Campeonato Nacional FMR 2024 Recap

Mejia may have lost the singles title, but she triple-qualified this weekend. Photo via LPRT

Hot on the heels of the USA Racquetball nationals/Canadian qualifier events last weekend, this past weekend we had the FederaciĆ³n Mexicana de Raquetbol (or FMR)’s nationals, held in the Mexican hotbed of racquetball San Luis Potosi, SL, Mexico. It looks like mid-February is going to be “North American Nationals” period going forward, which is great for the pros planning out their schedules.

Congrats to your National title winners on the weekend:

– Men’s Singles: Andree Parrilla (2nd qualifier = Eduardo Portillo)

– Women’s Singles: Paola Longoria (2nd qualifier = Montse Mejia)

– Men’s Doubles: Andree Parrilla & Eduardo Portillo

– Women’s Doubles: Monserrat Mejia and Alexandra Herrera

– Mixed Doubles: Javier Mar and Monserrat Mejia

The winners of the three doubles competitions form the Mexican National team for those events. The winners of the two singles titles, along with the winner’s of the consolation bracket form the two-person Singles teams that represent Mexico. This is a distinction from the way that USA, Canada, and others qualify; they take the two finalists of the single-elimination singles bracket to form the team, but in Mexico the losing finalist has to play one more match, which often times leaves them out of the team. More on that in the recap.

These players all qualify to represent Mexico in the upcoming cycle of International events, starting (I believe) with PARC 2024 next month in Guatemala City but certainly for the 2024 Worlds to be held in San Antonio in August plus any regional events on the schedule for this summer.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=42046

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This post also signifies that the data has been loaded into the database. Here’s the direct links to the match reports for the 5 divisions:

– Men’s Singles: https://rball.pro/c7z

– Women’s Singles: https://rball.pro/q2e

– Men’s Doubles: https://rball.pro/ru4

– Women’s Doubles: https://rball.pro/8fq

– Mixed Doubles: https://rball.pro/khm

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Let’s review the notable matches in the draws.

Men’s Singles:

The Singles draw for Nationals was way down from prior years, with just 20 players. Last year they had 37 by way of comparison. It could be a one-off, or it could be acknowledgement of a passing of the guard so to speak. Missing out of the draw in 2024 were a couple of defections to the USA (DLR And Landa), and a slew of long-time veterans such as Beltran, Polo, and Cardona. Mar did not play singles as he continues to battle injury, and then there were curious absences like Natera, Martel, and Renteria. This also seems tacit admission that players like Garay, Gerardo Franco, Estrada, and Ochoa, none of whom we’ve seen at an IRT event in some time, may be through playing racquetball at a top level, which is a blow to the depth of the sport in Mexico for sure.

Luckily, there’s a slew of up-and-coming Mexican Junior players who are not terribly well known in the USA yet, but who can play, and many of them advanced into the quarters of nationals. Keep an eye out for players like @Sebastian Hernandez , @Jose Carlos Ramos, and of course for players who have already made impacts like @Erick Trujillo , @elElias Neto , and Diego Gastelum .

As for the draw, the top four seeds and the main IRT touring pro regulars all advanced into the semis as expected. Trujillo was stretched by the always dangerous @Jordy Alonso in the 4/5 quarter, but held on, further evidence of his continuing improvement that we saw recently with his win over #2 Bredenbeck on tour. Defending Mexican champ Rodrigo Montoya topped Trujillo in one semi, while #2 @Andree Parrilla held off @Eduardo Portillo in the other to advance to the final.

Parrilla has had tough luck in this event, having made the semis five times in the last decade but with only one final and zero titles to show for it, but he turned the tides on home soil at this event. But it was a nail biter final: Andree took the first two games and had multiple match points in the fourth, but Montoya forced a fifth game. After the letdown of letting the fourth game go, it would have been understandable if Parrilla lost the final to his long-time rival, but he dominated game 5 11-6 for his first Adult Mexican national title.

In the loser’s bracket, losing semi-finalist Portillo took out Sebastian Hernandez and Alonso to force a consolation final against Montoya for the second spot on the team. This is exactly what happened to Lalo last year and he took the consolation final to make the team. And this year, Lalo did it again, shocking Montoya in 3 games to claim the 2nd national team spot. Amazingly, Montoya is shut out of the Mexican National team despite being its most decorated male over the past 6 years, and despite being the #1 seed in all three draws. Pretty amazing.

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Women’s Singles:

It was a top-heavy draw, with four of the current top 10 ladies pros playing (Longoria, Mejia, Herrera, and Salas) along the #2 seeded Parrilla, who’s slipped to #14 on tour but retains a top seed here by virtue of her performance in 2023.

#5 Samantha Salas got things started with an upset of #4 Alexandra Herrera in the 4/5 match, turning back the clock to grind out a five game win. Salas then managed to take a game off her doubles partner Longoria, but fell in four in the semis. From the bottom half, #3 seed @Monserrat Mejia took care of business, taking out #2 Parrilla in four games in the semis to setup a rematch of last year’s final. In the winner’s bracket final, Longoria was not to be denied, topping Mejia in four to claim her 10th title in 11 years, and what I believe is either her 16th or 17th national title. Our records only go back to 2014, but I believe Longoria swept the ladies titles from 2008 onwards. Amazing feat.

There was still work to be done though; last year saw a huge upset in the consolation bracket final to send a surprise second singles player … could we see more fireworks. The Loser’s bracket now had Salas, Herrera, Parrilla, and Mejia all battling it out for one spot on the team. Herrera made a statement with a 3-game win over Parrilla, ending her chances at returning to the team early. Salas got a walkover against rising junior talent Angela Veronica Vera Ortega to face off against Herrera for a shot against Mejia, but could not top her lefty rival.

The second singles spot came down to two friends and doubles partners; Herrera vs Mejia. They know each other’s game so well, and often there’s “weird” results between the two as a result. On this day though, Mejia cruised to a 3 game win to claim the consolation bracket and the 2nd national team spot. Mejia, despite losing the singles final, triple-qualified on the weekend and will play a big part in returning Mexico to team glory over Bolivia at the next international competitions.

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Men’s Doubles

It seemed like a fait accomplis for the two top teams to make the final, and they did, giving us a final featuring four tour regulars and four of the best doubles players in the world. #1 Mar/Montoya, who are also #1 on tour and have claimed multiple major and international titles together, faced off against #2 Portillo & Parrilla, who have become somewhat of a regular doubles pair on the IRT and are gaining familiarity with each other.

In the final, we got a rematch of 2023’s final, and we got a fantastic back and forth match for the neutrals. After going down two games to one, the defending champs Montoya & Mar came out on the right side of a grueling 17-15 game four win, which may have been demoralizing for some teams, but Lalo/Andree fought back and took game 5 11-7 to claim their first ever Mexican National title. It capped off a amazing weekend for the SLP based pro Parrilla, who won both singles and doubles after having never won a Mexican adult title before. Same for Portillo, who also double qualified on the weekend by virtue of his big win over Montoya in the singles consolation final.

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Women’s Doubles

Only four teams competed in Women’s Doubles, and there was little doubt that the final would be between Mejia/Herrera and Longoria/Salas. They’re the top two seeds here, they’re the top two seeds regularly meeting in LPRT finals right now, and they have been trading back and forth both pro and National titles for the last few years. They both advanced as expected to compete in the Saturday final.

In the final, the two familiar teams played a barn burner. The match went five games, with Herrera/Mejia on the wrong side of two nail-biting 15-13 games before running away with the final 11-5 to claim the title. Herrera & Mejia repeat as Mexican national champions, and it’s hard not to look at this as the official passing of the baton in Mexican history.

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Mixed Doubles

After curiously not competing Mixed doubles at the 2023 FMR nationals, the event was back on the slate for 2024, and the draw was small but stacked. Five of the six teams were comprised of touring pros, and it was anyone’s tourney to win. The #5 seeds Mar & Mejia seemed like a dark horse, in that Mar is one of the most accomplished doubles players in the world and Mejia is the current LPRT #1, and they did not disappoint. Mar & Mejia topped #4 Portillo & Herrera (no doubles slouches themselves) in the opener, then upset the last team to win a Mixed title in #1 Montoya & Salas in the semis.

The bottom semi featured two brother/sister pairs competing, with the Parrillas outlasting the Longorias in five games to make the final. In the final though, it was three straight for Mar & Mejia to claim the title.

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Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …

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

We have a break in the schedule next week, then I have four “big” events set for the first weekend in March:

– 2024 USA Racquetball High School Nationals, this year held at the Vetta clubs in St Louis

– the International Racquetball Tour heads north for the Minnesota Hall of Fame event, put on by the Bredenbeck family.

– the ladies head to Boston for the LPRT Boston Open, put on by USAR President Stuart Solomon

– The crew in Florida hosts their 55th Annual Florida State Championships, which is easily the longest running state tournament in the country.

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Canada Winter Team Qualification Event Recap

Murray wins again. Photo 2019 US Open Kevin Savory

Last weekend, @Racquetball Canada held the second of their two regular team qualification events in Edmonton. Here’s a quick recap along with links to the data now entered into the database.

Congrats to the two winners:

– Men’s Singles: Samuel Murray

– Women’s Singles: Frederique Lambert

Murray captures his 17th Canadian National or Qualifier title for his career, and the 15th out of the last 16 competed. He continues a run of dominance reminiscent of the eras of @Mike Green , Sherman Greenfeld , and @Lindsay Myers, who won 6 straight Canadian titles between 1977 and 1982. See https://rball.pro/niz .

Meanwhile, Lambert cruises to another Canadian national-level title. She hasn’t lost a Canadian qualifier/national tournament since 2014 and with this win puts herself in pole position for the May Nationals to re-qualify for the Canadian National team for the 14th time. See https://rball.pro/1zb .

Here’s a quick recap of the two draws.

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Men’s Singles

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

Perennial finalist Coby Iwaasa missed this event; he’s the regular finalist to challenge Murray over the past few years. In his absence, we saw a first time Canadian national finalist and a ton of upsets in a draw that normally is the chalkiest of chalk.

Two double-digit seeds advanced out of the 16s in @Conrad Cole and @Leyton Gouldie, who topped two regulars on the Canada scene in @Tanner Prentice and @Christian Pocsai respectively. Cole continued his run by topping #4 Lee Connell in the quarters, while #7 @Nathan Jauvin shocked #2 Trevor Webb in the quarters. The first time finalist across from Murray was #3 Kurtis Cullen , who cruised into the final without dropping a game and even took a game off of big Sam before falling.

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Women’s Singles

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/3aw

The Ladies draw featured all the top players in Canada right now battling it out, but the final came down to a rematch of the last two National Canada events; #1 Lambert versus #2 @Juliette Parent . After years in the juniors, Parent has now established herself as the #2 player in Canada, supplanting long-time stalwarts such as Morissette, Iwaasa, Ramsay (nee Drury), and Keay (nee Richardson). The two top seeds advanced to the final, where Lambert again topped Parent for the title, the third straight finals matchup.

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Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …

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

The global Racquetball calendar has a break until the first week of March, and then we have a very busy month of pro, outdoor, and international events. As for Canada, their next national event will be 2024 Nationals the last weekend of May in Calgary.

USAR National Indoors 2024 National Championships Wrap-up

Hollie Scott is the story of the weekend, getting a triple crown. Photo Unknown source.

Congrats to your National Team winners on the weekend:

– Men’s Singles: Daniel De La Rosa over Jake Bredenbeck

– Women’s Singles: Hollie Scott over Erika Manilla

– Men’s Doubles: Daniel De La Rosa & Sebastian Fernandez

– Women’s Doubles:Kelani Lawrence and Hollie Rae Scott

– Mixed Doubles: Daniel De La Rosa & Hollie Rae Scott

Congrats to both DLR and Scott, who take triple crowns and secure their right to play all three divisions on next year’s US National team.

The 2024-25 US National team is now set. The winners above along with the singles finalists have first right of refusal for the next set of international events: Worlds in August in San Antonio and then PARC in March or April of 2025 in a city TBD (the upcoming PARC event in two months will still be manned by the previous team, as their national team contracts run from July 1 to June 30th),

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=41469

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Let’s review the notable matches in the draws.

Men’s Singles

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

The Men’s singles draw went mostly chalk, with the top 8 seeds (all of them current or former IRT touring pros) advanced into the quarters with relative ease. The only top 8 seed to even be stretched to a fourth game was in (of course) the 8/9 seed game, as US Junior national team member Cole Sendrey took a game off of veteran lefty Robert Collins but fell in four.

Charlie Pratt got a slight upset in the 4/5 seed quarter, topping Thomas Carter in an upset by seed but probably not on talent. Former top 10 player Anthony Carson took a game off of Manilla, but otherwise the top seeds advanced smoothly. After that, the top wo seeds advanced into the final as expected, with Adam taking a game off of DLR but no real surprises. The only big surprise was in the final, where Daniel really took it to Jake, dominating the final and winning 8,5,5 to claim his second straight USA National title (and his 6th such title after winning Mexican Nationals four times).

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Women’s Singles:

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

The women’s team qualifying was always going to come down to the top four players, as there’s been a bit of a gulf between the echelons comprised of the touring pros to the rising juniors in our sport. And that played out for sure in Arizona, with several top juniors advancing to the quarters but no further.

In the semis, defending champ Manilla was stretched to five games against #4 Michelle Key , who doesn’t always play singles but who certainly pushed Erika on this day, losing 11-8 in the fifth. In the other semi, #3 Hollie Scott upset her doubles partner @Kelani Lawrence in four to secure a return to the national team. In the final, Scott looked dominant in a game one win 11-5, but then a tweaked back forced Manilla to retire. It’s Scotts first ever national title and part of a triple crown weekend for her after being shut out of last year’s national team.

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Men’s Doubles:

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/89q

The Men’s doubles draw went pretty much as expected, without any real surprises. #4 Pratt & Carson won a close three games over #5 Carter & Sendrey, while the dual-lefty team of Manilla & Carter dropped a game to the San Antonio pair of DJ Mendoza and Brennan Jennings before moving on. The two top seeds #1 Jake & Sam Bredenbeck and #2 DLR & Fernandez each dropped a game in the semis but weren’t seriously challenged.

In the final, the #2 seeded DLR & Fernandez team (which should have been #1 if the seeding had been done on pure points) dominated the Bredenbeck brothers 7,3,5 to take the title with relative ease. DLR dominated for huge stretches, Fernandez manned the right side and out-hit Sam Bredenbeck on the forehand, and Jake couldn’t do enough to impact the outcome. DLR wins his second straight Men’s doubles title, while Sebastian qualifies for an Adult national team for the first time in his career, Mexico or USA. Jake finishes as national doubles runner up for the 5th time in the last 6 years.

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Women’s Doubles:

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

The Women’s doubles draw was always set up to be a rematch of last year’s title match between defending champs Manilla & Key and the 2022 champs Lawrence & Scott. In a back and forth final that featured a ton of shot making and athleticism. Scott & Lawrence outlasted Manilla & Key to win in four, with the last game going 15-13 before a winning return of serve kill shot sealed the title. Scott returns to the national team after a year’s absence, while Key is shut out of the national team for this cycle.

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Mixed Doubles:

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/3wa

The Mixed Team qualifier was the first to get kicked off, and was done by Thursday night. It also featured some of the biggest upsets all weekend. Here’s a quick run-through.

In the quarters, only the 4/5 match featured any drama, and it went the distance. #4 Thomas Carter and @Kelani Lawrence took a back and forth match 11-8 in the fifth over #5 Sam Bredenbeck and Lexi York to move on. This setup what appeared to be a mismatch in the semis against the defending champs and #1 seeds Adam Manilla and @EErika Manila … but, as they say, “that’s why they play the games.” Carter and Lawrence, frankly, thumped the Manillas 6,6,(9),4 to move into the final.

From the bottom side, the expected grudge match between #2 @Daniel De La Rosa and @Hollie Rae Scott and #3 @Jake Bredenbeck & Michelle Key also went the distance, with DLR/Scott surviving 11-8 in the fifth amidst some questionable calls.

In the final … DLR & Scott (who lost last year’s Mixed finals in a close one) made fast work of Carter & Lawrence 4,11,5 to claim the title. Scott returns to the National team after a year away, and we have our third straight different set of Mixed US National winners in as many years.

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Other notable draws:

– Men’s Open: Texan Brennan Jennings took out defending National open champ @Ty Hedalen in the semis and then US Junior national team member and fellow Texan @Dj Mendoz to take the title.

– Women’s Open: @Carlee Jansz took the title in an injury walkover against #1 seed Cheyenne Hayes .

– Men’s Open Doubles: Utah-based @Kyle Taylor & Scott Burr shocked the field by taking out the #1, #2 and #4 seeds en route to winning the title. In the final they topped a very tough Jeff Stark and @Timmy Hansen team.

– Women’s Open Doubles: Jazmin Trevino &Jessica Chen topped Arizona-based Neils and Jansz for the Open doubles title.

– Mixed Open Doubles: Will Reynolds & Shane Diaz took the title over #2 seeded Rebecca Bowman & Lee Meinerz.

– Congrats to all the legends to came to play in the various doubles divisions; the tournament was blessed by a slew of past pro champs like @Kane Waselenchuk , Cliff Swain , Sudsy Monchik , Rocky Carson and Ruben Gonzalez . These players all took various titles along the way in age group divisions. However, most of them came together to compete in the Centurion+ Open division, and the bragging rights goes to Kane, who paired with Arizona’s Daniel Parker to top Rocky and his partner @Charles George in the final.

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Thanks to the Tourney Directors @Jonathan Greenberg , Mike Grisz and @Karen Grisz for organizing and running this event.

Thanks to the Tourney Sponsor @Keith Minor and @Kwm Gutterman . Without you, we do not have a sport.

Thanks for all the streaming from the @International Racquetball Tour crew, with Pablo Fajre doing the setup and the behind-the-scenes, with a great crew of commentators that included Rocky Carson , Mike Kinkin , Richard Eisemann , Sandy Rios , Carrie Wegener Reitmeier , DJ Mendoza, Cole Sendrey, and others that I missed.

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Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …

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

We get a couple weeks off from any major racquetball event, then we kick into March, which is as busy a month as i can remember.

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tags

@USA Racquetball

USA Racquetball 2024 National Indoor Preview

Erika in town to defend her 2023 triple crown of national titles. Photo 2021 US Open via Kevin Savory

Welcome to the 54th annual USA Racquetball National Championships. National Singles has been held every year (save Covid) since 1968, from the predecessor organizations to the current iteration of USAR starting with the IRA, then AARA, then USRA. It’s actually the 55th annual National team qualifier; in 2021 there was just a US Team Qualifier held in Chicago due to facility issues that were dropped on the NGB last minute.

The event this year is in Tempe, on the campus of Arizona State University, possibly for the last time, as the university is reportedly taking out some courts that may make it too small to host national events going forward. There’s a huge draw of players in AZ this weekend: 340, great to see, and the festivities this weekend will include two hall of fame class inductions to enshrine @Jack Huczek , Jim Easterling, and Jeff Stark , all three very deserving of their recognition.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=41469

All the national team qualifiers are being held this weekend for both singles and doubles, and the results will drive the selection of the US National team for the 2024-25 season, with terms starting July 1st. The winners this year therefore will be representing USA at the 2024 Worlds, which we recently announced will be held in the US, in San Antonio. This is big news; Worlds hasn’t been in the USA since 1996, and its presence in the US should mean a massive turnout.

Notable US team absences: Rocky Carson is in Arizona, but is not playing any national team qualifier events. Alejandro Landa was a last minute withdrawal that I’ll discuss later on.

Reminder: the National team qualifiers will be playing by IRF rules, which means rally scoring, best 3 out of 5 to 11, win by 2. Which, I’ll be honest, I hate. I can’t stand rally scoring in our sport, its implementation by the IRF made no sense when it was proposed, it “solved” a problem that didn’t exist, it takes the “comeback” and defensive standing your ground completely out of the game, it fundamentally changes the strategy of a sport that’s been in existence for 50+ years, and it allows matches to end without the winning team in the service box. Furthermore, It’s pointless to play by rally scoring in our own national championships, since the argument is, “you have to get them ready for int’l scoring.” Really? The next time Erika Manilla takes the court, she’s not playing rally scoring, and won’t until the end of March when she heads to PARC and has to deal with it. Get ready for a bunch of short matches: fly all the way to Phoenix to play a 15 minute national team qualifier.

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Let’s preview the National Team qualifier draws, and then we’ll throw in some previews of other major draws that have some “interesting” names.

Men’s Singles:

19 players entered into National singles qualifying, a big jump from the last couple of years, which is great to see. Seedings in Singles at Nationals ignore last year’s results (a change from years past, when the finalists were automatically given #1 and #2 seeds in the subsequent year), and instead go directly by the current USAR Rankings as of the eve of the event. Those rankings can be found here: https://www.r2sports.com/system/rankings/ITArankings.asp…

It means that Jake Bredenbeck is seeded #1, because he’s #1 for all USA men on the rankings right now irrespective of last year’s results or the current IRT rankings, which have #2 @DDaniel De la Rosa ahead of him. The rest of the top 8 is more or less as expected; former IRT touring pros Charlie Pratt and @Tony Carson come in ranked slightly higher than tour regulars Sam Bredenbeck and Robbie Collins , which will make for some fun quarters.

Matches to watch for in the 32s and 16s:

– 18U Junior national team member Cole Sendrey has a tough test against US veteran Collins in the 8/9 seed game.

– Last year’s Open champion Ty Hedalen gets Pratt in the opener; how much has Charlie been playing? This could be close.

– In another 18U Junior versus grizzled lefty veteran, DJ Mendoza takes on Thomas Carter in the 4/13 game. Carter should handle the Texas-based junior but Mendoza could stretch him a bit.

– Tony Carson takes on indoor/outdoor specialist Thomas Gerhardt in an interesting test for Carson.

Quarters:

– I don’t see any significant upsets in the quarters, and would expect the top four seeds to move on. If Sendrey gets by Collins, he’ll give Jake a spirited match but the #1 seed should move on.

– Carter-Pratt in the 4/5; if this was 5 years ago i’d say Pratt, today I say Carter.

– @Adam Manilla likely gets Carson, another match that would be closer if it were 5 years ago, but Manilla’s too consistent now to get tripped up.

– #2 Daniel DE LA Rosa takes on big-hitting Sam Bredenbeck but should handle him to move on.

Semis:

– Jake vs Carter/Pratt winner should be a straight forward win for jake.

– Adam vs DLR is like a regular IRT quarter final, and DLR shouldn’t be bothered.

Final: I’ll go Jake over DLR, if only because both know they’ll be qualified at that point and it’ll come down to who wants the titles more …and for me that’s Jake.

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Women’s Singles Preview:

For the first time since the mid 1990s, @Rhonda Rajsich is not in this draw, nor is she entered into the tourney despite living in AZ. A mainstay on the US team is no longer.

The Women’s National team qualifying draw is now filled with current or recently graduated juniors, and fans can see the future of the sport. @Naomi Ros, Shane Diaz , @aAnnie Robert , and Khyathi Velpuri will push for spots in the quarter finals, but I’d expect the top four seeds to advance to the semis after all is said and done.

Look for @Yor Lexi to challenge #2 @Kelani Lawrence a bit in the 2/7 quarter, and for Michelle Key to face down a challenge in the 4/5 quarter from Roberts. Can Naomi give #3 Hollie a shock? Maybe; this might be the best quarter.

In the semis:

– #1 @Erika Manilla should move past Key into the final; she took the triple crown last year and is in good position to do the same again in 2024.

– In the 2/3 semi, two long-time doubles partners Lawrence and @hollie Scott will face off; Kelani owns career h2h 4-1 and should move on to claim the US team spot.

In the final, look for Manilla to steamroll to her 3rd straight US title.

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Men’s Doubles:

Word began to spread earlier this week of a change in the Men’s doubles draw with the withdrawal of Landa from the event and his partner DLR picking up a new partner last minute. This was due to Landa’s suspension from the US National team for accumulated behavioral issues that came to a head at the Lewis Drug pro am a couple of weeks ago. Landa could have played, but wouldn’t be guaranteed a spot on the 2024-25 national team unless an appeal of his suspension was upheld, so instead the retired touring pro opted to back out of the event. After some hurried phone calls, De la Rosa found a pretty able partner: fellow dual-citizen Sebastian Fernandez , who’s based in SoCal and who could get to Arizona for the event. Fernandez is a pretty solid doubles player (especially in Mixed) and played with DLR as recently as the 2023 Longhorn Open, so they’re familiar with each other and form a pretty formidable team (spoiler alert; I think they’ll win).

Here’s a preview of the 7-team draw. The seeds are not quite according to USA rankings, a discretion apparently available to the seeding committee to make adjustments for competitive purposes.

In the qtrs:

– #4 Pratt/Carson versus #5 Carter/Sendrey should be fun; it’ll likely be one-way traffic to the kid on the court, as both Pratt and Carson are grizzled veterans who are no easy outs.

– #3 Manilla/Collins represents the rarely seen “all lefty doubles team,” which at least will be interesting to watch. I suppose we’ll see Manilla on the right hitting backhands, but who knows. They face the two Texans Mendoza and Jennings in the opener.

Semis:

– Pratt and Carson will absolutely give #1 Jake & Sam Bredenbeck fits. This is no easy match for the #1 seeds, who (if given their druthers) may have opted for the semi match that #2 DLR & Patata have. I can’t quite see the Bredenbecks losing .. but it wouldn’t shock me.

– DLR and Fernandez should advance with relative ease past Manilla/Collins; Sebastian is just way too athletic on the court and will crush balls at whichever lefty is standing on his side, a massive advantage for their team.

Finals: DLR and Fernandez should outlast whoever advances from the other semi. DLR on the right side is too good of a player, can’t be overpowered, and has the ability to kill balls that even a doubles team opponent playing in front of the short line can’t get, while Fernandez is a former top 15 pro who can hang with the best of them on the right.

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Women’s Doubles Preview:

With all due respect to the other 5 teams entered, this draw is going to come down to the two top teams of pro-level players entered. It’s great to see non pros entered, including the likes of NorCal’s Erica Williams, outdoor specialist @Katie Neil , and DC-area native @Grace Ratley entered in, but they’re unfortunately early round fodder for the two pro teams.

In the final, look for defending champs Manilla & Key to top Lawrence & Scott again for the title.

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Mixed Team Qualifying Preview

Nine teams entered here. I’m not sure Landa was entered with a Mixed partner, in that I don’t see any last minute weird-looking partner switches, but we do have some new teams looking to dethrone the Manillas.

In the quarters, look for two interesting matchups that feature teams with lefty males going against conventional Righty-Righty teams; this generally means the male will be drive serving the forehand of the female along the right and vice versa. In the 4/5 quarter, this means Sam Bredenbeck’s power goes against Kelani along the left while Carter gets to blast at Lexi York along the right. Advantage Sam/Lexi here. In the 3/6 matchup, Jake matches up with Annie Roberts along the left hand side, while Collins matches up against Key on the right: this could be a big mismatch, especially with Jake able to blast power serves at Roberts. Advantage #3 seeds.

In the semis:

– #1 Manilla’s are too good for York/Sam and will move to the final.

– #2 DLR/Scott will absolutely have their hands full against Jake & Key, in another matchup with off-the-court emotions coming into play. This is a tough one to predict; I think Key’s better along the right hand side against Scott, and is a better doubles player. But I think DLR is a superior doubles player along the left, and has shown he can absolutely take over mixed doubles matches and can impose his will. I’ll go with the seeds, but I think it’ll be closer than they want.

In the final, a rematch of 2023, and I think the result will go the same. Erika can handle DLR’s pace to her side as the hardest-hitting female on tour, and Key can handle Adam’s pace on the right hand side as a long-time top mixed player in the world. Another close match, but Manillas’s repeat.

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Other Singles Draws worth mentioning:

– Men’s Open Singles: a healthy 22 man draw with a big Texas feel to it. From the top I like 1 v 4 Meinerz vs Mendoza in one semi, and defending champ Hedalen vs Jennings in the other. I think its Hedalen vs Meinerz in the final with Hedalen repeating.

– Women’s Open Singles: Utah’s Cheyenne Hayes is the #1 seed in this wide open draw that features some juniors and some 60+ competitors who could make noise. I have no idea who takes it.

– Men’s 50+ is headlined by Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Stark, a favorite to win yet another national title. Texan Arturo Burruel (who I believe beat me at the US Open once), Alok Mehta, and Tom Fuhrmann linger.

– Men’s 55+ features some fun names: Minor as the #1 seed, Eugene Coyle in the draw along with former touring pro @Doug Cohen.

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Other Doubles draws worth mentioning;

– Men’s Open doubles features 20-time us national team member Rocky Carson as the #1 seed in a paying gig; they likely face Stark and the son of another hall of famer Timmy Hansen in the final. Could be fun.

– The Centurian Open doubles might be the most “famous” of them all. It features teams that include @Kane Waselenchuk, Cliff Swain , Sudsy Monchik and @Rocky Carson . Gee, that’s just 28 year end Pro titles of the 52 that have ever been awarded. Quite the draw. And none of these teams are the #1 seeds and favorites; that’d be dual HOFmers Stark and Tim Hansen . What a draw. I don’t know enough about the partners of all these legends to even venture a guess as to how this draw turns out, but i’m sure it’ll be the most watched of the event.

– The Women’s Open doubles draw, like the singles, is wide open. Eight teams entered and it wouldn’t surprise me to see any of the eight win.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; you’d expect; the tourney and matches start this afternoon on 2/7/24. Follow USA Racquetball on Facebook for announcements: they’ve already posted the streaming schedule for day one.

Thanks to the Tourney Directors Jonathan Greenberg of the USAR Staff, along with executive Director Mike Grisz and his tireless wife Karen Grisz and all the rest of the USAR board for helping out. Thanks as always to @Keith Minor and Kwm Gutterman for being the title sponsor of this event. Keith’s generosity for our sport continues, and i shudder to think where we’d be nationally without his support.

Associations; USA Racquetball