Pro Racquetball Stats (PRS), like the rest of the racquetball world, basically was put on hold for most of 2020 as event after event was cancelled. We did manage to crown the 2019-20 season ending pro champs once it became clear the latter quarter of the pro seasons wouldn’t be held.
The ladies were first to return to the court, thanks to racquetball benefactor Randy Root, and played a great event in Kansas City in December. The Men got to play a lower tier tournament in Atlanta a couple months back, and are scheduled for their long awaited tier 1 return to the court next week in the Suivant Consulting Grand Slam in Atlanta. Stay tuned as we are scheduled to join Dean DeAngelo Baer on the IRT Live stream to preview the event next week.
Here were the most popular/most engaging Facebook posts we made all year: 1. 5/5/20: Gregg Peck‘s passing retrospective. 2. 10/19/20: 3WallBall Wrap-up of Men’s 3wall event 3. 12/7/20: TeamRoot.com supermax wrapup 4. 2/10/20: US National Doubles wrap-up 5. 1/20/20: Longhorn Open Wrap-up
We had to cancel most National and international events for the year, which was a huge disappointment for an entire generation of Juniors (who aged out without playing their last event) and for Adults in turn (many of whom were set to play the PARCs or Worlds for the first time). We did get some fabulous news though recently, with confirmation that Racquetball will be included in the 2023 PanAm Games. Great news and congratulations to all who made that possible.
We look forward 2021, and look forward to getting back to a sense of normalcy in the world of racquetball.
Thanks to Shari Coplen, who sent along some old magazine scans she got from one of the early pro champions Steve Serot, we now have the full Men’s singles and doubles draws from the 1973 IRA (now known as USA Racquetball) national championships.
Serot featured prominently in both events and kept copies of the material throughout the years. He also provided full bracket scans (!!) for both draws. Read on for a fun trip down memory lane.
The Singles draw from 1973 nationals is amazing: 102 players. I have never entered a bigger draw.
Top 10 seeds: 1 Charlie Brumfield 2 Rubenstein, Ron 3 Schmidtke, Bill 4 Lawrence, Paul 5 Serot, Steve 6 Michael Zeitman 7 Bo Keeley (Steve Keeley) 8 Porco, Ken 9 Charles H. Garfinkel 10 Jerry Hilecher
Other notables in the draw: – #15 Charlie Drake, who eventually became the commissioner of the pro tour in the early 80s and the CEO of Leach industries (one of the major sponsors of the sport). – #17 Steve Strandemo, who was a regular touring pro for a decade and one of the sport’s first big-time teaching pros, running clinics for years after retiring. – #24 Davey Bledsoe, who would go on to win the 1977 nationals and who passed away in Dec 2019 – #26 Randy Stafford, who now curates the Racquetball Museum (and who just got it back online: http://racquetballmuseum.com/ ) – #72 Chuck Leve, who wrote several books on racquetball and was inducted into the USAR Hall of Fame in 1997. – #91 Marty Hogan … which has the be the lowest he was ever seeded in a tournament in his life.
The draw went nearly chalk in its later rounds, with 15 of the top 16 seeds advancing out of the 32s (only the #8 seed was upset early), then 7 of the top 8 seeds making the quarters. From there, #1 and defending champ Brumfield took over, advancing past #5 Serot in the semis, while #7 Keeley beat the #2 and #3 seeds to advance to the final. Brumfield took the title in a breaker over Bo in the end.
The tournament is a throwback to the very early days of the sport, and the players involved in this event show as much.
Top Seeds: 1 Luciw, Mike & Rudusz, George; the 1972 champs. 2 Porco, Ken & Evans, Bill: Porco was part of the 1971 winning team. 3 Brumfield, Charlie & Serot, Steve; two of the best of the early touring racquetball pros during the sport’s infancy. 4 Souders, Roger & Charleson, Dave; Charleson would win the title in 1974. 5 Hilecher, Jerry & Wong, Kenny; Both St. Louis based and part of the core group of St. Louis natives that dominated early. 6 Keeley, Steve & Drake, Charlie; Keeley is the legendary character of the sport. 7 Dunn, Bill & Thurman, Bill were both early touring players and both played a number of NRC and IRA pro events from 73 to 77. 8 Johnson, Galen & Wirkus, Joe 9 Stafford, Randy & Davey Bledsoe 10 Strandemo, Steve & Strom, Ron
Also playing was a young Craig McCoy (the 15th seed as a 16yr old), and under-seeded Bill Schmidtke (the 1971 and 1974 Singles national champion), and seeded 44th a very precocious Marty Hogan, playing in his home-town at the age of 15.
The 5-time pro tour champ Brumfield, teamed with the lefty Serot, blew through the draw and were never really challenged in the event. They topped the #5 seeded Hilecher/Wong team in the final 1,15
thanks to Shari and to Serot himself for retaining this information. As always, if you can find the draw sheets for an old event, i’ll put it in.
In Singles, this is Longoria’s 100th career Tier 1 or higher pro win, and its the biggest pay day of her career (she has an additional 6 satellite tour wins, which is why last year’s US Open was advertised as her “100th pro win”). After her tough opener, she basically destroyed the field, allowing 32 points in four games from the 16s onwards, and has opened up a massive lead over #2 Vargas for second place in the rankings.
On the doubles side, This is Mendez’ third career pro title, with her third different partner. Centellas, who famously won the 2018 World Adult doubles title with Yazmine Sabja Ráquetbol] as a 16yr old, continues to show off her doubles chops playing for her new country, and the Mendez/Centellas partnership may be a pretty solid one going forward.
Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw. Singles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/2A42D4
In the 32s, we had some solid matches but no surprises. – #1 Paola Longoria had perhaps the toughest round-of-32 match she’s ever had, getting pressed by her young country-woman Lucia Gonzalez 10,11 in the first round. Gonzalez played well and was not awed by the #1 player, but superior fitness and consistency of the world’s top player shown through in the end. – #16 Masiel Rivera Oporto held serve against #17 Erin Nocam Rivera Groves, advancing in two tough games 10,13. – #21 Guatemalan #1 Ana Gabriela Martínez] upset #12 Colombian #1 Adriana Riveros Racquetball 7,8 to advance. – #20 Hollie Rae Scott downed fellow American #13 Sheryl Lotts in two 3,9 to move on. Scott continues to show why she may be in line to race up the pro rankings with a full season of events, and why she’s currently the #1 ranked American woman. – #11 Nancy Enriquez advanced by the skin of her teeth, saving two match points against and squeaking out an 11-10 tiebreaker win against Bolivian junior #22 Micaela Meneses Cuellar. Enriquez cruised in game one to win 15-8, then Meneses just steamrolled to an 15-5 win in game two. In the breaker, Enriquez got up early, then Meneses crawled her way back. For a bit it looked like an upset in the making, but at the end-game both players made critical misses and Enriquez utilized a backhand drive to close it out. Great match. It was the sole match to go breaker in the opening round. – #23 Angelica Barrios played consistent and conservative racquetball to down #10 Amaya Cris 7,10 and move on. Amaya had the power, but Barrios kept calm and kept the ball in play over and again, and ground out a win.
In the 16s, we got 5 tiebreakers and a lot of close matches. – #1 Longoria made short work of #16 Rivera 3,1. – #8 Jessica Parrilla and #9 Carla Muñoz Montesinos were the last match of the night to finish, and gave the tournament perhaps its best match of the day. An 11-10 nail-biter that was back and forth in the tie-breaker, with both ladies having serves for match point saved against twice. Parrilla advances (10),13,10. – #21 Martinez got her second upset of the tournament’s opening day, downing #5 Rhonda Rajsich 6,10. Martinez did not look troubled in the match and could be a dark-horse for further upsets. Rajsich suffers some unlucky seeding to face Martinez in the 16s and exits. – #20 Scott got the biggest win of her career, downing #4 seed Samantha Salas Solis in a tiebreaker to move into the quarters. Scott was able to keep pace with the tour’s hardest hitter, and kept her composure as the match got tight at the end. Salas did not show much ill effect from her off-season shoulder surgery; she just ran into a hot player at the wrong time. Final score 11,(11),7 – #3 Alexandra Herrera came from a game down to top the resurgent #14 Maria Renee Rodríguez (11),11,2. MRR has stepped up her game, but Herrera (sitting at what I believe is her career best ranking #3) battled back to move on. – #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein played a tight game one with #11 Enriquez, then turned on the jets and cruised to a two game win. Mendez looks like she’s been working on her drive serve technique and aced Nancy repeatedly in the 2nd game to race to a win. She looks like another upset special in the quarters. – #23 Barrios defeated #7 Valeria Centellas in a tiebreaker in a rematch of 2019’s junior world 18U title final to move on. An unlucky match-up here between two of the best young players in the world, both of whom look like they could be major factors in the sport moving forward. – #2 Maria Jose Vargas Parada and #15 Montse Mejia played the first two games as close as one might have expected, splitting the games 12 and 14, but in the tiebreaker Vargas blitzed to a 7-0 lead and made it stick, taking advantage of some tentative shots in the breaker from Mejia to advance.Seed report: your 8 quarterfinalists are 1,2,3,6 … and 20,21 and 23. Three seeds in the 20s advance to the quarters.
In the Quarters, we saw some more tiebreakers and more upsets, with two players seeded in the 20s advancing to the semis. – #1 Longoria faced off against #8 Parrilla, in a rematch of the finals of the 2020 Mexican Nationals. Paola left little doubt who the top player in the world is, blasting Parrilla 5,1 to move into the semis. – In a battle of 20-something seeds to get to the semis, former World Champ Martinez cruised to a game 1 win, then lost her drive serve accuracy and allowed top American Scott back into the match. In the breaker though, she re-found her weapon and raced to an 11-1 win to move into the semis. Final score: 4,(12),1 – #3 Herrera held serve and moved into the semis over the resurgent #6 Mendez 9,14. Herrera has been consistently making the semis as of late, advancing to this gate in the last four pro events in which she’s appeared. It is one of the reasons she’s elevated to #3 on tour. – In one of the more startling turnarounds i’ve seen on the pro tour lately. Bolivian junior Barrios came back from a game one drubbing 15-1 to dominate in game two, then hold on in a tight tiebreaker to beat the #2 seed Vargas and advance to the semis. Final score: (1),8,10. Barrios found a serve that vexed Vargas for most of game 2 and 3, and got a lot of 3-shot rally points off of it, enough to drive Vargas to frustrations. At the tail end of the breaker there were a couple of avoidable hinder calls, heightening the tension at the end. The 17-yr old advances to the semis.
Seeds in the semis: 1,3, 21 and 23. A tale of two populations of players right now in the world. The regulars and those talented players that are not playing full-time but which are equally as good as the top touring pros.
In the Semis; one blow out, one more upset. – #1 Longoria dominated her frequent international rival #21 Martinez 1,7 to move into the final. Martinez could not get anything going against the GOAT, and Longoria looks unstoppable. Martinez famously topped Longoria for the 2018 world title … but it remains her sole win in 14 tries against the world’s #1. – #23 Barrios pulled off yet another upset in a tournament filled with them, and moved to the finals with a hard-fought two game win over #3 Herrera. Barrios was fatigued from her efforts on the day; she walked straight out of a tie-breaker win in the Women’s Open and onto the court to play this semi, and it showed in her play. But, she held on in game one, saving game points against, then pulled out game two. Final score 14,10. A #23 seed into the final is the 2nd highest seed on record ever to advance that far (behind only Rajsich’s amazing run in the 2000 US Open, where she reached the final as the #44 seed).
In the Finals
Barrios was talked into bowing out of the Women’s open draw, where she would have had to play two singles matches before her noon sunday pro final. Thus, she played the biggest match of her life fresh. Barrios was able to hang with Longoria early in each game, standing up to the champ and putting balls away, but Longoria’s tenacity and aggressiveness on the court wore down the young Bolivian, and the final score showed: Longoria took the match 5,7.
Points Implications of results.
The re-start of the tour after so many months had drastic effects on the tour ranking, and, with a huge influx of points from the “super max” grand slam and surprising quarter and semi-finalists, we’re going to see huge shifts again. If i have my points projections right: – Barrios jumps from #32 to #8 thanks to the massive influx of points making a Grand Slam final. – Mendez jumps her two closest rivals to rise to #4, a career high ranking for the Argentina representative. – Martinez jumps from #26 to #13 and would be well positioned to make more deep pro tourney runs. – Scott jumps from #25 to #15 with her excellent showing.
The top 30 pros who missed the event all lost at least 4-5 ranking slots as a result of the big jumps above them. They’ll have to make up ground the next time we have an event.
15 teams battled it out for the huge doubles purse here. Seeds held in the first round.
In the quarters: – #1 Longoria/Salas cruised past #8 Laime/Rivera in two. – #4 Herrera/Mejia held serve against their Mexican counter parts #5 Parrilla/Rivera, but it took a tiebreaker to move on. – #6 Martinez/Rodriguez took out Munoz/Enriquez in two games. The Guatemalan national team looks tough. – #2 Mendez/Centellas ran past the Colombian national team of Riveros/Amaya. The newly-formed Argentinian team did not skip a beat and both players are excellent doubles specialists.
In the semis – #1 Longoria/Salas held on after dropping the first game against their frequent rivals, #4 Herrera/Mejia, and moved into the finals with an 11-8 win. – #2 Mendez/Centellas continued to dominate, crushing the Guatemalans in game two to advance 13,4
In the final…The Argentine doubles specialists split the first two games, but got really hot in the breaker and raced to the title win in an upset over the #1 Mexican team.
Women’s Open: The Women’s Open draw had a huge purse, and a large draw of players competing for it.
The quarters went to seeds, mostly top non-top 8 touring pros.
In the quarters, Barrios upset top seed Munoz, Parrilla ousted Riveros, Centellas crushed Scott, and Enriquez took a tiebreaker win over Amaya.
In the semis, Parrilla got a walkover when Barrios withdrew, while Centellas topped Enriquez in two. In the final, Centellas topped Parrilla in two close games to take the title and finish off an impressive event.
Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Timothy Baghurst, Jerry J Josey Jr.., and Tj Baumbaugh . Also shout out to Sandy Rios who did a great job on the mike all weekend, and to Leo Ray Vasquez who flew in to help with dual-court streaming.
Next up? The next known pro tournament on the books will be the IRT Suivant Consulting Grand Slam in Atlanta in early January.
The first Tier1 pro event since March is happening this weekend, and it looks set to be a fantastic event. Racquetball enthusiast and major sponsor Randy Root has sponsored a Grand Slam LPRT event for the weekend and its invitee list is a who’s who of women’s racquetball right now.
There’s 33 ladies in the Singles draw and a 15-team pro doubles draw.
top20 players missing; #12 Kelani Lawrence, still recovering from the eye injury she suffered in an assault in Las Vegas. #18 Cassandra Lee is the only other missing top 20 players, making for an astoundingly deep tournament.
Lets preview the singles draw.
Round of 32: here’s some notable matches to watch for.
– #1 Paola Longoria vs #32 Lucia Gonzalez: right out of the box, a compelling match-up. Longoria is of course the #1 player in the world, but Gonzalez is a 7-time junior world champion who beat two top-10 women’s pros at the 2020 Mexican Nationals and probably would be pushing into the top 4 if she played the tour full time. A tough draw for Lucia and a tough opener for Paola.
– #16/#17 matches are always close and this will be the same. #16 Masiel Rivera Oporto takes on #17 Erin Nocam Rivera Groves in the opening round. These two met at the 2019 US Open, a tiebreaker win for Masiel.
– #12 Adriana Riveros Racquetball vs #21 Ana Gabriela Martínez; They’ve never met professionally, but have faced off four times internationally (Martinez leads 3-1). Martinez’s seed is no indicator of her talent; she’s taken significant time off recently for schooling. Look for Gaby to move on here and is a dark-horse in this tourney.
– #13 Sheryl Lotts v #20 Hollie Scott ; a match up of two of the best American women out there. Scott has been playing well lately and dominated Lotts at the 2019 qualifying event in Tempe when they last played. Look for the upset-by-seed here.
– #14 Maria Renee Rodríguez vs #19 Adrienne Haynes; an intriguing match-up between two veteran pros.
– #11 Nancy Enriquez vs #22 Micaela Meneses Cuellar; The layoff has not been kind to Enriquez’s ranking; she finished last season ranked 8th and was seeded 6th in the last tourney she played. Now she’s bounced all the way out of the top 10. For her troubles she gets the precocious Bolivian Meneses, playing in her age 16 season and who owns several world junior titles. Enriquez should advance but Meneses should play strong.
– #10 Amaya Cris vs #23 Angelica Barrios; these two faced off in the 2019 Pan Am Games, with the youngster Barrios taking an 11-10 win. She finished her junior career in Nov 2019 by taking the 18U title but has had few opportunities to play the pro tour since. I think this will be close but look for the upset.
Projected round of 16 matches to watch for:
– #8/#9 Carla Muñoz Montesinos vs Jessica Parrilla; they played at this juncture in Jan 2020 in Florida, a closer 2-game win for Parrilla. They’re both back in the top 10 after big grinding efforts to get there, and expect a dogfight to get into the quarters.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich vs #21 Martinez: Rajsich kicks off her 21st season of touring, still in the #5 slot, but runs into former world champ Martinez in a brutal round of 16 match. These two have met no less than 9 times over the years and always play close. I’ll guess this goes tie-breaker and watch for the second successive upset by the Guatemalan.
– #11 Enriquez vs #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein; thanks to their general seeding over the past few years, there’s scant little history between these two perennial top 10 players; two split meetings in two months between Dec 2017 and Jan 2018. I’ll go with the Argentine in a breaker.
– #23 Barrios vs #7 Valeria Centellas; Centellas has rocketed up the rankings thanks to two big-time finishes last season, but runs into her former countrywoman in Barrios here. This is a rematch of the 2018 World 18U juniors championship just a year ago, a match Barrios won. I think Centellas is the better player, but Barrios has her number. Look for the upset.
– #2 Maria Jose Vargas Paradavs #15 Montse Mejia; what a round of 16 match; two of the four best women in the world face off two rounds too early. Mejia finished last season ranked #7 but tumbles all the way to #15 here thanks to ranking points machinations. Mejia played four events on tour last year; she lost to Paola all four times, beating everyone else in her path (including Vargas). But Mejia can be mercurial, losing early in internationals and at the 2020 Mexican nationals as the defending champion. I’ll go on a limb here and predict the upset because I like going with upsets. It may be a long trip for a one-and-done for Vargas, who isn’t playing doubles with her regular Argentine partners.
– #1 Longoria over #8 Parrilla, a rematch of the 2020 Mexican National final
– #4 Samantha Salas Solis over #21 Martinez: we have not mentioned Salas’ name yet; the Covid layoff has enabled her to have surgery on her non-throwing arm, but she seems to be in playing shape. This may be a tough draw though if Martinez has been playing regularly.
– #3 Alexandra Herrera vs #6 Mendez; the lefty ascends to her highest career ranking to start the season, and she’s well positioned to advance to the semis as she leads 6-1 h2h over Mendez.
– #15 Mejia vs #23 Barrios: Mejia handled Barrios en route to winning both the 2018 and 2018 Junior World 18U girls championships, and I think she’ll handle her here again.
Semis: I’m predicting an all-Mexico semis … and two matchups of doubles partners.
– #1 Longoria over #4 Salas. Amazingly, Longoria leads the pro h2h over Salas 51-3. Salas struggled through last season, dropping all the way to #4, and now faces playing into Longoria a round earlier than expected. Longoria steamrolls into the final.
– #15 Mejia over #3 Herrera; Mejia has beaten her the last three times they’ve played professionally and will beat her again here.
– #1 Longoria over #15 Mejia. Mejia has a win over Longoria, the 2019 Mexican Nationals final … but has lost the other 9 times they’ve played, including 4 times last season, often in dominant fashion. Longoria knows how to beat Montse, and beats here again here for the Grand Slam title.
There’s 15 teams in the draw, with some familiar teams and some new ones. Lets take a look at how the draw may play out.
upset watch in the 16s;
– I like Rajsich/Neils over the #8 seeds Laime/Rivera.
– I like the Scott/Gonzalez pairing to push the Guatemalan national team of Martinez/Rodriguez.
I like the Colombian team of Amaya/Riveros to upset the all-Argentinian team of Mendez/Centellas in the quarters, otherwise for the seeds to hold.
In the semis,
– we get what should be the final: Longora/Salas vs Mejia/Herrera. These two teams faced off four times in pro doubles finals last season, splitting their encounters. They’ve also met in the finals of the last two Mexican Nationals, with the world’s top team taking the honors each time. It should be tightly contested but #1 moves on in this big money event.
– I like #3 Munoz/Enriquez to take out the Colombians and advance to the final.
In the final, #1 cruises to a win over the #3 seeds.
Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the LPRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live.Look for Timothy Baghurst, Jerry J Josey Jr., JP Edwards and Tj Baumbaugh on the mike, calling the shots! Randy is also flying in Leo Ray Vasquez to help out, which is great.Can’t wait for the matches!