US Nationals Wrap-Up

Landa secures the National team Doubles spot in his first US competition since switching countries. Photo Kevin Savory

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Men’s Doubles: Sudsy Monchik & Alejandro Landa
– Women’s Doubles; Aimee Ruiz & Erika Manilla

And the winners of the Singles qualifiers:
– Men’s Singles: Rocky Carson
– Women’s Singles: Hollie Scott

Sudsy/Landa win three straight 11-9 breakers over former USA National doubles championship teams to take the title. Ruiz secures her 12th title (13th won on the court) and brings along Manilla for her first ever National Doubles title.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31680

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Lets review the notable matches in the Men’s Doubles draw.

Men’s Doubles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/989C2B

All three round of 16 matches were two game wins that weren’t necessarily that close: #9 MoMo Zelada/ Robert Collins “upset” the #8 seeded team of Brent Walters and Thomas Gerhardt 13,3 as the round’s closest match.

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In the Quarters, we saw some fun matches.

– #1 Rocky Carson and Charlie Pratt Racquetball dominated the #9 seeded team of Zelada/Collins 9,3 to move on.

– The #5 team of Alex Landa and Sudsy Monchik barely got by a very good #4 seeded team of Tony Carson and Jansen Allen (13),12,9. Carson/Allen jumped out to a huge lead in game one and it looked for a time like the match would be a blow-out, but Landa/Monchik battled back and lost game one on a disputed call. Game two was more in Landa/Monchik control towards the end, leading to the inevitable tiebreaker.

In the breaker, a very tense match reached its crescendo. There was almost nothing between these teams and throughout the 3rd game rallies often ended with spectacular pinch winners or debatable hinders. Carson’s backhand was lethal throughout the match, and his backhand hard Z gave Sudsy fits all night. At the end, Landa was able to find a serve that Allen couldn’t (or didn’t) attack, which led to scoring opportunities that they didn’t miss to pull away and get the last two points to win 11-9.

– After dropping the first game, #6 David ” Bobby” Horn] and Erik Garcia] were able to get the upset over #3 Adam Manilla] and Nick Riffel (7),3,5.

– #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ were pushed to a breaker, but eventually advanced over #7 Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon.

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In the Semis
– #5 Landa/Monchik dethroned defending champs Carson/Pratt in a fascinating match that went down to the wire. After dropping the first game rather easily, the #5 seeds regrouped and forced a tie-breaker. There, it went down to the a couple of critical rallies, just as their match in the quarters. Carson & Pratt looked like they had the match in hand, up 8-4 with the serve … they missed two opportunities to push it further, giving the serve back. There, a skip, a funny bounce a mis-communication and a crack-ace quickly got the match to 8-8. From there, Landa crushed a service return for a half out, then Rocky buried a pinch kill from 39 feet for 9-8. Sudsy then crushed a pinch kill to get a side out … called a skip for 10-8 but overturned by both line judges for a critical side-out at 8-9 for Landa/Monchik. From there … destiny took over; Pratt got hit by a call heading for a setup for 9-9, Landa buried a kill shot for 10-9 and then Pratt skipped a service return for an anti-climactic end to a great match.

– #2 Jake/Diaz overcame a first game defeat to cruise to the win, advancing to the final for the third time in five years, defeating #6 Horn/Garcia (11),5,3.

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In the Finals, Sudsy/Landa looked for a time to be cruising to the title, jumping out to a big game one lead before Jake/Jose fought back to make it a game. Game two was one-way traffic, setting up yet another nail biting tiebreaker. There, the veterans jumped out to a big lead, only to have Jake/Jose grind back to 9-9. Then, as with the two previous matches, Landa/Monchik faced 9-9 down without the serve, got it back and served it out for the match.

The cardiac kid veterans beat three former champs, each time 11-9 in the breaker, to secure the title and claim National team spots.

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Women’s Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/846600

In the quarters, two matches:
– The young #4 seeds Jazmin Trevino and Erin Slutzky prevailed in a breaker over #5 Cassie Lee and Fran Transfiguracion 11-8.
– the #3 seeds of collegiate stars Hollie Scott and Lexi York dominated the team of Graciana Wargo and Jessica Chen 4.3.

In the Semis:
– #1 seeds Aimee Roehler Ruiz and Erika Manilla cruised to the final over the #4 team of Trevino/Slutzky 7,7
– #3 Hollie Scott and Lexi York] outplayed the #2 seeded team of Kelani Lawrence and Sheryl Lotts, winning in two games 8,13 to move into the final.

In the Finals: the #1 seeds dominated, led by Ruiz’ experience and cruised to the title 6,9.

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Men’s Singles Qualification:

(No match report in PRS database b/c we’re not loading this data right now).

Here’s a review of the singles qualifier:

round of 16 notable matches:
– #8 Maurice Miller got a solid win over #9 Erik Garcia 12,(6),5.
– #12 MoMo Zelada got the biggest upset of the night, playing a solid match to down #5 Charlie Pratt 12,11. Pratt made the semis of the last two US Nationals event, and Zelada has really been playing well lately.
– #6 Thomas Carter came back from a 15-0 first game defeat to down #11 Robert Collins (0),7,9 in a battle of lefty IRT tour veterans. Collins really couldn’t do anything wrong in the first, but Carter made some adjustments to advance.
– #7 Manilla took two solid games over the improving #10
Sam Bredenbeck 8,12 to move on.

In the Quarters: all four top seeds advanced in two games in the near-chalk draw:
– #1 Carson over #8 Miller
– #4 Horn over #12 Zelada
– #3 Bredenbeck over #6 Carter
– #2 Landa over #7 Manilla

In the Semis:
– #1 Carson remained undefeated against #4 Horn, but was pressed to a tie-breaker to advance.
– #2 Landa also remained undefeated against #3 Bredenbeck, winning in two straight.

In the final, a fatigued Landa fell to Carson in two games; it looked for a bit like Landa could rally for a breaker in the second game, but a couple of curious calls went against him at the tail end of game two, he lost focus and the match was over; Carson wins 6,14.

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Women’s Singles

Round of 16 notables:
– #8 Jessica Chen took out her doubles partner #9 Wargo in two.
– #6 York dropped the first game against junior Slutzky before advancing.

In the quarters: all four top seeds advanced.
– #1 Rhonda Rajsich over #8 Chen
– #4 Erika Manilla went tiebreaker to advance over #5 Lotts, dropping the first game 6 then winning (6),7,3.
– #3 Scott downed her doubles partner York 8,9
– #2 Lawrence took out fellow LPRT touring regular Cassie Lee 6,1.

In the semis:
– #4 Manilla got a career win, topping #1 Rajsich in a tie-breaker.
– #3 Scott upset #2 Lawrence in a rematch of last year’s US National singles final.

I said my peace on the seeding issues here in the preview; this event was mis-seeded, and these semis match-ups demonstrate why it was mis-seeded and why Lawrence in particular probably feels hard done by here.

In the final…Scott prevailed over Manilla in the breaker to put herself in the driver’s seat for a National team spot.

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National Team Standing Implications of these results.

(see https://www.teamusa.org/…/Team-U…/Qualifying-for-the-US-Team
for qualifying guidelines and point scoring here).

On the Men’s side, if my calculations are correct, then the top for candidates in the race for the two National team singles spots are:
1. Landa: 36
2. Carson: 32
3. Jake: 20
4. Horn.20

Despite losing the final here, Landa is in the lead for a national team spot thanks to the vast difference in US OPen results. Landa and Carson have a pretty sizeable lead over Jake and Horn; the only way Jake or Bobby could surpass Landa or Carson is to win US Nationals this coming May and have one of Landa/Carson upset prior to the semis.

On the Women’s side, here’s the current standings:
1. Scott: 31
2. Manilla: 24
3. Rhonda: 20
4. Kelani: 19

Hollie pretty much has a spot sewn up at this point: The second spot will come down to how 2 thru 4 play at Natioanls in May.

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Other notable draws from National Doubles:

– Miller and Warigon took the Men’s Open Doubles title.
– Trevino and Slutzky took the Women’s Open Doubles title.

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Next up?

There’s no major tournaments anywhere in the world (pro or amateur) until the first week of March. So we have a bit of a break.

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USA Racquetball
International Racquetball Tour
LPRT
International Racquetball Federation – IRF

US National Doubles (with Singles qualifier) Preview

Carson to go for the double this weekend as the #1 seed in both Singles and Doubles. Photo Portland 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Welcome to the first major Amateur Nationals event of Fy2020. Its the US National doubles event, being held in Tempe, AZ on the campus of Arizona State University.

This is the 53rd iteration of US National doubles: The first was held in 1968 in Madison, Wisconsin and the first Men’s US national title was won by the team of Simie Fein and Jim White. The Women’s event doesn’t seem to have started until 1972; the first winners I have on record were Jan Pasternak and Kimberly Hill, who won the title in Memphis in 1972.

Click here for a full list of all Men’s titlists: http://rball.pro/8862E4

Click here for a full list of Women’s titlists: http://rball.pro/A7F6CA

Rocky Carson holds the Men’s record for most National Doubles titles; he has 11 titles in 13 appearances. Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson holds the record on the Women’s side with 14 titles in 15 appearances.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31680

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Lets preview the Men’s Doubles draw:

The Men’s draw has 11 teams, highlighted by both of last year’s finalist teams as the #1 and #2 seeds. The big news of course this year is the entry of one team in particular: Alex Landa , the current #2 player on the IRT has entered with 5-time pro tour champ and Hall of Famer Sudsy Monchik.

Landa, who has represented Mexico his entire career, famously was left off the Mexican delegation to the Pan American Games last year despite winning the 2019 Mexican Nationals event. The Mexican federation made this decision based on rather “debatable” guidelines to say the least, and in the aftermath Landa asked for (and was granted) his release from the Mexican team. He’s a dual citizen and has resided in Texas for many years, and quickly was able to obtain clearance to enter in US national events. He’s an accomplished doubles player, currently ranked #3 on the IRT doubles ranking, and is a right-side (forehand) player. He’s teamed a legend and a great left-side (backhand) doubles player in Sudsy to make a pretty formidable team. They’re handed the #5 seed, meaning they’ll have to play through both top seeds to win it.

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Lets preview the Men’s doubles draw:

Round of 16: there’s three play-in round of 16 matches, with some interesting match-ups

– In the 8/9 matchup; an east coast flair: North Carolina native Brent Walters teams with top Virginia player Thomas Gerhardt to take on Maryland native MoMo Zelada and his partner, Hawaiian-turned-NorCal guy Robert Collins: Collins as a lefty gives that team an advantage here over the two east coast veterans.
– The solid #6 team of David ” Bobby” Horn and reigning intercollegiate champ Erik Garcia takes on #11 team of Arizona youngsters Ben Baron and Preston Tribble.
– #7 team of good friends from the east coast Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon take on #10 team Justus Benson and Sam Bredenbeck. Four semi-regular IRT players here battle it out and a ton of hard hitters.

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Projected Qtrs:
– #1 Defending champs Carson and Charlie Pratt Racquetball likely take on Zelada/Collins and should control the floor.
– #5 Monchik/Landa get started against the #4 team of Jansen Allen and Tony Carson, the 2013 champions. Both former top-10 IRT pros, Carson is just coming back from a year-long injury to his achilles heel and had to forfeit out of the last pro event he entered, while Allen has taken a step back from touring full time. This will be a good first test for Monchik/Landa and a tough draw for the former champs.
– #3 Adam Manilla and his college buddy Nick Riffel likely play Horn/Garcia. Manilla as a lefty gives this team a big advantage, but Garcia can be the x-factor here. Look for the upset.
– #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ likely face the #7 seeds Warigon/Miller and should advance.

Semis:
– I like Monchik/Landa to upset the #1 seeds Carson/Pratt here. My simple theory in predicting doubles matches is to look at the match-up on the right-hand side to predict matches; If there’s a weak link on the court, it often presents on the forehand side of the weaker team. Pratt is by no means a “weak” player, but Landa isn’t #2 in the world by accident. I think Sudsy hangs with Rocky on the backhand and Landa makes the difference on the forehand.
– I like #2 Jake/Diaz to make the final again; they’re just too experienced playing together and too good of a team.

Finals:
– Landa didn’t switch to the USA to not make the team; he’s on a mission in Arizona, and I like them for the upset win.

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Lets preview the Women’s Doubles draw:

Just 6 teams entered here. #1 seed includes one member of last year’s on-the-court champion team in Aimee Roehler Ruiz, who is second all-time to Paraiso-Larseen in career US National doubles titles with 11. She was part of the winning team last year before having the title vacated, but now she’s back with a new partner as the top seed. The #2 seeds from last year (the Key sisters Michelle De La Rosa and Danielle Maddox) are not entered, thus we’ve got a wide-open field.

In the Quarters i’m predicting chalk:
– #4 Jazmín Treviño and Erin Slutzky over #5 Cassie Lee and Fran Transfiguracion
– #3 Hollie Scott and Lexi York over #6 Graci Wargo & Jessica Chen.

In the semis:
– i like the #1 team of Ruiz and Erika Manilla to advance to the final.
– I think the #2 seeds of Kelani Lawrence] and Sheryl Lotts, two LPRT regulars who are impressing this season, will have their hands full with Scott and York but will prevail.

Predicted final: I like Lawrence/Lotts over Ruiz/Manilla. Ruiz’ leftiness helps, but I suspect that the overall talent level of the #2 seeded team will overcome the #1 seeds in the final.

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Singles qualifier Review:

The USA added the singles event to National Doubles in 2016 as part of a revamping of the way the National team is decided. US players now compete in three events to gain “points” towards team qualification; the US Open in October, National doubles in February and National singles in May. One may argue that using US Open pro results is unfair (it is; you’re often playing non-US players while competing towards a US team spot), but it is the only other “major” event we have at the moment.

A reminder: I have captured these non-Nationals events in my staging area, but they are NOT loaded into the database and are not currently queryable. I’ve had requests to add this data for a better head to head representation (especially for Canadians, who have been holding these types of events for years), or to get winners of these past events … but it would take significant retrofitting of the reports to do so, so its back burnered for now.

That being said, its a great draw in Tempe and I look forward to it as a fan.

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Men’s singles draw review:

Some questions have arisen related to the seedings here: if Landa just converted to USA … how is he seeded 2nd? Well that’s because USAR uses their internal rankings and Carson is ahead of Landa. See https://www.usaracquetballevents.com/rankings.asp . The USAR rankings do include basically all pro players, and is driven mostly by head to head match-ups. But, just because playerA beats playerB doesn’t automatically move them ahead; the last time Landa played Carson was in the final of the Nov 2019 Fullerton event, a Landa win … yet he remains behind Rocky until he beats him again.

Here’s some notable matches from the 16s I look forward to:
– 8/9 Erik Garcia vs Maurice Miller should be a great match; I think the collegiate champ moves on.
– 5/12 Zelada vs Pratt is interesting: Zelada doesn’t play every pro event but can hang with the players regularly in the 9-16 range. Pratt used to make noise in nearly every event he entered, but as he winds down from full time touring he’s been taking more and more earlier early round losses; in his last 7 pro stops over the last two years he’s made just 3 main draws.
– 6/11: Collins vs Thomas Carter: love the lefty on lefty matches.
– 7/10: Adam Manilla vs Sam Bredenbeck: could be an interesting match here; can Sam get the upset?

Projected Quarters:
– #1 Carson over #9 Garcia
– #4 Horn over #5 Pratt: Bobby beat Charlie in last year’s US Nationals and recently in a local event on his home court and I think he prevails again.
– #3 Jake Bredenbeck over #6 Carter
– #2 Landa over the Manilla

Semis:
– #1 Carson moves on over Horn; he’s 4-0 lifetime over Bobby.
– #2 Landa tops Jake Bredenbeck; he’s 8-0 lifetime over Jake.

Final: tough one to call; I think Landa is super motivated to win and get a big leg up on qualifying for the team. If this was actually Nationals i’d go with Landa, but here Rocky takes the title since by Sunday I perceive Rocky will be out of doubles while Landa will be shooting for two titles.

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Women’s singles draw review:

First, can someone explain the seeding in this event to me? Right now, on USAR’s ranking page Kelani Lawrence is ahead of Rhonda Rajsich. Kelani BEAT Rhonda in Nationals last year en route to the title and is the defending champ. How is Kelani not seeded #1? I don’t get it. You may say “oh seeding doesn’t matter you have to beat everyone to win” … but as you’ll see, Kelani now has a significantly harder semis match than the #1 seed has.

Nonetheless, here’s a preview of this draw. Notable early matches to watch:
– 8/9 Wargo vs Chen: young doubles partners square off early.
– 6/11: York vs Slutzky: can the junior Slutzky (just finishing her 16U year and making her adult debut) challenge York?

quarters projection:
– #1 Rajsich over Wargo
– #5 Lotts over #4 Manilla; this should be a great match.
– #3 Scott over #6 York, again doubles partners squaring off.
– #2 Lawrence over #7 Lee.

The rubber meats the road in the semis.

– #1 Rajsich vs #5 Lotts: Rhonda has had a tough pro season so far: four times she’s lost in the 16s, but she’s also made two semis. Lotts has competed well against top-8 players but has yet to break through with a round of 16 win. Rhonda has never lost to Lotts, and this may go deep but Rhonda prevails.
– #2 Lawrence vs #3 Scott: this is a rematch of last year’s final (which is why seeding accuracy is so important); Kelani prevailed there 11-10 but it could have gone either way. Since then, Lawrence has made a concerted effort to play the LPRT more, and has a slew of solid results. I think Lawrence has grown more in the last year as a player than Scott, and prevails here.

Final:

Lawrence and Rajsich again. These two met in US Nationals events in 2016, 2018 and 2019. They’ve also met in this qualifier event every year since it started: 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. So its only fitting that they meet in the 2020 iteration.

In all of these 7 matches, Rhonda is 6-1. But that one win was in last year’s Nationals event. Lawrence got that break through win and hasn’t looked back. Lawrence for the win here too.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow USA Racquetball on Facebook and register for live video notifications. Leo Ray Vasquez on the mike all weekend as usual.

Tags

International Racquetball Tour
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2020 Wintergreen Wrap-up

Zelada captures a strong Wintergreen pro field. Photo via youtube screenshot capture of Formula flow promotional video

While the International Racquetball Tour was in Austin this past weekend for the Longhorn Open, one of the longer continuously running events in the land was happening back in my neck of the woods, with an IRT Tier 5 draw plus a solid Women’s open draw that saw some great matches and contributed to some great Mixed Open play.

Here’s a wrap-up of the 2020 Wintergreen Classic from Laurel, Md this past weekend.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30705

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In the Men’s Pro:

Seeds when chalk to the semis, where the top four seeds advanced in #1 Maurice Miller, #2 MoMo Zelada, #3 Troy Warigon and #4 David Austin. We saw all these players in action in Laurel when the IRT visited in September, and they were all back here for this event.

Other notables in the draw: LPRT touring pro and Momo’s wife Masiel Rivera Oporto competed in the draw, upset the 5th seed and fell in the quarters. Top east coast junior Dylan Pruitt, who represented the USA playing doubles in the World Juniors last November, was the 6th seed and fell to home-town player Warigon in the qtrs.

In the semis:
– #1 Miller defeated New Jersey’s #4 seed Austin 5,7
– #2 Zelada went tie-breaker with #3 Warigon as they often do, with Zelada coming out on top again 11-4.

In the final, Zelada outlasted Miller for the third time in the last year in east coast events, blanking him in the breaker to take the title.

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Women’s Open:

Virginia’s Kelani Lawrence was the 3rd seed of three LPRT pros in this round robin, but beat both Valeria Centellas and Masiel Rivera in dominant fashion to take the title. It was definitely a statement by Kelani, who has now broken into the LPRT top 20.

Interesting side note: Centellas’ home town in r2sports was listed as Buenos Aires, Argentina. I had heard rumors that she was considering a country switch from Bolivia to Argentina and I wonder if it is now official. This is an interesting development for the international game; Argentina has long been represented by two top LPRT pros in the international game (Maria Jose Vargas and Natalia Mendez, ironically themselves both Bolivian-born and naturalized as well). We’ll see if this gets officially announced at some point.

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In Men’s Open Doubles; the 2nd and 3rd seeded singles players Miller and Warigon teamed up to dominate long-time Virginia-based tourney players Ross Weinberg and Raul Berrios in the final. Good showing by the veteran team to oust the #2 seeded youngsters of Pruitt/Austin to advance.

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In Mixed Open Doubles: the presence of a number of top women’s players made the Mixed Open draw fabulous.

In one semi, #1 seeds Warigon & Lawrence took out top dc-area doubles players Weinberg and Kristen Junkin Jones, and in the other semi #2 seeds Miller and Centellas defeated Rivera and Pruitt.

In the final, the reigning world doubles champion Centellas helped spur her team to victory, with Miller/Centellas winning a tight two-game match against Warigon/Lawrence.

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Great play all around

International Racquetball Tour
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USA Racquetball
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
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Asociación Argentina de RacquetballRacquetball Tournament in Laurel, MD USA at SportFit Total Fitness Racquet Club. 1/17/2020 – 1/19/2020 2020 Wintergreen Classic.R2SPORTS.COM

Xmas Classic IRT Tier 5 Singles wrap-up

Maurice Miller the triple-winner on the weekend. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

There was a 14-man IRT Tier 5 event at the LPRT Xmas classic; here’s a recap of that and some of the other amateur events that went on.

A ton of the LPRT pros played Mixed Open, there was a solid Women’s Open draw, and a few Men’s Open teams as well.

In the IRT Singles draw:
– #1 Maurice Miller took out top VA amateur #4 Thomas Gerhardt in one semi, and then #3 Troy Warigon defeated #2 Mauricio Zelada in the other. The 2/3 match was pretty special; the two home-court players played the perfect match: 14,(14),10.
– In the final, MIller overcame a game-1 loss to defeat Warigon for the title.

In Men’s Open, the two singles finalists teamed up to take the Open Doubles title over #3 seeds Dylan Pruitt and Jersey native David Austin.

In Women’s Open: Carla Muñoz Montesinos made up for her quarters loss in pros to take the singles Open title over Lexi York.

In Mixed Open, the two Mens singles finalists advanced again to the finals, and there Miller teamed up with Natalia Mendez Erlwein to take the title over #2 Warigon, who played with Virginia native Kelani Lawrence.

This made Miller the rare triple-winner on the weekend.

IRT Pro Doubles Qualifying Wrap-up

Here’s a wrap-up of the Pro Doubles qualifying, which had some pretty amazing matches.

Before we get into it though, a bit of opining.

– 27 total teams entered, so that means 23 teams were competing for 4 spots in the main draw? I think the tour has to fix this going forward. That’s just too much of an advantage to the four teams that got byes into the quarters. At the very least it should have been 23 whittled to 8 spots in a round of 16. This would have given main draw exposure to one of several teams that ended up getting eliminated at the qualifying stage.

– Why did seeding for the Pro doubles deviate from the IRT pro doubles rankings? It looks like the doubles draw utilized the typical USAR method of automatically seeding last year’s finalists 1 and 2. On the one hand, yeah I think Kane/Croft deserve a top 2 seed b/c, well, I think they’re one of the two best teams. However, what I “think” shouldn’t be a factor; that’s why you have a ranking system and it should have been used irrespective of where the teams landed. Jose Diaz has a point.

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Here’s the notable qualifying matches on the Men’s doubles side:

In the 64s:

– #20 Alan Natera Chavez and Rodrigo Garay R took out the young #21 team of Sebastian Fernandez and Diego Garcia Quispe (combined age; 35) in a tiebreaker

– East Coasters #14 Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon were taken to the limit by the Mexican junior pairing #27 seeded Manuel Moncada and Guillermo Ortega 11-10.

– The “old guy” pairing #17 seeded Rocky Carson and Cliff Swain (combined age; 93) got their tourney started with a solid win over two tough Florida-based players in Mike Harmon and Alejandro Herrera Azcarate 5,10.

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In the 32s:

– #5 seeds and team most immediately affected by the a-formentioned seeding issue Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz got going with a solid 11,11 win over Natera/Garay.

– #16 Charlie Pratt and Dylan Reid took a solid game over an excellent doubles pairing of the Costa Rican national team and #9 seeded Andres Acuña / Felipe Camacho in a tiebreaker.

– Carson/Swain pulled a rabbit out of their hat by saving a slew of match-points in both game 2 and the tie-breaker to advance (9),14,10 over #8 Andree Parrilla and Lalo Portillo

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In the 16s

– #5 Jake/Diaz were upset by #13 seeded Bolivian pairing of Carlos Keller Vargas and Kadim Carrasco 11-8 in the breaker.

– In a rematch of the 2019 Pan Am Games final, #11 seeds Bolivians Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball and Roland Keller took out the Pan Am champs, Mexican #6 seeds Javier Mar and Rodrigo Montoya Solís in a tiebreaker. This is just too good of a match to happen this early, as these are clearly two of the best teams in the world and have demonstrated it on multiple occasions.

– the “old guys” continued their run, with Swain/Carson taking out Pratt/Reid to move on to face the top seeds.

– Estrada/Ochoa took care of business and advanced into the main draw; they’ll be dangerous in the next round.

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Great Pro doubles quarterfinals set to go for thursday night!

IRT Men’s Qualifying wrap-up and round of 32 preview

Jaime Martel lis the higest seeded player to qualify for the 2019 main draw. Photo via Roby Partovich/US Open 2015

We’re down to the top 32, having played 2-3 rounds of qualifiers Wednesday to whittle the field from 94.

here’s the matches I found notable or upset-worthy from Wednesday’s marathon qualifying.

In the 256s:
– fellow Virginian Rich Benderoth took a tiebreaker win over Erik Solter. Shout out to Rich, who regularly spanked me a decade ago when I used to actually play this sport. Unfortunately he injured himself in the process and forfeited his next round.

– USA 18U junior Lucas Shoemaker gets a win in his professional debut, downing Bolivian Vladimir Fernando Salas in a tie-breaker.

– Colorado native Jacob Kingsford gets a win in his debut pro/national level event over Ecuadorian Fabian Cuesta].

– An intra-Dallas inter-generational battle was taken by the veteran; Diana-Shai Manzuri took out Lukas Le 5,6 to advance.

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In the 128s:
– Andrew Gale took out IRT regular Nick Riffel in a tie-breaker; very solid win for the veteran player Gale, who first played in the US Open in 2006.

– Francisco Reyes took out IRT touring regular Justus Benson 6,12.

– Erik Garcia took out the tough Mexican Christian Longoria by the scores of 10,2.

– Troy Warigon dominated rematch of a qualifier in Laurel two weeks ago against Yacouba Keita, advancing by the dominant scores of 3,1.

– Sam Bredenbeck took out Colombian international Andres Gomez in two solid games.

– Sebastian Fernandez himself still an 18U junior, was stretched to a tiebreaker by a fellow Mexican junior (albeit a younger one) in Guillermo Ortega before advancing.

– Pennsylvania amateur Joe Kelley stretched Alan Natera Chavez to a tiebreaker before the Mexican advanced.

– Former top WRT pro Jaime Martell Neri took out 20th ranked Costa Rican Felipe Camacho.

– In a battle of two IRT veterans, Colombian Alejandro Herrera Azcarate took out Japanese legend Hiroshi Shimizu in two close games to advance.

———————-
In the 64s.

– Kansas amateur Bradley Rogers upset the highest ranked player in qualifying, 17th seeded Robert Collins 12,8 to earn a main draw berth. Rogers gets his best win on tour in four years.

– Javier Estrada advanced over Bolivian junior phenom Diego Garcia Quispe, who had to retire mid-game2 with injury. The two were playing close though, with the score 13-14 at the point of injury.

– Javier Mar dominated Ernesto Ochoa 13,5 to advance to the main draw and a meeting with his doubles partner. Tough draw for Ochoa, who was making his IRT Tier 1 debut here after putting up some very impressive results in 2019.

– Bolivian vet Kadim Carrasco was pushed to a tiebreaker by Colombian Set Cubillos Ruiz before advancing.

– Big upset of a dark horse candidate for me: Colombian Francisco Reyes Gomez upset Natera in a tiebreaker to advance. We don’t know much about Reyes; he’s got a few US Open appearances in the past but this is probably his best career win.

– Martel gets a great win to advance into the main draw, topping Garcia 14,6.

– Eduardo Garay Rodriguez held serve and topped MoMo Zelada 11,9 to advance into the main draw.

– Maurice Miller ended Gale’s upset run to qualify.

———————–

now for the 32s. And there’s some amazing matches today. Here’s what i’m looking for:

– #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #33 Estrada: Estrada made a statement at the Black Gold cup, topping 4 top 10 players to take the title. Well, now he can measure up against the worlds best for a status check.

– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #24 Mar: these two ran into each other in the round of 32 at the Syosset open as well; just a function of unlucky seeding. Mar took that last meeting en route to a quarter final appearance. Expect a close match between these doubles partners that know each other’s game pretty well.

– #8 Samuel Murray vs #25 Keller: pay no attention to the seedings here: this is a battle of two evenly matched players. They met in the 16s of the Pan Am Games in Lima, a tie-breaker win for the Canadian. But Keller is no easy out; he’s an experienced, accomplished international player with two PARC titles on his resume

#13 David Horn​ vs #77 Martell; This is an interesting matchup between two long stalwards of the WRT. These two met 9 times on the old WRT, with Horn leading 5-4 h2h but Jaime Martell Racquetball​ taking the most recent meeting (May 2018 in Atlanta). This could go either way; Horn has missed time with an injury this season; is he 100%? He’ll need to be to beat his long time rival. (post-publishing correction; initially I had Martell playing into Landa here; my staging tables were incorrect and hence this correction after publishing).

– #14 Lalo Portillo vs #19 Charlie Pratt; Watch out for the upset here; every time Pratt enters a draw he makes noise. Pratt could lose here to the rapidly improving Portillo, or he could run to the semis. Expect a tactical battle here.

– #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #27 Garay: I like this match; Garay’s power versus DLR’s guile. Daniel won’t be surprised by Garay’s pop; they met in teh 2016 Mexican nationals prior to Garay’s re-flagging and he advanced in a tiebreaker. I like DLR here but I think it goes breaker.

– #10 Mario Mercado vs #23 Sebastian Fernandez; this is a fascinating match-up between Mercado, who despite having (in my opinion) improving results on the court lately is treading water from a rankings perspective thanks to rising pressure of up and coming players, and Fernandez, who seems set to jump straight from 18U into the pro ranks and make a splash. I think this goes down to the wire with the veteran advancing.

– #15 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #18 Andres Acuña; this should be another barn burner; they’ve met four times in IRF junior and senior events and 3 times it has gone breaker. All four are Moscoso wins … but Acuna always make sit hard on the Bolivian number one.

———————-

We’ll circle back for the 16s once the 32s are done.

International Racquetball Tour
Racquetball Canada
UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships

International Racquetball Federation – IRF
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Fecoracquet Fecoracquet
USA Racquetball

US Open IRT Men’s Pro Qualifying Preview

Here we go; the biggest tournament I think i’ve ever covered is upon us. A massive 94-man pro draw features 78 players playing in the qualifiers to advanced into the round of 32.

R2 Sports Tournaments draws are here: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30501

Here’s a prevew of some of the projected match-ups I’ll be looking for on the first day of the US Open 2019. Below are fun match-ups to look for in the 3 rounds of qualifying.

In the opener/round of 256:
– #68 Colombian Francisco Gomez takes on Mexican youngster Manuel Moncada in a good opener for both.
– Two top east coast amateurs face off in #78 Floridian Jonathan Burns versus #83 New Jersey native Samuel Kelley. Kelley played well at the Laurel event two weeks ago as a nice warm-up to this event, while Burns has been playing the US Open for more than a decade.

– #79 Diana-Shai Manzuri versus #82 Lukas Le; what an interesting match-up here: the international veteran and long-time Argentinian representative Manzuri (who practices medicine in Texas) faces up against a fellow Dallas-area resident in Le, who’s currently playing intercollegiates and is half Shai’s age. Will youth or experience win out?

—–
In the round of 128 (assuming some play-in match results):

– #41 Mexican Ernesto Ochoa takes on Canadian veteran Tim Landeryou. Ochoa is a dark-horse here; he’s got multiple wins over IRT top 10 players in the last two seasons. Landeryou played two pro stops last year and can make trouble for any opponent.

– #37 Colombian Set Cubillos ruiz takes on #60 Texan A.J. Fernandez in a match that could be closer than the seeding looks.

– Current Intercollegiates reigning champ #45 Erik Garcia takes on #52 Mexican Christian Longoria. Garcia is a tough out, with several wins over regular IRT touring pros. But Longoria has a unique playing style and has some significant wins on his resume too. Great match-up.

– #77 Jaime Martell Neri takes on #20 Costa Rican Felipe Camacho in a solid match for this round. Martell left the old WRT as its #1 ranked player and won the 2018 WRT Georgia Open with wins over Horn and Bredenbeck along the way. Camacho missed the first two IRT events and may be stepping back from touring, but is a solid player worthy of his top 20 ranking. Look for a barn burner here.

– #36 Troy Warigon vs #62 Yacouba Keita an unlucky match-up between two good friends and sometimes doubles partners; they also met in the qualifiers at Laurel, a tiebreaker win for Warigon is what happened in Maryland two weeks ago and what should happen again here.

———
In the round of 64 (again, assuming some earlier match results):

– #33 Javier Estrada vs #32 Bolivian 16U Diego Garcia Quispe. 32 vs 33 never disappoints; Estrada had an unbelievable tournament this summer, topping four of the best 15 players in the world to take the Black Gold cup, but his results have been hit or miss since. This will basically be his first appearance in earnest on the IRT, ever (he played in 2010 as a 15yr old when the tour came to his home-town of Chihuahua for his sole previous IRT appearance). I’m highly anticipating his performance here. To get to the main draw though, he has to go through a tough up and coming Bolivian player in Garcia, who has a slew of World Junior titles and is the current reigning 16U world champ. Garcia can hang with Estrada but it should be a win for the Mexican here.

– #24 Javier Mar vs #41 Ochoa; great match; Mar is no longer the dark-horse in these major events like he used to be; he’s got National titles in singles and world titles in Doubles to his name. And every time he shows up at the US Open he makes a deep run. Meanwhile Ochoa is a dangerous opponent here and has the capabilities of making the 16s or quarters of an IRT event, but I like Mar’s experience to move on.

– Assuming earlier results, Garcia is set to meet Martel for an entry into the main draw. I think either player could win, I think Martel should be favored but he has to play one additional match on Wednesday which could sap his endurance enough to cost him here. Look for Garcia to outlast Martel to move on.

– #27 Mexican native and Colombian national Eduardo Garay Rodriguez vs Bolivian turned DC-area native MoMo Zelada; A fun match-up here between the under-rated Zelada (who has shown he can hang with top players) and the powerful Garay, who just took the Colombian national championships over 10th seeded Mercado and can play. If you’re in the club when this match is going on, you’ll know it b/c Garay is one of the hardest hitters on tour.

– #22 Jansen Allen vs #54 Andres Gomez; Gomez is an upset pick to get here by seed, but he’s gotten some results this year, including an upset of Mercado in the PARC event in april 2019 while representing Colombia. Allen is a former top 10 player who has missed the first couple of events this season after many years of consistently touring; he’s got his work cut out to get to the main draw here.

– #31 Maurice Miller vs #34 Nick Riffel; a tight match between two touring regulars. Miller’s been active in events this summer and fall, while Riffel has missed the first couple IRT events and seen his ranking slip a bit. I like Miller here in a tiebreaker.

– #18 Costa Rican Andres Acuña Quesada vs #50 Alejandro herrera; Florida native Herrera first played the US Open in 2003 and represented Colombia internationally as recently as 2016. He’s a hard-hitter who relies on his serve to generate points. Acuna has seen his rball career drive forward in jumps lately; he made the semis of 2019 PARC, made the quarters of the Laurel IRT event and just made the singles final of Vegas 3-WallBall despite barely playing outdoor before. He’s a tough out.

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My predicted qualifiers (in the order of the Qualifying draw on R2sports, not in seed order or Qualifier # order):

Robert Collins
Javier Estrada
Carlos Keller Vargas
Javier Mar
Thomas Carter
Kadim Carrasco
Alan Natera Chavez
Erik Garcia
Charlie Pratt
Troy Warigon
Eduardo Garay
Jansen Allen
Sebastian Fernandez
Adam Manilla
Maurice Miller
Andres Acuna

———————-
we’ll preview the main draw once the match-ups are determined after Wednesdays’ qualifiers.

Next up; a preview of the LPRT qualifying.

———————-
UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships
International Racquetball Tour
USA Racquetball
Racquetball Canada
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol

2019 Valentine Open Wrap-up

Kane wins again. Photo credit: unknown

Congrats to your champions on the weekend:

Men’s Pro Singles: Kane Waselenchuk
Men’s Open Singles: Andres Acuna
Men’s Open Doubles: Carlos Keller/Kadim Carrasco

Note: no pro doubles this weekend, so we had pretty solid Open Singles and Open Doubles draws. The Men’s singles open draw featured three players who made the quarters (or better) of the pro draw and a great draw of east coast amateurs to challenge the traveling pros.

And, a reminder; the 5-8 seeds were “flipped” this tournament. Seeds listed below are for this event, not of the actual rankings on tour at the moment of the event.

R2sports link:
https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=30994

PRS match Report: http://rball.pro/001AE9

I had the opportunity to be at the Sportfit Laurel club for Thursday night round of 64 and 32 matches, so I’ll describe some of the more interesting matches I witnessed in a bit more detail.

Lets review the matches of note by round:

Round of 64:

  • #24 Mauricio Zelada, playing on his home courts and with the cheering of the home crowd, eked out a brutal tiebreaker against #25 Kyle Ulliman. Zelada is a protege of former touring pro and fellow Maryland native Dan Fowler, and his game-style is really familiar to those who remember Fowler’s days on tour. Similar stroke mechanics, similar drive serve setup, and a similar game style. Zelada plays consistent ball, always putting solid consistent contact on the ball. Ulliman’s game style is flashier, more of a shooter style, taking chances and succeeding often. It was a fantastic match-up that went down to the wire, with Zelada winning on a gimme-error from Kyle after a long match.
  • #20 Maurice Miller faced off against #33 Joe Kelley in a battle of top east coast amateurs (Miller from GA, Kelley from PA). It did not disappoint, and was a back and forth athletic match between two guys with great getting ability. In the end Miller pulled away in the tie-breaker to advance.
  • #22 Hometown favorite Troy Warigon, spurred on by a vocal local cheering section, went tiebreaker against Atlanta newcomer #27 Yacouba Keita before advancing. Definitely the “loudest” crowd of the night, cheering Warigon on.
  • Colombian #23 Set Cubillos was taken tie-breaker by New Jersey top amateur #26 David Austin before advancing.
  • The biggest upset of the round and the sole upset by a local player over a traveling pro was #30 Pennsylvanian Geoff Heskett taking out #18 Justus Benson 10,12. Both players really put some power into the ball, and Heskett was able to really control the points with his excellent drive serve to Benson’s backhand.

Round of 32:

  • In a marathon evening match, #16 Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas took a barn-burner over #17 Colombian Eduardo Garay (13),11,7. This match was a contrast in styles: Keller’s drive serve approach is controlled power, with emphasis on the location and efficiency of the drive, while Garay has as much power as anyone on tour. The ball just sounds different off of Garay’s racquet on the drive serve. But, once the ball is in play, Keller’s putting as much pace on it as anyone else. Garay flings himself around the court, with incredible getting ability, while Keller’s length (he’s well over 6-feet tall) enables him to reach a lot of shots and cover a lot of court. This match went on so long that I believe Garay soaked four shirts. Vargas outlasted Garay in the end, but both of these players if playing full time are top 10 material.
  • In the evening’s other latest running match, two players with DC-area ties fought to the end. #9 Mario Mercado split two close games with home-town favorite #24 Zelada, who (like Warigon) plays out of the club and had a large local cheering section. The toll of the earlier match got to MoMo though, as he ran out of gas in the tiebreaker. Mercado efficiently advanced 11-1 to get to the main draw. This match won the award for biggest crowd of the night.
  • #23 Cubillos nearly forfeited his match against #10 Jake Bredenbeck before showing up just before the deadline. Jake seemed distracted as a result in the first game but eventually advanced 11,2.
  • #14 Andres Acuna dispatched Bolivian veteran #19 Kadim Carrasco in two games to advanced to the main draw yet again. Acuna is quietly moving his way up the ranks and putting his name into the discussion for top 10.

Round of 16 Action:

  • #1 Kane Waslenechuk kicked off his tournament with a 1,3 pasting of #16 Keller. I don’t know if Keller was beat from two matches the night before, or if Kane was especially fired up to play. I looked forward to this match and was rather surprised to see it be such a dominant beat-down. If you wondered about the difference between an IRF champ and the Pro champ … well here you go.
  • For the second tournament in a row, #8 Rodrigo Montoya could not advance out of the round of 16 against an opponent he’d normally be favored against. He loses in two straight to #9 Mercado 14,11. This second early loss in as many events to start the season should drop him right back out of the top 8.
  • In a battle of Francos (not related), #5 Sebastian Franco was taken to the edge by #12 Gerardo Franco, eventually advancing 11-9 in the breaker. Sebastian gets past an important hurdle on his home courts.
  • Both #4 Alejandro Landa and #2 Rocky Carson were stretched to tiebreakers in surprising fashion by tour regulars, by lefties Robert Collins and Thomas Carter respectively. Landa in particular has a habit of being a slow starter, something that’s harder and harder to overcome in the 3-game format.
  • In the upset of the round, perhaps the tournament, Costa Rican #1 and #14 seed Andres Acuna continues an impressive year of results by taking out #3 Andree Parrilla 4,(7),7. Parrilla made the final of the first event of the year and had ascended to the #3 ranking, but gets upset early by the solid play of Acuna and will drop back to #4 for the US Open. Meanwhile, Acuna achieves his first ever pro quarterfinal appearance in his 9th season of playing pro events.
  • #6 Samuel Murray staved off an upset attempt from #11 Eduardo Portillo, splitting the first two games by razor thin margins before pulling away in the tiebreaker.

In the quarters…

  • #1 Waselenchuk took out #9 Mercado in two straight forward games 6,8. Even a favorable crowd couldn’t push Mercado forward. Mercado will stay ranked 10th on tour despite the quarter-final finish, but he’s significantly narrowed the gap to the 9th spot on tour.
  • #5 Franco gets a key win on home soil, taking out #4 Landa for just the second time professionally. Sebastian crushed Landa in game one 15-3, but then had to work for it, saving game point before serving out the match 15-14. Franco gets his second semi-final in a row to open the season after making just one semi all last season, a great sign for his battle to retain a top 8 ranking this year. Despite the loss, Landa will regain the #3 seed for the US Open by virtue of Parrilla’s upset early loss.
  • #6 Murray traded 15-3 game blow-outs with #14 Acuna before closing out the match in a tiebreaker. Acuna improves his ranking to #18 with this result, pushing him to his highest ever ranking.
  • #2 Carson met #7 Alvaro Beltran for the 50th time on the pro tour and improved to 28-22 against him, advancing in (what else) a tie-breaker. Thanks to Daniel de la Rosa‘s absence here, Beltran widened his lead over DLR for the 5th ranking on tour and gained a bit on the now-4th ranked Parrilla.

In the Semis:

  • #5 Franco pushed #1 Kane on his home courts to make game one close, but Kane dominated game two to advance to the finals 11,7. With this result, Franco jumps to the #7 spot on tour, which means he avoids the likes of Montoya in an 8/9 match-up and avoids Kane in the quarters at the US Open.
  • #2 Carson met #6 Murray for the 11th time professionally and improved to 11-0 over the Canadian #1 11,4. Murray just couldn’t execute shots against Carson in game two and the match slipped away from him quickly. With this semis showing, Murray bumps Montoya for the last of the top 8 protected seeds for the US Open, a significant event that means Murray avoids possible dangerous qualifiers while Montoya may run into a tough player in the 24-25 range on tour.

The final was #1 vs #2 as it normally is; Rocky vs Kane has been the final in eight events over the last two seasons. this was their 80th meeting on tour. And like 76 times before, Kane topped Rocky for the title. But it was an adventurous match: Rocky was on his way to a donut in game one and was assessed a technical towards the end; game one score of 15 to -1. But Carson rebounded to take game 2; it had been nearly 2 years since Rocky took a game off of Kane. But Kane rebounded in the breaker and won -1,(11),4 to take the title.

Its Kane’s 117th career pro win.

Quick Recap of Men’s Open Singles: 4th Seeded Mercado survived a brutal quarter against Eduardo Garay (a rematch of last week’s Colombian National championships, won by Garay) to then cruise to the final over Set Cubillos from the top half (#1 seed Murray withdrew after making the pro semis). The bottom half of the draw went chalk amongst all top seeds, with #2 seed Andres Acuna topping #3 Maurice Miller to make the final. In the final, Acuna took out Mercado 11,9 to turn the tides on their meetings as of late.

Quick Recap of Men’s Open Doubles: it was #1 vs #2, Colombia vs Bolivia in the final, with two quality teams battling it out. #1 Mercado/Garay battled against #2 Keller/Carrasco in the final. There, the #2 seeded Bolivians put a second consecutive Sunday afternoon loss on Mercado, winning the Open Doubles title 7,12


Congrats to Tournament Director Tracy Valentine for all her hard work, thanks to IRT staff Mike Grisz, Dean Baer, Pablo Fajre for all their hard work. Great to meet IRT statistician-in-training JP Edwards, who I hope gets more involved going forward.

Also, a quick shout-out to Kane, who took to the court Thursday night upon arriving to play some pro-am doubles with tournament sponsors. The normal Thursday night sponsor doubles got cancelled, but some boosters had put up money specifically to have a shot at playing with Kane, and kudos to him for taking the court to help with sponsorship efforts.

Next up? 3-Wall championships next weekend in Las Vegas, then the US Open in Minneapolis.

@irt and other links

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…

——
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.

————
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.

—————–
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.

—————–
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.