So, In case you weren’t aware, the Kelley brothers from New Jersey have built a racquetball court at their house, complete with viewing area, mini-clubhouse and had it christened by none other than the legend Cliff Swain.
This weekend they’ve invited 15 of the top open players from up and down the East Coast to their home for a single elimination tournament. The draw sheet is out (Austin Cunningham posted it on Keep Racquetball Great earlier today).
Here’s PRS’ predictions on how it will play out.
In the round of 16s. – #1 seed North Carolinian Brent Walters gets a bye, which is probably good since he’s the oldest player in the draw. He’ll need his energy come Saturday night. – In the #9/#8, I’ve got Maryland’s own Dylan Pruitt taking out New Jersey native #8 Greg Caruso in a slight upset. They played twice in mid 2019 and Pruitt beat him both times. – #5 and host Joe Kelley takes out #12 Connecticut-based Tony Prater in the opener. – #4 North Carolina’s Jon Justice takes out #13 Jersey native David Austin. – #3 Georgian Austin Cunningham takes out NY’s #14 Josh Shea. – #6 Fellow host @sam kelley handles New Yorker #11 Aaron Dardani. – #7 Connecticut native Jose Flores takes out #10 North Carolina native Jordan Walters in a tight match. – #2 New Yorker Jason Sylvester handles #15 Jersey native Matt Mertz.Just one upset by seeding in the 8/9, though the 7/10 could flip as well depending on how much Flores has been playing.
In the quarters we start to see some matches. – #1 Reigning NC state champ Walters handles the youngster Pruitt. – #4 2019 NC state runner up Justice takes out Joe Kelley. – #3 Cunningham drops a game, but advances over Sam Kelley, knocking both brothers/hosts out in the quarters. – #2 Sylvester goes tiebreaker but advances over long-time NE rival Flores.Chalk to the semis.
In the Semis: – Walters prevails over his NC rival Justice in the semis. – Cunningham takes out the veteran Sylvester.
In the final… – Walters takes out Cunningham.
Keep an eye out at KRG group and for Cunningham, Pruitt and Walters streaming the matches; they’re always good for it. They’ve already started streaming practice doubles matches this afternoon, and its great to see the guys back on the court.
Here’s some more reports we’ve added lately. There will be a part 3 of this post: we’ve added a lotta a stuff in the last year or so.
– I added a couple of specific IRF queries around the time of the Pan Am games in Aug 2019 that i’ll cover in a separate post, probably revisiting the next time we actually have an IRF event (they have cancelled the Pan American Racquetball Confederation – PARC championships for 2020 thanks to Covid-19). But if you’re bored you can fire up the IRF section and run all sorts of new reports.
– Player Lefty-Righty W/L Splits: great suggestion from Brian Pineda (who still owes me $10 from a bet made during a match last fall), who surmised that some players are better than others against lefties. Well, now you can query that. Here’s Alex Landa ‘s splits L vs R: http://rball.pro/28335A
– Head to Head Summary report: interesting suggestion by Timothy Baghurst to emulate a graphic we saw posted on a Squash broadcast: if you fire up the “Tale of the Tape” report, you can now select this H2H Match Summary report, which breaks down the h2h wins/losses, plus gives details on 3-game wins, 4-game wins and 5-game wins in both the best-of-3 and best-of-5 format. Here’s an example of this data for matches between Kane Waselenchuk and Rocky Carson: http://rball.pro/49B9BA
– Slight improvement to the Player Summary report as suggested by Evan Pritchard (aka Kramer X, aka the guy who writes The Racquetball Blog) to add in # of tournaments played along side # missed and total per player, per year. This does make the report more readable definitely. Here’s an example of a player summary for Paola Longoria showing the new column: http://rball.pro/7F61BB
– Addition of Player Home pages as suggested by JT R Ball. We don’t know too many stand alone pages for players, so I’ve added in some known “Facebook home pages” that some players are using in lieu of an external page. This data is now seen on the Player Profile reports. I’ll continue to add home pages as I encounter them. JT also just sent me some youtube playlist links that I may use instead of home pages for some players.
– Added functionality to the “Oldest to…” and “Youngest to…” reports after a conversation where Keerti Kumar asked whether Lalo Portillo99 was the youngest player ever to break into the top 10. I’ve modified the “Youngest to..” and “Oldest to…” queries to also list the Youngest and Oldest players to ever finish a season ranked in the top 10 on tour.
The answer to the question, “was Lalo the youngest ever to break into the top 10?” requires a bit of a history lesson.
Short Answer: No.
Longer Answer: Prior to 1982 there wasn’t a points system on tour used to determine the year end winner; the year end Nationals tournament determined the winner. They did have a ranking system, but it was just used to seed events properly. In the early days of racquetball, the tour was dominated by very young players succeeding at an early age. Marty Hogan (racquetball) for example finished as runner up in the Nationals in 1976 and 1977 at the ages of 18 and 19 respectively. Brett Harnett amazingly played most of the 1980-1 season at the age of 16, then made the semis of Nationals just after turning 17. Newly elected Hall of Famer Gregg Peck was just a few months younger than Harnett and played alongside of him, making the quarters of the 1981 nationals also at the age of 17.
Harnett then finished ranked 4th on tour the first year there was a ranking system in 1982. Other teenagers to finish in the top 10 once there was a ranking system include Gregg Peck, Gerry Price in 1983, Cliff Swain in 1985, Jack Huczek in 2002 and most recently Daniel De La Rosa in 2013.
– Added a section to the “Oldest to..” report to have a “non Ruben Gonzalez version of the “Oldest players to make the round of 16” on the Men’s tour. Ruben held 19 of the top 20 spots; now you can see who else is getting close.
——————- We’ll do part 3 next week to spread out the rball content!
Since we don’t have any tourneys to talk about … and may not for some time, I thought i’d fill the time describing some of the additions we’ve made over the past few months. I’ll do this post in a few parts, since we’ve added a ton of stuff in the year since I last did one of these posts.
We’re always trying to add new stuff to the Pro Racquetball Website; if you ever have a suggestion, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll see about putting it in!
Here’s some of the new reports and functionality that we’ve added;
– Career Best Ranking and Career Best Seeding: we previously had a Career Best Showing report for players: now we added two more to show the highest tournament seed a player has achieved along with their highest career ending ranking. See these two examples for Andree Parrilla: http://rball.pro/B43B09 and http://rball.pro/8A65E8 .
– Individual Player Profiles: basically the same data we show in the Tale of the Tape reports … just for a specified player. Here’s Cliff Swain‘s Player Profile report: http://rball.pro/603ED7
– Misc Match Stats: with the conversion to best-of-3 format in both pro tours, we have done some work on the Misc tour Stats reports to highlight some of the information there. In this report you can find out, for example, the percentage of 3 game matches won by the player who lost the first game, or how many 5-game matches we have on record.
Here’s the report for the LPRT: http://rball.pro/B28CD6 . We know this report needs a bunch more work to really be a statistically relevant post suitable for research; the logic is a bit tricky and needs time.
– Most Matches, Most Wins, Most Losses: put in several additional counting reports to show some interesting stats. Here’s the link to “Most Matches” on tour: http://rball.pro/D74465 . Not Surprisingly, Swain leads the way by a significant margin for the Men’s pros historically.
– Added more Junior categories for some countries (like Canada) for more reporting options. So now you can run reports like, “Show me all the Canadian Junior Girls 18U finals” and get breakdowns like that (that report btw is here: http://rball.pro/3EEA3E)
– Adding WOR categories to singles reporting so you can get just One-Wall results, or just Huntington Beach outdoor National Female champs for all of history, etc.
– Plus, Thanks to a ton of research by Brett Elkins we have a lot more detail on the Men’s outdoor champs. Here’s all Men’s outdoor national champs plus in many cases the semifinalists and finalists to 1974: http://rball.pro/3C386C . We also now have, for the first time, Women’s champs as well.
– Created Player Profiles per Season report: this lists all the player profile data for all players who appear in a particular season. Here it is for the IRT for last season: http://rball.pro/B47A74
You can now run player profiles at multiple grains of data: – Per individual – Per event – Per Season – For all regular players on tour – For all players in the database (nearly 1,800 players now!)
– Created a “Worst player W/L record” report … i won’t put in the link to protect the innocent, but its an enlightening report 🙂 .
– We created “All Matches per Season” so that you can see, as it sounds, a list of all the hundreds of matches that occur in a particular season. I ended up commenting it out b/c it was just too much data to present nicely. But if someone really wants it I can make it available.
——————- We’ll do another post with some more updates next week to help pass the time and create some racquetball content
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!
Hey racquetball fans. Long-time touring pro and former IRT commissioner Jason Mannino is up for the USAR Hall of Fame this year. Like we published with fellow HoF candidate Gregg Peck earlier this fall, here’s a career retrospective of Jason with some stats and lists of accomplishments:
Mannino overcame a near-fatal car accident at the age of 18 to become one of the most accomplished players in the sport’s history. Read on for a career summary. ————
Mannino hails from Staten Island, NY, the same area as Hall of Famer Sudsy Monchik, and being just 3 months apart in age frequently competed throughout their junior and professional careers. Often times these two dominant players would meet in the finals of state, regional and national competitions and would trade off as title holders.
Mannino and Monchik also frequently teamed up as doubles partners and won multiple junior national titles throughout their junior career.
Junior Career Accomplishments: – 3-time USA Junior National champ o 14U National Champ in 1990 o 16U National Champ in 1991 (as a 15-yr old) o 18U National Champ in 1992 (as a 16-yr old
-5-time USA Junior Doubles national champ with Monchik o 18U in 1993 o 16U in 1990 o 10U, 12U and 14U titles previous to that for a full sweep with Sudsy
– 18U World Junior Singles champion in 1994
———————— Professional Career
Mannino turned pro soon after the end of his junior career, when he was offered a contract with Spalding upon winning the 1994 Junior 18U world title. His first pro main event qualification was at the Jan 1995 Atlanta tourney. In his first full season on tour as a 20-yr old, he finished in the top ten on tour. He improved even more in the 1996-7 season, finishing 4th and kicking off more than a decade of being ranked in the top 5 on tour.
He competed across two distinct “eras” in the sport, and faced off against legends like Cliff Swain and Sudsy Monchik in the first part of his career, then Rocky Carson / Jack Huczek / Kane Waselenchuk in the second part of his career. Despite frequently competing in the back ends of tournaments against multiple year-end tour winners, he won 22 titles in his career and made the finals of another 18.
Mannino competed at the top of the tour for an astounding 16 seasons, competing at a high level well into his 30s and becoming one of the most long-serving pros in the history of the game. His playing career only ended at 35 so that he could take the opportunity of running the pro tour; he finished his final touring season ranked 4th.
Professional Career Accomplishments: – IRT Pro tour champion: 2002-3 season – 16 years on tour; 15 top-10 finishes, 14 top-5 finishes – 22 career titles, 7th all time – 40 career finals made, 9th of all time. – 195 career appearances, 5th of all time – 70.0% career W/L percentage (402-172), 11th all time – 2-time US Open champion, 1999 and 2006 – Las Vegas Pro Nationals Champion 2001 – 1996: IRT Rookie of the Year – 1998: IRT Most Improved player of the year
————————– Innovative Playing Style
Mannino’s playing style was revolutionary in our sport for two primary reasons: his tactical serving approach and his amazing retrieval capabilities.
Coming into play at an age in our sport dominated by power servers (Swain, Monchik, John Ellis, Doyle, Drew Kachtik, Andy Roberts, etc.), Mannino developed a unique serving style that was not really seen prior; the “Junk serve.” Not a lob serve, but not a drive serve, he pioneered a serving style that involved deception, placement and guile to de-emphasize the power of his opponents and often times force loose service returns for easy points.
In the meantime, Mannino’s “getting” ability on the court was perhaps the best ever seen on tour. Mannino could retrieve balls that no other player in his time could get, diving all over the court to extend points and rallies. Mannino could anticipate where kill shots were going and would literally begin diving before a shot was executed, and could return kill shots from mid-air. He set the athletic standard for generations of diving players to come.
——————— Professional Tour Leadership
Mannino retired in April 2010 to take over the professional tour as owner and commissioner. He succeeded Dave Negrete and became the 8th pro tour commissioner in men’s pro tour history. Mannino took over the tour at a critical time; economic downturns in the 2010 time-frame forced major sponsors out of the game and cancelled marquee events. Mannino was able to resurrect the Ektelon Nationals in California for a time, and stabilized the number of tier 1 events for the better part of the 2010s.
However, Mannino’s lasting impact on the tour may be the rule changes he implemented immediately upon taking over as commissioner. The IRT returned to two serves for the first time since Aug 1990 in an attempt to improve the excitement of the serve. Additionally, in response to complaints from fans and sponsors, Mannino implemented anti-arguing rules and pace-of-play statutes in an attempt to improve the quality of the product as the sport moved more fully into a streaming/broadcast focused mode.
Mannino sold the IRT tour in June 2017, ending more than 20 years of direct involvement (as a player or in management) of the men’s professional racquetball tour.
——————— Coaching and Mentoring Career
Mannino has partnered with Fran Davis for more than two decades to teach Racquetball Camps all across the country and internationally. Davis and Mannino are the primary instructors of the most popular annual Racquetball camp series in the nation and have taught hundreds of players over the years.
Mannino is a co-author with Davis of Championship Racquetball, published in 2011.
He hails from Staten Island, NY and studied at St. John’s University before turning pro. He currently resides in San Diego, CA. He transitioned to a career in Real Estate upon leaving IRT management. He continues to work with Fran Davis Racquetball as a coach and mentor. He is married with two sons who have continued his athletic pedigree by excelling in youth baseball.
Mannino’s pro record speaks for itself; he’s one of the most accomplished pro players to ever play the game. He continued to have an impact on the sport after his playing career ended, and continues to this day. He more than belongs in the Hall of Fame.
The IRT has released the draws for this coming weekend’s Arizona IRT Pro-Am, so its time to do a preview!
(to see the released draws before they’re available on R2, follow the IRT on facebook where they’ve been posted as of Noon Tuesday 10/22/19).
The IRT returns to Arizona for the first time in many years; the tournament is being held on the campus of Arizona State University, which has become a popular spot to host major tournaments. ASU’s campus in Tempe has held USAR National doubles every year since 2005, has hosted a slew of USAR intercollegiates championships in that same time (including 2019’s tournament), and hosted the USAR National singles event in 2017.
But, its been a while since we’ve seen either pro tour head to Arizona at all. The last time a tier 1 Men’s event was in Arizona was in May 2003, when the school hosted the season ending Pro Nationals event. For some historical context of that event and season: Huczek beat Alvaro Beltran in the final, it was the last event in Mannino sole year end title, and the top 4 seeded players in the event were all were upset in the quarters (Mannino, Swain, Waselenchuk and Ellis). Waselenchuk lost to Carson … one of the three career wins Rocky has on his long-time nemesis. Before 2003, you have to go all the way back to the mid 1990s, when a regular tour stop was held in Phoenix for several seasons, and before that the mid 1980s when the Arizona Pro-Am featured winners like Hogan and Brett Harnett.
The Ladies tour hasn’t been to Arizona in more than decade itself; in Feb 2008 the WPRO Fireball Pro-Am featured a final between the 1 and 2 seeds, as Rhonda downed Cheryl on her way to the 2008 year end title (Longoria was just starting on tour and finished 6th that season).
So, great to have pro racquetball back in Arizona. Thanks to tournament director Jim Winterton for his efforts and sponsorship.
The Men’s draw has 37 players, a good mix of southwest-locals and traveling regulars. Who is missing this weekend? The top 8 players are here, including Bolivian Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball, who moved up to being ranked 8th on the back of his US Open final appearance. However both the 9th and 10th ranked players (Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Sebastian Franco) are missing. Other top 20 players missing include #13 Mario Mercado, #15 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez, and #16 Jose Diaz. Diaz missed the first two events on the year, both east-coast based, perhaps for travel related issues. But now he misses a west-coast event; are we seeing him stepping back officially from touring? Perhaps so. Along the same note, former top 8 player Mercado has now slipped to 13, and former top 8 player Jansen Allen is now outside the top 20.
Also missing from this draw are a slew of players from Mexican hot-beds like Juarez and Chihuahua; both of which are easy drives to Tempe. I would have initially expected, like we used to see with WRT events in the south western part of the country, a junket of carpooling of Mexican players heading to the event. But, unfortunately, there are a couple competing events this weekend (an IRT Tier 4 in El Paso,Texas State Singles & Doubles, but most notably, a big RKT tournament in Mexico City). The Mexican event’s top 8 seeds (GFranco, Mar, Estrada, Natera, Ochoa, Cardona, Nieto, and Cuevas) are all IRT regulars these days and players who would be pushing for the 16s or the quarters if they were here. Furthermore the El Paso event pulled two other top Mexican players (Eduardo Garay Rodriguez and Jaime Martell Neri) away from the Arizona event. We’ll do quick previews/wrap-ups of those events later this week, but if you’re wondering where these guys are … well there’s your answer.
The Arizona draw does the “flip” seeding, so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled. 5th ranked Parrilla is seeded 6th, 6th ranked DLR is seeded 7th, 7th ranked Murray is seeded 8th, and 8th ranked Moscoso is seeded 5th. Probably goes without saying that this flip most benefits Moscoso, who achieves a top 8 rank and seed for the first time in his career and avoids Kane until a possible semi-final meeting, and most penalizes Murray, who is forced into Kane’s quarter.
One last thing worth noting: the IRT has listened to fan requests with the streaming schedule and will be streaming significantly more matches this weekend. Check out the match times on the bracket; the streaming schedule allows for double the matches to be shown at each round throughout the weekend. The plan is to stream no less than 8 qualifying matches on Friday, then have staggered start times Saturday to show more of the 16s before streaming all the qtrs/semis/finals as normal.
Broadcast schedule; 8 friday, 5 sat, 1 sun. That’s a lot of matches for us fans, and a lot for Mr. Dean DeAngelo Baer to call … but is awesome for those of us remote.
Lets preview the draw highlighting matches that I think are compelling.
In the 128s: five play-in matches to get to the 32s, mostly with Texas/Arizona locals battling it out, but also including traveling players like Jim Douglas (Oregon) and Thomas Gerhardt (from VA).
In the 64s: – Ruben Baez takes on Chilean veteran Francisco Troncoso. So, in case you don’t know who Baez is … he played in the Pueblo lower tier IRT event in March, entered as the 27th seed, beat Jake Bredenbeck in the quarters and lost to Horn in the semis 13,14. He’s a very solid player who can make waves in this event if he plays the way he did in Pueblo and gets the right match-ups.
– Set Cubillos Ruiz continues his challenging travel schedule by returning to the states just a few days after competing in (and winning) the Barranquilla Open in his home country of Colombia, right on the back of competing in the US Open, to take on a play-in winner between Douglas and Arizona’s Preston Tribble.
– Gerhardt vs Justus Benson: Gerhardt is a tough player from Virginia who frequently competes in both indoor and outdoor venues: if he gets past Arizona’s Coy Jay Rogers, he can make life difficult for Benson. Justus is coming off of two straight one-and-dones in IRT events, including a loss in Laurel to Pennsylvania amateur Geoff Heskett, and needs to get his season going.
– Nick Riffel vs Anthony Martin: Martin is a Utah local with just a couple of results on his resume; he played the Atlanta IRT event earlier this season and took Gerardo Franco to a breaker. This might be a closer match than IRT touring regular Riffel wants at this juncture.
– The younger Bredenbeck brother Sam Bredenbeck gets a solid opener against infrequent IRT participant Daniel Neri; Bredenbeck has some really solid results lately, with wins over IRT regulars like Carter and Riffel at the 2019 Lewis Drug.
In the 32s: – #16 Adam Manilla takes on #17 Andrés Acuña; great match between two solid up and coming young players. I like Acuna here; he’s on a roll and has been improving at every stop.
– #9 David ” Bobby” Horn takes on Baez in a re-match of the CSU-Pueblo shootout semis that was so close. Can Baez turn the table here? Horn missed the first two events of the season with injury, played solidly at the US Open and then took a dominant win on his home court two weekends ago to win the Bay Club Open over a solid draw that included a win over Charlie Pratt in the final. I expect a close match here.
– #14 Thomas Carter takes on the winner beween Gerhardt and Benson; Carter’s been playing solid lately, with a win over Diaz at the US Open and taking two very good players to breakers in losses (Keller and Carson). I like Carter to move on here.
– #10 Lalo Portillo takes on the younger Bredenbeck; Eduardo is now in the top 10 and he’s earned it. He’ll move on here despite the challenge from the improving Bredenbeck.
——————————- Projecting the 16s: Assuming qualifying goes as I expect, here’s some interesting 16s to look for
– #8 Samuel Murray vs #9 Horn: 8/9 is always tough, and these players have split their 3 meetings somewhat evenly. Horn won their most recent meeting, in Florida in April, in two close games. I’ll go with Horn backing up his excellent win in Pleasanton with the upset here to move into the qtrs.
– #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz vs #12 Sebastian Fernandez: another brutal draw for the teenager Fernandez, who had to play former top 5 touring pro Marco Rojas in the first round of the Bay Open and lost in a breaker, and now funnels into the red-hot Moscoso, fresh off of a solid run to the US Open finals. This is the hard part about being a player ranked in the teens: you have to start getting wins over top 8 players to move into the top 8, and every draw is an uphill battle.
– #6 Andree Parrilla vs #11 Jake Bredenbeck: a great throw-back match-up between two long time WRT players. They’ve met 6 times in top level events: Jake won their first 3 meetings (all in the 2015 time-frame), while Andree has won the last three meetings (all in the 2019 calendar year). The matches are always close, so I’ll predict another Parrilla tie-breaker win. After a solid opening to the season, Parrilla has lost two winnable matches in Laurel and the US Open to see his ranking (which had peaked at #3) slip a bit, and he needs to be making semis regularly to take the next step.
– #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Portillo: These two met in Atlanta in Sept, and DLR advanced in a tie-breaker. Portillo has been rapidly moving up the rankings, but has also now exited at this juncture (the round of 16) in seven straight IRT events. He needs a high-profile win over a top 8 player. But, is DLR the right guy? This event is essentially a home event for him, hailing from Mexico but now living in Arizona the next town over from Tempe. He’ll have family cheering him on and could be primed for a solid run.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Carlos Keller Vargas: wow, two straight brutal round of 16 draws for Carson, who gets no benefit from the #2 seed in having to play a solid international player in Keller who has more than a few titles to his credit. They’ve played twice: at the 2011 Pan Am games and at the 2019 Bolivian grand slam, both two-game quarter final wins for Carson. So advantage Rocky … but Keller ran through this list of names to take the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships title: Coby Iwaasa, Horn, Beltran and Pratt. So if he gets hot, he can get wins.
Possible Qtrs: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #9 Horn; they’ve only played a handful of times, All Kane wins. Their last meeting was in Florida in April 2018, Kane’s first event back after his knee injury, and Horn played a solid game against the hobbling and distracted Kane before losing in two. Kane’s got his focus back now, and will try not to look past this match at his possible semis opponent.
– #5 Moscoso over #4 Beltran: they’ve met twice; once a dominant Beltran win at the 2015 Pan Am games, the other a dominant Moscoso win at the Bolivian grand slam earlier this year. I think we’re more likely to see the latter result than the former here; Moscoso has the same shooter mentality as Beltran, but can drive serve with the best of them, keeping Beltran from setting his feet and likely leading to a lot of 3-point rallies on his serve.
– #3 Alex Landa vs #6 Parrilla: Landa has had a nice start to his season; two semis and a quarter, to maintain his #3 ranking for now. But Parrilla matches up well here: he’s beaten Landa 5 of the last 6 times they’ve faced each other going back several years. Parrilla’s playing style matches up well with Landa, he can hang with his shots and can retrieve well. I look for Landa to hold serve, but barely. And an upset here would not surprise me.
– #2 Carson vs #7 DLR: Carson waxed a possible disinterested DLR in their last meeting (the season finale in Sarasota in April), but DLR had three straight defeats of Rocky before that and could be looking at this as a way to get his season back on track. Meanwhile, Rocky needs to rebound from his round of 16 loss on the sport’s biggest stage; he’s still safely in the #2 spot, but needs to continue to make finals to stay there. I like DLR here in the upset.
—————— Projected Semis:
– #1 Waselenchuk vs #5 Moscoso; well, this is what the people want. I think it may happen. A rematch of the US Open final, which featured a tight back and forth game 1 before Kane ran away with it in game 2. What did Moscoso take from that match? Hopefully he took away the need to work on his serving motion so that foot faults don’t dominate the conversation surrounding his game. A more consistent serving game with first/drive serves pacing his game will do wonders to help him drive the conversation against Kane. I still think Kane has the upper hand, but cannot wait to see this possible match-up if it happens.
– #7 DLR vs #3 Landa: two old adversaries meet again; i’ve got them meeting 13 times across pro and Mexican Nationals events over the years, with Landa holding a 6-5 advantage overall. Landa’s won their last 5 meetings … but those include two 11-10 wins (including the quarters in Atlanta in September). Point is this: these guys play close every time, they know each other’s game, and there’s just a knife’s edge between them. I will go with DLR getting the slightest of home court advantages and moving to the final.
My predicted final: Kane over DLR. DLR’s sole win over Kane was in the ill-fated 2018 California Open, when Kane hurt his knee the round prior to DLR’s meeting and withdrew with the injury that ended up costing him 4 months and the 2017-18 title. They havn’t played since the final of the Lewis Drug in January, a 4,2 shellacking by Kane to take the high profile Sioux falls event. I like DLR showing some spunk in this match, perhaps with flashes of brilliance at times, but Kane winning in the end.
——————– As always, follow IRT for streaming options throughout the weekend, say high to Dean Baer online, and support pro racquetball 🙂
#1 DLR/Beltran defeated the upstart Bolivian team of Keller/Carrasco team (which had defeated the heavily favored #5 team of Jose Diaz and Jake Bredenbeck in qualifiers) in two.
#2 Kane/Croft played a complete match to down the very solid #3 Landa/Murray team 7,7.
In the final, we got the two teams we wanted. This is a rematch of the last two US Open finals and the 2018 World Doubles final. The 2017 US Open doubles final was considered to be among the finest matches ever played on the pro circuit, a come from behind win for Kane/Croft. DLR/Beltran turned the tide in the 2018 US Open and dominated for a win. The World Doubles final was controversy filled, with the Mexican team walking off the court at match point against. What would we get here?
As it turned out, we got a solid match and a return to the winner’s circle for the now 3-time US Open champion team of Kane and Ben, who won the title 11,8. They’re now 28-5 as a team on the pro circuit with 7 titles since 2014.
Here’s a wrap-up of the Pro Doubles qualifying, which had some pretty amazing matches.
Before we get into it though, a bit of opining.
– 27 total teams entered, so that means 23 teams were competing for 4 spots in the main draw? I think the tour has to fix this going forward. That’s just too much of an advantage to the four teams that got byes into the quarters. At the very least it should have been 23 whittled to 8 spots in a round of 16. This would have given main draw exposure to one of several teams that ended up getting eliminated at the qualifying stage.
– Why did seeding for the Pro doubles deviate from the IRT pro doubles rankings? It looks like the doubles draw utilized the typical USAR method of automatically seeding last year’s finalists 1 and 2. On the one hand, yeah I think Kane/Croft deserve a top 2 seed b/c, well, I think they’re one of the two best teams. However, what I “think” shouldn’t be a factor; that’s why you have a ranking system and it should have been used irrespective of where the teams landed. Jose Diaz has a point.
Here’s the notable qualifying matches on the Men’s doubles side:
(Editor note: this was a post I published straight to the “Keep Racquetball Great” Facebook group on 9/25/19, in response to a groundswell of discussion related to his re-nomination to the USAR hall of fame. I’ll back-date it and copy/paste the content from that time).
I’m a bit late to the Gregg Peck for the Hall of Fame conversations from a couple weeks ago, but wanted to put up some stats to help spread awareness. Here’s a quick summary of Gregg’s rball career in support of his nomination:
Junior Career Accomplishments:
Multiple USRA State and Regional Championships
Multiple IRA state and Regional Championships
1980 USRA Junior National champion (17U)
Won title as a 16yr old, defeating Brett Harnett in final
Professional Career Accomplishments:
20th all-time in professional Tournament Wins
18th all-time in career W/L Percentage, all rounds
Held career winning Head-to-Head records against Hall of Fame pro players Ed Andrews, Ruben Gonzalez, Brian Hawkes, Mike Ray and Davey Bledsoe.
Retired with multiple victories over 5-time pro tour champ Yellen and Hogan.
Youngest pro player ever to make a Semi-final (oct 1980 Coors Grand Prix I)
1981 NRC Rookie of the year
1983 International Racquetball Most Improved Player
1985 DP Nationals Champion (defeated Mike Yellen in the final).
1985 Pro Male Athlete Player of the Year
Finalist, 1985 Ektelon Nationals (losing to Cliff Swain in a nationally televised match)
Semifinalist, 1983 DP Leach Nationals
Semifinalist, 1983 Catalina Pro Nationals
Amateur/Age Career Accomplishments:
1981 USRA National Singles Men’s Open finalist (losing to Ed Andrews)
2002 USRA 25+ Men’s Doubles champion (with Mike Guidry)
2003 USRA 35+ Mixed Doubles champion (with ?)
2004 USRA 25+ Men’s Doubles champion (with Mike Guidry)
Coaching and Mentoring Accomplishments:
Peck Racquetball Camp Instructor, 1978-1986
14 Junior National titles won by participants in El Paso Junior program
Coached future pro tour champs Swain, Monchik and Huczek.
Head Coach, US Junior National Team, 1999-2000.
2-time Gold winning Junior national team coach
USA won 24 junior world titles under his guidance
Peck’s contributions to the sport span many facets; he was an accomplished player at the Junior, Professional and Adult/Age level. He was an accomplished coach/mentor who served the USRA national team. He’s well liked and well advocated for in the racquetball community. He is a worthy candidate for the Hall of Fame.
We have one more lower-tiered IRT event on the schedule prior to the beginning of the tier 1 slate in Atlanta in two weeks’ time, and its this coming weekend in Missoula, Montana.
We’ve never had either a Men’s or a Women’s full-slate pro stop in Montana (at least as per what’s in the database for the IRT and LPRT), so its great to see the sport getting to a market where there’s clearly some players.
There’s 25 players in the draw, including 6 IRT regulars, three top-10 players, a couple other well-known amateurs and internationals, and a slew of top local players. 25 players with 5 countries and 13 states represented.
Lets preview the singles draw:
—————- The 32s are play-ins among locals for the most part.
In the 16s, here’s some potential match-ups to look for, assuming no upsets-by-seed in the 32s.
– #8 Andrew Gale vs #9 Hr Coe; Gale is a long-time pro player, with IRT appearances dating to 2006 and with some solid wins on his resume (he beat current #4 Andree Parrilla back in 2012 and even beat Cliff Swain in 2013). Coe has significantly less pro experience (just one result in the DB, a 1999 loss to Swain in Denver) but is a solid local player. – #5 Justus Benson vs #12 Rich Carter; Benson may have his hands full here against a guy in Carter who played a couple of pros tough in WRT events in Seattle over the past few years. – #6 Dylan Reid vs #11 Mitch Brayley; Brayley mostly plays locally in Canada regional and national events and has never ventured south to play a top-level USA-domestic event. Reid has some solid wins over IRT-touring pros on his resume and has qualified for several main draws in IRT events in the last few years. He also is, of course, the master of the Racquetball Podcast, a must-listen for fans everywhere of the sport. See https://podcasts.apple.com/…/the-racquetball-s…/id1310228396 for subscription information in Itunes. Disclosure: Reid interviewed me in June of last year (see https://podcasts.apple.com/…/episode-12-todd-…/id1310228396… for that episode).
Projecting the quarters: – #1 Sebastian Franco vs #8 Gale: Franco is fresh off the Pan Am Games, where he represents Colombia and was knocked out early in the round of 16 by Canadian Iwaasa (more on him later). He faces someone of a make or break season this year on tour, with a slew of names looking to push him out of the top 8. He shouldn’t have trouble with Gale here. – #4 Charlie Pratt Racquetball vs #5 Benson: Pratt also is a veteran of the 2019 Pan Am Games, having represented USA and played both singles and doubles. In singles, he also suffered an upset loss at the hands of Iwaasa, then exited in the quarters at the hands of Bolivian Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo(a rematch of the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships semis, where Pratt shocked the sport with an 11-10 defeat of the Bolivian Grand Slam champ. Pratt should advance easily here. – #3 Mario Mercado vs #6 Reid: Mercado also represented Colombia at the Pan Ams (playing #2 to Franco), and really had a solid tournament, taking out two-time defending PARC champ Carlos Keller Vargas and USA #1 Jake Bredenbeck before falling in the semis to #1 seed Alvaro Beltran. He also managed to beat Keller a second time in the team competition, along with both Iwaasa and Montoya to wrap up a fantastic tournament. Mercado’s attendance here indicates to me he’s going to plan on a full slate of tournaments, which is great news for the tour and could spell some trouble for the IRT players in the 7-10 range, based on the wins he got in Lima. Mercado should advance over Reid here. – #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #7 Coby Iwaasa; This is a finals-quality match-up that happens in the quarters, since Iwaasa has no ranking points. That’s a shame, because Iwaasa has demonstrated his ability to beat top IRT players. Representing Canada in Lima, he beat both Pratt and Franco before losing to Beltran in the quarters 13,14. The last time he played a pro event, he made the finals (WRT Calgary open in oct 2018). Meanwhile, Montoya took his second major international title in two years by winning the 2019 Pan Am gold over his countryman/teammate Beltran in a match that will long be remembered for Beltran’s hip check/shattered glass door (which just made ESPN’s top 10 plays of the day). I think Montoya wins this in the end, but it’ll be in two close games or perhaps drawn to a tiebreaker.
Projected Semis: – #4 Pratt over #1 Franco: they’ve played 4 times in pros and IRF events in the last three years and Pratt is 4-0. I think Pratt has Franco’s number, and should advance here. – #3 Mercado over #2 Montoya: they’ve played once in the DB; a Mercado win over Montoya at the 2018 US Open. They also played in the team event in Pan Ams, also a win for Mercado. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict the upset, even though I think Montoya is the better player.
Finals prediction: – #4 Pratt over #3 Mercado: they’ve played 3x in the database, and Pratt has never lost to Mercado. It goes tie-breaker but Charlie prevails.
—————- On the women’s side, there’s also a few solid players in town to compete: Hollie Rae Scott , Linda Tyler , and Cecilia Pratt head up the Ladies Open draw.
Lastly they populated the Open doubles draw with teams selected by raffle, to make for a fun integration of traveling pros with local players.