Welcome back pro racquetball fans! We have not had a full tier pro event since early January, and the ladies have not had a full pro event since early December 2020, so we’re more than due.
r2sports link for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=37154
There’s a huge draw of pro ladies in South Carolina this weekend; 35 players signed up, the largest ladies pro draw since the 2019 US Open. #1 Paola Longoria is the defending champ here, having won the Jan 2020 event over #2 Maria Jose Vargas Parada. We won’t have a rematch this year, since Vargas recently gave birth to her second child and is on a playing hiatus.
The top 8 features one relatively new name: Angelica Barrios is currently ranked 5th, seeded 4th, thanks to her break-through performance in December’s Kansas City grand slam. The pandemic has really wreaked havoc on the tour rankings, making single event results even more magnified in importance.
The rest of the draw is stacked, missing just 2 players out of the world’s top 20 (Vargas and #19 Masiel Rivera Oporto).
Lets preview the draw, which was released late Wednesday night in an online reaction event, a great idea from the LPRT and commissioner Tj Baumbaugh.
Play starts with a few round of 64 matches.
- Bolivian veteran #32 Jenny Daza Navia makes a rare pro appearance, and faces Texas amateur #33 Linda Tyler.
- Former Mexican junior national champ #35 Montserrat Pérez takes on another former Mexican Jr National champ in #30 Naomi Ros. Ros was the 2018 Junior world champ in 12U, putting her in her age 15 season, while Perez won the Mexican 18Us in 2015.
- #34 Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz, the reigning world 16U world junior champ, takes on a drastically under-seeded #31 Erika Manilla, who made the US Team qualifying event final in Feb 2020 in her last competitive event.
Projecting the 32s: Here’s some of the round of 32 matches that I think may be interesting and/or competitive:
- #16/#17: I frequently note that these 16/17 and 15/18 matches are always tough, and this one will be the same. #16 Hollie Scott takes on #17 Kelani Lawrence, who have met in the last three major US Team qualifying/Nationals events. Kelani took out Scott in the 2018 Nationals en route to a finals loss, then they played an amazing 2019 final with Lawrence edging Scott 11-10 to take the title, then met up in the 2020 qualifier in the semis, where Scott took out Kelani on the way to the title her self. Lawrence is now seemingly recovered from the eye injury she suffered in Las Vegas in September, but I’m predicting Scott to take this one.
- #9 Carla Muñoz Montesinos vs #24 Graci Wargo; the newly matriculated Junior Floridian Wargo faces a tough early test from the newlywed Munoz, who now has a pretty solid regular training partner in husband Alan Natera Chavez.
- #25 Lucia Gonzalez v #8 Valeria Centellas; Wow, what a first round match up this is. Centellas raced into prominence partly thanks to her results at this event last January and has maintained her top10 presence since. But Gonzalez might be the best player in the world outside of Frederique Lambert who does not tour regularly and routinely takes out LPRT top 10 players when she does compete. I like picking upsets and I’ll go with Lucia here.
- #12 Nancy Enriquez vs #21 Ana Laura Flores; long-time top10 player Enriquez faces a tricky opener against the youngster Flores, who beat Scott and barely lost to Rajsich in her last pro appearance in March 2020.
- #20 Susy Acosta makes an appearance in her 23rd straight season, but likely falls to her countrywoman #13 Montse Mejia.
- Its Colombia v Colombia in #14 Adriana Riveros vs #19 Brenda Laime Jalil. Last time they played, it was Sept 2019 and Laime advanced, and I’ll go with the upset again here.
- #11 Ana Gabriela Martínez takes on 17yr old Bolivian Micaela Meneses Cuellar in what could be a close opener.
- The always competitive 15/18 match should be interesting; #15 Maria Renee Rodríguez takes on #18 Sheryl Lotts. These two met in this same tourney last year, a come-from behind win for Lotts. In fact, they’ve met 5 times at pro or international events and it has always gone tiebreaker. Lotts owns the career 4-1 advantage and i’ll predict she advances.
- #2 Alexandra Herrera, who gets a career high seeding here, likely faces one heck of a challenge in #31 Manilla. These two have never met, but Manilla has proven herself to be able to hang with top players. Herrera is normally a model of consistency, rarely taking early round upsets and playing to her seeding … but she’s going to have to work for this win.
round of 16: Lots of tough openers, but if my predictions hold here’s your projected 16s:
- #1 Paola Longoria v #16 Scott: Mexico’s #1 versus USA’s #1; Longoria advances but Scott gets some more experience against the best.
- #25 Gonzalez over #8 Munoz: if Lucia can beat Centellas, she can beat Munoz.
- #12 Enriquez over #5 Rhonda Rajsich; last time they met was a 3-game win for Nancy and I’m guessing it’ll be the same here.
- #13 Mejia over #4 Barrios: despite the rankings, I think Mejia is perhaps the 3rd or 4th best player in the world. These two met in the finals of World 18U two years running in 2017 and 2018, both times a two-game win for the Mexican. Barrios had a heck of a run in Kansas City but falls here.
- #3 Samantha Salas Solis overpowers #19 Laime
- #6 Natalia Mendez over #11 Martinez: last time these two met was in the 2019 PARC, a Mendez career win. Mendez seems to have added some depth to her game and may be playing more than Martinez. When both are training full time the edge goes to Gaby, but right now i give the Argentinian the edge.
- #7 Jessica Parrilla takes out #10 Cristina Amaya Cassino in a battle of two long-time pros.
- #2 Herrera takes out her second straight top American player by advancing past #18 Lotts.
- #1 Longoria over #25 Gonzalez: the run of Lucia ends here.
- #13 Mejia over #12 Enriquez; Mejia has won their last few meetings.
- #3 Salas over #6 Mendez: Salas has never lost to Mendez, but they also have not played in years. This could be close based on recent form of both players.
- #7 Parrilla over #2 Herrera: they have not played since Dec 2019, when Jessica was still coming back from her knee injury, but they were always close. I think this could be the big breakthrough for Parrilla.
Interestingly, I’ve predicted 7 of the 8 quarterfinalists to be Mexican. A great depiction of just how dominant that country has become on the ladies circuit.
- Longoria over Mejia; One day Montse will break through with another win over Paola, but for now Paola rules.
- Parrilla over Salas: if Jessica can beat Herrera, she can beat Salas in a power-for-power match
Finals: Longoria over Parrilla.
15 teams in the doubles (odd since there’s 35 singles players entered), but it definitely features several international flavor teams as IRF countries start to think about the Worlds and PARC event coming up later this year.
The world’s best ladies pro doubles team is back together in Longoria/Salas; they’re the #1 seeds. They seem likely to face the Guatemalan #1 team of Gonzalez/Rodriguez in the top semis.
On the bottom, the #2 seeds are the new Argentine national team of Mendez/Centellas. They’ll face a tough quarter against the USA #1 team of Lawrence/Scott but look like underdogs against the strong Mexican team of Meija/Herrera.
I’ll predict a frequently seen final between the two top Mexican teams of Longoria/Salas v Mejia/Herrera. The veterans have taken the last 4 meetings against their countrymates, and i’ll go with Longoria getting the double here.
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., and Baumbaugh on the mike, calling the shots!
Thanks to the Tourney Directors Jerry J Josey Jr. & Jacob.k.varughese for putting this event on!
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International Racquetball Federation – IRF
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora- Febora
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball
Asociación Argentina de Racquetball
Federación Chilena Racquetball
Racquetball Rancagua, Chile Chile
ASOCIACION DE RAQUETBOL DE GUATEMALA
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