2022 Holiday Park WOR Shootout Recap

Joe Young took the open double’s title on the weekend. Photo 2021 Beach Battle via Rick Bernstein

(recap by Todd Boss with help from Jeff Wright and Rob Mijares)

While huge swaths of the country were bracing for a debilitating snow storm (yours truly included; as I wrote this on Sunday there’s a blizzard of snow falling at my home in Virginia), it was 75 and sunny in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for yesterday’s 2022 Holiday Park Shootout. Why do we all not live in Florida again?

r2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=38174

Holiday Park is a cool facility. It is home to the Jimmy Evert Tennis center, a 21-court tennis facility named for its long-time teaching professional who happens to be the father of long-time #1 female tennis player Chris Evert (who grew up playing on the courts). The outdoor courts are tucked in-between a gym and a roller rink on the grounds; they’re three-wall mid-wall courts that are a bit wider than normal (23′ wide), and have side walls that run well past the short line, which makes for very unique play and strategy on the courts as compared to other 3-wall/mid-wall courts. Like many places in Florida, the regulars at the park have the advantage over traveling parties due to these unique factors, and welcome all covers to challenge the locals.

The park’s leading benefactor for decades has been the legendary George Daurio, who has worked with local officials for years for upgrades and is known as the “Godfather” of the courts. Tournament play has been present here for decades as well, and the park has been the home court for many top outdoor players over the years, including Ken Mooney, Billy Montana, Dave Smith, Ken Grandy, Dave Conway, and Rob Mijares.

Here’s a recap of the day’s action, which featured 37 of some of the best outdoor players in the state.

—-
Men’s Open Doubles recap

12 players/6 teams split into two RR groups of three to determine a group winner advancing to the knockouts. One group was taken by top seeds @Joe Young and @Garry Smith , while the other group was surprisingly taken by Max Heyman and Javier Trujillo, who played consistently all morning and made it to their first ever Open finals.

In the final, the powerful Young/Smith pairing vanquished the upstarts to take the title.

—-
Men’s Elite Doubles

The story of the day was longtime Holiday Park veteran Valeria Trabucco Clemmensen . The women’s draw was depleted due to some Covid exposures, so she entered into the Men’s Elite division with partner @Juston Cooklin and won the draw. She is a warrior and played amazing against some tough competition. Fittingly, Valeria hit a flat rollout to win it all in the tiebreaker. She has won many tournaments over the years, but this one was epic!
They topped the very tough @Eric Gomez and Luis Gonzalez in the Elite final.

———-
The winners of the rest of the events on the weekend:
– Men’s A/B Doubles: Giovanni Pezo / Luis Salinas
– Women’s Elite Doubles: Susan Suid / Carolina Pisana
– Mixed Elite Doubles: Miriam Benard / Max Heymann

———-

Thanks to Tournament director Jeff Wright for hosting the event and for all you do for Florida outdoor racquetball. Thanks to tournament staff @Rob Mijares and Hale Sakoff , who are ever-present figures at outdoor events in the state. Thanks to Vic Leibofsky for providing breakfast for the tournament; Vic is another behind the scenes supporter of programming who never asks for credit but who has been a great help to me over the years. And thanks to the city Parks and Rec staff, who gave the courts a fresh pressure wash ahead of the event.

2022 Holiday Park WOR Shootout Recap

(recap by Todd Boss with help from Jeff Wright and Rob Mijares)

While huge swaths of the country were bracing for a debilitating snow storm (yours truly included; as I wrote this on Sunday there’s a blizzard of snow falling at my home in Virginia), it was 75 and sunny in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for yesterday’s 2022 Holiday Park Shootout. Why do we all not live in Florida again?

r2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=38174

Holiday Park is a cool facility. It is home to the Jimmy Evert Tennis center, a 21-court tennis facility named for its long-time teaching professional who happens to be the father of long-time #1 female tennis player Chris Evert (who grew up playing on the courts). The outdoor courts are tucked in-between a gym and a roller rink on the grounds; they’re three-wall mid-wall courts that are a bit wider than normal (23′ wide), and have side walls that run well past the short line, which makes for very unique play and strategy on the courts as compared to other 3-wall/mid-wall courts. Like many places in Florida, the regulars at the park have the advantage over traveling parties due to these unique factors, and welcome all covers to challenge the locals.

The park’s leading benefactor for decades has been the legendary George Daurio, who has worked with local officials for years for upgrades and is known as the “Godfather” of the courts. Tournament play has been present here for decades as well, and the park has been the home court for many top outdoor players over the years, including Ken Mooney, Billy Montana, Dave Smith, Ken Grandy, Dave Conway, and Rob Mijares.

Here’s a recap of the day’s action, which featured 37 of some of the best outdoor players in the state.

—-
Men’s Open Doubles recap

12 players/6 teams split into two RR groups of three to determine a group winner advancing to the knockouts. One group was taken by top seeds @Joe Young and @Garry Smith , while the other group was surprisingly taken by Max Heyman and Javier Trujillo, who played consistently all morning and made it to their first ever Open finals.

In the final, the powerful Young/Smith pairing vanquished the upstarts to take the title.

—-
Men’s Elite Doubles

The story of the day was longtime Holiday Park veteran Valeria Trabucco Clemmensen . The women’s draw was depleted due to some Covid exposures, so she entered into the Men’s Elite division with partner @Juston Cooklin and won the draw. She is a warrior and played amazing against some tough competition. Fittingly, Valeria hit a flat rollout to win it all in the tiebreaker. She has won many tournaments over the years, but this one was epic!
They topped the very tough @Eric Gomez and Luis Gonzalez in the Elite final.

———-
The winners of the rest of the events on the weekend:
– Men’s A/B Doubles: Giovanni Pezo / Luis Salinas
– Women’s Elite Doubles: Susan Suid / Carolina Pisana
– Mixed Elite Doubles: Miriam Benard / Max Heymann

———-

Thanks to Tournament director Jeff Wright for hosting the event and for all you do for Florida outdoor racquetball. Thanks to tournament staff @Rob Mijares and Hale Sakoff , who are ever-present figures at outdoor events in the state. Thanks to Vic Leibofsky for providing breakfast for the tournament; Vic is another behind the scenes supporter of programming who never asks for credit but who has been a great help to me over the years. And thanks to the city Parks and Rec staff, who gave the courts a fresh pressure wash ahead of the event.

2022 IRT Wintergreen Classic Wrap-Up

DLR wins the 2022 Wintergreen classic as a tune up for Atlanta. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Congrats to your major division winners on the weekend:
– Pro Singles: Daniel De La Rosa
– Open Men’s Singles; Alan Natera
– Open Doubles; Eduardo Portillo & Sebastian Franco
– Mixed Doubles: Erika Manilla & Mario Mercado

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=38089

——————

Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

The Men’s Pro draw basically went chalk in the round of 32 and 16. #9 @Jaime Martell upset #8 @Mauricio Zelada as the only upset by seed, but Martell might be the best player in the world who does not regularly feature on the IRT, so this is no surprise to regular followers of the sport. #4 @Sebastian Franco was pushed to a breaker in his round of 16 match by Ohio-based up and coming player @Victor Migliore but persevered 11-7 in the breaker to move into the quarters.

—————
In the Quarters
– It looked for a hot second like #1 @Daniel De La Rosa was going to get upset by Martell, losing the second game 15-14 and then going down early in the tie-breaker, but he flipped the script in an instant and cruised to the 11-4 breaker win.
– #5 @Andres Acuna got a solid win against #4 Franco in two games. This is another excellent example of why Acuna is a player to watch going forward; he’s beating the players he should beat, and is starting to get top-8 wins.
– #3 @Mario Mercado cruised past #6 @Alan Natera 11,7
– #2 @Lalo Portillo took out #7 Bolivian @Kadim Carrasco in two 9,8.

In the Semis, a couple of interesting results.
– #1 DLR labored to get past Acuna in a breaker 11-6. Perhaps its still just a bit of rust for the #1 player, or perhaps its another sign that Acuna is a player to be reckoned with. Or perhaps its a bit of both.
– #3 Mercado continued his hot streak of late, dispatching #2 Portillo with a streaky score line of 2,,(8),2. A really nice win for Mercado.

In the Finals, Mercado took the first game and was up big in the second game, and the broadcasters & viewers were wondering if DLR would even *score* in the second game. Well, not only did he score, he basically stopped Mario in his tracks and took game two 15-10 (going on a 15-2 run to do so), then took the tie-breaker to claim the title. Never count out the #1 player in the world. DLR takes the win here as a great tune-up for next week’s Grand Slam in Atlanta.

—————-
Men’s Open Singles review

The Open Singles had 20 players, including one touring LPRT pro in @Erika Manila . Here’s a recap of the action.

From the top side, #1 seed Martell cruised into the final without dropping a game. He topped Migliore in the semis. Victor had topped Thomas Gerhardt in the quarters, a solid win for him.

In the bottom Half, an under-seeded Manilla took out New Yorker @Anthony Armaneuse in the round of 32 opener, then upset #3 seed @Kyle Ulliman in the next round. She couldn’t move forward though, losing a nail-biting 11-10 breaker in the quarters to Maryland local open player @Dylan Pruitt. But it was #2 Natera who advanced to the final, beating NY junior @Josh Shea and then Pruitt in the semis.

In the final, Natera had a nice run to finish off a game 1 win that looked for a while like it was lost, then blew away Martell in game two to take the title 12,6. Natera wins the open draw without dropping a game.

—————-
Men’s Open Doubles review

The 13-team Men’s Open draw went completely chalk to the semis. From the top side of the draw, #1 Portillo/Franco took out #4 Natera/Acuna, while on the bottom #3 home-town favorites Mercado/Zelada took out the Bolivians Keller/Carrasco to move into the final.

In the final… Franco/Portillo drove the action and dominated play against the Maryland-based FormulaFlow brothers, and won going away 9,4 to take the title.

—————-
Mixed Open Draw

The Mixed open draw was mostly competed on Sunday, and featured a 5-team RR draw of top competitors mostly with DC-area ties. And, unfortunately, the looming snow storm took a toll on this draw, as the traveling NY-team forfeited to get a jump on the weather, and a couple hours later the Junkin/Weinberg team did the same.

In the end though, the top two seeds ended up going undefeated and met in the Sunday final, with the #1 seeded pairing of Erika Manilla & Mario Mercado squeaking out game one over #2 Brenda Laime & Zelada and advancing to the title 14,9.

—————–
Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Dean Baer and Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew, who braved the weather forecast to travel into the area this weekend.

Thanks to the Tourney Director @slemo Warigon for putting this event on and for your continued patronage of the sport.

——————
Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …
https://docs.google.com/…/1V6OTid6rZ356voXVkoV2sN7KMMbIP9S…/

Next weekend is a big one: the 2022 Suivant Consulting IRT Grand Slam in Atlanta. The draws look fantastic and it should be a barn burner. And, by the time you read this we may have a big-time announcement related to the IRT draw. How’s that for a teaser?

——————-
tags

Associations
@International Racquetball Tour

Countries
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Racquetball Colombia
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball

Major Sponsors
Reaching Your Dream Foundation
FormulaFlow
Zurek Construction/Francisco Fajardo
AGE Solutions/Andy Gomer

Hashtags #racquetball #proracquetball #outdoorracquetball #irt #lprt #wor

2022 Wintergreen Classic Preview

Zelada competes on home soil this weekend at the Wintergreen. Photo from US Doubles 2020 via Kevin Savory

The first appearance of the top IRT pros of the new year is set to happen this coming weekend, at the annual Wintergreen classic held in Severna Park, located halfway between Baltimore and Washington in Maryland. This year’s event, run by long-time racquetball benefactor and IRT investor Slemo Warigon , has been upgraded to be a tier 3 event for the first time, which has attracted a slew of top IRT regulars for a solid draw.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=38089

Lets review the major draws on the weekend, which will feature some solid women’s draws, fun doubles matchups, and even some pro-level mixed doubles.

———————————
IRT Pro Singles

There are 20 players entered, including three top-10 players, another 5-6 regular touring players ranked in the teens, and a slew of top east coast open players. It should be a fun draw.

Fun round of 32 and 16s to look for:
– #8/#9 is MoMo Zelada versus @Jaime Martel Neri , in what should be a very interesting match. Zelada has been playing regularly and has some good wins, while Jaime rarely travels outside his native Mexico but has been known to make noise when he does play. Look for Martel to upset Zelada here (they met in 2015 and Jaime won in 3 easy games).
– #6/#11 Alan Natera takes on NY junior @Josh Shea in what could be a closer match than Natera may want. Shea has been improving his results lately and has been facing better and better competition.
– #7/#10 Bolivian vet @Kadim Carrasco takes on Maryland’s own Dylan Pruitt in what should be a stiff test for the local player playing on courts he knows pretty well.

projected quarters.
– #1 Daniel de la Rosa faces the winner of the Martell/Zelada match, but should have no problems moving on.
– #4 Sebastian Franco projects to face #5 @Andres Acuña , an interesting matchup of mid-teens IRT regulars. Franco is 3-0 lifetime against Acuna, never really being pushed, but all their past meetings are in the 2016-18 range. Acuna is a different player right now, and I sense an upset here, even though these courts are well known to the long-time Maryland resident Franco.
– #3 @Mario Mercado versus #6 Natera. Mercado is fresh off a tier 1 win late last year and an excellent showing at Worlds. He beat Natera twice heads up on tour last year, but both times were really close. I expect Mercado, a long-time DC area native who is quite familiar with this club, to advance in a close match again.
– #2 @Lalo Portillo projects to face #7 Carrasco. They have played once; in 2017, when Lalo was a shell of the player he is now. Portillo moves on in two.

Projected Semis and Finals:
– DLR over Acuna
– Lalo over Mercado

Final: Lalo upsets DLR, but not without DLR putting up a fight. He didn’t fly here from Arizona to not get the top prize. Lalo took the IRT component at this tourney last summer, taking out Franco and Zelada along the way, so he is not unfamiliar with the courts. And Lalo upset DLR in Sarasota last November, so he’s got a playbook for winning. How motivated is DLR in his first tourney back? We’ll see.

———————————
Men’s Open doubles

13 teams are entered into Open doubles, and the top four seeded teams are all touring regulars, which should make for some great semi finals action.

From the top half, look for #1 seeds Portillo/Franco to advance to the final, vanquishing teams that include top Maryland amateur @Dylan Pruitt playing with top junior from New York @Josh Shea, the #4 seeds Acuna/Natera, and the voice of the IRT Dean Baer , playing with fellow New Yorker @Anthony Armanuse.

From the bottom half, I like the #3 seeded team of @FormulaFlow players Zelada & Mercado to upset the #2 seeds from Bolivia Keller/Carasco to make the final. They’ll advance out of a quadrant that includes top teams from Virginia (Peter Appel and Ross Weinberg), Texas (@Richard Eisemann and @Cole Sendry), and frequent east coast tourney players @Brent Walters and Thomas Gerhardt.

In the final, Lalo/Franco win to give Lalo a double on the weekend and some serious confidence heading into the 2022 season.

———————————
Mixed Open doubles features five teams and some top women’s players. @Erika Manila is in town; she’s teamed up with the excellent mixed doubles player Mercado as the #1 seed in the RR draw. They’ll be challenged by fellow LPRT touring pro Brenda Laime at the #2 spot (teamed with house-mate and fellow FormulaFlow player Zelada) for the title. Also competing are two top-level Virginia mixed pairings in Kristin Junkin & Weinberg and two outdoor regulars @Aime Brewer and Gerhardt.

I like the draw to play out chalk; with Manilla/Mercado taking the title.

———————————
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 Baer and Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!

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 FB. If your name is here and it isn’t tagged … it probably means I attempted to tag you but FB stripped it.

Tags/Sponsor links
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@Federacion Mexicana de Raquetbol
@Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Racquetball Colombia
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball
Formulaflow

@Zurek Construction, LLC / Francisco Fajardo
AGE SOLUTIONS Andy Gomer
@Reaching Your Dream Foundation

Hashtags #racquetball #proracquetball #outdoorracquetball #irt #lprt #wor

3WallBall SoCal Outdoor Season Kickoff Invitational Shootout Recap

Danny Lavely powered his team to victory in the season opening shootout. Photo via Outdoor Nats 2021/Steve Fitzsimons

To kick off the 2022 season, on January 8th 2022 3Wall Ball and MC Vegas hosted an invitational Outdoor shootout at the courts of West Newport Park, right on Highway 1 in Newport Beach, California. These 3-wall/mid-wall courts are Rocky Carson ‘s favorite, his “home courts” that he practices on most frequently, and he was part of one of nine top-level teams invited to play in this shootout. Some of the players were rusty; it had been several weeks of inaction for most of the competitors, but eight games of round robin cleared off the dust by day’s end for everyone. And the shootout featured a great collection of top talent from SoCal and beyond.

Here’s a recap of the action.

The nine teams played a pure round-robin, one-game to 11 against the other eight teams, making for a ton of racquetball on the day. The top 6 teams from the RR stage advanced to a knockout round. Two teams dominated in the RRs (Geis/Rich and Lavely/Solis) going 8-0 and 7-1 respectively, and looked to be the favorites for the cash.

Here’s how the knockouts went.

In the quarters:
– #5 @Tom Durham and @Matt Barserian upset #4 @Tony Berg and @Scott Sinclair 15-10. This is a great result for the relatively unknown Barserian, who (like Micah Rich) is a great player who plays recreationally and can put up results when he’s in practice.
– #3 Rick Koll (aka “Soda Man”) and Emmett Coe took out the home-court playing Carson and his regular partner @Jesus Ustarroz 15-11. Soda Man traveled to LA with Coulter from Vegas and teamed up with the ever-tough Paddleball champion Coe to take out the two-time Outdoor National champs Carson & Jay.

In the semis:
– #1 @Jason Geis and @Micah Rich, your 2021 Outdoor National champs and Vegas 3WB pro finalists, topped Durham/Barserian 15-5 to move into the final.
– #2 @Greg Solis, WOR Hall of Fame inductee in 2018, and partner @Danny Lavely crushed Koll & Coe 15-2 to move into the final.

In the final, Lavely got hot and made the best adjustments to the fast penn ball being used, took advantage of some tiring arms after a long day, and pushed his team to the upset win over #1 Geis/Rich 15-5.

Thanks to @Mike Martinez and @prokennex for stopping by, thanks to 3WB and other sponsors, thanks to Coulter as always for his support of the sport, and thanks to the players for putting on a show.

(Photos courtesy of Mike Coulter)

Court Wars Wrap up

Bredenbeck helped his team to victory at the Court Wars PPV. Photo Kevin Savory 2020 USAR national doubles

The first ever Court Wars PPV racquetball event, held a the Bay Club in Pleasanton, CA, is in the books; here’s a wrap-up of the action.

In the first match, two NorCal juniors (well, near juniors) Antonio Rojas and Nikhil Prasad battled it out.

Prasad looked to me like he’s grown 6 inches since we last saw him, and he came out firing. Rojas came out quite cold and got smoked in the first game 11-2. Tatoe rebounded, found his game, and took the second game 11-7. In the breaker, Rojas seemed to tire a bit, and tried to keep it close, but Nik pulled away to take the match. Final score: 2,(7),7.

In Match #2…Mercado came out on fire, and won a crisp first game 11-4. Parrilla rebounded and played smarter shorts in game two and reversed the score, winning 11-4. After flipping a coin for the serve in the breaker, Mario ran out to a 4-1 win and was looking good … then Parrilla turned it on, went on a 10-0 run and took the breaker. Final score: (4),4,4

In Match #3, the two ladies pros battled out a back and forth match. In game one, Parrilla cruised to an 11-6 win. Erika came roaring back and raced to an 11-1 game two win. In the breaker, Erika got rolling in the service box, won a fantastic rally at 9-5, got a service winner on an iffy-maybe-it-was-a-screen-serve, then got a clear winner to take the 11th point and the match. Final score: (6),1,5.

Match #4 was perhaps the most anticipated “fun” match of the evening, featuring a couple of players who we know would “talk” their way through the match. Rojas showed a bit more rust than was expected, and Diaz was clearly frustrated by the calls, and the Bredenbeck’s won in two.

Match #5 was an interesting one: a rematch of The World’s final from just a week ago. Acuna came out hot and just blasted Landa, who looked like he was nursing an injury. But whatever was bugging Alex loosened up, and he cruised to game 2 and 3 wins.

—-
An excellent job by all parties, pulling this off for the first time.

Thanks to all the sponsors who made this possible including @Donald Williams and Williams Accounting & Consulting, Suivant Consulting , Dovetail/Mike Kinkead , plus all the other sponsors. Congrats to Adam Manilla , Erika Manilla and @Manilla Athletics for the great idea and for putting it on. Thanks to Wayne Antone for reffing, @Bobby Horn and @Elli John and Brian Pineda for all their announcing work.

2021 AGE Solutions Hollywood Beach Battle Wrap-up

Sostre the double winner this weekend. Photo Steve Fitzsimons 3WB 2020

Congrats to your One-wall Doubles winners on the weekend:

  • Men’s Pro Doubles: Robert Sostre/William Rolon
  • Women’s Pro Doubles: Masiel Rivera/Aimee Roehler
  • Mixed Pro Doubles: Robert Sostre/Masiel Rivera
  • 75+: Sergio Rivera/Suresh Vemulapalli

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=37870

The weather looked great and the competition was awesome all weekend. Here’s a recap of the four biggest draws.


Men’s Pro Doubles recap:

12 teams entered this draw, split into three RR groups. The format gave the winners of the RR groups byes into the knockout semis, and then the three second place teams played a winner-take all mini-RR group to determine the last semi finalists.

Group winners:

  • @Robert Sostre and William Rolon
  • @Yasmani Perez and Alejandro Barceló
  • @Ignacio Espinal and Eric Faro

The three 2nd place teams who duked it out for the last semi spot were:

  • @Thomas Gerhardt and @Mike Harmon
  • @Richie MIller and @David Blatt
  • @Freddie Ramirez and @Joe Young

Ramirez and Young claimed the last knockout spot by topping the wild card RR group.

In the semis, Sostre/Rolon took out Ramirez/Young in a matchup of long-time one-wall partners Iceman and Freddie. In the other semi, Espinal & Faro topped the surprise group winners Perez/Barcelo.

In the final, Sostre/Rolon were just too strong and took out Espinal & Faro in two close games.


Women’s Pro Doubles Recap:

The Women’s pro doubles played one big RR group to determine the top two teams, who then met again in a winner take all final.

In the group stage, LPRT touring pro @Masiel Rivera and Hall of Famer @Aimee Roehler cruised to a group win, with #1 seeds and NY one-wall legends @Maira Ramos and @Kathy Guinan taking second.

In the knockout final, Rivera/Roehler won the rematch against the New Yorkers to take the pro title.


Mixed Pro Recap;

An excellent mixed doubles draw was hit somewhat by injuries by Sunday morning, but still featured some top teams battling it out. The 10 teams split into RR groups of five each, with the top two teams advancing to the knockouts.

Group A winners: Sostre/Rivera
Group B winners: @Ruben Pagan / Roehler.

Second place finishers: @David Blatt and @Anita Maldonado from Group A, and @Richard Miller / @Maira Ramos from group B.

In the knockouts, Sostre/Rivera held serve in the top half, while Pagan/Roehler were upset by the NYC pairing of MIller/Ramos. In the final, Sostre/Rivera made it a double, winning the Mixed 21-16.


Combined 75+ Recap

The Combined 75+ was nearly as big of a draw as the Men’s Pro, and was hotly contested. Like with Mixed, the 11 teams split into two big RR groups, with the top two teams advancing to the semis.

From Group A, @Alejandro Barcelo and @Richie Miller took the group, with the traveling VA team of @Sergio Rivera and @Suresh Vemulapalli taking 2nd.

In Group B: the pro finalists Espinal and Faro took the top spot, while the Miami duo of @Daniel Talamo and @Gleiber Barrios Subires surprised some one-wall top pros to take second.

In the knockouts, some amazing upsets. Barcelo/Miller took out the underdog Miami pairing in the first semi, but the Virginians shocked the pro finalists to get to the finals. There, Rivera and Vemalapalli took out another favored pro outdoor pairing to surprise the tournament and win the final. Kudos to Rivera and Suresh for their big win!


Thanks to the Tourney Directors @thao le and @maddie melendez for putting this event on! Thanks to @vic leibofsky for his help on the draws and making sure all of us watching from afar knew what was going on.

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 FB. If your name is here and it isn’t tagged … it probably means I attempted to tag you but FB stripped it.


Next up?

Per our handy master racquetball calendar …
https://docs.google.com/…/1V6OTid6rZ356voXVkoV2sN7KMMbIP9S…/

… The next big tournament on the schedule is the IRT Suivant Consulting Grand Slam in Mid January 2022. We have a few lower tier events in the early part of January.


tags

2021 Hollywood Beach Battle Preview

Sostre is in Florida this weekend; can he take home multiple titles? Photo Steve Fitzsimons 3WB 2020

The AGE Solutions Hollywood Beach Battle

r2sports home page: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=37870

Just when you thought the outdoor season was over … the venerable DC-based team of racquetball promotors Thao Le and Maddie Melendez are bringing racquetball back to the Historic Garfield Street one-wall courts in Hollywood, Florida this coming weekend, with a little help from regular Florida racquetball organizers like Vic Leibofsky, Rob Mijares and Jeff Wright.

Headline sponsored by DC-area player @Andy Gomer and his company AGE Solutions, this is the first time tournament racquetball has been played on these courts since the March 2019 Beach Bash. 2020’s event was one of the first major rball events to be cancelled thanks to the burgeoning Covid crisis, and 2021’s event never got off the organizational floor with the city from a permitting perspective. But here we are, and the draws look amazing.

Despite a space-limited capacity figure for the tournament, this tournament has drawn a who’s who of one-wall players from up and down the east coast, with a number of players flying in from New York/New Jersey and Washington DC. Other top outdoor players are coming in from Arizona and Texas and North Carolina. And of course, a ton of Florida’s finest are here, ready to fend off the challenges from one-wall out-of-towners and try to take home the titles on home soil.

Here’s a quick preview of the doubles-only pro draws to be competed this weekend. Note: some of these draws and partnerships may change by the time draws are released; some last minute withdrawals have forced some scrambling to find new partners… the Tournament Director’s lament.


Men’s Pro Doubles.

There’s 12 teams entered into the Pro one-wall doubles, and the competition will be fierce. They’re split into three RR groups of four teams each to start.

In Group 1, the favorites are the top seeded NYC team of Robert Sostre and William Rolon, who were the 2019 and 2020 One-Wall champions in Vegas together. Individually, these two hold a slew of Beach Bash titles; Rolon won in 2017 and 2018 with David Blatt, while Sostre holds four Beach Bash titles (and made another four finals) with long-time partner Freddy Ramirez. The “Iceman” and “The Warrior” will be tough to beat. However, Group 1’s #2 seed is the sneaky good team of Thomas Gerhardt and Mike Harmon, who very accomplished indoor players who also more than hold their own in the outdoor arena.

In Group 2, the #1 seeds are the tough team of Richard Miller and David Blatt, who themselves are one-wall royalty from NYC. Miller owns three Beach Bash titles (and made the pro finals another five times), while Blatt (known as “The Hulk” or “The Hulkster”) has both a Beach Bash and a Vegas one-wall title on his resume. They’ll be pushed in their group by top outdoor Florida players such as @Marcos Gravier, Alejandro Barcelo, and Yasmani Pérez. Also, shoutout here to Osman Alejandro Lazarte, a long-time DC area top player who’s entered in with a dark-horse New Englander in Sudheer Tata and could make waves.

In Group 3, the top seeded team is one-wall royalty in Freddy Ramirez paired up with perhaps the most powerful player in Hollywood this weekend in Joe Young. Freddy owns dozens of one-wall titles in his career and is perhaps the best right-sided one-wall player in history, while Young blasted his way to a Beach Bash title in 2015 and is a regular in outdoor majors. They’ll be challenged in the group stage by NYC ex-pat @Ignacio Espinal (Iggy) playing with @Eric Faro from New York and a dark horse team from Stratton Woods in @Sergio Rivera and @Suresh Vemulapalli.

Group Predictions: I hate to go chalk, but its hard to see any of the three top seeds getting upset in the group stage. Best chance for an upset goes to Gerhardt/Harmon in group 1.

The playoffs will be determined in a cool way: the three group winners advance to the semis, while the three runners-up will play a mini RR to determine the fourth semi finalist.

In the knockouts, I like Miller/Blatt over Ramirez/Young in the final, if the brackets work out that way.


Mixed Pro Doubles

The Mixed Pro draw is stacked. Some of the teams that stood out to me as immediate contenders include:

  • Sostre playing with LPRT touring pro Masiel Rivera Oporto
  • Gerhardt playing with Virginia top outdoor player @Aime brewer.
  • Ruben Pagan of onewallball.com playing with Hall of Famer Aimee Roehler.
  • Blatt playing with the legendary Anita Maldonado, who owns five major one-wall titles and is perhaps the best female paddleball player of all time.
  • Miller playing with @Maira Ramos, a pairing that won both the 2010 and the 2013 Mixed pro Beach Bash titles together.
  • Freddy playing with Kathy Guinan – Norwex Independent Consultant, who owns two Beach Bash doubles titles from 2010 and 2012.

Wow. These round robins are going to be amazing. Each RR group has three teams that you could make easy arguments for advancing.

Predictions: I’m going to go with Sostre/Rivera winning group one, Pagan/Roehler in group two, and Sostre/Rivera taking the playoff.


Women’s Pro Doubles

There’s eight women’s pro doubles teams entered, and the competition looks fierce.

In Group A, an old-school pairing of Guinan/Ramos will look to fend off what looks like a very powerful team of Roehler/Rivera.

In Group B, look for a battle between the Virginia-based pairing of Carrie Handfinger Hoeft and Brewer and the @Claudia Andrade/@Michelle Michbo Herbert team, which could be pretty tough.

In the final, I don’t think Roehler/Rivera can be stopped.


Other Draws

There’s huge Draws in Elite, in Men’s 75+, and others. Kudos to all the players who are flying in to support this event.


Look for streaming from the individual players throughout the weekend. I know that wifi is tough at the court, so we’ll hope for the best we can.

3WallBall Outdoor World Championships
Mid-Atlantic World Outdoor Racquetball
WOR – World Outdoor Racquetball

Court Wars 2021 Preview

Marco Rojas comes out of retirement for the Manilla Court Wars. Photo Kevin Savory

For the first time in years, perhaps dating to the old Hogan-Yellen winner-take-all matches in the late 1980s, a racquetball promoter has put together a pay-for-play exhibition and its happening this coming weekend.


The Manilla Athletics Court Wars 2021 is set to happen on 12/18/21, live on pay per view and available at this website:
https://manillaathletics.com/courtwars-info

Consider supporting this endeavor and buying your tickets. I’ve got mine. We need more of this kind of out-of-the-box thinking, not less, in our sport.


Title sponsors include the two owners of Manilla Athletics (that being pro players and team USA members Adam Manilla and Erika Manilla) as well as two of the leading sponsors of racquetball in the Atlanta area, Williams Consulting and Suivant Consulting.

There’s already a great preview at https://manillaathletics.com/courtwars-info of each of the 5 matches (which I highly recommend to go read) but here’s my preview and prediction for the five matches in the event.


Match #1: Antonio Rojas versus Nikhil Prasad.
First up is an all Junior (well, nearly junior) event, featuring two of the more decorated Junior competitors the USA has ever seen. Both players hail from northern California (Rojas from Stockton, and Prasad from Fremont). Rojas finished his junior career with 8 junior national titles and simultaneously held the 16U and 18U titles in 2019 (a rare feat: it has only been done by two other males, that being Jose Rojas and Jack Huczek). Prasad is still going, is the reigning 16U junior national champion as we speak and holds six junior national titles, with a chance to sweep the 18Us in the next two years to match Tatoe’s accomplishments.
Neither player has yet to debut on the pro tour (though Tatoe did play in a WRT event when he was quite young).

Prediction: I think age wins out here: Prasad is an excellent player and clearly the best 16U player in the land, but Rojas was winning 18U titles when he was Prasad’s age, and at this young age, a couple of years of experience and strength means a ton.


Match #2: Mario Mercado versus Andree Parrilla
Match #2 features two IRT touring pros, the currently ranked #4 and #10 players on tour. Both are experienced international players, and both represented their home countries at the recent World championships (Parrilla playing for Mexico, Mercado playing for Colombia).
They’ve met 5 times professionally, all on the IRT. Parrilla leads h2h 3-2. Their last meeting was at this year’s US Open, a two game 11,8 win for Andree. But, Mercado is coming off a strong run of form; he won the Arizona pro-am IRT event in November and made it to the semis of Worlds, where he dropped an 11-9 thriller to Acuna to miss out on the finals.
They play a somewhat contrasting style: Mercado is inarguably a shooter, going for bottom boards and pinch shot rollouts at every opportunity. Parrilla is more of a grinder, a defender who relies on accuracy more than power. This match could come down to who is sharper, and despite the run of form lately I give the edge to the higher ranked pro:

Prediction: Parrilla in a breaker.


Match #3: Erika Manilla versus Jessica Parrilla
I love this matchup, especially right now, because Manilla has had a great run of form and is looking like she merits a spot in the top 10 on tour. Meanwhile, Parrilla IS in the top 10 on tour right now, meaning this could be a very evenly matched contest.
They’ve only met once: way back in 2017 at the US Open, an easy 3-game win for Parrilla when Erika was barely out of juniors. But so much has happened since then: Parrilla suffered an awful knee injury and missed an entire year on tour, and really is still working her way back. Manilla finished college and has now been able to focus more fully on playing, and her results show. She had a great run at the US Open (making the pro semis and really pushing #1 Longoria), and she made the doubles final at Worlds with Rhonda Rajsich. She continues to get solid wins on tour.
The key to this match will be emotions. As in, who can manage theirs better. Both players play with their emotions plainly on their sleeves; a missed shot results in gesticulation, while a made shot results in exaltation. Sometimes playing with emotion can be good, other times it can be blinding to proper game management. Look for plenty of “Come on!” and “Vamos” from the competitors as they battle this one out.

Prediction: Parrilla in a close breaker.


Match #4: Doubles: Jose Diaz & Marco Rojas versus Jake Bredenbeck and Sam Bredenbeck
A fun doubles exhibition, featuring two of the best doubles players in America and long-time double partners Diaz and Jake. Diaz and Jake made the finals of the 2014 Pan American sports Festival, the Finals of the 2015 US Open, a bunch of Pro doubles finals, and the 2020 US national doubles finals.
But now times have changed: Jake played 2021 US nationals with his brother Sam and seems to have taken his brother on as a permanent doubles partner, likely due to Diaz stepping back from playing. How will these two fare on the court facing each other for the first time in years?
Meanwhile, some newer fans of the sport may not “remember” just how good Rojas was on tour. He was in the top 10 for four years in the mid 2010s, a constant presence in the back-ends of tournaments, and maintains to this day winning h2h records against a slew of top players (Landa, DLR, Pratt, Murray, Horn, and Diaz). A victim of the financial issues in our sport, Rojas quit the tour in May of 2017 to focus on getting a “real job,” which he’s been doing ever since.
But now he’s back, and he’s part of what promises to be a very vocal “209” pairing, going against the Minnesota farm hand brother-brother pairing. There is no lack of confidence coming from the Rojas/Diaz pairing, and they’ll be sure to let everyone know as the game moves on.
Generally when i predict doubles matches, I look at the strongest and weakest players on the court as the determining factors. I’m assuming Rojas will get some practice time in, but will his rustiness be a factor? Meanwhile, Jake projects to be the most dominant player on the court; can he carry the team? Of the four players, Sam is the least accomplished player; will that be the determining factor?

Prediction: Diaz/Rojas eke it out.


Match #5: Alex Landa versus Andres Acuña
Well, you couldn’t ask for a better match here. This is an immediate rematch of the 2021 World final, won in dominant fashion by Landa 6,6.
I won’t rehash the “history” between these two; it is well documented elsewhere. What I will point out is this: these guys have played each other, a lot, this year. This will be the fifth meeting between these two players since August. Landa won the first three (all round of 16 matches in pro events), before Acuna took out the mentally fatigued Landa in Sarasota, a huge upset and a marquee win for Acuna’s career. Then Acuna played fantastic ball all week in Guatemala to earn a well-merited spot in the gold medal game.
On paper, this is World #2 versus World #16, and you wouldn’t think it would be that close. But in reality, these are players moving in opposite directions. Acuna is up and coming, has added pace and is starting to get notable wins left and right. Landa is now 33, kind of a “witching hour” age for pro racquetball players where they generally lose a step or two, lose a few MPH on their fastballs, and suddenly go from top dogs to upset-fodder. Not to mention … at some point you have to “grow up” and realize you can’t play rball forever. Is this where Landa sits right now, career wise? His recent results (outside of winning Worlds) certainly show this; he has not made a final since March of 2020, and he’s taking first-time losses to a number of up and coming players.
The big question for this match will be; is Landa’s heart going to be into it? If he’s not getting up for pro tournaments, can he get up for an exhibition? Meanwhile, Acuna plays to win; he doesn’t take matches off; he can’t afford to right now. Every win for him is more important than the last and he’s hungry.

Prediction: Acuna wins.


Tune in 12/18/21 at 11am PST/2pm EST.

LPRT 29th Xmas Classic Wrap-Up

Erika Manilla is really starting to make a name for herself on tour. Photo 2021 US Open via Kevin Savory


Congrats to Paola Longoria, who was the double pro winner on the weekend yet again. She adds to her already amazing pro title history; this is her 105th pro Tier 1 singles title and her 49th Pro Doubles title since we started tracking pro doubles on the women’s tour in Aug 2014.
Paola won the doubles title this weekend with Maria Jose Vargas Parada, and not her regular doubles partner Salas (who was absent this week).


Singles Match report: http://rball.pro/5819A5
Doubles match report: http://rball.pro/6AAF40

Here’s a quick run-through the notable singles matches this weekend for me:

  • Great win for Erika Manilla in the 16s, controlling the powerful Mexican player Montse Mejia in two games. Mejia won a grand slam earlier this year, but has several head scratching losses since. Not to take anything away from Manilla, whose US Open performance and subsequent playing has her firmly in my world top 8 right now.
  • Also a great win for Carla Muñoz Montesinos in the 16s, taking out #9 Valeria Centellas in the round of 16 with ease. Munoz is close to breaking back into the top 10 and this was a solid win that will help cement her return.
  • Kelani Lawrence got another win over her American rival Rhonda Rajsich, and had to come back from a game down to do so.
  • Maria Renee Rodríguez took #6 Jessica Parrilla to a breaker after a somewhat disappointing Worlds showing.
    The seeds held from the quarters onward, with the draw going perfectly chalk. But there were some closer games and matches.
  • Lawrence nearly took game one in the quarters from #2 Vargas before losing 14,6
  • Herrera could not repeat the feat of downing Vargas twice in a row and fell in the semis in a breaker 7,(13),8. However, it does seem like we’re starting to see a real rivalry for the #2 spot on tour, which means great projected semi finals each week.
  • #4 Natalia Mendez Erlwein cooled the hot Manilla in the quarters to play to her seed once again.
  • In the final, Vargas really pushed Longoria in game one 15-13 before falling. Would like to see some consistent competition for the #1 player.

On the doubles draw, the #1 seeds of Alexandra Herrera and Mejia advanced to the final as expected, where they faced the tough Vargas/Longoria pairing. The two top teams split games before Longoria/Vargas blew away their young Mexican counter parts in the breaker to take the title.

In Mixed doubles, we had some excellent play. A number of the top LPRT pros teamed up with the pros and top amateurs playing to give the draw a really solid mixed feel.
The semis featured Lalo Portillo and Alexandra Herrera taking out two local players in Ben Bleyer and Masiel Rivera Oporto, while on the bottom Mario Mercado and Erika Manilla made for a formidable pairing and topped Lawrence, playing with lefty North Carolinian Jacob Matthews.

In the final though, Mercado/Manilla could not overtake the excellent doubles players in Lalo/Herrera and lost in two.

Men’s Open draw
A healthy 17 player draw featured four top pros who held to their seeds and advanced into the quarters.

Local amateurs Josh Shea (NY), Joe Kelley (PA), Austin Cunningham (GA) and Dylan Pruitt (MD) advanced into the quarters and put up good fights against the top touring pros; indeed, three of the four quarters went to breaker. However, the top seeds advanced to the semis for some quality late-round pro action. At the top, Portillo cruised past local favorite MoMo Zelada 11,0, while at the bottom Mario Mercado​ lost a Worlds quarterfinal rematch against USA’s Jake Bredenbeck, but then was given an inj fft into the final. Unfortunately, no final was held; Mercado got the walkover win despite losing the semi.

Great last tournament of the 2021 from all involved; thanks to the Grisz clan Karen Grisz and Mike Grisz for running the 29th version of this long-running tournament.

What’s next?
After an incredibly busy month, the ladies get a break. The next scheduled pro stop on the LPRT isn’t until mid February, when Sudsy Monchik is hosting the tour in Vero Beach, FL. We hope for a January event for the ladies pros.

LPRT 29th Annual Christmas Classic Preview

Can Kelani build on her run to the Worlds final? Photo USAR Singles 2019 via Kevin Savory


Hot on the heels of the finish of Worlds, the 29th annual Xmas classic tournament is upon us. This year it is being held in my old stomping grounds in Severna Park, Maryland, moving from its host from years past due to the long-standing Sportfit Laurel club closing during Covid.
R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=36518
Thanks to the busy racquetball calendar over the past month, participation is down greatly here versus a typical LPRT event. Most of the women’s pro draws over the past two seasons have been in the 30-35 range; this event has just 19 players entered.

top20 players missing; #4 Martinez (probably exhausted after finishing “hosting” duties in Guatemala), #6 Barrios (tough logistics between Bolivia, Guatemala and Baltimore), #8 Salas (hot off another doubles title), and #12 Laime (which is kind of weird because she lives about 20 minutes from the club).

Lets preview the draw.
The round of 16 features 3 play-in matches, all of which feature a regular touring player facing off against a younger rival. Perez-Chen, Ros-Scott, and Rivera-Diaz could all be interesting matches.
The Round of 16 features several really compelling matches that I can’t wait to see.

  • #8/#9 Carla Muñoz Montesinos versus Valeria Centellas should be interesting: both players were upset early at Worlds (relative to their seedings in the singles and doubles knockouts) and will be looking for the quarterfinal spot here. Munoz has been gradually working her way back into the top 10 for a few years now after finishing 8th in 2017, and a show-me win against a similarly ranked player like Centellas are important to get that top 10 ranking.
  • #5 Montse Mejia vs #12 Erika Manilla; wow, great match for the 16s. Mejia, when she’s in the game mentally, is among the four best players in the world and is on a short list of players who’ve beaten Longoria in the past few years. Manilla has been rocketing up the rankings on the back of her excellent US Open showing and will be riding high after playing a huge part of Team USA’s IRF Worlds win last weekend. Which Mejia shows up in Maryland?
  • #3 Alexandra Herrera versus #14 Hollie Rae Scott; a first-time match-up for these two players, and it could be interesting. Herrera had a career best showing in the last LPRT event, beating Vargas in the semis and then going toe-to-toe with Longoria before losing the pro final 11-9. Can she build on that performance and regain #2 on tour? Meanwhile, Scott has a knack for beating top LPRT pros when she enters events; upset watch here.
  • #7 Rhonda Rajsich vs #10 Kelani Lawrence; these two just faced off in the semis of Worlds in Guatemala, with Kelani taking a straight-forward 12,7 win. They turn around and play in the 16s less than a week later; how will the travel and emotions of last week affect each player? On paper Rajsich is slightly favored, but these two keep trading off wins and losses over the past few years.
    Projecting the Quarters:
  • #1 Paola Longoria, fresh off a dominant performance in Guatemala, should move past the winner of Centellas/Munoz here.
  • #4 Mendez could face a stiff foe against whoever advances between Mejia and Manilla. If Manilla wins, she’s got the momentum to get to the semis, but if Mejia wins, Mejia would be slightly favored.
  • #3 Herrera over #6 Jessica Parrilla; the lefty Herrera has not lost to Jessica since 2016, and it doesn’t seem like she’ll lose here either.
  • #2 Vargas versus the Lawrence/Rajsich winner. An interesting wrinkle here: Rajsich upset Vargas to knock her out of Worlds in a shock round of 16 upset; could we see a rematch? Or, if Lawrence advances, can she take out the powerful Argentine, who might be looking for some revenge after losing so early last week?
    My projected semis and finals:
  • Longoria over Mejia
  • Vargas over Herrera
  • and Longoria cruising to another pro title in the final.

Doubles review
Eight teams are entered here: Longoria is without her typical doubles partner Salas and instead has teamed up with Vargas … and are somehow only seeded third. The entire draw looks compelling and should be fun to watch.
From the top, I’ll predict #1 Herrera/Mejia advance to the final; these two have shown they’ve got the chops to take over #1 at some point if/when Longoria/Salas retire.
From the bottom, we get an immediate rematch of the semis from Worlds, with team USA (#7 seed) facing off against team Argentina (#2 seeds). I’m going with team USA again, who then lose to the powerful Longoria/Vargas team in the semis.

In the final, look for some fireworks but for the two top ranked ladies to vanquish the budding Mexican duo.

Men’s Draw: there’s a pretty good little Men’s Pro draw in Severna Park, with 17 players from up and down the east coast and beyond competing. We have not seen the draw yet, but it features top 10 quality IRT pros such as Lalo Portillo, Mario Mercado, Jake Bredenbeck, and MoMo Zelada to go along with top regional amateurs such as Ben Bleyer, Joe Kelley, Austin Cunningham, and NY junior phenom Josh Shea.
Kind of squinting to predict the seeds, i’d guess we’d see Portillo vs Zelada in one semi (barring any upsets), and Jake vs Mario in a tough Worlds rematch in the other. Great matches, especially Jake vs Mario, who just played in Worlds and where Mario took him out in a breaker.

Early prediction: Lalo beats Mario in the final.

Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the LPRT on Facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live.
Look for Timothy Baghurst, Jerry J Josey Jr. and the one and only JT R Ball on the mike (JT has flown in all the way from California for this event).
Thanks to the Tourney Directors Karen Grisz and all your crew for putting this event on!
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