Hey racquetball fans. Long-time touring pro and former IRT commissioner Jason Mannino is up for the USAR Hall of Fame this year. Like we published with fellow HoF candidate Gregg Peck earlier this fall, here’s a career retrospective of Jason with some stats and lists of accomplishments:
Mannino overcame a near-fatal car accident at the age of 18 to become one of the most accomplished players in the sport’s history. Read on for a career summary. ————
Mannino hails from Staten Island, NY, the same area as Hall of Famer Sudsy Monchik, and being just 3 months apart in age frequently competed throughout their junior and professional careers. Often times these two dominant players would meet in the finals of state, regional and national competitions and would trade off as title holders.
Mannino and Monchik also frequently teamed up as doubles partners and won multiple junior national titles throughout their junior career.
Junior Career Accomplishments: – 3-time USA Junior National champ o 14U National Champ in 1990 o 16U National Champ in 1991 (as a 15-yr old) o 18U National Champ in 1992 (as a 16-yr old
-5-time USA Junior Doubles national champ with Monchik o 18U in 1993 o 16U in 1990 o 10U, 12U and 14U titles previous to that for a full sweep with Sudsy
– 18U World Junior Singles champion in 1994
———————— Professional Career
Mannino turned pro soon after the end of his junior career, when he was offered a contract with Spalding upon winning the 1994 Junior 18U world title. His first pro main event qualification was at the Jan 1995 Atlanta tourney. In his first full season on tour as a 20-yr old, he finished in the top ten on tour. He improved even more in the 1996-7 season, finishing 4th and kicking off more than a decade of being ranked in the top 5 on tour.
He competed across two distinct “eras” in the sport, and faced off against legends like Cliff Swain and Sudsy Monchik in the first part of his career, then Rocky Carson / Jack Huczek / Kane Waselenchuk in the second part of his career. Despite frequently competing in the back ends of tournaments against multiple year-end tour winners, he won 22 titles in his career and made the finals of another 18.
Mannino competed at the top of the tour for an astounding 16 seasons, competing at a high level well into his 30s and becoming one of the most long-serving pros in the history of the game. His playing career only ended at 35 so that he could take the opportunity of running the pro tour; he finished his final touring season ranked 4th.
Professional Career Accomplishments: – IRT Pro tour champion: 2002-3 season – 16 years on tour; 15 top-10 finishes, 14 top-5 finishes – 22 career titles, 7th all time – 40 career finals made, 9th of all time. – 195 career appearances, 5th of all time – 70.0% career W/L percentage (402-172), 11th all time – 2-time US Open champion, 1999 and 2006 – Las Vegas Pro Nationals Champion 2001 – 1996: IRT Rookie of the Year – 1998: IRT Most Improved player of the year
————————– Innovative Playing Style
Mannino’s playing style was revolutionary in our sport for two primary reasons: his tactical serving approach and his amazing retrieval capabilities.
Coming into play at an age in our sport dominated by power servers (Swain, Monchik, John Ellis, Doyle, Drew Kachtik, Andy Roberts, etc.), Mannino developed a unique serving style that was not really seen prior; the “Junk serve.” Not a lob serve, but not a drive serve, he pioneered a serving style that involved deception, placement and guile to de-emphasize the power of his opponents and often times force loose service returns for easy points.
In the meantime, Mannino’s “getting” ability on the court was perhaps the best ever seen on tour. Mannino could retrieve balls that no other player in his time could get, diving all over the court to extend points and rallies. Mannino could anticipate where kill shots were going and would literally begin diving before a shot was executed, and could return kill shots from mid-air. He set the athletic standard for generations of diving players to come.
——————— Professional Tour Leadership
Mannino retired in April 2010 to take over the professional tour as owner and commissioner. He succeeded Dave Negrete and became the 8th pro tour commissioner in men’s pro tour history. Mannino took over the tour at a critical time; economic downturns in the 2010 time-frame forced major sponsors out of the game and cancelled marquee events. Mannino was able to resurrect the Ektelon Nationals in California for a time, and stabilized the number of tier 1 events for the better part of the 2010s.
However, Mannino’s lasting impact on the tour may be the rule changes he implemented immediately upon taking over as commissioner. The IRT returned to two serves for the first time since Aug 1990 in an attempt to improve the excitement of the serve. Additionally, in response to complaints from fans and sponsors, Mannino implemented anti-arguing rules and pace-of-play statutes in an attempt to improve the quality of the product as the sport moved more fully into a streaming/broadcast focused mode.
Mannino sold the IRT tour in June 2017, ending more than 20 years of direct involvement (as a player or in management) of the men’s professional racquetball tour.
——————— Coaching and Mentoring Career
Mannino has partnered with Fran Davis for more than two decades to teach Racquetball Camps all across the country and internationally. Davis and Mannino are the primary instructors of the most popular annual Racquetball camp series in the nation and have taught hundreds of players over the years.
Mannino is a co-author with Davis of Championship Racquetball, published in 2011.
He hails from Staten Island, NY and studied at St. John’s University before turning pro. He currently resides in San Diego, CA. He transitioned to a career in Real Estate upon leaving IRT management. He continues to work with Fran Davis Racquetball as a coach and mentor. He is married with two sons who have continued his athletic pedigree by excelling in youth baseball.
Mannino’s pro record speaks for itself; he’s one of the most accomplished pro players to ever play the game. He continued to have an impact on the sport after his playing career ended, and continues to this day. He more than belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk on his pro singles win this weekend in Portland at the 2019 John Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions. With this win: – He captures his 120th career IRT Tier 1 title – Kane improves to 17-1 on the season – he extends his current on the court winning streak to 21. – He increases his points lead at the top of the tour to more than 500 points at the halfway point. – He extends his career match record to 596-53
A couple notable things about this event; it was a Saturday night finish, meaning a compressed pro schedule. Also, the 9-16 seeds continue to get byes into the 32s, as opposed to having to fully qualify. This is a tweak to the qualifying that the tour has been experimenting with when they can and I like it. It protects the regular touring players a bit more but also doesn’t force them to have to play a ton more matches than the 1-8 guys.
Lets review the notable matches in the draw. We’ll start with the 2nd round of qualifying, the round of 64. – #17 Kadim Carrasco was stretched to a tie-breaker by local amateur #33 Sunji Spencer before falling. – #20 Sam Bredenbeck took a tiebreaker win over #29 Matthew Ivar Majxner to move on. – #23 Dylan Reid played fantastically, dominating Canadian #26 Lee ConnellConnell 3,1 to move on. (Plug here for Reid’s excellent podcast The Racquetball Show)
In the 32s, we got an upset and some close matches: – #16 Felipe Camacho took out #17 Carrasco in a close tie-breaker 11-7. As expected, this was a close match but the veteran Costa Rican came out on top. – #20 Sam Bredenbeck got another IRT touring veteran scalp on his resume, topping #13 Robert Collins12,10 to qualify for his second career main draw. – #14 Andres Acuña took the first game 15-7, then got an injury default from former event champion #19 Charlie Pratt. Its a shame to have Pratt out so early, given his recent success in this event. – #23 Reid nearly upset #10 Jake Bredenbeck, having match point on his racquet before losing the tiebreaker 11-10. Reid came to play this event but missed out on an opportunity to return to the main draw of an IRT event for the first time in several seasons.
So, just one seed out of the 9-16 range fell at the round of 32, making for a pretty “chalk” event to this point.
In the main draw/round of 16: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk made fast work of #16 Camacho 2,4 in a match that took less than 30 minutes. – #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis took out #8 Lalo Portillo 8,6. I viewed this as an interesting “show me” match for both players and the reigning World Champ Montoya came out on top. – #12 Thomas Carter got the best win of his pro career, taking out #5 Alvaro Beltran in a tie-breaker after losing the first game 15-2. Its Carter’s 2nd ever pro quarter final appearance (the first being by virtue of a walk-over). – #4 Andree Parrilla put an end to the younger Bredenbeck’s run, but had to work to do so in the second game 2,13. – #3 Alex Landa got a solid win over the up and coming #14 Acuna 12,8. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa downed #11 Carlos Keller Vargas 6,5 and spoke of his efforts to remain focused on the court. This is now Vargas’ 6th straight IRT event losing in the round of 16 .. to now 6 different pros. – #10 Jake Bredenbeck got a great win, downing #7 Samuel Murray to get to just his third pro quarter-final in the last two years. Its his best win since Syosset in May (also his last qtr appearance). – #15 Adam Manilla squandered a couple of game points on his serve in a disjointed game one, then fell quickly in game two to #2 Rocky Carson 14,5.
In the quarters: – #1 Kane took a competitive match over #9 Montoya 9,11. This is the third time they’ve met up on the IRT, and by far this is the most competitive that Montoya’s made it. – #4 Parrilla advanced in two straight over #12 Carter. – #3 Landa continued his recent dominance over #6 DLR in two tight games 10,12. Landa has now won the last 5 top-level matches they’ve played. – #10 Bredenbeck advanced to just his second ever IRT semi final with a win over #2 Carson. Jake served lights out in the first and won 15-6, then Carson withdrew with a knee injury. Lets hope it isn’t something significant.
In the semis: – #1 Kane was made to work for it against #4 Parrilla in the first, but then ran away with it in the second to advance to the final 9,4. – #3 Landa made it 8 times out of 8 on men’s pro matches by downing #10 Bredenbeck in two dominant games 5,7
In the Final: – Kane took out Landa in the final in two straight forward games 7,8.
———————- Rankings implications of the results:
– The big news is that Landa will eclipse Carson for #2 on tour. Landa has had a very consistent season so far, with 5 semis or better appearances in 6 events, while Carson now has been upset in the quarters or earlier in 3 of the first 6 events of the season. This has now led to Landa overtaking Carson by roughly 30 ranking points.
Carson has not fallen lower than #2 on tour in quite some time. He dipped to #3 in Oct 2016 for just a week or two when DLR eclipsed him briefly, but quickly gained #2 back after the 2016 US Open. Before that, you have to go all the way back to Septem ber 2010 to find the last time that Rocky was not ranked in the top 2 on tour. That’s nearly 10 years ago. Will this be a blip, or are we finally seeing a changing of the guard at the #2 spot?
Other notable rankings implications: – with his semis appearance, Jake will jump Franco for #11 on tour. This may be the highest he’s ever been ranked; its definitely higher than any season-ending rank he’s ever had. – Both Keller and Carter have moved into the top 16, ensuring a bye to the 32s (assuming the tour continues to structure the draws as they have been). – Acuna is back in the top 20. – Sam Bredenbeck gets a big jump into the top 30.
———————- No doubles at Portland to report on. the LPRT played an exhibition, with NW native Hollie Rae Scott getting a nice win over #5 Rhonda Rajsich in the final.
Next up; the LPRT does its annual Xmas Classic in my back yard, at the Sportfit Laurel club in Laurel MD. There’s also an IRT Tier 5 event associated with the event, so look for lots of East coast IRT pros to play.
Congrats to your winners on the weekend: – Singles: Alejandro Landa – Doubles: Daniel De La Rosa/Alvaro Beltran
Some quick stats on his win: – This is his 4th win, tied for 19th all time – As Kramer X noted in his re-cap, Landa has overtaken his country men to be the leading title winner of any Mexican player. – He improves to 13-4 on the season, 121-65 for his IRT career (23rd all time).
In the 128s: – #33 Majeed Shahin survived a tough opener against Canadian vet #32 Lee Connell 11-9 in the breaker. – #31 Luis R Avila was pushed even further, saving match point against to survive 11-10 against Mexican 18U player #34 Manuel Moncada.
In the 64s, one big surprise and a couple of close matches: – #33 Shahin kept the ball rolling from his opening win and topped #17 Jose Diaz 5,14 to advance into the 32s. A great win for Shahin and kind of a shocking loss for Diaz, who was on the cusp of the top 10 the last two seasons but now has opened his season with two missed events and two first round losses. – #24 Alan Natera Chavez took a close one against #25 Sam Bredenbeck 11,12. Solid showing from the younger Bredenbeck sibling. – #26 Mexican 17yr old Oscar Nieto got his second win this calendar year over #23 Scott McClellan 9,10. He earns a shot at a top 10 player on tour for the first time.
——– In the 32s, we started to see some of the talent out there in the player pool take over seeded players: – #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís took out #24 Natera 11,2, dominating the match and putting down the upset attempt. – #19 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez dominated #14 @Gerardo Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 8,2 to move into his second main draw of the season. – #22 Javier Estrada took out #11 David Horn 11-9 in a back and forth match. Horn was down big in game one and came back to take it, but Estrada stormed to game 2. In the breaker, it looked like Horn was in control, but Estrada went on a run that Bobby couldn’t stop, and at the tail end of the tie-breaker Horn took a knock to his foot that hobbled him on match point against. A great win for Estrada, who advances into his first IRT pro draw since 2010
(fun fact: the IRT visited Chihuahua, Estrada’s home town, and had just a 17-man draw … so Estrada, as a 15-yr old, played in the round of 16. He’s the 4th youngest player ever to make the round of 16 in an IRT pro event.
In the 16s: – #8 Daniel De La Rosa improved to 3-1 on the IRT over #9 Montoya, taking the match in two solid games 7,10. – #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz dropped the first game 15-9, then blized #12 Jake Bredenbeck 15-2, 11-1 to advance. – #3 Alvaro Beltran fended off a furious upset bid by #19 Garay before advancing 11-9 in the breaker. – #6 Samuel Murray dispatched #22 Estrada in two games, winning clinically 11,7. – #10 Sebastian Franco provided the sole upset-by-seed of the round, coming back from a game down to oust the upstart Mexican @Lalo Portillo 11-8 in the breaker. Even though these two players are heading in different directions ranking-wise this season, there’s not a lot between them and I sense we’re going to see more of these kind of close matches between those players in the 7-12 range all season. – #2 Alex Landa made fast work of Bolivia’s Carlos Keller Vargas 4,7. Keller has now played in all 5 IRT events so far this season and has fallen at the 16s all five times.
So, we have nearly a perfect chalk quarters in a tournament missing the #1 seed (which historically has meant a wide-open draw). In my preview I surmised we’ may see some upsets here, especially with two up and coming players Garay and Estrada in the mix, but the tour’s elite held on.
—————– In the Quarters: – #1 Rocky Carson eked out a solid game 1 win 15-14, then held on to turn the recent tide of results versus #8 DLR and advance 14,9. – #4 Andree Parrilla make a significant statement in defeating #5 Moscoso 13,7. These two met in the 2017 US Open, a 5-game Moscoso defeat that helped propel him onto the world rball stage. This time around, Parrilla gave a master class in defensive racquetball, continually retrieving shot after shot, making Moscoso hit ball after ball, until eventually a mistake was made going for too much. I thought Moscoso was the pre-tournament favorite once we heard that Kane was out, but he struggled all match to gain the upper hand against Parrilla and may have some things to think about heading into his next event. – #3 Beltran blized past #6 Murray in the first game 15-1 then held on in a closer game two to make the semis for the first time this season. Beltran’s consistency this year has kept him in the top seeds, and a semis appearance will only help. – #2 Landa took revenge on an earlier season defeat to Franco by blasting him 5,6 to move on. He makes the semis for the 4th time in 5 events this year and continues to play really solid ball. He must really rate his chances to get a win here in Kane’s absence.
——————- In the semis, more chalk. – #1 Carson, coming off of two upset losses in the last two events, absolutely flummoxed #4 Parrilla en route to a 7,3 win. Parrilla just could not find a way past Rocky’s serves, and Carson’s consistency led to easy points throughout the day. – #2 Landa topped his long time rival #3 Beltran for the 7th successive time in pro/top level competitions 12,12.
———– In the singles final, Landa got his first win over Carson since April and improved to 5-8 for their careers with a gutsy (9),14,10 win that featured Landa saving match points in both game 2 and game 3.
With the win, Landa inches closer to Carson for #2 on tour, but more importantly opens up a significant gap between himself and #4 Beltran. Landa’s consistency so far this season has really paid off and he’s closer to overtaking Rocky right now than he is in getting surpassed.
———– Here’s a review of the notable matches in Doubles
In the 16s, a couple of great matches: – The Bolivian pairing of Moscoso/Keller topped the great Mexican team of Estrada/Natera 11-7 in the breaker. – Sebastian Fernandez/ Felipe Camacho were taken to the limit by Bredenbeck & Connell, advancing 11-10.
In the qtrs: – Moscoso/Keller played a very solid match to oust the #1 seeded Landa/Murray team 6,11. – Both the #2 and #3 seeds were forced into tiebreakers to advance past solid doubles teams. Jake and Diaz took out Garay & Montoya, while Mercado/Franco took out Portillo/Parrilla.
In the semis: – The upset run of the Bolivian team continued, with Moscoso/Keller taking out Bredenbeck/Diaz 12,8. – The accomplished #2 Mexican team of DLR/Beltran was stretched to a breaker by the Colombian National team Mercado/Franco before advancing.
In the final, DLR and Beltran took the final over the Bolivians 12,8 to take the title. its their first IRT doubles title since Jan 2019.
———— A quick comment on the Men’s Open draw: Mexican 16U player Guillermo Ortega took out Mexican 18U player Manuel Moncada in the final. Ortega defeated Set Cubillos Ruiz and Shahin enroute to the final, while Moncada defeated Francisco Troncoso and Connell en route to the final. Those are some accomplished players for two kids to take out.
Interestingly, neither Moncada or Ortega won their respective Mexican Junior titles this year: Moncada fell in the semis to Sebastian Fernandez while Ortega Jr. was defeated in the 16s.
———— Next Up on the schedule: – IRF World Juniors in Costa Rica kicks off 11/8/19 and runs for a week – 17th Annual turkey Shootout, Portland, OR IRT Tier 5 event. – Marigold Resources Quad City Open, Eldridge, IA: IRT Tier 5 event – There’s supposedly an RKT event called the Copa Prince event somewhere in Mexico; if it happens we’ll cover it.
Hot on the heels of last weekend’s event in Tempe, the pros are back in action at the legendary Meridian club in Fullerton. The club has played host to a number of major amateur events over the years, but hasn’t hosted the men’s pros since the old Ektelon Nationals event ended in May of 2013.
There’s 36 pros in action this weekend, including a very solid top of the draw with 18 of the top 20 currently ranked players in action. Notably missing is #1 Kane Waselenchuk, who misses the event with an injury picked up in Tempe last weekend. The only other missing top 20 pro is Ohioan Thomas Carter who misses just his 4th event in the last three seasons.
Another notable missing player is Costa Rica’s Andres Acuña, who has been making waves on tour this season but who is headlining the 5th annual Costa Rican National event in his home country (and which has been going on since Tuesday).
For the 2nd event in a row the IRT is using a staggered qualifying system versus the “everybody not in the top 8 qualifies” system often seen. This gives the top 8 byes into the 16s, then gives the 9th-16th ranked players byes into the 32s to ease the qualifying demands on the IRT regulars who havn’t made it into the top 8 yet. Lastly this is another “flip” seeding event, so the 5th-8th ranked players are slightly jumbled to mix up quarter final matches.
———————- Lets review the singles draw:
Round of 128 matches to look for: – SoCal player #33 Majeed Shahin takes on Canadian veteran #32 Lee Connell in what should be a close match between two players who each have a lot of IRT experience – Former outdoor national champ #31 Luis R Avila takes on Mexican 18U player #34 Manuel Moncada..
In the round of 64: – #17 Jose DIAZ is the highest ranked player to miss out on the staggered qualifying; for his troubles he gets a match-up against the winner of the 32/33 play-in that should be winnable. – The #24/#25 match-ups are always fun; this time its Sam Bredenbeck versus dark horse Mexican Alan Natera Chavez. Natera plays hot and cold; he can get victories over top-10 players or he can go one-and-done to players well below his talent level. Should be an interesting match. – We get a rare appearance from #22 Javier Estrada, fresh off a solid win at the Mexico City event last week. He starts off against Chilean vet #27 Francisco Troncoso.
In the round of 32, some really great projected matches: – #16/#17 will be two Californians: Sebastian Fernandez versus Diaz. Its Tijuana/SoCal vs the 209. This will be a fascinating match; Fernandez was looking primed for a push up the rankings with a quarter-final appearance at the US Open, but has scuffled since. Diaz seems to be stepping back from full-time touring but has top-10 talent. – #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis likely takes on #24 Natera; a tough match-up for Montoya. Natera took out Montoya in the Mexican Nationals earlier this year during a run to the semis, so he knows how to beat him. But then Montoya destroyed Natera in Syosset a few weeks afterwards. Montoya took off last week while the rest of the field played; will this be an edge? – #21 Jake Bredenbeck vs #21 Set Cubillos Ruiz: normally i’d rate this a straight-forward Jake win, but Cubillos played fantastically in Arizona; is this an upset-watch? – #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #19 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez: Franco beat Garay in Syosset, but Garay has the talent to move on here. Look for a battle and look for Franco to try to reign in Garay’s power. – #11 David ” Bobby” Horn vs #22 Estrada: a really tough round for Horn, having to face Estrada, who comes off a weekend when he topped Cardona, Mar and Ochoa to take a stacked singles draw in Mexico City. Estrada though has proved to be inconsistent; with fantastic wins one week then curious upsets the next; can he put it together on the tier 1 stage and take out an experienced touring vet like Horn? One thing seems sure: Horn plays fast, while Estrada plays deliberately and slow … the contrast in styles may be a factor.
—————- Projected 16s matches to watch for: – #8/#9: thanks to the flip seeding: Daniel De La Rosa gets popped to #8, where he likely faces frequent Mexican National team opponent Montoya. DLR is 4-1 over Montoya on the various big stages and seems to be able to handle his game well. If Montoya exits at this stage, it would mean the fourth straight IRT event to start the season where he exits at the first round of the main draw. – #5/#12: Conra Moscoso Ortiz] gets moved to the 5th seed with the flip and likely faces big Jake. Look for a bunch of broken balls between these two power hitters but for the shooter Moscoso to advance. – #3 Alvaro Beltran] vs #19 Garay: I like Garay to advance over Franco, and I like his chances against Beltran here. Two straight weekends of play combined with doubles may be too taxing for Alvaro versus the fitness of Garay. – #6 Samuel Murray vs #22 Estrada: if this comes to pass, I also like Estrada’s chances of moving on here. – #7 Lalo Portillo vs #10 Sebastian Franco; ironically, these two seeds would have been switched just a few weeks ago, but a great run in Arizona by Portillo now has him in the top 8 while Franco is now outside looking in. But Franco is a former tour winner and this will be a solid test for Portillo’s staying power in the top 10. – #2 Alex Landa vs #18 Carlos Keller Vargas]: a tough opener for #2 Landa, facing two-time defending PARC champ in Keller. This might be closer than people would expect given the seeds. Keller won the 2019 event, it should be noted, in a draw that included Landa. Keller has now played all 5 of the IRT events so far this season but has fallen at this round of 16 gate each time.
———- Possible qtrs: I seem to be predicting an awful lot of upsets, which could be great in a Kane-less draw but also could mean that the top seeds rise to the top and go chalk.
– #1 Rocky Carson over #8 DLR: I know DLR has some recent success over Carson, but I also sense that DLR is not sharp right now (as evidenced by his one-and-done in Tempe). Carson moves on unless DLR comes to play. – #5 Moscoso over #4 Andree Parrilla: I like Moscoso here as a shooter who can overpower Parrilla and get the win here. – #22 Estrada over #19 Garay: its crazy to predict a 22nd seed into a pro semis, but I like the way the draw opens up here. Both guys have winnable 16s if they play to expectations. – #2 Landa over #7 Portillo: Landa waxed the youngster just 4 days ago 5,9; I can see Lalo learning from that outing and making it closer, but still falling here.
————- Projected Semis: – Moscoso over Carson: Moscoso really wasn’t troubled too much by Carson at the US Open and will be emboldened here without Kane in the draw to think he’s the obvious favorite. I don’t disagree. – Landa over Estrada: If this match comes to pass, look for the tactical Estrada to try to will his way into a win. Estrada has wins over the top tier of players like Landa in the past, but Landa looked really solid in AZ and should move on.
My predicted final: Moscoso over Landa; they met in the quarters of the Bolivian Open, a 11-0 tiebreaker win for Moscoso. I think we could see a similar match. Moscoso has all the same tools that frustrate Landa when he matches up with kane, and I look for the Conrrado win here.
—————- Doubles preview
They’re playing doubles too in California; 13 teams are entered into what looks to be a solid draw.
#1 Landa/Murray have jumped #2 DLR/Beltran in the rankings: these four players are head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the doubles player rankings. But I don’t think they’re a lock to make the final; the draw is stacked with really solid teams.
#1 has to play through the tough Bolivian team of Moscoso/Keller in the quarters … and thats if they can beat the really solid Estrada/Natera team in the 16s. #4 Jake/Jose have to likely face the tough Garay/Montoya team, #3 Colombian team of Franco/Mercado likely faces the newly formed and improving team of Portillo/Parrilla.
I like #2 DLR/Beltran to make the final and take on Moscoso/Keller, with the Mexicans taking the win.
—————– Looks like it will be a great tourney, with a ton of really compelling matches early on. Can’t wait!
Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk on his win in Tempe this past weekend. Notable facts and stats on the win:
– 119th title – W/L now 552-53 for his career, 13-1 for the current season – He increases his lead at the top of the rankings to more than 800 points over #2 Carson (that’s two Tier 1 wins worth of points, btw).
In the 64s, some upsets: – Texan Ruben Baez took out Chilean veteran international Francisco Troncoso 11-9 in the breaker. – IRT regular Justus Benson fell to top Virginia amateur Thomas Gerhardt 9,8. Solid night of qualifying for Gerhardt, who wins both Thursday matches to move into the 32s in (and I had to check this twice) his first ever IRT Tier 1 appearance. Local players to the east coast know him well as one of the top players in Virginia and a frequent local area tournament participant; can he keep the run going in the next round? – Similarly to Gerhardt, Utah amateur Anthony Martin also took out a regular IRT touring pro in Nick Riffel 9,8 to move on. Solid win for Martin, who earns a spot against #11 Jake (and a spot on the live streaming) on Friday morning.
In the 32s, a couple of surprises: – Colombian Set Cubillos Ruiz got perhaps his best ever career win, playing solid ball to oust #12 Sebastian Fernandez in a breaker. After taking a close first game, Fernandez came out on fire in game two to win it 15-3 … but then couldn’t keep up the pressure as Cubillos really earned it.
– #14 Thomas Carter played two solid games to oust #30 Gerhardt in two 12,9. Great showing by Gerhardt in his tour debut.
– The final round of 32 to complete featured a close match that may have surprised some observers: relative unknown player Ruben Baez, making his IRT Tier 1 debut, took it to the #9 seed David ” Bobby” Horn, beating him in game one before running out of gas in the tiebreaker to fall (14),10,3. Baez’s USAR ranking, per the comment box, is #626. He certainly doesn’t play like the 626th ranked player in the land.
—— Round of 16 observations: just one upset by seed, but some solid matches.
– #17 Andres Acuña really pushed #1 Kane Waselenchuk , nearly taking game two from him before falling 8,14. As I’ve mentioned in this space a lot over the past few months, Acuna’s game has improved by leaps and bounds in the past year, he made his first pro quarter in Laurel in Sept, and I think he can continue to rise.
– #9 Horn could not follow-up on his solid Bay Club win, falling to #8 Samuel Murray in two.
– #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz‘s first match since the US Open was up against the surprising Colombian Cubillos, a nice all-South American match-up. Moscoso made short work of Cubillos though, winning 4,6 to move on.
– #14 Carter played pretty well to push #3 Alex Landa, falling in two 11,11.
– In the round’s sole upset by seed, #10 Eduardo Portillo Rendon took out home-town favorite #6 Daniel De La Rosa in two close games 13,12. They met in Atlanta earlier in the season, but Portillo was able to turn the tide here. He advances to just his second ever pro quarter final, while DLR surprisingly is one-and-done in his home-town tournament (one that I thought he’d leverage the crowd support to make a finals run). This win is nearly enough to put Portillo into the top 10 for the first time, while DLR continues his uneven start to the new season.
———— In the Qtrs: – Kane committed canuck-on-canuck crime, defeating his country-man Murray comprehensively 5,4
– #5 seed Moscoso was stretched to a tiebreaker by #4 Álvaro Beltrán before advancing.
– #3 Landa turned the tide on a recent trend of losing to #6 Parrilla head to head, completely dominating their quarter final and advancing 3,7.
– But the story of this event happened in the final quarter; #10 Portillo, playing in just his 2nd pro qtr … took out #2 Rocky Carson in two games 10,8 to reach his first ever pro semi. Portillo finished last season ranked 17th while playing the tour part time, but has consistently made the main draws of the last seven pro events he’s entered to push his ranking to the cusp of the top 10.
—————- In the semis; – We got our highly anticipated re-match of the US Open final in the top half, with Kane and Moscoso going at it. Far fewer FFs this time from Moscoso, who introduced a new motion and clearly has worked on his footwork. It did not help; Kane does what he typically does against good opponents who hang with him for portions of game 1; he hung in there til about 10-10, then ran off 5 straight to take the first game. Demoralized about missing out on chances, Mosocos got wiped out in game two to lose 10,2. Kane is still the master, even if you watch Conrrado’s game plan and see a possible pathway forward for him at some point in the future. With this result, Moscoso will move up to 7th in the tour rankings despite only having points from four events.
– #3 Landa made fast work of the youngster Lalo, ending his run 5,9 to advance to his 5th ever IRT pro final. With this result, Portillo should move up to 9th on tour, putting himself in position to get a top8 seed if one of the existing top 8 misses an event.
—————– In the final, Kane demoralized Landa, put away mistakes on the service return with clinical precision, and dominated the match to win 4,7. He improves to 15-1 against Landa head to head (the sole loss was a fft/no-show).
—————— Points ramifications: based on my points projections, here’s the ramifications of this weekend on the tour rankings: – Moscoso and Murray swap places at 7,8 – Portillo improves from 12 to 9 – By virtue of Portillo’s move, he pushes Montoya, Franco and Horn each down one slot. – Collin’s moves up 2 spots from 18 to 16 – Acuna jumps up 4 spots to #22. – Cubillos improves 10 spots from 39 to 29.
———————- Next up; the IRT moves to Fullerton for the Los Compadres Auto Sales Open, which should get a pretty solid draw. There’s also a big Costa Rican tourney, which may pull away the likes of Acuna and Camacho to compete on home soil
The IRT has released the draws for this coming weekend’s Arizona IRT Pro-Am, so its time to do a preview!
(to see the released draws before they’re available on R2, follow the IRT on facebook where they’ve been posted as of Noon Tuesday 10/22/19).
The IRT returns to Arizona for the first time in many years; the tournament is being held on the campus of Arizona State University, which has become a popular spot to host major tournaments. ASU’s campus in Tempe has held USAR National doubles every year since 2005, has hosted a slew of USAR intercollegiates championships in that same time (including 2019’s tournament), and hosted the USAR National singles event in 2017.
But, its been a while since we’ve seen either pro tour head to Arizona at all. The last time a tier 1 Men’s event was in Arizona was in May 2003, when the school hosted the season ending Pro Nationals event. For some historical context of that event and season: Huczek beat Alvaro Beltran in the final, it was the last event in Mannino sole year end title, and the top 4 seeded players in the event were all were upset in the quarters (Mannino, Swain, Waselenchuk and Ellis). Waselenchuk lost to Carson … one of the three career wins Rocky has on his long-time nemesis. Before 2003, you have to go all the way back to the mid 1990s, when a regular tour stop was held in Phoenix for several seasons, and before that the mid 1980s when the Arizona Pro-Am featured winners like Hogan and Brett Harnett.
The Ladies tour hasn’t been to Arizona in more than decade itself; in Feb 2008 the WPRO Fireball Pro-Am featured a final between the 1 and 2 seeds, as Rhonda downed Cheryl on her way to the 2008 year end title (Longoria was just starting on tour and finished 6th that season).
So, great to have pro racquetball back in Arizona. Thanks to tournament director Jim Winterton for his efforts and sponsorship.
The Men’s draw has 37 players, a good mix of southwest-locals and traveling regulars. Who is missing this weekend? The top 8 players are here, including Bolivian Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball, who moved up to being ranked 8th on the back of his US Open final appearance. However both the 9th and 10th ranked players (Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Sebastian Franco) are missing. Other top 20 players missing include #13 Mario Mercado, #15 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez, and #16 Jose Diaz. Diaz missed the first two events on the year, both east-coast based, perhaps for travel related issues. But now he misses a west-coast event; are we seeing him stepping back officially from touring? Perhaps so. Along the same note, former top 8 player Mercado has now slipped to 13, and former top 8 player Jansen Allen is now outside the top 20.
Also missing from this draw are a slew of players from Mexican hot-beds like Juarez and Chihuahua; both of which are easy drives to Tempe. I would have initially expected, like we used to see with WRT events in the south western part of the country, a junket of carpooling of Mexican players heading to the event. But, unfortunately, there are a couple competing events this weekend (an IRT Tier 4 in El Paso,Texas State Singles & Doubles, but most notably, a big RKT tournament in Mexico City). The Mexican event’s top 8 seeds (GFranco, Mar, Estrada, Natera, Ochoa, Cardona, Nieto, and Cuevas) are all IRT regulars these days and players who would be pushing for the 16s or the quarters if they were here. Furthermore the El Paso event pulled two other top Mexican players (Eduardo Garay Rodriguez and Jaime Martell Neri) away from the Arizona event. We’ll do quick previews/wrap-ups of those events later this week, but if you’re wondering where these guys are … well there’s your answer.
The Arizona draw does the “flip” seeding, so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled. 5th ranked Parrilla is seeded 6th, 6th ranked DLR is seeded 7th, 7th ranked Murray is seeded 8th, and 8th ranked Moscoso is seeded 5th. Probably goes without saying that this flip most benefits Moscoso, who achieves a top 8 rank and seed for the first time in his career and avoids Kane until a possible semi-final meeting, and most penalizes Murray, who is forced into Kane’s quarter.
One last thing worth noting: the IRT has listened to fan requests with the streaming schedule and will be streaming significantly more matches this weekend. Check out the match times on the bracket; the streaming schedule allows for double the matches to be shown at each round throughout the weekend. The plan is to stream no less than 8 qualifying matches on Friday, then have staggered start times Saturday to show more of the 16s before streaming all the qtrs/semis/finals as normal.
Broadcast schedule; 8 friday, 5 sat, 1 sun. That’s a lot of matches for us fans, and a lot for Mr. Dean DeAngelo Baer to call … but is awesome for those of us remote.
Lets preview the draw highlighting matches that I think are compelling.
In the 128s: five play-in matches to get to the 32s, mostly with Texas/Arizona locals battling it out, but also including traveling players like Jim Douglas (Oregon) and Thomas Gerhardt (from VA).
In the 64s: – Ruben Baez takes on Chilean veteran Francisco Troncoso. So, in case you don’t know who Baez is … he played in the Pueblo lower tier IRT event in March, entered as the 27th seed, beat Jake Bredenbeck in the quarters and lost to Horn in the semis 13,14. He’s a very solid player who can make waves in this event if he plays the way he did in Pueblo and gets the right match-ups.
– Set Cubillos Ruiz continues his challenging travel schedule by returning to the states just a few days after competing in (and winning) the Barranquilla Open in his home country of Colombia, right on the back of competing in the US Open, to take on a play-in winner between Douglas and Arizona’s Preston Tribble.
– Gerhardt vs Justus Benson: Gerhardt is a tough player from Virginia who frequently competes in both indoor and outdoor venues: if he gets past Arizona’s Coy Jay Rogers, he can make life difficult for Benson. Justus is coming off of two straight one-and-dones in IRT events, including a loss in Laurel to Pennsylvania amateur Geoff Heskett, and needs to get his season going.
– Nick Riffel vs Anthony Martin: Martin is a Utah local with just a couple of results on his resume; he played the Atlanta IRT event earlier this season and took Gerardo Franco to a breaker. This might be a closer match than IRT touring regular Riffel wants at this juncture.
– The younger Bredenbeck brother Sam Bredenbeck gets a solid opener against infrequent IRT participant Daniel Neri; Bredenbeck has some really solid results lately, with wins over IRT regulars like Carter and Riffel at the 2019 Lewis Drug.
In the 32s: – #16 Adam Manilla takes on #17 Andrés Acuña; great match between two solid up and coming young players. I like Acuna here; he’s on a roll and has been improving at every stop.
– #9 David ” Bobby” Horn takes on Baez in a re-match of the CSU-Pueblo shootout semis that was so close. Can Baez turn the table here? Horn missed the first two events of the season with injury, played solidly at the US Open and then took a dominant win on his home court two weekends ago to win the Bay Club Open over a solid draw that included a win over Charlie Pratt in the final. I expect a close match here.
– #14 Thomas Carter takes on the winner beween Gerhardt and Benson; Carter’s been playing solid lately, with a win over Diaz at the US Open and taking two very good players to breakers in losses (Keller and Carson). I like Carter to move on here.
– #10 Lalo Portillo takes on the younger Bredenbeck; Eduardo is now in the top 10 and he’s earned it. He’ll move on here despite the challenge from the improving Bredenbeck.
——————————- Projecting the 16s: Assuming qualifying goes as I expect, here’s some interesting 16s to look for
– #8 Samuel Murray vs #9 Horn: 8/9 is always tough, and these players have split their 3 meetings somewhat evenly. Horn won their most recent meeting, in Florida in April, in two close games. I’ll go with Horn backing up his excellent win in Pleasanton with the upset here to move into the qtrs.
– #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz vs #12 Sebastian Fernandez: another brutal draw for the teenager Fernandez, who had to play former top 5 touring pro Marco Rojas in the first round of the Bay Open and lost in a breaker, and now funnels into the red-hot Moscoso, fresh off of a solid run to the US Open finals. This is the hard part about being a player ranked in the teens: you have to start getting wins over top 8 players to move into the top 8, and every draw is an uphill battle.
– #6 Andree Parrilla vs #11 Jake Bredenbeck: a great throw-back match-up between two long time WRT players. They’ve met 6 times in top level events: Jake won their first 3 meetings (all in the 2015 time-frame), while Andree has won the last three meetings (all in the 2019 calendar year). The matches are always close, so I’ll predict another Parrilla tie-breaker win. After a solid opening to the season, Parrilla has lost two winnable matches in Laurel and the US Open to see his ranking (which had peaked at #3) slip a bit, and he needs to be making semis regularly to take the next step.
– #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Portillo: These two met in Atlanta in Sept, and DLR advanced in a tie-breaker. Portillo has been rapidly moving up the rankings, but has also now exited at this juncture (the round of 16) in seven straight IRT events. He needs a high-profile win over a top 8 player. But, is DLR the right guy? This event is essentially a home event for him, hailing from Mexico but now living in Arizona the next town over from Tempe. He’ll have family cheering him on and could be primed for a solid run.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Carlos Keller Vargas: wow, two straight brutal round of 16 draws for Carson, who gets no benefit from the #2 seed in having to play a solid international player in Keller who has more than a few titles to his credit. They’ve played twice: at the 2011 Pan Am games and at the 2019 Bolivian grand slam, both two-game quarter final wins for Carson. So advantage Rocky … but Keller ran through this list of names to take the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships title: Coby Iwaasa, Horn, Beltran and Pratt. So if he gets hot, he can get wins.
Possible Qtrs: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #9 Horn; they’ve only played a handful of times, All Kane wins. Their last meeting was in Florida in April 2018, Kane’s first event back after his knee injury, and Horn played a solid game against the hobbling and distracted Kane before losing in two. Kane’s got his focus back now, and will try not to look past this match at his possible semis opponent.
– #5 Moscoso over #4 Beltran: they’ve met twice; once a dominant Beltran win at the 2015 Pan Am games, the other a dominant Moscoso win at the Bolivian grand slam earlier this year. I think we’re more likely to see the latter result than the former here; Moscoso has the same shooter mentality as Beltran, but can drive serve with the best of them, keeping Beltran from setting his feet and likely leading to a lot of 3-point rallies on his serve.
– #3 Alex Landa vs #6 Parrilla: Landa has had a nice start to his season; two semis and a quarter, to maintain his #3 ranking for now. But Parrilla matches up well here: he’s beaten Landa 5 of the last 6 times they’ve faced each other going back several years. Parrilla’s playing style matches up well with Landa, he can hang with his shots and can retrieve well. I look for Landa to hold serve, but barely. And an upset here would not surprise me.
– #2 Carson vs #7 DLR: Carson waxed a possible disinterested DLR in their last meeting (the season finale in Sarasota in April), but DLR had three straight defeats of Rocky before that and could be looking at this as a way to get his season back on track. Meanwhile, Rocky needs to rebound from his round of 16 loss on the sport’s biggest stage; he’s still safely in the #2 spot, but needs to continue to make finals to stay there. I like DLR here in the upset.
—————— Projected Semis:
– #1 Waselenchuk vs #5 Moscoso; well, this is what the people want. I think it may happen. A rematch of the US Open final, which featured a tight back and forth game 1 before Kane ran away with it in game 2. What did Moscoso take from that match? Hopefully he took away the need to work on his serving motion so that foot faults don’t dominate the conversation surrounding his game. A more consistent serving game with first/drive serves pacing his game will do wonders to help him drive the conversation against Kane. I still think Kane has the upper hand, but cannot wait to see this possible match-up if it happens.
– #7 DLR vs #3 Landa: two old adversaries meet again; i’ve got them meeting 13 times across pro and Mexican Nationals events over the years, with Landa holding a 6-5 advantage overall. Landa’s won their last 5 meetings … but those include two 11-10 wins (including the quarters in Atlanta in September). Point is this: these guys play close every time, they know each other’s game, and there’s just a knife’s edge between them. I will go with DLR getting the slightest of home court advantages and moving to the final.
My predicted final: Kane over DLR. DLR’s sole win over Kane was in the ill-fated 2018 California Open, when Kane hurt his knee the round prior to DLR’s meeting and withdrew with the injury that ended up costing him 4 months and the 2017-18 title. They havn’t played since the final of the Lewis Drug in January, a 4,2 shellacking by Kane to take the high profile Sioux falls event. I like DLR showing some spunk in this match, perhaps with flashes of brilliance at times, but Kane winning in the end.
——————– As always, follow IRT for streaming options throughout the weekend, say high to Dean Baer online, and support pro racquetball 🙂
#1 DLR/Beltran defeated the upstart Bolivian team of Keller/Carrasco team (which had defeated the heavily favored #5 team of Jose Diaz and Jake Bredenbeck in qualifiers) in two.
#2 Kane/Croft played a complete match to down the very solid #3 Landa/Murray team 7,7.
In the final, we got the two teams we wanted. This is a rematch of the last two US Open finals and the 2018 World Doubles final. The 2017 US Open doubles final was considered to be among the finest matches ever played on the pro circuit, a come from behind win for Kane/Croft. DLR/Beltran turned the tide in the 2018 US Open and dominated for a win. The World Doubles final was controversy filled, with the Mexican team walking off the court at match point against. What would we get here?
As it turned out, we got a solid match and a return to the winner’s circle for the now 3-time US Open champion team of Kane and Ben, who won the title 11,8. They’re now 28-5 as a team on the pro circuit with 7 titles since 2014.
Man, the matches come fast at US Open on Wednesday and Thursday. Here’s a review of the 2nd half of Thursday’s matches, the round of 16. There were some big time results.
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk dominated #16 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez to move into the quarters. I feel like Kane’s path this year has been more straight-forward than last year, though he gets a tough player in Mar (who he beat 12,10 in the 16s last year) next.
– #24 Javier Mar outlasted #25 Carlos Keller Vargas in a tiebreaker, dropping the first then cruising in games 2 and 3.: Mar had about 20 minutes to get ready for this match after a marathon win over his doubles partner Rodrigo Montoya Solis in the earlier round. Despite their seeds, these two players would both be pushing for the top 10 if they played the tour regularly.
– #4 Alex Landa was pushed by long-time WRT rival David ” Bobby” Horn, and had some “disagreements” on the court at times, but advanced in 2 straight to setup a rematch of the 2019 Mexican national singles final in the qtrs with Beltran. This sets up a rematch between these two long rivals, who met for the 2019 Mexican Nationals final and in the final of the 2018 Florida pro-am just after Beltran had beaten Kane.
– In the upset of the round, #15 Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball defeated #2 Rocky Carson for the second time in as many meetings in Grand Slam events 13,5. This was a dominant performance from Moscoso, much more-so than his win in Bolivia, where he was in real jeopardy of losing in two quick games before catching fire. This could open up a path for him to the finals; if he can beat Carson, he can beat anyone not named Kane in this draw.
———- So, the 16s were comprised of these seeds: 1,2,3,4,5,6 of top top seeds, then 11,13,14,15,16 from the next set, and then 21,23,24,25,26 seeds of qualifiers.
Now, your quarter finalists are 1,3,4,5,6,15,23,24.26. So two qualifiers remain to the quarters, but 5 of the top 8 seeds are through.
Nationalities in the quarters: 6 Mexicans, 1 Canadian and 1 Bolivian. No Americans. Someone asked yesterday if this was a first? Here’s a Q/S/F report by nationality to help: http://rball.pro/F834D0
Answer: Yes this is the first time a US Open has not featured at least one American in the quarters of the Men’s draw. In 2007, 7 of the 8 quarter finalists were from the USA … now its nearly reversed to have 6 of the 8 be from Mexico.
But not only is this the first time an American has not made at least the quarters of the US Open … this is the first time in the history of the IRT that an American has not made a pro quarter … ever.
———— Quarters start today at 10am CDT. All four should be streamed.
Here’s a wrap-up of the Pro Doubles qualifying, which had some pretty amazing matches.
Before we get into it though, a bit of opining.
– 27 total teams entered, so that means 23 teams were competing for 4 spots in the main draw? I think the tour has to fix this going forward. That’s just too much of an advantage to the four teams that got byes into the quarters. At the very least it should have been 23 whittled to 8 spots in a round of 16. This would have given main draw exposure to one of several teams that ended up getting eliminated at the qualifying stage.
– Why did seeding for the Pro doubles deviate from the IRT pro doubles rankings? It looks like the doubles draw utilized the typical USAR method of automatically seeding last year’s finalists 1 and 2. On the one hand, yeah I think Kane/Croft deserve a top 2 seed b/c, well, I think they’re one of the two best teams. However, what I “think” shouldn’t be a factor; that’s why you have a ranking system and it should have been used irrespective of where the teams landed. Jose Diaz has a point.
Here’s the notable qualifying matches on the Men’s doubles side:
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #24 Javier Mar: the doubles partners and good friends battled it out to the end with Mar taking out Montoya for the second straight IRT event early, 11-9. Tough way to go out for Montoya.
– #8 Samuel Murray lost to Bolivian #25 Carlos Keller Vargas (10),10,8. Keller is always one of the tough underseeded outs of this event (along with Mar and Moscoso), and he proved it again by taking out the #8 seed.
– Great win for #21 Thomas Carter, who took out #12 Jose Diaz 11-9 in the breaker. They’ve played a couple times before and Diaz had won handily; now Carter moves on.
– #13 David “Bobby” Horn improved to 6-4 all-time against #77 Jaime Martell Neri with a solid 13,6 win. Martell more than showed why he’s better than a 77 seed, and Horn shows little ill effects from a recent injury.
– #14 Lalo Portillo absolutely dominated #19 Charlie Pratt 7,2 to move on to the 16s and a match-up against Parrilla. This result is surprising to me; Pratt is known for sticking in matches and out thinking players; rarely do you see him take a beating like this. Great showing by Lalo, who continues to move up the chain.
– #23 Sebastian Fernandez played a solid game and took out #10 Mario Mercado in two, 14,5 to make another statement (with Portillo) on behalf of the next generation of young Mexican players rising up.
– In the upset of the round, perhaps the tourney so far, #7 Sebastian Franco was dominated by #26 Adam Manilla 4,7. Manilla has finished 15th and 19th in the last two pro seasons, and missed the first to pro events this season to see his ranking drop. Franco has to be disappointed with this showing after making the semis of both the first two events this season.
– #15 @Luis Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #18 Andres Acuña looked like it could be a barn burner, and indeed it was. Acuna took the first game, but Moscoso stormed back to take the second and tiebreaker to advance (10),6,5.
———– The 16s are underway as we speak; here’s matches to watch for:
– Keller vs Mar: what a battle. – Doubles Partners Parrilla and Portillo going at it – Jake/DLR: always a battle – Manilla/Fernandez: Brian Pineda and I have a bet on this one. – Moscoso/Carson; the final of the Bolivian Grand Slam, won by Moscoso; can he win again?