaasa) take out the American team of Jake Bredenbeck and Mauro Mauro Daniel Rojas in the quarters, on the bottom half, then get past the Costa Rican team of Acuna/Camacho before losing to the Mexican pair in the final.

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Women’s doubles thoughts: As with the Men’s side … the top half of this draw is packed, and the projected semis is the best match of the event, featuring the dominant Mexican pair of Longoria & Samantha Salas Solis vs the current World champion Bolivian side of Yazmine Sabja Aliss and Centellas. But to get there, the Mexicans have to take out the talented Argentian team of Vargas & Mendez (they who just took the Bolivian Grand slam title) while the Bolivians have to take out the American team of Lawrence & Sheryl Lotts

I think the Mexicans down the Bolivians in one semi, then take out the home-town Colombian pair of Riveros and Amaya for the title.

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Follow @IRF on Facebook to get Tim Timothy Baghurst calling all the streaming matches.

2019 32nd Pan American Championships Preview

Landa is the #1 Men’s seed.

visit www.internationalracquetball.com to follow along Mens and Womens, Singles and Doubles draws. Follow the IRF on facebook for live streaming as Tim Baghurst has flown down to the tourney to provide streaming commentary all week.

The time has come for the first big International Racquetball Federationevent of 2019; the 32nd annual Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC). This event was first held in 1986 in San Jose, Costa Rica and was initially known as the “Tournament of the Americas.” The initial tournament results have been lost to the wind as we can find no records for it. But, nearly every year since the tourney has moved around North and South America.

The tournament skipped a couple of years when Racquetball was included into the Pan Am Games (but, not this year), and skipped one year in 2000 when civil unrest in the host country rose up, but otherwise has been an annual event that has done a great job of introducing top players to the scene who don’t normally travel to the states to play domestic IRT events.

Here’s a list of Men’s PARC singles winners: http://rball.pro/347FCD , and here’s a list of past Women’s PARD singles winners: http://rball.pro/FEBF4E

Women’s #1 Paola Longoria has 7 career PARC titles … but has lost to long-time rival Rhonda Rajsich a few times in this event (including the last two finals). The Men’s singles draw has been an interesting competition over the years, with 9 different players winning the last 10 titles. There’s plenty of opportunity this year, with 3 past champions in the men’s draw plus both the losing American finalists in the last two iterations.

The competition features days of round robins that are seeded, then the competition is re-seeded for the knockouts. Players are seeded not by individual accomplishment but by past country performance.

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Singles draw previews

The top 8 seeds on the Men’s side are:
1. Alejandro Alex Landa; the reigning Mexican champ and 2017 PARC winner.
2.  David Horn, the 2018 USA National Champion
3. Alvaro Beltran, the 2019 Mexican National finalist and a 3-time PARC winner
4. Charlie Pratt, who made the semis of 2018 USA Nationals and the finals of the qualifier held at national doubles earlier this year to earn his spot. Pratt’s seeding has been done no favors as he has current IRT top 10 pro Mario Mercado in his round robin grouping, seeded 13th here.
5. Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo is seeded 5th as Bolivia’s #1 player; Moscoso just won the Bolivian Open Grand Slam and beat a couple of the players seeded above him here and is clearly a threat to win his first major international title.
6. Samuel Murray is seeded 6th as the clear #1 Canadian male, having swept Canadian qualifiers leading up to this event.
7. Carlos Keller is seeded 7th; he’s Bolivia’s #2 but is also the reigning champion of this event, having beaten Horn in the 2018 final.
8. Canadian Coby Iwaasa is the 8th seed; he was the losing finalist to Murray in the last three major Canadian singles events.

We won’t do predictions until the knockout draw is announced … but if these seeds hold we stand to have some really good quarter final matches throughout.

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On the Women’s side, the top 8 seeds are:

1. Montse Mejia, who upset Paola Longoria to take the Mexican Nationals in February and is thus the #1 overall seed. She’s also the reigning 18U junior world champ and could make a statement in this event. Mejia gets LPRT touring vet Adriana Riveros in the group stage.
2. Rhonda Rajsich, still reigning as the USA #1 having won the qualifier and the 2018 US nationals events. Rajsich has Colombian #1 Amaya Cris to deal with in her RR group.
3. Paola Longoria, a 7-time winner here but entering as the Mexican #2 due to her loss to Mejia at Mexican Nats earlier this year. Paola heads up against Maria Jose Vargas (an under-seeded #12 here despite being top 4 on the LPRT and having just won the Bolivian grand slam) right out of the gate.
4. Kelani Lawrence, my fellow Virginian and now unquestioned USA #2 having been a losing finalist to Rajsich in three straight USA qualifying events. She faces a tough RR draw, with Chilean #1 and LPRT top pro Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos in her draw. 
5. Maria Renee Rodríguez slips into the #5 seed thanks to the recent and sudden retirement of former Guatemalan #1 and reigning World Champ Gaby Martinez. For her troubles, she gets LPRT top 10 player Natalia Mendez right out of the gate.
6. Bolivian Junior Valeria Centellas is the 6th seed. She’s the reigning 16U junior champ and was an 11-9 5th game tiebreaker loser at the Bolivian grand slam to eventual titlist Vargas. She has a manageable group though, with her toughest match coming against Canadian #1 Michele Morrissette.
7. Marie Gomar slides into the #7 seed as the Guatemalan #2, and gets #8 seeded Bolivian junior phenom Angelica Barrios right out of the gate. Barrios made the semis of the Bolivian Grand Slam, knocking out two top-10 LPRT players, and can make a deep run here.

Thanks to a really international feel on the LPRT, nearly all the RR groups feature LPRT regulars going at it, and we should see some upsets by seeds before the knockout brackets are set.

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In doubles…there’s 15 Men’s teams competing and there’s probably 5-6 Men’s teams who think they can win this thing, including the reigning Mexican champs Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Javier Mar, plus the just-crowned Bolivian grand slam champs of Moscoso and Roland Keller.

On the women’s side, the dominant Mexican team of Longoria & Samantha Salas Solis are the favorites. we’ll talk more about doubles once the knock out draws are set.

Bolivian Grand Slam LPRT Wrap-Up

Maria Vargas the double winner on the weekend.

LPRT Open Bolivia American Iris Grand Slam Wrap-up for the Ladies Pros.

Congrats to the winners on the weekend:
– Pro Singles: Maria Jose Vargas
– Pro doubles: Maria Jose Vargas & Natalia Mendez

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

LPRT Match Report in the database: http://rball.pro/C0D58D

Here’s the notable results by round to me:

In the opening round/Round of 32s, no real surprises. There were 7 matches, and there were 6 three-game wins by higher seeded players. The sole upset was #18 Romina Rivero over #15 Daniela Molina, which earns her a shot at the 2nd seeded player.

In the 16s … a few upsets.
– #1 Samantha Salas dropped the first game to Bolivian youngster Micaela Meneses before advancing in four. 
– #9 Bolivian Yazmine Sabja Aliss put together a solid match, downing #8 Colombian Amaya Cris in three games.
– #12 Bolivian Angelica Barrios shocked #5 seeded Nancy Enriquez in three straight 5,6,3. Barrios was the 2017 16U champ and is playing in her age 18 season, and this win avenges a loss Barrios had to Enriquez at the 2018 US Open. 
– #4 Rhonda Rajsich took out home-town Bolivian veteran Jenny Daza Naviain three straight to move on.
– #3 Maria Jose Vargas was stretched to the brink before downing Bolivian 16U world champ Valeria Centellas 11-9 in the 5th.
– #6 Natalia Mendez took out Bolivian native Brenda Laime Jalil in three straight forward games.
– #10 Masiel Rivera Oporto, Bolivan native now living outside the DC area, avenged a loss earlier this pro season and took out #7 Adriana Riveros in a barn burner 11-9 in the 5th.
– #2 Alexandra Herrera downed Bolivian junior Romina Rivero in three.

Before moving on, i wanted to point out the nature of the Bolivian players who advanced into the 16s. Meneses is the 2x defending 14U world champ, playing in her age 15 season. Barrios was the world junior 16U title in 2017 and thus is in her age 18 season. Centellas is the reigning 16U champ and also has one more year in 18s. Rivero was the 14U champ in 2015 and 2016 and thus is in her age 17 season this year. All told including Sabja (world 18U winner in 2009) there’s 5 different former Bolivian junior national champs in this draw.

The future is coming for women’s pros, and its coming from Bolivia.

In the Qtrs, one significant upset:
– #1 Salas was taken to the brink against Bolivian #1 Sabja, advancing by the quite-close scores of 10,10,11. There really was not that much between these two players on the day.
– #12 Barrios took out her second top seed in as many rounds, defeating Rajsich in four. 
– #3 Vargas took out her doubles partner #6 Mendez 6,5,4 in the first ever competitive singles meeting between the Argentinian #1 and #2 players.
– #2 Herrera dropped the first against Bolivian Rivera, but then took over the match and dominated the rest of the way, advancing in four games (2),6,2,2.

In the Semis:
– #1 Salas split games with #12 Bolivian junior Barrios before taking over and cruising to the final in four games.
– #3 Vargas looked to be cruising to an easy win, but then dropped games 3 and 4 and barely held on with an 11-9 5th game win over #2 Herrera.

In the Finals, Vargas over came a 2 games to 1 deficit and outlasted Salas with a great comeback, winning 11-9 in the fifth. Vargas wins her 4th pro title of her career and also gives her just her 2nd pro win over Salas in 7 meetings.

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On the doubles side, the Argentian #1 team of Vargas & Mendez (both of whom are naturalized Bolivians) outlasted the #1 seed of Salas & Rajsich (playing together for the first time) in the final to take the win and give Vargas the double on the weekend.

LPRT Doubles Match Report: http://rball.pro/DFBB29

Bolivia Open Grand Slam preview – LPRT

Bolivian #1 Yazmine Sabja will be one to watch for this weekend.

Open Bolivia American Iris

My preview was so big, I had to split it up between the IRT and the LPRT so I could keep tagging the players. See the IRT version for the overall history of Raquet Bolivia racquetball and the larger preview for this event.

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

On the LPRT side, the #1 player Paola Longoria is missing (as per @the racquetball blog & Evan Pritchett reporting; she has a shoulder injury), which robs this event of the ladies #1. Of the remaining top 10, only Frederique Lambert and newly-retired Gaby Martinez are missing. Its such a long flight, such a tough ask of pro players to give up basically a week to compete, that it isn’t terribly surprising that many have opted not to make the trip (especially those with rigid obligations or kids or work commitments). Paola Longoria has such a huge lead on even #2 Salas though that this absence means little for the year end title race. Like with the men, about half of the 23 person ladies pro draw are locals, several of whom will make noise in this draw.

There’s 7 round of 32/play-in matches, mostly featuring all-Bolivian match-ups and the lowest ranking touring LPRT pros.

We start to get fun matches in the 16s:
– In the #8/#9 match, a doozy: Yazmine Sabja Aliss vs Cristina Amaya Cris they’ve met three times in international play (all three Sabja wins) and I’m guessing Sabja will ride the home crowd to a win here.
– #5 Nancy Enriquez vs #12 Angelica Barrios; they met at the US Open; a four game win for Enriquez. Since that time, Barrios made the semis of World Juniors 18U (losing to eventual champ Montserrat Montse Mejia for the 2nd year running in the semis) and made the round of 16 in Chicago. She’s definitely an up and comer … but probably doesn’t quite yet have the chops to take out Enriquez.
– #4 Rhonda Rajsich vs #13 Jenny Daza Navia these two last met at the 2016 worlds, an 11-10 RR win for Rajsich. This is no walk-over for the 4-time pro tour champ.
– #3 Maria Jose Vargas vs #14 Valeria Centellas: I don’t expect the 16-yr old to win here, especially given Vargas’ power .. but she could make things interesting.
– #7 Adriana Riveros vs #10 Masiel Rivera Oporto; another tough match of regular tour pros; they met at the US Open in October and Riveros took a four game win. I’d expect a closer game here as Rivera plays on her native soil.

Projected Quarters:
– #1 Samantha Salas vs #9 Sabja: they played at the 2018 PARCs, an 11,12 win for Salas. I think the pro format may make this a closer match. 
– #5 Enriquez over #4 Rajsich: Nancy is a bit more rested than Rhonda, who just finished playing a ton of outdoor matches at Beach Bash last weekend.
– #3 Vargas over her country-woman #6 Mendez
– #2 Alexandra Herrera over Riveros

Semis: Salas over Enriquez, Vargas over Herrera.

Finals: Salas over Vargas.

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LPRT Doubles

There’s also an 8-team doubles draw that features some interesting match-ups. Current World Doubles champs Sabja & Centellas are seeded last and face off against Salas & Rajsich … who have never played with each other. Because Mejia is missing, Herrera is playing with Enriquez at the #2 seed. The Argentinian National team of Vargas & Mendez is seeded 3rd, while the Colombian #1 team of Amaya/Riveros is 4th.

I think the Bolivian champs can make the final and win this draw over the Argentinians in the final.

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Can’t wait to see the matches!

USA Racquetball National Doubles Wrap-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LPRT Sweet Caroline Wrap-Up

Longoria wins again.

Congrats to Paola Longoria on her win in the 2019 LPRT Sweet Caroline grand slam from Greenville, SC.

click here for the Match report in the database; http://rball.pro/68F46B

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.

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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.

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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.

LPRT Doubles match report: http://rball.pro/4DE601

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Next on the schedule for the LPRT is the big Bolivian Grand Slam, a combo IRT/LPRT event in Cochabamba, the first time either pro tour has ever been held in Bolivia.

LPRT Sweet Caroline Grand Slam Preview

World Champ Ana Gabriela Martinez returns to the LPRT for the Sweet Caroline event.

r2sports.com tourney home page: http://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30141

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 Ráquetbol did 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.

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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.

27th Annual LPRT Christmas Classic Pro-AM Wrap-Up

Longoria wins again.

Congrats to Paola Longoria on her win at the latest LPRT event. This is her 5th win out of 5 on the season, her 6th straight tournament win on tour, extends her current match winning streak to 25 matches, and she opens up an even larger lead on her two closest competitors (#2 Samantha Salas Solis, who reportedly had travel issues and did not attend, and #3 Frederique Lambert, who was upset in the round of 16). This win represents Paola’s 87th tournament win in our database.

Here’s a link to R2 Sports App website for the tourney: http://www.r2sports.com/website/event-results.asp?TID=29971

And here’s the PRS Match Report for the Singles draw.

http://www.proracquetballstats.com/cg…/print_results_new.pl…

Here’s a wrap-up of the notable matches (for me) in each round:

In the 32s:
– Lucia Gonzalez outlasted 16U world champ Valeria Centellas in four to advance in a battle of young up-and-coming players.
– In a battle of two long-time pro players, Laura Brandt (first pro appearance in 2005) outlasted Jennifer Mayadas-Dering (first pro appearance in 1996) in a five-game breaker.
– Danielle Maddux outlasted #11 Adrienne Fisher Haynes, the highest seeded player not getting a bye into the 16s, in a 5-game marathon.
– Michelle De La Rosa (DLR) also played a 5-game marathon, just eking by Hollie Scott 12-10 in the fifth in a back-and-forth encounter.

In the 16s, just one upset but several close matches.
– #8 Carla Muñoz Montesinos outlasted #9 Sheryl Lotts in four close games.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich needed a 5th game tie-breaker to down home-town favorite Masiel Rivera Oporto
– #4 Maria Jose Vargas seemed to be battling leg or ankle issues but came back from a 2-game deficit to down Lucia Gonzalez in five.
– The big upset though was De La Rosa ousting #2 Frederique Lambert. This is one of the biggest upets of the season and the first time in more than a year that a top 2 seed was upset at this juncture. DLR dominated, winning 6,4,7 and is in a great position to challenge for her second ever pro semi final.

In the Quarters: 
– #1 Paola Longoria made quick work of #8 Munoz 4,1,0
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich took a 3 game win over the hobbled #4 Vargas.
– #3 Alexandra Herrera took a 3-game win over #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein 
– #15 De La Rosa continued her great run, downing the #7 seed Amaya Crisin four games.

In the Semis:
– Longoria took out Rajsich in 3 straight games 4,5,7.
– Herrera ended DLR’s run by blitzing past her 1,0,8.

In the Final, Longoria improved to 10-0 lifetime on the pro tour against her country-mate Herrera 8,4,7.

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In the doubles.. Just one upset in the quarters (#5 over #4). In the semis the top two seeded teams advanced to the final. In the final. Longoria made it a double on the weekend, teaming with Virginia-based Kelani Lawrence to top #2 Lambert/Herrera 7,10.

Here’s the Doubles match report in the database.

http://www.proracquetballstats.com/cg…/print_results_new.pl…

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In the Men’s International Racquetball Tour Tier 5 event the top four seeds all advanced as expected to the semis:
– Sebastian Franco over Geoff Heskett
– MoMo Zelada over Brent Walters
– Maurice Miller over Thomas Gerhardt
– Troy Warigon over Mike Gaffney

In the semis, Franco took a close one over fellow local Zelada, while Atlanta-based Miller scored the upset over home-club favorite Warigon. In the final, Miller (who has been playing pretty tough lately) took a game off of the #5 ranked Franco but fell in a tiebreaker.

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Happy Holidays to you from PRS: next event isn’t until the new year, with the always popular Canoga Park event on the IRT.

LPRT Turkey Shoot Event wrap-up

Longoria wins again.

Congrats to #1 Paola Longoria, who was a double winner on the weekend, taking the Singles draw over #2 seeded Samantha Salas Solis, then teaming with Salas to win the pro doubles draw.

Longoria and Salas have now met in the finals of each of the season’s first four events, solidifying their lead at the top of the rankings table. Longoria improves to 46-3 against Salas on the pro tours with the win. This win represents Longoria’s 86th pro title in the database (though we may be missing some of her earlier tourney wins; a situation we’re working on rectifiying). Lastly, this tourney extends Paola’s current match winning streak to 21 games; she’s won the last 5 pro events.

Lets take a quick run through the singles draw. Here’s the match report in the database:

http://www.proracquetballstats.com/cg…/print_results_new.pl…

Upsets/notable results for me:
– Four regular touring players, coincidentally seeded 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th, were all upset in the first round of play. 4-time pro champ Cheryl Gudinas put a 5-game loss on Sheryl Lotts, then nearly beat Natalia Mendez, taking her to a 5th game tiebreaker.
– Junior up and coming player Angelica Barrios took out Adrienne Fisher Haynes and took a game off of #5 seed Rhonda Rajsich before bowing out.
– Michelle De La Rosa got a solid win over #10 Susy Acosta before falling in 3 closer games to #4 seed Maria Jose Vargas.  De La Rosa (nee Key) has now played in 3 events this season, after playing just a handful over the past few years, and could be a force on tour if she continues to play. She’s made a number of Quarters and even one Semi and is a dangerous opponent.
– Masiel Rivera Oporto played her 3rd event of the season and made her second round of 16; she’s right in the range of seeding where she could continue to get opportunistic match-ups and keep moving up the rankings.
– I liked what I saw out of youngster Brenda Laime, who got past Erin Rivera before taking a game off of #2 seed Solis.
– 16U world champ Valeria Centellas was one-and-done in the pro draw, running into the 7th seeded Colombian Amaya Cris, but she played very well in the Women’s Open draw, beating experienced American Sharon Jackson and then Lexi York before losing in two close games to experienced international player Adriana Riveros in the semis.
– Speaking of York; she made her pro tour debut after a pretty good juniors run (she was the 2015 USA 18U champ and made the semis of junior worlds that same year). Hope to see more of York in the coming years.

The quarters, semis and finals went almost perfectly chalk along the lines of seeds; the only discrepancy was #9 seeded Colombian Adriana Riveros defeating #8 Chilean Carla Muñoz Montesinos in the quarters. Neutral fans always want to root for upsets, but this tournament was missing four key names who normally would have provided some upsets to the current LPRT heirarchy. Namely, Montserrat Montse Mejia, Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez, Frederique Lambertand Nancy Enriquez.

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On the doubles side, the dominant team of Longoria/Salas easily took this tourney, crushing Alexandra Herrera & Munoz 2,9 in the final.

Here’s the Doubles draw Match report:

http://www.proracquetballstats.com/cg…/print_results_new.pl…

The Longoria/Salas team is now 71-3 together since we began tracking LPRT doubles in 2013. Longoria has won 36 of the 41 doubles draws she’s entered in that time, most of them won with Salas. I still can’t quite believe they were upset as a team at the 2018 Mexican selection event, thus preventing them from competing in Worlds this past summer.

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Next up for the LPRT: the Christmas Classic in Laurel, MD.

LPRT

LPRT 2018 Turkey Shoot Preview

16U World Champino Centellas makes her pro debut.

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 Cris in 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).