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.

2018 World Juniors Wrap-Up

Eduardo “Lalo” Portillo finishes off his junior career with an 18U world title.

… as does Montserrat “Montse” Mejia.

The final International Racquetball Federation – IRF event of the season has finished up and new World Junior titlists have been crowned. Congrats to all the winners.

Here’s a review of the four eldest-most age categories (the ones that www.proracquetballstats.com currently tracks) and how the tournaments played out.

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In the Boys 18U (PRS Match report: https://bit.ly/2DyPnRc)…

The two Americans both fought hard but fell at the quarter-final stage. Los Angeles native Dane Elkins took #1 overall seed Fernando Ruiz Michel to a tiebreaker, and Stocktonian Ricardo Ricky Diaz (brother of IRT pro Jose Diaz) played #3 seed Bolivian Gerson Miranda tough, eventually falling 13,12. The two Mexican top seeds both advanced tot he semis with ease.

In the semis, it was Bolivia vs Mexico on both sides of the draw … and it was both Mexican’s advancing to the final to force a rematch of the Mexican Nationals final in May. #4 Eduardo Portillo Rendon took out #1 seeded Fernando Ruiz Michel in two hard fought games, while #2 Sebastian Fernandez cruised past #3 seeded Gerson Miranda.

In the Final, we got a rematch of the Mexican 18U Junior National final from past May (won by Fernandez), the 18U selection event final in Mexico (again won by Fernandez) and a rematch of the 2016 16U World Juniors final (won by Portillo). On this day though, Portillo was the better player, dropping the first game 14 then cruising to the title (14),4,7.

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In the Girls 18U (match report here: https://bit.ly/2AYIYMx)…

The knock-out rounds featured all four top seeds advancing with relative ease into the semis; only #4 Gaby Martinez had more than 3 points scored against her in any quarter-final game, downing Canadian Alexis Iwaasa 9,5.

In the semis, Martinez took out the #1 seeded Mexican Ana Laura Flores with ease 5,3, while #3 Montse Mejia took a close match against #2 Angelica Barrios 14,8.

The Final thus was a rematch of 2017’s 18U world championship (won by Mejia), and of the 2016 16U World championship (won by Martinez), and represents a fitting end to both players’ junior careers. A fantastic match ensued, with Mejia taking the first game 14, dropping the second game 8, then controlling the tiebreaker to down the reigning World Champ and defend her 18U world championship. Final score: 14,(8),6. Martinez is denied a chance at becoming just the second player ever to hold both a Junior and World Adult singles title simultaneously.

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In the Boys 16U (match report here: https://bit.ly/2AYIYMx)…

The two top seeds advanced to the semis with little fan fare, with #1 Jose Carlos Ramos topping Texan Cayden Aikens in two, and #2 Bolivian Diego Garcia Quispe getting an injury fft win. #12 seed Mexican Guillermo Ortega “upset” the #4 seeded Bolivian Adrian Jaldin (though Ortega was the #3 seed entering the round robins) to make the semis. Lastly American #6 seed Sahil Thakur could not capitalize on a one-game lead and fell in a tiebreaker to #3 seed Ecuadorian Juan Sebastian Flores.

In the semis, Ramos topped fellow Mexican Ortega a rematch of the 16U National selection event in August (also won by Ramos), while pre-tourney favorite Garcia pasted Flores 3,2 to advance to the World final.

In the final, Garcia took a dominant win 4,10 over the #1 seed to take the title. Garcia did not drop a game in this tournament, and the 15-10 second game in the finals was the most any player scored on him in this tournament. He’s set to be a force to be reckoned with going forward.

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In the Girls 16U (match report here: https://bit.ly/2qESWg9)…

The top four seeds advanced to the semis, taking out both Canadians (Juliette Parent and Cassie Prentice) as well as the lone remaining American (Annie Roberts).

In the semis, #1 seed Valeria Centellas advanced over the Mexican Guadalupe Griffin 5,10 while #3 Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz topped the Mexican #1 Maria Fernanda Gutierrez, making for the only of these four finals to feature no Mexican juniors.

In the final, Centellas dropped the first game 9, then dominated the rest of the way, taking the final (9),4,3 to take the world 16U title for Bolivia.

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Quick wrap of Doubles action:
– Boys 18U final featured four of the best singles players in the tourney, as Mexico and Bolivia went at it in a rematch of the scintillating RR match. In the final, the Mexican team of Fernandez and Rodrigo Rodriguez came out on top, getting revenge for their RR loss to the Bolivian team of Fernando Ruiz and Gerson Miranda for the title.

– Girls 18U final featured the top Mexican team versus Ecuador. The Mexican team of Ana Laura Flores and Abril Sacristan cruised to a world title.

– Boys 16U also featured Mexico vs Bolivia in the final (like the 16U). The Mexican team had to play just one match to get to the final (getting a bye and an inj-fft), but could not overcome the Bolivian team powered by the singles champ Garcia.

– Girls 16U was Bolivia vs Canada, who ousted the higher seeded Mexican team in the semis. On this day the Bolivians cruised to the title 8,7 over team Canada.

The Girls 16U final was notable for this fact; Bolivian Valeria Centellas won the Adult World doubles championships earlier this year with Yazmine Sabja Aliss and now holds the 16U junior worlds doubles championship … as far as we can tell, this is a first in the international game (having a player hold both the Adult and the junior world title in doubles).

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A quick note: as we’ve clearly been seeing for a while, the balance of power both in Juniors and on the pro tours is clearly no longer with the originating countries of the sport. USA and Canadian players failed to advance to even the semis in either 16U or 18U. Team USA did experience some success; the Americans swept the 14U doubles titles, made the finals of both 14U singles events and American Nikil Prasad won the boys 12U in dominant fashion. But the older levels were completely dominated by Mexico and Bolivia.

LPRT US Open Pro Women Qualifying Preview

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 Renee Rodriguez and #19 Mexican Eleni Guzman Velgis.

r2sports.com link for the event is here.

A quick note: here’s direct links to four US-Open specialty reports of interest. These links are for the LPRT version of these reports:
LPRT US Open Player Participation summary . Mexican vet Susana Susy Acosta is breaking the US Open appearance record this year, playing her 21st. Only Rocky Carson has played more (he missed just one of the 23 events held since 1996).
– LPRT US Open Draw sizes: 40 is solid, but is a bit below the even’ts best ever showing of 50 ladies pros in 2003.
– LPRT US Open Quarters/Semis/Finals historically: A nice way to quickly see all the top finishers for all 22 events.
– LPRT US Open Results summary: all players and all finishes, throughout time

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The top 24 women qualified into the main draw; the remaining 16 face off in qualifiers. Here’s a quick preview of those 8 matches, being played Wednesday morning and early afternoon:

– Veteran Jennifer Jennifer Mayadas-Dering faces off against Mexican Anna RiveraDering first played a US Open back in 1998, when the event was still held in Memphis.

– US Collegiate player Erika Manilla (sister of IRT touring pro Adam Manilla) takes on veteran LPRT player Laura Brandt. Brandt first played the US Open in 2008, while Manilla graduated Juniors in 2016 with an 18U world title.

– 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.

Hollie Scott faces off against long-time Canadian threat Michele Michèle Morissette.

– Lastly, Bolivian veteran Jenny Daza Navia gets a match with Maiko Sato, who has been representing Japan at IRF Worlds for more than a decade.

Follow the LPRT on facebook and sign up to get Facebook Live notifications to get streaming broadcasts all weekend.