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.
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
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.
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.
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.
I’m sure there will be streaming this weekend; Plenty of the participants are regular/frequent participants of the Racquetball facebook groups.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Reminder: no High School data in the database online. This is a recap as a fan of the game 🙂
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).
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.
—————— Next up?
LPRT in Boston this coming weekend, then IRT in Chicago the next.
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.
—————- 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.
—————- 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.
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.
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.
—————— 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.
Its time for one of my favorite tournaments of the year; Its the 2020 Campeonato Nacional Selectivo de Raquetbol. This year the event is being held in Tijuana, not one of the hotbeds of racquetball in the country like San Luis Potosi and Chihuahua, which will be an interesting home-town advantage for some Tijuana based players and may also explain the dip in attendance from last year’s event.
There’s 26 in the Men’s open draw and 15 in the Women’s open: compare this to last year’s Nationals event in Chihuahua; 34 in Men’s Open, 19 in Women’s. Nonetheless, the draws are stacked and nearly every round of 16 match on the Men’s side (and all the quarters on the women’s side) are “back end of the tournament” pro-quality match-ups.
First, some interesting players missing, and some similarly interesting players entered. First off, the elephant in the room; as most of the rball world knows, former Mexican #1 Alex Landa is not here; he entered (and won) US National Doubles a few weeks ago after having asked for his release from the Mexican team mid last year in the wake of the Pan Am Games Team selection controversy. So in his place, last year’s finalist Álvaro Beltrán ascends to the #1 seed in this draw.
We also see that Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez is entered here, and specifically did NOT enter US National doubles a few weeks back. Fernandez (like Landa) has dual citizenship and has represented both US and Mexico in years past. However in a 3-week span in 2019 he played in both US national doubles and in Mexico National doubles, prompting some eligibility and access questions. No such issues this year.
Other notables missing: Ernesto Ochoa misses the event; he was the #11 seed last year. No Jaime Martell Neri here this year; he lost in the 16s last year and had a great run at the 2019 US Open. The draw also misses frequently seen players such as Jordy Alonso, former junior phenom David Ortega, last year’s #7 seed Edson Martinez and two of the top juniors in the land Emir Martinez and Jose Ramos.
Here’s some matches to watch:
In the 32s, there’s 10 matches, many involving top touring IRT pros. I don’t see much in the way of upset potential, but here’s a couple of interesting play-ins:
– @Miguel Rodriguez Jr. will give #9 Andree Parrilla (current #5 ranked IRT pro) an early run for his money. – Mexican 18U top player Manuel Moncada faces off against Daniel Rodriguez. – Mexican 18U reigning champ Sebastian Fernandez will face last year’s 16U finalist Erick Trujillo – Two of the top players in 16U last year face off for a shot at #3 Natera in Sebastian Longoria and Guillermo Ortega. I like Ortega in his home town here even if there’s little between these two players.
The fireworks start in the 16s. – #1 Beltran likely gets his tourney started against #17 IRT regular Erick Cuevas. – #9 Parrilla likely takes on #8 Christian Longoria in a battle of SLP tour regulars. – #5 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez gets zero favors from the draw, likely having to face an underseeded #12 Javier Estrada. Estrada has been giving the IRT a go this season and has a couple of solid wins, but no breakthroughs past the round of 16 yet. But we know what he’s capable of given his win last summer at the Black Gold cup. Franco has proven to be a tough out at times, with a quarter final appearance in the most recent IRT stop. – #4 Javier Mar likely takes on the junior Moncada in the 16s here. – #3 Alan Natera Chavez will kick off his latest Nationals event likely against the young Ortega, who will be spirited in defeat. – #6 Former WRT #1 Alex Cardona gets a brutal opener against #11 Fernandez. I still think the part-time tournament player Cardona is the better player, but Fernandez has been improving and looked tough earlier this year. This could be a statement win for either player, and could go down to the wire in the breaker. – #7 Rodrigo Montoya Solís] takes on #10 Lalo Portillo in another fantastic round of 16 match. Montoya crushed Portillo in Portland in December, but it was Portillo making a final in Sioux Falls a couple months later. its odd to see Montoya seeded 7th here, considering the fact that he’s the defending Pan Am Games and World Singles champ. He’ll have his work cut out for him again to make the team here unless we see more chicanery from the federation (see Landa, Alex). – #2 Daniel De La Rosa will face a relative unknown (to me) either way to get his nationals tourney started; it should serve as a great warm-up for his brutal projected quarter final match. Read on.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Beltran over #8 Parrilla. I know Parrilla finished last year higher than the elder Beltran, but he’s going through a really tough stretch. Andree lost three straight IRT round of 16 matches while Beltran held serve and eventually jumped him in the rankings last month. Beltran is 6-4 over Andree in their career, and i like Alvaro to rise to the challenge in his home town to move on. – #4 Mar over #12 Estrada; in a battle of Javiers, i give Mar the upper hand. Estrada beat Mar h2h twice in two RKT events in Dec, but Mar gets up for these national events and I think handles Estrada. – #6 Cardona over #3 Natera; yes I know Natera has made the semis in this event two years running with a slew of upsets. I like Cardona here if he can get past the bulked up Fernandez. – #2 DLR over #7 Montoya: this is a rematch of the 2018 Nationals final AND the 2018 Selection event final. But its DLR who has had the upper hand in this rivalry lately, winning their last 3 meetings and 4 of 5. Some of their matches have been close … but often DLR really dominates Montoya, including a 1,4 stomping in the semis of the 2019 Lewis Drug. I think DLR builds off of some great recent results on tour and moves on here.
Great projected quarter finals here: it includes potentially four of the current IRT top ten players and another 2-3 players who are top 10 quality.
My semis: – Mar over Beltran; if Mar gets to this point, I like his chances of taking out Beltran. Mar faced Beltran in the semis of the 2016 Mexican Nationals event and topped him then, and I like him to move to the final here. – DLR over Cardona: Cardona’s run ends at the hands of DLR, who can handle his power and will outlast him from a fitness perspective on the court at the end-game. These two faced off in last year’s nationals in the quarters, and DLR advanced in a tie-breaker. I see a similar result here.
Final: DLR over Mar, a rematch of the 2016 National final also won by Daniel. DLR returns to the title seat of Mexican racquetball.
————– Women’s singles draw preview;
15 women in the draw. All the major LPRT touring pros are present, meaning the quarters on should be action packed.
Notables missing:no Ana Laura Flores here after she dominated the Mexican 18U event last year. Also missing are periodic LPRT players like Montserrat Pérez, Denisse Maldonado, Eleni Guzman Velgis, Diana Aguilar, and Sofia Rascon (who I don’t have any tourney results for in more than two years now).
Round of 16s to watch for: – #5 Nancy Enriquez takes on #12 Lucia Gonzalez in an upset-special. Gonzalez made the semis of the 2018 Mexican Nationals (she also made the semis of 2015 version just after graduating juniors), but missed 2019 so she gets a bottom seed. Nonetheless, she’s proven her ability to beat top LPRT players and Nancy should be on the watch here. I’m going to go with the upset; there’s always a 12 seed beating a 5-seed, right NCAA fans? – #4 Alexandra Herrera takes on the 14U phenom Angela Veronica Ortega. Ortega was the 14U finalist in 2019 in Mexico, then made the Junior worlds 14U final as well. She’ll be playing in her home town against the touring pro Herrera. – #10 Erin Rivera takes on the 2018 Mexican 16U champ Maria Gutierrez in the opener.
Projected quarters: – #1 and defending champ Montse Mejia likely takes on Jessica Parrilla in a pretty tough quarter for the #1 seed. Mejia has never beaten Parrilla … but they also havn’t played since 2017, which means they havn’t played post knee injury. Parrilla continues to struggle to get back to her former lofty ranking; the talent pool is deeper and she has had really rough luck running into top players early in these draws. I think Mejia moves on but it could be a nail-biter tie-breaker. – #12 Gonzalez takes on #4 Herrera; These two are familiar foes; they’re the same age and played on the junior circuit frequently, often in junior national finals. The last time they played was 2018 Mexican Nationals, a straight-forward 2-game win for Gonzalez. I’ll predict another upset. – #3 Samantha Salas Solis vs #6 Susy Acosta Racquetball; Salas has really struggled on tour this season, but I don’t see her losing to the veteran Acosta at this stage. These two veterans have played more than a few times so they’ll know each other’s game well. – #2 Paola Longoria who must feel odd not being seeded #1 in an event for the first time in perhaps a decade or so, likely faces up and coming LPRT player Rivera at this stage. Longoria is on a mission and isn’t stopping till she gets to the final.
My semis: – Mejia over Gonzalez to end the run – Longoria over her doubles partner Salas
Final: Longoria re-takes the title and downs Mejia in two quick games in similar fashion to their past few pro meetings.
————— Doubles preview:
In the Men’s doubles, 13 teams headlined by two of the best doubles teams out there in the top 2 seeds. DLR/Beltran were upset in the semis last year and slip to the #2 seed, while Montoya/Mar are the defending champs and #1 seed. Despite the seeding, DLR/Beltran have never lost as a team to the Montoya/Mar team, so if seeds hold expect DLR/Beltran to retain the title.
Standing in their way are a couple of intriguing teams: #6 Portillo/Parrilla are a frequent pairing on the IRT and could make for an edgy semi against the veterans. The #4 seeds of Estrada/Natera are a frequent pairing that could make noise … but they face a dark-horse in #12 Franco/Cardona, an intriguing pairng that includes the very talented doubles player in Cardona.
In the Women’s doubles draw there’s 8 teams entered but really only 2 teams to talk about: the #1 seeded Longoria/Salas team is one of the most decorated doubles teams of all time, but the #2 seeded team of Mejia/Herrera has been pushing into their territory, taking a couple of pro doubles titles already this season, including the US Open title. Expect #1 vs #2 and for the Longoria/Salas team to push for the win and the international representation spot.
—————- Streaming options: there’s usually good streaming of these events, by following FMR or RKT on facebook and by following the specific players’ pages.
This coming weekend is the 33rd annual High School Nationals, being held in Portland, Oregon at the same Multnomah Athletic club that hosted last year’s Junior Nationals and the annual John Pelham Memorial IRT event.
Fun Facts about HS Nationals:
– this is the 33rd event: the first was held in 1988 and won by Jim Floyd (Michigan) and Holly Grey (Virginia). Holly would later marry hall of famer Ed Remen and now lives in North Carolina. – There’s been two 4-time HS champions: Adrienne Fisher Haynes from 2000-2004 and Lexi York from 2012-2016. – There’s never been a 4-time male champ; the closest we got was Taylor Knoth, who took it 2007-2009. Knoth lost in the quarters his freshman year to the 2006 winner Chris Coy. – The tournament has been dominated by players from California and Oregon: 30 of the 66 singles titles awarded in its history have come from these two states. – The list of past champs is littered with eventual pro tour champions. Sudsy Monchik won this title in 1991, Jack Huczek won it twice, in 2000 and 2001. Michelle Gould won it in 1989, Rhonda Rajsich twice in 96 and 97. – Three different members of the Rojas clan have HS national titles: Marco Rojas in 2010, Mauro Daniel Rojas in 2014 and 2016 and current title holder Antonio Rojas. – Interestingly, current IRT pro Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez took the title in 2015 as a freshman, then again in 2018 as a senior, missing the two events in-between. He would presumably have had a great chance of a 4-peat.
Here’s a quick preview of the Gold #1 Singles draw, looking at the top 8 seeds. They’re dominated at the top by players from Northern California.
In the Boys #1: – Defending HS National champ and Stockton native Antonio Rojas is back and is the #1 seed. Rojas is the current reigning 16U and 18U US Junior national champ and is already one of the most decorated junior players in US history. He’s going to be tough to beat. See this link for a matrix of all US Junior National boys title holders: http://rball.pro/68C60E – Last year’s finalist and East Bay resident Vedant Chauhan is the #2 seed. Chauhan has several junior national titles himself, was the runner-up in 14U in 2019 and lost in world 14U juniors in the quarters to the eventual winner Bolivian Jhonatan Flores. See this link for Chauhan’s match history in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/1EB9AD – #3 is the player who vanquished Chauhan in last year’s 14U US final and who advanced to the final of 14U at Junior worlds, Fremont native Nikhil Prasad. Prasad himself owns 5 junior national titles and will be a favorite to make the final here. Prasad enters HS nationals for the first time. – #4 Cody Boucher has competed at US Junior Nationals for the past few years, was the #3 seed here last year and was upset early. – #5 is another Stocktonian, one with a great pedigree in Julius Ellis (son of long time IRT vet John Ellis. Ellis and Boucher met in the 2018 16U junior nationals event, and are slated to play into each other in the quarters here. – #6 Cody Thomas made it to the quarters of the 2019 16U nationals event in 2019. – #7 Rory Lampe was taken out of the 16U junior Nationals last year by #1 seed Rojas – #8 Nathan Soltis made the 16s the last two years in the 16U draw at junior nationals.
Predictions: Its hard not to see Rojas repeating, and the #2/#3 re-match of last year’s 14U final between Prasad and Chauhan could be great.
————— In the Girls #1,
– Defending champ Annie Roberts is the #1 seed and is playing in her home-town. Roberts is the two-time defending US 16U junior national champ and had a great run to the semis of Junior worlds last November. – Roberts will not have last year’s finalist as a competitor, as Nikita Chauhan has graduated despite still having one year remaining in 18U. We look forward to seeing Chauhan at intercollegiates this year competing for UC Berkeley (my father’s alma mater).
– the #2 seed this year is Heather Mahoney, the two-time defending USA junior 14U champ and an incoming freshman for 2020. She already holds 8 USA junior national titles and is the reigning 2019 World Junior 14U champ and will be a favorite here. – #3 is Alondra Canchola, a semi-finalist last year here. – #4 is Arya Cyril, also a semi-finalist at this event last year and who lost 11-10 to Chauhan in the semis. – #5 is Erin Slutzky, the 3rd seed last year and who is coming off a quarter final appearance at 16U junior worlds last November. – #6 is Shane Diaz, who made the semis of US 18U junior nationals last year. – #7 is Megan Carver, who lost in the quarters of last year’s 18U junior nationals to Diaz. – #8 is Karena Mathew, who holds 4 junior national titles but none since she was in grade school. She’s coming off a 3rd place showing at last year’s 14U nationals and is a rising freshman ready to make some waves.
In conjunction with the 46th annual Keystone Classic in Winnipeg last weekend, Racquetball Canada had the second of its three National team qualification events of the season. Here’s a quick wrap-up of the event:
Congrats to your winners on the weekend: – Men’s Singles: Samuel Murray – Women’s Singles: Michele Morisette
Reminder: we don’t currently load federation qualifying events into the database, therefore there’s no PRS links.
Lets review the notable matches in the Men’s Singles draw.
—————- In the Quarters – The top 3 seeds easily advanced; #1 Samuel Murray over #8 Michael Leduc #2 The Official Coby Iwaasa Fan Club over #7 Ian Frattinger and #3 Tim Landeryou over #6 Tanner Prentice. – We got an upset in the 4/5 match: #5 Kurtis Cullen took out #4 veteran Lee Connell in two games 4,13 to move into the quarters.
————— In the Semis – #1 Murray dominated Cullen to move on. – #2 Iwaasa was stretched at times but advanced over Landeryou
In the Finals, Iwaasa took the first game from the long-time Canadian #1, but Murray rebounded to win (8),7,1.
Murray (if i’m reading my records correctly) has not lost a Canadian Men’s national event (qualifier or nationals) since the May 2017 final (Mike Green’s last match before retiring).
————— Women’s Singles review:
Just four women in this draw, so they played Round Robin. Notable results from RR play:
#1 seed Christine Richardson was stretched to a breaker by #4 seed Cassie Prentice before winning, which was a precursor perhaps to the eventual face off with #2 seed Michèle Morissette, who topped Richardson 6,11 to win the RR group.
Morissette wins her first top-level Canadian national event since graduating from the juniors in 2015.
—————— Next up? This is the 2nd of two qualifiers leading up to Canadian Nationals in late May, so next up is Canadian Nationals.
In general, the Rball calendar gets a break until the first week of march for the next major event.
Congrats to your winners on the weekend: – Men’s Doubles: Sudsy Monchik & Alejandro Landa – Women’s Doubles; Aimee Ruiz & Erika Manilla
And the winners of the Singles qualifiers: – Men’s Singles: Rocky Carson – Women’s Singles: Hollie Scott
Sudsy/Landa win three straight 11-9 breakers over former USA National doubles championship teams to take the title. Ruiz secures her 12th title (13th won on the court) and brings along Manilla for her first ever National Doubles title.
All three round of 16 matches were two game wins that weren’t necessarily that close: #9 MoMo Zelada/ Robert Collins “upset” the #8 seeded team of Brent Walters and Thomas Gerhardt 13,3 as the round’s closest match.
– The #5 team of Alex Landa and Sudsy Monchik barely got by a very good #4 seeded team of Tony Carson and Jansen Allen (13),12,9. Carson/Allen jumped out to a huge lead in game one and it looked for a time like the match would be a blow-out, but Landa/Monchik battled back and lost game one on a disputed call. Game two was more in Landa/Monchik control towards the end, leading to the inevitable tiebreaker.
In the breaker, a very tense match reached its crescendo. There was almost nothing between these teams and throughout the 3rd game rallies often ended with spectacular pinch winners or debatable hinders. Carson’s backhand was lethal throughout the match, and his backhand hard Z gave Sudsy fits all night. At the end, Landa was able to find a serve that Allen couldn’t (or didn’t) attack, which led to scoring opportunities that they didn’t miss to pull away and get the last two points to win 11-9.
– #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ were pushed to a breaker, but eventually advanced over #7 Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon.
————— In the Semis – #5 Landa/Monchik dethroned defending champs Carson/Pratt in a fascinating match that went down to the wire. After dropping the first game rather easily, the #5 seeds regrouped and forced a tie-breaker. There, it went down to the a couple of critical rallies, just as their match in the quarters. Carson & Pratt looked like they had the match in hand, up 8-4 with the serve … they missed two opportunities to push it further, giving the serve back. There, a skip, a funny bounce a mis-communication and a crack-ace quickly got the match to 8-8. From there, Landa crushed a service return for a half out, then Rocky buried a pinch kill from 39 feet for 9-8. Sudsy then crushed a pinch kill to get a side out … called a skip for 10-8 but overturned by both line judges for a critical side-out at 8-9 for Landa/Monchik. From there … destiny took over; Pratt got hit by a call heading for a setup for 9-9, Landa buried a kill shot for 10-9 and then Pratt skipped a service return for an anti-climactic end to a great match.
– #2 Jake/Diaz overcame a first game defeat to cruise to the win, advancing to the final for the third time in five years, defeating #6 Horn/Garcia (11),5,3.
In the Finals, Sudsy/Landa looked for a time to be cruising to the title, jumping out to a big game one lead before Jake/Jose fought back to make it a game. Game two was one-way traffic, setting up yet another nail biting tiebreaker. There, the veterans jumped out to a big lead, only to have Jake/Jose grind back to 9-9. Then, as with the two previous matches, Landa/Monchik faced 9-9 down without the serve, got it back and served it out for the match.
The cardiac kid veterans beat three former champs, each time 11-9 in the breaker, to secure the title and claim National team spots.
In the quarters, two matches: – The young #4 seeds Jazmin Trevino and Erin Slutzky prevailed in a breaker over #5 Cassie Lee and Fran Transfiguracion 11-8. – the #3 seeds of collegiate stars Hollie Scott and Lexi York dominated the team of Graciana Wargo and Jessica Chen 4.3.
In the Semis: – #1 seeds Aimee Roehler Ruiz and Erika Manilla cruised to the final over the #4 team of Trevino/Slutzky 7,7 – #3 Hollie Scott and Lexi York] outplayed the #2 seeded team of Kelani Lawrence and Sheryl Lotts, winning in two games 8,13 to move into the final.
In the Finals: the #1 seeds dominated, led by Ruiz’ experience and cruised to the title 6,9.
—————- Men’s Singles Qualification:
(No match report in PRS database b/c we’re not loading this data right now).
Here’s a review of the singles qualifier:
round of 16 notable matches: – #8 Maurice Miller got a solid win over #9 Erik Garcia 12,(6),5. – #12 MoMo Zelada got the biggest upset of the night, playing a solid match to down #5 Charlie Pratt 12,11. Pratt made the semis of the last two US Nationals event, and Zelada has really been playing well lately. – #6 Thomas Carter came back from a 15-0 first game defeat to down #11 Robert Collins (0),7,9 in a battle of lefty IRT tour veterans. Collins really couldn’t do anything wrong in the first, but Carter made some adjustments to advance. – #7 Manilla took two solid games over the improving #10 Sam Bredenbeck 8,12 to move on.
In the Quarters: all four top seeds advanced in two games in the near-chalk draw: – #1 Carson over #8 Miller – #4 Horn over #12 Zelada – #3 Bredenbeck over #6 Carter – #2 Landa over #7 Manilla
In the Semis: – #1 Carson remained undefeated against #4 Horn, but was pressed to a tie-breaker to advance. – #2 Landa also remained undefeated against #3 Bredenbeck, winning in two straight.
In the final, a fatigued Landa fell to Carson in two games; it looked for a bit like Landa could rally for a breaker in the second game, but a couple of curious calls went against him at the tail end of game two, he lost focus and the match was over; Carson wins 6,14.
—————— Women’s Singles
Round of 16 notables: – #8 Jessica Chen took out her doubles partner #9 Wargo in two. – #6 York dropped the first game against junior Slutzky before advancing.
In the quarters: all four top seeds advanced. – #1 Rhonda Rajsich over #8 Chen – #4 Erika Manilla went tiebreaker to advance over #5 Lotts, dropping the first game 6 then winning (6),7,3. – #3 Scott downed her doubles partner York 8,9 – #2 Lawrence took out fellow LPRT touring regular Cassie Lee 6,1.
In the semis: – #4 Manilla got a career win, topping #1 Rajsich in a tie-breaker. – #3 Scott upset #2 Lawrence in a rematch of last year’s US National singles final.
I said my peace on the seeding issues here in the preview; this event was mis-seeded, and these semis match-ups demonstrate why it was mis-seeded and why Lawrence in particular probably feels hard done by here.
In the final…Scott prevailed over Manilla in the breaker to put herself in the driver’s seat for a National team spot.
—————— National Team Standing Implications of these results.
On the Men’s side, if my calculations are correct, then the top for candidates in the race for the two National team singles spots are: 1. Landa: 36 2. Carson: 32 3. Jake: 20 4. Horn.20
Despite losing the final here, Landa is in the lead for a national team spot thanks to the vast difference in US OPen results. Landa and Carson have a pretty sizeable lead over Jake and Horn; the only way Jake or Bobby could surpass Landa or Carson is to win US Nationals this coming May and have one of Landa/Carson upset prior to the semis.
On the Women’s side, here’s the current standings: 1. Scott: 31 2. Manilla: 24 3. Rhonda: 20 4. Kelani: 19
Hollie pretty much has a spot sewn up at this point: The second spot will come down to how 2 thru 4 play at Natioanls in May.
—————— Other notable draws from National Doubles:
– Miller and Warigon took the Men’s Open Doubles title. – Trevino and Slutzky took the Women’s Open Doubles title.
—————— Next up?
There’s no major tournaments anywhere in the world (pro or amateur) until the first week of March. So we have a bit of a break.