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.

2019 IRT California Open Preview

Landa is seeded #1 .. but faces a long road in California.

Happy New Year. Just as the hangovers from NYE have abated, we’re back in action on the IRT for one of the tour’s biggest annual stops; the 2019 California Open, held in Canoga Park, CA.

37 Pros are entered, a 20% increase over last year at this event and continuing a healthy trend of improved IRT event participation over the past year and a half of tourneys. There’s also some surprise entrants to this event thanks in part to RYDF sponsorships for distant players.

Top 20 players missing: #9 Mario Mercado didn’t make the cross-country trip. #13 Charlie Pratt continues to be a part-time tour player and also didn’t make the long trip. #16 Thomas Carter misses his first event in a while. So just 3 of the top 20 missing.

Lets preview the qualifying and draw.

Notable Round of 64 matches:
– Diego Garcia Quispe vs Eduardo Portillo Rendon; a fun match-up of the current reigning 18U World Junior champ and 16U World Junior Champ. I think you have to favor the older player. Bummer these two guys couldn’t go against more established tour players to see how far they’ve advanced.
Mauro Daniel Rojas vs Dane Elkins: Northern California versus Southern California, and even though Elkins has the home town advantage Rojas advances here.
Felipe Mercado Sandy vs Felipe Camacho; notable in that I believe this is the first time two players named “Felipe” have met on tour. I might be wrong though. Advantage Camacho here.
John Wolfe vs Erick Cuevas; an interesting match-up of two frequent IRT tour players; this is a good opportunity for both to get a tour win.
Luis R Avila – Nick Riffel; an interesting contrast in styles, as Avila (reigning WOR outdor 3-wall champ) faces off against one of the newer IRT touring regulars.

Possible round of 32s to watch for:
– #16 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #17 Rodrigo Montoya Solis; tough draw for Gerardo Franco here, running into the reigning World Champ Montoya, who enters an IRT event for just the 6th time in the last three seasons.
– #9 David Horn vs Portillo: Horn is the highest ranked player who has to play an extra match and gets a tough but winnable match-up against the quickly improving Portillo. I think Horn still advances here.
– Sebastian Fernandez vs Adam Manilla; fun match-up between the 18U Junior World runner-up in Fernandez and recent Intercollegiate champ Manilla, who has been playing tough on tour this year. Advantage Manilla.
– Rojas vs Camacho; excellent match to see if Rojas can take the next step, heading up against the veteran Camacho, who is a tough out.
– Robert Collins vs Riffel: Collins, who is coming off a great tourney where he took Rocky to a tie-breaker, gets another shot to qualify for a main draw against Riffel. Expect a close match.

Projecting the 16s. Lots of play-in matches, but here’s how I’m seeing the round of 16 playing out.
– #1 Alejandro Alex Landa vs #17 Montoya. Landa is the one who gets screwed by Montoya’s presence, having to play him in the 16s instead of the semis or finals of an event. For those of you who saw my personal top 50, you know that I think these two are neck and neck. Montoya beat him a couple weeks ago, and I like Montoya again here, paving the way for him to make a semi final on the weekend. But expect a battle; Landa doesn’t generally lose easily or quickly.
– #8 Samuel Murray vs #9 Horn: Horn beat Sam the only time they met before (April 2018), but I like Murray’s form over Horn’s right now. 
– #5 Andree Parrilla vs Manilla: Parrilla should advance here, unless he’s looking ahead at his potential quarter final opponent.
– #4 Kane Waselenchuk vs #13 Jake Bredenbeck; an interesting match up for Kane, who goes against the guy who gave him his most recent on-the-court (albeit still involving an injury forfeit) loss. Jake beat Kane in May 2016 in a 5th game default. I wonder if Kane will want to “make amends” here.
– #3 Daniel De La Rosa vs Rojas: DLR gets started against the hard-hitting youngster, but controls the game as he is apt to do and advances.
– #6 Sebastian Franco vs #11 Jose Diaz; hard one to predict here; we know Franco has been nursing an injury and that Diaz has been playing well. I’ll go with Diaz in an upset here.
– #7 Alvaro Beltran vs #10 Jansen Allen; Jansen has beaten Alvaro the last couple times they’ve played on tour … but they havn’t met since Nov 2017. Beltran has had the break to rest up from his typically busy playing schedule and he made the final of the last IRT event, so i’ll give him the nod here.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs Collins: Collins gets a re-match of the round of 16 match from last IRT event; Carson still advances.

Projecting the Quarters: it could be a fun event:
– Montoya-Murray: they’ve met in the past; Murray beat Montoya at the Lewis Drug event last year. So this is not a cut and dried mach. But for me, Montoya is hot and moves on.
– Parrilla-Kane: last time they met was in the semis of the US Open, where Kane won 3,12. Parrilla is a tough out, and can make life miserable for even the likes of Kane. I’d expect another similar match, where one of the two games goes long.
– DLR vs Diaz: they last met in the qtrs of the US Open, a two game win for DLR 10,9. I’d expect a similar result here.
– Carson vs Beltran: these guys have met 48 times on the IRT so far, i think they’ll meet again. They met in the semis of the Portland event and Alvaro advanced in a testy tiebreaker. I’ll gamble and predict he wins again.

Semis: 
– Montoya – Kane: this would be my ideal semi; these guys have met twice, most recently in a very anticipated 2017 season opener that was won by Kane by the lopsided score of 1,0,3 but which also high-lighted what could be for the back end of IRT tourneys if we could get Montoya playing more frequently. 
– DLR-Beltran: another match-up between best buddies and doubles partners. They met in Portland and Beltran dominated him … but then DLR turned around and won the Mexican Open in a draw that featured every top Mexican player (including Beltran) in the game today. I’ll go with DLR here.

Final: Kane over DLR.

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There’s a solid Doubles draw: 10 teams. I like the #1 vs #2 teams to meet (DLR/Beltran and Landa/Murray), but wouldn’t count out the #4 team of Diaz/Jake to make some noise.

PRS Current top 50 Men’s World Rankings

No surprise who #1 is. The intrigue starts a bit later.

Happy Holidays! During this little break in the tournament action, here’s some content for everyone to argue about. 🙂 This is my current Men’s World Top 50. Thanks to the ever-widening popularity of the sport, multiple tours and the inability for some top players to play the 
International Racquetball Tour regularly, the IRT rankings do not really give a full picture of the current state of the world game. This attempts to do so.

I have rankings divided into “groups” so this isn’t a hard and fast 1-50 necessarily, as I’ll explain as we go.

Usual caveats: this is my opinion. No offense intended if you think someone is too high or too low. This is for entertainment purposes only. Its mostly stat/match result based. Its tough to do pure 1-50 b/c of game style match-ups (i.e., a guy in the 30s always beats a guy in the 20s for some reason, but can’t beat anyone in-between). Also, one big win over a top 10 player does not make you a top 10 player … i’ve noted solid wins for players below the top of this list, but look for consistent results over and again before rising up the ranks.

I hope you enjoy!

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1. Kane Waselenchuk
Large Gap to #2: Kane is head and shoulders ahead of anyone else.

2. Rocky Carson
Smaller Gap to #3-6; Rocky still has a lead over the next group and continues to demonstrate it on the court.

3. Rodrigo Montoya Solis
4. Alex Landa 
5. Daniel De La Rosa
6. Andree Parrilla

I have these guys 3-6, and they’re constantly changing positions. Up until the Mexico Open I had Landa above Montoya, but then Montoya got him H2H. Honestly, I think they’re a coin flip for #3 and #4 right now. Meanwhile, DLR is 3-6 H2H against Landa across senior events so i’ve got him just below Landa … just beat Parrilla and Montoya to win in Monterrey, but lost to Montoya at Mexican Nats earlier this year. Parrilla beat Landa at the past US Open but for me day in, day out is slightly below these other three. On any given Sunday though, these four can all put losses on each other. It is not a surprise that these four were then fou semi-finalists in Monterrey earlier this month.

7. Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo
8. Javier Mar
9. Samuel Murray
10. Alvaro Beltran

Moscoso has wins over the guys ranked 3-6, but just lost to Montoya at Worlds and lost to Murray at US Open. I know some people think he should be higher (ahem, Sudsy 🙂 ) but i’ve got him just a hair below. Mar is an enigma; he’s demonstrated the ability to beat all the guys ranked 3-6 and has in the last couple of years, but not quite consistently enough to break into that group. Murray has wins over Montoya, Landa and Moscoso in the last few events; he’s becoming much more consistent winner as of late. Lastly you have Alvaro, who has been showing his age but then turns around and trounces the likes of DLR in Portland. He’s still a tough out, week in and week out but has been consistently slipping down this ranking over the past couple of years.

One last comment on my current top 10: a quick breakdown by country:

  • 2 Canadians
  • 1 Bolivian
  • 1 American
  • 6 Mexicans

And the one American player is nearly 40. The next generation of dominance in our sport is coming from south of the US border.

11. Jose Rojas
12. Gilberto Mejia
13. Marco Markie Rojas
14. Tony Anthony Carson

I call this group the “retired but could still make noise if they weren’t” group. Jose retired after three straight finishes at #5 on tour, and he didn’t retire because he was losing suddenly. Mejia hasn’t played in a while, enough that we may want to remove him, but when we last saw him playing WRT events he was beating consistently those ranked just behind him in the next grouping. Marco Rojas retired after two 7th place finishes on tour, and has winning career records against DLR and Landa, and against guys in the next grouping (Horn, Jake), so its no surprise he’s still this high. Lastly Tony Carson consistently demonstrates he can continue to win, with wins over DLR and Parrilla in the last two IRT events he’s entered.

15. Polo Polito Gutierrez
16. Bobby David Horn
17. Charlie Pratt
18. Sebastian Franco
19. Mario Mercado
20. Coby Iwaasa
21. Carlos Keller Vargas
22. Jake Bredenbeck

Here’s where it starts getting tough. This group here is a mix of international players we rarely see, leading World Racquetball Tour players, and mid-ranged IRT players. You may argue that I have Polo too high; but every time he plays an IRT event he makes noise. He’s coming off an elbow injury and is 35 though, so he may be slipping. Horn has some wins against higher ranked players and won 2018 US Nationals in a draw that included Jake, Pratt and Jose Rojas. Pratt has some h2h wins over players in this group, over Beltran, and beat Mar en route to the 2017 Pan Am final. Franco has recent wins over Landa and DLR, and has a solid argument to be higher. Mercado too; he’s 2-2 vs Murray career but just 1-5 against Horn and this feels about right. Iwaasa took several years off, but has not lost his touch, taking Mercado to the edge at Worlds twice and making the Finals in the WRT Canada event in a draw that featured several guys in this group. Keller Vargas won the 2018 Pan Ams over Montoya and Horn, but lost to Franco at Worlds; I used to have him much higher and wonder if he’d be a top 10 player if he played the tour regularly. Lastly Jake; he’s one of the few players to have wins over Kane, DLR and Rocky ever, but has struggled to beat players in this group or the grouping above lately and has been slightly slipping down in this ranking after having some early IRT season struggles.

23. Ben Croft
24. Javier Estrada
25. Alan Natera Chavez
26. Ernesto Ochoa
27. Alejandro Alex Cardona
28. Sudsy Monchik
29. Jansen Allen
30. Jose Diaz
31. Mauro Daniel Rojas

Croft is pretty much retired, so not much recent to go on; he beat Horn but lost to Jake in a singles event in Denver earlier this year. Estrada, Natera and Ochoa are all rising Mexican players to watch out for. Estrada beat Landa at Mexican world selection event, just beat Beltran in Monterrey and has played Montoya tough twice this fall. Natera has recent wins over Mar and others in this grouping. Ochoa has recent wins over Beltran, Parrilla, and Mar and may very well be higher. Cardona used to be in the next group up as the reigning king of the hill in the WRT but has been losing ground to the likes of Horn and Jake and the youngsters rising up in Mexico over the past year or so.

Sudsy made the semis of the US Open last year by beating Allen, then beat Diaz but lost to Jake in an WRT event so this seems about right (thought I wouldn’t argue if you thought he was higher). Allen has had some solid wins against the likes of Beltran, Mercado, Murray lately, and beat Diaz in the Laurel season opener, and may be a bit higher. Lastly you have the younger Rojas, who has consistently beaten players below here but not too many above and who has the game to start breaking through and moving up.

This grouping could benefit from more head to head meetings; would Allen beat the likes of Estrada, Natera and Ochoa if they played? Here’s hoping for some more IRT events held in Mexico to get more full draws.

32. Cliff Swain; even though he hasn’t played in more than a year, I still think he could beat anyone listed below here. I’m hoping he plays some more pro events and tries to break some of Ruben Gonzalez‘s more amazing feats of reaching the end stages of pro tourneys at advanced ages.

33. Gerardo Franco Gonzalez
34. Eduardo Portillo Rendon
35. Sebastian Fernandez
36. Jaime Martell Neri
37. Eduardo Garay Rodriguez
38. Jordy Alonso
39. Tim Landeryou
40. Dylan Reid
41. Mike Green
42. Christian Longoria
43. Adam Manilla

As with the group above, its tougher in this area to really rank guys sequentially because there’s not a lot of h2h to go on. Gerardo Franco probably has an argument to be higher, with recent wins over Sebastian Franco, over DLR and Jake in Cincy18, etc. I’ve got Lalo just ahead of Sebastian on account of his h2h win at Junior Worlds, but Lalo has lost multiple times to Gerardo Franco in the last year so this trio feels right. Martell has great wins (Landa, Jake, Horn), but then also has early tourney losses in recent WRT and amateur events. Garay has wins over guys in this grouping and against the likes of Parrilla and might be higher. Alonso plays the guys in this grouping tough, has wins over Parrilla in the past but needs more consistency.

Landeryou has h2h wins over both the next two guys below him hence the ranking, but not much else to go on. Reid has a win over Mercado and a US Open title in Men’s open in a draw that featured many players in this group or just below, so this ranking makes sense. Green has reigned over Canada racquetball for two decades but may be retiring and most recently lost to Landeryou at Canadian Nationals. Longoria has some wins over the likes of GFranco and Estrada and may have a case to be a bit higher. Lastly Manilla just took out Mercado in Laurel18 and has had a promising start to the new season, so this seems about right.

44. Alejandro Herrera Azcarate
45. Andres Andres Acuña
46. Fernando Rios
47. Diego Garcia Quispe
48. Maikel Mollet
49. Felipe Camacho
50. Nick Nicolas Bousquet

Herrera is a long-time IRT vet, just took the 2018 US Open Men’s Open draw over Acuna in the final and beating several Honorable Mention players along the way. Acuna has some solid wins recently (Portillo, Camacho, even Horn at the US Open) and may have a good argument to be higher. Rios doesn’t have much to go on recently but has good wins internationally in the past. Garcia is the 16U reigning world champ who has beaten a few of the HM players in limited adult tourneys. Mollet is the Cuban #1 who makes noise whenever he enters (beat Camacho h2h at Central American games in 2018 for example). Camacho has some wins over higher players (Fernandez, Allen) but has losses to players right in this group so this feels about right. Bousquet had some solid wins over HM players in 2017.

And it should be noted, there’s a slew of HM players below who might very well be in this group, or slightly higher. In fact, as I typed this I wondered if any number of the below players shouldn’t be in this 40-50 range.

Honorable Mentions: I can’t tag more than 50 players per post, so nobody below is tagged, but here’s the players just outside the top 50 by category:

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HM Int’l players: Fernando Kurzbard, Jose Daniel Ugalde, Juan Salvatierra, Francisco Troncoso, Andres Gomez, Teobaldo Fumero, Luis Perez, Christian Wer, Hiroshi Shimizu, Lee Connell, Set Cubillos, David Garcia

HM Mexican Players: Edson Martinez, Rodrigo Garay, Rodrigo Rodrigez, Alejandro Almada, Edwin Galicia, Miguel Rodriguez Jr., Daniel Neri, Erick Cuevas Fernandez, Alan Palomino

HM USA IRT Regulars: Thomas Carter, Robert Collins, Scott McClellan, Troy Warigon, John Wolfe

HM USA periodic players: Taylor Knoth, Nick Montalbano, Majeed Shaheen, Matthew Majxner, Maurice Miller, Brad Schopiery, Luis Avila, Brent Walters, Tim Prigo

HM USA Up and comers: Kevin Vasquez, Erik Garcia, Jordan Barth, Nick Riffel, Mauricio Zelada, Wayne Antone IV, Justus Benson, Danny Lavely, Lukas Le,Dylan Pruitt, Kyle Ulliman, A.J. Fernandez, Sam Bredenbeck, Sunji Spencer

HM retired pro players: Alex Ackermann, Gilberto De Los Rios, Kris Odegard, Ricardo Monroy, Anthony Herrera, Shai Manzuri, Javier Moreno 
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Phew. Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone; let me know in the comments if you think I did. Look forward to your commentary. Happy Holidays!

Abierto Mexicano de Raquetbol 2018 Wrap-Up

DLR wins the big Mexican Open draw.

Congrats to Daniel De La Rosa his win in the big Men’s draw this past weekend in Monterrey, NL, Mexico, taking down a who’s-who of Mexico racquetball players to win the 2018 Mexican Open.

r2sports link here: http://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=29995

In case you missed any of the matches, marquee matches were streamed live by RKT and were well covered in the Streaming Racquet sports facebook group.

Lets review the draw and the notable matches by round:

In the 32s, most every match went as I expected except for…

– Gerardo Franco Gonzalez blasted IRT #5 ranked Sebastian Franco 9,5. That was a long flight for a one-and-done for S.Franco, and is a very solid win for Gerardo.
– Daniel De La Rosa (DLR) played a closer-than-expected match against #31 seed Jordy Alonso winning 11,13.
– Juan Loreto made his opener with Polito Gutierrez a little closer than I would have expected, losing 9,11.
– Erick Cuevas eked out an 11-9 tiebreaker win over Daniel Neri in the 15/18 match-up.
– … But the big upset was Javier Estrada taking out IRT #6 Alvaro Beltran in a tiebreaker. Not an upset by seeding, but certainly a very solid win for Estrada. Beltran looked sluggish on the court … almost as if he was a 40-yr old who in the last 5 days has had to play an hour and a half final against the best player in the world, fly home, rest a day, fly to Monterrey and then play a match against a red-hot Estrada. Lets see if Estrada can build on this win and make a run.

In the 16s…
– #1 Rodrigo Montoya Solis played a close one against Alejandro Alex Cardona fighting off a furious 2nd game comeback to advance 11,14.
– #9 Eduardo Portillo Rendon got a statement win over WRT regular #8 Jaime Martell Neri 7,8
– #5 Javier Mar took out the veteran Polo Gutierrez 9,10 by playing an aggressive match and turning up the pressure on his opponent.
– #13 Alejandro Alex Landa “upset” #4 seed Alan Natera Chavez 14,3. In the first, Landa stormed back after Natera jumped out to a big lead … then just rolled in the second game, consistently sending Natera the wrong way on serves and just controlling the match.
– #3 Andree Parrilla ended Gerardo Franco’s upset run 3,12.
– #11 Christian Longoria got a solid win over #6 Estrada in a tiebreaker. One of Longoria’s best career wins for me.
– #7 Sebastian Fernandez controlled Edson Martinez for a comfortable 2 game win.
– #2 DLR advanced with ease over Erick Cuevas 4,5.

So 5 of top 8 seeds advance into the quarters.

In the Quarters…
– Montoya handled Portillo, though Lalo certainly improved his performance over the last time they played, going down 7,11. Portillo has made great strides in his game over the past calendar year and could be a force on the pro tours quite soon.
– In the Match of the quarters, two of the worlds best went head to head, with Landa taking out Mar 3,(12),2. Landa dominated the first game with his classical pressure game; he relentlessly drive serves, often puts his opponents in positions where they have to take defensive shots, and is a world-class shot maker/kill shot artist from any point in the court. Mar turned the tables by winning a close one in the second, but Landa turned back up the pressure and ran away with the tiebreaker. In my prediction piece I thought perhaps Landa would get upset here, but he’s playing with a spring in his step that you don’t often see. I think he’s motivated and a threat to win this draw now that he’s gotten past two dangerous opponents.
– Parrilla cruised past Longoria 8,12. Parrilla is a sneaky opponent; he adapts to any playing stile, is a world-class retreiver, and is in good enough shape to outlast most any opponent. He’s still a little inconsistent (he’s had some upsets early in amateur events of late) and got a little unlucky in the Portland draw (having to face Kane in the 16s), but I think he’s headed towards a top 8 IRT season.
– DLR blasted newly matriculated junior Sebastian Fernandez 5,3. Both these guys have similar playing styles, and can look quite “casual” with their serves and demeanor on the court. Fernandez stepped it up, especially at the US Open in October, but clearly has a ways to go to compete with his country’s best.

Its notable that the last 8 of this event included both kids who made the 18U national and junior worlds finals this year; both Portillo and Fernandez seems well equipped to compete with the adults going forward.

————–
In the Semis, we saw just how great top-level racquetball can be, with two fantastic matches that include (for me) the four best players in the world behind Kane and Rocky.
– Montoya and Landa played a scintillating match, with Montoya edging Landa 15-14 in the first game fittingly on a blistering killshot from deep in the court. Landa jumped way ahead in game 2, leading 10-3 at one point … then Montoya took over, scoring 12 unanswered points to take the match 14,10. Landa and Montoya have now split 4 head-to-head matches in big-time events over the past couple of seasons and the margin between them is razor thin.
– DLR and Parrilla were one point away from the “perfect match,” splitting two games 15-14 before DLR took the tiebreaker 11-9. Parrilla took a slight knock at 8-7 in the breaker, took a few minutes injury time, then traded clutch shots at match point for and against before DLR got a service winner to take the match.

In the final…DLR played a complete game and really shut down Montoya, winning 8.8. DLR was his same consistent self, with a controlled game plan, while Montoya’s game seemed a bit off and that was enough to make for a not-very-close final.

————–
There was also a very healthy Doubles draw, featuring all the top players. Unfortunately, the current World IRF doubles champ team of Beltran & DLR forfeited out (presumably b/c Beltran lost in the first round of singles, but that’s an assumption), robbing the draw of a great team. Nonetheless, the other 3 top seeds all advanced to the semis. There:

– Landa/Gutierrez downed Cardona/GFranco, who were the beneficiaries of the forfeit loss of the top team. They were made to work for it though, winning two close games 13 and 14.
– Mar/Montoya faced Parrilla/Edson Martinez and also advanced in two closer games 13,11.

In the final, Mar/Montoya run away with the first game 15-3, and held on the second to win in two.

————–
Also, congrats to Paola Longoria for taking the small Women’s draw over three of her LPRT top 10 compatriots.

In the semis, Longoria put a dominating win on the current 18U Junior World champ Montse Mejia 7,2, while Alexandra Herrera overcame a first game loss to donut Nancy Enriquez in the second and then take the tiebreaker 11-5.

In the Final, Longoria ran away from Herrera by the same scores that she downed Montserrat by: 7 and 2.

—————
Summary of the event: a fantastic inaugural event if it becomes a regular fixture on the circuit. You couldn’t ask for much more in terms of domestic talent. I’d have loved to see the rest of the top IRT touring players there; imagine a 50 person pro draw with the breadth of the IRT players showing up and making every round of 16 match even more competitive. Hope to see more from RKT going forward.

Abierto Mexicano de Raquetbol 2018 Preview

There’s a break in the pro schedule this weekend. That wasn’t always meant to be the case, as this weekend’s huge tournament in San Nicholas (Monterrey), Mexico was initially scheduled to be an IRT event. The RKT/Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol and the IRT parted organizational ways … but the event is still huge. There’s a 32-man Open draw that’s a literally who’s who of Mexican racquetball today.

Just about the only top Mexican players I don’t see here is Ernesto Ochoa, who’s been red-hot this year with a bunch of good wins, and the Garay brothers.

Here’s the r2sports link: http://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=29995

Here’s a preview of the draw, which I’m really looking forward to:

First, a comment on the seeding. Much like the IRT has to go with its ranking system to seed tournaments, the RKT/FMR is clearly using its own internal country ranking system to seed this event. The top 2 seeds are also the finalists from the Worlds selection event in June, and the rest of the top 8 seems to be drawn from either that event or Mexican Nationals from February. That means that current IRT #1 Alex Landa is seeded a ridiculous #13, and the finalist from last weekend’s IRT event Alvaro Beltran is an even more ridiculous #27. But it also means we have pretty compelling matches from the round of 32 on-wards.

Here’s some round of 32 matches to watch for:
Polo Polito Gutierrez goes against Juan Loreto. Gutierrez in his prime was one of the most dangerous players in the world, routinely making waves in the few IRT events he entered. He’s back from an elbow injury and is always a threat to advance deep into a draw.
– Sebastian Franco versus Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; they’ve met four times in pro events that I track so they have some familiarity. Franco is in-arguably a top 8 player in the world, won an IRT event last year .. and is the #19 seed here. Tough draw for Gerardo Franco in the opener.
– Beltran versus Javier Estrada; easily the best match of the first round. Estrada made semis of Mexican Nationals in 2017, beat Landa in Worlds selection event in 2018, played Montoya tough the last couple times they’ve played .. he’s a darn good player. Despite the star power, this would not be a huge upset if Estrada beats Beltran here. Unfortunately this is a quarters match, not a round of 32. I’ll give it to Beltran, given how he played last weekend in Portland.
Daniel Neri vs Erick Cuevas Fernandez; 15/18 match-ups are always fun and this one could be tight. I’ll give the slight nod to Neri.
– Daniel De La Rosa goes up against Jordy Alonso in the opener, a tough draw for Mr. Alonso.

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Projections for Round of 16 match-ups:
– #1 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #16 Alex Cardona; this is a semis or finals on the WRT but the round of 16 here. Cardona leads h2h 4-2 but they havn’t met in a year. The current World champ Montoya should advance here based on form but i’m sure he’d have hoped for an easier early round match than this.
– #8 Jaime Martell Neri vs #9 Eduardo Lalo Portillo; a fun match between the current world 18U junior champ Portillo and one of the top ranked WRT players who has a WRT win on his 2018 resume. Portillo has the chops to win this match, having taken out top WRT pros in the past. Martell has been playing solid in non-pro events lately, making the finals in San Antonio last weekend. I’ll go with the youngster in a tie-breaker.
– #5 Javier Mar vs Polo Gutierrez: wow, what a great match this could be. Contrast in styles: Mar plays a control, tactically focused game while Polo’s unconventional but incredibly accurate swing throws players off. I like the way Mar is playing these days; he looked great against Kane Waselenchuk at the US Open and made two finals in two attempts in big local Mexican events, both times dropping the championship to Montoya. This will be a good test of how far Polo is back from injury.a
– #4 Alan Natera Chavez vs #13 Landa: man, tough match-up for Natera, coming off a nice win in San Antonio last weekend but having to face up against the current #1 ranked player in the world. Natera has literally never played an IRT event, but does have some WRT history and made the semis of Mexican Nationals in February. Landa has had some puzzling losses in big-time Mexican events lately (he lost in the 16s at both Mexican Nats and the Worlds selection event this year) but should win here.
– #3 Andree Parrilla vs Sebastian Franco: they have a couple of meetings h2h but they’re from several years ago. In the meantime, both have become first-time IRT winners. Andree Parrilla has been up and down lately; making the semis of the US Open but then getting upset early at SLP Open in November. I favor Parrilla.
– #6 Estrada/Beltran winner vs Christian Longoria; I think Longoria is an underdog to either player advancing here.
– #7 Sebastian Fernandez versus #10 Edson Martinez; Fernandez was the world junior 18U runner up, capping off a decorated juniors career both domestically and internationally. He also has had a number of sterling wins on both pro tours and is favored here against the mercurial Martinez.
– #2 DLR vs Neri: DLR, unlike a lot of his top-ranked compatriots, gets no surprises in either the 32s or the 16s.

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Projecting the Quarters. I’ll be the first to admit that the above projections may be totally wrong. Mexican events tend to have upsets, crazy upsets. So take the following with a grain of salt.

– #1 Montoya vs #9 Portillo: a meeting of the current reigning World Adult and World Junior champs could await. These two met a few weeks ago in the SLP open and Montoya won handily 2,2. I see another win here for the #1 seed.
– #5 Mar vs #13 Landa: Mar-Landa would be fantastic if it comes to pass. These two met in the finals of the 2017 Mexican Nationals (won by Mar, though Landa then went and won the Pan American Championships later that summer). I like Mar here; he’s in good form and plays Landa well. However, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this was Natera vs Polo. Just a tough quarter.
– #3 Parrilla vs Beltran: Parilla and Beltran have gone back and forth, last meeting in Sarasota in April. I think Parrilla takes this one.
– #2 DLR vs #7 Sebastian Fernandez: They’ve met once, in Mexican nationals in February, a straight-forward DLR win. I like the way DLR is playing (despite his early loss to doubles-partner Beltran in Portland last weekend). DLR in 2.

Semis prediction:
– Montoya over Mar for the 3rd time in the last couple of months
– Parrilla over DLR; they havn’t met in a while, but Parrilla has some wins over DLR in the past.

Final: Montoya over Parrilla; these two have met a number of times over the years, in both juniors and adult competitions. They’re the same rball year, and met in Mexican junior finals in 16U and 18U. Montoya had the early upper-hand, and has taken their matchups as of late. It’d be a great final if it comes to pass, and i’d favor Montoya.

Of course, if the semis were instead Montoya-Landa and DLR-Beltran, it could be a completely different final; I like Landa over Montoya and Beltran over DLR right now, and Landa taking it. These guys all play each other constantly, and there’s a lot of match-up based play.

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Coincidentally, if you had asked me to seed this tourney here’s how I would have seeded it:
– 1-8: Landa, Montoya, DLR, Parrilla, Mar, Beltran, Polo, Sebastian Franco
– 9-16: Natera, Estrada, Cardona, Martell, Gerardo Franco, Portillo, Sebastian Fernandez and Jordy Alonso.

—————–
There is a small Ladies Open event coincidentally; four of the top Mexican women are present and face off in a simple single elimination draw.
– Paola Longoria faces junior world champion Montse Mejia in one semi
– LPRT #4 Alexandra Herrera faces LPRT #6 Nancy Enriquez.

I’ll go with Longoria and Herrera in the final with a Paola win.

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Enjoy the matches! Follow FMR and RKT for streaming, or join the Racquet streaming group that JT Rball does a great job of keeping up to date.

IRT Points System Alternatives

 

Is the current ranking system unfair to Waselenchuk?

On 11/20/18, the 12-month rolling IRT rankings shifted enough points away from last season to account for a pretty monumental set of movements in the rankings table: Alejandro Landa ascended to #1 for the first time ever, while the sports most dominant player Kane Waselenchuk fell to #6.

Kane’s descent was due to two primary factors:

1. he missed a number of events in the second half of the 2017-18 season, and

2. There was a sudden drop in the number of events in the first half of the 2018-19 season.

When the IRT posted the update to facebook, A predictable firestorm of comments arose, criticizing the rankings and the ranking system.  I weighed in, pondering initially why it mattered (other than tourney seeding of course) what the rankings were in November, but many believe a different ranking system is needed.

Here are some Ranking system alternatives with some personal analysis.  I tried to emulate all the solid suggestions on the facebook thread from various players and commenters.  The working spreadsheet is available at Google Spreadsheets here.  I’ll just list the top 10 players ranked though I extended the logic down to the top 20 running players or so throughout the last 2+ seasons.

Important Caveats to the below:

  • I have only included points earned in Tier 1s and Grand Slams.  Some players (especially Landa and Parrilla) in reality have a decent amount more points thanks to success in non-Tier 1 events that still remain on their books.
  • I have also only included the core point totals earned per tournament, not bothering to figure out the slight point additions based on games won for simplicity.  In other words; if you made the semis I gave you 220 points though you may have lost the semis in a breaker and thus really earned 222 or 224 points.
  • There’s a couple of players outside the top 10 with points discrepancies I cannot reconcile with this simplistic logic.  Its likely also due to playing non-tier 1 events.  In the grand scheme of this analysis though, it shouldn’t matter.

Current Ranking System: utilizes a 12-month rolling calendar schedule that expires points the 366th day after the event occurs on an automatic basis.  It also drops all low results to “baseline” the rankings at 9 events.   More is available describing the logic at this IRT link and at the Current online rankings.

The exact rankings as of 11/20/18 that started all of this:

playerPointsRank
Landa, Alejandro2116.31
Carson, Rocky2112.182
De La Rosa, Daniel1986.163
Franco, Sebastian1674.154
Murray, Samuel1628.035
Waselenchuk, Kane1500.426
Mercado, Mario1496.027
Beltran, Alvaro1490.018
Parrilla, Andree1432.159
Allen, Jansen1152.0210

Issue with this system: Kane is too low given he’s currently riding a 66 match winning streak, penalizes players too much for missing time with injury.


Alternative #1: just use Season To Date Rankings.  The current season has had just two events thanks to several events held in the fall of last year falling off the schedule.  The current Season-to-date rankings are:

PlayerPointsRank
Carson, Rocky8401
Waselenchuk, Kane8002
De La Rosa, Daniel6003
Parrilla, Andree5904
Landa, Alejandro5205
Franco, Sebastian5206
Murray, Samuel4807
Mercado, Mario3908
Diaz, Jose3909
Bredenbeck, Jake27010

So, the top of this table looks normal enough: Rocky Carson is above Kane, but Kane missed the first event of the year.   Thanks to a hot start and a semis appearance at the US Open, Andree Parrilla is ranked 4th season-to-date.  Alvaro Beltran, a mainstay in the top 10 for a decade, is nowhere to be seen (he missed the first event, and was upset early in the second event of the season).  Landa drops to #5 here even though he has the most wins on tour outside of Kane in the last two years.

Issue with this system: not enough data, too much recency bias.


Alternative #2: Rank based just on last 9 events played.  This system excludes any missed events and totals the points from the last 9 times the player got on the court.  In some cases, we had to go back to the beginning of the 2016-17 season to get 9 events.

PlayerPointsRank
Waselenchuk, Kane43001
Carson, Rocky24002
Landa, Alejandro23003
De La Rosa, Daniel22304
Franco, Sebastian17605
Parrilla, Andree17406
Pratt, Charlie16707
Murray, Samuel16208
Beltran, Alvaro15409
Mercado, Mario149010

This system obviously shows how dominant Kane is; by giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and removing all their missed events, all players are showing their absolute best possible results.  Two notably high players here are again Parrilla (who we had to dip well into the 2016-17 season to get the 9th played event) and Charlie Pratt, who required us to go back more than two calendar years to find enough played events to qualify.  Even then some top 20 players don’t have 9 events played (specifically guys like Rodrigo Montoya and Javier Mar).

Issues with this system: does not reward “touring” players, over-rewards players who miss a number of events, goes back “too far” to get results in some cases.


Alternative #3:  Just rank based on the last 9 running events, eliminating Calendar dates.

PlayerPointsRank
Carson, Rocky21001
Landa, Alejandro20802
De La Rosa, Daniel19203
Murray, Samuel16204
Franco, Sebastian16105
Waselenchuk, Kane15006
Mercado, Mario14907
Beltran, Alvaro13908
Parrilla, Andree13209
Allen, Jansen117010

This system keeps tournaments hanging on irrespective of the date, so should address the complaints about “not having tournaments to defend points.”  So to get the last 9 running Tier 1s and/or Grand Slams we just sum the points dating back to the 11/2/2017 event.

However, this ranking almost exactly mirrors the Current rankings.  Rocky and Landa are flipped at the top, Sebastian Franco and Samuel Murray are flipped at the 4/5 spot, and Kane is still at #6.   In fact, the players in spots #7 through #18 are also identical in this system to the current 12-month rolling calendar.  Why?  Because all these players are playing nearly all the events, rarely missing events, and thus the point totals are basically the same.

Issue with this system: Does not address the issue; Still penalizes Kane for missing so much time in early 2018.


Alternative #4: Total Points, running 2-year calendar.  This system is basically the same system as is in place now, except it uses a 2-year rolling calendar instead of one.  I dropped each player’s two lowest scores (to emulate dropping just one low score for the current 12-month calendar season) and then ranked them:

Playertotal PointsRank
Carson, Rocky48901
Waselenchuk, Kane47002
Beltran, Alvaro31603
Landa, Alejandro31104
De La Rosa, Daniel27505
Franco, Sebastian25706
Murray, Samuel24907
Parrilla, Andree21908
Mercado, Mario18209
Allen, Jansen157010

I think this is actually a pretty good ranking, taking into account results in events played plus tour event participation.  Rocky is 1, Kane is 2, so Kane’s missed time penalizes him slightly but not overtly so.  Its important to remember, not only did Kane miss the four events to injury in early 2018, he’s also missed four OTHER events in the last two running calendar years for various reasons.  For similar reasons (missed events), both Landa and Parrilla are lower than they might be, while Beltran may be slightly higher than he should be, based on recent rankings.

Issue with this system: none really for me.


Alternative #5: Keeping points for tourneys that drop off Calendar.  Kane noted he’s dropped so far because there’s been a lack of tournaments this fall for him to “defend” points from last season.  So I adjusted the points sums to go back further in time to capture more tournaments.  The numbers below basically are a sum of all points earned from every tournament that happened past the 2017 US Open, totaling 11 events in all:

PlayerPointsRank
Carson, Rocky27001
Landa, Alejandro23002
Waselenchuk, Kane23003
De La Rosa, Daniel22304
Franco, Sebastian19805
Murray, Samuel18606
Beltran, Alvaro16907
Mercado, Mario16408
Allen, Jansen14809
Parrilla, Andree132010

In this system, Rocky is #1, then Kane and Landa are tied for #2 (I put Landa 2nd because throughout all of this Landa has a number of points from non-Tier 1 events that slightly elevate his ranking over his peers).   The rest of the rankings 4-20 more or less mirror the current rankings that expire points after the 365th day.

I like this option too; it seems to address the issue of tournaments falling off the calendar in a rather simple way.

Issue with this system: i’m not sure this system would “protect” any players besides Kane who go out with injury.  Kane wins a lot of points per event played and can “make up” several tournaments worth of points for a normal tour player each time.  If someone ranked in the 10-15 range missed a significant amount of time … they’d be buried in the rankings.


Other Alternatives explored:

  • I looked at average points earned in tournaments for each player for a one-year and two-year rolling period.  The problem with using an average is that missed tournaments basically destroy the average.  Kane ranks just 9th in average tourney points earned in the last calendar year, while Landa drops to 5th if you extend that average to two years.  Both results do not seem valid.

Conclusion: I think the simplest solution may just be to expand the system from a rolling 1-year to a rolling 2-year calendar (Alternative #4).  This will smooth out periods of absence for Kane and reward a longer period of excellence overall.

This suggestion also has the added benefit of representing a simple additional burden on the tour (and John Scott) to maintain.  Any more complex system might be too much of a burden to maintain in an ongoing fashion.

However … I do believe that the end of season rankings should only take into account the points earned in that season.   It would make no sense to have last season’s results impact this season’s end-of-season rankings.  So perhaps this is all just an exercise to find a better “seeding” system that does a better job of smoothing out the rankings to better indicate at any given point in time who is ranked where.  I am not advocating at this time to really change the way the rankings are done for the purposes of declaring a season-ending champ.

If you have different suggestions, I can run other scenarios as well.  Feel free to comment or drop me a line.

San Luis Potosi Open Wrap-Up

Montoya

Another Thanksgiving weekend event happened south of the border; the San Luis Potosi Open in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. An excellent draw of the top Mexican players were there and battled it out. Thanks to Pro Kennex’ Mike Michael Martinez for getting me the draw and keeping me up to date on this event, which was one of the few non-R2sports.com driven tourneys we see these days.

Picking it up at the round of 16, here’s how the event went:

-#1 seed Rodrigo Montoya Solis over a qualifier (I can’t quite read his name on the draw sheet) 11,10.
– Current 18U Junior World champion and #8 seed Eduardo Portillo Rendon over #9 Seed Eduardo Garay Rodriguez 14,13 (this one is available on Facebook if you follow Portillo: he live streamed it).
– #5 seed Javier Estrada over #12 seeded IRT semi-regular Jordy Alonso 3,4
– #4 Seed Christian Longoria (brother of Paola Longoria) over #13 Alan Palomino 1,2
– #3 Javier Mar, who we last saw giving Kane Waselenchuk a heck of a game in the round of 16 at the US Open, downed #14 Rodrigo Nino Loma 1,3
– #6 Edson Martinez beat #11 Carlos Bacmeister 4,11
– #7 Ernesto Ochoa, who has had a great year and has really shot up my personal rankings, beat semi regular IRT touring vet Erick Cuevas Fernandez.
– #2 Andree Parrilla downed qualifier Elias Nieto 9,11.

In the Quarters, some upsets by seeds:
– Montoya easily beat Portillo 2,2; the 2015 Junior World 18U Champ showed the 2018 Junior World 18U champ where he needs to be.
– Estrada upset Longoria 4,11. Estrada has had a number of excellent wins so far this year and continues his rise up the Mexican ranks.
– Mar downed Martinez 6,12.
– Ochoa beat Parrilla for the second time this year 10,14. A pretty big upset by seeds and by world ranking, but Ochoa has more than proven he’s on-fire in 2018. Parrilla made the semis of the US Open, the quarters of the IRT season opener, and pretty much is a threat to make the quarters or better now at every pro event he enters, but Ochoa was better this day.

In the Semis:
– Montoya went tiebreaker to beat Estrada (13),2,6.
– Mar ended Ochoa’s run 9,3. These two met in the quarters of the Sonora Open earlier this year, with Ochoa winning en route to the title.

A Great final; a re-match of the Gran Torneo Del San Isidro tourney from earlier this fall. There, Montoya got a walk-over win. Today thought Montoya won in two 9,11.

Next up in Mexico should be the Abierto Mexicano de Raquetbol 2018 the second weekend of December. It was set to be an IRT-affiliated event but the two organizing bodies broke off the agreement a few weeks ago. The poster in the r2sports site shows Montoya, Waselenchuk and Longoria so i’m curious to see who shows up.

WRT 2018 Canadian Open Preview

The World Racquetball Tour is back in action, hosting its 3rd tourney of 2018 and its first event since May. The tour is in Calgary … which is the first time (as far as I can tell) that pro racquetball has ever been hosted in this Alberta city.

There’s 24 players in the Men’s draw, including many IRT regulars. The draw represents a nice balance of Northern Hemisphere countries: 8 Canadians, 9 Mexicans, 6 Americans.

Lets take a look at the draw and highlight some notable potential match-ups and make some predictions.

In the 32s:
– Samuel Murray vs Taylor Knoth; Murray, the current #6 ranked IRT player, makes just his 2nd ever WRT appearance and is an early tourney favorite despite his #21 seed here. Knoth gets an unlucky match-up; he’s got the potential to advance in any pro tourney he enters, as evidenced by the win he got over a regular touring pro the last time he entered a pro draw (Jan 2018). I expect Murray to advance but Knoth will play him tough.
Eduardo Lalo Portillo vs Lee Connell: Portillo gets a tough match-up against the veteran Connell, who has been playing pro events since Lalo was 5.

In the 16s:
– the 8/9 match-up between WOR – World Outdoor Racquetball outdoor specialist Luis Avila and #8 seeded Justus Benson could be interesting. These two met on the WRT once before, in Sept 2016 with Avila advancing easily. Has Benson closed the gap?

– Murray v Alex Cardona. What a brutal round of 16 for both players; this is a semis quality match. Honestly, this is a great example of why you should have protected seeding for top ranked IRT players doing drop-ins to the WRT. Ironically, the only other time Murray played the WRT … he also met Cardona in the 16s. It was Atlanta 2015 and Cardona got him in a tie-breaker, but we’re 3 years on and these players are trending in opposite directions. Murray advances in two solid games.

– Andree Parrilla v Tim Landeryou; a great match-up between one of Mexico’s best and one of Canada’s best. Both players are routinely making quarters or semis of their federation National events. Parrilla has made the quarters or better in 7 of the last 11 IRT events he’s played in and is fresh off of a semis appearance in the US Open. Parrilla advances but it isn’t easy.

– Coby Iwaasa v Christian Longoria; another tough round of 16 match-up here; Iwaasa excelled at 2018 Worlds, losing two very tight matches to IRT top-10 ranked player Mario Mercado. I think Iwaasa upsets Longoria here and advances on home soil.

– Gerardo Franco Gonzalez v Alan Natera Chavez; a great match between two country-men who are up and coming players. Natera beat Franco in Mexico Nationals earlier this year while making a huge run to the semis and has been playing very solid. Look for a Natera win again here.

Potential Quarter finals match-ups
– #1 David Horn v #9 Avila: Horn’s slow start to the IRT season has dropped him to #12 there, but he remains #1 in the WRT. He should advance past fellow Californian Avila here.

– #21 Murray vs #4 Parrilla: Another great match here; Parrilla has met Murray already twice this year on the IRT and beaten him both times, including a solid 8,8 defeat at the US Open two weekends ago. Look for Parrilla to advance.

– #3 Jaime Martell Neri vs Iwaasa: Martell is the winner of the most recently held WRT event, beating both Horn and Bredenbeck to take the Atlanta Open in May. He played a couple of IRT Satellite events in Mexico in September with mixed results, but may have his hands full here. I’m not sure which way this potential match-up goes, but it’ll be tight.

– #2 Jake Bredenbeck versus Natera: Jake has been snake-bitten at IRT events lately; he’s fallen in the 16s or early in seven straight IRT tourneys. He’s gotten pretty rotten draws, and has been “stuck” right in that tough ranking range where he is constantly playing into one of the top 3 players in the round of 16. But on the WRT he remains tough; making the finals of 3 of the last 4 WRT events and winning in January (a solid win over Rodrigo Montoya Solís ). Natera probably gives Jake a solid game but falls at this gate.

Semis projection:
– Parrilla-Horn: The 1/4 match here was the 8/9 match in Laurel, won by Parrilla before he dropped an 11-10 heart-breaker to Rocky Carson. I think Andree gets his number again and advances to the final.

– Jake vs Iwaasa: If Iwaasa gets this far, he’ll try to take out both Bredenbeck brothers in one event (he faces Sam Bredenbeck in the first round). If this is Jake-Martell, it’ll be a rematch of the Atlanta 2018 final. Jake is 6-1 lifetime over Martell but he’s 0-1 this calendar year.

Finals projection: Parrilla over Jake. Jake is 3-0 lifetime over Parrilla … but all 3 matches were in 2015. Parrilla is on a tear and is the favorite for me to win this weekend in Calgary.

——————–
There’s a solid doubles draw in Calgary; 10 teams. I’ll go with the team of Murray/Jake over Cardona/Franco in the final.