USAR National Indoors 2024 National Championships Wrap-up

Hollie Scott is the story of the weekend, getting a triple crown. Photo Unknown source.

Congrats to your National Team winners on the weekend:

– Men’s Singles: Daniel De La Rosa over Jake Bredenbeck

– Women’s Singles: Hollie Scott over Erika Manilla

– Men’s Doubles: Daniel De La Rosa & Sebastian Fernandez

– Women’s Doubles:Kelani Lawrence and Hollie Rae Scott

– Mixed Doubles: Daniel De La Rosa & Hollie Rae Scott

Congrats to both DLR and Scott, who take triple crowns and secure their right to play all three divisions on next year’s US National team.

The 2024-25 US National team is now set. The winners above along with the singles finalists have first right of refusal for the next set of international events: Worlds in August in San Antonio and then PARC in March or April of 2025 in a city TBD (the upcoming PARC event in two months will still be manned by the previous team, as their national team contracts run from July 1 to June 30th),

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=41469

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Let’s review the notable matches in the draws.

Men’s Singles

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/dwf

The Men’s singles draw went mostly chalk, with the top 8 seeds (all of them current or former IRT touring pros) advanced into the quarters with relative ease. The only top 8 seed to even be stretched to a fourth game was in (of course) the 8/9 seed game, as US Junior national team member Cole Sendrey took a game off of veteran lefty Robert Collins but fell in four.

Charlie Pratt got a slight upset in the 4/5 seed quarter, topping Thomas Carter in an upset by seed but probably not on talent. Former top 10 player Anthony Carson took a game off of Manilla, but otherwise the top seeds advanced smoothly. After that, the top wo seeds advanced into the final as expected, with Adam taking a game off of DLR but no real surprises. The only big surprise was in the final, where Daniel really took it to Jake, dominating the final and winning 8,5,5 to claim his second straight USA National title (and his 6th such title after winning Mexican Nationals four times).

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Women’s Singles:

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/kwc

The women’s team qualifying was always going to come down to the top four players, as there’s been a bit of a gulf between the echelons comprised of the touring pros to the rising juniors in our sport. And that played out for sure in Arizona, with several top juniors advancing to the quarters but no further.

In the semis, defending champ Manilla was stretched to five games against #4 Michelle Key , who doesn’t always play singles but who certainly pushed Erika on this day, losing 11-8 in the fifth. In the other semi, #3 Hollie Scott upset her doubles partner @Kelani Lawrence in four to secure a return to the national team. In the final, Scott looked dominant in a game one win 11-5, but then a tweaked back forced Manilla to retire. It’s Scotts first ever national title and part of a triple crown weekend for her after being shut out of last year’s national team.

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Men’s Doubles:

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/89q

The Men’s doubles draw went pretty much as expected, without any real surprises. #4 Pratt & Carson won a close three games over #5 Carter & Sendrey, while the dual-lefty team of Manilla & Carter dropped a game to the San Antonio pair of DJ Mendoza and Brennan Jennings before moving on. The two top seeds #1 Jake & Sam Bredenbeck and #2 DLR & Fernandez each dropped a game in the semis but weren’t seriously challenged.

In the final, the #2 seeded DLR & Fernandez team (which should have been #1 if the seeding had been done on pure points) dominated the Bredenbeck brothers 7,3,5 to take the title with relative ease. DLR dominated for huge stretches, Fernandez manned the right side and out-hit Sam Bredenbeck on the forehand, and Jake couldn’t do enough to impact the outcome. DLR wins his second straight Men’s doubles title, while Sebastian qualifies for an Adult national team for the first time in his career, Mexico or USA. Jake finishes as national doubles runner up for the 5th time in the last 6 years.

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Women’s Doubles:

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/xmg

The Women’s doubles draw was always set up to be a rematch of last year’s title match between defending champs Manilla & Key and the 2022 champs Lawrence & Scott. In a back and forth final that featured a ton of shot making and athleticism. Scott & Lawrence outlasted Manilla & Key to win in four, with the last game going 15-13 before a winning return of serve kill shot sealed the title. Scott returns to the national team after a year’s absence, while Key is shut out of the national team for this cycle.

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Mixed Doubles:

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/3wa

The Mixed Team qualifier was the first to get kicked off, and was done by Thursday night. It also featured some of the biggest upsets all weekend. Here’s a quick run-through.

In the quarters, only the 4/5 match featured any drama, and it went the distance. #4 Thomas Carter and @Kelani Lawrence took a back and forth match 11-8 in the fifth over #5 Sam Bredenbeck and Lexi York to move on. This setup what appeared to be a mismatch in the semis against the defending champs and #1 seeds Adam Manilla and @EErika Manila … but, as they say, “that’s why they play the games.” Carter and Lawrence, frankly, thumped the Manillas 6,6,(9),4 to move into the final.

From the bottom side, the expected grudge match between #2 @Daniel De La Rosa and @Hollie Rae Scott and #3 @Jake Bredenbeck & Michelle Key also went the distance, with DLR/Scott surviving 11-8 in the fifth amidst some questionable calls.

In the final … DLR & Scott (who lost last year’s Mixed finals in a close one) made fast work of Carter & Lawrence 4,11,5 to claim the title. Scott returns to the National team after a year away, and we have our third straight different set of Mixed US National winners in as many years.

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Other notable draws:

– Men’s Open: Texan Brennan Jennings took out defending National open champ @Ty Hedalen in the semis and then US Junior national team member and fellow Texan @Dj Mendoz to take the title.

– Women’s Open: @Carlee Jansz took the title in an injury walkover against #1 seed Cheyenne Hayes .

– Men’s Open Doubles: Utah-based @Kyle Taylor & Scott Burr shocked the field by taking out the #1, #2 and #4 seeds en route to winning the title. In the final they topped a very tough Jeff Stark and @Timmy Hansen team.

– Women’s Open Doubles: Jazmin Trevino &Jessica Chen topped Arizona-based Neils and Jansz for the Open doubles title.

– Mixed Open Doubles: Will Reynolds & Shane Diaz took the title over #2 seeded Rebecca Bowman & Lee Meinerz.

– Congrats to all the legends to came to play in the various doubles divisions; the tournament was blessed by a slew of past pro champs like @Kane Waselenchuk , Cliff Swain , Sudsy Monchik , Rocky Carson and Ruben Gonzalez . These players all took various titles along the way in age group divisions. However, most of them came together to compete in the Centurion+ Open division, and the bragging rights goes to Kane, who paired with Arizona’s Daniel Parker to top Rocky and his partner @Charles George in the final.

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Thanks to the Tourney Directors @Jonathan Greenberg , Mike Grisz and @Karen Grisz for organizing and running this event.

Thanks to the Tourney Sponsor @Keith Minor and @Kwm Gutterman . Without you, we do not have a sport.

Thanks for all the streaming from the @International Racquetball Tour crew, with Pablo Fajre doing the setup and the behind-the-scenes, with a great crew of commentators that included Rocky Carson , Mike Kinkin , Richard Eisemann , Sandy Rios , Carrie Wegener Reitmeier , DJ Mendoza, Cole Sendrey, and others that I missed.

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Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1V6OTid6rZ356voXVkoV2sN7KMMbIP9SZd0MssH_nPGU/

We get a couple weeks off from any major racquetball event, then we kick into March, which is as busy a month as i can remember.

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tags

@USA Racquetball

USA Racquetball 2024 National Indoor Preview

Erika in town to defend her 2023 triple crown of national titles. Photo 2021 US Open via Kevin Savory

Welcome to the 54th annual USA Racquetball National Championships. National Singles has been held every year (save Covid) since 1968, from the predecessor organizations to the current iteration of USAR starting with the IRA, then AARA, then USRA. It’s actually the 55th annual National team qualifier; in 2021 there was just a US Team Qualifier held in Chicago due to facility issues that were dropped on the NGB last minute.

The event this year is in Tempe, on the campus of Arizona State University, possibly for the last time, as the university is reportedly taking out some courts that may make it too small to host national events going forward. There’s a huge draw of players in AZ this weekend: 340, great to see, and the festivities this weekend will include two hall of fame class inductions to enshrine @Jack Huczek , Jim Easterling, and Jeff Stark , all three very deserving of their recognition.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=41469

All the national team qualifiers are being held this weekend for both singles and doubles, and the results will drive the selection of the US National team for the 2024-25 season, with terms starting July 1st. The winners this year therefore will be representing USA at the 2024 Worlds, which we recently announced will be held in the US, in San Antonio. This is big news; Worlds hasn’t been in the USA since 1996, and its presence in the US should mean a massive turnout.

Notable US team absences: Rocky Carson is in Arizona, but is not playing any national team qualifier events. Alejandro Landa was a last minute withdrawal that I’ll discuss later on.

Reminder: the National team qualifiers will be playing by IRF rules, which means rally scoring, best 3 out of 5 to 11, win by 2. Which, I’ll be honest, I hate. I can’t stand rally scoring in our sport, its implementation by the IRF made no sense when it was proposed, it “solved” a problem that didn’t exist, it takes the “comeback” and defensive standing your ground completely out of the game, it fundamentally changes the strategy of a sport that’s been in existence for 50+ years, and it allows matches to end without the winning team in the service box. Furthermore, It’s pointless to play by rally scoring in our own national championships, since the argument is, “you have to get them ready for int’l scoring.” Really? The next time Erika Manilla takes the court, she’s not playing rally scoring, and won’t until the end of March when she heads to PARC and has to deal with it. Get ready for a bunch of short matches: fly all the way to Phoenix to play a 15 minute national team qualifier.

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Let’s preview the National Team qualifier draws, and then we’ll throw in some previews of other major draws that have some “interesting” names.

Men’s Singles:

19 players entered into National singles qualifying, a big jump from the last couple of years, which is great to see. Seedings in Singles at Nationals ignore last year’s results (a change from years past, when the finalists were automatically given #1 and #2 seeds in the subsequent year), and instead go directly by the current USAR Rankings as of the eve of the event. Those rankings can be found here: https://www.r2sports.com/system/rankings/ITArankings.asp…

It means that Jake Bredenbeck is seeded #1, because he’s #1 for all USA men on the rankings right now irrespective of last year’s results or the current IRT rankings, which have #2 @DDaniel De la Rosa ahead of him. The rest of the top 8 is more or less as expected; former IRT touring pros Charlie Pratt and @Tony Carson come in ranked slightly higher than tour regulars Sam Bredenbeck and Robbie Collins , which will make for some fun quarters.

Matches to watch for in the 32s and 16s:

– 18U Junior national team member Cole Sendrey has a tough test against US veteran Collins in the 8/9 seed game.

– Last year’s Open champion Ty Hedalen gets Pratt in the opener; how much has Charlie been playing? This could be close.

– In another 18U Junior versus grizzled lefty veteran, DJ Mendoza takes on Thomas Carter in the 4/13 game. Carter should handle the Texas-based junior but Mendoza could stretch him a bit.

– Tony Carson takes on indoor/outdoor specialist Thomas Gerhardt in an interesting test for Carson.

Quarters:

– I don’t see any significant upsets in the quarters, and would expect the top four seeds to move on. If Sendrey gets by Collins, he’ll give Jake a spirited match but the #1 seed should move on.

– Carter-Pratt in the 4/5; if this was 5 years ago i’d say Pratt, today I say Carter.

– @Adam Manilla likely gets Carson, another match that would be closer if it were 5 years ago, but Manilla’s too consistent now to get tripped up.

– #2 Daniel DE LA Rosa takes on big-hitting Sam Bredenbeck but should handle him to move on.

Semis:

– Jake vs Carter/Pratt winner should be a straight forward win for jake.

– Adam vs DLR is like a regular IRT quarter final, and DLR shouldn’t be bothered.

Final: I’ll go Jake over DLR, if only because both know they’ll be qualified at that point and it’ll come down to who wants the titles more …and for me that’s Jake.

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Women’s Singles Preview:

For the first time since the mid 1990s, @Rhonda Rajsich is not in this draw, nor is she entered into the tourney despite living in AZ. A mainstay on the US team is no longer.

The Women’s National team qualifying draw is now filled with current or recently graduated juniors, and fans can see the future of the sport. @Naomi Ros, Shane Diaz , @aAnnie Robert , and Khyathi Velpuri will push for spots in the quarter finals, but I’d expect the top four seeds to advance to the semis after all is said and done.

Look for @Yor Lexi to challenge #2 @Kelani Lawrence a bit in the 2/7 quarter, and for Michelle Key to face down a challenge in the 4/5 quarter from Roberts. Can Naomi give #3 Hollie a shock? Maybe; this might be the best quarter.

In the semis:

– #1 @Erika Manilla should move past Key into the final; she took the triple crown last year and is in good position to do the same again in 2024.

– In the 2/3 semi, two long-time doubles partners Lawrence and @hollie Scott will face off; Kelani owns career h2h 4-1 and should move on to claim the US team spot.

In the final, look for Manilla to steamroll to her 3rd straight US title.

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Men’s Doubles:

Word began to spread earlier this week of a change in the Men’s doubles draw with the withdrawal of Landa from the event and his partner DLR picking up a new partner last minute. This was due to Landa’s suspension from the US National team for accumulated behavioral issues that came to a head at the Lewis Drug pro am a couple of weeks ago. Landa could have played, but wouldn’t be guaranteed a spot on the 2024-25 national team unless an appeal of his suspension was upheld, so instead the retired touring pro opted to back out of the event. After some hurried phone calls, De la Rosa found a pretty able partner: fellow dual-citizen Sebastian Fernandez , who’s based in SoCal and who could get to Arizona for the event. Fernandez is a pretty solid doubles player (especially in Mixed) and played with DLR as recently as the 2023 Longhorn Open, so they’re familiar with each other and form a pretty formidable team (spoiler alert; I think they’ll win).

Here’s a preview of the 7-team draw. The seeds are not quite according to USA rankings, a discretion apparently available to the seeding committee to make adjustments for competitive purposes.

In the qtrs:

– #4 Pratt/Carson versus #5 Carter/Sendrey should be fun; it’ll likely be one-way traffic to the kid on the court, as both Pratt and Carson are grizzled veterans who are no easy outs.

– #3 Manilla/Collins represents the rarely seen “all lefty doubles team,” which at least will be interesting to watch. I suppose we’ll see Manilla on the right hitting backhands, but who knows. They face the two Texans Mendoza and Jennings in the opener.

Semis:

– Pratt and Carson will absolutely give #1 Jake & Sam Bredenbeck fits. This is no easy match for the #1 seeds, who (if given their druthers) may have opted for the semi match that #2 DLR & Patata have. I can’t quite see the Bredenbecks losing .. but it wouldn’t shock me.

– DLR and Fernandez should advance with relative ease past Manilla/Collins; Sebastian is just way too athletic on the court and will crush balls at whichever lefty is standing on his side, a massive advantage for their team.

Finals: DLR and Fernandez should outlast whoever advances from the other semi. DLR on the right side is too good of a player, can’t be overpowered, and has the ability to kill balls that even a doubles team opponent playing in front of the short line can’t get, while Fernandez is a former top 15 pro who can hang with the best of them on the right.

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Women’s Doubles Preview:

With all due respect to the other 5 teams entered, this draw is going to come down to the two top teams of pro-level players entered. It’s great to see non pros entered, including the likes of NorCal’s Erica Williams, outdoor specialist @Katie Neil , and DC-area native @Grace Ratley entered in, but they’re unfortunately early round fodder for the two pro teams.

In the final, look for defending champs Manilla & Key to top Lawrence & Scott again for the title.

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Mixed Team Qualifying Preview

Nine teams entered here. I’m not sure Landa was entered with a Mixed partner, in that I don’t see any last minute weird-looking partner switches, but we do have some new teams looking to dethrone the Manillas.

In the quarters, look for two interesting matchups that feature teams with lefty males going against conventional Righty-Righty teams; this generally means the male will be drive serving the forehand of the female along the right and vice versa. In the 4/5 quarter, this means Sam Bredenbeck’s power goes against Kelani along the left while Carter gets to blast at Lexi York along the right. Advantage Sam/Lexi here. In the 3/6 matchup, Jake matches up with Annie Roberts along the left hand side, while Collins matches up against Key on the right: this could be a big mismatch, especially with Jake able to blast power serves at Roberts. Advantage #3 seeds.

In the semis:

– #1 Manilla’s are too good for York/Sam and will move to the final.

– #2 DLR/Scott will absolutely have their hands full against Jake & Key, in another matchup with off-the-court emotions coming into play. This is a tough one to predict; I think Key’s better along the right hand side against Scott, and is a better doubles player. But I think DLR is a superior doubles player along the left, and has shown he can absolutely take over mixed doubles matches and can impose his will. I’ll go with the seeds, but I think it’ll be closer than they want.

In the final, a rematch of 2023, and I think the result will go the same. Erika can handle DLR’s pace to her side as the hardest-hitting female on tour, and Key can handle Adam’s pace on the right hand side as a long-time top mixed player in the world. Another close match, but Manillas’s repeat.

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Other Singles Draws worth mentioning:

– Men’s Open Singles: a healthy 22 man draw with a big Texas feel to it. From the top I like 1 v 4 Meinerz vs Mendoza in one semi, and defending champ Hedalen vs Jennings in the other. I think its Hedalen vs Meinerz in the final with Hedalen repeating.

– Women’s Open Singles: Utah’s Cheyenne Hayes is the #1 seed in this wide open draw that features some juniors and some 60+ competitors who could make noise. I have no idea who takes it.

– Men’s 50+ is headlined by Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Stark, a favorite to win yet another national title. Texan Arturo Burruel (who I believe beat me at the US Open once), Alok Mehta, and Tom Fuhrmann linger.

– Men’s 55+ features some fun names: Minor as the #1 seed, Eugene Coyle in the draw along with former touring pro @Doug Cohen.

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Other Doubles draws worth mentioning;

– Men’s Open doubles features 20-time us national team member Rocky Carson as the #1 seed in a paying gig; they likely face Stark and the son of another hall of famer Timmy Hansen in the final. Could be fun.

– The Centurian Open doubles might be the most “famous” of them all. It features teams that include @Kane Waselenchuk, Cliff Swain , Sudsy Monchik and @Rocky Carson . Gee, that’s just 28 year end Pro titles of the 52 that have ever been awarded. Quite the draw. And none of these teams are the #1 seeds and favorites; that’d be dual HOFmers Stark and Tim Hansen . What a draw. I don’t know enough about the partners of all these legends to even venture a guess as to how this draw turns out, but i’m sure it’ll be the most watched of the event.

– The Women’s Open doubles draw, like the singles, is wide open. Eight teams entered and it wouldn’t surprise me to see any of the eight win.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; you’d expect; the tourney and matches start this afternoon on 2/7/24. Follow USA Racquetball on Facebook for announcements: they’ve already posted the streaming schedule for day one.

Thanks to the Tourney Directors Jonathan Greenberg of the USAR Staff, along with executive Director Mike Grisz and his tireless wife Karen Grisz and all the rest of the USAR board for helping out. Thanks as always to @Keith Minor and Kwm Gutterman for being the title sponsor of this event. Keith’s generosity for our sport continues, and i shudder to think where we’d be nationally without his support.

Associations; USA Racquetball

IRT Sioux Falls Lewis Drug Pro-Am 2024 Wrap-Up

Murray claims his 2nd ever tier1 title. Photo 2019 US Open Kevin Savory

Congrats to your Pro winners on the weekend:

– Singles: Samuel Murray

– Doubles: Eduardo Portillo and @Andree Parrilla

Murray runs a pretty amazing gauntlet of matches to claim his second ever Tier 1 title. Lalo and Andree save match points against to claim the doubles title.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41883

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Let’s review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/kju

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There were three trivial round of 64 play-ins that had no real shocks.

In the 32s…

– #1 @Daniel De la Rosa was pushed to the limit by #32 Coby Iwaasa, winning in three 10,(14),8. Of course, Iwaasa is not your typical 30-something pro seed, the clear-cut #2 player in Canada and a past winner on the WRT who just doesn’t tour regularly.

I harp on this point often, when it comes to having the top 8 seeds play the 32s, but here’s a fun fact; Pablo and the IRT changed the competition structure in February 2023. just ahead of Minnesota, to abolish “top 8 seeds get byes into the 32s,” a structure that had been in place for regular Tier1s since August 1991. Since the return to full 32s, not only have the top 8 seeds won every round of 32 match played so far… DLR’s was the first time a top 8 seed was even stretched to a tiebreaker. Most of these 1v32, 2v31, etc matches are complete blow outs in the 15-4, 15-2 variety where the top pro is just going through the motions.

I continue to maintain that lower seeded players are far better served by the prior structure. Instead of Iwaasa playing DLR in the 32s, under the old structure, he would have played #33 in the 64s (Roman Haller), to then play #16 seed in the 32s (Sam Bredenbeck) to play into DLR in the round of 16s/aka the money round. Instead, Iwaasa goes home with no prize money. You have to think Iwaasa would have liked his chances under the old structure, a match against Sam versus straight to DLR. Anyway, it is what it is, and unless the lower level players figure this out instead of maintaining the illogical belief that its somehow more “fair” to get blasted by a top seed in the 32s on Thursday afternoon to eliminate any chance of prize money, we’ll continue to see this situation on tour.

– #17 Kane Waselenchuk took out #16 @Sam Bredenbeck 10,10 in a streaky match that looked like it was going a different way in each game. Both players ran off long streaks of points at times, but neither player stayed consistent long enough to put the game away fast. Kane is #20 ranked but #17 seeded by virtue of three players ranked above him pulling out last minute (Cuevas, Carson, and Landa), so he plays right into #1 DLR.

– #3 Conrrado Moscoso got pushed a bit by fellow Bolivian Mauricio Zelada before advancing 5,11

– #14 Kadim Carrasco got taken to a breaker by #19 @Carlos Ramirez before advancing.

– #11 Thomas Carter held on against Junior national team member Cole Sendrey 12,9. Sendrey had an impressive win in the Kelley tournament earlier this month, but playing a top 15 IRT pro is a little different than playing a top east coast amateur.

– #15 @Erick Trujillo got a very solid win over Mexican veteran Javier Mar 12,13 in the 15-18 seed matchup. I routinely believe Mar is one of the top 8 players in the world … but he’s struggled for two years now to maintain that lofty status. This is the turning point for me.

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In the 16s, we got a slew of upsets.

– #17 Kane took out #1 DLR 8,9 in a match that probably was not as close as the score line indicated. I watched the match closely and my analysis is pretty simple: DLR could not get his drive serve working. I’ve never seen him serve so badly. I did a quick count of drive serve effectiveness in game 1 to illustrate this point: Kane drove 26 times, making 19 of them (73%) while DLR drove 17 times and only made 9 of them (52%). The ineffectiveness of a solid first serve cannot be understated: When I’ve done detailed match tracking in the past, a first serve in led directly to points 66% of the time, whereas that point ratio dropped to just 33% when hitting a second serve. It isn’t a coincidence that DLR got 9 drives in and scored 9 points in the game, while Kane got 17 drives in and scored 15.

The key to beating Kane right now is to limit how often he can shoot while setting his feet. And the definition of a second serve lob is allowing Kane to stand there and shoot with his feet set. Meanwhile, Kane served his typical 70%+ effective drive serves where he wanted them, getting aces and 3-shot rallies as expected, and that was that. By the end of the second game DLR had completely abandoned the drive serve and was lobbing on first serve … amazing to think about when playing the best player of all time. I also think DLR was rather devoid of ideas; when his drives failed, he didn’t think about hard Zs or any variation; he just nicked lob serves to Kane’s forehand, which he buried over and over. DLR remains winless for his career against Kane, takes a round of 16 loss (which probably buries his chances at the 2024 title already)

Now, all this being said, Kane played lights out. He executed his typical game plan, wasn’t making errors, kept the pressure on, and generally got the rallies he wanted here. It was vintage Kane, reminiscent of a match from 10 years ago. All credit to him. Kane improves to 19-1 all-time against DLR … and that 1 loss was a forfeit.

– #6 and #11 @Adam Manilla and Thomas Carter had an all lefty battle, which went to the death 11-9 for Adam.

– #7 Samuel Murray took out #10 Eduardo Portillo in a breaker in a match that was not an upset by seed, but probably and upset by talent. Lalo’s time away from the court continues to take its toll and I wonder how long he’ll remain a factor on tour.

– Lastly, the other big news of the round: #15 Erick Trujillo , who already got one career win in this event, got easily the best result of his career with an 11-10 win over #2 Jake Bredenbeck . The end of this game featured multiple turns by each player at 10-10, a questionable/argued hinder call, and a no-doubt buried winner for Trujillo to take it. As with DLR, this round of 16 loss is a dagger for Jake’s chances to take the year end title, given the headwinds that the competitors to the throne are starting to show (more on that later).

– The other top 8 seeds each advanced without really breaking a sweat; Acuna over Natera, Parrilla over Collins, Montoya over Martell, Moscoso over Carrasco. Each in two games, each game of the single digit variety.

So, both #1 and #2 out in the 16s. How often does that happen? Uh, not very often. Since seeds started being hyper tracked in 2009, I can’t find a single instance where both #1 and #2 lost in the 16s. I feel like it’s happened recently but I can’t find it. Perhaps someone’s memory is better than mine.

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In the Quarters, more interesting machinations.

– Done with the #1 seed, one would have expected Kane to blow past #8 Acuna, but that’s not what happened. Acuna (unlike DLR) made a high percentage of his drive first serves and ground out a game one win 15-13. Kane rebounded and was more or less controlling game 2 when he took an awkward step to his right to retrieve a serve and crumpled to the ground. It did not look good on the stream but he rebounded to take the game and the tiebreaker hobbling around to advance to the semis.

– #4 Montoya renewed his frequent rivalry with #5 Parrilla, winning this round 11-9 breaker.

– #3 Moscoso destroyed #6 Manilla 1,5 and seems like he’s on a freight train towards another matchup with Kane in the final now that both #1 and #2 are out.

– #7 Murray came from a game down to top the upset-minded Trujillo in three. Erick’s career tournament was cut short when he seemed to run out of gas in the breaker.

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In the Semis

– Kane’s injury proved too much for him to test, so he gave #4 Montoya a walk-over into the final. Kane did hang around to do commentary on the other semi, which was fortuitous because it turned out to be an amazing match.

– #7 Murray improved to 6-4 lifetime against Moscoso, stunning the Bolivian in a match that will be remembered for a while. After Conrrado ground out a game one victory 15-13, he raced to a massive lead in game two and had match point on his racquet at 14-3. Murray saved that match point against, then ran off 12 unanswered points to stun the Bolivian 15-14 in game two. In the breaker, Conrrado scored a couple of quick points … but then Big Canada ran off 11 straight unanswered points to win 11-2. Just an amazing match from Murray.

In the Finals … I thought “Advantage Montoya” for sure. Montoya was fresher and had the career H2H advantage. Well, that’s why you play the matches. Murray stuck to his game plan, played smart, patient shots, waiting out Montoya’s go-for-broke game style, and took game one. Montoya bounced back in game two, but Murray bided his time and took a massive lead in the tiebreaker. Sitting at 10-6 with match point, Montoya saved multiple match points-against with fantastic diving gets and great shots. Multiple rallies at the end featured questionable calls, hinders, arguments for avoidables that went for naught, arguments about down balls, etc … so it was only fitting that a chaotic rally ended with an avoidable hinder against Rodrigo to give Murray the match 11-10.

This unexpected tourney win for Murray reminds me of his first win, an out-of-nowhere Jan 2021 win in Atlanta, the first coming back from Covid, where Murray reportedly wasn’t even going to attend b/c he has so little playing time. I thought Murray would struggle to beat Portillo in the 16s, let along run off four straight tiebreaker wins over Portillo, Trujillo, Moscoso, and Montoya. Bravo to Big Sam for your second career tier 1 title.

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Points Implications of results on the Singles rankings

There will be some interesting point machinations that will happen in the short term on the IRT. Despite losing in the 16s, Jake will return to #1. That’s because there was no Longhorn Open in 2024 (which DLR won in 2023) and DLR had more points to defend from last year’s Lewis Drug. Montoya meanwhile will rise to #2, a career high … and if he had won that last point he’d be the new #1. DLR will drop to #3 and Moscoso will drop all the way to #4. Murray bumps up from 9 to 6. Kane will improve slightly, from #20 to #17 with his semi finals appearance, and will continue to be a thorn in the side of a top 4 opponent heading into the 16s until he can get himself into the upper teens.

So, when the points were published, the lack of 10 tier 1s in the last 365 days led to some different machinations to the IRT points than my private worksheet supports. The latest rankings “seem” to follow the formula of, “all Tier1s in the last 365 days without satellites and without dropping events,” except that this formula doesn’t support the totals of Moscoso, Parrilla, or Natera in particular. So i dunno. It’s early in the season so it doesn’t really matter, but later on we’ll reconcile our working document so we don’t report the wrong information.

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Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/a40

Well, lets just say my prognosticating on the doubles draw was … a little off. I thought for sure that the presence of the Canadian National team (Murray & Iwaasa), who won 2022 PARC and made the final of 2023 Pan Am Games would make a difference here. Nope: they got beat in the 16s by Collins and Trujillo, not exactly household names on the international doubles scene. This cleared the way for the presumptive #1 doubles team in the world Montoya & Mar to cruise into the final.

From the bottom half, the surprise team of Beltran & Manilla had themselves quite a barn burner against #2 DLR and Landa, in a match filled with undertones. DLR and Beltran of course were long-time partners and friends who had a falling out in late 2022, while Beltran and Landa are good buddies. Landa is notoriously passionate on the court, while Beltran is notoriously a cut-up. These two immoveable forces ran right into each other towards the end of the tiebreaker of their quarter, when Beltran got an avoidable call at 6-10 down against Landa that Alex disagreed with. To me, it was a pretty easy avoidable call; Landa hit a ball right back at himself that Beltran didn’t really even have to move towards to take a shot. He held up and the point was given. Landa went ballistic, surprisingly not getting a technical for his antics … but when Beltran lampooned Landa’s reaction the two got face to face, and not for a short while. IRT Commissioner Pablo Fajre had to separate them on the court, and they went right back towards each other again, having to be separated again. Both teams were assessed a technical, so now the score was 6-9 … and wouldn’t you know it, Beltran and Manilla ran off 5 more points to take the match 11-9. DLR was knocked out of both draws by Friday mid-afternoon. The last time i saw Beltran and Landa … they were eating dinner together in Vegas, and Beltran basically said this was just boys being boys on social media the next day, so much ado about nothing.

Despite their solid win, Beltran & Manilla couldn’t get past the strong partnership of Portillo & Parrilla though, so we got an all-Mexican final. Montoya took the court for the doubles final about 10 minutes after a completely demoralizing 11-10 singles loss and for a big chunk of the match seemed to just be going through the motions … but still led his team to a game one win and a match point in game two. Lalo and Andree saved it, took the second game, then took the tiebreaker for the doubles win.

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Open Singles, other notable draws

– Cardona shows he’s still got it, beating Gastelum, then Iwaasa and Martell for the Men’s Open title.

– Natera and Mark frank took the Men’s Open Doubles.

– Meadow Barth and Vallana Perrault took the Women’s Open doubles RR.

– Meadow and brother Jordan Barth took the Mixed Open doubles (bummer not to see Jordan playing singles this weekend).

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Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew

Thanks to the Tourney Director Mark Gibbs for putting this event on!

Thanks to the Tourney Sponsor Lewis Drug . Without you, we do not have a pro sport.

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Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1V6OTid6rZ356voXVkoV2sN7KMMbIP9SZd0MssH_nPGU/

After a weekend off, the first weekend of February features USA Nationals and the Canadian Winter selection event.

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tags

International Racquetball Tour

@Racquetball Canada

USA Racquetball

IRT Lewis Drug Pro-Am Preview

Kane versus DLR in teh 16s could be epic. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Welcome to one of the IRT’s main-stays, the 44th annual Lewis Drug Pro-Am, hosted by one of the IRT’s co-owners and long-time tourney sponsor Mark Gibbs at the Sioux Falls YMCA (and a couple other clubs) in sunny Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

This event has been a fixture on the IRT calendar in January for years, and has held a special place in the players’ hearts for years. There has often been supplemental prize money offered, travel expense assistance, and an annual banquet at this event.

From a competitive stand point, this tourney has given the tour all sorts of surprises over the years. In 2017, Current #1 @Daniel De La Rosa got the win here, only his 2nd ever on tour, but one that propelled him into the top 4 of the tour, where he’s stayed ever since. In 2018, @Alejandro Landa got his first career win here, a thrilling 11-10 win over DLR. In 2023, after taking two years off, the tourney saw a fantastic final between the tour’s two top players @Conrrado Moscoso and DLR, with Moscoso taking the first shot of the new season across DLR’s bow, winning 9,12.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41883

There’s 35 players in the draw, a very solid draw from a top 20 perspective, with 17 of the top 20 players here.

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

There’s just a couple of play-ins to get to the full round of 32 where everyone is starting these days. One of the things I like about Sioux Falls is that the Canadian National team members usually show up, meaning all sorts of top Canada players pouring into the draw.

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Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible matchups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot:

– #1 DLR versus Coby Iwaasa : just about as tough a round of 32 as the #1 player could want, the #2 Canadian player who has gotten all sorts of random wins over name brand players over the years.

– #9 Alan Natera versus John Goth : Natera should advance here, but Goth has always been a dangerous player who can surprise if you look past him.

– #8 Andres Acuna versus #25 Diego Gastelum: Upset watch here. Gastelum is right behind Acuna on my personal world rankings list and for good reason; he’s one of the best Mexican Juniors out there.

– #5 Andree Parrilla vs #28 Alex Cardona : well, if it was 2016 this might be a WRT final, but here on the IRT its a round of 32.

– #22 Cole Sendrey gets a great test of his current status against touring regular #11 Thomas Carter .

– IRT legend Alvaro Beltran has entered singles for the first time since September but runs into #10 Eduardo Portillo , who has seen his seed slip as he splits time between the tour and flight school.

– the 15/18 match is two Mexicans at different stages of their career, @Javier Mar and Erick Trujillo . On paper this should be Mar, but Trujillo could surprise.

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round of 16:

– Well, you couldn’t ask for a better, more intriguing round of 16 match than #1 DLR versus #16 seeded @Kane Waselenchuk . Kane, ranked 20th, got bumped up a couple spots in the last week thanks to a couple of withdrawals, and now suddenly he’s looking at #1 DLR in the round of 16.

What to make of this matchup? Well, its early enough in the draw that Kane won’t be fatigued by too many matches, which is advantage Kane. He may be 42 but he can still fire in aces with pinpoint accuracy, which most players would struggle with. How much has DLR been focusing on racquetball based on his new PPA pickleball contract? Is he rusty? If so, then this is a huge red flag for his chances of becoming a 4-time tour champ. A loss in the 16s would be devastating given the fact that he’ll be missing events and since his competitors will be advancing further.

We saw a very focused DLR go up against Kane in Vegas, playing very lights out in the two mixed doubles finals where they went head to head, as if DLR was making a point about who was the better player on the court. But outdoor is outdoors, and indoors is Kane’s territory. So, I expect a close game, and I expect DLR to grind out a win.

– In the 8/9, Acuna and Natera projected to play for the 3rd straight event, and Acuna still holds the upper hand.

– #2/#15 Jake Bredenbeck gets a possibly tough Javier Mar who can catch top players off-guard.

– The rest of the draw looks relatively predictable; I do like Montoya-Martell and Portillo-Murray as close matches.

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Projected Qtrs:

– DLR over Acuna without much trouble

– Montoya takes back control of his rivalry with Parrilla

– Moscoso over Manilla with ease

– Jake takes out Lalo but it goes tiebreaker.

Semis:

– I think DLR owns Montoya right now.

– Moscoso is better than Jake right now, even if seeded behind him.

Finals: another Moscoso over DLR final like we saw in Pleasanton. I think 2024 is Moscoso’s year and he’s going to take another step towards the title here.

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Doubles review

The presence of Iwaasa here means the Canadian #1 Doubles team of Murray/Iwaasa can play doubles … and since they never play pro they’re set to play into the #1 seeds Montoya/Mar. So, basically the final of most international tourneys lately will be buried in the pro quarters here in Sioux Falls on 2pm Friday afternoon. A great match nonetheless. The winner of this should play Landa/DLR in the final for the title.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on Facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Favio Soto and guest hosts all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!

Associations

International Racquetball Tour

LPRT 2024 Arizona Open Recap

Vargas wins again. Photo US Open 2019 Kevin Savory

Congrats to your Pro winners on the weekend:

– Singles: Maria Jose Vargas

– Doubles: Alexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia

Vargas wins the 3rd event of the four held so far in the 2023-24 season and takes a major step towards securing her first year end title. Herrera & Mejia cruise to another pro title together and solidify their place as the #1 ladies doubles team in the world.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41159

System note: I upgraded my hosting this past week and weekend to buy more resources for proracquetballstats.com and other personal interests. As things often do, the migration didn’t go very well, so i’m still experiencing issues with connectivity and errors on the site. So, there’s no embedded PRS links here for the loaded data because … i’m not sure whether it loaded to the “old” or “new” platform. Hopefully we’ll get this resolved asap.

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Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: tbd

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In the 32s, there were no real “upsets” but we did see some decent games.

– Junior @Naomi Ros took Carla Munoz to 15-13 in game one before falling 13,4

– Jessica Parrilla came from a game down to top veteran Nancy Enriquez in a battle of doubles partners here at this event.

– MRR played @Kelani Lawrence tough before falling 10,7.

– One of the sport’s longest playing vets Susana Acosta made her first appearance of the 2023-24 season; its the 26th straight season she’s played a pro event. She took a game off of @Natalia Mendez before falling.

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In the 16s, 100% chalk. All top 8 seeds advanced, though a couple were pushed.

– #5 Erika Manilla dropped the first game against #12 Munoz before moving on. Despite the seeds here, this is a lot closer of a match and this tiebreaker isn’t unexpected.

– Lawrence pushed #6 Gaby Martinez to a breaker as well, taking the middle game before falling in three.

– Parrilla and Laime had an interesting match: after losing 15-0 in game one, Parrilla fought hard to push game two to 14-14 but fell short of a tiebreaker.

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In the Quarters, we got some upsets

– #8 Alexandra Herrera, who isn’t too far removed from winning tier 1s on tour herself, shocked her doubles partner and #1 Mejia in a tiebreaker. Sometimes, when you play a friend or someone you know well … seeds don’t matter. Mejia takes a quarter final loss and falls further behind in her quest to defend her title.

– #5 Manilla got a solid win over #4 Laime, playing just a few points short of the “perfect” game. Final score: 13,(14),8. Great win for the USA #1.

– #3 Longoria held off her 2018 World’s vanquisher Gaby Martinez 15-14 in game one, then crushed her 15-2 to move into the semis.

– #2 Vargas made very fast work of a player who’s given her fits in the past, #7 Barrios, winning 2,7 to move on. Whatever mental hiccups Vargas may have shown in the past, they seem to be past her.

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In the Semis:

– Herrera moved into her first final in more than a season by topping Manilla 14,5

– Vargas continued her run of success against Longoria, taking two close games 12,14 to move into the final. After starting her career 2-14 against Longoria, Vargas now has won 5 of their past 7 meetings.

In the Finals, Vargas topped Herrera 5,12 in a game that may not have been as close as the scores to win her 3rd event this season.

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Points Implications of results

There won’t be any changes in the current standings for the top 7 after this event, but we’ll see some shuffling in the 7-10 range. Salas will move up from 9 to 8, Barrios will move out of the top 8, and Munoz will get back in the top 10.

The more important points implications is in the Season to Date standings. With this win, Vargas takes a 125 point seasonal lead over Longoria, even more over Mejia. In fact, with three wins out of four so far, Vargas is easily in pole position right now to be crowned the third new LPRT champ in three seasons. Assuming there’s probably 4 or maybe 5 more events in the season (last year’s spring slate featured Boston, San Antonio, Sweet Caroline/Greenville, and a season-ending slam in Chesapeake), and considering that Vargas seems like a shoe-in to make the latter half of each event, it’ll be hard for her to be caught.

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Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: tbd

Nothing could stop the #1 and #2 teams from getting to the final, despite the talent in the draw. There, Mejia and Herrera cruised to another pro title and extended their lead at the top with a comprehensive 9,4 win over Salas & Longoria.

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Open Singles, other notable draws

– USA top junior Naomi Ros took the small LPRT U21 draw.

– Carla Munoz took the Women’s Open draw over Lucia Gonzalez in the final.

– @Ben Baron took out Thomas Gerhardt in an all AZ men’s open final.

– The singles finalists paired up to take Men’s Open doubles.

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Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Timothy Baghurst, Sandy Rios Jerry J Josey Jr., and Tj Baumbaugh

——————

Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …

https://docs.google.com/…/1V6OTid6rZ356voXVkoV2sN7KMMb…/

Next up is the IRT in Sioux Falls for the annual Lewis Drug event on the 1/28 weekend. Then 2 weeks after that its Us Nationals in Arizona (Canada has a national selection event the same weekend). Next known LPRT event is Boston first week of March.

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tags @LPR

LPRT Arizona Open

Will Laime bo unce back? Photo US Open 2019 Kevin Savory

(a quick systems note: you may have seen some errors on the Pro Racquetball Website, where the code doesn’t work or you get “Resource busy” errors. I upgraded WordPress recently and it’s maxing out my memory/cpu at the host, so I’m upgrading this week. Once i validate the code works as advertised, we should have more stability. Apologies if you’re trying to run reports and getting errors).

It’s been almost exactly a month since the ladies were on the court, and now they’re back in action at a familiar site: Arizona State University in Tempe. Welcome to the first pro tour event in 2024; the 2024 Arizona Open, presented by The Madison Trust.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41159

There’s 26 ladies in Arizona, including 19 of the top 20 (only Centellas is missing), so get ready for some great racquetball.

——————————

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

Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible matchups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot:

– the 16/17 could be interesting: Lexi York and @Maria Paz Riquelme should be a nice lefty/righty matchup of solid tour players.

– Lucia Gonzalez makes a rare appearance on tour, and faces off against LPRT veteran Samantha Salas . The 7-time junior world champion has never had the success she had as a junior in the adult world, but does periodically show up and get shocking wins at major events (in 2020 she went to Mexican Nationals and took out two top 8 LPRT pros at the time Enriquez and Herrera before falling in National semis). It’s been several years though since she got a solid win on tour, and now faces a somewhat resurgent Salas in the opener.

– @Alexandra Herrera comes in seeded 8th, the lowest she’s been since the 2015-16 season. For her troubles she gets local Arizona resident and US National team member Michelle Key , playing singles in a Pro indoor tournament for the first time since the 2021 Arizona Open.

– Carla Munoz has dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in a while, and as the #12 seed faces off against up and coming US Junior @Naomi Ros.

– Two Mexican former top 10 veterans Nancy Enriquez and Jessica Parrilla renew their rivalry in the #13/#20 seed match

– Reigning Mexican 16U junior champ Mariafernanda Trujillo makes her pro tour debut against Angelica Barrios

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round of 16, here’s some matches to watch:

– 8/9 Herrera-Salas would have been a 2/3 semi final just a couple years ago. These two are quite familiar with each other and this should be close.

– #4 Brenda Laime took an early upset loss last event; is she susceptible to another upset at the hands of the Parrilla/Enriquez winner?

– If they survive play-ins, Barrios v Natalia Mendez is a nice Bolivian native battle of two of the more unique playing stiles on tour.

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Projected Qtrs:

– #1 Montse Mejia over Herrera. Ironic the #1 seed gets arguably the hardest quarter final by virtue of Herrera’s seed slipping so quickly over the past few events.

– #5 @Erika Manilla over Laime, if Laime gets here. She’s too jekyll and hyde for me; she’s in the final, then she’s losing first round. Manilla needs wins like this to maintain the pressure to get into the upper echelons of the tour.

– #3 Paola Longoria vs #6 @Ana Gabriele Martinelli : love this matchup. Gaby famously beat Paola to claim 2018 Worlds, but generally Longoria owns this matchup.

– #2 Maria Jose Vargas over #7 Barrios. Vargas is the hottest player on tour right now, but Barrios’ game style has given her fits in the past. I believe Vargas has passed a mental hurdle recently (as evidenced by 3 straight wins over Longoria) and wont’ be stopped here.

Semis:

– Mejia over Manilla; Erika can’t just play her power game, trying to blast nothing but passing shots and expect to beat Mejia, who may not have Erika’s mph but has a complete array of offensive shots.

– Vargas over Longoria: Paola has Vargas in her head right now and, even though Longoria has the lead in Season to Date points, its Vargas who has the upper hand over the next few events in terms of expiring points.

Finals: I like Vargas over Mejia again.

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Doubles review

A changing of the guard is seen here, as (finally) the #1 pro doubles team is Mejia & Herrera, having finally taken over that spot from long-time #1 Longoria & Salas. Likewise, Lawrence & Scott have taken over the #3 spot. Lurking though are some very good international teams: #5 is Gaby/MRR, just the reigning Pan Am Games champs. #4 is Laime/Vargas, an incredibly powerful team. #7 is the reigning US National champions Key/Manilla, another super tough team.

this is going to be a great doubles draw. Look for Gaby/MRR to upset #1 in the upper semi, and for Longoria/Salas to take advantage and win to regain #1 on the doubles tour.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the LPRT on Facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for the likes of Timothy Baghurst, Sandy Rios, Jerry J Josey Jr., and Tj Baumbaugh on the mike, calling the shots!

Associations

LPRT

LPRT Arizona Open

(a quick systems note: you may have seen some errors on the Pro Racquetball Website, where the code doesn’t work or you get “Resource busy” errors. I upgraded WordPress recently and it’s maxing out my memory/cpu at the host, so I’m upgrading this week. Once i validate the code works as advertised, we should have more stability. Apologies if you’re trying to run reports and getting errors).

It’s been almost exactly a month since the ladies were on the court, and now they’re back in action at a familiar site: Arizona State University in Tempe. Welcome to the first pro tour event in 2024; the 2024 Arizona Open, presented by The Madison Trust.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41159

There’s 26 ladies in Arizona, including 19 of the top 20 (only Centellas is missing), so get ready for some great racquetball.

——————————

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

Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible matchups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot:

– the 16/17 could be interesting: Lexi York and @Maria Paz Riquelme should be a nice lefty/righty matchup of solid tour players.

– Lucia Gonzalez makes a rare appearance on tour, and faces off against LPRT veteran Samantha Salas . The 7-time junior world champion has never had the success she had as a junior in the adult world, but does periodically show up and get shocking wins at major events (in 2020 she went to Mexican Nationals and took out two top 8 LPRT pros at the time Enriquez and Herrera before falling in National semis). It’s been several years though since she got a solid win on tour, and now faces a somewhat resurgent Salas in the opener.

– @Alexandra Herrera comes in seeded 8th, the lowest she’s been since the 2015-16 season. For her troubles she gets local Arizona resident and US National team member Michelle Key , playing singles in a Pro indoor tournament for the first time since the 2021 Arizona Open.

– Carla Munoz has dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in a while, and as the #12 seed faces off against up and coming US Junior @Naomi Ros.

– Two Mexican former top 10 veterans Nancy Enriquez and Jessica Parrilla renew their rivalry in the #13/#20 seed match

– Reigning Mexican 16U junior champ Mariafernanda Trujillo makes her pro tour debut against Angelica Barrios

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round of 16, here’s some matches to watch:

– 8/9 Herrera-Salas would have been a 2/3 semi final just a couple years ago. These two are quite familiar with each other and this should be close.

– #4 Brenda Laime took an early upset loss last event; is she susceptible to another upset at the hands of the Parrilla/Enriquez winner?

– If they survive play-ins, Barrios v Natalia Mendez is a nice Bolivian native battle of two of the more unique playing stiles on tour.

——————————

Projected Qtrs:

– #1 Montse Mejia over Herrera. Ironic the #1 seed gets arguably the hardest quarter final by virtue of Herrera’s seed slipping so quickly over the past few events.

– #5 @Erika Manilla over Laime, if Laime gets here. She’s too jekyll and hyde for me; she’s in the final, then she’s losing first round. Manilla needs wins like this to maintain the pressure to get into the upper echelons of the tour.

– #3 Paola Longoria vs #6 @Ana Gabriele Martinelli : love this matchup. Gaby famously beat Paola to claim 2018 Worlds, but generally Longoria owns this matchup.

– #2 Maria Jose Vargas over #7 Barrios. Vargas is the hottest player on tour right now, but Barrios’ game style has given her fits in the past. I believe Vargas has passed a mental hurdle recently (as evidenced by 3 straight wins over Longoria) and wont’ be stopped here.

Semis:

– Mejia over Manilla; Erika can’t just play her power game, trying to blast nothing but passing shots and expect to beat Mejia, who may not have Erika’s mph but has a complete array of offensive shots.

– Vargas over Longoria: Paola has Vargas in her head right now and, even though Longoria has the lead in Season to Date points, its Vargas who has the upper hand over the next few events in terms of expiring points.

Finals: I like Vargas over Mejia again.

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Doubles review

A changing of the guard is seen here, as (finally) the #1 pro doubles team is Mejia & Herrera, having finally taken over that spot from long-time #1 Longoria & Salas. Likewise, Lawrence & Scott have taken over the #3 spot. Lurking though are some very good international teams: #5 is Gaby/MRR, just the reigning Pan Am Games champs. #4 is Laime/Vargas, an incredibly powerful team. #7 is the reigning US National champions Key/Manilla, another super tough team.

this is going to be a great doubles draw. Look for Gaby/MRR to upset #1 in the upper semi, and for Longoria/Salas to take advantage and win to regain #1 on the doubles tour.

———————————

Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the LPRT on Facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for the likes of Timothy Baghurst, Sandy Rios, Jerry J Josey Jr., and Tj Baumbaugh on the mike, calling the shots!

Associations

LPRT

4th Annual “Average Joe’s” Tourney Preview

Ulliman is in Jersey looking to become a 2x champ of the Average Joe’s. Photo via r2sports

With the turn of the new year, we get the 4th annual Average Joe’s money tournament, held at the famous “Court 4” on the Kelley brother’s property in Montague, NJ.

More than 20 top amateurs have traveled to Jersey for this year’s event, which is part tourney and part weekend racquetball camp on the Kelley’s property.

Past champions:

– 1st Annual in 2021: Joe Kelley over Austin Cunningham

– 2nd Annual 2022: Kyle Ulliman over Victor Migliore

– 3rd Annual 2023: Sam Kelley over Victor Migliore

This year’s event features perhaps the widest geographic draw yet, with the regular Northeast crew present, plus players from up and down the east coast, top guys in from Ohio like last year, and even top USA junior @Cole Sendrey in from Texas.

Here’s a preview of the singles and (back for the 2nd year in a row) doubles draws:

In the singles draw, your top seeds are:

#1 @Dylan Pruit from Maryland

#2 your host and defending champ Sam Kelley

#3 two-time finalist and Ohio native Victor Migliore

#4 2022 champion Kyle Ulliman.

However, there’s talent up and down the draw; the inugural champ Joe Kelley is the #8 seed, the finalist in 2021 Cunningham is the #12 seed, and superstar Junior Sendrey is the #6 seed. How will this play out

In the quarters, look for Joe Kelley to give #1 Pruitt a run for his money but fall just short. I like Cunningham to upset lefty David Austin early but fall to Ulliman in the quarters. From the bottom half, Sendrey will struggle with Migliore’s power and quickness but may get a shocker upset, while its hard to see Sam Kelley falling before the semis.

Look for Sam over Migliore in one semi, and Ulliman over Pruitt in the other semi, then Ulliman in the final to be a 2-time champ.

In Doubles, look for the top seeded team of Pruitt & Cunningham to cruise into the finals, while the bottom half semi between team Ohio (Migliore and Ulliman) and team Kelley (brothers Sam and Joe) will be a battle royale. I like the Ohioans to take out the hosts, then top #1 seeds for the title.

Watch for streaming all weekend as the guys hang out on the Kelley residence. We’ll recap on Sunday or Monday.

LPRT 31st Annual Christmas Classic Recap

Vargas dominates to win in DC. Photo US Open 2019 Kevin Savory

Congrats to your Pro winners on the weekend:

– Singles: Maria Jose Vargas

– Doubles: Alexandra Herrera and Monserrat Mejia

Vargas wins her 7th career LPRT singles title, putting her ahead of Mejia and tying her for 11th place all time with a couple of hall of fame calibre players in Marci Drexler and Caryn McKinney.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41727

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Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/9pb

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In the 32s, the tour welcomed back @Maria Renee Rodriguez , who we hadn’t seen on tour since May. She topped @Stephanie Synhorst to move on to face #1 Mejia. Texas junior @Naomi Ros got a nice win over fellow USA player Lexi York to move on, and Colombian @Maria Paz Riquelme took out Floridian Chanis Leon in a rematch of their opener from Boston.

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In the 16s

– #9 @Samantha Salas Solis got the better of Carla Muñoz this time around, winning in a breaker of the always-close 8/9 matchup.

– #13 Cris Amaya advanced to the quarters of a pro event for the first time since January 2020 with a close 2-game win over Brenda Laime 13,14.

– #6 Alexandra Herrera made fast work of country-woman Jessica Parrilla for the 2nd straight event, moving on 6,5

– An injury to Argentine @Natalia Mendez gave team USA Kelani Lawrence a walk-over into the quarters.

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In the Quarters

– #1 Mejia moved past Salas 2,11

– #13 Amaya turned back the clock once again and moved into her first pro semi since March of 2017 by topping Guatemalan @Ana Gabriele Martinelli in a breaker. Amaya lost game one easily and saved match points against in game two before topping Gaby in the breaker.

– #3 Vargas cruised past Herrera 3,10, another statement win defining the gulf that has opened between Herrera and the top 3 ladies on tour

– #2 @Paola Longoria was not very troubled by Lawrence, moving on 4,2.

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In the Semis

– Mejia ended Amaya’s luck, advancing to the final 8,3

– Vargas topped Longoria for the 3rd time in their last 4 meetings, but it couldn’t have been any closer. (13),10,10. Vargas controlled most of the breaker and got to 10-6, but then Longoria saved match point against (plus two more) as she clawed her way to 10-10. Vargas buried a side-out winner, then aced Longoria on her fourth match point attempt to take the win.

In the Finals, Vargas improved to 6-4 lifetime (including wins in their last two meetings) to take the title.

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Points Implications of results

When last year’s Xmas classic expires, Vargas will leapfrog Longoria for #2 on tour, relegating Paola to #3 on tour. It has been so long since Longoria was ranked below #2 on tour that our records don’t even reliably have seeding data; we know Paola was the #5 seed at the 2008 US Open, which she won, and by that season’s end she was firmly ensconced at #1 on tour. So, a seminal event on tour.

Other top 10-15 moves: Salas moves one notch ahead of Mendez in the rankings, while Munoz drops from #10 to #12.

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Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/mrf

Mejia and Herrera won their third straight LPRT pro doubles title, and their 8th as a pair, with a comprehensive 10,8 win over the #1 seeds Longoria & Salas. The reigning Mexican champs (who won 2023 PARC but who got upset in the semis at the Pan Am Games) continues to be the best doubles team in the world, even if they’re still ranked #2 behind Longoria & Salas.

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Open Singles, other notable draws

– Ros beat York again and then Synhorst to take Women’s Open singles.

– Dylan Pruitt took out Mauricio Zelada in an all-Maryland Men’s Open final.

– Pruitt teamed with Jessica Parrilla to win the Men’s open doubles title.

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Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend from the LPRT crew, thanks to the tourney director, and thanks to all the sponsors as always.

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

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Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …

https://docs.google.com/…/1V6OTid6rZ356voXVkoV2sN7KMMb…/

We’re finishing off the last tournament weekend of the 2023 year. I’ll recap the Beach Battle from Hollywood and then after a break I’ll do a 2023 season IRT recap.

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LPRT

IRT Golden State Open Recap

Moscoso wins the final event of 2023 but it isn’t enough to get him the year end titie. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Congrats to your Pro winners on the weekend:

– Singles: @conrramoscosoortiz

– Doubles: Rodrigo Montoya and Javier Mar

Moscoso secures the last event of the 2023 season, his 8th career title. This moves him into a tie for 14th overall with none other than @John Ellis , who was recognized this weekend for his induction into the USA Racquetball hall of fame. See https://rball.pro/2fg for a full list of title winners in the history of the tour.

However, the story line of the weekend was @DaDaniel De la Rosa , losing finalist but who wrapped up his 3rd year end title in a row. The other story line, of course, was the return of the Glass Court to the pro sport. Congrats to tournament organizers Adam Manilla and Bobby Horn for securing the funding and expending the effort to make this happen. The IRT draw was one of the largest we’ve seen since the last time the court was in use, and it looked awesome. Thanks as always to @Keith Minor and Kwm Gutterman for your ongoing support of the sport, and for housing the court.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=41282

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Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/l2k

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In the qualifiers, some interesting/surprising results:

– Up and coming Mexican 18U Cristhian Sanchez took out top amateur Martin Anthony to move into the main draw.

– Former WRT #1 Alejandro Cardoza topped Guatemalan international Edwin Galicia to get into the main draw.

– 13-time title winner @Kane Waselenchuk moved into the main draw as expected, topping fellow Texan Craig Clements .

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In the 32s:

– @Sam Bredenbeck got a nice win over Bolivian vet Kadim Carrasco to force his way into the 16s.

– 2-time IRT champ Rocky Carson reminded current tour players that he can still ball, topping #12 @Javier Mar in a breaker to move on.

– Guatemalan #1 @JuJuan Salvatiera surprised #13 Robert Collins to move on.

– Kane, seeded 19th in this event, cruised past Mexican 21U @Erick Trujillo 7,7 to get into the 16s and setup a rematch of Boston’s showdown with Moscoso.

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In the 16s:

– @Andres Acuna dominated Alan Natera in the 8/9 match 6,10, setting up the expected quarter final battle with DLR.

– Rocky shocked #5 Andree Parrilla 11,9 to move into the quarters.

– In a very highly anticipated match, #3 Moscoso faced off against Waselenchuk. To this observer, Kane wasn’t looking nearly as sharp in Pleasanton as he did in Boston, as evidenced by Trujillo’s ability to get points on him in the earlier round. The glass court plays slow as well, which contributes (along with the slower ball) to balls being up and gettable to an extent that wasn’t the case on Boston’s cement walls. Kane controlled game one for long stretches, but Moscoso kept it close and ended up losing 15-10. I was critical of Moscoso’s lack of serving diversity and his game plan being exposed by the tactical genius of Kane ahead of this match, but all credit to Conrrado here; he came out firing in game two and blitzed Kane 15-4 in a one-way traffic game that continued into the tiebreaker. Final score: (10),4,4. I believe we saw the Bolivian get over a mental hurdle and just gain confidence as the match wore on, freeing him to go for his typical “shoot with abandon” mentality and, once he started hitting those shots, there was nothing anyone could do.

– @Eduardo Portillo topped @Alejandro Landa 10,3 in what was Landa’s final pro singles match as a full time touring pro. We’ll do a career retrospective of Landa in this space at a later date.

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In the Quarters, we got some match results with historical implications.

– #1 Daniel DE LA Rosa , who went into this event knowing that a semi finals appearance would seal the 2023 title, took the court knowing that the results before him already sealed the deal (more on that later). Perhaps distracted, he dropped a game to #8 Acuna but ground back to take a close breaker 11-8.

– #4 Rodrigo Montoya blitzed Carson 15-1 in the first and then held on 15-13 for the two game win to send the veteran Cinderella home.

– #3 Moscoso sent home your host on the weekend Manilla 6,11

– #2 @Jake Bredenbeck , who went into this event knowing that he needed a tourney win plus some help, was shocked by #7 Portillo 10,13 to end his season. This result ended up officially sealing the 2023 title for DLR and sent Jake home with a bitter taste.

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In the Semis

– DLR made fast work of Montoya 8,7

– Moscoso blasted Lalo 6,2 to setup an entertaining final.

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In the Finals, Moscoso played a comprehensive lights out match, crushing the new #1 DLR 4,3 to take the title. Daniel had little response to Moscoso’s dominance, and the Bolivian made a bit of a statement with the win. Despite finishing #2, Moscoso actually out-titled Daniel this year 4-3 (though Daniel made 4 other finals to Moscoso’s two, demonstrating a bit more consistency throughout the year).

In the post-game interview, Daniel announced that he will not be “touring full time” in 2024, alluding to his commitments to “another sport.” There’s little surprise here; he signed an exclusive 3-year contract with the Professional Pickleball Association in August which guarantees a salary, benefits, and expense reimbursement to an extent where DLR could not say no. His main sponsor Pro Kennex and Mike Martinez tried to manage the situation on social media by noting that DLR is a “multi sport” sponsored player and has expectations of continuing to play and compete in racquetball, but as they say, we’ll see how it goes.

A quick glance at the 2024 known schedules for Racquetball and Pickleball right now shows that

– DLR is free to play the Lewis Drug (no conflicts)

– may have a conflict for USA Nationals on 2/11/24 weekend if he plays the MLP,

– would have a MLP conflict for Minnesota HoF tourney

– Definitely has a PPA conflict with 3/17 Papa Nicholas event (which is also Beach Bash in 2024)

So we’ll see. The biggest question may just be how many tier1s can the IRT get in 2024. We’ve lost the Longhorn Open, I’ve seen no word from the Atlanta guys (Suivant and Williams) about their regular February event, the SoCal Open isn’t on the books for April, Denver is not happening this year, Tracktown & Boston were first time events in 2023 that may or may not return, there’s no guarantee of a US Open in 2024, we’ve seemingly lost the Sarasota/Dovetail open, the organizers of the DC-area Capital Classic have pulled back. NY Open is gone along with its sponsor from the sport, and the Pelham TOC downgraded to a satellite. So, DLR may not have to “tour full time” to play a full slate of 2024 events if there’s only a handful.

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Points Implications of results

As noted above, DLR sealed the year end title (his 3rd) with Jake’s quarter final loss. More interestingly is that Moscoso’s win coupled with Jake’s early loss has jumped Conrrado up to #2 for the season. The only other last minute moves in the top 10 saw Acuna bump up to #8, pushing the absent Murray back to #10 for the year. Landa’s final season ends with him just getting pushed out of the top 10.

We’ll do a full comprehensive recap of the season later on this month.

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Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: https://rball.pro/wsi

Montoya and Mar captured another doubles title as a team. Its their 3rd pro doubles title this season and their 7th together professionally. This is on top of their 2023 Pan Am games gold, their 2022 Worlds, and their 2019 Pan Am gold medals as a partnership.

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Open Singles, other notable draws

– @Diego Gastelum took an all Mexican U21 final against Rico. Both players got walkovers from Guatemalans in the semis, possibly due to travel issues.

– Alan Natera / Victor Koliczew got a win in the Open Doubles final when NorCal duo Torres and Reynolds withdrew.

– Christie Noler took the 4-player Women’s Open RR

– Sonya_Shetty_/_Victoria_Rodriguez took the women’s Open draw

– Shane Diaz / Will Reynolds: took Mixed Open

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Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Favio Soto, Steve Schulze, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew . Thanks to guest broadcasters all weeked like @Brian Pineda and @Sudsy Monchik , who make it great to watch along from home.

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Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …

https://docs.google.com/…/1V6OTid6rZ356voXVkoV2sN7KMMb…/

We’ll cover the LPRT and WOR events later this week, then that’s a wrap for 2023!

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LPRT 31st Annual Xmas Classic Preview

Gaby makes a rare LPRT appearance. Photo via Gaby

We’re doing double duty this weekend, with the men on one coast and the ladies the other. Also this weekend is the 31st Annual Christmas Classic, being hosted just south of Baltimore at the Severna Park club, which features an old school sunken glass court with permanent seating behind it.

No Erika this weekend; she stays in Pleasanton to help her brother run the IRT event.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=41727

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

In the 32s, three play-ins. We get a repeat of lefties Riquelme-Leon from Chicago a few weeks ago, plus a fun match between two USA players York and Ros.

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round of 16:

Some slight jumbling of the back of the top 10 gives us some fun round of 16 matchups. Munoz and Salas repeat their frequent rivalry as of late. Parrilla and Herrera go at it again in the 16s, just as they did in Chicago a few weeks ago. Mendez and Lawrence in the 7/10 looks great. Lots of challenging round of 16 matches here.

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Projected Qtrs:

– #1. Mejia versus the Salas/Munoz winner. Mejia jsut handled Munoz in the Portland Lprt exhibition, but would struggle a bit more with the veteran Salas.

– #5 Gaby is back, projecting into #4 Laime. Great match. Laime was upset early in the previous match, and Gaby is a tough matchup.

– #3 Vargas projects into #6 Herrera, another possible quarters rematch from Chicago where she advanced easily.

– #2 Longoria set to face the Lawrence/Mendez winner. If Kelani, look for her to continue to edge closer to an upset.

Semis:

– Mejia over Gaby. I don’t think Gaby is playing regularly enough to take out Mejia.

– Vargas over Longoria; Vargas has the hot hand.

Finals; Vargas continues her winning streak and takes her second in a row.

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Doubles review

All the regular teams are here, and i project another all Mexican final. We’ll give this one to Longoria and Salas.

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

Thanks to the Tourney Directors Stuart Solomon for driving down from Boston and putting this event on!

Thanks to our main sponsors; it goes without saying that without you and your support, we don’t have a sport.

@LPRT

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