Portland ToC Wrap-Up

Kane takes his 120th title. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

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

R2 Sports App tourney link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31055

PRS match report online: http://rball.pro/8743AB

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Portland Tournament of Champions Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here’s some qualifiers to watch for:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey Shootout Men’s Pro Draw Wrap-up

Portillo cruises through the Chicago IRT draw for the win. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

In conjunction with the LPRT event, there was a 16-man IRT tier 4 draw with some solid matches. Lets review the draw.

In the 16s:
– two upsets by seeds; the IRT sanctioning means the draw is seeded exactly per IRT points, so its hard for an outsider (like me) to know true talent levels. But #10 Fernando Rivera​ took out #7 Ferd Samson​, and #11 Rom Dresbach​ took out 18U player #6 Lucas Shoemaker​ in two games each.

In the qtrs, three of four matches went chalk.
– #1 Lalo Portillo took out local player Geoff Goldblatt in two.
– #5 Kyle Ulliman wiped out #4 Sam Bredenbeck1,1
– #3 Thomas Carter took out Ohioan Dresbach in two
– #2 Jake Bredenbeck beat local player Rivera in two.

In the semis:
– #1 Portillo advanced in two straight over Ulliman
– #2 Jake was stretched to a breaker by Carter but won to setup a #1 vs #2 final.

In the final:..
– #1 Portillo crushed #2 Bredenbeck 0,6 to win the title.

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International Racquetball Tour
LPRT

2019 IRT Los Compadres Auto Sales Open Wrap-Up

Landa gets his 4th IRT pro win in Fullerton. Photo via 2019 US Open; Photographer Kevin Savory

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).

R2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31129

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Here’s a review of the notable matches in Singles (doubles is below)

PRS Singles report: http://rball.pro/5ADEEB

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Here’s a review of the notable matches in Doubles

PRS Doubles report: http://rball.pro/7EE21E

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 FernandezFelipe 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.

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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.

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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.

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

2019 IRT Los Compadres Auto Sales Open Preview

With Waselenchuk out of the draw, is Moscoso the favorite? Photo US Open2019, Photographer = Kevin Savory

R2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31129

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Looks like it will be a great tourney, with a ton of really compelling matches early on. Can’t wait!

International Racquetball Tour
Racquetball Canada
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federacion Boliviana Tiro Deportivo
Fecoracquet Fecoracquet

2019 Arizona IRT Pro-Am Preview

R2Sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30719

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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As always, follow IRT for streaming options throughout the weekend, say high to Dean Baer online, and support pro racquetball 🙂

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International Racquetball Tour
LPRT
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball

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

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

We’re down to the top 32, having played 2-3 rounds of qualifiers Wednesday to whittle the field from 94.

here’s the matches I found notable or upset-worthy from Wednesday’s marathon qualifying.

In the 256s:
– fellow Virginian Rich Benderoth took a tiebreaker win over Erik Solter. Shout out to Rich, who regularly spanked me a decade ago when I used to actually play this sport. Unfortunately he injured himself in the process and forfeited his next round.

– USA 18U junior Lucas Shoemaker gets a win in his professional debut, downing Bolivian Vladimir Fernando Salas in a tie-breaker.

– Colorado native Jacob Kingsford gets a win in his debut pro/national level event over Ecuadorian Fabian Cuesta].

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In the 64s.

– Kansas amateur Bradley Rogers upset the highest ranked player in qualifying, 17th seeded Robert Collins 12,8 to earn a main draw berth. Rogers gets his best win on tour in four years.

– Javier Estrada advanced over Bolivian junior phenom Diego Garcia Quispe, who had to retire mid-game2 with injury. The two were playing close though, with the score 13-14 at the point of injury.

– Javier Mar dominated Ernesto Ochoa 13,5 to advance to the main draw and a meeting with his doubles partner. Tough draw for Ochoa, who was making his IRT Tier 1 debut here after putting up some very impressive results in 2019.

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

– Big upset of a dark horse candidate for me: Colombian Francisco Reyes Gomez upset Natera in a tiebreaker to advance. We don’t know much about Reyes; he’s got a few US Open appearances in the past but this is probably his best career win.

– Martel gets a great win to advance into the main draw, topping Garcia 14,6.

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

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

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now for the 32s. And there’s some amazing matches today. Here’s what i’m looking for:

– #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #33 Estrada: Estrada made a statement at the Black Gold cup, topping 4 top 10 players to take the title. Well, now he can measure up against the worlds best for a status check.

– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #24 Mar: these two ran into each other in the round of 32 at the Syosset open as well; just a function of unlucky seeding. Mar took that last meeting en route to a quarter final appearance. Expect a close match between these doubles partners that know each other’s game pretty well.

– #8 Samuel Murray vs #25 Keller: pay no attention to the seedings here: this is a battle of two evenly matched players. They met in the 16s of the Pan Am Games in Lima, a tie-breaker win for the Canadian. But Keller is no easy out; he’s an experienced, accomplished international player with two PARC titles on his resume

#13 David Horn​ vs #77 Martell; This is an interesting matchup between two long stalwards of the WRT. These two met 9 times on the old WRT, with Horn leading 5-4 h2h but Jaime Martell Racquetball​ taking the most recent meeting (May 2018 in Atlanta). This could go either way; Horn has missed time with an injury this season; is he 100%? He’ll need to be to beat his long time rival. (post-publishing correction; initially I had Martell playing into Landa here; my staging tables were incorrect and hence this correction after publishing).

– #14 Lalo Portillo vs #19 Charlie Pratt; Watch out for the upset here; every time Pratt enters a draw he makes noise. Pratt could lose here to the rapidly improving Portillo, or he could run to the semis. Expect a tactical battle here.

– #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #27 Garay: I like this match; Garay’s power versus DLR’s guile. Daniel won’t be surprised by Garay’s pop; they met in teh 2016 Mexican nationals prior to Garay’s re-flagging and he advanced in a tiebreaker. I like DLR here but I think it goes breaker.

– #10 Mario Mercado vs #23 Sebastian Fernandez; this is a fascinating match-up between Mercado, who despite having (in my opinion) improving results on the court lately is treading water from a rankings perspective thanks to rising pressure of up and coming players, and Fernandez, who seems set to jump straight from 18U into the pro ranks and make a splash. I think this goes down to the wire with the veteran advancing.

– #15 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #18 Andres Acuña; this should be another barn burner; they’ve met four times in IRF junior and senior events and 3 times it has gone breaker. All four are Moscoso wins … but Acuna always make sit hard on the Bolivian number one.

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

International Racquetball Tour
Racquetball Canada
UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships

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

2019 USA National Doubles Preview

Rocky Carson tries to defend his title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lets see how it goes this time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Should be a great tourney!

IRT Lewis Drug Pro-Am Wrap-Up

Kane Wins again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!