——– #21 Adam Manilla slipped slightly in the rankings from last season, but on a whole had a much better season this year than last. He made his first pro semi in Austin, where he played lights out all weekend, battling from the round of 64 and taking the first game from DLR in the semis before falling. He had several wins over top-10 players, and nearly took out Landa in Chicago (losing 11-10 in the 16s).
Off the court, Adam and his sister Erika Manilla have kicked off an online Racquetball training company Manilla Athletics . Give them a look-see and a follow.
—- #22 David ” Bobby” Horn took a significant step back from touring this year, and saw his ranking fall from #13 at the end of last season to #22 this season. He played in just four events and had decent results in all of them, generally playing top-8 players tough even in losses. We hope to see him back in action soon.
—- #23 Javier Estrada, one of Mexico’s best kept secrets, finally debuted on the IRT this season (his sole prior tier-1 appearance was as a teen-ager in 2010 when the tour visited his home town of Chihuahua). He played 5 events, made three main-draws and had a couple of solid wins over top-10 guys, but was not able to replicate the amazing tournament run he put up last summer at the Black Gold cup. He’s one to watch for, one who could really make a name for himself if he can play on tour like he plays at home.
— #24 Robert Collins took a slight step back on tour this year thanks to the influx of new players in the mid-teens. He made three main draws on the year but his season was marked by frequent difficult round of 32 matches.
—- #25 Alan Natera Chavez, like Estrada, was a relative unknown outside of Mexico until May, when he debuted in IRT Tier 1s for the first time. this season, he made one main draw in five events and had a solid win over #10 Bredenbeck in Austin. So far though on tour, he’s been unable to replicate his successes shown in past Mexican Nationals, where he had a string of upsets to make the semis in both 2018 and 2019.
——- #26 Felipe Camacho stepped back a bit from touring this year after four straight seasons of full time play. He still made 7 of the 10 events, advancing into the 16s in two of them. His best win of the season was probably at the Lewis Drug, where he downed Keller in the 32s and played Portillo tough in the 16s. The long-time Costa Rican international player continues to represent his country, losing in the 16s at the Pan American Games in August.
—– #27 Sam Bredenbeck, younger brother of #10 Jake, played seven of the ten events on the season and had some success. He qualified for the main draw in Portland by downing tour veteran Collins and had a number of other wins against tour regulars.
—- #28 Charles Pratt played just three events this year and wasn’t able to show the “part-time magic” that he’s shown in years past (when he made it to late stages of Tier 1s despite not being a regular touring player). This season he played the US Open, his home town event and the Lewis Drug, where he got his best result.
—— #29 Set Cubillos Ruiz played 7 of the 10 events despite being based in Colombia and facing a vigorous travel schedule. He got a solid win in Arizona to make the main draw; his best win of the season.
— #30 Scott McClellan improved his season-ending ranking despite his full time ref duties on tour. I hope he reads this snippet and reminds me that one of my takes on his reffing this past season was wrong 🙂
— #11 Sebastian Franco took a step back in the rankings after finishing the last four seasons in the top 10. He missed four of the events on the season, which makes it tough to maintain your seeding and ranking, prompting some observers to wonder if his days of full-time touring are over.
He started the season strong; making the semis of the first two events of the season, which got him as high as a #5 seed. But two round-of-32 losses (to Manilla and Estrada) conspired to knock him out of the top10 by seasons’ end.
Franco may be at a career cross roads; he’s just turned 27, he’s a family man now with kids and may not be in a position to tour full time going forward. Plus, he’ll take a big hit in the rankings right out of the gate in the fall as he defends two semi-final appearances. He could see his ranking crash into the mid teens quickly if he doesn’t start well next season
— #12 Rodrigo Montoya Solís took a step back in the rankings from last season, slipping to #12 at the end after being ranked inside the top 10 all year. Montoya remains an enigma on tour; clearly possessing the talent to be making the back end of tournaments week after week (he won the Pan American games in August with wins over three successive higher ranked top-10 players), but yet only made two quarter finals on the season.
He did have some match-up bad luck; losing in the 32s to his doubles partner Mar 11-9 at the US Open, and running into Kane and DLR twice to exit at early stages. No shame in that. He also had a relatively dominant win over Moscoso in Wisconsin. But Montoya needs more consistency against the players in his 10-14 range (Mercado, Franco, Portillo, etc) to claw back into the top 8 conversation.
He also crashed out of Mexican Nationals way early, just a few months after winning gold in Peru, though he and Mar did hold onto the Mexican doubles title (ensuring a return trip to the next IRF event).
—- #13 Mario Mercado slipped to 13th after four seasons in the top 10. Mercado opted to skip two west-coast tourneys (he’s based on the east coast), and suffered three round-of-32 upsets on the season (to Fernandez, Pratt and Martell, one of which was at the US Open), and the sum of these events conspired to drive his ranking down. He did have a great run to the final in Sun Prairie, just his second ever pro final.
Mercado’s well set to regain his ranking if he can get back on track making 16s and quarters again, replacing round of 32 losses with solid point gains.
—– #14 Thomas Carter improved his season ending ranking for the fourth straight season on the backs of solid play and navigating his way into the main draws of pro events frequently. He had his best ever pro finish, upsetting Beltran and making the quarters in Portland. He also had solid wins over Diaz at the US Open and over Estrada at the Lou Bradley.
—— #15 Javier Mar played nearly as many events this season (6) as he had in 5 combined previous seasons (7) and he finishes 15th for his trouble. Despite my believing he’s one of the top 6-7 players in the world, he struggled to put together solid runs into the later stages of events.
He had two round of 32 losses he’d probably like back (to Fernandez and Manilla), but also made a run to the quarters at the US Open as the #24 seed. Three of his season losses were to Kane and Moscoso, no shame there. Next season he’ll hope to avoid the royalty of racquetball until later rounds.
—– #16 Sebastian Fernandez managed to play 7 of the 10 events on the season while balancing the tour and college, and makes a big jump in the rankings from #25 last year.
Patata made a huge run to the US Open quarters as the #23 seed. But he also struggled with his seeding running him right into top players week after week; he had round of 16 exists to Kane, Landa and Rocky this season. He should continue to improve and is a dangerous up and coming player.
—– #17 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez squeaked into the #17 spot by season’s end, improving from #28 last season. He played a number of tough round of 32 matches all year and was generally successful in making the main draw (qualifying 5 of 7 events). Once there, he usually played the top-8 seeds tough, with many of his losses on the year coming by tie-breaker. His big win on the season was a win over Landa in Austin, resulting in his first ever pro quarter reached.
Garay has re-classified his nationality, now representing Colombia. Which means he has a greater chance of playing IRF events going forward with a talent pool competing for the spots a bit thinner than in Mexico.
—— #18 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez had a much better season in 2019-20 than the one before, making the main draw in 6 of the 8 events and pushing into the quarters once, but saw his season-ending ranking slip a couple of spots from last year. He had some really solid wins on the season, didn’t have any “bad” losses, and played to his seeding nearly every event. He needs some more break through wins in 2020-21.
—- #19 Carlos Keller Vargas, after playing just 5 previous pro events in his life, committed to traveling from Bolivia and playing the tour full time this season. He started the season ranked #29 and ground his way into the top 20 by season’s end. He qualified for the main draw in 7 of the 9 events he played and faced off against 6 of the top 8 players on tour in various round of 16 matches. His biggest win of the year was an upset of #7 Murray at the US Open.
—— #20 Andres Acuña had a very solid season, playing 8 of the 10 events and making his first pro quarter when he downed Parrilla in Laurel early in the season. By season’s end he found himself in the dreaded 16/17 seed range, which made for really tough round-of-32 match-ups and a couple of early exits. The Costa Rican #1 finishes one spot higher than he did last year, a testament to just how much talent is pouring into the tour right now.
The full Mens tour is back in action for the 35th Annual KWM Gutterman, Inc. Shamrock Shootout Tier 1 Pro Stop Presented by MyPillow, being held in Lombard, just outside of Chicago IL.
The 35th annual running event, which makes it one of the longer running events in the land. It has been a full tier 1 stop for the past 5 years. Chicago itself has been a regular home to IRT stops in general, for years hosting Pro Nationals, and then for years before that the famous Halloween Open. A lot of this was due to former tour commissioner and long time rball organizer Dave Negrete being Chicago-based.
is it a flip draw? Nope, this is a straight draw 1-8.
—————————— Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:
In the round of 128: – Thanks to the proximity of the upcoming Pan American Racquetball Championships, we’ve got the full Guatemalan team here (Edwin Galicia, Javier Martinez, Juan Salvatierra and Christian Wer). Each of these four is playing a local IRT debutant in the opening round of 128, so welcome all first time pro players.
———————————- In the round of 64: things start to heat up. – #17 Andres Acuña manages to be the highest player not getting a bye into the 32s; for his trouble he likely gets a juicy central american match-up against Guatemalan Martinez. – #24 Jaime Martell Racquetball vs #25 Anthony Martin; great opener, as we would expect from a 24/25 match-up. Martel makes a rare appearance on tour, while Martin plays his 6th event of the season. – #19 Robert Collins likely takes on Guatemalan veteran Christian Wer. – #26 Guatemalan Edwin Galicia likely takes on #23 Kyle Ulliman in what could be a close match.
——————————- Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible match-ups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot: – #16/#17 looks like a potential doozy: #16 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez, who has been stuck at the #17 seed the last couple of tournaments, jumps a spot and thus gets the bye into the 32s. He’ll likely face #17 Acuna, who has been getting solid wins all season. Tough one to predict: I like Patata to build on his Mexican Nationals showing and move on. – #9 Mario Mercado versus likely #24 Martell: Rough possible draw for Mercado, who has faced Martell a few times before and never beaten him. I like a run for the Mexican here. – #13 Thomas Carter versus likely #20 Sam Bredenbeck; fun match here between two of the younger guys on tour. Sam beat Carter in 2019 Sioux Falls but it was tight. – #11 Jake Bredenbeck vs likely #22 Justus Benson: lots of broken balls in this one; two hard hitters. – #15 Javier Mar versus likely #18 Adam Manilla: this is the highest i can recall seeing Mar seeded in an event; he’ll fancy his chances to move on and face a familiar opponent in the 16s.
——————————- round of 16: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk versus the Fernandez/Acuna winner; neither will be favored to beat the King of course, but I like what i’ve seen lately out of Fernandez and i’d like to see what his confident game style brings against Kane. – #24 Martell vs #9 Lalo Portillo: this is a stretch, but if Martell pulls off the upset of Mercado he could very well also upset Portillo. They faced off in 2019’s Mexican Nationals, a straight forward 2-game win for Jaime. Portillo won the Minnesota event last weekend and had a very solid Mexican nationals in 2020 (topped Montoya, took DLR to a breaker). This could be a fascinating match. – #5 Andree Parrilla vs #12 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez: Parrilla is in a rut; he’s gone one and done the last three pro events, he lost in the 16s at Mexican Nationals to a player he should have beat, and one of those pro round of 16 losses was to Franco. I sense another upset here until Andree can right the ship. – #4 Alvaro Beltran faces the Carter/Bredenbeck winner: either way i like Beltran, though Carter did put a Loss on Alvaro in Portland in December. – #3 Rocky Carson returns to action after a rare missed pro event in January and likely faces the tough Eduardo Garay Rodriguez in the 16s. Garay has been playing increasingly well against top opponents, while Carson topped Landa in his last on-the-court match, seemingly having fully recovered at this point from his knee issue in December. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #11 Bredenbeck: Jake has a couple of wins over DLR … but DLR has been playing some great ball lately. He advances. – #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Rodrigo Montoya Solís; just a couple of meetings between these two on the books; they’re 1-1 h2h. This is the kind of match Montoya needs to win in order to establish his spot in the rball elite. Both players have had kind of up and down seasons; this could be a win to build on. – #2 Alex Landa vs #15 Mar: Neither guy here can be happy with this draw; they’re pretty evenly matched, they have split a couple of meetings at Mexican Nats over the years but have not played professionally. I think it could be tight but will favor Landa to move on.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – #1 Kane over #24 Martel – #4 Beltran over #12 Franco: they’ve played 4 times, Beltran has never dropped a game to him. – #3 Carson vs #6 DLR: they’ve been trading wins back and forth for a few years now. DLR topped him earlier this year in Sioux Falls and has been playing really consistent ball; i’ll go with the upset here. – #2 Landa vs #10 Montoya; when they do play, its often close: last meeting was an 11-10 win for Rodrigo in Sioux Falls in 2019. I’ll go with Landa here.
Semis: – Kane over Beltran in what would be their 54th pro meeting. – Landa over DLR; Landa has beaten DLR the last 6 times they’ve played and seems to have his number. But, its always close.
Finals: Kane over Landa.
——————————- Doubles review
We’re playing pro doubles this weekend too; 10 teams with three of the best teams in the world present, plus the Bredenbeck brothers and the two national Guatemalan teams playing.
I like a rematch of the Mexican national finals to happen between #1 Beltran/DLR and #3 Montoya/Mar, but both teams will have to earn it to get t here against tough semi-finalists.
——————————— Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Dean DeAngelo Baer, Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!
—————- In the 64s: – #25 Sam Bredenbeck eked out a tie-breaker win over #24 Scott McClellan – Both Kelley brothers (Sam and Joe), travelling from the NJ/PA area, fell in two to traveling pros. Great job supporting the event though, along with all the traveling players. – #23 Kadim Carrasco] took a close match from #26 Justus Benson.
—————- In the 32s, we started to see some interesting results. – As suspected, the 16/17 match was close, with #16 Javier Mar taking out younger countryman #17 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez] in a tie-breaker. – #12 Carlos Keller Vargas was stretched by Costa Rican veteran #21 Felipe Camacho, winning two closer games. – #13 Thomas Carter got revenge from last week, topping #20 Javier Estrada in a breaker to move on. Sold win for Carter to reverse his two-tourney one-and-done streak. – #11 Mario Mercado Valenzuela held serve against #22 Alan Natera Chavez, winning in two closer games. – #10 Sebastian Franco was stretched by South American neighbor Carrasco, advancing 14,13. – #15 Eduardo Garay played a complete match and dominated #18 Adam Manilla 8,8 to move on.
So, the 32s went perfectly chalk; all the seeds from 9-16 advanced into the next round. I think I predicted at least 2-3 upsets here but the seeds prevailed this time around.
—————- In the 16s: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk got his tourney started against a tough foe in #16 Mar, but advanced 7,8. We saw a similar pattern in game 2 to a lot of Kane’s games against solid opponents; it was even for a while … then it was 8-8 … then you blink your eye and its 15-8 as Kane turns up the pressure and moves on. – In a fascinating result, #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís] dominated #8 Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball 12,4 to remain unbeaten against the Bolivian Iris Grand Slam winner and move on. – #5 Samuel Murray held serve against Keller, moving on after taking a close game one. – #4 Álvaro Beltrán stifled any chance of another upset at the hands of the lefty Carter (as had happened in December in Portland), cruising to a 4,12 win. – #3 Andree Parrilla is ready to put this month behind him; the player I thought could make a run to the final here instead was upset in the round of 16 for the third successive week, this time at the hands of Gerardo Franco Gonzalez 11-7 in the breaker. Franco advances to his 4th pro quarter final. – #6 Lalo Portillo‘s dreams of back to back finals ended early; he was dropped by #11 Mercado in the round of 16s for the 2nd time in three weeks, this time by the overwhelming scoreline of 4,7. – #10 S.Franco evened up his career h2h line with #7 Jake Bredenbeck, taking him out in two to advance. – #2 Alex Landa showed little ill-effects from his arm injury of last weekend, advancing over a tough foe in #15 Garay 6,(7),5.
So, three upsets at this stage; the top is nearly chalk 1,9,5,4 in the quarters, while the bottom is 14,11,10,2. I had predicted some upsets here … but none of them came to pass.
—————- In the Quarters – #1 Kane topped #9 Montoya to move on, but not with out a bit of controversy. Early in the second game a long rally had the players come together and Kane seemed to almost shove Montoya to get out of the way of a shot. It was kind of reminiscent of the early physical days of the sport. No penalty was given and nothing seemed to come of it … but at the end of the tourney Montoya scored the most points of any player against Kane in a game on the weekend, and seems to be getting incrementally better against the King each time they face each other. – #4 Alvaro Beltran came from a game down to top Canadian #1 Murray and keep his perfect h2h record alive over him. – #11 Mercado advanced to his first pro semi since the Bolivian Grand Slam by topping upstart GFranco 13,2. Franco looked frisky in game one … but collapsed once he lost the close opening game. – #2 Landa made short work of #10 S.Franco 5,5.
————— In the Semis; two interesting matches. – #4 Beltran dominated #1 Kane …. for a quarter of their match. Beltran led 5-0 and 7-3 in the first …. and then didn’t score again. Kane ran off 27 unanswered points from 3-7 down in the first game to win the match 7,0. Just a complete white washing where Kane played textbook ball for most of the match. – #11 Mercado saved game point in the first and then took a close one from #2 Landa to advance to just his second ever pro final 14,11. He becomes the rare double-digit seed to make a pro final.
In the Finals…. it was one way traffic. Kane crushed Mercado 2,3 to take the title. 5 total points against represents the 2nd most dominant final scoreline in the history of the tour (see http://rball.pro/C1E703 for the full list … not surprisingly Kane owns most of the top scorelines on this report).
—————- Points Implications of results;
There’s no expiring tier 1 from last season to drop off, but there’s still a lot of movement in the top 20 on tour after this event: – Parrilla’s 3-tourney swoon finally costs him in the rankings: he’ll drop to #5 behind Beltran. – DLR’s absence costs him too; despite Moscoso’s early upset exit, he’ll pip Daniel for #6 on tour. – Montoya and Mercado will both jump over Jake in the tightly bunched set of players in the 10-13 range. Around 30 ranking points separate 10th from 13th and these three players along with Sebastian Franco continue to juggle spots based on tournament results. – Gerardo Franco jumps to #16, Mar continues to rise up (now #19), and the missing Acuna gets dumped three spots to #21.
—————- Other Draws:
In the Men’s Open, a solid bracket included several former top-8 IRT players plus a ton of locals. As it turned out, two of the pro quarter-finalists were the 1 and 3 seeds in the Open (and both forfeited out, thinning the draw) and the 8 quarter-finalists ended up being 6 touring internationals plus mid-western top amateurs Lee Meinerz and Anthony Martin.
In the qtrs: – SFranco topped Meinerz 8,11 – Fernandez crushed Garay 4,1 to advance. – Camacho got a walkover when Mercado withdrew. – Portillo topped Martin 8,4
In the semis: – Fernandez walks over Franco – Portillo crushes Camacho 2,3
In the final, a familiar battle. Mexican nationals Fernandez and Portillo are a year apart and often met in the back end of junior nationals and junior worlds events. Some of their recent match history includes these notable finals: – Portillo d Fernandez in the 16U World junior finals in 2016 – Fernandez d Portillo in the Mexican 18U natioanls final in 2018 – then, 3 months later the two met in the 18U junior worlds final, Portillo’s last junior event, and Portillo won.
So how about on this day? They played a back and forth match eventually won by Patata Fernandez (4),7,8.
In the Men’s Open Doubles, in the absence of an official IRT pro doubles draw we saw a 15-team bracket headlined by the reigning Pan Am Games gold medalists Mar/Montoya. Also in the doubles draws were a couple of old friends from the East Coast, Brent Walters and Russ Bruns, both of whom have strong ties to the Virginia Racquetball scene.
In the end though, the top two seeds, both all-Mexican traveling teams, advanced to the final. #1 Montoya/Mar, one of the best teams in the world and the reigning Pan American Games gold medalists, ended up topping Natera/Estrada in two tight games for the title.
—————— Next up?
The IRT takes a break until mid-march when they return to Chicago. Meanwhile, USA National Doubles is next weekend, featuring a juicy pairing of 5-time pro champ Sudsy Monchik teaming up with IRT #2 Landa, who has to represent the USA.
In fact, there’s almost nothing going on that we’d normally track in February; I may have to come up with some fun ideas to discuss during the break.
Welcome to the last event of the 2020 IRT mid-west swing, and its a special one. “The Lou,” a long-running IRT satellite in Sun Prairie, WI (outside of Madison), has stepped up this year for the first time to become a Tier 1 event.
This represents the first time the IRT has had a full tier 1 in the state of Wisconsin since 2004, and this is the first time ever going anywhere except Milwaukee within the state for a major event.
Fun fact: the very first US Amateur Nationals event was held in Milwaukee in 1968. The first major racquetball tournament ever held, won by Bill Schultz over Hall of Famer Bill Schmidtke in the final.
There’s 34 players in this singles draw. There’s not a pro doubles draw but there is a healthy Men’s Open draw filled with top players that will be fun to watch.
The draw is missing two major names: #3 Rocky Carson picked up an injury (or perhaps came back a bit too soon from his Dec 2019 surgery) and misses the event. This is pretty notable; in 20 years on tour full time this is just the third event he’s missed. Also missing the draw is last week’s champ #6 Daniel De La Rosa (also reportedly out with a knock), which has to be a bummer b/c he’s been playing some of the best ball of his career this month.
Other top 20 players missing: #14 David ” Bobby” Horn (who has stated he’s stepping back from touring for financial reasons), and #18 Andres Acuña, who may be heading back to his home country to help with a big tourney starting up next week.
is it a flip draw? Yes. The 5th-8th seeds are: – Moscoso: ranked 7th, 5th highest seed in draw, seeded 8th – Murray: ranked 8th, 6th highest seed in draw, seeded 5th – Portillo: ranked 9th, 7th highest seed in draw, seeded 6th – Bredenbeck: ranked 10th, 8th highest seed in draw, seeded 7th.
Obviously, Moscoso is hardest done by, flipped into the #8 spot meaning a meeting with Kane in the quarters. Jake would have been in the same quarter he got flipped into anyway without the missing top seeds. Portillo gets a big break and is in line to face #3 seed Parrilla, who he beat recently. Biggest benefactor has to be Murray, who gets out of a Kane quarter and instead feeds into #4 Beltran (who he’s never beaten, but has been playing close).
A comment about the impact of 3 straight events; it seems to have taken a toll on some the tour’s older full-time players: – Kane (age 38): missed the middle event – Rocky (age 40): missed 2 of the 3 events – Landa (age 31) fft’d out of Lewis, wonder if he’s still showing any ill effects of the injury this weekend.
Of course that being said the tour’s oldest regular (Beltran, age 41) has made all three and shown no ill effects, so maybe its more coincidence and less causation.
—————————— Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:
In the round of 64: – #28 Minnesota native Lee Meinerz takes on former top-10 touring vet Costa Rican #21 Felipe Camacho. I like what I saw from Meinerz last week; he can give Camacho a match here for sure. He puts pressure on the ball on every shot and could push for an upset. – #22 Mexican Alan Natera Chavez takes on #27 Anthony Martin in a solid first rounder. Natera lost out to Pratt in the 64s last weekend but will shoot for a better result this weekend. – #23 Bolivian Kadim Carrasco takes on #26 American Justus Benson in the opener; 21-yr old Texan Benson has gone one-and-done in four straight tourneys and will be looking to break that streak here.
——————————- Projecting the 32s: – #16 Javier Mar likely takes on #17 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez in a very tasty match between two solid players. Somehow Fernandez gets exactly the 17th seed for the second straight event, meaning he has to play that extra match before facing a top opponent. Last week he qualified into the #1 seed; this time around he won’t be favored to repeat the feat. Mar slots into the brutal #16 seed, meaning that with a win he faces Kane in the first round of the main draw instead of the quarters (as he did in last year’s US Open) or later. A great match either way to see where Fernandez’ game is these days. – #13 Thomas Carter likely takes on #20 Javier Estrada for the second week running. Estrada took him out in a breaker last week; will we see a different result here? – #11 Mario Mercado Valenzuela likely vs #22 Natera; Both these players were taken out last week by the same guy (Charlie Pratt Racquetball): now they slate to face off for a spot in the main draw. Mercado’s season has been hit and miss: he’s got solid wins and surprising losses. its anyone’s guess here. – #15 Eduardo Garay likely takes on #18 Adam Manilla. Manilla surprised everyone with his run in Austin and has committed to the tour full time; he has his hands full though with Colombian Garay, who beat Landa in Austin two weeks ago and is moving up in the world.
——————————- Projecting the round of 16: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk takes on the Mar/Fernandez winner; Kane took last week off and should be refreshed as compared to either player here, who are doing play-ins and working on two-three straight weeks of play. – #8 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís]; Great match for the 16s. Montoya beat Moscoso in both 2018 Worlds (en route to the gold medal) and in the 2019 Pan Am games (en route to the gold medal). Both matches were close. Both are hard hitters, with great diving abilities. Moscoso has a slight knock sustained in Austin that still seemed to be bothering his mobility on the court in Sioux Falls. I’ll favor Montoya here. – #5 Samuel Murray likely vs #12 Carlos Keller Vargas: another intriguing match; Murray knocked Keller out of the 2019 Pan Am games in the quarters, but Keller upset Murray in the 32s of the US Open (a big loss in the season’s biggest event for a top 8 seed). I like Murray here. – #4 Alvaro Beltran likely vs #20 Estrada: These two met just last week at this same gate, an 8,9 win for Beltran. Can Estrada flip the script in a week’s time? Is three straight weeks and a ton of court time too much for the 41-yr old Beltran? – #3 Andree Parrilla likely vs #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; Parrilla has not been enjoying the mid-west swing so far: two one-and dones in a row in Austin and Sioux Falls. He’s now been beaten in the 16s three times this season: he had just one upset prior to the quarters the entirety of last season. If he wants to keep his top 4 seed, he needs to be making semis regularly. First up: an old WRT adversary in Franco. Parrilla is 4-0 against him in the old tour; they havn’t met professionally since 2017. I suspect Andree advances. – #6 Lalo Portillo vs the Natera/Mercado winner. Match-ups matter: Portillo has a couple of wins over Natera in RKT local events in the last year, but lost to Mercado two weeks ago in Austin. Which Portillo shows up this week? The guy who looked absolutely dominant in a run to the finals last week? Or the guy who lost three straight round of 16 openers in Nov, Dec and Jan? I’m going to go with the former and project another run here for the youngster. – #7 Jake Bredenbeck vs #10 Sebastian Franco; they’ve met 7 times in pro/IRF events over the years: Jake leads 4-3 and won their most recent skirmish; a RR affair at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Peru. I like Jake here; he’s been playing more consistent all season, while Franco has been missing events and taking upset losses. – #2 Alex Landa vs #15 Garay. How hurt is Landa? He was really struggling against Murray last week before retiring. Next week is US Nationals, where he’s playing with Sudsy Monchik in an attempt to qualify for the US team … which I have to think is pretty darn important to him given all that transpired with the Mexican federation last year. Meanwhile, Garay is tough and just beat an un-injured Landa in Austin two weeks ago. I sense another upset here, whether its Garay beating him on the level or Landa protecting his arm.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – #1 Kane over #9 Montoya: Kane’s 3-0 against the young world champ … but their most recent meeting in Portland in Dec was closer than it had been before. I sense a pattern in kane’s “close” matches; when a top player is playing well, they’ll hang with Kane for most of each game .. you’ll see scores like 8-8 or 10-9 … then poof, Kane hits another gear and suddenly its 15-10 game over. Its tough to play flawless racquetball for two straight hours against the GOAT; how close can Montoya come this time? – Beltran/Estrada winner vs Murray; Which ever Mexican advances, i’ll favor over the big Canadian. It’ll be either Beltran (who’s never lost to Murray), or Estrada (who, if he beats Beltran it means he’s “on” this week and will be tough to stop). – Parrilla over Portillo: I don’t think Parrilla is going to get upset three tourneys in a row; he’s never lost to Portillo in an IRT or WRT event (but did lost to him last year in SLP local event). But it’d be quite a statement if Lalo made another run. – Garay over Jake/SFranco; if Garay tops Landa, no reason not to think he’d also get a win here.
I know I keep predicting wins for Estrada and Garay in particular; something about their games really strikes me as solid. Maybe i’m crazy, but both players have power, athleticism, good wins on their resumes and are growing tourney by tourney. What can I say, i’m a sucker for upsets.
——————————- Semis: – Kane over Estrada – Parrilla over Garay
Finals: Kane over Parrilla.
Andree has come an awful long way from the 0,0,0 beating he took in the US Open 2016 at the hands of the king. Parrilla took a game from Kane in Syosset last season (though, to be fair Kane was nursing a hand injury), and was dominated in their most recent meeting (Portland semis). Look for Andree to find unique ways to keep this close but for Kane to pull away.
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: Daniel De La Rosa – Doubles; Daniel De La Rosa/Alvaro Beltran
De la Rosa wins this event for the second time in four years (he loves Sioux Falls: he’s made the final here now four years running), and captures his 4th Tier 1 victory, moving him into a tie for 19th all-time with heady names like Steve Serot, Gregg Peck, Bo Keeley and his long-time Mexican rival Alex Landa . Click here http://rball.pro/E75E50 for a list of all 40 tier 1 men’s pro titlists throughout all of history.
—————- In the 128s: – Minnesota amateur Lee Meinerz played some solid ball and hung with Tony Carson in his first tourney back, taking the first game 15-14 before Carson had to retire.
In the 64s: – Meinerz continued to play tough and stretched #17 Sebastian Fernandez to 8,12 in his tourney opener. – #25 Kadim Carrasco played a tough tiebreaker against #24 Jansen Allen to advance. – #28 Sam Bredenbeck played #21 Felipe Camacho tough, falling 9,14 in a hard-hitting match. – Charlie Pratt Racquetball got a solid win over Alan Natera Chavez 10,8 to move into the 32s. – Set Cubillos Ruiz got a tie-breaker win over the Ref Scott McClellan to advance. – Robert Collins got a tough earned win over Canadian Tim Landeryou 12,12 to move on.
—————- In the 32s: – #16 Adam Manilla could not keep the momentum going from last weekend and fell to #17 Fernandez 6,10. Fernandez looked bulked up and ready to challenge #1 Landa in the main draw. – #21 Camacho got his best win of the season, ousting #12 Carlos Keller Vargas in a tie-breaker to advance to just his second main draw of the season. – #20 Javier Estrada went breaker but took out #13 Thomas Carter to get into his third main draw of the season. – #19 Javier Mar eased past the Costa Rican number one #14 seed Andres Acuña to get into the main draw. Mar has a history of disrupting IRT draws, and he’s well positioned to do so again here. – #22 Charles Pratt moved to 4-0 lifetime in top-level events against #11 Mario Mercado Valenzuela in a streaky game that looked like was going against him early. Pratt gets a juicy match-up against a player he shocked in last year’s PARC event in Moscoso (also his doubles partner on the weekend).
—————- In the 16s: some notable matches:
– #20 Estrada could not get the breakthrough win he’s been pursuing, losing to #4 Alvaro Beltran in two solid games. – #19 Mar proved once again why fans wish he’d play the tour full time, topping #3 Andree Parrilla in an 11-9 breaker. Its the second straight one-and-done for Parrilla, having been shocked last week in Austin by Manilla. – #6 @Luis Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo] got revenge on Pratt from their last meeting (the 2019 PARC) and topped him in two. He seemed to show little side effect of whatever malady caused him to exit so easily in Austin. – #7 Daniel De La Rosa continued his h2h dominance over country-man Rodrigo Montoya Solis, beating him 11-8 in the breaker in a tough match.
So, 7 of the top 8 seeds into the quarters; a slight surprise to this observer who keeps waiting for some of the guys in the 9-20 range to step-up.
—————- In the Quarters though … all upsets. – #8 Samuel Murray got a walk over when #1 Alex Landa pulled up lame midway through the second game. Murray had won the first, and it was hard to tell if the core injury (strained back?) was affecting Landa early on. Murray has beaten his oft-doubles partner before, so it wasn’t a huge surprise for him to get a game up on the notorious slow-starting Landa … but Murray into the semis was unexpected, especially from the #8 spot. – Whatever #5 Lalo Portillo figured out … he needs to bottle it up and sell it. After three straight one-and-dones since earning a top 8 seed … he held serve against a former top 10 touring pro in Camacho in the 16s, and then dominated #4 Beltran 5,6 in the quarters. He gets a second semi on the season, and a winnable one at that versus Murray. – #6 Moscoso continued to have the upper hand over Mar, dating to their junior days (they’re the same age-year and often met in the back end of Junior World events), and advanced in two games. – #7 DLR took advantage of #2 Rocky Carson’s first game back from injury, playing solid ball and advancing in two 12,11.
So; for the for the first time in recorded seeding history on the Men’s tour, all top 4 seeds are upset prior to the semis, leaving the rest of this tourney to be contested neatly by the #5, #6, #7 and #8 seeds. We’re guaranteed to have a shock finalist; Murray has just one finals appearance in his career, Portillo none. The Lewis Drug event continues to provide surprises year after year.
————— In the Semis:
– #5 Portillo raced out of the gate to blow away #8 Murray in game one, then mounted a huge comeback after going down big in game 2 to advance 4,14 and move into his first tier 1 professional final. Lalo is just 20 years of age and is one of the youngest finalists we’ve seen in years, and will have his hands full against a seasoned pro.
– In just their 4th career meeting (pro or international), #7 DLR continued his red-hot form and reversed the result from the US Open earlier this season and topped the Bolivian 8,11 to move into the final. Its hard to say whether Moscoso showed any ill-effects of the leg injury he picked up in Austin; one observer in the chat-box noted that Moscoso was merely “shuffling” to his right and not crossing over footsteps, perhaps implying he still was favoring his left leg. I also find it curious that the foot fault issues that plagued him at the US Open continue to be a factor; its now to the point where the referee knows to look for the FF and I believe now calls it even when its a borderline case.
—————- In the Finals:
It looked for a while like the young Portillo may provide a shock, as he played consistent solid ball to jump out to a lead, but DLR pulled back, played smart racquetball and eked out game one, saving game point against 15-14. In game 2, it was never really as close as the eventual 15-9 scoreline showed; DLR was in control despite Portillo’s excellent game plan.
—————- Points Implications of results: – Landa had a chance to take over #1 with a tourney win, but by existing at the qtrs along with Carson they stay 2-3 in the standings behind Kane. – Parrilla and Beltran remain 4-5, but Alvaro picks up some ground. – DLR moves up to #6 with the win, gaining enough points on Moscoso to switch places and dropping the Bolivian to 7th. – Despite the finals appearance and the win over Murray in the semis, Murray and Portillo remian 8-9 in the standings. – With the missed event, S.Franco drops to 12th, which elevates Jake Bredenbeck into the top 10 for what I believe is the first time in his career. – Mar jumps from #23 to #20, which is important because more than a few guys in the 11-20 range right now are either stepping back from touring or periodically miss events, meaning Mar could slip into the top 16, meaning a bye into the 32s.
the IRT now has enough events on the 12-month schedule that they’re counting points in 11 events, dropping other events. Which makes it even more amazing that guys like Kane and Conrrado can maintain top-8 seeds despite not even playing the minimum # of events.
The doubles draw was chalk in the semis, with all four top seeds advancing. Landa’s injury took out the Murray/Landa team, giving Montoya/Mar a walk-over into the finals. There they met their long-time Mexican nemesis team of #1 DLR/Beltran.
DLR/Beltran vs Mar/Montoya is becoming a frequent match-up in major doubles events. This final is a rematch of the following major matches: – 2018 Mexican Nationals final – 2018 Mexican Worlds Selection event final – Quarters of 2018 World Doubles – Semis of 2018 US Open – Semis of 2019 Atlanta open
The veterans DLR/Beltran won all these meetings. And they won again in the Sioux Falls final, though they had to go breaker to do so. Beltran continues to be such a skilled shot maker even at 41, that I wouldn’t be surprised if he remained a dangerous pro doubles player for years to come.
—————- Men’s Open:
The top four seeds in the Men’s Open draw are all IRT pros ranked in the 9-16 range, and as expected they all advanced into the semis. Only Gerardo Franco Gonzalez was really troubled along the way, taken to a tie-breaker by Canadian veteran Landeryou.
In the Open semis: Franco upset Acuna while Montoya handled Mercado, and in the final Montoya cruised to the Men’s Open singles win.
—————— Next up?
The third of three IRT events in a row; the Lou Bradley Memorial in Sun Prairie, WI. It should be interesting to see what toll these back-to-back-to-back events take on players: we’ve already seen Kane bow out of one, Landa forfeit out with injury, and see both Beltran and Carson exit earlier than their seeds. Will we see another run from an unexpected source next week?
International Racquetball Tour International Racquetball Federation – IRF International Racquetball Federation USA Racquetball Racquetball Canada Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Federación Boliviana De Raquetbol – Febora Racquetball Colombia Federacion Colombiana de Racquetball F
Hot on the heels of the Longhorn Open, we have one of the longest running tournaments in the nation being held in Sioux Falls, SD. its the 42nd annual Lewis Drug Pro-Am.
Renowned for its hospitality for the touring pros, this event has become one of the favorite stops each season, and continues to draw players from far and wide.
The Lewis drug pro-am is also known for delivering fans of the sport upsets and surprises. To wit, here’s some of the surprising results from past years:
– in 2019, #1 Alex Landa was upset in the first round by fellow Mexican and eventual World Rodrigo Montoya Solís. Montoya made a run to the semis before falling. – in 2018 Landa got his first ever IRT Tier 1 win as the #8 seed, topping #1 Rocky Carson in the quarters and then winning a thrilling 11-10 tiebreaker over countryman #2 Daniel De La Rosa to win the title. – in 2017 Landa made a run to the semis as a 14 seed, and DLR got just his second ever pro win in the final. – in 2016 Jose Rojas topped both the #2 and #3 seeds to make the final before falling to #1 Waselenchuk – 2015 featured a mostly chalk draw, with Kane at #2 topping Rocky at #1 but not before both the 3 and 4th seeds fell in upsets in the qtrs. – 2014 was the final pro appearance of long time touring vet Mike Guidry, who hadn’t entered a pro event in years after retiring in Jan 2006. He fell in the 16s to eventual tourney finalist Alvaro Beltran.
So that’s some fun history.
The 2020 instance is also setup to perhaps provide some surprises … because we have late breaking news that #1 Kane Waselenchuk is ill and is not attending. So now we get a wide-open draw and possibly some surprises. And, let me tell you, projecting out the tourney here I see the possibility for some fascinating, rarely seen match-ups between top players.
36 players entered, and its a solid draw. As we saw in Austin, we have a number of non-regular top players in this draw waiting to make some noise. The biggest question mark for me is the health of Moscoso; he hobbled out of the Austin event and looked like he may have badly hurt his knee.
We are using a slight flip seeding this time, but thanks to the absence of #1 Kane just one top 8 seed got flipped away from where they should have been: 9th ranked Portillo got a top 8 seed, then got flipped 5th seed in the event. Seeds 6,7,8 mirror where the players are currently ranked.
Top-20 players missing; past Kane, we’re missing #10 Sebastian Franco (who misses his 3rd event of the season), #14 David Horn (who misses his 4th event of the season), and #17 Eduardo Garay, who misses out on a chance to build on his big wins last weekend in Austin.
—————————— Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:
In the round of 128: – The tour welcomes back #32 seed Tony Carson Racquetball, who tore his Achilles heel nearly a year ago. He plays Minnesota-native Lee Meinerz, who hasn’t played an IRT event in several years but could be a good first-back-match for former top -10 player Carson. – there’s three other play-ins in the round of 128, all involving non-tour regulars from the mid-west or Canada. Its great to see the tour in areas where these guys can travel and play.
———————————- In the round of 64: – #17 Sebastian Fernandez, who has struggled to make it to events this year and has seen his ranking fall, likely faces Carson to move on. A solid match here that could go either way, depending on how recovered Carson is from his injury. Its worth noting that in the last three IRT events that T.Carson has played … he’s got wins over De La Rosa, Parrilla and Mercado. – In the #24/#25 seed, Kadim Carrasco takes on former touring regular Jansen Allen in an interesting match. Allen has taken a significant step back from touring and missed an event close to home last week in Texas but travels to South Dakota for this one. this could be a close match. – #21 Felipe Camacho vs #28 Sam Bredenbeck: Camacho is another former top-10 touring pro who has stepped back from touring, now seeing his ranking fall into the 20s. He faces off against the younger Bredenbeck, who got two solid wins over tour regulars at this event last year to make the main draw. – #22 Alan Natera Chavez vs #27 Charlie Pratt Racquetball; wow, what a tough match in the 64s; I think both of these guys are pushing for top 10 spots if they were still touring full time, and now they meet here. As I often observe, Natera can be hit or miss; one day he’s beating Montoya and Mar (as he has done in the last two Mexican Nats), then the next day he’s losing to relative unknowns in local events. Meanwhile, Pratt has a history of getting solid wins even as he curtails his touring. – #18 Robert Collins vs #34 Tim Landeryou; Assuming Landeryou gets past Andres Gomez in the play in, he faces an opponent that he can hang with in the 64s. Could be an upset in the making here.
——————————- Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible match-ups to watch for and some upset warnings:
– #16/#17 Adam Manilla vs the Fernandez/Carson winner: Was last week’s version of Manilla a one-off fluke, or has he turned the tide under the tutelage of a new coach Jim Winterton? This will be a good first test; which ever player advances will be a tough opponent that, up until last week, I’d have favored over Manilla. Now? I’m not so sure who to predict. – #14 Andres Acuña vs #19 Javier Mar: Acuna has to be frustrated with this draw; the under-seeded Mar can beat practically anyone at this tourney and he travels through Acuna to get into the main draw. – #11 Mario Mercado vs the Natera/Pratt winner: Pratt has never lost to Mercado in an event PRS tracks, and hasn’t played Natera in nearly 5 years. This is an upset warning for a 20-seed to advance here.
——————————- round of 16:
– #1 Alex Landa vs #16 Manilla: so, assuming that Manilla gets here … is this a possible 16 over 1 situation? I mean, Landa as a #2 seed was upset by the 18th seed Garay last week, and Manilla had the best event of his career with wins over Parilla and Mercado and going one game up on DLR. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this be a 5,6 blow out for Landa or a monumental upset by Manilla. – #8/#9: Samuel Murray vs Jake Bredenbeck; its a coin-flip between these two hard hitters; they’ve split their 2 prior match-ups and play a similar game style. – #5 Lalo Portillo vs #12 Carlos Keller Vargas; Portillo has now been beaten in the round of 16 four straight times … and I think Keller makes it 5 for 5. These two play a very similar game style, which makes sense since they both are tall, lanky and have great court coverage. Can Keller finally break through and make a pro quarter? Or can Lalo reverse his trend of getting upset early? – #4 Alvaro Beltran vs #20 Javier Estrada: well, last week I thought Beltran might get upset by a younger countryman who’s been making waves in Mar … and I think the same could happen here. I also think back to back tourneys and flights add up for a 40-yr old; i’m predicting the upset here. – #3 Andree Parrilla vs #19 Mar: a brutal round of 16 for Parrilla, who’s coming off an upset loss in Austin in the same round. Not a lot of past history to go on; they met a few times on the WRT back in 2016-2017 range, and they met in a local RKT event in SLP late last year. They’re about even on the court head to head through these matches; who will prevail here? I expect a dog-fight and for Mar to prevail in the upset. – #6 Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball vs … someone. Is this Natera, Pratt, Mercado? It could be any of these guys. Bigger question is; how healthy is Moscoso here? Is he 100%? How much of a run can he make? If Moscoso is not at full strength, he can easily lose to whichever of these plays advances out of this section to meet him. Lets hope he’s healthy, since he’s traveled an awfully long way to play these events. – #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Rodrigo Montoya Solis; Another gang-busters round of 16; this is the final of 2018 Mexican Nationals and the semis of this event last year. I think DLR has Montoya’s number; the only win Montoya has over DLR h2h was in a match that had already guaranteed both guys spots on the Mexican international team. DLR looked like a new guy last week in Austin and despite being the 7th seed has a draw he must like to get back to the finals again. – #2 Rocky Carson vs Gerardo Franco: both guys missed Austin; Carson still recovering from a knee op in December; is he 100%? I don’t think Franco can beat him, but I wonder if Carson is ready to take on this deep field.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – Landa over Murray; Landa takes out his frequent doubles partner. – Estrada over Keller: I like Estrada’s big serve over Keller’s tactical game. – Mar over Moscoso: I sense Moscoso still isn’t 100% and may fall at this juncture to a veteran pro – DLR over Carson: DLR is hot, Carson is recovering, and when they do play its often close. I like DLR with the upset here.
Semis: – Landa over Estrada: I’m not sure they’ve met …its hard to keep track of all the RKT draws that feature all these players. But by game style I think I like Landa to outlast Estrada. – DLR over Mar; flip a coin between these two on the court, if it comes to this. I’ll go with DLR just based on experience and recent form, even if I have Mar slightly ahead of him on my personal world rankings.
Finals; Landa over DLR, a rematch of the 2018 Lewis Drug final.
——————————- Doubles review
Great doubles draw. I’d expect the #1 team of DLR/Beltran to make the final from the top, and for Mar/Montoya to make it from the bottom for a solid all-Mexican final. It’d be a rematch of the 2018 Mexican Nationals and I’d favor the #1 seeds.
——————————— Look for Streaming in the regular places; can’t wait for this event! make sure to log in and say high to Dean DeAngelo Baer and Favio Soto on the facebook feeds.
Congrats to your winners on the weekend: – Singles: Kane Waselenchuk
Kane wins again, without dropping a game and only gave up 13 points in 6 games prior to the final. He secures his 600th professional match win in the process, behind only Cliff Swain all time on the men’s pro tour (see http://rball.pro/133532 for a list of all time match wins on tour).
Kane is now 21-1 on the season, that one loss being a last-minute forfeit out of the season opening Atlanta event.
Thanks to an early loss by #2 Landa and an absence by #3 Carson, Kane maintains his 300+ point lead at top of the standings and looks poised to expand that in the next two weeks.
First off, there were no less than six wbf-ns in the opening two rounds of qualifications. Unfortunately, several of the players who forfeited where guys who I thought could make somewhat deep runs here. I got a little bit of the context of the forfeits; lots of guys signed up quite early (because this is such a popular event), then could not secure funding for affordable flights and had to bail. I’m bummed though for those who wanted to play and couldn’t get to Austin.
That being said, we did see some interesting early round matches:
In the 128s: – #37 Diana-Shai Manzuri downed #28 Justus Benson 10,8. – #38 Alejandro Almada downed #27 Scott McClellan 11-9 in the breaker. I wonder if the match was self-refereed.. (ok, ok, bad joke).
In the 64s: – #20 Javier Mar took out fellow traveling Mexican #36 Juan Loreto in two to advance. Loreto made up for it by making a solid run to the Men’s Open semis. – #19 Adam Manilla was made to work for it from relative unknown Bolivian Miguel A. Arteaga Guzman , winning in the breaker to move on. – #26 Bolivian Kadim Carrasco took out #39 Mexican Edson Martinez in two games 5,11. Solid win for Carrasco.
—————- In the 32s, we started to see some fireworks. – #24 Alan Natera Chavez downed #9 Jake Bredenbeck in two games 12,8. The giant-killer in Natera surfaces again and takes out the highest unprotected seed in the draw. – #20 Mar continued his run, taking out #13 Carlos Keller Vargas in two. This is Keller’s earliest exit this season but it comes at the hand of a player who’s probably one of the top 6-7 players in the world irrespective of seeding. – #19 Manilla gets a walk-over into the main draw thanks to #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalezs no-show. – #11 Mario Mercado Valenzuela had to come from a game down to top local Texan #38 Alejandro Almada in the breaker. Almada was the 38th seeded player out of 39 players in this draw thanks to the fact that its his first ever IRT Tier 1 stop. He had played a slew of WRT events as he matriculated out of the junior ranks, where he won a number of Mexican and World junior titles. He’s currently a student at U-Texas, thus he’s playing on his home courts, and he’s the two-time runner-up at USAR Intercollegiates. He’s also got solid wins in non-Tier 1 IRT events on his resume, and we hope to see more of him. – #23 Javier Estrada went big-game hunting and took out #10 Sebastian Franco 13,7. Estrada played up to his potential and advanced. – #18 Eduardo Garay topped #15 Thomas Carter in two close games to advanced into the main draw for the 7th time in his young career.
So, the round of 32 saw the #9, #10, #13, #14, and #15 seeds fall to lower seeded players. What would we see in the 16s?
—————- In the 16s … even more fireworks
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk got his tourney started by crushing Costa Rican #16 Andres Acuña 3,2. They met at this gate earlier this year in Arizona with similar results. – #8 Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball took out the upset minded #24 Natera 14,9 to setup the highly anticipated quarter. – #5 Canadian Samuel Murray was pushed by #12 David Horn but prevailed in a breaker. – #4 Alvaro Beltran surprised this observer and turned the tides on his younger Mexican rival for the first time in a while, topping #20 Mar in a tiebreaker. I can’t recall the last time Beltran got the better of Mar on the court. – In a huge upset, #19 Manilla took out #3 Andree Parrilla 6,9. Manilla advances to his 4th pro quarterfinal, and gets easily the best win of his career. He’ll face a player in Mercado in the quarters who he has beaten multiple times, and he has to like his chances of advancing to the semis for the first time. – #11 Mercado topped #6 Lalo Portillo to give the young Mexican his third straight one-and-done since achieving a top8 seed. A solid showing by the Colombian to get the wins he needed. – #7 Daniel De La Rosa trounced #23 Estrada 6,4, avenging a loss to his Mexican rival in the Black Gold cup this past summer and getting DLR a solid win to advance. – In the round’s biggest upset though, #18 Garay took out the #2 player on tour Alex Landa 6,(12),1. Garay served lights out in game one, frustrating Landa. They played a closer game 2, with Landa pulling away at the end to force the breaker. But Garay’s ability to put power pinches away and force a lot of 3-shot rallies and pecked away to suddenly dominate and win the breaker 11-1.
Fun fact; there is a radar gun on the court, and Garay/Landa were routinely putting serves and kill shots in the upper 140 ranges. Cannot wait to see what kind of speeds we see in the Kane-Conrrado quarter.
Seed report in the 16s: top of the draw is chalk 1,8,5,4. Bottom? Instead of 3,6,7,2 its 19,11,7,18. We could be seeing a double digit seed in the final for the first time since Moscoso sprinted to the US Open final as a 15th seed last October.
—————- In the Quarters:
– Fans were robbed of the anticipated Kane vs Conrrado match: Conrrado picked up an injury in his round of 16 match and could barely move from the onset of his match against Kane. On the match’s first serve, he could barely put weight on his leg as he moved towards the ball, and looked to be in considerable pain. Curiously, he chose not to forfeit, but to play the entire match, giving up ace after ace and eventually losing 4,1. Lets just hope its not a serious injury, given that he’s slated to play and compete in the next two events back to back. – #4 Beltran held serve and topped #5 Murray for the third time in his career and second time this season, moving on to the semis. – #19 Manilla indeed took care of business against #11 Mercado, a player he’s beaten numerous times, dominating and winning 8,9 to achieve his first ever pro semi final. – #7 DLR made short work of #18 Garay, advancing 6,8 and controlling the match. Garay showed none of the dominance that enabled him to frustrate Landa, and DLR puts himself into a position to be the favorite for the final. He also advances to just his second semi on the season; is this the event that allows Daniel to get his season back on track?
————— In the Semis: – #1 Kane absolutely blasted #4 Beltran 1,2 to advance to the final. Kane is set to possibly challenge his own record of “Most dominant tourney win.” He’s given up 13 points in 6 games thus far through three rounds. I think its safe to say he likes these courts … or likes playing in front of his home crowd. – #7 DLR ended the cinderella run of #19 Manilla, but not before it looked like Adam might get another big win. Manilla took the first game 15-13, but then DLR got out to a dominant lead in game two to control it 15-7. In the breaker DLR continued his adjustments and cruised to an 11-2 breaker win and advanced to his first final of the season. We miss out on the first lefty-lefty final in more than a decade on tour.
————— In the Finals: – Kane was pushed for the only time all tournament by DLR, who ran off stretches of consecutive points at times that had fans remembering the days when it was a foregone conclusion that he was the “next big thing” in the sport. Kane was down big in game 2 before mounting a crushing comeback and eventual win 9,10.
—————- Points Implications of results
Thanks to the results on the weekend, here’s what I think will happen points-wise. There was an event from last season that expires 1/19/20, so this event will just replace those points like for like. This analysis doesn’t include the Tier 5s going on this past weekend in Laurel, MD, but the points earned there won’t appreciably change any rankings for any top players.
– Moscoso will move from #7 to #6 despite earning fewer points than DLR. Daniel drops to #7, his lowest ranking since the 2013-14 season, despite his finals appearance thanks to treading water with 2019’s expiring points. – Montoya will drop from 9th to 13th, which is kind of a bummer for him since he missed the event to accept an award for his accomplishments from his home city of Chihuahua. – Garay jumps up from 21 to 17 on the back of his qtr appearance. – Interestingly, Manilla’s big weekend only moves him up one spot thanks to a big gulf of points between him and the players right above him previously. But, another qtr appearance could jump him up a few slots based on his closing that gap. – Diaz drops 6 spots from 24 to 30 with his absence this weekend, further evidence of his touring status.
—————- Doubles and other draws from the weekend:
No pro doubles on the weekend. But a recurring pro doubles team in Keller/Carrasco teamed up to win the Open doubles over two Texans in Manzuri and Mascorro.
In the Men’s open draw, Lalo Portillo topped a solid field with an on-the-court win over Natera and a walk-over win in the final to take the title.
In the Women’s Open, #1 seed Maria Renee Rodríguez took out #2 seeded Linda Tyler in the final between two regular LPRT players.
—————— Next up? The Men turn right around and head to Sioux Falls, while the ladies head to South Carolina for the big Grand Slam. A busy weekend of rball coming up!
One of the sports biggest amateur events has added the IRT men to its slate of competitors, making for a massive tournament in Austin this coming weekend. No less than 457 players are entered into this weekend’s Longhorn Open, with a healthy 39-man pro draw.
The IRT returns to the state of Texas for the first time since March of 2018 … and to Austin for the first time since Feb 2003. Its also the first time the tour’s #1 player Kane Waselenchuk has been able to play a “home” event since Oct 2015.
In the 39 man singles draw, we have the hoped-for strong Mexican player contingent, which is going to make for some *great* preliminary rounds and some fascinating match-ups. We are missing some key names though from the draw: – #3 Rocky Carson announced on FB last week that he’s decided to skip this event to give his surgically repaired knee a bit more time to heal. He had a small knee op done in mid-Dec and isn’t quite ready to go yet. – #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís also missing.
These two absences jump #10 Lalo Portillo into the top 8 … and then thanks to the flip seeding this event he secures a lofty #6 seed. FYI, in case you’re wondering why the 5-8 seeds look odd, the flip seeding has resulted in slightly altered seedings versus rankings this event: – #5 seeded Samuel Murray is ranked 8th at current – #6 seeded Portillo is ranked 10th as noted above – #7 seeded Daniel De La Rosa is ranked 6th at current – #8 seeded Conrrado Moscoso is ranked 7th at current.
The more apparent and obvious implication of the flip is the possible Moscoso-Waselenchuk match-up in the quarters.
Other top 30 players missing in this event are #18 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez, #27 Sam Bredenbeck and #29 Jansen Allen, the longtime touring pro who misses an event that’s drive-able from his home outside of Dallas.
—————————— Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:
In the round of 128: – #32 vs #33: Christian Longoria vs Andres Gomez; tough first rounder for the Colombian; Longoria is sneaky good and could be pressing for a main draw spot. – #28 Justus Benson vs #37 Diana-Shai Manzuri; Manzuri continues to represent Argentina internationally well into his 40s, and will be a tough out for the regular tour player Benson. A home-state match-up for two Texas residents. – #26 Kadim Carrasco vs #39 Edson Martinez: Martinez is seeded 39th of 39 players here, but he’s not the 39th best player in this draw. He’s made the quarters of this event twice in the last three years (albeit, when it was an WRT event). This could be a close match.
In the round of 64: – #33 Longoria vs #17 Robert Collins; Collins just misses out on the bye into the 32s, and may run into a player who can top him in Longoria. – #20 Javier Mar vs #29 Alejandro Cardona; what a brutal match for these two. Mar is one of the top 6-7 players in the world, and Cardona isn’t far behind him. This is a quarter-final quality match happening way too early. I like Mar to move on and make a deep run here, as he frequently does during his rare IRT appearances. – #19 Adam Manilla versus #30 Ernesto Ochoa; a great “show me” match-up between an IRT touring regular and an up and coming Mexican player with a ton of impressive wins on his resume. I like Ochoa for the upset. – #23 Javier Estrada versus the Carrasco/Martinez winner; Estrada had a number of quality wins in the latter part of 2019, including two wins over Javier Mar. But he’s proven to be inconsistent. His last IRT appearance featured a win over Horn to make the main draw. Can he repeat here?
——————————- Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible matchups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot: – #9 Jake Bredenbeck vs #24 Alan Natera Chavez; Natera is another wild-card; he’s made the semis of Mexican Nationals two years running and has a ton of high-level wins, but he also can take curious losses. Which Natera will show up here? He can handle Jake’s power for sure; will that be enough? Jake looks to build on a solid pro season so far, which features no main draws missed and a semis appearance in Portland. – #12 David ” Bobby” Horn vs #21 Jose Diaz; fly all the way to Texas to play the guy who lives down the road. Horn/Diaz know each other’s game pretty well, both being NorCal players frequenting the “209.” Who will have the upper hand on the day? I’m going to flip a coin and go with Diaz. – #13 Carlos Keller Vargas vs #20 Mar: tough one for Keller; these two met at the US Open and Mar advanced. I think Keller’s streak of making the round of 16 ends here. – #30 Ochoa vs #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; Ochao downed Franco the last time they played last year in an RKT event; i think he wins again. – #10 Sebastian Franco vs #23 Estrada: This could be a great match-up; I think these two are pretty close talent wise and if both are on their games, expect a dog-fight. I’ll go with Estrada here. – #15 Thomas Carter vs #18 Eduardo Garay: Garay if he’s on his game can overpower Carter here, despite the Ohioan’s good play as of late.
——————————- round of 16: – #1 Kane over Acuna – #8 Moscoso over #9 Jake – #5 Samuel Murray over #21 Diaz – #20 Mar over #4 Alvaro Beltran; Beltran gets one of the few qualifiers who I think can beat him. Mar pipped Beltran in the 2016 Mexican nationals to take a natioanl team spot from him, and since then Mar has continued to exude class. – #3 Andree Parrilla over #30 Ochao; Ochoa has beaten Parrilla in the past (San Luis Potosi in 2018), but Parrilla needs to take advantage of his seeding to try to make a run to the final. i think he’ll move on here. – #11 Mario Mercado over #6 Portillo: Portillo has run into talented players and one-and-dones the last two tournaments at this stage, and he runs into another one in Mercado. Mercado has the patience to beat the youngster Portillo and will move on with a tactical approach. – #23 Estrada over #7 Daniel De La Rosa: I don’t think DLR’s heart is in it right now; i think he’s vulnerable to upset and a fired up guy like Estrada, who beat DLR the last time they played, could spell a one-and-done for the pickleball pro. – #2 Alex Landa vs #18 Garay: Garay’s power won’t phase Landa, who’s putting together his best season and has shown little in the way of cracks in the armor.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – #1 Kane vs #8 Moscoso: the US Open final rematch, a scintillating match on the sport’s biggest stage that showed the world what we could be in store for, if only the Bolivian played the tour full time. They met a few weeks later in teh semis of Arizona and Kane issued a schooling 10,2. What may happy here? Has Conrrado fixed his foot fault issues? Can he press the King? – #20 Mar over #5 Murray; they’ve played a few times, and I don’t think Mar has ever lost to the Canadian #1. – #3 Parrilla over #11 Mercado – #2 Landa over #23 Estrada; Estrada’s magic runs out, though notably i don’t have a meeting between these two in the database. Would love to see these two face off.
Semis and Finals: – Kane over Mar – Landa over Parrilla
Finals; Kane over Landa.
——————————- No pro doubles this event, but the Men’s Open is a full 32 strong, headlined by a slew of touring players. Since Portillo is ranked outside the top 10, he’s “allowed” to enter the Men’s Open draw despite being the 6th pro seed, and he’s the favorite in that draw. But there’s a slew of top local and Mexican players also in that draw, making it as compelling to the neutrals as the pro draw.
I also wanted to point out that there’s 52 players in the Men’s A draw. 52. There weren’t 52 combined men in Open, Elite AND A at the 2019 US Nationals event. Its no wonder the USAR is moving its Nationals event to this part of the country.
——————————— Look for Streaming in the regular places; can’t wait for this event!
Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk on his pro singles win this weekend in Portland at the 2019 John Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions. With this win: – He captures his 120th career IRT Tier 1 title – Kane improves to 17-1 on the season – he extends his current on the court winning streak to 21. – He increases his points lead at the top of the tour to more than 500 points at the halfway point. – He extends his career match record to 596-53
A couple notable things about this event; it was a Saturday night finish, meaning a compressed pro schedule. Also, the 9-16 seeds continue to get byes into the 32s, as opposed to having to fully qualify. This is a tweak to the qualifying that the tour has been experimenting with when they can and I like it. It protects the regular touring players a bit more but also doesn’t force them to have to play a ton more matches than the 1-8 guys.
Lets review the notable matches in the draw. We’ll start with the 2nd round of qualifying, the round of 64. – #17 Kadim Carrasco was stretched to a tie-breaker by local amateur #33 Sunji Spencer before falling. – #20 Sam Bredenbeck took a tiebreaker win over #29 Matthew Ivar Majxner to move on. – #23 Dylan Reid played fantastically, dominating Canadian #26 Lee ConnellConnell 3,1 to move on. (Plug here for Reid’s excellent podcast The Racquetball Show)
In the 32s, we got an upset and some close matches: – #16 Felipe Camacho took out #17 Carrasco in a close tie-breaker 11-7. As expected, this was a close match but the veteran Costa Rican came out on top. – #20 Sam Bredenbeck got another IRT touring veteran scalp on his resume, topping #13 Robert Collins12,10 to qualify for his second career main draw. – #14 Andres Acuña took the first game 15-7, then got an injury default from former event champion #19 Charlie Pratt. Its a shame to have Pratt out so early, given his recent success in this event. – #23 Reid nearly upset #10 Jake Bredenbeck, having match point on his racquet before losing the tiebreaker 11-10. Reid came to play this event but missed out on an opportunity to return to the main draw of an IRT event for the first time in several seasons.
So, just one seed out of the 9-16 range fell at the round of 32, making for a pretty “chalk” event to this point.
In the main draw/round of 16: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk made fast work of #16 Camacho 2,4 in a match that took less than 30 minutes. – #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis took out #8 Lalo Portillo 8,6. I viewed this as an interesting “show me” match for both players and the reigning World Champ Montoya came out on top. – #12 Thomas Carter got the best win of his pro career, taking out #5 Alvaro Beltran in a tie-breaker after losing the first game 15-2. Its Carter’s 2nd ever pro quarter final appearance (the first being by virtue of a walk-over). – #4 Andree Parrilla put an end to the younger Bredenbeck’s run, but had to work to do so in the second game 2,13. – #3 Alex Landa got a solid win over the up and coming #14 Acuna 12,8. – #6 Daniel De La Rosa downed #11 Carlos Keller Vargas 6,5 and spoke of his efforts to remain focused on the court. This is now Vargas’ 6th straight IRT event losing in the round of 16 .. to now 6 different pros. – #10 Jake Bredenbeck got a great win, downing #7 Samuel Murray to get to just his third pro quarter-final in the last two years. Its his best win since Syosset in May (also his last qtr appearance). – #15 Adam Manilla squandered a couple of game points on his serve in a disjointed game one, then fell quickly in game two to #2 Rocky Carson 14,5.
In the quarters: – #1 Kane took a competitive match over #9 Montoya 9,11. This is the third time they’ve met up on the IRT, and by far this is the most competitive that Montoya’s made it. – #4 Parrilla advanced in two straight over #12 Carter. – #3 Landa continued his recent dominance over #6 DLR in two tight games 10,12. Landa has now won the last 5 top-level matches they’ve played. – #10 Bredenbeck advanced to just his second ever IRT semi final with a win over #2 Carson. Jake served lights out in the first and won 15-6, then Carson withdrew with a knee injury. Lets hope it isn’t something significant.
In the semis: – #1 Kane was made to work for it against #4 Parrilla in the first, but then ran away with it in the second to advance to the final 9,4. – #3 Landa made it 8 times out of 8 on men’s pro matches by downing #10 Bredenbeck in two dominant games 5,7
In the Final: – Kane took out Landa in the final in two straight forward games 7,8.
———————- Rankings implications of the results:
– The big news is that Landa will eclipse Carson for #2 on tour. Landa has had a very consistent season so far, with 5 semis or better appearances in 6 events, while Carson now has been upset in the quarters or earlier in 3 of the first 6 events of the season. This has now led to Landa overtaking Carson by roughly 30 ranking points.
Carson has not fallen lower than #2 on tour in quite some time. He dipped to #3 in Oct 2016 for just a week or two when DLR eclipsed him briefly, but quickly gained #2 back after the 2016 US Open. Before that, you have to go all the way back to Septem ber 2010 to find the last time that Rocky was not ranked in the top 2 on tour. That’s nearly 10 years ago. Will this be a blip, or are we finally seeing a changing of the guard at the #2 spot?
Other notable rankings implications: – with his semis appearance, Jake will jump Franco for #11 on tour. This may be the highest he’s ever been ranked; its definitely higher than any season-ending rank he’s ever had. – Both Keller and Carter have moved into the top 16, ensuring a bye to the 32s (assuming the tour continues to structure the draws as they have been). – Acuna is back in the top 20. – Sam Bredenbeck gets a big jump into the top 30.
———————- No doubles at Portland to report on. the LPRT played an exhibition, with NW native Hollie Rae Scott getting a nice win over #5 Rhonda Rajsich in the final.
Next up; the LPRT does its annual Xmas Classic in my back yard, at the Sportfit Laurel club in Laurel MD. There’s also an IRT Tier 5 event associated with the event, so look for lots of East coast IRT pros to play.