Hello Fans. We have a break in the schedule this week, but there was an interesting non-Tier 1 IRT event last weekend in Mexico, and another this weekend in Sonora. We don’t normally cover non-Tier 1 IRT events (and we do not load them to the databases), but this draw featured strong local draws of top players that I wanted to cover. So here’s a wrap up of the Tier 4 International Racquetball Tour event called Gran Torneo Del San Isidro, held in Torreon, Mexico. We’ll wrap the Sonora Open early next week.
Here’s a quick wrap of the event from the quarters on:
In the Quarters
– #1 seed Javier Mar topped Ernesto Ochoa in a tiebreaker. Ochoa made a great run to the 2017 Alamo City open, topping both Gerardo Franco Gonzalez and Andree Parrilla along the way.
– #4 seed JaimeMartell Neri was upset by #5 seed Javier Estrada. Martell won the 2018 WRT Georgia Open, downing both David Horn and Jake Bredenbeck along the way.
– #3 seed Alan Natera Chavez squeaked by #6 Eduardo Lalo Portillo 11-10 in the breaker. Portiollo is still playing in 18U, lost in the 18U World Juniors last year but has a 16U World Juniors title under his belt. He’s part of a crew of players in the 18-22 range in Mexico right now who are all world class.
In the Semis:
– #1 Mar was stretched to a tiebreaker by #4 Estrada but advanced. Estrada and Mar met in the semis of the 2017 Mexican Nationals, but his career win may be his round of 16 win over world #2 Alejandro Alex Landa in the Mexican Worlds selection event in June, knocking Landa out of contention for a spot on the Mexican world’s team.
– #2 Montoya cruised by #5 Natera 6,5. Natera has had a fantastic year, making the semis of the 2018 Mexican Nationals as the #32 seed, beating #1 seeded Mar, Gerardo Franco and Christian Longoria before falling to world #4 Daniel De La Rosa in the semis.
The final unfortunately was a walk-over win by Montoya over Mar, robbing the fans of a potentially fantastic match. Montoya is of course the defending world champ, and Mar beat two top 10 IRT players in Mario Mercado and Samuel Murray en route to the US Open quarters last October. Mar also topped Montoya in the final of the WRT 2017 La Loma event. Meanwhile Montoya’s capabilities are well known, winning a stacked 2018 World’s event by topping the likes of Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo, Horn and Charlie Pratt in the final.
(Editor’s Note! I’ve modified this post in the predictions section: after its publication Kane withdrew and the rankings/seedings flipped Kane and Landa, so I’ve corrected the text to account for this).
After a summer of angst over the status of 12-time champ Kane Waselenchuk, the sports most dominant player is in the first draw of the season and will be looking to extend his current on-court winning streak of 61 matches, which was interrupted for months last season by a knee injury that eventually cost him the year end title. However, after the draws were posted; Kane reportedly suffered injuries in a car accident and withdrew. He’ll remain in the draw and a lucky qualifier will get a bye into the quarters.
This is the first ever Men’s pro event held at the well-known (to Mid-Atlantic tournament players anyway) Sportfit Laurel club, which currently also hosts the annual LPRT Christmas classic and which has hosted an annual event called the Wintergreen Classic in Jan/February for more than 30 years. This is also the first time the Men’s pro tour has played in Maryland since the early 1990s, when the Merritt Security club outside of Baltimore used to host one of the VCI challenger series events every year. It is also the first time the Men’s tour has returned to the Washington DC area since 2003, and as a DC-area resident i’m obviously excited to be able to *drive* to see the Men’s pros for the first time in 15 years.
The Laurel club is unique for its court construction. They are panel courts, but a construction design choice spaced out the support beams a bit too far, leaving the courts being quite “slow,” even for panel courts. I wonder if this will be a source of frustration for players, especially those who are used to playing faster, concrete courts or who are used to playing at elevation.
One other personal note about the club: Sportfit Laurel was the first racquetball club where I ever played. I joined in early 1994 and played there until moving to Northern Virginia in December 1997. It has long held a large, vibrant racquetball community and was an awesome place to learn how to play.
I’ll be at the club Thursday night (Hurricane willing) for all of qualifying and look forward to catching up with the community.
Enough about the club and my personal history there; Lets take a quick look at the draw: There’s 40 players entered, a healthy draw that is the largest non-US Open draw since Sept 2014 and portends well for the depth on tour this year.
Top 20 IRT players missing: three: #4 Daniel De La Rosa, #5 Alvaro Beltran, and #12 Charlie Pratt. Beltran and Pratt were in the draw as of Monday but were late withdrawals (Beltran to injury, Pratt to the Hurricane). These two missing top 8 players gives Sebastian Franco a #4 seed, a career best and a potential semi against Rocky Carson, a good early test for the defending champ.
Interesting international players attending: Andres Acuña and Sergio Acuna from Costa Rica, Jordy Alonso, Set Cubillos Ruiz, Erick Cuevas Fernandez, and lastly Bolivian Diego Garcia, a 16U player who made the semis of worlds this year who is coming up on a RYDF sponsorship to get a taste of the IRT in person. He could be the next best thing from the racquetball-mad country of Bolivia and he could be an interesting watch.
Special Mention in the draw; former top-10 touring pro Dan Fowler is entered into the draw, looking to appear in a Men’s pro event for the first time in nearly 10 years. His last on-court pro appearance was in January 2009, and he stopped touring professionally in Oct 2004. Fowler and his wife Doreen Fowler (herself a former touring ladies pro) are both DC-area residents, have a long history of giving lessons and clinics in the Suburban Maryland area, and currently own and run a health club in Suburban MD. Its great to see Fowler back on tour even if its just for one event.
One other Special Mention: New Jersey legend Mitch “Captain Charisma” Posner is attending … he’s entered into Pros … and 60+. I’m sure he’ll be decked out in his trademark all-Red for his pro match.
Lets get to previewing the draw:
Qualifying match-ups: here’s the Thursday night matches to look forward to:
– Gerardo Franco v Alonso: tough opener for both Mexicans, who fly an awful long way to play each other. Alonso owns a 2-0 h2h lead over Franco on the WRT, but it was Franco who had two top-10 wins on the IRT last season to leave an impression. could be pretty close.
– Garcia-Adam Manilla; this could be a shocker; Garcia is an unknown junior from Bolivia who could be a sleeper. Possibly a tough opener for Manilla, or perhaps a cake-walk facing a youngster who is an awful long way from home.
– Felipe Camacho – Fowler: an interesting match between the veteran IRT player Camacho and the former top-10 player Fowler. Can the retired veteran return to his top 10 form for a night? If so Camacho may be in trouble.
– Heskett – Thomas Carter: its a cross-state match-up of PIttsburgh area-based Heskett and Philadelphia area-native Carter. And its a golden ticket into the quarters so expect a heavily contested match.
– Robert Collins – Walters; a tough match up of regional top player Walters and IRT veteran Collins; could be an upset here.
Round of 32 interesting potential match-ups
– b vs Mauro Daniel Rojas; a tough round of 32 for both players; Rojas has been touring regularly since graduating from Juniors and has had a number of really tough early round match-ups
– Garcia-Cuevas Fernandez: an intriguing match=up of younger international players … which may not happen since both face tough first rounders against regular touring vets; this could easily be Manilla-Wolfe instead.
Round of 16 projections:
– Carson over Alonso
– Bobby Horn vs Andree Parrilla; 8/9 is always tight; Horn owns h2h 3-1 across IRT, WRT and IRF. Advantage Horn.
– Mario Mercado – Garcia: Mercado ends the cinderella run of the 16 yr old.
– S. Franco over Acuna: this IRF-style match between two veteran int’l players should be an easy victory for the “home town” Franco.
– Carter over Kane in a walkover
– Bredenbeck over Samuel Murray; first big upset; Bredenbeck has beaten Murray before and has the power to keep up with him. Jake is better than his seeding and ranking and will take a big step forward this tourney towards improving both.
– Jose Diaz over Jansen Allen ; Diaz beat Allen in two in April but they’re 2-2 h2h on the IRT: I expect a close Diaz win for the upset.
– Alejandro Landa over Walters: Landa’s been given a clear path to the finals and may not be stopped.
– Carson-Horn: Horn has never beaten Carson, but Horn has also never been better. He’ll look to draw upon his international summer and his increased training to topple the 2017-18 champ.
– Franco over Mercado: these two country-men have never met officially in any capacity that I track, though i’m certain they’ve played a thousand times both hailing from Cali, Colombia. I’ll go with Franco.
– Bredenbeck over Carter: Jake’s string of unlucky draws ends here.
– Landa- Diaz: Landa handles the Stocktonian
Semis and Finals predictions: I’ve gone pretty much chalk: 1-4 versus 3-2.
– Carson over Franco; he’s 8-0 lifetime over Sebastian and has had the summer to recover from his knee operation.
– Landa-Bredenbeck; wow, interesting match of contrasting styles here. Landa is 5-0 lifetime over Jake and has historically done a good job of mitigating Jake’s power game. I’ll predict he makes it 6-0 here.
Historical Note: this is the first time in history that at the end of Worlds, not one of the four champions hailed from the USA. Its also the first World title for both Guatemala and Bolivia, joining Colombia’s 2014 Men’s double triumph as the only non-North American world titles in existence.
Lets do a quick review of the notable matches and how the tourney played out:
—————– Men’s Singles:
No major upsets in the 64s or 32s; the only upset by seed was #18 Andres Acuna (the Costa Rican home town favorite) ousting the Dominican Luis Perez in two games.
In the 16s,
– The match of the 16s was a re-match of the game of the RRs, with Colombian Mario Mercado again outlasting Canadian Coby Iwaasa, this time by an 11-9 tiebeaker win. They went 11-10 in the group stage. Tough way for Iwaasa to exit the tourney.
– #1 Bobby Horn survived a 15-14 first game to take out Guatemalan veteran Edwin Galicia in 2 games.
– Sebastian Franco got a very solid win and took out defending Pan American champ Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas 14,13. A testament to the depth of this draw; Franco-Keller was a worthy semi or final, featuring two guys who both had the capability to win this draw.
– #2 Daniel De La Rosa eased past home-town favorite Andres Acuña, who wasn’t able to pull off an upset run like he did the last time a major tourney was in Costa Rica.
In the Quarters…
– The #5/#4 Rodrigo Montoya–Conrrado Moscoso Ortiz match lived up to the hype; these two guys played a finals-quality match that lasted more than 2 hours and ended up with the Mexican champion pulling away in a tiebreaker win.
– #1 Horn continued his career dominance over Mercado with a 2 game win.
– #3 Charlie Pratt got a surprise win over #6 Samuel Murray; Pratt definitely came to play this tourney
– But the biggest upset of the Men’s draw so far was #10 seeded Franco pulling out a 11-10 win over #2 seed and tourney favorite De la Rosa. Franco has the talent to beat anyone in this draw, but De la Rosa has consistently been the better player for years on the IRT. He’ll face off against Pratt, whom he’s never beaten.
In the semis, Rodrigo Montoya Solís outslugged #1 seed Bobby David Horn 9,8 in a 2 hour match that featured more than its fair share of questioned calls to advance to his first senior international final. In the other, crafty american veteran Pratt controlled his match against Franco and advanced 8,13.
In the finals, the crowd was given fantastic racquetball, with an amazing end to game one (a 15-14 game with two potential game winning points for either player over turned on appeal) before Montoya dove his way to a 14,9 win and a World Championship.
Champion: Rodrigo Montoya, Mexico.
———— Women’s Singles:
The upset of the 32s had to be Canadian veteran Jen Saunders pounding American Sheryl Lotts 10,1. Saunders had lost all three group matches and suffered an injury, but came out firing to take down the American.
In the 16s:
– two LPRT pros duked it out and a surprising result came; Argentinian Natalia Mendez controlled the match over an emotional Frederique Lambertand advanced 8,8. This is Mendez’ first win in four tries against the 2nd ranked LPRT player and a rather large upset to this observer (who thought Lambert was good for the Semis if not further).
– Colombian doubles partners Adriana Riveros and Cris Amaya had a heck of a #8/#9 match, with Riveros pulling the slight upset and coming out on top 11-9.
– Bolivian darkhorse Yazmine Sabja Aliss outlasted LPRT regular Chilean Carla Muñoz Montesinos in a tough breaker as well.
– Maria Jose Vargas shook off her group struggles and upset 4th seeded Maria Renee Rodriguez in a tiebreaker.
In the quarters, upsets abounded.
– Huge upset when Guatemalan Ana Gabriel Martinez took out the #3 seeded Samantha Salas Solis 4,12. Martinez has been putting up statement wins over and over; a win over Vargas in the group stage, now this knock out win. She made the finals of the 2016 Worlds with a similar win over Salas, and will be looking to do so again.
– Possibly even bigger upset when #7 seeded Argentinian Natalia Mendez wiped out American Rhonda Rajsich in game one before winning the second game 13.
– Vargas continued to advance, downing Bolivian #4 seed Sabja with ease to setup a meeting with #1 Paola Longoria.
This meant that the semis were comprised of the 1,20, 6 and 7 seeds.
In the Semis…Longoria rebounded from a 15-6 first game loss to dominate game 2 and outlast Vargas in the tiebreker to advance. In the other semi, Martinez trounced Argentine Mendez 8,3 to continue her excellent tournament.
What’s amazing about this result is this: Martinez is still a junior! She becomes easily the youngest ever world Champion in the history of the Worlds competitions. She is playing in her age-18 season and will compete in Junior Worlds later this year to attempt to complete an unheard of double-world championship Junior and Seniors. Martinez lost the 2017 world 18U final to Montserrat Mejia as the #1 seed but should make a strong case this fall in her final junior’s event.
Champion: Ana Gabriel Martinez, Guatemala
—————– Men’s Doubles.
No real upsets in the 16s. In the quarters, USA team of Sudsy Monchik and Rocky Carson got an early test, beating the talented Colombian team of IRT vets Franco and Mercado 11 and 13. The Canadian team of Samuel Murray and Tim Landeryou “upset” the #2 seeded Argentine team of Fernando Kurzbard and Shai Manzuri to move on.
In the semis, the Mexican #1 team of De La Rosa and Alvaro Beltran had the much tougher match-up, going up against the talented Bolivian team of Moscoso and Roland Keller. They squeaked out the first game 14 then closed it out 14,8. On the other side, the star-studded American team rolled easily over the Canadian team 12 and 2 to setup a classic final of IRT veterans.
In the final…the Mexican team seemed to play a deliberate, tactical strategy attempting to slow down the power of Monchik, and eventually they broke through, splitting the first two games then dominating the tie-breaker to take the title (10),9,2. This gives Beltran a 4th World doubles title, tying him with his long-time partner Javier Moreno for most ever Men’s World doubles titles. It also represents Beltran’s 10th international doubles title, 2nd only to Moreno.
—————— Women’s Doubles Review
In the 16s, the veteran Ecuadorian team of Vero Sotomayor and Maria Paz Munoz upset the Canadian team of Frederique Lambert and Jen Saunders in the 8/9 match up.
In the quarters, the most notable surprise was the elimination of the US team of Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts by the Bolivian team of Yazmine Sabja Aliss and Valeria Centellas 12,10. Sabja has had great results as of late and continued her great Worlds tourney. We don’t get to see Sabja on the LPRT very often, but she’s got a ton of solid results in IRF events.
In the semis, the Mexican #1 seeded team of Alexandra Herrera and Montse Mejia cruised to a win over the Colombian team of Amaya and Riveros, while in the other semi the surprising Bolivian team were perhaps already on their way to victory over the excellent Guatemalan team of Martinez/Rodriguez when an injury forfeit gave the Bolivians the win into the final.
In the final, Mexico was running away with the match early; Bolivia won a tight second game 15-14 then blew away the Mexican pair in the tiebreaker to become the first world champion from outside North America. Final: (8),14,2.
A quick comment on the champion Bolivian team; I did not know this until weeks after the event, but Centellas is just *16* years old. She’s still playing 16U in worlds. That’s an amazing accomplishment to see a team with a 16-yr old win a world title.
Thanks for reading, congrats to all the participants, it was a fantastic event. All the draws are now loaded online to www.proracquetballstats.com.
Next up …we head *right* into the LPRT season, with the first ladies pro event happening next weekend in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Maybe we’ll get another Longoria-Martinez final as i’m sure both players (and a huge chunk of the draw here) will be there.