——————— Here’s a wrap of the notable matches by round to me:
In the 32s: – Laura Brandt took a game off of #16 seed Guatemalan #1 Maria Renee Rodríguez before losing in four. Notable because Brandt is 56 years old, still competing with players nearly 1/3rd her age. Bravo.
In the 16s: – the #8/#9 match gave us a classic yet again, with doubles partners and Colombian team-mates Amaya Cris and Adriana Riveros going to a 5th game tie-breaker before Amaya pulled it out. – #5 Rhonda Rajsich was stretched to the limit, getting an 11-9 fifth game tiebreaker win over Colombia youngster Brenda Laime Jalil. – #3 seed Maria Jose Vargas Paradaheld on for a 5th game win over Montse Mejia in a semis-quality match-up. Vargas won the first two games, Mejia the next two, and the tie-breaker was 11-8.
In the Qtrs: – #5 Rajsich continued her career dominance over #4 Alexandra Herrera, improving to 9-0 lifetime with a 5-game win. – #3 Vargas beat her country-mate and doubles partner Natalia Mendez for the third time in the last month (after having *never* faced each other).
In the semis: – #1 Paola Longoria took out long-time rival Rajsich in three. Rhonda owns 15 of the 30 career pro losses on Longoria’s resume, but could not beat her on this day. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis held serve against Vargas, advancing in three games to face off against Longoria.
In the final, Longoria improved to 48-3 against her doubles partner Salas on the pro tour, winning in three for the title. There have been 8 LPRT events this season; Longoria and Salas have met in the final of six of them.
——————— With the win, Longoria extends these personal streaks: – She’s now won 33 straight matches, the 5th best such streak known. – She’s still undefeated on the season, now 29-0. – She’s only dropped 4 games this season. – She’s now got 89 wins in the Pro Racquetball Stats database (which, we know, does not match what her media team claims; we’re still working to resolve that issue).
——————— Points implications for the rest of the season:
There’s two more events on the LPRT schedule; this coming w/e in Syosset then a Grand Slam in Overland Park, KS to finish off t he season
Longoria holds a 450 point lead over Salas for 2nd, who then has an even larger lead over Herrera and the rest of the tour. In order for Salas to overtake Longoria, Paola would probably have to miss both the remaining events and Salas would have to win the Grand Slam and make at least the final of the Syosset event to take the title. There’s no way any other player has enough time to catch up.
So, while its mathematically possible for Longoria to lose the title, its likely that she’s basically sewn it up for this season.
Post Publishing Editor’s note: the draw was remade completely just prior to the begining of play when Frederique Lambert withdrew. So most of the predicted matchups below are now moot. Apologies; I don’t have time to re-write it and re-analyze it.
Like the IRT, the LPRT is back in action this weekend in San Antonio, the 8th year running for an LPRT component at the Battle at the Alamo event.
22 pros entered here, coming on the heels of a huge PARC event in Colombia, which may have dampened attendance a bit. Nonetheless, the top 10 active pros are here, and a good chunk of the ladies ranked 11-20 are here as well, and it looks like a solid draw.
here’s some of the singles matches to watch for:
Round of 32: – The #16/17 seed match is a good one:Maria Renee Rodríguez taking on Mexican vet Susana Susy Acosta. Rodriguez got a solid win at PARCs representing Guatemala over 6th ranked Mendez but lost in the knockouts early. – #11 Adrienne Fisher Haynes takes on Daniela Rico, the current reigning World 14U junior champion. Haynes was the most accomplished female junior in the sports history, winning 10 World Junior titles. Rico won’t get there, but has four more years to extend her record.
Round of 16: – #8 Frederique Lambert vs #9 Adriana Riveros; Lambert, Canada’s undisputed #1 female, couldn’t commit the time to play in PARC this year, and her training has driven down her ranking to its current #8 spot. She was the #2 ranked player at the end of the last two seasons running, lest anyone forget. Fred should advance here and give Paola an early QF test. – #4 Alexandra Herrera versus #13 Brenda Laime Jalil; nothing like lefty versus lefty to make both players uncomfortable. Laime has challenged a bit lately on tour, perhaps a benefit of playing at CSU-Pueblo with fellow touring pros Munoz and Riveros. – #7 Nancy Enriquez vs #10 Amaya Cris; they’ve met once; in the 16s of this event last year, an Enriquez 3-game win. Amaya is coming back from a long week at PARC, and may struggle to keep up with the tough Enriquez here. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis vs #15 Montse Mejia; wow, what a brutal match-up for a round of 16. I have these two players 2nd and 3rd in my world power rankings right now, and they meet here in the 16s. Mejia is coming off an upset loss early in the PARC knockouts to Mendez, while Salas paired with Longoria to dominate the doubles and win her 16th career IRF doubles title. I suspect that the longer pro format favors Salas here, even though in their last meeting Mejia shocked Salas (and then Longoria) to win the 2019 Mexican national title. Salas comes back to win a 5 game battle.
Projected quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria vs #8 Lambert; an early battle between the top two players over the past 3 seasons. Lambert’s focus hasn’t been on touring, while Paola Longoria just cruised to her 8th PARC title. Longoria runs away with this one. – #4 Herrera vs #5 Rhonda Rajsich; despite fighting through a lingering knee issue that hampered her in both Bolivia and at PARC, Rajsich still made the quarters of both events with tough wins throughout. She’s also never lost to Herrera, 8-0 lifetime on tour. What happens here? Its been a year and a half since they met, and Herrera has consistently made the semis this season (5 of 7 events; semis or better). I think Herrera may break through here. – #3 Maria Jose Vargas vs #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein; these Argentinian countrymates had never met until this year; now they’re slated to play for the third time in 2 months. Their semi finals meeting at PARC was a tough one, with line judges called in early, eventually won by Vargas in the tiebreaker. I sense Vargas continues to have the upper hand over her doubles partner. – #2 Salas vs #7 Enriquez; Enriquez does have some career wins over Salas … but they were a while ago. Miami 2011, then before than in juniors in 2005. Salas has otherwise held serve, though it took a huge comeback in South Carolina in January for her do to so, winning a5th game tiebreaker. I like Salas here thought.
projected Semis: – Longoria over Herrera: Longoria is 12-0 lifetime over Herrera and in those 12 wins has only dropped a couple of games. Seems likely to be 13-0. – Vargas over Salas: a rematch of the Bolivian Open final, won 11-9 in the 5th by Vargas. Salas leads h2h on the LPRT 5-2, but including international competitions its nearly dead even now. I like Vargas’ trend right now, I think she’s the hot hand, and will head to the final.
Projected final: – Longoria over Vargas, a rematch of last week’s PARC final and what would be their 34th meeting. Longoria is 32-1 through the first 33 meetings, so odds of a Vargas win seem slim.
That’s it: my predictions look pretty chalky, with only one upset by seed from the quarters on. Hopefully i’m wrong and we have some darkhorse upsets on the weekend.
————————- A quick note: this event also is an IRT lower tier event …and because of its proximity to Mexico, a ton of solid IRT regulars opted to play here instead of in Florida. There’s 12-13 guys in Texas this weekend who normally would be at the main event, including a couple of top 30 guys in Gerardo Franco Gonzalez and Nick Riffel (who are the top two seeds). It looks to be a very solid draw and we’ll review it separately later on.
———————– Team Results: we are waiting for the full team results top to bottom, but we do know the top 4 in each draw: – Team Men: Bolivia, Mexico, USA, Costa Rica – Team Women: Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia – Team Combined: Mexico, Bolivia, USA, Argentina.
Here’s some quick fun Team facts: – This is Bolivia’s first ever Team competition win. – this is Mexico’s 10th straight PARC Combined title – This was also Mexico’s 10th straight Women’s team PARC title.
round of 32: – Ecuador’s long-time veteran Fernando Rios eliminated Costa Rican IRT touring vet Felipe Camacho in two close games 14,12. – Guatemala’s Juan Salvatierra took out Colombia’s Andres Gomez by the closest of margins; 14,14.
round of 16: – Rios couldn’t eliminate both Costa Ricans, falling to CRC’s number one and #8 seed Andres Acuna 14,2 – #5 seed Bolivian number one Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo took out Canadian number one Samuel Murray by the dominant scores of 6,6. Murray, who sits ranked 7th on the International Racquetball Tour, previously topped Moscoso when they met at the 2018 US Open, and I expected a tough match here. I did not expect Murray to fall 6 and 6. An early statement win here for Moscoso. – #3 seed Mexican Alvaro Beltran came from a game down to top #14 seed Colombian Mario Mercado in this battle of IRT top-10 touring pros. – #6 Dominican Republic number one Luis Perez took a hard-fought match against Ecuadorian veteran Jose Daniel Ugalde Albornoz to advance. – #7 Carlos Keller Vargas played a tough match against Canadian Coby Iwaasa and advanced in two straight 10,9.
These results ensured a perfect chalk round of 16, with all top 8 seeds advancing. Two each from Mexico, Bolivia, USA, then the #1s from Costa Rica and Dominican Republic comprise your quarters.
in the Quarters though … huge upsets. – #1 Mexican Alejandro Alex Landacan’t convert on match point and loses in the tiebreaker to #8 Acuna (6),14,7. A great win for the solid Acuna, who avenges a loss to Landa in the Semis of the 2017 PARC. – #4 American Charlie Pratt came back from 1-8 down in the tiebreaker to shock the Bolivian Open champ #5 seed Conrrado Moscoso 11-10. I had predicted Moscoso would win this event, but Pratt found a way (as he usually does) to peck away at Moscoso’s game, kept his focus, used some excellent serving and kept forcing Moscoso to make that one additional shot and came out on top. – #3 Beltran eased past #6 Perez 9,6 in a match that probably wasn’t as close as it seemed; the match was tied 8-8 early, then Beltran ran away with the first and continued dominating the second to advance. – #7 Keller took a solid 12,10 win over #2 seed American David Bobby David Horn. The defending champ scores the “upset” by seeding but beats Horn in a rematch of last year’s PARC final.
Semis: – Pratt won a back and forth close match against Acuna to advance to the final. Both players play a very similar game, more tactical than explosive, more cerebral than showy, and Pratt outlasted Acuna to return to his third major international Men’s singles final in his 3rd IRF appearance. – Keller advanced past Beltran in two
In the Final, Keller avenged a loss to Pratt in the 2017 PARC to win the final and defend his title. Pratt loses in the final for the third time in three international appearances.
The round of 32 contained no surprises. In the round of 16, we got some upsets, both by seed and by talent:
– After struggling in the RR phase (apparently due to illness), Argentinian #24 seed Natalia Mendez Erlwein dominated #8 Bolivian Angelica Barrios 3,11 to advance. Mendez really pushed the game and took Barrios out of her game early on. – #12 seed Maria Jose Vargas Parada obliterated #5 seed Guatemalan Maria Renee Rodríguez 2,0. – #13 seed Rhonda Rajsich got a solid win over #4 seed Chilean Carla Muñoz Montesinos 10,14 to keep her 3-peat dreams alive. – #6 Bolivian Valeria Centellas got a solid win over American Kelani Lawrence7,8. Its hard to emphasize this enough … but Centellas is only 17. She’s got two years remaining in juniors and is making the back end of Adult major international championships (and, it should be noted, was the #1 Bolivian here, ahead of Barrios and presumably ahead of Sabja unless she didn’t compete in the singles qualification ahead of this event). – #15 Ecuadorian Maria Paz Munoz pulled off the biggest upset of the event though, topping #2 Colombian and home-town favorite Amaya Cris 11-8 in a tie-breaker. Great win for Munoz.
So that’s Two from Mexico, two from Argentina, and one each from USA, Bolivia, Dominican Republic and Ecuador into the quarters.
In the Quarters, more upsets – Mendez continued her great run, downing the #1 seeded Mexican Monste Montse Mejia 13,13. This may be the best win of Mendez’ career and it comes after an 0-3 showing in the group stage. – Vargas trounced the hobbled Rajsich 4,8. – #3 seeded Paola Longoria dropped a game to the Bolivian 17yr old Centellas before rebounding and advancing. – Maria Paz Munoz ran away in the tiebreaker after two close games against Dominican #7 seed Merrynanyelly Delgado to advance to the semis.
So that’s the #24, #12, #3 and #15 seeds into the PARC19 semis.
In the semis, no real surprises as Vargas outlasted her countryman Mendez for the second time this year, while Longoria dominated the Ecuadorian Maria Paz Munoz in two.
In the final, Longoria downed Vargas for the 32nd time in 33 career meetings to secure her 8th PARC title.
———————- Men’s Doubles: After vanquishing the #1 Mexican team, the Bolivian team of Moscoso and Roland Keller got their second big title in as many months and their first international major title together by coming back from a first game embarrassment to top the Canadian pair of Murray & Iwaasa in a tiebreaker.
———————- Women’s Doubles: Longoria and Samantha Salas proved again why they’re the best doubles team in the world, never giving up more than 9 points in any single game en route to a dominant finals win over the host country team of Amaya & Riveros. With the win, the pair secured their 13th international doubles title together.
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 seedAlvaro 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 Erlweinand 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.
————————— 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.
————————— 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?
——————————- 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.
——————————- 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.
——————————- Follow @IRF on Facebook to get Tim Timothy Baghurst calling all the streaming matches.
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.
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.
————————— 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.
———— 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.
—————— 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.
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.
——————- 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.
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.
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 Lambertand 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.
———— 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.
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.
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.