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

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.

IRT Shamrock Shootout Wrap-up

Kane is the double winner on the weekend.

Congrats to the winners on the weekend:
– Singles; Kane Waselenchuk 
– Doubles: Kane Waselenchuk & Ben Croft

R2sports link for the event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30236

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Lets wrap-up the Singles event. Here’s the matches I found notable for each round:

Singles Match Report: http://rball.pro/3A30E4

In the 128s and 64s … there were a few closer games but no upsets in my mind:
– Jansen Allen and Hiroshi Shimizu were both extended to tiebreakers against Alok Mehta and Juan Salvatierra respectively but advanced.
– Felipe Camacho won 10,10 over Kyle Ulliman
– Troy Warigon played a closer-than-expected match to beat Ferd Samson11,13
– MoMo Zelada made it twice in two months over Georgian Maurice Miller 11,10. Miller subsequently caught fire in the Men’s Open draw, racing to the final with a number of what i’d characterize as “Career Best” wins.
– Adam Manilla took out Jordy Alonso 12,10
– David Horn got a solid win over Eduardo Garay 10,11.

The 32s were played Friday morning, with a couple of “upsets” by seeding and a couple of tie-breakers.
– #9 Jose Diaz dropped the first game to long-time IRT veteran Hiroshi Shimizu but recovered to take the match. Shimizu looked pretty darn good for someone who is north of 50. 
– The 16/17 match, as always, was a tight one, with Felipe Camacho coming out on top of Thomas Carter 11-8 in the breaker. A close match.
Eduardo Lalo Portillo blasted Jake Bredenbeck 5,8 to advance in the upset by seedings. We know Portillo is no slouch and this win doesn’t surprise me, but the score does. Jake is definitely in a rut this season.
Rodrigo Montoya blitzed by countryman Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 15-1, then dropped the second game before racing to the tiebreaker win. Final score: 1,(10),3.
– In the 15/18 match, Adam Manilla won the lefty-on-lefty crime match, topping Robert Collins in two tight games 13,11.

In the 16s… several matches that surprised me and went against my predictions, but in the end was nearly chalk by seeding:
– In the 8/9 match, Sebastian Franco turned the tide on his results lately and took out Jose Diaz in two tight games 12,12.
– #4 Alejandro Alex Landa took out the upset-minded Eduardo Portillo 5,12 to eliminate the highest advancing seed out of the 16s.
– In the biggest upset of the night, #14 Montoya took out #3 Daniel De La Rosa with relative ease 3,9. While these two are neck and neck in true world power rankings … DLR has had the better of him lately, including a shellacking in Sioux Falls two months ago. Surprising result for me … and opens up the draw for Rodrigo completely.
– #7 Samuel Murray dominated #10 David Horn 3,7. I thought this match might have gone the other way … but a 3,7 win is pretty convincing.

So your seeds into the quarters are 1,2,4,5,6,7,8 … and 14. Pretty chalk. But i’m guessing that 14 seed may make some more noise here.

In the Quarters…
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk let #8 Sebastian Franco hang with him til about 6-6 in the first, then ran off more than 20 unanswered points, winning the first game 15-7 and donuting the Colombian 15-0 in the second. 
– #5 Andree Parrilla continues his dominance at this event (his two best career finishes are at this event over the last two seasons), cruising to a win over #4 Alejandro Landa 8,9. Parrilla has beaten Landa now twice in a row, improving his career h2h record against the former #1 to 4-6 across all competitions.
– #14 Montoya made it 3-0 against Alvaro Beltran on the IRT tour, taking this match and beating the #6 seed 8,9. Montoya advances to his 3rd career IRT semi final (out of 8 career IRT tourneys) and second this season (he made the Semis in Sioux Falls after beating #1 seed Landa in the 16s).
– #2 Rocky Carson dropped a game to #7 Samuel Murray for just the second time ever, but Murray ran out of gas in the tiebreaker and lost a 2+ hour marathon 7,(13),2.

In the Semis…
– Kane blitzed by Parrilla 5,2, never really giving Andree a chance to junk ball his way into the match.
– Carson took the first ever meeting against Montoya 11,2. The first game was a shot-maker’s paradise, with the players going toe to toe and firing at all cylinders. In the second game, Carson put on a master class of game management, completely controlling the match and bewildering the young Mexican to a crushing 15-2 defeat. Make no mistake; there is still a gulf between the 2nd ranked Carson and his challengers.

In the Finals…
– Kane won a match that he really controlled throughout by the not-as-close-as-it-looked scores of 10 and 10. Lots of lob serving from Kane, who put in twice the court time he normally does this weekend and may have been conserving his arm by not drive serving in the title match.

With the win…
– Kane captures his 115th career IRT Tier 1/Grand Slam title.
– Kane improves to an amazing 75-3 against Rocky, the lions share of which were tournament finals.
– Kane raises his current match winning streak to 82 matches, good for 3rd best ever streak. He’s got a long way to go to top his record of 134 straight.
– Kane extends his current GAME winning streak to 72 games, and moves into 2nd place all time to his own 113 game winning streak that I previously thought was his career achievement. He’d have to win 21 more matches w/o dropping a game to top it, or probably 6 more tourneys… and there’s no end in sight to his current dominance.

Ranking Implications on the weekend: Using my personal points projections (which aren’t exactly in line with IRT total points but are pretty close), here’s what I think this weekend’s events means for the points race:
– Kane now has a nearly 500 point lead … and still has one more tournament to play without defending any points from last season’s injury, which means a win in Bolivia and its double points would lead to a nearly 900 point advantage with just two events left. Which means … if Kane wins in Bolivia he’s clinched the title.
– Landa and DLR should switch places with DLR’s early upset.
– Beltran should rise to #5.
– Franco should rise to #6.
– Parrilla drops from 5 to 7 despite making the semis.
– Murray drops from 7 to 8.
– Horn drops from 10 to 13.

– Montoya rises from 14 to 12, meaning he’s away from the top 3 in terms of a potential round of 16 match-up now. He’d now project to play the 5th seed in a round of 16, which gets him away from the top 4 players and just increases his chances of gaining more rankings points.

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Wrap-up of the doubles:

Match Report: http://rball.pro/2865FD

No upsets in the full round of 16. In the quarters, in the 4/5 match-up Jake/Diaz got a solid win over Montoya/Parrilla, and the 6th seeded favorites Kane/Croft “upset” the 3rd seeded Colombian pairing of Mercado/Franco.

In the semis, DLR/Alvaro got a solid win over Jake/Diaz, while Kane/Croft got an injury-driven walkover win against #2 seed Landa/Murray to setup the final everyone wanted to see.

In that sat. night final, Kane/Croft recovered from losing the first game to out-shoot DLR/Beltran and improve to 4-1 head-to-head against the reigning World Doubles champions on the pro circuit.

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Thats it, thanks for reading!

Next up is the Bolivian Grand Slam. Can’t wait to see this event, since there’s 5-6 really quality Bolivian players who we rarely get to see. Moscoso, the Keller brothers, Ruiz Michel, Gerson, Garcia, Mercado and Carrasco all could be in this draw and make noise. Maybe even the legendary Ricardo Monroy could come out of “retirement” to play; if you’ve never heard of Monroy, he was the first non-North American international player to win a major IRF title, taking the 2010 Pan American Championships. And there’s also a Women’s pro stop, with lots of quality Bolivian female pros too.

IRT Shamrock Shootout Preview

Beltran will look to make another run to the Finals in Chicago.

The International Racquetball Tour is back, and in Chicago for the 34th annual Shamrock Shootout, sponsored by frequent IRT patron KWM Gutterman.

R2sports home page for the event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30236

(as of this posting, the draws are not yet active but can be gotten from IRT’s facebook page postings…)

There’s a huge draw in Chicago; 43 pros entered into singles. That’s the biggest non-US Open draw since Sept 2014, and this draw is stacked. There’s great representation from the top pros: 19 of the top 20 players are entered (missing only #13 Charlie Pratt, who’s playing Oregon State Singles this weekend instead), and the draw includes reigning World champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis to mix things up. He’ll be seeded 14th, playing into his Mexican national nemesis #3 Daniel De La Rosa for what could be a heck of a round of 16 match (we’ll get to that later)…

Because its Chicago, we get some Midwestern guys entered such as Geoff Goldblatt, Juan Martinez III, Alok Mehta, Ferd Samson and Nadeem Sharifuddin. Some of these guys are long-time players with match histories that go back a ways (Goldblatt’s first pro tourney on record was in 2006), some we havn’t seen since the 2018 Worlds (Mehta represented India at the 2014 and 2018 IRF events), and some are making their pro tour debuts (like Sharifuddin).

Interestingly, what looks like the entire Guatemalan national team is entered, and the qualifying rounds will include Edwin Galicia, Javier Martinez, Hanzel Martinez Perez, Jeovany Mendoza, Juan Salvatierra, and long-time veteran Christian Wer, all hailing from the Central American country. Its great to see so many great internationals in one place.

Lets preview the draw. There’s such a huge draw that they needed three round of 128 matches, one of which features two of the traveling Guatemalans. That’s a bummer: fly all the way up here and have a rematch of every Tuesday night at the home club.

We pick up in the 64s; here’s some matches to watch for:
– #9 Jose Diaz is the highest ranked player w/o a bye into the 16s, and for his trouble he has to play twice in qualifying; he’s rewarded at first with a crap-shoot against the winner of the Mendoza-Martinez all-Guatemalan play-in. 
– #17 Long-time Costa Rican vet Felipe Camacho gets a tough opener against mid-westerner Kyle Ulliman. Ulliman has played a couple of pro stops already this year but doesn’t have a break-through win yet and Camacho is a tough out.
– #20 Eduardo Lalo Portillo faces off against long-time Guatemalan #1 Edwin Galicia in a tough opener for both. Galicia has been representing Guatemala at International Racquetball Federation – IRF events for 6 years running, while Lalo (the reigning 18U junior world champ) is coming off a disappointing 1st round exit at Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Nationals last month.
– #12 Jansen Allen (who has now fallen completely out of the top 10), has a tough 1st rounder against regular Guatemala international representative Juan Salvatierra in his quest to get back into the top 10.
– #22 Maurice Miller faces off against Mauricio MoMo Zelada, a rematch of the final of the February Open final at the Wintergreen event in Laurel, MD. Zelada won 6,12 then and seems a good bet to advance again.
– IRT regular Justus Benson is the unlucky first round match for reigning IRF World Champion Rodrigo Montoya, looking to make a splash and keep his IRT ranking on the rise.
– #15 Adam Manilla gets a tough Mexican up and comer Jordy Alonso as his 1st round opponent.
– #18 Robbie Robert Collins faces off against long-time Guatemalan international Christian Wer, who I first have playing for his country in 2004 and who was on the Worlds team in 2018. That’s a pretty long int’l career.
– #10 David Horn has the unenviable task of facing off against one of the more unheralded Mexican players today in Eduardo Garay Rodriguez. Garay has wins over IRT top 10 players on his resume in the past couple of seasons and has the ability to win here too.

In the 32s…here’s some projections based on potential match-ups:

– the #16/#17 match-up looks solid: Camacho vs Thomas Carter. A great test for both players; I sense the veteran Camacho advances to the main draw and a date with Kane.
– #13 Jake Bredenbeck vs #20 Portillo: I like Portillo’s chances here against Bredenbeck, who has yet to get out of the 16s this season after multiple quarter-finals appearances in prior seasons and is coming off an upset loss in Pueblo to a guy who has never played a pro match.
– #12 Allen over #21 Troy Warigon; the solid playing Allen should advance over part time IRT player Warigon here.
– #11 Mario Mercado over Zelada: the all-DC Metro area match-up, with the two relative neighbors facing off for a chance at the 16s. Mercado has the edge but it wouldn’t surprise me if this went Zelada’s way.
– Montoya vs Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; tough break for Franco, who runs into his countryman at this stage for the 2nd time in 3 months. He’s trying to build on the momentum of his run to the Mexican national quarters last month, but Montoya should advance here.
– #15 Manilla vs #18 Collins: the very-rare lefty vs lefty match-up, likely a win for the up and coming Manilla.

In the 16s…
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk starts off his title quest against the veteran Camacho and cruises to a win.
– the #8/#9 looks like a dog-fight: Diaz versus Sebastian Franco. After a solid start to the season, Franco has faltered, with two straight round of 16 exits and having missed Sioux Falls (for his Honeymoon; can’t fault him there). One of those early exits was at the hands of Diaz, who may very well do it again here.
– #5 Parrilla vs #12 Allen: Andree has been on a tear, but Allen plays solid, consistent racquetball and may cause Parrilla some troubles here.
– #4 Alejando Alex Landa vs Portillo: the newly crowned Mexican champ faces off against one of his country’s best young players; Landa should dominate this match based on playing styles.
– #3 De La Rosa vs #14 Montoya; this is the match of the round. 3 vs 14 by seeds, but two of the best 5 players in the world by capabilities. They met in Sioux Falls and DLR destroyed Rodrigo 1,4. In fact, Montoya may be the reigning world champ, but DLR has beaten him 3 out of 4 times they’ve played in the past year. I think DLR advances and Montoya misses out on an opportunity to gain valuable IRT ranking points yet again due to the luck of the draw.
– #6 Alvaro Beltran vs #11 Mercado; fresh off his surprise National finals appearance, Beltran runs into the mercurial Mercado (alliteration intended), who has beaten Alvaro in the past, but seems to be in a bit of a rut this season. Mercado has three one-and-done events this season and will have his work cut out for him to make it to this point. Alvaro advances.
– #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Horn; tough match for Murray here. Bobby beat Sam in April of 2018, but has three one-and-dones on the season and missed Sioux Falls b/c of injury. Horn did make the final of the Pueblo Shootout before getting waxed by Kane and seems to be healthy; can he outlast Murray here and put himself back on the winning ways? If he’s healthy, I think so.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Manilla: these two havn’t played in years on the pro tour, and while Adam can put up a fight against top players he should fall at this gate.

In the Quarters…
– #1 Kane over #9 Diaz. I’ll bet the versatile Diaz conjurs up some 209-magic and stays in rallies longer than expected, but Kane advances.
– #4 Landa over #5 Parrilla: I like Landa here, despite the fact that Parrilla took him in their last meeting (2018 US Open). Landa played so solidly at Mexican Nationals, its hard to envision him losing to Parrilla’s game-style.
– #6 Beltran takes out his doubles partner #3 DLR in a classic let-down game after DLR’s tough win over Montoya. They played in Portland in December, and Alvaro trounced him in two there, and I’m betting on a similar result here. 
Beltran is on a career renaissance this season and continues his stretch of solid play. 
– #2 Carson defeats Horn in a battle of contrasting pace of play styles. Carson will slow it down, while Horn tries to speed it up. Neither are happy with the referee at the end of the match.

In the semis…
– #1 Kane defeats former #1 Landa, but Landa puts up a fight and makes the scores 15-11, 15-9 or so. If Landa is on and making shots, Kane needs to find a slightly higher gear to beat him, which he eventually does since he’s such a master at the end-game of matches.
– #6 Beltran goes up against his long time rival #2 Carson for the third time this season and makes it 2 out of 3 with an upset win.

In the final, Kane takes out Beltran with ease, but not before Alvaro plays his typical shooter’s delight game plan and makes Kane sweat for a while. Its worth noting that Alvaro is the last player to take a game off of Kane (the 2017 US Open) and still has the capability to run off a game even against a guy who is currently working on a streak of 64 straight games won in competition.

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There’s also a massive Pro doubles draw; a full 16 team draw. The #1 team is, as normal, DLR/Beltran, who just got upset at Mexico Nationals and will not have the opportunity to compete for 2019 IRF crowns. They’ll have to possibly work their way through 1/2 of the team that dethroned them in Montoya, playing here with Parrilla, who themselves have to get by the Columbian National #1 doubles team of Mercado & Franco.

On the other side of the draw, the other “best doubles team in the world” in Kane & Ben Croft makes a rare appearance, seeded 6th. They likely face #3 seeds of Jake/Diaz for an excellent quarter final match before likely facing the excellent #2 seeded pairing of Landa & Murray in the semis. However, Landa/Murray may have to get past Rocky Carson, who plays pro doubles for the first time since Sept 2017 (!). He’s playing with Manilla for a nice little lefty-righty combo, perhaps a nod by Carson to help get ready for the upcoming WOR championships (where doubles is king).

I like Kane/Croft over DLR/Beltran in the final, a slight reversal of how this match-up has gone the last couple of times … but also an indicator that DLR/Beltran may have some cracks in the armor after their upset in Chihuahua last month.

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Can’t wait for more IRT action!

PRS Current top 50 Men’s World Rankings

No surprise who #1 is. The intrigue starts a bit later.

Happy Holidays! During this little break in the tournament action, here’s some content for everyone to argue about. 🙂 This is my current Men’s World Top 50. Thanks to the ever-widening popularity of the sport, multiple tours and the inability for some top players to play the 
International Racquetball Tour regularly, the IRT rankings do not really give a full picture of the current state of the world game. This attempts to do so.

I have rankings divided into “groups” so this isn’t a hard and fast 1-50 necessarily, as I’ll explain as we go.

Usual caveats: this is my opinion. No offense intended if you think someone is too high or too low. This is for entertainment purposes only. Its mostly stat/match result based. Its tough to do pure 1-50 b/c of game style match-ups (i.e., a guy in the 30s always beats a guy in the 20s for some reason, but can’t beat anyone in-between). Also, one big win over a top 10 player does not make you a top 10 player … i’ve noted solid wins for players below the top of this list, but look for consistent results over and again before rising up the ranks.

I hope you enjoy!

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1. Kane Waselenchuk
Large Gap to #2: Kane is head and shoulders ahead of anyone else.

2. Rocky Carson
Smaller Gap to #3-6; Rocky still has a lead over the next group and continues to demonstrate it on the court.

3. Rodrigo Montoya Solis
4. Alex Landa 
5. Daniel De La Rosa
6. Andree Parrilla

I have these guys 3-6, and they’re constantly changing positions. Up until the Mexico Open I had Landa above Montoya, but then Montoya got him H2H. Honestly, I think they’re a coin flip for #3 and #4 right now. Meanwhile, DLR is 3-6 H2H against Landa across senior events so i’ve got him just below Landa … just beat Parrilla and Montoya to win in Monterrey, but lost to Montoya at Mexican Nats earlier this year. Parrilla beat Landa at the past US Open but for me day in, day out is slightly below these other three. On any given Sunday though, these four can all put losses on each other. It is not a surprise that these four were then fou semi-finalists in Monterrey earlier this month.

7. Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo
8. Javier Mar
9. Samuel Murray
10. Alvaro Beltran

Moscoso has wins over the guys ranked 3-6, but just lost to Montoya at Worlds and lost to Murray at US Open. I know some people think he should be higher (ahem, Sudsy 🙂 ) but i’ve got him just a hair below. Mar is an enigma; he’s demonstrated the ability to beat all the guys ranked 3-6 and has in the last couple of years, but not quite consistently enough to break into that group. Murray has wins over Montoya, Landa and Moscoso in the last few events; he’s becoming much more consistent winner as of late. Lastly you have Alvaro, who has been showing his age but then turns around and trounces the likes of DLR in Portland. He’s still a tough out, week in and week out but has been consistently slipping down this ranking over the past couple of years.

One last comment on my current top 10: a quick breakdown by country:

  • 2 Canadians
  • 1 Bolivian
  • 1 American
  • 6 Mexicans

And the one American player is nearly 40. The next generation of dominance in our sport is coming from south of the US border.

11. Jose Rojas
12. Gilberto Mejia
13. Marco Markie Rojas
14. Tony Anthony Carson

I call this group the “retired but could still make noise if they weren’t” group. Jose retired after three straight finishes at #5 on tour, and he didn’t retire because he was losing suddenly. Mejia hasn’t played in a while, enough that we may want to remove him, but when we last saw him playing WRT events he was beating consistently those ranked just behind him in the next grouping. Marco Rojas retired after two 7th place finishes on tour, and has winning career records against DLR and Landa, and against guys in the next grouping (Horn, Jake), so its no surprise he’s still this high. Lastly Tony Carson consistently demonstrates he can continue to win, with wins over DLR and Parrilla in the last two IRT events he’s entered.

15. Polo Polito Gutierrez
16. Bobby David Horn
17. Charlie Pratt
18. Sebastian Franco
19. Mario Mercado
20. Coby Iwaasa
21. Carlos Keller Vargas
22. Jake Bredenbeck

Here’s where it starts getting tough. This group here is a mix of international players we rarely see, leading World Racquetball Tour players, and mid-ranged IRT players. You may argue that I have Polo too high; but every time he plays an IRT event he makes noise. He’s coming off an elbow injury and is 35 though, so he may be slipping. Horn has some wins against higher ranked players and won 2018 US Nationals in a draw that included Jake, Pratt and Jose Rojas. Pratt has some h2h wins over players in this group, over Beltran, and beat Mar en route to the 2017 Pan Am final. Franco has recent wins over Landa and DLR, and has a solid argument to be higher. Mercado too; he’s 2-2 vs Murray career but just 1-5 against Horn and this feels about right. Iwaasa took several years off, but has not lost his touch, taking Mercado to the edge at Worlds twice and making the Finals in the WRT Canada event in a draw that featured several guys in this group. Keller Vargas won the 2018 Pan Ams over Montoya and Horn, but lost to Franco at Worlds; I used to have him much higher and wonder if he’d be a top 10 player if he played the tour regularly. Lastly Jake; he’s one of the few players to have wins over Kane, DLR and Rocky ever, but has struggled to beat players in this group or the grouping above lately and has been slightly slipping down in this ranking after having some early IRT season struggles.

23. Ben Croft
24. Javier Estrada
25. Alan Natera Chavez
26. Ernesto Ochoa
27. Alejandro Alex Cardona
28. Sudsy Monchik
29. Jansen Allen
30. Jose Diaz
31. Mauro Daniel Rojas

Croft is pretty much retired, so not much recent to go on; he beat Horn but lost to Jake in a singles event in Denver earlier this year. Estrada, Natera and Ochoa are all rising Mexican players to watch out for. Estrada beat Landa at Mexican world selection event, just beat Beltran in Monterrey and has played Montoya tough twice this fall. Natera has recent wins over Mar and others in this grouping. Ochoa has recent wins over Beltran, Parrilla, and Mar and may very well be higher. Cardona used to be in the next group up as the reigning king of the hill in the WRT but has been losing ground to the likes of Horn and Jake and the youngsters rising up in Mexico over the past year or so.

Sudsy made the semis of the US Open last year by beating Allen, then beat Diaz but lost to Jake in an WRT event so this seems about right (thought I wouldn’t argue if you thought he was higher). Allen has had some solid wins against the likes of Beltran, Mercado, Murray lately, and beat Diaz in the Laurel season opener, and may be a bit higher. Lastly you have the younger Rojas, who has consistently beaten players below here but not too many above and who has the game to start breaking through and moving up.

This grouping could benefit from more head to head meetings; would Allen beat the likes of Estrada, Natera and Ochoa if they played? Here’s hoping for some more IRT events held in Mexico to get more full draws.

32. Cliff Swain; even though he hasn’t played in more than a year, I still think he could beat anyone listed below here. I’m hoping he plays some more pro events and tries to break some of Ruben Gonzalez‘s more amazing feats of reaching the end stages of pro tourneys at advanced ages.

33. Gerardo Franco Gonzalez
34. Eduardo Portillo Rendon
35. Sebastian Fernandez
36. Jaime Martell Neri
37. Eduardo Garay Rodriguez
38. Jordy Alonso
39. Tim Landeryou
40. Dylan Reid
41. Mike Green
42. Christian Longoria
43. Adam Manilla

As with the group above, its tougher in this area to really rank guys sequentially because there’s not a lot of h2h to go on. Gerardo Franco probably has an argument to be higher, with recent wins over Sebastian Franco, over DLR and Jake in Cincy18, etc. I’ve got Lalo just ahead of Sebastian on account of his h2h win at Junior Worlds, but Lalo has lost multiple times to Gerardo Franco in the last year so this trio feels right. Martell has great wins (Landa, Jake, Horn), but then also has early tourney losses in recent WRT and amateur events. Garay has wins over guys in this grouping and against the likes of Parrilla and might be higher. Alonso plays the guys in this grouping tough, has wins over Parrilla in the past but needs more consistency.

Landeryou has h2h wins over both the next two guys below him hence the ranking, but not much else to go on. Reid has a win over Mercado and a US Open title in Men’s open in a draw that featured many players in this group or just below, so this ranking makes sense. Green has reigned over Canada racquetball for two decades but may be retiring and most recently lost to Landeryou at Canadian Nationals. Longoria has some wins over the likes of GFranco and Estrada and may have a case to be a bit higher. Lastly Manilla just took out Mercado in Laurel18 and has had a promising start to the new season, so this seems about right.

44. Alejandro Herrera Azcarate
45. Andres Andres Acuña
46. Fernando Rios
47. Diego Garcia Quispe
48. Maikel Mollet
49. Felipe Camacho
50. Nick Nicolas Bousquet

Herrera is a long-time IRT vet, just took the 2018 US Open Men’s Open draw over Acuna in the final and beating several Honorable Mention players along the way. Acuna has some solid wins recently (Portillo, Camacho, even Horn at the US Open) and may have a good argument to be higher. Rios doesn’t have much to go on recently but has good wins internationally in the past. Garcia is the 16U reigning world champ who has beaten a few of the HM players in limited adult tourneys. Mollet is the Cuban #1 who makes noise whenever he enters (beat Camacho h2h at Central American games in 2018 for example). Camacho has some wins over higher players (Fernandez, Allen) but has losses to players right in this group so this feels about right. Bousquet had some solid wins over HM players in 2017.

And it should be noted, there’s a slew of HM players below who might very well be in this group, or slightly higher. In fact, as I typed this I wondered if any number of the below players shouldn’t be in this 40-50 range.

Honorable Mentions: I can’t tag more than 50 players per post, so nobody below is tagged, but here’s the players just outside the top 50 by category:

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HM Int’l players: Fernando Kurzbard, Jose Daniel Ugalde, Juan Salvatierra, Francisco Troncoso, Andres Gomez, Teobaldo Fumero, Luis Perez, Christian Wer, Hiroshi Shimizu, Lee Connell, Set Cubillos, David Garcia

HM Mexican Players: Edson Martinez, Rodrigo Garay, Rodrigo Rodrigez, Alejandro Almada, Edwin Galicia, Miguel Rodriguez Jr., Daniel Neri, Erick Cuevas Fernandez, Alan Palomino

HM USA IRT Regulars: Thomas Carter, Robert Collins, Scott McClellan, Troy Warigon, John Wolfe

HM USA periodic players: Taylor Knoth, Nick Montalbano, Majeed Shaheen, Matthew Majxner, Maurice Miller, Brad Schopiery, Luis Avila, Brent Walters, Tim Prigo

HM USA Up and comers: Kevin Vasquez, Erik Garcia, Jordan Barth, Nick Riffel, Mauricio Zelada, Wayne Antone IV, Justus Benson, Danny Lavely, Lukas Le,Dylan Pruitt, Kyle Ulliman, A.J. Fernandez, Sam Bredenbeck, Sunji Spencer

HM retired pro players: Alex Ackermann, Gilberto De Los Rios, Kris Odegard, Ricardo Monroy, Anthony Herrera, Shai Manzuri, Javier Moreno 
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Phew. Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone; let me know in the comments if you think I did. Look forward to your commentary. Happy Holidays!

27th Annual LPRT Christmas Classic Pro-AM Wrap-Up

Longoria wins again.

Congrats to Paola Longoria on her win at the latest LPRT event. This is her 5th win out of 5 on the season, her 6th straight tournament win on tour, extends her current match winning streak to 25 matches, and she opens up an even larger lead on her two closest competitors (#2 Samantha Salas Solis, who reportedly had travel issues and did not attend, and #3 Frederique Lambert, who was upset in the round of 16). This win represents Paola’s 87th tournament win in our database.

Here’s a link to R2 Sports App website for the tourney: http://www.r2sports.com/website/event-results.asp?TID=29971

And here’s the PRS Match Report for the Singles draw.

http://www.proracquetballstats.com/cg…/print_results_new.pl…

Here’s a wrap-up of the notable matches (for me) in each round:

In the 32s:
– Lucia Gonzalez outlasted 16U world champ Valeria Centellas in four to advance in a battle of young up-and-coming players.
– In a battle of two long-time pro players, Laura Brandt (first pro appearance in 2005) outlasted Jennifer Mayadas-Dering (first pro appearance in 1996) in a five-game breaker.
– Danielle Maddux outlasted #11 Adrienne Fisher Haynes, the highest seeded player not getting a bye into the 16s, in a 5-game marathon.
– Michelle De La Rosa (DLR) also played a 5-game marathon, just eking by Hollie Scott 12-10 in the fifth in a back-and-forth encounter.

In the 16s, just one upset but several close matches.
– #8 Carla Muñoz Montesinos outlasted #9 Sheryl Lotts in four close games.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich needed a 5th game tie-breaker to down home-town favorite Masiel Rivera Oporto
– #4 Maria Jose Vargas seemed to be battling leg or ankle issues but came back from a 2-game deficit to down Lucia Gonzalez in five.
– The big upset though was De La Rosa ousting #2 Frederique Lambert. This is one of the biggest upets of the season and the first time in more than a year that a top 2 seed was upset at this juncture. DLR dominated, winning 6,4,7 and is in a great position to challenge for her second ever pro semi final.

In the Quarters: 
– #1 Paola Longoria made quick work of #8 Munoz 4,1,0
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich took a 3 game win over the hobbled #4 Vargas.
– #3 Alexandra Herrera took a 3-game win over #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein 
– #15 De La Rosa continued her great run, downing the #7 seed Amaya Crisin four games.

In the Semis:
– Longoria took out Rajsich in 3 straight games 4,5,7.
– Herrera ended DLR’s run by blitzing past her 1,0,8.

In the Final, Longoria improved to 10-0 lifetime on the pro tour against her country-mate Herrera 8,4,7.

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In the doubles.. Just one upset in the quarters (#5 over #4). In the semis the top two seeded teams advanced to the final. In the final. Longoria made it a double on the weekend, teaming with Virginia-based Kelani Lawrence to top #2 Lambert/Herrera 7,10.

Here’s the Doubles match report in the database.

http://www.proracquetballstats.com/cg…/print_results_new.pl…

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In the Men’s International Racquetball Tour Tier 5 event the top four seeds all advanced as expected to the semis:
– Sebastian Franco over Geoff Heskett
– MoMo Zelada over Brent Walters
– Maurice Miller over Thomas Gerhardt
– Troy Warigon over Mike Gaffney

In the semis, Franco took a close one over fellow local Zelada, while Atlanta-based Miller scored the upset over home-club favorite Warigon. In the final, Miller (who has been playing pretty tough lately) took a game off of the #5 ranked Franco but fell in a tiebreaker.

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Happy Holidays to you from PRS: next event isn’t until the new year, with the always popular Canoga Park event on the IRT.

27th Annual LPRT Christmas Classic Pro-AM Preview

Welcome to the final pro tournament of the calendar year 2018. Its the LPRT Christmas Classic, being played in Laurel MD. This is the same club that held the IRT season-opener a few months back and is a great venue for playing and watching.

This is the 27th annual iteration of this event, making it one of the longer running tourneys in existence. Useless fact; I used to help organize this event, some 20 years ago. Since i’m a digital pack rat, I dug back and found the organizational docs and start times for the 7th annual iteration of this event in 1998. After a time, the mantle was passed to current tournament director Karen Grisz, who has taken it to different venues around the DC area and has made it a regular LPRT stop for years. This year also includes an 18-man IRT tier 5 draw that i’ll preview after the ladies info.

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LPRT Singles draw. 22 ladies are entered, but there are some significant absences. #2 Samantha Salas Solis is missing, as is #6 Nancy Enriquez and #9 Gaby Martinez. This gives several players bumps into the top 8 and out of qualifying matches.

Interesting players in the draw include several local players of note: Kelani Lawrence is in the draw, as is Amie LeBrun Brewer and Masiel Rivera Oporto. The tourney has also drawn a few New England-based players out of NY and CT.

Here’s the round of 32 play-in matches to watch for:
Kelani Lawrence vs Amie Brewer: two VA residents duke it out to face the #1 seed.
– 7-time junior world champ Lucia Gonzalez makes her first appearance on the LPRT this season and faces off against current World 16u champ Valeria Centellas in an interesting match. 
– Adrienne Fisher Haynes vs Danielle Danielle Maddux: Danielle Maddux (nee Key) makes her first pro appearance in more than 8 years. The former US and World junior champion joins her sister Michelle on the tour and will team up in doubles as well.
– Michelle De La Rosa vs Hollie Scott: De La Rosa makes her 3rd LPRT appearance this season, with a play-in to the #2 seed.

In the round of 16…
– #1 Paola Longoria likely faces her doubles partner for the event in Lawrence. 
– In the always competitive 8/9th seed match: two LPRT touring vets face off in Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos and Sheryl Lotts. They’re 2-2 head to head on the LPRT, but all four matches were years ago (last meeting Sept 2016).
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich vs the home-town favorite #12 Masiel Rivera. Rivera has been playing solid and could push Rhonda here.
– De La Rosa vs #2 Frederique Lambert; DLR is a dangerous opponent, and Lambert has a couple of early upsets on her resume lately.

Projected Quarters: I’m going basically chalk for the back end of this tourney.
– Longoria over Munoz; she’s 10-0 over Carla on the LPRT
– Vargas over Rajsich: Vargas is 14-11 h2h lifetime over Rhonda on the LPRT but is having a solid season.
– Alexandra Herrera over Natalia Mendez Erlwein; Herrera is 3-1 lifetime over Mendez on the LPRT
– Lambert over Cristina Amaya: Lambert is 8-5 career over Amaya, but has won 7 of their last 8 meetings.

Semis:
– Longoria over Vargas: amazingly, Longoria is 23-0 over Vargas on the pro tour
– Lambert over Herrera: Frederique holds an 8-1 h2h advantage.

Finals: Longoria over Lambert; Paola is 26-1 career on the pro tour over Fred.

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LPRT Doubles

Salas’ absence means the dominant #1 team of Longoria/Salas cannot win this doubles event like they most often do. Instead, Longoria will team with Lawrence for this tourney. I think this may open the door for a team like #2 seeds Lambert/Herrera or Argentinian team of Mendez/Vargas to slip through and take the title.

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IRT Tier 5. Laurel is home to a couple of IRT regulars, so it only makes sense for them to compete on their home courts. I’m posting this before the brackets are available, but the top four seeds seem to be Sebastian Franco,Maurice MillerTroy Warigon, and Mauricio MoMo Zelada. Some good local east coast players are entered too (Ross Ross WeinbergThomas Gerhardt,Brent WaltersJordan Walters, Geoff Heskett, and others). Should be a good tourney.

Post publishing update: once the brackets were posted, we added this quick prediction:

  • Quarters: Franco over Heskett, Zelada over Weinberg, Miller over Gerhardt, Warigon over Gaffney
  • Semis: Franco over Zelada, Miller over Warigon
  • Finals: Franco over Miller

US Open IRT Mens Pro Doubles Wrap-up

Congrats to Alvaro Beltran and Daniel De La Rosa on their US Open Title.

Here’s the match report for the tourney: https://bit.ly/2C188Lc

Here’s a review of the event.

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First off… for racquetball fans of top-level tournament play, you cannot ask for more out of this doubles draw. Out of the 22 matches in this draw, 14 went to tiebreaker.  13 of the first 19 went tiebreaker, including two 11-10 matches. Every time we run another top-end doubles tourney, we seem to get more and more great play. I love this new focus on doubles in the Men’s Pro game.

An opinion from this observer: I wish the doubles qualified into the 16s and not the quarters: if there’s 23 teams entered it does seem unfair to give byes to four teams and force everyone else to play 2 or even 3 qualifiers.  I’m not sure how this decision was arrived at, if its driven by court availability (possibly) or just attempting to protect the top seeds (also a distinct possibility), but the 5th seeds really have a massive disadvantage as compared to the 4th seeds.

Here’s some notable 1st and 2nd round events for me:
– First, we have to start with the unbelievable match we saw in the round of 32; The 5th overall seeds Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz, who together as a team have made 3 finals in the last year, faced off against a team of 17-yr old phenoms in Sebastian Fernandez and Diego Garcia Quispe. Fernandez and Garcia had the 5th seeds completely flummoxed in the tie-breaker, running out to a 10-0 lead. However, Jake and Jose fought back, and saved off at least 8 attempts at match point across several trades of serves and came completely back to win 11-10. An amazing come-back that I can’t quite say i’ve ever seen in the pro game before. A quick note about the two juniors; they played top-level pro rball in this match and made a bunch of statement wins all weekend on the singles side.

– Andres Acuña and Felipe Camacho got a solid win over a tough doubles team of Charlie Pratt and Dylan Reid.

– Semi-regular IRT players Maurice Miller and DC-area native Troy Warigon teamed up to take out two accomplished IRT pros in Andree Parrilla and Gerardo Franco Gonzalez.

– College buddies from Baldwin-Wallace Thomas Carter and Kyle Ulliman shocked the team of Jansen Allen and Nick Montalbano in the first round.

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The round of 16 had all four “seeded” teams end up winning to qualify to the main draw … but all four matches went tiebreaker.
– David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas were stretched to 11-9 by the Miller/Warigon team.
– Bredenbeck/Diaz went 11-8 to advance past the Costa Rican team Acuna/Camacho.
– Top Bolivian team Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo and Roland Keller (the 2018 South American Games champs and 2018 Pan Am Games finalists) took out the Baldwin Wallace alumni team 11-0 in the breaker.
– Lastly, the tough Mexican team of Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Javier Mar had to go to extras to top the Denver duo of Adam Manilla and Nick Riffel.

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The Main draw featured some immediate upsets.
– Jose and Jake kept living on the edge, advancing again 11-10 over the Colombian pairing of Sebastian Franco and Mario Mercado.
– the Mexican team of Montoya & Mar took out the #3 seeds Alejandro Alex Landa and Samuel Murray in a tiebreaker.
– The #2 seeds and reigning IRF doubles champs Alvaro Beltran and Daniel De la Rosa ousted the Bolivian pairing of Moscoso/Keller in a rematch of the 2018 IRF Worlds semi final.
– Lastly, the #1 team of Kane Waselenchuk and Ben Croft, who havn’t lost a doubles match together since 2016, advanced over Horn and Rojas.

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In the semis:
– #1 Croft/Waselenchuk ended the Jake/Jose run, advancing 13,6
– #2 Beltran/DLR were pushed to the edge by country-mates Montoya/Mar, advancing with an 11-8 tiebreaker win.

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The Final represented a rematch of several notable pro doubles matches over the past year: this was the final of last year’s US Open, which resulted in an epic match some called “the greatest match ever played.” This was also the final of the World Doubles event in Denver last May, which ended in a controversial call/walking off the court.

On this night in 2018 in Minneapolis though, the Mexicans could do no wrong and took the doubles title by the surprising score of 11 and 6. It has been quite a year so far for Beltran and DLR; they won the Mexican Nationals, tnen won the world doubles title in Costa Rica, then took the 3-wall WOR doubles crown in Vegas just two weeks ago.


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US Open IRT pro Singles 32 and 16 review, Quarters preview

Today, the Thursday of the US Open, is perhaps my favorite day of pro racquetball all season. Two rounds of top-level pro racquetball on both the men’s and women’s side. Lets take a look at the notable Men’s matches from today and preview the Quarters tomorrow.

IRT round of 32 notable matches.

– Felipe Camacho got a solid win over Thomas Carter in the always-competitive 16-17 match-up, taking the tie-breaker 11-8.
– In his first game back since his retirement talk this past off-season, #3 Kane Waselenchuk took out a player less than half his age, defeating Mexican 18U and current 16U world titlist Sebastian Fernandez in two. The kid is just 17 years old and played fantastically this weekend in both singles and doubles.
– Alvaro Beltran, playing in his 19th US Open, was the first to advance to the 16s on the day, downing country-man Rodrigo Rodriguez, who was making just his second ever IRT appearance.
– Veteran Charlie Pratt ended Bolivian 16U player Diego Garcia Quispe run 12,5 . Just to re-iterate; both Fernandez and Garcia are in their age 17 seasons.
Javier Mar upset #14 Adam Manilla 5,14.
Daniel de la Rosa took out Ricardo Diaz, the reigning US 18U champ, in his IRT debut. A great showing from Diaz on his pro debut beating two very solid IRT semi-regulars in Nick Montalbano and Troy Warigon.
– Huge upset win for Andres Acuña, downing #11 David Horn in a tiebreaker. Two straight one-and-dones in the first two IRT events for Horn, who lost his opener in Laurel as well. Not a great start to the season for Horn, who made a big step forward last year by making his first semi and first final.
Mauro Daniel Rojas stretched #6 seed Sebastian Franco, but the Colombian prevailed 11-8.
– Maurice Miller gave #2 Alex Landa a scare, taking the first game before falling in a tie-breaker.
– Samuel Murray got a fantastic win, holding off the dark horse Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo in a tie-breaker; this was a quarter-finals quality matchup
in the 32s and sends home Moscoso much earlier than last year (when he ran to the quarters in his only prior IRT appearance.

IRT round of 16 notables matches:

– In a surprise to me, #8 Mario Mercado came back from a game down to top current IRF World Champ Rodrigo Montoya Solís. This observer thought Montoya had a good shot at making the finals in this event; I wonder how much Montoya’s recent ankle injury has affected him this week.
– #12 Jose Diaz got perhaps the best win of his career with a tie-breaker win over #5 Beltran.  Some post-game drama; reportedly Diaz was 25 minutes late to this match but was not penalized or forfeited.
Javier Mar more than held his own in losing to #3 Waselenchuk 12,10.
– #10 Andree Parrilla easily handled #7 Murray, perhaps worn out from a brutal earlier victory. Parrilla has now made the quarters in 4 of the last 5 IRT events he’s played, and 7 of the last 11 stretching well into last season; that includes a win and a final too. He’s a dangerous opponent who is one or two more big results from being a protected seed going forward.

Quarter Finals Preview:
6 of the top 8 seeds ended up advancing, setting up some very solid match-ups in the quarters. Run the top-20 tour-wide Head to Head matrix (link here: https://bit.ly/2yf522N) to fire off a new Head-to-Head “Tale of the Tape” report complete with pictures, biographical information and detailed match history for players in the IRT top 20.
– #1 Carson v #8 Mercado: Rocky is 6-0 lifetime against Mercado on the IRT, and despite Mercado’s great win today, I see Rocky making it 7-0. Both are control players, but Rocky will out-control Mario’s control game.
– #4 De La Rosa vs #12 Diaz: DLR is 4-0 against Diaz on the IRT, and is playing really solidly this week. Diaz fights for every point and punches above his weight class though, and won’t go down without a fight.
– #3 Waselenchuk vs #6 Franco: Kane is 2-0 over Franco lifetime, but despite Franco’s crisp play you never bet against the king.
– #2 Landa vs #10 Parrilla: Landa is 2-1 over Parrilla on the IRT, but 6-2 lifetime across multiple tours and Mexican National events. They’ve had close games and blow-outs. Parrilla seems like he’s in every match these days, and quietly he’s made the quarters in 4 of the last 5 events, and 7 of the last 11 pro events, a span that includes a win and a finals appearance. Landa will need to be “on” out of the gate.

Prediction: going chalk; 1,4,3 and 2 into the semis.

US Open IRT Men’s Qualifying Preview

It is upon us: the 23rd Annual US Open of Racquetball, held in Minneapolis, MN. Because of the size of this draw and the fact that it is our sport’s marquee event, I’ll do daily previews instead of talking about the whole tourney at once.

r2sports.com home page for the tourney is here.

Today, we preview the Men’s qualifying draw. There’s 69 players entered, slightly down from last year’s 73-person draw. The top 16 entered players get byes into the round of 32; the rest play two rounds of qualifying on Wednesday to earn their ticket into the main draw play starting Thursday.

This is the strongest draw you’ll likely see all season; 28 of the top 30 ranked IRT players are here (missing out of the singles draw is #25 Sudsy Monchik and #30 Ben Croft, who is only playing doubles this event). And a slew of dangerous international players ranked below the top 30 are here to make waves.

Just as a side note; I have several US Open-specialty queries at the site:
Matrix of all US Open finishes
Draw Sizes for all US Opens: (this year’s draw is solid … but comes nowhere close to the biggest ever pro draw in 2003).
Quarters/Semis/Final for all 22 US Opens
US Open Finish Summary, all players, all 22 events

Now, on to the qualifying preview…

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In the round of 128, here’s some interesting matches to watch out for:
– Dylan Reid, who does the fantastic Racquetball podcast “The Racquetball Show @racquetballshow is entered into the pro draw; he faces off against Canadian Jamie James Slamko in the first round (disclaimer; i’ve been a guest on Dylan’s show … so i can’t speak badly about him )
– Christian Longoria has a fun first rounder against Colombian veteran Andres Gomez.
– Tough Mexican Rodrigo Rodriguez makes just his second ever IRT appearance and faces off against IRT touring player John Wolfe.
– Mexican 18U player Oscar Nieto faces off against frequent IRT player Troy Warigon.
– Fresh off his WOR pro singles title last weekend, Long Island’s Nick Montalbano faces off against one of the Stockton crew; Ricardo Diaz.
– Bolivian 16U phenom Diego Garcia Quispe gets a first round date with fellow youngster from Mexico Erick Cuevas Fernandez. Both are still playing in the 16U ranks internationally.
– German Marcel Czempisz represents Europe for the first time in a while at this event, facing off against the reigning 16U world champ and 18U Mexican National champ in Sebastian Fernandez.
– Two up-and-coming American players face off in Wayne Antone and Kyle Ulliman.

Assuming some results, here’s some notable Round of 64 matches we may see and some highlights of the guys seeded in the 17-32 range who might make some noise this weekend.

– #17 seed Thomas Carter misses out on a protected seed by one slot; he’s fresh off his first ever pro quarter at the first IRT event of the year in Laurel. He should advance over either Daniel Maldonado or David Austin.
– #25 Scott McClellan (the Ref) may struggle to qualify for the main draw against the winner of Sergio Acuna & A.J. Fernandez.
– #24 Rodrigo Montoya Solís has shaken off an ankle injury sustained two weekends ago in the final of the Sonora Open. This is great news for this tourney, as the defending World Champion easily has the talent to advance deep into this draw. If he’s healthy, he has a relatively straight forward path into the quarters, perhaps deeper. He’ll get his first test, likely against Colorado’s Erik Garcia.
– #21 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez gets a brutal draw, with country-man Longoria playing into him. Franco is just 1-3 lifetime in top-level competitions against Longoria and may fall victim to the upset here.
– Montalbano and Warigon could have a good-ole East coast showdown to advance to the main draw; DC vs NY.
– #20 Nick Riffel is the unlucky recipient of a qualifying match against Garcia. I sense an upset here; Garcia played Adam Manilla tough in the pros at Laurel and made the Men’s Open final.
– #19 Javier Mar likely faces off against hard-hitting Bolivian Kadim Carrasco. Mar is a dangerous foe in any pro draw; he advanced to the quarters in last year’s US Open, downing two top 10 pros along the way. He’ll struggle to match that feat this year, playing into the #3 seed Kane Waselenchuk if he advances that far.
– #26 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo is one of the biggest names to watch this weekend; his ranking is solely based on his quarter finals appearance last US Open, where he played the King quite tough. He’s no unknown to the rball pro community though; he’s got enough international wins at this point to have long since made his name.
– Look for an all-Georgia winner take all and qualify match between Maurice Miller and Austin Cunningham.

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There’s some great racquetball to be had starting bright and early on Wednesday 10/3/18 (8:15am is the first pro qualifying matches).  Look for Facebook Live streaming from the IRT all day.