——————— Here’s a wrap of the notable matches by round to me:
In the 32s: – Laura Brandt took a game off of #16 seed Guatemalan #1 Maria Renee Rodríguez before losing in four. Notable because Brandt is 56 years old, still competing with players nearly 1/3rd her age. Bravo.
In the 16s: – the #8/#9 match gave us a classic yet again, with doubles partners and Colombian team-mates Amaya Cris and Adriana Riveros going to a 5th game tie-breaker before Amaya pulled it out. – #5 Rhonda Rajsich was stretched to the limit, getting an 11-9 fifth game tiebreaker win over Colombia youngster Brenda Laime Jalil. – #3 seed Maria Jose Vargas Paradaheld on for a 5th game win over Montse Mejia in a semis-quality match-up. Vargas won the first two games, Mejia the next two, and the tie-breaker was 11-8.
In the Qtrs: – #5 Rajsich continued her career dominance over #4 Alexandra Herrera, improving to 9-0 lifetime with a 5-game win. – #3 Vargas beat her country-mate and doubles partner Natalia Mendez for the third time in the last month (after having *never* faced each other).
In the semis: – #1 Paola Longoria took out long-time rival Rajsich in three. Rhonda owns 15 of the 30 career pro losses on Longoria’s resume, but could not beat her on this day. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis held serve against Vargas, advancing in three games to face off against Longoria.
In the final, Longoria improved to 48-3 against her doubles partner Salas on the pro tour, winning in three for the title. There have been 8 LPRT events this season; Longoria and Salas have met in the final of six of them.
——————— With the win, Longoria extends these personal streaks: – She’s now won 33 straight matches, the 5th best such streak known. – She’s still undefeated on the season, now 29-0. – She’s only dropped 4 games this season. – She’s now got 89 wins in the Pro Racquetball Stats database (which, we know, does not match what her media team claims; we’re still working to resolve that issue).
——————— Points implications for the rest of the season:
There’s two more events on the LPRT schedule; this coming w/e in Syosset then a Grand Slam in Overland Park, KS to finish off t he season
Longoria holds a 450 point lead over Salas for 2nd, who then has an even larger lead over Herrera and the rest of the tour. In order for Salas to overtake Longoria, Paola would probably have to miss both the remaining events and Salas would have to win the Grand Slam and make at least the final of the Syosset event to take the title. There’s no way any other player has enough time to catch up.
So, while its mathematically possible for Longoria to lose the title, its likely that she’s basically sewn it up for this season.
Post Publishing Editor’s note: the draw was remade completely just prior to the begining of play when Frederique Lambert withdrew. So most of the predicted matchups below are now moot. Apologies; I don’t have time to re-write it and re-analyze it.
Like the IRT, the LPRT is back in action this weekend in San Antonio, the 8th year running for an LPRT component at the Battle at the Alamo event.
22 pros entered here, coming on the heels of a huge PARC event in Colombia, which may have dampened attendance a bit. Nonetheless, the top 10 active pros are here, and a good chunk of the ladies ranked 11-20 are here as well, and it looks like a solid draw.
here’s some of the singles matches to watch for:
Round of 32: – The #16/17 seed match is a good one:Maria Renee Rodríguez taking on Mexican vet Susana Susy Acosta. Rodriguez got a solid win at PARCs representing Guatemala over 6th ranked Mendez but lost in the knockouts early. – #11 Adrienne Fisher Haynes takes on Daniela Rico, the current reigning World 14U junior champion. Haynes was the most accomplished female junior in the sports history, winning 10 World Junior titles. Rico won’t get there, but has four more years to extend her record.
Round of 16: – #8 Frederique Lambert vs #9 Adriana Riveros; Lambert, Canada’s undisputed #1 female, couldn’t commit the time to play in PARC this year, and her training has driven down her ranking to its current #8 spot. She was the #2 ranked player at the end of the last two seasons running, lest anyone forget. Fred should advance here and give Paola an early QF test. – #4 Alexandra Herrera versus #13 Brenda Laime Jalil; nothing like lefty versus lefty to make both players uncomfortable. Laime has challenged a bit lately on tour, perhaps a benefit of playing at CSU-Pueblo with fellow touring pros Munoz and Riveros. – #7 Nancy Enriquez vs #10 Amaya Cris; they’ve met once; in the 16s of this event last year, an Enriquez 3-game win. Amaya is coming back from a long week at PARC, and may struggle to keep up with the tough Enriquez here. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis vs #15 Montse Mejia; wow, what a brutal match-up for a round of 16. I have these two players 2nd and 3rd in my world power rankings right now, and they meet here in the 16s. Mejia is coming off an upset loss early in the PARC knockouts to Mendez, while Salas paired with Longoria to dominate the doubles and win her 16th career IRF doubles title. I suspect that the longer pro format favors Salas here, even though in their last meeting Mejia shocked Salas (and then Longoria) to win the 2019 Mexican national title. Salas comes back to win a 5 game battle.
Projected quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria vs #8 Lambert; an early battle between the top two players over the past 3 seasons. Lambert’s focus hasn’t been on touring, while Paola Longoria just cruised to her 8th PARC title. Longoria runs away with this one. – #4 Herrera vs #5 Rhonda Rajsich; despite fighting through a lingering knee issue that hampered her in both Bolivia and at PARC, Rajsich still made the quarters of both events with tough wins throughout. She’s also never lost to Herrera, 8-0 lifetime on tour. What happens here? Its been a year and a half since they met, and Herrera has consistently made the semis this season (5 of 7 events; semis or better). I think Herrera may break through here. – #3 Maria Jose Vargas vs #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein; these Argentinian countrymates had never met until this year; now they’re slated to play for the third time in 2 months. Their semi finals meeting at PARC was a tough one, with line judges called in early, eventually won by Vargas in the tiebreaker. I sense Vargas continues to have the upper hand over her doubles partner. – #2 Salas vs #7 Enriquez; Enriquez does have some career wins over Salas … but they were a while ago. Miami 2011, then before than in juniors in 2005. Salas has otherwise held serve, though it took a huge comeback in South Carolina in January for her do to so, winning a5th game tiebreaker. I like Salas here thought.
projected Semis: – Longoria over Herrera: Longoria is 12-0 lifetime over Herrera and in those 12 wins has only dropped a couple of games. Seems likely to be 13-0. – Vargas over Salas: a rematch of the Bolivian Open final, won 11-9 in the 5th by Vargas. Salas leads h2h on the LPRT 5-2, but including international competitions its nearly dead even now. I like Vargas’ trend right now, I think she’s the hot hand, and will head to the final.
Projected final: – Longoria over Vargas, a rematch of last week’s PARC final and what would be their 34th meeting. Longoria is 32-1 through the first 33 meetings, so odds of a Vargas win seem slim.
That’s it: my predictions look pretty chalky, with only one upset by seed from the quarters on. Hopefully i’m wrong and we have some darkhorse upsets on the weekend.
————————- A quick note: this event also is an IRT lower tier event …and because of its proximity to Mexico, a ton of solid IRT regulars opted to play here instead of in Florida. There’s 12-13 guys in Texas this weekend who normally would be at the main event, including a couple of top 30 guys in Gerardo Franco Gonzalez and Nick Riffel (who are the top two seeds). It looks to be a very solid draw and we’ll review it separately later on.
A reminder: we don’t load this data into the database at current, but we do keep track of past champions for informational purposes. At the bottom i’ve got some school-based factoids including the 2019 champs.
———————- On the Men’s Singles #1 side, a couple of upsets in the 16s but the top 6 seeds all advanced. In the quarters, only one upset with #5 Jacob Matthews of ECU taking out 4th seeded Nick Buring of Oregon State.
In the semis…both top seeds advanced with ease, with #1 Erik Garcia of CSU-Pueblo topping #5 Matthews 3,7 and #2 Alejandro Almada from Texas topping #3 seed Jeremy Dixon from Baldwin-Wallace 2,5 to setup the anticipated final.
In the final, #1 Garcia downed #2 Almada in a tiebreaker to win the title. Garcia repeats as champion, becoming just the 10th male to hold more than one intercollegiate title.
———————– On the Women’s side, the top 8 seeds all advanced to the quarters. There, similarly to the Men’s side just one upset in the #5/#4 match with Costa Rican international Melania Mela Sauma Masis (playing at her home courts at ASU) topping 4th seeded Lexi York from Oregon State in a tiebreaker.
In the semis, #1 seed Carla Muñoz Montesinos of CSU-Pueblo knocked out Sauma in two games, while #3 seeded Hollie Scott (playing out U of Washington), continued her solid form lately and topped 2nd seeded (and my pre-tourney pick) Erika Manilla from N. Arizona in dominant fashion 9,4.
In the final…Scott dominated Munoz for the win 2,8 to deny Munoz a chance at 4 straight intercollegiate titles.
———————— On the doubles side: – Mens doubles went to Garcia/Le from CSU-Pueblo, who downed the Texas pair of Almada and his partner Jerry Yang.
– Women’s doubles went to the CSU-Pueblo team of Riveros/Laime, who downed OSU’s York & Natalie Lorati in the final.
———————— Some quick facts coming out of this event: – Garcia’s Men’s #1 win represents the 8th Men’s #1 title for players from CSU-Pueblo (formerly known as the University of Southern Colorado). They still trail University of Memphis (formerly Memphis State University) which had 12 Men’s #1 winners in their history.
– Half of the now 47 Men’s #1 intercollegiate title winners have come from just three schools: Memphis, CSU-Pueblo and Southwest Missouri state.
– Tim Sweeney remains the sole player in history to win four consecutive intercollegiate titles, a feat Munoz was attempting to match.
– Scott’s victory for University of Washington represents the 25th distinct college to provide a #1 women’s winner. Memphis remains the #1 school for Women as well, providing 7 titlists.
CSU-Pueblo wins its 2nd ever overall title. Oregon State has been the dominant overall team leader here, having won 11 of the 16 overall team titles awarded since 2004.
Oregon State wins its 3rd ever Men’s Title. They have a long way to go to catch CSU-Pueblo & Memphis here, as those two schools combined have won 31 of the 47 ever Men’s team awards given out.
CSU-Pueblo wins its 1st ever Women’s title. Memphis, BYU and Oregon State have dominated here historically, winning 31 of the 45 ever women’s team titles given out.
———————— A side note: I know this tourney runs similarly to a tennis tournament, where schools provide teams seeded 1-6 … but the state of collegiate racquetball right now is such that the top rball colleges (specifically, CSU-Pueblo) are contributing such more dominant talent than other schools that I wonder if there wouldn’t be value in changing the format so that more players from the top schools could compete in the #1 division.
To wit, the #2 female player from CSU-Pueblo was current LPRT #10 ranked player Adriana Riveros and their #3 female player was Brenda Laime Jalil, currently ranked 16th on tour. Both obliterated their respective draws, barely being scored upon (Riveros won the #2 draw giving up a total of 9 points in four matches, and Laime won the #3 final 0,0). It was the same to a lesser extent on the Men’s side, with Lukas Le representing CSU-Pueblo in the Men’s #2 and likely being the 2nd or 3rd best men’s player in Tempe. Perhaps he was the sole example of a player who may very well have made the semis or higher in the Men’s #1, but my point remains. International competitions feature two players from each country; maybe intercollegiates should as well.
In the opening round/Round of 32s, no real surprises. There were 7 matches, and there were 6 three-game wins by higher seeded players. The sole upset was #18 Romina Rivero over #15 Daniela Molina, which earns her a shot at the 2nd seeded player.
In the 16s … a few upsets. – #1 Samantha Salas dropped the first game to Bolivian youngster Micaela Meneses before advancing in four. – #9 Bolivian Yazmine Sabja Aliss put together a solid match, downing #8 Colombian Amaya Cris in three games. – #12 Bolivian Angelica Barrios shocked #5 seeded Nancy Enriquez in three straight 5,6,3. Barrios was the 2017 16U champ and is playing in her age 18 season, and this win avenges a loss Barrios had to Enriquez at the 2018 US Open. – #4 Rhonda Rajsich took out home-town Bolivian veteran Jenny Daza Naviain three straight to move on. – #3 Maria Jose Vargas was stretched to the brink before downing Bolivian 16U world champ Valeria Centellas 11-9 in the 5th. – #6 Natalia Mendez took out Bolivian native Brenda Laime Jalil in three straight forward games. – #10 Masiel Rivera Oporto, Bolivan native now living outside the DC area, avenged a loss earlier this pro season and took out #7 Adriana Riveros in a barn burner 11-9 in the 5th. – #2 Alexandra Herrera downed Bolivian junior Romina Rivero in three.
Before moving on, i wanted to point out the nature of the Bolivian players who advanced into the 16s. Meneses is the 2x defending 14U world champ, playing in her age 15 season. Barrios was the world junior 16U title in 2017 and thus is in her age 18 season. Centellas is the reigning 16U champ and also has one more year in 18s. Rivero was the 14U champ in 2015 and 2016 and thus is in her age 17 season this year. All told including Sabja (world 18U winner in 2009) there’s 5 different former Bolivian junior national champs in this draw.
The future is coming for women’s pros, and its coming from Bolivia.
In the Qtrs, one significant upset: – #1 Salas was taken to the brink against Bolivian #1 Sabja, advancing by the quite-close scores of 10,10,11. There really was not that much between these two players on the day. – #12 Barrios took out her second top seed in as many rounds, defeating Rajsich in four. – #3 Vargas took out her doubles partner #6 Mendez 6,5,4 in the first ever competitive singles meeting between the Argentinian #1 and #2 players. – #2 Herrera dropped the first against Bolivian Rivera, but then took over the match and dominated the rest of the way, advancing in four games (2),6,2,2.
In the Semis: – #1 Salas split games with #12 Bolivian junior Barrios before taking over and cruising to the final in four games. – #3 Vargas looked to be cruising to an easy win, but then dropped games 3 and 4 and barely held on with an 11-9 5th game win over #2 Herrera.
In the Finals, Vargas over came a 2 games to 1 deficit and outlasted Salas with a great comeback, winning 11-9 in the fifth. Vargas wins her 4th pro title of her career and also gives her just her 2nd pro win over Salas in 7 meetings.
——————- On the doubles side, the Argentian #1 team of Vargas & Mendez (both of whom are naturalized Bolivians) outlasted the #1 seed of Salas & Rajsich (playing together for the first time) in the final to take the win and give Vargas the double on the weekend.
In addition to Mexican Nationals and High School Nationals, there were a couple of lower-tier IRT events this past weekend. This is a wrap-up of the best of them, the Pueblo Athletic Club Shoot out, a Tier 4 held in Pueblo, CO that featured a few familiar names and a couple of surprising results.
Reminder: we don’t load non-tier 1 or higher events into the PRS database; this post is just a wrap-up as a fan of the game. I’ll pick up the draw reviews at the latter stages when the familiar pro names start playing each other.
———– Men’s Pro Singles:
The draw featured 30 players, and its top 4 seeds were tour regulars that included #1 Kane Waselenchuk. David Horn, defending champ Jake Bredenbeckand Nick Riffel formed the top four seeds. This is notable to me because I can’t recall seeing Kane play in a non Tier-1 IRT tournament in .. well a long time. It may be b/c I don’t generally track non-Tier1 events.
The 5th seed is the dangerous Erik Garcia, who beat touring pro Robert Collins before taking a game off of eventual champ Rocky Carson at the US Singles qualifier event in Tempe last month. The rest of the draw featured mostly local players, with a sprinkling of traveling players w/ enough IRT points to rate a seeding.
In the Quarters. a couple of surprises: – Erik Garcia got a solid win over touring pro Nick Riffel in a tiebreaker in the 4/5 match. He earns a match against the King in the semis. I’d like to see Garcia play more pro events; he’s got some good results lately and I think he could make some noise on tour. – Complete unknown (to me) Ruben Baez ousted #3 seed Jake Bredenbeck 10,(5),5. I can’t find Baez playing any match in any format that the PRS database tracks, and he was seeded 27th in this event, traveling up from El Paso to play it. I saw bits and pieces of this match: Baez plays a control game, has a very effective lob serve, and was completely non-plussed by Jake’s power, re-killing power DTL shots and anticipating power-pinches. He earns a match-up against #2 seeded Horn in the semis for his efforts.
In the Semis: – Waselenchuk took out Garcia 8,3. Garcia kept up with the champ briefly, but eventually fell in typical Kane dominance. – Horn took out the upstart Baez by the close scores of 13,14. Thanks to Matt Melster for streaming this one real-time; I watched part of this match as well to see how Baez matched-up with the different playing style of Horn, one which was much closer seemingly to his own … and as expected this was a very back-and-forth close match throughout.
In the Final, Kane turned up the heat and cruised by Horn 7,0, showing his typical dominance that the rest of the IRT tour sees on a regular basis.
———– My take-away here: it isn’t often that a player just shows up without any prior pro experience and plays so well against two of the top 20 players in the world. I hope to see more of Baez in the future.
Men’s Pro Doubles:
The Pueblo supporters were also blessed to have with them one of the two best doubles teams in the world. Kane teamed up with Ben Croft, and they’ve won more than a few major doubles titles in their day. They were the #1 seed, with Jake & Horn teaming up to be the #2 seeds and Riffel/Garcia being the #3 seeds.
In the semis, Bredenbeck/Horn took out Riffel/Garcia 11-9, while Kane/Ben took out the team with the surprising Baez teamed with Daniel Bautista.
In the Saturday night final, the #1 team did not disappoint and won in two 10,5 over the #2 seeds.
With the win, these players qualify to represent the US in this year’s two International Racquetball Federation – IRF events: the Pan American Racquetball Championships in Columbia in April, and the Pan American Games in August in Peru.
Both teams are no strangers to international competition nor National doubles championships: combined these four champions now have an astounding 29 combined US national doubles titles between them.
These titles represent the nth title for each player: – Carson: 11th career National title. He won 6 with Jack Huczek, then has won 1 each now with Ben Croft, Jose Diaz, Jose Rojas, Sudsy Monchik and now Pratt. Rocky won his first title in 2004. He now sits 5th for National doubles titles world-wide. – Pratt: This is his 1st National doubles title; he’s made the semis a few times in the past with various partners in National events, and has one pro IRT doubles title (with Jansen Allen in 2016). – Ruiz: 12th career National title. She won 2 with Laura Fenton, 5 with Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson, and now 5 with Tisinger. She is tied for 3rd globally for National doubles titles with Canadian Jen Saunders. First place is Canadian legend Josee Grand Maitre with 15 career national doubles titles, and 2nd all time is Ruiz’s former partner Paraiso, who has 14. – Tisinger earns her 5th title, all with Ruiz.
Click here for a list of all Amateur national doubles champions for the three major countries: http://rball.pro/4A22B0
Quick summary of the Men’s draw: the semis were chalk according to seeds: there #3 seeded Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz took out #2 seeded Bobby David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas to reach the final. There, the two finalists split games and headed to a tie-breaker, eventually taken by the champs 11-7.
Quick summary of the Women’s draw: it was upsets galore here, with the 5th seeded team of Michelle De La Rosa and sister Danielle Maddux upsetting defending champs and #1 seeds Kelani Lawrence and Sharon Jackson in an 11-10 tiebreaker win en route to the final. On the other side, 3rd seeded Ruiz/Tisinger took out 2nd seeded and last year’s finalists Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts in a tiebreaker to get to the final. The final was a 2-game win for the veterans.
—————————– The Tempe event also had a singles component, with players competing for qualifying points towards representing the USA in singles. Here’s a quick run-through these draws:
On the Men’s side, #1 seed Carson topped #2 Pratt in two games to take the draw. There were a few notable upsets by seeds in the earlier rounds (Thomas Carter over Mauro Rojas, and Erik Garcia over Robert Collins being perhaps the biggest), but the semis-onward more or less went as expected.
On the Women’s side, the #1 seed Rajsich also took the draw, taking out #3 seeded Lawrence in a rematch of the last two such National level singles draws. The quarters featured two pretty significant results: Hollie Scott trounced Sheryl Lotts in the quarters, and doubles specialist Tisinger took out #2 seeded Sharon Jackson 11-10.
(Reminder: I do not enter these non-National results into the database).
—————————– Lastly, a bit of opinion expression from yours truly based on a situation that arose and was talked about in some of the FB groups.
This was the USA National Doubles Championships. It determines the United States champions in the various divisions and helps select representatives (in both singles and doubles) of our country in international competitions.
So why were there foreign nationals who represent other countries internationally in the draw?
A bit of history: the “US National championships” were, for a time, open to all countries. In fact, the US National amateur singles champs in 75 and 75 were both Canadians (Wayne Bowes and Lindsay Myers respectively). In 82 the then named “AARA” changed the requirement to have the US national singles only be open for US citizens. This is (coincidentally or not) right around the time that the first “international” championships were held; in the 1970s there was just the tournaments held in the USA, and even the professional year end championships declared “National champions.” I don’t ever recall a situation where there was even a question about someone’s citizenship competing for the USA national team … until now.
It says pretty clearly on the entry form that you have to be a US citizen or “have a citizenship application in process.” Understood; some people hold dual citizenships. But how is it possible we’re letting players who have represented other countries internationally (quite recently) compete in the US championships?
There were three examples of this situation this past weekend: – Sebastian Fernandez: He competed in US team qualifying in doubles. Fernandez represents Mexico in juniors, where he was the runner-up in Junior worlds just last November, entered Mexican National Singles last February, and entered the Mexican World Selection event in June. How is he competing in a tournament to represent the USA just a couple months later? – Erik Garcia: hails from Chihuahua, now attending college in the USA … and represented Mexico in Junior worlds in 2013 and competed in Mexican amateur nationals in 2014. Yet he was entered into BOTH singles and doubles USA national team qualifying events.
(Note: post publishing i’ve been informed that Garcia is in fact a US Citizen, born in US. Which then begs the question; how is he playing in Mexican national events? Its the same issue but perhaps in reverse).
– Melania Sauma Masis: has been representing Costa Rica in various junior and senior events since 2009, including playing in the 2017 PARCs and the 2018 Caribbean games. Clearly grew up in CRC, but now attends the host college of this past event (ASU). Less of an issue for Sauma Masis in that she didn’t compete in the National team events (since the application says that “all other divisions are open to US Citizens and residents) … but she did compete for a “US National title” against US citizens, which some have a problem with.
I get that these players may have dual citizenship, which technically would have allowed them to enter the tourney (it was reported that Fernandez does; but I’m not sure how the other two possibly would). I suppose the bigger question is this: how can someone just switch back and forth like (especially) Fernandez has done? Olympic athletes can switch … but they have to wait a few years in-between competitions. Professional Soccer players can switch from one country to another, but only once, and only before officially representing a country at the senior/adult level (at which point they are permanently “capped” to a specific country).
Internationally, there’s a long history of players switching countries. Among others, Ruben Gonzalez, Veronique Guillemette, Natalia Mendez, Mario Mercado, Maria Jose Vargas, and most recently Brenda Laime have switched countries … but i’m not aware of anyone switching to and back like we’ve now seen out of Fernandez over his career.
To take this to the extreme, consider these hypotheticals. Daniel De La Rosa is married to a US citizen and now lives in Arizona (I have no idea if he now has a US passport, if he’s applied for citizenship, etc; this is a hypothetical). He has always and continues to represent Mexico … but lets say DLR plays in Mexican Nationals in February and gets knocked out early but really wants to go to Peru for the Pan Am games. Would you be ok with him then entering USA nationals in May to try to earn a spot? Also hypothetical: Kane Waselenchuk has now lived in Texas nearly as long as he lived in Canada, and marred a US citizen years ago; would you be ok if he entered US Nationals in May?
I think we need some guidelines going forward, where players have to declare to represent one country or another and stick with it. I’m ok with switching countries, but you have to have a legitimate connection, and you have to “sit out” a period of time to prevent venue shopping for IRF representation.
PS: I want to emphasize this point; i’m not making a political statement here. Its more about the inherent conflict of interest that exists.
The LPRT is back in action, with its 6th event of the 2018-19 season. So far, #1 ranked Paola Longoria has made it 5 for 5 in wins, with four of those wins coming over her frequent doubles partner Samantha Salas Solis.
The annual event in South Carolina is a Grand Slam, and as such has drawn back into play a couple of intriguing players, which should make this draw more interesting than most. There’s 26 pros in the draw, tying a season non US Open high.
Top 20 players missing: #5 Frederique Lambert who has fallen to her lowest ranking on tour since Nov 2015 as she juggles school and some early upsets in previous events. #11 Carla Muñoz Montesinos misses just her 2nd tourney in the last two seasons. #13 Jessica Leona Parrilla remains on the sidelines recovering from her knee injury suffered last spring. And lastly #18 Yazmine Sabja Ráquetboldid not make the long flight. So we have 9 of the top 10, and 16 of the top 20 in the event.
Notably present is reigning World Champ Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez, who is back and ranked #9 (likely seeded 8th) after making the semis in the first two events of the season and then missing the next three.
Lets preview the draw.
Notable round of 32 matches; there’s a ton of tough openers in this tourney.
– #16 vs #17 Masiel Rivera Oporto versus Brenda Laime Jalil; tough match for both ladies right out of the gate. Both players are playing the tour full time this year and are both looking for a breakthrough win. And … they’re playing doubles together. – #14 vs #19: Maria Renee Rodríguez faces Kelani Lawrence in another tough opener for both. Lawrence has less pro experience but has proven her mettle in the USA amateur draws, while Rodriguez has a ton of international experience and has represented Guatemala in Juniors and Adult draws for nearly a decade. – Cassandra Lee vs Laura Brandt: youth versus experience here in an intriguing first rounder. – #10 Adriana Riveros versus #23 Cecilia Ceci Orozco Pratt: Riveros should prevail but she probably would have hoped for an easier first rounder. – #15 Susana Susy Acosta vus #18 Ana Laura Flores : two Mexican lefties representing the two major Rball-playing communities (Chihuahua and San Luis Potosi) in the country battle it out in the first round. They met at the US Open with the youngster coming out on top and I’d lean that way again.
Round of 16 interesting matches: – #8 vs #9: Cristina Amaya Cris vs Ana Gabriela Martinez: tough match-up for both players. They met at this stage in this event three years ago, an Amaya win, but Martinez has a whole lot of silverware since. – #3 Alexandra Herrera vs the Rodriguez/Lawrence winner: i’m not sure who comes out of the feed-in match, but Herrera will have to hustle to advance out of the 16s. Ironically, Herrera topped both possible players in successive rounds as she was winning the 2011 Junior Girls 16U championship. – #7 Natalia Mendez vs #10 Adriana Riveros: these two top 10 players have only met once on tour; a 4-game Mendez win in June 2017. – #2 Samantha Salas vs #18 Flores: assuming Flores comes out on top in the 32s, she gets a first shot at Salas in any competition. Flores can beat top talent, but i’m not sure she can beat one of the top 2 players in the world.
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria vs #8 Gaby Martinez; These two have met no less than 15 times in pro and IRF matches … but it was last summer’s World Championships that gave Martinez her one win in the series. Since then, they’ve met twice in the LPRT, both straight-forward Longoria wins. I see the same result here; Paola is just so dominant in the 5-game format. – #4 Maria Jose Vargas vs #5 Rhonda Rajsich; these two have now met 28 times (26 on LPRT) and are dead even. 14 and 14 each. Along that same line, they’ve met twice this season … and split, Vargas winning in Chicago and Rhonda winning in Laurel. I’ll predict Rajsich makes it two tourneys in a row. – #3 Herrera vs #6 Nancy Enriquez; Despite being the higher seed, Enriquez faces the easier path to the quarters in this event. But Herrera owns the career h2h record 5-1, just beat her in Boston, and should advance again. – #2 Salas vs #7 Mendez; they’ve got a scant 3 career match-ups, all three straight-game wins for Salas. She makes it 4 of 4.
Semis: – Longoria over Rajsich. Despite Rhonda’s demonstrated ability to still be able to top Paola, their only meeting on the pro tour in the last two seasons was a straight-game semis win in December. Expect the same here. – Salas over Herrera; they’ve already met twice in the semis this season, and both times Salas advanced.
Finals: Longoria over Salas. You hate rooting for #1 vs #2, but these two players have represented the final in 4 of the 5 events so far this season … and the only one where it wasn’t Longoria v Salas was an event where Salas couldn’t make the tourney b/c of travel issues.
—————————- In the doubles, we have some frequently-seen teams playing, including the reigning USA national champs Lawrence/Sharon Jackson, the US National runners-up in Rajsich and Lotts, The top team of Longoria & Salas, the Argentinian national team of Vargas & Mendez, and the Columbia team of Amaya & Riveros. Interestingly the top Guatemalans are not playing together this event.
I’m going with the top Mexicans versus the Argentinians in the final, with Longoria & Salas continuing their dominance with the win.
Congrats to #1 Paola Longoria, who was a double winner on the weekend, taking the Singles draw over #2 seeded Samantha Salas Solis, then teaming with Salas to win the pro doubles draw.
Longoria and Salas have now met in the finals of each of the season’s first four events, solidifying their lead at the top of the rankings table. Longoria improves to 46-3 against Salas on the pro tours with the win. This win represents Longoria’s 86th pro title in the database (though we may be missing some of her earlier tourney wins; a situation we’re working on rectifiying). Lastly, this tourney extends Paola’s current match winning streak to 21 games; she’s won the last 5 pro events.
Lets take a quick run through the singles draw. Here’s the match report in the database:
Upsets/notable results for me:
– Four regular touring players, coincidentally seeded 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th, were all upset in the first round of play. 4-time pro champ Cheryl Gudinas put a 5-game loss on Sheryl Lotts, then nearly beat Natalia Mendez, taking her to a 5th game tiebreaker.
– Junior up and coming player Angelica Barrios took out Adrienne Fisher Haynes and took a game off of #5 seed Rhonda Rajsich before bowing out.
– Michelle De La Rosa got a solid win over #10 Susy Acosta before falling in 3 closer games to #4 seed Maria Jose Vargas. De La Rosa (nee Key) has now played in 3 events this season, after playing just a handful over the past few years, and could be a force on tour if she continues to play. She’s made a number of Quarters and even one Semi and is a dangerous opponent.
– Masiel Rivera Oporto played her 3rd event of the season and made her second round of 16; she’s right in the range of seeding where she could continue to get opportunistic match-ups and keep moving up the rankings.
– I liked what I saw out of youngster Brenda Laime, who got past Erin Rivera before taking a game off of #2 seed Solis.
– 16U world champ Valeria Centellas was one-and-done in the pro draw, running into the 7th seeded Colombian Amaya Cris, but she played very well in the Women’s Open draw, beating experienced American Sharon Jackson and then Lexi York before losing in two close games to experienced international player Adriana Riveros in the semis.
– Speaking of York; she made her pro tour debut after a pretty good juniors run (she was the 2015 USA 18U champ and made the semis of junior worlds that same year). Hope to see more of York in the coming years.
The Longoria/Salas team is now 71-3 together since we began tracking LPRT doubles in 2013. Longoria has won 36 of the 41 doubles draws she’s entered in that time, most of them won with Salas. I still can’t quite believe they were upset as a team at the 2018 Mexican selection event, thus preventing them from competing in Worlds this past summer.
Next up for the LPRT: the Christmas Classic in Laurel, MD.
Here’s a review of Thursday LPRT singles action and a preview of Friday’s quarters.
LPRT round of 32 surprises:
– Argentinian Maria Jose Vargas (the #7 seed) was upset in the 32s, losing to Bolivian veteran international player Jenny Daza Navia.
– Brenda Laime Jalil got an upset win over American Sheryl Lotts in 4.
– #4 Alexandra Herrera was stretched as far as you can go by Michelle De La Rosa , winning 12-10 in the 5th. These two spent an awful long time on the court; the first game was 16-14 and two other games went “extra time.” Tough match.
– Montserrat Perez came from 2 games down to upset #14 Adrienne Fisher Haynes.
– Ana Laura Flores got a upset win over #15 Susy Acosta in 4.
– Bolivian star Yazmine Sabja took out #10 Carla Muñoz Montesinos in 5 games, opening a pathway to the quarters.
– #1 Paola Longoria put two donuts on Erika Manilla … then was stretched to 13-11 in game three to advance by the odd-looking score of 0,0,11.
LPRT round of 16 notables:
– Ana Gabrielle Gaby Martinez had a much easier time with Enriquez this time around, advancing in four (they went 12-10 in the 5th earlier this season).
– Herrera rebounded from nearly being upset in the 32s to advance past Laime in 4.
– Mexican junior phenom Montse Mejia took a game off the #1 Longoria before the champ advanced in 4.
– In a battle of Bolivians, Sabja downed country-mate Daza in a battle of upset seeds to advance to the quarters.
– #1 Longoria v #8 Natalia Mendez: Longoria 2-0 lifetime on LPRT against Natalia and does not seem likely to fall at this stage.
– #12 Martinez v #4 Herrera: Martinez is the underdog here by seed, but has been on a tear lately and is the favorite to advance.
– #3 Salas v #6 Rhonda Rajsich: Salas is just 6-11 lifetime against Rhonda, but has one 4 of the last 6 meetings on the LPRT. Salas has nearly completed her comeback from surgery last season and is the favorite to advance here.
– #2 Frederique Lambert vs #23 Sabja; They’ve met twice; once in an IRF event, once last year on the LPRT. Sabja took both. I sense her continuing her upset streak at this event. Sabja in 4.