IRT Sioux Falls Lewis Drug Pro-Am 2024 Wrap-Up

Murray claims his 2nd ever tier1 title. Photo 2019 US Open Kevin Savory

Congrats to your Pro winners on the weekend:

– Singles: Samuel Murray

– Doubles: Eduardo Portillo and @Andree Parrilla

Murray runs a pretty amazing gauntlet of matches to claim his second ever Tier 1 title. Lalo and Andree save match points against to claim the doubles title.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41883

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Let’s review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/kju

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There were three trivial round of 64 play-ins that had no real shocks.

In the 32s…

– #1 @Daniel De la Rosa was pushed to the limit by #32 Coby Iwaasa, winning in three 10,(14),8. Of course, Iwaasa is not your typical 30-something pro seed, the clear-cut #2 player in Canada and a past winner on the WRT who just doesn’t tour regularly.

I harp on this point often, when it comes to having the top 8 seeds play the 32s, but here’s a fun fact; Pablo and the IRT changed the competition structure in February 2023. just ahead of Minnesota, to abolish “top 8 seeds get byes into the 32s,” a structure that had been in place for regular Tier1s since August 1991. Since the return to full 32s, not only have the top 8 seeds won every round of 32 match played so far… DLR’s was the first time a top 8 seed was even stretched to a tiebreaker. Most of these 1v32, 2v31, etc matches are complete blow outs in the 15-4, 15-2 variety where the top pro is just going through the motions.

I continue to maintain that lower seeded players are far better served by the prior structure. Instead of Iwaasa playing DLR in the 32s, under the old structure, he would have played #33 in the 64s (Roman Haller), to then play #16 seed in the 32s (Sam Bredenbeck) to play into DLR in the round of 16s/aka the money round. Instead, Iwaasa goes home with no prize money. You have to think Iwaasa would have liked his chances under the old structure, a match against Sam versus straight to DLR. Anyway, it is what it is, and unless the lower level players figure this out instead of maintaining the illogical belief that its somehow more “fair” to get blasted by a top seed in the 32s on Thursday afternoon to eliminate any chance of prize money, we’ll continue to see this situation on tour.

– #17 Kane Waselenchuk took out #16 @Sam Bredenbeck 10,10 in a streaky match that looked like it was going a different way in each game. Both players ran off long streaks of points at times, but neither player stayed consistent long enough to put the game away fast. Kane is #20 ranked but #17 seeded by virtue of three players ranked above him pulling out last minute (Cuevas, Carson, and Landa), so he plays right into #1 DLR.

– #3 Conrrado Moscoso got pushed a bit by fellow Bolivian Mauricio Zelada before advancing 5,11

– #14 Kadim Carrasco got taken to a breaker by #19 @Carlos Ramirez before advancing.

– #11 Thomas Carter held on against Junior national team member Cole Sendrey 12,9. Sendrey had an impressive win in the Kelley tournament earlier this month, but playing a top 15 IRT pro is a little different than playing a top east coast amateur.

– #15 @Erick Trujillo got a very solid win over Mexican veteran Javier Mar 12,13 in the 15-18 seed matchup. I routinely believe Mar is one of the top 8 players in the world … but he’s struggled for two years now to maintain that lofty status. This is the turning point for me.

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In the 16s, we got a slew of upsets.

– #17 Kane took out #1 DLR 8,9 in a match that probably was not as close as the score line indicated. I watched the match closely and my analysis is pretty simple: DLR could not get his drive serve working. I’ve never seen him serve so badly. I did a quick count of drive serve effectiveness in game 1 to illustrate this point: Kane drove 26 times, making 19 of them (73%) while DLR drove 17 times and only made 9 of them (52%). The ineffectiveness of a solid first serve cannot be understated: When I’ve done detailed match tracking in the past, a first serve in led directly to points 66% of the time, whereas that point ratio dropped to just 33% when hitting a second serve. It isn’t a coincidence that DLR got 9 drives in and scored 9 points in the game, while Kane got 17 drives in and scored 15.

The key to beating Kane right now is to limit how often he can shoot while setting his feet. And the definition of a second serve lob is allowing Kane to stand there and shoot with his feet set. Meanwhile, Kane served his typical 70%+ effective drive serves where he wanted them, getting aces and 3-shot rallies as expected, and that was that. By the end of the second game DLR had completely abandoned the drive serve and was lobbing on first serve … amazing to think about when playing the best player of all time. I also think DLR was rather devoid of ideas; when his drives failed, he didn’t think about hard Zs or any variation; he just nicked lob serves to Kane’s forehand, which he buried over and over. DLR remains winless for his career against Kane, takes a round of 16 loss (which probably buries his chances at the 2024 title already)

Now, all this being said, Kane played lights out. He executed his typical game plan, wasn’t making errors, kept the pressure on, and generally got the rallies he wanted here. It was vintage Kane, reminiscent of a match from 10 years ago. All credit to him. Kane improves to 19-1 all-time against DLR … and that 1 loss was a forfeit.

– #6 and #11 @Adam Manilla and Thomas Carter had an all lefty battle, which went to the death 11-9 for Adam.

– #7 Samuel Murray took out #10 Eduardo Portillo in a breaker in a match that was not an upset by seed, but probably and upset by talent. Lalo’s time away from the court continues to take its toll and I wonder how long he’ll remain a factor on tour.

– Lastly, the other big news of the round: #15 Erick Trujillo , who already got one career win in this event, got easily the best result of his career with an 11-10 win over #2 Jake Bredenbeck . The end of this game featured multiple turns by each player at 10-10, a questionable/argued hinder call, and a no-doubt buried winner for Trujillo to take it. As with DLR, this round of 16 loss is a dagger for Jake’s chances to take the year end title, given the headwinds that the competitors to the throne are starting to show (more on that later).

– The other top 8 seeds each advanced without really breaking a sweat; Acuna over Natera, Parrilla over Collins, Montoya over Martell, Moscoso over Carrasco. Each in two games, each game of the single digit variety.

So, both #1 and #2 out in the 16s. How often does that happen? Uh, not very often. Since seeds started being hyper tracked in 2009, I can’t find a single instance where both #1 and #2 lost in the 16s. I feel like it’s happened recently but I can’t find it. Perhaps someone’s memory is better than mine.

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In the Quarters, more interesting machinations.

– Done with the #1 seed, one would have expected Kane to blow past #8 Acuna, but that’s not what happened. Acuna (unlike DLR) made a high percentage of his drive first serves and ground out a game one win 15-13. Kane rebounded and was more or less controlling game 2 when he took an awkward step to his right to retrieve a serve and crumpled to the ground. It did not look good on the stream but he rebounded to take the game and the tiebreaker hobbling around to advance to the semis.

– #4 Montoya renewed his frequent rivalry with #5 Parrilla, winning this round 11-9 breaker.

– #3 Moscoso destroyed #6 Manilla 1,5 and seems like he’s on a freight train towards another matchup with Kane in the final now that both #1 and #2 are out.

– #7 Murray came from a game down to top the upset-minded Trujillo in three. Erick’s career tournament was cut short when he seemed to run out of gas in the breaker.

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In the Semis

– Kane’s injury proved too much for him to test, so he gave #4 Montoya a walk-over into the final. Kane did hang around to do commentary on the other semi, which was fortuitous because it turned out to be an amazing match.

– #7 Murray improved to 6-4 lifetime against Moscoso, stunning the Bolivian in a match that will be remembered for a while. After Conrrado ground out a game one victory 15-13, he raced to a massive lead in game two and had match point on his racquet at 14-3. Murray saved that match point against, then ran off 12 unanswered points to stun the Bolivian 15-14 in game two. In the breaker, Conrrado scored a couple of quick points … but then Big Canada ran off 11 straight unanswered points to win 11-2. Just an amazing match from Murray.

In the Finals … I thought “Advantage Montoya” for sure. Montoya was fresher and had the career H2H advantage. Well, that’s why you play the matches. Murray stuck to his game plan, played smart, patient shots, waiting out Montoya’s go-for-broke game style, and took game one. Montoya bounced back in game two, but Murray bided his time and took a massive lead in the tiebreaker. Sitting at 10-6 with match point, Montoya saved multiple match points-against with fantastic diving gets and great shots. Multiple rallies at the end featured questionable calls, hinders, arguments for avoidables that went for naught, arguments about down balls, etc … so it was only fitting that a chaotic rally ended with an avoidable hinder against Rodrigo to give Murray the match 11-10.

This unexpected tourney win for Murray reminds me of his first win, an out-of-nowhere Jan 2021 win in Atlanta, the first coming back from Covid, where Murray reportedly wasn’t even going to attend b/c he has so little playing time. I thought Murray would struggle to beat Portillo in the 16s, let along run off four straight tiebreaker wins over Portillo, Trujillo, Moscoso, and Montoya. Bravo to Big Sam for your second career tier 1 title.

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Points Implications of results on the Singles rankings

There will be some interesting point machinations that will happen in the short term on the IRT. Despite losing in the 16s, Jake will return to #1. That’s because there was no Longhorn Open in 2024 (which DLR won in 2023) and DLR had more points to defend from last year’s Lewis Drug. Montoya meanwhile will rise to #2, a career high … and if he had won that last point he’d be the new #1. DLR will drop to #3 and Moscoso will drop all the way to #4. Murray bumps up from 9 to 6. Kane will improve slightly, from #20 to #17 with his semi finals appearance, and will continue to be a thorn in the side of a top 4 opponent heading into the 16s until he can get himself into the upper teens.

So, when the points were published, the lack of 10 tier 1s in the last 365 days led to some different machinations to the IRT points than my private worksheet supports. The latest rankings “seem” to follow the formula of, “all Tier1s in the last 365 days without satellites and without dropping events,” except that this formula doesn’t support the totals of Moscoso, Parrilla, or Natera in particular. So i dunno. It’s early in the season so it doesn’t really matter, but later on we’ll reconcile our working document so we don’t report the wrong information.

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Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/a40

Well, lets just say my prognosticating on the doubles draw was … a little off. I thought for sure that the presence of the Canadian National team (Murray & Iwaasa), who won 2022 PARC and made the final of 2023 Pan Am Games would make a difference here. Nope: they got beat in the 16s by Collins and Trujillo, not exactly household names on the international doubles scene. This cleared the way for the presumptive #1 doubles team in the world Montoya & Mar to cruise into the final.

From the bottom half, the surprise team of Beltran & Manilla had themselves quite a barn burner against #2 DLR and Landa, in a match filled with undertones. DLR and Beltran of course were long-time partners and friends who had a falling out in late 2022, while Beltran and Landa are good buddies. Landa is notoriously passionate on the court, while Beltran is notoriously a cut-up. These two immoveable forces ran right into each other towards the end of the tiebreaker of their quarter, when Beltran got an avoidable call at 6-10 down against Landa that Alex disagreed with. To me, it was a pretty easy avoidable call; Landa hit a ball right back at himself that Beltran didn’t really even have to move towards to take a shot. He held up and the point was given. Landa went ballistic, surprisingly not getting a technical for his antics … but when Beltran lampooned Landa’s reaction the two got face to face, and not for a short while. IRT Commissioner Pablo Fajre had to separate them on the court, and they went right back towards each other again, having to be separated again. Both teams were assessed a technical, so now the score was 6-9 … and wouldn’t you know it, Beltran and Manilla ran off 5 more points to take the match 11-9. DLR was knocked out of both draws by Friday mid-afternoon. The last time i saw Beltran and Landa … they were eating dinner together in Vegas, and Beltran basically said this was just boys being boys on social media the next day, so much ado about nothing.

Despite their solid win, Beltran & Manilla couldn’t get past the strong partnership of Portillo & Parrilla though, so we got an all-Mexican final. Montoya took the court for the doubles final about 10 minutes after a completely demoralizing 11-10 singles loss and for a big chunk of the match seemed to just be going through the motions … but still led his team to a game one win and a match point in game two. Lalo and Andree saved it, took the second game, then took the tiebreaker for the doubles win.

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Open Singles, other notable draws

– Cardona shows he’s still got it, beating Gastelum, then Iwaasa and Martell for the Men’s Open title.

– Natera and Mark frank took the Men’s Open Doubles.

– Meadow Barth and Vallana Perrault took the Women’s Open doubles RR.

– Meadow and brother Jordan Barth took the Mixed Open doubles (bummer not to see Jordan playing singles this weekend).

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Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew

Thanks to the Tourney Director Mark Gibbs for putting this event on!

Thanks to the Tourney Sponsor Lewis Drug . Without you, we do not have a pro sport.

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Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1V6OTid6rZ356voXVkoV2sN7KMMbIP9SZd0MssH_nPGU/

After a weekend off, the first weekend of February features USA Nationals and the Canadian Winter selection event.

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tags

International Racquetball Tour

@Racquetball Canada

USA Racquetball

IRT Lewis Drug Pro-Am Preview

Kane versus DLR in teh 16s could be epic. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Welcome to one of the IRT’s main-stays, the 44th annual Lewis Drug Pro-Am, hosted by one of the IRT’s co-owners and long-time tourney sponsor Mark Gibbs at the Sioux Falls YMCA (and a couple other clubs) in sunny Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

This event has been a fixture on the IRT calendar in January for years, and has held a special place in the players’ hearts for years. There has often been supplemental prize money offered, travel expense assistance, and an annual banquet at this event.

From a competitive stand point, this tourney has given the tour all sorts of surprises over the years. In 2017, Current #1 @Daniel De La Rosa got the win here, only his 2nd ever on tour, but one that propelled him into the top 4 of the tour, where he’s stayed ever since. In 2018, @Alejandro Landa got his first career win here, a thrilling 11-10 win over DLR. In 2023, after taking two years off, the tourney saw a fantastic final between the tour’s two top players @Conrrado Moscoso and DLR, with Moscoso taking the first shot of the new season across DLR’s bow, winning 9,12.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41883

There’s 35 players in the draw, a very solid draw from a top 20 perspective, with 17 of the top 20 players here.

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Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:

There’s just a couple of play-ins to get to the full round of 32 where everyone is starting these days. One of the things I like about Sioux Falls is that the Canadian National team members usually show up, meaning all sorts of top Canada players pouring into the draw.

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Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible matchups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot:

– #1 DLR versus Coby Iwaasa : just about as tough a round of 32 as the #1 player could want, the #2 Canadian player who has gotten all sorts of random wins over name brand players over the years.

– #9 Alan Natera versus John Goth : Natera should advance here, but Goth has always been a dangerous player who can surprise if you look past him.

– #8 Andres Acuna versus #25 Diego Gastelum: Upset watch here. Gastelum is right behind Acuna on my personal world rankings list and for good reason; he’s one of the best Mexican Juniors out there.

– #5 Andree Parrilla vs #28 Alex Cardona : well, if it was 2016 this might be a WRT final, but here on the IRT its a round of 32.

– #22 Cole Sendrey gets a great test of his current status against touring regular #11 Thomas Carter .

– IRT legend Alvaro Beltran has entered singles for the first time since September but runs into #10 Eduardo Portillo , who has seen his seed slip as he splits time between the tour and flight school.

– the 15/18 match is two Mexicans at different stages of their career, @Javier Mar and Erick Trujillo . On paper this should be Mar, but Trujillo could surprise.

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round of 16:

– Well, you couldn’t ask for a better, more intriguing round of 16 match than #1 DLR versus #16 seeded @Kane Waselenchuk . Kane, ranked 20th, got bumped up a couple spots in the last week thanks to a couple of withdrawals, and now suddenly he’s looking at #1 DLR in the round of 16.

What to make of this matchup? Well, its early enough in the draw that Kane won’t be fatigued by too many matches, which is advantage Kane. He may be 42 but he can still fire in aces with pinpoint accuracy, which most players would struggle with. How much has DLR been focusing on racquetball based on his new PPA pickleball contract? Is he rusty? If so, then this is a huge red flag for his chances of becoming a 4-time tour champ. A loss in the 16s would be devastating given the fact that he’ll be missing events and since his competitors will be advancing further.

We saw a very focused DLR go up against Kane in Vegas, playing very lights out in the two mixed doubles finals where they went head to head, as if DLR was making a point about who was the better player on the court. But outdoor is outdoors, and indoors is Kane’s territory. So, I expect a close game, and I expect DLR to grind out a win.

– In the 8/9, Acuna and Natera projected to play for the 3rd straight event, and Acuna still holds the upper hand.

– #2/#15 Jake Bredenbeck gets a possibly tough Javier Mar who can catch top players off-guard.

– The rest of the draw looks relatively predictable; I do like Montoya-Martell and Portillo-Murray as close matches.

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Projected Qtrs:

– DLR over Acuna without much trouble

– Montoya takes back control of his rivalry with Parrilla

– Moscoso over Manilla with ease

– Jake takes out Lalo but it goes tiebreaker.

Semis:

– I think DLR owns Montoya right now.

– Moscoso is better than Jake right now, even if seeded behind him.

Finals: another Moscoso over DLR final like we saw in Pleasanton. I think 2024 is Moscoso’s year and he’s going to take another step towards the title here.

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Doubles review

The presence of Iwaasa here means the Canadian #1 Doubles team of Murray/Iwaasa can play doubles … and since they never play pro they’re set to play into the #1 seeds Montoya/Mar. So, basically the final of most international tourneys lately will be buried in the pro quarters here in Sioux Falls on 2pm Friday afternoon. A great match nonetheless. The winner of this should play Landa/DLR in the final for the title.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on Facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Favio Soto and guest hosts all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!

Associations

International Racquetball Tour

New Report on Pro Racquetball Stats

Hi racquetball fans!

I wrote up a new report that I thought i’d tell you about. Last August, when long-time LPRT #1 Paola Longoria fell out of the #1 seeding, many asked “Hey, when was the last time Paola wasn’t the #1 seed at a LPRT event?”

Well, I thought that was a pretty good question. So I wrote a query to answer it.

In the per-player report section on www.proracquetballstats.com‘s report launch page, there’s now a report called ‘Player Tourney Results Summary with Seeding.” it’s 5-6 reports down. This query shows every tourney a player has entered, their seed, and their result.

Here’s a couple of interesting examples:

– Longoria: https://rball.pro/zlq . The answer to the above question is now answered: November 2011, Longoria fell behind in the then-called WPRO rankings and was a #2 seed to Rhonda Rajsich for a few events.

– Kane Waselenchuk : https://rball.pro/cyd . Despite nine straight titles between 2009 and 2017 Kane would go through stretches where he fell out of #1.

– Rocky Carson: https://rball.pro/fh2 . Amazing to see how long he basically was #1 or #2 seed.

For older players, you’ll note that the seeds basically start in 2009. That’s when I began in earnest capturing them as each event happened. For some select events of interest in the past i’ve tried to figure out the seeds from context or from published brackets, but I have never tried to fully populate seeds for older events as too difficult an endeavor. Of course, if someone wants to give it a try, i’ll take your research for sure.

anyway, hope you enjoy!

LPRT 2024 Arizona Open Recap

Vargas wins again. Photo US Open 2019 Kevin Savory

Congrats to your Pro winners on the weekend:

– Singles: Maria Jose Vargas

– Doubles: Alexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia

Vargas wins the 3rd event of the four held so far in the 2023-24 season and takes a major step towards securing her first year end title. Herrera & Mejia cruise to another pro title together and solidify their place as the #1 ladies doubles team in the world.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41159

System note: I upgraded my hosting this past week and weekend to buy more resources for proracquetballstats.com and other personal interests. As things often do, the migration didn’t go very well, so i’m still experiencing issues with connectivity and errors on the site. So, there’s no embedded PRS links here for the loaded data because … i’m not sure whether it loaded to the “old” or “new” platform. Hopefully we’ll get this resolved asap.

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Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: tbd

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In the 32s, there were no real “upsets” but we did see some decent games.

– Junior @Naomi Ros took Carla Munoz to 15-13 in game one before falling 13,4

– Jessica Parrilla came from a game down to top veteran Nancy Enriquez in a battle of doubles partners here at this event.

– MRR played @Kelani Lawrence tough before falling 10,7.

– One of the sport’s longest playing vets Susana Acosta made her first appearance of the 2023-24 season; its the 26th straight season she’s played a pro event. She took a game off of @Natalia Mendez before falling.

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In the 16s, 100% chalk. All top 8 seeds advanced, though a couple were pushed.

– #5 Erika Manilla dropped the first game against #12 Munoz before moving on. Despite the seeds here, this is a lot closer of a match and this tiebreaker isn’t unexpected.

– Lawrence pushed #6 Gaby Martinez to a breaker as well, taking the middle game before falling in three.

– Parrilla and Laime had an interesting match: after losing 15-0 in game one, Parrilla fought hard to push game two to 14-14 but fell short of a tiebreaker.

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In the Quarters, we got some upsets

– #8 Alexandra Herrera, who isn’t too far removed from winning tier 1s on tour herself, shocked her doubles partner and #1 Mejia in a tiebreaker. Sometimes, when you play a friend or someone you know well … seeds don’t matter. Mejia takes a quarter final loss and falls further behind in her quest to defend her title.

– #5 Manilla got a solid win over #4 Laime, playing just a few points short of the “perfect” game. Final score: 13,(14),8. Great win for the USA #1.

– #3 Longoria held off her 2018 World’s vanquisher Gaby Martinez 15-14 in game one, then crushed her 15-2 to move into the semis.

– #2 Vargas made very fast work of a player who’s given her fits in the past, #7 Barrios, winning 2,7 to move on. Whatever mental hiccups Vargas may have shown in the past, they seem to be past her.

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In the Semis:

– Herrera moved into her first final in more than a season by topping Manilla 14,5

– Vargas continued her run of success against Longoria, taking two close games 12,14 to move into the final. After starting her career 2-14 against Longoria, Vargas now has won 5 of their past 7 meetings.

In the Finals, Vargas topped Herrera 5,12 in a game that may not have been as close as the scores to win her 3rd event this season.

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Points Implications of results

There won’t be any changes in the current standings for the top 7 after this event, but we’ll see some shuffling in the 7-10 range. Salas will move up from 9 to 8, Barrios will move out of the top 8, and Munoz will get back in the top 10.

The more important points implications is in the Season to Date standings. With this win, Vargas takes a 125 point seasonal lead over Longoria, even more over Mejia. In fact, with three wins out of four so far, Vargas is easily in pole position right now to be crowned the third new LPRT champ in three seasons. Assuming there’s probably 4 or maybe 5 more events in the season (last year’s spring slate featured Boston, San Antonio, Sweet Caroline/Greenville, and a season-ending slam in Chesapeake), and considering that Vargas seems like a shoe-in to make the latter half of each event, it’ll be hard for her to be caught.

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Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: tbd

Nothing could stop the #1 and #2 teams from getting to the final, despite the talent in the draw. There, Mejia and Herrera cruised to another pro title and extended their lead at the top with a comprehensive 9,4 win over Salas & Longoria.

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Open Singles, other notable draws

– USA top junior Naomi Ros took the small LPRT U21 draw.

– Carla Munoz took the Women’s Open draw over Lucia Gonzalez in the final.

– @Ben Baron took out Thomas Gerhardt in an all AZ men’s open final.

– The singles finalists paired up to take Men’s Open doubles.

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Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Timothy Baghurst, Sandy Rios Jerry J Josey Jr., and Tj Baumbaugh

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Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …

https://docs.google.com/…/1V6OTid6rZ356voXVkoV2sN7KMMb…/

Next up is the IRT in Sioux Falls for the annual Lewis Drug event on the 1/28 weekend. Then 2 weeks after that its Us Nationals in Arizona (Canada has a national selection event the same weekend). Next known LPRT event is Boston first week of March.

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tags @LPR

LPRT Arizona Open

Will Laime bo unce back? Photo US Open 2019 Kevin Savory

(a quick systems note: you may have seen some errors on the Pro Racquetball Website, where the code doesn’t work or you get “Resource busy” errors. I upgraded WordPress recently and it’s maxing out my memory/cpu at the host, so I’m upgrading this week. Once i validate the code works as advertised, we should have more stability. Apologies if you’re trying to run reports and getting errors).

It’s been almost exactly a month since the ladies were on the court, and now they’re back in action at a familiar site: Arizona State University in Tempe. Welcome to the first pro tour event in 2024; the 2024 Arizona Open, presented by The Madison Trust.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41159

There’s 26 ladies in Arizona, including 19 of the top 20 (only Centellas is missing), so get ready for some great racquetball.

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Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:

Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible matchups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot:

– the 16/17 could be interesting: Lexi York and @Maria Paz Riquelme should be a nice lefty/righty matchup of solid tour players.

– Lucia Gonzalez makes a rare appearance on tour, and faces off against LPRT veteran Samantha Salas . The 7-time junior world champion has never had the success she had as a junior in the adult world, but does periodically show up and get shocking wins at major events (in 2020 she went to Mexican Nationals and took out two top 8 LPRT pros at the time Enriquez and Herrera before falling in National semis). It’s been several years though since she got a solid win on tour, and now faces a somewhat resurgent Salas in the opener.

– @Alexandra Herrera comes in seeded 8th, the lowest she’s been since the 2015-16 season. For her troubles she gets local Arizona resident and US National team member Michelle Key , playing singles in a Pro indoor tournament for the first time since the 2021 Arizona Open.

– Carla Munoz has dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in a while, and as the #12 seed faces off against up and coming US Junior @Naomi Ros.

– Two Mexican former top 10 veterans Nancy Enriquez and Jessica Parrilla renew their rivalry in the #13/#20 seed match

– Reigning Mexican 16U junior champ Mariafernanda Trujillo makes her pro tour debut against Angelica Barrios

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round of 16, here’s some matches to watch:

– 8/9 Herrera-Salas would have been a 2/3 semi final just a couple years ago. These two are quite familiar with each other and this should be close.

– #4 Brenda Laime took an early upset loss last event; is she susceptible to another upset at the hands of the Parrilla/Enriquez winner?

– If they survive play-ins, Barrios v Natalia Mendez is a nice Bolivian native battle of two of the more unique playing stiles on tour.

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Projected Qtrs:

– #1 Montse Mejia over Herrera. Ironic the #1 seed gets arguably the hardest quarter final by virtue of Herrera’s seed slipping so quickly over the past few events.

– #5 @Erika Manilla over Laime, if Laime gets here. She’s too jekyll and hyde for me; she’s in the final, then she’s losing first round. Manilla needs wins like this to maintain the pressure to get into the upper echelons of the tour.

– #3 Paola Longoria vs #6 @Ana Gabriele Martinelli : love this matchup. Gaby famously beat Paola to claim 2018 Worlds, but generally Longoria owns this matchup.

– #2 Maria Jose Vargas over #7 Barrios. Vargas is the hottest player on tour right now, but Barrios’ game style has given her fits in the past. I believe Vargas has passed a mental hurdle recently (as evidenced by 3 straight wins over Longoria) and wont’ be stopped here.

Semis:

– Mejia over Manilla; Erika can’t just play her power game, trying to blast nothing but passing shots and expect to beat Mejia, who may not have Erika’s mph but has a complete array of offensive shots.

– Vargas over Longoria: Paola has Vargas in her head right now and, even though Longoria has the lead in Season to Date points, its Vargas who has the upper hand over the next few events in terms of expiring points.

Finals: I like Vargas over Mejia again.

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Doubles review

A changing of the guard is seen here, as (finally) the #1 pro doubles team is Mejia & Herrera, having finally taken over that spot from long-time #1 Longoria & Salas. Likewise, Lawrence & Scott have taken over the #3 spot. Lurking though are some very good international teams: #5 is Gaby/MRR, just the reigning Pan Am Games champs. #4 is Laime/Vargas, an incredibly powerful team. #7 is the reigning US National champions Key/Manilla, another super tough team.

this is going to be a great doubles draw. Look for Gaby/MRR to upset #1 in the upper semi, and for Longoria/Salas to take advantage and win to regain #1 on the doubles tour.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the LPRT on Facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for the likes of Timothy Baghurst, Sandy Rios, Jerry J Josey Jr., and Tj Baumbaugh on the mike, calling the shots!

Associations

LPRT

LPRT Arizona Open

(a quick systems note: you may have seen some errors on the Pro Racquetball Website, where the code doesn’t work or you get “Resource busy” errors. I upgraded WordPress recently and it’s maxing out my memory/cpu at the host, so I’m upgrading this week. Once i validate the code works as advertised, we should have more stability. Apologies if you’re trying to run reports and getting errors).

It’s been almost exactly a month since the ladies were on the court, and now they’re back in action at a familiar site: Arizona State University in Tempe. Welcome to the first pro tour event in 2024; the 2024 Arizona Open, presented by The Madison Trust.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41159

There’s 26 ladies in Arizona, including 19 of the top 20 (only Centellas is missing), so get ready for some great racquetball.

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Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:

Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible matchups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot:

– the 16/17 could be interesting: Lexi York and @Maria Paz Riquelme should be a nice lefty/righty matchup of solid tour players.

– Lucia Gonzalez makes a rare appearance on tour, and faces off against LPRT veteran Samantha Salas . The 7-time junior world champion has never had the success she had as a junior in the adult world, but does periodically show up and get shocking wins at major events (in 2020 she went to Mexican Nationals and took out two top 8 LPRT pros at the time Enriquez and Herrera before falling in National semis). It’s been several years though since she got a solid win on tour, and now faces a somewhat resurgent Salas in the opener.

– @Alexandra Herrera comes in seeded 8th, the lowest she’s been since the 2015-16 season. For her troubles she gets local Arizona resident and US National team member Michelle Key , playing singles in a Pro indoor tournament for the first time since the 2021 Arizona Open.

– Carla Munoz has dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in a while, and as the #12 seed faces off against up and coming US Junior @Naomi Ros.

– Two Mexican former top 10 veterans Nancy Enriquez and Jessica Parrilla renew their rivalry in the #13/#20 seed match

– Reigning Mexican 16U junior champ Mariafernanda Trujillo makes her pro tour debut against Angelica Barrios

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round of 16, here’s some matches to watch:

– 8/9 Herrera-Salas would have been a 2/3 semi final just a couple years ago. These two are quite familiar with each other and this should be close.

– #4 Brenda Laime took an early upset loss last event; is she susceptible to another upset at the hands of the Parrilla/Enriquez winner?

– If they survive play-ins, Barrios v Natalia Mendez is a nice Bolivian native battle of two of the more unique playing stiles on tour.

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Projected Qtrs:

– #1 Montse Mejia over Herrera. Ironic the #1 seed gets arguably the hardest quarter final by virtue of Herrera’s seed slipping so quickly over the past few events.

– #5 @Erika Manilla over Laime, if Laime gets here. She’s too jekyll and hyde for me; she’s in the final, then she’s losing first round. Manilla needs wins like this to maintain the pressure to get into the upper echelons of the tour.

– #3 Paola Longoria vs #6 @Ana Gabriele Martinelli : love this matchup. Gaby famously beat Paola to claim 2018 Worlds, but generally Longoria owns this matchup.

– #2 Maria Jose Vargas over #7 Barrios. Vargas is the hottest player on tour right now, but Barrios’ game style has given her fits in the past. I believe Vargas has passed a mental hurdle recently (as evidenced by 3 straight wins over Longoria) and wont’ be stopped here.

Semis:

– Mejia over Manilla; Erika can’t just play her power game, trying to blast nothing but passing shots and expect to beat Mejia, who may not have Erika’s mph but has a complete array of offensive shots.

– Vargas over Longoria: Paola has Vargas in her head right now and, even though Longoria has the lead in Season to Date points, its Vargas who has the upper hand over the next few events in terms of expiring points.

Finals: I like Vargas over Mejia again.

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Doubles review

A changing of the guard is seen here, as (finally) the #1 pro doubles team is Mejia & Herrera, having finally taken over that spot from long-time #1 Longoria & Salas. Likewise, Lawrence & Scott have taken over the #3 spot. Lurking though are some very good international teams: #5 is Gaby/MRR, just the reigning Pan Am Games champs. #4 is Laime/Vargas, an incredibly powerful team. #7 is the reigning US National champions Key/Manilla, another super tough team.

this is going to be a great doubles draw. Look for Gaby/MRR to upset #1 in the upper semi, and for Longoria/Salas to take advantage and win to regain #1 on the doubles tour.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the LPRT on Facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for the likes of Timothy Baghurst, Sandy Rios, Jerry J Josey Jr., and Tj Baumbaugh on the mike, calling the shots!

Associations

LPRT

4th Annual Kelley brother’s Average Joes tourney recap

18U national team member Cole Sendrey topped the solid Average Joe’s singles bracket. Photo via Cole and his gofundme page.

20+ ballers braved 12 inches of snow in Jersey and some electrical issues to finish off the 4th annual Average Joe’s event late last night on 1/7/24, and they were treated to a “passing of the baton” moment of sorts.

Congrats to USA Junior national team 18U member Cole Sendrey (Kim Shipp Sendrey ) for upsetting several veteran players to take the singles title. Also, congrats to the #1 seeded doubles team of Dylan Pruitt and Austin Cunningham for taking the doubles title.

Here’s a recap of both draws.

In singles, seeds mostly held into the quarters; the sole exception being Cunningham taking out Jersey-based David Austin in the 5/12 match. In the quarters, Sendrey shocked Ohio’s #3 seed Victor Migliore to move into the semis, while the other three top seeds held on to advance.

In one semi, defending champ Kyle Ulliman took out #1 seed Pruitt, while Sendrey continued his upset run by outlasting #2 seed and event hose @Sam Kelley. In the final, Sendrey finished off an excellent run by topping Ulliman. Cole as the #6 seed beat the #2, #3 and #4 seeds en route to a well-deserved win.

In doubles, team Ohio (Ulliman and Migliore) took out the Kelley brothers in the semi, but fell in two straight to the #1 seeds Pruitt/Cunningham for the title.

Congrats to all the Average Joes for competing, and hope you all made it home without too much trouble.

4th Annual “Average Joe’s” Tourney Preview

Ulliman is in Jersey looking to become a 2x champ of the Average Joe’s. Photo via r2sports

With the turn of the new year, we get the 4th annual Average Joe’s money tournament, held at the famous “Court 4” on the Kelley brother’s property in Montague, NJ.

More than 20 top amateurs have traveled to Jersey for this year’s event, which is part tourney and part weekend racquetball camp on the Kelley’s property.

Past champions:

– 1st Annual in 2021: Joe Kelley over Austin Cunningham

– 2nd Annual 2022: Kyle Ulliman over Victor Migliore

– 3rd Annual 2023: Sam Kelley over Victor Migliore

This year’s event features perhaps the widest geographic draw yet, with the regular Northeast crew present, plus players from up and down the east coast, top guys in from Ohio like last year, and even top USA junior @Cole Sendrey in from Texas.

Here’s a preview of the singles and (back for the 2nd year in a row) doubles draws:

In the singles draw, your top seeds are:

#1 @Dylan Pruit from Maryland

#2 your host and defending champ Sam Kelley

#3 two-time finalist and Ohio native Victor Migliore

#4 2022 champion Kyle Ulliman.

However, there’s talent up and down the draw; the inugural champ Joe Kelley is the #8 seed, the finalist in 2021 Cunningham is the #12 seed, and superstar Junior Sendrey is the #6 seed. How will this play out

In the quarters, look for Joe Kelley to give #1 Pruitt a run for his money but fall just short. I like Cunningham to upset lefty David Austin early but fall to Ulliman in the quarters. From the bottom half, Sendrey will struggle with Migliore’s power and quickness but may get a shocker upset, while its hard to see Sam Kelley falling before the semis.

Look for Sam over Migliore in one semi, and Ulliman over Pruitt in the other semi, then Ulliman in the final to be a 2-time champ.

In Doubles, look for the top seeded team of Pruitt & Cunningham to cruise into the finals, while the bottom half semi between team Ohio (Migliore and Ulliman) and team Kelley (brothers Sam and Joe) will be a battle royale. I like the Ohioans to take out the hosts, then top #1 seeds for the title.

Watch for streaming all weekend as the guys hang out on the Kelley residence. We’ll recap on Sunday or Monday.

IRT 2023 Season: News recap and looking forward to 2024

Here’s the last in my end of season series, taking a look at the seminal events of the season and then looking forward.

– 1/5/23: IRT and Gearbox officially announce what has been rumored for a few weeks: Gearbox has replaced Head/Penn as the official ball and official equipment manufacturer of the IRT. This ends a nearly 20-year agreement Penn had to provide the official IRT ball. Gearbox’s balls are known to be more “durable” and “more consistent” … but are also known to be noticeably slower than other balls in the sport. How does this end up changing the pro game? For this observer, on panel courts, the portable court, and places not at altitude, the game plays significantly slower, which highlights a need for accuracy and shot making. At altitude and/or on cement, the ball plays more “normally” and power players do not appear affected.

– 1/9/23: Despite losing the Longhorn Open final, #3 Conrrado Moscoso ascends to the #1 spot on tour. This is the first time a player from outside the Big-3 countries of the sport has achieved #1, and is a seminal career moment for the Bolivian.

– 1/20/23: For the 2nd time in three years, Rodrigo Montoya is given the

Teporaca de Oro by his home state of Chihuahua for his accomplishments in the sport. Unfortunately he has to miss the Lewis Drug Pro/Am to get the award, costing him valuable ranking points. By season’s end it doesn’t really impact where he ended up; he finished well behind Jake for #3.

– 1/26/23: #12 Mario Mercado is given the inaugural Mark Griffin Sportsman of the Year Award at the Lewis Drug Pro-Am. Griffin first started the Lewis Drug Pro/Am tournament in 1978, and it is the longest running pro event in the country. The award will be presented annually to the player who most exemplifies the spirit of fair play and outstanding athletic performance of Men’s IRT tour professionals. Ironically, Mercado doesn’t play an event the rest of the season.

– 2/19/2023: the IRT has pivoted away from its tiered qualifying system and is going to a straight draw; no more byes into the 16s for the top 8 pros. Everyone starts in the 32s or the 64s if the draw is large enough. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but this seems to me to be an anti-player move, especially for the top 8 guys. Remember, top 8 players sign an agreement that purposely limits their ability to enter non-IRT sanctioned events, and in return they (for nearly 20 years) got protected seeding in return. Without the protected seeding, why agree to limit your own earning potential? It is also an inarguable fact that tiered qualifying is better for lower ranked players as well, for reasons i’ve covered many times in this space. Uninformed observers are convinced that this is a good thing, but you can count on one hand the number of round of 32 matches top eight players have played this year that were even remotely competitive.

– 2/19/23: #1 Moscoso skips the Williams Accounting Open in Atlanta to be part of the festivities of the celebration of Carnival in his home country. Its the only event he misses all season, but it proves to be a massive absence. De La Rosa wins the event and its valuable 600 ranking points, while Moscoso eventually finishes 2nd by just 226 points at season’s end. A semi’s finish or better in Atlanta would have changed the season ending rankings.

– 3/5/23: Rodrigo Montoya becomes the 45th man to ever win an IRT event, topping his doubles partner Mar in the 16s, then topping the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd ranked players (Portillo, Moscoso, and De La Rosa) to win the title in Minnesota. This is finally enough to catapult Montoya, who has long been one of the best players in the world but was never ranked accordingly, into the top 4 where he belongs.

– 3/16/23: despite being in a nip and tuck battle for #1 on tour, DLR skips the Chicago Open to compete instead in a PPA pickleball event in Austin that happened the same weekend. By season’s end, it becomes clear that DLR’s move here is immaterial, but it was a gamble at the time.

– May 2023: Thanks to the large anticipated 2023 slate of events and the distance we’ve now put ourselves from Covid, the tour will be moving away from the rolling 11 tier 1s and back to a rolling 365-day calendar.

– May 2023: a couple of shots across the bow of the IRT player contract are made, as DLR & Landa play in an “Open” tournament in San Antonio while Portillo skips an IRT event (along with Acuna, who is outside the top 😎 to play in the Asian open. Both actions seem to be in violation of the IRT player contract, which stipulates that top 8 players may not play ANY non-IRT event and only a limited number of IRT satellite events per season. A bit later, Portillo takes to Facebook to complain that he had been fined $500 for the action, though the post is later taken down. It does beg a question as to the fairness of the IRT player contract, but the players can’t really do anything until the new year.

– Aug 2023: World singles & Doubles happens in Denver thanks to two years of planning from Jim Hiser, and with the loss of the US Open this is the defacto US Open of the season. It has the biggest draws of the season by far.

– Aug 2023: With the cancellation of the Portland Tourney of Champions as a Tier 1, the tour will have exactly 10 tier 1s/Grand slams by the end of 2023. Per the player

contract, the year end title will be determined by the sum of these 10 events. The 3 competitors for the title (Jake, DLR, Moscoso) each face different challenges in the race to #1: Moscoso missed the Grand Slam, DLR missed Chicago, and Jake has a ton of late 2022 points to defend.

– Sept 2023: Alex Landa announces in a Facebook post that he’ll be retiring as of the last event of the 2023 season from professional racquetball.

– 11/12/2023: Kane Waselenchuk, who had not played professional singles since his Achilles heel tear in September 2022, enters the Boston singles event with little fanfare and advances to the semis, beating #11 Robbie Collins, #6 Adam Manilla, and most notably #3 Conrrado Moscoso with relative ease. He nearly beats #2 Jake Bredenbeck in the semis, but seemed to pick up an injury that hampered his movement, losing in a tiebreaker. Still, its an amazing return to form for the 14-time pro tour champ, and his defeat of Moscoso had huge implications for the year end race.

– 11/13/23: Jake Bredenbeck ascends to #1 ranking on tour for the first time with his finals appearance in Boston.

– 11/20/23: the tour race for #1 is going to be closer than it has been for nearly a decade, so much attention is paid to the machinations of the two remaining events. Thanks to Moscoso’s upset loss in Boston, DLR’s semi final appearance, and Jake’s final’s showing … the end of year race becomes clear. Moscoso cannot win the title. Jake can win the title, but he needs to win Pleasanton and hope that Daniel loses relatively early. DLR can sew up the 2023 title with at least a semis appearance in Pleasanton, or a quarter’s appearance if Jake loses before the final.

– 12/9/23: A Jake Bredenbeck loss in the quarters of the Golden State Open sealed the 2023 title for De La Rosa before he even took the court for his critical quarterfinal against Acuna. Daniel won that match and his semi to resolve any question as to his #1 status, though he ended up losing the finals badly to #2 Moscoso.

– 12/10/23: In the post-game interview after the Golden State Open final, Daniel De La Rosa announced that he will not be “touring full time” in 2024, alluding to his

commitments to “another sport.” There’s little surprise here; he signed an 3-year contract with the Professional Pickleball Association in August which guarantees a salary, benefits, and expense reimbursement to play professional Pickleball. His main sponsor Pro Kennex and Mike Martinez tried to manage the situation on social media by noting that DLR is a “multi sport” sponsored player and has expectations of continuing to play and compete in racquetball, but as they say, we’ll see how it goes.

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Now for some commentary on the state of the IRT at the end of 2023 and heading into 2024.

Despite having 10 tier 1s in 2023, the tour saw a pretty steep decline in overall participation. In 2022, there were 245 players who competed in one of the IRT’s events; that number dropped to just 133 in 2023. That’s more than 100 players who didn’t travel or didn’t enter an event who had a year prior. Draw sizes were way down; at the beginning of 2022 draws were routinely in the 40s; by the end of 2023 the tour was struggling to get 25 players. Denver and the portable court helped bump things up (those two events got 56 and 48 players respectively) but there’s a big gap of players missing.

We’ve definitely seen a changing of the guard as long-time touring pros step back (Carson, Beltran, Landa, Franco, Mercado). We’re also seeing younger players who were touring relatively full time in 2022 stop touring (Fernandez, Keller, Garay). But we’re also seemingly missing a lot of the international guys who frequently traveled to every event, and we’re not seeing the younger Mexican’s coming over the border as much as we have in year’s past. So, that’s a problem.

A bigger problem is the loss of events. Here’s a quick list of IRT tier 1 stops that we seem to have “lost” just in the last couple of years:

– Longhorn Open in Jan

– The Lou Bradley in Feb

– Williams Accounting/Suivant Consulting in Feb

– Where’s the SoCal Open, usually in April?

– The Syosset Open in NY in May

– World Singles/Denver won’t happen in August 2024

– The Capital Classic in Severna Park in Sept.

– The US Open is not likely to happen in 2024

– We used to have an Arizona Open in Oct

– The Sarasota Open/Dovetail in Nov?

– Pelham ToC went down to a satellite this year in Dec.

Not to mention events we used to have regularly in St. Louis or Cincinnati or San Antonio or in Canoga Park. The tour has picked up some new events (Tracktown, Pleasanton, Boston) but not enough to offset all these losses. And it makes me worry about the 2024 season. Will the IRT even get to 6 events this coming year?

I’m not sure what the answer is. But the tour may be in some existential trouble. Many of the tour’s investors were also its regular tourney directors, and they’ve stepped back from sponsoring events. The IRT depends on local tourney directors to raise funds and make these events happen, and the decline of tournaments in general has fed into t his issue. DLR said he’s stepping back from touring … but if there’s just a handful of events, and he manages to make them all while playing the PPA tour full time … he could end up having the best of both worlds.

Lots to sort out in 2024. But I think its fair to say we havn’t seen the men’s tour face this many question marks since the fall of 1988 when it completely collapsed.

IRT 2023 Final Season Player analysis: Outside the top 10

Landa hangs them up Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Here’s a look at notables who finished outside the top 10 this year, with some thoughts on who could be making a move in 2024.

– #11 Alejandro Landa : Landa retires from full time touring with an impressive career resume. He’s 35, but really didn’t start touring full-time until 2017. From there he ripped off four seasons in the top 3, won four events, made another four finals, and steps away with a career W/L of 158-93. He’ll make for an interesting hall of fame case some day, but for now the tour loses one of its most passionate players. For me he’s always a “what if” he had played the tour full time for his entire 20s, not just the last couple of seasons. I suspect he’d have a career more like what DLR has now in terms of total wins. Could he have won a year end title? Maybe; he has a winning career h2h over DLR (10-8 across all competitions) but would have still been in the Kane era during his own peak. Bigger question; does he play US Nationals in Arizona in February? Or is he “done” done?

– #13 Javier Mar continues to play the tour part time, around his “real job” and periodically wreak havoc on draws. This season he got wins over top 10 players like Parrilla, Landa, and Acuna to shake up draws and played Moscoso tough in a 10,12 semis loss in Austin for his best result. #13 is his career best season ending ranking, but is this as good as we can expect from Mar? He dealt with a hernia injury for a big part of the year as well, meaning he probably could have been even better. If he played the tour full time, I have no doubt he’d be in the #6-7 range. But he never has, so mid-teens seems like what to expect.

– #15 Jaime Martell had his career best showing, finishing #15 on the back of several main draws and one quarter final result. He has a niche reffing the back end of the events and has connections to IRT commissioner @Pablo Fajre from their WRT days. I could see him making more events in 2024 and pushing up a few spots in the rankings.

– #16 Erick Trujillo missed just one event in 2023 but never advanced past the round of 16, which puts his #16 rank exactly where he should be. He’s still in the 21U division, but has losses to his fellow 21u countrymen Ramos, Gastelum, and Nieto lately and didn’t qualify for Junior Worlds this year. And none of those guys are as good as the current Mexican 18U champ Jorge Gutierrez Ortiz. What’s next for him? He seems likely to stay in this general range 15-16.

– #20 Rocky Carson played in just three events this year as he stopped touring full time; he played in the two California events plus Denver. He shook up the Pleasanton draw a bit, taking out Mar and Parrilla before being downed by Montoya. He’s a sure-fire hall of famer, just waiting a couple years to become eligible. I’m guessing he’ll continue to travel to WOR events (where he gets paid) and to California-based events (where his costs are limited) for a while. I could also see him back at Nationals since its in AZ and it’s not a total one and done for him.

– #22 @Kane Waselenchuk returned to the singles court more than a year after blowing out his Achilles heel tendon, and he made an impression for sure. In Boston he waxed #6 Manilla before shocking #3 Moscoso, then ran out of gas in the semis against Jake. Then in Pleasanton different court conditions and an opportunistic Moscoso led to a (10),4,4 defeat. Kane has to be happy though about his status: he’s shown that even at 42, his pinpoint serving accuracy and remaining power can take him past most players on tour without breaking a sweat. The bigger question will be, what happens when he runs into the top 4 regularly? We had too small of a sample size this season to really know (a win over Moscoso, a loss to Jake and a loss to Moscoso). If Kane plays all the events in 2024, I have no doubt he’s finishing in the top 4, but I doubt he can consistently get past Moscoso, DLR, or Jake. But i’ve been wrong about him before, so we’ll see. 2024 prediction: #3 or #4

– #24 @Diego GarcĂ­a . Garcia has taken over the title of, “Best player who doesn’t tour full time.” Mar had the belt for a bit, Montoya before him, then Landa for a while, then before Landa it was probably someone like Polo or Mejia. They join a group that included guys like Sweeney and Muller back in the 1990s. As for Garcia now, he beat Portillo twice this year, had a couple other wins over tour regulars when he did show, and took Montoya to a breaker in the quarters of Denver. But Garcia’s problem is money; he doesn’t have enough to travel up here to play full time. If he did, I have no doubt he’d be top 6. But as it is, we’ll see how many events he can get to.

– #25 @Sebastian Franco only played 2 events this year, and after being a mainstay at the back of the top 10 for the better part of the last 10 years seems to have made the understandable decision to focus his efforts on earning a living for his wife and two kids.

– #27 @Mario Mercado , like his fellow Maryland-resident and Colombian teammate Franco, also has stepped way back from touring after 10 years of playing. Mercado’s knee deep in @Formulaflow.

– #33 Carlos Keller Vargas continues to be a force internationally, but after peaking at #12 two seasons ago has stepped back to his prior pattern of traveling up for just one or two events a year. Meanwhile, he continues to dominate internationally, making the finals of PARC and the semis of the Pan Am games, with wins over Garcia twice, Acuna, and Murray. Hope to see more of him.

– #39 @Elias Nieto only played two IRT events, but continues to impress internationally and could push for a mid-teen ranking with enough events given his h2h record against Trujillo. Same for #42 @Diego Gastelum ; both players have big time promise and hope to see them more.

– #40 @Cole Sendry continues to get reps on tour and internationally in the 18U space, and seems like one of the best bets for the next USA player to matriculate out of juniors.

– #45 @Alvaro Beltran has had father time catch up to him w/r/t singles; he’s still out there playing doubles when he can.

– #54 Gerson Miranda is a great 21U junior from Bolivia, the latest in a long -line of Bolivian junior national champs who could make noise. But, as with many of his countrymen, lack of funding makes it hard for him to tour regularly.

– #70 Sebastian Fernandez quietly stopped touring, which is a shame given the promise he showed while hanging around the top 16.

– #72 Jordan Barth certainly had vocal supporters upon his return from pro baseball; the former dominant junior national champ played one event this year.

– Two former touring pro regulars based in Oregon Charlie Pratt and @Tony Carson

played one event in their hometown and finished tied for #100.

– LPRT #4 Erika Manilla finished at #108 after entering a satellite and going a round or two.

– Bringing up the rear of the standings: Scott McClellan , former lead ref on tour, who entered the Longhorn Open in his home town and going one-and done.

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That’s it for the player recaps. Next post will catch up the news from the year and then talk 2024.

IRT 2023 Final Top 10 Standings Analysis

De La Rosa captures his 3rd straight year end title. Photo Golden State Open, Ken Fife.

Hello racquetball fans and Happy New Year! We’ve come to the end of the 2023 season, so here’s my regular end of season deep dive into the players and the tour in general.

I’ll do this analysis in three parts: first (today) will be the top 10. Next will be notables from the players ranked 11th and onward. Then I’ll finish up with a recap of the news events from the season along with some editorialization. Along the way I’ll offer predictions for 2024.

Without further ado.

#1: Daniel De la Rosa finished #1 for the third straight season, tying him with Charlie Brumfield on the all time list of pro title winners. DLR played in 9 of the 10 events on the season and showed some pretty good consistency: 3 wins, 4 finals, and 2 semis. Zero early round upset losses; basically he was a lock to make the semis the moment he showed up. He went 30-6 on the season. He now has 12 career tourney wins (12th all time) and his career W/L now sits at 221-98 (15th all time). However, the elephant in the room (like it is for a lot of racquetball fans) is PIckleball. DLR is committed to the PPA tour for 2024 and beyond, with guaranteed salary, stipends for health insurance, and travel expenses. Its too good of a deal to pass up, and if there’s a competing event to a 2024 IRT event, DLR likely misses it. There aren’t too many IRT events on the books yet for 2024, but we know for sure there’s a conflict for March’s Shamrock shootout. Because of this, DLR has already hedged his bets and let people know he’s not going to tour “full time” to manage expectations. I predict he’ll miss enough events to knock him out of the top spot but he stays in the top 4 by season’s end. 2024 prediction: #3 or #4, depending on how many events he makes.

#2: Conrrado Moscoso : Conrrado had an excellent season: 4 wins (1 more than DLR), 2 finals, 1 semi and 2 quarter final losses, but its the one event he missed that crushed him in the end; he skipped the one grand slam event the IRT had in 2023, costing him significant points. He finished 2nd by around 266 points, but a semis finish at a grand slam is worth 330 points. He also suffered two quarter-final losses, which are tough to overcome when your rival for the top spot is essentially unbeatable prior to the semis. Nonetheless, Moscoso is well positioned for 2024. He now sits 5th overall in career W/L percentage at 80-22 (behind only Kane, Marty, Sudsy, and Brumfield) and he now sits tied for 14th ever in Tier1 wins. Both of these figure to be improved upon in 2024, as Moscoso beat #1 DLR in three of their four meetings in 2023 (all finals). Most pundits believe Conrrado is the world’s best player, and I believe he’ll ascend to #1 in 2024 and stay there. 2024 Prediction: #1

– #3 @Jake Bredenbeck had a season for the ages. After grinding out the tour for years at the fringes of the top 10, Jake flipped a switch this year and vaulted himself into the top 4. For nearly the entire season, his only vanquishers were the two men ranked above him, and his consistent results pushed him to the #1 ranking by November. In fact, he still maintained a shot at the year end title going into the season’s final event, something that even Moscoso couldn’t say. Jake may have slipped to #3 on points with the upset loss in the Pleasanton quarters, but he’s now a force to be reckoned with for the time being. Jake’s biggest issue going forward will be his age: he’s now 32, and is entering a critical age for pro racquetball players, especially big guys. I think he’ll hang on for 2024, especially given his commitment to fitness. 2024 prediction: #2.

– #4 Rodrigo Montoya After years and years of being “the guy nobody wanted to run into early,” Montoya finally pushed his way into the tour’s top 4 and seems set to stay there as long as he can. In 2023 he became the 45th man ever to win a Tier 1 and had a consistent set of results: 1 win, 1 final, 4 semi-finals. He has kept his “bad losses” to a minimum, and seems set to stick as a top seed. Montoya is the rare player who’s had success against Moscoso in the past (he’s 5-8 against him across IRT and IRF events, though Moscoso has had the upper hand lately), meaning a weekend matchup between the pair guarantees fireworks. My 2024 prediction for Montoya kind of rests on his schedule: he’s has a full time career that has always made it tough for him to make 100% of the events. I’ll bet he misses one here or there and finishes #3 or #4 again.

– #5: Andree Parrilla took a distinct step back this season, starting it ranked #2 and ending it at #5. Parrilla did get a 3rd career win, but it was an anomaly for him this season. He lost in the 16s or quarters 7 out of 9 events this year, getting a couple of really unlucky round of 16 matches against Carson and Mar. But the real story for Andree was the bugaboo of his quarter final matchups; all season he found himself losing at the QF stage to players who he had previously better success. In this respect, #5 makes perfect sense for his year end ranking, and it seems like a pretty good guess for 2023; he’ll continue to run into top four players at this juncture and there’s now a talent gap between them and the rest of the tour. Parrilla will be “the best of the rest” again in 2024 and finish #5 again.

– #6 Adam Manilla : after years of sitting outside the top 10, Manilla rather quietly put together a really consistent season and launched himself to the #6 spot by year’s end. He did this on the back of 7 quarter final appearances in 10 events, overcoming a few round of 16 upsets and staying the course. Adam’s challenge is, those seven quarter final losses were all to the top 3 players on tour: he lost to Moscoso 3 times, DLR 3 times, and Jake once. In order to move up, Manilla needs to get wins over these top guys, and that doesn’t seem like its in the cards right now. I think #6 was as far as he can get and he may very well slip a bit depending on what the guys ranked 7-10 manage to do next year. 2024 prediction: #7.

– #7 Eduardo Portillo slipped from last season’s #4 ranking down to #7 as he missed several events as he continues to work on his commercial pilot training. He also took a step back this season in terms of his finishes: he’s made at least one tourney final in each of the previous three seasons, but never made it there this year. In this respect, he’s had better finishing than the rest of the guys in the 5-8 range, but his absences keep him back. I don’t know what his work situation will be in 2024, but I suspect a full-time airline pilot is not going to have the same kind of schedule flexibility as a pre-college kid. Without knowing anything else, i’m going to guess he continues to hang around in the 7-8 range due to missed events.

– #8: Andres Acuna just finished his best season ever, making six quarterfinals a season after getting past the quarters just once. However, like Manilla and Parrilla above him, he never got any further. To make matters worse he’s mired in the #8/#9 seed slot, routing him into the #1 seed tourney after tourney and making it tough to move up. However, he’s clearly taken a step up on tour, and seems set to make all the events and continue to compete. I’m going to predict he hangs around in the top 10 and finishes #8 again.

– #9 Alan Natera was basically an unknown on tour a year ago, finishing 25th. Not this year; he played every event, made every satellite, and got himself into two quarter finals to finish in the top 10 for the first time. He’s a hard worker and has been improving, but Its hard to see him getting past the Acuna/Manilla/Portillo bunch ahead of him. I predict he finishes 8 or 9 in 2024.

– #10: Samuel Murray took a distinct step back on tour this year, missing three events (the first he’d missed in years) and slipping from #6 last year to #10 this year. He’s still a threat to make the semis, when he’s on, but now that he’s on the wrong side of 30 one has to wonder if he’s destined to push for the top 10 regularly anymore. He continues to rule in Canada though, ensuring his national team spot for the 11th straight year, so he’ll continue to play. If he doesn’t miss events in 2024, I can see him getting back into the 6-7 range. 2024 prediction: #6.

We’ll review notables outside the top 10 in the next post.