IRT 2020 Longhorn Open Wrap-Up

Kane wins his home-town event and secures his 600th pro match victory. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Singles: Kane Waselenchuk

Kane wins again, without dropping a game and only gave up 13 points in 6 games prior to the final. He secures his 600th professional match win in the process, behind only Cliff Swain all time on the men’s pro tour (see http://rball.pro/133532 for a list of all time match wins on tour).

Kane is now 21-1 on the season, that one loss being a last-minute forfeit out of the season opening Atlanta event.

Thanks to an early loss by #2 Landa and an absence by #3 Carson, Kane maintains his 300+ point lead at top of the standings and looks poised to expand that in the next two weeks.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31338

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Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report on PRS: http://rball.pro/EDA61F

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In the 128s and 64s:

First off, there were no less than six wbf-ns in the opening two rounds of qualifications. Unfortunately, several of the players who forfeited where guys who I thought could make somewhat deep runs here. I got a little bit of the context of the forfeits; lots of guys signed up quite early (because this is such a popular event), then could not secure funding for affordable flights and had to bail. I’m bummed though for those who wanted to play and couldn’t get to Austin.

That being said, we did see some interesting early round matches:

In the 128s:
– #37 Diana-Shai Manzuri downed #28 Justus Benson 10,8.
– #38 Alejandro Almada downed #27 Scott McClellan 11-9 in the breaker. I wonder if the match was self-refereed.. (ok, ok, bad joke).

In the 64s:
– #20 Javier Mar took out fellow traveling Mexican #36 Juan Loreto in two to advance. Loreto made up for it by making a solid run to the Men’s Open semis.
– #19 Adam Manilla was made to work for it from relative unknown Bolivian Miguel A. Arteaga Guzman , winning in the breaker to move on.
– #26 Bolivian Kadim Carrasco took out #39 Mexican Edson Martinez in two games 5,11. Solid win for Carrasco.

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In the 32s, we started to see some fireworks.
– #24 Alan Natera Chavez​ downed #9 Jake Bredenbeck in two games 12,8. The giant-killer in Natera surfaces again and takes out the highest unprotected seed in the draw.
– #20 Mar continued his run, taking out #13 Carlos Keller Vargas​ in two. This is Keller’s earliest exit this season but it comes at the hand of a player who’s probably one of the top 6-7 players in the world irrespective of seeding.
– #19 Manilla gets a walk-over into the main draw thanks to #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalezs no-show.
– #11 Mario Mercado Valenzuela​ had to come from a game down to top local Texan #38 Alejandro Almada in the breaker. Almada was the 38th seeded player out of 39 players in this draw thanks to the fact that its his first ever IRT Tier 1 stop. He had played a slew of WRT events as he matriculated out of the junior ranks, where he won a number of Mexican and World junior titles. He’s currently a student at U-Texas, thus he’s playing on his home courts, and he’s the two-time runner-up at USAR Intercollegiates. He’s also got solid wins in non-Tier 1 IRT events on his resume, and we hope to see more of him.
– #23 Javier Estrada went big-game hunting and took out #10 Sebastian Franco​ 13,7. Estrada played up to his potential and advanced.
– #18 Eduardo Garay topped #15 Thomas Carter​ in two close games to advanced into the main draw for the 7th time in his young career.

So, the round of 32 saw the #9, #10, #13, #14, and #15 seeds fall to lower seeded players. What would we see in the 16s?

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In the 16s … even more fireworks

– #1 Kane Waselenchuk got his tourney started by crushing Costa Rican #16 Andres Acuña 3,2. They met at this gate earlier this year in Arizona with similar results.
– #8 Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball took out the upset minded #24 Natera 14,9 to setup the highly anticipated quarter.
– #5 Canadian Samuel Murray​ was pushed by #12 David Horn​ but prevailed in a breaker.
– #4 Alvaro Beltran​ surprised this observer and turned the tides on his younger Mexican rival for the first time in a while, topping #20 Mar in a tiebreaker. I can’t recall the last time Beltran got the better of Mar on the court.
– In a huge upset, #19 Manilla took out #3 Andree Parrilla​ 6,9. Manilla advances to his 4th pro quarterfinal, and gets easily the best win of his career. He’ll face a player in Mercado in the quarters who he has beaten multiple times, and he has to like his chances of advancing to the semis for the first time.
– #11 Mercado topped #6 Lalo Portillo​ to give the young Mexican his third straight one-and-done since achieving a top8 seed. A solid showing by the Colombian to get the wins he needed.
– #7 Daniel De La Rosa trounced #23 Estrada 6,4, avenging a loss to his Mexican rival in the Black Gold cup this past summer and getting DLR a solid win to advance.
– In the round’s biggest upset though, #18 Garay took out the #2 player on tour Alex Landa ​6,(12),1. Garay served lights out in game one, frustrating Landa. They played a closer game 2, with Landa pulling away at the end to force the breaker. But Garay’s ability to put power pinches away and force a lot of 3-shot rallies and pecked away to suddenly dominate and win the breaker 11-1.

Fun fact; there is a radar gun on the court, and Garay/Landa were routinely putting serves and kill shots in the upper 140 ranges. Cannot wait to see what kind of speeds we see in the Kane-Conrrado quarter.

Seed report in the 16s: top of the draw is chalk 1,8,5,4. Bottom? Instead of 3,6,7,2 its 19,11,7,18. We could be seeing a double digit seed in the final for the first time since Moscoso sprinted to the US Open final as a 15th seed last October.

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In the Quarters:

– Fans were robbed of the anticipated Kane vs Conrrado match: Conrrado picked up an injury in his round of 16 match and could barely move from the onset of his match against Kane. On the match’s first serve, he could barely put weight on his leg as he moved towards the ball, and looked to be in considerable pain. Curiously, he chose not to forfeit, but to play the entire match, giving up ace after ace and eventually losing 4,1. Lets just hope its not a serious injury, given that he’s slated to play and compete in the next two events back to back.
– #4 Beltran held serve and topped #5 Murray for the third time in his career and second time this season, moving on to the semis.
– #19 Manilla indeed took care of business against #11 Mercado, a player he’s beaten numerous times, dominating and winning 8,9 to achieve his first ever pro semi final.
– #7 DLR made short work of #18 Garay, advancing 6,8 and controlling the match. Garay showed none of the dominance that enabled him to frustrate Landa, and DLR puts himself into a position to be the favorite for the final. He also advances to just his second semi on the season; is this the event that allows Daniel to get his season back on track?

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In the Semis:
– #1 Kane absolutely blasted #4 Beltran 1,2 to advance to the final. Kane is set to possibly challenge his own record of “Most dominant tourney win.” He’s given up 13 points in 6 games thus far through three rounds. I think its safe to say he likes these courts … or likes playing in front of his home crowd.
– #7 DLR ended the cinderella run of #19 Manilla, but not before it looked like Adam might get another big win. Manilla took the first game 15-13, but then DLR got out to a dominant lead in game two to control it 15-7. In the breaker DLR continued his adjustments and cruised to an 11-2 breaker win and advanced to his first final of the season. We miss out on the first lefty-lefty final in more than a decade on tour.

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In the Finals:
– Kane was pushed for the only time all tournament by DLR, who ran off stretches of consecutive points at times that had fans remembering the days when it was a foregone conclusion that he was the “next big thing” in the sport. Kane was down big in game 2 before mounting a crushing comeback and eventual win 9,10.

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Points Implications of results

Thanks to the results on the weekend, here’s what I think will happen points-wise. There was an event from last season that expires 1/19/20, so this event will just replace those points like for like. This analysis doesn’t include the Tier 5s going on this past weekend in Laurel, MD, but the points earned there won’t appreciably change any rankings for any top players.

– Moscoso will move from #7 to #6 despite earning fewer points than DLR. Daniel drops to #7, his lowest ranking since the 2013-14 season, despite his finals appearance thanks to treading water with 2019’s expiring points.
– Montoya will drop from 9th to 13th, which is kind of a bummer for him since he missed the event to accept an award for his accomplishments from his home city of Chihuahua.
– Garay jumps up from 21 to 17 on the back of his qtr appearance.
– Interestingly, Manilla’s big weekend only moves him up one spot thanks to a big gulf of points between him and the players right above him previously. But, another qtr appearance could jump him up a few slots based on his closing that gap.
– Diaz drops 6 spots from 24 to 30 with his absence this weekend, further evidence of his touring status.

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Doubles and other draws from the weekend:

No pro doubles on the weekend. But a recurring pro doubles team in Keller/Carrasco teamed up to win the Open doubles over two Texans in Manzuri and Mascorro.

In the Men’s open draw, Lalo Portillo topped a solid field with an on-the-court win over Natera and a walk-over win in the final to take the title.

In the Women’s Open, #1 seed Maria Renee Rodríguez took out #2 seeded Linda Tyler in the final between two regular LPRT players.

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Next up? The Men turn right around and head to Sioux Falls, while the ladies head to South Carolina for the big Grand Slam. A busy weekend of rball coming up!

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International Racquetball Tour
LPRT
USA Racquetball
Racquetball Canada
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Racquetball Colombia
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball
Federación Costarricense de Racquetball
Asociación Argentina de Racquetball
Racquet Chile
Jugadores Racquetbol GuatemalaRacquetball Tournament in Austin, TX USA. Dates: 1/16/2020 – 1/19/2020.R2SPORTS.COM

IRT 2020 Longhorn Open Preview

Moscoso is back in the States. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

One of the sports biggest amateur events has added the IRT men to its slate of competitors, making for a massive tournament in Austin this coming weekend. No less than 457 players are entered into this weekend’s Longhorn Open, with a healthy 39-man pro draw.

The IRT returns to the state of Texas for the first time since March of 2018 … and to Austin for the first time since Feb 2003. Its also the first time the tour’s #1 player Kane Waselenchuk has been able to play a “home” event since Oct 2015.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31338

In the 39 man singles draw, we have the hoped-for strong Mexican player contingent, which is going to make for some *great* preliminary rounds and some fascinating match-ups. We are missing some key names though from the draw:
– #3 Rocky Carson announced on FB last week that he’s decided to skip this event to give his surgically repaired knee a bit more time to heal. He had a small knee op done in mid-Dec and isn’t quite ready to go yet.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís also missing.

These two absences jump #10 Lalo Portillo into the top 8 … and then thanks to the flip seeding this event he secures a lofty #6 seed. FYI, in case you’re wondering why the 5-8 seeds look odd, the flip seeding has resulted in slightly altered seedings versus rankings this event:
– #5 seeded Samuel Murray is ranked 8th at current
– #6 seeded Portillo is ranked 10th as noted above
– #7 seeded Daniel De La Rosa is ranked 6th at current
– #8 seeded Conrrado Moscoso is ranked 7th at current.

The more apparent and obvious implication of the flip is the possible Moscoso-Waselenchuk match-up in the quarters.

Other top 30 players missing in this event are #18 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez, #27 Sam Bredenbeck and #29 Jansen Allen, the longtime touring pro who misses an event that’s drive-able from his home outside of Dallas.

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

In the round of 128:
– #32 vs #33: Christian Longoria vs Andres Gomez; tough first rounder for the Colombian; Longoria is sneaky good and could be pressing for a main draw spot.
– #28 Justus Benson vs #37 Diana-Shai Manzuri; Manzuri continues to represent Argentina internationally well into his 40s, and will be a tough out for the regular tour player Benson. A home-state match-up for two Texas residents.
– #26 Kadim Carrasco vs #39 Edson Martinez: Martinez is seeded 39th of 39 players here, but he’s not the 39th best player in this draw. He’s made the quarters of this event twice in the last three years (albeit, when it was an WRT event). This could be a close match.

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In the round of 64:
– #33 Longoria vs #17 Robert Collins; Collins just misses out on the bye into the 32s, and may run into a player who can top him in Longoria.
– #20 Javier Mar vs #29 Alejandro Cardona; what a brutal match for these two. Mar is one of the top 6-7 players in the world, and Cardona isn’t far behind him. This is a quarter-final quality match happening way too early. I like Mar to move on and make a deep run here, as he frequently does during his rare IRT appearances.
– #19 Adam Manilla versus #30 Ernesto Ochoa; a great “show me” match-up between an IRT touring regular and an up and coming Mexican player with a ton of impressive wins on his resume. I like Ochoa for the upset.
– #23 Javier Estrada versus the Carrasco/Martinez winner; Estrada had a number of quality wins in the latter part of 2019, including two wins over Javier Mar. But he’s proven to be inconsistent. His last IRT appearance featured a win over Horn to make the main draw. Can he repeat here?

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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:
– #9 Jake Bredenbeck vs #24 Alan Natera Chavez; Natera is another wild-card; he’s made the semis of Mexican Nationals two years running and has a ton of high-level wins, but he also can take curious losses. Which Natera will show up here? He can handle Jake’s power for sure; will that be enough? Jake looks to build on a solid pro season so far, which features no main draws missed and a semis appearance in Portland.
– #12 David ” Bobby” Horn vs #21 Jose Diaz; fly all the way to Texas to play the guy who lives down the road. Horn/Diaz know each other’s game pretty well, both being NorCal players frequenting the “209.” Who will have the upper hand on the day? I’m going to flip a coin and go with Diaz.
– #13 Carlos Keller Vargas vs #20 Mar: tough one for Keller; these two met at the US Open and Mar advanced. I think Keller’s streak of making the round of 16 ends here.
– #30 Ochoa vs #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; Ochao downed Franco the last time they played last year in an RKT event; i think he wins again.
– #10 Sebastian Franco vs #23 Estrada: This could be a great match-up; I think these two are pretty close talent wise and if both are on their games, expect a dog-fight. I’ll go with Estrada here.
– #15 Thomas Carter vs #18 Eduardo Garay: Garay if he’s on his game can overpower Carter here, despite the Ohioan’s good play as of late.

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round of 16:
– #1 Kane over Acuna
– #8 Moscoso over #9 Jake
– #5 Samuel Murray over #21 Diaz
– #20 Mar over #4 Alvaro Beltran; Beltran gets one of the few qualifiers who I think can beat him. Mar pipped Beltran in the 2016 Mexican nationals to take a natioanl team spot from him, and since then Mar has continued to exude class.
– #3 Andree Parrilla over #30 Ochao; Ochoa has beaten Parrilla in the past (San Luis Potosi in 2018), but Parrilla needs to take advantage of his seeding to try to make a run to the final. i think he’ll move on here.
– #11 Mario Mercado over #6 Portillo: Portillo has run into talented players and one-and-dones the last two tournaments at this stage, and he runs into another one in Mercado. Mercado has the patience to beat the youngster Portillo and will move on with a tactical approach.
– #23 Estrada over #7 Daniel De La Rosa: I don’t think DLR’s heart is in it right now; i think he’s vulnerable to upset and a fired up guy like Estrada, who beat DLR the last time they played, could spell a one-and-done for the pickleball pro.
– #2 Alex Landa vs #18 Garay: Garay’s power won’t phase Landa, who’s putting together his best season and has shown little in the way of cracks in the armor.

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Projected Qtrs:
– #1 Kane vs #8 Moscoso: the US Open final rematch, a scintillating match on the sport’s biggest stage that showed the world what we could be in store for, if only the Bolivian played the tour full time. They met a few weeks later in teh semis of Arizona and Kane issued a schooling 10,2. What may happy here? Has Conrrado fixed his foot fault issues? Can he press the King?
– #20 Mar over #5 Murray; they’ve played a few times, and I don’t think Mar has ever lost to the Canadian #1.
– #3 Parrilla over #11 Mercado
– #2 Landa over #23 Estrada; Estrada’s magic runs out, though notably i don’t have a meeting between these two in the database. Would love to see these two face off.

Semis and Finals:
– Kane over Mar
– Landa over Parrilla

Finals; Kane over Landa.

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No pro doubles this event, but the Men’s Open is a full 32 strong, headlined by a slew of touring players. Since Portillo is ranked outside the top 10, he’s “allowed” to enter the Men’s Open draw despite being the 6th pro seed, and he’s the favorite in that draw. But there’s a slew of top local and Mexican players also in that draw, making it as compelling to the neutrals as the pro draw.

I also wanted to point out that there’s 52 players in the Men’s A draw. 52. There weren’t 52 combined men in Open, Elite AND A at the 2019 US Nationals event. Its no wonder the USAR is moving its Nationals event to this part of the country.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; can’t wait for this event!

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

Florida LPRT Pro/Am Wrap-Up

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

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Singles: Paola Longoria
– Doubles; Paola Longoria/Alexandra Herrera

A double win on the weekend for Longoria, who takes her 96th Tier-1 singles tournament win along with her 43rd pro doubles title since the fall of 2013.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31860

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Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report on www.proracquetballstats.com: http://rball.pro/D163E1

In the 16s, a couple of upsets:
-#12 seeded junior Valeria Centellas took out veteran #5 Rhonda Rajsich in a tie-breaker. Centellas won a topsy turvy match where she dropped the middle game 15-2 but held on in the breaker, keeping the pressure on Rhonda with a lot of pace and great getting ability.

– #13 fellow Bolivian junior Micaela Meneses Cuellar fared well against #3 Natalia Mendez, losing 6,8. Its worth noting that Meneses just finished her age-15 year.

– #11 Kelani Lawrence finally got a pro win over a top 8 touring player, downing #6 seeded Nancy Enriquez in a tight 13,14 match. She achieves her first pro quarterfinal appearance with a great showing.

– #7 Amaya Cris held on to down #10 @Maria Maria Renee Rodríguez 11-8 in the breaker.

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In the Quarters, the top 3 players advanced and we got another big upset.
– #1 Paola Longoria handled #8 Jessica Parrilla 6,9 to move into the semis.
– #2 Maria Jose Vargas took two closer games against #7 Amaya to move on.
– #3 Alexandra Herrera held off upset-minded #11 Lawrence 6,13.
– But the big result of the round was another upset at the hands of the Bolivian junior Centellas. #12 Centellas took out #4 Natalia Mendez Erlwein in two games 5,12 to move on to the semis. This is just her 5th pro tournament and she’s got a match-up with #1 Longoria.

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In the Semis and finals, the draw went chalk.
– #1 Longoria showed Centellas what it means to be #1 in the world, advancing 5,8. A great showing for Centellas on the weekend, as she also won the Women’s open RR draw.

– #2 Vargas advanced over #3 Herrera in two, but it almost went tiebreaker 5.14.

In the final Longoria raced to a game 1 win, then held on for the title 6,12 over Vargas.

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Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/54B7D4

In the final it was #1 versus #2, but it was as close a final as fans could ask for. Longoria and Herrera, who are now 13-0 together as a pro doubles team, took out the #2 Argentinians Vargas/Mendez by the razor thin scoreline of 14,14.

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Next up? The Men are back in action next weekend in Austin, then the subsequent weekend is the Sweet Caroline Grand Slam event in Greenville, SC.

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LPRT
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Federación Boliviana de Racquetball
Asociación Argentina de Racquetball
Federación Chilena Racquetballacquetball
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball
Jugadores Racquetbol Guatemala

Pro Racquetball Stats/Top 5 predictions for the rest of the 2019-20 IRT season.

Can Landa hold off Carson for the #2 spot on tour? Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Note: this was published with some slightly modified text updates on 1/13/20 here:
https://www.irttour.com/pro-racquetball-stats-top-5-predictions-for-the-remainder-of-the-2019-20-season/?fbclid=IwAR1_n9O2dL0EYcGelNDNqjd3_2gVB1-iE9jZwDP3bkVvoG2JpmJ7gCu70ak

Welcome to the 2nd half of the 2019-20 IRT season, racquetball fans! We’ve already seen six Tier 1/Grand Slams in the books this season, and we have at least another six Tier 1/Grand Slams on the slate for the spring, perhaps more to be announced. Here’s five predictions on what will happen the rest of the way out this season:

(Reminder: these are in the opinion of Todd Boss, not the IRT. This is for entertainment purposes only).


Prediction #1. Kane will win his 14th title … but will lose a match between now and the end of the season.

The first prediction probably isn’t that ground breaking, considering that Kane Waselenchuk has yet to be beaten on the court this year. But he’s going to have to work a bit to get the title; he has about the same amount of points to defend in the spring as Rocky Carson, but he’s slightly behind Alejandro Landa in YTD points right now.

But I’m predicting that Kane drops another match on the court at some point this year. Its hard to stay 100% healthy deep into your 30s, and I’m guessing that somewhere along the line Kane runs into a nagging injury that costs him a match. The schedule in Jan-Feb is tough: three straight weeks of Tier 1s, including the Tier 1 “plus” Lewis Drug Pro-Am in Sioux Falls that generally gets the best and biggest draws outside of the US Open. I wonder if we’ll see “load management” out of some of the IRT’s veterans to get through this section of the season. I hope not; the Sioux Falls event is great, and the Lou Bradley Memorial deserves a great showing since its a Tier 1 for the first time. But if it does, more opportunities for upsets and surprise runs from younger players.


Prediction #2: Landa will pip Carson for #2 at year end…. but Carson holds off Parrilla for #3

Carson dropped out of the top 2 on tour at the end of the Portland ToC event for the first time (save a brief period in 2016) in nearly a decade. After making the semis or better in all nine tournaments last season, he’s been upset in the quarters or earlier in 3 of the first 6 events this season. This has enabled Landa to take over #2 this season at the half way point. But the news doesn’t get much better for Rocky the rest of the way: Rocky has 400 more points to defend from the 2nd half of last season as compared to Landa, and Landa already has 300 more earned points this season.

A better question might be this: can Andree Parrilla overtake Rocky for #3 by season’s end? Rocky has a sizeable current lead in the rolling-12 month points standings over Parrilla for #3 … but like Landa has significantly more points to defend in the season’s second half. Rocky earned roughly 1,770 points from Jan 2019-season’s end, as compared to ~1,365 for Landa and ~1305 for Parrilla. Parrilla’s big problem now is his #4 ranking; he’s set every tourney for a tough 4/5 quarter, then feeds into Kane in the semis … making it really hard for him to make a final (or win the event) unless there’s a significant upset or Kane skips an event. Parrilla may need a tourney win to eclipse Carson for #3 this season.

Nonetheless, some interesting battles to watch for at the top.


Prediction #3: Eduardo Portillo will finish top 10 … but not top 8.

One of the big risers this season has been the young Mexican Portillo, who won Junior Worlds 18U in 2018 and is making a full time push on the pro tour. Playing half time last season, he finished 17th on tour, making the main draws in all five events he entered. He’s continued that streak of making main draw in ever event he enters this season, throwing in a couple of solid wins over top players to make the Semis in Arizona.

Portillo currently sits 10th in the rankings, 9th in season-to-date. But he’s gone one-and-done in the last two pro events at the hands of his direct competitors for the last top 10 spots (Franco and Montoya respectively) and needs to gain success in these matches to take the next step.


Prediction #4: Moscoso will make the Bolivian Open final again

The Bolivian Grand slam is set to occur in mid May 2020, a month and a half later than it was held in 2019. Right now Moscoso sits 7th in the rolling 12-month rankings and 7th in season-to-date rankings, but he’ll lose a significant chunk of his ranking points in early April when the points from his 2019 Bolivian GS event expire. This will send his ranking down significantly, probably into the 13-14 range, but it shouldn’t stop him from making a similar run to the final.

Who will he play there? Will we see Kane make the trip this year? I certainly hope so: I think the Bolivian crowd would love to see a rematch of the US Open Final between Kane and Conrrado. But, coming from a 13-14 range seed will make it that much tougher for Moscoso to advance through.


Prediction #5: The end of the season will see a number of “Retirements” of long-time touring players

I can’t read minds, and I won’t name names, but fans of the sport can already see a number of long-time touring players taking significant steps back already this season. In some cases sponsorship changes have forced players to make hard choices about the costs of touring. In other cases the realities of the current state of the game have exposed their true talent levels and they find themselves dropped well out of even a top 16 seed.


Bonus prediction: 2nd half should see more Mexican players playing Tier 1s.

The locations of the 6 tourneys on the schedule for the spring of 2020 are: Austin, Sioux Falls, Sun Prairie WI, Chicago, Bolivia and Denver. We also had a couple of additional stops on the schedule (New York and Chihuahua). The nice part about these stops? A lot of them are in easy airline hubs or close to/in Mexico, making it a lot easier from a cost perspective for the up and coming Mexican contingent of players to attend.

So here’s hoping that guys like Mar, Estrada, Natera, Martell, Cardona, Garay, Ochoa, Alonso, Longoria and the like play more this spring.


Happy New Year and here’s to an exciting 2nd half of racquetball!

Florida LPRT Pro/AM Preview

Bolivian junior Valeria Centellas makes a rare state-side appearance. Photo via Deportivo Boliviana

Welcome to the first pro event of the 2020 calendar year!

https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31860 for the R2 Sports App home page for the event.

The LPRT returns to the Miami area for the first time since 2014, and what a great place to have an event in the dead of winter (as I scrape ice off my windshield this morning)…

Perhaps because of the proximity to the new year, the pro draw is a bit small; just 16 players in the event. Missing are top 10 players #3 Samantha Salas Solis, #7 Montse Mejia and #10 Masiel Rivera Oporto. Its pretty rare for Salis to miss and event; the only one she missed last season was due to travel problems; perhaps she’s taking a mental break after getting some upset losses early this season. Traveling to his event is a trio of top Bolivian players, which should make for some great round of 16 match-ups; read on.

Thanks to missing players in the 11-14 range, Jessica Parrilla gets elevated all the way from her #14 ranking to the 8th seed here.

Lets preview the draw.

Matches to watch for in the 16s:
– 8/9 Carla Muñoz Montesinos vs Jessica Parrilla; 8th vs 9th always seem tough, and this one is no exception. Both players have notched wins over Salas this season, and both seem to be on the upswing. I’ve only got two career meetings in the database, one in 2013 and on in 2017 (they’re 1-1). Expect this to go tie-breaker, and I’m leaning towards the former top 4 pro Parrilla to end up on top.

– #5 Rhonda Rajsich vs #12 Valeria Centellas; If ever there was a “youth versus experience” match, this is it. Centellas was born in 2001; in the year 2001 Rhonda was busy finishing 3rd on the pro tour. Centellas is perhaps the most promising junior in the world today; as a 17yr old she finished runner-up to her country-woman at World Juniors and is already a regular representative of Bolivia in international events. So what may happen here? Based on her results against LPRT pros, i’m guessing Centellas takes this to the breaker but Rhonda prevails.

– #4 Natalia Mendez vs #13 Micaela Meneses Cuellar; well if you thought Centellas was precocious … Meneses just lost in the 16U world junior final 11-10, playing in her age 15 year season. She has just one LPRT appearance; last year’s Bolivian grand slam, where she took a game off of #1 seeded Salas in the 16s. She could trouble Mendez but I expect the Argentinia veteran to move on.

– #6 Nancy Enriquez vs #11 Kelani Lawrence; no prior meetings between these two players, but I suspect that Lawrence might keep this pretty close. Kelani has a couple of closer losses to Vargas this year, one of the few players on tour with power that rival’s Enriquez.

– #7 Cristina Amaya Cassino vs #10 Maria Renee Rodríguez; these two are frequent international competitors, given that they’re both frequent representatives of their home countries of Colombia and Guatemala respectively. Amaya holds a 6-1 career h2h, but the games are often close.

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Projecting the quarters:

– #1 Paola Longoria over #8 Parrilla: Jessica is 0-9 versus Paola in the database, but they havn’t met in more than two years.

– #5 Rajsich vs #4 Mendez: last meeting was an interesting game; Rhonda won 14,1. In 2018 worlds, Natalia beat Rhonda by the scores of 1,13. What may happen here? I like Rhonda in this one.

– #3 Alexandra Herrera over #6 Enriquez. Herrera is 5-2 over Enriquez, but Nancy beat her in last year’s SC event in a 5-game marathon after losing the first two games. I think the shorter match format favors Herrera, and I expect a two game win.

– #2 Maria Jose Vargas vs #7 Amaya: Another international tinged matchup; they’ve met 9 times with a lot of IRF meetings; Vargas is 7-2, but those two losses were years ago. Expect a Vargas win.

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Possible semis:

– Longoria over Rajsich: this would extend the most populous head to head matchup in the tour’s history: these two have met 66 times on the pro tour and quite a few other times internationally. After a shock upset at the 2018 Pan Ams, Longoria has regained control of their rivalry.

– Vargas over Herrera: Vargas is 6-0 lifetime over Herrera, but none of them really have been blowouts.

Projected Final: Longoria over Vargas.

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Doubles preview:

A 6-team doubles draw is scheduled; Salas’ absence robs the top team of one of its partners, and Mejia’s absence robs the 2nd best team of one of its partners … so it only made sense for Longoria to team with Herrera here. They’ll likely run into either the Enriquez/Parrilla team (which has been playing well together), or the #2 seeded Argentinian national team of Vargas/Mendez).

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Great to be back in action!

LPRT
USA Racquetball
Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol
Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora
Asociación Argentina de Racquetball
Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball
Racquetball Colombia
Federación Chilena Racquetball

Wayne Toyne 8/7/41 – 1/7/20

My thoughts tonight are with the Toyne family. We found out today that long-time scion of the DC-area racquetball family has passed. Anyone who played tournaments on the east coast, or who knew the old “Team Ed” group, and a good chunk of the global racquetball community knew Wayne Toyne and knew what a special person he was.

For me personally, I probably first met Wayne upon moving to Arlington in 1998. We worked together for years helping run tournaments in the DC area; the older picture in this post is circa 2001, from one of the long nights we used to put in at Ed Willis’ house to organize draws ahead of big tournament weekends. Wayne’s primary role on these late nights was mostly moral support and helping to eat the chinese food we ordered (hence the picture of him eating a piece of crab rangoon). In reality he was a long time organizer, promoter, and volunteer for the sport far and wide.

The more recent picture was from the International Racquetball Tour stop in Laurel, MD in September. Wayne looked the same to me in 2019 that he did in 2001; I never gave any thought that I’d experience the day when he left us.

It was a pleasure knowing you Wayne, and I’ll miss you.

Davey Bledsoe 3/7/51 – 12/29/19

Hall of Famer Bledsoe was 68. Photo via USRA Hall of Fame

The Racquetball world got sad news over the holiday weekend; former Men’s pro champ and Hall of Famer Davey Bledsoe has passed away.

Bledsoe was born in 1951 in Kingsport, TN. He was one of the earliest racquetball pros in the sport, playing half the events in the first pro season on record (1974-5), then was a full time touring pro until the 1980-1 season.

Here’s a link to Bledsoe’s Player Profile at ProracquetballStats.com, summarizing his pro singles career:
http://rball.pro/7E09C5

Bledsoe’s best pro season was the 1976-77 season, where he made the semis or better in 6 of the season’s 12 sanctioned events and finished the season ranked #2 on tour. More importantly, he won the 1977 DP/Leach National Championships over #1 Marty Hogan​, giving Hogan his sole loss on the season in a 21-20, 21-19 match. Pundits from the era called the match either the greatest match in history, the biggest upset in history … or both. See https://www.proracquetballstats.com/irt/greatest_upsets.html for a fun list of some of the biggest upsets in pro tour history. This win gave Bledsoe the year-end Pro title and he is in a rather exclusive club; only 15 men have ever won a pro title in the sport’s history and he’s one of them.

The PRS match report for this 1977 Nationals tourney is here http://rball.pro/9EC830 . And, If you want to see a fun recap of that 1977 Nationals event … surf to this youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaI-NgBK5Q4&t=4s . Feel free to mute the 70s disco music :-).

As you can see from the video, Bledsoe was tall and lanky, lots of court coverage and lots of emotion in his play. He survived a furious comeback in game two to take the National title over Hogan, who went on to win the next four National titles.

In his prime, Bledsoe also competed in the Outdoor Championships in California, taking the singles title in 1978 (also over Hogan in the final) and making the semis or finals in several other years in the 70s and early 80s.

Bledsoe was part of an interesting group in racquetball lore: the “Memphis Mafia,” a group of top players in the Memphis area who played with Elvis Presley at his Graceland home. In case you didn’t know … Presley was an avid racquetball enthusiast and had two courts constructed on the grounds of his home, where he played along with some of the top players in the game at the time. Bo Keeley wrote about the group well here: http://www.dailyspeculations.com/wordpress/?p=8674 . Its a fun side-note in American history.

Bledsoe retired from the pro tour after the 1980-81 season. He continued to play Amateur tournaments for years and claims 13 National amateur titles. He was inducted into the USAR Hall of Fame in 2010.

After his playing career ended, he began a career in Network Operations, working for major Telecom firms and for some Defense contractors in the DC area before retiring in Atlanta.

Jason Mannino Career Retrospective

Mannino up for the Hall. Photo via Geoff Thompsen/Double Donut Studios

Hey racquetball fans. Long-time touring pro and former IRT commissioner Jason Mannino is up for the USAR Hall of Fame this year. Like we published with fellow HoF candidate Gregg Peck earlier this fall, here’s a career retrospective of Jason with some stats and lists of accomplishments:

Mannino overcame a near-fatal car accident at the age of 18 to become one of the most accomplished players in the sport’s history. Read on for a career summary.
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Junior Career

Mannino hails from Staten Island, NY, the same area as Hall of Famer Sudsy Monchik, and being just 3 months apart in age frequently competed throughout their junior and professional careers. Often times these two dominant players would meet in the finals of state, regional and national competitions and would trade off as title holders.

Mannino and Monchik also frequently teamed up as doubles partners and won multiple junior national titles throughout their junior career.

Junior Career Accomplishments:
– 3-time USA Junior National champ
o 14U National Champ in 1990
o 16U National Champ in 1991 (as a 15-yr old)
o 18U National Champ in 1992 (as a 16-yr old

-5-time USA Junior Doubles national champ with Monchik
o 18U in 1993
o 16U in 1990
o 10U, 12U and 14U titles previous to that for a full sweep with Sudsy

– 18U World Junior Singles champion in 1994

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Professional Career

Mannino turned pro soon after the end of his junior career, when he was offered a contract with Spalding upon winning the 1994 Junior 18U world title. His first pro main event qualification was at the Jan 1995 Atlanta tourney. In his first full season on tour as a 20-yr old, he finished in the top ten on tour. He improved even more in the 1996-7 season, finishing 4th and kicking off more than a decade of being ranked in the top 5 on tour.

He competed across two distinct “eras” in the sport, and faced off against legends like Cliff Swain and Sudsy Monchik in the first part of his career, then Rocky Carson / Jack Huczek / Kane Waselenchuk in the second part of his career. Despite frequently competing in the back ends of tournaments against multiple year-end tour winners, he won 22 titles in his career and made the finals of another 18.

Mannino competed at the top of the tour for an astounding 16 seasons, competing at a high level well into his 30s and becoming one of the most long-serving pros in the history of the game. His playing career only ended at 35 so that he could take the opportunity of running the pro tour; he finished his final touring season ranked 4th.

Professional Career Accomplishments:
– IRT Pro tour champion: 2002-3 season
– 16 years on tour; 15 top-10 finishes, 14 top-5 finishes
– 22 career titles, 7th all time
– 40 career finals made, 9th of all time.
– 195 career appearances, 5th of all time
– 70.0% career W/L percentage (402-172), 11th all time
– 2-time US Open champion, 1999 and 2006
– Las Vegas Pro Nationals Champion 2001
– 1996: IRT Rookie of the Year
– 1998: IRT Most Improved player of the year

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Innovative Playing Style

Mannino’s playing style was revolutionary in our sport for two primary reasons: his tactical serving approach and his amazing retrieval capabilities.

Coming into play at an age in our sport dominated by power servers (Swain, Monchik, John Ellis, Doyle, Drew Kachtik, Andy Roberts, etc.), Mannino developed a unique serving style that was not really seen prior; the “Junk serve.” Not a lob serve, but not a drive serve, he pioneered a serving style that involved deception, placement and guile to de-emphasize the power of his opponents and often times force loose service returns for easy points.

In the meantime, Mannino’s “getting” ability on the court was perhaps the best ever seen on tour. Mannino could retrieve balls that no other player in his time could get, diving all over the court to extend points and rallies. Mannino could anticipate where kill shots were going and would literally begin diving before a shot was executed, and could return kill shots from mid-air. He set the athletic standard for generations of diving players to come.

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Professional Tour Leadership

Mannino retired in April 2010 to take over the professional tour as owner and commissioner. He succeeded Dave Negrete and became the 8th pro tour commissioner in men’s pro tour history. Mannino took over the tour at a critical time; economic downturns in the 2010 time-frame forced major sponsors out of the game and cancelled marquee events. Mannino was able to resurrect the Ektelon Nationals in California for a time, and stabilized the number of tier 1 events for the better part of the 2010s.

However, Mannino’s lasting impact on the tour may be the rule changes he implemented immediately upon taking over as commissioner. The IRT returned to two serves for the first time since Aug 1990 in an attempt to improve the excitement of the serve. Additionally, in response to complaints from fans and sponsors, Mannino implemented anti-arguing rules and pace-of-play statutes in an attempt to improve the quality of the product as the sport moved more fully into a streaming/broadcast focused mode.

Mannino sold the IRT tour in June 2017, ending more than 20 years of direct involvement (as a player or in management) of the men’s professional racquetball tour.

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Coaching and Mentoring Career

Mannino has partnered with Fran Davis for more than two decades to teach Racquetball Camps all across the country and internationally. Davis and Mannino are the primary instructors of the most popular annual Racquetball camp series in the nation and have taught hundreds of players over the years.

Mannino is a co-author with Davis of Championship Racquetball, published in 2011.

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Personal

He hails from Staten Island, NY and studied at St. John’s University before turning pro. He currently resides in San Diego, CA. He transitioned to a career in Real Estate upon leaving IRT management. He continues to work with Fran Davis Racquetball as a coach and mentor. He is married with two sons who have continued his athletic pedigree by excelling in youth baseball.

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Conclusion

Mannino’s pro record speaks for itself; he’s one of the most accomplished pro players to ever play the game. He continued to have an impact on the sport after his playing career ended, and continues to this day. He more than belongs in the Hall of Fame.

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International Racquetball Tour
USA Racquetball

Visual Depiction of Women’s Top 10 over time.

Well, everyone loved the IRT bar chart we did earlier this week, so here’s the same thing for the women.

Some interesting observations in this chart:
– 97 women have appeared in a top 10 since 1975. This is a bit more than the men; we see a lot of players who reached the top 10 for short periods of time, then dropped off quickly.
– The depth of the tour early on was very thin; the early parts of the graphic may look odd as it shows the early legends of the sport like Peggy Stedding and Jean Saucer lingering at the bottom of the bar chart before the tour begins to fill out.
– I think its amazing how many players debuted at #2 or #1 on tour; Heather McKay finished #1 in her first pro season, won four titles in five years, then basically disappeared. Lynn Adams debuted at #2 her first full season touring, as did Michelle Gould. Marci Drexler, who may be the most underrated player in the tour’s history, debuted at #3 in 1986 … then retired at #3 13 years later.
– Also interesting how so many players retired at or near the top. Gould ran off seven straight #1 titles … then never played again. Shannon Wright played seven events in 1983-84 season, made the semis in all of them … then quit and never played another pro event. In this graphic you’ll see these players’ bar charts just plummet off the screen, showing their ranking diving from a top 4 level to non-existent.

Enjoy! LPRT

ps: again, thanks to Jessica Swartz Amezcua for the great idea.

Visual depiction of Men’s top 10 rankings historically

Fun stuff; Visual depiction of Men’s top 10 rankings historically

Have any of you seen those cool “Racing Bar Charts” that show stuff like population growth over time per country?

Well, thanks to a great suggestion from Jessica Swartz Amezcua, I found a site that lets you create these visualizations for free and created some one-off data spreadsheets and came up with this cool graphic:

Take a look, it shows the ebb and flow of all players ranked in the top 10 over time. It starts in the 1974-5 season, the first official “pro” tour season, and leverages results at the DP/Leach Nationals for the first few seasons to determine the top 10. In 1981-82, we had a points race for the top 10 for the first time, and have had it ever since.

Here’s a fun fact: in the entire history of the pro tour, now covering more than 45 years … there’s only been a grand total of 79 distinct players who have finished in the top 10 in a given season on tour.

Anyway, take a look at the visualization; its pretty cool. I’ll do something similar for the Ladies next.

International Racquetball Tour