2019 Valentine Open Preview

Rocky Carson looks to go back to back. Photo courtesy of Rocky’s twitter @rockycarsonRB

The IRT returns to Laurel, MD for the second year in a row for the 2019 Valentine Open, named after its tournament director Tracie D Valentine and her daughter Imanii Valentine. The tour is back at one of the legendary east coast venues of Sportfit Laurel for this event.

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30994

Lets preview the draw. there’s 33 players entered this year including a ton of internationals and some MD/VA/PA locals. As noted last week, there’s some movement in the top 8, notably Parrilla taking over 3rd and Montoya moving into 7th … but the “flip” seeding is in place here so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled from their normal spots.

Missing top players: The biggest name missing is #6 Daniel De La Rosa who misses the event sandwiched in between 3-wall in Vegas and a major pickleball event, so he may have had to take a schedule break. We’re also missing a lot of tour regulars from last season in the 11-20 range, including #11 Jose Diaz, #13 David ” Bobby” Horn, and #18-20 Charlie PrattJansen Allen and Felipe Camacho. Two tourneys missed in a row for these guys: it look like maybe there’s a changing of the guard on tour.

Here’s some round of 64 matches to watch for:

– MoMo Zelada versus Kyle Ulliman: Zelada plays on his home courts and gets the traveling Ulliman, who returns to Laurel for the 2nd year in a row. Could be a tight one.
– MD native Jamal Harris takes on The Ref, Scott McClellan in an opener. Hopefully McClellan doesn’t have any avoidables taken away from him… (inside joke on a FB discussion after last event).
– Veteran Bolivian Kadim Carrasco takes on 18U local player Dylan Pruitt also playing on his home courts.
– Justus Benson takes on a tough lefty from Pennsylvania Geoff Heskett.

Projecting the 32s:
– #16 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez vs #17 Carlos Keller Vargas; 16/17 matches are always tough, and this South American battle will be no different. Garay was just crowned Colombian Champ, while Keller is the 2-time reigning Pan American Racquetball Championships winner. I like Garay in a tie-breaker and I like seeing him make a push on tour early.
– #9 Mario Mercado vs #24 Zelada: just another night at the club for these two native Bolivians, who both lived in the DC area for a while and got more than a few local tournament match-ups. Mercado has been playing solid lately and will look to advance.
– #14 Andres Acuña vs #19 Carrasco: another international flavor match between two guys who have never managed to meet.
– #15 Thomas Carter vs #18 Benson: Just like the 16/17, the 15/18 meeting will be tight as well. I like Carter here to return to the 16s in Laurel.

Projecting the Main draw: assuming seeds hold in the qualifiers, here’s some fun 16s to look for:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #16 Garay: I can’t wait to see Kane taking on a good young hard hitting player like Garay. If its Keller instead, we’re talking about a solid tactician unmoved by power play given how much he plays @Luis Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo back home. Either way, a great round of 16 that’s likely on the show/streaming court.
– #8 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #9 Mercado; Montoya missed a chance in the 8/9 match last tourney … now he gets a match against a guy who beat him in Lima just a few weeks ago. Look for a solid match but Montoya to advance.
– #6 Samuel Murray vs #11 Lalo Portillo; upset warning: Portillo beat Murray in California in Jan 2019 and has done nothing but improve since. Portillo continues his push for the top 10.
– #7 Alvaro Beltran vs #10 Jake Bredenbeck; A nice match-up; Bredenbeck was nursing an injury earlier this summer that reportedly kept him out of the season opener; if he’s not 100% he’ll struggle to beat Beltran, who continues to impress even as he approaches his 41st birthday.

Projected Quarters:
– #1 Kane vs #8 Montoya: would love to see this one; power v power. Montoya has just two meeting with Kane, both pretty dominant wins for the World #1.
– #4 Alex Landa vs #5 Sebastian Franco; Franco gets Landa on his (Franco’s) home courts. Franco made the semis last year and will be looking for an upset; these two always seem to play tight, and Franco beat Landa to win his sole pro title. Watch out for the upset here.
– #3 Andree Parrilla vs #6 Murray; if Murray gets past Portillo, he runs into a tough one in Parrilla, who lost 11-10 in the quarters last year in Laurel and won’t want to lose his #3 ranking at this juncture.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #7 Beltran. These two have met no less than 49 times on tour; they’re more than familiar with each other and played a rather testy tiebreaker in their last meeting in January. This is no cakewalk for Carson. Combined age: more than 81 years between the two of them.

Semis:
– Kane over Landa: these two seem to play the same way each time: Landa keeps it close up to about 10-10, then Kane breaks away for a 15-10 win. Look for a two game victory with the scores like 10,8
– Carson over Parrilla: So here’s the interesting match up. These two met in the quarters of this event last year, and Parrilla had match point on his racquet and blew a simple cross court into the ground before losing 11-10. Then they didn’t play again until last weekend’s Atlanta final (a 13,8 win for Rocky). I like Andree’s chances here of pushing for a tie-breaker on these slower courts but won’t predict a win.

Final: Kane over Rocky, yet again.

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That’s how I see it for this weekend. I’ll be at the club all day thursday to take in the 64s and 32s before jetting back home. Hope to see you out there, and maybe we’ll do some test broadcasting later thursday night.

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International Racquetball Federation – IRF
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IRT Atlanta Open Wrap-Up

Rocky Carson wins the season opener in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Rocky’s twitter @rockycarsonRB

Congrats to your winners on the weekend: 
Men’s Singles: Rocky Carson
Men’s Pro Doubles: No Winner; see below for explanation.

R2 Sports App link for tourney:

#1 Kane Waselenchuk had to withdraw at the last minute, giving him a forfeit loss in the 16s and opening up the tournament for the taking, as happens when he misses an event.

Here’s a wrap-up of Singles, citing notable results by round:

PRS Reports in the DB: http://rball.pro/529EA0

In the 64s:
– Set Cubillos Ruiz got a solid 2-game win over IRT regular #22 Nick Riffel. Cubillos is really active in the game in his home country of Colombia and its good to see him active in IRT events.
– MoMo Zelada reversed the result from the Bolivian Grand Slam and topped #21 Kadim Carrasco in two straight for a solid win.
– Utah amateur Anthony Martin stretched #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez to a tiebreaker before falling; solid showing.

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In the 32s:
– #17 Sebastian Fernandez gets a career win, topping #16 Javier Mar 10,11. With Kane’s withdrawal, I thought Mar had a good shot at the final here. Instead, Fernandez gets one of the better wins in his career and gets a pass into the quarters for the first time in his pro career. 
– #12 Gerardo Franco was stretched to a tiebreaker by Zelada before advancing.
– #20 Carlos Keller Vargas was taken to a tiebreaker by #13 Thomas Carter before advancing. This was a closer match than I expected and makes me wonder if Keller is still nursing the injury that he was struggling with this summer (with all due respect to Carter, who played solid ball all night).
– #18 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez got a solid win over #15 Andres Acuña 11-8 in the breaker to advance. 15/18 matches are usually close, and this was no different.

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In the 16s, we saw some matches that didn’t quite go as I thought they would in my preview;
– #8 Sebastian Franco took the first round of many 8/9 matchups against #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis taking an 11-7 tiebreaker. 
– #4 Andree Parrilla got a dominant win over 2-time defending PARC champ Carlos Keller 8,8. Parrilla was able to really put balls away and wore out Keller over the course of the night.
– #6 Daniel De La Rosa was taken to a tiebreaker by the precocious #11 Lalo Portillo before advancing. Portillo continues to impress.
– #7 Samuel Murray took a solid win over #10 Mario Mercado, a match-up not unlike the Franco-Montoya rivalry that could be one we see a lot this season. Notably, it looks like Mercado is a full timer on tour this year; he’s made both IRT events so far on the schedule.

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In the Quarters, all four matches went to tie-breaker.

– #8 Franco ended #17 Fernandez’s run, but was made to work for it, winning 11-9 in the end.
– #4 Parrilla couldn’t close out game 2’s match point opportunities, but advanced 11-4 in the breaker.
– #3 Alex Landa had his typical barn-burner against #6 DLR, winning 11-10 to move on. There’s a slew of razor-thin matches between these two over the years; this is just the latest in a series.
– #2 Rocky Carson improved to 10-0 over #7 Murray, but had to go tiebreaker to do so.

In the semis:
– #4 Parrilla dominated #8 Franco to earn his 3rd career IRT pro final.
– #2 Carson beat #3 Landa in two tight games 11,12.

In the final; Rocky earns his 27th career pro win, topping Parrilla 13,8. He now sits just 2 behind Jack Huczek for 5th place in tourney wins all-time.

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Ranking Implications of this event:

Because there was no Atlanta event this weekend last season, points earned here should just add on to existing rankings and will have some effects on the Laurel event’s seedings. For this week, Rocky overtakes Kane for #1 … but only for this week week. On 9/16/19, last year’s points fall off and Kane should be back at #1, and should be the #1 seed in Laurel.

What’s more interesting is what happens when the 9/16/19 date hits. if i have my data right:
– Parrilla will over take Landa for #3.
– Montoya will move to #7, finally getting a top-8 seed and setting up an intriguing qtr with Carson if seeds hold.
– Murray drops to #9; he loses a ton of points from last year’s Laurel event, where he made the final. He’ll have to battle Franco just to make the quarters now.
– Portillo moves up to #13, Fernandez jumps to #21.

So, pretty important ranking moves for the next Tier 1 event in Laurel in two weeks’ time.

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Doubles wrap

PRS Report in DB: http://rball.pro/34FD97

With the withdraw of Kane, the Ben Croft /Kane team that I thought would win this draw was taken out of the equation.

The #1 seeds of DLR/Beltran battled their way through two of the toughest teams in the draw, outlasting Vargas/Carrasco in the qtrs and then their Mexican nemesis team of Montoya/Mar in the semis. The #2 seeds of Landa/Murray beat the upset-minded Parrilla/Portillo team (who had upset #3 seeds Franco/Mercado in the qtrs) in the other semi.

Unfortunately, the final was not played and a Double Forfeit was declared. As per an IRT announcement, the players had a misunderstanding about scheduling (most of the time, Doubles final is sat. night, but in Atlanta it was scheduled for Sunday instead). So flights were already arranged in conflict with the final.

This is a first for me, I think. I cannot recall ever entering “Double Forfeit” in for a final, in more than 3,100 tournament draws now entered into the database. I’ve seen some 3rd place games abandoned like this before, but even that’s pretty rare. Lets hope this is a one-off and doesn’t happen again. Nobody looks good here.

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Next up on the schedule (after I wrap up the LPRT event tomorrow); we do have a small break in the schedule, possibly an RKT event in Mexico we can cover, before the IRT’s next Tier 1 in Laurel, MD.

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International Racquetball Tour
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Racquetball Canada
USA Racquetball

IRT Atlanta Open Preview

Here it is; the moment you’ve been waiting for. The first Men’s pro tier 1 of the new 2019-20 season.

Draws are up on www.irttour.com and on R2 Sports Event Software here: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=30291

The tour returns to Lilburn after a one-season absence, and is rewarded with a great 38-man draw and both both singles and doubles action. The top 10 players are here, then we’re missing the 11th-14th ranked players inclusive ( Jose DiazJake Bredenbeck (injured reportedly), David Horn and Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo all miss this event, somewhat surprisingly for the first three). We’re also missing last weekend’s winner Charlie Pratt depriving the draw a bit of its mid-section talent.

This combination of missing players elevates Lalo Portillo all the way to the #11 seed here, his highest ever seeding in an IRT event. We’re also missing frequent tour participants like Jansen AllenAdam Manilla, and Felipe Camacho; all three treaded water or slipped in the rankings last season; is this a one-tourney blip or are we seeing a changing of the guard on tour? More to come here later. In the meantime…

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Lets preview the singles draw first.

NOTE: post publishing this analysis and the draw, Kane Waselenchuk withdrew from the event due to a personal issue. Take that into mind reading the below. I could see this most benefiting Javier Mar, who could get a walkover in the 16s and very well could run to the finals.

Notable round of 64 matches:
– #24 Maurice Miller vs Troy Warigon; a solid match-up between two solid players, who also happen to be playing doubles together this weekend. They met in the semis of the pro draw of the LPRT event in December on Troy’s home court (a Miller win); now the tides are reversed as Warigon travels to play Miller on Miller’s home court. Miller should advance here.
– #21 Kadim Carrasco vs MoMo Zelada; Carrasco is one of several Bolivian-based players to enter this draw. These two met in the opener of the Bolivian Grand Slam last March, a dominant Carrasco win. I like Zelada keeping it close but ultimately falling again to Carrasco.
– #19 Justus Benson vs Austin Cunningham; Benson takes on a talented local in a first rounder that could be closer than he wants.
– #23 Scott McClellan vs Michael Arterburn: two frequent IRT entrants face off in the opener.
– #18 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on long-time touring pro Dan Fowler, who plays just his third IRT event in the last decade, making the drive down from Maryland along with Warigon and Zelada.

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Notable round of 32s, assuming some early upsets don’t occur:
– #16 Javier Mar vs #17 Sebastian Fernandez; tough match-up for both players, fitting of a 16/17 draw. I like both players chances of breaking into the top 10 with a full season on tour … but we generally only see Mar part time (He’s played just 7 events in the past 5 seasons). But Mar’s results speak for themselves; he’s always a threat to advance when he plays. I like Mar over the younger Mexican player here, but I like Patata’s chances this season.
– #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #21 Carrasco: Franco takes advantage of the missing 11-15 ranked players to secure a top 16 seed and gets a winnable match against the Carrasco/Zelada winner.
– #20 Carlos Keller Vargas takes on #13 Thomas Carter, a tough draw for Carter facing the two-time defending PARC champ.
– #15 Andres Acuña vs #18 Garay: great match of two internationals; last time they knowingly played was in the 2014 Junior worlds (a tight Acuna win). Acuna has continued to impress with his international accomplishments, but Garay beat a number of top players last year and is looking to make some noise this season. Garay to advance but its a toss-up.

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Projecting the 16s.
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #16 Mar: they’ve met 3 times; Kane crushed him at Syosset last spring, but Mar played Kane as tough as he’s been played in the best-of-three format at last year’s US Open. Mar’s tactical game can keep him in a match with Kane if he’s shooting well, but that only goes so far. Kane gets a quality match out of the gate but advances in two.
– #8 Sebastian Franco vs #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis: the first of potentially many critical openers for both players as Rodrigo makes a run at the tour top 8. I don’t have any prior meetings between the two, so this should be telling for now, as both guys remain neck and neck at the 8/9 spot and should continue to meet at this 8/9 juncture for a bit until points settle out. I predict Montoya to advance.
– #5 Alvaro Beltran vs #12 G.Franco: they’ve played 3 times since Jan 2018, all three Beltran wins. I’d expect the same here; a win for Alvaro in 2 closer games.
– #4 Andree Parrilla vs #20 Keller; brutal draw for Parrilla. Keller was handily beating Parrilla at the Black Gold cup this summer when Keller had to retire; this will be a setback for Parrilla’s pursuit of the #3 spot on tour right out of the gate, because I think Keller wins this match in two.
– #3 Alex Landa vs #14 Robert Collins: just one meeting between these two; a 3-game win at the 2016 US Open. Landa should advance here.
– #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #11 Portillo; this should be an interesting match; Portillo has gotten a ton of solid wins this summer, while DLR fell to his lowest ranking in a while. Is DLR in? This is just the kind of match that can trip him up if he isn’t focused. I’d expect DLR to advance here because his game is just too complete for Portillo right now, but Portillo has the talent to win.
– #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Mario Mercado: 4 meetings between them, none in the last few years. They’re split 2-2, with all four going 4 or 5 games. I like Mercado here, building on his great Pan Am Games showing.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #18 Garay; little to go on here but I suspect Garay will get a lesson in match management as the veteran advances in two.

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Possible Quarters:
– #1 Waselenchuk vs #9 Montoya: just two prior meetings between the two, both dominant Kane wins. It will be interesting to see if Montoya’s game has added the facets he needs to compete with Kane; i look forward to this meeting if it occurs nonetheless because there’s not too many other guys who hit it this hard on tour.
– #20 Keller vs #5 Beltran: Keller’s beaten Alvaro twice in the PARCs, including in the semis of the 2019 event en route to his title. I see another Keller tight 2-game win.
– #3 Landa vs #6 DLR; a frequent match-up between two top Mexican players: I now have Landa 7-5 in both pro and Amateur meetings with DLR, and you have to go back to 2017 to find a DLR win. I think Landa wins here to move on.
– #2 Carson vs #10 Mercado; 8 meetings, 8-0 for Carson, but Mercado took him to a tiebreaker on home soil in the Bolivian Grand Slam earlier this year. Look for a Carson win.

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Semis:
– #1 Kane over #20 Keller; Keller’s solid, but not this solid. It could be a fun match to watch though, in that Keller’s game does not really overpower players, but he hangs in. Can he hang with Kane’s power? 
– #2 Carson vs #3 Landa; Carson leads 7-4 all time … but they’re dead even split in the last 3 seasons 4-4, alternating wins. Carson won in Syosset to end last season … but Landa beat him handily in Florida the week before en route to that title. I like Rocky here.

Final: Kane over Rocky. 1 vs 2 yet again. I know nobody wants to predict the obvious 1-2 final, but as we saw last year when Rocky and Kane had locked up the top two slots with a couple of events yet to go … there’s still a gap between them and the rest of the tour.

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Men’s Doubles preview

Love this Doubles draw. The top of the draw is stacked, and there’s 11 solid teams. Portillo and Parrilla have decided to play together every event, adding to the intrigue of doubles draws with more and more “regular” teams showing up. All four quarter finals look like they’ll be great.

In the top half, look for Ben Croft/Waselenchuk to get stretched to the limit by the Mar/Montoya team (who just won gold at the Pan Am games) before advancing to face their frequent nemesis team of DLR/Beltran in one semi.

In the bottom half, I like the Colombian national team of Mercado/Franco to top Parrilla/Portillo and to face the #2 seeded Landa/Murray team, who continues to have great success playing with each other semi.

Croft/Waselenchuk took out DLR/Beltran the last time they played (Mar 2019) and we’ll go with that again, as they then continue to beat Landa/Murray in the final.

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Lets get it on. Look for Streaming announcements in all the usual places all weekend.

International Racquetball Tour
International Racquetball Federation – IRF

USA National Singles Wrap-up

Kelani (Bailey) Lawrence with the break-through win.

Congrats to your USA Racquetball 2019 Singles Champions:

Men’s Open: Jake Bredenbeck
Women’s Open: Kelani Lawrence

They take big steps towards putting themselves onto the plane to represent the USA at this August’s 2019 International Racquetball Federation – IRFPan American Games, the biggest event in our sport. See this link: https://www.teamusa.org/…/2018-19-US-National-Team-Qualific… for the current Men’s and Women’s team standings. USA Racquetball plans on making an announcement soon on the official team delegation to Peru.

R2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30549

Here’s a recap of the draw, noting results I found interesting:

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Men’s Singles:
PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/C39AD2

In the 16s:
– In the 8/9 game, Robert Collins got a solid win over Luis R Avila in a tie-breaker.
– #5 Adam Manilla took out hometown veteran favorite Woody Clouse and has a streamlined shot at the National Semis thanks to …
– #4 seed Jose Diaz, who I thought could win this event, was a no-show, giving Utahian Anthony Martin a walk-over into the quarters.
– Two IRT regulars met in Thomas Carter and Nicholas Nick Riffel, with Carter coming out on top in a tie-breaker.

In the Qtrs:
– #1 Jake Bredenbeck cruised past fellow IRT top 20 player Collins 4,2
– #5 Manilla similarly cruised past Utahian Anthony Martin 3,2
– #3 David Horn was stretched by #6 Carter, going 11-7 in the breaker. Another solid result for Carter, but a good step towards keeping his National team spot for Horn.
– #2 Charlie Pratt took out his local playing rival Dylan Reid 14,5.

In the Semis:
– #5 Manilla played lights out for stretches, but not enough of them to take out #1 Bredenbeck, falling in an 11-5 tiebreaker.
– #3 Horn got a great win over #2 Pratt, 11-7 in the breaker, to advance to the final and attempt to repeat as US Champion. Pratt has made the finals of the last two international events in which he’s represented the US … but a national title continues to elude him.

In the Final … Jake could do no wrong, and Bobby couldn’t do much to stop him. In an amazingly compete performance, Bredenbeck beat Horn 1,1 to take the US title. Its his third overall and he returns to the podium after a 3 year absence. Horn finishes runner-up for the 4th time.

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Women’s singles:
PRS Match Report: http://rball.pro/3DB373

There was just one play-in/round of 16 match: 
Annie Roberts, the current 16U National champ and who still has 3 years remaining in the junior ranks, took on regular LPRT touring pro Cassie Lee in the 8/9 match and came out on top in a tie-breaker.

In the qtrs:
– #1 Rhonda Rajsich took out the precocious Roberts 6,2
– #5 Kelani Lawrence, drastically underseeded in this event, made a statement with an 11,1 win over #4 Sheryl Lotts
– #3 Hollie Rae Scott took out LPRT touring vet Adrienne Fisher Haynes 7,10
– #2 Seed Erika Manilla was a no-show, depriving the draw of one of its top players and making the lopsidedness of the seeding errors involving Lawrence even more severe.

In the Semis:
– #5 Lawrence got a career win, beating the 8-time defending US national champ Rajsich in an a tiebreaker. These two had met in the singles finals of the last three major US national team qualifying events, and Lawrence got this breakthrough win on the same weekend that her mother Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey was inducted into the US Racquetball hall of Fame.
– #3 Scott downed the legendary LPRT pro Cheryl Gudinas in two. Scott is going for a rather rare double: Intercollegiates and National titles in the same year. It’s only happened once before … in 1976, when Memphis State University’s Sarah Green won both events in the same year.

(side note: the 3rd place game, which we often don’t mention, thus is Rajsich vs Gudinas. Holy cow. That’s a combined 19 (!) US National titles between them to go along with 8 pro titles. In case you’re wondering … they’ve played no less than 50 times across pro, US nationals and IRF events now, with Rajsich leading 32-18. See http://rball.pro/A7470B).

In the Finals, Lawrence came from a game down and saved match point against to take the title 11-10 over Scott by running off two points at the end of the tie-breaker.

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Congrats to all who played. Later this week we’ll review the Canadian singles and Mexican Junior events form last week.

Next up on the rball schedule? There’s some lower tier IRT events in early June, one last LPRT Grand Slam in mid-june in Kansas, then the US Junior Olympics in late June in Portland.

USA National Singles Preview

Rajsich looking for her 9th straight title this weekend. Photo Src: © Mike Boatman 2010

Its the week before Memorial Day Weekend, which means that its time for USA Racquetball National Singles!

r2sports link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30549

This year’s version of event is the 52nd iteration of the event, and is as far as I know the longest running racquetball tournament in existence. It was first held in 1968 in Milwaukee, where two legends competed in the final (Bill Schultz defeated Hall of Famer Bill Schmidtke in the final).

Here’s a list of every Men’s Open champ since 1968: http://rball.pro/896B5B.

In 1970, the first Women’s national champion was crowned: Fran Cohen won the first Women’s national title in St. Louis.

Here’s a list of every Women’s Open champ since 1970: http://rball.pro/A75737

Record holders for Most National Titles?
 Rocky Carson holds 7 National titles, winning his first in 2000 and his most recent in 2017. Interestingly, despite still being ranked #2 on the pro tour, Rocky did not compete in the 2018 version, nor is he in this weekend’s draw.

– Rhonda Rajsich holds 11 National titles, winning her first in 2004. She’s also the defending champ, the #1 seed this weekend and has won the last eight National events.

Your defending champs are David Horn and Rajsich. I’m not entirely sure how Horn drops to the #3 seed behind Jake in particular (who he has bested round for round in the last few national qualifying events)., but would have had to play Pratt in the semis regardless so its a minor seeding nit.

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Men’s Singles:

Lets preview some of the match-ups i’ll be looking for:
In the 16s:
– #8 Luis R Avila vs #9 Robert Collins; 8/9 match-ups are always tough, and this should be no different. Lefty touring pro Collins versus the defending outdoor 3-wall champ Avila, who periodically comes indoors and has some good wins on his resume. This is a good test for both.
– #5 Adam Manilla vs #12 Woody Clouse; Woody Clouse back in action competing for the National team … for the first time since 2006. Clouse qualified for the team in 2005 and represented the US in the Pan American Games in April 2006, losing in the final to Canadian Kris Odegard 11-9. He also had several top 10 pro tour finishes during the deep mid 90s tour days. Now he’s back at age 53, playing in his home town. He faces off against fellow lefty Manilla, fresh off of a second top 20 season on tour with some good results. I think Manilla moves on but it’ll be a fun L vs L match.
– #6 Thomas Carter vs #11 Nicholas Nick Riffel; two IRT regulars meet up; they faced each other 3 times in 3 months in early 2018, with Carter taking 2 of 3. Riffel had a tough end to his 2018-19 tour, forfeiting out of Syosset with an injury. Meanwhile Carter had a nice run at the end of the season, getting a couple of solid wins and making the main draw in both Florida and NY. Advantage Carter here. 
– #7 Dylan Reid vs #10 Jeff Stark; two West Coasters who have played more than a few times meet up in the first round. I think the podcasting Reid is favored here but they know each other’s game.

Man, lots of Lefties in action. At least four, maybe more. Something in the water in Denver maybe.

Projecting the Qtrs:
– #1 Jake Bredenbeck vs Avila: Jake struggled with upsets all season … then blew it out in NY, taking out Pratt, Daniel De La Rosa and nearly beating Andree Parrilla. So which Jake shows up? 
– #4 Jose Diaz vs #5 Manilla: they’ve only played a couple times, but both matches were 3- or 5-game tiebreakers. I like Diaz here … in a tiebreaker.
– #3 Horn vs #6 Carter: I don’t think they’ve ever played in a top-level event … so a first for everyone. Horn should win this one in two closer games.
– #2 Charlie Pratt vs #7 Dylan Reid: another match-up of two upper northwestern guys, both hailing from Portland. Fly all the way to Denver … have a repeat of your tuesday night game. Pratt’s solid and advances here.

So i’m predicting Chalk to the semis … and then for some upsets to happen.

Semis:
– #4 Diaz over #1 Jake: they’re pretty even career-wise h2h, but havn’t played in a year and a half. I like Diaz here. Diaz had the better season, nearly slipping into the top 10 and jumping Jake in the rankings. 
– #2 Pratt over Horn: They played in December in Portland, a close 2-game win for Pratt, and I like the year Pratt is having so far.

Final:
– #2 Pratt over Diaz. head to head, Diaz has never lost to Pratt. But something tells me Pratt is on a mission this year.

—————-
Women’s Singles: just 9 in this draw, but some good match-ups towards the back and one incredibly poor seeding job:

In the Quarters:
– #1 Rajsich over #8 Cassandra Cassi Lee
– #5 Kelani Lawrence over #4 Sheryl Lotts; here’s a seeding question. Lawrence made the Women’s singles final of the 2018 qualifier at Nat’l doubles, made the finals at 2018 Nationals, and made the finals at the 2019 Qualifier at Nat’l Doubles. So that’s basically the last three major National events…. how exactly is she seeded 5th in this event?? What more does she have to do to demonstrate that she’s basically the 2nd best American woman player right now?
– #3 Hollie Rae Scott over #6 Adrienne Fisher Haynes
– #2 Erika Manilla holds off retired LPRT legend Cheryl Gudinas

In the semis:
– #1 Rajsich takes out Lawrence in a rematch of the last three major US national team final, instead of in the final like it should be
– #3 Scott takes out #2 Manilla in a rematch of this year’s Intercollegiates semis.

In the final: Rajsich takes her 9th straight US title over Scott.

———————-
Lastly, a note on attendance. There’s some separate conversations about the # of participants this weekend going on. Here’s a list of the participation numbers for the last 14 National Singles events (these are the “# of participants” from the r2sports page and should indicate unique players, not # of draw entrants):

2019: 191 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2018: 221 Pleasanton
2017: 243 Tempe
2016: 268 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2015: 377 Highlands Ranch/Denver
2014: 292 Fullerton
2013: 435 Fullerton (also IRT and LPRT pro stop)
2012: 559 Fullerton (also IRT and LPRT pro stop)
2011: 514 Fullerton (also IRT stop)
2010: 535 Houston
2009: 501 Houston
2008: 523 Houston
2007: 528 Houston
2006: 515 Houston

The event held steady in the low 500s its last five years in H ouston, then spiked during its Fullerton years thanks to simultaneous IRT and LPRT events (some of the pro draws from those years were amazing; 70+ mens pros competing). But we’ve seen a precipitous drop in attendance over the last few years, including a 100+ attendee drop from 2015 to 2016, now not even able to clear 200 players this year. 191 players isn’t even close to what National Doubles got this year (306) and that number is basically halved from the beginning of the century.

I know there’s some fundamental industry issues that are driving down these numbers. But this is the NGB’s marquee event. You can’t turn back time and make it the mid 2000s again (to say nothing of the mid 1990s), but you can strategize other aspects of the event to make it more appealing to a larger audience, and I hope to see some turn around in the coming years.

IRT Season ending Standings Implications from Syosset

Kane wraps up his 13th pro tour title.

Syosset was the last Tier 1 of the season, and as noted in the previews for this event, the #1 spot for the season was technically in the balance heading into the event. Kane Waselenchuk entered the Syosset event with a 132 point lead over #2 Rocky Carson in the year end title race. They had both opened up a massive gap even to the #3 ranked player; nearly 700 points separated #2 and #3 heading into the event, and that gap has only widened after the event. So Syosset was all about determining #1 for this year.

By winning the event, Kane has now distanced himself by a sufficient amount of points from Rocky to have ensured himself the year end title. This post explains why (at least as I understand the system), and talks about the rest of the top 10 ramifications.

5/6/19 updated points standings are now online here: https://www.irt-tour.com/singles-rankings/

As the tour standings now sit, Kane leads Rocky by 234 points. This is roughly 100 more points of a lead than he had heading into Syosset, due to the difference of 100 points between winning a Tier 1 event (400 points) and losing in the final (300).

Now, there are still multiple events left on the IRT schedule between now and the end of June (notionally the end of the season each year); I postulated before the Syosset event that those events could actually come into play if the results went a certain way this past weekend. Players get 120 points for winning IRT Tier 2 events … and there are two Tier 2s still on the schedule (Costa Rica in two weeks time and Chihuahua Mexico in Mid June), at least one of which i’ve heard Carson is scheduled to attend.

So why can’t Rocky go win both of those Tier 2s and get 240 additional points to overtake Kane for the title, since he trails by 234 points? Because the tour only takes each players’ best 9 results for the season … and a potential 120 point Tier 2 win would not be enough to replace any bad results for Rocky this season. Plus, for the final season rankings players drop their lowest tournament result (which for Kane would be a 0 point missed event). Rocky made the semis or better in ALL NINE IRT events this year, guaranteeing him at least 220 points per event. So Rocky actually cannot improve his current points totals one bit from where they are now, hence Kane’s insurmountable points lead.

So, Congrats to Kane on his 13th pro title (click here for a season summary for Kane’s career: http://rball.pro/C08BD1) and Rocky finishes 2nd for the ninth season in his career (click here for the same for Rocky: http://rball.pro/610C77).

Once all the rest of the tourney slate plays out, I’ll capture the official season ending standings and update the database and links to show these results.

———————————–
Now, how about the rest of the top 10? What did Syosset do to their rankings and what remains to play for?

So, there’s a couple of noteworthy rankings achievements to work towards besides the #1 title for the rest of the tour:
– the top 4 players on tour avoid the seedings flip 
– More importantly … the top 8 players get protected seeds into the 16s at tier one events.
– less important; finishing in “the top 10” as a career achievement.

I know there’s lots of complaining about protected seeds on tour, especially in a tournament like Syosset with 49 guys in the draw and some players potentially having to play 3 matches to face a rested, seeded player in the 16s. I’d rather not get into it here, just noting that there were several reasons it was implemented and remains in place today: see this link http://www.proracquetballstats.com/…/guidry_post_roundof32.… for a good summary of why it was put in and how it actually *helps* lower ranked players instead of hurting them, both in terms of prize money and rankings points.

Nonetheless, while the protected seed system is in place, players really want to stay in the top 8.

Here’s how the Syosset event results shape the current top 10, and what may happen with the remaining non-Tier 1s:

– By virtue of making the semis this past weekend, #3 Alejandro Alex Landahas locked up #3 on the season. He has a 142 point lead over #4 and cannot be surpassed even if Parrilla plays tier 2s and wins them to replace his lowest scores. Landa finishes #3 for the second year running and had a nice solid run in the 2nd half of the season to get there.

– #4 Andree Parrilla should have guaranteed himself the #4 spot for year end by making the semis. This is a pretty remarkable one-season rise for a player; he finished ranked 11th last season, basically playing the tour just half time. This year though, he played all 9 events, made four quarterfinals and four semifinals and was a couple of unlucky points from doing even better. Twice this season Parrilla went out in the tie-breaker 11-10 or else maybe we’d be talking about him fishing 3rd.

– Andree’s lead over #5 Alvaro Beltran is only 107 points. And, Beltran missed the first event of the season, meaning he could possibly win a Tier 2 and add 120 points to his year end total to over take Andree for the #4 spot. But … Alvaro played (and won) the Lou Bradley Tier 2 earlier this season (see http://blog.proracquetballstats.com/…/lou-bradley-irt-tier…/ for the wrap-up of that event), meaning he’s already got a 120 tier2 win on the books, so I’m not sure how much Alvaro can improve upon his current #5 ranking with the remaining events. Alvaro did miss the first Tier 1 of the season, meaning in theory that’s a zero-point result he should be able to “replace” …

– With his early upset loss this past weekend, Daniel De La Rosa dropped to #6 on tour for the season, his lowest season-ending ranking since the 2012-13 season. He’s just 50 points behind Alvaro though for the #5 spot, and missed not one but two events on the year, so he could improve his year end standing markedly by playing (and winning) some of the remaining lower tier events. But I wonder what motivation there would be for DLR to go out of his way to play non-tier 1s just to try to improve from 6th to 5th. If he was planning on playing (say) Costa Rica, or Chihuahua, or the smaller events in Arkansas and Kansas already so be it, but with his likely focused on outdoor events and pickleball and family for the summer, we may not see him again on the IRT til the opener in August/September.

– There’s a huge gap from #6 to #7; 420 points, really showing how the guys in the 3-6 range have separated themselves from the pack, similarly to how the 1 & 2 guys have separated themselves even from #3.

– #7 Samuel Murray picked a great tournament to hold serve and make the quarters as per his seeding; he retains a 70 point lead over #8 Franco and is probably locked into that as a year end seeding.

– #8 Sebastian Franco was upset in Syosset, but so were all his possible competitors to the last coveted protected seeding #8 spot, meaning he’s in line to retain it heading into the next season. Franco also is a very active player, having two “extra” events on his resume already being dropped, so I’m not sure how much he could improve his ranking with the remaining events, or if he’d even travel to them (Franco skipped the Bolivian Grand Slam, likely for travel/family reasons, and traveling to Costa Rica/Chihuahua may also not be in the cards).

– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís was upset before the 16s thanks to a brutal draw (having to play Javier Mar to qualify for the main draw) and could not move from his #9 seeding in Syosset in the standings. Montoya missed a couple of tier 1s early in the season, but has himself played a couple of non-Tier1s this season, so i’m not sure if he can improve upon the 100 point gap between himself and the coveted #8 spot at this point without a deep dive into his full results on the season. Maybe if he goes to Chihuahua and wins it he could slip into the top 8.

– Both #10 Mario Mercado and #11 Jose Diaz got upset early in Syosset, costing them any shot at moving up. Despite his big run to the quarters as a #12 seed, Jake Bredenbeck remains locked into that year end seeding. #13 David Horn made the main draw but got no further and stays ranked #13 for the season.

– After #13, there’s a size-able gap to #14: Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo, who has all his points from just two events (the Bolivia grand slam and a non Tier 1), and who seems unlikely to be seen on the regular tour at this point. I’d love to see him get some sponsors … but regular flights from Bolivia to the US are pretty grueling and we may not see him again til the US Open.

– The Guys ranked 15th-20th are all within 100 points of each other. Gerardo Franco GonzalezJansen AllenLalo PortilloThomas CarterAdam Manillaand Robert Collins. I’d describe all these guys similarly; they play nearly every IRT event, sometimes get upset early, and are still mostly lacking that one big run to the semis where they get a couple of solid wins in a row over top 8 guys that they’d need to really kick start their rankings. Some of these guys are moving up in the world (especially Portillo), while others are slipping (Allen), and it’ll be interesting to see how next season plays out for this crew.

————
So that’s it. Hope you enjoyed, and I hope i didn’t get any of this analysis egregiously wrong 🙂

IRT Syosset Open Singles Wrap-Up

Kane wins again … and wraps up his 13th pro tour title.

Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk, who wins the Syosset Open on the weekend.

With this title:
– Kane’s 116th professional win.
– He improves to 26-2 on the season
– He improves to 76-3 over Rocky, his opponent in the final.
– Most importantly … Kane secures an insurmountable points lead and clinches his 13th pro tour title.

We’ll put up a separate post about the ramifications of this win for the year end’s rankings … this was the final Tier 1 event of the year.

r2sports link for brackets: http://rball.pro/CCDF9D

Match Report in PRS: http://rball.pro/A7214A

Here’s the matches I found notable, by round:

——————————
In the 64s:
– #9 seed Rodrigo Montoya Solis absolutely pasted #41 Alan Natera Chavez2,2. Talk about turning the tables from the last time they played at Nationals.

– Similarly, #24 Javier Mar advanced with relative ease over #25 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez 5,10 to setup a fantastic 32 match up with each other.

– #16 Adam Manilla took out #33 Nick Montalbano with relative ease 5,3. I thought this would be closer, given Montalbano’s results on tour earlier this season.

– #13 David Horn was stretched to an 11-8 tiebreaker win, taking out Marylander #36 Mauricio MoMo Zelada.

– #11 Jose Diaz advanced over Mexican junior #38 Oscar Nieto 13,11. Nieto is playing in his age 18 season but missed last year’s Mexican Junior Nationals after advancing to the 2017 16U Mexican finals (where he lost to Fernandez, also playing here).

– #22 Andres Acuña made fast work of Georgia IRT frequenter #27 Maurice Miller 3,7.

– Teenager #26 Sebastian Fernandez downed #23 Mauro Daniel Rojas with relative ease 10,6. Like with several of these match-ups, I thought this would be closer.

– #42 Andres Gomez upset his fellow Colombian #10 Mario Mercado 11-9, making for another one-and-done for Mercado and likely killing his chances of finishing in the top 10 this season.

———————-
In the 32s.

– Solid win by youngster #17 Lalo Portillo to beat #16 Adam Manilla to advance to the main draw.

– In the match of the round, #9 Montoya was ousted by his good friend and frequent doubles partner #24 Mar 12,7. Both games were neck and neck up to a point, and then featured Mar pulling away. Such a shame to see two top 10 players in the world meet in the 32s. But Mar survives the gauntlet of this little section of the draw to move on.

– #12 Jake Bredenbeck came from a game down to dominate #21 Charlie Pratt and advance (8),6,1. I thought Pratt had a deep run in him, given his PARC run last month, but Jake played really well, frustrating Pratt and dominated the tie-breaker.

– #19 Thomas Carter got a statement win over #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 1,10.

– Similarly, #22 Acuna dominated #11 seed Jose Diaz 4,12 to move on.

– #26 Fernandez dominated Gomez 8,0 to advance into the main draw.
———————-
In the 16s.

– #1 Kane Waselenchuk seems to show little ill effects from last weekend, dominating the youngster Portillo in a 4,4 win to open his tournament.

– #24 Mar continued plowing through ranked players, topping #8 Sebastian Franco 7,13 to setup a rematch with Kane of a round of 16 last October at the US Open.

– #12 Bredenbeck makes his first IRT quarter final since Nov 2017 with a solid win over #5 Daniel De La Rosa.

– There he’ll face long-time WRT rival Andree Parrilla , who advanced for the 2nd week in a row with a 2-game win over fellow WRT veteran David Horn.

– #3 Alex Landa dispatched surprise main draw participant #19 Carter 5,6. Unless Parrilla makes the final, Landa has sewn up #3 with this win.

– #6 Alvaro Beltran was taken to a tie-breaker by the surprising Costa Rican Acuna before advancing.

– #7 Samuel Murray dropped a game to #26 Fernandez before coming back to advance in a tiebreaker.

– #2 Rocky Carson dispatched #15 Jansen Allen in two straight 4,10.

So, 6 of your top 8 seeds advance; only #3 and #8 are upset at this juncture.

———————-
In the Quarters…
– #1 Waselenchuk left no doubt that he’s recovered from whatever ailed him in Florida, pounding one of the best players in the world in #24 Mar 6,3.

– #4 Parilla squandered match point in game two, but held on in the tiebreaker to advance over #12 Jake, ending Bredenbeck’s best run in a year and a half on tour.

– #3 Landa pulverized Beltran 4,4 in a rematch of last weekend’s final, throwing down the gauntlet on this event.

– #2 Carson cruised past Canadian #7 Murray 9,5.

So, despite the depth of this 49-man draw and the presence of a slew of top world players who don’t regularly play the tour … its chalk seeds into the semis. Cream rises.

———————-
In the Semis:
– #4 Parilla came out swinging, taking Game 1 over Waselenchuk and putting into doubt not only the year end title race but also the state of Kane’s game right now given his loss last weekend. Kane rebounded though taking game 2 and donutting Parrilla in the tie-breaker to advance to thefinals.

– #2 Carson avenged a loss to #3 Landa last weekend by taking a solid 12,13 win to advance to the final.

———————-
In the Final, Kane showed no mercy and showed no ill effects of any past physical ailments by dominating the tour’s #2 player 3,4 for the title.

———————-
Next up; per the IRT schedule, there’s a few non-tier 1s between now and the end of June, including two Tier 2s that could theoretically juggle the year end rankings a bit. We’ll definitely cover them as they stand to have good draws, especially the “Black Gold” event in Mexico in mid-June.

Also notable; the tour plans on announcing a preliminary copy of the 2019-20 schedule next month and they’ve teased it a bit; it should include the return of several events that dropped off in the last year, plus the return of some of the great events that happened this year.

International Racquetball Tour Racquetball Canada USA RacquetballFederación Mexicana de Raquetbol Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora Fecoracquet Fecoracquet International Racquetball Federation – IRFInternational Racquetball Federation

Kane’s loss and Rankings heading into final Tier 1 Event this weekend

Kane doesn’t lose very often, so we do a post dedicated to it.

I wanted to do a quick post reacting to Kane Waselenchuk‘s shock loss last weekend in the quarters of the Florida pro stop to Alvaro Beltran , and then talk about the implications heading into the season’s final event.

Kane’s loss is historically notable for a number of reasons.

– This is Kane’s first on-the-court, non injury or forfeit related loss since a semis Kansas City loss to Jose Rojas in 2013. Some may also point out a loss Kane took to Jake Bredenbeck in May of 2016, where Kane won the first two games, suffered an injury, then retired in the 5th. See this link for all of Kane’s career losses: http://rball.pro/8F1B46

I’d like to point out how crazy it is that we’re talking about a singular loss by a player in a one-on-one sport. Roger Federer is widely considerd the GOAT in Tennis; his best ever season by W/L was in 2006 when he went 92-5. That’s 5 losses in a year … while Kane doesn’t have 5 losses in the last decade. This situation kind of reminds me of the Russian wrestler Aleksandr Karelin, who went 13 years without losing (nor even dropping a point!) a match, and when he did give up a point it was so shocking that the officials went to video replay to confirm the referee’s decision.

– this loss breaks a 74 game winning streak; http://rball.pro/D30B92 . This was the 2nd longest ever Game winning streak, 2nd only to Kane’s 113-game winning streak that covered the whole of the 2016-17 season. This loss includes the first game loss Kane has suffered since the conversion to best-of-3 scoring format on tour.

– this loss also breaks an 83 match winning streak: http://rball.pro/569297 . This was the 3rd longest ever such streak (which skips fft losses), 3rd only to two longer streaks that Kane has achieved earlier in his career.

——————
I did not see the match live; only seeing texts and notifications after it had happened, so I went back and watched it on International Racquetball Tour‘s facebook page (tangent; what a great resource, having all these past matches available at the click of a button).

I watched it end to end, to see if there was evidence of an injury or some other root cause for this shock loss. Kane definitely seemed “off” his game, both in this match and against Thomas Carter in the 16s. And in a sport where the margin of error against top pros is usually measured in millimeters, it was enough to give Beltran (a very skilled shot-maker who can put balls away at any point when he can set his feet) the openings he needed to win.

I thought Kane really struggled with his serve on the day; I can’t recall the last time I saw him leave drive serves coming off the back wall as easy setups (which Beltran dutifully buried), and I can’t recall seeing him miss his lines or skip so many shots that he’d normally roll out.

I’m no pro, but I can tell very quickly when getting onto the court if i’m “on” or “off” that day, and sometimes there’d just nothing you can do about it except try to work around whatever struggles you’re having. These guys play day in, day out for 8 months out of the year and their livelihoods depend on maximizing their talent without allowing for “off days” really, so its hard to criticize one particular outing versus another.

———————
Implications for the 2018-19 race heading into the Syosset event.

Next weekend’s Syosset event is the final tier 1 of the season. However, there’s four additional IRT non-tier 1 events listed on the schedule right now: https://www.irt-tour.com/events/ . Two of those are Tier 2s, which give 120 points to the winner (no small amount of points, given the analysis below):

https://www.irt-tour.com/singles-rankings/ has the current rankings, post Florida rankings and Kane has a 134 point lead over Rocky Carson for the season. The Syosset event is “new” and there’s not corresponding points from last season to “defend,” so its winner takes all here on out.

With a 138 point lead, Rocky basically has to finish two “rounds” ahead of Kane while advancing sufficiently deep this coming weekend to keep the title lead. Here’s scenarios that could result in this situation:
– Rocky wins (400 points), Kane loses in semis (220 points): this is a net +180 for Rocky, enough to take over the title lead
– Rocky makes final (300 points), Kane loses in qtrs (150 points): net +150 for Rocky, enough to take the lead.
– Rocky makes semis (220 points), Kane loses in 16s (90 points): net +130 for rocky … NOT enough to take the lead.

Here’s where it’d get interesting. It is close enough between Kane and Rocky that some of these lesser tier events may come into play. Lets say Rocky or Kane comes out of New York trailing by less than 100 points: if you win a Tier 2, that’s 120 points. There’s two Tier 2s remaining (in Costa Rica and Mexico), a Tier 3 in Kansas, and a Tier 4 in Arkansas.

There are some limitations as to how many non tier 1s that top pros can go to. I don’t know the exact details. Kane went to the PAC Shootout earlier this spring (a Tier 4) and won it. Has Rocky gone to any non-tier 1s this season?

Things may be interesting down the stretch.

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.

——————————-
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.