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.
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The draw is missing a couple of notable names: both finalists from the 18U world juniors Montse Mejia and Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez are missing; quite understanable in that the World Juniors event is a grueling event, especially when playing both singles and doubles. Also missing is #3 ranked Frederique Lambert,5th ranked Nancy Enriquez, which bumps up both Amaya and Munoz to top 8 seeds in this event.
Fun side note for this event: Chicago native and 4-time pro tour winner Cheryl Gudinas makes a rare appearance and makes her 182nd career appearance. She remains tied for the most appearances ever with fellow 4-time pro tour winner and #5 seed Rhonda Rajsich.
Here’s some interesting Round of 32 matches to watch for:
– DC native Masiel Rivera Oporto takes on Montserrat Perez in the always competitive 16/17 seed match
– Lexi York, who we last saw in a top-level match making the semis of Girls 18U at World Juniors in 2005, returns to the court to take on #8 Seed Adriana Riveros.
– Bolivian Angelica Barrios, herself fresh off of a run to the semis of the Girls 18U at World Juniors, takes on LPRT veteran tour player Adrienne Fisher Haynes.
– Michelle De La Rosa, fresh from playing in the 2018 USA Pickleball championships in Indian Wells, faces up against long time tour vet Susana Susy Acosta in what could be a pretty tough opener. De La Rosa lost 12-10 in the fifth at the US Open and is clearly a threat to advance deep in any pro tour.
– Virginia native Kelani Lawrence makes just her 3rd pro draw of 2018 and faces off against Guatemalan vet Maria Renee Rodríguez in a tough opener for both players.
– Sheryl Lotts gets to go up against the legend Cheryl Gudinas in her home town.
– And lastly, in what is the most interesting match for me, reigning World doubles champion and freshly crowned 16U world junior champion Valeria Centellas is in the draw as the lowest seed, playing #7 Colombian vet Amaya Crisin the opening round. I suspect Amaya may be too much for the 16-yr old to handle, but its a great way to get a debut to the pro circuit.
Projecting the 16s: There’s lots of 32s that could go either way; here’s some of the round of 16 matches that could be noteworthy:
– Carla Munoz-Riveros as the 8/9 match: they’ve played a bunch both internationally and in the LPRT. Munoz owns the last 3 wins and seems to have gained the upper hand in this rivalry.
– #4 Seeded Maria Jose Vargas versus De La Rosa: Vargas can run hot or cold, has had some inconsistent results lately. These two have played 6 times before and Vargas is 6-0, but the matches include a number of 4 and 5 game marathons.
In the quarters, I’m going with:
– Paola Longoria over Munoz
– Rajsich upsetting Vargas
– Alexandra Herrera handling Natalia Mendez
– Samantha Salas handling Amaya.
From there, I’m going chalk, with a 1/2 final and Longoria prevailing over Salas like normal. Unfortunately a few of the rising players i’d expect to make noise in this draw (Martinez, Mejia, Enriquez) are missing so the old guard prevails).
The round of 16 went completely chalk, with all eight top seeds advancing. 7 of the 8 matches were three straight games, though #8 Natalia Mendez took three tight games over #9 Cristina Amaya Cris 9,9,8. Only Maria Jose Vargas was stretched to four, dropping a game to Adriana Riveros before advancing.
In the semis…Longoria overpowered #4 Herrera in three to advance to her 99th career tier-1 final, but Salas was stretched to the limit by Rajsich, requiring a 5th game tiebreaker to advance to her 13th career final.
In the final: Salas did what she could to stay with Longoria, but it was another 3-game win for the champion. Longoria improves to 45-3 career h2h against her frequent doubles partner.
The doubles draw saw an 8-team competition, and much closer matches.
In the quarters, the top team of Longoria/Salas was stretched to a tiebreaker by the team of Nancy Enriquez and current world doubles champion Yazmine Sabja Aliss before losing. Lambert/Munoz upset the Argentinian national team of Vargas/Mendez. The US National doubles team Rajsich/Sheryl Lotts reversed some recent form and trounced the Colombian National #1 team of Riveros/Amaya. Lastly the #2 seeds Herrera/Rodriguez came back from a game one pounding to advance in a tiebreaker.
The semis were anticlimactic,with the #1 team getting an injury walkover into the final when Carla Munoz turned her ankle, and the #2 team advancing easily 7,9.
The final was similarly anti-climactic, as the world’s best team wiped out the make-shift #2 seeds 7,2 for the win. Longoria & Salas improve to an amazing 68-3 record in pro doubles since we started tracking it in 2013.
The LPRT returns to action this weekend, traveling to Boston for the annual Boston Open. This event has been on the books this Halloween weekend for a few years now and has become a popular LPRT stop.
22 women are entered in the Singles draw, and the draw has some interesting participants and omissions.
Top 10 players missing include #9 Jessica Parrilla (still recovering from knee surgery) and more importantly #10 Ana Gabriele Martinez, who has made two semis in two tournaments this season and misses out on a chance to put herself into the top 8. The only other top 20 players missing are #17 Susy Acosta and #20 Montse Mejia. (Post-publishing note: its likely that both Martinez and Mejia are missing this event due to its proximity to World Juniors, which starts the following weekend. Both are favorites in their final juniors appearance to reach the 18U final).
There’s a few interesting “blast from the past” players in this draw; Laura Brandt first appeared on the pro tour in 2005 and plays her second pro event this month. Jennifer Mayadas-Dering played events in the late 90s into the 2000s, then took 14 years off before re-appearing in pro draws lately. Lastly, four-time tour champ Cheryl Gudinas plays her third straight Boston Open, and for the time being remains tied with Rhonda Rajsich for most ever appearances on the pro tour with 181.
Lets run through the draw and note some possible good matches to watch for:
In the 32s:
– Adrienne Fisher Haynes gets the 4-time former champ Gudinas in the first round. Haynes is 2-16 lifetime versus Gudinas … and those two wins came in their two most recent meetings (in 2012 and 2013).
– Cassi Leefaces off against Dering, making for a match-up of two New Yorkers.
– Guatemalan Maria Renee Rodriguez faces off against DC-area native Masiel Rivera Oporto.
In the 16s:
– Bolivian dark-horse player Yazmine Sabja Aliss gets an unlucky early match-up with #1 Paola Longoria. Sabja is a dangerous player who can hang with nearly every player in the world … but I think she’ll be hard-pressed to pull off an upset of this magnitude here.
– In the 8/9 seed, a South American battle between Colombian Amaya Cris and Argentinian Natalia Mendez.
– Representatives of these two countries will also battle in the bottom half of hte draw, when Colombian Adriana Riveros and Argentinian Maria Jose Vargas meet.
– Longoria should handle Mendez.
– A highly interesting all-Mexico quarter final between Nancy Enriquezand Alexandra Herrera awaits; Enriquez has been upset in both LPRT events this season by the same (missing) player in Martinez; now she has a path to the semis against a player who she has beaten. Herrera leads the h2h on tour 2-1 but they havn’t played in more than a year.
– Samantha Salas faces off against Vargas; a few years ago Vargas seemed like she was perched to take over the #2 spot on tour (and in fact did in 2015). But she’s been hit and miss this season while Salas has come back energized from her injury last season.
– Dr to be Frederique Lambert is set to take on the legend Rajsich in the last quarter.
Projected Semis: Longoria, Enriquez, Salas and Lambert.
The Ladies pro singles event at the 23rd annual US Open kicks off Wednesday afternoon with one round of qualifying. A solid draw of 40 professionals matches the 2017 draw and continues a solid showing at this event for the Ladies pros. 17 of the top 20 women in the world are present, and 24 of the top 30 players. Notably absent is #8 Jessica Leona Parrilla, still recovering from a major knee injury. Also missing from the top 20 is Guatemalan vet Maria ReneeRodriguez and #19 Mexican Eleni Guzman Velgis.
– Michelle De La Rosa, fresh off two finals appearances at the 2018 3WallBall WOR event held last weekend in Vegas, will take on fellow Southwestern US player, Texan Linda Tyler.
– An IRF-flavored qualifier awaits Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz and Bolivian Angelica Barrios.
– Two younger Mexican players Denisse Maldonado and Daniela Rico face off for a shot at 4-time US Open winner Rhonda Rajsich
– Kelani (Bailey) Kelani Lawrence, who made the finals of US nationals earlier this year but had to pass on the ticket to Worlds because it conflicted with her wedding, is back in action post nuptuals and faces off against the veteran Korean player Young Ock Lee. Lee is playing in her 8th straight US Open, making the trip halfway around the world every year.
Lets recap the event, which may have had a “normal” final but definitely featured some upsets and big wins.
Notables missing: #3 Jessica Leona Parrilla , who suffered a knee ligament injury at Mexican Nationals over the summer and looks to miss a sizable chunk of this season. Other Notable top 20 players include #13 Sheryl Lotts (probably exhausted from her trip to Worlds), #19 Jenny Daza Navia (also a busy international player this summer), and #20 Eleni Guzman Velgis .
In the play-ins/Round of 32, some surprise results:
– Mexican youngster Diana Aguilar surprised Chilean #1 Carla Muñoz Montesinos, coming back from 2 games down to win in the 5th. Aguilar was looking like “the next big thing” a few years ago, winning two consecutive 16U World Championships in 2013 and 2014 before dropping off the Juniors radar, playing just one more time in any Junior tournament. Now 21, she has played just one pro tournament in the past three years; lets hope this is the start of a come-back.
– Another young Mexican player Montserrat Perez (who was the same year as Aguilar coming up), also pulled off a nice upset win over a tough veteran player in Guatemalan Marie Renee Rodriguez, coming back from 2-1 games down to also win in the 5th 11-9. Its the second time she’s taken out Rodriguez in as many appearances on the tour, the last time coming in April 2018 in San Antonio.
In the 16s…
– #13 seed Ana Gabrielle Gaby Martinez continued her great summer of 2018 and upset #4 seeded Rhonda Rajsich in four. Martinez is looking more and more like one of the top 2-3 players in the world based on results this summer, and she got a statement win here.
– Ana Laura Flores, who is in her age 17 season (!), got a walkover win in the 32s then promptly defeated #6 Natalia Mendez 12-10 in the fifth. Mendez had an amazing Worlds run and was my choice to make the semis here; instead Flores gets easily the best win of her career and makes her first pro quarterfinal. Add her name to the list of amazing Mexican juniors
making waves on the world scene.
– Samantha Salas Solis continued her climb back up the rankings post-injury with a tough win over #7 seed Cris Amaya, taking a brutal 5 game match.
– Longoria advanced past Maria Jose Vargas in three straight 0,4,4. Vargas still has not beaten Longoria on the pro tour (she’s now 0-22 lifetime) but had some success in IRF events this summer (winning the South American games) and is looking (like Salas) to rebuild ranking points after an absence from the tour.
– Martinez’s run continues with a fantastic come from behind win over Nancy Enriquez, 12-10 in the 5th. Martinez was down 2 games to 0 and was just a couple points from elimination before coming all the way back.
– Salas trounced Lambert in a match-up of the 2nd and 3rd best players on tour right now, making a statement about how the tour rankings may eventually look at the end of this season.
The Semis featured two rather anti-climactic results, with Longoria geting revenge for her World’s loss with a 3-game easy win over Martinez, while Salas advanced easily over her country-mate Alexandra Herrera.
The final was the 46th ever pro meeting between doubles partners Longoria and Salas … and Longora won for the 43rd time 7,1,3 to capture the title.
In the doubles event, Paola Longoria made it a double on the weekend, taking the doubles title with Partner Salas in a rematch of the Mexican Worlds selection event from earlier this year. They defeated Herrera/Mejia 10,9 in the final.
Welcome to the 2018-19 Pro Racquetball season! Fresh on the heels of an amazing World Championships event, we have the first Ladies pro event of the season, and we start of with a bang; the Paola Longoria Experience Grand Slam event.
There’s 24 ladies entered, meaning a round of byes for the top 8 seeds. Here’s a preview.
Round of 32 Notable matches:
– Susy Acosta kicks off her 21st pro season by playing up and coming player Cassandra Lee in the 16/17 first round match-up for the right to play #1 Longoria.
– Samantha Salas Solis comes into the event seeded 10th thanks to missing a chunk of last season to shoulder injury; she has to play-in against fellow Mexican Carolina Luque.
– Mexican phenom junior Montserrat Mejia, fresh off a doubles final appearance at Worlds, takes on fellow country-woman Erin Rivera early.
Notable round of 16 projections::
– #9 Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos faces off against #8 Maria Jose Vargas in a tough early match for both players. Vargas is also rebuilding ranking points thanks to an extended absence on tour, but made the semis at Worlds and should advance here.
– #13 Ana Gabriel Martinez comes up against #4 Rhonda Rajsich, and this could be a very early test to see just how repeatable Martinez’ worlds performance will be. Rhonda suffered an early knockout of Worlds and will be looking to play better here.
– #14 Jugadores Racquetbol Guatemala player Maria Renee Rodriguez could give #3 Alexandra Herrera a tough match in this round; Herrera struggled at times in Costa Rica while Rodriguez took a game off of Vargas before losing in the 16s at Worlds.
– #6 Natalia Mendez had a phenomenal Worlds, knocking off two of the top 4 women in the world, and should advance past Colombian #11 seed Adriana Riveros.
– Tough luck draw for #7 Cristina Amaya Cris, who faces off against an underseeded Salas early.
– #2 Frederique Lambert gets a tough early test against junior phenom Mejia in the 16s … Lambert was upset early at Worlds; can Mejia pull another upset here?
– #1 Longoria will have to earn it, facing off against a top 4 player in Vargas in the round of 8. I see a tiebreaker win for Longoria here, but Vargas will make some noise this season.
– #13 Martinez over #4 Nancy Enriquez; I think Martinez is on a run and can only be stopped by one person in this draw.
– #6 Mendez over #3 Herrera: Mendez continues her excellent form and takes out the lefty Herrera in the quarters.
– #10 Salas over #2 Lambert: Salas owns the LPRT head-to-head record 11-4 over Lambert and, despite both players losing early at worlds, seems like she may have the slight edge here.
– #1 Longoria over #13 Martinez: I think Longoria is favored over Martinez right now in the pro format due to fitness and experience; she outlasts the Guatemalan and gets some revenge for the Worlds loss.
– #10 Salas over #6 Mendez: Mendez’ luck runs out against the motivated Salas.
Predicted Final: Longoria over Salas, which is anticlimactic given that its a very common LPRT final and given all the possible upsets we may see earlier.
The doubles draw is stacked, with the #1 overall team of Longoria/Salas, the World finliasts Herrera/Mejia, World semi finalists Rodriguez/Martinez, World Quarter-finalists Vargas/Mendez, and an intriguing new team of Lambert and Enriquez that could be tough to beat.
I’m going with a Mexico-Guatemala final, a rematch of the 2018 central American & Caribbean games final of Longoria/Salas vs Martinez/Rodriguez.
Historical Note: this is the first time in history that at the end of Worlds, not one of the four champions hailed from the USA. Its also the first World title for both Guatemala and Bolivia, joining Colombia’s 2014 Men’s double triumph as the only non-North American world titles in existence.
Lets do a quick review of the notable matches and how the tourney played out:
—————– Men’s Singles:
No major upsets in the 64s or 32s; the only upset by seed was #18 Andres Acuna (the Costa Rican home town favorite) ousting the Dominican Luis Perez in two games.
In the 16s,
– The match of the 16s was a re-match of the game of the RRs, with Colombian Mario Mercado again outlasting Canadian Coby Iwaasa, this time by an 11-9 tiebeaker win. They went 11-10 in the group stage. Tough way for Iwaasa to exit the tourney.
– #1 Bobby Horn survived a 15-14 first game to take out Guatemalan veteran Edwin Galicia in 2 games.
– Sebastian Franco got a very solid win and took out defending Pan American champ Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas 14,13. A testament to the depth of this draw; Franco-Keller was a worthy semi or final, featuring two guys who both had the capability to win this draw.
– #2 Daniel De La Rosa eased past home-town favorite Andres Acuña, who wasn’t able to pull off an upset run like he did the last time a major tourney was in Costa Rica.
In the Quarters…
– The #5/#4 Rodrigo Montoya–Conrrado Moscoso Ortiz match lived up to the hype; these two guys played a finals-quality match that lasted more than 2 hours and ended up with the Mexican champion pulling away in a tiebreaker win.
– #1 Horn continued his career dominance over Mercado with a 2 game win.
– #3 Charlie Pratt got a surprise win over #6 Samuel Murray; Pratt definitely came to play this tourney
– But the biggest upset of the Men’s draw so far was #10 seeded Franco pulling out a 11-10 win over #2 seed and tourney favorite De la Rosa. Franco has the talent to beat anyone in this draw, but De la Rosa has consistently been the better player for years on the IRT. He’ll face off against Pratt, whom he’s never beaten.
In the semis, Rodrigo Montoya Solís outslugged #1 seed Bobby David Horn 9,8 in a 2 hour match that featured more than its fair share of questioned calls to advance to his first senior international final. In the other, crafty american veteran Pratt controlled his match against Franco and advanced 8,13.
In the finals, the crowd was given fantastic racquetball, with an amazing end to game one (a 15-14 game with two potential game winning points for either player over turned on appeal) before Montoya dove his way to a 14,9 win and a World Championship.
Champion: Rodrigo Montoya, Mexico.
———— Women’s Singles:
The upset of the 32s had to be Canadian veteran Jen Saunders pounding American Sheryl Lotts 10,1. Saunders had lost all three group matches and suffered an injury, but came out firing to take down the American.
In the 16s:
– two LPRT pros duked it out and a surprising result came; Argentinian Natalia Mendez controlled the match over an emotional Frederique Lambertand advanced 8,8. This is Mendez’ first win in four tries against the 2nd ranked LPRT player and a rather large upset to this observer (who thought Lambert was good for the Semis if not further).
– Colombian doubles partners Adriana Riveros and Cris Amaya had a heck of a #8/#9 match, with Riveros pulling the slight upset and coming out on top 11-9.
– Bolivian darkhorse Yazmine Sabja Aliss outlasted LPRT regular Chilean Carla Muñoz Montesinos in a tough breaker as well.
– Maria Jose Vargas shook off her group struggles and upset 4th seeded Maria Renee Rodriguez in a tiebreaker.
In the quarters, upsets abounded.
– Huge upset when Guatemalan Ana Gabriel Martinez took out the #3 seeded Samantha Salas Solis 4,12. Martinez has been putting up statement wins over and over; a win over Vargas in the group stage, now this knock out win. She made the finals of the 2016 Worlds with a similar win over Salas, and will be looking to do so again.
– Possibly even bigger upset when #7 seeded Argentinian Natalia Mendez wiped out American Rhonda Rajsich in game one before winning the second game 13.
– Vargas continued to advance, downing Bolivian #4 seed Sabja with ease to setup a meeting with #1 Paola Longoria.
This meant that the semis were comprised of the 1,20, 6 and 7 seeds.
In the Semis…Longoria rebounded from a 15-6 first game loss to dominate game 2 and outlast Vargas in the tiebreker to advance. In the other semi, Martinez trounced Argentine Mendez 8,3 to continue her excellent tournament.
What’s amazing about this result is this: Martinez is still a junior! She becomes easily the youngest ever world Champion in the history of the Worlds competitions. She is playing in her age-18 season and will compete in Junior Worlds later this year to attempt to complete an unheard of double-world championship Junior and Seniors. Martinez lost the 2017 world 18U final to Montserrat Mejia as the #1 seed but should make a strong case this fall in her final junior’s event.
Champion: Ana Gabriel Martinez, Guatemala
—————– Men’s Doubles.
No real upsets in the 16s. In the quarters, USA team of Sudsy Monchik and Rocky Carson got an early test, beating the talented Colombian team of IRT vets Franco and Mercado 11 and 13. The Canadian team of Samuel Murray and Tim Landeryou “upset” the #2 seeded Argentine team of Fernando Kurzbard and Shai Manzuri to move on.
In the semis, the Mexican #1 team of De La Rosa and Alvaro Beltran had the much tougher match-up, going up against the talented Bolivian team of Moscoso and Roland Keller. They squeaked out the first game 14 then closed it out 14,8. On the other side, the star-studded American team rolled easily over the Canadian team 12 and 2 to setup a classic final of IRT veterans.
In the final…the Mexican team seemed to play a deliberate, tactical strategy attempting to slow down the power of Monchik, and eventually they broke through, splitting the first two games then dominating the tie-breaker to take the title (10),9,2. This gives Beltran a 4th World doubles title, tying him with his long-time partner Javier Moreno for most ever Men’s World doubles titles. It also represents Beltran’s 10th international doubles title, 2nd only to Moreno.
—————— Women’s Doubles Review
In the 16s, the veteran Ecuadorian team of Vero Sotomayor and Maria Paz Munoz upset the Canadian team of Frederique Lambert and Jen Saunders in the 8/9 match up.
In the quarters, the most notable surprise was the elimination of the US team of Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts by the Bolivian team of Yazmine Sabja Aliss and Valeria Centellas 12,10. Sabja has had great results as of late and continued her great Worlds tourney. We don’t get to see Sabja on the LPRT very often, but she’s got a ton of solid results in IRF events.
In the semis, the Mexican #1 seeded team of Alexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia cruised to a win over the Colombian team of Amaya and Riveros, while in the other semi the surprising Bolivian team were perhaps already on their way to victory over the excellent Guatemalan team of Martinez/Rodriguez when an injury forfeit gave the Bolivians the win into the final.
In the final, Mexico was running away with the match early; Bolivia won a tight second game 15-14 then blew away the Mexican pair in the tiebreaker to become the first world champion from outside North America. Final: (8),14,2.
A quick comment on the champion Bolivian team; I did not know this until weeks after the event, but Centellas is just *16* years old. She’s still playing 16U in worlds. That’s an amazing accomplishment to see a team with a 16-yr old win a world title.
Thanks for reading, congrats to all the participants, it was a fantastic event. All the draws are now loaded online to www.proracquetballstats.com.
Next up …we head *right* into the LPRT season, with the first ladies pro event happening next weekend in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Maybe we’ll get another Longoria-Martinez final as i’m sure both players (and a huge chunk of the draw here) will be there.