Portland Tournament of Champions Preview

Pratt returns to the site of his sole IRT pro win; can he repeat this weekend? Photo US Open 2018, Photographer Kevin Savory

Welcome to the last IRT tier 1 tournament of 2019, and a return to one of the more unique spots on the IRT’s calendar; Portland. Its the 2019 SPC John A Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions event.

The Tournament of Champions has been held every year in Portland since 2013. Prior to that, there was a gap in holding the tournament back to 2001, when it was held pretty regularly throughout the 90s. It used to be a traditional season-ending event in the style of the ATP’s year end invitational. Now its a strong recurring event with a solid field.

Its also home to some interesting results. To wit:
– In April 2013, Ben Croft made the final in Portland, one of just 5 times he made a pro tour final in more than 120 tournaments (he lost to Kane).
– in May 2015, Daniel De La Rosa made just his 3rd ever pro final at the event, at the end of a successful pro season that saw him ascend to the #3 spot on tour (he also lost to Kane in the final).
– In Dec 2017, the tournament saw two first-time pro tour finalists in home town favorite Charlie Pratt and Mario Mercado reach the final. Pratt won in three straight games to claim the title, and to this day its the only time either player has so much as reached a final of a pro Tier 1 event.

#1 Kane Waselenchuk has taken the title here in 5 of the 6 times it has been held since 2013 (he missed the 2017 event), and is back to defend his title.

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Lets take a quick run through the draw. We’re missing some key names in the top 10, which will affect the seedings.

Top 10 players missing include #7 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo; this will give current #9 Lalo Portillo a top 8 seed for the second tournament running, coming off a solid win at the San Luis Potosi Open this past weekend.

Missing from the 11-20 range this event include #11 Sebastian Franco and #13 Mario Mercado, both east coasters who may have opted to skip this event that doesn’t have a doubles draw. Also missing is #14 David ” Bobby” Horn, a curious absence in that he’s a west-coaster with an easy flight. #15 Sebastian Fernandez, #16 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez and #20 Jose Diaz also miss out on the event, as do a lot of the regular Mexican players in the 20-30 ranges who may have balked at the longer flight to Portland given their busy schedule of local RKT events.

Despite these absences, there’s still a healthy 36-man draw. More than a few Canadians have made the trip south of the border for the event, and they join a solid group of Portland-area players in the pro draw.

No flip seeding this time, so we’ll get a true draw, which will (as we’ll see) should make for a lot of chalk at the back end. Also no doubles this weekend so its one and done for the singles players.

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Here’s some qualifiers to watch for:

In the 128s:
– Wayne Antone takes on Canadian Ian Frattinger , fresh off a quarters appearance in the Canadian National selection event.

In the 64s:
– Sam Bredenbeck likely takes on Matthew Ivar Majxner, who returns to Portland for the first time in a few years.
– Dylan Reid has an interesting match against Canadian veteran Lee Connell, also fresh off a quarters appearance in the Canadian National selection event.

Projecting possible round of 32s of note:
– In the 16/17 match, Costa Rican veteran Felipe Camacho likely takes on Bolivian veteran Kadim Carrasco for a spot against the #1 player. This could be a very close match between two players of similar style.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis likely faces Canadian veteran Tim Landeryou, who just finished 3rd at the Canadian selection event.
– The winner of the Bredenbeck/Majxner play-in takes on touring veteran Robert Collins in what could be a close match.
– The match of the round though projects to be a defending champ in this event Charlie Pratt, now having fallen to #32 on tour (and is seeded 19th here) as he steps back his playing time, taking on the surging Costa Rican champion Andres Acuña, who now sits 22nd on tour and who is seeded 14th here. The last two times Pratt has played this event, he’s lost in the semis (2018) and won it (2017); he’s a force to be reckoned with in Portland. Its a tough draw for Acuna, who has already achieved his career best result this season and is looking to build on that success.
– Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas has a challenging match against Utah amateur Anthony Martin, who plays his third pro event of the season and has some wins over touring pros in the past.
– #10 Jake Bredenbeck likely takes on local favorite Reid for a spot in the main draw.

Projecting the 16s: there’s more than a few compelling possible 16s matchups here.
– In the 8/9: Lalo Portillo likely takes on Montoya in the 16s. This is a great test for both players to see where they are right now. I thought this was the year for Montoya to really take a step forward on tour; instead he’s basically been treading water right in the 8-10 ranking all season, with no break through wins all season. Meanwhile, Portillo is coming off a win at the SLP open, where he topped both Alan Natera Chavez and Parrilla to take the title. If Portillo can beat Parrilla, he should be able to beat Montoya as well, but they’re two vastly different animals on the court in terms of game style. Can Lalo handle Montoya’s power? This will be a very telling result.
– #3 Alex Landa vs Pratt/Acuna winner: I’m assuming this is Pratt, which would make for a really compelling match here. Landa beat Pratt for the 2017 PARC title, but then Pratt turned around and beat Landa in Mar 2018 in Lombard. Pratt is a player who can give Landa some trouble. If Acuna prevails in the 32s, he’s also a player who has beaten Landa before, but under odd circumstances at the 2019 PARCs. I like Landa to advance here but it could be a battle and an upset isn’t out of the question.
– #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #11 Keller: Keller has played all five IRT events this season … and has exited at the round of 16 in all five, losing to five different players. He now projects to play a 6th distinct player in the 16s, and faces a familiar opponent. These two are the same age; Keller knocked DLR out of the 2009 and 2011 Junior Worlds, and they’ve met a handful of times since. But only once professionally, and that was more than two years ago. DLR seems vulnerable and Keller seems motivated at this stage of their careers; could be an upset to watch for here.
– #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Bredenbeck: these two good friends will celebrate the launch of Beast Made Clothing by .. likely having to play each other in the 16s. Two of the hardest hitters on tour, they both have wins over the other in top level competition. Look for a battle here.

Possible Qtrs:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #9 Montoya: would love to see another episode of this match-up to see if Montoya has improved against the King.
– #4 Andree Parrilla over #5 Alvaro Beltran; a frequent pairing this year, with Beltran getting a couple wins over his young rival and showing he’s not done yet. I like Parrilla to move on here though.
– #3 Landa over #6 DLR: if DLR advances, we get another episode of the razor-thin line that stands between these two long time rivals. Their match history is littered with 11-10 tiebreaker wins and 5-game marathons under the old scoring method. Landa again to advance.
– #2 Rocky Carson over #7 Murray; they’ve played professionally 11 times and Rocky is 11-0. Despite his recent win in the Canadian national selection event Murray hasn’t quite figured out how to top the long-time #2 player on tour.

Projected Semis:
– Kane over Andree
– Carson over Landa; they’ve split their last 2 meetings, they’ve split their last 4 meetings … in fact, they’ve split their last 10 meetings dating to 2014. Like with Landa vs DLR, its usually razor thin between them. Landa has the harder path to this semi, so i’ll give Carson the edge on the day.

Projected final: #1 vs #2; kane over Carson.

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International Racquetball Tour
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Racquetball Canada
USA Racquetball
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball

2019 Bay Club Open IRT Tier 4 Wrap-up

Horn captures the title at his home club. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

r2sports home page:

https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31326

In the wake of the massive 2019 US Open, Reaching Your Dream Foundation helped fund a lower tier IRT event this past weekend in Northern California (Pleasanton in particular), close enough to the “209” to get a good crew of Stockton players and a healthy Men’s singles pro draw of 21 players.

Here’s a quick review of the Singles draw.

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In the 32s.

– #21 Mitchell Forrest Jr. took out former Outdoor champion #12 Luis R Avila in two games, a solid win for Forrest, who honestly I have almost no results for in the national databases.

– Junior #20 Vedant Chauhan took out the 13th seeded Kalyan Kosetty 8,7. Chauhan is just *14 years old* this year, and made it to the final of USA Junior Nationals 14U earlier this year.

– Another California junior national champ #22 Nikhil Prasad defeated Chilean international #11 Johan Igor in two. Think Chauhan is young? Prasad won the World 12U juniors last year, defeated Chauhan in the 14U final this year and is playing in his age 13 season.

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In the 16s; some surprises and some great matches

– #5 Adam Manilla ended Forrest’s run 5,3.

– #4 Robert Collins was played tough by junior Chauhan but advanced 7,12. Chauhan certainly did not play like a 14yr old in this match, pressing Collins and making shots. He’s one to watch for.

– In the match I immediately looked at upon seeing this draw … former top 8 touring pro #14 seed Markie Rojas met up with up and coming pro #3 Sebastian Fernandez and the match did not disappoint. Rojas advanced 12,(9),10 to move on. Rojas, if he were playing full time, would probably be the favorite in this draw despite the presence of several top 20 pros; it should be interesting to see how far he goes.

– #6 Charlie Pratt ended junior Prasad’s run 7,10. Pratt is another guy to watch for in this draw; he only plays the tour part time but always seems to make noise when he enters tournaments. And, a solid showing for a 13yr old in a pro draw.

– #7 Bolivian 18U Diego Garcia Quispe, still hanging out state-side after traveling up for the US Open, took on another traveling South American in #10 Francisco Troncoso and beat his elder 7,11 to move on. Garcia is going to be a tough out in this fall’s Junior Worlds.

– #2 Jose Diaz ousted 4,4 the Chilean 18U player and #18 seed Rafael Gatica Negroni. I was thrown
for a loop here initially; they posted Gatica as the initial winner on r2sports and was getting ready to talk about what an upset it was. 🙂

So, two upsets by seed in the 16s, with the #9 over #8 and #14 over #3 (though the #14 wasn’t exactly a normal 14 seed).

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Qtrs:

– #1 David ” Bobby” Horn dominated the Mexican international #9 Christian Longoria 2,8 to advance to the semis.

– In a rare battle of lefties, #5 Adam Manilla got the upset-by-seed over #4 Robert Collins in a tiebreaker.

– #6 Pratt took advantage of a possibly spent Rojas and advanced 10,6 into the semis.

– #7 Garcia played two solid games but could not beat #2 Diaz, falling 12,11.

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Semis and Final:

– #1 Horn outlasted #5 Manilla 13,11 to move into the final.

– #6 Pratt advanced in two games over #2 Diaz 12,6.

In the final: Horn got a very solid win over Pratt, winning the title in two 13,11. Solid win for Horn over a solid field.

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Consolations: Avila and Troncoso made it to the consolation final after early round upsets, and Troncoso stomped Avila 11,4 to take the title.

In the Open/Elite doubles, a large/fast round robin draw played Sunday afternoon featuring no less than 15 teams. The four teams who made the semis were Diaz & Harold Jagoda, Collins & Tyrone E Snipes, Avila and Will Reynolds, and Rojas with RYDF patron Michael Lippitt.

Avila/Reynolds topped Collins/Snipes in the final

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Nice little tournament! I’ll wrap up another small tourney that went on this weekend in Chihuahua next, then we have a small break until a busy Halloween weekend of events that includes the next IRT Tier 1 in Arizona.

IRT Men’s Qualifying wrap-up and round of 32 preview

Jaime Martel lis the higest seeded player to qualify for the 2019 main draw. Photo via Roby Partovich/US Open 2015

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].

– An intra-Dallas inter-generational battle was taken by the veteran; Diana-Shai Manzuri took out Lukas Le 5,6 to advance.

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In the 128s:
– Andrew Gale took out IRT regular Nick Riffel in a tie-breaker; very solid win for the veteran player Gale, who first played in the US Open in 2006.

– Francisco Reyes took out IRT touring regular Justus Benson 6,12.

– Erik Garcia took out the tough Mexican Christian Longoria by the scores of 10,2.

– Troy Warigon dominated rematch of a qualifier in Laurel two weeks ago against Yacouba Keita, advancing by the dominant scores of 3,1.

– Sam Bredenbeck took out Colombian international Andres Gomez in two solid games.

– Sebastian Fernandez himself still an 18U junior, was stretched to a tiebreaker by a fellow Mexican junior (albeit a younger one) in Guillermo Ortega before advancing.

– Pennsylvania amateur Joe Kelley stretched Alan Natera Chavez to a tiebreaker before the Mexican advanced.

– Former top WRT pro Jaime Martell Neri took out 20th ranked Costa Rican Felipe Camacho.

– In a battle of two IRT veterans, Colombian Alejandro Herrera Azcarate took out Japanese legend Hiroshi Shimizu in two close games to advance.

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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.

– Bolivian vet Kadim Carrasco was pushed to a tiebreaker by Colombian Set Cubillos Ruiz before advancing.

– 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.

– Eduardo Garay Rodriguez held serve and topped MoMo Zelada 11,9 to advance into the main draw.

– Maurice Miller ended Gale’s upset run to qualify.

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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.

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We’ll circle back for the 16s once the 32s are done.

International Racquetball Tour
Racquetball Canada
UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships

International Racquetball Federation – IRF
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Fecoracquet Fecoracquet
USA Racquetball

US Open IRT Men’s Pro Qualifying Preview

Here we go; the biggest tournament I think i’ve ever covered is upon us. A massive 94-man pro draw features 78 players playing in the qualifiers to advanced into the round of 32.

R2 Sports Tournaments draws are here: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30501

Here’s a prevew of some of the projected match-ups I’ll be looking for on the first day of the US Open 2019. Below are fun match-ups to look for in the 3 rounds of qualifying.

In the opener/round of 256:
– #68 Colombian Francisco Gomez takes on Mexican youngster Manuel Moncada in a good opener for both.
– Two top east coast amateurs face off in #78 Floridian Jonathan Burns versus #83 New Jersey native Samuel Kelley. Kelley played well at the Laurel event two weeks ago as a nice warm-up to this event, while Burns has been playing the US Open for more than a decade.

– #79 Diana-Shai Manzuri versus #82 Lukas Le; what an interesting match-up here: the international veteran and long-time Argentinian representative Manzuri (who practices medicine in Texas) faces up against a fellow Dallas-area resident in Le, who’s currently playing intercollegiates and is half Shai’s age. Will youth or experience win out?

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In the round of 128 (assuming some play-in match results):

– #41 Mexican Ernesto Ochoa takes on Canadian veteran Tim Landeryou. Ochoa is a dark-horse here; he’s got multiple wins over IRT top 10 players in the last two seasons. Landeryou played two pro stops last year and can make trouble for any opponent.

– #37 Colombian Set Cubillos ruiz takes on #60 Texan A.J. Fernandez in a match that could be closer than the seeding looks.

– Current Intercollegiates reigning champ #45 Erik Garcia takes on #52 Mexican Christian Longoria. Garcia is a tough out, with several wins over regular IRT touring pros. But Longoria has a unique playing style and has some significant wins on his resume too. Great match-up.

– #77 Jaime Martell Neri takes on #20 Costa Rican Felipe Camacho in a solid match for this round. Martell left the old WRT as its #1 ranked player and won the 2018 WRT Georgia Open with wins over Horn and Bredenbeck along the way. Camacho missed the first two IRT events and may be stepping back from touring, but is a solid player worthy of his top 20 ranking. Look for a barn burner here.

– #36 Troy Warigon vs #62 Yacouba Keita an unlucky match-up between two good friends and sometimes doubles partners; they also met in the qualifiers at Laurel, a tiebreaker win for Warigon is what happened in Maryland two weeks ago and what should happen again here.

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In the round of 64 (again, assuming some earlier match results):

– #33 Javier Estrada vs #32 Bolivian 16U Diego Garcia Quispe. 32 vs 33 never disappoints; Estrada had an unbelievable tournament this summer, topping four of the best 15 players in the world to take the Black Gold cup, but his results have been hit or miss since. This will basically be his first appearance in earnest on the IRT, ever (he played in 2010 as a 15yr old when the tour came to his home-town of Chihuahua for his sole previous IRT appearance). I’m highly anticipating his performance here. To get to the main draw though, he has to go through a tough up and coming Bolivian player in Garcia, who has a slew of World Junior titles and is the current reigning 16U world champ. Garcia can hang with Estrada but it should be a win for the Mexican here.

– #24 Javier Mar vs #41 Ochoa; great match; Mar is no longer the dark-horse in these major events like he used to be; he’s got National titles in singles and world titles in Doubles to his name. And every time he shows up at the US Open he makes a deep run. Meanwhile Ochoa is a dangerous opponent here and has the capabilities of making the 16s or quarters of an IRT event, but I like Mar’s experience to move on.

– Assuming earlier results, Garcia is set to meet Martel for an entry into the main draw. I think either player could win, I think Martel should be favored but he has to play one additional match on Wednesday which could sap his endurance enough to cost him here. Look for Garcia to outlast Martel to move on.

– #27 Mexican native and Colombian national Eduardo Garay Rodriguez vs Bolivian turned DC-area native MoMo Zelada; A fun match-up here between the under-rated Zelada (who has shown he can hang with top players) and the powerful Garay, who just took the Colombian national championships over 10th seeded Mercado and can play. If you’re in the club when this match is going on, you’ll know it b/c Garay is one of the hardest hitters on tour.

– #22 Jansen Allen vs #54 Andres Gomez; Gomez is an upset pick to get here by seed, but he’s gotten some results this year, including an upset of Mercado in the PARC event in april 2019 while representing Colombia. Allen is a former top 10 player who has missed the first couple of events this season after many years of consistently touring; he’s got his work cut out to get to the main draw here.

– #31 Maurice Miller vs #34 Nick Riffel; a tight match between two touring regulars. Miller’s been active in events this summer and fall, while Riffel has missed the first couple IRT events and seen his ranking slip a bit. I like Miller here in a tiebreaker.

– #18 Costa Rican Andres Acuña Quesada vs #50 Alejandro herrera; Florida native Herrera first played the US Open in 2003 and represented Colombia internationally as recently as 2016. He’s a hard-hitter who relies on his serve to generate points. Acuna has seen his rball career drive forward in jumps lately; he made the semis of 2019 PARC, made the quarters of the Laurel IRT event and just made the singles final of Vegas 3-WallBall despite barely playing outdoor before. He’s a tough out.

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My predicted qualifiers (in the order of the Qualifying draw on R2sports, not in seed order or Qualifier # order):

Robert Collins
Javier Estrada
Carlos Keller Vargas
Javier Mar
Thomas Carter
Kadim Carrasco
Alan Natera Chavez
Erik Garcia
Charlie Pratt
Troy Warigon
Eduardo Garay
Jansen Allen
Sebastian Fernandez
Adam Manilla
Maurice Miller
Andres Acuna

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we’ll preview the main draw once the match-ups are determined after Wednesdays’ qualifiers.

Next up; a preview of the LPRT qualifying.

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UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships
International Racquetball Tour
USA Racquetball
Racquetball Canada
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol

2019 Valentine Open Wrap-up

Kane wins again. Photo credit: unknown

Congrats to your champions on the weekend:

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.

R2sports link:
https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30994

PRS match Report: http://rball.pro/001AE9

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.

@irt and other links

IRT Atlanta Open Preview

Here it is; the moment you’ve been waiting for. The first Men’s pro tier 1 of the new 2019-20 season.

Draws are up on www.irttour.com and on R2 Sports Event Software here: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30291

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 DiazJake 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 AllenAdam 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…

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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 Benson vs Austin 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.

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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.

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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 Landa vs #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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Lets get it on. Look for Streaming announcements in all the usual places all weekend.

International Racquetball Tour
International Racquetball Federation – IRF

USA National Singles Wrap-up

Kelani (Bailey) Lawrence with the break-through win.

Congrats to your USA Racquetball 2019 Singles Champions:

Men’s Open: Jake Bredenbeck
Women’s Open: Kelani Lawrence

They take big steps towards putting themselves onto the plane to represent the USA at this August’s 2019 International Racquetball Federation – IRFPan American Games, the biggest event in our sport. See this link: https://www.teamusa.org/…/2018-19-US-National-Team-Qualific… for the current Men’s and Women’s team standings. USA Racquetball plans on making an announcement soon on the official team delegation to Peru.

R2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30549

Here’s a recap of the draw, noting results I found interesting:

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Men’s Singles:
PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/C39AD2

In the 16s:
– In the 8/9 game, Robert Collins got a solid win over Luis R Avila in a tie-breaker.
– #5 Adam Manilla took out hometown veteran favorite Woody Clouse and has a streamlined shot at the National Semis thanks to …
– #4 seed Jose Diaz, who I thought could win this event, was a no-show, giving Utahian Anthony Martin a walk-over into the quarters.
– Two IRT regulars met in Thomas Carter and Nicholas Nick Riffel, with Carter coming out on top in a tie-breaker.

In the Qtrs:
– #1 Jake Bredenbeck cruised past fellow IRT top 20 player Collins 4,2
– #5 Manilla similarly cruised past Utahian Anthony Martin 3,2
– #3 David Horn was stretched by #6 Carter, going 11-7 in the breaker. Another solid result for Carter, but a good step towards keeping his National team spot for Horn.
– #2 Charlie Pratt took out his local playing rival Dylan Reid 14,5.

In the Semis:
– #5 Manilla played lights out for stretches, but not enough of them to take out #1 Bredenbeck, falling in an 11-5 tiebreaker.
– #3 Horn got a great win over #2 Pratt, 11-7 in the breaker, to advance to the final and attempt to repeat as US Champion. Pratt has made the finals of the last two international events in which he’s represented the US … but a national title continues to elude him.

In the Final … Jake could do no wrong, and Bobby couldn’t do much to stop him. In an amazingly compete performance, Bredenbeck beat Horn 1,1 to take the US title. Its his third overall and he returns to the podium after a 3 year absence. Horn finishes runner-up for the 4th time.

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Women’s singles:
PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/3DB373

There was just one play-in/round of 16 match: 
Annie Roberts, the current 16U National champ and who still has 3 years remaining in the junior ranks, took on regular LPRT touring pro Cassie Lee in the 8/9 match and came out on top in a tie-breaker.

In the qtrs:
– #1 Rhonda Rajsich took out the precocious Roberts 6,2
– #5 Kelani Lawrence, drastically underseeded in this event, made a statement with an 11,1 win over #4 Sheryl Lotts
– #3 Hollie Rae Scott took out LPRT touring vet Adrienne Fisher Haynes 7,10
– #2 Seed Erika Manilla was a no-show, depriving the draw of one of its top players and making the lopsidedness of the seeding errors involving Lawrence even more severe.

In the Semis:
– #5 Lawrence got a career win, beating the 8-time defending US national champ Rajsich in an a tiebreaker. These two had met in the singles finals of the last three major US national team qualifying events, and Lawrence got this breakthrough win on the same weekend that her mother Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey was inducted into the US Racquetball hall of Fame.
– #3 Scott downed the legendary LPRT pro Cheryl Gudinas in two. Scott is going for a rather rare double: Intercollegiates and National titles in the same year. It’s only happened once before … in 1976, when Memphis State University’s Sarah Green won both events in the same year.

(side note: the 3rd place game, which we often don’t mention, thus is Rajsich vs Gudinas. Holy cow. That’s a combined 19 (!) US National titles between them to go along with 8 pro titles. In case you’re wondering … they’ve played no less than 50 times across pro, US nationals and IRF events now, with Rajsich leading 32-18. See http://rball.pro/A7470B).

In the Finals, Lawrence came from a game down and saved match point against to take the title 11-10 over Scott by running off two points at the end of the tie-breaker.

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Congrats to all who played. Later this week we’ll review the Canadian singles and Mexican Junior events form last week.

Next up on the rball schedule? There’s some lower tier IRT events in early June, one last LPRT Grand Slam in mid-june in Kansas, then the US Junior Olympics in late June in Portland.

USA National Singles Preview

Rajsich looking for her 9th straight title this weekend. Photo Src: © Mike Boatman 2010

Its the week before Memorial Day Weekend, which means that its time for USA Racquetball National Singles!

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30549

This year’s version of event is the 52nd iteration of the event, and is as far as I know the longest running racquetball tournament in existence. It was first held in 1968 in Milwaukee, where two legends competed in the final (Bill Schultz defeated Hall of Famer Bill Schmidtke in the final).

Here’s a list of every Men’s Open champ since 1968: http://rball.pro/896B5B.

In 1970, the first Women’s national champion was crowned: Fran Cohen won the first Women’s national title in St. Louis.

Here’s a list of every Women’s Open champ since 1970: http://rball.pro/A75737

Record holders for Most National Titles?
 Rocky Carson holds 7 National titles, winning his first in 2000 and his most recent in 2017. Interestingly, despite still being ranked #2 on the pro tour, Rocky did not compete in the 2018 version, nor is he in this weekend’s draw.

– Rhonda Rajsich holds 11 National titles, winning her first in 2004. She’s also the defending champ, the #1 seed this weekend and has won the last eight National events.

Your defending champs are David Horn and Rajsich. I’m not entirely sure how Horn drops to the #3 seed behind Jake in particular (who he has bested round for round in the last few national qualifying events)., but would have had to play Pratt in the semis regardless so its a minor seeding nit.

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Men’s Singles:

Lets preview some of the match-ups i’ll be looking for:
In the 16s:
– #8 Luis R Avila vs #9 Robert Collins; 8/9 match-ups are always tough, and this should be no different. Lefty touring pro Collins versus the defending outdoor 3-wall champ Avila, who periodically comes indoors and has some good wins on his resume. This is a good test for both.
– #5 Adam Manilla vs #12 Woody Clouse; Woody Clouse back in action competing for the National team … for the first time since 2006. Clouse qualified for the team in 2005 and represented the US in the Pan American Games in April 2006, losing in the final to Canadian Kris Odegard 11-9. He also had several top 10 pro tour finishes during the deep mid 90s tour days. Now he’s back at age 53, playing in his home town. He faces off against fellow lefty Manilla, fresh off of a second top 20 season on tour with some good results. I think Manilla moves on but it’ll be a fun L vs L match.
– #6 Thomas Carter vs #11 Nicholas Nick Riffel; two IRT regulars meet up; they faced each other 3 times in 3 months in early 2018, with Carter taking 2 of 3. Riffel had a tough end to his 2018-19 tour, forfeiting out of Syosset with an injury. Meanwhile Carter had a nice run at the end of the season, getting a couple of solid wins and making the main draw in both Florida and NY. Advantage Carter here. 
– #7 Dylan Reid vs #10 Jeff Stark; two West Coasters who have played more than a few times meet up in the first round. I think the podcasting Reid is favored here but they know each other’s game.

Man, lots of Lefties in action. At least four, maybe more. Something in the water in Denver maybe.

Projecting the Qtrs:
– #1 Jake Bredenbeck vs Avila: Jake struggled with upsets all season … then blew it out in NY, taking out Pratt, Daniel De La Rosa and nearly beating Andree Parrilla. So which Jake shows up? 
– #4 Jose Diaz vs #5 Manilla: they’ve only played a couple times, but both matches were 3- or 5-game tiebreakers. I like Diaz here … in a tiebreaker.
– #3 Horn vs #6 Carter: I don’t think they’ve ever played in a top-level event … so a first for everyone. Horn should win this one in two closer games.
– #2 Charlie Pratt vs #7 Dylan Reid: another match-up of two upper northwestern guys, both hailing from Portland. Fly all the way to Denver … have a repeat of your tuesday night game. Pratt’s solid and advances here.

So i’m predicting Chalk to the semis … and then for some upsets to happen.

Semis:
– #4 Diaz over #1 Jake: they’re pretty even career-wise h2h, but havn’t played in a year and a half. I like Diaz here. Diaz had the better season, nearly slipping into the top 10 and jumping Jake in the rankings. 
– #2 Pratt over Horn: They played in December in Portland, a close 2-game win for Pratt, and I like the year Pratt is having so far.

Final:
– #2 Pratt over Diaz. head to head, Diaz has never lost to Pratt. But something tells me Pratt is on a mission this year.

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Women’s Singles: just 9 in this draw, but some good match-ups towards the back and one incredibly poor seeding job:

In the Quarters:
– #1 Rajsich over #8 Cassandra Cassi Lee
– #5 Kelani Lawrence over #4 Sheryl Lotts; here’s a seeding question. Lawrence made the Women’s singles final of the 2018 qualifier at Nat’l doubles, made the finals at 2018 Nationals, and made the finals at the 2019 Qualifier at Nat’l Doubles. So that’s basically the last three major National events…. how exactly is she seeded 5th in this event?? What more does she have to do to demonstrate that she’s basically the 2nd best American woman player right now?
– #3 Hollie Rae Scott over #6 Adrienne Fisher Haynes
– #2 Erika Manilla holds off retired LPRT legend Cheryl Gudinas

In the semis:
– #1 Rajsich takes out Lawrence in a rematch of the last three major US national team final, instead of in the final like it should be
– #3 Scott takes out #2 Manilla in a rematch of this year’s Intercollegiates semis.

In the final: Rajsich takes her 9th straight US title over Scott.

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Lastly, a note on attendance. There’s some separate conversations about the # of participants this weekend going on. Here’s a list of the participation numbers for the last 14 National Singles events (these are the “# of participants” from the r2sports page and should indicate unique players, not # of draw entrants):

2019: 191 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2018: 221 Pleasanton
2017: 243 Tempe
2016: 268 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2015: 377 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2014: 292 Fullerton
2013: 435 Fullerton (also IRT and LPRT pro stop)
2012: 559 Fullerton (also IRT and LPRT pro stop)
2011: 514 Fullerton (also IRT stop)
2010: 535 Houston
2009: 501 Houston
2008: 523 Houston
2007: 528 Houston
2006: 515 Houston

The event held steady in the low 500s its last five years in H ouston, then spiked during its Fullerton years thanks to simultaneous IRT and LPRT events (some of the pro draws from those years were amazing; 70+ mens pros competing). But we’ve seen a precipitous drop in attendance over the last few years, including a 100+ attendee drop from 2015 to 2016, now not even able to clear 200 players this year. 191 players isn’t even close to what National Doubles got this year (306) and that number is basically halved from the beginning of the century.

I know there’s some fundamental industry issues that are driving down these numbers. But this is the NGB’s marquee event. You can’t turn back time and make it the mid 2000s again (to say nothing of the mid 1990s), but you can strategize other aspects of the event to make it more appealing to a larger audience, and I hope to see some turn around in the coming years.

IRT Season ending Standings Implications from Syosset

Kane wraps up his 13th pro tour title.

Syosset was the last Tier 1 of the season, and as noted in the previews for this event, the #1 spot for the season was technically in the balance heading into the event. Kane Waselenchuk entered the Syosset event with a 132 point lead over #2 Rocky Carson in the year end title race. They had both opened up a massive gap even to the #3 ranked player; nearly 700 points separated #2 and #3 heading into the event, and that gap has only widened after the event. So Syosset was all about determining #1 for this year.

By winning the event, Kane has now distanced himself by a sufficient amount of points from Rocky to have ensured himself the year end title. This post explains why (at least as I understand the system), and talks about the rest of the top 10 ramifications.

5/6/19 updated points standings are now online here: https://www.irt-tour.com/singles-rankings/

As the tour standings now sit, Kane leads Rocky by 234 points. This is roughly 100 more points of a lead than he had heading into Syosset, due to the difference of 100 points between winning a Tier 1 event (400 points) and losing in the final (300).

Now, there are still multiple events left on the IRT schedule between now and the end of June (notionally the end of the season each year); I postulated before the Syosset event that those events could actually come into play if the results went a certain way this past weekend. Players get 120 points for winning IRT Tier 2 events … and there are two Tier 2s still on the schedule (Costa Rica in two weeks time and Chihuahua Mexico in Mid June), at least one of which i’ve heard Carson is scheduled to attend.

So why can’t Rocky go win both of those Tier 2s and get 240 additional points to overtake Kane for the title, since he trails by 234 points? Because the tour only takes each players’ best 9 results for the season … and a potential 120 point Tier 2 win would not be enough to replace any bad results for Rocky this season. Plus, for the final season rankings players drop their lowest tournament result (which for Kane would be a 0 point missed event). Rocky made the semis or better in ALL NINE IRT events this year, guaranteeing him at least 220 points per event. So Rocky actually cannot improve his current points totals one bit from where they are now, hence Kane’s insurmountable points lead.

So, Congrats to Kane on his 13th pro title (click here for a season summary for Kane’s career: http://rball.pro/C08BD1) and Rocky finishes 2nd for the ninth season in his career (click here for the same for Rocky: http://rball.pro/610C77).

Once all the rest of the tourney slate plays out, I’ll capture the official season ending standings and update the database and links to show these results.

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Now, how about the rest of the top 10? What did Syosset do to their rankings and what remains to play for?

So, there’s a couple of noteworthy rankings achievements to work towards besides the #1 title for the rest of the tour:
– the top 4 players on tour avoid the seedings flip 
– More importantly … the top 8 players get protected seeds into the 16s at tier one events.
– less important; finishing in “the top 10” as a career achievement.

I know there’s lots of complaining about protected seeds on tour, especially in a tournament like Syosset with 49 guys in the draw and some players potentially having to play 3 matches to face a rested, seeded player in the 16s. I’d rather not get into it here, just noting that there were several reasons it was implemented and remains in place today: see this link http://www.proracquetballstats.com/…/guidry_post_roundof32.… for a good summary of why it was put in and how it actually *helps* lower ranked players instead of hurting them, both in terms of prize money and rankings points.

Nonetheless, while the protected seed system is in place, players really want to stay in the top 8.

Here’s how the Syosset event results shape the current top 10, and what may happen with the remaining non-Tier 1s:

– By virtue of making the semis this past weekend, #3 Alejandro Alex Landahas locked up #3 on the season. He has a 142 point lead over #4 and cannot be surpassed even if Parrilla plays tier 2s and wins them to replace his lowest scores. Landa finishes #3 for the second year running and had a nice solid run in the 2nd half of the season to get there.

– #4 Andree Parrilla should have guaranteed himself the #4 spot for year end by making the semis. This is a pretty remarkable one-season rise for a player; he finished ranked 11th last season, basically playing the tour just half time. This year though, he played all 9 events, made four quarterfinals and four semifinals and was a couple of unlucky points from doing even better. Twice this season Parrilla went out in the tie-breaker 11-10 or else maybe we’d be talking about him fishing 3rd.

– Andree’s lead over #5 Alvaro Beltran is only 107 points. And, Beltran missed the first event of the season, meaning he could possibly win a Tier 2 and add 120 points to his year end total to over take Andree for the #4 spot. But … Alvaro played (and won) the Lou Bradley Tier 2 earlier this season (see http://blog.proracquetballstats.com/…/lou-bradley-irt-tier…/ for the wrap-up of that event), meaning he’s already got a 120 tier2 win on the books, so I’m not sure how much Alvaro can improve upon his current #5 ranking with the remaining events. Alvaro did miss the first Tier 1 of the season, meaning in theory that’s a zero-point result he should be able to “replace” …

– With his early upset loss this past weekend, Daniel De La Rosa dropped to #6 on tour for the season, his lowest season-ending ranking since the 2012-13 season. He’s just 50 points behind Alvaro though for the #5 spot, and missed not one but two events on the year, so he could improve his year end standing markedly by playing (and winning) some of the remaining lower tier events. But I wonder what motivation there would be for DLR to go out of his way to play non-tier 1s just to try to improve from 6th to 5th. If he was planning on playing (say) Costa Rica, or Chihuahua, or the smaller events in Arkansas and Kansas already so be it, but with his likely focused on outdoor events and pickleball and family for the summer, we may not see him again on the IRT til the opener in August/September.

– There’s a huge gap from #6 to #7; 420 points, really showing how the guys in the 3-6 range have separated themselves from the pack, similarly to how the 1 & 2 guys have separated themselves even from #3.

– #7 Samuel Murray picked a great tournament to hold serve and make the quarters as per his seeding; he retains a 70 point lead over #8 Franco and is probably locked into that as a year end seeding.

– #8 Sebastian Franco was upset in Syosset, but so were all his possible competitors to the last coveted protected seeding #8 spot, meaning he’s in line to retain it heading into the next season. Franco also is a very active player, having two “extra” events on his resume already being dropped, so I’m not sure how much he could improve his ranking with the remaining events, or if he’d even travel to them (Franco skipped the Bolivian Grand Slam, likely for travel/family reasons, and traveling to Costa Rica/Chihuahua may also not be in the cards).

– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís was upset before the 16s thanks to a brutal draw (having to play Javier Mar to qualify for the main draw) and could not move from his #9 seeding in Syosset in the standings. Montoya missed a couple of tier 1s early in the season, but has himself played a couple of non-Tier1s this season, so i’m not sure if he can improve upon the 100 point gap between himself and the coveted #8 spot at this point without a deep dive into his full results on the season. Maybe if he goes to Chihuahua and wins it he could slip into the top 8.

– Both #10 Mario Mercado and #11 Jose Diaz got upset early in Syosset, costing them any shot at moving up. Despite his big run to the quarters as a #12 seed, Jake Bredenbeck remains locked into that year end seeding. #13 David Horn made the main draw but got no further and stays ranked #13 for the season.

– After #13, there’s a size-able gap to #14: Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo, who has all his points from just two events (the Bolivia grand slam and a non Tier 1), and who seems unlikely to be seen on the regular tour at this point. I’d love to see him get some sponsors … but regular flights from Bolivia to the US are pretty grueling and we may not see him again til the US Open.

– The Guys ranked 15th-20th are all within 100 points of each other. Gerardo Franco GonzalezJansen AllenLalo PortilloThomas CarterAdam Manillaand Robert Collins. I’d describe all these guys similarly; they play nearly every IRT event, sometimes get upset early, and are still mostly lacking that one big run to the semis where they get a couple of solid wins in a row over top 8 guys that they’d need to really kick start their rankings. Some of these guys are moving up in the world (especially Portillo), while others are slipping (Allen), and it’ll be interesting to see how next season plays out for this crew.

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So that’s it. Hope you enjoyed, and I hope i didn’t get any of this analysis egregiously wrong 🙂

IRT Florida Pro Am Wrap-up

Landa gets his 3rd career singles IRT title.

International Racquetball Tour

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30402

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/6A2E20

Congrats to Alejandro Landa, who wins his 3rd career title on the weekend.

Here’s a review of the event, citing notable matches (to me) by round:

In the 64s:
– Maurice Miller advanced by the skin of his teeth over Kyle Ulliman 11-10. 
– Set Cubillos Ruiz got a solid win over “the ref’ Scott McClellan to advance.

In the 32s:
– Thomas Carter got his first career win over Felipe Camacho with a pretty solid 6,13 win. He advances into the main draw for just the 2nd time this season.
– Eduardo Garay Rodriguez upset 9th seeded Mario Mercado 11-9 in the breaker. A solid win for Garay, which earns him a rematch with Beltran.
– #13 Jake Bredenbeck saved game point against Miller in game 1, then cruised to a two game win, avoiding this pitfall and advancing to his 7th main draw in 8 IRT events this season.
– Andres Acuña won a hard-fought tiebreaker win over #14 Jansen Allen. Allen’s tough season continues; he’s only qualified for the main draw now in 4 of the 8 events, after cashing in all 11 events last season. 
– Lalo Portillo got a solid win over tour vet Robert Collins to continue his impressive season.

In the 16s:
– David Horn got a solid win over #5 Samuel Murray 11,12. He avenges a bad loss a month ago to Murray and moves on to his second QF of the season.
– Alvaro Beltran made quicker work of Eduardo Garay than I thought he would, winning 7,9.
– #3 Alejandro Alex Landa absolutely destroyed Acuna 3,2. Where was this dominance at the Pan Am Games? 
– #7 Daniel De La Rosa got an easier-than-expected win over Rodrigo Montoya Solís 12,3, the latest in a back-and-forth rivalry with Montoya.
#6 Sebastian Franco got a solid win over Jose Diaz to advance.

Nearly 100% chalk into the quarters, with only Horn’s upset of #5 Murray a blemish on the resumes of the top 8 seeds.

In the Quarters:
– In a shocking result, #8 Beltran topped #1 seed Kane Waselenchuk in an 11-8 tiebreaker. I’ll do a separate post on this result, which streaks it ends for Kane, and what it means for the title race later on.
– #4 Andree Parrilla dominated his former WRT rival #12 Horn 2,6.
– #3 Landa took a close one over Franco
– #2 Rocky Carson wiped out #7 De La Rosa 7,3.

Semis:
– Beltran came back from looking like he’d get wiped off the court to take Parrilla in an 11-10 thriller.
– Landa played one of the more complete games of his career, beating Carson 5,7 to advance to the final.

In that final, a rematch of the Mexican National championship, Landa fended off the veteran Beltran to take home his 3rd career title.

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Next up; the Syosset Open, the last Tier 1 of the season!