Congrats to your winners on the weekend: – Singles: Daniel De La Rosa – Doubles; Eduardo Garay/Juan Pablo Rodriguez
R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31746
Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.(reminder: this was not a Tier1, therefore there’s no results in the PRS database).
In the 16s:- 7 of the top 8 seeds advanced, with the only “upset” being Austin Cunningham topping #8 Jim Douglas with a double donut. For the most part the traveling pros dominated local competition in their openers, with no tie-breakers and only a couple games that were competitive. This setup some great quarter final action.
In the Quarters- #1 Alex Landa cruised past #9 Cunningham 4,12. – #5 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez blitzed past his countryman #4 Mario Mercado 11,4 to advance. This seems like an important result, as Garay trails Mercado in the current IRT standings, but just supplanted him on the Colombian national team and seems set to make a rise up the standings when we get back into full time touring.- #3 Sebastian Franco was stretched to a breaker by the home-town favorite Maurice Miller before advancing 11-4.- #2 Daniel De La Rosa dropped the first game 14 before advancing in a breaker over the pesky #7 MoMo Zelada.
In the Semis- #1 Landa cruised past #5 Garay 4,11 to move to the final. Garay had to take the court immediately after a long doubles match and looked a bit winded in game one, then Landa held on as Garay settled in for game two.- #2 DLR dominated #3 Franco 7,7 to move into the finals.In the Finals, DLR dropped the first game 14 but rebounded to push it to a tiebreaker. In the breaker, he raced out to a commanding lead that Landa could not overcome and DLR gets the win over his long-time rival (14),11,4. Solid win for DLR, who stayed calm and stuck to his game plan to take out Landa. Both players played well, showing a bit of rust, but I liked DLR’s calm approach.
Doubles reviewThe 8-team Men’s doubles draw kicked off the festivities Friday night, and all four quarter final matches were close. The draw went chalk (with all four top seeds advancing), but three of the four top seeded teams needed a tie-breaker to advance. The #2 seeded team of DLR and tournament sponsor Donald Williams was pushed the hardest, dropping the first game 6 before rebounding to take the tiebreaker 11-9 over the all-Colombian team of Franco and their coach Francisco Fajardo.
In the semis:- the #4 team of Miller/Mercado surprised the #1 seeded team of Landa/Zelada. Mercado has always been a solid doubles player, and spurred on the run along side the home town favorite to push into the final. It was a surprising result, given Landa’s IRT pro doubles accomplishments as of late.- The #3 team of Colombians Garay and Juan Pablo Rodriguez eked past one of the top doubles player in the world in DLR, teamed with tournament sponsor Donald Williams 11-10 in the breaker. Rodriguez is an up and comer; he represented Colombia at the 2019 world Juniors in 14U, making the semis before losing to USA’s NIkhil Prasad. Rodriguez out-hit Williams on the forehand side, and the #2 seeded team’s tactics couldn’t push them past the Colombians in the end.
In the final, Rodriguez stepped up and helped his all-Colombian team outlast two seasoned IRT pros 13,8. Garay/Rodriguez take the title over Miller/Mercado.
Men’s Open, other drawsThe young Colombian Rodriguez had a heck of a tournament, winning Pro doubles, making the final of Pro Consolation/Men’s Open (where he lost to long-time top Floridian Andres Ramirez in a breaker), and also winning Elite Doubles with fellow top junior international Maricruz Ortiz.
Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Dean DeAngelo Baer and Pablo Fajre and the who streamed all weekend.——————
Well… its been six months since I wrote a pro tournament preview in this space. I almost forgot how to write one of these things. But somehow, we have pro racquetball happening this weekend.
The 2020 IRT Atlanta Open, which was initially set to be the 2020-21 Tier 1 slate season opener, has been repurposed as a Tier 4 event and is being held this weekend at Recreation Atlanta in Lilburn, GA.
Interestingly, the draw features a huge chunk of the Colombian national team playing, including its top three ranked singles players and some players who have traveled up from Cali. I’ll call them out in the preview below.
There’s 16 players in the pro singles draw and 9 pro doubles teams. Its a solid draw, featuring a slew of touring pros, so its worth running through a preview.
Lets preview the draw. Here’s some interesting matches from the round of 16. – #1 Alex Landa vs #16 Andres Ramirez; interesting first rounder for the current #2 player in the world. He takes on a long-time Florida star Ramirez, who has been playing pro events for nearly two decades and has even played internationally in the past. This is no cakewalk for Landa. – #5 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on home-town favorite #12 Marquis Miller , the twin brother of regular tour player Maurice Miller. – #6 Maurice Miller takes on traveling Colombian @Juan Pablo Rodriguez in his opener. – #7 MoMo Zelada gets a tough first rounder in solid Florida amateur Matt Fontana.
Projected Qtrs – #1 Landa over #9 Austin Cunningham, to advance over Jim Douglas. – #5 Garay over #4 Mario Mercado; two Colombian teammates battle it out in the 4/5 spot. Mercado has been an enigma on the court; sometimes he’s lights out and sometimes he’s one-and-done. His 2019-20 season had a final reached and three round-of-32 exits. Garay topped him for the second Colombian team spot earlier this year, and that could be a trend for the young ex-Mexican junior national team member. I like Garay’s game but this could be a close one. Garay to edge Mercado in the breaker. – #3 Sebastian Franco vs #6 Miller: Franco also had an up-and-down season, making two semis but also getting upset in the qualifiers a couple times and missing a bunch of events. He faces the tough Miller playing on his home courts under interesting circumstances. Has Franco been playing? The court availability in the DC area isn’t the same as Atlanta, where the clubs have been open for a bit. Upset watch here, but Franco advances. – #2 Daniel De La Rosa vs #7 MoMo Zelada; DLR makes the bit trip eastward to compete in this event and gets DC-area native Zelada. I like MoMo (shoutout to Formulaflow) but DLR outclasses him here and moves on.
Projected Semis: – #1 Landa over #5 Garay: these two met twice last season and split, so Garay won’t be intimidated by Landa’s game. This is a contrast in style; Landa plays controlled and clinical, while Garay plays powerful and passionate. Landa ekes it out. – #2 DLR over #3 Franco: they’ve met 9 times in top level competition (IRT and IRF) and DLR leads 7-2. Interestingly, they have not met professionally since Jan 2017 despite both being regular tour players for the past few years. DLR finished the season on fire, and I like him to keep going. DLR in two.
Finals: Landa over DLR. Yes, Landa owns the head to head record between these two, and it has been more than 3.5 years since DLR beat Alex on the court. But when they do play, they play close. Multiple 11-10 or 12-10 in the fifth encounters between them. Both have similar game styles; both are shot makers who rely more on skill than on power. If DLR is on, he’s hard to beat. But these two have played so much that they find it hard to get into their preferred game against each other. Look for Landa to win 11-9.
Doubles review Nine teams entered, with a good mix of locals playing with traveling pros. I like the #1 seed of Landa/Zelada advancing over #4 Mercado/Miller on the top, with DLR/Donald Williams topping two teams with Colombian pros in the bottom. In the final, Look for Landa/Zelada to take the win and give landa the double.
Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Dean DeAngelo Baer Favio Soto , Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!
——- Here’s some random observations about the players on tour this year who finished ranked 31st or higher.
– Former top 10 player Jansen Allen took a significant step back from touring, playing in just 2 of the 10 events and finishing #32 on the season.
– #33 Kadim Carrasco played 7 of the 10 events and won 7 qualifying matches, but never enough in one event to make a main draw.
– #34 Jaime Martell Neri fought his way into the main draw of the US Open from the round of 256 and had a couple of wins over tour vets/former top 10 players along the way. He went 5-2 on the season in two events. He’s one of those guys who, if he played the tour full-time, would likely be in the upper teens in rankings.
– #35 Jose Diaz’s ranking plummeted from #11 last season as he took a hard look at the costs of touring and decided to stand down this season. He played 3 events this year.
– #36 Maurice Miller played three events and got four qualifier wins, but never was able to break through to the main draw.
– #38 Ernesto Ochoa played just one tier 1 this year (the US Open) but continues to get solid wins in RKT local events in Mexico, and is one of those “best kept secrets” of players who might really surprise if they played the tour full time.
#42 Anthony Martin quietly made it to 6 tier 1 events, running into a number of tough opponents in qualifying.
#43 Erick Cuevas played four events and got a couple of qualifier wins on the year.
#48 Lee Meinerz got a couple of qualifier wins during the tour’s mid-west spin in Jan/Feb and played tour regulars tough.
#51 Erik Garcia, the reigning intercollegiates champ, played a couple of events on the season with some success.
#77 Francisco Gomez made the main draw of the US Open by qualifying from the round of 256 as the #68 seed; it was his only appearance on tour all year but he took out two tough players in Benson and Natera along the way.
——– That’s it for the 2019-20 season. Thanks to the pandemic, nobody is really sure when the next event will be, but we’ll hope for Aug/sept.
——– #21 Adam Manilla slipped slightly in the rankings from last season, but on a whole had a much better season this year than last. He made his first pro semi in Austin, where he played lights out all weekend, battling from the round of 64 and taking the first game from DLR in the semis before falling. He had several wins over top-10 players, and nearly took out Landa in Chicago (losing 11-10 in the 16s).
Off the court, Adam and his sister Erika Manilla have kicked off an online Racquetball training company Manilla Athletics . Give them a look-see and a follow.
—- #22 David ” Bobby” Horn took a significant step back from touring this year, and saw his ranking fall from #13 at the end of last season to #22 this season. He played in just four events and had decent results in all of them, generally playing top-8 players tough even in losses. We hope to see him back in action soon.
—- #23 Javier Estrada, one of Mexico’s best kept secrets, finally debuted on the IRT this season (his sole prior tier-1 appearance was as a teen-ager in 2010 when the tour visited his home town of Chihuahua). He played 5 events, made three main-draws and had a couple of solid wins over top-10 guys, but was not able to replicate the amazing tournament run he put up last summer at the Black Gold cup. He’s one to watch for, one who could really make a name for himself if he can play on tour like he plays at home.
— #24 Robert Collins took a slight step back on tour this year thanks to the influx of new players in the mid-teens. He made three main draws on the year but his season was marked by frequent difficult round of 32 matches.
—- #25 Alan Natera Chavez, like Estrada, was a relative unknown outside of Mexico until May, when he debuted in IRT Tier 1s for the first time. this season, he made one main draw in five events and had a solid win over #10 Bredenbeck in Austin. So far though on tour, he’s been unable to replicate his successes shown in past Mexican Nationals, where he had a string of upsets to make the semis in both 2018 and 2019.
——- #26 Felipe Camacho stepped back a bit from touring this year after four straight seasons of full time play. He still made 7 of the 10 events, advancing into the 16s in two of them. His best win of the season was probably at the Lewis Drug, where he downed Keller in the 32s and played Portillo tough in the 16s. The long-time Costa Rican international player continues to represent his country, losing in the 16s at the Pan American Games in August.
—– #27 Sam Bredenbeck, younger brother of #10 Jake, played seven of the ten events on the season and had some success. He qualified for the main draw in Portland by downing tour veteran Collins and had a number of other wins against tour regulars.
—- #28 Charles Pratt played just three events this year and wasn’t able to show the “part-time magic” that he’s shown in years past (when he made it to late stages of Tier 1s despite not being a regular touring player). This season he played the US Open, his home town event and the Lewis Drug, where he got his best result.
—— #29 Set Cubillos Ruiz played 7 of the 10 events despite being based in Colombia and facing a vigorous travel schedule. He got a solid win in Arizona to make the main draw; his best win of the season.
— #30 Scott McClellan improved his season-ending ranking despite his full time ref duties on tour. I hope he reads this snippet and reminds me that one of my takes on his reffing this past season was wrong 🙂
— #11 Sebastian Franco took a step back in the rankings after finishing the last four seasons in the top 10. He missed four of the events on the season, which makes it tough to maintain your seeding and ranking, prompting some observers to wonder if his days of full-time touring are over.
He started the season strong; making the semis of the first two events of the season, which got him as high as a #5 seed. But two round-of-32 losses (to Manilla and Estrada) conspired to knock him out of the top10 by seasons’ end.
Franco may be at a career cross roads; he’s just turned 27, he’s a family man now with kids and may not be in a position to tour full time going forward. Plus, he’ll take a big hit in the rankings right out of the gate in the fall as he defends two semi-final appearances. He could see his ranking crash into the mid teens quickly if he doesn’t start well next season
— #12 Rodrigo Montoya Solís took a step back in the rankings from last season, slipping to #12 at the end after being ranked inside the top 10 all year. Montoya remains an enigma on tour; clearly possessing the talent to be making the back end of tournaments week after week (he won the Pan American games in August with wins over three successive higher ranked top-10 players), but yet only made two quarter finals on the season.
He did have some match-up bad luck; losing in the 32s to his doubles partner Mar 11-9 at the US Open, and running into Kane and DLR twice to exit at early stages. No shame in that. He also had a relatively dominant win over Moscoso in Wisconsin. But Montoya needs more consistency against the players in his 10-14 range (Mercado, Franco, Portillo, etc) to claw back into the top 8 conversation.
He also crashed out of Mexican Nationals way early, just a few months after winning gold in Peru, though he and Mar did hold onto the Mexican doubles title (ensuring a return trip to the next IRF event).
—- #13 Mario Mercado slipped to 13th after four seasons in the top 10. Mercado opted to skip two west-coast tourneys (he’s based on the east coast), and suffered three round-of-32 upsets on the season (to Fernandez, Pratt and Martell, one of which was at the US Open), and the sum of these events conspired to drive his ranking down. He did have a great run to the final in Sun Prairie, just his second ever pro final.
Mercado’s well set to regain his ranking if he can get back on track making 16s and quarters again, replacing round of 32 losses with solid point gains.
—– #14 Thomas Carter improved his season ending ranking for the fourth straight season on the backs of solid play and navigating his way into the main draws of pro events frequently. He had his best ever pro finish, upsetting Beltran and making the quarters in Portland. He also had solid wins over Diaz at the US Open and over Estrada at the Lou Bradley.
—— #15 Javier Mar played nearly as many events this season (6) as he had in 5 combined previous seasons (7) and he finishes 15th for his trouble. Despite my believing he’s one of the top 6-7 players in the world, he struggled to put together solid runs into the later stages of events.
He had two round of 32 losses he’d probably like back (to Fernandez and Manilla), but also made a run to the quarters at the US Open as the #24 seed. Three of his season losses were to Kane and Moscoso, no shame there. Next season he’ll hope to avoid the royalty of racquetball until later rounds.
—– #16 Sebastian Fernandez managed to play 7 of the 10 events on the season while balancing the tour and college, and makes a big jump in the rankings from #25 last year.
Patata made a huge run to the US Open quarters as the #23 seed. But he also struggled with his seeding running him right into top players week after week; he had round of 16 exists to Kane, Landa and Rocky this season. He should continue to improve and is a dangerous up and coming player.
—– #17 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez squeaked into the #17 spot by season’s end, improving from #28 last season. He played a number of tough round of 32 matches all year and was generally successful in making the main draw (qualifying 5 of 7 events). Once there, he usually played the top-8 seeds tough, with many of his losses on the year coming by tie-breaker. His big win on the season was a win over Landa in Austin, resulting in his first ever pro quarter reached.
Garay has re-classified his nationality, now representing Colombia. Which means he has a greater chance of playing IRF events going forward with a talent pool competing for the spots a bit thinner than in Mexico.
—— #18 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez had a much better season in 2019-20 than the one before, making the main draw in 6 of the 8 events and pushing into the quarters once, but saw his season-ending ranking slip a couple of spots from last year. He had some really solid wins on the season, didn’t have any “bad” losses, and played to his seeding nearly every event. He needs some more break through wins in 2020-21.
—- #19 Carlos Keller Vargas, after playing just 5 previous pro events in his life, committed to traveling from Bolivia and playing the tour full time this season. He started the season ranked #29 and ground his way into the top 20 by season’s end. He qualified for the main draw in 7 of the 9 events he played and faced off against 6 of the top 8 players on tour in various round of 16 matches. His biggest win of the year was an upset of #7 Murray at the US Open.
—— #20 Andres Acuña had a very solid season, playing 8 of the 10 events and making his first pro quarter when he downed Parrilla in Laurel early in the season. By season’s end he found himself in the dreaded 16/17 seed range, which made for really tough round-of-32 match-ups and a couple of early exits. The Costa Rican #1 finishes one spot higher than he did last year, a testament to just how much talent is pouring into the tour right now.
The realities of the Covid-19 pandemic have come home for both pro tours at this point; the IRT, which held out hope that its last scheduled Tier 1 could be held in June has made the decision to officially end the season.
The rolling 12-month points for the players were frozen on 4/1/20 and remain frozen now; they’re now the season ending points. The tour made the decision not to penalize players with expiring points where there were no tournaments to play in which to make them up from Mid-March til now. Once the tour starts up again, we’ll see all the last few month’s of older points expire, making for an interesting start to next season. More on that in Aug/Sept.
With this post, the 2019-20 season ending rankings have been officially updated to the database. All relevant data has been loaded and all relevant links have been updated.
(the last one is a relatively new report; it shows all the current players and shows all their season ending rankings in one matrix; its pretty cool if you have not yet seen it).
Congratulations to Kane Waselenchuk , who secures his 14th pro title in dominant fashion. He went 29-1 on the season (that one loss being a last-minute withdrawal in the season’s first event). Furthermore, he lost only one GAME on the season, that being a dropped game to Rocky in the Laurel final in September. Just eight times all season did his opponent even score double digits in a singular game against him. I’ve seen some speculation on FB about whether the tour is “catching up” to Kane Waselenchuk … i think its safe to say the answer is “No.”
He now holds a career .920 winning percentage and has won 123 of the 177 Tier 1 events he’s ever entered. In his age 38 season, he is as dominant as ever and shows no signs of slowing down.
#2 Alex Landa ended a tumultuous season with a dominant lead over #3 Rocky in the standings, finishing #2 for his highest ever pro ranking. He secured his 4th career tourney win, made 3 other finals and 3 semis. It’s still kind of hard to believe he didn’t really tour full time until his age 29 season, when he suddenly rocketed up the rankings to hold his currently lofty status. Landa also switched country allegiances, won US National Doubles with partner Sudsy Monchik, and essentially guaranteed himself a spot on the US National singles team as well with his finals appearance in the national team singles qualifier in Tempe. Not a bad season.
#3 Rocky Carson was knocked from the #2 spot on tour for the first time in a decade, enduring a tough season where he underwent another knee operation. The rehab ended up costing him at least one missed event, and then he took another off in the midst of the 3-tourney midwest swing (a rarity for racquetball’s ironman). Two seasons ago, he made the semis or better in 8 of the 9 events; this year he got upset in the 16s or quarters five times as the tour has gained depth and he’s faced tough opposition earlier. He also got unlucky with early round match-ups: his round of 16 loss was to Moscoso at the US Open, and two of his quarters losses were to DLR, whose early season slide forced him into a lower seed than he is merited by his quality. That being said, Rocky’s in a great position to make a big run back up the board this coming fall and winter, as he won’t have many points to defend. Just making the semis or final at the US Open will be a huge points swing when it happens (or if it happens, as the US Open scheduling might be in flux). The #2 slot next season is shaping up to be a big dogfight.
—— #4 Andree Parrilla edged #5 Beltran for the #4 spot by just a few points thanks to his performance at the season’s final event. Parrilla had lost the #4 ranking after holding it for much of the season, but made the semis in Chicago (perennially one of his favorite events) and ends the season #4 for the second year running.
How Parrilla got to #4 is pretty amazing; he endured a stretch in Jan/Feb where he was defeated in the 16s in three successive Tier 1 events and looked lost on the court. This is no disrespect to the players he lost to (in order Manilla, Mar and GFranco), each of whom are solid players and earned their wins. Parrilla also suffered a very early out in Mexican Nationals right afterwards, but rebounded to play strong in Chicago. He takes the #4 spot by just 40 ranking points (by way of comparison; you get 40 points for making the round of 32 in a tier 1) and trails Carson by less than 200 points for #3.
Here’s where things will get interesting next season: Parrilla has a chance to rocket up the rankings in the season’s second half, thanks to all these early round losses. If he turns three round of 16 losses into three semi final appearances? That’s a 400 point swing and may be enough to vault him to #3 or higher.
—– #5 Álvaro Beltrán as noted above gets edged for #4 and thus finishes ranked 5th for the third year running. More impressively, Beltran finishes his 21st straight year touring and he’s finished ranked 6th or better in 18 of those seasons (the other three being his debut season, and then two seasons impacted by a knee injury).
Beltran was able to navigate the landmines of up and coming players on tour all year, making the quarters or better in 9 of the 10 events he entered. He did not break into the semis once this year, the first time that’s happened since his injury season of 2009-10, But, he ends up edging his doubles partner DLR for #5 by the skin of his teeth, currently sitting just 15 points ahead of Daniel for #5.
In fact, just 212 points right now separate #3 Rocky from #6 DLR, meaning we will see some major jumbling when the tour kicks back up next season.
Beltran also qualified for the Mexican national team with DLR, losing a close singles final in February for the National title.
—– #6 Daniel De La Rosa had a very interesting season, finishing 6th for the second successive season. To the outside observer, DLR may look like he’s fading; after all he was in the top 4 for five successive seasons leading into the 2018-19 season. But DLR’s season ended a heck of a lot stronger than it started.
He missed an event early, then was upset in the 16s in his “home” event in Arizona in October. He was knocked out in the quarters in both events in December and some thought he may be reconsidering touring altogether. But, he came back in January energized, making the final of the stacked Longhorn Open, winning the Lewis Drug, then winning Mexican Nationals. He lost a tough tiebreaker to Landa in the season’s last event, but the statement has been made. DLR will race up the standings with a strong start to the 2020-21 season, with fewer points to defend in the fall, and then will have to hold on next spring.
DLR continues to be a force on the outdoor scene too, winning the Men’s and Mixed Pro Doubles titles at both the 2019 Outdoor Nationals and the 2019 3WallBall Vegas event. DLR and Beltran continue to be arguably the top doubles team in the world, and DLR with wife Michelle De La Rosa are arguably the top mixed doubles team.
—— #7 Samuel Murray finished ranked 7th for the second consecutive season, having a very consistent season. He played to his seeding 6 times out of 10 events, losing in the quarters to higher-ranked opposition. He made two semis to offset two early-round upsets.
The Canadian #1 took both of his country’s qualifier events, securing his place on the national team once again. He also continues to be one of the top pro doubles players, playing most of the season with Landa.
——- #8 Lalo Portillo rocketed up the rankings this season, finishing 8th on the season after being ranked 17th at season’s end last season. Touring full time for the first time, he qualified for the main draw 10 times out of 10, and got upset wins throughout the season to add a quarter, a semi and, at the Lewis Drug, making his first pro final. He lost that final to DLR 14,9, but his performance rewarded him with a 5th seed the next event.
Portillo has room to grow; once he got into the top 8, he suffered three straight one-and-dones at the hands of his immediate competition for the back end of the top 10 spots (SFranco, Montoya, Mercado), but held on to #8 in the end.
One last note; Portillo is easily winning the IRT’s unofficial off-season social media contest, frequently posting both serious and funny videos nearly daily. He’s a good follow if you havn’t already done so.
——- #9 Conrrado Moscoso committed to playing the tour in a significant fashion in the 2019-20 season, traveling up for long stretches of time from Bolivia to compete. He ended up playing in 6 of the 10 events and fared well.
He made the final of the sport’s biggest event, the US Open, playing a scintillating first game against Kane before losing in two He stayed in the country to compete the two following events, making a semi in Arizona and then losing to Parrilla in the quarters of Fullerton before returning to Bolivia. He came back for the 3-events-in-3-weeks stretch and got a lesson in the rigors of pro touring; he limped out of a quarter final against Kane, played well but lost to DLR in the semis in Sioux Falls, then got dominated in a one-and-done loss to long-time nemesis Montoya in Sun Prairie. He was ranked as high as 7th until he missed the final event, dropping him two slots to #9 where he ends the season.
The #9 seeding slot might be the worst one to have on tour; If everyone shows at an event he’ll have to play a qualifier, then beat a top 8 player in order to then match-up with Kane in a quarter. Its hard to earn points when you’re playing a major final quality match in the quarters. He’ll have his work cut out for him to move up next season; lets hope he can get the resources to play as much as we’d like to see him.
—– #10 Jake Bredenbeck improves his year end ranking for the fourth successive season, and at season’s end just held onto his first ever top 10 finish over Franco.
Jake made his second ever career pro semi in Portland with wins over two top-10 pros, and nearly took out DLR in an 11-10 heart-breaker loss in Chicago. His season has a number of just misses that might easily turn into wins next season.
Off the field, Jake is leading the charge on a new clothing line called Beastmade Apparel, with t-shirts, hats and now long sleeve pullovers. Support a fellow rballer and buy some gear.
================== Since I tend to be a bit verbose, i’m breaking up this season ending rankings analysis into multiple posts. That way we’re not reading 5,000 words in one clip. Stay tuned for the next set of players in the rankings and my thoughts on their season.
—— A note about the points at season’s end: there’s a rolling 12-month period of points, and then a season-to-date points total. In some cases they do not show the players in the same order. Thanks to the sudden end of the season there likely will be a decent reshuffling of player seeds upon the restart of next season. Where it mattered, I’ll note it in the write-up below.
—— Congrats to Paola Longoria, who secures her 11th year end pro title. She went 32-1 on the season, winning 7 of the 8 events she entered and making the final in her sole loss (in Virginia in September of 2019). Her career W/L record on tour is now 472-31, an astounding 93.8 Winning percentage. She holds 99 tier 1 titles plus an additional six satellite titles for 105 pro titles for her career. She’s just turned 30 and seemingly has many more years of dominance ahead.
—— Here’s some analysis of the rest of the top 10 and beyond.
– #2 Maria Jose Vargas Parada dominated this season, making 6 of 8 pro finals and downing Paola Longoria in Virginia for her 5th career LPRT title. She holds a significant lead now over #3 Salas heading into next season.
– #3 Samantha Salas Solis had an inconsistent season, making just one pro final on the season after making the final 9 times in 9 tries last season. She still holds a significant points advantage over #4 though, but has to be facing some questions in this off-season as to why her season went off the rails and what she can do to get it back on track.
– Alexandra Herrera holds steady at #4 for the third straight season. She made 4 semis, 2 quarters and missed 2 events in the 8-event season.
– #5 Natalia Mendez improved her year end standing for the fourth straight season, just barely pipping #6 Rajsich for the 5th spot on tour. She made two semis on the season.
– #6 Rhonda Rajsich finishes off her 20th straight season on tour ranked in the top 6 or better. She had an up and down season, getting upset in the 16s four times, but also making two semis. She seemed to improve as the season went on.
– #7 Montse Mejia finishes 7th on tour despite only playing half the events, and she made statements whenever she did play. This is her first career pro top-10 finish. In each of her four appearances, she exited at the hands of #1 Longoria and has a slew of wins over top 8 players. She actually led #6 Rajsich in season-to-date points and will likely jump up quickly next season. It is relatively safe to say that if Mejia played the tour full time, she’d be pushing for #2 just behind Longoria.
– #8 Nancy Enriquez held onto the #7 seed for most of the season, getting knocked out of it thanks to two late-season round-of-16 upsets to finish ranked 8th.
– #9 Amaya Cris survives a mid-season injury without too much rankings damage thanks to the abrupt end of the season, but she loses her long-held foothold on the #8 spot for the time-being and would face a tough opponent in Enriquez in the 16s just to face Longoria. Its hard to get out of the 8/9 spot.
– #10 Masiel Rivera Oporto takes the 10th spot by the skin of her teeth, pipping #11 Parrilla by just four points. This is Rivera’s first career top 10 finish.
#11 Jessica Parrilla just missed out on a return to the top 10, but she had a great 2nd half of the season to build upon in her attempt to regain her former lofty ranking. She also made up some of the most ground on tour rankings wise, finishing last year ranked 37th after missing most of the season with a serious knee injury.
A side note here; the difference in points from #12 to #15 is just 33 points this season; that’s basically one additional quarter final appearance. One result can vault these players up the rankings significantly.
#12 Carla Muñoz Montesinos also made a great jump this season after finishing #20 last year. She had a couple of solid wins this year over top-8 players and should push for a top 10 spot next year.
#13 Brenda Laime Jalil repeats at #13 from last year’s season ending rankings. She made two quarters on the season and proved to be a tricky opponent all year.
#14 Ana Laura Flores also repeats at #14; she had a couple of solid wins on the year after blowing through Mexican 18U last summer.
#15 veteran Adriana Riveros takes a step back from touring and falls from #10 to #15 this season.
#16 Sheryl Lotts played top 10 pros tough all season, was seeded as high as #10 at one point but settles in at #16 on the season.
#17 Erin Nocam had a couple of solid wins and made a pro quarter this year, improving to #17 for the season.
#18 Maria Renee Rodríguez grinded (ground?) her way through the season to improve from last year’s #23 finish.
#19 Cassandra Lee played 6 of the 8 events on the season and played top-8 seeds tough all year. She falls slightly from last year’s #15 finish.
#20 Bolivian turned Argentine Valeria Centellas only played 4 events but made a quarter and a semi. She had wins over four of the current top 10 players on tour as well as the reigning US national champ. She’s also got one more year in juniors, which should send shudders down the spines of ladies pro players as she gains confidence and power.
——- Notables in the 20-30 range:
#21 Adrienne Fisher Haynes finishes ranked on tour for the 21st straight season. The tour veteran got a solid win at the US Open and played top 8 players tough all season.
#22 Kelani Lawrence played 6 of the 8 events on tour this season and made a quarter-final after a solid win over Enriquez in Florida. The reigning US National champ seems poised to make a run up the rankings.
#24 Frederique Lambert falls from 9th last season and 2nd the season before now that she’s a practicing medical doctor. The tour misses having such a talent involved on a regular basis.
#25 Hollie Scott continues to tour part time while in college and is a dangerous player when she does play.
#27 Ana Gabriela Martínez came out of “retirement” to play a few events, but falls precipitously from last year’s #11 spot. I’m hoping she returns to full time touring when her school commitments allow and competes for a top 10 spot.
————— Other Notables the rest of the way
#35 Cheryl Gudinas earns ranking points in her 27th straight season, every season since 1993-4.
#33 Graciana Wargo was a pro debutant this season, as was #37 Megan Shelton, #46 Kathy Nells, #54 Ayoko Hanashi and #54 Annie Roberts . Wargo and Roberts are US junior national team members who played pro events for the first time this season.
————— What’s next for the LPRT?
The team is working on rescheduling the TeamRoot.com classic to be the opener for the new season. No word yet on when that might happen. But the next time the ladies take the court it will be to start the 2020-21 season.
—————- In the 128s: no surprises. Local @Victor Migliore took Guatemalan veteran Christian Wer to a tie-breaker but fell 11-9. The other three traveling members of the Guatemala national team all won their openers and moved on. Oregon’s Jim Douglas, an active member of the online rball community, went down in a tie-breaker to local player Nadeem Sharifudden.
In the 64s, a couple of notable matches: – Guatemalan Juan Salvatierra downed IRT touring regular Justus Benson in two close games 12,13. Solid win by Salvatierra to move on. – Semi-regular IRT regular Kyle Ulliman was stretched by another traveling Guatemalan in Edwin Galicia before advancing in a breaker.
—————- In the 32s, we got some upsets and close matches. – In the 16/17 match, a tiebreaker as expected. #16 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez held off the Costa Rican number one Andres Acuña 11-7 in the breaker. – Jaime Martell Racquetball showed he came to play, crushing the #9 seed Mario Mercado 7,2 to make the main draw as a #24 seed. – #13 Thomas Carter crushed the upstart #20 Sam Bredenbeck 1,9 to make the main draw. – #19 Robert Collins pushed #14 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez to a breaker before falling. – In the 15/18 match, a surprise. #18 Adam Manilla outplayed and outhustled #15 Javier Mar to advance 9,9. Mar was off, but Manilla was definitely on. can he make another run (he made the Semis in Austin in January?
—————- In the 16s: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk got his tourney started off against the upstart youngster #16 Sebastian Fernandez, who lost 6,9. Good showing here against the king. – #8 Lalo Portillo99 got a very solid win against #24 Martell 13,13 to move on. Martell pushed but couldn’t break through here, though there wasn’t much between these players on the day. – #5 Andree Parrilla reversed his recent one-and-done trend with am emphatic win over #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 0,11. – #4 Alvaro Beltran held serve against #13 Carter 8,8 to move on. – #3 Rocky Carson was stretched to a tiebreaker by #14 Garay before advancing 11-7. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa went to the limit against #11 Jake Bredenbeck, saving match point against to win 11-10. – #7 Samuel Murray dominated #10 Rodrigo Montoya Solís 11,3 to get another quarter final appearance and put some distance between him and Rodrigo in the race for the top 10. Montoya, who had been as high as #8 this season, will dip down to #12 with these results, and he has to be thinking about what he can do to turn things around. – #2 Alex Landa advanced by the skin of his teeth, beating upstart lefty #18 Manilla 11-10.
So, the quarters are chalk, with the top 8 seeds advancing, but it could have gone either way with a number of these matches.
—————- In the Quarters
– #1 Kane held serve against #8 Portillo, advancing to the semis 6,7. – #5 Parrilla continued his best pro showing in months, coming from a game down to take out veteran Beltran in a breaker. – #6 DLR crushed #3 Carson 5,5. This is Rocky’s 5th exit this season at the quarters or earlier … last season he made the semis or better in every event. Meanwhile DLR continues his resugence; these results will be enough for him to supplant Moscoso for #6 on tour, and within shouting distance of #5 and #4. – #2 Landa cruised by his doubles partner #7 Murray in two shorter games.
————— In the Semis – #1 Kane showed how formidable he can be, coming down from a large game two deficit to cruise into the final 6,11 past #5 Parrilla. With this semis appearance, Parrilla nearly catches back up with Beltran for 4th on tour; its going to be a great battle for that 4/5 spot the rest of the way. – #2 Landa ended the DLR freight train but needed a tiebreaker to do so. Landa extends his recent dominance over DLR (he’s won their last 7 meetings).
In the Finals, it was one-way traffic like it often is with Kane, who took about 10 minutes to take the first game 15-3 and eventually the match 3,5.
—————- Points Implications of results; This tourney replaces the same event last season, so there’s some players defending higher than average points. In Chicago last season, Kane d Rocky in the final and Andree/Montoya made the semis. Also notably, DLR got upset in the 16s, so he had great gains here this weekend.
Notable ranking moves: – DLR overtakes Moscoso for #6 – Bredenbeck should jump to #10; he was #13 entering the event. Jake and Mercado are now separated by just 2 points in my worksheet for the #10 spot, which would be the first time Jake finishes in the top 10 if he can retain the spot. – Horn’s injury-driven absence costs him 3 spots in the rankings; he falls to #18 from #15 last week. – Sam Bredenbeck jumps back into the top 30; he is now #28. – Jaime Martell makes a huge jump from #42 to #35
Chalk to the quarters, though both the #1 and #2 seeds went tiebreaker to get there.
In the semis, the top to Mexican teams advanced yet again to the final to face off. #1 DLR/Beltran dropped a game to the quickly improving Portillo/Parrilla pairing before moving, while Montoya/Mar dominated the #2 seeds Landa/Murray 11,3 to force a rematch of the Mexican Nationals event that happened just a few weeks ago.
In the final, DLR/Beltran got back the upper hand in their burgeoning rivalry with their younger Mexican teammates, taking a closely fought 10,13 match for the title. Its their 7th pro doubles title together since Jan 2017.
—————- Other Draws:
Men’s Open went nearly chalk into the quarters, and chalk to the semis with the top 4 seeds (all IRT regulars) advancing.
In one semi Fernandez topped Franco in two, while in the other Acuna spanked Mercado to make the final. There, both guyts played like they had a plane to catch (both are very fast workers), and Acuna took out his Mexican rival 11,13.
Women’s Open; a decent 8-woman draw was taken by Erika Manilla, who beat top junior Erin Slutzky in the semis and then Costa Rican international Melania Sauma in the final.
Men’s Open Doubles was taken by Cuevas/Franco over top seed Illinois locals Keith Minor and Fernando Javier Rivera.
Mixed Open Doubles was taken by Slutzky and India international Alok Mehta.
—————– Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Dean Baer, Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew
—————— Next up?
Well. I have no idea what is next.
Its pretty amazing what has transpired in this country in just the last 7 days. A week ago we were finishing up the Boston Open on the Ladies side without any real national movement on this Covid-19 Corona Virus. Then in the last week, from a rball perspective we’ve seen every major tournament planned for the next month cancelled. WOR Beach Bash, a number of state singles competitions, an IRT tier 5 in Monroe, LA, USAR intercollegiates, and most notably the annual PARC event to be held in Bolivia.
That clears out the racquetball schedule through at least mid April. But who knows what will transpire between now and then. We’re already seeing travel bans; it seems unlikely that a “tour” based sport like pro racquetball could function if none of the traveling players could travel to the events.
So who knows. Is it possible we’ve seen the last pro events until well into the summer? Maybe. Depends on how dangerous this virus turns out to be, how exponentially it expands, and how much more of an impact it makes on society. Crazy times.
The full Mens tour is back in action for the 35th Annual KWM Gutterman, Inc. Shamrock Shootout Tier 1 Pro Stop Presented by MyPillow, being held in Lombard, just outside of Chicago IL.
The 35th annual running event, which makes it one of the longer running events in the land. It has been a full tier 1 stop for the past 5 years. Chicago itself has been a regular home to IRT stops in general, for years hosting Pro Nationals, and then for years before that the famous Halloween Open. A lot of this was due to former tour commissioner and long time rball organizer Dave Negrete being Chicago-based.
is it a flip draw? Nope, this is a straight draw 1-8.
—————————— Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:
In the round of 128: – Thanks to the proximity of the upcoming Pan American Racquetball Championships, we’ve got the full Guatemalan team here (Edwin Galicia, Javier Martinez, Juan Salvatierra and Christian Wer). Each of these four is playing a local IRT debutant in the opening round of 128, so welcome all first time pro players.
———————————- In the round of 64: things start to heat up. – #17 Andres Acuña manages to be the highest player not getting a bye into the 32s; for his trouble he likely gets a juicy central american match-up against Guatemalan Martinez. – #24 Jaime Martell Racquetball vs #25 Anthony Martin; great opener, as we would expect from a 24/25 match-up. Martel makes a rare appearance on tour, while Martin plays his 6th event of the season. – #19 Robert Collins likely takes on Guatemalan veteran Christian Wer. – #26 Guatemalan Edwin Galicia likely takes on #23 Kyle Ulliman in what could be a close match.
——————————- Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible match-ups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot: – #16/#17 looks like a potential doozy: #16 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez, who has been stuck at the #17 seed the last couple of tournaments, jumps a spot and thus gets the bye into the 32s. He’ll likely face #17 Acuna, who has been getting solid wins all season. Tough one to predict: I like Patata to build on his Mexican Nationals showing and move on. – #9 Mario Mercado versus likely #24 Martell: Rough possible draw for Mercado, who has faced Martell a few times before and never beaten him. I like a run for the Mexican here. – #13 Thomas Carter versus likely #20 Sam Bredenbeck; fun match here between two of the younger guys on tour. Sam beat Carter in 2019 Sioux Falls but it was tight. – #11 Jake Bredenbeck vs likely #22 Justus Benson: lots of broken balls in this one; two hard hitters. – #15 Javier Mar versus likely #18 Adam Manilla: this is the highest i can recall seeing Mar seeded in an event; he’ll fancy his chances to move on and face a familiar opponent in the 16s.
——————————- round of 16: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk versus the Fernandez/Acuna winner; neither will be favored to beat the King of course, but I like what i’ve seen lately out of Fernandez and i’d like to see what his confident game style brings against Kane. – #24 Martell vs #9 Lalo Portillo: this is a stretch, but if Martell pulls off the upset of Mercado he could very well also upset Portillo. They faced off in 2019’s Mexican Nationals, a straight forward 2-game win for Jaime. Portillo won the Minnesota event last weekend and had a very solid Mexican nationals in 2020 (topped Montoya, took DLR to a breaker). This could be a fascinating match. – #5 Andree Parrilla vs #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez: Parrilla is in a rut; he’s gone one and done the last three pro events, he lost in the 16s at Mexican Nationals to a player he should have beat, and one of those pro round of 16 losses was to Franco. I sense another upset here until Andree can right the ship. – #4 Alvaro Beltran faces the Carter/Bredenbeck winner: either way i like Beltran, though Carter did put a Loss on Alvaro in Portland in December. – #3 Rocky Carson returns to action after a rare missed pro event in January and likely faces the tough Eduardo Garay Rodriguez in the 16s. Garay has been playing increasingly well against top opponents, while Carson topped Landa in his last on-the-court match, seemingly having fully recovered at this point from his knee issue in December. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #11 Bredenbeck: Jake has a couple of wins over DLR … but DLR has been playing some great ball lately. He advances. – #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Rodrigo Montoya Solís; just a couple of meetings between these two on the books; they’re 1-1 h2h. This is the kind of match Montoya needs to win in order to establish his spot in the rball elite. Both players have had kind of up and down seasons; this could be a win to build on. – #2 Alex Landa vs #15 Mar: Neither guy here can be happy with this draw; they’re pretty evenly matched, they have split a couple of meetings at Mexican Nats over the years but have not played professionally. I think it could be tight but will favor Landa to move on.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – #1 Kane over #24 Martel – #4 Beltran over #12 Franco: they’ve played 4 times, Beltran has never dropped a game to him. – #3 Carson vs #6 DLR: they’ve been trading wins back and forth for a few years now. DLR topped him earlier this year in Sioux Falls and has been playing really consistent ball; i’ll go with the upset here. – #2 Landa vs #10 Montoya; when they do play, its often close: last meeting was an 11-10 win for Rodrigo in Sioux Falls in 2019. I’ll go with Landa here.
Semis: – Kane over Beltran in what would be their 54th pro meeting. – Landa over DLR; Landa has beaten DLR the last 6 times they’ve played and seems to have his number. But, its always close.
Finals: Kane over Landa.
——————————- Doubles review
We’re playing pro doubles this weekend too; 10 teams with three of the best teams in the world present, plus the Bredenbeck brothers and the two national Guatemalan teams playing.
I like a rematch of the Mexican national finals to happen between #1 Beltran/DLR and #3 Montoya/Mar, but both teams will have to earn it to get t here against tough semi-finalists.
——————————— Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Dean DeAngelo Baer, Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!
A note; lower tier IRT events are not stored in the PRS database, so no PRS reporting here.
Here’s a recap of the Minnesota event:
In the Quarters, the top 4 seeds (all IRT regulars) all advanced as expected. Minnesota amateur Lee Meinerz pushed #4 Justus Benson 12,13, and Iowa amateur Blake Hansen pushed #3 Sam Bredenbeck 11,9.
In the Semis, the top two seeds both advanced with relative ease. #1 Lalo Portillo99 cruised past #4 Benson 2,3 while #2 Jake Bredenbeck advanced past his brother Sam 5,8.
In the Finals, Jake took game one, but then Lalo found another gear to take the second game 15-8 and then dominated the tie-breaker to take the title (12),8,0.
In the doubles, Blake Hansen and John Goth took out two teams featuring IRT touring players to take the title, beating the Bredenbeck brothers to take a well-earned title.
—————————– Here’s a recap of the Pueblo Event:
The 31-man draw went mostly to form to the quarters, with two minor upsets in the 8/9 and 7/10 matches by seeds. #9 Matt Melster took out #8 A.J. Fernandez to earn a shot at the King, while #10 Andrew Clarke upset #7 seeded Kerry McLain (no relation to John McLain of “Die Hard” fame apparently) to earn a shot at the #2 seeded Montoya.
In the semis: – Kane took out Manilla in a rare meeting with a fellow Lefty 7,6. Its been nearly a year since he faced a lefty on the court (April 2019 against Thomas Carter). – Rodrigo handled Garcia 7,6 to move into the final. Both players hit with a ton of pace, but Montoya was able to manage the match to move into the final.
In the final, Kane took a friendly, entertaining shot-maker’s paradise 9,6 for the delighted crowd.
In the doubles: Manilla/Riffel took out #1 Horn/Garcia in the final after topping the Montoya-led team in the semis.
—————– Thanks to all who did amateur broadcasting on the weekend so we could watch along. Too many to mention, but lots of fans streamed, plus the IRT setup a rudimentary streaming station in Minnesota to help out.
—————— Next up? KWM Gutterman in Chicago! Preview coming out tomorrow or the next day, as soon as the brackets are released.