In conjunction with the 46th annual Keystone Classic in Winnipeg last weekend, Racquetball Canada had the second of its three National team qualification events of the season. Here’s a quick wrap-up of the event:
Congrats to your winners on the weekend: – Men’s Singles: Samuel Murray – Women’s Singles: Michele Morisette
Reminder: we don’t currently load federation qualifying events into the database, therefore there’s no PRS links.
Lets review the notable matches in the Men’s Singles draw.
—————- In the Quarters – The top 3 seeds easily advanced; #1 Samuel Murray over #8 Michael Leduc #2 The Official Coby Iwaasa Fan Club over #7 Ian Frattinger and #3 Tim Landeryou over #6 Tanner Prentice. – We got an upset in the 4/5 match: #5 Kurtis Cullen took out #4 veteran Lee Connell in two games 4,13 to move into the quarters.
————— In the Semis – #1 Murray dominated Cullen to move on. – #2 Iwaasa was stretched at times but advanced over Landeryou
In the Finals, Iwaasa took the first game from the long-time Canadian #1, but Murray rebounded to win (8),7,1.
Murray (if i’m reading my records correctly) has not lost a Canadian Men’s national event (qualifier or nationals) since the May 2017 final (Mike Green’s last match before retiring).
————— Women’s Singles review:
Just four women in this draw, so they played Round Robin. Notable results from RR play:
#1 seed Christine Richardson was stretched to a breaker by #4 seed Cassie Prentice before winning, which was a precursor perhaps to the eventual face off with #2 seed Michèle Morissette, who topped Richardson 6,11 to win the RR group.
Morissette wins her first top-level Canadian national event since graduating from the juniors in 2015.
—————— Next up? This is the 2nd of two qualifiers leading up to Canadian Nationals in late May, so next up is Canadian Nationals.
In general, the Rball calendar gets a break until the first week of march for the next major event.
Congrats to your winners on the weekend: – Men’s Doubles: Sudsy Monchik & Alejandro Landa – Women’s Doubles; Aimee Ruiz & Erika Manilla
And the winners of the Singles qualifiers: – Men’s Singles: Rocky Carson – Women’s Singles: Hollie Scott
Sudsy/Landa win three straight 11-9 breakers over former USA National doubles championship teams to take the title. Ruiz secures her 12th title (13th won on the court) and brings along Manilla for her first ever National Doubles title.
All three round of 16 matches were two game wins that weren’t necessarily that close: #9 MoMo Zelada/ Robert Collins “upset” the #8 seeded team of Brent Walters and Thomas Gerhardt 13,3 as the round’s closest match.
– The #5 team of Alex Landa and Sudsy Monchik barely got by a very good #4 seeded team of Tony Carson and Jansen Allen (13),12,9. Carson/Allen jumped out to a huge lead in game one and it looked for a time like the match would be a blow-out, but Landa/Monchik battled back and lost game one on a disputed call. Game two was more in Landa/Monchik control towards the end, leading to the inevitable tiebreaker.
In the breaker, a very tense match reached its crescendo. There was almost nothing between these teams and throughout the 3rd game rallies often ended with spectacular pinch winners or debatable hinders. Carson’s backhand was lethal throughout the match, and his backhand hard Z gave Sudsy fits all night. At the end, Landa was able to find a serve that Allen couldn’t (or didn’t) attack, which led to scoring opportunities that they didn’t miss to pull away and get the last two points to win 11-9.
– #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ were pushed to a breaker, but eventually advanced over #7 Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon.
————— In the Semis – #5 Landa/Monchik dethroned defending champs Carson/Pratt in a fascinating match that went down to the wire. After dropping the first game rather easily, the #5 seeds regrouped and forced a tie-breaker. There, it went down to the a couple of critical rallies, just as their match in the quarters. Carson & Pratt looked like they had the match in hand, up 8-4 with the serve … they missed two opportunities to push it further, giving the serve back. There, a skip, a funny bounce a mis-communication and a crack-ace quickly got the match to 8-8. From there, Landa crushed a service return for a half out, then Rocky buried a pinch kill from 39 feet for 9-8. Sudsy then crushed a pinch kill to get a side out … called a skip for 10-8 but overturned by both line judges for a critical side-out at 8-9 for Landa/Monchik. From there … destiny took over; Pratt got hit by a call heading for a setup for 9-9, Landa buried a kill shot for 10-9 and then Pratt skipped a service return for an anti-climactic end to a great match.
– #2 Jake/Diaz overcame a first game defeat to cruise to the win, advancing to the final for the third time in five years, defeating #6 Horn/Garcia (11),5,3.
In the Finals, Sudsy/Landa looked for a time to be cruising to the title, jumping out to a big game one lead before Jake/Jose fought back to make it a game. Game two was one-way traffic, setting up yet another nail biting tiebreaker. There, the veterans jumped out to a big lead, only to have Jake/Jose grind back to 9-9. Then, as with the two previous matches, Landa/Monchik faced 9-9 down without the serve, got it back and served it out for the match.
The cardiac kid veterans beat three former champs, each time 11-9 in the breaker, to secure the title and claim National team spots.
In the quarters, two matches: – The young #4 seeds Jazmin Trevino and Erin Slutzky prevailed in a breaker over #5 Cassie Lee and Fran Transfiguracion 11-8. – the #3 seeds of collegiate stars Hollie Scott and Lexi York dominated the team of Graciana Wargo and Jessica Chen 4.3.
In the Semis: – #1 seeds Aimee Roehler Ruiz and Erika Manilla cruised to the final over the #4 team of Trevino/Slutzky 7,7 – #3 Hollie Scott and Lexi York] outplayed the #2 seeded team of Kelani Lawrence and Sheryl Lotts, winning in two games 8,13 to move into the final.
In the Finals: the #1 seeds dominated, led by Ruiz’ experience and cruised to the title 6,9.
—————- Men’s Singles Qualification:
(No match report in PRS database b/c we’re not loading this data right now).
Here’s a review of the singles qualifier:
round of 16 notable matches: – #8 Maurice Miller got a solid win over #9 Erik Garcia 12,(6),5. – #12 MoMo Zelada got the biggest upset of the night, playing a solid match to down #5 Charlie Pratt 12,11. Pratt made the semis of the last two US Nationals event, and Zelada has really been playing well lately. – #6 Thomas Carter came back from a 15-0 first game defeat to down #11 Robert Collins (0),7,9 in a battle of lefty IRT tour veterans. Collins really couldn’t do anything wrong in the first, but Carter made some adjustments to advance. – #7 Manilla took two solid games over the improving #10 Sam Bredenbeck 8,12 to move on.
In the Quarters: all four top seeds advanced in two games in the near-chalk draw: – #1 Carson over #8 Miller – #4 Horn over #12 Zelada – #3 Bredenbeck over #6 Carter – #2 Landa over #7 Manilla
In the Semis: – #1 Carson remained undefeated against #4 Horn, but was pressed to a tie-breaker to advance. – #2 Landa also remained undefeated against #3 Bredenbeck, winning in two straight.
In the final, a fatigued Landa fell to Carson in two games; it looked for a bit like Landa could rally for a breaker in the second game, but a couple of curious calls went against him at the tail end of game two, he lost focus and the match was over; Carson wins 6,14.
—————— Women’s Singles
Round of 16 notables: – #8 Jessica Chen took out her doubles partner #9 Wargo in two. – #6 York dropped the first game against junior Slutzky before advancing.
In the quarters: all four top seeds advanced. – #1 Rhonda Rajsich over #8 Chen – #4 Erika Manilla went tiebreaker to advance over #5 Lotts, dropping the first game 6 then winning (6),7,3. – #3 Scott downed her doubles partner York 8,9 – #2 Lawrence took out fellow LPRT touring regular Cassie Lee 6,1.
In the semis: – #4 Manilla got a career win, topping #1 Rajsich in a tie-breaker. – #3 Scott upset #2 Lawrence in a rematch of last year’s US National singles final.
I said my peace on the seeding issues here in the preview; this event was mis-seeded, and these semis match-ups demonstrate why it was mis-seeded and why Lawrence in particular probably feels hard done by here.
In the final…Scott prevailed over Manilla in the breaker to put herself in the driver’s seat for a National team spot.
—————— National Team Standing Implications of these results.
On the Men’s side, if my calculations are correct, then the top for candidates in the race for the two National team singles spots are: 1. Landa: 36 2. Carson: 32 3. Jake: 20 4. Horn.20
Despite losing the final here, Landa is in the lead for a national team spot thanks to the vast difference in US OPen results. Landa and Carson have a pretty sizeable lead over Jake and Horn; the only way Jake or Bobby could surpass Landa or Carson is to win US Nationals this coming May and have one of Landa/Carson upset prior to the semis.
On the Women’s side, here’s the current standings: 1. Scott: 31 2. Manilla: 24 3. Rhonda: 20 4. Kelani: 19
Hollie pretty much has a spot sewn up at this point: The second spot will come down to how 2 thru 4 play at Natioanls in May.
—————— Other notable draws from National Doubles:
– Miller and Warigon took the Men’s Open Doubles title. – Trevino and Slutzky took the Women’s Open Doubles title.
—————— Next up?
There’s no major tournaments anywhere in the world (pro or amateur) until the first week of March. So we have a bit of a break.
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.
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.
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.
——————————- 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.
—————————— 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.
——————————- 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.
——————————— 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.
——————————— 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.
——————————— 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.
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.
——————————— 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.
—————- In the 64s: – #25 Sam Bredenbeck eked out a tie-breaker win over #24 Scott McClellan – Both Kelley brothers (Sam and Joe), travelling from the NJ/PA area, fell in two to traveling pros. Great job supporting the event though, along with all the traveling players. – #23 Kadim Carrasco] took a close match from #26 Justus Benson.
—————- In the 32s, we started to see some interesting results. – As suspected, the 16/17 match was close, with #16 Javier Mar taking out younger countryman #17 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez] in a tie-breaker. – #12 Carlos Keller Vargas was stretched by Costa Rican veteran #21 Felipe Camacho, winning two closer games. – #13 Thomas Carter got revenge from last week, topping #20 Javier Estrada in a breaker to move on. Sold win for Carter to reverse his two-tourney one-and-done streak. – #11 Mario Mercado Valenzuela held serve against #22 Alan Natera Chavez, winning in two closer games. – #10 Sebastian Franco was stretched by South American neighbor Carrasco, advancing 14,13. – #15 Eduardo Garay played a complete match and dominated #18 Adam Manilla 8,8 to move on.
So, the 32s went perfectly chalk; all the seeds from 9-16 advanced into the next round. I think I predicted at least 2-3 upsets here but the seeds prevailed this time around.
—————- In the 16s: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk got his tourney started against a tough foe in #16 Mar, but advanced 7,8. We saw a similar pattern in game 2 to a lot of Kane’s games against solid opponents; it was even for a while … then it was 8-8 … then you blink your eye and its 15-8 as Kane turns up the pressure and moves on. – In a fascinating result, #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís] dominated #8 Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball 12,4 to remain unbeaten against the Bolivian Iris Grand Slam winner and move on. – #5 Samuel Murray held serve against Keller, moving on after taking a close game one. – #4 Álvaro Beltrán stifled any chance of another upset at the hands of the lefty Carter (as had happened in December in Portland), cruising to a 4,12 win. – #3 Andree Parrilla is ready to put this month behind him; the player I thought could make a run to the final here instead was upset in the round of 16 for the third successive week, this time at the hands of Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 11-7 in the breaker. Franco advances to his 4th pro quarter final. – #6 Lalo Portillo‘s dreams of back to back finals ended early; he was dropped by #11 Mercado in the round of 16s for the 2nd time in three weeks, this time by the overwhelming scoreline of 4,7. – #10 S.Franco evened up his career h2h line with #7 Jake Bredenbeck, taking him out in two to advance. – #2 Alex Landa showed little ill-effects from his arm injury of last weekend, advancing over a tough foe in #15 Garay 6,(7),5.
So, three upsets at this stage; the top is nearly chalk 1,9,5,4 in the quarters, while the bottom is 14,11,10,2. I had predicted some upsets here … but none of them came to pass.
—————- In the Quarters – #1 Kane topped #9 Montoya to move on, but not with out a bit of controversy. Early in the second game a long rally had the players come together and Kane seemed to almost shove Montoya to get out of the way of a shot. It was kind of reminiscent of the early physical days of the sport. No penalty was given and nothing seemed to come of it … but at the end of the tourney Montoya scored the most points of any player against Kane in a game on the weekend, and seems to be getting incrementally better against the King each time they face each other. – #4 Alvaro Beltran came from a game down to top Canadian #1 Murray and keep his perfect h2h record alive over him. – #11 Mercado advanced to his first pro semi since the Bolivian Grand Slam by topping upstart GFranco 13,2. Franco looked frisky in game one … but collapsed once he lost the close opening game. – #2 Landa made short work of #10 S.Franco 5,5.
————— In the Semis; two interesting matches. – #4 Beltran dominated #1 Kane …. for a quarter of their match. Beltran led 5-0 and 7-3 in the first …. and then didn’t score again. Kane ran off 27 unanswered points from 3-7 down in the first game to win the match 7,0. Just a complete white washing where Kane played textbook ball for most of the match. – #11 Mercado saved game point in the first and then took a close one from #2 Landa to advance to just his second ever pro final 14,11. He becomes the rare double-digit seed to make a pro final.
In the Finals…. it was one way traffic. Kane crushed Mercado 2,3 to take the title. 5 total points against represents the 2nd most dominant final scoreline in the history of the tour (see http://rball.pro/C1E703 for the full list … not surprisingly Kane owns most of the top scorelines on this report).
—————- Points Implications of results;
There’s no expiring tier 1 from last season to drop off, but there’s still a lot of movement in the top 20 on tour after this event: – Parrilla’s 3-tourney swoon finally costs him in the rankings: he’ll drop to #5 behind Beltran. – DLR’s absence costs him too; despite Moscoso’s early upset exit, he’ll pip Daniel for #6 on tour. – Montoya and Mercado will both jump over Jake in the tightly bunched set of players in the 10-13 range. Around 30 ranking points separate 10th from 13th and these three players along with Sebastian Franco continue to juggle spots based on tournament results. – Gerardo Franco jumps to #16, Mar continues to rise up (now #19), and the missing Acuna gets dumped three spots to #21.
—————- Other Draws:
In the Men’s Open, a solid bracket included several former top-8 IRT players plus a ton of locals. As it turned out, two of the pro quarter-finalists were the 1 and 3 seeds in the Open (and both forfeited out, thinning the draw) and the 8 quarter-finalists ended up being 6 touring internationals plus mid-western top amateurs Lee Meinerz and Anthony Martin.
In the qtrs: – SFranco topped Meinerz 8,11 – Fernandez crushed Garay 4,1 to advance. – Camacho got a walkover when Mercado withdrew. – Portillo topped Martin 8,4
In the semis: – Fernandez walks over Franco – Portillo crushes Camacho 2,3
In the final, a familiar battle. Mexican nationals Fernandez and Portillo are a year apart and often met in the back end of junior nationals and junior worlds events. Some of their recent match history includes these notable finals: – Portillo d Fernandez in the 16U World junior finals in 2016 – Fernandez d Portillo in the Mexican 18U natioanls final in 2018 – then, 3 months later the two met in the 18U junior worlds final, Portillo’s last junior event, and Portillo won.
So how about on this day? They played a back and forth match eventually won by Patata Fernandez (4),7,8.
In the Men’s Open Doubles, in the absence of an official IRT pro doubles draw we saw a 15-team bracket headlined by the reigning Pan Am Games gold medalists Mar/Montoya. Also in the doubles draws were a couple of old friends from the East Coast, Brent Walters and Russ Bruns, both of whom have strong ties to the Virginia Racquetball scene.
In the end though, the top two seeds, both all-Mexican traveling teams, advanced to the final. #1 Montoya/Mar, one of the best teams in the world and the reigning Pan American Games gold medalists, ended up topping Natera/Estrada in two tight games for the title.
—————— Next up?
The IRT takes a break until mid-march when they return to Chicago. Meanwhile, USA National Doubles is next weekend, featuring a juicy pairing of 5-time pro champ Sudsy Monchik teaming up with IRT #2 Landa, who has to represent the USA.
In fact, there’s almost nothing going on that we’d normally track in February; I may have to come up with some fun ideas to discuss during the break.
Welcome to the last event of the 2020 IRT mid-west swing, and its a special one. “The Lou,” a long-running IRT satellite in Sun Prairie, WI (outside of Madison), has stepped up this year for the first time to become a Tier 1 event.
This represents the first time the IRT has had a full tier 1 in the state of Wisconsin since 2004, and this is the first time ever going anywhere except Milwaukee within the state for a major event.
Fun fact: the very first US Amateur Nationals event was held in Milwaukee in 1968. The first major racquetball tournament ever held, won by Bill Schultz over Hall of Famer Bill Schmidtke in the final.
There’s 34 players in this singles draw. There’s not a pro doubles draw but there is a healthy Men’s Open draw filled with top players that will be fun to watch.
The draw is missing two major names: #3 Rocky Carson picked up an injury (or perhaps came back a bit too soon from his Dec 2019 surgery) and misses the event. This is pretty notable; in 20 years on tour full time this is just the third event he’s missed. Also missing the draw is last week’s champ #6 Daniel De La Rosa (also reportedly out with a knock), which has to be a bummer b/c he’s been playing some of the best ball of his career this month.
Other top 20 players missing: #14 David ” Bobby” Horn (who has stated he’s stepping back from touring for financial reasons), and #18 Andres Acuña, who may be heading back to his home country to help with a big tourney starting up next week.
is it a flip draw? Yes. The 5th-8th seeds are: – Moscoso: ranked 7th, 5th highest seed in draw, seeded 8th – Murray: ranked 8th, 6th highest seed in draw, seeded 5th – Portillo: ranked 9th, 7th highest seed in draw, seeded 6th – Bredenbeck: ranked 10th, 8th highest seed in draw, seeded 7th.
Obviously, Moscoso is hardest done by, flipped into the #8 spot meaning a meeting with Kane in the quarters. Jake would have been in the same quarter he got flipped into anyway without the missing top seeds. Portillo gets a big break and is in line to face #3 seed Parrilla, who he beat recently. Biggest benefactor has to be Murray, who gets out of a Kane quarter and instead feeds into #4 Beltran (who he’s never beaten, but has been playing close).
A comment about the impact of 3 straight events; it seems to have taken a toll on some the tour’s older full-time players: – Kane (age 38): missed the middle event – Rocky (age 40): missed 2 of the 3 events – Landa (age 31) fft’d out of Lewis, wonder if he’s still showing any ill effects of the injury this weekend.
Of course that being said the tour’s oldest regular (Beltran, age 41) has made all three and shown no ill effects, so maybe its more coincidence and less causation.
—————————— Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:
In the round of 64: – #28 Minnesota native Lee Meinerz takes on former top-10 touring vet Costa Rican #21 Felipe Camacho. I like what I saw from Meinerz last week; he can give Camacho a match here for sure. He puts pressure on the ball on every shot and could push for an upset. – #22 Mexican Alan Natera Chavez takes on #27 Anthony Martin in a solid first rounder. Natera lost out to Pratt in the 64s last weekend but will shoot for a better result this weekend. – #23 Bolivian Kadim Carrasco takes on #26 American Justus Benson in the opener; 21-yr old Texan Benson has gone one-and-done in four straight tourneys and will be looking to break that streak here.
——————————- Projecting the 32s: – #16 Javier Mar likely takes on #17 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez in a very tasty match between two solid players. Somehow Fernandez gets exactly the 17th seed for the second straight event, meaning he has to play that extra match before facing a top opponent. Last week he qualified into the #1 seed; this time around he won’t be favored to repeat the feat. Mar slots into the brutal #16 seed, meaning that with a win he faces Kane in the first round of the main draw instead of the quarters (as he did in last year’s US Open) or later. A great match either way to see where Fernandez’ game is these days. – #13 Thomas Carter likely takes on #20 Javier Estrada for the second week running. Estrada took him out in a breaker last week; will we see a different result here? – #11 Mario Mercado Valenzuela likely vs #22 Natera; Both these players were taken out last week by the same guy (Charlie Pratt Racquetball): now they slate to face off for a spot in the main draw. Mercado’s season has been hit and miss: he’s got solid wins and surprising losses. its anyone’s guess here. – #15 Eduardo Garay likely takes on #18 Adam Manilla. Manilla surprised everyone with his run in Austin and has committed to the tour full time; he has his hands full though with Colombian Garay, who beat Landa in Austin two weeks ago and is moving up in the world.
——————————- Projecting the round of 16: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk takes on the Mar/Fernandez winner; Kane took last week off and should be refreshed as compared to either player here, who are doing play-ins and working on two-three straight weeks of play. – #8 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís]; Great match for the 16s. Montoya beat Moscoso in both 2018 Worlds (en route to the gold medal) and in the 2019 Pan Am games (en route to the gold medal). Both matches were close. Both are hard hitters, with great diving abilities. Moscoso has a slight knock sustained in Austin that still seemed to be bothering his mobility on the court in Sioux Falls. I’ll favor Montoya here. – #5 Samuel Murray likely vs #12 Carlos Keller Vargas: another intriguing match; Murray knocked Keller out of the 2019 Pan Am games in the quarters, but Keller upset Murray in the 32s of the US Open (a big loss in the season’s biggest event for a top 8 seed). I like Murray here. – #4 Alvaro Beltran likely vs #20 Estrada: These two met just last week at this same gate, an 8,9 win for Beltran. Can Estrada flip the script in a week’s time? Is three straight weeks and a ton of court time too much for the 41-yr old Beltran? – #3 Andree Parrilla likely vs #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; Parrilla has not been enjoying the mid-west swing so far: two one-and dones in a row in Austin and Sioux Falls. He’s now been beaten in the 16s three times this season: he had just one upset prior to the quarters the entirety of last season. If he wants to keep his top 4 seed, he needs to be making semis regularly. First up: an old WRT adversary in Franco. Parrilla is 4-0 against him in the old tour; they havn’t met professionally since 2017. I suspect Andree advances. – #6 Lalo Portillo vs the Natera/Mercado winner. Match-ups matter: Portillo has a couple of wins over Natera in RKT local events in the last year, but lost to Mercado two weeks ago in Austin. Which Portillo shows up this week? The guy who looked absolutely dominant in a run to the finals last week? Or the guy who lost three straight round of 16 openers in Nov, Dec and Jan? I’m going to go with the former and project another run here for the youngster. – #7 Jake Bredenbeck vs #10 Sebastian Franco; they’ve met 7 times in pro/IRF events over the years: Jake leads 4-3 and won their most recent skirmish; a RR affair at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Peru. I like Jake here; he’s been playing more consistent all season, while Franco has been missing events and taking upset losses. – #2 Alex Landa vs #15 Garay. How hurt is Landa? He was really struggling against Murray last week before retiring. Next week is US Nationals, where he’s playing with Sudsy Monchik in an attempt to qualify for the US team … which I have to think is pretty darn important to him given all that transpired with the Mexican federation last year. Meanwhile, Garay is tough and just beat an un-injured Landa in Austin two weeks ago. I sense another upset here, whether its Garay beating him on the level or Landa protecting his arm.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – #1 Kane over #9 Montoya: Kane’s 3-0 against the young world champ … but their most recent meeting in Portland in Dec was closer than it had been before. I sense a pattern in kane’s “close” matches; when a top player is playing well, they’ll hang with Kane for most of each game .. you’ll see scores like 8-8 or 10-9 … then poof, Kane hits another gear and suddenly its 15-10 game over. Its tough to play flawless racquetball for two straight hours against the GOAT; how close can Montoya come this time? – Beltran/Estrada winner vs Murray; Which ever Mexican advances, i’ll favor over the big Canadian. It’ll be either Beltran (who’s never lost to Murray), or Estrada (who, if he beats Beltran it means he’s “on” this week and will be tough to stop). – Parrilla over Portillo: I don’t think Parrilla is going to get upset three tourneys in a row; he’s never lost to Portillo in an IRT or WRT event (but did lost to him last year in SLP local event). But it’d be quite a statement if Lalo made another run. – Garay over Jake/SFranco; if Garay tops Landa, no reason not to think he’d also get a win here.
I know I keep predicting wins for Estrada and Garay in particular; something about their games really strikes me as solid. Maybe i’m crazy, but both players have power, athleticism, good wins on their resumes and are growing tourney by tourney. What can I say, i’m a sucker for upsets.
——————————- Semis: – Kane over Estrada – Parrilla over Garay
Finals: Kane over Parrilla.
Andree has come an awful long way from the 0,0,0 beating he took in the US Open 2016 at the hands of the king. Parrilla took a game from Kane in Syosset last season (though, to be fair Kane was nursing a hand injury), and was dominated in their most recent meeting (Portland semis). Look for Andree to find unique ways to keep this close but for Kane to pull away.
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!
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.
—————- 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.
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.
—————- 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.
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
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/).
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!
Hot on the heels of the Longhorn Open, we have one of the longest running tournaments in the nation being held in Sioux Falls, SD. its the 42nd annual Lewis Drug Pro-Am.
Renowned for its hospitality for the touring pros, this event has become one of the favorite stops each season, and continues to draw players from far and wide.
The Lewis drug pro-am is also known for delivering fans of the sport upsets and surprises. To wit, here’s some of the surprising results from past years:
– in 2019, #1 Alex Landa was upset in the first round by fellow Mexican and eventual World Rodrigo Montoya Solís. Montoya made a run to the semis before falling. – in 2018 Landa got his first ever IRT Tier 1 win as the #8 seed, topping #1 Rocky Carson in the quarters and then winning a thrilling 11-10 tiebreaker over countryman #2 Daniel De La Rosa to win the title. – in 2017 Landa made a run to the semis as a 14 seed, and DLR got just his second ever pro win in the final. – in 2016 Jose Rojas topped both the #2 and #3 seeds to make the final before falling to #1 Waselenchuk – 2015 featured a mostly chalk draw, with Kane at #2 topping Rocky at #1 but not before both the 3 and 4th seeds fell in upsets in the qtrs. – 2014 was the final pro appearance of long time touring vet Mike Guidry, who hadn’t entered a pro event in years after retiring in Jan 2006. He fell in the 16s to eventual tourney finalist Alvaro Beltran.
So that’s some fun history.
The 2020 instance is also setup to perhaps provide some surprises … because we have late breaking news that #1 Kane Waselenchuk is ill and is not attending. So now we get a wide-open draw and possibly some surprises. And, let me tell you, projecting out the tourney here I see the possibility for some fascinating, rarely seen match-ups between top players.
36 players entered, and its a solid draw. As we saw in Austin, we have a number of non-regular top players in this draw waiting to make some noise. The biggest question mark for me is the health of Moscoso; he hobbled out of the Austin event and looked like he may have badly hurt his knee.
We are using a slight flip seeding this time, but thanks to the absence of #1 Kane just one top 8 seed got flipped away from where they should have been: 9th ranked Portillo got a top 8 seed, then got flipped 5th seed in the event. Seeds 6,7,8 mirror where the players are currently ranked.
Top-20 players missing; past Kane, we’re missing #10 Sebastian Franco (who misses his 3rd event of the season), #14 David Horn (who misses his 4th event of the season), and #17 Eduardo Garay, who misses out on a chance to build on his big wins last weekend in Austin.
—————————— Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:
In the round of 128: – The tour welcomes back #32 seed Tony Carson Racquetball, who tore his Achilles heel nearly a year ago. He plays Minnesota-native Lee Meinerz, who hasn’t played an IRT event in several years but could be a good first-back-match for former top -10 player Carson. – there’s three other play-ins in the round of 128, all involving non-tour regulars from the mid-west or Canada. Its great to see the tour in areas where these guys can travel and play.
———————————- In the round of 64: – #17 Sebastian Fernandez, who has struggled to make it to events this year and has seen his ranking fall, likely faces Carson to move on. A solid match here that could go either way, depending on how recovered Carson is from his injury. Its worth noting that in the last three IRT events that T.Carson has played … he’s got wins over De La Rosa, Parrilla and Mercado. – In the #24/#25 seed, Kadim Carrasco takes on former touring regular Jansen Allen in an interesting match. Allen has taken a significant step back from touring and missed an event close to home last week in Texas but travels to South Dakota for this one. this could be a close match. – #21 Felipe Camacho vs #28 Sam Bredenbeck: Camacho is another former top-10 touring pro who has stepped back from touring, now seeing his ranking fall into the 20s. He faces off against the younger Bredenbeck, who got two solid wins over tour regulars at this event last year to make the main draw. – #22 Alan Natera Chavez vs #27 Charlie Pratt Racquetball; wow, what a tough match in the 64s; I think both of these guys are pushing for top 10 spots if they were still touring full time, and now they meet here. As I often observe, Natera can be hit or miss; one day he’s beating Montoya and Mar (as he has done in the last two Mexican Nats), then the next day he’s losing to relative unknowns in local events. Meanwhile, Pratt has a history of getting solid wins even as he curtails his touring. – #18 Robert Collins vs #34 Tim Landeryou; Assuming Landeryou gets past Andres Gomez in the play in, he faces an opponent that he can hang with in the 64s. Could be an upset in the making here.
——————————- Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible match-ups to watch for and some upset warnings:
– #16/#17 Adam Manilla vs the Fernandez/Carson winner: Was last week’s version of Manilla a one-off fluke, or has he turned the tide under the tutelage of a new coach Jim Winterton? This will be a good first test; which ever player advances will be a tough opponent that, up until last week, I’d have favored over Manilla. Now? I’m not so sure who to predict. – #14 Andres Acuña vs #19 Javier Mar: Acuna has to be frustrated with this draw; the under-seeded Mar can beat practically anyone at this tourney and he travels through Acuna to get into the main draw. – #11 Mario Mercado vs the Natera/Pratt winner: Pratt has never lost to Mercado in an event PRS tracks, and hasn’t played Natera in nearly 5 years. This is an upset warning for a 20-seed to advance here.
——————————- round of 16:
– #1 Alex Landa vs #16 Manilla: so, assuming that Manilla gets here … is this a possible 16 over 1 situation? I mean, Landa as a #2 seed was upset by the 18th seed Garay last week, and Manilla had the best event of his career with wins over Parilla and Mercado and going one game up on DLR. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this be a 5,6 blow out for Landa or a monumental upset by Manilla. – #8/#9: Samuel Murray vs Jake Bredenbeck; its a coin-flip between these two hard hitters; they’ve split their 2 prior match-ups and play a similar game style. – #5 Lalo Portillo vs #12 Carlos Keller Vargas; Portillo has now been beaten in the round of 16 four straight times … and I think Keller makes it 5 for 5. These two play a very similar game style, which makes sense since they both are tall, lanky and have great court coverage. Can Keller finally break through and make a pro quarter? Or can Lalo reverse his trend of getting upset early? – #4 Alvaro Beltran vs #20 Javier Estrada: well, last week I thought Beltran might get upset by a younger countryman who’s been making waves in Mar … and I think the same could happen here. I also think back to back tourneys and flights add up for a 40-yr old; i’m predicting the upset here. – #3 Andree Parrilla vs #19 Mar: a brutal round of 16 for Parrilla, who’s coming off an upset loss in Austin in the same round. Not a lot of past history to go on; they met a few times on the WRT back in 2016-2017 range, and they met in a local RKT event in SLP late last year. They’re about even on the court head to head through these matches; who will prevail here? I expect a dog-fight and for Mar to prevail in the upset. – #6 Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball vs … someone. Is this Natera, Pratt, Mercado? It could be any of these guys. Bigger question is; how healthy is Moscoso here? Is he 100%? How much of a run can he make? If Moscoso is not at full strength, he can easily lose to whichever of these plays advances out of this section to meet him. Lets hope he’s healthy, since he’s traveled an awfully long way to play these events. – #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Rodrigo Montoya Solis; Another gang-busters round of 16; this is the final of 2018 Mexican Nationals and the semis of this event last year. I think DLR has Montoya’s number; the only win Montoya has over DLR h2h was in a match that had already guaranteed both guys spots on the Mexican international team. DLR looked like a new guy last week in Austin and despite being the 7th seed has a draw he must like to get back to the finals again. – #2 Rocky Carson vs Gerardo Franco: both guys missed Austin; Carson still recovering from a knee op in December; is he 100%? I don’t think Franco can beat him, but I wonder if Carson is ready to take on this deep field.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – Landa over Murray; Landa takes out his frequent doubles partner. – Estrada over Keller: I like Estrada’s big serve over Keller’s tactical game. – Mar over Moscoso: I sense Moscoso still isn’t 100% and may fall at this juncture to a veteran pro – DLR over Carson: DLR is hot, Carson is recovering, and when they do play its often close. I like DLR with the upset here.
Semis: – Landa over Estrada: I’m not sure they’ve met …its hard to keep track of all the RKT draws that feature all these players. But by game style I think I like Landa to outlast Estrada. – DLR over Mar; flip a coin between these two on the court, if it comes to this. I’ll go with DLR just based on experience and recent form, even if I have Mar slightly ahead of him on my personal world rankings.
Finals; Landa over DLR, a rematch of the 2018 Lewis Drug final.
——————————- Doubles review
Great doubles draw. I’d expect the #1 team of DLR/Beltran to make the final from the top, and for Mar/Montoya to make it from the bottom for a solid all-Mexican final. It’d be a rematch of the 2018 Mexican Nationals and I’d favor the #1 seeds.
——————————— Look for Streaming in the regular places; can’t wait for this event! make sure to log in and say high to Dean DeAngelo Baer and Favio Soto on the facebook feeds.
While the International Racquetball Tour was in Austin this past weekend for the Longhorn Open, one of the longer continuously running events in the land was happening back in my neck of the woods, with an IRT Tier 5 draw plus a solid Women’s open draw that saw some great matches and contributed to some great Mixed Open play.
Here’s a wrap-up of the 2020 Wintergreen Classic from Laurel, Md this past weekend.
Seeds when chalk to the semis, where the top four seeds advanced in #1 Maurice Miller, #2 MoMo Zelada, #3 Troy Warigon and #4 David Austin. We saw all these players in action in Laurel when the IRT visited in September, and they were all back here for this event.
Other notables in the draw: LPRT touring pro and Momo’s wife Masiel Rivera Oporto competed in the draw, upset the 5th seed and fell in the quarters. Top east coast junior Dylan Pruitt, who represented the USA playing doubles in the World Juniors last November, was the 6th seed and fell to home-town player Warigon in the qtrs.
In the semis: – #1 Miller defeated New Jersey’s #4 seed Austin 5,7 – #2 Zelada went tie-breaker with #3 Warigon as they often do, with Zelada coming out on top again 11-4.
In the final, Zelada outlasted Miller for the third time in the last year in east coast events, blanking him in the breaker to take the title.
————— Women’s Open:
Virginia’s Kelani Lawrence was the 3rd seed of three LPRT pros in this round robin, but beat both Valeria Centellas and Masiel Rivera in dominant fashion to take the title. It was definitely a statement by Kelani, who has now broken into the LPRT top 20.
Interesting side note: Centellas’ home town in r2sports was listed as Buenos Aires, Argentina. I had heard rumors that she was considering a country switch from Bolivia to Argentina and I wonder if it is now official. This is an interesting development for the international game; Argentina has long been represented by two top LPRT pros in the international game (Maria Jose Vargas and Natalia Mendez, ironically themselves both Bolivian-born and naturalized as well). We’ll see if this gets officially announced at some point.
—————- In Men’s Open Doubles; the 2nd and 3rd seeded singles players Miller and Warigon teamed up to dominate long-time Virginia-based tourney players Ross Weinberg and Raul Berrios in the final. Good showing by the veteran team to oust the #2 seeded youngsters of Pruitt/Austin to advance.
—————- In Mixed Open Doubles: the presence of a number of top women’s players made the Mixed Open draw fabulous.
In one semi, #1 seeds Warigon & Lawrence took out top dc-area doubles players Weinberg and Kristen Junkin Jones, and in the other semi #2 seeds Miller and Centellas defeated Rivera and Pruitt.
In the final, the reigning world doubles champion Centellas helped spur her team to victory, with Miller/Centellas winning a tight two-game match against Warigon/Lawrence.