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.
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.
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.
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.
– 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.
– 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.
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.
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!
International Racquetball Tour