Welcome to the 2018-19 Pro Racquetball season! Fresh on the heels of an amazing World Championships event, we have the first Ladies pro event of the season, and we start of with a bang; the Paola Longoria Experience Grand Slam event.
There’s 24 ladies entered, meaning a round of byes for the top 8 seeds. Here’s a preview.
Round of 32 Notable matches:
– Susy Acosta kicks off her 21st pro season by playing up and coming player Cassandra Lee in the 16/17 first round match-up for the right to play #1 Longoria.
– Samantha Salas Solis comes into the event seeded 10th thanks to missing a chunk of last season to shoulder injury; she has to play-in against fellow Mexican Carolina Luque.
– Mexican phenom junior Montserrat Mejia, fresh off a doubles final appearance at Worlds, takes on fellow country-woman Erin Rivera early.
Notable round of 16 projections::
– #9 Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos faces off against #8 Maria Jose Vargas in a tough early match for both players. Vargas is also rebuilding ranking points thanks to an extended absence on tour, but made the semis at Worlds and should advance here.
– #13 Ana Gabriel Martinez comes up against #4 Rhonda Rajsich, and this could be a very early test to see just how repeatable Martinez’ worlds performance will be. Rhonda suffered an early knockout of Worlds and will be looking to play better here.
– #14 Jugadores Racquetbol Guatemala player Maria Renee Rodriguez could give #3 Alexandra Herrera a tough match in this round; Herrera struggled at times in Costa Rica while Rodriguez took a game off of Vargas before losing in the 16s at Worlds.
– #6 Natalia Mendez had a phenomenal Worlds, knocking off two of the top 4 women in the world, and should advance past Colombian #11 seed Adriana Riveros.
– Tough luck draw for #7 Cristina Amaya Cris, who faces off against an underseeded Salas early.
– #2 Frederique Lambert gets a tough early test against junior phenom Mejia in the 16s … Lambert was upset early at Worlds; can Mejia pull another upset here?
– #1 Longoria will have to earn it, facing off against a top 4 player in Vargas in the round of 8. I see a tiebreaker win for Longoria here, but Vargas will make some noise this season.
– #13 Martinez over #4 Nancy Enriquez; I think Martinez is on a run and can only be stopped by one person in this draw.
– #6 Mendez over #3 Herrera: Mendez continues her excellent form and takes out the lefty Herrera in the quarters.
– #10 Salas over #2 Lambert: Salas owns the LPRT head-to-head record 11-4 over Lambert and, despite both players losing early at worlds, seems like she may have the slight edge here.
– #1 Longoria over #13 Martinez: I think Longoria is favored over Martinez right now in the pro format due to fitness and experience; she outlasts the Guatemalan and gets some revenge for the Worlds loss.
– #10 Salas over #6 Mendez: Mendez’ luck runs out against the motivated Salas.
Predicted Final: Longoria over Salas, which is anticlimactic given that its a very common LPRT final and given all the possible upsets we may see earlier.
The doubles draw is stacked, with the #1 overall team of Longoria/Salas, the World finliasts Herrera/Mejia, World semi finalists Rodriguez/Martinez, World Quarter-finalists Vargas/Mendez, and an intriguing new team of Lambert and Enriquez that could be tough to beat.
I’m going with a Mexico-Guatemala final, a rematch of the 2018 central American & Caribbean games final of Longoria/Salas vs Martinez/Rodriguez.
Historical Note: this is the first time in history that at the end of Worlds, not one of the four champions hailed from the USA. Its also the first World title for both Guatemala and Bolivia, joining Colombia’s 2014 Men’s double triumph as the only non-North American world titles in existence.
Lets do a quick review of the notable matches and how the tourney played out:
—————– Men’s Singles:
No major upsets in the 64s or 32s; the only upset by seed was #18 Andres Acuna (the Costa Rican home town favorite) ousting the Dominican Luis Perez in two games.
In the 16s,
– The match of the 16s was a re-match of the game of the RRs, with Colombian Mario Mercado again outlasting Canadian Coby Iwaasa, this time by an 11-9 tiebeaker win. They went 11-10 in the group stage. Tough way for Iwaasa to exit the tourney.
– #1 Bobby Horn survived a 15-14 first game to take out Guatemalan veteran Edwin Galicia in 2 games.
– Sebastian Franco got a very solid win and took out defending Pan American champ Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas 14,13. A testament to the depth of this draw; Franco-Keller was a worthy semi or final, featuring two guys who both had the capability to win this draw.
– #2 Daniel De La Rosa eased past home-town favorite Andres Acuña, who wasn’t able to pull off an upset run like he did the last time a major tourney was in Costa Rica.
In the Quarters…
– The #5/#4 Rodrigo Montoya–Conrrado Moscoso Ortiz match lived up to the hype; these two guys played a finals-quality match that lasted more than 2 hours and ended up with the Mexican champion pulling away in a tiebreaker win.
– #1 Horn continued his career dominance over Mercado with a 2 game win.
– #3 Charlie Pratt got a surprise win over #6 Samuel Murray; Pratt definitely came to play this tourney
– But the biggest upset of the Men’s draw so far was #10 seeded Franco pulling out a 11-10 win over #2 seed and tourney favorite De la Rosa. Franco has the talent to beat anyone in this draw, but De la Rosa has consistently been the better player for years on the IRT. He’ll face off against Pratt, whom he’s never beaten.
In the semis, Rodrigo Montoya Solís outslugged #1 seed Bobby David Horn 9,8 in a 2 hour match that featured more than its fair share of questioned calls to advance to his first senior international final. In the other, crafty american veteran Pratt controlled his match against Franco and advanced 8,13.
In the finals, the crowd was given fantastic racquetball, with an amazing end to game one (a 15-14 game with two potential game winning points for either player over turned on appeal) before Montoya dove his way to a 14,9 win and a World Championship.
Champion: Rodrigo Montoya, Mexico.
———— Women’s Singles:
The upset of the 32s had to be Canadian veteran Jen Saunders pounding American Sheryl Lotts 10,1. Saunders had lost all three group matches and suffered an injury, but came out firing to take down the American.
In the 16s:
– two LPRT pros duked it out and a surprising result came; Argentinian Natalia Mendez controlled the match over an emotional Frederique Lambertand advanced 8,8. This is Mendez’ first win in four tries against the 2nd ranked LPRT player and a rather large upset to this observer (who thought Lambert was good for the Semis if not further).
– Colombian doubles partners Adriana Riveros and Cris Amaya had a heck of a #8/#9 match, with Riveros pulling the slight upset and coming out on top 11-9.
– Bolivian darkhorse Yazmine Sabja Aliss outlasted LPRT regular Chilean Carla Muñoz Montesinos in a tough breaker as well.
– Maria Jose Vargas shook off her group struggles and upset 4th seeded Maria Renee Rodriguez in a tiebreaker.
In the quarters, upsets abounded.
– Huge upset when Guatemalan Ana Gabriel Martinez took out the #3 seeded Samantha Salas Solis 4,12. Martinez has been putting up statement wins over and over; a win over Vargas in the group stage, now this knock out win. She made the finals of the 2016 Worlds with a similar win over Salas, and will be looking to do so again.
– Possibly even bigger upset when #7 seeded Argentinian Natalia Mendez wiped out American Rhonda Rajsich in game one before winning the second game 13.
– Vargas continued to advance, downing Bolivian #4 seed Sabja with ease to setup a meeting with #1 Paola Longoria.
This meant that the semis were comprised of the 1,20, 6 and 7 seeds.
In the Semis…Longoria rebounded from a 15-6 first game loss to dominate game 2 and outlast Vargas in the tiebreker to advance. In the other semi, Martinez trounced Argentine Mendez 8,3 to continue her excellent tournament.
What’s amazing about this result is this: Martinez is still a junior! She becomes easily the youngest ever world Champion in the history of the Worlds competitions. She is playing in her age-18 season and will compete in Junior Worlds later this year to attempt to complete an unheard of double-world championship Junior and Seniors. Martinez lost the 2017 world 18U final to Montserrat Mejia as the #1 seed but should make a strong case this fall in her final junior’s event.
Champion: Ana Gabriel Martinez, Guatemala
—————– Men’s Doubles.
No real upsets in the 16s. In the quarters, USA team of Sudsy Monchik and Rocky Carson got an early test, beating the talented Colombian team of IRT vets Franco and Mercado 11 and 13. The Canadian team of Samuel Murray and Tim Landeryou “upset” the #2 seeded Argentine team of Fernando Kurzbard and Shai Manzuri to move on.
In the semis, the Mexican #1 team of De La Rosa and Alvaro Beltran had the much tougher match-up, going up against the talented Bolivian team of Moscoso and Roland Keller. They squeaked out the first game 14 then closed it out 14,8. On the other side, the star-studded American team rolled easily over the Canadian team 12 and 2 to setup a classic final of IRT veterans.
In the final…the Mexican team seemed to play a deliberate, tactical strategy attempting to slow down the power of Monchik, and eventually they broke through, splitting the first two games then dominating the tie-breaker to take the title (10),9,2. This gives Beltran a 4th World doubles title, tying him with his long-time partner Javier Moreno for most ever Men’s World doubles titles. It also represents Beltran’s 10th international doubles title, 2nd only to Moreno.
—————— Women’s Doubles Review
In the 16s, the veteran Ecuadorian team of Vero Sotomayor and Maria Paz Munoz upset the Canadian team of Frederique Lambert and Jen Saunders in the 8/9 match up.
In the quarters, the most notable surprise was the elimination of the US team of Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts by the Bolivian team of Yazmine Sabja Aliss and Valeria Centellas 12,10. Sabja has had great results as of late and continued her great Worlds tourney. We don’t get to see Sabja on the LPRT very often, but she’s got a ton of solid results in IRF events.
In the semis, the Mexican #1 seeded team of Alexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia cruised to a win over the Colombian team of Amaya and Riveros, while in the other semi the surprising Bolivian team were perhaps already on their way to victory over the excellent Guatemalan team of Martinez/Rodriguez when an injury forfeit gave the Bolivians the win into the final.
In the final, Mexico was running away with the match early; Bolivia won a tight second game 15-14 then blew away the Mexican pair in the tiebreaker to become the first world champion from outside North America. Final: (8),14,2.
A quick comment on the champion Bolivian team; I did not know this until weeks after the event, but Centellas is just *16* years old. She’s still playing 16U in worlds. That’s an amazing accomplishment to see a team with a 16-yr old win a world title.
Thanks for reading, congrats to all the participants, it was a fantastic event. All the draws are now loaded online to www.proracquetballstats.com.
Next up …we head *right* into the LPRT season, with the first ladies pro event happening next weekend in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Maybe we’ll get another Longoria-Martinez final as i’m sure both players (and a huge chunk of the draw here) will be there.
On 4/28/18, minutes after winning the final event of the 2017-18 season, Kane shocked the racquetball world by announcing that he was “90%” sure he was retiring from full-time touring.
There’s all sorts of chatter here and there on this subject on facebook right now in the rball community, a lot of it inexplicably negative. So how about some positivity in reflecting on what an amazing career he’s had to date?
I’ll say this, from my perspective as the guy who tracks allof this data for www.proracquetballstats.com: Kane’s dominance is the reason many of the cool reports on the site exist, and I’ll be bummed to see him go and stop chasing records. There are not too many people in the professional sports landscape who get to say that they won their last match. As for the future, as a fan of the pro sport and someone who is always trying to predict who beats who in head to head match-ups, I’m also excited to see the next era of the sport, to see who steps up next year to challenge Rocky for the next title. It was always an inevitability that the current elder statesmen of the tour were going to step aside; i’m just surprised by who bowed out first and when. I sincerely hope he changes his mind and chases a 13th title (and beyond).
Its quite a few months away from the start of the 2018-19 season, and 90% isn’t 100%, so this whole post may be premature … but going under the assumption that we’ve seen the last of Kane full time on tour, I thought it’d be fun to put out some fun stats on his career. Every one of these figures can be found by running a report on the website, but if you have any questions how to see these data points for yourself, i’m always available.
Pro Tour Titles: – 12 pro tour titles; 6 more than the next closest competitor (Cliff Swain‘s 6 pro titles)
Some Tournament title stats: – 110 pro tournament wins, 39 more than the next closest competitor (Cliff’s 71 “known” tour wins) – Tournament win percentage of 68.3% for his career. To put this in perspective, if 68.3% was his MATCH won/loss percentage he’d still be top 15 of all time. – He reached the finals in 74.5% of the tournaments he ever entered. Think about that fact; 3 out of every 4 tournaments for his career featured him in the final. – He won the 7th pro event he ever entered (same as Cliff and Sudsy Monchik in terms of fastest ever). – He owns 13 US Open titles, triple the closest competitor.
Wins and Losses – “Retires” with a career record of 553-50, a .917 winning percentage. – He’s so far ahead of the 2nd best player in terms of career W/L percentage (Marty Hogan at .844) that he could lose 50 straight matches and still be in the lead. Fifty. This to me is the most amazing stat about Kane’s career.
– 13 of his 50 career tour losses were forfeits where he never even took the court (either through injury or missing a tournament after the draw had been made). So some would like to say his career W/L record is even more impressive than it already appears. – Most wins against him: Cliff Swain, who finished 9-13 head to head against Kane. – He’s had just 12 losses in the last decade, most by forfeit. – There’s just one player in the history of the tour who has a winning record against him: John Ellis , 2-1. – He’s 73-3 for his career against Rocky Carson, who was his closest competitor for most of his reign. – the last on the court loss he suffered was to Jake Bredenbeck in May 2016, retiring in the 5th game after winning the first two and suffering an injury. – The last on the court, non-fft related loss was to Jose Rojas in Sept 2013. Prior to that you have to go back to Jan 2009, a semis loss to Alvaro Beltran. That’s nearly a decade ago.
Streaks – Won 19 consecutive tournaments entered between Jan 2009 and Jan 2011. – He owns the top six consecutive tournaments won streak of all time, each of which is in the double digits.
– Compiled a 134 match on the court winning streak, between Jan 2009 and Jan 2012. – Also had additional such streaks of 108 matches and he retires with an intact 61 match winning streak on the court. He owns the longest three such match winning streaks in pro tour history (Marty’s great 1976-77 season is the fourth longest winning streak).
– Completed two fully undefeated seasons (forfeits or otherwise); 2009-10, 2016-17; the first such seasons ever done on tour. – Several other seasons, when accounting for forfeit losses, were also “undefeated” seasons.
– He completed a perfect season in terms of games won/lost, going 85-0 in games played during the 2016-17 season. – This was part of a streak of 113 consecutive games won between May 2016 and Oct 2017. For me, this might be his most amazing accomplishment on the court. He was so dominant for so long that he didn’t even drop a game for a year and a half.
Miscellany – Career donut count: 130 given, 3 taken. During tournaments, I’m often asked to recall the individual donuts he’s received in lieu of match losses. (In case you’re wondering; Swain gave him a donut in 2001, again in 2004, then Rojas gave him a donut in 2012 before getting donutted himself in the second game. – He won a title in the last 15 seasons in which he competed.
– He owns the top 7 most dominant finals performances in terms of points conceded, and 19 of the top 22. – He owns the top 17 most dominant tournaments in history (and 33 of top 34), once winning a tourney and conceding just 19 points in 12 games across 4 matches. – Just about the only records he doesn’t own in the history of the tour are longevity/age based, ones that I’d have no doubt he could eventually eclipse if he were to continue playing deep into his 40s.
So, that’s some fun stats for you. I hope you enjoy, and long live King Kane.