LPRT 2020 Boston Open Wrap-Up

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

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Singles: Paola Longoria
– Doubles: Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas

Longoria wins her 98th career Tier 1 or higher event (105th title overall). See http://rball.pro/65DCE3 for a list of all LPRT tourney winners. Longoria beats her doubles partner in the final, then they turn around and take their second tournament in as many weeks (they won Mexican Nationals last weekend). They improve to 96-5 as a team since we began tracking LPRT pro doubles data in Sept 2013. click here for Longoria’s pro doubles history W/L by partner report; http://rball.pro/F5E61D

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31948

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Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/4B764C

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In the 32s, a bunch of surprises to me, which in and among itself is NOT surprising in that this draw was stacked from the get-go:

– #12 Ana Laura Flores got a solid win over #21 Hollie Rae Scott 11-5 in the breaker. I thought this was an upset special waiting to happen but the lefty Flores recovered from a game one loss 15-14 to take the match and on.
– #14 Valeria Centellas flipped the script from a few weeks back in Laurel and topped #19 Kelani Lawrence in a tie-breaker.
– #10 Brenda Laime Jalil trounced #23 Ana Gabriela Martínez 13,5 to move on in a pretty surprising result for me. I’d love to have seen this match to gauge whether Martinez is rusty, or if Laime played out of her mind.
– #18 Maria Renee Rodriguez got a solid win over #15 Erin Nocam (i.e. Erin Rivera)11-8 in the breaker. Really solid win for MRR, who was stuck on several straight one and dones in the past few pro events.

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In the 16s, a lot of upsets.
– In the 8/9 game, a tie-breaker. After losing the first game 15-1, Masiel Rivera Oporto rebounded to force a tiebreaker but eventually fell to #9 Jessica Parrilla. Parrilla closes the gap a bit on the #10 ranking on tour but probably cannot get there this season.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich overcame a strong upset bid from lefty youngster #12 Flores before advancing in a tie-breaker.
– In the biggest upset of the round, veteran #13 Adriana Riveros took out #4 Natalia Mendez in two games 8,10. Mendez was all out of sorts on the match, really seemed off from the get-go and Riveros took full advantage. This loss may end up costing Mendez the #5 spot on tour as Rhonda’s result moves the two players basically even on ranking points.
– #3 Samantha Salas Solis had a pretty amazing turnaround in her match against junior phenom #14 Centellas. She dropped the first game 15-3 and was essentially getting beat with 3-shot rallies over and over (serve, return, kill). Then mid-way through the second she found the light and dominated from there out, winning the second game and eventually the tie-breaker 11-4. A common refrain in these recaps is the sudden loss of form for Salas this season; can she build on this rebound and move forward?
– #11 Carla Muñoz Montesinos gets her second win over a top-10 player on the season, coming from a game down to top the #6 seeded Mexican veteran Nancy Enriquez in a breaker. She advances to her second quarter of the season and faces a player she beat the last time they played.
– #10 Laime gets a walk-over over #7 Amaya Cris; I thought her name in the draw indicated that she was going to attempt to play through her injury, but instead it just indicated that her hand injury occurred too late to change the draw. Reports indicate that she’ll be out of action for 6 weeks, which may put her participation in April’s PARC championships at risk. Amaya has represented Colombia at every PARC event (save one) since 2008.

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In the Quarters, the three top seeds plus a surprise advanced.

– #1 Paola Longoria dominated #9 Jessica Parrilla in a rematch of last week’s Mexican National singles final 6,3 to move on.
– #2 Maria Jose Vargas blitzed past #10 Laime 1,9 to advance to the semis.
– #3 Samantha Salas Solis turned the tables on #11 Munoz from their last meeting, advancing in two games 10,6
– The big surprise of the round was #13 Riveros beating her second top-8 player in a row, moving past #5 Rhonda Rajsich Fan Club in two solid games 13,10. Riveros makes just her second ever pro semi final; the only other time was more than four years ago (Jan 2016 in Cincinnati).

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In the Semis
– #1 Longoria trounced #13 Riveros 4,1 to advance to the final. Its been nearly 3 years since Longoria failed to make a LPRT final and this tournament was no different.
– #3 Salas got a well-earned win over #2 Vargas to make her first final of the season. It was a streaky match, with Salas racing to a huge first game lead before Vargas took it, then Salas saving off match point against and gutting out a second game win. From there, Vargas’ spirit seemed broken and Salas cruised to a well earned win.

In the Finals, Salas hung with Longoria early, running out to a lead even, and had some wondering if it was an upset-special … then Longoria turned it on and cruised to an 8,3 win.

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Points Implications of results: There’s only two remaining LPRT stops on the schedule right now: a tier 1 in San Antonio.in April and a “super max” grand slam in Kansas in June. While there could be more events added last minute, based on the fact that there’s just 2 events left…
– Irrespective of results at the remaining 2 events, Paola has a large enough lead over #2 Vargas (782 points) that she has guaranteed the #1 year end spot. It will be her 11th year end title.
– Despite Salas’ win over Vargas here, she remains well behind Maria for #2. Far enough behind that the only way Salas could catch Vargas for #2 is if she wins both remaining events (worth 500+ points) and for Vargas to miss them. That seems pretty unlikely, so we’re ready to declare that Vargas has sewn up #2 on the season.
– Salas seems pretty locked into #3 as well; she’s got a huge lead to #4 that would take some unlikely scenarios to overcome.
– #5 and #6 on tour may flip b/c of this event: Rhonda and Natalia both have nearly identical points right now.
– #7 and #8 might flip as well: based on my records Mejia and Enriquez also have identical number of points right now.
– thanks to a relatively large points gulf between 10 and 11, it seems likely that the year end top 10 has been sewn up for all participants; its just a matter of the order in the latter half.

The only other significant moves in the rankings would be Riveros moving up one spot, and MRR moving up two spots thanks to their results on the weekend.

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Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/352057

The top 2 seeds cruised to the final with little difficulty. There, the #1 seed continued their dominance over the doubles tour, beating the Argentines Vargas/Mendez in two. Longoria/Salas have never lost to Vargas/Mendez, and they continue the streak.

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Other Draws in Boston:
– Munoz topped MRR in the Women’s Open final
– Connecticut’s Jose Flores Jr. won a 20-man Open draw, topping Massachusetts’ Orlando Cabana in the final.

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Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Timothy Baghurst, great technical work and streaming graphics/replays by Jerry J Josey Jr., and mike work/tour leadership from Tj Baumbaugh.

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Next up on the schedule? we’ll publish wrap ups of the two IRT events that went on this past weekend tomorrow, then the IRT returns to Tier 1 action with the 35th annual Shamrock Shootout in Chicago next weekend.

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tags

LPRT
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Racquetball Colombia
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball
Asociación Argentina de Racquetball
Federación Chilena Racquetball
Jugadores Racquetbol Guatemala

LPRT 2020 Boston Open Preview

2018 World Champ Ana Gabriela Martinez makes a rare LPRT appearance.

Hot on the heels of Mexican Nationals last weekend (which involved a good percentage of the current LPRT regular touring squad), the LPRT returns after a five week break in the schedule.

We’re in Boston this week for the 2020 Boston Open. The Boston Open first popped up on the schedule in Oct 2016, was held three years running, missed 2019 but its great to see them back on the schedule for 2020.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31948

24 Pros in the draw, a good sized draw and one of the bigger turnouts of the season so far. Notables playing this week include Amaya Cris, who just had hand surgery on her non-playing hand but will gut it out and play on the weekend. #12 Ana Laura Flores is here after curiously missing Mexican Nationals last week.

Notables missing this week: #4 Alexandra Herrera and #7 Montse Mejia. Herrera’s absence is odd; she has missed just two pro events in the last 5 seasons combined. Mejia continues to balance school and travel and probably could not miss two straight weeks of time.

From the 11-20 ranked players, only tour stalwart Adrienne Fisher Haynes is missing, meaning that the event is stacked, with 17 of the top 20 players present.

And, just to make this an even deeper draw, we have 2019 US champ Kelani Lawrence, the 2020 US qualifier champ Hollie Rae Scott, and 2018 World Champ Ana Gabriela Martínez making a rare appearance to make this one of the best LPRT draws in some time. All these top non-regular touring players will make the opening rounds brutal.

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Lets preview the singles draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:

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In the 32s, here’s some matches to look for:

– #21 Scott versus #12 Flores: Great opener; Scott defeated Flores in the sole h2h match I have on record … in 2017. Flores started off the 2019-20 season with a bang, making the quarters, but has been one-and-done in 3 straight pro events since. Scott is hot (hey! I’m a poet and i didn’t even know it), is coming off a great showing in Tempe to take the qualifier title and essentially guarantee herself a spot on the US National team, and will be looking to make noise here. Look for Scott with the “upset” here.
– #13 Adriana Riveros vs #20 Susy Acosta; interesting match here; they met earlier this season and Acosta got the upset win, but otherwise Riveros has a ton of really solid wins lately on her resume. She was fantastic at the Pan Am Games in Lima, downing Centellas and Rajsich to make the semis. I’d favor Riveros here but the match-up with the veteran lefty may make for an upset as it did earlier this season.
– #14 Valeria Centellas vs #19 Kelani Lawrence; Centellas has raised some eyebrows on tour this year, with multiple wins over top 10players, but to get there in Boston she’ll have to go through a player who just topped her dominantly in a local event a month ago in Lawrence. This should be a really competitive match.
– #11 Carla Muñoz Montesinos vs #22 Lexi York; Munoz keeps climbing up the rankings on tour, now on the brink of the top 10. She’ll have a tough younger opponent in York to start her tournament this weekend.
– #10 Brenda Laime Jalil vs #23 Martinez: The presence of Martinez in the draw is the ultimate wild-card; when she’s playing regularly, she’s a top 4-5 player in the world and a threat to make the semis or better of any event she enters. But since “retiring” to go to school she’s played sporadically with mixed results. Here she runs into Laime, who has had a hit or miss season, missing more events than she’s played but making a quarter final in Virginia Beach in September. I think Martinez moves on here.
– #15 Erin Nocam vs #18 Maria Renee Rodriguez; An intriguing match between Rivera, the righy with an unconventional swing path and a number of solid wins this season, versus MRR, who seems stuck in a rut right now with five straight one-and-dones. I think Rivera moves on.

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Round of 16; here’s a look at the round as it may play out if my round of 32 predictions come to pass:
– #1 Paola Longoria vs #16 Sheryl Lotts; 9 times they’ve played, mostly in the 2012-13 time frame, Longoria is 9-0 against the American. Paola is fresh of a double win in Tijuana and hopefully shows no ill-effect of the nasty-looking turned ankle.
– #9 Jessica Parrilla vs #8 Masiel Rivera Oporto: Rivera unfortunately draws Parrilla, who took out defending Mexican champ Mejia en route to the final and qualified for the Mexican national team for the first time in years. Rivera beat Parrilla handily at the US Open earlier this season, but has suffered some early upsets since, while Jessica has been red-hot. Look for the upset here.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich vs #22 Scott; Hollie didn’t have to play Rhonda at the doubles qualifier but won it by defeating the player who downed Rhonda in the final. Is it a changing of the guard in US Racquetball? Every time Rhonda does NOT win a title we have the same talk. But Scott is candidate 1-A right now to take over the mantle of the “Best American” based on results. This will be a good test for both player, and I think Scott moves on.
– #4 Natalia Mendez likely takes on #13 Riveros: a nice south american matchup; Mendez leads 4-1, Riveros beat her in jan 2019 but not since, and the matches are often close.
– #3 Samantha Salas Solis vs the Lawrence/Centellas winner: Salas has never lost to either player, and crushed Lawrence when they played in Greenville in January. Look for Salas to move on here in a close match.
– #6 Nancy Enriquez vs #11 Munoz: these two played three times in 2017, never since. Munoz has been creeping up the rankings, now sitting at #13 while Enriquez has been showing some vulnerabilities in earlier rounds this season. I think Munoz can get the upset here.
– #7 Amaya vs likely #23 Martinez: On paper Martinez is the better player, but she’s not playing full time. Meanwhile Amaya just had surgery and isn’t 100%. Not knowing just how sharp Martinez is … i’ll go out on a limb and predict the upset here.
– #2 Maria Jose Vargas Parada likely takes on #15 Rivera, in what I believe is a debut meeting for the two players. Vargas to move on.

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Projected Qtrs:
– #1 Longoria over #9 Parrilla: a rematch of last week’s Mexican National final, won by Longoria in two.
– #4 Mendez vs #22 Scott: these two are nearly the same age and have prior junior worlds meetings. But that was a while ago. I see a tough match here that could go either way, but I’ll go with the higher ranked Mendez to move on.
– #3 Salas vs #11 Munoz; if this meeting comes to pass, Munoz has a win already over Salas this season and should be able to repeat the feat. Salas took a slight knee knock last weekend; not sure if it was serious or not (it did not seem to affect her in the doubles final), but something to look out for.
– #2 Vargas vs #23 Martinez. Great match-up. They met at 2018 worlds (a Martinez win) and 2019 PARC (a Vargas tiebreaker win). I like Vargas here over the non-touring Martinez.

Semis:
– #1 Longoria over #4 Mendez; Natalia has never beaten the #1 player, and that won’t change here.
– #2 Vargas over #11 Munoz: Argentina vs Chile, a battle of two of the best Syrah-growing countries in the world. Oh, and two solid players. I have Vargas 8-0 lifetime over Munoz in pro and IRF competitions; she makes it 9-0 here.

Finals: #1 over #2 Longoria over Vargas.

6 of the first 7 finals this season have been Longoria v Vargas, might as well make it 7 of 8.

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Doubles review

13 teams entered. Some interesting teams this time around trying to dethrone Longoria/Salas. We have a number of internationally flavored teams: the #2 Argentinian national team pairing of Vargas/Mendez, a promising all-american team of #6 Lawrence/Lotts, the Guatemalan national team #9 Martinez/Rodriguez, and an interesting “all veteran” team of Rajsich/Acosta, with more than 40-years of pro experience between them. One last team of note: María Paz Riquelme steps in for Amaya to partner with Riveros this time around; Riquelme and I used to play at the same club in Arlington VA. If you’re reading this Maria … hello!

In the end, I’m going with the #1 team to prevail over the #2 Argentines in the final.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the LPRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live.
Look for Timothy Baghurst], Jerry J Josey Jr., JP Edwards and Tj Baumbaugh on the mike, calling the shots!

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LPRT
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Racquetball Colombia
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball
Asociación Argentina de Racquetball
Federación Chilena Racquetball
Jugadores Racquetbol Guatemala

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Copa Mexico 2020 Preview

Beltran is the #1 seed; can he make the team in 2020? Photo US Open 2019 via Photographer Kevin Savory

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.

r2sports.com link:
https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31821

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Lets preview the Men’s Singles draw.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Streaming options: there’s usually good streaming of these events, by following FMR or RKT on facebook and by following the specific players’ pages.

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

2020 High School Nationals Preview

Annie Roberts defends her 2019 HS title on her home courts in Portland. Photo 2019 Junior Nationals, photographer Kevin Savory

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.

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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.

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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).

Roberts and Chauhan, coincidentally, were both just named the USA Racquetball 2020 scholarship recipients: see https://www.facebook.com/…/pb.164703169…/10158179520804529/…

– 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.

click here for a full matrix of all US Junior girls title holders: http://rball.pro/6D7917

Predictions: I think Roberts makes the final but loses to Mahoney.

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Follow USA Racquetball on Facebook for streaming, and look for Leo Ray Vasquez on the mike as always for US National events.

US Nationals Wrap-Up

Landa secures the National team Doubles spot in his first US competition since switching countries. Photo Kevin Savory

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.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31680

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

Men’s Doubles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/989C2B

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.

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In the Quarters, we saw some fun matches.

– #1 Rocky Carson and Charlie Pratt Racquetball dominated the #9 seeded team of Zelada/Collins 9,3 to move on.

– 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.

– After dropping the first game, #6 David ” Bobby” Horn] and Erik Garcia] were able to get the upset over #3 Adam Manilla] and Nick Riffel (7),3,5.

– #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ were pushed to a breaker, but eventually advanced over #7 Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon.

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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.

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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.

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Women’s Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/846600

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.

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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.

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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.

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National Team Standing Implications of these results.

(see https://www.teamusa.org/…/Team-U…/Qualifying-for-the-US-Team
for qualifying guidelines and point scoring here).

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.

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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.

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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.

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USA Racquetball
International Racquetball Tour
LPRT
International Racquetball Federation – IRF

US National Doubles (with Singles qualifier) Preview

Carson to go for the double this weekend as the #1 seed in both Singles and Doubles. Photo Portland 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Welcome to the first major Amateur Nationals event of Fy2020. Its the US National doubles event, being held in Tempe, AZ on the campus of Arizona State University.

This is the 53rd iteration of US National doubles: The first was held in 1968 in Madison, Wisconsin and the first Men’s US national title was won by the team of Simie Fein and Jim White. The Women’s event doesn’t seem to have started until 1972; the first winners I have on record were Jan Pasternak and Kimberly Hill, who won the title in Memphis in 1972.

Click here for a full list of all Men’s titlists: http://rball.pro/8862E4

Click here for a full list of Women’s titlists: http://rball.pro/A7F6CA

Rocky Carson holds the Men’s record for most National Doubles titles; he has 11 titles in 13 appearances. Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson holds the record on the Women’s side with 14 titles in 15 appearances.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31680

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Lets preview the Men’s Doubles draw:

The Men’s draw has 11 teams, highlighted by both of last year’s finalist teams as the #1 and #2 seeds. The big news of course this year is the entry of one team in particular: Alex Landa , the current #2 player on the IRT has entered with 5-time pro tour champ and Hall of Famer Sudsy Monchik.

Landa, who has represented Mexico his entire career, famously was left off the Mexican delegation to the Pan American Games last year despite winning the 2019 Mexican Nationals event. The Mexican federation made this decision based on rather “debatable” guidelines to say the least, and in the aftermath Landa asked for (and was granted) his release from the Mexican team. He’s a dual citizen and has resided in Texas for many years, and quickly was able to obtain clearance to enter in US national events. He’s an accomplished doubles player, currently ranked #3 on the IRT doubles ranking, and is a right-side (forehand) player. He’s teamed a legend and a great left-side (backhand) doubles player in Sudsy to make a pretty formidable team. They’re handed the #5 seed, meaning they’ll have to play through both top seeds to win it.

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Lets preview the Men’s doubles draw:

Round of 16: there’s three play-in round of 16 matches, with some interesting match-ups

– In the 8/9 matchup; an east coast flair: North Carolina native Brent Walters teams with top Virginia player Thomas Gerhardt to take on Maryland native MoMo Zelada and his partner, Hawaiian-turned-NorCal guy Robert Collins: Collins as a lefty gives that team an advantage here over the two east coast veterans.
– The solid #6 team of David ” Bobby” Horn and reigning intercollegiate champ Erik Garcia takes on #11 team of Arizona youngsters Ben Baron and Preston Tribble.
– #7 team of good friends from the east coast Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon take on #10 team Justus Benson and Sam Bredenbeck. Four semi-regular IRT players here battle it out and a ton of hard hitters.

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Projected Qtrs:
– #1 Defending champs Carson and Charlie Pratt Racquetball likely take on Zelada/Collins and should control the floor.
– #5 Monchik/Landa get started against the #4 team of Jansen Allen and Tony Carson, the 2013 champions. Both former top-10 IRT pros, Carson is just coming back from a year-long injury to his achilles heel and had to forfeit out of the last pro event he entered, while Allen has taken a step back from touring full time. This will be a good first test for Monchik/Landa and a tough draw for the former champs.
– #3 Adam Manilla and his college buddy Nick Riffel likely play Horn/Garcia. Manilla as a lefty gives this team a big advantage, but Garcia can be the x-factor here. Look for the upset.
– #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ likely face the #7 seeds Warigon/Miller and should advance.

Semis:
– I like Monchik/Landa to upset the #1 seeds Carson/Pratt here. My simple theory in predicting doubles matches is to look at the match-up on the right-hand side to predict matches; If there’s a weak link on the court, it often presents on the forehand side of the weaker team. Pratt is by no means a “weak” player, but Landa isn’t #2 in the world by accident. I think Sudsy hangs with Rocky on the backhand and Landa makes the difference on the forehand.
– I like #2 Jake/Diaz to make the final again; they’re just too experienced playing together and too good of a team.

Finals:
– Landa didn’t switch to the USA to not make the team; he’s on a mission in Arizona, and I like them for the upset win.

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Lets preview the Women’s Doubles draw:

Just 6 teams entered here. #1 seed includes one member of last year’s on-the-court champion team in Aimee Roehler Ruiz, who is second all-time to Paraiso-Larseen in career US National doubles titles with 11. She was part of the winning team last year before having the title vacated, but now she’s back with a new partner as the top seed. The #2 seeds from last year (the Key sisters Michelle De La Rosa and Danielle Maddox) are not entered, thus we’ve got a wide-open field.

In the Quarters i’m predicting chalk:
– #4 Jazmín Treviño and Erin Slutzky over #5 Cassie Lee and Fran Transfiguracion
– #3 Hollie Scott and Lexi York over #6 Graci Wargo & Jessica Chen.

In the semis:
– i like the #1 team of Ruiz and Erika Manilla to advance to the final.
– I think the #2 seeds of Kelani Lawrence] and Sheryl Lotts, two LPRT regulars who are impressing this season, will have their hands full with Scott and York but will prevail.

Predicted final: I like Lawrence/Lotts over Ruiz/Manilla. Ruiz’ leftiness helps, but I suspect that the overall talent level of the #2 seeded team will overcome the #1 seeds in the final.

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Singles qualifier Review:

The USA added the singles event to National Doubles in 2016 as part of a revamping of the way the National team is decided. US players now compete in three events to gain “points” towards team qualification; the US Open in October, National doubles in February and National singles in May. One may argue that using US Open pro results is unfair (it is; you’re often playing non-US players while competing towards a US team spot), but it is the only other “major” event we have at the moment.

A reminder: I have captured these non-Nationals events in my staging area, but they are NOT loaded into the database and are not currently queryable. I’ve had requests to add this data for a better head to head representation (especially for Canadians, who have been holding these types of events for years), or to get winners of these past events … but it would take significant retrofitting of the reports to do so, so its back burnered for now.

That being said, its a great draw in Tempe and I look forward to it as a fan.

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Men’s singles draw review:

Some questions have arisen related to the seedings here: if Landa just converted to USA … how is he seeded 2nd? Well that’s because USAR uses their internal rankings and Carson is ahead of Landa. See https://www.usaracquetballevents.com/rankings.asp . The USAR rankings do include basically all pro players, and is driven mostly by head to head match-ups. But, just because playerA beats playerB doesn’t automatically move them ahead; the last time Landa played Carson was in the final of the Nov 2019 Fullerton event, a Landa win … yet he remains behind Rocky until he beats him again.

Here’s some notable matches from the 16s I look forward to:
– 8/9 Erik Garcia vs Maurice Miller should be a great match; I think the collegiate champ moves on.
– 5/12 Zelada vs Pratt is interesting: Zelada doesn’t play every pro event but can hang with the players regularly in the 9-16 range. Pratt used to make noise in nearly every event he entered, but as he winds down from full time touring he’s been taking more and more earlier early round losses; in his last 7 pro stops over the last two years he’s made just 3 main draws.
– 6/11: Collins vs Thomas Carter: love the lefty on lefty matches.
– 7/10: Adam Manilla vs Sam Bredenbeck: could be an interesting match here; can Sam get the upset?

Projected Quarters:
– #1 Carson over #9 Garcia
– #4 Horn over #5 Pratt: Bobby beat Charlie in last year’s US Nationals and recently in a local event on his home court and I think he prevails again.
– #3 Jake Bredenbeck over #6 Carter
– #2 Landa over the Manilla

Semis:
– #1 Carson moves on over Horn; he’s 4-0 lifetime over Bobby.
– #2 Landa tops Jake Bredenbeck; he’s 8-0 lifetime over Jake.

Final: tough one to call; I think Landa is super motivated to win and get a big leg up on qualifying for the team. If this was actually Nationals i’d go with Landa, but here Rocky takes the title since by Sunday I perceive Rocky will be out of doubles while Landa will be shooting for two titles.

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Women’s singles draw review:

First, can someone explain the seeding in this event to me? Right now, on USAR’s ranking page Kelani Lawrence is ahead of Rhonda Rajsich. Kelani BEAT Rhonda in Nationals last year en route to the title and is the defending champ. How is Kelani not seeded #1? I don’t get it. You may say “oh seeding doesn’t matter you have to beat everyone to win” … but as you’ll see, Kelani now has a significantly harder semis match than the #1 seed has.

Nonetheless, here’s a preview of this draw. Notable early matches to watch:
– 8/9 Wargo vs Chen: young doubles partners square off early.
– 6/11: York vs Slutzky: can the junior Slutzky (just finishing her 16U year and making her adult debut) challenge York?

quarters projection:
– #1 Rajsich over Wargo
– #5 Lotts over #4 Manilla; this should be a great match.
– #3 Scott over #6 York, again doubles partners squaring off.
– #2 Lawrence over #7 Lee.

The rubber meats the road in the semis.

– #1 Rajsich vs #5 Lotts: Rhonda has had a tough pro season so far: four times she’s lost in the 16s, but she’s also made two semis. Lotts has competed well against top-8 players but has yet to break through with a round of 16 win. Rhonda has never lost to Lotts, and this may go deep but Rhonda prevails.
– #2 Lawrence vs #3 Scott: this is a rematch of last year’s final (which is why seeding accuracy is so important); Kelani prevailed there 11-10 but it could have gone either way. Since then, Lawrence has made a concerted effort to play the LPRT more, and has a slew of solid results. I think Lawrence has grown more in the last year as a player than Scott, and prevails here.

Final:

Lawrence and Rajsich again. These two met in US Nationals events in 2016, 2018 and 2019. They’ve also met in this qualifier event every year since it started: 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. So its only fitting that they meet in the 2020 iteration.

In all of these 7 matches, Rhonda is 6-1. But that one win was in last year’s Nationals event. Lawrence got that break through win and hasn’t looked back. Lawrence for the win here too.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow USA Racquetball on Facebook and register for live video notifications. Leo Ray Vasquez on the mike all weekend as usual.

Tags

International Racquetball Tour
LPRT
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
International Racquetball Federation
USA Racquetball
Racquetball Canada
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol

2020 LPRT Sweet Caroline Wrap-Up

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

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Singles: Paola Longoria
– Doubles: Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas

Longoria dominates the competition, never giving up more than 8 points in a game on the weekend to cruise to her 97th career tier-1 title. And, the #1 doubles pairing holds serve against the upstart Mejia/Herrera duo to take the title.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=31722

——————

Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/8DECFC

—————-
In the 32s:

– #12 Jessica Parrilla made a statement in her win over junior Bolivian Angelica Barrios – Raquetbolista, winning the first game 15-1 and holding on 15-12 in the second.
– Good friends and doubles partners Ana Laura Flores and Erin Nocam (Erin Rivera) battled it out in a tie-breaker, with Rivera advancing.
– #22 Susy Acosta Racquetball got a solid win over tour vet Adriana Riveros Racquetball 7,12 to advance into the 16s for the 2nd time this season.
– #23 Valeria Centellas got the better of #10 Masiel Rivera Oporto for the second week in a row, earning the upset win to move into the 16s.
– #15 Sheryl Lotts got a hard-earned tie-breaker win over #18 Guatemalan Maria Renee Rodriguez to move on.

—————-
In the 16s:
– #9 Montse Mejia took out #8 Cristina Amaya Cassino in a tight 14,9 match, as one would expect in the 8/9 meeting.
– #12 Leona Parrilla took #5 Natalia Mendez to the brink, nearly pulling off the upset before Mendez advanced 11-8.
– #23 Vale Centellas RaquetBol made short work of #7 Nancy Enriquez, dominating to win 7,5 and move into the quarters for the second time this season. She’s a force to be reckoned with.

—————-
In the Quarters:
– #1 Paola Longoria dominated her young Mexican rival #9 Montse Mejia 3,8 to move into the semis. More and more Mejia’s win over Longoria at the 2019 Mexican Nationals is looking like a fluke; Longoria has beaten Montse the last three times they’ve played on tour by the score lines 5,6 then 2,6 and today 3,8.
– #4 Alexandra Herrera needed a tie-breaker to get past #5 Natalia Mendez Erlwein in what could be an interesting budding rivalry.
– #6 Rhonda Rajsich became the latest player to get an upset win over #3 Samantha Salas Solis this season, taking out her long-time rival in a breaker by the slimmest of margins 11-10. Salas has now been beaten prior to the finals in all six of this season’s events she’s entered; last season she played 9 events and made 9 finals.
– #2 Maria Jose Vargas Parada was pressed in game one by the junior phenom Centellas (now officially her country-woman having made the switch to represent Argentina), but pulled away to win in two.

—————
In the Semis
– Longoria continued to dominate in Greenville, beating #4 Herrera in two games 3,7 to return to the final.
– Rajsich pushed Vargas to the breaker and looked for a moment like she could get to a final for the first time since June 2017 … but ran out of gas in the breaker.

—————
In the Finals, we get the 5th final between Longoria and Vargas on the season. The first four were Longoria wins … and we got another Longoria win here too. Paola dominated the #2 player on tour to win 5,6 for the singles title.

—————-
Points Implications of results: there’s definitely some interesting movement in the rankings as a result of this event.

– The top 1-6 stay the same, and in the same order. Longoria treads water in that she’s the defending champ, while Vargas gains on her and Salas loses more ground. Vargas now has a large enough lead on Salas that it likely is impossible for Samantha to regain #2 this season.
– Despite her run to the semis, Rhonda actually loses ground to Mendez for #5 thanks to Rajsich having to defend semis points from last year.
– The big news is that Enriquez has been knocked from the #7 perch that she’s held for quite a while. Mejia has moved up to #7, which means that she avoids Longoria in the quarters and could have deeper implications for draws going forward. This also bumps Amaya to #9, which is less impactful to her in that 8-9 still plays into #1.
– Parrilla has now ascended to #11; its been a long grind for her attempting to get back her top 4 ranking, due partly to unlucky play-in matches and partly to increased depth on tour. But every tick up in rankings means a slightly “easier” round of 16 for her, and more opportunities for her to get deeper into events.
– Munoz makes a big jump from 18 to 13, and will continue to rise since she played no events in the 2nd half of last season, meaning every point earned is a net point gained on the rest of the field. I could see her getting up as high as #11 by the end of the season, but it’d be tough to get much higher thanks to a points gulf from 11 to 10 on tour.
– Centellas continues her meteoric rise; last week she was ranked 25th, now she’s 16th. She started the season outside the top 30. And she’s proving that her results are no mistake, taking down multiple top 10 players along the way.

—————-
Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/6F84A6

In doubles, the all-Bolivian junior team of Barrios/Centellas upset the 5th and 4th seeds to advance to the semi; there they joined the top 3 seeded teams.

We got the expected all-Mexican final, though this time the #1 team Longoria/Salas held serve in a tiebreaker to take the title over #3 Mejia/Herrera

—————-
Other Draw results:

– In Women’s Open, Carla Muñoz Montesinos took a solid win, downing Amaya in the semis and Kelani Lawrence in the finals.

– In Men’s Open, Maurice Miller downed fellow Georgia native Austin Cunningham in the final.

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Next up? the LPRT has a break until Boston the first weekend in March.

——————-
tags

LPRT
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
International Racquetball Federation
USA Racquetball
Racquetball Canada
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Racquetball Colombia
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball
Asociación Argentina de Racquetball
Federación Chilena Racquetball
Jugadores Racquetbol Guatemala

IRT 42nd Lewis Drug Pro/Am Wrap-Up

DLR the big winner this weekend, winning both Singles and Doubles. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Singles: Daniel De La Rosa
– Doubles; Daniel De La Rosa/Alvaro Beltran

De la Rosa wins this event for the second time in four years (he loves Sioux Falls: he’s made the final here now four years running), and captures his 4th Tier 1 victory, moving him into a tie for 19th all-time with heady names like Steve Serot, Gregg Peck, Bo Keeley and his long-time Mexican rival Alex Landa . Click here http://rball.pro/E75E50 for a list of all 40 tier 1 men’s pro titlists throughout all of history.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31789

——————

Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/FA1E69

—————-
In the 128s:
– Minnesota amateur Lee Meinerz played some solid ball and hung with Tony Carson in his first tourney back, taking the first game 15-14 before Carson had to retire.

In the 64s:
– Meinerz continued to play tough and stretched #17 Sebastian Fernandez to 8,12 in his tourney opener.
– #25 Kadim Carrasco played a tough tiebreaker against #24 Jansen Allen to advance.
– #28 Sam Bredenbeck played #21 Felipe Camacho tough, falling 9,14 in a hard-hitting match.
– Charlie Pratt Racquetball got a solid win over Alan Natera Chavez 10,8 to move into the 32s.
– Set Cubillos Ruiz got a tie-breaker win over the Ref Scott McClellan to advance.
– Robert Collins got a tough earned win over Canadian Tim Landeryou 12,12 to move on.

—————-
In the 32s:
– #16 Adam Manilla could not keep the momentum going from last weekend and fell to #17 Fernandez 6,10. Fernandez looked bulked up and ready to challenge #1 Landa in the main draw.
– #21 Camacho got his best win of the season, ousting #12 Carlos Keller Vargas in a tie-breaker to advance to just his second main draw of the season.
– #20 Javier Estrada went breaker but took out #13 Thomas Carter to get into his third main draw of the season.
– #19 Javier Mar eased past the Costa Rican number one #14 seed Andres Acuña to get into the main draw. Mar has a history of disrupting IRT draws, and he’s well positioned to do so again here.
– #22 Charles Pratt moved to 4-0 lifetime in top-level events against #11 Mario Mercado Valenzuela in a streaky game that looked like was going against him early. Pratt gets a juicy match-up against a player he shocked in last year’s PARC event in Moscoso (also his doubles partner on the weekend).

—————-
In the 16s: some notable matches:

– #20 Estrada could not get the breakthrough win he’s been pursuing, losing to #4 Alvaro Beltran in two solid games.
– #19 Mar proved once again why fans wish he’d play the tour full time, topping #3 Andree Parrilla in an 11-9 breaker. Its the second straight one-and-done for Parrilla, having been shocked last week in Austin by Manilla.
– #6 @Luis Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo] got revenge on Pratt from their last meeting (the 2019 PARC) and topped him in two. He seemed to show little side effect of whatever malady caused him to exit so easily in Austin.
– #7 Daniel De La Rosa continued his h2h dominance over country-man Rodrigo Montoya Solis, beating him 11-8 in the breaker in a tough match.

So, 7 of the top 8 seeds into the quarters; a slight surprise to this observer who keeps waiting for some of the guys in the 9-20 range to step-up.

—————-
In the Quarters though … all upsets.
– #8 Samuel Murray got a walk over when #1 Alex Landa pulled up lame midway through the second game. Murray had won the first, and it was hard to tell if the core injury (strained back?) was affecting Landa early on. Murray has beaten his oft-doubles partner before, so it wasn’t a huge surprise for him to get a game up on the notorious slow-starting Landa … but Murray into the semis was unexpected, especially from the #8 spot.
– Whatever #5 Lalo Portillo figured out … he needs to bottle it up and sell it. After three straight one-and-dones since earning a top 8 seed … he held serve against a former top 10 touring pro in Camacho in the 16s, and then dominated #4 Beltran 5,6 in the quarters. He gets a second semi on the season, and a winnable one at that versus Murray.
– #6 Moscoso continued to have the upper hand over Mar, dating to their junior days (they’re the same age-year and often met in the back end of Junior World events), and advanced in two games.
– #7 DLR took advantage of #2 Rocky Carson’s first game back from injury, playing solid ball and advancing in two 12,11.

So; for the for the first time in recorded seeding history on the Men’s tour, all top 4 seeds are upset prior to the semis, leaving the rest of this tourney to be contested neatly by the #5, #6, #7 and #8 seeds. We’re guaranteed to have a shock finalist; Murray has just one finals appearance in his career, Portillo none. The Lewis Drug event continues to provide surprises year after year.

—————
In the Semis:

– #5 Portillo raced out of the gate to blow away #8 Murray in game one, then mounted a huge comeback after going down big in game 2 to advance 4,14 and move into his first tier 1 professional final. Lalo is just 20 years of age and is one of the youngest finalists we’ve seen in years, and will have his hands full against a seasoned pro.

– In just their 4th career meeting (pro or international), #7 DLR continued his red-hot form and reversed the result from the US Open earlier this season and topped the Bolivian 8,11 to move into the final. Its hard to say whether Moscoso showed any ill-effects of the leg injury he picked up in Austin; one observer in the chat-box noted that Moscoso was merely “shuffling” to his right and not crossing over footsteps, perhaps implying he still was favoring his left leg. I also find it curious that the foot fault issues that plagued him at the US Open continue to be a factor; its now to the point where the referee knows to look for the FF and I believe now calls it even when its a borderline case.

—————-
In the Finals:

It looked for a while like the young Portillo may provide a shock, as he played consistent solid ball to jump out to a lead, but DLR pulled back, played smart racquetball and eked out game one, saving game point against 15-14. In game 2, it was never really as close as the eventual 15-9 scoreline showed; DLR was in control despite Portillo’s excellent game plan.

—————-
Points Implications of results:
– Landa had a chance to take over #1 with a tourney win, but by existing at the qtrs along with Carson they stay 2-3 in the standings behind Kane.
– Parrilla and Beltran remain 4-5, but Alvaro picks up some ground.
– DLR moves up to #6 with the win, gaining enough points on Moscoso to switch places and dropping the Bolivian to 7th.
– Despite the finals appearance and the win over Murray in the semis, Murray and Portillo remian 8-9 in the standings.
– With the missed event, S.Franco drops to 12th, which elevates Jake Bredenbeck into the top 10 for what I believe is the first time in his career.
– Mar jumps from #23 to #20, which is important because more than a few guys in the 11-20 range right now are either stepping back from touring or periodically miss events, meaning Mar could slip into the top 16, meaning a bye into the 32s.

the IRT now has enough events on the 12-month schedule that they’re counting points in 11 events, dropping other events. Which makes it even more amazing that guys like Kane and Conrrado can maintain top-8 seeds despite not even playing the minimum # of events.

—————-
Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/548396

The doubles draw was chalk in the semis, with all four top seeds advancing. Landa’s injury took out the Murray/Landa team, giving Montoya/Mar a walk-over into the finals. There they met their long-time Mexican nemesis team of #1 DLR/Beltran.

DLR/Beltran vs Mar/Montoya is becoming a frequent match-up in major doubles events. This final is a rematch of the following major matches:
– 2018 Mexican Nationals final
– 2018 Mexican Worlds Selection event final
– Quarters of 2018 World Doubles
– Semis of 2018 US Open
– Semis of 2019 Atlanta open

The veterans DLR/Beltran won all these meetings. And they won again in the Sioux Falls final, though they had to go breaker to do so. Beltran continues to be such a skilled shot maker even at 41, that I wouldn’t be surprised if he remained a dangerous pro doubles player for years to come.

—————-
Men’s Open:

The top four seeds in the Men’s Open draw are all IRT pros ranked in the 9-16 range, and as expected they all advanced into the semis. Only Gerardo Franco Gonzalez was really troubled along the way, taken to a tie-breaker by Canadian veteran Landeryou.

In the Open semis: Franco upset Acuna while Montoya handled Mercado, and in the final Montoya cruised to the Men’s Open singles win.

——————
Next up?

The third of three IRT events in a row; the Lou Bradley Memorial in Sun Prairie, WI. It should be interesting to see what toll these back-to-back-to-back events take on players: we’ve already seen Kane bow out of one, Landa forfeit out with injury, and see both Beltran and Carson exit earlier than their seeds. Will we see another run from an unexpected source next week?

——————-

International Racquetball Tour
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
International Racquetball Federation
USA Racquetball
Racquetball Canada
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Racquetball Colombia
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball
F

LPRT 2020 Sweet Caroline Grand Slam Preview

World Junior 18U champ Barrios travels to compete in the Sweet Caroline. Photo via Barrios’ facebook page.

The LPRT is back in action, with its annual Sweet Caroline event in Greenville, SC. Once again this event is a Grand Slam event, which means more points, more money and a deeper draw. This event also features a banquet (held last night) where the players fly in early to support a great local cause in Safe Harbor (see LPRT’s page for more, or visit https://safeharborsc.org/).

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31722

There’s 26 ladies in this draw, making it the 3rd largest draw of the season. More importantly is the depth of the draw; just one player in the top 20 is missing (Colombian #12 Brenda Laime Jalil). We also have some tough players in the 20-30 range making the trip from abroad and making the opening round one full of top match-ups.

——————————
Lets preview the draw. Play kicks off bright and early 9am Friday, so by the time you read this it probably is already underway!.

Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:

——————————-
In the 32s:

– #13 Ana Laura Flores vs #20 Erin Rivera: great first rounder; Groves already has two top-10 upsets on her resume this season, and these two met in Chicago in November with Rivera getting an 11-8 upset win. Expect a close match here again and another upset.

– #12 Jessica Parrilla vs #21 Angelica Barrios – Raquetbolista; tough match for the traveling Bolivian, the reigning 18U world champion. I see this as an interesting clash of styles; Parrilla plays fast and powerful, Barrios plays tactically and deliberate. Parrilla has had some recent success in rebuilding her former top-4 ranking, but will be made to work for it here.

– #15 Sheryl Lotts] vs #18 Maria Renee Rodriguez; these two have played a few times professionally and internationally over the years, always going to tiebreakers. MRR got a win at 2018 Worlds, their most recent known meeting. But Lotts has been improving all season, losing an 11-10 heart-breaker to Enriquez at the last pro stop. Expect Lotts win a breaker here.

– #10 Masiel Rivera Oporto vs #23 Valeria Centellas: Centellas is on an extended tour of the US, and played in the Wintergreen event last on Rivera’s home courts, where they met and Centellas got the win. Now they meet less than a week later in a grand slam. The 18yr old Centellas is a dangerous player with growing power and accuracy, and I like her for the upset here.

——————————-
Projecting the round of 16: I see a few notable matches to watch for in the 16s.

– #1 Paola Longoria over #17 Carla Muñoz Montesinos; Munoz runs into the world #1 too early despite her improving play as of late.
– 8/9 is always a tough match: this time it likely features Montse Mejia versus Cristina Amaya Cassino]. I like Mejia to advance but for Amaya to keep it close.
– Expect a tight match between the winner of the Parrilla/Barrios match and #5 Natalia Mendez. I like Parrilla to get the better of Mendez here, after losing a tight match to the Argentine earlier this season. But Mendez has shown she can beat both players, so anything goes.
– #4 Alexandra Herrera could face a tricky opponent if Rivera advances, or face a rare lefty if Flores advances. She’s never lost to either and should advance.
– #3 Samantha Salas Solis returns after missing an event and likely gets a dangerous opponent in reigning US National champion Kelani Lawrence], who just topped both Rivera and Centellas in a local event in Maryland and reached the quarters of the Florida event.
– #6 Rhonda Rajsich faces off against #11 Adriana Riveros Racquetball, a battle of two international vets who have played each other in IRF events frequently. Riveros won their last meeting, her first in this h2h series; can she get an upset here?
– #7 Nancy Enriquez is the likely unlucky opponent of #23 Centellas; this will be a hard-hitting battle that I think the young Bolivian, increasingly gaining confidence against top pros, can win.
– #2 Maria Jose Vargas Parada gets her tourney started against the Lotts/MRR winner; she’ll be favored but Lotts in particular has been playing top players tough all season.

——————————
Projected Qtrs:

– #1 Longoria over Mejia: despite seeds two of the top four women in the world, but Longoria has the upper hand on the pro ranks.
– #4 Herrera over #12 Parrilla; I don’t think Parrila is ready to take this step yet.
– #3 Salas handles #6 Rajsich
– #2 Vargas ends the run of the youngster #23 Centellas.

Semis:
– Longoria over Herrera
– Vargas over Salas

Finals
– Longoria over Vargas for the 5th time this season in a final.

——————————-
Doubles review

There’s 12 teams in the doubles draw, and with Salas’ return the regular #1 pairing is back intact. In fact, the top 4 seeded teams are now the regular top 4 teams we frequently see advancing in these tournament and the semis and finals of LPRT doubles are becoming increasingly more compelling.

Interesting entries include the all-junior Bolivian team of Centellas/Barrios and the Colombian national doubles team of Riveros/Amaya getting back together.

I like the Bolivians to upset Parrilla/Enriquez in the quarters, and for Herrera/Mejia to upset the #2 Argentine national team in the semis to get a frequent repeated all-Mexican finals match-up.

Prediction: Herrera/Mejia take out Longoria/Salas in the final.

———————————
Look for Streaming in the regular places; can’t wait for this event! Look for Timothy Baghurst], Jerry J Josey Jr., JP Edwards (with ties to my home town!) and Tj Baumbaugh on the mike, calling the shots!

Tags

LPRT
International Racquetball Federation – IRF
USA Racquetball
Racquetball Canada
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Racquetball Colombia
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball
Asociación Argentina de Racquetball
Federación Chilena Racquetball
Jugadores Racquetbol Guatemala