In the qtrs: – #1 Alex Landa advanced over a local player.
– #5 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez upset Alan Natera Chavez to move on; Natera was upset early in the US Open and I probably would have favored him in this match too. Garay has been trying to get it going this season but has been unlucky in match-ups on the pro tour thus far (his losses this season have been to Carson, DLR and Keller; a tough slate).
– #3 Javier Mar took out Javier Estrada, who was not able to replicate his success from the Black Gold event in his home town.
– #7 Alex Cardona upset #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solís to move on. This was much better than a 2/7 match-up; the two-time WRT winner holds a 4-2 career h2h lead over Montoya on that tour … and beat him again here.
In the semis: – #1 Landa topped hard-hitting #5 Garay – #3 Mar beat #7 Cardona (11),4,4; I wonder if this score-line indicates a lack of match fitness for Cardona; after beating the very top-quality Mar in game one, he gets wiped out in games 2 and 3.
In the final: #1 Landa eked by #3 Mar 14,10, a scoreline I would have expected knowing the quality of these two players. Mar has more than demonstrated that he’s a top 8 player in the world through his periodic IRT results.
———————- Doubles wrap-up:
The doubles draw was solid, and quality teams such as Ernesto Ochoa/Estrada, the Nateras and the Garays couldn’t even make the final.
The final ended up being #1 vs #2: Landa/Cardona d Montoya/Mar 11-7 to make Landa a double winner on the weekend. Its saying something when the defending Pan American champion team of Montoya/Mar is beaten by their countrymen on the depth of the doubles circuit right now.
Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk on his win at the 2019 US Open. He continues an unbelievable reign of dominance at this event, and over the sport in general. With this win:
– his 118th career pro title – his 15th US Open title … in a row – He improves his career W/L to 558-53 for a .917 winning pct – He extends his lead at the top of the IRT rankings due to Carson’s early round upset. – He improves his US Open W/L record to an astounding 90-3
Lets review the Q/S/F after the last post ran through the 32s and 16s.
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk played solidly to take out the talented #24 seed Javier Mar 5,3. These two have met a couple times in the last year and its a testament to Kane’s greatness how effortlessly he plays against a guy like Mar. With this result, Mar jumps up a few spots in the rankings, but not nearly enough to avoid qualification issues in future events.
– #4 Alex Landa topped his countryman #5 Álvaro Beltrán in two games 9,12. Landa was in control and Beltran kept it close, but never close enough that you thought he had a chance to win this one. With this result, Beltran will jump Parrilla for #4 on tour.
– #6 Daniel De La Rosa upset #3 Andree Parrilla in a tiebreaker; this is a solid showing for DLR after he’s spent most of the last two seasons slowly dripping down the rankings. He’ll have as good of a chance as he could hope for to return to the final with the upset of Rocky Carson. Despite making the quarters, Andree loses points from last year’s event (where he made the semis) and will drop down to 5th.
#15 Conra Moscoso Ortiz made short work of the 18U phenom Sebastian Fernandez 4,4. Moscoso’s got his eye on just one thing; a shot at the finals with Kane, and he did well not to look past the up and coming Fernandez. With this result, Sebastian will make a huge jump in the rankings, from #23 all the way up to #16.
In the Semis:
– #1 Waselenchuk absolutely destroyed #4 Landa 1,2. No looking past Landa here; Kane could do no wrong. This is one of the worst defeats in the Q/S/F in tour history. Nonetheless, thanks to his result here Landa will return to #3 on tour for the next event.
– #15 Moscoso continues his great run, taking out #6 DLR in two close games 11,11. These two athletes put on a heck of a show, both diving all over the court and making fantastic shots. A match-up of two true-and-true shooters was taken in the end by the Bolivian, who moves into the final. With this win, Moscoso will jump into the IRT’s top 8 (specifically #7), an interesting fact given that he has results in just a few events. It does make you wonder where he’d rank if he played the tour full time.
In the final:
Game one was really entertaining, as the shooter in Moscoso really came out firing. It was neck and neck for most of game 1 before Kane pulled away. In game 2, Kane’s relentless pressure wore down the young Bolivian and he took the game easily. Final score: 12,5.
My takeaway from the match is this: There might not be a more skilled power shooter in the world than Moscoso (except for Kane of course) … and make no mistake Moscoso put away a ton of balls and had spectacular returns of serve in this match. But Kane doesn’t make mistakes at the same rate as other players, and time and time again Moscoso would fail to put a ball away and then the next swing would be a Kane winner. Again and Again. You just cannot make mistakes against Kane; to beat him you have to play a perfect match, and as we’ve basically seen now for years, nobody has really been successful in putting together a long enough streak of perfection to take him down.
Also, we have to mention … Moscoso really needs to work on his foot work during his serves; we lost count how many foot faults he triggered in the final.
#1 DLR/Beltran defeated the upstart Bolivian team of Keller/Carrasco team (which had defeated the heavily favored #5 team of Jose Diaz and Jake Bredenbeck in qualifiers) in two.
#2 Kane/Croft played a complete match to down the very solid #3 Landa/Murray team 7,7.
In the final, we got the two teams we wanted. This is a rematch of the last two US Open finals and the 2018 World Doubles final. The 2017 US Open doubles final was considered to be among the finest matches ever played on the pro circuit, a come from behind win for Kane/Croft. DLR/Beltran turned the tide in the 2018 US Open and dominated for a win. The World Doubles final was controversy filled, with the Mexican team walking off the court at match point against. What would we get here?
As it turned out, we got a solid match and a return to the winner’s circle for the now 3-time US Open champion team of Kane and Ben, who won the title 11,8. They’re now 28-5 as a team on the pro circuit with 7 titles since 2014.
Men’s Pro Singles: Kane Waselenchuk Men’s Open Singles: Andres Acuna Men’s Open Doubles: Carlos Keller/Kadim Carrasco
Note: no pro doubles this weekend, so we had pretty solid Open Singles and Open Doubles draws. The Men’s singles open draw featured three players who made the quarters (or better) of the pro draw and a great draw of east coast amateurs to challenge the traveling pros.
And, a reminder; the 5-8 seeds were “flipped” this tournament. Seeds listed below are for this event, not of the actual rankings on tour at the moment of the event.
I had the opportunity to be at the Sportfit Laurel club for Thursday night round of 64 and 32 matches, so I’ll describe some of the more interesting matches I witnessed in a bit more detail.
Lets review the matches of note by round:
Round of 64:
#24 Mauricio Zelada, playing on his home courts and with the cheering of the home crowd, eked out a brutal tiebreaker against #25 Kyle Ulliman. Zelada is a protege of former touring pro and fellow Maryland native Dan Fowler, and his game-style is really familiar to those who remember Fowler’s days on tour. Similar stroke mechanics, similar drive serve setup, and a similar game style. Zelada plays consistent ball, always putting solid consistent contact on the ball. Ulliman’s game style is flashier, more of a shooter style, taking chances and succeeding often. It was a fantastic match-up that went down to the wire, with Zelada winning on a gimme-error from Kyle after a long match.
#20 Maurice Miller faced off against #33 Joe Kelley in a battle of top east coast amateurs (Miller from GA, Kelley from PA). It did not disappoint, and was a back and forth athletic match between two guys with great getting ability. In the end Miller pulled away in the tie-breaker to advance.
#22 Hometown favorite Troy Warigon, spurred on by a vocal local cheering section, went tiebreaker against Atlanta newcomer #27 Yacouba Keita before advancing. Definitely the “loudest” crowd of the night, cheering Warigon on.
Colombian #23 Set Cubillos was taken tie-breaker by New Jersey top amateur #26 David Austin before advancing.
The biggest upset of the round and the sole upset by a local player over a traveling pro was #30 Pennsylvanian Geoff Heskett taking out #18 Justus Benson 10,12. Both players really put some power into the ball, and Heskett was able to really control the points with his excellent drive serve to Benson’s backhand.
Round of 32:
In a marathon evening match, #16 Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas took a barn-burner over #17 Colombian Eduardo Garay (13),11,7. This match was a contrast in styles: Keller’s drive serve approach is controlled power, with emphasis on the location and efficiency of the drive, while Garay has as much power as anyone on tour. The ball just sounds different off of Garay’s racquet on the drive serve. But, once the ball is in play, Keller’s putting as much pace on it as anyone else. Garay flings himself around the court, with incredible getting ability, while Keller’s length (he’s well over 6-feet tall) enables him to reach a lot of shots and cover a lot of court. This match went on so long that I believe Garay soaked four shirts. Vargas outlasted Garay in the end, but both of these players if playing full time are top 10 material.
In the evening’s other latest running match, two players with DC-area ties fought to the end. #9 Mario Mercado split two close games with home-town favorite #24 Zelada, who (like Warigon) plays out of the club and had a large local cheering section. The toll of the earlier match got to MoMo though, as he ran out of gas in the tiebreaker. Mercado efficiently advanced 11-1 to get to the main draw. This match won the award for biggest crowd of the night.
#23 Cubillos nearly forfeited his match against #10 Jake Bredenbeck before showing up just before the deadline. Jake seemed distracted as a result in the first game but eventually advanced 11,2.
#14 Andres Acuna dispatched Bolivian veteran #19 Kadim Carrasco in two games to advanced to the main draw yet again. Acuna is quietly moving his way up the ranks and putting his name into the discussion for top 10.
Round of 16 Action:
#1 Kane Waslenechuk kicked off his tournament with a 1,3 pasting of #16 Keller. I don’t know if Keller was beat from two matches the night before, or if Kane was especially fired up to play. I looked forward to this match and was rather surprised to see it be such a dominant beat-down. If you wondered about the difference between an IRF champ and the Pro champ … well here you go.
For the second tournament in a row, #8 Rodrigo Montoya could not advance out of the round of 16 against an opponent he’d normally be favored against. He loses in two straight to #9 Mercado 14,11. This second early loss in as many events to start the season should drop him right back out of the top 8.
In a battle of Francos (not related), #5 Sebastian Franco was taken to the edge by #12 Gerardo Franco, eventually advancing 11-9 in the breaker. Sebastian gets past an important hurdle on his home courts.
Both #4 Alejandro Landa and #2 Rocky Carson were stretched to tiebreakers in surprising fashion by tour regulars, by lefties Robert Collins and Thomas Carter respectively. Landa in particular has a habit of being a slow starter, something that’s harder and harder to overcome in the 3-game format.
In the upset of the round, perhaps the tournament, Costa Rican #1 and #14 seed Andres Acuna continues an impressive year of results by taking out #3 Andree Parrilla 4,(7),7. Parrilla made the final of the first event of the year and had ascended to the #3 ranking, but gets upset early by the solid play of Acuna and will drop back to #4 for the US Open. Meanwhile, Acuna achieves his first ever pro quarterfinal appearance in his 9th season of playing pro events.
#6 Samuel Murray staved off an upset attempt from #11 Eduardo Portillo, splitting the first two games by razor thin margins before pulling away in the tiebreaker.
In the quarters…
#1 Waselenchuk took out #9 Mercado in two straight forward games 6,8. Even a favorable crowd couldn’t push Mercado forward. Mercado will stay ranked 10th on tour despite the quarter-final finish, but he’s significantly narrowed the gap to the 9th spot on tour.
#5 Franco gets a key win on home soil, taking out #4 Landa for just the second time professionally. Sebastian crushed Landa in game one 15-3, but then had to work for it, saving game point before serving out the match 15-14. Franco gets his second semi-final in a row to open the season after making just one semi all last season, a great sign for his battle to retain a top 8 ranking this year. Despite the loss, Landa will regain the #3 seed for the US Open by virtue of Parrilla’s upset early loss.
#6 Murray traded 15-3 game blow-outs with #14 Acuna before closing out the match in a tiebreaker. Acuna improves his ranking to #18 with this result, pushing him to his highest ever ranking.
#2 Carson met #7 Alvaro Beltran for the 50th time on the pro tour and improved to 28-22 against him, advancing in (what else) a tie-breaker. Thanks to Daniel de la Rosa‘s absence here, Beltran widened his lead over DLR for the 5th ranking on tour and gained a bit on the now-4th ranked Parrilla.
In the Semis:
#5 Franco pushed #1 Kane on his home courts to make game one close, but Kane dominated game two to advance to the finals 11,7. With this result, Franco jumps to the #7 spot on tour, which means he avoids the likes of Montoya in an 8/9 match-up and avoids Kane in the quarters at the US Open.
#2 Carson met #6 Murray for the 11th time professionally and improved to 11-0 over the Canadian #1 11,4. Murray just couldn’t execute shots against Carson in game two and the match slipped away from him quickly. With this semis showing, Murray bumps Montoya for the last of the top 8 protected seeds for the US Open, a significant event that means Murray avoids possible dangerous qualifiers while Montoya may run into a tough player in the 24-25 range on tour.
The final was #1 vs #2 as it normally is; Rocky vs Kane has been the final in eight events over the last two seasons. this was their 80th meeting on tour. And like 76 times before, Kane topped Rocky for the title. But it was an adventurous match: Rocky was on his way to a donut in game one and was assessed a technical towards the end; game one score of 15 to -1. But Carson rebounded to take game 2; it had been nearly 2 years since Rocky took a game off of Kane. But Kane rebounded in the breaker and won -1,(11),4 to take the title.
Its Kane’s 117th career pro win.
Quick Recap of Men’s Open Singles: 4th Seeded Mercado survived a brutal quarter against Eduardo Garay (a rematch of last week’s Colombian National championships, won by Garay) to then cruise to the final over Set Cubillos from the top half (#1 seed Murray withdrew after making the pro semis). The bottom half of the draw went chalk amongst all top seeds, with #2 seed Andres Acuna topping #3 Maurice Miller to make the final. In the final, Acuna took out Mercado 11,9 to turn the tides on their meetings as of late.
Quick Recap of Men’s Open Doubles: it was #1 vs #2, Colombia vs Bolivia in the final, with two quality teams battling it out. #1 Mercado/Garay battled against #2 Keller/Carrasco in the final. There, the #2 seeded Bolivians put a second consecutive Sunday afternoon loss on Mercado, winning the Open Doubles title 7,12
Congrats to Tournament Director Tracy Valentine for all her hard work, thanks to IRT staff Mike Grisz, Dean Baer, Pablo Fajre for all their hard work. Great to meet IRT statistician-in-training JP Edwards, who I hope gets more involved going forward.
Also, a quick shout-out to Kane, who took to the court Thursday night upon arriving to play some pro-am doubles with tournament sponsors. The normal Thursday night sponsor doubles got cancelled, but some boosters had put up money specifically to have a shot at playing with Kane, and kudos to him for taking the court to help with sponsorship efforts.
Next up? 3-Wall championships next weekend in Las Vegas, then the US Open in Minneapolis.
The IRT returns to Laurel, MD for the second year in a row for the 2019 Valentine Open, named after its tournament director Tracie D Valentine and her daughter Imanii Valentine. The tour is back at one of the legendary east coast venues of Sportfit Laurel for this event.
Lets preview the draw. there’s 33 players entered this year including a ton of internationals and some MD/VA/PA locals. As noted last week, there’s some movement in the top 8, notably Parrilla taking over 3rd and Montoya moving into 7th … but the “flip” seeding is in place here so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled from their normal spots.
Missing top players: The biggest name missing is #6 Daniel De La Rosa who misses the event sandwiched in between 3-wall in Vegas and a major pickleball event, so he may have had to take a schedule break. We’re also missing a lot of tour regulars from last season in the 11-20 range, including #11 Jose Diaz, #13 David ” Bobby” Horn, and #18-20 Charlie Pratt, Jansen Allen and Felipe Camacho. Two tourneys missed in a row for these guys: it look like maybe there’s a changing of the guard on tour.
Here’s some round of 64 matches to watch for:
– MoMo Zelada versus Kyle Ulliman: Zelada plays on his home courts and gets the traveling Ulliman, who returns to Laurel for the 2nd year in a row. Could be a tight one. – MD native Jamal Harris takes on The Ref, Scott McClellan in an opener. Hopefully McClellan doesn’t have any avoidables taken away from him… (inside joke on a FB discussion after last event). – Veteran Bolivian Kadim Carrasco takes on 18U local player Dylan Pruitt also playing on his home courts. – Justus Benson takes on a tough lefty from Pennsylvania Geoff Heskett.
Projecting the 32s: – #16 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez vs #17 Carlos Keller Vargas; 16/17 matches are always tough, and this South American battle will be no different. Garay was just crowned Colombian Champ, while Keller is the 2-time reigning Pan American Racquetball Championships winner. I like Garay in a tie-breaker and I like seeing him make a push on tour early. – #9 Mario Mercado vs #24 Zelada: just another night at the club for these two native Bolivians, who both lived in the DC area for a while and got more than a few local tournament match-ups. Mercado has been playing solid lately and will look to advance. – #14 Andres Acuña vs #19 Carrasco: another international flavor match between two guys who have never managed to meet. – #15 Thomas Carter vs #18 Benson: Just like the 16/17, the 15/18 meeting will be tight as well. I like Carter here to return to the 16s in Laurel.
Projecting the Main draw: assuming seeds hold in the qualifiers, here’s some fun 16s to look for: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #16 Garay: I can’t wait to see Kane taking on a good young hard hitting player like Garay. If its Keller instead, we’re talking about a solid tactician unmoved by power play given how much he plays @Luis Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo back home. Either way, a great round of 16 that’s likely on the show/streaming court. – #8 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #9 Mercado; Montoya missed a chance in the 8/9 match last tourney … now he gets a match against a guy who beat him in Lima just a few weeks ago. Look for a solid match but Montoya to advance. – #6 Samuel Murray vs #11 Lalo Portillo; upset warning: Portillo beat Murray in California in Jan 2019 and has done nothing but improve since. Portillo continues his push for the top 10. – #7 Alvaro Beltran vs #10 Jake Bredenbeck; A nice match-up; Bredenbeck was nursing an injury earlier this summer that reportedly kept him out of the season opener; if he’s not 100% he’ll struggle to beat Beltran, who continues to impress even as he approaches his 41st birthday.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Kane vs #8 Montoya: would love to see this one; power v power. Montoya has just two meeting with Kane, both pretty dominant wins for the World #1. – #4 Alex Landavs #5 Sebastian Franco; Franco gets Landa on his (Franco’s) home courts. Franco made the semis last year and will be looking for an upset; these two always seem to play tight, and Franco beat Landa to win his sole pro title. Watch out for the upset here. – #3 Andree Parrilla vs #6 Murray; if Murray gets past Portillo, he runs into a tough one in Parrilla, who lost 11-10 in the quarters last year in Laurel and won’t want to lose his #3 ranking at this juncture. – #2 Rocky Carson vs #7 Beltran. These two have met no less than 49 times on tour; they’re more than familiar with each other and played a rather testy tiebreaker in their last meeting in January. This is no cakewalk for Carson. Combined age: more than 81 years between the two of them.
Semis: – Kane over Landa: these two seem to play the same way each time: Landa keeps it close up to about 10-10, then Kane breaks away for a 15-10 win. Look for a two game victory with the scores like 10,8 – Carson over Parrilla: So here’s the interesting match up. These two met in the quarters of this event last year, and Parrilla had match point on his racquet and blew a simple cross court into the ground before losing 11-10. Then they didn’t play again until last weekend’s Atlanta final (a 13,8 win for Rocky). I like Andree’s chances here of pushing for a tie-breaker on these slower courts but won’t predict a win.
Final: Kane over Rocky, yet again.
That’s how I see it for this weekend. I’ll be at the club all day thursday to take in the 64s and 32s before jetting back home. Hope to see you out there, and maybe we’ll do some test broadcasting later thursday night.
In the 64s: – Set Cubillos Ruiz got a solid 2-game win over IRT regular #22 Nick Riffel. Cubillos is really active in the game in his home country of Colombia and its good to see him active in IRT events. – MoMo Zelada reversed the result from the Bolivian Grand Slam and topped #21 Kadim Carrasco in two straight for a solid win. – Utah amateur Anthony Martin stretched #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez to a tiebreaker before falling; solid showing.
—————- In the 32s: – #17 Sebastian Fernandez gets a career win, topping #16 Javier Mar 10,11. With Kane’s withdrawal, I thought Mar had a good shot at the final here. Instead, Fernandez gets one of the better wins in his career and gets a pass into the quarters for the first time in his pro career. – #12 Gerardo Franco was stretched to a tiebreaker by Zelada before advancing. – #20 Carlos Keller Vargas was taken to a tiebreaker by #13Thomas Carter before advancing. This was a closer match than I expected and makes me wonder if Keller is still nursing the injury that he was struggling with this summer (with all due respect to Carter, who played solid ball all night). – #18 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez got a solid win over #15 Andres Acuña 11-8 in the breaker to advance. 15/18 matches are usually close, and this was no different.
—————- In the 16s, we saw some matches that didn’t quite go as I thought they would in my preview; – #8 Sebastian Franco took the first round of many 8/9 matchups against #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis taking an 11-7 tiebreaker. – #4 Andree Parrilla got a dominant win over 2-time defending PARC champ Carlos Keller 8,8. Parrilla was able to really put balls away and wore out Keller over the course of the night. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa was taken to a tiebreaker by the precocious #11 Lalo Portillobefore advancing. Portillo continues to impress. – #7 Samuel Murray took a solid win over #10 Mario Mercado, a match-up not unlike the Franco-Montoya rivalry that could be one we see a lot this season. Notably, it looks like Mercado is a full timer on tour this year; he’s made both IRT events so far on the schedule.
————— In the Quarters, all four matches went to tie-breaker.
– #8 Franco ended #17 Fernandez’s run, but was made to work for it, winning 11-9 in the end. – #4 Parrilla couldn’t close out game 2’s match point opportunities, but advanced 11-4 in the breaker. – #3 Alex Landahad his typical barn-burner against #6 DLR, winning 11-10 to move on. There’s a slew of razor-thin matches between these two over the years; this is just the latest in a series. – #2 Rocky Carson improved to 10-0 over #7 Murray, but had to go tiebreaker to do so.
In the semis: – #4 Parrilla dominated #8 Franco to earn his 3rd career IRT pro final. – #2 Carson beat #3 Landa in two tight games 11,12.
In the final; Rocky earns his 27th career pro win, topping Parrilla 13,8. He now sits just 2 behind Jack Huczek for 5th place in tourney wins all-time.
——————- Ranking Implications of this event:
Because there was no Atlanta event this weekend last season, points earned here should just add on to existing rankings and will have some effects on the Laurel event’s seedings. For this week, Rocky overtakes Kane for #1 … but only for this week week. On 9/16/19, last year’s points fall off and Kane should be back at #1, and should be the #1 seed in Laurel.
What’s more interesting is what happens when the 9/16/19 date hits. if i have my data right: – Parrilla will over take Landa for #3. – Montoya will move to #7, finally getting a top-8 seed and setting up an intriguing qtr with Carson if seeds hold. – Murray drops to #9; he loses a ton of points from last year’s Laurel event, where he made the final. He’ll have to battle Franco just to make the quarters now. – Portillo moves up to #13, Fernandez jumps to #21.
So, pretty important ranking moves for the next Tier 1 event in Laurel in two weeks’ time.
With the withdraw of Kane, the Ben Croft /Kane team that I thought would win this draw was taken out of the equation.
The #1 seeds of DLR/Beltran battled their way through two of the toughest teams in the draw, outlasting Vargas/Carrasco in the qtrs and then their Mexican nemesis team of Montoya/Mar in the semis. The #2 seeds of Landa/Murray beat the upset-minded Parrilla/Portillo team (who had upset #3 seeds Franco/Mercado in the qtrs) in the other semi.
Unfortunately, the final was not played and a Double Forfeit was declared. As per an IRT announcement, the players had a misunderstanding about scheduling (most of the time, Doubles final is sat. night, but in Atlanta it was scheduled for Sunday instead). So flights were already arranged in conflict with the final.
This is a first for me, I think. I cannot recall ever entering “Double Forfeit” in for a final, in more than 3,100 tournament draws now entered into the database. I’ve seen some 3rd place games abandoned like this before, but even that’s pretty rare. Lets hope this is a one-off and doesn’t happen again. Nobody looks good here.
—————- Next up on the schedule (after I wrap up the LPRT event tomorrow); we do have a small break in the schedule, possibly an RKT event in Mexico we can cover, before the IRT’s next Tier 1 in Laurel, MD.
The tour returns to Lilburn after a one-season absence, and is rewarded with a great 38-man draw and both both singles and doubles action. The top 10 players are here, then we’re missing the 11th-14th ranked players inclusive ( Jose Diaz, Jake Bredenbeck (injured reportedly),David Horn and Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo all miss this event, somewhat surprisingly for the first three). We’re also missing last weekend’s winner Charlie Pratt depriving the draw a bit of its mid-section talent.
This combination of missing players elevates Lalo Portillo all the way to the #11 seed here, his highest ever seeding in an IRT event. We’re also missing frequent tour participants like Jansen Allen, Adam Manilla, and Felipe Camacho; all three treaded water or slipped in the rankings last season; is this a one-tourney blip or are we seeing a changing of the guard on tour? More to come here later. In the meantime…
—— Lets preview the singles draw first.
NOTE: post publishing this analysis and the draw, Kane Waselenchuk withdrew from the event due to a personal issue. Take that into mind reading the below. I could see this most benefiting Javier Mar, who could get a walkover in the 16s and very well could run to the finals.
Notable round of 64 matches: – #24 Maurice Miller vs Troy Warigon; a solid match-up between two solid players, who also happen to be playing doubles together this weekend. They met in the semis of the pro draw of the LPRT event in December on Troy’s home court (a Miller win); now the tides are reversed as Warigon travels to play Miller on Miller’s home court. Miller should advance here. – #21 Kadim Carrasco vs MoMo Zelada; Carrasco is one of several Bolivian-based players to enter this draw. These two met in the opener of the Bolivian Grand Slam last March, a dominant Carrasco win. I like Zelada keeping it close but ultimately falling again to Carrasco. – #19 Justus BensonvsAustin Cunningham; Benson takes on a talented local in a first rounder that could be closer than he wants. – #23 Scott McClellan vs Michael Arterburn: two frequent IRT entrants face off in the opener. – #18 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez takes on long-time touring pro Dan Fowler, who plays just his third IRT event in the last decade, making the drive down from Maryland along with Warigon and Zelada.
———— Notable round of 32s, assuming some early upsets don’t occur: – #16 Javier Mar vs #17 Sebastian Fernandez; tough match-up for both players, fitting of a 16/17 draw. I like both players chances of breaking into the top 10 with a full season on tour … but we generally only see Mar part time (He’s played just 7 events in the past 5 seasons). But Mar’s results speak for themselves; he’s always a threat to advance when he plays. I like Mar over the younger Mexican player here, but I like Patata’s chances this season. – #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #21 Carrasco: Franco takes advantage of the missing 11-15 ranked players to secure a top 16 seed and gets a winnable match against the Carrasco/Zelada winner. – #20 Carlos Keller Vargas takes on #13 Thomas Carter, a tough draw for Carter facing the two-time defending PARC champ. – #15 Andres Acuña vs #18 Garay: great match of two internationals; last time they knowingly played was in the 2014 Junior worlds (a tight Acuna win). Acuna has continued to impress with his international accomplishments, but Garay beat a number of top players last year and is looking to make some noise this season. Garay to advance but its a toss-up.
—————— Projecting the 16s. – #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #16 Mar: they’ve met 3 times; Kane crushed him at Syosset last spring, but Mar played Kane as tough as he’s been played in the best-of-three format at last year’s US Open. Mar’s tactical game can keep him in a match with Kane if he’s shooting well, but that only goes so far. Kane gets a quality match out of the gate but advances in two. – #8 Sebastian Franco vs #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis: the first of potentially many critical openers for both players as Rodrigo makes a run at the tour top 8. I don’t have any prior meetings between the two, so this should be telling for now, as both guys remain neck and neck at the 8/9 spot and should continue to meet at this 8/9 juncture for a bit until points settle out. I predict Montoya to advance. – #5 Alvaro Beltran vs #12 G.Franco: they’ve played 3 times since Jan 2018, all three Beltran wins. I’d expect the same here; a win for Alvaro in 2 closer games. – #4 Andree Parrilla vs #20 Keller; brutal draw for Parrilla. Keller was handily beating Parrilla at the Black Gold cup this summer when Keller had to retire; this will be a setback for Parrilla’s pursuit of the #3 spot on tour right out of the gate, because I think Keller wins this match in two. – #3 Alex Landavs #14 Robert Collins: just one meeting between these two; a 3-game win at the 2016 US Open. Landa should advance here. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #11 Portillo; this should be an interesting match; Portillo has gotten a ton of solid wins this summer, while DLR fell to his lowest ranking in a while. Is DLR in? This is just the kind of match that can trip him up if he isn’t focused. I’d expect DLR to advance here because his game is just too complete for Portillo right now, but Portillo has the talent to win. – #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Mario Mercado: 4 meetings between them, none in the last few years. They’re split 2-2, with all four going 4 or 5 games. I like Mercado here, building on his great Pan Am Games showing. – #2 Rocky Carson vs #18 Garay; little to go on here but I suspect Garay will get a lesson in match management as the veteran advances in two.
—————– Possible Quarters: – #1 Waselenchuk vs #9 Montoya: just two prior meetings between the two, both dominant Kane wins. It will be interesting to see if Montoya’s game has added the facets he needs to compete with Kane; i look forward to this meeting if it occurs nonetheless because there’s not too many other guys who hit it this hard on tour. – #20 Keller vs #5 Beltran: Keller’s beaten Alvaro twice in the PARCs, including in the semis of the 2019 event en route to his title. I see another Keller tight 2-game win. – #3 Landa vs #6 DLR; a frequent match-up between two top Mexican players: I now have Landa 7-5 in both pro and Amateur meetings with DLR, and you have to go back to 2017 to find a DLR win. I think Landa wins here to move on. – #2 Carson vs #10 Mercado; 8 meetings, 8-0 for Carson, but Mercado took him to a tiebreaker on home soil in the Bolivian Grand Slam earlier this year. Look for a Carson win.
—————– Semis: – #1 Kane over #20 Keller; Keller’s solid, but not this solid. It could be a fun match to watch though, in that Keller’s game does not really overpower players, but he hangs in. Can he hang with Kane’s power? – #2 Carson vs #3 Landa; Carson leads 7-4 all time … but they’re dead even split in the last 3 seasons 4-4, alternating wins. Carson won in Syosset to end last season … but Landa beat him handily in Florida the week before en route to that title. I like Rocky here.
Final: Kane over Rocky. 1 vs 2 yet again. I know nobody wants to predict the obvious 1-2 final, but as we saw last year when Rocky and Kane had locked up the top two slots with a couple of events yet to go … there’s still a gap between them and the rest of the tour.
—————— Men’s Doubles preview
Love this Doubles draw. The top of the draw is stacked, and there’s 11 solid teams. Portillo and Parrilla have decided to play together every event, adding to the intrigue of doubles draws with more and more “regular” teams showing up. All four quarter finals look like they’ll be great.
In the top half, look for Ben Croft/Waselenchuk to get stretched to the limit by the Mar/Montoya team (who just won gold at the Pan Am games) before advancing to face their frequent nemesis team of DLR/Beltran in one semi.
In the bottom half, I like the Colombian national team of Mercado/Franco to top Parrilla/Portillo and to face the #2 seeded Landa/Murray team, who continues to have great success playing with each other semi.
Croft/Waselenchuk took out DLR/Beltran the last time they played (Mar 2019) and we’ll go with that again, as they then continue to beat Landa/Murray in the final.
—————— Lets get it on. Look for Streaming announcements in all the usual places all weekend.
In the Semis; – Landa and Natera battled in a close game 1, then Landa pulled away to take game two 15-3 and advance to the final of his namesake tourney. – Cardona took two close games from Garay 13,12 to “upset” his 2nd straight seeded player and advance to the final.
In the Final: – Cardona took the first game, then Landa took over, beating his frequent Juarez club playing partner (12),5,6 to win the singles title in his name sake event. Not a bad showing for Cardona, who has stepped back from competitive play but still remains a dangerous player in every draw he enters. For Landa, two solid wins over tough opponents and a good warmup for the new season coming.
In Men’s Doubles: – #1 seeds Landa/Cardona were upset in the semis by #4 Estrada/Ochoa in a tiebreaker. – #2 Natera/Garay downed #6 seeds (who got a walkover over #3 seeded team in the qtrs) Jose Martinez / Manuel Villarreal: to advance to the final.
In a good final entirely consisting of solid Mexican players who rarely feature in USA domestic IRT events, Estrada and Ochoa blasted their way to a win over Natera/Garay.
————————- Next up; the start of the 2019-20 pro season with the LPRT heading to San Luis Potosi.
Like last week’s event in SLP, there’s a solid Men’s Pro draw (18 players). its also an IRT sanctioned event; a Tier 2, meaning the winner does get a somewhat significant number of rankings points (120 points).
——————- Men’s Pro Singles draw
Lets pick up a preview at the quarter-final levels, given that it seems unlikely to have any upsets prior to that stage.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Alex Landalikely faces #8 Ruben Estrada, brother of Javier (who is also in the draw). Ruben was a force in Junior racquetball in the early 2000s, winning multiple Junior world titles but an accident in the late 2008-early 2009 time-frame derailed his promising career. He returned to pro racquetball in 2015 and has played sporadically since.
– #4 Ernesto Ochoavs #5 Alan Natera Chavez; a great match-up between two dark horses in pro racquetball. Natera’s win over reigning Pan Am Games champ Rodrigo Montoya Solís earlier this year at Mexican Nationals represents the potential of his game. They’ve played before and I favor Natera here.
– #3 Javier Estrada vs #6 Alex Cardona: a tough one to predict, given that Cardona has really stepped back in his pro touring. I’m going to predict Cardona gets the upset here.
– #2 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez vs #7 Polo Gutiérrez; I can’t wait to see what Polo has left in the tank after a long international career and having recovered from an arm injury. I suspect Garay is the favorite here.
Projected Semis: – Landa vs Natera: here’s some of the players Natera has beaten this year: Montoya, Estrada, Cardona, Gerardo Franco, Sebastian Franco and Charlie Pratt. That’s a lot of talented players. This is no cake walk for Landa, who I think should advance in a breaker but don’t be surprised by an upset. – Garay vs Cardona: Despite Garay’s resume of recent accomplishments, i still like Cardona here.
Finals: Landa over his doubles partner Cardona in a rematch of their every tuesday night league night.
——————- They’re also playing doubles at the events; 7 teams. The top seed is Landa/Cardona, the 2nd seed is the solid Garay/Natera team (who made the finals last weekend). Also in the Mix is the Ochoa/Estrada team.
I like the draw to go chalk; both Cardona and Landa are solid doubles players.
While the Pan American Games team events were wrapping up last weekend, there was a nice little Tier 5 IRT event happening in San Luis Potosi, SL Mexico with some top Mexican players. Here’s a quick wrap-up of the Men’s and Women’s draws.
– #1 Parrilla outlasted Garay in two – #3 Portillo got a great win, trouncing Estrada 2,7
In the final, Parrilla dominated his younger countryman, winning the title 4,9.
Parrilla gets a nice jump start to the season; the odds of this tier 5 factoring in the 2019-20 race seem pretty small; Parrilla gets just 30 rankings points for winning a Tier 5 … he’ll get three times that just for showing up in the first Tier 1 next month.
The Women’s Open draw featured a smaller draw of mostly younger Mexican women and included 3 recent Mexican 18U junior national champs. The draw when chalk to the semis….
In the final, Flores came back from a game one deficit to trounce Parrilla in the 2nd and 3rd games to take the title.
In the Men’s pro Doubles: Parrilla & Portillo beat Natera and Garay in the Men’s doubles final.
Fun note: it was a Parrilla family affair, with father, son and daughter all competing. Fabian Parrilla
Next up on the racquetball calendar: – The Alex LandaTier 2 in Juarez this coming W/E – the first LPRT event of the season, the Paola Longoria Grand Slam in San Luis Potosi – then, after a break, the International Racquetball Tour slate begins with the season opener in Atlanta while the @LPRT heads to my home state of Virginia for an event in Chesapeake at the home club of former top touring pro Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey…. and the hometown of reigning US national champ Kelani Lawrence.
can’t wait to get started in on the new pro seasons!