IRT Florida Pro Am Wrap-up

Landa gets his 3rd career singles IRT title.

International Racquetball Tour

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30402

PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/6A2E20

Congrats to Alejandro Landa, who wins his 3rd career title on the weekend.

Here’s a review of the event, citing notable matches (to me) by round:

In the 64s:
– Maurice Miller advanced by the skin of his teeth over Kyle Ulliman 11-10. 
– Set Cubillos Ruiz got a solid win over “the ref’ Scott McClellan to advance.

In the 32s:
– Thomas Carter got his first career win over Felipe Camacho with a pretty solid 6,13 win. He advances into the main draw for just the 2nd time this season.
– Eduardo Garay Rodriguez upset 9th seeded Mario Mercado 11-9 in the breaker. A solid win for Garay, which earns him a rematch with Beltran.
– #13 Jake Bredenbeck saved game point against Miller in game 1, then cruised to a two game win, avoiding this pitfall and advancing to his 7th main draw in 8 IRT events this season.
– Andres Acuña won a hard-fought tiebreaker win over #14 Jansen Allen. Allen’s tough season continues; he’s only qualified for the main draw now in 4 of the 8 events, after cashing in all 11 events last season. 
– Lalo Portillo got a solid win over tour vet Robert Collins to continue his impressive season.

In the 16s:
– David Horn got a solid win over #5 Samuel Murray 11,12. He avenges a bad loss a month ago to Murray and moves on to his second QF of the season.
– Alvaro Beltran made quicker work of Eduardo Garay than I thought he would, winning 7,9.
– #3 Alejandro Alex Landa absolutely destroyed Acuna 3,2. Where was this dominance at the Pan Am Games? 
– #7 Daniel De La Rosa got an easier-than-expected win over Rodrigo Montoya Solís 12,3, the latest in a back-and-forth rivalry with Montoya.
#6 Sebastian Franco got a solid win over Jose Diaz to advance.

Nearly 100% chalk into the quarters, with only Horn’s upset of #5 Murray a blemish on the resumes of the top 8 seeds.

In the Quarters:
– In a shocking result, #8 Beltran topped #1 seed Kane Waselenchuk in an 11-8 tiebreaker. I’ll do a separate post on this result, which streaks it ends for Kane, and what it means for the title race later on.
– #4 Andree Parrilla dominated his former WRT rival #12 Horn 2,6.
– #3 Landa took a close one over Franco
– #2 Rocky Carson wiped out #7 De La Rosa 7,3.

Semis:
– Beltran came back from looking like he’d get wiped off the court to take Parrilla in an 11-10 thriller.
– Landa played one of the more complete games of his career, beating Carson 5,7 to advance to the final.

In that final, a rematch of the Mexican National championship, Landa fended off the veteran Beltran to take home his 3rd career title.

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Next up; the Syosset Open, the last Tier 1 of the season!

IRT 2019 Florida Pro-Am Preview

IRT back in action.

International Racquetball Tour

r2sports home page for the tourney: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30402

Draws: at the r2sports page eventually; early release at IRT’s facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/…/racquetb…/posts/10157094029691737

The tour heads to its regular April Florida stop for the penultimate event of the 2018-19 season. This is the 12th straight year this event has been on the schedule and has historically been a solid, important stop on the schedule given its timing. Last year, it was the last event of the season and led to the end of the 9-straight pro title run of Kane Waselenchuk at the hands of Rocky Carson.

This year though, the tables are turned; Kane heads into the Florida event with a solid lead in the rankings (https://www.irt-tour.com/singles-rankings/) despite missing the Bolivian grand slam. Kane would essentially have to miss his flight to Florida in order for Rocky to overtake him for the tour lead this coming weekend. And, with one additional event on the books and a 300+ points lead the odds of Kane missing out on his 13th tour title seem slim.

That being said, there’s lots to play for. Alejandro Alex Landa and David Horn made the semis last year and are defending large amounts of rankings points. meanwhile, Daniel De La Rosa and Andree Parrilla, who are currently sitting 5th and 4th respectively in the rankings, could easily overtake Landa in the rankings with solid results this weekend. DLR missed this event last year so has zero points to defend, while Parrilla was upset in the 16s and could really improve on his rankings heading into the final NY event.

So, that being said, lets preview the draw. 35 players in this draw, another solid pro draw, and some dark horses present. Here’s some good matches to look for in the qualifying.

In the 64s:
Eduardo Garay faces off against tour regular Justus Benson in the first round, a tough draw for both players. Garay brings a ton of power and has been making waves with solid wins lately and is a name to watch for this weekend.
– Maryland native Troy Warigon makes the trip down the coast and gets a solid opener versus Costa Rican international Sergio Acuna.
Andres Acuña, Sergio’s brother, Costa Rican #1 and coming off of a very impressive semi-final showing at the Pan American Racquetball Championships, faces off against the best 50yr old player in the land, long time Japanese veteran Hiroshi Shimizu
Scott McClellan faces off against Colombian international Set Cubillos Ruiz.

In the 32s:
– #16 vs #17: Felipe Camacho versus Thomas Carter; the 16/17 match is always tough and this should be no different. They’ve already met twice this season, both Camacho wins but both 11-8 tiebreakers. Can Carter break through and get on the right side of what projects to be a close match?
– #9 Mario Mercado vs Garay: they met at the 2016 US Open and Garay got him 12-10 in the 5th. This could be a similarly close battle here, but I suspect Garay moves forward despite Mercado’s semis appearance in the Bolivian Grand Slam.
– #13 Jake Bredenbeck vs #20 Maurice Miller; Miller makes the quick drive down from Atlanta to compete, and heads up against Bredenbeck. These two have met 3 times in the past 4 years, all Jake wins. Miller will need to find a weakness to advance.
– Acuna vs #14 Jansen Allen; Allen continues to fall down the rankings after getting as high as the #3 seed in an event in March 2018, and he runs into a guy who just took out Landa in the PARC event. These two play a similar style, solid, tactical, but Acuna has the hot hand.
– #10 Rodrigo Montoya Solís vs Kadim Carrasco; an interesting match between two extremely hard hitters. Lots of broken balls in this one, but Montoya should advance with the more complete game.
– #15 Robert Collins vs #18 Lalo Portillo; the 15/18 match, like the 16/17 match, always seems intriguing and this is no different. The reigning junior world 18U champ Portillo versus IRT touring regular Collins; this is a good test for Portillo, facing a tough lefty.

Projected 16 matches:
– #1 Kane over Camacho; they met in Chicago at this gate, a blow out Kane win.
– #8 Alvaro Beltran vs Garay; assuming Garay gets past Mercado, we would get a rematch of the round of 16 match these two played in Bolvia. That was a close, two game win for Beltran. If Mercado wins, we get a rematch of a round of 16 match from last weekend’s PARC championship, a tie-breaker Beltran win. Either way, advantage Beltran, who is having a nice rebound 2nd half to the season.
– #5 Samuel Murray vs #12 Horn: Murray crushed him in Chicago in March; both are coming off of the long travel to PARC where Murray logged twice the court time, playing both singles and doubles. I’d still favor Murray here but it could be an upset win.
– #4 Parrilla vs #13 Jake Bredenbeck: they met in South Dakota, a tiebreaker win for Parrilla, his first win over Jake in 4 tries across tours. I’d expect another close match here but for Parrilla to eventually move on and continue his fantastic season.
– #3 Landa vs Acuna; a rematch of the huge upset from last weekend’s PARC championships, when Landa was the #1 seed and lost in the quarters by Acuna. Can Acuna do it again? Landa sits 3rd in the standings and really has no shot of getting much higher on the season, but should have incentive to stay in the top 4 to avoid “the flip” going forward. I’ll go with Landa holding serve and avenging last week’s loss.
– #6 Sebastian Franco vs #11 Jose Diaz; they’ve already met twice this calendar year and split; Diaz won in California when Franco was coming off injury, while Franco won in Chicago in two close games. I’m guessing Franco wins again, and again in two close games here.
– #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Montoya. Thanks to the “flip” seeding, DLR (who was the 3rd seed last event) falls into the 5-8 range and gets a scrambled seed to #7 … and runs into frequent recent nemesis Montoya at this stage. These two go back and forth lately; DLR crushed Rodrigo in Chicago, but got similarly crushed in South Dakota. In 2018, Montoya beat DLR for the Mexican Nat’l title with a solid win, but then got whipped in the Worlds qualifying event later in the summer. So this could go either way. I’m going to flip a coin and go with DLR, who didn’t have to travel and compete for a week straight in the PARC.
– #2 Carson faces Portillo. Carson debuted on tour in 1995; Portillo was BORN in 1999 and is less than half his age. No matter; Carson should control this match and advance.

Projected Quarters:
– #1 Kane vs #8 Beltran; thanks to the seedings flip, these two have a rare quarterfinals meeting. Ironically, they last met in the quarters in this event last year, a 12,2 Kane win. Notably, 12 points is the most Kane has had scored on him in a single game since the movement to a 3-game format, a feat Beltran repeated in the Portland final in November. Look for another Kane 2 game win, with scores like 8,11.
– #4 Parrilla vs #5 Murray: Andree is 3-0 over Murray, and makes it 4-0 here. This is the year of Parrilla, who finished last season ranked 11th and is now in real position to finish ranked 3rd this year.
– #3 Landa vs #6 Franco: a rare meeting between these two players; they’ve only met 5 times since 2011, and the only time Franco won was to take his sole tier 1 victory in San Antonio in March of 2018. I’d favor Landa normally, but he’s coming off the brutal travel trip to Colombia for the PARC, so Franco is more rested. 
– #2 Carson vs #7 De La Rosa. Or maybe Montoya, depending on the coin flip round of 16 event between two of Mexico’s top players. Either match will be compelling. Carson really gave Montoya a lesson when they met in the semis of Chicago. but DLR has topped Rocky the last 3 times they’ve played. So we know who Rocky is rooting for. I’ll go with DLR over Rocky here.

Semis:
– Kane over Parrilla, who looks to avoid the 5,2 beating he took the last time they played in Chicago in March.
– Landa over DLR: they’re close, but Landa has the edge of late, having won their last 4 meetings across tours.

Finals: Kane over Landa, who keeps the games close as he typically does for about the first half of each game, then loses out as Kane goes on a 5-6 point run to close each game out. Kane wins 8,7.

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This is a tough tourney to predict; I’ve got Landa going to the finals … but he very well may lose in the 16s to a guy who just beat him a week ago. I could have DLR in the semis … or be one-and-done to a tough countryman in Montoya. Either way, I see lots of good matches through out the weekend in all the rounds; look forward to Dean DeAngelo Baer broadcasting from Florida and calling out all the “flatties” as they happen.

Bolivian Grand Slam IRT Wrap-Up

Moscoso the double winner on the weekend.

International Racquetball Tour Open Bolivia American Iris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On the doubles side:

Match Report: http://rball.pro/CA8C9A

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

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

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

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!

IRT Portland Pelham ToC Wrap-Up

Kane wins again.

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk on his win at the latest International Racquetball Tour pro stop. This represents Kane’s 112th career tourney win and extends his current on-court match winning streak to 70 (good for 3rd longest in history).

Match report in the database: http://www.proracquetballstats.com/cg…/print_results_new.pl…

Despite all the discussion on rankings from the week leading up to this event, Alejandro Landa will retain the #1 ranking for the time being (he did not play this event last year so had zero points to defend) and will hope for a better draw next time. Kane’s showing should improve his current ranking to #4 if I’m calculating the points correctly. The other two major points moves should involve Mario Mercado dropping out of the top 8 (he made the final of this event last year but got upset early in 2018), and Andree Parrilla moving INTO the top 8 despite his early upset to Kane since Andree did not play this event last season and only gains points.

Lets review the event, with comments on notable results (to me) by round:

In the round of 64…no major upsets, but some tough tiebreakers.

– #17 Thomas Carter outlasted Portland local Tim Prigo in a tie-breaker.
Tony Anthony Carson took out fellow Oregonian and podcast maven Dylan Reid 13,10.
– #19 Nicholas Nick Riffel outlasted junior phenom Ricardo Ricky Diaz 11-8 in the breaker after dropping the first 15-14 then handing out a donut in the second.
– Colombian international veteran Set Cubillos Ruiz outlasted tour ref Scott McClellan in a tough tiebreaker 11-8.
– #15 Felipe Camacho was stretched to a tiebreaker by Oregon State Student Sam Bredenbeck.

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In the round of 32…we had some fireworks.
– In what I think is a pretty significant upset, former IRT touring pro Carson took out #9 seed Andree Parrilla 7,12 to advance to the main draw. On the one hand, Carson has more than proven his ability to beat quality players; in this event last year he beat De La Rosa in the 16s and took the first two games off of Murray in the quarters before losing in 5. On the other hand, Parrilla made the semis of the US Open (vanquishing current #1 Landa along the way), had the match-winning point on his racquet before losing to Carson 11-10 in the quarters at Laurel, and has been roughly the 5th or 6th best player over the past calendar year results wise. I watched part of this match after the fact … and it was not as close as the scores suggest. Parrilla could do little with Carson’s drive serve, and I saw a lot of 3-point rallies with Parrilla flailing. Andree took a curiously early loss last weekend at the SLP Open, so it could definitely be a slight end of year down-turn in form for him (I recall something similar happening a couple years back; he suffered from some serious burn out playing both a full WRT schedule, part IRT schedule plus local events in Mexico), but with fewer IRT events on the schedule every event counts.
– Defending champ and #13 seed Charlie Pratt eased past his junior team member Mauro Mauro Daniel Rojas to advance to the main draw.
– #14 seed Adam Manilla took out his buddy Riffel to advance to the main draw.
– #10 Jansen Allen took a close game one 15-14 over reigning outdoor champ Nick Montalbano and then cruised to the win.
– #18 Robert Collins took a tightly-contested match over #15 Camacho in the tie-breaker to advance to his first main draw since March.

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In the 16s:

– #1 seed Alex Landa cruised past Jake Bredenbeck 6,12.
– #8 Kane Waselenchuk took out home-town favorite and upset minded Tony Carson 11,4.
– #12 and #13 seeded Bobby David Horn and Charlie Pratt took out higher seeded players Mario Mercado and Sebastian Franco respectively. Upsets by seed, but not by expectations.
– #14 Adam Manilla continued his impressive run of form, taking #3 seed Daniel de La Rosa to a tiebreaker.
– #7 Samuel Murray left nothing in doubt and beat #10 Jansen Allen handily for his first win in their h2h meetings.
– #2 Rocky Carson was stretched to a tiebreaker by #18 Collins in their first-ever top-level meeting. Excellent showing by Collins, who was looking for his second career quarter-final.

——————
In the Quarters…

– Waselenchuk took out #1 seed Landa 9,8 in a streaky match that probably wasn’t as close as the scores indicated. Landa kept it close-ish for the early parts of both games, but (in a similar pattern to the last couple of times they’ve played), Kane dominated the end-game in both games.
– Pratt committed “coach on coach” crime and took out Horn in two close games 10,14. Despite the win, Pratt stands to take a tumble in the rankings because he’ll lose a significant chunk of the points he won at this event last year unless he manages to win again.
– Beltran completely dominated his doubles partner DLR and advanced 8,8. This is his best result since April and should help kick start the slow start to his season.
– Carson controlled Murray with ease 4,10 for his 7th win in 7 times against the Canadian national champ.

This left the tournament definitely trending to the “veteran” status. Kane, Alvaro, Rocky and Charlie basically are the four oldest players on tour, at ages 37, 40, 39 and 32 respectively.

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In the Semis…Alvaro Beltran upset #2 Rocky Carson in an argumentative tie-breaker (neither player was terribly happy with the refereeing), while Kane blasted defending champ Pratt 3,5.

In the Final, Kane took the match in two games 6,12 … but the 15-12 game was an hour+ tactical marathon where Beltran held out with excellent play and really made Kane work for the win.
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Next up for the IRT is the ever popular Coast to Coast open in Canoga Park, one of the biggest draws of the year.

IRT Pelham Tourney of Champs Preview

Pratt returns to the scene of his career accomplishment.

IRT Pelham Tourney of Champs Preview

We’re back! The International Racquetball Tour returns to action this coming weekend, returning to Portland and the legendary Multnomah Athletic Club for the 3rd event of the season; the SPC John A. Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions for 2018.

The r2sports home page for the event is http://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=29358 . The Men’s draw is available right now at IRT’s home page here: www.irt-tour.com.

Being that its Portland, there’s a good Junior component involved with this event with High school brackets. No less than 220 players are entered overall, and the pro draw has a healthy 36 players, including a ton of local players to the Northwest that we don’t normally see in national events. The top 18 players from the IRT tour rankings are present; only Gerardo Franco Gonzalez and Rodrigo Montoya Solis are missing from the top 20 players in the world current rankings.

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Lets review the draw. Here’s some interesting round of 64 qualifiers. I thought there were a bunch of compelling first rounders … many more so than normal. Should be a fun tourney.

– #17 seed Thomas Carter vs Tim Prigo: Carter is one of the highest ranked tour vets to not get a bye into the 32s, and gets rewarded with a tough match against local player Prigo, who could upset him and move on.
– Jake Bredenbeck vs Kadim Carrasco: the tour gets a rare appearance from the Bolivian Carrasco, an experienced IRT veteran but who had only appeared in US Opens previously. He’s a hard-hitter, which should make this match-up with fellow slugger Bredenbeck a fun one. Jake takes it and moves on.
– Dylan Reid vs Tony Anthony Carson; an unfortunate match-up for both guys; they literally just played in a lower tier IRT event a few weeks back. Carson is a former full time IRT touring pro who finished in the top 10 four years running, with 3 career semi-finals appearances and is a tough draw for whoever he runs into. Reid is most famous in the rball community for his excellent Podcast series (check it out at this FB page: https://www.facebook.com/racquetballshow/ …. and as a disclaimer I was a guest this past summer talking stats and Kane’s then-retirement). Oh, as for the match, I think Carson takes it (sorry Dylan!) and moves on.
– Experienced Canadian international Tim Landeryou heads south of the border to take on IRT regular Justus Benson. A tough first round for the Texan, as Landeryou could give him trouble.
Ricardo Ricky Diaz vs Nick Riffel: another tough draw for touring regular Riffel; he faces off against the current 18U national champ Diaz. Could go either way.
– The Ref Scott McClellan goes against long-time international Set Cubillos Ruiz in a tight first rounder.

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Here’s some potential round of 32 matches (projecting some winners from 64s) that could be fun:
– #9 Andree Parrilla vs Tony Carson: Parrilla, in case you havn’t been paying attention, is on a tear. He’s 4th in season-to-date rankings and has made a ton of later rounds in events over the past season. Carson will be a tough match, expect a 3-game Parrilla win here.
– #13 Charlie Pratt, the defending champion of this tourney, gets a potential match against Mauro Rojas to make the main draw. Pratt, who serves as the
US Junior National team coach, goes against one of his team members in his attempt to defend his title. Not to mention the points that go with it; Pratt stands to plummet in the rankings after this weekend due to the expiration of his tourney win from last season and his part-time playing status.
– Adam Manilla – Ricky Diaz: a nice match-up between two younger guys on tour. Manilla has been playing well lately, making the Quarters in Laurel with a couple of solid wins.
– #10 seed Jansen Allen goes against New Yorker Nick Montalbano, who makes the cross-country flight for this event.

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Lets talk about the 16s. First a comment for those looking at the seedings and wondering what the heck is going on. Kane Waselenchuk, as was thoroughly discussed and debated in a FB thread off of the IRT’s page last week about rankings and the ranking system, is currently ranked 6th. So why is he seeded 8th in this event? Because of the “flip policy” in the IRT, that regular scrambles the 5-8 seeds so that the 8th ranked player does not consistently have to face the #1 ranked player tourney after tourney. You can read more about it here: http://www.irt-tour.com/current-ranking…/irt-ranking-system/

None the less, its a really tough blow for current #1 player Alejandro Alex Landa , who has to face Kane in the quarters instead of the Finals. Fans get better matches earlier of course … but a situation like this does lend credence to the push for a slightly modified ranking system to account for this. It’s an even worse blow for #9 seeded Parrilla, who now faces an early exit at the hands of a player who he previously met in the finals of an IRT event.

I’m in favor of using a separate system to Seed events versus the one currently Ranking players to help avoid this in the future. If you want to see some alternative ranking systems, see this blog post: http://blog.proracquetballstats.com/index.php/2018/11/27/irt-points-system-alternatives/

Off my soapbox, onto the preview.

———————–
In the 16s:
– #1 seed Alex Landa vs Bredenbeck: these two have met 6 times on the IRT and WRT, and Landa has won all 6 previously. He’ll look to make it 7 for 7 here.
– #8 Kane Waselenchuk vs #9 Parrilla: Kane famously gave Andree a triple donut at the US Open a couple years back … then faced off against him in a final later that season where Parrilla played him pretty tough. You don’t predict against Kane these days … you just predict how close the match will be. Parrilla is a grinder, a tough player to play b/c he gets everything and doesn’t make mistakes. He’s also clever on the court and has the kind of off-speed serve that can do a decent job of forcing awkward shots out of Kane on the service return. Still, Kane advances.
– #5 Mario Mercado vs #12 Bobby David Horn; despite the disparity in seeding, Horn has dominated their h2h meetings historically. He leads 6-1 h2h … So look for an upset here.
– #4 Sebastian Franco vs #13 Pratt: again, don’t look at the rankings/seedings here. Pratt has never lost to Franco, and beat him in the semis of Worlds just this past August. Its Pratt’s home town; i expect him to advance here.
– #3 Daniel de la Rosa vs #14 Manilla: Manilla has been playing well, but probably not well enough to down DLR.
– #6 Alvaro Beltran vs #11 Jose Diaz: these two met in the 16s in Minneapolis in October too … with Diaz pulling out the upset. I think these two are heading in opposite directions and Diaz can win again.
– #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Jansen Allen: fresh off of his win at Canadian Nationals last week, Murray surprisingly has never beaten Allen in a top level match. Jansen’s now fallen to #10 in the rankings and may struggle to get back into the top 8; can he get another win over Murray to advance here? I’m giving the nod to Murray but wouldn’t be surprised by an upset.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs Camacho: straight forward win for Carson here.

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Possible Quarters:
– Kane over Landa: what should have been the final is instead a quarter. Last time they played, Landa played Kane tough, losing 11,9 in Canoga Park. Lets see how this one goes.
– Pratt over Horn: this is a tough one to predict. Horn has beaten Pratt 2 of the 3 times they’ve played, including the last two. On a neutral court I think i pick Horn. But this is not a neutral court, and Horn has been scuffling lately with two early exits in the first two IRT events. Pratt advances.
– DLR vs Diaz: they met in the quarters of the US Open in October, a 10,9 win for DLR. I sense the same would happen here.
– Carson v Murray; They’ve met 6 times on the IRT, including the final of the Laurel season opener, and Rocky has won all 6 times. He makes it 7 for 7 here.

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My projected Semis and finals:
– Kane over Pratt: Kane ends Pratt’s second straight attempt at a Cinderella run in Portland.
– DLR over Rocky: a repeat of the US Open Semi, a tie-breaker win for DLR. Maybe this is the year DLR takes over #2 from Rocky after all these years (not that Landa wouldn’t have something to say about that).

Project final: Kane over DLR, also a rematch from Minneapolis.

IRT 2018 US Open Qualifying Review and Round of 32 and 16 Preview

We’re through two rounds of (often grueling) qualifying and are to the main draw. Here’s some thoughts about notable matches or surprises (to me) from qualifying and a look ahead at the first two rounds of the main draw.

r2sports main draw link here.

Qualifying Results of note:
– #17 Seed Thomas Carter(aka, the highest seed forced to qualify) lost the first game 0 before recovering to advance to the main draw.
Dylan Reid took a solid 11-8 win over veteran Guatemalan Edwin Galicia.
Scott “the Ref” McClellan fought back from dropping the first game to advance to the main draw.
– Daniel Maldonado saved match point in game 2 before advancing in breaker over David Austin.
Ricardo Diaz got a solid win over WOR Vegas singles titlist Nick Montalbano.
Jay Munoz got a win over Set Cubillos Ruiz in his IRT debut
– Ohio’s Kyle Ulliman got a solid W over Wayne Antone IV.
– Costa Rican Alexander Pirie took a solid win over Austin Cunningham.
Mauro Daniel Rojas had to work to get past IRT veteran Hiroshi Shimizu, who first played on the IRT tour in 2002. When Rojas was 4.
– Touring pro Robert Collins got a close 2-game win over long-time IRT player Alejandro Herrera Azcarate to advance to the main draw.

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Round of 32 matches to watch for:

– #9 Jansen Allen v #24 Rodrigo Montoya Solís; though this may be an upset by seed, few consider Montoya the underdog here. The big question for rball fans is the state of his ankle. Allen is no slouch and if Montoya is hobbled we’ll know pretty quickly.

– #12 Jose Diaz vs #23 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; both players are capable of upsets and this should be an interesting contrast in playing styles.

– #13 Charlie Pratt vs Diego Garcia Quispe; great matchup of youth versus experience. Pratt’s cerebral playing style will likely control the youngster in this match … but Garcia plays like a veteran. Still amazing that a 16U player has made it this far already.

– #14 Adam Manilla vs #19 Javier Mar; upset alert here. Manilla went deep in the tour’s first event, making the quarters … but Mar has WRT titles and Mexican national titles and a run to the US Open quarters last year. Which Mar will show up though? Manilla has his hands full here.

– #6 Sebastian Franco vs #27 Mauro Rojas; Rojas beat Franco once before on the IRT, two years ago in Kansas … when he was just 16. Now freshly graduated from Juniors he’s been saddled with tough draws as he plays the tour full time. I like his game; he hits the ball really heavy and its just a matter of time before he gets a breakthrough win.

– #7 Samuel Murray vs #26 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo; tough break for Murray, who made the final of the first IRT event of the season. Like with Allen-Montoya, this will look like an upset by seed but Moscoso has more than established himself as one of the world’s top players by now irrespective of his IRT points.

Round of 16s that look interesting, if results go as I think they will:

– #24 Montoya – #8 Mario Mercado; Despite their international experience and long juniors history (they’re the same junior year, both born in 1996), I don’t have these two ever meeting in a senior event. If Montoya is healthy, he’ll be favored.

– #4 Daniel De La Rosa v #13 Pratt ; Pratt has wins over DLR in the past, and can play him tough. This could be a very tactical, strategic match.

– #26 Moscoso vs #10 Andree Parrilla; they met in the US Open last year, a 5-game brutal 11-8 win for the Bolivian. Parrilla plays everyone tough; there are no easy losses to Parrilla, who scraps and scrapes every point. Look for another marathon.

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We’ll be back Friday to preview the Q/S/Finals.

IRT Season Opener in Laurel Wrap-up

Rocky Carson takes the season’s first pro stop.

The first event of the new International Racquetball Tour is in the books; lets recap the event. Great turn-out to watch matches Thursday night; we thought there might have been 150 people present at peak capacity watching matches.

R2sports link for the tourney.

The draw was impacted late in the game, when a points shuffle resulted in Alejandro Landa overtaking Kane Waselenchuk for #2 on tour, and then Kane withdrawing after the draws had been finalized due to a car accident. This meant 3 of the top 8 players were out … but 16 of the top 20 and 22 of the top 30 were present, representing a very solid draw.

Match Report here for this event at www.proracquetballstats.com

Congrats to Rocky Carson on his win. This is his 26th IRT tier 1/GS win; he is now just 3 titles behind Jack Huczek for 5th all-time on tour.  Click here for a list of most titles won on tour.

Here’s a review of the matches I found notable per round, highlighting upsets and tough wins.

In the 64s:

  • Gerardo Franco got a solid win over country-man Jordy Alonso, a player he hadn’t beaten on the professional ranks before.
  • Atlanta native Maurice Miller got a good win over veteran Colombian Set Cubillos.
  • Adam Manilla outlasted the 16-yr old Bolivian phenom Diego Garcia in a tie-breaker; Garcia played quite well for his pro debut and went on to make the Open finals in a very deep draw, taking Acuna to a tiebreaker.
  • Felipe Camacho beat home town favorite Dan Fowler despite the local rooting interest.
  • Legendary New Jersey player Mitch Posner managed to score a point, losing to Andres Acuna 1,0.
  • Playing on his home court, Troy Warigon took a tight match 14,14 over Costa Rican Sergio Acuna.
  • Robert Collins took out another local favorite, North Carolina’s Brent Walters 14,12.
  • Long Island’s Nick Montalbano beat “the Ref” Scott McClellan in two.

In the 32s:

  • Gerardo Franco continued his run, topping Nick Riffel to qualify for the main draw.
  • Andree Parrilla won the last match of the night Thursday night, ending at nearly 11pm, topping Miller in a solid 11,8 win featuring back and forth action.
  • Andres Acuña topped fellow veteran IRF player Camacho 11,6 to advance to the main draw.
  • In one of the best matches of the night, Jake Bredenbeck topped Stocktonian Mauro Rojas in two tight games 14,11. These two big hitters blasted balls at each other all match and Jake came out on top. Look out for Rojas, who just graduated from 18U; he has every much the power as Jake and could surprise a top 8 player soon.
  • The longest match of the 32s may have been Thomas Carter outlasting Texan Justus Benson in a tie-breaker that lasted an hour and a half. His prize? A walk-over into his first career quarter-final.
  • Jose Diaz took out local favorite Warigon in two games … and had to do it despite the largest crowd of the night rooting against him the whole way.
  • Montalbano continued his good run, topping another IRT touring vet in Collins to advance to the main draw. Montalbano becomes the only non-touring pro/local player to advance to the main draw at this event.

In the 16s:

  •  #1 Rocky Carson advanced with ease over G. Franco.
  • #9 Parrilla surprised #8 David Horn, showing no signs of fatigue from his two-match qualifying late into the previous night, winning in 2 to force a Carson showdown.
  •  Manilla earned his third ever quarter, topping DC-area resident and #5 seed Mario Mercado 11-10. Great tourney for Manilla, who I thought was a candidate to get upset in the 64s … serves me right for picking against him; now he’s in the 8s.
  • #4 Sebastian Franco cruised into the quarters, topping Acuna.
  • #14 Carter got his walk-over over #3 Waselenchuk and his first career quarter finals appearance.
  • #6 Samuel Murray had a solid win over Bredenbeck, advancing in two games 13,7. I thought this had upset potential, especially after Murray’s struggles at Worlds, but this was a solid win.
  • #7 Jansen Allen held off Jose Diaz’s upset attempt to get to the quarters.
  • #2 Landa advanced easily over Montalbano, ending the local player’s run.

In the Quarters…

  • #9 seed Parrilla had the match on his racquet at 10-10 in the breaker, and blew a game-winning pass into the ground. #1 Carson took advantage and won the ensuing rally to advance by the skin of his teeth.
  • #4 Franco ended Manilla’s excellent tourney 9,4.
  • #6 Murray outclassed Carter 2,11 to advance to the semis.
  • #2 Landa overcame a big 1st game deficit to the cruise over #7 Allen.

The semis thus represent a “chalk” draw of remaining pros, featuring #1, #2, #6 and #4 seeds.

  • In the upper semi, #1 Carson rebounded from his near defeat in the quarters to trounce home-town favorite #4 Sebastian Franco in two.
  • In the other semi, #6 Murray secured his first pro win over #2 Landa, and also his first ever pro Tier 1 final, with a solid tiebreaker victory over his frequent doubles partner.

In the final, Carson and Murray met for the 6th time professionally …. and Carson made it 6-6 with a solid 2-game victory to claim the season’s first title and extend his grip on the #1 ranking on tour.


Next up for the tour is the US Open. I had a great time Thursday night meeting players and talking stats with the IRT staff. I got some great, great suggestions for site augmentation and hope to spare some time coming up to develop and add some awesome new functionality. Stay tuned for announcements here to that end.

IRT Laurel Season Opener preview

(Editor’s Note! I’ve modified this post in the predictions section: after its publication Kane withdrew and the rankings/seedings flipped Kane and Landa, so I’ve corrected the text to account for this).

Welcome to the 2018-19 International Racquetball Tour season!

The draw is up for the first event so lets talk about it.  Click here for the r2sports.com Tournament link.  Or, if you cannot read this link, go to www.irt-tour.com and click on the link directly from the home page. Or wait til Thursday when the brackets for the whole tourney are released in full on r2sports.com.

After a summer of angst over the status of 12-time champ Kane Waselenchuk, the sports most dominant player is in the first draw of the season and will be looking to extend his current on-court winning streak of 61 matches, which was interrupted for months last season by a knee injury that eventually cost him the year end title. However, after the draws were posted; Kane reportedly suffered injuries in a car accident and withdrew. He’ll remain in the draw and a lucky qualifier will get a bye into the quarters.

This is the first ever Men’s pro event held at the well-known (to Mid-Atlantic tournament players anyway) Sportfit Laurel club, which currently also hosts the annual LPRT Christmas classic and which has hosted an annual event called the Wintergreen Classic in Jan/February for more than 30 years. This is also the first time the Men’s pro tour has played in Maryland since the early 1990s, when the Merritt Security club outside of Baltimore used to host one of the VCI challenger series events every year. It is also the first time the Men’s tour has returned to the Washington DC area since 2003, and as a DC-area resident i’m obviously excited to be able to *drive* to see the Men’s pros for the first time in 15 years.

The Laurel club is unique for its court construction. They are panel courts, but a construction design choice spaced out the support beams a bit too far, leaving the courts being quite “slow,” even for panel courts. I wonder if this will be a source of frustration for players, especially those who are used to playing faster, concrete courts or who are used to playing at elevation.

One other personal note about the club: Sportfit Laurel was the first racquetball club where I ever played. I joined in early 1994 and played there until moving to Northern Virginia in December 1997. It has long held a large, vibrant racquetball community and was an awesome place to learn how to play.

I’ll be at the club Thursday night (Hurricane willing) for all of qualifying and look forward to catching up with the community.

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Enough about the club and my personal history there; Lets take a quick look at the draw: There’s 40 players entered, a healthy draw that is the largest non-US Open draw since Sept 2014 and portends well for the depth on tour this year.

Top 20 IRT players missing: three: #4 Daniel De La Rosa, #5 Alvaro Beltran, and #12 Charlie Pratt. Beltran and Pratt were in the draw as of Monday but were late withdrawals (Beltran to injury, Pratt to the Hurricane). These two missing top 8 players gives Sebastian Franco a #4 seed, a career best and a potential semi against Rocky Carson, a good early test for the defending champ.

Interesting international players attending: Andres Acuña and Sergio Acuna from Costa Rica, Jordy Alonso, Set Cubillos Ruiz, Erick Cuevas Fernandez, and lastly Bolivian Diego Garcia, a 16U player who made the semis of worlds this year who is coming up on a RYDF sponsorship to get a taste of the IRT in person. He could be the next best thing from the racquetball-mad country of Bolivia and he could be an interesting watch.

East coast top players entered who we don’t normally see elsewhere: David Austin, Geoff Heskett, Maurice MillerNick Montalbano, Troy Moore, Pedro MeruviaJamal HarrisBrent Walters and semi-regular IRT tour player Troy Warigon, who is the only pro entered who plays out of the Laurel club (that technically may not be totally true; I think Sebastian Franco also plays out of Laurel but don’t quote me on that).

Special Mention in the draw; former top-10 touring pro Dan Fowler is entered into the draw, looking to appear in a Men’s pro event for the first time in nearly 10 years. His last on-court pro appearance was in January 2009, and he stopped touring professionally in Oct 2004. Fowler and his wife Doreen Fowler (herself a former touring ladies pro) are both DC-area residents, have a long history of giving lessons and clinics in the Suburban Maryland area, and currently own and run a health club in Suburban MD. Its great to see Fowler back on tour even if its just for one event.

One other Special Mention: New Jersey legend Mitch “Captain Charisma” Posner is attending … he’s entered into Pros … and 60+. I’m sure he’ll be decked out in his trademark all-Red for his pro match.

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Lets get to previewing the draw:

Qualifying match-ups: here’s the Thursday night matches to look forward to:
– Gerardo Franco v Alonso: tough opener for both Mexicans, who fly an awful long way to play each other. Alonso owns a 2-0 h2h lead over Franco on the WRT, but it was Franco who had two top-10 wins on the IRT last season to leave an impression. could be pretty close.
– Garcia-Adam Manilla; this could be a shocker; Garcia is an unknown junior from Bolivia who could be a sleeper. Possibly a tough opener for Manilla, or perhaps a cake-walk facing a youngster who is an awful long way from home.
– Felipe Camacho – Fowler: an interesting match between the veteran IRT player Camacho and the former top-10 player Fowler. Can the retired veteran return to his top 10 form for a night? If so Camacho may be in trouble.
– Heskett – Thomas Carter: its a cross-state match-up of PIttsburgh area-based Heskett and Philadelphia area-native Carter. And its a golden ticket into the quarters so expect a heavily contested match.
– Robert Collins – Walters; a tough match up of regional top player Walters and IRT veteran Collins; could be an upset here.

Round of 32 interesting potential match-ups
– b vs Mauro Daniel Rojas; a tough round of 32 for both players; Rojas has been touring regularly since graduating from Juniors and has had a number of really tough early round match-ups
– Garcia-Cuevas Fernandez: an intriguing match=up of younger international players … which may not happen since both face tough first rounders against regular touring vets; this could easily be Manilla-Wolfe instead.

Round of 16 projections:
– Carson over Alonso
– Bobby Horn vs Andree Parrilla; 8/9 is always tight; Horn owns h2h 3-1 across IRT, WRT and IRF. Advantage Horn.
Mario Mercado – Garcia: Mercado ends the cinderella run of the 16 yr old.
– S. Franco over Acuna: this IRF-style match between two veteran int’l players should be an easy victory for the “home town” Franco.
– Carter over Kane in a walkover
– Bredenbeck over Samuel Murray; first big upset; Bredenbeck has beaten Murray before and has the power to keep up with him. Jake is better than his seeding and ranking and will take a big step forward this tourney towards improving both.
Jose Diaz over Jansen Allen ; Diaz beat Allen in two in April but they’re 2-2 h2h on the IRT: I expect a close Diaz win for the upset.
Alejandro Landa over Walters: Landa’s been given a clear path to the finals and may not be stopped.

Quarters projections
– Carson-Horn: Horn has never beaten Carson, but Horn has also never been better. He’ll look to draw upon his international summer and his increased training to topple the 2017-18 champ.
– Franco over Mercado: these two country-men have never met officially in any capacity that I track, though i’m certain they’ve played a thousand times both hailing from Cali, Colombia. I’ll go with Franco.
– Bredenbeck over Carter: Jake’s string of unlucky draws ends here.
– Landa- Diaz: Landa handles the Stocktonian

Semis and Finals predictions: I’ve gone pretty much chalk: 1-4 versus 3-2.
– Carson over Franco; he’s 8-0 lifetime over Sebastian and has had the summer to recover from his knee operation.
– Landa-Bredenbeck; wow, interesting match of contrasting styles here. Landa is 5-0 lifetime over Jake and has historically done a good job of mitigating Jake’s power game. I’ll predict he makes it 6-0 here.

Final: Carson over Alex Landa

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Welcome to the new season! Can’t wait to see some racquetball!