Bolivian Grand Slam IRT Wrap-Up

Moscoso the double winner on the weekend.

International Racquetball Tour Open Bolivia American Iris

Congrats to the winners on the weekend:
– Pro Singles: Conrrado Moscoso
– Pro doubles: Conrrado Moscoso & Roland Keller

R2sports link for tourney: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30507

The altitude really played into these matches; normal kill shots were way up, rallies extended, lots of ceiling balls off the back wall. And, the size of the venue and the size of the crowds made it really seem like a major international event, especially when home town players were playing.

Here’s the notable Singles results by round to me:

Singles Match Report: http://rball.pro/273997

In the 64s:
– Carlos Keller Vargas pounded 18U Junior team member Gerson Miranda 9,0, showing the gulf between Bolivia’s adult and junior champs.
– Similarly pre-tournament favorite Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo blasted 18U junior team member Fernando Ruiz Michel 6,2.
– Several local Bolivian players took out seeded/traveling players: Sebastian Oata surprised #22 Christian Wer 6,14, Franco Gutierrez beat #21 Edwin Galicia 11,5, Jairo Perez took out #20 Hanzel Martinez Perez and Fabian Gutierrez beat #14 Set Cubillos.

In the 32s:
– #16 Kadim Carrasco topped #17 MoMo Zelada in two, the only real surprise to me of this round. Carrasco really took it to Zelada, who has been playing solid ball lately, winning 1,9 to advance to the main draw.
– #24 Carlos Keller Vargas took out #9 touring pro Thomas Carter 11-7. I thought Keller (a former PARC champ) would win here, but kudos to Carter for stretching him to the breaker. 
– #23 Moscoso blasted #10 Felipe Camacho 3,4 to make the main draw. Again, an expected result based on both players’ past international results, but surprised by the lop-sidedness of the win.
– #15 Diego Garcia Quispe beat Guatemalan veteran #18 Juan Salvatierra 10,10 to advance to the main draw, an excellent result for the 17yr old.

In the 16s:
– #1 Rocky Carson took it to Carrasco and won 2,4. Carson took advantage of the high altitude and really ramped up his drive-serve game. 
– #8 Jake Bredenbeck couldn’t convert on game point in the first game, opening a path for home town favorite Keller Vargas to advance 14,6. A loud, partisan crowd cheered Keller to victory.
– #5 Mario Mercado took care of business against #12 Robert Collins 10,11.
– #4 Andree Parrilla saved game point in the first game and then battled to a close two-game win over Eduardo Lalo Portillo 14,9. A back and forth match went Andree’s way on this day, but Portillo continues to improve and show that he will soon be among the elite on tour.
– #3 Alvaro Beltran outlasted upset-minded Eduardo Garay Rodriguez 10 and 13. Garay dove all over the court and came at Beltran with significant pace, but Alvi made shots when he had to and put balls away when it counted.
– The biggest upset of the tournament: #11 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez took out #6 Rodrigo Montoya Solis 11-10. Montoya reportedly arrived at the tournament just the morning of this match and it may have cost him against a player he should have beaten. Franco earned this win though, saving off match point against and diving all over the court. 
– #23 Moscoso blitzed by #7 seed David Horn to setup a fantastic quarter final against Landa.
– #2 Alex Landa let the youngster Garcia get way up in game one, came back, then blew him away in game 2 to advance 13,2.

In the Qtrs:
– #1 Carson left no doubt as to who the #1 seed was, advancing past home-town favorite Keller 8,11. Before the tournament I thought perhaps Carson would be at a disadvantage in this event thanks to his match load last weekend and the travel, but his fitness and his game has elevated here this weekend.
– #5 Mercado, Bolivian native who now lives in the DC area and represents Colombia, really controlled #4 seed Parrilla throughout and advanced 7,11. I thought Parrilla was a dark-horse to make the final before this tournament, and was really surprised by how solid Mercado played here.
– #3 Beltran left little doubt about his quality, downing upset-minded #11 Franco 11,5 to move on and ensure that the two oldest players in the draw made the semis.
– In the most anticipated match of the event, #2 seed Landa was beaten by Bolivian #1 Moscoso in a scintillating match 9,(11),0. Moscoso drove the action with blistering drive serves, fantastic kill shots from all over the court and with knee-sliding re-kills that perpetually caught Landa off-guard. After losing steam in the middle of the second game, Conrrado caught fire in the tie-breaker and ran away to the 11-0 defeat. Its not often a former #1 player in the world gets donuted, and indeed this match elevates Moscoso to near the top of the world game.

In the semis…
– #1 Carson fought back the upset-minded #5 Mercado, advancing in a tie-breaker win.
– #23 Moscoso dominated #3 Beltran 10,6.

In the final, Rocky ran of 15 unanswered points to cruise to a game one win and was well on his way towards and embarrassing 2-game crushing when suddenly Conrrado made it a game, saved a couple of match points, and got a fluky rally win to take game 2 15-14 and get it to the tiebreaker. There, Rocky had no answers for Moscoso’s confident shot-making and the game got away from Carson quickly … Conrrado re-killed shots from absurd angles and frustrated Carson over and again and took the breaker 11-2 in dominant fashion. Moscoso found a serve that Carson struggled with, and Rocky couldn’t adjust in time to stay in the game.

Moscoso becomes the 40th ever IRT pro tour champ and earned it on the weekend, downing the #1, #2 and #3 seeds en route to victory.

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On the doubles side:

Match Report: http://rball.pro/CA8C9A

The Bolivian #1 pair of Moscoso & Roland Keller took the doubles title against Carson & Camacho 9,9, giving Moscoso the double on the weekend.

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Wrap: An amazing tournament that saw the surprise winner and the expected “what if” questions about the absence of Kane Waselenchuk. Rocky should ascend to #1 with the finals appearance, while Conrrado’s points total should put him just outside the top 10 (not that it matters; we likely won’t see him again until the US Open). Post publishing update: I guess the 2018 points expired earlier than I thought; Rocky remains at #2 while Moscoso rises to #17 based on irt-tour.com points standings updated as of 4/1/19.

I think I now agree with Sudsy Monchik, who has been extolling Conrrado’s skills for a while. I think you have to start thinking about Moscoso as being at the top of the tier of players just past Kane and Rocky, and we can only hope as fans of the sport that he finds more ways to play the tour and give us what we want; regular match ups against Kane, Rocky, Landa, DLR, Montoya and the rest of the world’s best.

Bolivia Open Grand Slam preview – IRT

Is this Moscoso’s time on home soil?

Bolivia Open Grand Slam preview – International Racquetball Tour

Open Bolivia American Iris

Hello Racquetball Fans; it is a historic week for professional racquetball as the first ever pro tournament is being held in Racquetball-mad Raquet Bolivia.

R2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30507

Bolivian racquetball burst onto the scenes internationally in 2010, when Ricardo Monroy won the 2010 Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC) topping the #1, #2 and #4 seeds along the way. Fellow Bolivians Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo and Carlos Keller Vargas have since followed-up with significant international results on the Men’s side, with Keller taking the 2018 PARCs and a young Moscoso making the 2014 Worlds final, losing to Rocky Carson.

On the Women’s pro side, Bolivian Trail-blazers such as Yazmine Sabja RáquetbolCarola Loma and Jenny Daza Navia have made finals of international events for a decade, but have yet to push through with a major adult international victory.

In the mean-time, the Bolivian juniors are starting to dominate; Bolivians took the 14U and 16U titles at last year’s World Juniors (Luis Antonio Aguilar and Diego Garcia Quispe respectively), and both Bolivian 18U players made the semis before losing to the eventual Mexican finalists. It was a similar story on the Girls side, with Valeria Centellas taking the 16U title while simultaneously holding the World Adult Doubles title with Sabja from last summer. Bolivian junior girls have won 11 world junior titles in the last 5 years, more than any other country.

And now, with the first ever pro stop in Bolivia, nearly every player just mentioned is playing, along with a good collection of traveling IRT and LPRT regulars. In addition, we get a few South American regular internationals plus a good chunk of the Guatemalans who were in Chicago two weeks ago.

All told; this tournament has a reported 359 total participants, including equally massive Men’s Skill divisions and a ton of juniors playing. Bravo to the community to make this such a huge hit.

Lets get to the draws.
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On the IRT side; half the current top 10 did not make the trip; Kane Waselenchuk could have basically sewn up the 2018-19 IRT title with a win in Cochabamba but chose to stay with family. Daniel De La Rosa, Samuel MurraySebastian Franco and Jose Diaz also miss the event out of the current IRT top 10, leaving a relatively wide-open field and a pretty solid opportunity for Carson in particular to put himself back in the driver’s seat for the year end IRT title. Rocky will return to #1 with at least a finals appearance, and DLR likely drops to 6th on the season with little chance of getting back into the top 4. None the less, there’s a massive 40-person draw that’s about half Bolivian locals, half traveling pros. Oddly, despite this being a “Grand Slam” the top 8 qualified into the 16s, meaning the typical huge advantage over the locals. Lets see how it affects the Bolivian dark horses.

In the round of 64, a couple of interesting matches right off the top:

– #24 Carlos Keller Vargas vs Gerson Miranda: tough first match for both players. Keller (as noted above) is a PARC champ and a regular Bolivian national team representative, while Miranda is one of the top juniors in the country, representing Bolivia at World Juniors last November and losing in the semis in his age 17 season. Keller likely takes this, but Miranda is a name to watch going forward internationally.
– #23 Conrrado Moscoso vs Fernando Ruiz Michel: the other member of Bolivia’s 2018 18U team ironically faces off against the other regular member of Bolivia’s adult national team. I really wanted both Miranda and Ruiz Michel to have shots at traveling IRT players instead of being eliminated by the two Bolivian nationals who i think can make serious noise in this event, but the draw was not favorable to the juniors here.

The action heats up in the 32s:
– #16/#17 MoMo Zelada vs Kadim Carrasco; Another regular member of the Bolivian adult team, Carrasco has some serious power, and has a long history of traveling to the states for pro events. However, Maryland resident and Bolivian native Zelada is no slouch and should handle Carrasco here.
– #9 Thomas Carter vs #24 Keller Vargas: Carter’s the highest player to not get a bye and it catches him here, having to face the former Pan Am champ on home soil. 
– #12 Robert Collins vs #21 Edwin Galicia; Collins should be able to handle the Guatemalan here to advance to the main draw.
– #23 Moscoso vs #10 Felipe Camacho; they’ve met twice in international competitions, both easy Conrrado wins. Moscoso advances with eyes on making a deep run in this event.

In the main draw, we get the first action out of the traveling seeded pros:
– #1 Carson takes on Zelada, a match between two almost identical game styles. Both play focused, tactical racquetball with thought put into every service choice. Unfortunately for Zelada, Carson is the best at it and advances in two straight.
– #8 Jake Bredenbeck continues to struggle on the season by running into Bolivian international Keller Vargas at this juncture and loses in two straight. This may be an upset by seed, but not by world power ranking, as Keller has more than a few wins over top IRT pros.
– #5 Mario Mercado dodges the landmines of local players and gets a straight-forward match against #12 Collins. Collins has played well this season but this is a win for Mercado here.
– #4 Andree Parrilla faces off against his countryman Eduardo Lalo Portilloand handles him in two, but not before Portillo makes some noise and gives Parrilla a scare.
– #3 Alvaro Beltran faces off against #19 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez, formerly from Mexico but now playing out of Cali, Colombia. This is a brutal draw for Beltran, as Garay has multiple wins over top 8 IRT pros and didn’t have to make four flight connections to arrive in Bolivia. I think Beltran can win this, but wouldn’t be surprised if Garay played him lights out.
– #6 Rodrigo Montoya celebrates easily his best ever tourney seeding by taking down countryman Gerardo Franco Gonzalez at this juncture.
– #7 David Horn is the unlucky seeded player who gets to face Moscoso, who has the talent to make the semis of any IRT event, full draw or not. They’ve met twice; Moscoso beat him in 3 at the 2017 US Open while Horn got him a the 2015 PARCs. I think Moscoso advances on home soil here.
– #2 Alex Landa starts his tourney against Bolivian World Junior 16U champ Diego Garcia, who can make some noise but doesn’t have the game to beat Landa at this point in his career.

If the 16s go as I predict, we may have some quarter final match-ups for the Ages:
– #1 Carson vs #24 Keller Vargas: they’ve played before internationally, and while Keller can beat some players he’s not going to beat Carson on this day.
– #4 Parrilla handles #5 Mercado and continues his relatively easy draw into the semis here.
– #6 Montoya takes out whoever advances between Beltran and Garay. If its Beltran, it’ll be the third time they’ve met in the quarters in three months and the first two have been relatively easy Rodrigo wins. If its Garay … Montoya has beaten Garay twice in WRT events in the last couple of years, one of which was a pretty close 11-9 barn burner.
– #2 Landa vs Moscoso. Well, here it is. Sudsy Monchik tells me that Moscoso is one of the best in the world and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the tier of players just below Kane & Rocky; here’s his chance. Landa has shedded rankings points all season (it was inevitable; with Kane back Landa wasn’t going to win multiple events this season), and will have to really hustle to win here. I’m going to go with my gut and say that Moscoso wins this to advance and firmly cement his place among the game’s elite.

Semis projection:
– #1 Carson vs #4 Parrilla: Parrilla had the match-winning point on his racquet and skipped the winner before losing 11-10 in Laurel to open this season the last time he played Rocky, and the two times before then Andree beat him. Four of Andree’s five losses this season are to Kane. I think he’s ready to take the next step. I’m going out on a limb here and predicting a Parrilla upset here.
– #6 Montoya vs #23 Moscoso. This is a heck of a match. Its also a re-match of a highly anticipated 2018 Worlds quarter final last November won by Montoya in a tiebreaker. Who would take this rematch? I’m tempted to go with Montoya again. But honestly I could see a Moscoso win on home soil in front of a frenzied packed house too, bringing all the energy of an international competition.

Final: Moscoso over Parrilla to shock the pro world. If the final comes down to this, its a rematch of a classic 2017 US Open round of 16 match, won by Moscoso 11-8 in the 5th. I can see a similarly close match here.

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IRT Doubles:

14 teams battling it out, and a whole slew of interesting teams playing. Beltran is teamed with Landa (not DLR, his regular partner) at #1, Carson is playing with Camacho and seeded 5th, Jake & Horn are seeded #3, the fantastic Bolivian #1 team of Keller & Moscoso is seeded 6th, and the semi-regular team of Parrilla & Montoya (who have more than a few pro titles together) are seeded 2nd.

I’m going with Landa/Beltran over Carson/Camacho in one semi, Keller/Moscoso over Parrilla/Montoya in the other, and the Bolivians winning on home soil in the final for a possible double for Moscoso on the weekend.

IRT Shamrock Shootout Wrap-up

Kane is the double winner on the weekend.

Congrats to the winners on the weekend:
– Singles; Kane Waselenchuk 
– Doubles: Kane Waselenchuk & Ben Croft

R2sports link for the event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30236

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Lets wrap-up the Singles event. Here’s the matches I found notable for each round:

Singles Match Report: http://rball.pro/3A30E4

In the 128s and 64s … there were a few closer games but no upsets in my mind:
– Jansen Allen and Hiroshi Shimizu were both extended to tiebreakers against Alok Mehta and Juan Salvatierra respectively but advanced.
– Felipe Camacho won 10,10 over Kyle Ulliman
– Troy Warigon played a closer-than-expected match to beat Ferd Samson11,13
– MoMo Zelada made it twice in two months over Georgian Maurice Miller 11,10. Miller subsequently caught fire in the Men’s Open draw, racing to the final with a number of what i’d characterize as “Career Best” wins.
– Adam Manilla took out Jordy Alonso 12,10
– David Horn got a solid win over Eduardo Garay 10,11.

The 32s were played Friday morning, with a couple of “upsets” by seeding and a couple of tie-breakers.
– #9 Jose Diaz dropped the first game to long-time IRT veteran Hiroshi Shimizu but recovered to take the match. Shimizu looked pretty darn good for someone who is north of 50. 
– The 16/17 match, as always, was a tight one, with Felipe Camacho coming out on top of Thomas Carter 11-8 in the breaker. A close match.
Eduardo Lalo Portillo blasted Jake Bredenbeck 5,8 to advance in the upset by seedings. We know Portillo is no slouch and this win doesn’t surprise me, but the score does. Jake is definitely in a rut this season.
Rodrigo Montoya blitzed by countryman Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 15-1, then dropped the second game before racing to the tiebreaker win. Final score: 1,(10),3.
– In the 15/18 match, Adam Manilla won the lefty-on-lefty crime match, topping Robert Collins in two tight games 13,11.

In the 16s… several matches that surprised me and went against my predictions, but in the end was nearly chalk by seeding:
– In the 8/9 match, Sebastian Franco turned the tide on his results lately and took out Jose Diaz in two tight games 12,12.
– #4 Alejandro Alex Landa took out the upset-minded Eduardo Portillo 5,12 to eliminate the highest advancing seed out of the 16s.
– In the biggest upset of the night, #14 Montoya took out #3 Daniel De La Rosa with relative ease 3,9. While these two are neck and neck in true world power rankings … DLR has had the better of him lately, including a shellacking in Sioux Falls two months ago. Surprising result for me … and opens up the draw for Rodrigo completely.
– #7 Samuel Murray dominated #10 David Horn 3,7. I thought this match might have gone the other way … but a 3,7 win is pretty convincing.

So your seeds into the quarters are 1,2,4,5,6,7,8 … and 14. Pretty chalk. But i’m guessing that 14 seed may make some more noise here.

In the Quarters…
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk let #8 Sebastian Franco hang with him til about 6-6 in the first, then ran off more than 20 unanswered points, winning the first game 15-7 and donuting the Colombian 15-0 in the second. 
– #5 Andree Parrilla continues his dominance at this event (his two best career finishes are at this event over the last two seasons), cruising to a win over #4 Alejandro Landa 8,9. Parrilla has beaten Landa now twice in a row, improving his career h2h record against the former #1 to 4-6 across all competitions.
– #14 Montoya made it 3-0 against Alvaro Beltran on the IRT tour, taking this match and beating the #6 seed 8,9. Montoya advances to his 3rd career IRT semi final (out of 8 career IRT tourneys) and second this season (he made the Semis in Sioux Falls after beating #1 seed Landa in the 16s).
– #2 Rocky Carson dropped a game to #7 Samuel Murray for just the second time ever, but Murray ran out of gas in the tiebreaker and lost a 2+ hour marathon 7,(13),2.

In the Semis…
– Kane blitzed by Parrilla 5,2, never really giving Andree a chance to junk ball his way into the match.
– Carson took the first ever meeting against Montoya 11,2. The first game was a shot-maker’s paradise, with the players going toe to toe and firing at all cylinders. In the second game, Carson put on a master class of game management, completely controlling the match and bewildering the young Mexican to a crushing 15-2 defeat. Make no mistake; there is still a gulf between the 2nd ranked Carson and his challengers.

In the Finals…
– Kane won a match that he really controlled throughout by the not-as-close-as-it-looked scores of 10 and 10. Lots of lob serving from Kane, who put in twice the court time he normally does this weekend and may have been conserving his arm by not drive serving in the title match.

With the win…
– Kane captures his 115th career IRT Tier 1/Grand Slam title.
– Kane improves to an amazing 75-3 against Rocky, the lions share of which were tournament finals.
– Kane raises his current match winning streak to 82 matches, good for 3rd best ever streak. He’s got a long way to go to top his record of 134 straight.
– Kane extends his current GAME winning streak to 72 games, and moves into 2nd place all time to his own 113 game winning streak that I previously thought was his career achievement. He’d have to win 21 more matches w/o dropping a game to top it, or probably 6 more tourneys… and there’s no end in sight to his current dominance.

Ranking Implications on the weekend: Using my personal points projections (which aren’t exactly in line with IRT total points but are pretty close), here’s what I think this weekend’s events means for the points race:
– Kane now has a nearly 500 point lead … and still has one more tournament to play without defending any points from last season’s injury, which means a win in Bolivia and its double points would lead to a nearly 900 point advantage with just two events left. Which means … if Kane wins in Bolivia he’s clinched the title.
– Landa and DLR should switch places with DLR’s early upset.
– Beltran should rise to #5.
– Franco should rise to #6.
– Parrilla drops from 5 to 7 despite making the semis.
– Murray drops from 7 to 8.
– Horn drops from 10 to 13.

– Montoya rises from 14 to 12, meaning he’s away from the top 3 in terms of a potential round of 16 match-up now. He’d now project to play the 5th seed in a round of 16, which gets him away from the top 4 players and just increases his chances of gaining more rankings points.

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Wrap-up of the doubles:

Match Report: http://rball.pro/2865FD

No upsets in the full round of 16. In the quarters, in the 4/5 match-up Jake/Diaz got a solid win over Montoya/Parrilla, and the 6th seeded favorites Kane/Croft “upset” the 3rd seeded Colombian pairing of Mercado/Franco.

In the semis, DLR/Alvaro got a solid win over Jake/Diaz, while Kane/Croft got an injury-driven walkover win against #2 seed Landa/Murray to setup the final everyone wanted to see.

In that sat. night final, Kane/Croft recovered from losing the first game to out-shoot DLR/Beltran and improve to 4-1 head-to-head against the reigning World Doubles champions on the pro circuit.

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Thats it, thanks for reading!

Next up is the Bolivian Grand Slam. Can’t wait to see this event, since there’s 5-6 really quality Bolivian players who we rarely get to see. Moscoso, the Keller brothers, Ruiz Michel, Gerson, Garcia, Mercado and Carrasco all could be in this draw and make noise. Maybe even the legendary Ricardo Monroy could come out of “retirement” to play; if you’ve never heard of Monroy, he was the first non-North American international player to win a major IRF title, taking the 2010 Pan American Championships. And there’s also a Women’s pro stop, with lots of quality Bolivian female pros too.

IRT Shamrock Shootout Preview

Beltran will look to make another run to the Finals in Chicago.

The International Racquetball Tour is back, and in Chicago for the 34th annual Shamrock Shootout, sponsored by frequent IRT patron KWM Gutterman.

R2sports home page for the event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30236

(as of this posting, the draws are not yet active but can be gotten from IRT’s facebook page postings…)

There’s a huge draw in Chicago; 43 pros entered into singles. That’s the biggest non-US Open draw since Sept 2014, and this draw is stacked. There’s great representation from the top pros: 19 of the top 20 players are entered (missing only #13 Charlie Pratt, who’s playing Oregon State Singles this weekend instead), and the draw includes reigning World champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis to mix things up. He’ll be seeded 14th, playing into his Mexican national nemesis #3 Daniel De La Rosa for what could be a heck of a round of 16 match (we’ll get to that later)…

Because its Chicago, we get some Midwestern guys entered such as Geoff Goldblatt, Juan Martinez III, Alok Mehta, Ferd Samson and Nadeem Sharifuddin. Some of these guys are long-time players with match histories that go back a ways (Goldblatt’s first pro tourney on record was in 2006), some we havn’t seen since the 2018 Worlds (Mehta represented India at the 2014 and 2018 IRF events), and some are making their pro tour debuts (like Sharifuddin).

Interestingly, what looks like the entire Guatemalan national team is entered, and the qualifying rounds will include Edwin Galicia, Javier Martinez, Hanzel Martinez Perez, Jeovany Mendoza, Juan Salvatierra, and long-time veteran Christian Wer, all hailing from the Central American country. Its great to see so many great internationals in one place.

Lets preview the draw. There’s such a huge draw that they needed three round of 128 matches, one of which features two of the traveling Guatemalans. That’s a bummer: fly all the way up here and have a rematch of every Tuesday night at the home club.

We pick up in the 64s; here’s some matches to watch for:
– #9 Jose Diaz is the highest ranked player w/o a bye into the 16s, and for his trouble he has to play twice in qualifying; he’s rewarded at first with a crap-shoot against the winner of the Mendoza-Martinez all-Guatemalan play-in. 
– #17 Long-time Costa Rican vet Felipe Camacho gets a tough opener against mid-westerner Kyle Ulliman. Ulliman has played a couple of pro stops already this year but doesn’t have a break-through win yet and Camacho is a tough out.
– #20 Eduardo Lalo Portillo faces off against long-time Guatemalan #1 Edwin Galicia in a tough opener for both. Galicia has been representing Guatemala at International Racquetball Federation – IRF events for 6 years running, while Lalo (the reigning 18U junior world champ) is coming off a disappointing 1st round exit at Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Nationals last month.
– #12 Jansen Allen (who has now fallen completely out of the top 10), has a tough 1st rounder against regular Guatemala international representative Juan Salvatierra in his quest to get back into the top 10.
– #22 Maurice Miller faces off against Mauricio MoMo Zelada, a rematch of the final of the February Open final at the Wintergreen event in Laurel, MD. Zelada won 6,12 then and seems a good bet to advance again.
– IRT regular Justus Benson is the unlucky first round match for reigning IRF World Champion Rodrigo Montoya, looking to make a splash and keep his IRT ranking on the rise.
– #15 Adam Manilla gets a tough Mexican up and comer Jordy Alonso as his 1st round opponent.
– #18 Robbie Robert Collins faces off against long-time Guatemalan international Christian Wer, who I first have playing for his country in 2004 and who was on the Worlds team in 2018. That’s a pretty long int’l career.
– #10 David Horn has the unenviable task of facing off against one of the more unheralded Mexican players today in Eduardo Garay Rodriguez. Garay has wins over IRT top 10 players on his resume in the past couple of seasons and has the ability to win here too.

In the 32s…here’s some projections based on potential match-ups:

– the #16/#17 match-up looks solid: Camacho vs Thomas Carter. A great test for both players; I sense the veteran Camacho advances to the main draw and a date with Kane.
– #13 Jake Bredenbeck vs #20 Portillo: I like Portillo’s chances here against Bredenbeck, who has yet to get out of the 16s this season after multiple quarter-finals appearances in prior seasons and is coming off an upset loss in Pueblo to a guy who has never played a pro match.
– #12 Allen over #21 Troy Warigon; the solid playing Allen should advance over part time IRT player Warigon here.
– #11 Mario Mercado over Zelada: the all-DC Metro area match-up, with the two relative neighbors facing off for a chance at the 16s. Mercado has the edge but it wouldn’t surprise me if this went Zelada’s way.
– Montoya vs Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; tough break for Franco, who runs into his countryman at this stage for the 2nd time in 3 months. He’s trying to build on the momentum of his run to the Mexican national quarters last month, but Montoya should advance here.
– #15 Manilla vs #18 Collins: the very-rare lefty vs lefty match-up, likely a win for the up and coming Manilla.

In the 16s…
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk starts off his title quest against the veteran Camacho and cruises to a win.
– the #8/#9 looks like a dog-fight: Diaz versus Sebastian Franco. After a solid start to the season, Franco has faltered, with two straight round of 16 exits and having missed Sioux Falls (for his Honeymoon; can’t fault him there). One of those early exits was at the hands of Diaz, who may very well do it again here.
– #5 Parrilla vs #12 Allen: Andree has been on a tear, but Allen plays solid, consistent racquetball and may cause Parrilla some troubles here.
– #4 Alejando Alex Landa vs Portillo: the newly crowned Mexican champ faces off against one of his country’s best young players; Landa should dominate this match based on playing styles.
– #3 De La Rosa vs #14 Montoya; this is the match of the round. 3 vs 14 by seeds, but two of the best 5 players in the world by capabilities. They met in Sioux Falls and DLR destroyed Rodrigo 1,4. In fact, Montoya may be the reigning world champ, but DLR has beaten him 3 out of 4 times they’ve played in the past year. I think DLR advances and Montoya misses out on an opportunity to gain valuable IRT ranking points yet again due to the luck of the draw.
– #6 Alvaro Beltran vs #11 Mercado; fresh off his surprise National finals appearance, Beltran runs into the mercurial Mercado (alliteration intended), who has beaten Alvaro in the past, but seems to be in a bit of a rut this season. Mercado has three one-and-done events this season and will have his work cut out for him to make it to this point. Alvaro advances.
– #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Horn; tough match for Murray here. Bobby beat Sam in April of 2018, but has three one-and-dones on the season and missed Sioux Falls b/c of injury. Horn did make the final of the Pueblo Shootout before getting waxed by Kane and seems to be healthy; can he outlast Murray here and put himself back on the winning ways? If he’s healthy, I think so.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Manilla: these two havn’t played in years on the pro tour, and while Adam can put up a fight against top players he should fall at this gate.

In the Quarters…
– #1 Kane over #9 Diaz. I’ll bet the versatile Diaz conjurs up some 209-magic and stays in rallies longer than expected, but Kane advances.
– #4 Landa over #5 Parrilla: I like Landa here, despite the fact that Parrilla took him in their last meeting (2018 US Open). Landa played so solidly at Mexican Nationals, its hard to envision him losing to Parrilla’s game-style.
– #6 Beltran takes out his doubles partner #3 DLR in a classic let-down game after DLR’s tough win over Montoya. They played in Portland in December, and Alvaro trounced him in two there, and I’m betting on a similar result here. 
Beltran is on a career renaissance this season and continues his stretch of solid play. 
– #2 Carson defeats Horn in a battle of contrasting pace of play styles. Carson will slow it down, while Horn tries to speed it up. Neither are happy with the referee at the end of the match.

In the semis…
– #1 Kane defeats former #1 Landa, but Landa puts up a fight and makes the scores 15-11, 15-9 or so. If Landa is on and making shots, Kane needs to find a slightly higher gear to beat him, which he eventually does since he’s such a master at the end-game of matches.
– #6 Beltran goes up against his long time rival #2 Carson for the third time this season and makes it 2 out of 3 with an upset win.

In the final, Kane takes out Beltran with ease, but not before Alvaro plays his typical shooter’s delight game plan and makes Kane sweat for a while. Its worth noting that Alvaro is the last player to take a game off of Kane (the 2017 US Open) and still has the capability to run off a game even against a guy who is currently working on a streak of 64 straight games won in competition.

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There’s also a massive Pro doubles draw; a full 16 team draw. The #1 team is, as normal, DLR/Beltran, who just got upset at Mexico Nationals and will not have the opportunity to compete for 2019 IRF crowns. They’ll have to possibly work their way through 1/2 of the team that dethroned them in Montoya, playing here with Parrilla, who themselves have to get by the Columbian National #1 doubles team of Mercado & Franco.

On the other side of the draw, the other “best doubles team in the world” in Kane & Ben Croft makes a rare appearance, seeded 6th. They likely face #3 seeds of Jake/Diaz for an excellent quarter final match before likely facing the excellent #2 seeded pairing of Landa & Murray in the semis. However, Landa/Murray may have to get past Rocky Carson, who plays pro doubles for the first time since Sept 2017 (!). He’s playing with Manilla for a nice little lefty-righty combo, perhaps a nod by Carson to help get ready for the upcoming WOR championships (where doubles is king).

I like Kane/Croft over DLR/Beltran in the final, a slight reversal of how this match-up has gone the last couple of times … but also an indicator that DLR/Beltran may have some cracks in the armor after their upset in Chihuahua last month.

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Can’t wait for more IRT action!

2019 Pueblo Athletic Club Shoot-out Wrap-up

Kane drops into a non-Tier 1 and is the double winner.

In addition to Mexican Nationals and High School Nationals, there were a couple of lower-tier IRT events this past weekend. This is a wrap-up of the best of them, the Pueblo Athletic Club Shoot out, a Tier 4 held in Pueblo, CO that featured a few familiar names and a couple of surprising results.

Here’s a wrap-up of the event.

r2sports link: http://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30460

Reminder: we don’t load non-tier 1 or higher events into the PRS database; this post is just a wrap-up as a fan of the game. I’ll pick up the draw reviews at the latter stages when the familiar pro names start playing each other.

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Men’s Pro Singles:

The draw featured 30 players, and its top 4 seeds were tour regulars that included #1 Kane WaselenchukDavid Horn, defending champ Jake Bredenbeck and Nick Riffel formed the top four seeds. This is notable to me because I can’t recall seeing Kane play in a non Tier-1 IRT tournament in .. well a long time. It may be b/c I don’t generally track non-Tier1 events.

The 5th seed is the dangerous Erik Garcia, who beat touring pro Robert Collins before taking a game off of eventual champ Rocky Carson at the US Singles qualifier event in Tempe last month. The rest of the draw featured mostly local players, with a sprinkling of traveling players w/ enough IRT points to rate a seeding.

In the Quarters. a couple of surprises:
– Erik Garcia got a solid win over touring pro Nick Riffel in a tiebreaker in the 4/5 match. He earns a match against the King in the semis. I’d like to see Garcia play more pro events; he’s got some good results lately and I think he could make some noise on tour.
– Complete unknown (to me) Ruben Baez ousted #3 seed Jake Bredenbeck 10,(5),5. I can’t find Baez playing any match in any format that the PRS database tracks, and he was seeded 27th in this event, traveling up from El Paso to play it. I saw bits and pieces of this match: Baez plays a control game, has a very effective lob serve, and was completely non-plussed by Jake’s power, re-killing power DTL shots and anticipating power-pinches. He earns a match-up against #2 seeded Horn in the semis for his efforts.

In the Semis:
– Waselenchuk took out Garcia 8,3. Garcia kept up with the champ briefly, but eventually fell in typical Kane dominance.
– Horn took out the upstart Baez by the close scores of 13,14. Thanks to Matt Melster for streaming this one real-time; I watched part of this match as well to see how Baez matched-up with the different playing style of Horn, one which was much closer seemingly to his own … and as expected this was a very back-and-forth close match throughout.

In the Final, Kane turned up the heat and cruised by Horn 7,0, showing his typical dominance that the rest of the IRT tour sees on a regular basis.

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My take-away here: it isn’t often that a player just shows up without any prior pro experience and plays so well against two of the top 20 players in the world. I hope to see more of Baez in the future.

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Men’s Pro Doubles:

The Pueblo supporters were also blessed to have with them one of the two best doubles teams in the world. Kane teamed up with Ben Croft, and they’ve won more than a few major doubles titles in their day. They were the #1 seed, with Jake & Horn teaming up to be the #2 seeds and Riffel/Garcia being the #3 seeds.

In the semis, Bredenbeck/Horn took out Riffel/Garcia 11-9, while Kane/Ben took out the team with the surprising Baez teamed with Daniel Bautista.

In the Saturday night final, the #1 team did not disappoint and won in two 10,5 over the #2 seeds.

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Women’s Open: there was a small but solid Women’s open draw, with two touring LPRT pros in Carla Muñoz Montesinos and Adriana Riveros, joined in the draw by multi junior world champion Erika Manilla and periodic LPRT tour player Brenda Laime Jalil.

In the semis, Manilla took out #1 seeded Munoz in two solid games 11,12, while Riveros advanced past Laime 6,13.

In the Finals, Manilla made it two upsets in a row, downing Riveros 12,13. Great results for Manilla on the weekend, and I hope to see more of her on the pro tour going forward.

USA Racquetball National Doubles Wrap-up

Ruiz captures her 12th career US National doubles title with partner Tisinger.

Congrats to Rocky Carson and Charlie Pratt on their win in the 2019 Men’s USAR National Doubles championships. Also, congratulations to Aimee Roehler Ruiz and Janel Tisinger-Ledkins on their win in the Women’s doubles draw.

With the win, these players qualify to represent the US in this year’s two International Racquetball Federation – IRF events: the Pan American Racquetball Championships in Columbia in April, and the Pan American Games in August in Peru.

Both teams are no strangers to international competition nor National doubles championships: combined these four champions now have an astounding 29 combined US national doubles titles between them.

These titles represent the nth title for each player:
– Carson: 11th career National title. He won 6 with Jack Huczek, then has won 1 each now with Ben CroftJose DiazJose RojasSudsy Monchik and now Pratt. Rocky won his first title in 2004. He now sits 5th for National doubles titles world-wide.
– Pratt: This is his 1st National doubles title; he’s made the semis a few times in the past with various partners in National events, and has one pro IRT doubles title (with Jansen Allen in 2016).
– Ruiz: 12th career National title. She won 2 with Laura Fenton, 5 with  Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson, and now 5 with Tisinger. She is tied for 3rd globally for National doubles titles with Canadian Jen Saunders. First place is Canadian legend Josee Grand Maitre with 15 career national doubles titles, and 2nd all time is Ruiz’s former partner Paraiso, who has 14.
– Tisinger earns her 5th title, all with Ruiz.

Click here for a list of all Amateur national doubles champions for the three major countries: http://rball.pro/4A22B0

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Men’s doubles match report in the database: http://rball.pro/9BA2E3

Quick summary of the Men’s draw: the semis were chalk according to seeds: there #3 seeded Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz took out #2 seeded Bobby David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas to reach the final. There, the two finalists split games and headed to a tie-breaker, eventually taken by the champs 11-7.

Women’s doubles match report in the database: http://rball.pro/E5DEC6

Quick summary of the Women’s draw: it was upsets galore here, with the 5th seeded team of Michelle De La Rosa and sister Danielle Maddux upsetting defending champs and #1 seeds Kelani Lawrence and Sharon Jackson in an 11-10 tiebreaker win en route to the final. On the other side, 3rd seeded Ruiz/Tisinger took out 2nd seeded and last year’s finalists Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts in a tiebreaker to get to the final. The final was a 2-game win for the veterans.

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The Tempe event also had a singles component, with players competing for qualifying points towards representing the USA in singles. Here’s a quick run-through these draws:

On the Men’s side, #1 seed Carson topped #2 Pratt in two games to take the draw. There were a few notable upsets by seeds in the earlier rounds (Thomas Carter over Mauro Rojas, and Erik Garcia over Robert Collins being perhaps the biggest), but the semis-onward more or less went as expected.

On the Women’s side, the #1 seed Rajsich also took the draw, taking out #3 seeded Lawrence in a rematch of the last two such National level singles draws. The quarters featured two pretty significant results: Hollie Scott trounced Sheryl Lotts in the quarters, and doubles specialist Tisinger took out #2 seeded Sharon Jackson 11-10.

(Reminder: I do not enter these non-National results into the database).

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Lastly, a bit of opinion expression from yours truly based on a situation that arose and was talked about in some of the FB groups.

This was the USA National Doubles Championships. It determines the United States champions in the various divisions and helps select representatives (in both singles and doubles) of our country in international competitions.

So why were there foreign nationals who represent other countries internationally in the draw?

A bit of history: the “US National championships” were, for a time, open to all countries. In fact, the US National amateur singles champs in 75 and 75 were both Canadians (Wayne Bowes and Lindsay Myers respectively). In 82 the then named “AARA” changed the requirement to have the US national singles only be open for US citizens. This is (coincidentally or not) right around the time that the first “international” championships were held; in the 1970s there was just the tournaments held in the USA, and even the professional year end championships declared “National champions.” I don’t ever recall a situation where there was even a question about someone’s citizenship competing for the USA national team … until now.

It says pretty clearly on the entry form that you have to be a US citizen or “have a citizenship application in process.” Understood; some people hold dual citizenships. But how is it possible we’re letting players who have represented other countries internationally (quite recently) compete in the US championships?

There were three examples of this situation this past weekend:
Sebastian Fernandez: He competed in US team qualifying in doubles. Fernandez represents Mexico in juniors, where he was the runner-up in Junior worlds just last November, entered Mexican National Singles last February, and entered the Mexican World Selection event in June. How is he competing in a tournament to represent the USA just a couple months later?
Erik Garcia: hails from Chihuahua, now attending college in the USA … and represented Mexico in Junior worlds in 2013 and competed in Mexican amateur nationals in 2014. Yet he was entered into BOTH singles and doubles USA national team qualifying events. 

(Note: post publishing i’ve been informed that Garcia is in fact a US Citizen, born in US. Which then begs the question; how is he playing in Mexican national events? Its the same issue but perhaps in reverse).

Melania Sauma Masis: has been representing Costa Rica in various junior and senior events since 2009, including playing in the 2017 PARCs and the 2018 Caribbean games. Clearly grew up in CRC, but now attends the host college of this past event (ASU). Less of an issue for Sauma Masis in that she didn’t compete in the National team events (since the application says that “all other divisions are open to US Citizens and residents) … but she did compete for a “US National title” against US citizens, which some have a problem with.

I get that these players may have dual citizenship, which technically would have allowed them to enter the tourney (it was reported that Fernandez does; but I’m not sure how the other two possibly would). I suppose the bigger question is this: how can someone just switch back and forth like (especially) Fernandez has done? Olympic athletes can switch … but they have to wait a few years in-between competitions. Professional Soccer players can switch from one country to another, but only once, and only before officially representing a country at the senior/adult level (at which point they are permanently “capped” to a specific country).

Internationally, there’s a long history of players switching countries. Among others, Ruben Gonzalez, Veronique Guillemette, Natalia Mendez, Mario Mercado, Maria Jose Vargas, and most recently Brenda Laime have switched countries … but i’m not aware of anyone switching to and back like we’ve now seen out of Fernandez over his career.

To take this to the extreme, consider these hypotheticals. Daniel De La Rosa is married to a US citizen and now lives in Arizona (I have no idea if he now has a US passport, if he’s applied for citizenship, etc; this is a hypothetical). He has always and continues to represent Mexico … but lets say DLR plays in Mexican Nationals in February and gets knocked out early but really wants to go to Peru for the Pan Am games. Would you be ok with him then entering USA nationals in May to try to earn a spot? Also hypothetical: Kane Waselenchuk has now lived in Texas nearly as long as he lived in Canada, and marred a US citizen years ago; would you be ok if he entered US Nationals in May?

I think we need some guidelines going forward, where players have to declare to represent one country or another and stick with it. I’m ok with switching countries, but you have to have a legitimate connection, and you have to “sit out” a period of time to prevent venue shopping for IRF representation.

PS: I want to emphasize this point; i’m not making a political statement here. Its more about the inherent conflict of interest that exists.

2019 USA National Doubles Preview

Rocky Carson tries to defend his title

The first major National championship for 2019 from the “big 3” (I.e. USA RacquetballRacquetball Canada and Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol) is upon us: USA National Doubles in Tempe, AZ.

R2sports home page for the event: http://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30098

Here’s a preview of the Men’s and Women’s National team draws.

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In the Men’s Doubles draw: 9 teams competing. One half of the defending champ team is missing this year ( Sudsy Monchik), meaning defending champ Rocky Carson has a new partner: he’s playing with Charlie Pratt and they’re seeded #1.

Quarters prediction: 
– #1 Carson/Pratt over the young team of Sebastian Fernandez and Luis R Avila. (a question: how is Fernandez playing USA National doubles … but representing Mexico in juniors and playing in Mexican National Singles as he did in 2018??)
– #4 Adam Manilla / Nick Riffel (aka team Colorado) over #5 Thomas Carter and Fernando Rivera .
– #3 Jake Bredenbeck and partner Jose Diaz, the 2016 champs who got upset in the semis last year, should down the California amateur team of Michael Myers and Tim Hansen.
– #2 David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas, who lost in the final last year to earn their #2 seed, face a lefty/right pair in IRT players Robert Collins and Sam Bredenbeck.

In the semis …
– I’ll go with #1 Carson/Pratt over #4 Manilla/Riffel.
– I’m predicting an upset by seed: #3 Bredenbeck/Diaz get revenge for last year’s match-up and down Horn/Rojas at this stage instead.

In the finals: Carson/Pratt earn their National team spot with a win over Jake/Diaz in a brutal tiebreaker.
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In the Women’s doubles draw; just 5 teams competing. Last year saw somewhat of a changing of the guard, when 11-time champ Aimee Roehler Ruiz got upset in the semis with her partner Janel Tisinger-Ledkinsand 14-time winner Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson also getting upset in the semis with her partner Erika Manilla.

Lets see how it goes this time.

In the quarters:
– #5 seeded Sister-team of Michelle De La Rosa and Danielle Madduxshould oust #4 seeded Erika Manilla and Hollie Scott.

In the semis:
– #1 and defending champs Kelani Lawrence and Sharon Jackson have their work cut out for them, having to face the (nee) Key Sisters. I’m going to go with Lawrence/Jackson in a tiebreaker to advance back to the finals.
– #3 Ruiz and Tisinger face off against the same team that beat them last year at this juncture: #2 seeded Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts. Rajsich & Lotts have been playing together nearly all season in LPRT pro doubles and have been playing tough; I think they’ll use that familiarity with each other to advance past the veteran Ruiz/Tisinger team.

In the final:
– A rematch of last year’s final, won by Lawrence & Jackson 11-8 in the breaker. I think Rajsich/Lotts turn the tide and take the title.

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There’s also Singles Qualifying draws this weekend (similar to the Canadian National event from last weekend). Here’s a quick preview for this draw, which will help select the Singles team members who represent USA this year at PARC and (more importantly) at the Pan American Games. A big year for International Racquetball Federation – IRF this year.

On the Men’s Singles side: 14 guys playing and some very interesting match-ups. If you wondered what the IRT would look like without any foreign players … take a look at this draw. 10 of the top 11 ranked Americans on the IRT and ever American in the top 25 (save one; Jansen Allen) is here playing.

In the 16s, we see a number of first round match-ups against IRT touring regulars:
– Diaz takes on Riffel 
– Manilla takes on Justus Benson
– Rojas takes on Carter 
– … and we get a unique brother-on-brother match-up between the Bredenbecks (which I’m sure has happened in local tourneys before, but this is a first for a top-level tourney in PRS).

In the Quarters, I’m projecting these matches:
– #1 Carson over #9 Collins in their third meeting in as many months.
– #5 Diaz over #4 Manilla 
– #3 Horn vs #6 Jake: these guys have met no less than 16 times in the various pro tours: Jake leads h2h 9-7 in my database and won their most recent meeting … which was more than a year ago. Horn’s been struggling with fitness this year, while Jake has been struggling with results. I’ll go with Jake over Horn in this event in a tie-breaker, thinking perhaps Horn still isn’t 100%.
– #2 Pratt over #7 Rojas; they met in December, a straight forward win for Charlie; no reason not to think it’ll happen again.

Projected Semis:
– Carson over Diaz in a typical dog-fight.
– Pratt over Jake in a tactical masterpiece.

Final: doubles partners face off, with Rocky handling Pratt for the title.

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On the Women’s Singles Side, 9 players face off in the Team singles event.

Quarters:
– #1 Rajsich over Manilla (who should advance from the sole play-in)
– #4 Lotts over Scott 
– #3 Lawrence over Adrienne Fisher Haynes in what could be a bit closer than you’d think.
– #2 Jackson over Tisinger in an interesting match … this might be closer than you’d expect from the 2/7 match=up.

Projected Semis:
– Rajsich over her doubles partner Lotts
– Lawrence over her doubles partner Jackson.

Finals: we get the final we were robbed of in this singles event last year, when Lawrence’s flights couldn’t get changed and she had to forfeit. These two also met in the US National singles final in May. Rajsich wins, but Lawrence gets valuable points towards qualifying for IRF events later this year.

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Should be a great tourney!

IRT Lewis Drug Pro-Am Wrap-Up

Kane Wins again.

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk on his win at the 41st annual International Racquetball Tour Lewis Drug Pro Am this past weekend in Sioux Falls SD.

Click here for the match report in the database: http://rball.pro/6EC5CF

With his latest win, Kane extends some amazing records:
– this is his 114th career pro title, 43 more than the player in 2nd place (Cliff Swain). By way of comparison … Sudsy Monchik won 43 titles in his whole career … and now Kane leads the 2nd place tourney winner by that same amount. See http://rball.pro/B173E8 for more.
– This extends his current match winning streak to 78 matches, 3rd longest ever. See http://rball.pro/8696B9 for more.
– This extends his current GAME winning streak to 64, which is still a long ways from his amazing 113-game winning streak record, now that the tour has gone to best of 2. He’ll need to win the next 7 tourneys w/o dropping a game in order to challenge that record.

Its also notable that Kane has yet to drop a game since the tour went to best-of-three scoring. In fact the closest someone has come in a game has been 12 points. Nobody’s gone any higher.

The results of this event will result in a shake-up of the current rankings. Kane should ascend to #1. Landa will drop to #3, just barely ahead of DLR for now. Parrilla should rise from #8 to #5. Montoya will rise from #18 to #16 … but the next time he enters he should be on the opposite side of the draw from the #1 seed, making it easier for him to advance deeper.

Meanwhile, in terms of Season-to-Date rankings, DLR sits just behind Carson in 3rd place, and would be easily in 2nd had he not missed the first event of the season. Given that DLR has 3 finals on the season and Rocky has just one … DLR is well positioned to ascend to the #2 ranking by the time the season is over.

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Here’s a review of the notable results (to me) by round:

In the 64s…
– North Carolinian and infrequent IRT player Brent Walters played the World Champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis tough, losing 7,13. Good showing by Mr. Walters.
– Racquetball Canada‘s Tanner Prentice took IRT pro Robert Collins to a tie-breaker before falling. His country-man Lee Connell also played an IRT regular tough, falling in two close games to Nick Riffel
– USA Racquetball 18U national champ Ricardo Ricky Diaz played 18U World finalist Sebastian Fernandez tough, falling 12,12.
Charlie Pratt took out Andrew Gleason, who was making his pro debut. This is notable in that Gleason just competed in the 14U (!) division of Junior Worlds, losing in the finals. He still has at least four junior years underneath his belt and played well against a former IRT pro tournament winner in Pratt.

– Biggest upset of the round may have been Sam Bredenbeck taking out #14 Thomas Carter in an 11-9 breaker. Big win for the younger brother of Jake.
– Another upset was Iowan Brad Hansen, playing in his first pro event, taking out #22 Scott McClellan in a tough 11-8 breaker.

– #10 Jansen Allen reportedly fell ill and withdrew from the event after the draw was published, giving local player John Goth a walkover into the 32s. This was the first time Allen has missed an event since the 2012-13 season, and it breaks a consecutive appearance streak of 64 matches, the 12th longest ever such streak in the pro tour history.

 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez was stretched to a tiebreaker by long-time IRF veteran Alejandro Herrera Azcarate, eventually eking out an 11-9 win.

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In the 32s:
– Montoya made quick work of Collins in the 16/17 match to setup the anticipated rematch against #1 Alex Landa on Friday.
– #9 Mario Mercado was the unlucky tour vet forced to play former IRT pro Tony Anthony Carson in qualifying … and indeed he lost in two quick games.
– Teenager Sebastian Fernandez got a career win, topping the veteran Charlie Pratt in a tiebreaker. In case you were wondering why we marvel at the continued success of Fernandez … he’s still got one year left of junior racquetball! He’s just now entering his age 18 season, having won Mexican 18U junior nationals over Eduardo Portillo Rendon but then losing in the Junior World finals to Portillo later in 2018. 
– Adam Manilla played a tough, close match against Mauro Daniel Rojas and advanced 11,14.
Sam Bredenbeck got his second “career best” win in a row, downing another IRT touring player in Nick Riffel 12,13. 
John Goth got a solid win over Canadian Tim Landeryou 13,7 to advance and face Jose Diaz. We havn’t seen Goth on the IRT since 2013, and not in a pro event in more than a year, but he’s definitely a solid player and will be a tough out for Jose (who lost to him in the 2012 US Nationals).
Gerardo Franco got a solid win in the #15/#18 seed match over veteran Felipe Camacho to advance to another main draw. I often wonder about players like Franco, who get “stuck” right in that 15-18 Seed range on tour and thus constantly play right into the #1 and #2 seeds. He’ll likely need a stunning round of 16 win to get out of that range and start playing into “easier” opponents in the main draws.

Qualifying summary: only three of the eight “seeded” players in qualifying advanced (#11, #13 and #16 seeds), but several of the upsets we saw by seeding were definitely not upsets by talent. We should see some great main draw matches.

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In the 16s:
– Landa and Montoya went head to head and it was as close as it could be: 11-10 in the tiebreaker. Montoya came out on top this time, beating the #1 seed and defending champ in the 16s. This represents one of the earliest exits for a #1 seed in the last decade or so, thanks to unfortunate seeding. 
– Alvaro Beltran handled the upset-minded Tony Carson in 2.
– Samuel Murray blitzed the 18yr old Fernandez 7,1, ending any shot at further upsets by the teen-ager.
– Daniel De La Rosa played a closer-than-he may have liked match against Manilla, advancing 13,10.
– Kane Waselenchuk made quick work of the younger Bredenbeck in his first main draw match 5,2
– Andree Parrilla got his first h2h win over Jake Bredenbeck by the odd-looking scores of 14,(14),0.
– #7 Jose Diaz continued his strong season by advancing to the quarters over the tough amateur John Goth.
– #2 Rocky Carson outlasted Gerardo Franco 10,4.

Last event, I predicted Montoya would beat Landa at this stage, and the reverse happened. This time, I predicted a Landa win at this juncture … and the reverse happened. These two are so close; any given sunday either one can beat the other.

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In the Quarters…
– #16 Montoya downed country-man Beltran in two to advance to the semis.
– #4 DLR took out Canadian Murray in two
– #3 Waselenchuk beat Parrilla in a rematch of the quarters from last event, this time by the more respectable scores of 8,11
– #2 Carson took out #7 Diaz in two.

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The semis were two interesting match-ups:
– DLR absolutely trounced Montoya in two games 1,4. This was a pretty shocking result for me, given their history. Here’s some of the match-ups between them in the last year:
o Montoya beat DLR in the Men’s Mexico National final in Feb 2018 3,12
o DLR then beat Montoya in the Worlds selection event final in June 0,8 (but I wonder about that score, since both qualified for Worlds by virtue of making that final).
o DLR took out Montoya in the final of the Dec 2018 Mexican Open.

So, it looks like DLR has Montoya’s number for now. We can only hope we continue to see Montoya in IRT draws.
– Kane beat Rocky for the 74th time in 77 meetings to advance to the final.

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The final represented the third meeting between Kane and DLR for a tourney title this season, establishing a clear trend of some movement in the eventual season ending rankings. Unfortunately, all the momentum DLR gained in his excellent run to the final was for naught, as he came out very flat against the ever-consistent Kane and was wiped out in the final 4,2. This represented one of the most one-sided finals in the history of the pro tour, tied for the 2nd worst finals beating (in two or three game formats).

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In the doubles …. the top team in the world (Beltran & DLR) got upset in controversial fashion in the semis, losing to eventual winners Montoya/Parrilla 11-10 in a match ended with an avoidable hinder call. They beat #2 seeded Landa/Murray in a close final 11,11 to take the crown.

Click here for the doubles match report: http://rball.pro/3F25F9

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Another excellent Lewis Drug event in the books! Next up for the IRT is a popular Tier 2 in Wisconsin in two weeks time, but we don’t have another Tier1 scheduled for two months.

IRT 41st Lewis Drug Pro-Am Preview

Landa returns to Sioux Falls to defend his first ever Pro title.

Hello racquetball fans! This coming weekend is what has now become the 2nd biggest International Racquetball Tour event of the season and is the reported longest running Pro event in the land; the Lewis Drug Pro-Am held in Sioux Falls, SD. Thanks to the long-standing generosity of the sponsors, this event generally features the richest and best draws outside of the US Open.

r2sports.com home page for the event is here.

Quick note: keep IRT CEO John Scott in your thoughts; he underwent some emergency surgical procedures in the past couple of weeks and is recuperating at home.

This year, the event falls right on the same weekend as the massive annual Longhorn Open, which has a WRT event that unfortunately drew away a few of the names that may have considered entering. Nonetheless, there’s a solid draw of 39 pros entered into Lewis.

Ranking implications of this event: after months of kvetching about the IRT ranking system and the implications of Kane’s four missed events in the spring of 2017-18 season, this event likely rectifies the situation. This is the first event from last spring that Kane missed, meaning he has zero points to “defend” from the Lewis Drug event last season. Therefore, he has no where to go but up. Meanwhile, current #1 Landa won this event last year and therefore has 400 points to defend. If Kane wins … irrespective of who makes the final Kane should ascend back to #1 ranking. He will have gained more points than either of the two guys ahead of him could earn.

The only top 20 pros missing are #6 Sebastian Franco (on his Honeymoon as per IRT press release) and #10 Bobby David Horn, who was ill at the California Open, has been fighting through some injuries all season and seems to be taking off the weekend to recuperate for the busy spring schedule. These two absences give Jose Diaz his first ever top 8 seeding, which immediately gets “switched” to a #7 seed for the tourney.

Notable players we don’t regularly see in the draw include former IRT touring pro Tony Anthony Carson, who made waves in the Portland event earlier this season and will be a tough out. #18 ranked and reigning International Racquetball Federation World champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis is in the draw, hoping for a better result. Unfortunately he’s seeded 16th, which has him playing right into #1 Alex Landa yet again. We’ll cover that in the predictions. World 18U runner-up Sebastian Fernandez is back after making waves in Canoga Park. US Open Men’s Open champ Alejandro Herrera Azcarate has made the trip up from Miami for this tourney and is playing doubles with none other than US Open tourney director and rball legend Doug Ganim. Lastly the geographic proximity to Canada has drawn down some of 
Canada’s top players too, including Tim LanderyouLee Connell and Tanner Prentice.

Lets preview the draw. Here’s some round of 64 matches of interest:
– #21 Sebastian Fernandez goes up against fellow 18U recent graduate and current US Junior National champ Ricardo Ricky Diaz. Tough draw for Diaz, who runs into a guy who has been really making waves on tour so far this season.
– #20 Mauro Daniel Rojas vs Christian Longoria; a great first round match between contrasting styles; the shot-making control game of Longoria versus Rojas’ power. 
– #13 Adam Manilla vs Timmy Hansen; Manilla plays the youngster Timmy Hansen, who enters a pro tourney for the first time. Hansen is the reigning US 14U national champ and makes up one half of a potentially pretty darn good Father/Son team with his dad Tim Hansen (one of the most decorated amateur players of all time and USAR hall-of-fame inductee).
– #19 Nick Riffel vs Lee Connell: Connell has been playing Canadian National events since Riffel was in grade school; we’ll see if the veteran can handle the newbie.
– #11 Jake Bredenbeck vs Cesar Castillo; Castillo enters a pro tournament for the first time since 2015; he’s a long-time international representative of Venezuela, last playing for his country in the 2017 Bolivarian games. 
– #10 Jansen Allen gets a tough 1st round draw in Sioux Falls native John Goth. Goth only has a few major tourneys on his resume over the past few years … but rolled to the US National final in 2012 and has taken out touring pros like Sebastian Franco and Christian Longoria in recent WRT events. This could be a tough one for IRT regular Allen.
– #15 Felipe Camacho matches up against Matthew Ivar Majxner, a tough player who has been playing pro events since the late 1990s.
– #18 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez faces the always-tough Alejandro Herrera, last seen taking the Men’s Open draw in Minneapolis and who played Robbie Collins tough in the pro draw in Minneapolis before losing. Herrera plays with pace, and Franco will need to adjust.

Projecting to the 32s:
– Montoya over Robert Collins; tough draw for Collins, who has had a solid season, but I see a Montoya win here.
– #9 Mario Mercado vs Tony Carson: missing out on the bye comes back to haunt Mercado, who runs into former touring pro Carson, who has the wherewithall to advance here. I see a Carson win and Mercado’s tough season continuing.
Charlie Pratt versus Sebastian Fernandez: wow, tough match up here. Pratt has experience on his side but these two play a very similar game; all about control. I give the cerebral Pratt the advantage here over the youngster.
– Manilla vs Rojas: I like Rojas here, out-pacing the lefty Manilla in what should be a shoot out of power players swinging out of their shoes.
– Carter vs Riffel: these two buddies have met three times on tour, with Riffel taking two of them. I think Riffel wins again and advances to the main draw.
– Jake over the Ref Scott McClellan; at some point the Ref will force his way into making … someone else ref his back-of-the-tournament matches 🙂
– Allen vs Landeryou: I like this match-up; i think this could be a pretty tight game. I like Allen’s game lately; he has not been an easy out, but Landeryou’s game could frustrate.
– Franco over Camacho: assuming we don’t see a surprise upset, I like Gerardo Franco in this match. He’s got the game and has the capabilities to do a break through.

Main Draw: round of 16.
– #1 Landa vs #16 Montoya: for the 2nd straight event, and for the third time in two months, we get Landa v Montoya. Last time, I predicted the upset, and instead Landa cruised to the semis. This time … i’m predicting Landa returns to the site of his first ever pro victory energized and takes a 2 game win. A semis-quality match-up in the 16s yet again.
– #8 Alvaro Beltran v Tony Carson: Carson has beaten DLR and Parrilla the last two IRT events he’s entered; he can beat Beltran. But … they’ve met 6 times on the IRT and Beltran has won all 6. I’ll go with a tiebreaker win for Alvaro Beltran.
– #5 Samuel Murray v #12 Pratt: last time they played was at the 2018 Worlds, where Pratt waxed Murray in two. Can he repeat the favor? I think he can; since making the final in the season opener, Murray has four early exits in a row in pro events, including two round of 16 upsets. Pratt can make it another early exit here.
– #4 Daniel De La Rosa vs Rojas: DLR converts back to Racquetball from Pickleball and downs the youngster Rojas in the 16s for the 2nd tourney in a row.
– #3 Kane Waselenchuk gets his first match likely against Riffel and makes quick work of the youngster to advance.
– #6 Andree Parrilla vs #11 Jake Bredenbeck: these two have met a few times … and Jake has never lost to Andree. They havn’t met in a year and a half though, and in that time Parrilla has taken a big step ahead. I think Parrilla advances.
– #7 Jose Diaz vs #10 Allen: they’ve met 5 times and have gone back and forth; Allen got him in their most recent meeting in Laurel. This is an excellent opportunity for Allen to regain some of his momentum and get back to the quarters. Expect a tough match here. I’m not sure who I favor. I liked what I saw out of Allen in the last event; we’ll go with the Texan here.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs Gerardo Franco: they met in Laurel earlier this season and Rocky pasted him. No reason to expect a different result here.

Projected Quarters:
– #1 Landa over #8 Beltran: Landa has his number and has had it for a while.
– #4 DLR over #12 Pratt: they met at the US Open, a tight but 2-game win for DLR. I like the way DLR is trending this season … he seems like he’s been much more consistent this season than last. After missing the first event, he’s made two finals and a quarter and is a good bet to make at least the semis here.
– #3 Kane over #6 Andree: a rematch of the quarters from California, a 3,5 beat-down. No concrete courts in Sioux Falls, so perhaps Parrilla can keep it close, but expect a 2-game win for the King.
– #2 Rocky vs #10 Allen: they’ve played 13 times … and Rocky has won 13 times. Expect 14 for 14 here.

Semis:
– #1 Landa vs #4 DLR: these two met at the Lewis Drug in 2017 semis and in the 2018 finals (an 11-10 Landa win for his first ever pro title)… so its only fitting if they meet again in 2019. Landa has beaten him h2h 3 straight times now, but they’re always battles. Can DLR turn the tide? I’d like to see Kane vs Landa in the final but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was Kane-DLR again.
– #3 Kane vs #2 Rocky; they’ve met 76 times (!) … but if they meet here it’ll be the first time they’ve faced off in a match that was NOT a final since 2009. That’s 10 years of match-ups for tourney titles. Nonetheless, Kane makes it 74-3.

Finals: Kane over Landa. Or maybe DLR. Or perhaps Montoya if I get my predictions way wrong.

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There’s also a solid Doubles draw for only the third official IRT doubles event of the year., with 10 teams playing and the regular suspects (Beltran/DLR, Landa/Murray, Montoya/Parrilla). Beltran & DLR are unvanquished in nearly a year of doubles competition and remain the team to beat.

2019 IRT California Open Wrap-up

Kane Wins again.

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk for winning the 2019 International Racquetball Tour California Open. With the win, he captures his 113th career Tier1/Grand Slam event, extends his current match winning streak to 74 matches (3rd longest ever streak), and extends his current game winning streak to 48. He’s yet to drop a game since the tour went to best of 3.

With this win, he rises to #3 in the tour rankings; this was the event in which he got injured last season, so from here until May he’s got no points to defend and should pretty quickly rise up the rankings. He’s got 300+ point advantage in season-to-date rankings already and is well positioned to claim another year end title.

r2sports link for event: http://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=29824

Proracquetballstats.com Match report for the event is here.

Lets review the draw, with comments on notable (to me) results.

In the round of 64:
– In the battle of reigning world Junior champs, the elder 18U champ Eduardo Portillo Rendon outlasted 16U champ Diego Garcia Quispe 12,11. Garcia showed a lot of power, with a sneaky fast serve, but Portillo’s smooth approach kept him just ahead of the Bolivian.
– Mexican Junior Oscar Nieto Valadez snuck by the Ref Scott McClellan 11-10. Nieto made the Mexican National 16U final in 2017 … then seems to have missed the 2018 Nationals and Selection events. But he’s still got a year of juniors and looks like a pretty solid player.
Robert Collins took out Sebastian Longoria in 2 straight … which isn’t normally notable except that Longoria is just 16 years old. He lost in the final of the Jr Worlds 14U in Minneapolis in 2017. 
Nick Riffel outlasted outdoor champ  Luis R Avila 11-8 in the breaker, in a close match between two solid players.

In the round of 32, we had some surprises:
– Rodrigo Montoya Solis cruised past Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 9,6, setting up a match against #1 Alejandro Alex Landa .
– Portillo took out #9 seeded David Horn 11,13. This is a pretty significant result for me, demonstrating how far Portillo has come in the past year. Its also another early loss for Horn on the season, who now in four events has lost in the 32s twice and the 16s once. Reports are that Horn was under the weather, contributing to his loss, and he forfeited out of doubles after this result.
– Sebastian Fernandez took out Adam Manilla 8,12. Also a notable result, in that its another 18-yr old taking out a pretty experienced IRT touring pro. Both Portillo and Fernandez are flexing their muscles on tour right now.
– Nieto took Jake Bredenbeck to a tiebreaker before falling 11-3. Not a bad result for a kid playing in his age 18 season.
Mauro Daniel Rojas took out veteran Felipe Camacho 11-6 in a breaker. Very good result for Rojas.
– In the 15/18 match-up, Robert Collins earned another match against Rocky with a solid 2-game win over Riffel.

In the round of 16…
– The highly anticipated match between #1 Alejandro Landa and IRF world Champ Montoya, the fans were not disappointed. Landa came out on top after dropping the first and racing away with the second. Landa dominated the tiebreaker, jumping out to a 9-2 lead, then held on for a 11-6 win. These two matched up in the Mexico City Open in Dec and Montoya came out on top; this time it was Landa. 
– With his greatest ever IRT victory, Portillo downed #8 seeded Samuel Murray 14,14. 
– Andree Parrilla held off the other 18U champion in the draw Fernandez, holding on for an 11,13 win.
– Kane Waselenchuk left nothing to chance, dominating Bredenbeck 8,3
– Daniel De La Rosa cruised past the youngster Rojas 4,13
– Jose Diaz indeed got the upset of Sebastian Franco in a tie-breaker, continuing his fantastic season. Diaz now has two quarter-final appearances on the new season and is on track to break into the top 8 based on performance.
– Alvaro Beltran held off the solid Jansen Allen in a tie-breaker.
Rocky Carson left nothing to chance, giving Collins a donut en route to a 2-game win.

In the Quarters…
– Landa pounded the 18U champ Portillo 3,5, ending his tournament quickly. Still, this is easily Portillo’s best ever IRT event (prior career best was a round of 32 exit at the 2017 US Open).
– Waselenchuk made quick work of Parrilla, ironically by the same 3,5 score as Landa’s win. Kane’s serves were just outstanding, Parrilla could do little with his match all night, and to add insult to injury Kane hit splats from down the line positions at 39 feet and rolled out between-the-legs shots. Just unfair.
– DLR outlasted Diaz in a back and forth tiebreaker.
– Carson got revenge and came from a game down to beat Beltran.

In the Semis:
– Kane gave #1 Landa a donut before he caught his breath, then outlasted him in the second to advance to the final 0,9.
– DLR won a fantastic 11-10 tiebreaker over Rocky Carson, a scintillating match where each player had multiple shots at match point.

In the Final, DLR was making shots and was pressing Kane most of the way, but in a common refrain Kane controlled the end game like a chess master, and quickly turned a game that was close up until the 8-8 or 10-10 range into a 15-8 or 15-10 game win. DLR tried some unconventional (to say the least) tactics to try to throw Kane’s service game off, to some success it should be said, and really experimented with his service game, but it was to no avail. A sharp Kane and concrete walls proved to be unstoppable.

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In the doubles draw, it came down to #1 vs #2. In the end, DLR rebounded from his singles loss to team with Beltran to top #2 seeded Landa/Murray in two straight. These two teams are separating themselves this year, playing together nearly every event and making a name for themselves (along with the Kane/Ben Croft team) as the best in the world.

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We have a rare break in the schedule; nothing on the books for the weekend of 1/13/19. But the following weekend we have the great annual Lewis Drug Pro-Am in South Dakota and the equally good Longhorn Open in Austin. I’ll publish some content in the interim related to some new reports and bug fixes i’ve been working on.