IRT 41st Lewis Drug Pro-Am Preview

Landa returns to Sioux Falls to defend his first ever Pro title.

Hello racquetball fans! This coming weekend is what has now become the 2nd biggest International Racquetball Tour event of the season and is the reported longest running Pro event in the land; the Lewis Drug Pro-Am held in Sioux Falls, SD. Thanks to the long-standing generosity of the sponsors, this event generally features the richest and best draws outside of the US Open.

r2sports.com home page for the event is here.

Quick note: keep IRT CEO John Scott in your thoughts; he underwent some emergency surgical procedures in the past couple of weeks and is recuperating at home.

This year, the event falls right on the same weekend as the massive annual Longhorn Open, which has a WRT event that unfortunately drew away a few of the names that may have considered entering. Nonetheless, there’s a solid draw of 39 pros entered into Lewis.

Ranking implications of this event: after months of kvetching about the IRT ranking system and the implications of Kane’s four missed events in the spring of 2017-18 season, this event likely rectifies the situation. This is the first event from last spring that Kane missed, meaning he has zero points to “defend” from the Lewis Drug event last season. Therefore, he has no where to go but up. Meanwhile, current #1 Landa won this event last year and therefore has 400 points to defend. If Kane wins … irrespective of who makes the final Kane should ascend back to #1 ranking. He will have gained more points than either of the two guys ahead of him could earn.

The only top 20 pros missing are #6 Sebastian Franco (on his Honeymoon as per IRT press release) and #10 Bobby David Horn, who was ill at the California Open, has been fighting through some injuries all season and seems to be taking off the weekend to recuperate for the busy spring schedule. These two absences give Jose Diaz his first ever top 8 seeding, which immediately gets “switched” to a #7 seed for the tourney.

Notable players we don’t regularly see in the draw include former IRT touring pro Tony Anthony Carson, who made waves in the Portland event earlier this season and will be a tough out. #18 ranked and reigning International Racquetball Federation World champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis is in the draw, hoping for a better result. Unfortunately he’s seeded 16th, which has him playing right into #1 Alex Landa yet again. We’ll cover that in the predictions. World 18U runner-up Sebastian Fernandez is back after making waves in Canoga Park. US Open Men’s Open champ Alejandro Herrera Azcarate has made the trip up from Miami for this tourney and is playing doubles with none other than US Open tourney director and rball legend Doug Ganim. Lastly the geographic proximity to Canada has drawn down some of 
Canada’s top players too, including Tim LanderyouLee Connell and Tanner Prentice.

Lets preview the draw. Here’s some round of 64 matches of interest:
– #21 Sebastian Fernandez goes up against fellow 18U recent graduate and current US Junior National champ Ricardo Ricky Diaz. Tough draw for Diaz, who runs into a guy who has been really making waves on tour so far this season.
– #20 Mauro Daniel Rojas vs Christian Longoria; a great first round match between contrasting styles; the shot-making control game of Longoria versus Rojas’ power. 
– #13 Adam Manilla vs Timmy Hansen; Manilla plays the youngster Timmy Hansen, who enters a pro tourney for the first time. Hansen is the reigning US 14U national champ and makes up one half of a potentially pretty darn good Father/Son team with his dad Tim Hansen (one of the most decorated amateur players of all time and USAR hall-of-fame inductee).
– #19 Nick Riffel vs Lee Connell: Connell has been playing Canadian National events since Riffel was in grade school; we’ll see if the veteran can handle the newbie.
– #11 Jake Bredenbeck vs Cesar Castillo; Castillo enters a pro tournament for the first time since 2015; he’s a long-time international representative of Venezuela, last playing for his country in the 2017 Bolivarian games. 
– #10 Jansen Allen gets a tough 1st round draw in Sioux Falls native John Goth. Goth only has a few major tourneys on his resume over the past few years … but rolled to the US National final in 2012 and has taken out touring pros like Sebastian Franco and Christian Longoria in recent WRT events. This could be a tough one for IRT regular Allen.
– #15 Felipe Camacho matches up against Matthew Ivar Majxner, a tough player who has been playing pro events since the late 1990s.
– #18 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez faces the always-tough Alejandro Herrera, last seen taking the Men’s Open draw in Minneapolis and who played Robbie Collins tough in the pro draw in Minneapolis before losing. Herrera plays with pace, and Franco will need to adjust.

Projecting to the 32s:
– Montoya over Robert Collins; tough draw for Collins, who has had a solid season, but I see a Montoya win here.
– #9 Mario Mercado vs Tony Carson: missing out on the bye comes back to haunt Mercado, who runs into former touring pro Carson, who has the wherewithall to advance here. I see a Carson win and Mercado’s tough season continuing.
Charlie Pratt versus Sebastian Fernandez: wow, tough match up here. Pratt has experience on his side but these two play a very similar game; all about control. I give the cerebral Pratt the advantage here over the youngster.
– Manilla vs Rojas: I like Rojas here, out-pacing the lefty Manilla in what should be a shoot out of power players swinging out of their shoes.
– Carter vs Riffel: these two buddies have met three times on tour, with Riffel taking two of them. I think Riffel wins again and advances to the main draw.
– Jake over the Ref Scott McClellan; at some point the Ref will force his way into making … someone else ref his back-of-the-tournament matches 🙂
– Allen vs Landeryou: I like this match-up; i think this could be a pretty tight game. I like Allen’s game lately; he has not been an easy out, but Landeryou’s game could frustrate.
– Franco over Camacho: assuming we don’t see a surprise upset, I like Gerardo Franco in this match. He’s got the game and has the capabilities to do a break through.

Main Draw: round of 16.
– #1 Landa vs #16 Montoya: for the 2nd straight event, and for the third time in two months, we get Landa v Montoya. Last time, I predicted the upset, and instead Landa cruised to the semis. This time … i’m predicting Landa returns to the site of his first ever pro victory energized and takes a 2 game win. A semis-quality match-up in the 16s yet again.
– #8 Alvaro Beltran v Tony Carson: Carson has beaten DLR and Parrilla the last two IRT events he’s entered; he can beat Beltran. But … they’ve met 6 times on the IRT and Beltran has won all 6. I’ll go with a tiebreaker win for Alvaro Beltran.
– #5 Samuel Murray v #12 Pratt: last time they played was at the 2018 Worlds, where Pratt waxed Murray in two. Can he repeat the favor? I think he can; since making the final in the season opener, Murray has four early exits in a row in pro events, including two round of 16 upsets. Pratt can make it another early exit here.
– #4 Daniel De La Rosa vs Rojas: DLR converts back to Racquetball from Pickleball and downs the youngster Rojas in the 16s for the 2nd tourney in a row.
– #3 Kane Waselenchuk gets his first match likely against Riffel and makes quick work of the youngster to advance.
– #6 Andree Parrilla vs #11 Jake Bredenbeck: these two have met a few times … and Jake has never lost to Andree. They havn’t met in a year and a half though, and in that time Parrilla has taken a big step ahead. I think Parrilla advances.
– #7 Jose Diaz vs #10 Allen: they’ve met 5 times and have gone back and forth; Allen got him in their most recent meeting in Laurel. This is an excellent opportunity for Allen to regain some of his momentum and get back to the quarters. Expect a tough match here. I’m not sure who I favor. I liked what I saw out of Allen in the last event; we’ll go with the Texan here.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs Gerardo Franco: they met in Laurel earlier this season and Rocky pasted him. No reason to expect a different result here.

Projected Quarters:
– #1 Landa over #8 Beltran: Landa has his number and has had it for a while.
– #4 DLR over #12 Pratt: they met at the US Open, a tight but 2-game win for DLR. I like the way DLR is trending this season … he seems like he’s been much more consistent this season than last. After missing the first event, he’s made two finals and a quarter and is a good bet to make at least the semis here.
– #3 Kane over #6 Andree: a rematch of the quarters from California, a 3,5 beat-down. No concrete courts in Sioux Falls, so perhaps Parrilla can keep it close, but expect a 2-game win for the King.
– #2 Rocky vs #10 Allen: they’ve played 13 times … and Rocky has won 13 times. Expect 14 for 14 here.

Semis:
– #1 Landa vs #4 DLR: these two met at the Lewis Drug in 2017 semis and in the 2018 finals (an 11-10 Landa win for his first ever pro title)… so its only fitting if they meet again in 2019. Landa has beaten him h2h 3 straight times now, but they’re always battles. Can DLR turn the tide? I’d like to see Kane vs Landa in the final but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was Kane-DLR again.
– #3 Kane vs #2 Rocky; they’ve met 76 times (!) … but if they meet here it’ll be the first time they’ve faced off in a match that was NOT a final since 2009. That’s 10 years of match-ups for tourney titles. Nonetheless, Kane makes it 74-3.

Finals: Kane over Landa. Or maybe DLR. Or perhaps Montoya if I get my predictions way wrong.

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There’s also a solid Doubles draw for only the third official IRT doubles event of the year., with 10 teams playing and the regular suspects (Beltran/DLR, Landa/Murray, Montoya/Parrilla). Beltran & DLR are unvanquished in nearly a year of doubles competition and remain the team to beat.

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.

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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.