2019 Campeonato Nacional Selectivo (Mexican Nationals) Wrap-up

Montserrat “Montse” Mejia shocks the world and takes the Mexican title over Longoria

Congrats to your 2019 Mexican National Team, set to represent Mexico at both the International Racquetball Federation – IRF major events this year:
– Men Singles Finalists: Alejandro Landa & Alvaro Beltran
– Women Singles finalists: Montserrat Mejia & Paola Longoria
– Men’s Doubles champions: Rodrigo Montoya & Javier Mar
– Women’s Doubles champions: Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas

Click here for the R2sports home page for the event: http://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30505 .

If you missed any of the matches, follow “RKT” on Facebook and they did a fantastic job of streaming throughout the weekend.

And see below for links to the match reports for the events within Proracquetballstats.com.

Lets review the event. Below by round are the matches I found interesting, including significant upsets, new champions and other noteworthy results.
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Men’s Singles:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/D38678

In the 32s…there were no major upsets, no amazing #32 over #1 upsets like we’ve seen in the past. Best matches of the round:
– Jaime Martell Neri topped Eduardo Lalo Portillo with a solid 10,7 win to avenge a h2h loss at Monterrey mid last year. 
– Alvaro Beltran cruised by Polo Polito Gutierrez 4,13 to avoid an early upset.
– Gerardo Franco Gonzalez got a solid win, topping the hot Ernesto Ochoa 13,10 for the upset by seed, if perhaps not by talent.

In the 16s…
– #1 seed Daniel De La Rosa overcame a slow start to get past Rodolfo Esparza 12,8.
– 2-time WRT champ #9 seed Alejandro Alex Cardona pasted Sebastian Fernandez 6,4 to advance to the quarters. This result surprised me; usually 8/9 match-ups are close, and Fernandez has a number of solid showings on tour lately while Cardona has stepped back a bit from touring … but this is a dominant win.
– Former world #1 Alex Landa cruised by the over-seeded Christian Longoria9,6 to setup an excellent quarters match with Mar.
– #4 Seed Javier Mar blew out #13 seeded Martell in the first, but then it turned into the close match we expected and he held on for the win 2,(14), 7
– #14 Beltran, as under-seeded in this draw as Landa, was calm and collected while controlling his match against #3 Andree Parrilla, advancing in two games that probably weren’t as close as the scores suggest (8,13).
– #22 seed Gerardo Franco beat #6 seed Javier Estrada 11-10 in a marathon match that featured the players diving on nearly every point. Two really solid wins in a row for Franco here over two solid players.
– #10 seed Alan Natera Chavez saved match point against and advanced over #7 seeded Edson Martinez in another 2-hour marathon (9),14,6.
– Reigning World Champ and #2 seed Rodrigo Montoya Solis raced past the veteran Javier Moreno 3,4.

Quarter final seeds: #1, #2, #4 … then #9, #10, #12, #14, and #22. When 5 of your top 8 seeds fall, you know the seeds were out of whack.

In the Quarters:
– #1 DLR had to work for it, topping #9 Cardona in a drawn-out tiebreaker. Final score: 12,(13),3. A solid tourney for Cardona, who has really limited his tourney playing schedule lately but looked great this weekend.
– #12 Landa played a complete game and advanced over #4 seed Javier Mar in two straight games. Landa was in control throughout, was playing his typical crisp shots and Mar could do little to turn the tides. I predicted Landa to fall at this gate, the third tourney in a row where i’ve called for his upset early. From now on, i’ll take the opposite of what I think for Landa predictions ūüôā
– #14 Beltran played his typical controlled match and outlasted #22 Gerardo Franco 8,13. Beltran has really played well so far this event, playing smart, controlling racquetball and outlasting younger and (perhaps) better players.
– In the upset of the event, #10 Natera topped #2 seed and presumptive favorite to return to the finals for the 3rd major Mexican Singles event in a row Rodrigo Montoya 9,9. This marks the second National singles finals in a row that Natera has made the semis in, both times as a drastic underdog and with significant wins over major players. If you’ve never heard of Natera it is understandable; he has yet to play in a single IRT event.

Montoya’s loss means that Mexico will have a new singles representative in this year’s PanAms/Pan Am Games, and that Montoya will not have a chance to defend his 2018 World title in the next set of international events.

So your semis are #1, … and #10, #12 and #14 seeds. Mexican Nats always seems to bring out the upsets.

In the Semis…
– #12 Landa was in control from the start and never seemed in jeopardy of losing to his long-time rival #1 De La Rosa, hitting shot after shot and advancing 11,10. Landa improves to 7-5 in all top-level competitions against DLR. Landa returns to the finals for the first time since 2017, and returns to the Mexican National team for the first time since he won the 2017 PARC tournament.
– #14 Beltran dominated his semis match against upset-minded #10 Natera, advancing to his first Mexican final since 2015. This will also be the first time he has represented Mexico in singles since that 2015 year, where he made the quarters of PARC and the finals of the Pan Am Games.

So the final ends up being the #12 and #14 seeds, ironically the two players I called out as being most under-seeded in this event in the preview. Coincidentally, if you’re wondering how i’d have seeded this draw, I’d have gone DLR, Montoya, Landa, Parrilla, Beltran, Mar, Cardona, Natera. Maybe we’d still have the same final, maybe not. The top three guys in Mexican racquetball all seem capable of beating each other week in, week out.

In the Final, Landa controlled his long-time rival Beltran, dominating in the final for (what I believe is) his first Mexican National title 8,7.

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Women’s Singles:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/A54C5B

In the 16s… a couple of notable matches:
– #9 Ana Laura Flores raced past #8 seed Erin Rivera 11,3.
– In her return to the court after 8 months off, #5 Jessica Leona Parrilla split two games with her fellow LPRT touring pro (and drastically under-seeded) Alexandra Herrera before running out of gas and falling in a tie-breaker 13,(11),0.
– #13 Montserrat Perez waxed #4 Diana Aguilar 10,3, and in doing so confirmed that the 5/12 and 4/13 match-ups probably should have been reversed seed-wise

In the Quarters:
– #1 Paola Longoria dominated the youngster lefty #9 Flores 7,2
– #12 Herrera cruised past #13 Perez in two 11,5
– #6 Monste Montse Mejia got one of the best wins of her career, coming back from a game down to move past #3 Nancy Enriquez (10),4,6. 
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis advanced past the veteran #7 Susana Acosta in two 7,2

So your semis seeds are #1, #2, #6 and #12. Not too bad, since the #12 seed probably should have been the #4 seed.

In the Semis, we saw a couple of regular LPRT match-ups:
– #1 Longoria waxed #12 Herrera 4,3. They’ve played 12 times (10 times on the LPRT) and Longoria has now won all 12. Longoria returns to the Mexican National team in search of extending her current IRF title record of 17 international titles. She’ll get two more shots in 2019.
– #6 Mejia got her second major upset in a row, downing #2 Salas in relative ease 11,4. This was a rematch of last year’s quarters, a close Salas win, and now Mejia has earned her first Adult national team appearance.

In the Final, Mejia shocked the racquetball world and took out the world #1 Longoria in two games 8,14. She accomplished the unique task of defeating the #1, #2 and #3 players in the draw on the weekend, and now holds simultaneously both the Adult and 18U Mexican National titles.

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Men’s Doubles:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/DBA748

A huge upset in the semis, when the #4 team of Landa/Cardona upset the reigning pro and world champion #1 seeded team of DLR/Beltran, knocking them out of the international events for 2019. On the other side, the #2 team of Montoya/Mar fought off the tough #3 team of Parrilla/Martinez to play for the National team berth.

In the final: the two teams traded games before Montoya/Mar caught fire in the tie-breaker to win 11-0 and clinch their first national doubles title and berths in Columbia & Peru later this year.

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Women’s Doubles:

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/81F0A4

The semis went according to seeding, though the #2 team of Longoria/Salas was taken to tiebreaker by the young Rivera/Perez team before advancing. The #1 defending champs Herrera//Mejia fought off the #4 team of Parrilla/Enriquez 11,12 to advance to the final to defend their title and national team berth.

In that final, Longoria/Salas got revenge for last year’s finals defeat and took out the #1 seeds 13,5 to clinch the IRF berths for 2019.

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That’s it. Thanks for reading, another fun event.

2019 Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Campeonato Nacional Selectivo (Mexican Nationals) Preview

DLR is your #1 seed and the favorite in both Singles and Doubles this weekend.

Home page for the event: http://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30505

Current RKT Rankings used (I believe) to seed the event: https://www.fmr.mx/ranking-rkt

This is the singular tournament (at least as far as I read the website) that will determine Mexico’s team that will play both the Pan Am Racquetball championships in Columbia in April and the Pan Am Games in Peru in August. Both singles finalists and the winning doubles team will represent the country. So this is a pretty big event for Mexican players.

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This is one of my favorite tourneys of the year to cover. We generally get the full force of the current state of Mexican racquetball in one place, all competing to represent the country at future International Racquetball Federation – IRF events. It isn’t like International Racquetball Tour events, where several of the top Mexican players rarely play, and it isn’t like the World Racquetball Tour where the top Mexicans committed to the IRT cannot play. Its everybody.

The Men’s draw features 34 players this year, and it is a who’s who of Mexican male singles players. The only men missing from my personal top 50 I see are Eduardo & Rodrigo Garay and Jordy Alonso. Even Javier Moreno came out of “retirement” to play the singles draw.

As always with Mexican National events, I find myself questioning the seeding. The Men’s draw is seeded 1-4 DLR, Montoya, Parrilla, Mar, which is fine and defend-able based on talent, past results and the RKT rankings. But 5-8 goes Longoria, Estrada, Martinez and Fernandez. That is the 11th, 9th, 13th and 7th ranked players by RKT. Meanwhile clearly superior players like Landa and Beltran are in the teens, and other players currently in RKT top 8 are nowhere to be found. This really makes no sense to me. And, it makes for unfair matches early on. And, I’d like to point out, it goes directly against the claim on the FMR website that they use the RKT rankings for “seeding of nationals.”

The Women’s draw is similarly stacked; it features every LPRT touring professional ranked in the top 30. The big news is the return to the court of Jessica Leona Parrilla, who has been recovering from injury since damaging her knee ligaments last June. She’s back after “only” 8 months recovery, so I’d temper expectations, but she is playing doubles with her regular partner Nancy Enriquez (who she was on the court with competing when she injured herself). The seeding is more or less accurate, with a couple of oddities: why is Herrera, current ranked 3rd in the world, seeded 12th?? And, i’m not sure how Diana Aguilar is seeded 4th. But lets move on.

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Here’s a preview of the Men’s Singles Draw:

In the 32s, matches to look for:
– Right out of the gate, #1 seed Daniel De La Rosa gets a solid match, going up against accomplished junior Juan Loreto (if Loreto can win the play-in of course).
– The best round of 32 match projects to be Eduardo Lalo Portillo vs Jaime Martell Neri. Both players are relatively under-seeded (13th and 20th) based on their accomplishments (world 18U junior reigning champ and current WRT #1). In talent rankings i’ve got these two neck and neck; this should be a really entertaining match.
– Another too-early match-up of talented veterans is the 14/19 match-up between Alvaro Beltran and Polo Polito Gutierrez. This was the Mexican National singles FINAL in 2014, and now its a round of 32 match. They’ve met 7 times that I have in the databases, and Beltran has won every time. Polo has essentially retired from pro playing at this point, while Beltran continues to tour and make the back ends of IRT events. I’m going with Beltran here.
Ernesto Ochoa vs Gerardo Franco Gonzalez. Another excellent 1st round match-up between two talented players. I have Franco slightly higher in my personal rankings, but believe Ochoa can win this and advance based on his past results. This will be a dog-fight.

In the 16s, the match-ups get even better:
– #8 Sebastian Fernandez vs #9 Alejandro Alex Cardona. Two-time WRT champ Cardona has really slowed down his tourney schedule lately, with just a handful of events in the last two years. Meanwhile Fernandez has rebounded from his 18U World junior finals loss to get some really solid wins on the IRT. I favor Fernandez slightly, though wouldn’t be surprised at all if Cardona went on a run. 
– #12 Alejandro Alex Landa faces #5 Christian Longoria, in a case where really the two seeds should have been switched. Longoria is a solid young player, but should prove no match for two-time IRT tourney winner Landa.
– #4 Javier Mar vs #13 Portillo: Assuming Lalo gets by Martell, the enigmatic Mar awaits. Mar entered the 2018 Mexican Nationals as the defending champ and #1 seed … and was promptly beaten in the round of 32. In more recent events he played Kane Waselenchuk as tough as he’s been played lately, losing at the US Open 12,10 and won the 2019 Longhorn Open. Mar and Portillo have met a couple times in top-level events … but they’re long enough ago that they’re relatively meaningless. Portillo should give Mar a run for his money but should fall here.
– #3 Andree Parrilla vs #14 Beltran; another too-early match-up of (arguably) two of the best six players in this draw. Parrilla has been on fire this season in the IRT, projecting to easily finish in the top 8. Beltran meanwhile keeps hanging on and is also holding onto that top 8 ranking. They’ve met 7 times in my database: Beltran holds the advantage 4-3 AND won their most recent meeting … but this seems like a Parrilla win. I sense that Beltran’s much more interested in winning the doubles at this event and may be distracted in singles.
– #6 Javier Estrada vs #11 Ochoa; this could be an awesome match: I have these two neck and neck in my personal rankings. Ochoa has wins in the last year over Parrilla, Beltran and Mar, and was beating Montoya in Sonora when Montoya went down with injury. Estrada meanwhile has wins over Landa, Beltran, Cardona, and has played Montoya tough. Both players have the capability to win a stacked event … but only one can advance. Advantage slightly to Estrada here.
– #10 Alan Natera Chavez vs #7 Edson Martinez; Natera came out of nowhere as the #32 seed in last year’s event to advance to the semis, beating Mar, Longoria and Franco along the way. Martinez was a semi finalist in this event in both 2014 and 2015, but has not come close to repeating that performance since. I give the edge to Natera here.
– #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solis should advance easily over #18 Javier Moreno.

Projecting the Quarters:
– #1 DLR over #8 Fernandez: they play similar games … but DLR plays it a lot better right now. 
– #4 Mar vs #12 Landa: This is a rematch of the 2017 Mexican Men’s final, won by Mar in a tiebreaker 11-7. Its the only time i’ve got these two playing in the database. Since ascending to #1 on the IRT, Landa has struggled; in 5 IRT events this season he’s got two semis, two quarters and one round of 16 loss (to Montoya in a tough seeding match-up). Landa also has a recent history of getting upset early in these events: he lost in the 16s of this event last year to Martell, and in the 16s of the Worlds selection event last June to Estrada. I’m going with Mar here, but it’ll be a marathon.
– #3 Parrilla takes out #6 Estrada; I like Estrada’s game, but don’t think he can match-up with the grinding capabilities of Parrilla.
– #2 Montoya takes out #10 Natera. Same story; while I like where Natera’s game is, Montoya is one of the sport’s elites right now.

Semis:
– DLR over Mar: this would be a rematch of the 2016 Mexican Nationals final, a straight-forward two game win by DLR. Mar may play with more power, but DLR can and will out control the match throughout, and can match Mar shot for shot. For Mar to win this game, he needs to be more perfect than DLR typically is.
– Montoya over Parrilla; these two have plenty of experience playing each other; they’re the same age, and battled all throughout juniors. On the adult/pro stage, this is a rematch of last year’s semis (a 2-game Montoya win). Montoya leads h2h over time and has won the last couple times they’ve played, and advances here.

Final: DLR beats Montoya. A rematch of both the 2018 Mexican Nationals final (a Montoya win), the 2018 Mexican Worlds selection event (a DLR win), and more recently, the semis of the 2019 IRT Lewis Drug Pro-Am event (a DLR blow-out win), these two continue to show why they’re the top two seeds. The problem is … no matter who wins this final, both players advance to the international events, so sometimes we see players cruise through the final knowing they’ve guaranteed their national team spots. This could especially be the case here, since both of these players project to make the doubles finals and have the chance to double-represent the country. I think, when the chips are down, DLR is the better player and his on-the-court results generally prove it.

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Here’s a preview of the Women’s Singles Draw and matches to look for.

In the 16s, we have tough matches right out of the gate:
– In the 8/9: two young players face off in Ana Laura Flores and Erin Rivera. Flores still has a year in 18U (I believe), while Rivera made the finals of Mexican 18U in 2018 in her last year of competition. When Rivera couldn’t travel to 2018 junior worlds, Flores took her place and made it to the semis. But I don’t have them ever having played in my records. I’ll go with Flores, based on her recent LPRT wins.
– #5 Parrilla vs #12 Alexandria Herrera: poor seeding makes a semis-quality match-up happen here, even more unfortunate for Parrilla in her first event back. Herrera has gotten the better of Parrilla on the pro tour the last couple times they’ve played and I’ll favor her in this match as well.
– #4 Diana Aguilar vs #13 Montserrat Perez: perhaps a reader can help here: how exactly is Aguilar seeded 4th here? I don’t have her entered into a Mexican National singles event since 2014. Is this a typo and should be Delia Aguilar? I’m not sure who wins this match: both players are young and seem to be in the same age group; they’ve met for the finals of multiple Mexican junior championships, always won by Aguilar, so I’ll give her the nod here.

In the quarters:
– #1 Paola Longoria faces the lefty Flores and should advance easily.
– #12 Herrera should overpower the youngster Aguilar.
– #3 Nancy Enriquez faces #6 Montse Mejia in an interesting battle of youth and experience. Mejia, the reigning 18u Mexican and junior world champ, has not played since her Nov 2018 worlds triumph. Meanwhile, Enriquez has been busy making the back ends of LPRT events. Mejia has shown she can take games off of the world’s best; can she string together a complete match against a tough player? I’ll give Enriquez the edge in a tiebreaker.
– #2 Samantha Salas Solis faces off against long time adversary Susana Susy Acosta. This is a rematch of the semis of the 2016 Nationals, a Salas win then, and another in this event.

Projected Semis:
– Longoria over Herrera: this is a rematch of last year’s semis too. They’ve met 11 times in all formats, all 11 Paola wins.
– Salas over Enriquez: this would also be a rematch of last year’s semis. Enriquez does have some wins over Salas in their career (she topped Samantha for the 2005 Junior world title for example), but Salas has dominated otherwise.

Finals: Longoria over Salas. They’ve met 58 times across pro tours, Mexican national events that I have records for, and international events. Longoria is 55-3 in that time. These two have also met in 5 of the 6 LPRT pro events so far this season … all Paola wins as well. Its possible Salas pulls the upset, but not likely. Look for Paola to take her 6th Mexican national singles title (that we have records for … she likely has many more but we have no records for anything prior to 2014. If you’re reading this FMR; i’d love to get access to your past records and enter them into the PRS database!)

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They’re also playing doubles in Chihuahua with all the best teams playing together. Here’s how I think they’ll end up.

Men’s Doubles: 15 teams battling it out, but its hard not to go with 1 vs 2 again, in a rematch of last year’s Nationals final. The DLR/Beltran team is the best in the world and have proven it time and again (at the US Open, at Worlds, etc). The #2 seed Mar/Montoya is no slouch though, and they’ll both have their hands full with excellent #3 and #4 teams in Parrilla/Martinez and Landa/Cardona respectively.

Javier Moreno, who holds the Men’s record for most international doubles titles, is not entered, so he does not have an opportunity to extend that record ūüôā

Women’s Doubles: the dominant team of Longoria/Salas was upset in the final of the 2018 worlds selection event and hence are the #2 seeds here. I wouldn’t count on another upset. I think Longoria/Salas take this draw, beating all comers. The interesting part may be their finals opponents: Parrilla/Enriquez were beating the #1 seeded Herrera/Mejia team in last year’s selection event before defaulting due to Parrilla’s injury; if Parrilla can compete, this may result in a new finals pair.

(Notable; there was not a 2018 National doubles final in the database for Mexico … the event was cancelled/not held during last year’s nationals).

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Phew, that’s it for the preview. Can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

USA Racquetball National Doubles Wrap-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 USA National Doubles Preview

Rocky Carson tries to defend his title

The first major National championship for 2019 from the “big 3” (I.e. USA RacquetballRacquetball Canada and Federaci√≥n 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.

——————-.

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??)
Р#4 Adam Manilla / Nick Riffel (aka team Colorado) over #5 Thomas Carter and Fernando Rivera .
Р#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.
Р#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.
——————-.
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:
Р#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.

——————-.
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:
РDiaz takes on Riffel 
– Manilla takes on Justus Benson
РRojas 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.

————————-
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)
Р#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.

————————-

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.
РThis 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.

———————————

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

In the 64s…
РNorth 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.

РBiggest 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.
РAnother upset was Iowan Brad Hansen, playing in his first pro event, taking out #22 Scott McClellan in a tough 11-8 breaker.

Р#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.

—————————

In the 32s:
РMontoya 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.

——————————-

In the 16s:
РLanda 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.
Р#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.

————————
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.

———————
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.

—————-
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).

—————-
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

——————
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 Landeryou,¬†Lee Connell¬†and¬†Tanner Prentice.

Lets preview the draw. Here’s some round of 64 matches of interest:
Р#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.¬†
Р#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.
Р#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:
РMontoya 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¬†ūüôā
– 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.
Р#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.
Р#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.
Р#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.
Р#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.

——————–
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.

——————-
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:
Р#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.
Р#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.
Р#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.
Р#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. ūüôā 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 ūüôā ) 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 Acu√Īa
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.
РDaniel 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…
Р#1 Rodrigo Montoya Solis played a close one against Alejandro Alex Cardona fighting off a furious 2nd game comeback to advance 11,14.
Р#9 Eduardo Portillo Rendon got a statement win over WRT regular #8 Jaime Martell Neri 7,8
Р#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.
Р#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.