#1 DLR/Beltran defeated the upstart Bolivian team of Keller/Carrasco team (which had defeated the heavily favored #5 team of Jose Diaz and Jake Bredenbeck in qualifiers) in two.
#2 Kane/Croft played a complete match to down the very solid #3 Landa/Murray team 7,7.
In the final, we got the two teams we wanted. This is a rematch of the last two US Open finals and the 2018 World Doubles final. The 2017 US Open doubles final was considered to be among the finest matches ever played on the pro circuit, a come from behind win for Kane/Croft. DLR/Beltran turned the tide in the 2018 US Open and dominated for a win. The World Doubles final was controversy filled, with the Mexican team walking off the court at match point against. What would we get here?
As it turned out, we got a solid match and a return to the winner’s circle for the now 3-time US Open champion team of Kane and Ben, who won the title 11,8. They’re now 28-5 as a team on the pro circuit with 7 titles since 2014.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #24 Javier Mar: the doubles partners and good friends battled it out to the end with Mar taking out Montoya for the second straight IRT event early, 11-9. Tough way to go out for Montoya.
– #8 Samuel Murray lost to Bolivian #25 Carlos Keller Vargas (10),10,8. Keller is always one of the tough underseeded outs of this event (along with Mar and Moscoso), and he proved it again by taking out the #8 seed.
– Great win for #21 Thomas Carter, who took out #12 Jose Diaz 11-9 in the breaker. They’ve played a couple times before and Diaz had won handily; now Carter moves on.
– #13 David “Bobby” Horn improved to 6-4 all-time against #77 Jaime Martell Neri with a solid 13,6 win. Martell more than showed why he’s better than a 77 seed, and Horn shows little ill effects from a recent injury.
– #14 Lalo Portillo absolutely dominated #19 Charlie Pratt 7,2 to move on to the 16s and a match-up against Parrilla. This result is surprising to me; Pratt is known for sticking in matches and out thinking players; rarely do you see him take a beating like this. Great showing by Lalo, who continues to move up the chain.
– #23 Sebastian Fernandez played a solid game and took out #10 Mario Mercado in two, 14,5 to make another statement (with Portillo) on behalf of the next generation of young Mexican players rising up.
– In the upset of the round, perhaps the tourney so far, #7 Sebastian Franco was dominated by #26 Adam Manilla 4,7. Manilla has finished 15th and 19th in the last two pro seasons, and missed the first to pro events this season to see his ranking drop. Franco has to be disappointed with this showing after making the semis of both the first two events this season.
– #15 @Luis Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #18 Andres Acuña looked like it could be a barn burner, and indeed it was. Acuna took the first game, but Moscoso stormed back to take the second and tiebreaker to advance (10),6,5.
———– The 16s are underway as we speak; here’s matches to watch for:
– Keller vs Mar: what a battle. – Doubles Partners Parrilla and Portillo going at it – Jake/DLR: always a battle – Manilla/Fernandez: Brian Pineda and I have a bet on this one. – Moscoso/Carson; the final of the Bolivian Grand Slam, won by Moscoso; can he win again?
We’re down to the top 32, having played 2-3 rounds of qualifiers Wednesday to whittle the field from 94.
here’s the matches I found notable or upset-worthy from Wednesday’s marathon qualifying.
In the 256s: – fellow Virginian Rich Benderoth took a tiebreaker win over Erik Solter. Shout out to Rich, who regularly spanked me a decade ago when I used to actually play this sport. Unfortunately he injured himself in the process and forfeited his next round.
– USA 18U junior Lucas Shoemaker gets a win in his professional debut, downing Bolivian Vladimir Fernando Salas in a tie-breaker.
– Colorado native Jacob Kingsford gets a win in his debut pro/national level event over Ecuadorian Fabian Cuesta].
– In a battle of two IRT veterans, Colombian Alejandro Herrera Azcarate took out Japanese legend Hiroshi Shimizu in two close games to advance.
———————- In the 64s.
– Kansas amateur Bradley Rogers upset the highest ranked player in qualifying, 17th seeded Robert Collins 12,8 to earn a main draw berth. Rogers gets his best win on tour in four years.
– Javier Estrada advanced over Bolivian junior phenom Diego Garcia Quispe, who had to retire mid-game2 with injury. The two were playing close though, with the score 13-14 at the point of injury.
– Javier Mar dominated Ernesto Ochoa 13,5 to advance to the main draw and a meeting with his doubles partner. Tough draw for Ochoa, who was making his IRT Tier 1 debut here after putting up some very impressive results in 2019.
– Big upset of a dark horse candidate for me: Colombian Francisco Reyes Gomez upset Natera in a tiebreaker to advance. We don’t know much about Reyes; he’s got a few US Open appearances in the past but this is probably his best career win.
– Martel gets a great win to advance into the main draw, topping Garcia 14,6.
now for the 32s. And there’s some amazing matches today. Here’s what i’m looking for:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #33 Estrada: Estrada made a statement at the Black Gold cup, topping 4 top 10 players to take the title. Well, now he can measure up against the worlds best for a status check.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #24 Mar: these two ran into each other in the round of 32 at the Syosset open as well; just a function of unlucky seeding. Mar took that last meeting en route to a quarter final appearance. Expect a close match between these doubles partners that know each other’s game pretty well.
– #8 Samuel Murray vs #25 Keller: pay no attention to the seedings here: this is a battle of two evenly matched players. They met in the 16s of the Pan Am Games in Lima, a tie-breaker win for the Canadian. But Keller is no easy out; he’s an experienced, accomplished international player with two PARC titles on his resume
#13 David Horn vs #77 Martell; This is an interesting matchup between two long stalwards of the WRT. These two met 9 times on the old WRT, with Horn leading 5-4 h2h but Jaime Martell Racquetball taking the most recent meeting (May 2018 in Atlanta). This could go either way; Horn has missed time with an injury this season; is he 100%? He’ll need to be to beat his long time rival. (post-publishing correction; initially I had Martell playing into Landa here; my staging tables were incorrect and hence this correction after publishing).
– #14 Lalo Portillo vs #19 Charlie Pratt; Watch out for the upset here; every time Pratt enters a draw he makes noise. Pratt could lose here to the rapidly improving Portillo, or he could run to the semis. Expect a tactical battle here.
– #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #27 Garay: I like this match; Garay’s power versus DLR’s guile. Daniel won’t be surprised by Garay’s pop; they met in teh 2016 Mexican nationals prior to Garay’s re-flagging and he advanced in a tiebreaker. I like DLR here but I think it goes breaker.
– #10 Mario Mercado vs #23 Sebastian Fernandez; this is a fascinating match-up between Mercado, who despite having (in my opinion) improving results on the court lately is treading water from a rankings perspective thanks to rising pressure of up and coming players, and Fernandez, who seems set to jump straight from 18U into the pro ranks and make a splash. I think this goes down to the wire with the veteran advancing.
– #15 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #18 Andres Acuña; this should be another barn burner; they’ve met four times in IRF junior and senior events and 3 times it has gone breaker. All four are Moscoso wins … but Acuna always make sit hard on the Bolivian number one.
We’ll circle back for the 16s once the 32s are done.
Men’s Pro Singles: Kane Waselenchuk Men’s Open Singles: Andres Acuna Men’s Open Doubles: Carlos Keller/Kadim Carrasco
Note: no pro doubles this weekend, so we had pretty solid Open Singles and Open Doubles draws. The Men’s singles open draw featured three players who made the quarters (or better) of the pro draw and a great draw of east coast amateurs to challenge the traveling pros.
And, a reminder; the 5-8 seeds were “flipped” this tournament. Seeds listed below are for this event, not of the actual rankings on tour at the moment of the event.
I had the opportunity to be at the Sportfit Laurel club for Thursday night round of 64 and 32 matches, so I’ll describe some of the more interesting matches I witnessed in a bit more detail.
Lets review the matches of note by round:
Round of 64:
#24 Mauricio Zelada, playing on his home courts and with the cheering of the home crowd, eked out a brutal tiebreaker against #25 Kyle Ulliman. Zelada is a protege of former touring pro and fellow Maryland native Dan Fowler, and his game-style is really familiar to those who remember Fowler’s days on tour. Similar stroke mechanics, similar drive serve setup, and a similar game style. Zelada plays consistent ball, always putting solid consistent contact on the ball. Ulliman’s game style is flashier, more of a shooter style, taking chances and succeeding often. It was a fantastic match-up that went down to the wire, with Zelada winning on a gimme-error from Kyle after a long match.
#20 Maurice Miller faced off against #33 Joe Kelley in a battle of top east coast amateurs (Miller from GA, Kelley from PA). It did not disappoint, and was a back and forth athletic match between two guys with great getting ability. In the end Miller pulled away in the tie-breaker to advance.
#22 Hometown favorite Troy Warigon, spurred on by a vocal local cheering section, went tiebreaker against Atlanta newcomer #27 Yacouba Keita before advancing. Definitely the “loudest” crowd of the night, cheering Warigon on.
Colombian #23 Set Cubillos was taken tie-breaker by New Jersey top amateur #26 David Austin before advancing.
The biggest upset of the round and the sole upset by a local player over a traveling pro was #30 Pennsylvanian Geoff Heskett taking out #18 Justus Benson 10,12. Both players really put some power into the ball, and Heskett was able to really control the points with his excellent drive serve to Benson’s backhand.
Round of 32:
In a marathon evening match, #16 Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas took a barn-burner over #17 Colombian Eduardo Garay (13),11,7. This match was a contrast in styles: Keller’s drive serve approach is controlled power, with emphasis on the location and efficiency of the drive, while Garay has as much power as anyone on tour. The ball just sounds different off of Garay’s racquet on the drive serve. But, once the ball is in play, Keller’s putting as much pace on it as anyone else. Garay flings himself around the court, with incredible getting ability, while Keller’s length (he’s well over 6-feet tall) enables him to reach a lot of shots and cover a lot of court. This match went on so long that I believe Garay soaked four shirts. Vargas outlasted Garay in the end, but both of these players if playing full time are top 10 material.
In the evening’s other latest running match, two players with DC-area ties fought to the end. #9 Mario Mercado split two close games with home-town favorite #24 Zelada, who (like Warigon) plays out of the club and had a large local cheering section. The toll of the earlier match got to MoMo though, as he ran out of gas in the tiebreaker. Mercado efficiently advanced 11-1 to get to the main draw. This match won the award for biggest crowd of the night.
#23 Cubillos nearly forfeited his match against #10 Jake Bredenbeck before showing up just before the deadline. Jake seemed distracted as a result in the first game but eventually advanced 11,2.
#14 Andres Acuna dispatched Bolivian veteran #19 Kadim Carrasco in two games to advanced to the main draw yet again. Acuna is quietly moving his way up the ranks and putting his name into the discussion for top 10.
Round of 16 Action:
#1 Kane Waslenechuk kicked off his tournament with a 1,3 pasting of #16 Keller. I don’t know if Keller was beat from two matches the night before, or if Kane was especially fired up to play. I looked forward to this match and was rather surprised to see it be such a dominant beat-down. If you wondered about the difference between an IRF champ and the Pro champ … well here you go.
For the second tournament in a row, #8 Rodrigo Montoya could not advance out of the round of 16 against an opponent he’d normally be favored against. He loses in two straight to #9 Mercado 14,11. This second early loss in as many events to start the season should drop him right back out of the top 8.
In a battle of Francos (not related), #5 Sebastian Franco was taken to the edge by #12 Gerardo Franco, eventually advancing 11-9 in the breaker. Sebastian gets past an important hurdle on his home courts.
Both #4 Alejandro Landa and #2 Rocky Carson were stretched to tiebreakers in surprising fashion by tour regulars, by lefties Robert Collins and Thomas Carter respectively. Landa in particular has a habit of being a slow starter, something that’s harder and harder to overcome in the 3-game format.
In the upset of the round, perhaps the tournament, Costa Rican #1 and #14 seed Andres Acuna continues an impressive year of results by taking out #3 Andree Parrilla 4,(7),7. Parrilla made the final of the first event of the year and had ascended to the #3 ranking, but gets upset early by the solid play of Acuna and will drop back to #4 for the US Open. Meanwhile, Acuna achieves his first ever pro quarterfinal appearance in his 9th season of playing pro events.
#6 Samuel Murray staved off an upset attempt from #11 Eduardo Portillo, splitting the first two games by razor thin margins before pulling away in the tiebreaker.
In the quarters…
#1 Waselenchuk took out #9 Mercado in two straight forward games 6,8. Even a favorable crowd couldn’t push Mercado forward. Mercado will stay ranked 10th on tour despite the quarter-final finish, but he’s significantly narrowed the gap to the 9th spot on tour.
#5 Franco gets a key win on home soil, taking out #4 Landa for just the second time professionally. Sebastian crushed Landa in game one 15-3, but then had to work for it, saving game point before serving out the match 15-14. Franco gets his second semi-final in a row to open the season after making just one semi all last season, a great sign for his battle to retain a top 8 ranking this year. Despite the loss, Landa will regain the #3 seed for the US Open by virtue of Parrilla’s upset early loss.
#6 Murray traded 15-3 game blow-outs with #14 Acuna before closing out the match in a tiebreaker. Acuna improves his ranking to #18 with this result, pushing him to his highest ever ranking.
#2 Carson met #7 Alvaro Beltran for the 50th time on the pro tour and improved to 28-22 against him, advancing in (what else) a tie-breaker. Thanks to Daniel de la Rosa‘s absence here, Beltran widened his lead over DLR for the 5th ranking on tour and gained a bit on the now-4th ranked Parrilla.
In the Semis:
#5 Franco pushed #1 Kane on his home courts to make game one close, but Kane dominated game two to advance to the finals 11,7. With this result, Franco jumps to the #7 spot on tour, which means he avoids the likes of Montoya in an 8/9 match-up and avoids Kane in the quarters at the US Open.
#2 Carson met #6 Murray for the 11th time professionally and improved to 11-0 over the Canadian #1 11,4. Murray just couldn’t execute shots against Carson in game two and the match slipped away from him quickly. With this semis showing, Murray bumps Montoya for the last of the top 8 protected seeds for the US Open, a significant event that means Murray avoids possible dangerous qualifiers while Montoya may run into a tough player in the 24-25 range on tour.
The final was #1 vs #2 as it normally is; Rocky vs Kane has been the final in eight events over the last two seasons. this was their 80th meeting on tour. And like 76 times before, Kane topped Rocky for the title. But it was an adventurous match: Rocky was on his way to a donut in game one and was assessed a technical towards the end; game one score of 15 to -1. But Carson rebounded to take game 2; it had been nearly 2 years since Rocky took a game off of Kane. But Kane rebounded in the breaker and won -1,(11),4 to take the title.
Its Kane’s 117th career pro win.
Quick Recap of Men’s Open Singles: 4th Seeded Mercado survived a brutal quarter against Eduardo Garay (a rematch of last week’s Colombian National championships, won by Garay) to then cruise to the final over Set Cubillos from the top half (#1 seed Murray withdrew after making the pro semis). The bottom half of the draw went chalk amongst all top seeds, with #2 seed Andres Acuna topping #3 Maurice Miller to make the final. In the final, Acuna took out Mercado 11,9 to turn the tides on their meetings as of late.
Quick Recap of Men’s Open Doubles: it was #1 vs #2, Colombia vs Bolivia in the final, with two quality teams battling it out. #1 Mercado/Garay battled against #2 Keller/Carrasco in the final. There, the #2 seeded Bolivians put a second consecutive Sunday afternoon loss on Mercado, winning the Open Doubles title 7,12
Congrats to Tournament Director Tracy Valentine for all her hard work, thanks to IRT staff Mike Grisz, Dean Baer, Pablo Fajre for all their hard work. Great to meet IRT statistician-in-training JP Edwards, who I hope gets more involved going forward.
Also, a quick shout-out to Kane, who took to the court Thursday night upon arriving to play some pro-am doubles with tournament sponsors. The normal Thursday night sponsor doubles got cancelled, but some boosters had put up money specifically to have a shot at playing with Kane, and kudos to him for taking the court to help with sponsorship efforts.
Next up? 3-Wall championships next weekend in Las Vegas, then the US Open in Minneapolis.
The IRT returns to Laurel, MD for the second year in a row for the 2019 Valentine Open, named after its tournament director Tracie D Valentine and her daughter Imanii Valentine. The tour is back at one of the legendary east coast venues of Sportfit Laurel for this event.
Lets preview the draw. there’s 33 players entered this year including a ton of internationals and some MD/VA/PA locals. As noted last week, there’s some movement in the top 8, notably Parrilla taking over 3rd and Montoya moving into 7th … but the “flip” seeding is in place here so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled from their normal spots.
Missing top players: The biggest name missing is #6 Daniel De La Rosa who misses the event sandwiched in between 3-wall in Vegas and a major pickleball event, so he may have had to take a schedule break. We’re also missing a lot of tour regulars from last season in the 11-20 range, including #11 Jose Diaz, #13 David ” Bobby” Horn, and #18-20 Charlie Pratt, Jansen Allen and Felipe Camacho. Two tourneys missed in a row for these guys: it look like maybe there’s a changing of the guard on tour.
Here’s some round of 64 matches to watch for:
– MoMo Zelada versus Kyle Ulliman: Zelada plays on his home courts and gets the traveling Ulliman, who returns to Laurel for the 2nd year in a row. Could be a tight one. – MD native Jamal Harris takes on The Ref, Scott McClellan in an opener. Hopefully McClellan doesn’t have any avoidables taken away from him… (inside joke on a FB discussion after last event). – Veteran Bolivian Kadim Carrasco takes on 18U local player Dylan Pruitt also playing on his home courts. – Justus Benson takes on a tough lefty from Pennsylvania Geoff Heskett.
Projecting the 32s: – #16 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez vs #17 Carlos Keller Vargas; 16/17 matches are always tough, and this South American battle will be no different. Garay was just crowned Colombian Champ, while Keller is the 2-time reigning Pan American Racquetball Championships winner. I like Garay in a tie-breaker and I like seeing him make a push on tour early. – #9 Mario Mercado vs #24 Zelada: just another night at the club for these two native Bolivians, who both lived in the DC area for a while and got more than a few local tournament match-ups. Mercado has been playing solid lately and will look to advance. – #14 Andres Acuña vs #19 Carrasco: another international flavor match between two guys who have never managed to meet. – #15 Thomas Carter vs #18 Benson: Just like the 16/17, the 15/18 meeting will be tight as well. I like Carter here to return to the 16s in Laurel.
Projecting the Main draw: assuming seeds hold in the qualifiers, here’s some fun 16s to look for: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #16 Garay: I can’t wait to see Kane taking on a good young hard hitting player like Garay. If its Keller instead, we’re talking about a solid tactician unmoved by power play given how much he plays @Luis Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo back home. Either way, a great round of 16 that’s likely on the show/streaming court. – #8 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #9 Mercado; Montoya missed a chance in the 8/9 match last tourney … now he gets a match against a guy who beat him in Lima just a few weeks ago. Look for a solid match but Montoya to advance. – #6 Samuel Murray vs #11 Lalo Portillo; upset warning: Portillo beat Murray in California in Jan 2019 and has done nothing but improve since. Portillo continues his push for the top 10. – #7 Alvaro Beltran vs #10 Jake Bredenbeck; A nice match-up; Bredenbeck was nursing an injury earlier this summer that reportedly kept him out of the season opener; if he’s not 100% he’ll struggle to beat Beltran, who continues to impress even as he approaches his 41st birthday.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Kane vs #8 Montoya: would love to see this one; power v power. Montoya has just two meeting with Kane, both pretty dominant wins for the World #1. – #4 Alex Landavs #5 Sebastian Franco; Franco gets Landa on his (Franco’s) home courts. Franco made the semis last year and will be looking for an upset; these two always seem to play tight, and Franco beat Landa to win his sole pro title. Watch out for the upset here. – #3 Andree Parrilla vs #6 Murray; if Murray gets past Portillo, he runs into a tough one in Parrilla, who lost 11-10 in the quarters last year in Laurel and won’t want to lose his #3 ranking at this juncture. – #2 Rocky Carson vs #7 Beltran. These two have met no less than 49 times on tour; they’re more than familiar with each other and played a rather testy tiebreaker in their last meeting in January. This is no cakewalk for Carson. Combined age: more than 81 years between the two of them.
Semis: – Kane over Landa: these two seem to play the same way each time: Landa keeps it close up to about 10-10, then Kane breaks away for a 15-10 win. Look for a two game victory with the scores like 10,8 – Carson over Parrilla: So here’s the interesting match up. These two met in the quarters of this event last year, and Parrilla had match point on his racquet and blew a simple cross court into the ground before losing 11-10. Then they didn’t play again until last weekend’s Atlanta final (a 13,8 win for Rocky). I like Andree’s chances here of pushing for a tie-breaker on these slower courts but won’t predict a win.
Final: Kane over Rocky, yet again.
That’s how I see it for this weekend. I’ll be at the club all day thursday to take in the 64s and 32s before jetting back home. Hope to see you out there, and maybe we’ll do some test broadcasting later thursday night.
In the 64s: – Set Cubillos Ruiz got a solid 2-game win over IRT regular #22 Nick Riffel. Cubillos is really active in the game in his home country of Colombia and its good to see him active in IRT events. – MoMo Zelada reversed the result from the Bolivian Grand Slam and topped #21 Kadim Carrasco in two straight for a solid win. – Utah amateur Anthony Martin stretched #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez to a tiebreaker before falling; solid showing.
—————- In the 32s: – #17 Sebastian Fernandez gets a career win, topping #16 Javier Mar 10,11. With Kane’s withdrawal, I thought Mar had a good shot at the final here. Instead, Fernandez gets one of the better wins in his career and gets a pass into the quarters for the first time in his pro career. – #12 Gerardo Franco was stretched to a tiebreaker by Zelada before advancing. – #20 Carlos Keller Vargas was taken to a tiebreaker by #13Thomas Carter before advancing. This was a closer match than I expected and makes me wonder if Keller is still nursing the injury that he was struggling with this summer (with all due respect to Carter, who played solid ball all night). – #18 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez got a solid win over #15 Andres Acuña 11-8 in the breaker to advance. 15/18 matches are usually close, and this was no different.
—————- In the 16s, we saw some matches that didn’t quite go as I thought they would in my preview; – #8 Sebastian Franco took the first round of many 8/9 matchups against #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis taking an 11-7 tiebreaker. – #4 Andree Parrilla got a dominant win over 2-time defending PARC champ Carlos Keller 8,8. Parrilla was able to really put balls away and wore out Keller over the course of the night. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa was taken to a tiebreaker by the precocious #11 Lalo Portillobefore advancing. Portillo continues to impress. – #7 Samuel Murray took a solid win over #10 Mario Mercado, a match-up not unlike the Franco-Montoya rivalry that could be one we see a lot this season. Notably, it looks like Mercado is a full timer on tour this year; he’s made both IRT events so far on the schedule.
————— In the Quarters, all four matches went to tie-breaker.
– #8 Franco ended #17 Fernandez’s run, but was made to work for it, winning 11-9 in the end. – #4 Parrilla couldn’t close out game 2’s match point opportunities, but advanced 11-4 in the breaker. – #3 Alex Landahad his typical barn-burner against #6 DLR, winning 11-10 to move on. There’s a slew of razor-thin matches between these two over the years; this is just the latest in a series. – #2 Rocky Carson improved to 10-0 over #7 Murray, but had to go tiebreaker to do so.
In the semis: – #4 Parrilla dominated #8 Franco to earn his 3rd career IRT pro final. – #2 Carson beat #3 Landa in two tight games 11,12.
In the final; Rocky earns his 27th career pro win, topping Parrilla 13,8. He now sits just 2 behind Jack Huczek for 5th place in tourney wins all-time.
——————- Ranking Implications of this event:
Because there was no Atlanta event this weekend last season, points earned here should just add on to existing rankings and will have some effects on the Laurel event’s seedings. For this week, Rocky overtakes Kane for #1 … but only for this week week. On 9/16/19, last year’s points fall off and Kane should be back at #1, and should be the #1 seed in Laurel.
What’s more interesting is what happens when the 9/16/19 date hits. if i have my data right: – Parrilla will over take Landa for #3. – Montoya will move to #7, finally getting a top-8 seed and setting up an intriguing qtr with Carson if seeds hold. – Murray drops to #9; he loses a ton of points from last year’s Laurel event, where he made the final. He’ll have to battle Franco just to make the quarters now. – Portillo moves up to #13, Fernandez jumps to #21.
So, pretty important ranking moves for the next Tier 1 event in Laurel in two weeks’ time.
With the withdraw of Kane, the Ben Croft /Kane team that I thought would win this draw was taken out of the equation.
The #1 seeds of DLR/Beltran battled their way through two of the toughest teams in the draw, outlasting Vargas/Carrasco in the qtrs and then their Mexican nemesis team of Montoya/Mar in the semis. The #2 seeds of Landa/Murray beat the upset-minded Parrilla/Portillo team (who had upset #3 seeds Franco/Mercado in the qtrs) in the other semi.
Unfortunately, the final was not played and a Double Forfeit was declared. As per an IRT announcement, the players had a misunderstanding about scheduling (most of the time, Doubles final is sat. night, but in Atlanta it was scheduled for Sunday instead). So flights were already arranged in conflict with the final.
This is a first for me, I think. I cannot recall ever entering “Double Forfeit” in for a final, in more than 3,100 tournament draws now entered into the database. I’ve seen some 3rd place games abandoned like this before, but even that’s pretty rare. Lets hope this is a one-off and doesn’t happen again. Nobody looks good here.
—————- Next up on the schedule (after I wrap up the LPRT event tomorrow); we do have a small break in the schedule, possibly an RKT event in Mexico we can cover, before the IRT’s next Tier 1 in Laurel, MD.
The tour returns to Lilburn after a one-season absence, and is rewarded with a great 38-man draw and both both singles and doubles action. The top 10 players are here, then we’re missing the 11th-14th ranked players inclusive ( Jose Diaz, Jake Bredenbeck (injured reportedly),David Horn and Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo all miss this event, somewhat surprisingly for the first three). We’re also missing last weekend’s winner Charlie Pratt depriving the draw a bit of its mid-section talent.
This combination of missing players elevates Lalo Portillo all the way to the #11 seed here, his highest ever seeding in an IRT event. We’re also missing frequent tour participants like Jansen Allen, Adam Manilla, and Felipe Camacho; all three treaded water or slipped in the rankings last season; is this a one-tourney blip or are we seeing a changing of the guard on tour? More to come here later. In the meantime…
—— Lets preview the singles draw first.
NOTE: post publishing this analysis and the draw, Kane Waselenchuk withdrew from the event due to a personal issue. Take that into mind reading the below. I could see this most benefiting Javier Mar, who could get a walkover in the 16s and very well could run to the finals.
Notable round of 64 matches: – #24 Maurice Miller vs Troy Warigon; a solid match-up between two solid players, who also happen to be playing doubles together this weekend. They met in the semis of the pro draw of the LPRT event in December on Troy’s home court (a Miller win); now the tides are reversed as Warigon travels to play Miller on Miller’s home court. Miller should advance here. – #21 Kadim Carrasco vs MoMo Zelada; Carrasco is one of several Bolivian-based players to enter this draw. These two met in the opener of the Bolivian Grand Slam last March, a dominant Carrasco win. I like Zelada keeping it close but ultimately falling again to Carrasco. – #19 Justus BensonvsAustin Cunningham; Benson takes on a talented local in a first rounder that could be closer than he wants. – #23 Scott McClellan vs Michael Arterburn: two frequent IRT entrants face off in the opener. – #18 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on long-time touring pro Dan Fowler, who plays just his third IRT event in the last decade, making the drive down from Maryland along with Warigon and Zelada.
———— Notable round of 32s, assuming some early upsets don’t occur: – #16 Javier Mar vs #17 Sebastian Fernandez; tough match-up for both players, fitting of a 16/17 draw. I like both players chances of breaking into the top 10 with a full season on tour … but we generally only see Mar part time (He’s played just 7 events in the past 5 seasons). But Mar’s results speak for themselves; he’s always a threat to advance when he plays. I like Mar over the younger Mexican player here, but I like Patata’s chances this season. – #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #21 Carrasco: Franco takes advantage of the missing 11-15 ranked players to secure a top 16 seed and gets a winnable match against the Carrasco/Zelada winner. – #20 Carlos Keller Vargas takes on #13 Thomas Carter, a tough draw for Carter facing the two-time defending PARC champ. – #15 Andres Acuña vs #18 Garay: great match of two internationals; last time they knowingly played was in the 2014 Junior worlds (a tight Acuna win). Acuna has continued to impress with his international accomplishments, but Garay beat a number of top players last year and is looking to make some noise this season. Garay to advance but its a toss-up.
—————— Projecting the 16s. – #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #16 Mar: they’ve met 3 times; Kane crushed him at Syosset last spring, but Mar played Kane as tough as he’s been played in the best-of-three format at last year’s US Open. Mar’s tactical game can keep him in a match with Kane if he’s shooting well, but that only goes so far. Kane gets a quality match out of the gate but advances in two. – #8 Sebastian Franco vs #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis: the first of potentially many critical openers for both players as Rodrigo makes a run at the tour top 8. I don’t have any prior meetings between the two, so this should be telling for now, as both guys remain neck and neck at the 8/9 spot and should continue to meet at this 8/9 juncture for a bit until points settle out. I predict Montoya to advance. – #5 Alvaro Beltran vs #12 G.Franco: they’ve played 3 times since Jan 2018, all three Beltran wins. I’d expect the same here; a win for Alvaro in 2 closer games. – #4 Andree Parrilla vs #20 Keller; brutal draw for Parrilla. Keller was handily beating Parrilla at the Black Gold cup this summer when Keller had to retire; this will be a setback for Parrilla’s pursuit of the #3 spot on tour right out of the gate, because I think Keller wins this match in two. – #3 Alex Landavs #14 Robert Collins: just one meeting between these two; a 3-game win at the 2016 US Open. Landa should advance here. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #11 Portillo; this should be an interesting match; Portillo has gotten a ton of solid wins this summer, while DLR fell to his lowest ranking in a while. Is DLR in? This is just the kind of match that can trip him up if he isn’t focused. I’d expect DLR to advance here because his game is just too complete for Portillo right now, but Portillo has the talent to win. – #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Mario Mercado: 4 meetings between them, none in the last few years. They’re split 2-2, with all four going 4 or 5 games. I like Mercado here, building on his great Pan Am Games showing. – #2 Rocky Carson vs #18 Garay; little to go on here but I suspect Garay will get a lesson in match management as the veteran advances in two.
—————– Possible Quarters: – #1 Waselenchuk vs #9 Montoya: just two prior meetings between the two, both dominant Kane wins. It will be interesting to see if Montoya’s game has added the facets he needs to compete with Kane; i look forward to this meeting if it occurs nonetheless because there’s not too many other guys who hit it this hard on tour. – #20 Keller vs #5 Beltran: Keller’s beaten Alvaro twice in the PARCs, including in the semis of the 2019 event en route to his title. I see another Keller tight 2-game win. – #3 Landa vs #6 DLR; a frequent match-up between two top Mexican players: I now have Landa 7-5 in both pro and Amateur meetings with DLR, and you have to go back to 2017 to find a DLR win. I think Landa wins here to move on. – #2 Carson vs #10 Mercado; 8 meetings, 8-0 for Carson, but Mercado took him to a tiebreaker on home soil in the Bolivian Grand Slam earlier this year. Look for a Carson win.
—————– Semis: – #1 Kane over #20 Keller; Keller’s solid, but not this solid. It could be a fun match to watch though, in that Keller’s game does not really overpower players, but he hangs in. Can he hang with Kane’s power? – #2 Carson vs #3 Landa; Carson leads 7-4 all time … but they’re dead even split in the last 3 seasons 4-4, alternating wins. Carson won in Syosset to end last season … but Landa beat him handily in Florida the week before en route to that title. I like Rocky here.
Final: Kane over Rocky. 1 vs 2 yet again. I know nobody wants to predict the obvious 1-2 final, but as we saw last year when Rocky and Kane had locked up the top two slots with a couple of events yet to go … there’s still a gap between them and the rest of the tour.
—————— Men’s Doubles preview
Love this Doubles draw. The top of the draw is stacked, and there’s 11 solid teams. Portillo and Parrilla have decided to play together every event, adding to the intrigue of doubles draws with more and more “regular” teams showing up. All four quarter finals look like they’ll be great.
In the top half, look for Ben Croft/Waselenchuk to get stretched to the limit by the Mar/Montoya team (who just won gold at the Pan Am games) before advancing to face their frequent nemesis team of DLR/Beltran in one semi.
In the bottom half, I like the Colombian national team of Mercado/Franco to top Parrilla/Portillo and to face the #2 seeded Landa/Murray team, who continues to have great success playing with each other semi.
Croft/Waselenchuk took out DLR/Beltran the last time they played (Mar 2019) and we’ll go with that again, as they then continue to beat Landa/Murray in the final.
—————— Lets get it on. Look for Streaming announcements in all the usual places all weekend.
In the semis: – #4 Pratt took out #1 Franco in one semi 8,7. Pratt remains perhaps the most dangerous non-full time touring pro in the world, with a slew of solid wins, a semis finish in Portland last season, and a finals appearance at the 2019 PARC. – #2 Montoya beat #3 Mercado in the other semi in two straight forward games, avenging a loss in the Pan Am team competition.
In the final, Pratt again took out a favored player in Montoya, playing more consistent ball and putting away opportunities to win the title 12,9. I thought Montoya struggled with accuracy early and then struggled to maintain his focus as he battled calls that didn’t go his way on top of the ever-consistent Pratt.
—————- Women’s Singles recap: #1 Hollie Rae Scott beat local player Laurie Dreneck in one semi, and #3 Linda Tyler beat #2 seeded Ceci Orozcoin the other.
In the final… #1 Scott took out Tyler in two games for the title.
—————– Open Doubles results: the Canadian duo of Iwaasa and Brayley took out Josh Doniak and Mercado in the final.
—————– Congrats to all the organizers for bringing pro racquetball to Montana. Thanks to Matthew Ivar Majxner for sending me draw sheets and results and helping me write the preview and this summary….
We have one more lower-tiered IRT event on the schedule prior to the beginning of the tier 1 slate in Atlanta in two weeks’ time, and its this coming weekend in Missoula, Montana.
We’ve never had either a Men’s or a Women’s full-slate pro stop in Montana (at least as per what’s in the database for the IRT and LPRT), so its great to see the sport getting to a market where there’s clearly some players.
There’s 25 players in the draw, including 6 IRT regulars, three top-10 players, a couple other well-known amateurs and internationals, and a slew of top local players. 25 players with 5 countries and 13 states represented.
Lets preview the singles draw:
—————- The 32s are play-ins among locals for the most part.
In the 16s, here’s some potential match-ups to look for, assuming no upsets-by-seed in the 32s.
– #8 Andrew Gale vs #9 Hr Coe; Gale is a long-time pro player, with IRT appearances dating to 2006 and with some solid wins on his resume (he beat current #4 Andree Parrilla back in 2012 and even beat Cliff Swain in 2013). Coe has significantly less pro experience (just one result in the DB, a 1999 loss to Swain in Denver) but is a solid local player. – #5 Justus Benson vs #12 Rich Carter; Benson may have his hands full here against a guy in Carter who played a couple of pros tough in WRT events in Seattle over the past few years. – #6 Dylan Reid vs #11 Mitch Brayley; Brayley mostly plays locally in Canada regional and national events and has never ventured south to play a top-level USA-domestic event. Reid has some solid wins over IRT-touring pros on his resume and has qualified for several main draws in IRT events in the last few years. He also is, of course, the master of the Racquetball Podcast, a must-listen for fans everywhere of the sport. See https://podcasts.apple.com/…/the-racquetball-s…/id1310228396 for subscription information in Itunes. Disclosure: Reid interviewed me in June of last year (see https://podcasts.apple.com/…/episode-12-todd-…/id1310228396… for that episode).
Projecting the quarters: – #1 Sebastian Franco vs #8 Gale: Franco is fresh off the Pan Am Games, where he represents Colombia and was knocked out early in the round of 16 by Canadian Iwaasa (more on him later). He faces someone of a make or break season this year on tour, with a slew of names looking to push him out of the top 8. He shouldn’t have trouble with Gale here. – #4 Charlie Pratt Racquetball vs #5 Benson: Pratt also is a veteran of the 2019 Pan Am Games, having represented USA and played both singles and doubles. In singles, he also suffered an upset loss at the hands of Iwaasa, then exited in the quarters at the hands of Bolivian Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo(a rematch of the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships semis, where Pratt shocked the sport with an 11-10 defeat of the Bolivian Grand Slam champ. Pratt should advance easily here. – #3 Mario Mercado vs #6 Reid: Mercado also represented Colombia at the Pan Ams (playing #2 to Franco), and really had a solid tournament, taking out two-time defending PARC champ Carlos Keller Vargas and USA #1 Jake Bredenbeck before falling in the semis to #1 seed Alvaro Beltran. He also managed to beat Keller a second time in the team competition, along with both Iwaasa and Montoya to wrap up a fantastic tournament. Mercado’s attendance here indicates to me he’s going to plan on a full slate of tournaments, which is great news for the tour and could spell some trouble for the IRT players in the 7-10 range, based on the wins he got in Lima. Mercado should advance over Reid here. – #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #7 Coby Iwaasa; This is a finals-quality match-up that happens in the quarters, since Iwaasa has no ranking points. That’s a shame, because Iwaasa has demonstrated his ability to beat top IRT players. Representing Canada in Lima, he beat both Pratt and Franco before losing to Beltran in the quarters 13,14. The last time he played a pro event, he made the finals (WRT Calgary open in oct 2018). Meanwhile, Montoya took his second major international title in two years by winning the 2019 Pan Am gold over his countryman/teammate Beltran in a match that will long be remembered for Beltran’s hip check/shattered glass door (which just made ESPN’s top 10 plays of the day). I think Montoya wins this in the end, but it’ll be in two close games or perhaps drawn to a tiebreaker.
Projected Semis: – #4 Pratt over #1 Franco: they’ve played 4 times in pros and IRF events in the last three years and Pratt is 4-0. I think Pratt has Franco’s number, and should advance here. – #3 Mercado over #2 Montoya: they’ve played once in the DB; a Mercado win over Montoya at the 2018 US Open. They also played in the team event in Pan Ams, also a win for Mercado. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict the upset, even though I think Montoya is the better player.
Finals prediction: – #4 Pratt over #3 Mercado: they’ve played 3x in the database, and Pratt has never lost to Mercado. It goes tie-breaker but Charlie prevails.
—————- On the women’s side, there’s also a few solid players in town to compete: Hollie Rae Scott , Linda Tyler , and Cecilia Pratt head up the Ladies Open draw.
Lastly they populated the Open doubles draw with teams selected by raffle, to make for a fun integration of traveling pros with local players.
Congratulations to all the winners on the weekend:
Men’s Singles: Rodrigo Montoya Women’s Singles: Paola Longoria Men’s Doubles: Rodrigo Montoya/Javier Mar Women’s Doubles: Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas
A sweep for Mexico, establishing their dominance. Two double gold medalists in Montoya and Longoria. The finalists in the four categories: Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia and Guatemala, demonstrating how diverse the talent pool is in our sport. The two historically dominant countries of USA and Canada ended up with bronze medals at best.
We’ll cover the team results after they wrap-up in a separate post.
In the 16s, a few notable matches/surprises: – #8 Coby Iwaasa got another solid win, topping IRT top-10 player #9 seed Colombian Sebastian Franco in a tie-breaker. – #6 Samuel Murray took out #11 Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas, ensuring that we’ll have a new IRF Men’s singles champion at this event (Keller was the PARC champ earlier this year). – #7 USA Charlie Pratt was taken to a breaker by Dominican #1 and 10th seed Luis Perez before advancing.
In the Qtrs: – #1 Alvaro Beltran advanced over the challenge of Iwaasa by the thinnest of margins, winning 14,13. Great showing by Iwaasa in a major yet again. – #4 Mario Mercado and #5 Jake Bredenbeck had a great back-and-forth match, with Mercado advancing 8,(8),8. Both players were blasting the ball and really making shots, but Mercado pulled it out in the end. – #3 Rodrigo Montoya Solis advanced in 2 solid games over #6 Murray 7,10. Montoya has quietly put together a really solid tournament, not yet dropping a game to this point and having Murray’s 10 points being the most scored against him in any game. – #2 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo got revenge against #7 Charlie Prattfor his loss in the qtrs of PARC19 by beating him handily 7,7 to move on.
So much for my predicting powers in this event: I predicted all four top seeds to fall here; instead all four top seeds advanced into the semis. In fact … the entire men’s knockout draw has gone chalk so far, with zero upsets into the qtrs and all four top seeds advancing.
In the Semis… – Beltran d Mercado 7,5 in a match that was far closer than the scores suggested. They were on the court for well over an hour for these two games. Mercado just couldn’t get his serves working against the shot-maker Beltran, and Beltran time and again put away shots and setups to pick away at the game. – Montoya d Moscoso 14,10. This is a match-up i’m always wanting to see; power versus power. Two of the best young talents in the world who rarely meet. I’ve got just one prior meeting: Montoya winning a tiebreaker in the qtrs of 2018 worlds en route to the title. Montoya holds on for game 1 and then gets the win to move to the finals again.
(Historical oddity of this match: Moscoso nearly forfeited the match after getting caught in 2+ hours of traffic; he hitched a ride with a motorcycle cop to get to the venue just in time; had the ladies semi finals before him not gone on as long, this would have been a walk-over).
In the finals:
It was an all Mexican affair … and also a generational one featuring Beltran at the age of 40 versus Montoya at the age of 23. Beltran first competed in an IRF event in 1996; Montoya was born in 1996. Montoya is 3-1 in my database over Beltran in his career, and the one loss was an 11-10 match.
Beltran took game one and then, with a diving hip check, slammed into the door in game two, shattering it. After recovering, he seemed to have the wind taken out of his sails, dropping game two and getting blanked in the tiebreaker. Montoya wins (9),6,0 to improve to 4-1 over his countryman and take the title.
In the 16s, a slew of great matches and surprising results: – #9 Kelani Lawrence eked out a strong tiebreaker win over #8 Carla Muñoz Montesinos 11-7. – #12 Colombian Adriana Riveros got a solid win over #5 Bolivian Valeria Centellas in a tie-breaker. – #3 Argentine Natalia Mendez got a career victory, topping the reigning World Champ Guatemalan Gaby Martinez in a tie-breaker. – #6 Ecuadorian Pazita Muñoz Albornoz got a great win over #11 Montse Mejia in a tie-breaker. Despite the seeding, I had Mejia favored in this match based on past results, including her defeat of Frederique Lambert in the RRs. – #7 Angelica Barrios advanced past Amaya Crisby the thinnest of margins, 11-10 breaker. Amaya managed to lose to both Bolivians in this event; one 11-9 and the other 11-10.
So, despite a couple of top-level players as double-digit seeds in the 16s, we had just two upsets by seed into the quarters.
In the qtrs: – #1 Maria Jose Vargas Parada advanced in two solid games over USA’s Lawrence 9,13. fun Fact: This was a rematch of the 2010 world Juniors 16U final. – #12 Riveros continued her great tournament, topping American veteran Rhonda Rajsich in two, ending Rhonda’s great tournament. – #3 Mendez topped #6 Maria Paz Munoz in a tiebreaker. – #2 Paola Longoria made quick work of the Bolivian youngster Barrios 6,4 to advance to the semis.
In the semis: – Riveros’ run ended at the hands of Vargas 8,9 – Longoria had to work for it a bit, but downed Mendez 10,10 to advance to yet another international tournament final.
In the final, the two top seeds faced off, also the two top LPRT pros represented here in Peru. Longoria improved her career record over Vargas to 33-1 across both IRF and LPRT by taking the final in two games 7,9.
Longoria wraps up her 19th career international title. Those 19 titles include 3 Pan Am games, 8 PARC titles, 2 World Games, 3 World Championships and 3 Central American/Caribbean games titles.
The draw went basically chalk to the semis, where the #4 seeded Mexican team of Montoya/ Javier Mar came from a game down to top the #1 USA team of Rocky Carson and Pratt. On the bottom half, the #2 Bolivian team of Moscoso/ Roland Keller also had to come from a game down to beat the quality Costa Rican team of Andres Acuña / Felipe Camacho to make the final.
In the highly anticipated final, the Mexican team dominated the Bolivians, winning 10,1 to take the title.