Wintergreen is an annual tradition, an east-coast classic tournament, dating back to at least 1988 and up until Covid always held at the Sportfit Laurel club in Laurel MD. The famous Laurel club was forced to close due to the pandemic, so the Peak Racquetball guys and @slemo warigon just moved it a bit east to the Severna Park racquet club, located in Millersville on I-97 about halfway between Baltimore and Annapolis. It’s being held a bit later than it normally is in 2021, but should return to its normal MLK weekend date in 2022.
The 2021 Wintergreen event is the 33rd annual instance of the tournament, and this year features a tier-5 IRT draw of 17 pros that has attracted a decent amount of east-coast talent and should be pretty entertaining. Additionally, the full Colombian national team is on site with coach @francisco Fajardo to get some work in ahead of international dates later this year, which should make for an excellent draw.
R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=37546
Lets preview the IRT pro draw first. There’s one play-in match, so lets start with the round of 16:
- #1 @eduardo Portillo, currently ranked 9th on tour, is your headliner. He’ll start off friday night against the play-in winner between @roger subieta and @josh pearl.
- The #8/#9 will match-up two long-time friends from the upper PA/lower NJ area in @david austin and @joe kelley. I favor the lefty here to advance.
- #5 @maurice miller gets an intriguing match against junior Colombian phenom #12 @juan pablo rodriguez. Rodriguez has been playing out of Bradenton, FL and has made some noise in local tournaments, taking out some talented players despite playing in his age 17 season. Miller is an experienced touring pro at this point and should advance, but this is no cakewalk.
- #4 @eduardo garay takes on former Mexican national team member @abraham pena in what should be a fun match to watch. Pena can still bring it, but Garay should advance. Garay is making his claim to the Colombian national team right now, having switched from Mexico, and the more success he has in front of the coach the better.
- #3 @mario mercado, back in the DC area after living there for many years, gets his start against WashDC’s @brian acuna.
- #6 @mauricio zelada, also playing on basically home turf, gets his start against Virginia amateur @leland rupp.
- #7 @troy warigon versus #10 @dylan pruitt; well, the long-promised “grudge match” finally occurs. Are we cynical and believe the tournament staff made this match-up happen, or was it just happen chance that these two players get to play and compete after months of dancing around each other for a “money match” on facebook earlier this year? Either way, Friday night 7pm should be interesting. I’m sure there will be some streaming by someone. I’m going with Warigon to advance.
- #2 @sebastian franco, playing out of his home club. starts off with a solid NC player in lefty #15 @jordan walters.
I think i’m predicting chalk to advance, which I never do. But, there definitely seems to be a top tier of players here and I don’t see much room for upsets. Lets move to the quarters
Projected Qtrs: Here’s how I see the quarters playing out:
- #1 Portillo over #8 Kelly: Portillo has been really dominant on the court lately, and it’ll take a solid performance to beat him.
- #4 Garay over #5 Miller: I’ve always been a Garay fan, and I expect him to advance over Miller here. Both players cover the court well, but Garay has more power and should wear down Miller in the end.
- #3 Mercado over #6 Zelada; these two know each other quite well from their time in the DC area, so I’d expect a closer match. Mercado is 4-0 lifetime over MoMo in Tier1 events, and they played in January’s Tier 1 in Atlanta. I’d expect a two-game win for Mario.
- #2 Franco over #7 Warigon; another matchup between two guys who know each other’s game quite well. I show just two tier1 meetings between the two, both occurring several years ago and resulting in straight-game wins for Franco. I expect the same here. Franco has slipped to #11 on tour after 5 straight season in the top 10 (mostly due to scheduling, not losses) and will look to build back this weekend.
Again, i’m predicting chalk to the semis.
- #1 Portillo over #4 Garay; I show zero meetings in tier1 events between these two, which means this should be an interesting one to watch. Portillo plays a methodical; in fact if you were uninitiated you might almost think he wasn’t trying on the court at times. But when he has an offensive opportunity he can accelerate his mechanics and really generate unexpected power. Garay is a power player, with the pace to get easy points on his serve if he can stay in control. Portillo has plenty of experience handling significant power at this point and should move on.
- #2 Franco over #3 Mercado: amazingly, despite these two both being top10 players together for years, both representing the same country internationally and both living in the DC area … i have zero meetings between these players in tier1 events. On my global power rankings I have Franco well ahead of Mercado, but we’ve seen Mercado get surprise wins over and over on tour over the past decade. Mercado beat both Portillo and Landa en route to the Lou Bradley final in 2020, for example. So nothing is out of the realm of expected here. I’ll go with gut and give Franco the win
In the finals though, irrespective of who advances I favor Portillo for the win. I think Mercado has more recent success against Lalo, but both Franco and Mercado are trending the wrong way in terms of power rankings, while Portillo seems like he’s at the precipice of breaking into the very top tier of the sport.
Eight solid teams are competing in the Men’s open doubles draw, headlined by the #1 Colombian doubles team of Franco/Garay. They should advance to the final over Mercado/Zelada from the top.
In the bottom half, I like the Pena/Portillo team, but i’m not sure they can get past the Warigon/Miller team. I’ll go with #2 seeds to advance to the final, but for the #1 seeds to win.
There’s a small but fun Women’s open draw, with four solid women’s players competing in Micaela Meneses, Masiel Rivera, Graci Wargo, and Megan Shelton. An interesting combination of international and domestic, junior and veteran competing together.
The IRT streaming crew is coming into town to broadcast all weekend, so ; follow the IRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live.Look for Dean Baer, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots! I also hear LPRT’s Jerry Josey is coming into town to help out as well.
Thanks to the Tourney Director Slemo Warigon for putting this event on!
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