US National Team Qualifying 2021 Wrap-Up

Carson had a great weekend at US Nationals. Photo Portland 2019 via Kevin Savory

(Note: we’ll wrap up the Juniors in a separate post tomorrow).

Congrats to your National Team Qualifiers on the weekend:

  • Men’s Singles: Rocky Carson over Alex Landa
  • Women’s Singles: Rhonda Rajsich over Kelani Lawrence
  • Men’s Doubles; Rocky Carson & Charlie Pratt
  • Women’s Doubles: Rhonda Rajsich & Erika Manilla

The US National team is comprised of the two singles finalists plus the doubles winners, so all the names above are now on the team for 2021 and into 2022. They will represent the USA at the Pan American Racquetball Championships in Santa Cruz, Bolivia in early September and at the World Championships in Guatemala City at the end of October. They may very well also represent the USA a third time at PARC in the spring of 2022, assuming the world goes back to normal post Covid.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=37673

Lets review the draws.


Men’s Singles:

Match report in PRS: http://rball.pro/120468

12 men entered the draw. There was one consequential early match: Minnesotan John Goth faced off against #5 seed Charlie Pratt in a tough opener for both; Pratt advanced 8,8 to move into the quarters.

In the quarters

  • #1 Carson blitzed Blake Hansen 0,1 to move on.
  • #5 Pratt upset #4 Thomas Carter​ 11,9 in a sometimes choppy match, but the veteran Pratt did what he needed to move on.
  • #3 Jake Bredenbeck outlasted a fierce challenge from #6 Miller 2,(10),6
  • #2 Alex Landa ​had little trouble moving past Sam Bredenbeck 1,5.

In the semis, chalk:

  • #1 Carson downed his doubles partner Pratt in a close, tactical match 13,9
  • #2 Landa continued his career unbeaten streak against #3 Bredenbeck, winning 3,11 and guaranteeing his spot on the US National team for the 2nd year in a row since “defecting” from Mexico.

In the final, Carson reversed the course of their latest matchups and topped Landa 12,13 to take the title. This is his 8th national title; his first came in 2000, meaning he’s had titles 21 years apart. Amazing. See here: http://rball.pro/E7F463 for a list of all Men’s US national amateur champions dating to 1968.


Women’s Singles

Match Report: http://rball.pro/AABC55

10 women entered the draw. In the play ins, two younger players advanced into the main draw, with 18U competitor Annie Roberts getting a nice win over Jessica Chen and Graci Wargo getting a walkover into the qtrs.

In the quarters, chalk:

  • #1 Erika Manilla cruised past the junior Roberts 7,2
  • #4 Kelani Lawrence got a walkover against Texan Linda Tyler
  • #3 Hollie Scott make quick work of Lexi York​ 1,7
  • #2 Rhonda Rajsich cruised past Wargo 5,1

In the semis, a couple of interesting results to me:

  • #4 Lawrence took out the #1 seed Manilla 13,6. Though an upset by seed, Lawrence is the defending US national champ and was a favorite to advance to the final again.
  • #2 Rajsich took out the winner of the most recently held US national qualifier in #3 Scott in a tie-breaker. This result surprised me, as Scott has been on fire lately in pro and outdoor events, while Rhonda has scuffled a bit.

In the final, another surprise to me as Rajsich avenged her 2019 loss to Lawrence at Nationals and claimed the title 7,14. This win is Rhonda’s 12th US National title, which is the most of any American women and breaks the record for most ever national titles held by Jen Saunders in Canada (thought I will say, our Mexican records are a little spotty and it is likely Paola Longoria​ has more for Mexico). See this link for all Women’s US National title holders, dating back to the first ever Women’s championship held in 1970. http://rball.pro/CE3A9F


Men’s Doubles

Match Report: http://rball.pro/8AC9C1

The Covid-forced withdrawal of Landa/ Sudsy Monchik forced a last minute re-drafting of the draw, and some pre-tournament complaints about seeding were resolved on the court. The #2 seeded brother team of Jake Bredenbeck and Sam Bredenbeck withstood a test from the #3 seeded team of Troy Warigon and Maurice Miller to advance to the final There, they met the 2019 champs and new #1 seeds of Rocky Carson and Charlie Pratt Racquetball​, who had advanced past John Goth​ and Blake Hansen​ in the semis.

In the final, Rocky/Pratt came back from a close game 1 defeat to cruise in game two, then outlast the Bredenbecks in the final to take the championship.

This win is Rocky’s 12th national doubles title and Pratt’s 2nd, and it returns Rocky to the National team for (I believe) the 16th time.


Women’s Doubles

Match Report: http://rball.pro/D93186

An interesting draw and interesting results to this pundit.

1 seeds Rhonda Rajsich teamed up with a new partner in Erika Manilla for this event, and the partnership paid off. They advanced past #4 seed Lexi York and Linda Tyler in the top semi. The bottom semi featured a very tense match that featured what had to be dozens of appeals and the need for line judges before it was all over. The #3 seeded team of Michelle De La Rosa and Sheryl Lotts outlasted and upset the #2 seeded team of Kelani Lawrence​ and Hollie Scott​ 11-9 in the breaker. De La Rosa and Lotts made the interesting decision to travel to Des Moines and only play doubles, and it seemed like it paid off with their shot at the title.

However, it was not to be; the #1 seeds won the first game in the finals with comfort and then staved off an attempt to push through to the tiebreaker. Rajsich and Manilla win 8,14 to take the National doubles crown.

It is the 3rd National doubles title for Rajsich, and the 2nd in a row for Manilla. It returns Rajsich to the national team for (I believe) the 12th time.


Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Leo Ray Vasquez and Dean DeAngelo Baer and Pablo Fajre, who flew in the IRT crew to help with production.

Thanks to the Tourney Director Connor Shane putting this event on!

Reminder to Players! Please like and follow this page so that when I tag you, you see it. Facebook will only retain tags of people that like/follow a page, which means lots of you are not getting the notoriety of getting tagged and noticed on FB. If your name is here and it isn’t tagged … it probably means I attempted to tag you but FB stripped it.


Next up?

The next major event on the schedule is Mid August’ World Singles & Doubles, put on by Jim Hiser in Denver, Colorado. There’s an IRT tier 5 scheduled in Atlanta the first weekend in august and MRF Nationals in the interim. We’re hearing rumors of Mexican national events being shoehorned in at some point this fall, but no word yet.


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2021 USAR National Team Qualifier Preview

Welcome to US Nationals! This weekend, the men and women will have US National team qualifiers to determine who represents the USA at the PARC and World tournaments later this year (in Bolivia and Guatemala respectively), and the Juniors will be competing to win Junior National titles and earn the honor to represent the USA at Junior Worlds in Guatemala later this year.


Lets preview the draws.

R2 Sports App link:https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=37673


Men’s Singles.
12 players entered, highlighted by the top 2 seeds who made the finals of the last national qualifier we held, along with a number of IRT regulars.

In the play-in, look out for #12 John Goth, a solid player who made the US National final in 2012 and the round of 16 in the last pro event he played, who faces #5 Charlie Pratt Racquetball, he himself a frequent US National team member and the current US Junior national team coach. Whoever Goth faced in the opener would face a tough challenge.
In the Quarters, whoever survives Goth/Pratt has a good chance against #4 Thomas Carter to make the semis. The projected #3/#6 match between Jake Bredenbeck and Maurice Miller could be interesting as well.

In the end, I expect the top two seeds #1 Rocky Carson and #2 Alex Landa to advance to the final and battle it out for the US title. That match would be a coin flip for me; in the last qualifier Rocky came out on top, but the last time they faced off professionally Landa squeaked by with an 11-10 win in the final of the Los Compadres open in Fullerton in Nov 2019.


Women’s Singles:

The top 4 women in the US keep running into each other in the back end of these tournaments, and I expect the top 4 seeds to advance to the semis again this year.
In the semis, I look for two upsets by seeding; look for #4 Kelani Lawrence to top #1 Erika Manilla in the top half, and for Hollie Scott (who won the last National team qualifier and thus i’m not quite sure how she’s only ranked #3) to top #2 Rhonda Rajsich in the other semi.

In the final…i’ll go with Kelani, who just faced (and beat) Scott in the LPRT Sweet Caroline open in May rather easily to beat her again and claim her second national title.


Men’s Doubles
The big news here was the last minute positive Covid test that defending US doubles champion Sudsy Monchik suffered, which has taken him out of traveling and thus out of the tournament. He’s really bummed, but also has been dealing with the illness, and we’re glad he’s recovering. With the news, USAR reworked the draw and four teams remain to compete.

In one semi, look for the new #1 seed Carson/Pratt (the 2019 champs) to take out the local favorites of Goth/Blake Hansen, while the 2/3 match should feature some fireworks between two good teams of the Bredenbeck brothers (Jake and Sam Bredenbeck) playing Miller and Troy Warigon.

In the final look for Carson/Pratt to prevail over the Bredenbecks to take the title and send Rocky back to an international competition for the 14th year.


Women’s Doubles
The defending champ from the last national qualifier ( Aimee Roehler Ruiz) is out while battling Breast Cancer, so the teams are relatively jumbled from the last time we saw them. There’s 5 teams playing, and I expect the top two seeds to advance to the final.

In the final, look for the team of Scott/Lawrence to take out the team of Rajsich/Manilla to take the title.

Juniors
It has been two years since we had Junior Nationals and we’ve lost an entire class to matriculation, so its the first time we’ve seen some of these kids in quite a while. I won’t spend a ton of time previewing the draw or making predictions since, well, we just have no idea what will happen.

In the Boys 18U; the top two seeds of Timmy Hansen and Andrew Gleason are seasoned junior international vets and will be hard to beat. Gleason is playing on home soil and could be an upset favorite, but he’ll have to get by a tough #3 seed in Krish Thakur, who has 3 junior titles to his credit. Nonetheless, I like Hansen, who has looked just dominant in local Florida events as of late, to take the title.

In the Girls 18U, #1 Annie Roberts is a favorite to make the final, but she has no simple pathway there. On the bottom side, the 2/3 semi should be great between Erin Slutzky and Shane Diaz. All three have been regularly popping up in LPRT events and moving their careers forward. Look for Roberts to take the title.

In the Boys 16U, a stacked draw at the top, featuring two top seeds in Vedant Chauhan and Nikil Prasad, two Norcal kids who face off a lot. But look out for New Yorker Josh Shea, who has been hanging out at the Kelley court competing against pretty significant competition and might make a run here. The last time these three faced off, Chauhan topped Shea in the 2019 14U, and Prasad topped Chauhan in the final … we’ll get rematches of both this weekend.

In the Girls 16U: it is the Heather Mahoney show; she’s won 8 junior titles and is the defending World 14U champ. It will be difficult to top her in Iowa this weekend.

For the 14U and younger draws … as fans we’ll have to wait and see how the draws play out. I find it hard to even make predictions on kids who were 12 the last time we saw them.


Look for Streaming on USA Racquetball’s page, with Leo Ray Vasquez on the mike as always! Plus, this year USAR has brought in none other than the IRT’s main streaming guy Dean DeAngelo Baer to help out.

Thanks to the Tourney Director and USAR national events coordinator Connor Shane or putting this event on!

Reminder to Players! Please like and follow this page so that when I tag you, you see it. Facebook will only retain tags of people that like/follow a page, which means lots of you are not getting the notoriety of getting tagged and noticed on FB. If your name is here and it isn’t tagged … it probably means I attempted to tag you but FB stripped it.
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Mexico Campeonato Nacional Wrap-up

Montoya returns to the top of Mexican Racquetball for the first time since 2018. Photo Gearbox promotional

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:

  • Men’s Singles: Rodrigo Montoya
  • Women’s Singles: Paola Longoria
    And, congrats to all the players who made the Mexican National team for 2021 (all semi finalists).

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=36616

Lets review the notable matches in the Men’s Open draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: tbd (having tech issues this week)

In the 32s, a couple of upsets by seed or notable results:

  • #24 Elias Nieto took out #9 Daniel Diaz in two games 11,9. Nieto used his length to take control over Diaz and move on.
  • #25 Rodolfo Esparza took out #8 semi-regular IRT touring pro Erick Cuevas in a tie-breaker for the biggest upset of the round.

– #21 Carlos Esparza upset #12 Alex Bear 6,12 to setup a meeting with the reigning world champ Montoya.

In the 16s:

  • The first match of the 16s was also the biggest upset of the weekend: #1 seed and favorite to advance at least to the semis Sebastian Fernandez was upset in two games 13,10 by his junior cohort team member Emir Martinez. Fernandez and Martinez last met in a top-level tournament in the finals of Mexican 18U in 2019, an 1,3 dominant victory for Patata, but the tables were turned today. Fernandez played loose, left balls up and Martinez took advantage. Huge upset and the upper half is really opened up now for Montoya to return to the finals.
  • #2 Javier Mar avoided the same fate as #1 Patata, but had to really work to advance past #15 Jose Ramos. Ramos took game one 15-14, and the tiebreaker was 11-8.
  • #6 Erick Trujillo went the distance to down #11 Juan Loreto 11-9.
  • #20 Jordy Alonso continued his hot streak and took out #4 Christian Longoria in a tie breaker.

– the other top touring pros (#7 Andree Parrilla, #3 Lalo Portillo and #5 Rodrigo Montoya Solis all advanced in two dominant games.

In the Quarters:

  • #24 Nieto took out #16 Martinez to earn a shock semi-finals appearance.
  • #5 Montoya absolutely dominated #20 Alonso to move into the semis. Montoya donuted Jordy in the first, and was threatening to do so in the second before Alonso went on a run of points at the death to make it respectable.
  • #3 Portillo was not troubled by #6 Trujillo (who is also competing in the 18U here this weekend) and moved on with ease 5,6.

– The match of the night though, and the surprise of the night, was in the 2/7 game. #7 Parrilla absolutely dominated #2 Mar throughout the match, running up big leads in both games by playing smart, conservative racquetball, and blitzed into the semis with a 5,4 win. Parrilla looked crisp in his shots, putting balls away with ease and kept the pressure on Mar, who just couldn’t get anything going. Great win by Parrilla.

In the Semis

  • #5 Montoya ended Elias’ run, dominating his younger countryman 3,10 to move onto the final.
  • Another barn burner for Parrilla in the bottom semi, as he dug deep to take out #3 Portillo in a tie-breaker. This was a tough win, as Portillo has been improving steadily.
    In the Finals, Parrilla and Montoya face off for the next version of a very long-running series. The two players are just a few weeks apart in age and frequently met in the finals of junior nationals and junior worlds tournaments growing up. They traded titles for years, and then traded titles professionally. I don’t have them meeting in a top-level tourney since Mexican Nationals in 2018, but clearly Montoya has had the upper hand post-juniors. And the same happened in the 2021 final. Parrilla raced to a 15-4 first game win, but couldn’t close it out in game 2 and then Rodrigo dominated the tie-breaker to take his 2nd Mexican National title (he also won in 2018)

(Lalo took out Elias for 3rd)

Women’s Open review
Match report in the PRS database: tbd (having tech issues this week)
In the 16s:

  • no major upsets and mostly dominant 2-game wins for the top seeds.
  • #2 Jessica Parrilla was taken to a tiebreaker by 18U player Leonela Osorio, dropping the first game 15-14 before bearing down and cruising to a TB win.
  • #5 Susy Acosta was stretched by Delia Aguilar but advanced in two close games.
    In the Quarters, we got some heavyweight LPRT matchups and a couple of surprising results.
  • #1 Paola Longoria got her title defense started with a quick win over #9 and 18U competitor Daniela Rico 2,4.
  • #4 Montse Mejia served up a double donut against #5 veteran Acosta, winning 0,0.
  • #3 Samantha Salas Solis got a great win, topping #6 Alexandra Herrera in an 11-9 tiebreaker. Salas has seen her pro rankings slip lately, having been overtaken for the #2 spot on tour by Herrera, but she kept her career record perfect against Alexandra in top-level events, improving to 9-0.
  • #7 Nancy Enriquez gets a solid win over #2 Parrilla 10,9. An upset by seed, but in reality a really solid win for Enriquez, who has been playing on fire as of late.
    In the Semis:
  • #1 Longoria continued her dominance over her erstwhile younger rival Mejia, dominating the first then holding on for the win 4,11 to move to the final.
  • #3 Salas continued her great run this weekend, crushing her frequent LPRT rival Enriquez 7,4 to return to the Mexican Nationals final for the first time since 2018.

In the final, Longoria topped her frequent doubles partner Salas 11,3 to win her 7th title in the last 8 years.

Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from the players and from RKT.
Thanks to the Tourney Director Favio Soto for putting this event on!

Reminder to Players! Please like and follow this page so that when I tag you, you see it. Facebook will only retain tags of people that like/follow a page, which means lots of you are not getting the notoriety of getting tagged and noticed on FB. If your name is here and it isn’t tagged … it probably means I attempted to tag you but FB stripped it.

Next up?

LPRT’s Team Root; Follow LPRT and tuen into their 6/15/21 bracket release show on facebook live!

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Mexico Campeonato Nacional Preview

Sebastian Fernandez is the #1 seed at Mexican Nationals 2021; can he capitalize? Photo unk

This week and coming weekend features the Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol (FMR)’s Campeonato Nacional (National Championships), being played in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

This tournament was one of the few to get in before Covid shut down the sport in 2020; it is normally competed in February, and is one of my favorite tournaments to cover, usually filled with amazing upsets and names not well known to the global rball fanbase making big runs (though, more and more these players are becoming household names).

This year will be a bit different for FMR Nationals: they have comparable draw sizes in both the Men’s and Women’s draws to last year, but the men’s draw in particular is missing a TON of big-time names this year. The two finalists from last year are not present ( Alvaro Beltran and Daniel De La Rosa ). Also missing are top names like Alan Natera Chavez and @Gerardo Gerardo Franco Gonzalez and Alex Cardona. No @Eduardo Eduardo Garay Rodriguez, who is I hear is returning to the Mexican fold. No Javier Estrada to make a deep run. No Eduardo Ochoa or Jaime Martell Neri to get big time wins. Lastly, no Alejandro Landa, who is entered into USA’s nationals in a month’s time after leaving the Mexican federation over some rather short-sighted decisions related to the Pan Am Games roster selection.

So that’s too bad …. but it also illustrates just how deep the Mexican player pool is, because the top 8-10 players who are here are solid.

R2 Sports App link:https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=36616

Lets preview the Men’s Open draw first:

The 32s kick off the event on Tuesday; there shouldn’t be too many surprises in the 32s, and most of the top seeds are getting byes. However, some of the below predictions may already be obsolete if we see round of 32 upsets played before you read this…

Matches to look for in the round of 16:

  • I like 8/9s and I like Daniel Diaz to take out #8 Erick Cuevas in a slight upset. Diaz has been playing a ton of Texas tourneys and should have the chops to take out Cuevas.
  • #4 Christian Longoria may have his hands full with an under-seeded #20 Jordy Alonso, who I expect to advance here. Alonso beat Lalo Portillo in a local tournament in April, a pretty significant win, and i predict him to build on that victory here.

– #2 Javier Mar versus #15 Jose Ramos, recently graduated out of the juniors. Ramos made the semis of 2019 World Junior 18U, losing a heartbreaker 11-10 to close out his junior career; now he’s gotta compete with the pros.

Projected Qtrs: here’s where the rubber meets the road.

  • #1 Sebastian Fernandez, who gets the #1 seed by virtue of being the highest finisher actually present from the Feb 2020 event, projects to face #9 Diaz. Patata has stepped back from racquetball a bit, but still is a major player and should advance here.
  • #5 @Rodrigo Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #20 Alonso: how is reigning World champ and reigning Pan Am games champ only seeded 5th? Well, he got beat early last year (by Portillo) and they re-seed every year based on last year’s finish. Agree or disagree, it always lends itself to some fun early matchups. Montoya moves on here.
  • #3 Lalo Portillo projecting against #6 Erick Trujillo; Portillo has been on a big-time roll lately, kickstarted at this event last year with his run to the semis. He moves on here.
  • #7 Andree Parrilla vs #2 Mar; two of the best seven or eight players in the world right now face off way too early in the quarters here. These two have generally split their matchups, but Mar took their most recent pro meeting at the 2020 Lewis Drug pro-am. I like Mar here.
    Semis:
  • I think #5 Montoya takes out Patata here; just too much firepower for Fernandez to handle.
  • #3 Portillo over #2 Mar: this is an upset by seeding, and an upset by my personal rankings, but Portillo is trending well right now. He just finished off an event where he topped multiple touring pros to win the IRT Tier 5 in Severna Park, and the last time these two played in a top-level event was in 2017. Lots has changed since. Lalo to move on.
    Finals;

– i’m going with Lalo over Montoya (just as he beat Rodrigo in last year’s Mexican Nationals) to climb to the top of Mexican racquetball. Mar beats Fernandez for 3rd.

Women’s Open preview:
15 women entered, headlined by the top 6-7 Mexican touring pros and then a slew of younger players. Most of the expected names are present, but we are missing a couple of names that usually shake the draw up ( Lucia Gonzalez in particular, but also Ana Laura Flores, Erin Nocamroves Rivera, etc.
Round of 16 matches to watch for: I see no jeopardy of any upsets in the opening round, with maybe the 8/9 being a toss-up.
Projected Quarters:

  • #1 Paola Longoria vs the winner of Rico/Ortega: should be quick work for the GOAT.
  • #4 Montse Mejia should make quick work of #5 Susy Acosta, who continues to compete at a high level after more than 20 years of playing professionally.
  • #6 Alexandra Herrera should start to get her Mexican rankings back in line with where her pro rankings are by taking out #3 Samantha Salas Solis
  • #2 Jessica Parrilla has a suddenly harder-than-it-looks match against #7 Nancy Enriquez. I think Enriquez looked awesome at the last LPRT tournament and is favored to beat Parrilla.
    Semis:
  • Longoria over Mejia: once again, seedings betray the two best players in Mexico and force them to play one or two rounds early. This should be the final, and was the final a couple years ago when Mejia stunned Longoria to take the 2019 Mexican title. But that’s the only time Montse has really threatened Paola, who should win and advance here.
  • Herrera over Enriquez: there’s a reason Alexandra has moved to #2 on tour, and its because she’s been getting wins in situations like this; tough wins against fellow top players over and again. She’s been consistently in the semis or finals on tour, and will be here as well.

Finals: Longoria over Herrera.

There’s only singles this weekend; Mexican doubles either doesn’t happen this year (with a FMR-named team) or is yet to be announced. The Juniors are playing … but as far as I know this is NOT junior nationals for Mexico 2021.

Streaming: i’m sure we’ll have personal streaming; follow FMR, RKT and the players all week and weekend.
Reminder to Players! Please like and follow this page so that when I tag you, you see it. Facebook will only retain tags of people that like/follow a page, which means lots of you are not getting the notoriety of getting tagged and noticed on FB. If your name is here and it isn’t tagged … it probably means I attempted to tag you but FB stripped it.
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2021 Warhawk Open Preview

Maurice Miller is the defending champ and #2 seed; can he repeat? Photo USOpen 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Hello Racquetball fans! There’s an IRT Tier-5 event happening this weekend; the 2021 Warhawk Open, so named because Warhawks are the mascot of the host facility, the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM). Nearly 70 players have entered this event, the lions share from Louisiana and Texas, and represent a good chunk of the top players from the South West. The Pro Singles draw includes no less than 24 players and play gets started first thing friday morning.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=37104

Draws are up and online now.

PRS note/reminder: we do not enter non-Tier1s into the database. This review is as a fan of the sport craving live racquetball action

🙂

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Notable round of 32 and 16 matches: honestly I don’t know the local players well enough to make predictions. I do see some familiar names though in the play ins and look forward to seeing if they can advance. Good luck to frequent and vocal racquetball fans like Parker Ewing, Bryan Satawa, Steve Semones, Lance Hale, Ray Flowers, and the like.

The 8/9 and especially the 7/10 round of 16s look tough, with #7 Sam Hojat projected to take on #10 Kipp Atwell if seeds hold early.

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Projected Qtrs:

If the top seeds hold, here’s what your quarters would look like:
– #1 Robert Collins v #8 Daniel Diaz; Collins is a long-time touring vet from Hawaii/NorCal who has been touring full time since 2013. Diaz is a wildcard; he played the Atlanta Tier1 earlier this year and lost two close matches to a couple of touring vets. He was the 2019 Texas state singles champ and could give Collins some grief, but I think Collins advances.
– #5 Bob Jackson has been playing top-level Racquetball for 25+ years: he was qualifying into main draws in the mid 1990s. He is projected to play Texan #4 Zach Williams, who ran to the final of this event last year and should be favored to move on here.
– #3 Destry Everhart is Alabama’s #1 player and has a ton of solid wins on his resume; he might face a tough round of 16 against top veteran Texan Lance Hale. In the quarter’s he’s set to face #6 Brennen Jennings, who has won the last few Texas shootouts he’s entered. This could be an upset pick by seed.
– #2 Maurice Miller, this event’s defending champ, projects to take on the Hojat/Atwell winner here for a spot in the semis.

Projected Semis:
– #1 Collins v #4 Williams: I think i like the veteran lefty to move on here.
– #2 Miller v #6 Jennings: I don’t think Miller is losing at this juncture.

Finals; #2 Miller defends his title over #1 Collins.

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Doubles review

14 teams entered, including a ton of players who aren’t in the singles pro draw. I like the #1 seeded team of Diaz/Jennings to advance to the semis. There they are set to face #4 seeds but defending champs Miller & Miller for a barn burner.

At the bottom, #2 seed Magana/Williams made the final last year and are favorites to get there again, though doubles teams with tough players like Collins and Richard Eisemann are in their side of the draw.

Look for the Millers to repeat and give Maurice the double.

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I’m sure there will be streaming this weekend; Plenty of the participants are regular/frequent participants of the Racquetball facebook groups.

———————————T

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Annual Joes Tourney Wrap-up

Joe Kelley takes his own tourney on home soil. Photo credit: Stephen Fitzsimons, 2020 3WallBall

Congrats to Joe Kelley for winning on home turf and taking the first annual Average Joe’s Invitational at the Kelley house in Montague, NJ.

15 players representing 6 states (NY, NJ, MD, CT, NC and GA) came to the home of Joe and Sam Kelley, who recently completed construction on a court adjacent to their home. The facility is great, the play was great, and the streaming was constant all weekend.

Play kicked off Friday night with the round of 16, then played out the full draw by Saturday evening; here’s how things went

In the 16s:
– #1 Seed Brent Walters got a bye in the 16s and did a lot of reffing and streaming as a result.
– #9 Dylan Pruitt (who is NOT left handed, inside joke from my 3WallBall writeups last fall) topped Greg Caruso.8,8.
– #5 Joe Kelley topped Tony Prater 6,4
– #13 David Austin provided the biggest shock result of the round, crushing #4 Jon Justice 1,8 to move on.
– #3 Austin Cunningham topped #14 Josh Shea in a tight match 10,12. Shea is playing in his age 16 season and really hung well with the more experienced Cunningham.
– #6 Sam Kelley topped Aaron Dardini in two quick games 1,8.
– #7 Jose Dino Flores used his quick, compact swing and his agility to take out #10 lefty Jordan Walters in two games 9,6
– #2 Jason Sylvester beat Matt Mertz in two quick games 7,0.

In the Quarters:
– #9 Pruitt, recently graduated out of Juniors, played really solid ball to upset the #1 seed Walters and shake up the draw. Walters took the first game, but Pruitt battled back and dominated in the tiebreaker. final score (11),8,4
– #5 Kelley went tiebreaker against his frequent Jersey rival Austin, winning out in the battle of lefties to advance (13),4,6
– #3 Cunningham topped Sam Kelley in a breaker, splitting the first two games before advancing in the breaker. Final score (8),8,4
– #2 Sylvester edged out Flores in a battle between two long-time New England state level rivals. The two went 14-15, 15-14 in the first two games, with Sylvester saving match point against, before running away in the breaker 11-2. Not much between these two tough players on the day.

In the Semis:
– #5 Kelley dropped the first game 15-14 against the youngster from Maryland before rebounding to take game two 15-8. In the breaker, Pruitt ran off 5 quick points … and then hit a wall. Kelley ran off 11 unanswered points and took the breaker 11-5.
– #3 Cunningham made quick work of Sylvester, perhaps winded from his Flores battle, winning in two games 6,8 and displaying great reflexes and a sneaky fast serve that netted him points. He took match point with a behind-the-back roll-out.

In the final, Kelley mounted a furious comeback to shock Cunningham in game one, then cruised to the title in game two. Final score 13,7 (or perhaps 13,6 as Cunningham believes he lost a point on a technical to a fussy ref in Brent Walters

—–

Great event, great idea and it was awesome to watch from afar all day Saturday. Hope to see more live racquetball soon. Thanks to the participants and of course to the Kelley brothers for building this amazing court and hosting.

1st Annual Average Joes Invitational

So, In case you weren’t aware, the Kelley brothers from New Jersey have built a racquetball court at their house, complete with viewing area, mini-clubhouse and had it christened by none other than the legend Cliff Swain.

This weekend they’ve invited 15 of the top open players from up and down the East Coast to their home for a single elimination tournament. The draw sheet is out (Austin Cunningham posted it on Keep Racquetball Great earlier today).

Here’s PRS’ predictions on how it will play out.

In the round of 16s.
– #1 seed North Carolinian Brent Walters gets a bye, which is probably good since he’s the oldest player in the draw. He’ll need his energy come Saturday night.
– In the #9/#8, I’ve got Maryland’s own Dylan Pruitt taking out New Jersey native #8 Greg Caruso in a slight upset. They played twice in mid 2019 and Pruitt beat him both times.
– #5 and host Joe Kelley takes out #12 Connecticut-based Tony Prater in the opener.
– #4 North Carolina’s Jon Justice takes out #13 Jersey native David Austin.
– #3 Georgian Austin Cunningham takes out NY’s #14 Josh Shea.
– #6 Fellow host @sam kelley handles New Yorker #11 Aaron Dardani.
– #7 Connecticut native Jose Flores takes out #10 North Carolina native Jordan Walters in a tight match.
– #2 New Yorker Jason Sylvester handles #15 Jersey native Matt Mertz.Just one upset by seeding in the 8/9, though the 7/10 could flip as well depending on how much Flores has been playing.

In the quarters we start to see some matches.
– #1 Reigning NC state champ Walters handles the youngster Pruitt.
– #4 2019 NC state runner up Justice takes out Joe Kelley.
– #3 Cunningham drops a game, but advances over Sam Kelley, knocking both brothers/hosts out in the quarters.
– #2 Sylvester goes tiebreaker but advances over long-time NE rival Flores.Chalk to the semis.

In the Semis:
– Walters prevails over his NC rival Justice in the semis.
– Cunningham takes out the veteran Sylvester.

In the final…
– Walters takes out Cunningham.

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Keep an eye out at KRG group and for Cunningham, Pruitt and Walters streaming the matches; they’re always good for it. They’ve already started streaming practice doubles matches this afternoon, and its great to see the guys back on the court.

1973 USA National Singles and Doubles tourney data loaded!

Thanks to Shari Coplen, who sent along some old magazine scans she got from one of the early pro champions Steve Serot, we now have the full Men’s singles and doubles draws from the 1973 IRA (now known as USA Racquetball) national championships.

Serot featured prominently in both events and kept copies of the material throughout the years. He also provided full bracket scans (!!) for both draws. Read on for a fun trip down memory lane.

The Singles draw from 1973 nationals is amazing: 102 players. I have never entered a bigger draw.

Match report: http://rball.pro/2EBB7D

Top 10 seeds:
1 Charlie Brumfield
2 Rubenstein, Ron
3 Schmidtke, Bill
4 Lawrence, Paul
5 Serot, Steve
6 Michael Zeitman
7 Bo Keeley (Steve Keeley)
8 Porco, Ken
9 Charles H. Garfinkel
10 Jerry Hilecher

Other notables in the draw:
– #15 Charlie Drake, who eventually became the commissioner of the pro tour in the early 80s and the CEO of Leach industries (one of the major sponsors of the sport).
– #17 Steve Strandemo, who was a regular touring pro for a decade and one of the sport’s first big-time teaching pros, running clinics for years after retiring.
– #24 Davey Bledsoe, who would go on to win the 1977 nationals and who passed away in Dec 2019
– #26 Randy Stafford, who now curates the Racquetball Museum (and who just got it back online: http://racquetballmuseum.com/ )
– #72 Chuck Leve, who wrote several books on racquetball and was inducted into the USAR Hall of Fame in 1997.
– #91 Marty Hogan … which has the be the lowest he was ever seeded in a tournament in his life.

The draw went nearly chalk in its later rounds, with 15 of the top 16 seeds advancing out of the 32s (only the #8 seed was upset early), then 7 of the top 8 seeds making the quarters. From there, #1 and defending champ Brumfield took over, advancing past #5 Serot in the semis, while #7 Keeley beat the #2 and #3 seeds to advance to the final. Brumfield took the title in a breaker over Bo in the end.

1973 Doubles review

See http://rball.pro/CACB31 for the doubles bracket in the database.

The tournament is a throwback to the very early days of the sport, and the players involved in this event show as much.

Top Seeds:
1 Luciw, Mike & Rudusz, George; the 1972 champs.
2 Porco, Ken & Evans, Bill: Porco was part of the 1971 winning team.
3 Brumfield, Charlie & Serot, Steve; two of the best of the early touring racquetball pros during the sport’s infancy.
4 Souders, Roger & Charleson, Dave; Charleson would win the title in 1974.
5 Hilecher, Jerry & Wong, Kenny; Both St. Louis based and part of the core group of St. Louis natives that dominated early.
6 Keeley, Steve & Drake, Charlie; Keeley is the legendary character of the sport.
7 Dunn, Bill & Thurman, Bill were both early touring players and both played a number of NRC and IRA pro events from 73 to 77.
8 Johnson, Galen & Wirkus, Joe
9 Stafford, Randy & Davey Bledsoe
10 Strandemo, Steve & Strom, Ron

Also playing was a young Craig McCoy (the 15th seed as a 16yr old), and under-seeded Bill Schmidtke (the 1971 and 1974 Singles national champion), and seeded 44th a very precocious Marty Hogan, playing in his home-town at the age of 15.

The 5-time pro tour champ Brumfield, teamed with the lefty Serot, blew through the draw and were never really challenged in the event. They topped the #5 seeded Hilecher/Wong team in the final 1,15

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thanks to Shari and to Serot himself for retaining this information. As always, if you can find the draw sheets for an old event, i’ll put it in.

US High School Nationals Wrap-up

Roberts the double winner on the weekend. Photo 2019 Jr Nats, Photographer Kevin Savory

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Boys #1 Gold Singles: Antonio Rojas
– Girls #1 Gold Singles: Annie Roberts

– Boys #1 Doubles:Darren Lee/Vedant Chauhan,
– Girls #1 Doubles: Annie Roberts/Kelsey Klinger

– Boys Team winner: St. Louis University HS, St. Louis MO
– Girls Team Winner: Barlow HS, Gresham OR
– Overall Team winner: Sprague HS, Salem OR

Special mention to Barlow’s coach Brian Ancheta, who was named HS Coach of the year.

Roberts wins her 3rd straight #1 title, Rojas wins his second straight. Roberts the double winner on the weekend. With these wins, both players qualify for the US Junior National team for 2020.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=31700

Reminder: no High School data in the database online. This is a recap as a fan of the game 🙂

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Lets review the Boys #1 Singles draw.

All top 8 seeds advanced to the quarters, mostly in two straight dominant games. #7 Rory Lampe was stretched to a breaker by #10 Nick Schulze in the round’s closest match.

In the Quarters
– The #1 and #3 seeds (and pre-tourney favorites) each advanced in two quick games.
– The #2 seed Vedant Chauhan took a closer two game win 9,8 over #7 Lampe.
– The sole upset of the round came in the 4/5; Stockton’s Julius Ellis took out #4 Cody Boucher 11-5 in the breaker to move into the semis.

—————
In the Semis
– #1 Rojas dominated his friend and frequent playing NorCal playing partner #5 Ellis 1,5 to move into the final.
– #3 Prasad took out his rival #2 Chauhan in a tie-breaker to move into the final.

In the Finals, the beginning of the match made it seem like it would be a blow-out win for Rojas, whose pace and shot selection is amazingly advanced for a 17yr old. But the 14-yr old Prasad made the adjustments needed to not only get back into game one but to make it a close match. So close that it went 11-10.

But the way it GOT to 11-10 was … well pretty amazing. Prasad came out swinging in the tiebreaker and was up 7-1 and then 10-2 … Rojas came all the way back, the two traded serves three times at 10-10, appeals, kill shots, everything. Leo Ray Vasquez called it “the best match he’s ever commentated.” Rojas on his 4th match point hit an ace serve to end it. Pretty amazing. I highly suggest watching the tie-breaker online (all video is available by going to USA Racquetball’s facebook home page).

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Lets review the Girls #1 Singles draw.

The top 8 seeds advanced to the quarter finals.

In the Quarters
– the top 2 seeds advanced in two games.
– The #3 and #4 seeds were both upset. #5 Erin Slutzky dominated #4 Arya Cyril 3,2 to move on, while Texas’ #6 Shane Diaz took an 11-9 win over #3 Stocktonian Alondra Canchola.

In the Semis
– #1 Roberts beat #5 Slutzky in two solid games 9,10
– #2 Mahoney cruised over #6 Diaz 6,9 to make her first final.

In the Finals, Roberts made it three titles in a row with a dominant win over her younger junior national teammate 3,11. Roberts dominated with great pace and accuracy on her drive serves and really controlled the tempo of the match.

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Next up?

LPRT in Boston this coming weekend, then IRT in Chicago the next.

International Racquetball Tour
LPRT
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
USA Racquetball

Copa Mexicano 2020 Wrap-up

Longoria the double winner on the weekend. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Mens Singles: Daniel De La Rosa
– Men’s Doubles: Rodrigo Montoya/Javier Mar
– Women’s Singles: Paola Longoria
– Women’s doubles: Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas

The two singles finalists on the Men and Women’s side qualify to represent Mexico at upcoming IRF events. The Doubles winners also qualifies to represent the country at upcoming IRF events. I’m assuming this is for the 2020 PARC games to be held in April in Bolivia and for the 2020 World Championships, but as with prior years there may be additional qualification parameters for the 2020 World Championships team that come to light later on.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31821

——————

Lets review the notable matches in the Men’s Singles draw.

Men’s Singles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/279793

—————-
In the 32s: no upsets to this observer; all 10 round of 32 matches were two-game victories for the expected winner. The three closest games all involved the three highest ranked players playing in the play-in round, who were likely playing themselves into shape for the next round.

—————-
In the 16s, some notable results/upsets:
– #8 Christian Longoria topped #9 Andree Parrilla in a tie-breaker. This is a pretty significant upset, as Parrilla currently sits #5 in the world while Longoria (albeit in limited pro appearances) has yet to even qualify for a main draw. Parrilla continues his miserable tourney streak; he lost in the 16s of the last three pro events as well.
– #5 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez @got an excellent win over #12 Javier Estrada 6,(13),7 to move on. Franco continues to show he’s a tough out, and takes out the enigmatic Estrada.
– #11 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez dominated Alex Cardona 8,8 to move on. Solid win from Patata, who I thought had a chance to beat Cardona but certainly not in two dominant games.
– #10 Lalo Portillo took out reigning World and Pan Am games singles champ Rodrigo Montoya Solís with relative ease 9,11. Portillo frustrated Montoya with off-speed Z-serves that were quite effective, then matched Montoya’s athleticism to keep balls in play with diving gets and great retrievals.

By seeds, mostly chalk through the 16s with the seeds 1,8,5,4,3,11,10,2 advancing, but for me four of the eight matches were upsets or surprising results.

—————-
In the Quarters
– #8 Longoria gave #1 Alvaro Beltran a scare, taking the first game and giving Alvaro a run in the second before fading in the breaker. Final score (12),12,3.
– #4 Javier Mar took it to #5 Franco, controlling the match and advancing in two games 12,5.
– #11 Fernandez got his second statement win in a row, topping #3 Alan Natera Chavez 11,11 to move on. Natera’s streak of making the semis at Nationals ends after two straight years, while Fernandez moves into the semis of Adult nationals for the first time (he made the quarters twice before, in 2017 and 2018).
– #10 Portillo pushed #2 Daniel De La Rosa, saving match point against in the second game to force a breaker, but DLR ran away with it there, advancing to the semis. DLR keeps his streak of making the semis alive; he’s made the semis or better in every Mexican Nationals back to at least 2014 (he did miss 2017’s event).

—————
In the Semis
– #1 Beltran gave credence to the old statement, “It only takes 26 to win” in dropping the second game to #4 Mar 15-1 but moving on by the final score line of 8,(1),9.
– #2 DLR put an end to #11 Fernandez’s run, frustrating the young Mexican at the precipice of the National team by the score line of 10,11.

With these wins:
– Beltran secures his singles spot on the Mexican National team for the second year running after a 3 year gap from 2016-2018.
– DLR returns to the singles Mexican team after a year absence (he was beaten by Landa in the semis last year). DLR has now qualified for the team 4 of the past 7 seasons.

—————
In the Finals; a rematch of the 2015 Mexican National Finals, won by Beltran for his last National title. But on this day, DLR ended up on top of a close but casual match between friends and doubles partners 14,11 to take the title.

———————————
Lets review the notable matches in the Women’s Singles draw.

Women’s Singles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/3480BB

—————-
In the 16s, a couple of notable results
– #12 Lucia Gonzalez dominated LPRT top 10 player and #5 seed Nancy Enriquez 2,11 to move on. Gonzalez doesn’t have a top-level match in the database since Dec 2018, but makes noise every time she plays.
– #10 Erin Nocam “upset” #7 Maria Gutierrez in two to advance. Gutierrez was a finalist at 18U last summer in Mexican junior nationals and still has a year left in the junior ranks, while Erin continues her excellent season of results.

—————-
In the Quarters, two pretty big upsets.
– #8 Jessica Parrilla returned to the semis of Mexican Nationals after a two year absence, and she did it by dethroning the defending champ Montse Mejia in two straight. Parrilla was in control for large parts of the match, taking advantage of Mejia’s mistakes throughout.
– #12 Gonzalez got her second upset in a row, downing #4 Alexandra Herrera in a tiebreaker. These two are familiar foes, often competing for junior national titles as they grew up, and Lucia was able to get past her in a major event yet again.
– #3 Samantha Salas Solis cruised past veteran #7 Susy Acosta, improving to 12-0 in top-level/pro events over the lefty, to move into the semis.
– #2 Paola Longoria blitzed past #10 Erin Rivera 0,3, giving her younger countrywoman little chance to get some of the upsets she’s gotten lately on tour.

—————
In the Semis
– #8 Parrilla played solid ball and outlasted #12 Gonzalez to make the Mexican national finals 12,10.
– #2 Longoria survived an injury scare to move past doubles partner #3 Salas 14,9 to get to the final. Early in game on at 1-6 down, Longoria and Salas got tangled up and Longoria seemed to have landed on her ankle wrong; it did not look good, and a full injury time out was taken. She recovered though, Salas could not take advantage of the mobility issues, and Longoria seemed to gain strength and confidence as the match moved on. In the second game Salas had her own injury scare, tweaking her knee in a rally but persevering without an injury time out.

With these wins:
– Parrilla returns to the Mexican national team singles spot for the first time in years: she last represented Mexico internationally at the 2016 PARC event, and before that at the 2013 World Games.
– Longoria secures her spot on the National team, and extends her streak held since 2006 of representing Mexico in singles at IRF events.

—————
In the Finals, Parrilla really put up a fight but couldn’t convert in game one when it counted, dropping it 15-14, then collapsing in game two to lose 14,4. Longoria regains the title she lost last year and returns to the top of Mexican racquetball.

—————-
Mens Doubles review

Men’s Doubles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/1D2489

In the Men’s competition,

In the early rounds:
– Seeds 1,2,4 and 6 advanced to the semis.
– #5 team of Fernandez/Miguel Rodriguez Jr. took out Cardona/Franco early and pushed Estrada/Natera before falling.
– The #6 team of Portillo/Parrilla “upset” the #3 seeds Sebastian Longoria/Erick Trujillo to advance.
– The #7 team of Christian Longoria and Cesar Barragan really pushed the #2 team DLR/Beltran, falling 14,11

In the semis:
– #1 Montoya/Mar moved into the final over #4 Estrada/Natera, but had to save off game point against in the second game to do so 4,14.
– #2 DLR/Beltran kept their qualification hopes alive … by by the skin of their teeth, taking a scintillating match over #6 Portillo/Parrilla 11-10. The tiebreaker was a shot-makers paradise, with rallies generally only ending with splat rollout kill shots. Fantastic racquetball.

At 10-10, with both teams having saved match point against and with DLR/Beltran re-gaining the serve … something weird happened. DLR/Beltran were assessed a technical for … i’m not sure. At 10-10 against Parrilla called a time out, and Beltran playfully hit the ball towards him. I’m assuming the referee deducted a point for it (based on DLR’s reaction when getting back the 10th point). Nonetheless, when play resumed it was 9-10. They gutted out the 10th point, then on match point rally DLR absolutely buried a reverse forehand pinch from 39′ feet to take the match with quite a statement.

In the final, these two teams went tie-breaker as expected. In the breaker Montoya/Mar jumped out to a bit lead but couldn’t close out at match point. DLR/Beltran quickly ran off several points and it looked like maybe they could pull magic out of a hat again, but Montoya/Mar got the serve back and the ended the match with an amazing winner from Mar.

Montoya/Mar repeat as Mexican National champions and get a chance to build on their 2019 Pan American Games title. Perhaps more importantly, they get a rare win over the veteran Beltran/DLR team in their increasingly exciting rivalry.

—————–
Women’s Doubles review:

Women’s Doubles Match report in PRS database: http://rball.pro/D0916F

In the quarters
– #1, #2 and #4 teams advanced easily
– #6 Angela Veronica Ortega/Maria Gutierrez upset the #3 seeded team of Acosta/Sacristan in a tie breaker for the round’s only upset.

In the semis:
– #1 Longoria/Salas, both of whom picked up knocks in their singles semi final match against each other, gutted out a two game win over the #4 team of Parrilla/Rivera 9,10.
– #2 Mejia/Herrera cruised past the upset minded #6 team of Ortega/Gutierrez 3,4.

In the Final, we got the quite-frequently seen doubles final as of late: these two teams have now met in the finals of four LPRT doubles events just this season, three last season, last year’s World Doubles pro final, plus last year’s Mexican National final. While the Mejia/Herrera team has gotten a couple wins in this rivalry lately, on the day today the veterans held serve, winning in two games 7,13 to take the national title and the right to represent Mexico in the upcoming IRF events.

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Next up?

After a month’s break, the LPRT is back in action next weekend in Boston. The IRT has a couple of lower-tier events next week (in Minneapolis and in Pueblo, CO), and then returns to Chicago for the 35th annual KWM Gutterman classic the following weekend.

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tags
International Racquetball Tour
LPRT
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
International Racquetball Federation
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
RKT