Congrats to your winners on the weekend: – Singles: Daniel De La Rosa – Doubles; Eduardo Garay/Juan Pablo Rodriguez
R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31746
Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.(reminder: this was not a Tier1, therefore there’s no results in the PRS database).
In the 16s:- 7 of the top 8 seeds advanced, with the only “upset” being Austin Cunningham topping #8 Jim Douglas with a double donut. For the most part the traveling pros dominated local competition in their openers, with no tie-breakers and only a couple games that were competitive. This setup some great quarter final action.
In the Quarters- #1 Alex Landa cruised past #9 Cunningham 4,12. – #5 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez blitzed past his countryman #4 Mario Mercado 11,4 to advance. This seems like an important result, as Garay trails Mercado in the current IRT standings, but just supplanted him on the Colombian national team and seems set to make a rise up the standings when we get back into full time touring.- #3 Sebastian Franco was stretched to a breaker by the home-town favorite Maurice Miller before advancing 11-4.- #2 Daniel De La Rosa dropped the first game 14 before advancing in a breaker over the pesky #7 MoMo Zelada.
In the Semis- #1 Landa cruised past #5 Garay 4,11 to move to the final. Garay had to take the court immediately after a long doubles match and looked a bit winded in game one, then Landa held on as Garay settled in for game two.- #2 DLR dominated #3 Franco 7,7 to move into the finals.In the Finals, DLR dropped the first game 14 but rebounded to push it to a tiebreaker. In the breaker, he raced out to a commanding lead that Landa could not overcome and DLR gets the win over his long-time rival (14),11,4. Solid win for DLR, who stayed calm and stuck to his game plan to take out Landa. Both players played well, showing a bit of rust, but I liked DLR’s calm approach.
Doubles reviewThe 8-team Men’s doubles draw kicked off the festivities Friday night, and all four quarter final matches were close. The draw went chalk (with all four top seeds advancing), but three of the four top seeded teams needed a tie-breaker to advance. The #2 seeded team of DLR and tournament sponsor Donald Williams was pushed the hardest, dropping the first game 6 before rebounding to take the tiebreaker 11-9 over the all-Colombian team of Franco and their coach Francisco Fajardo.
In the semis:- the #4 team of Miller/Mercado surprised the #1 seeded team of Landa/Zelada. Mercado has always been a solid doubles player, and spurred on the run along side the home town favorite to push into the final. It was a surprising result, given Landa’s IRT pro doubles accomplishments as of late.- The #3 team of Colombians Garay and Juan Pablo Rodriguez eked past one of the top doubles player in the world in DLR, teamed with tournament sponsor Donald Williams 11-10 in the breaker. Rodriguez is an up and comer; he represented Colombia at the 2019 world Juniors in 14U, making the semis before losing to USA’s NIkhil Prasad. Rodriguez out-hit Williams on the forehand side, and the #2 seeded team’s tactics couldn’t push them past the Colombians in the end.
In the final, Rodriguez stepped up and helped his all-Colombian team outlast two seasoned IRT pros 13,8. Garay/Rodriguez take the title over Miller/Mercado.
Men’s Open, other drawsThe young Colombian Rodriguez had a heck of a tournament, winning Pro doubles, making the final of Pro Consolation/Men’s Open (where he lost to long-time top Floridian Andres Ramirez in a breaker), and also winning Elite Doubles with fellow top junior international Maricruz Ortiz.
Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Dean DeAngelo Baer and Pablo Fajre and the who streamed all weekend.——————
Well… its been six months since I wrote a pro tournament preview in this space. I almost forgot how to write one of these things. But somehow, we have pro racquetball happening this weekend.
The 2020 IRT Atlanta Open, which was initially set to be the 2020-21 Tier 1 slate season opener, has been repurposed as a Tier 4 event and is being held this weekend at Recreation Atlanta in Lilburn, GA.
Interestingly, the draw features a huge chunk of the Colombian national team playing, including its top three ranked singles players and some players who have traveled up from Cali. I’ll call them out in the preview below.
There’s 16 players in the pro singles draw and 9 pro doubles teams. Its a solid draw, featuring a slew of touring pros, so its worth running through a preview.
Lets preview the draw. Here’s some interesting matches from the round of 16. – #1 Alex Landa vs #16 Andres Ramirez; interesting first rounder for the current #2 player in the world. He takes on a long-time Florida star Ramirez, who has been playing pro events for nearly two decades and has even played internationally in the past. This is no cakewalk for Landa. – #5 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on home-town favorite #12 Marquis Miller , the twin brother of regular tour player Maurice Miller. – #6 Maurice Miller takes on traveling Colombian @Juan Pablo Rodriguez in his opener. – #7 MoMo Zelada gets a tough first rounder in solid Florida amateur Matt Fontana.
Projected Qtrs – #1 Landa over #9 Austin Cunningham, to advance over Jim Douglas. – #5 Garay over #4 Mario Mercado; two Colombian teammates battle it out in the 4/5 spot. Mercado has been an enigma on the court; sometimes he’s lights out and sometimes he’s one-and-done. His 2019-20 season had a final reached and three round-of-32 exits. Garay topped him for the second Colombian team spot earlier this year, and that could be a trend for the young ex-Mexican junior national team member. I like Garay’s game but this could be a close one. Garay to edge Mercado in the breaker. – #3 Sebastian Franco vs #6 Miller: Franco also had an up-and-down season, making two semis but also getting upset in the qualifiers a couple times and missing a bunch of events. He faces the tough Miller playing on his home courts under interesting circumstances. Has Franco been playing? The court availability in the DC area isn’t the same as Atlanta, where the clubs have been open for a bit. Upset watch here, but Franco advances. – #2 Daniel De La Rosa vs #7 MoMo Zelada; DLR makes the bit trip eastward to compete in this event and gets DC-area native Zelada. I like MoMo (shoutout to Formulaflow) but DLR outclasses him here and moves on.
Projected Semis: – #1 Landa over #5 Garay: these two met twice last season and split, so Garay won’t be intimidated by Landa’s game. This is a contrast in style; Landa plays controlled and clinical, while Garay plays powerful and passionate. Landa ekes it out. – #2 DLR over #3 Franco: they’ve met 9 times in top level competition (IRT and IRF) and DLR leads 7-2. Interestingly, they have not met professionally since Jan 2017 despite both being regular tour players for the past few years. DLR finished the season on fire, and I like him to keep going. DLR in two.
Finals: Landa over DLR. Yes, Landa owns the head to head record between these two, and it has been more than 3.5 years since DLR beat Alex on the court. But when they do play, they play close. Multiple 11-10 or 12-10 in the fifth encounters between them. Both have similar game styles; both are shot makers who rely more on skill than on power. If DLR is on, he’s hard to beat. But these two have played so much that they find it hard to get into their preferred game against each other. Look for Landa to win 11-9.
Doubles review Nine teams entered, with a good mix of locals playing with traveling pros. I like the #1 seed of Landa/Zelada advancing over #4 Mercado/Miller on the top, with DLR/Donald Williams topping two teams with Colombian pros in the bottom. In the final, Look for Landa/Zelada to take the win and give landa the double.
Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Dean DeAngelo Baer Favio Soto , Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!
— #11 Sebastian Franco took a step back in the rankings after finishing the last four seasons in the top 10. He missed four of the events on the season, which makes it tough to maintain your seeding and ranking, prompting some observers to wonder if his days of full-time touring are over.
He started the season strong; making the semis of the first two events of the season, which got him as high as a #5 seed. But two round-of-32 losses (to Manilla and Estrada) conspired to knock him out of the top10 by seasons’ end.
Franco may be at a career cross roads; he’s just turned 27, he’s a family man now with kids and may not be in a position to tour full time going forward. Plus, he’ll take a big hit in the rankings right out of the gate in the fall as he defends two semi-final appearances. He could see his ranking crash into the mid teens quickly if he doesn’t start well next season
— #12 Rodrigo Montoya Solís took a step back in the rankings from last season, slipping to #12 at the end after being ranked inside the top 10 all year. Montoya remains an enigma on tour; clearly possessing the talent to be making the back end of tournaments week after week (he won the Pan American games in August with wins over three successive higher ranked top-10 players), but yet only made two quarter finals on the season.
He did have some match-up bad luck; losing in the 32s to his doubles partner Mar 11-9 at the US Open, and running into Kane and DLR twice to exit at early stages. No shame in that. He also had a relatively dominant win over Moscoso in Wisconsin. But Montoya needs more consistency against the players in his 10-14 range (Mercado, Franco, Portillo, etc) to claw back into the top 8 conversation.
He also crashed out of Mexican Nationals way early, just a few months after winning gold in Peru, though he and Mar did hold onto the Mexican doubles title (ensuring a return trip to the next IRF event).
—- #13 Mario Mercado slipped to 13th after four seasons in the top 10. Mercado opted to skip two west-coast tourneys (he’s based on the east coast), and suffered three round-of-32 upsets on the season (to Fernandez, Pratt and Martell, one of which was at the US Open), and the sum of these events conspired to drive his ranking down. He did have a great run to the final in Sun Prairie, just his second ever pro final.
Mercado’s well set to regain his ranking if he can get back on track making 16s and quarters again, replacing round of 32 losses with solid point gains.
—– #14 Thomas Carter improved his season ending ranking for the fourth straight season on the backs of solid play and navigating his way into the main draws of pro events frequently. He had his best ever pro finish, upsetting Beltran and making the quarters in Portland. He also had solid wins over Diaz at the US Open and over Estrada at the Lou Bradley.
—— #15 Javier Mar played nearly as many events this season (6) as he had in 5 combined previous seasons (7) and he finishes 15th for his trouble. Despite my believing he’s one of the top 6-7 players in the world, he struggled to put together solid runs into the later stages of events.
He had two round of 32 losses he’d probably like back (to Fernandez and Manilla), but also made a run to the quarters at the US Open as the #24 seed. Three of his season losses were to Kane and Moscoso, no shame there. Next season he’ll hope to avoid the royalty of racquetball until later rounds.
—– #16 Sebastian Fernandez managed to play 7 of the 10 events on the season while balancing the tour and college, and makes a big jump in the rankings from #25 last year.
Patata made a huge run to the US Open quarters as the #23 seed. But he also struggled with his seeding running him right into top players week after week; he had round of 16 exists to Kane, Landa and Rocky this season. He should continue to improve and is a dangerous up and coming player.
—– #17 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez squeaked into the #17 spot by season’s end, improving from #28 last season. He played a number of tough round of 32 matches all year and was generally successful in making the main draw (qualifying 5 of 7 events). Once there, he usually played the top-8 seeds tough, with many of his losses on the year coming by tie-breaker. His big win on the season was a win over Landa in Austin, resulting in his first ever pro quarter reached.
Garay has re-classified his nationality, now representing Colombia. Which means he has a greater chance of playing IRF events going forward with a talent pool competing for the spots a bit thinner than in Mexico.
—— #18 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez had a much better season in 2019-20 than the one before, making the main draw in 6 of the 8 events and pushing into the quarters once, but saw his season-ending ranking slip a couple of spots from last year. He had some really solid wins on the season, didn’t have any “bad” losses, and played to his seeding nearly every event. He needs some more break through wins in 2020-21.
—- #19 Carlos Keller Vargas, after playing just 5 previous pro events in his life, committed to traveling from Bolivia and playing the tour full time this season. He started the season ranked #29 and ground his way into the top 20 by season’s end. He qualified for the main draw in 7 of the 9 events he played and faced off against 6 of the top 8 players on tour in various round of 16 matches. His biggest win of the year was an upset of #7 Murray at the US Open.
—— #20 Andres Acuña had a very solid season, playing 8 of the 10 events and making his first pro quarter when he downed Parrilla in Laurel early in the season. By season’s end he found himself in the dreaded 16/17 seed range, which made for really tough round-of-32 match-ups and a couple of early exits. The Costa Rican #1 finishes one spot higher than he did last year, a testament to just how much talent is pouring into the tour right now.
The realities of the Covid-19 pandemic have come home for both pro tours at this point; the IRT, which held out hope that its last scheduled Tier 1 could be held in June has made the decision to officially end the season.
The rolling 12-month points for the players were frozen on 4/1/20 and remain frozen now; they’re now the season ending points. The tour made the decision not to penalize players with expiring points where there were no tournaments to play in which to make them up from Mid-March til now. Once the tour starts up again, we’ll see all the last few month’s of older points expire, making for an interesting start to next season. More on that in Aug/Sept.
With this post, the 2019-20 season ending rankings have been officially updated to the database. All relevant data has been loaded and all relevant links have been updated.
(the last one is a relatively new report; it shows all the current players and shows all their season ending rankings in one matrix; its pretty cool if you have not yet seen it).
Congratulations to Kane Waselenchuk , who secures his 14th pro title in dominant fashion. He went 29-1 on the season (that one loss being a last-minute withdrawal in the season’s first event). Furthermore, he lost only one GAME on the season, that being a dropped game to Rocky in the Laurel final in September. Just eight times all season did his opponent even score double digits in a singular game against him. I’ve seen some speculation on FB about whether the tour is “catching up” to Kane Waselenchuk … i think its safe to say the answer is “No.”
He now holds a career .920 winning percentage and has won 123 of the 177 Tier 1 events he’s ever entered. In his age 38 season, he is as dominant as ever and shows no signs of slowing down.
#2 Alex Landa ended a tumultuous season with a dominant lead over #3 Rocky in the standings, finishing #2 for his highest ever pro ranking. He secured his 4th career tourney win, made 3 other finals and 3 semis. It’s still kind of hard to believe he didn’t really tour full time until his age 29 season, when he suddenly rocketed up the rankings to hold his currently lofty status. Landa also switched country allegiances, won US National Doubles with partner Sudsy Monchik, and essentially guaranteed himself a spot on the US National singles team as well with his finals appearance in the national team singles qualifier in Tempe. Not a bad season.
#3 Rocky Carson was knocked from the #2 spot on tour for the first time in a decade, enduring a tough season where he underwent another knee operation. The rehab ended up costing him at least one missed event, and then he took another off in the midst of the 3-tourney midwest swing (a rarity for racquetball’s ironman). Two seasons ago, he made the semis or better in 8 of the 9 events; this year he got upset in the 16s or quarters five times as the tour has gained depth and he’s faced tough opposition earlier. He also got unlucky with early round match-ups: his round of 16 loss was to Moscoso at the US Open, and two of his quarters losses were to DLR, whose early season slide forced him into a lower seed than he is merited by his quality. That being said, Rocky’s in a great position to make a big run back up the board this coming fall and winter, as he won’t have many points to defend. Just making the semis or final at the US Open will be a huge points swing when it happens (or if it happens, as the US Open scheduling might be in flux). The #2 slot next season is shaping up to be a big dogfight.
—— #4 Andree Parrilla edged #5 Beltran for the #4 spot by just a few points thanks to his performance at the season’s final event. Parrilla had lost the #4 ranking after holding it for much of the season, but made the semis in Chicago (perennially one of his favorite events) and ends the season #4 for the second year running.
How Parrilla got to #4 is pretty amazing; he endured a stretch in Jan/Feb where he was defeated in the 16s in three successive Tier 1 events and looked lost on the court. This is no disrespect to the players he lost to (in order Manilla, Mar and GFranco), each of whom are solid players and earned their wins. Parrilla also suffered a very early out in Mexican Nationals right afterwards, but rebounded to play strong in Chicago. He takes the #4 spot by just 40 ranking points (by way of comparison; you get 40 points for making the round of 32 in a tier 1) and trails Carson by less than 200 points for #3.
Here’s where things will get interesting next season: Parrilla has a chance to rocket up the rankings in the season’s second half, thanks to all these early round losses. If he turns three round of 16 losses into three semi final appearances? That’s a 400 point swing and may be enough to vault him to #3 or higher.
—– #5 Álvaro Beltrán as noted above gets edged for #4 and thus finishes ranked 5th for the third year running. More impressively, Beltran finishes his 21st straight year touring and he’s finished ranked 6th or better in 18 of those seasons (the other three being his debut season, and then two seasons impacted by a knee injury).
Beltran was able to navigate the landmines of up and coming players on tour all year, making the quarters or better in 9 of the 10 events he entered. He did not break into the semis once this year, the first time that’s happened since his injury season of 2009-10, But, he ends up edging his doubles partner DLR for #5 by the skin of his teeth, currently sitting just 15 points ahead of Daniel for #5.
In fact, just 212 points right now separate #3 Rocky from #6 DLR, meaning we will see some major jumbling when the tour kicks back up next season.
Beltran also qualified for the Mexican national team with DLR, losing a close singles final in February for the National title.
—– #6 Daniel De La Rosa had a very interesting season, finishing 6th for the second successive season. To the outside observer, DLR may look like he’s fading; after all he was in the top 4 for five successive seasons leading into the 2018-19 season. But DLR’s season ended a heck of a lot stronger than it started.
He missed an event early, then was upset in the 16s in his “home” event in Arizona in October. He was knocked out in the quarters in both events in December and some thought he may be reconsidering touring altogether. But, he came back in January energized, making the final of the stacked Longhorn Open, winning the Lewis Drug, then winning Mexican Nationals. He lost a tough tiebreaker to Landa in the season’s last event, but the statement has been made. DLR will race up the standings with a strong start to the 2020-21 season, with fewer points to defend in the fall, and then will have to hold on next spring.
DLR continues to be a force on the outdoor scene too, winning the Men’s and Mixed Pro Doubles titles at both the 2019 Outdoor Nationals and the 2019 3WallBall Vegas event. DLR and Beltran continue to be arguably the top doubles team in the world, and DLR with wife Michelle De La Rosa are arguably the top mixed doubles team.
—— #7 Samuel Murray finished ranked 7th for the second consecutive season, having a very consistent season. He played to his seeding 6 times out of 10 events, losing in the quarters to higher-ranked opposition. He made two semis to offset two early-round upsets.
The Canadian #1 took both of his country’s qualifier events, securing his place on the national team once again. He also continues to be one of the top pro doubles players, playing most of the season with Landa.
——- #8 Lalo Portillo rocketed up the rankings this season, finishing 8th on the season after being ranked 17th at season’s end last season. Touring full time for the first time, he qualified for the main draw 10 times out of 10, and got upset wins throughout the season to add a quarter, a semi and, at the Lewis Drug, making his first pro final. He lost that final to DLR 14,9, but his performance rewarded him with a 5th seed the next event.
Portillo has room to grow; once he got into the top 8, he suffered three straight one-and-dones at the hands of his immediate competition for the back end of the top 10 spots (SFranco, Montoya, Mercado), but held on to #8 in the end.
One last note; Portillo is easily winning the IRT’s unofficial off-season social media contest, frequently posting both serious and funny videos nearly daily. He’s a good follow if you havn’t already done so.
——- #9 Conrrado Moscoso committed to playing the tour in a significant fashion in the 2019-20 season, traveling up for long stretches of time from Bolivia to compete. He ended up playing in 6 of the 10 events and fared well.
He made the final of the sport’s biggest event, the US Open, playing a scintillating first game against Kane before losing in two He stayed in the country to compete the two following events, making a semi in Arizona and then losing to Parrilla in the quarters of Fullerton before returning to Bolivia. He came back for the 3-events-in-3-weeks stretch and got a lesson in the rigors of pro touring; he limped out of a quarter final against Kane, played well but lost to DLR in the semis in Sioux Falls, then got dominated in a one-and-done loss to long-time nemesis Montoya in Sun Prairie. He was ranked as high as 7th until he missed the final event, dropping him two slots to #9 where he ends the season.
The #9 seeding slot might be the worst one to have on tour; If everyone shows at an event he’ll have to play a qualifier, then beat a top 8 player in order to then match-up with Kane in a quarter. Its hard to earn points when you’re playing a major final quality match in the quarters. He’ll have his work cut out for him to move up next season; lets hope he can get the resources to play as much as we’d like to see him.
—– #10 Jake Bredenbeck improves his year end ranking for the fourth successive season, and at season’s end just held onto his first ever top 10 finish over Franco.
Jake made his second ever career pro semi in Portland with wins over two top-10 pros, and nearly took out DLR in an 11-10 heart-breaker loss in Chicago. His season has a number of just misses that might easily turn into wins next season.
Off the field, Jake is leading the charge on a new clothing line called Beastmade Apparel, with t-shirts, hats and now long sleeve pullovers. Support a fellow rballer and buy some gear.
================== Since I tend to be a bit verbose, i’m breaking up this season ending rankings analysis into multiple posts. That way we’re not reading 5,000 words in one clip. Stay tuned for the next set of players in the rankings and my thoughts on their season.
—————- In the 128s: no surprises. Local @Victor Migliore took Guatemalan veteran Christian Wer to a tie-breaker but fell 11-9. The other three traveling members of the Guatemala national team all won their openers and moved on. Oregon’s Jim Douglas, an active member of the online rball community, went down in a tie-breaker to local player Nadeem Sharifudden.
In the 64s, a couple of notable matches: – Guatemalan Juan Salvatierra downed IRT touring regular Justus Benson in two close games 12,13. Solid win by Salvatierra to move on. – Semi-regular IRT regular Kyle Ulliman was stretched by another traveling Guatemalan in Edwin Galicia before advancing in a breaker.
—————- In the 32s, we got some upsets and close matches. – In the 16/17 match, a tiebreaker as expected. #16 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez held off the Costa Rican number one Andres Acuña 11-7 in the breaker. – Jaime Martell Racquetball showed he came to play, crushing the #9 seed Mario Mercado 7,2 to make the main draw as a #24 seed. – #13 Thomas Carter crushed the upstart #20 Sam Bredenbeck 1,9 to make the main draw. – #19 Robert Collins pushed #14 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez to a breaker before falling. – In the 15/18 match, a surprise. #18 Adam Manilla outplayed and outhustled #15 Javier Mar to advance 9,9. Mar was off, but Manilla was definitely on. can he make another run (he made the Semis in Austin in January?
—————- In the 16s: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk got his tourney started off against the upstart youngster #16 Sebastian Fernandez, who lost 6,9. Good showing here against the king. – #8 Lalo Portillo99 got a very solid win against #24 Martell 13,13 to move on. Martell pushed but couldn’t break through here, though there wasn’t much between these players on the day. – #5 Andree Parrilla reversed his recent one-and-done trend with am emphatic win over #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 0,11. – #4 Alvaro Beltran held serve against #13 Carter 8,8 to move on. – #3 Rocky Carson was stretched to a tiebreaker by #14 Garay before advancing 11-7. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa went to the limit against #11 Jake Bredenbeck, saving match point against to win 11-10. – #7 Samuel Murray dominated #10 Rodrigo Montoya Solís 11,3 to get another quarter final appearance and put some distance between him and Rodrigo in the race for the top 10. Montoya, who had been as high as #8 this season, will dip down to #12 with these results, and he has to be thinking about what he can do to turn things around. – #2 Alex Landa advanced by the skin of his teeth, beating upstart lefty #18 Manilla 11-10.
So, the quarters are chalk, with the top 8 seeds advancing, but it could have gone either way with a number of these matches.
—————- In the Quarters
– #1 Kane held serve against #8 Portillo, advancing to the semis 6,7. – #5 Parrilla continued his best pro showing in months, coming from a game down to take out veteran Beltran in a breaker. – #6 DLR crushed #3 Carson 5,5. This is Rocky’s 5th exit this season at the quarters or earlier … last season he made the semis or better in every event. Meanwhile DLR continues his resugence; these results will be enough for him to supplant Moscoso for #6 on tour, and within shouting distance of #5 and #4. – #2 Landa cruised by his doubles partner #7 Murray in two shorter games.
————— In the Semis – #1 Kane showed how formidable he can be, coming down from a large game two deficit to cruise into the final 6,11 past #5 Parrilla. With this semis appearance, Parrilla nearly catches back up with Beltran for 4th on tour; its going to be a great battle for that 4/5 spot the rest of the way. – #2 Landa ended the DLR freight train but needed a tiebreaker to do so. Landa extends his recent dominance over DLR (he’s won their last 7 meetings).
In the Finals, it was one-way traffic like it often is with Kane, who took about 10 minutes to take the first game 15-3 and eventually the match 3,5.
—————- Points Implications of results; This tourney replaces the same event last season, so there’s some players defending higher than average points. In Chicago last season, Kane d Rocky in the final and Andree/Montoya made the semis. Also notably, DLR got upset in the 16s, so he had great gains here this weekend.
Notable ranking moves: – DLR overtakes Moscoso for #6 – Bredenbeck should jump to #10; he was #13 entering the event. Jake and Mercado are now separated by just 2 points in my worksheet for the #10 spot, which would be the first time Jake finishes in the top 10 if he can retain the spot. – Horn’s injury-driven absence costs him 3 spots in the rankings; he falls to #18 from #15 last week. – Sam Bredenbeck jumps back into the top 30; he is now #28. – Jaime Martell makes a huge jump from #42 to #35
Chalk to the quarters, though both the #1 and #2 seeds went tiebreaker to get there.
In the semis, the top to Mexican teams advanced yet again to the final to face off. #1 DLR/Beltran dropped a game to the quickly improving Portillo/Parrilla pairing before moving, while Montoya/Mar dominated the #2 seeds Landa/Murray 11,3 to force a rematch of the Mexican Nationals event that happened just a few weeks ago.
In the final, DLR/Beltran got back the upper hand in their burgeoning rivalry with their younger Mexican teammates, taking a closely fought 10,13 match for the title. Its their 7th pro doubles title together since Jan 2017.
—————- Other Draws:
Men’s Open went nearly chalk into the quarters, and chalk to the semis with the top 4 seeds (all IRT regulars) advancing.
In one semi Fernandez topped Franco in two, while in the other Acuna spanked Mercado to make the final. There, both guyts played like they had a plane to catch (both are very fast workers), and Acuna took out his Mexican rival 11,13.
Women’s Open; a decent 8-woman draw was taken by Erika Manilla, who beat top junior Erin Slutzky in the semis and then Costa Rican international Melania Sauma in the final.
Men’s Open Doubles was taken by Cuevas/Franco over top seed Illinois locals Keith Minor and Fernando Javier Rivera.
Mixed Open Doubles was taken by Slutzky and India international Alok Mehta.
—————– Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Dean Baer, Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew
—————— Next up?
Well. I have no idea what is next.
Its pretty amazing what has transpired in this country in just the last 7 days. A week ago we were finishing up the Boston Open on the Ladies side without any real national movement on this Covid-19 Corona Virus. Then in the last week, from a rball perspective we’ve seen every major tournament planned for the next month cancelled. WOR Beach Bash, a number of state singles competitions, an IRT tier 5 in Monroe, LA, USAR intercollegiates, and most notably the annual PARC event to be held in Bolivia.
That clears out the racquetball schedule through at least mid April. But who knows what will transpire between now and then. We’re already seeing travel bans; it seems unlikely that a “tour” based sport like pro racquetball could function if none of the traveling players could travel to the events.
So who knows. Is it possible we’ve seen the last pro events until well into the summer? Maybe. Depends on how dangerous this virus turns out to be, how exponentially it expands, and how much more of an impact it makes on society. Crazy times.
The full Mens tour is back in action for the 35th Annual KWM Gutterman, Inc. Shamrock Shootout Tier 1 Pro Stop Presented by MyPillow, being held in Lombard, just outside of Chicago IL.
The 35th annual running event, which makes it one of the longer running events in the land. It has been a full tier 1 stop for the past 5 years. Chicago itself has been a regular home to IRT stops in general, for years hosting Pro Nationals, and then for years before that the famous Halloween Open. A lot of this was due to former tour commissioner and long time rball organizer Dave Negrete being Chicago-based.
is it a flip draw? Nope, this is a straight draw 1-8.
—————————— Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:
In the round of 128: – Thanks to the proximity of the upcoming Pan American Racquetball Championships, we’ve got the full Guatemalan team here (Edwin Galicia, Javier Martinez, Juan Salvatierra and Christian Wer). Each of these four is playing a local IRT debutant in the opening round of 128, so welcome all first time pro players.
———————————- In the round of 64: things start to heat up. – #17 Andres Acuña manages to be the highest player not getting a bye into the 32s; for his trouble he likely gets a juicy central american match-up against Guatemalan Martinez. – #24 Jaime Martell Racquetball vs #25 Anthony Martin; great opener, as we would expect from a 24/25 match-up. Martel makes a rare appearance on tour, while Martin plays his 6th event of the season. – #19 Robert Collins likely takes on Guatemalan veteran Christian Wer. – #26 Guatemalan Edwin Galicia likely takes on #23 Kyle Ulliman in what could be a close match.
——————————- Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible match-ups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot: – #16/#17 looks like a potential doozy: #16 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez, who has been stuck at the #17 seed the last couple of tournaments, jumps a spot and thus gets the bye into the 32s. He’ll likely face #17 Acuna, who has been getting solid wins all season. Tough one to predict: I like Patata to build on his Mexican Nationals showing and move on. – #9 Mario Mercado versus likely #24 Martell: Rough possible draw for Mercado, who has faced Martell a few times before and never beaten him. I like a run for the Mexican here. – #13 Thomas Carter versus likely #20 Sam Bredenbeck; fun match here between two of the younger guys on tour. Sam beat Carter in 2019 Sioux Falls but it was tight. – #11 Jake Bredenbeck vs likely #22 Justus Benson: lots of broken balls in this one; two hard hitters. – #15 Javier Mar versus likely #18 Adam Manilla: this is the highest i can recall seeing Mar seeded in an event; he’ll fancy his chances to move on and face a familiar opponent in the 16s.
——————————- round of 16: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk versus the Fernandez/Acuna winner; neither will be favored to beat the King of course, but I like what i’ve seen lately out of Fernandez and i’d like to see what his confident game style brings against Kane. – #24 Martell vs #9 Lalo Portillo: this is a stretch, but if Martell pulls off the upset of Mercado he could very well also upset Portillo. They faced off in 2019’s Mexican Nationals, a straight forward 2-game win for Jaime. Portillo won the Minnesota event last weekend and had a very solid Mexican nationals in 2020 (topped Montoya, took DLR to a breaker). This could be a fascinating match. – #5 Andree Parrilla vs #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez: Parrilla is in a rut; he’s gone one and done the last three pro events, he lost in the 16s at Mexican Nationals to a player he should have beat, and one of those pro round of 16 losses was to Franco. I sense another upset here until Andree can right the ship. – #4 Alvaro Beltran faces the Carter/Bredenbeck winner: either way i like Beltran, though Carter did put a Loss on Alvaro in Portland in December. – #3 Rocky Carson returns to action after a rare missed pro event in January and likely faces the tough Eduardo Garay Rodriguez in the 16s. Garay has been playing increasingly well against top opponents, while Carson topped Landa in his last on-the-court match, seemingly having fully recovered at this point from his knee issue in December. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #11 Bredenbeck: Jake has a couple of wins over DLR … but DLR has been playing some great ball lately. He advances. – #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Rodrigo Montoya Solís; just a couple of meetings between these two on the books; they’re 1-1 h2h. This is the kind of match Montoya needs to win in order to establish his spot in the rball elite. Both players have had kind of up and down seasons; this could be a win to build on. – #2 Alex Landa vs #15 Mar: Neither guy here can be happy with this draw; they’re pretty evenly matched, they have split a couple of meetings at Mexican Nats over the years but have not played professionally. I think it could be tight but will favor Landa to move on.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – #1 Kane over #24 Martel – #4 Beltran over #12 Franco: they’ve played 4 times, Beltran has never dropped a game to him. – #3 Carson vs #6 DLR: they’ve been trading wins back and forth for a few years now. DLR topped him earlier this year in Sioux Falls and has been playing really consistent ball; i’ll go with the upset here. – #2 Landa vs #10 Montoya; when they do play, its often close: last meeting was an 11-10 win for Rodrigo in Sioux Falls in 2019. I’ll go with Landa here.
Semis: – Kane over Beltran in what would be their 54th pro meeting. – Landa over DLR; Landa has beaten DLR the last 6 times they’ve played and seems to have his number. But, its always close.
Finals: Kane over Landa.
——————————- Doubles review
We’re playing pro doubles this weekend too; 10 teams with three of the best teams in the world present, plus the Bredenbeck brothers and the two national Guatemalan teams playing.
I like a rematch of the Mexican national finals to happen between #1 Beltran/DLR and #3 Montoya/Mar, but both teams will have to earn it to get t here against tough semi-finalists.
——————————— Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Dean DeAngelo Baer, Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!
Its time for one of my favorite tournaments of the year; Its the 2020 Campeonato Nacional Selectivo de Raquetbol. This year the event is being held in Tijuana, not one of the hotbeds of racquetball in the country like San Luis Potosi and Chihuahua, which will be an interesting home-town advantage for some Tijuana based players and may also explain the dip in attendance from last year’s event.
There’s 26 in the Men’s open draw and 15 in the Women’s open: compare this to last year’s Nationals event in Chihuahua; 34 in Men’s Open, 19 in Women’s. Nonetheless, the draws are stacked and nearly every round of 16 match on the Men’s side (and all the quarters on the women’s side) are “back end of the tournament” pro-quality match-ups.
First, some interesting players missing, and some similarly interesting players entered. First off, the elephant in the room; as most of the rball world knows, former Mexican #1 Alex Landa is not here; he entered (and won) US National Doubles a few weeks ago after having asked for his release from the Mexican team mid last year in the wake of the Pan Am Games Team selection controversy. So in his place, last year’s finalist Álvaro Beltrán ascends to the #1 seed in this draw.
We also see that Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez is entered here, and specifically did NOT enter US National doubles a few weeks back. Fernandez (like Landa) has dual citizenship and has represented both US and Mexico in years past. However in a 3-week span in 2019 he played in both US national doubles and in Mexico National doubles, prompting some eligibility and access questions. No such issues this year.
Other notables missing: Ernesto Ochoa misses the event; he was the #11 seed last year. No Jaime Martell Neri here this year; he lost in the 16s last year and had a great run at the 2019 US Open. The draw also misses frequently seen players such as Jordy Alonso, former junior phenom David Ortega, last year’s #7 seed Edson Martinez and two of the top juniors in the land Emir Martinez and Jose Ramos.
Here’s some matches to watch:
In the 32s, there’s 10 matches, many involving top touring IRT pros. I don’t see much in the way of upset potential, but here’s a couple of interesting play-ins:
– @Miguel Rodriguez Jr. will give #9 Andree Parrilla (current #5 ranked IRT pro) an early run for his money. – Mexican 18U top player Manuel Moncada faces off against Daniel Rodriguez. – Mexican 18U reigning champ Sebastian Fernandez will face last year’s 16U finalist Erick Trujillo – Two of the top players in 16U last year face off for a shot at #3 Natera in Sebastian Longoria and Guillermo Ortega. I like Ortega in his home town here even if there’s little between these two players.
The fireworks start in the 16s. – #1 Beltran likely gets his tourney started against #17 IRT regular Erick Cuevas. – #9 Parrilla likely takes on #8 Christian Longoria in a battle of SLP tour regulars. – #5 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez gets zero favors from the draw, likely having to face an underseeded #12 Javier Estrada. Estrada has been giving the IRT a go this season and has a couple of solid wins, but no breakthroughs past the round of 16 yet. But we know what he’s capable of given his win last summer at the Black Gold cup. Franco has proven to be a tough out at times, with a quarter final appearance in the most recent IRT stop. – #4 Javier Mar likely takes on the junior Moncada in the 16s here. – #3 Alan Natera Chavez will kick off his latest Nationals event likely against the young Ortega, who will be spirited in defeat. – #6 Former WRT #1 Alex Cardona gets a brutal opener against #11 Fernandez. I still think the part-time tournament player Cardona is the better player, but Fernandez has been improving and looked tough earlier this year. This could be a statement win for either player, and could go down to the wire in the breaker. – #7 Rodrigo Montoya Solís] takes on #10 Lalo Portillo in another fantastic round of 16 match. Montoya crushed Portillo in Portland in December, but it was Portillo making a final in Sioux Falls a couple months later. its odd to see Montoya seeded 7th here, considering the fact that he’s the defending Pan Am Games and World Singles champ. He’ll have his work cut out for him again to make the team here unless we see more chicanery from the federation (see Landa, Alex). – #2 Daniel De La Rosa will face a relative unknown (to me) either way to get his nationals tourney started; it should serve as a great warm-up for his brutal projected quarter final match. Read on.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Beltran over #8 Parrilla. I know Parrilla finished last year higher than the elder Beltran, but he’s going through a really tough stretch. Andree lost three straight IRT round of 16 matches while Beltran held serve and eventually jumped him in the rankings last month. Beltran is 6-4 over Andree in their career, and i like Alvaro to rise to the challenge in his home town to move on. – #4 Mar over #12 Estrada; in a battle of Javiers, i give Mar the upper hand. Estrada beat Mar h2h twice in two RKT events in Dec, but Mar gets up for these national events and I think handles Estrada. – #6 Cardona over #3 Natera; yes I know Natera has made the semis in this event two years running with a slew of upsets. I like Cardona here if he can get past the bulked up Fernandez. – #2 DLR over #7 Montoya: this is a rematch of the 2018 Nationals final AND the 2018 Selection event final. But its DLR who has had the upper hand in this rivalry lately, winning their last 3 meetings and 4 of 5. Some of their matches have been close … but often DLR really dominates Montoya, including a 1,4 stomping in the semis of the 2019 Lewis Drug. I think DLR builds off of some great recent results on tour and moves on here.
Great projected quarter finals here: it includes potentially four of the current IRT top ten players and another 2-3 players who are top 10 quality.
My semis: – Mar over Beltran; if Mar gets to this point, I like his chances of taking out Beltran. Mar faced Beltran in the semis of the 2016 Mexican Nationals event and topped him then, and I like him to move to the final here. – DLR over Cardona: Cardona’s run ends at the hands of DLR, who can handle his power and will outlast him from a fitness perspective on the court at the end-game. These two faced off in last year’s nationals in the quarters, and DLR advanced in a tie-breaker. I see a similar result here.
Final: DLR over Mar, a rematch of the 2016 National final also won by Daniel. DLR returns to the title seat of Mexican racquetball.
————– Women’s singles draw preview;
15 women in the draw. All the major LPRT touring pros are present, meaning the quarters on should be action packed.
Notables missing:no Ana Laura Flores here after she dominated the Mexican 18U event last year. Also missing are periodic LPRT players like Montserrat Pérez, Denisse Maldonado, Eleni Guzman Velgis, Diana Aguilar, and Sofia Rascon (who I don’t have any tourney results for in more than two years now).
Round of 16s to watch for: – #5 Nancy Enriquez takes on #12 Lucia Gonzalez in an upset-special. Gonzalez made the semis of the 2018 Mexican Nationals (she also made the semis of 2015 version just after graduating juniors), but missed 2019 so she gets a bottom seed. Nonetheless, she’s proven her ability to beat top LPRT players and Nancy should be on the watch here. I’m going to go with the upset; there’s always a 12 seed beating a 5-seed, right NCAA fans? – #4 Alexandra Herrera takes on the 14U phenom Angela Veronica Ortega. Ortega was the 14U finalist in 2019 in Mexico, then made the Junior worlds 14U final as well. She’ll be playing in her home town against the touring pro Herrera. – #10 Erin Rivera takes on the 2018 Mexican 16U champ Maria Gutierrez in the opener.
Projected quarters: – #1 and defending champ Montse Mejia likely takes on Jessica Parrilla in a pretty tough quarter for the #1 seed. Mejia has never beaten Parrilla … but they also havn’t played since 2017, which means they havn’t played post knee injury. Parrilla continues to struggle to get back to her former lofty ranking; the talent pool is deeper and she has had really rough luck running into top players early in these draws. I think Mejia moves on but it could be a nail-biter tie-breaker. – #12 Gonzalez takes on #4 Herrera; These two are familiar foes; they’re the same age and played on the junior circuit frequently, often in junior national finals. The last time they played was 2018 Mexican Nationals, a straight-forward 2-game win for Gonzalez. I’ll predict another upset. – #3 Samantha Salas Solis vs #6 Susy Acosta Racquetball; Salas has really struggled on tour this season, but I don’t see her losing to the veteran Acosta at this stage. These two veterans have played more than a few times so they’ll know each other’s game well. – #2 Paola Longoria who must feel odd not being seeded #1 in an event for the first time in perhaps a decade or so, likely faces up and coming LPRT player Rivera at this stage. Longoria is on a mission and isn’t stopping till she gets to the final.
My semis: – Mejia over Gonzalez to end the run – Longoria over her doubles partner Salas
Final: Longoria re-takes the title and downs Mejia in two quick games in similar fashion to their past few pro meetings.
————— Doubles preview:
In the Men’s doubles, 13 teams headlined by two of the best doubles teams out there in the top 2 seeds. DLR/Beltran were upset in the semis last year and slip to the #2 seed, while Montoya/Mar are the defending champs and #1 seed. Despite the seeding, DLR/Beltran have never lost as a team to the Montoya/Mar team, so if seeds hold expect DLR/Beltran to retain the title.
Standing in their way are a couple of intriguing teams: #6 Portillo/Parrilla are a frequent pairing on the IRT and could make for an edgy semi against the veterans. The #4 seeds of Estrada/Natera are a frequent pairing that could make noise … but they face a dark-horse in #12 Franco/Cardona, an intriguing pairng that includes the very talented doubles player in Cardona.
In the Women’s doubles draw there’s 8 teams entered but really only 2 teams to talk about: the #1 seeded Longoria/Salas team is one of the most decorated doubles teams of all time, but the #2 seeded team of Mejia/Herrera has been pushing into their territory, taking a couple of pro doubles titles already this season, including the US Open title. Expect #1 vs #2 and for the Longoria/Salas team to push for the win and the international representation spot.
—————- Streaming options: there’s usually good streaming of these events, by following FMR or RKT on facebook and by following the specific players’ pages.
Congrats to your winners on the weekend: – Men’s Doubles: Sudsy Monchik & Alejandro Landa – Women’s Doubles; Aimee Ruiz & Erika Manilla
And the winners of the Singles qualifiers: – Men’s Singles: Rocky Carson – Women’s Singles: Hollie Scott
Sudsy/Landa win three straight 11-9 breakers over former USA National doubles championship teams to take the title. Ruiz secures her 12th title (13th won on the court) and brings along Manilla for her first ever National Doubles title.
All three round of 16 matches were two game wins that weren’t necessarily that close: #9 MoMo Zelada/ Robert Collins “upset” the #8 seeded team of Brent Walters and Thomas Gerhardt 13,3 as the round’s closest match.
– The #5 team of Alex Landa and Sudsy Monchik barely got by a very good #4 seeded team of Tony Carson and Jansen Allen (13),12,9. Carson/Allen jumped out to a huge lead in game one and it looked for a time like the match would be a blow-out, but Landa/Monchik battled back and lost game one on a disputed call. Game two was more in Landa/Monchik control towards the end, leading to the inevitable tiebreaker.
In the breaker, a very tense match reached its crescendo. There was almost nothing between these teams and throughout the 3rd game rallies often ended with spectacular pinch winners or debatable hinders. Carson’s backhand was lethal throughout the match, and his backhand hard Z gave Sudsy fits all night. At the end, Landa was able to find a serve that Allen couldn’t (or didn’t) attack, which led to scoring opportunities that they didn’t miss to pull away and get the last two points to win 11-9.
– #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ were pushed to a breaker, but eventually advanced over #7 Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon.
————— In the Semis – #5 Landa/Monchik dethroned defending champs Carson/Pratt in a fascinating match that went down to the wire. After dropping the first game rather easily, the #5 seeds regrouped and forced a tie-breaker. There, it went down to the a couple of critical rallies, just as their match in the quarters. Carson & Pratt looked like they had the match in hand, up 8-4 with the serve … they missed two opportunities to push it further, giving the serve back. There, a skip, a funny bounce a mis-communication and a crack-ace quickly got the match to 8-8. From there, Landa crushed a service return for a half out, then Rocky buried a pinch kill from 39 feet for 9-8. Sudsy then crushed a pinch kill to get a side out … called a skip for 10-8 but overturned by both line judges for a critical side-out at 8-9 for Landa/Monchik. From there … destiny took over; Pratt got hit by a call heading for a setup for 9-9, Landa buried a kill shot for 10-9 and then Pratt skipped a service return for an anti-climactic end to a great match.
– #2 Jake/Diaz overcame a first game defeat to cruise to the win, advancing to the final for the third time in five years, defeating #6 Horn/Garcia (11),5,3.
In the Finals, Sudsy/Landa looked for a time to be cruising to the title, jumping out to a big game one lead before Jake/Jose fought back to make it a game. Game two was one-way traffic, setting up yet another nail biting tiebreaker. There, the veterans jumped out to a big lead, only to have Jake/Jose grind back to 9-9. Then, as with the two previous matches, Landa/Monchik faced 9-9 down without the serve, got it back and served it out for the match.
The cardiac kid veterans beat three former champs, each time 11-9 in the breaker, to secure the title and claim National team spots.
In the quarters, two matches: – The young #4 seeds Jazmin Trevino and Erin Slutzky prevailed in a breaker over #5 Cassie Lee and Fran Transfiguracion 11-8. – the #3 seeds of collegiate stars Hollie Scott and Lexi York dominated the team of Graciana Wargo and Jessica Chen 4.3.
In the Semis: – #1 seeds Aimee Roehler Ruiz and Erika Manilla cruised to the final over the #4 team of Trevino/Slutzky 7,7 – #3 Hollie Scott and Lexi York] outplayed the #2 seeded team of Kelani Lawrence and Sheryl Lotts, winning in two games 8,13 to move into the final.
In the Finals: the #1 seeds dominated, led by Ruiz’ experience and cruised to the title 6,9.
—————- Men’s Singles Qualification:
(No match report in PRS database b/c we’re not loading this data right now).
Here’s a review of the singles qualifier:
round of 16 notable matches: – #8 Maurice Miller got a solid win over #9 Erik Garcia 12,(6),5. – #12 MoMo Zelada got the biggest upset of the night, playing a solid match to down #5 Charlie Pratt 12,11. Pratt made the semis of the last two US Nationals event, and Zelada has really been playing well lately. – #6 Thomas Carter came back from a 15-0 first game defeat to down #11 Robert Collins (0),7,9 in a battle of lefty IRT tour veterans. Collins really couldn’t do anything wrong in the first, but Carter made some adjustments to advance. – #7 Manilla took two solid games over the improving #10 Sam Bredenbeck 8,12 to move on.
In the Quarters: all four top seeds advanced in two games in the near-chalk draw: – #1 Carson over #8 Miller – #4 Horn over #12 Zelada – #3 Bredenbeck over #6 Carter – #2 Landa over #7 Manilla
In the Semis: – #1 Carson remained undefeated against #4 Horn, but was pressed to a tie-breaker to advance. – #2 Landa also remained undefeated against #3 Bredenbeck, winning in two straight.
In the final, a fatigued Landa fell to Carson in two games; it looked for a bit like Landa could rally for a breaker in the second game, but a couple of curious calls went against him at the tail end of game two, he lost focus and the match was over; Carson wins 6,14.
—————— Women’s Singles
Round of 16 notables: – #8 Jessica Chen took out her doubles partner #9 Wargo in two. – #6 York dropped the first game against junior Slutzky before advancing.
In the quarters: all four top seeds advanced. – #1 Rhonda Rajsich over #8 Chen – #4 Erika Manilla went tiebreaker to advance over #5 Lotts, dropping the first game 6 then winning (6),7,3. – #3 Scott downed her doubles partner York 8,9 – #2 Lawrence took out fellow LPRT touring regular Cassie Lee 6,1.
In the semis: – #4 Manilla got a career win, topping #1 Rajsich in a tie-breaker. – #3 Scott upset #2 Lawrence in a rematch of last year’s US National singles final.
I said my peace on the seeding issues here in the preview; this event was mis-seeded, and these semis match-ups demonstrate why it was mis-seeded and why Lawrence in particular probably feels hard done by here.
In the final…Scott prevailed over Manilla in the breaker to put herself in the driver’s seat for a National team spot.
—————— National Team Standing Implications of these results.
On the Men’s side, if my calculations are correct, then the top for candidates in the race for the two National team singles spots are: 1. Landa: 36 2. Carson: 32 3. Jake: 20 4. Horn.20
Despite losing the final here, Landa is in the lead for a national team spot thanks to the vast difference in US OPen results. Landa and Carson have a pretty sizeable lead over Jake and Horn; the only way Jake or Bobby could surpass Landa or Carson is to win US Nationals this coming May and have one of Landa/Carson upset prior to the semis.
On the Women’s side, here’s the current standings: 1. Scott: 31 2. Manilla: 24 3. Rhonda: 20 4. Kelani: 19
Hollie pretty much has a spot sewn up at this point: The second spot will come down to how 2 thru 4 play at Natioanls in May.
—————— Other notable draws from National Doubles:
– Miller and Warigon took the Men’s Open Doubles title. – Trevino and Slutzky took the Women’s Open Doubles title.
—————— Next up?
There’s no major tournaments anywhere in the world (pro or amateur) until the first week of March. So we have a bit of a break.
Welcome to the first major Amateur Nationals event of Fy2020. Its the US National doubles event, being held in Tempe, AZ on the campus of Arizona State University.
This is the 53rd iteration of US National doubles: The first was held in 1968 in Madison, Wisconsin and the first Men’s US national title was won by the team of Simie Fein and Jim White. The Women’s event doesn’t seem to have started until 1972; the first winners I have on record were Jan Pasternak and Kimberly Hill, who won the title in Memphis in 1972.
Rocky Carson holds the Men’s record for most National Doubles titles; he has 11 titles in 13 appearances. Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson holds the record on the Women’s side with 14 titles in 15 appearances.
The Men’s draw has 11 teams, highlighted by both of last year’s finalist teams as the #1 and #2 seeds. The big news of course this year is the entry of one team in particular: Alex Landa , the current #2 player on the IRT has entered with 5-time pro tour champ and Hall of Famer Sudsy Monchik.
Landa, who has represented Mexico his entire career, famously was left off the Mexican delegation to the Pan American Games last year despite winning the 2019 Mexican Nationals event. The Mexican federation made this decision based on rather “debatable” guidelines to say the least, and in the aftermath Landa asked for (and was granted) his release from the Mexican team. He’s a dual citizen and has resided in Texas for many years, and quickly was able to obtain clearance to enter in US national events. He’s an accomplished doubles player, currently ranked #3 on the IRT doubles ranking, and is a right-side (forehand) player. He’s teamed a legend and a great left-side (backhand) doubles player in Sudsy to make a pretty formidable team. They’re handed the #5 seed, meaning they’ll have to play through both top seeds to win it.
——————————- Lets preview the Men’s doubles draw:
Round of 16: there’s three play-in round of 16 matches, with some interesting match-ups
– In the 8/9 matchup; an east coast flair: North Carolina native Brent Walters teams with top Virginia player Thomas Gerhardt to take on Maryland native MoMo Zelada and his partner, Hawaiian-turned-NorCal guy Robert Collins: Collins as a lefty gives that team an advantage here over the two east coast veterans. – The solid #6 team of David ” Bobby” Horn and reigning intercollegiate champ Erik Garcia takes on #11 team of Arizona youngsters Ben Baron and Preston Tribble. – #7 team of good friends from the east coast Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon take on #10 team Justus Benson and Sam Bredenbeck. Four semi-regular IRT players here battle it out and a ton of hard hitters.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – #1 Defending champs Carson and Charlie Pratt Racquetball likely take on Zelada/Collins and should control the floor. – #5 Monchik/Landa get started against the #4 team of Jansen Allen and Tony Carson, the 2013 champions. Both former top-10 IRT pros, Carson is just coming back from a year-long injury to his achilles heel and had to forfeit out of the last pro event he entered, while Allen has taken a step back from touring full time. This will be a good first test for Monchik/Landa and a tough draw for the former champs. – #3 Adam Manilla and his college buddy Nick Riffel likely play Horn/Garcia. Manilla as a lefty gives this team a big advantage, but Garcia can be the x-factor here. Look for the upset. – #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ likely face the #7 seeds Warigon/Miller and should advance.
Semis: – I like Monchik/Landa to upset the #1 seeds Carson/Pratt here. My simple theory in predicting doubles matches is to look at the match-up on the right-hand side to predict matches; If there’s a weak link on the court, it often presents on the forehand side of the weaker team. Pratt is by no means a “weak” player, but Landa isn’t #2 in the world by accident. I think Sudsy hangs with Rocky on the backhand and Landa makes the difference on the forehand. – I like #2 Jake/Diaz to make the final again; they’re just too experienced playing together and too good of a team.
Finals: – Landa didn’t switch to the USA to not make the team; he’s on a mission in Arizona, and I like them for the upset win.
——————————- Lets preview the Women’s Doubles draw:
Just 6 teams entered here. #1 seed includes one member of last year’s on-the-court champion team in Aimee Roehler Ruiz, who is second all-time to Paraiso-Larseen in career US National doubles titles with 11. She was part of the winning team last year before having the title vacated, but now she’s back with a new partner as the top seed. The #2 seeds from last year (the Key sisters Michelle De La Rosa and Danielle Maddox) are not entered, thus we’ve got a wide-open field.
In the Quarters i’m predicting chalk: – #4 Jazmín Treviño and Erin Slutzky over #5 Cassie Lee and Fran Transfiguracion – #3 Hollie Scott and Lexi York over #6 Graci Wargo & Jessica Chen.
In the semis: – i like the #1 team of Ruiz and Erika Manilla to advance to the final. – I think the #2 seeds of Kelani Lawrence] and Sheryl Lotts, two LPRT regulars who are impressing this season, will have their hands full with Scott and York but will prevail.
Predicted final: I like Lawrence/Lotts over Ruiz/Manilla. Ruiz’ leftiness helps, but I suspect that the overall talent level of the #2 seeded team will overcome the #1 seeds in the final.
——————————— Singles qualifier Review:
The USA added the singles event to National Doubles in 2016 as part of a revamping of the way the National team is decided. US players now compete in three events to gain “points” towards team qualification; the US Open in October, National doubles in February and National singles in May. One may argue that using US Open pro results is unfair (it is; you’re often playing non-US players while competing towards a US team spot), but it is the only other “major” event we have at the moment.
A reminder: I have captured these non-Nationals events in my staging area, but they are NOT loaded into the database and are not currently queryable. I’ve had requests to add this data for a better head to head representation (especially for Canadians, who have been holding these types of events for years), or to get winners of these past events … but it would take significant retrofitting of the reports to do so, so its back burnered for now.
That being said, its a great draw in Tempe and I look forward to it as a fan.
——————————— Men’s singles draw review:
Some questions have arisen related to the seedings here: if Landa just converted to USA … how is he seeded 2nd? Well that’s because USAR uses their internal rankings and Carson is ahead of Landa. See https://www.usaracquetballevents.com/rankings.asp . The USAR rankings do include basically all pro players, and is driven mostly by head to head match-ups. But, just because playerA beats playerB doesn’t automatically move them ahead; the last time Landa played Carson was in the final of the Nov 2019 Fullerton event, a Landa win … yet he remains behind Rocky until he beats him again.
Here’s some notable matches from the 16s I look forward to: – 8/9 Erik Garcia vs Maurice Miller should be a great match; I think the collegiate champ moves on. – 5/12 Zelada vs Pratt is interesting: Zelada doesn’t play every pro event but can hang with the players regularly in the 9-16 range. Pratt used to make noise in nearly every event he entered, but as he winds down from full time touring he’s been taking more and more earlier early round losses; in his last 7 pro stops over the last two years he’s made just 3 main draws. – 6/11: Collins vs Thomas Carter: love the lefty on lefty matches. – 7/10: Adam Manilla vs Sam Bredenbeck: could be an interesting match here; can Sam get the upset?
Projected Quarters: – #1 Carson over #9 Garcia – #4 Horn over #5 Pratt: Bobby beat Charlie in last year’s US Nationals and recently in a local event on his home court and I think he prevails again. – #3 Jake Bredenbeck over #6 Carter – #2 Landa over the Manilla
Semis: – #1 Carson moves on over Horn; he’s 4-0 lifetime over Bobby. – #2 Landa tops Jake Bredenbeck; he’s 8-0 lifetime over Jake.
Final: tough one to call; I think Landa is super motivated to win and get a big leg up on qualifying for the team. If this was actually Nationals i’d go with Landa, but here Rocky takes the title since by Sunday I perceive Rocky will be out of doubles while Landa will be shooting for two titles.
——————————— Women’s singles draw review:
First, can someone explain the seeding in this event to me? Right now, on USAR’s ranking page Kelani Lawrence is ahead of Rhonda Rajsich. Kelani BEAT Rhonda in Nationals last year en route to the title and is the defending champ. How is Kelani not seeded #1? I don’t get it. You may say “oh seeding doesn’t matter you have to beat everyone to win” … but as you’ll see, Kelani now has a significantly harder semis match than the #1 seed has.
Nonetheless, here’s a preview of this draw. Notable early matches to watch: – 8/9 Wargo vs Chen: young doubles partners square off early. – 6/11: York vs Slutzky: can the junior Slutzky (just finishing her 16U year and making her adult debut) challenge York?
quarters projection: – #1 Rajsich over Wargo – #5 Lotts over #4 Manilla; this should be a great match. – #3 Scott over #6 York, again doubles partners squaring off. – #2 Lawrence over #7 Lee.
The rubber meats the road in the semis.
– #1 Rajsich vs #5 Lotts: Rhonda has had a tough pro season so far: four times she’s lost in the 16s, but she’s also made two semis. Lotts has competed well against top-8 players but has yet to break through with a round of 16 win. Rhonda has never lost to Lotts, and this may go deep but Rhonda prevails. – #2 Lawrence vs #3 Scott: this is a rematch of last year’s final (which is why seeding accuracy is so important); Kelani prevailed there 11-10 but it could have gone either way. Since then, Lawrence has made a concerted effort to play the LPRT more, and has a slew of solid results. I think Lawrence has grown more in the last year as a player than Scott, and prevails here.
Lawrence and Rajsich again. These two met in US Nationals events in 2016, 2018 and 2019. They’ve also met in this qualifier event every year since it started: 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. So its only fitting that they meet in the 2020 iteration.
In all of these 7 matches, Rhonda is 6-1. But that one win was in last year’s Nationals event. Lawrence got that break through win and hasn’t looked back. Lawrence for the win here too.
——————————— Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow USA Racquetball on Facebook and register for live video notifications. Leo Ray Vasquez on the mike all weekend as usual.
—————- In the 64s: – #25 Sam Bredenbeck eked out a tie-breaker win over #24 Scott McClellan – Both Kelley brothers (Sam and Joe), travelling from the NJ/PA area, fell in two to traveling pros. Great job supporting the event though, along with all the traveling players. – #23 Kadim Carrasco] took a close match from #26 Justus Benson.
—————- In the 32s, we started to see some interesting results. – As suspected, the 16/17 match was close, with #16 Javier Mar taking out younger countryman #17 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez] in a tie-breaker. – #12 Carlos Keller Vargas was stretched by Costa Rican veteran #21 Felipe Camacho, winning two closer games. – #13 Thomas Carter got revenge from last week, topping #20 Javier Estrada in a breaker to move on. Sold win for Carter to reverse his two-tourney one-and-done streak. – #11 Mario Mercado Valenzuela held serve against #22 Alan Natera Chavez, winning in two closer games. – #10 Sebastian Franco was stretched by South American neighbor Carrasco, advancing 14,13. – #15 Eduardo Garay played a complete match and dominated #18 Adam Manilla 8,8 to move on.
So, the 32s went perfectly chalk; all the seeds from 9-16 advanced into the next round. I think I predicted at least 2-3 upsets here but the seeds prevailed this time around.
—————- In the 16s: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk got his tourney started against a tough foe in #16 Mar, but advanced 7,8. We saw a similar pattern in game 2 to a lot of Kane’s games against solid opponents; it was even for a while … then it was 8-8 … then you blink your eye and its 15-8 as Kane turns up the pressure and moves on. – In a fascinating result, #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís] dominated #8 Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball 12,4 to remain unbeaten against the Bolivian Iris Grand Slam winner and move on. – #5 Samuel Murray held serve against Keller, moving on after taking a close game one. – #4 Álvaro Beltrán stifled any chance of another upset at the hands of the lefty Carter (as had happened in December in Portland), cruising to a 4,12 win. – #3 Andree Parrilla is ready to put this month behind him; the player I thought could make a run to the final here instead was upset in the round of 16 for the third successive week, this time at the hands of Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 11-7 in the breaker. Franco advances to his 4th pro quarter final. – #6 Lalo Portillo‘s dreams of back to back finals ended early; he was dropped by #11 Mercado in the round of 16s for the 2nd time in three weeks, this time by the overwhelming scoreline of 4,7. – #10 S.Franco evened up his career h2h line with #7 Jake Bredenbeck, taking him out in two to advance. – #2 Alex Landa showed little ill-effects from his arm injury of last weekend, advancing over a tough foe in #15 Garay 6,(7),5.
So, three upsets at this stage; the top is nearly chalk 1,9,5,4 in the quarters, while the bottom is 14,11,10,2. I had predicted some upsets here … but none of them came to pass.
—————- In the Quarters – #1 Kane topped #9 Montoya to move on, but not with out a bit of controversy. Early in the second game a long rally had the players come together and Kane seemed to almost shove Montoya to get out of the way of a shot. It was kind of reminiscent of the early physical days of the sport. No penalty was given and nothing seemed to come of it … but at the end of the tourney Montoya scored the most points of any player against Kane in a game on the weekend, and seems to be getting incrementally better against the King each time they face each other. – #4 Alvaro Beltran came from a game down to top Canadian #1 Murray and keep his perfect h2h record alive over him. – #11 Mercado advanced to his first pro semi since the Bolivian Grand Slam by topping upstart GFranco 13,2. Franco looked frisky in game one … but collapsed once he lost the close opening game. – #2 Landa made short work of #10 S.Franco 5,5.
————— In the Semis; two interesting matches. – #4 Beltran dominated #1 Kane …. for a quarter of their match. Beltran led 5-0 and 7-3 in the first …. and then didn’t score again. Kane ran off 27 unanswered points from 3-7 down in the first game to win the match 7,0. Just a complete white washing where Kane played textbook ball for most of the match. – #11 Mercado saved game point in the first and then took a close one from #2 Landa to advance to just his second ever pro final 14,11. He becomes the rare double-digit seed to make a pro final.
In the Finals…. it was one way traffic. Kane crushed Mercado 2,3 to take the title. 5 total points against represents the 2nd most dominant final scoreline in the history of the tour (see http://rball.pro/C1E703 for the full list … not surprisingly Kane owns most of the top scorelines on this report).
—————- Points Implications of results;
There’s no expiring tier 1 from last season to drop off, but there’s still a lot of movement in the top 20 on tour after this event: – Parrilla’s 3-tourney swoon finally costs him in the rankings: he’ll drop to #5 behind Beltran. – DLR’s absence costs him too; despite Moscoso’s early upset exit, he’ll pip Daniel for #6 on tour. – Montoya and Mercado will both jump over Jake in the tightly bunched set of players in the 10-13 range. Around 30 ranking points separate 10th from 13th and these three players along with Sebastian Franco continue to juggle spots based on tournament results. – Gerardo Franco jumps to #16, Mar continues to rise up (now #19), and the missing Acuna gets dumped three spots to #21.
—————- Other Draws:
In the Men’s Open, a solid bracket included several former top-8 IRT players plus a ton of locals. As it turned out, two of the pro quarter-finalists were the 1 and 3 seeds in the Open (and both forfeited out, thinning the draw) and the 8 quarter-finalists ended up being 6 touring internationals plus mid-western top amateurs Lee Meinerz and Anthony Martin.
In the qtrs: – SFranco topped Meinerz 8,11 – Fernandez crushed Garay 4,1 to advance. – Camacho got a walkover when Mercado withdrew. – Portillo topped Martin 8,4
In the semis: – Fernandez walks over Franco – Portillo crushes Camacho 2,3
In the final, a familiar battle. Mexican nationals Fernandez and Portillo are a year apart and often met in the back end of junior nationals and junior worlds events. Some of their recent match history includes these notable finals: – Portillo d Fernandez in the 16U World junior finals in 2016 – Fernandez d Portillo in the Mexican 18U natioanls final in 2018 – then, 3 months later the two met in the 18U junior worlds final, Portillo’s last junior event, and Portillo won.
So how about on this day? They played a back and forth match eventually won by Patata Fernandez (4),7,8.
In the Men’s Open Doubles, in the absence of an official IRT pro doubles draw we saw a 15-team bracket headlined by the reigning Pan Am Games gold medalists Mar/Montoya. Also in the doubles draws were a couple of old friends from the East Coast, Brent Walters and Russ Bruns, both of whom have strong ties to the Virginia Racquetball scene.
In the end though, the top two seeds, both all-Mexican traveling teams, advanced to the final. #1 Montoya/Mar, one of the best teams in the world and the reigning Pan American Games gold medalists, ended up topping Natera/Estrada in two tight games for the title.
—————— Next up?
The IRT takes a break until mid-march when they return to Chicago. Meanwhile, USA National Doubles is next weekend, featuring a juicy pairing of 5-time pro champ Sudsy Monchik teaming up with IRT #2 Landa, who has to represent the USA.
In fact, there’s almost nothing going on that we’d normally track in February; I may have to come up with some fun ideas to discuss during the break.