2019 WRT Longhorn Open Preview

Javier Mar could make some waves in Austin this weekend.

After a down year in 2018 and a website outage that fueled rumors of its demise, the World Racquetball Tour returns to action with its annual event held in conjunction with the most popular amateur event in the land, the 2019 Longhorn Open Racquetball Tournament held on the University of Texas campus in Austin.

Despite falling on the same weekend as the IRT event in Sioux Falls, the WRT pro draw has a solid 22 players, mostly local and Mexico based. We have several WRT regulars and should see a good tournament. As we’ll see below the bottom half of this draw is definitely the tougher side, and whoever comes out of it will have well-earned it.

Click here for the r2sports.com home page for the tourney.

Here’s a preview of possibly interesting matches by round:

In the 32s…
– Texas native and collegiate player Lukas Le takes on Mexican vet Alexi David Cocco Hayes.
– Alejandro Almada takes on Louisiana native Joseph Lee in an interesting first rounder.
– Underseeded Javier Estrada takes on fellow Mexican Juan Loreto in the first round.

In the 16s, here’s some matches of possible note:
– Edson Martinez faces off against long-standing pro Hiroshi Shimizu. Shimizu’s first entry in the database was in an IRT event in March, 2002.
Jordy Alonso takes on the winner of the Hayes/Le match
– #4 seed Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on the Almada/Lee winner.
– #3 seed Justus Benson gets a tough draw in his home-town tourney, having to face Estrada in the 16s.
– #7 Alan Natera Chavez kicks off the tourney against another long-playing IRT pro in Shai Manzuri. Shimizu’s first appearance on tour was in 2002? Manzuri’s first was all the way back in Jan 1997, and he continues to represent Argentina internationally to this day. Amazing.

Projecting the Quarters: we could be seeing some good ball here.

– #1 Jaime Martell Neri is set to face #9 Edson Martinez. This is a winnable match for Martell, but the enigmatic Martinez can put losses on players easily enough.
– #4 Eduardo Garay versus Jordy Alonso; Alonso is improving, but Garay has nearly arrived, with wins over top WRT and IRT pros and should advance here.
– #6 Javier Mar would be my #1 seed if you were seeding this by my rankings; he takes on the equally dangerous #19 seed Javier Estrada. While Estrada has some marquee wins in the past year (Landa, Beltran), Mar is among the world’s elite and should advance.
– #2 Alex Cardona takes on #7 Alan Natera. These two are neck and neck in my rankings; Natera getting great wins lately while Cardona’s ranking is slipping due to outside interests. This could go either way; i’ll give it to the former WRT champ on this day.

Projecting the Semis;
– Martell v Garay: I like Garay’s game … but I think Martell wins on this day.
– Mar vs Cardona: An old-school match-up of two of Mexico’s best. I don’t have them meeting in a pro event since 2015, and a lot has happened since.
Mar takes the match on this day.

Final: Mar over Martell.

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In the doubles draw, I’m going with a #1 vs #2 final, with Mar making it a double on the weekend paring with Garay to take out Martell/Natera.

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!

IRF Worlds 2018 Review

Montoya

The International Racquetball Federation‘s 19th annual Worlds are over; congrats to winners:
Men’s Singles: Rodrigo Montoya, Mexico
Women’s Singles: Ana Gabriel Martinez, Guatemala
Men’s Doubles: Daniel De La Rosa/Alvaro Beltran, Mexico
Women’s Doubles: Yazmine Sabja/Valeria Centellas, Bolivia

Historical Note: this is the first time in history that at the end of Worlds, not one of the four champions hailed from the USA. Its also the first World title for both Guatemala and Bolivia, joining Colombia’s 2014 Men’s double triumph as the only non-North American world titles in existence.

Lets do a quick review of the notable matches and how the tourney played out:

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Men’s Singles:

No major upsets in the 64s or 32s; the only upset by seed was #18 Andres Acuna (the Costa Rican home town favorite) ousting the Dominican Luis Perez in two games.

In the 16s,
РThe match of the 16s was a re-match of the game of the RRs, with Colombian Mario Mercado again outlasting Canadian Coby Iwaasa, this time by an 11-9 tiebeaker win. They went 11-10 in the group stage. Tough way for Iwaasa to exit the tourney.
Р#1 Bobby Horn survived a 15-14 first game to take out Guatemalan veteran Edwin Galicia in 2 games.
–¬†Sebastian Franco¬†got a very solid win and took out defending Pan American champ Bolivian¬†Carlos Keller Vargas¬†14,13. A testament to the depth of this draw; Franco-Keller was a worthy semi or final, featuring two guys who both had the capability to win this draw.
– #2 Daniel De La Rosa¬†eased past home-town favorite Andres Acu√Īa, who wasn’t able to pull off an upset run like he did the last time a major tourney was in Costa Rica.

In the Quarters…
РThe #5/#4 Rodrigo MontoyaConrrado Moscoso Ortiz match lived up to the hype; these two guys played a finals-quality match that lasted more than 2 hours and ended up with the Mexican champion pulling away in a tiebreaker win.
– #1 Horn continued his career dominance over Mercado with a 2 game win.
Р#3 Charlie Pratt got a surprise win over #6 Samuel Murray; Pratt definitely came to play this tourney
– But the biggest upset of the Men’s draw so far was #10 seeded Franco pulling out a 11-10 win over #2 seed and tourney favorite De la Rosa. Franco has the talent to beat anyone in this draw, but De la Rosa has consistently been the better player for years on the IRT. He’ll face off against Pratt, whom he’s never beaten.

In the semis, Rodrigo Montoya Solís outslugged #1 seed Bobby David Horn 9,8 in a 2 hour match that featured more than its fair share of questioned calls to advance to his first senior international final. In the other, crafty american veteran Pratt controlled his match against Franco and advanced 8,13.

In the finals, the crowd was given fantastic racquetball, with an amazing end to game one (a 15-14 game with two potential game winning points for either player over turned on appeal) before Montoya dove his way to a 14,9 win and a World Championship.

Champion: Rodrigo Montoya, Mexico.

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Women’s Singles:

The upset of the 32s had to be Canadian veteran Jen Saunders pounding American Sheryl Lotts 10,1. Saunders had lost all three group matches and suffered an injury, but came out firing to take down the American.

In the 16s:
– two LPRT pros duked it out and a surprising result came; Argentinian Natalia Mendez controlled the match over an emotional¬†Frederique Lambert¬†and advanced 8,8. This is Mendez’ first win in four tries against the 2nd ranked LPRT player and a rather large upset to this observer (who thought Lambert was good for the Semis if not further).
РColombian doubles partners Adriana Riveros and Cris Amaya had a heck of a #8/#9 match, with Riveros pulling the slight upset and coming out on top 11-9.
– Bolivian darkhorse¬†Yazmine Sabja Aliss¬†outlasted LPRT regular Chilean Carla Mu√Īoz Montesinos¬†in a tough breaker as well.
Maria Jose Vargas shook off her group struggles and upset 4th seeded Maria Renee Rodriguez in a tiebreaker.

In the quarters, upsets abounded.
РHuge upset when Guatemalan Ana Gabriel Martinez took out the #3 seeded Samantha Salas Solis 4,12. Martinez has been putting up statement wins over and over; a win over Vargas in the group stage, now this knock out win. She made the finals of the 2016 Worlds with a similar win over Salas, and will be looking to do so again.
РPossibly even bigger upset when #7 seeded Argentinian Natalia Mendez wiped out American Rhonda Rajsich in game one before winning the second game 13.
РVargas continued to advance, downing Bolivian #4 seed Sabja with ease to setup a meeting with #1 Paola Longoria.

This meant that the semis were comprised of the 1,20, 6 and 7 seeds.

In the Semis…Longoria rebounded from a 15-6 first game loss to dominate game 2 and outlast Vargas in the tiebreker to advance. In the other semi, Martinez trounced Argentine Mendez 8,3 to continue her excellent tournament.

The final was a rematch of the 2016 Worlds final, the 2017 Pan Am semis, and the 2018 Caribbean & Central American games final between Longoria and Martinez. They had played 8 times in the IRF and Paola owned all 8 wins …. but after cruising to a first game win, Martinez fought back and shocked the racquetball world by taking the title over the world #1 (8),6,6.

What’s amazing about this result is this: Martinez is still a junior! She becomes easily the youngest ever world Champion in the history of the Worlds competitions. She is playing in her age-18 season and will compete in Junior Worlds later this year to attempt to complete an unheard of double-world championship Junior and Seniors.¬† Martinez lost the 2017 world 18U final to¬†Montserrat Mejia¬†as the #1 seed but should make a strong case this fall in her final junior’s event.

Champion: Ana Gabriel Martinez, Guatemala

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Men’s Doubles.

No real upsets in the 16s. In the quarters, USA team of Sudsy Monchik and¬†Rocky Carson¬†got an early test, beating the talented Colombian team of IRT vets Franco and Mercado 11 and 13. The Canadian team of Samuel Murray and¬†Tim Landeryou¬†“upset” the #2 seeded Argentine team of¬†Fernando Kurzbard and¬†Shai Manzuri¬†to move on.

In the semis, the Mexican #1 team of De La Rosa and Alvaro Beltran had the much tougher match-up, going up against the talented Bolivian team of Moscoso and Roland Keller. They squeaked out the first game 14 then closed it out 14,8. On the other side, the star-studded American team rolled easily over the Canadian team 12 and 2 to setup a classic final of IRT veterans.

In the final…the Mexican team seemed to play a deliberate, tactical strategy attempting to slow down the power of Monchik, and eventually they broke through, splitting the first two games then dominating the tie-breaker to take the title (10),9,2. This gives Beltran a 4th World doubles title, tying him with his long-time partner¬†Javier Moreno¬†for most ever Men’s World doubles titles. It also represents Beltran’s 10th international doubles title, 2nd only to Moreno.

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Women’s Doubles Review

In the 16s, the veteran Ecuadorian team of Vero Sotomayor and Maria Paz Munoz upset the Canadian team of Frederique Lambert and Jen Saunders in the 8/9 match up.

In the quarters, the most notable surprise was the elimination of the US team of Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts by the Bolivian team of¬†Yazmine Sabja Aliss¬†and¬†Valeria Centellas¬†12,10. Sabja has had great results as of late and continued her great Worlds tourney. We don’t get to see Sabja on the LPRT very often, but she’s got a ton of solid results in IRF events.

In the semis, the Mexican #1 seeded team of Alexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia cruised to a win over the Colombian team of Amaya and Riveros, while in the other semi the surprising Bolivian team were perhaps already on their way to victory over the excellent Guatemalan team of Martinez/Rodriguez when an injury forfeit gave the Bolivians the win into the final.

In the final, Mexico was running away with the match early; Bolivia won a tight second game 15-14 then blew away the Mexican pair in the tiebreaker to become the first world champion from outside North America. Final: (8),14,2.

A quick comment on the champion Bolivian team; I did not know this until weeks after the event, but Centellas is just *16* years old.¬† She’s still playing 16U in worlds.¬† That’s an amazing accomplishment to see a team with a 16-yr old win a world title.

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Thanks for reading, congrats to all the participants, it was a fantastic event. All the draws are now loaded online to www.proracquetballstats.com.

Next up …we head *right* into the LPRT season, with the first ladies pro event happening next weekend in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Maybe we’ll get another Longoria-Martinez final as i’m sure both players (and a huge chunk of the draw here) will be there.