Congrats to Joe Kelley for winning on home turf and taking the first annual Average Joe’s Invitational at the Kelley house in Montague, NJ.
15 players representing 6 states (NY, NJ, MD, CT, NC and GA) came to the home of Joe and Sam Kelley, who recently completed construction on a court adjacent to their home. The facility is great, the play was great, and the streaming was constant all weekend.
Play kicked off Friday night with the round of 16, then played out the full draw by Saturday evening; here’s how things went
In the 16s: – #1 Seed Brent Walters got a bye in the 16s and did a lot of reffing and streaming as a result. – #9 Dylan Pruitt (who is NOT left handed, inside joke from my 3WallBall writeups last fall) topped Greg Caruso.8,8. – #5 Joe Kelley topped Tony Prater 6,4 – #13 David Austin provided the biggest shock result of the round, crushing #4 Jon Justice 1,8 to move on. – #3 Austin Cunningham topped #14 Josh Shea in a tight match 10,12. Shea is playing in his age 16 season and really hung well with the more experienced Cunningham. – #6 Sam Kelley topped Aaron Dardini in two quick games 1,8. – #7 Jose Dino Flores used his quick, compact swing and his agility to take out #10 lefty Jordan Walters in two games 9,6 – #2 Jason Sylvester beat Matt Mertz in two quick games 7,0.
In the Quarters: – #9 Pruitt, recently graduated out of Juniors, played really solid ball to upset the #1 seed Walters and shake up the draw. Walters took the first game, but Pruitt battled back and dominated in the tiebreaker. final score (11),8,4 – #5 Kelley went tiebreaker against his frequent Jersey rival Austin, winning out in the battle of lefties to advance (13),4,6 – #3 Cunningham topped Sam Kelley in a breaker, splitting the first two games before advancing in the breaker. Final score (8),8,4 – #2 Sylvester edged out Flores in a battle between two long-time New England state level rivals. The two went 14-15, 15-14 in the first two games, with Sylvester saving match point against, before running away in the breaker 11-2. Not much between these two tough players on the day.
In the Semis: – #5 Kelley dropped the first game 15-14 against the youngster from Maryland before rebounding to take game two 15-8. In the breaker, Pruitt ran off 5 quick points … and then hit a wall. Kelley ran off 11 unanswered points and took the breaker 11-5. – #3 Cunningham made quick work of Sylvester, perhaps winded from his Flores battle, winning in two games 6,8 and displaying great reflexes and a sneaky fast serve that netted him points. He took match point with a behind-the-back roll-out.
In the final, Kelley mounted a furious comeback to shock Cunningham in game one, then cruised to the title in game two. Final score 13,7 (or perhaps 13,6 as Cunningham believes he lost a point on a technical to a fussy ref in Brent Walters
Great event, great idea and it was awesome to watch from afar all day Saturday. Hope to see more live racquetball soon. Thanks to the participants and of course to the Kelley brothers for building this amazing court and hosting.
So, In case you weren’t aware, the Kelley brothers from New Jersey have built a racquetball court at their house, complete with viewing area, mini-clubhouse and had it christened by none other than the legend Cliff Swain.
This weekend they’ve invited 15 of the top open players from up and down the East Coast to their home for a single elimination tournament. The draw sheet is out (Austin Cunningham posted it on Keep Racquetball Great earlier today).
Here’s PRS’ predictions on how it will play out.
In the round of 16s. – #1 seed North Carolinian Brent Walters gets a bye, which is probably good since he’s the oldest player in the draw. He’ll need his energy come Saturday night. – In the #9/#8, I’ve got Maryland’s own Dylan Pruitt taking out New Jersey native #8 Greg Caruso in a slight upset. They played twice in mid 2019 and Pruitt beat him both times. – #5 and host Joe Kelley takes out #12 Connecticut-based Tony Prater in the opener. – #4 North Carolina’s Jon Justice takes out #13 Jersey native David Austin. – #3 Georgian Austin Cunningham takes out NY’s #14 Josh Shea. – #6 Fellow host @sam kelley handles New Yorker #11 Aaron Dardani. – #7 Connecticut native Jose Flores takes out #10 North Carolina native Jordan Walters in a tight match. – #2 New Yorker Jason Sylvester handles #15 Jersey native Matt Mertz.Just one upset by seeding in the 8/9, though the 7/10 could flip as well depending on how much Flores has been playing.
In the quarters we start to see some matches. – #1 Reigning NC state champ Walters handles the youngster Pruitt. – #4 2019 NC state runner up Justice takes out Joe Kelley. – #3 Cunningham drops a game, but advances over Sam Kelley, knocking both brothers/hosts out in the quarters. – #2 Sylvester goes tiebreaker but advances over long-time NE rival Flores.Chalk to the semis.
In the Semis: – Walters prevails over his NC rival Justice in the semis. – Cunningham takes out the veteran Sylvester.
In the final… – Walters takes out Cunningham.
Keep an eye out at KRG group and for Cunningham, Pruitt and Walters streaming the matches; they’re always good for it. They’ve already started streaming practice doubles matches this afternoon, and its great to see the guys back on the court.
Also congrats to the winners of the massive
Open and 18U draws (which we’ll talk about later on):
– Men’s Open: Andres Acuna
– Men’s Open Doubles: Moscoso/Carrasco
– 18U Juniors: Erick Trujillo
Murray, who was in jeopardy of not even
traveling to the tournament thanks to Covid-related travel restrictions coming
out of Canada, becomes the 41st ever Tier 1 tournament winner in the history of
Men’s pro tours. Ironically, the previous person to fulfil that particular
bucket list item was also the player he vanquished in the final. Murray had a
fantastic event, getting his first ever wins over both Mar and De La Rosa, then
playing solid racquetball all weekend to win the title. Arguably Murray was the
underdog in every match from the round of 16 on, and proved all pundits and
On the Doubles side, the reigning US
national team champs topped a number of top teams en route to the final,
including two top international teams that they might face in the next IRF
championship. They seem to be growing as a team and looking more dangerous the
more they play together.
was stretched to a tiebreaker by home-town
favorite Austin Cunningham before advancing (13),13,7.
– #19 Sam Bredenbeck dropped the opener
against relative newcomer Texan Brennen Jennings before moving on (9),11,4.
– #23 MoMo Zelada was pressed by top amateur
player from Monterrey Daniel Diaz 13,9 before advancing. This is the first time
i’ve seen Diaz in any top-level competition tracked by PRS and he played well,
hope to see more of him on tour.
– In one of the best matches of the opening
round, 18U junior lefty Andrew Gleason came from a game down to beat tough
Bolivian Miguel A. Arteaga Guzman (5),5,7. Gleason showed some great mental
toughness for a junior, many of whom would have folded after a first game beat
In the 32s, we saw the top 16 pros enter
into the draw for the first time … and the draw went perfectly chalk. Every
one of the top 16 seeds advanced. There were a couple notable matches though.
– the #16/#17 seed match always seems to
provide a close call, and this was no exception. #16 Javier Estrada took out
his doubles partner and good friend
, who played him tough in game two but could
not force the breaker.
In the Quarters, we started to see the seeds
breaking down, in a slew of fantastic matches that put the show court behind
nearly 3 hours inside of 3 matches (the last quarter final was a 1pm scheduled
start and didn’t go on until nearly 4pm). Lets recap
– #1 Landa over #8 Jake: Landa made it 10
for 10 in top competitions versus Jake, but the big Minnesotan did not make it
easy, keeping it close throughout. Landa advances 11,13.
– #5 Canadian number one Murray got his
first career win over #4 DLR in an 11-9 thriller. Game one was back and forth,
with DLR coming back to eke it out 15-14, then Murray blitzed game two in about
10 minutes to force the tiebreaker. There, the players were neck and neck, playing
back and forth racquetball that was just great for the neutrals, with DLR
shooting constantly, Murray putting on a defensive and diving clinic, and then
Sam pulling out a great winner to break a 9-9 tie that had lasted several
service changes before DLR pressed on a forehand winner to skip out at match
– #6 Portillo showed some real veteran poise
throughout his match against #3 Parrilla, keeping to his game plan and grinding
out the 11-8 tiebreaker win. This isn’t necessarily Lalo’s best ever win (he
beat Carson in Arizona in 2019) or his best result (he made the final of the
2020 Lewis Drug) but it was the kind of match he won when he wasn’t necessarily
favored to win, and he did it by just out playing and out thinking his
– #7 Moscoso got another win over #2 Carson
in an IRT event (the third in as many pro meetings), but really had to dig deep
to do so. Carson controlled game one, but Moscoso ground back in game two
before racing to the 11-4 breaker win. Kane and Sudsy were on the mike for the
first part of this match and put on a broadcasting clinic, with some of the
best in-match analysis you’ll ever see. It is worth a re-listen to the
In the Semis
– #1 Landa seemed to show some of the
effects of the layoff and lots of play on Saturday, looking tired throughout
the match. He was pressed continually by the Canadian #1, who put on an
absolute clinic on defensive racquetball and athletic prowess diving around the
court and showing amazing agility for a big man. Murray saved match point
against and ran off a couple points for victory on the back of a couple of
pretty amazing kill shots from the back court. This was one of those matches
you wished was still win by two, because there was little separating these two
players on the day. Murray advances to just his second ever pro final, first
since Sept 2018 with the 11-10 thriller.
– #7 Moscoso advanced to the finals over #6
Portillo, but Lalo continued to show his maturation as a player, bouncing back
from an embarrassing first game 15-2 shellacking to take a game from one of the
world’s best players before falling quickly in the breaker. Moscoso advances to
his 3rd major final in just 10 career tournaments and is in a great spot to
take another title.
So, just to note the pathway for the two
– Murray has beaten Mar, DLR and Landa to
– Moscoso has beaten Mercado, Carson and
Murray in particular really having a great
In the Finals…
Murray controlled game one easily, playing
smart racquetball and exposing Moscoso’s go-for-broke style. Conrrado came back
in game two, getting on a hot streak to push to a breaker. In the tie-breaker,
Murray continued to grind out points, playing smart racquetball and
counter-punching against Moscoso’s shots. Momentum seemed to swing against
Murray as Moscoso ran off four straight towards the end … but Murray
stiffened up, played smart racquetball, mixed in a few highlight-reel 39 foot
roll outs of his own to match the flashier Moscoso, then ended the match with a
diving re-kill roll-out to take his first ever IRT title.
Murray played lights out all weekend, and
more than earned this title.
Points Implications of results
Well, we’re not entirely sure what the
points implication of this event will be, because we’re not sure what the tour
will do yet with the rankings points The points have been frozen since March,
but just turning the system back on and expiring 9 months of points will have a
pretty radical effect on the rankings.
There’s talk of changing the points system
as a result, to go away from a rolling 12-month calendar for the time being to
something based on the last 10 tourneys, or perhaps the last two years of
events. There’s also talk of moving to a calendar year system versus a rolling
IF (and this is a big if) we were to stick
with rolling 12-months and just expire the points dating to the end of 2019 …
then these are some of the big-time moves we’ll see in the rankings:
– DLR jumps to #2
– Finalists Murray and Moscoso jump to #3
and #4 respectively.
– Landa drops to #5
– Mercado jumps to #7
– Estrada, amazingly, jumps from #23 to #8
– Parrilla gets dropped to #9
– Manilla, also surprisingly , jumps from
#21 to #10.
– Beltran drops all the way to #11
– And lastly, most amazingly, Carson would
drop from #3 all the way to #15. That’s right; Rocky, a player who has not been
outside the top 3 in 20 years or so, had such a badly timed run of results and
missed early 2020 events due to injury that he’d nearly be out of the top 16.
Take all this with a grain of salt, because
I sense the ranking system needs to be modified to protect against such radical
moves. Stay tuned.
The 14-team doubles draw provided a ton of
interesting results on the first night of competition, with a ton of really
surprising results. Here’s a walk through.
In the 16s:
– #3 seeds DLR and tournament sponsor Donald
Williams were handled by the local team of Zachary Patterson and Austin
Cunningham 14,3. I thought the presence of top doubles player DLR would get
them at least a round further, but they fall at the opener.
– #6 seeded Colombian’s Garay and Franco dug
deep to hold off the tough pair of Mexicans from Chihuahua Natera & Estrada
in two tight games 14,10. They’re setup for a good shot at the final.
– #10 seeds and new pairing Carter & Mar
really surprised me and blew past the all-Colombian team of Mercado and Herrera
6,5. Mercado is such a good doubles player, I thought this would have gone the
other way based on the inexperience of Carter+Mar pairing … but as they say,
this is why they play the games.
In the Quarters
– #1 Murray/Jake had to go breaker to top
the experienced Costa Rican pair of Acuna/Camacho.
– #4 Sudsy Monchik and Landa had a tense,
tight match against the Bolivian team of Moscoso/Carrasco, pulling it out in a
heated breaker where the American reps came back from 5-8 down in the breaker
to run the match out. At the death, a highly contested two-bounce call, several
debatable replays and then match point awarded via an avoidable when Monchik
had a setup in the middle of the court that hit a jumping Moscoso. It was an animated
finish to say the least.
– #3 Garay/Franco destroyed the Cinderella
local team of Patterson/Cunningham to move into the semis.
– #2 Parrilla/Portillo took a close 2-game
win 11,13 over Carter/Mar.
In the semis…
– The US national team of Monchik/Landa
stiffened up after a first game blowout loss to #1 seeded Murray/Jake and
eventually cruised to the tiebreaker 11-3 to move into the finals.
– The Colombian national team of
Franco/Garay held off match point in game two, then blew it out in the breaker
to move into the final over the #2 seeded all-Mexico team of Parrilla/Portillo.
In the final…
– Monchik & Landa had match point on
their racquets … twice, but the new Colombian pairing of Franco/Garay fought
back and forced the breaker. There. the US champs controlled throghout and
ground out the win. The tail end of game two was some of the best doubles play
i’ve ever seen, with all four players hitting amazing shots, and both teams
showing tactical adjustments on the fly to try to strategize their way to a
Men’s Open review; a 35-man open draw went
down, with a ton of top pro players dipping down into the draw and making for
some great matches.
In the final, Acuna topped Natera in a
breaker. Floridian vet
and Costa Rican newcomer Gabriel Garcia were
the semi finalists.
18U Junior draw review
The IRT is embarking on a new program to
highlight juniors, and Atlanta was their first foray into the program. A large
scholarship purse was devoted to the draw and they got a fantastic
multi-national 18U junior draw as a result.
The top two 18U players from Mexico advanced
to the final, with
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!
Congrats to your winners on the weekend: – Singles: Paola Longoria – Doubles: Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas
Longoria dominates the competition, never giving up more than 8 points in a game on the weekend to cruise to her 97th career tier-1 title. And, the #1 doubles pairing holds serve against the upstart Mejia/Herrera duo to take the title.
—————- In the Quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria dominated her young Mexican rival #9 Montse Mejia 3,8 to move into the semis. More and more Mejia’s win over Longoria at the 2019 Mexican Nationals is looking like a fluke; Longoria has beaten Montse the last three times they’ve played on tour by the score lines 5,6 then 2,6 and today 3,8. – #4 Alexandra Herrera needed a tie-breaker to get past #5 Natalia Mendez Erlwein in what could be an interesting budding rivalry. – #6 Rhonda Rajsich became the latest player to get an upset win over #3 Samantha Salas Solis this season, taking out her long-time rival in a breaker by the slimmest of margins 11-10. Salas has now been beaten prior to the finals in all six of this season’s events she’s entered; last season she played 9 events and made 9 finals. – #2 Maria Jose Vargas Parada was pressed in game one by the junior phenom Centellas (now officially her country-woman having made the switch to represent Argentina), but pulled away to win in two.
————— In the Semis – Longoria continued to dominate in Greenville, beating #4 Herrera in two games 3,7 to return to the final. – Rajsich pushed Vargas to the breaker and looked for a moment like she could get to a final for the first time since June 2017 … but ran out of gas in the breaker.
————— In the Finals, we get the 5th final between Longoria and Vargas on the season. The first four were Longoria wins … and we got another Longoria win here too. Paola dominated the #2 player on tour to win 5,6 for the singles title.
—————- Points Implications of results: there’s definitely some interesting movement in the rankings as a result of this event.
– The top 1-6 stay the same, and in the same order. Longoria treads water in that she’s the defending champ, while Vargas gains on her and Salas loses more ground. Vargas now has a large enough lead on Salas that it likely is impossible for Samantha to regain #2 this season. – Despite her run to the semis, Rhonda actually loses ground to Mendez for #5 thanks to Rajsich having to defend semis points from last year. – The big news is that Enriquez has been knocked from the #7 perch that she’s held for quite a while. Mejia has moved up to #7, which means that she avoids Longoria in the quarters and could have deeper implications for draws going forward. This also bumps Amaya to #9, which is less impactful to her in that 8-9 still plays into #1. – Parrilla has now ascended to #11; its been a long grind for her attempting to get back her top 4 ranking, due partly to unlucky play-in matches and partly to increased depth on tour. But every tick up in rankings means a slightly “easier” round of 16 for her, and more opportunities for her to get deeper into events. – Munoz makes a big jump from 18 to 13, and will continue to rise since she played no events in the 2nd half of last season, meaning every point earned is a net point gained on the rest of the field. I could see her getting up as high as #11 by the end of the season, but it’d be tough to get much higher thanks to a points gulf from 11 to 10 on tour. – Centellas continues her meteoric rise; last week she was ranked 25th, now she’s 16th. She started the season outside the top 30. And she’s proving that her results are no mistake, taking down multiple top 10 players along the way.
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.
We’re through two rounds of (often grueling) qualifying and are to the main draw. Here’s some thoughts about notable matches or surprises (to me) from qualifying and a look ahead at the first two rounds of the main draw.
Qualifying Results of note:
– #17 Seed Thomas Carter(aka, the highest seed forced to qualify) lost the first game 0 before recovering to advance to the main draw.
– Dylan Reid took a solid 11-8 win over veteran Guatemalan Edwin Galicia.
– Scott “the Ref” McClellan fought back from dropping the first game to advance to the main draw.
– Daniel Maldonado saved match point in game 2 before advancing in breaker over David Austin.
– Ricardo Diaz got a solid win over WOR Vegas singles titlist Nick Montalbano.
– Jay Munoz got a win over Set Cubillos Ruiz in his IRT debut
– Ohio’s Kyle Ulliman got a solid W over Wayne Antone IV.
– Costa Rican Alexander Pirietook a solid win over Austin Cunningham.
– Mauro Daniel Rojas had to work to get past IRT veteran Hiroshi Shimizu, who first played on the IRT tour in 2002. When Rojas was 4.
– Touring pro Robert Collins got a close 2-game win over long-time IRT player Alejandro Herrera Azcarate to advance to the main draw.
Round of 32 matches to watch for:
– #9 Jansen Allen v #24 Rodrigo Montoya Solís; though this may be an upset by seed, few consider Montoya the underdog here. The big question for rball fans is the state of his ankle. Allen is no slouch and if Montoya is hobbled we’ll know pretty quickly.
– #13 Charlie Pratt vs Diego Garcia Quispe; great matchup of youth versus experience. Pratt’s cerebral playing style will likely control the youngster in this match … but Garcia plays like a veteran. Still amazing that a 16U player has made it this far already.
– #14 Adam Manilla vs #19 Javier Mar; upset alert here. Manilla went deep in the tour’s first event, making the quarters … but Mar has WRT titles and Mexican national titles and a run to the US Open quarters last year. Which Mar will show up though? Manilla has his hands full here.
– #6 Sebastian Franco vs #27 Mauro Rojas; Rojas beat Franco once before on the IRT, two years ago in Kansas … when he was just 16. Now freshly graduated from Juniors he’s been saddled with tough draws as he plays the tour full time. I like his game; he hits the ball really heavy and its just a matter of time before he gets a breakthrough win.
– #7 Samuel Murray vs #26 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo; tough break for Murray, who made the final of the first IRT event of the season. Like with Allen-Montoya, this will look like an upset by seed but Moscoso has more than established himself as one of the world’s top players by now irrespective of his IRT points.
Round of 16s that look interesting, if results go as I think they will:
– #24 Montoya – #8 Mario Mercado; Despite their international experience and long juniors history (they’re the same junior year, both born in 1996), I don’t have these two ever meeting in a senior event. If Montoya is healthy, he’ll be favored.
– #4 Daniel De La Rosa v #13 Pratt ; Pratt has wins over DLR in the past, and can play him tough. This could be a very tactical, strategic match.
– #26 Moscoso vs #10 Andree Parrilla; they met in the US Open last year, a 5-game brutal 11-8 win for the Bolivian. Parrilla plays everyone tough; there are no easy losses to Parrilla, who scraps and scrapes every point. Look for another marathon.
It is upon us: the 23rd Annual US Open of Racquetball, held in Minneapolis, MN. Because of the size of this draw and the fact that it is our sport’s marquee event, I’ll do daily previews instead of talking about the whole tourney at once.
Today, we preview the Men’s qualifying draw. There’s 69 players entered, slightly down from last year’s 73-person draw. The top 16 entered players get byes into the round of 32; the rest play two rounds of qualifying on Wednesday to earn their ticket into the main draw play starting Thursday.
This is the strongest draw you’ll likely see all season; 28 of the top 30 ranked IRT players are here (missing out of the singles draw is #25 Sudsy Monchik and #30 Ben Croft, who is only playing doubles this event). And a slew of dangerous international players ranked below the top 30 are here to make waves.
In the round of 128, here’s some interesting matches to watch out for:
– Dylan Reid, who does the fantastic Racquetball podcast “The Racquetball Show @racquetballshow is entered into the pro draw; he faces off against Canadian Jamie James Slamko in the first round (disclaimer; i’ve been a guest on Dylan’s show … so i can’t speak badly about him )
– Christian Longoria has a fun first rounder against Colombian veteran Andres Gomez.
– Tough Mexican Rodrigo Rodriguez makes just his second ever IRT appearance and faces off against IRT touring player John Wolfe.
– Mexican 18U player Oscar Nieto faces off against frequent IRT player Troy Warigon.
– Fresh off his WOR pro singles title last weekend, Long Island’s Nick Montalbano faces off against one of the Stockton crew; Ricardo Diaz.
– Bolivian 16U phenom Diego Garcia Quispe gets a first round date with fellow youngster from Mexico Erick Cuevas Fernandez. Both are still playing in the 16U ranks internationally.
– German Marcel Czempisz represents Europe for the first time in a while at this event, facing off against the reigning 16U world champ and 18U Mexican National champ in Sebastian Fernandez.
– Two up-and-coming American players face off in Wayne Antone and Kyle Ulliman.
Assuming some results, here’s some notable Round of 64 matches we may see and some highlights of the guys seeded in the 17-32 range who might make some noise this weekend.
– #17 seed Thomas Carter misses out on a protected seed by one slot; he’s fresh off his first ever pro quarter at the first IRT event of the year in Laurel. He should advance over either Daniel Maldonadoor David Austin.
– #25 Scott McClellan (the Ref) may struggle to qualify for the main draw against the winner of Sergio Acuna & A.J. Fernandez.
– #24 Rodrigo Montoya Solís has shaken off an ankle injury sustained two weekends ago in the final of the Sonora Open. This is great news for this tourney, as the defending World Champion easily has the talent to advance deep into this draw. If he’s healthy, he has a relatively straight forward path into the quarters, perhaps deeper. He’ll get his first test, likely against Colorado’s Erik Garcia.
– #21 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez gets a brutal draw, with country-man Longoria playing into him. Franco is just 1-3 lifetime in top-level competitions against Longoria and may fall victim to the upset here.
– Montalbano and Warigon could have a good-ole East coast showdown to advance to the main draw; DC vs NY.
– #20 Nick Riffel is the unlucky recipient of a qualifying match against Garcia. I sense an upset here; Garcia played Adam Manilla tough in the pros at Laurel and made the Men’s Open final.
– #19 Javier Mar likely faces off against hard-hitting Bolivian Kadim Carrasco. Mar is a dangerous foe in any pro draw; he advanced to the quarters in last year’s US Open, downing two top 10 pros along the way. He’ll struggle to match that feat this year, playing into the #3 seed Kane Waselenchuk if he advances that far.
– #26 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo is one of the biggest names to watch this weekend; his ranking is solely based on his quarter finals appearance last US Open, where he played the King quite tough. He’s no unknown to the rball pro community though; he’s got enough international wins at this point to have long since made his name.
– Look for an all-Georgia winner take all and qualify match between Maurice Miller and Austin Cunningham.
There’s some great racquetball to be had starting bright and early on Wednesday 10/3/18 (8:15am is the first pro qualifying matches). Look for Facebook Live streaming from the IRT all day.