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
Let’s review the notable matches in the Singles draw.
Singles Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/kju
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Per our handy master racquetball calendar …
After a weekend off, the first weekend of February features USA Nationals and the Canadian Winter selection event.
International Racquetball Tour