After a couple year’s hiatus, the IRT returns to Long Island for the 2022 New York Open. The tournament has a rich 47-man draw, including a ton of players we don’t normally see on tour, which I’ll call out in the “interesting matches to watch” section below. Top20 players missing: #8 Carson misses a rare event; he went nearly 20 years without missing a tournament. Word is he’s avoiding the cross-country trip ahead of Nationals. #11 Beltran is not here; he was clearly hurt at the last tournament and has mentioned he won’t play in tournaments that don’t have doubles anymore. #13 Keller misses his second straight pro event. #16 Montoya is not here, nor is #17 Carter (a rare tourney missed as well). Interestingly #20 Trujillo, who was making a big move, is missing the event after a strong run. Maye he has finals.
All these missing top seeds have meant that Fernandez is finally out of the 16/17 seed range and can get a more winnable first rounder, and Mercado gets a top8 protected seed, among other players ranked in the teens moving up.
Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to: In the round of 128:
Arteaga vs Ecuadorian national team member Cuevas should be interesting.
Sam Kelley versus Canadian national team member Leduc is a solid match.
Another Ecuadorian Ugalde takes on Cubillos in an intriguing all-South American match.
toughest first rounder: Canadian #2 Iwaasa versus the very good Joe Kelley.
Gomez vs Ortega Jr could be interesting too.
Bravo to all the NY local players who entered and will duke it out in this round of 128. Punjari, Puggioni, Galvez, Sullivan, Meguerditchian, and Behm all representing the tri-state area.
In the round of 64, we have some projected battles worth watching:
Floridian Zamudio versus Galicia could be great.
Ugalde versus Sam Kelley would be a good match.
Warigon versus the Guatemalan #1 Salvatierra would be great.
Iwaasa once again is in the toughest potential match of the round, projecting to face Cardona. Both these guys can make the 16s with the right draw, but one is going home in the 64s.
– Young Bolivian Barrios gets a test against veteran Wer.
Projecting the 32s:
#16/17 Alonso vs Zelada. Alonso has been on fire, but Zelada is no slouch. A nice test for the Mexican who has been hot lately.
#9 Bredenbeck vs Horn; all American matchup sends one team USA member home early. In their WRT peaks i’d favor Horn, but now i’m favoring Jake.
The best projected match of this round will be #11 Acuna versus the winner of Cardona/Iwaasa. Acuna should hold serve against both players, but both will press him as better than their seedings.
– #15 Robbie Collins is the most vulnerable of the 9-16 seeds, but the winner of Cuevas/Behm/Gomez/Ortega Jr quadrant may not have enough firepower to do so.
round of 16:
I Like DLR-Alonso for some fireworks. Alonso can score some points, but DLR will advance.
I think #9 Jake upsets #8 Mercado with better current form.
Can #13 Fernandez upset #4 Landa? Yeah, I think he can, especially if Landa gets off to a slow start. Fernandez has the explosive game to press Landa unless he’s 100%.
#14 Garay has the firepower to top Murray but will need to play a complete match. Murray is a model of consistency and rarely loses to upstarts.
#6 Moscoso vs #11 Acuna: these two always play close.
– If Kane shows up, he has a straightforward winnable first rounder against Franco.
#1 DLR over #9 Jake.
#5 Lalo over Landa/Patata winner; i think Lalo is poised to take the next step and Landa is beginning to show some wear and tear. If Sebastian gets the upset win, I still think Portillo can top him in a battle of 20-somethings.
#6 Moscoso over #3 Murray, even though Murray has a number of wins over the Bolivian in their career. It nearly always goes breaker.
#7 Kane over #2 Andree. Again, if he shows. This would be a rematch of the epic 11-10 Andree win from Atlanta in January. Semis:
#1 DLR over #5 Lalo; Lalo doesn’t have what it takes to beat DLR yet.
#7 Kane over #6 Conrrado. But, if Kane no-shows I like Andree over Conrrado in a rematch of two weeks ago.
– If he shows, Kane takes out DLR in a highly anticipated matchup of the current #1 and the long-time #1. If its DLR vs Parrilla, its a rematch of last week, a easy DLR win. If its DLR- Moscoso? Tough one: DLR has the better game and Moscoso would need a game-plan/strategy to counter it.
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 Baer, Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots! Associations @International Racquetball Tour
In conjunction with the 46th annual Keystone Classic in Winnipeg last weekend, Racquetball Canada had the second of its three National team qualification events of the season. Here’s a quick wrap-up of the event:
Congrats to your winners on the weekend: – Men’s Singles: Samuel Murray – Women’s Singles: Michele Morisette
Reminder: we don’t currently load federation qualifying events into the database, therefore there’s no PRS links.
Lets review the notable matches in the Men’s Singles draw.
—————- In the Quarters – The top 3 seeds easily advanced; #1 Samuel Murray over #8 Michael Leduc #2 The Official Coby Iwaasa Fan Club over #7 Ian Frattinger and #3 Tim Landeryou over #6 Tanner Prentice. – We got an upset in the 4/5 match: #5 Kurtis Cullen took out #4 veteran Lee Connell in two games 4,13 to move into the quarters.
————— In the Semis – #1 Murray dominated Cullen to move on. – #2 Iwaasa was stretched at times but advanced over Landeryou
In the Finals, Iwaasa took the first game from the long-time Canadian #1, but Murray rebounded to win (8),7,1.
Murray (if i’m reading my records correctly) has not lost a Canadian Men’s national event (qualifier or nationals) since the May 2017 final (Mike Green’s last match before retiring).
————— Women’s Singles review:
Just four women in this draw, so they played Round Robin. Notable results from RR play:
#1 seed Christine Richardson was stretched to a breaker by #4 seed Cassie Prentice before winning, which was a precursor perhaps to the eventual face off with #2 seed Michèle Morissette, who topped Richardson 6,11 to win the RR group.
Morissette wins her first top-level Canadian national event since graduating from the juniors in 2015.
—————— Next up? This is the 2nd of two qualifiers leading up to Canadian Nationals in late May, so next up is Canadian Nationals.
In general, the Rball calendar gets a break until the first week of march for the next major event.
While the US was recovering from a long holiday weekend, the Canadians were holding the first of their three national-level events used to select teams for next year’s international events. This past weekend’s event was held in Edmonton, AB, CAN.
In the Men’s Open, IRT top 10 player Samuel Murray continued his dominance over Canadian men’s racquetball, running to the title without giving up more than 8 points in a game, defeating #2 seed Coby Iwaasa in the final 5,8.
Murray has not lost in a top-level Canadian event since the final of the 2017 nationals and remains in pole position to continue to represent Canada at next year’s slate of IRF events (which will include PARCs and Worlds).
————— In Women’s Open, former LPRT top player Frederique Lambert took time off from her new Medical career to take the Women’s Open over #2 seed Christine Rchrdsn. Lambert has not lost a top-level Canadian event herself since 2014, though she’s had to take an understandable step back from competition with the commencement of her new career.
—————– PRS doesn’t load these National team qualifying events into the database, but we do have them captured and staged for possible future use.
In the semis: – #4 Pratt took out #1 Franco in one semi 8,7. Pratt remains perhaps the most dangerous non-full time touring pro in the world, with a slew of solid wins, a semis finish in Portland last season, and a finals appearance at the 2019 PARC. – #2 Montoya beat #3 Mercado in the other semi in two straight forward games, avenging a loss in the Pan Am team competition.
In the final, Pratt again took out a favored player in Montoya, playing more consistent ball and putting away opportunities to win the title 12,9. I thought Montoya struggled with accuracy early and then struggled to maintain his focus as he battled calls that didn’t go his way on top of the ever-consistent Pratt.
—————- Women’s Singles recap: #1 Hollie Rae Scott beat local player Laurie Dreneck in one semi, and #3 Linda Tyler beat #2 seeded Ceci Orozcoin the other.
In the final… #1 Scott took out Tyler in two games for the title.
—————– Open Doubles results: the Canadian duo of Iwaasa and Brayley took out Josh Doniak and Mercado in the final.
—————– Congrats to all the organizers for bringing pro racquetball to Montana. Thanks to Matthew Ivar Majxner for sending me draw sheets and results and helping me write the preview and this summary….
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.
Congratulations to all the winners on the weekend:
Men’s Singles: Rodrigo Montoya Women’s Singles: Paola Longoria Men’s Doubles: Rodrigo Montoya/Javier Mar Women’s Doubles: Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas
A sweep for Mexico, establishing their dominance. Two double gold medalists in Montoya and Longoria. The finalists in the four categories: Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia and Guatemala, demonstrating how diverse the talent pool is in our sport. The two historically dominant countries of USA and Canada ended up with bronze medals at best.
We’ll cover the team results after they wrap-up in a separate post.
In the 16s, a few notable matches/surprises: – #8 Coby Iwaasa got another solid win, topping IRT top-10 player #9 seed Colombian Sebastian Franco in a tie-breaker. – #6 Samuel Murray took out #11 Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas, ensuring that we’ll have a new IRF Men’s singles champion at this event (Keller was the PARC champ earlier this year). – #7 USA Charlie Pratt was taken to a breaker by Dominican #1 and 10th seed Luis Perez before advancing.
In the Qtrs: – #1 Alvaro Beltran advanced over the challenge of Iwaasa by the thinnest of margins, winning 14,13. Great showing by Iwaasa in a major yet again. – #4 Mario Mercado and #5 Jake Bredenbeck had a great back-and-forth match, with Mercado advancing 8,(8),8. Both players were blasting the ball and really making shots, but Mercado pulled it out in the end. – #3 Rodrigo Montoya Solis advanced in 2 solid games over #6 Murray 7,10. Montoya has quietly put together a really solid tournament, not yet dropping a game to this point and having Murray’s 10 points being the most scored against him in any game. – #2 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo got revenge against #7 Charlie Prattfor his loss in the qtrs of PARC19 by beating him handily 7,7 to move on.
So much for my predicting powers in this event: I predicted all four top seeds to fall here; instead all four top seeds advanced into the semis. In fact … the entire men’s knockout draw has gone chalk so far, with zero upsets into the qtrs and all four top seeds advancing.
In the Semis… – Beltran d Mercado 7,5 in a match that was far closer than the scores suggested. They were on the court for well over an hour for these two games. Mercado just couldn’t get his serves working against the shot-maker Beltran, and Beltran time and again put away shots and setups to pick away at the game. – Montoya d Moscoso 14,10. This is a match-up i’m always wanting to see; power versus power. Two of the best young talents in the world who rarely meet. I’ve got just one prior meeting: Montoya winning a tiebreaker in the qtrs of 2018 worlds en route to the title. Montoya holds on for game 1 and then gets the win to move to the finals again.
(Historical oddity of this match: Moscoso nearly forfeited the match after getting caught in 2+ hours of traffic; he hitched a ride with a motorcycle cop to get to the venue just in time; had the ladies semi finals before him not gone on as long, this would have been a walk-over).
In the finals:
It was an all Mexican affair … and also a generational one featuring Beltran at the age of 40 versus Montoya at the age of 23. Beltran first competed in an IRF event in 1996; Montoya was born in 1996. Montoya is 3-1 in my database over Beltran in his career, and the one loss was an 11-10 match.
Beltran took game one and then, with a diving hip check, slammed into the door in game two, shattering it. After recovering, he seemed to have the wind taken out of his sails, dropping game two and getting blanked in the tiebreaker. Montoya wins (9),6,0 to improve to 4-1 over his countryman and take the title.
In the 16s, a slew of great matches and surprising results: – #9 Kelani Lawrence eked out a strong tiebreaker win over #8 Carla Muñoz Montesinos 11-7. – #12 Colombian Adriana Riveros got a solid win over #5 Bolivian Valeria Centellas in a tie-breaker. – #3 Argentine Natalia Mendez got a career victory, topping the reigning World Champ Guatemalan Gaby Martinez in a tie-breaker. – #6 Ecuadorian Pazita Muñoz Albornoz got a great win over #11 Montse Mejia in a tie-breaker. Despite the seeding, I had Mejia favored in this match based on past results, including her defeat of Frederique Lambert in the RRs. – #7 Angelica Barrios advanced past Amaya Crisby the thinnest of margins, 11-10 breaker. Amaya managed to lose to both Bolivians in this event; one 11-9 and the other 11-10.
So, despite a couple of top-level players as double-digit seeds in the 16s, we had just two upsets by seed into the quarters.
In the qtrs: – #1 Maria Jose Vargas Parada advanced in two solid games over USA’s Lawrence 9,13. fun Fact: This was a rematch of the 2010 world Juniors 16U final. – #12 Riveros continued her great tournament, topping American veteran Rhonda Rajsich in two, ending Rhonda’s great tournament. – #3 Mendez topped #6 Maria Paz Munoz in a tiebreaker. – #2 Paola Longoria made quick work of the Bolivian youngster Barrios 6,4 to advance to the semis.
In the semis: – Riveros’ run ended at the hands of Vargas 8,9 – Longoria had to work for it a bit, but downed Mendez 10,10 to advance to yet another international tournament final.
In the final, the two top seeds faced off, also the two top LPRT pros represented here in Peru. Longoria improved her career record over Vargas to 33-1 across both IRF and LPRT by taking the final in two games 7,9.
Longoria wraps up her 19th career international title. Those 19 titles include 3 Pan Am games, 8 PARC titles, 2 World Games, 3 World Championships and 3 Central American/Caribbean games titles.
The draw went basically chalk to the semis, where the #4 seeded Mexican team of Montoya/ Javier Mar came from a game down to top the #1 USA team of Rocky Carson and Pratt. On the bottom half, the #2 Bolivian team of Moscoso/ Roland Keller also had to come from a game down to beat the quality Costa Rican team of Andres Acuña / Felipe Camacho to make the final.
In the highly anticipated final, the Mexican team dominated the Bolivians, winning 10,1 to take the title.
The Pan Am games round robin rounds for both singles and Doubles are done and the knockout draws have been published.
Lets do a quick run through of the notable/interesting RR results, then preview the knockout Draws.
An editorial: I think IRF needs to go back to having the two top seeds in the group play last, not first. I hate that the best match of the group stage happens on the opening day, when nobody knows the courts, everyone’s still jet lagged or perhaps rusty, and nobody has any tournament play under their belt yet.
—————- Interesting Men’s Singles RR results: – USA #1 Jake Bredenbeck got a solid win over IRT top-10 and Colombian #1 Sebastian Franco in their RR opener. Jake improved to 4-3 and broke a string of three straight losses to Franco. – Bolivian and #1 overall seed Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo was stretched to a tie-breaker by the dangerous Costa Rican #1 Andres Acuña. – Cuban #2 Enier Chacon took out Argentinian #2 Fer Kurzbard 12,12, a solid win for the Cuban #2. – Colombian #2 Mario Mercado got a great win, topping the 2-time reigning Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC) champ Bolivian #2 Carlos Keller Vargas 14,11. Mercado gets the inside track to jump his pre-tourney seeding from 12 to a 3rd seed in the knockouts. – Canadian #2 Coby Iwaasa got a career win, topping USA #2 Charlie Prattin a close tiebreaker. Iwaasa lost two close matches to Mercado in PARC19 and nearly won the last pro event held in Canada … but the last time we saw him on the IRT was in 2015. Would love to see him more. – Ecuadorian #2Jose Daniel Ugalde Albornozin a huge upset, took out top overall seed Moscoso 11-10 in the final RR, throwing Group A into chaos with all three competitors finishing 1-1; by points differential Costa Rican Acuna is left out by just one cumulative point. – DR #1 Ramon De Leon took out Cuban #1 Maikel Mollet in an 11-10 breaker as well, securing his passage to the knock outs.
—————- Interesting Women’s Singles RR results: -Argentina’s Natalia Mendez got a solid win over Colombian Adriana Riveros10,13. – USA’s Rhonda Rajsichdestroyed Mexico’s Montse Mejia 4,7, a pretty surprising result. I thought Rajsich might win, but certainly not by these scores. – Bolivia’s Valeria Centellas topped Colombia Amaya Cris by the incredibly close scores of (14),14,9. One point from the perfect match, and the youngster Centellas saved of match point against at 14-14 in the second to win. – Ecuador’s Pazita Muñoz Albornoz topped USA #1 Kelani Lawrence 5,6 in a match that still took nearly 50 minutes. (coincidentally: I love the timing provided in each match on the Pan Am website). Munoz later held on over improving Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz 13,14 to secure the group. – Argentina’s #1 overall seed Maria Jose Vargas met reigning world champ Gaby Martinez 11-9 in the tiebreaker. Tough opener for both; Martinez is clearly better than a double digit seed. – Improving DR international player Merynanyelly Delgado took out LPRT touring vet Maria Renee Rodriguez in a tiebreaker. – In the “Group of Death” Rajsich beat Canadian #1 Frederique Lambert 10,5 to top the group. Mejia salvaged 2nd place by topping Lambert herself 9,8. This knocked Lambert out of the knockout stages … a tough break for the former #2 player in the world.
—————- Men’s Singles Knockout round preview and predictions:
Unlike in other IRF competitions … the RR performance matters and qualified just 14 of the original 25 competitors to the knockouts. And, I have to be honest, I don’t entirely understand the knockout seedings. Beltran was elevated to #1 over Moscoso (who dropped from 1 to 2) despite Moscoso winning his group (albeit by the skin of his teeth). Mercado should have had the #3 seed but instead is 4th behind Montoya. Lastly, inexplicably, Pratt retains his 7th seed ahead of Iwaasa (who is seeded 8th) despite the fact that Iwaasa beat him head to head literally three days ago. I don’t get it.
Best players left out of the knockouts? Probably Acuna (the unlucky odd-man left out of the Group A logger-jam, who misses the knockout stages by two cumulative points over 3 matches). It was a bummer to see both Cubans knocked out; they have really improved lately. Otherwise the seeds mostly held and the top players are in the round of 16.
Here’s a preview of the Men’s singles knockout; Beltran and Moscoso get byes into the quarters.
– #9 Franco vs #8 Iwaasa: Iwaasa’s present for winning his group is to get a lesser seed than Pratt and to play into the current 7th ranked pro on the IRT. Tough match, but if Iwaasa keeps playing the way he has been, he could move on. – #5 Bredenbeck gets a tricky opener against #12 De Leon but should advance. – #4 Mercado gets a familiar opponent in #13 Felipe Camacho; they’ve played 4 times in the past three years and Mercado leads 3-1. – #3 Rodrigo Montoya Solis who cruised through the group stage, gets the Moscoso-beating Ugalde; can the Ecuadorian keep it up? – #6 Samuel Murray, for his troubles of winning the group, gets two-time defending PARC champ Keller as the 11th seed, a match Keller probably wins. – #7 Pratt gets a heck of a lot easier opener than Iwaasa, going against DR’s Luis Perez.
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 Álvaro Beltrán vs #8 Iwaasa: Beltran has his hands full here. Iwaasa can beat Franco, and Iwaasa can beat Beltran too. – #4 Mercado vs #5 Bredenbeck: I like the way Jake is playing, I think his win over Franco in the RRs is proof enough of his focus and he should beat Mercado here. – #3 Montoya vs Keller: Tough matchup for Montoya; last time they played was the semis of PARC18, and Keller got him in the breaker. I’m not entirely sure what to make of Keller’s loss to Mercado in the group stage; is he still hurt from earlier this summer? Montoya wasn’t really challenged in his RR group, making it tough to gauge how he’s playing. I think Keller advances here. – #2 Moscoso vs #7 Pratt; great re-match of PARC19 quarters, when Pratt shocked the rball world and took out Moscoso 11-10 just weeks after Moscoso had won the Bolivian grand slam. Can he do it again? On the one hand, Moscoso has shown some chinks in the armor here (taken to tiebreaker by Acuna, beaten by Ugalde). On the other hand … so has Pratt shown he’s vulnerable with the Iwaasa loss. Pratt out-strategized Moscoso in Colombia and I think he can do it again.
Yes; i’m predicting that all four top seeds fall in the quarters. This is a testament to the depth of the international game these days.
Projected Semis: – #8 Iwaasa over #5 Bredenbeck; I just like the way Iwaasa is playing. – #11 Keller over #7 Pratt; a rematch of PARC19 final, won by Keller in a breaker. If Keller is healthy, he advances again.
Final: Keller over Iwaasa, cementing Keller’s international status by winning his third major title in the last two years.
—————- Women’s Singles Knockout round preview and predictions:
Unlike in the Men’s knockout draw … there seemed to be no discretion taken with the Women’s seeds; they are exactly driven from the group stage results, no deviations. (Again, why would the Men’s singles draw deviate from this formula?)
As with the Men’s draw; the top 2 seeds earn byes in the 16s and only 14 of the original 24 players advance to the knockout stages. Best player left out of the knockouts? Lambert obviously, then Rodriguez from Guatemala.
Here’s a preview of the knockout round: In the 16s: – #9 Lawrence over #8 Carla Muñoz Montesinos: despite the fact that they met in PARC19 and Munoz won, I like the way Lawrence is playing and think she can take this. – #5 Centellas over #12 Riveros: the 17yr old continues to play well over her head; if she can bet Colombia’s #1 player (Amaya, as she did in the group stage), then she should be able to beat Colombia’s #2 player in Riveros – #4 Rajsich should hold serve against #13 Delgado. – #3 Natalia Mendez has her hands full with #14 Martinez. On paper this is a no brainer win for Martinez: she’s 4-0 lifetime over Mendez, including an 8,3 semis win at the 2018 Worlds en route to her currently held World title. But … Martinez hasn’t played competitive rball since January while Mendez has been showing solid results both internationally and professionally. I’ll go with Martinez here but it’s going to be close. – #6 Maria Paz Munoz vs #11 Mejia; another brutal match-up for a top seed. Munoz’s award for winning her group is a match-up with a player who beat three of the top 5 players in the world en route to the Mexican national title earlier this year. I’m not sure what to make of Mejia’s loss in the RRs to Rajsich, but do think she can regroup and advance here. – #7 Barrios vs #10 Amaya; a South American duel that, surprisingly, hasn’t happened before. Its the second Bolivia versus Colombia match-up in the round of 16 here; Amaya dropped a close one to Bolivia’s #1 player in the RRs, but Barrios may be just as good. I expect another close one here, as Amaya has really stepped up her game lately, but think Barrios still advances.
In the Qtrs: – #1 Vargas makes quick work of #9 Lawrence – #4 Rajsich gives a veteran lesson in tournament play to the youngster #5 Centellas – #11 Mejia over #14 Martinez: these two have met over and over throughout the years; they’re the same age and met in the finals of Junior Worlds at least 7 times. Martinez owned their earlier match-ups … but Mejia has won three straight and should win here as well. – #2 Paola Longoria cruises over the youngster #7 Barrios.
Semis projection: – #1 Vargas over #4 Rajsich: these two have met no less than 30 times on the LPRT and internationally … and they’re 15-15 against each other. Vargas dominated Rajsich when they met in PARC19 and I think she’ll win again. – #2 Longoria vs #11 Mejia: I don’t see Longoria losing to Mejia at this stage, not when it comes to winning titles.
Finals prediction: Longoria improves to 33-1 over Vargas in a rematch of the PARC19 final to win her 19th IRF tournament.
—————- Doubles Knockout round predictions:
On the Men’s side: no elimination at the RR stage, which is a sigh of relief for some of the teams who took surprising losses.
Also, more completely inexplicable seedings: Montoya/Mar destroyed Acuna & Camacho 2,0 in the RR stage, and won the group as the 3rd seed going in … then are seeded below them in the knockouts?? How does that happen?
I like Montoya/Mar over Carson/Pratt in one semi, Moscoso/Roland Kellerover Acuna/Camacho in the other semi, and for the Bolivians to win the final as they won the PARC final earlier this year.
On the Women’s side:
I like Longoria/Samantha Salas Solis over USA’s Rajsich/Lawrence in one semi, and for the Guatemalan team of Martinez and Rodriguez to upset the Argentinian team of Vargas/Mendez to make the final. however, in that final Longoria and Salas should capture their 14th international title together.
Phew! Lots of matches in a short amount of time, but now we’re to the “business end” of this event. Lots of streaming available; individuals, country federations, etc. Check the regular places on Facebook for streaming notifications.
Thanks to their performance at the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships earlier this year, Team Canada qualified two men and two women to the event, so these players will be pulling double duty singles and doubles in Peru.
On the Men’s side … the choices were pretty obvious. Murray and Iwaasa were the two finalists in all three qualifying events (the 1st National team Qualifier in Nov 2018, the 2nd Qualifier in February 2019, and Canadian Nationals In May 2019). Murray topped Iwaasa in all three events, and these two players have clearly established themselves as the top Canadian Men.
Murray plays the IRT tour full time and finished 7th on tour this year. He should be a favorite to advance deep into the knockout stages, given his tour accomplishments and his international experience. Murray has represented Canada 8 times before internationally; his best IRF result is making the 2016 world semis, losing toDaniel De La Rosa.
Iwaasa played just one pro event this season, the WRT event that occurred in Calgary in October. In that event (PRS match report here: http://rball.pro/E7785F) he topped a number of IRT semi-regulars before falling toAndree Parrilla in the final. This will be Iwaasa’s 6th international appearance; his best results previously were a quarter final apperance at the 2014 Pan American Sports Festival (where he lost to David ” Bobby” Hornand the 2015 Pan American Games (where he lost to Alvaro Beltran).
On the Women’s side, the two players selected are in-arguably the top two players in Canada, but some questions may arise from the qualification process. Lambert and Saunders were the finalists in the 1st qualifier, with Lambert winning. But, Lambert did not play in the 2nd qualifier nor Canada Nationals; there Saunders beat Christine Richardson in the finals both times. As it turns out, Canada’s team qualification guidelines specify exceptions for top-ranked IRT and LPRT pros, automatically qualifying them if they’re in the top 8 at the time of the team selection. See http://www.racquetball.ca/download/2019Racquetball_INP_PAGs.pdf for the guidelines (h/t to Frederique Lambert for the link).
Lambert obviously gives the team a better chance at medaling in Peru, but it comes at the expense of Richardson, who made a semis and two finals during qualifying and thus has a claim to the team based on the overall qualifying results.
Lambert finished the pro season ranked 9th on tour despite missing 5 of the 10 events (dropping out of the top 8 only at the last event). This after finishing the prior year ranked 2nd and making 5 pro tournament finals. She finished off Medical school, which limited her travel schedule. This will be the 10th time Lambert represents Canada; she has made two international finals, losing the 2012 and 2016 PARC finals to Longoria.
The limits of players on both teams also means that the selected players will be forced doubles partners. But luckily, the players do have some experience playing with each other.
– Murray/Iwaasa teamed up to win the 2018 Canadian National title – they also played together at PARC earlier this year, losing in the final.
– Lambert/Saunders first played together at the 2014 Worlds, losing in the qtrs. – They teamed up at the 2016 PARC event, losing in the semis to eventual champs Mexico – They made the semis at 2016 Worlds together, losing to the USA team. – They won 2018 Canada Nationals together – they last played at 2018 Worlds, struggling in the RRs and losing in the 16s.
Men’s Open: Samuel Murray Women’s Open: Jen Saunders
They take big steps towards putting themselves onto the plane to represent Canada at this August’s 2019 International Racquetball Federation – IRF Pan American Games, the biggest event in our sport. Based on the 2019 PARC qualifying Team Canada will get two players each in Men’s and Women’s, and based on the qualifying as of late it definitely seems like the two singles finalists in each draw will form the teams for Peru later this year, but we’ll wait to hear official word of attendance.
No Surprises in the round of 16, with all seeds advancing in 2 games. Closest match was #13 Ian Frattinger pushing #4 Pedro Castro to 13,10 in their match.
In the quarters: – One upset by seed: #5 Trevor Webb took out #4 Castro in two. – Both #2 and #3 seeds were taken to tiebreakers but advanced. – Coby Iwaasa came from a game down to advance past #7 Lee Connell.
In the semis: – #1 Samuel Murray made quick work of Webb 3,2. – #2 Iwaasa played a close game 1 then took off to win game 2 going away over #3 Tim Landeryou 13,2.
The Final was a rematch of the 2015 and 2018 Canadian finals, as well as a rematch of the last three running qualifier events. Murray and Iwaasa split the last two finals rematches, but this one was a Murray win going away 3,6. Murray captures his 2nd Canadian National title.
In the play-in round of 16, Cassie Prentice won in a slight upset by seeding, taking out the #8 Murielle Boivin 9,4. Meanwhile, the younger Parent sister Juliette beat her older sister Marjolaine 4,10 to advance.
In the Semis: – #1 Jen Saunders won a solid match over #4 Danielle Drury 13,8 – #2 Christine Richardson advanced over #3 Morissette in two close games.
In the Final, a rematch of last year’s Canadian National championship, Saunders won going away 4,1 to claim her 11th National Title. Saunders has now made at least the Canadian National singles final in NINTEEN consecutive years; every year since 2001. You have to go back to the 2000 national tournament to find a Women’s Canadian singles final that didn’t include Saunders (that year, Jackchristie Huczek beat Lori-Jane Powell for the title). Its a pretty amazing run for Saunders, who shows no sign of slowing down.
This is the 4th Canadian national doubles title for Samuel Murray, and a first for his brother … who was the losing finalist each of the last four years running. Meanwhile, this is Saunder’s 13th title, and she inches closer to the record for most National doubles titles with her former partner and fellow Canadian Josee Grand’Maitre, who has 15 titles. Drury wins her 2nd title.
So it was two brother teams in the final; there the Murrays staged a great comeback to take game one 17-15 (remember, in Canada its win-by-2 in all games). The Landeryous took game two, but then fell apart in the tiebreaker.
There were four teams, so they played round robin. The #1 seeded team of Christine Richardson and Michele Morissette was upset by the #3 seeded team of Jen Saunders and Danielle Drury in the RRs en route to their 3-0 finish and the 2019 National title.
————— The doubles champions for Canada qualify to represent the country in the Pan Am Games later this year, and will go towards qualification for 2020’s PARC and Worlds. We can’t say however that these exact teams will be in Lima later this year though, because Canada only qualified two men and two women to the Pan Am games (see http://www.internationalracquetball.com/xviii-pan-american…/ for the roster qualification spots). So likely the two singles qualifiers will team up to play doubles for Canada in Peru.
For Canada … now starts the singles competition. We’ll post that preview and recap separately (the pre-view likely before you see this).