Just like their southern neighbors, Racquetball Canada uses the last weekend in May to host their National Singles events. They also host their National doubles (which ended yesterday and which we’ll wrap-up later this week)
This is the 45th iteration of Canada National Singles, as far as I can tell. First held in Winnipeg in 1975, the first Men’s champ was Wayne Bowes. Mike Green (who recently announced his retirement officially from competition) is tied with Canadian legend Sherman Greenfeld for the most singles titles in Canada with 10 each. Samuel Murray is your defending champ and is the #1 seed this weekend.
On the Women’s side, they also have records dating to 1975, with Monique Parent being the first ever Women’s singles champ. Jennifer Jen Saunders hholds the record for most ever Canadian singles titles with 10, and as the defending champ and #1 seed has a chance to take the outright lead and tie American Rhonda Rajsich for the most ever country national titles (with the caveat that we don’t have full records for Mexico and other countries).
Men’s Singles:There’s 15 in the draw. Here’s some round of 16 matches to look for: – in the 8/9 game, Tommy Murray takes on Tanner Prentice for a shot at #1. If Murray wins, he gets to go against his brother. If Prentice wins, it would be his first ever win at Adult nationals. – In the 7/10 game, Lee Connell (who’s been playing in National events for more than 15 years) gets a match against current Canadian 18U champ Sean Sauve in his adult debut.
Projecting the quarters: – #1 Murray vs #8 Prentice; Sam moves on. – #4 Pedro Castro vs #5 Trevor Webb; they met in 2017, a Castro win, and Pedro will be looking to return to the semis for the 2nd year running. – #3 Tim Landeryou vs #6 Nicolas Bousquet; they met at this juncture in Nationals last year, a tie-breaker win for Tim. – #2 Coby Iwaasa vs #7 Connell: also a rematch of 2018 National quarters, an easy 5,5 win. Can Connell push it closer?
Semis: Murray over Castro, Iwaasa over Landeryou. These are the exact same semis from 2018, and i’m predicting the same chalk results.
Final: Murray over Iwaasa in a tie-breaker. These two met in the 2018 National finals, and in the finals of both Canadian qualifiers leading up to this event, and have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the Canadian field.
————————- Women’s Singles: there’s 10 ladies in the draw, and no Frederique Lambert, which opens up the field significantly. Lets preview the draw.
In the 16s: – Reigning Canadian 18U Junior champ Cassie Prentice takes on #8 seeded Murielle Boivin for a shot at the #1 seed. – Sisters Juliette and Marjolaine Parent have to face off in the 7/10 match. Juliette is the reigning 16U Canadian champ, while Marjolaine just graduated 18Us and represented Canada at Junior Worlds last year. Tough matchup for the parents; who do you root for? 🙂
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 Saunders over #9 Prentice, marching towards a record-setting title. – #4 Danielle Drury vs #5 Erin Geeraert: Geeraert is fresh off of representing Canada at the 2019 PARCs and will look to get back on the team for the Pan Am Games later this year. – #3 Michèle Morissette takes on the legend Linda Marie Ellerington, whose first entry in the database is the 1987 Canadian National singles competition. Linda hasn’t competed in this event since 2015 …when she was eliminated by Morissette. – #2 Christine Richardson faces a Parent … i’m not sure which one, but think Richardson will be favored to advance either way.
Possible Semis: Saunders over Geeraert, Richardson over Morissette.
Final: Saunders over Richardson, a rematch of the 2018 final and the 2017 semis.
———————- Look for streaming notifications over the weekend. Follow Racquetball Canada for sure to get notifications. I know that Timothy Baghurst is in Canada leading the announcing, so tune in and follow along
———————– Team Results: we are waiting for the full team results top to bottom, but we do know the top 4 in each draw: – Team Men: Bolivia, Mexico, USA, Costa Rica – Team Women: Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia – Team Combined: Mexico, Bolivia, USA, Argentina.
Here’s some quick fun Team facts: – This is Bolivia’s first ever Team competition win. – this is Mexico’s 10th straight PARC Combined title – This was also Mexico’s 10th straight Women’s team PARC title.
round of 32: – Ecuador’s long-time veteran Fernando Rios eliminated Costa Rican IRT touring vet Felipe Camacho in two close games 14,12. – Guatemala’s Juan Salvatierra took out Colombia’s Andres Gomez by the closest of margins; 14,14.
round of 16: – Rios couldn’t eliminate both Costa Ricans, falling to CRC’s number one and #8 seed Andres Acuna 14,2 – #5 seed Bolivian number one Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo took out Canadian number one Samuel Murray by the dominant scores of 6,6. Murray, who sits ranked 7th on the International Racquetball Tour, previously topped Moscoso when they met at the 2018 US Open, and I expected a tough match here. I did not expect Murray to fall 6 and 6. An early statement win here for Moscoso. – #3 seed Mexican Alvaro Beltran came from a game down to top #14 seed Colombian Mario Mercado in this battle of IRT top-10 touring pros. – #6 Dominican Republic number one Luis Perez took a hard-fought match against Ecuadorian veteran Jose Daniel Ugalde Albornoz to advance. – #7 Carlos Keller Vargas played a tough match against Canadian Coby Iwaasa and advanced in two straight 10,9.
These results ensured a perfect chalk round of 16, with all top 8 seeds advancing. Two each from Mexico, Bolivia, USA, then the #1s from Costa Rica and Dominican Republic comprise your quarters.
in the Quarters though … huge upsets. – #1 Mexican Alejandro Alex Landacan’t convert on match point and loses in the tiebreaker to #8 Acuna (6),14,7. A great win for the solid Acuna, who avenges a loss to Landa in the Semis of the 2017 PARC. – #4 American Charlie Pratt came back from 1-8 down in the tiebreaker to shock the Bolivian Open champ #5 seed Conrrado Moscoso 11-10. I had predicted Moscoso would win this event, but Pratt found a way (as he usually does) to peck away at Moscoso’s game, kept his focus, used some excellent serving and kept forcing Moscoso to make that one additional shot and came out on top. – #3 Beltran eased past #6 Perez 9,6 in a match that probably wasn’t as close as it seemed; the match was tied 8-8 early, then Beltran ran away with the first and continued dominating the second to advance. – #7 Keller took a solid 12,10 win over #2 seed American David Bobby David Horn. The defending champ scores the “upset” by seeding but beats Horn in a rematch of last year’s PARC final.
Semis: – Pratt won a back and forth close match against Acuna to advance to the final. Both players play a very similar game, more tactical than explosive, more cerebral than showy, and Pratt outlasted Acuna to return to his third major international Men’s singles final in his 3rd IRF appearance. – Keller advanced past Beltran in two
In the Final, Keller avenged a loss to Pratt in the 2017 PARC to win the final and defend his title. Pratt loses in the final for the third time in three international appearances.
The round of 32 contained no surprises. In the round of 16, we got some upsets, both by seed and by talent:
– After struggling in the RR phase (apparently due to illness), Argentinian #24 seed Natalia Mendez Erlwein dominated #8 Bolivian Angelica Barrios 3,11 to advance. Mendez really pushed the game and took Barrios out of her game early on. – #12 seed Maria Jose Vargas Parada obliterated #5 seed Guatemalan Maria Renee Rodríguez 2,0. – #13 seed Rhonda Rajsich got a solid win over #4 seed Chilean Carla Muñoz Montesinos 10,14 to keep her 3-peat dreams alive. – #6 Bolivian Valeria Centellas got a solid win over American Kelani Lawrence7,8. Its hard to emphasize this enough … but Centellas is only 17. She’s got two years remaining in juniors and is making the back end of Adult major international championships (and, it should be noted, was the #1 Bolivian here, ahead of Barrios and presumably ahead of Sabja unless she didn’t compete in the singles qualification ahead of this event). – #15 Ecuadorian Maria Paz Munoz pulled off the biggest upset of the event though, topping #2 Colombian and home-town favorite Amaya Cris 11-8 in a tie-breaker. Great win for Munoz.
So that’s Two from Mexico, two from Argentina, and one each from USA, Bolivia, Dominican Republic and Ecuador into the quarters.
In the Quarters, more upsets – Mendez continued her great run, downing the #1 seeded Mexican Monste Montse Mejia 13,13. This may be the best win of Mendez’ career and it comes after an 0-3 showing in the group stage. – Vargas trounced the hobbled Rajsich 4,8. – #3 seeded Paola Longoria dropped a game to the Bolivian 17yr old Centellas before rebounding and advancing. – Maria Paz Munoz ran away in the tiebreaker after two close games against Dominican #7 seed Merrynanyelly Delgado to advance to the semis.
So that’s the #24, #12, #3 and #15 seeds into the PARC19 semis.
In the semis, no real surprises as Vargas outlasted her countryman Mendez for the second time this year, while Longoria dominated the Ecuadorian Maria Paz Munoz in two.
In the final, Longoria downed Vargas for the 32nd time in 33 career meetings to secure her 8th PARC title.
———————- Men’s Doubles: After vanquishing the #1 Mexican team, the Bolivian team of Moscoso and Roland Keller got their second big title in as many months and their first international major title together by coming back from a first game embarrassment to top the Canadian pair of Murray & Iwaasa in a tiebreaker.
———————- Women’s Doubles: Longoria and Samantha Salas proved again why they’re the best doubles team in the world, never giving up more than 9 points in any single game en route to a dominant finals win over the host country team of Amaya & Riveros. With the win, the pair secured their 13th international doubles title together.
We’re through the round robin/group stages of the 32nd annual Pan American Racquetball Championships; lets review the interesting and upset results from the singles RRs and then preview the knockouts. A reminder; the results are re-seeded after the group stages for the knockouts.
Men’s singles RR matches of note: – #4 seed Charlie Pratt took out #13 Mario Mercado in his home country in an 11-7 tiebreaker. – #3 seedAlvaro Beltran saved match point against versus Chilean journeyman Francisco Troncoso before finishing off a tie-breaker win. – #8 seed Canadian Coby Iwaasa was upset in the RR stage by Costa Rican #1 Andres Andres Acuña 8,7. Acuna took out Horn in the 2018 US Open and has made the quarters or better of the last three PARCs, so this is no fluke. – Dominican #1 Luiz Perez lost 11-10 to unknown Venezuelan Roberto Leyes … but then took out two IRT veterans in Felipe Camacho and top-8 player Samuel Murray to win his group. This is not the first time Perez has made noise in IRF events: he’s got wins over Acuna and Montoya in 2018 and now gets a seed in the knockouts.
Women’s Singles RR matches of note: – #1 Montse Mejia was stretched to a tie-breaker by long-time IRF Ecuadorian vet Maria Paz Munoz. – #13 Amaya Cris scored the biggest RR upset, taking out #2 Rhonda Rajsich in a close tie-breaker 14,(14),8. Amaya is the home-court favorite here and has now put herself in a great position to advance deep. – #3 Paola Longoria outlasted Maria Jose Vargas Parada 12,13. Vargas’ sole career win over Longoria was at this event in 2018 but could not repeat the feat. – #5 Maria Renee Rodríguez played a solid game to beat Natalia Mendez Erlweinand remain the favorite to advance as the seeded player out of the group. Mendez then lost to long-time Venezuelan player Mariana Tobon before defaulting the last match of the group.
————————— Singles Knockout Predictions:
In the Men’s singles draw, just two of the top 8 seeds were upset in RRs: Murray and Iwaasa. So here’s some projections of the Men’s singles draw here on out:
Matches to watch for in the 32s: – The 16/17 match between Cuban #1 Maikel Mollet and Chilean #1 Francisco Troncoso should be close. – Ecuadorian #1 and #9 seed Fernando Rios gets a tough test against Costa Rican veteran Felipe Camacho. Could go either way. – #10 Coby Iwaasa gets an interesting match against long time Argentinian veteran Diana-Shai Manzuri, who has been representing Argentina in international events for more than 20 years now.
Matches to look for in the 16s: – If Camacho can take out Rios, he likely faces his country-man Andres Acuna, who beat Camacho on the IRT twice in 2018. – #5 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #12 Samuel Murray: a brutal round of 16 here; these two met at the 2018 US Open and Murray topped Moscoso in a tie-breaker. So Murray can beat the newly crowned Bolivian champ. What to make of Murray’s upset in the RRs? This is a hard one to predict but the winner could go pretty far. I think i’ll go with the hot-hand Moscoso here. – #14 Mario Mercado vs #3 Alvaro Beltran; another tough draw for a seeded player; Beltran has to face Mercado on his home soil. Beltran beat Mercado handily in Chicago in March … but Mercado played lights out at the Bolivian Open in making the semis. I think this is close and Beltran ekes it out. – #7 Carlos Keller Vargas, your defending champ, faces a tough out in Canadian Coby Iwaasa in the 16s. I think Keller advances, but Iwaasa makes it hard on him.
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 Alejandro Landa over #8 Acuna: this is a rematch of the 2017 PARC semis, a 2 game close win for Landa. They also met at the 2018 Florida IRT championship. Landa prevails. – #5 Moscoso over #4 Pratt: Moscoso’s firepower overcomes Pratt’s tactical game. – #3 Beltran takes out the upstart Dominican #6 Perez. – #7 Keller over #2 David Horn; this is a rematch of the final of last year’s event, a tie-breaker win for Keller. I’m going to predict it happens again.
Semis: – #5 Moscoso over #1 Landa; they met in Bolivia, in the semis of that Grand Slam … and Moscoso won in an epic donut tie-breaker. I think we see a similarly close game this time around with the same result. – #7 Keller over #3 Beltran: they met in the quarters of the 2015 PARC and Keller got him then. I think Keller can do it again.
Final: an all-Bolivian final, with #1 over #2 as Moscoso downs his countryman for the title. If it happens this way, Moscoso will have more than earned t his win.
————————— In the women’s singles draw … 3 of the 7 group top seeds were upset, leading to some interesting looking seedings in the knockout and some tough matches out of the get go:
Matches to look for in the 32s: – #9 Cuban Maria Regla Viera gets to play the 24th seeded Natalia Mendez; is Mendez hurt? Why did she default her final RR match? Either way, the LPRT top 10 player has a tough one against a tough Cuban. – #12 Vargas gets the precocious Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz. Ortiz was the losing finalist to Centellas at world 16U juniors in 2018 but is already representing her country at the Adult level. – #15 Maria Paz Munoz gets a tough match against the other Cuban in the draw, Yurisleidis Alluie. Munoz should advance but as we’ve seen, the unknown Cuban competitors can make waves.
Matches in the 16s to look for: – #8 Angelica Barrios faces off against the Mendez/Regla Viera winner, in what could be a pretty good match. Either way, I like the Bolivian junior to advance. – Vargas vs #5 Maria Renee Rodriguez; a tough draw for Rodriguez, who wins her group and earns the bye but gets current top 4 LPRT player Vargas for her troubles. – #4 Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos vs Rajsich; tough break for Munoz, who wins her group and then gets the two-time defending PARC champion. – #6 Valeria Centellas vs #11 Kelani Lawrence; this could be a good match-up. I think Lawrence could pull the upset-by-seed here over the reigning 16U world junior champ.
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 Montse Mejia vs #8 Barrios: they met in the 18U world juniors semis in both 2017 and 2018; both Mejia wins. I think Mejia continues her run. – #12 Vargas vs #13 Rajsich: they’ve met 29 times across all competitions and are just about dead even; Rajsich currently leads h2h 15-14, and has won their last two meetings. But Rajsich was struggling in Bolivia with a knee issue; is she recovered? I’m going with Vargas here to ensure a new PARC champion. – #3 Longoria over #11 Lawrence: Longoria has something to prove here, having lost to Mejia at Mexican Nats and having been the losing finalist the last two tournaments. She outclasses Lawrence here, looking for more. – #2 Amaya takes out #7 Delgado on home soil.
Possible Semis: – Vargas over Mejia: they’ve only met once; in April 2018 on the LPRT, a 3 game dominant Vargas win, and even thought Mejia has really stepped up on the world stage lately, Vargas has been on fire. – Longoria over Amaya: they’ve met 12 times across LPRT and IRF and Amaya has never won. I don’t think she breaks that duck here.
Final: Longoria over Vargas. Longoria has owned Vargas in their careers (30-1 in 31 matches in LPRT and IRF). If Mejia takes out Vargas… then this is a whole new ball game. Mejia’s solid win over Longoria on home soil was a big step up in the world and a Longoria/Mejia final would be pretty compelling to watch. Longoria is basically unbeatable in the pro format, but has taken losses here and there over the past few years in the amateur format; can it happen again here?
——————————- Men’s doubles thoughts: no real surprises in the RR sections, as the pre-tourney 1,2,4 and 6 seeds won their group. I think the knockout draw is top-heavy, with the semis featuring the two best teams (that being the Mexican team of Rodrigo Montoya Solís & Javier Mar and the Bolivian team of Moscoso and Roland Keller). The Bolivians fell to the Mexican teams at both the 2018 PARCs and Worlds, albeit with different players. I think the same happens here, despite Moscoso & Keller coming off of the Bolivian slam win.
I think the Canadians (Murray & Iwaasa) take out the American team of Jake Bredenbeck and Mauro Mauro Daniel Rojas in the quarters, on the bottom half, then get past the Costa Rican team of Acuna/Camacho before losing to the Mexican pair in the final.
——————————- Women’s doubles thoughts: As with the Men’s side … the top half of this draw is packed, and the projected semis is the best match of the event, featuring the dominant Mexican pair of Longoria & Samantha Salas Solis vs the current World champion Bolivian side of Yazmine Sabja Aliss and Centellas. But to get there, the Mexicans have to take out the talented Argentian team of Vargas & Mendez (they who just took the Bolivian Grand slam title) while the Bolivians have to take out the American team of Lawrence & Sheryl Lotts
I think the Mexicans down the Bolivians in one semi, then take out the home-town Colombian pair of Riveros and Amaya for the title.
——————————- Follow @IRF on Facebook to get Tim Timothy Baghurst calling all the streaming matches.
visit www.internationalracquetball.com to follow along Mens and Womens, Singles and Doubles draws. Follow the IRF on facebook for live streaming as Tim Baghurst has flown down to the tourney to provide streaming commentary all week.
The time has come for the first big International Racquetball Federationevent of 2019; the 32nd annual Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC). This event was first held in 1986 in San Jose, Costa Rica and was initially known as the “Tournament of the Americas.” The initial tournament results have been lost to the wind as we can find no records for it. But, nearly every year since the tourney has moved around North and South America.
The tournament skipped a couple of years when Racquetball was included into the Pan Am Games (but, not this year), and skipped one year in 2000 when civil unrest in the host country rose up, but otherwise has been an annual event that has done a great job of introducing top players to the scene who don’t normally travel to the states to play domestic IRT events.
Women’s #1 Paola Longoria has 7 career PARC titles … but has lost to long-time rival Rhonda Rajsich a few times in this event (including the last two finals). The Men’s singles draw has been an interesting competition over the years, with 9 different players winning the last 10 titles. There’s plenty of opportunity this year, with 3 past champions in the men’s draw plus both the losing American finalists in the last two iterations.
The competition features days of round robins that are seeded, then the competition is re-seeded for the knockouts. Players are seeded not by individual accomplishment but by past country performance.
————————— Singles draw previews
The top 8 seeds on the Men’s side are: 1. Alejandro Alex Landa; the reigning Mexican champ and 2017 PARC winner. 2. David Horn, the 2018 USA National Champion 3. Alvaro Beltran, the 2019 Mexican National finalist and a 3-time PARC winner 4. Charlie Pratt, who made the semis of 2018 USA Nationals and the finals of the qualifier held at national doubles earlier this year to earn his spot. Pratt’s seeding has been done no favors as he has current IRT top 10 pro Mario Mercado in his round robin grouping, seeded 13th here. 5. Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo is seeded 5th as Bolivia’s #1 player; Moscoso just won the Bolivian Open Grand Slam and beat a couple of the players seeded above him here and is clearly a threat to win his first major international title. 6. Samuel Murray is seeded 6th as the clear #1 Canadian male, having swept Canadian qualifiers leading up to this event. 7. Carlos Keller is seeded 7th; he’s Bolivia’s #2 but is also the reigning champion of this event, having beaten Horn in the 2018 final. 8. Canadian Coby Iwaasa is the 8th seed; he was the losing finalist to Murray in the last three major Canadian singles events.
We won’t do predictions until the knockout draw is announced … but if these seeds hold we stand to have some really good quarter final matches throughout.
———— On the Women’s side, the top 8 seeds are:
1. Montse Mejia, who upset Paola Longoria to take the Mexican Nationals in February and is thus the #1 overall seed. She’s also the reigning 18U junior world champ and could make a statement in this event. Mejia gets LPRT touring vet Adriana Riveros in the group stage. 2. Rhonda Rajsich, still reigning as the USA #1 having won the qualifier and the 2018 US nationals events. Rajsich has Colombian #1 Amaya Cris to deal with in her RR group. 3. Paola Longoria, a 7-time winner here but entering as the Mexican #2 due to her loss to Mejia at Mexican Nats earlier this year. Paola heads up against Maria Jose Vargas (an under-seeded #12 here despite being top 4 on the LPRT and having just won the Bolivian grand slam) right out of the gate. 4. Kelani Lawrence, my fellow Virginian and now unquestioned USA #2 having been a losing finalist to Rajsich in three straight USA qualifying events. She faces a tough RR draw, with Chilean #1 and LPRT top pro Carla Carla Muñoz Montesinos in her draw. 5. Maria Renee Rodríguez slips into the #5 seed thanks to the recent and sudden retirement of former Guatemalan #1 and reigning World Champ Gaby Martinez. For her troubles, she gets LPRT top 10 player Natalia Mendez right out of the gate. 6. Bolivian Junior Valeria Centellas is the 6th seed. She’s the reigning 16U junior champ and was an 11-9 5th game tiebreaker loser at the Bolivian grand slam to eventual titlist Vargas. She has a manageable group though, with her toughest match coming against Canadian #1 Michele Morrissette. 7. Marie Gomar slides into the #7 seed as the Guatemalan #2, and gets #8 seeded Bolivian junior phenom Angelica Barrios right out of the gate. Barrios made the semis of the Bolivian Grand Slam, knocking out two top-10 LPRT players, and can make a deep run here.
Thanks to a really international feel on the LPRT, nearly all the RR groups feature LPRT regulars going at it, and we should see some upsets by seeds before the knockout brackets are set.
—————— In doubles…there’s 15 Men’s teams competing and there’s probably 5-6 Men’s teams who think they can win this thing, including the reigning Mexican champs Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Javier Mar, plus the just-crowned Bolivian grand slam champs of Moscoso and Roland Keller.
On the women’s side, the dominant Mexican team of Longoria & Samantha Salas Solis are the favorites. we’ll talk more about doubles once the knock out draws are set.
Here’s a fun one to discuss during this slight break in the rball tourney schedule; what’s the best Father/Son combo in our sports’ history? How about Husband/Wife or Brother/Sister?
Here’s some opinions on each category from yours truly, with others that I considered. Did I forget someone? Am I totally wrong? Feel free to chime in.
1. Best Husband/Wife combo: Jack Huczek and Christie Van Hees Only husband-wife team where both sides have won tour championships. Both retired way too soon; I would bet money Jack in particular could still be making the back end of pro tournaments if he was still playing (he was born in 1983, so hes younger right now than Kane/Rocky/Alvaro).
There’s actually a slew of Racquetball playing couples with pro experience on both sides … i limited this to just the best and the top 3 honorable mentions. If you want to include the Pratts, Fowlers, Wachtels, Kirches, Hawthornes, or others, I wouldn’t blame you.
Another category where there’s lots of honorable mentions; I left out the Paraisos, the Doyles, Kerrs, and Odegards in particular. I sense there’s a lot of younger players in the junior ranks that could qualify here too.
Lots of good examples of brothers playing right now. Bredenbecks, Murrays, Kurzbards, Garays, Kellers, Acunas, etc. And there might be more in the Latin Americas that i’m not aware of, since there’s so many players with common surnames.
I thought of a few other father/son combos where at least we knew both sides played at a high level (examples: Schopiearys, Ullimans, Elkins). But I couldn’t think of a single instance of a top pro from our entire sport’s history who has a son playing at a high level right now.
The second of two qualifying events was held this past weekend in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada for top Canadian players to earn points towards qualifying for the National team. Congrats to Samuel Murray and Jen Saunders on their wins on the weekend.
On the Men’s side, the only significant upset of the weekend was #6 Trevor Webb‘s upset of #3 seed Tim Landeryou in the quarters. Webb then took #2 seed Coby Iwaasa to the brink in the semis, falling 11-9. Otherwise the draw mostly went chalk, with the top 2 seeds advancing to the final. This win puts Murray and Iwaasa into the drivers’ seats for National team slots in 2019, in that both players have made the finals in both Selection events thus far.
On the Women’s side, Saunders took advantage of Canadian #1 Frederique Lambert‘s absence and took the draw, giving her a win and a final in the two selection events of the season so far. She topped Christine Richardson in the final after both top seeds advanced through pool play. Richardson lost in the 3rd place game in the first selection event, so this gives her a good result in her quest to make the 2019 International events.
A note: I capture these results, but do not load them to the Amateur database. I realize they’re “important” events … but I only have one “Nationals” per country per year. I’m open to suggestions how to handle issues like this: USA also now has “major” events that also count towards National team qualifying, and Mexico last year had a “Nationals” event … and then a “Worlds Selection event” that ended up having different players then going to Worlds from those who had just won Nationals earlier in the year. I’m not sure there’s a good solution.
Happy Holidays! During this little break in the tournament action, here’s some content for everyone to argue about. 🙂 This is my current Men’s World Top 50. Thanks to the ever-widening popularity of the sport, multiple tours and the inability for some top players to play the International Racquetball Tour regularly, the IRT rankings do not really give a full picture of the current state of the world game. This attempts to do so.
I have rankings divided into “groups” so this isn’t a hard and fast 1-50 necessarily, as I’ll explain as we go.
Usual caveats: this is my opinion. No offense intended if you think someone is too high or too low. This is for entertainment purposes only. Its mostly stat/match result based. Its tough to do pure 1-50 b/c of game style match-ups (i.e., a guy in the 30s always beats a guy in the 20s for some reason, but can’t beat anyone in-between). Also, one big win over a top 10 player does not make you a top 10 player … i’ve noted solid wins for players below the top of this list, but look for consistent results over and again before rising up the ranks.
I hope you enjoy!
1. Kane Waselenchuk Large Gap to #2: Kane is head and shoulders ahead of anyone else.
2. Rocky Carson Smaller Gap to #3-6; Rocky still has a lead over the next group and continues to demonstrate it on the court.
I have these guys 3-6, and they’re constantly changing positions. Up until the Mexico Open I had Landa above Montoya, but then Montoya got him H2H. Honestly, I think they’re a coin flip for #3 and #4 right now. Meanwhile, DLR is 3-6 H2H against Landa across senior events so i’ve got him just below Landa … just beat Parrilla and Montoya to win in Monterrey, but lost to Montoya at Mexican Nats earlier this year. Parrilla beat Landa at the past US Open but for me day in, day out is slightly below these other three. On any given Sunday though, these four can all put losses on each other. It is not a surprise that these four were then fou semi-finalists in Monterrey earlier this month.
Moscoso has wins over the guys ranked 3-6, but just lost to Montoya at Worlds and lost to Murray at US Open. I know some people think he should be higher (ahem, Sudsy 🙂 ) but i’ve got him just a hair below. Mar is an enigma; he’s demonstrated the ability to beat all the guys ranked 3-6 and has in the last couple of years, but not quite consistently enough to break into that group. Murray has wins over Montoya, Landa and Moscoso in the last few events; he’s becoming much more consistent winner as of late. Lastly you have Alvaro, who has been showing his age but then turns around and trounces the likes of DLR in Portland. He’s still a tough out, week in and week out but has been consistently slipping down this ranking over the past couple of years.
One last comment on my current top 10: a quick breakdown by country:
And the one American player is nearly 40. The next generation of dominance in our sport is coming from south of the US border.
I call this group the “retired but could still make noise if they weren’t” group. Jose retired after three straight finishes at #5 on tour, and he didn’t retire because he was losing suddenly. Mejia hasn’t played in a while, enough that we may want to remove him, but when we last saw him playing WRT events he was beating consistently those ranked just behind him in the next grouping. Marco Rojas retired after two 7th place finishes on tour, and has winning career records against DLR and Landa, and against guys in the next grouping (Horn, Jake), so its no surprise he’s still this high. Lastly Tony Carson consistently demonstrates he can continue to win, with wins over DLR and Parrilla in the last two IRT events he’s entered.
Here’s where it starts getting tough. This group here is a mix of international players we rarely see, leading World Racquetball Tour players, and mid-ranged IRT players. You may argue that I have Polo too high; but every time he plays an IRT event he makes noise. He’s coming off an elbow injury and is 35 though, so he may be slipping. Horn has some wins against higher ranked players and won 2018 US Nationals in a draw that included Jake, Pratt and Jose Rojas. Pratt has some h2h wins over players in this group, over Beltran, and beat Mar en route to the 2017 Pan Am final. Franco has recent wins over Landa and DLR, and has a solid argument to be higher. Mercado too; he’s 2-2 vs Murray career but just 1-5 against Horn and this feels about right. Iwaasa took several years off, but has not lost his touch, taking Mercado to the edge at Worlds twice and making the Finals in the WRT Canada event in a draw that featured several guys in this group. Keller Vargas won the 2018 Pan Ams over Montoya and Horn, but lost to Franco at Worlds; I used to have him much higher and wonder if he’d be a top 10 player if he played the tour regularly. Lastly Jake; he’s one of the few players to have wins over Kane, DLR and Rocky ever, but has struggled to beat players in this group or the grouping above lately and has been slightly slipping down in this ranking after having some early IRT season struggles.
Croft is pretty much retired, so not much recent to go on; he beat Horn but lost to Jake in a singles event in Denver earlier this year. Estrada, Natera and Ochoa are all rising Mexican players to watch out for. Estrada beat Landa at Mexican world selection event, just beat Beltran in Monterrey and has played Montoya tough twice this fall. Natera has recent wins over Mar and others in this grouping. Ochoa has recent wins over Beltran, Parrilla, and Mar and may very well be higher. Cardona used to be in the next group up as the reigning king of the hill in the WRT but has been losing ground to the likes of Horn and Jake and the youngsters rising up in Mexico over the past year or so.
Sudsy made the semis of the US Open last year by beating Allen, then beat Diaz but lost to Jake in an WRT event so this seems about right (thought I wouldn’t argue if you thought he was higher). Allen has had some solid wins against the likes of Beltran, Mercado, Murray lately, and beat Diaz in the Laurel season opener, and may be a bit higher. Lastly you have the younger Rojas, who has consistently beaten players below here but not too many above and who has the game to start breaking through and moving up.
This grouping could benefit from more head to head meetings; would Allen beat the likes of Estrada, Natera and Ochoa if they played? Here’s hoping for some more IRT events held in Mexico to get more full draws.
32. Cliff Swain; even though he hasn’t played in more than a year, I still think he could beat anyone listed below here. I’m hoping he plays some more pro events and tries to break some of Ruben Gonzalez‘s more amazing feats of reaching the end stages of pro tourneys at advanced ages.
As with the group above, its tougher in this area to really rank guys sequentially because there’s not a lot of h2h to go on. Gerardo Franco probably has an argument to be higher, with recent wins over Sebastian Franco, over DLR and Jake in Cincy18, etc. I’ve got Lalo just ahead of Sebastian on account of his h2h win at Junior Worlds, but Lalo has lost multiple times to Gerardo Franco in the last year so this trio feels right. Martell has great wins (Landa, Jake, Horn), but then also has early tourney losses in recent WRT and amateur events. Garay has wins over guys in this grouping and against the likes of Parrilla and might be higher. Alonso plays the guys in this grouping tough, has wins over Parrilla in the past but needs more consistency.
Landeryou has h2h wins over both the next two guys below him hence the ranking, but not much else to go on. Reid has a win over Mercado and a US Open title in Men’s open in a draw that featured many players in this group or just below, so this ranking makes sense. Green has reigned over Canada racquetball for two decades but may be retiring and most recently lost to Landeryou at Canadian Nationals. Longoria has some wins over the likes of GFranco and Estrada and may have a case to be a bit higher. Lastly Manilla just took out Mercado in Laurel18 and has had a promising start to the new season, so this seems about right.
Herrera is a long-time IRT vet, just took the 2018 US Open Men’s Open draw over Acuna in the final and beating several Honorable Mention players along the way. Acuna has some solid wins recently (Portillo, Camacho, even Horn at the US Open) and may have a good argument to be higher. Rios doesn’t have much to go on recently but has good wins internationally in the past. Garcia is the 16U reigning world champ who has beaten a few of the HM players in limited adult tourneys. Mollet is the Cuban #1 who makes noise whenever he enters (beat Camacho h2h at Central American games in 2018 for example). Camacho has some wins over higher players (Fernandez, Allen) but has losses to players right in this group so this feels about right. Bousquet had some solid wins over HM players in 2017.
And it should be noted, there’s a slew of HM players below who might very well be in this group, or slightly higher. In fact, as I typed this I wondered if any number of the below players shouldn’t be in this 40-50 range.
Honorable Mentions: I can’t tag more than 50 players per post, so nobody below is tagged, but here’s the players just outside the top 50 by category:
———————— HM Int’l players: Fernando Kurzbard, Jose Daniel Ugalde, Juan Salvatierra, Francisco Troncoso, Andres Gomez, Teobaldo Fumero, Luis Perez, Christian Wer, Hiroshi Shimizu, Lee Connell, Set Cubillos, David Garcia
HM Mexican Players: Edson Martinez, Rodrigo Garay, Rodrigo Rodrigez, Alejandro Almada, Edwin Galicia, Miguel Rodriguez Jr., Daniel Neri, Erick Cuevas Fernandez, Alan Palomino
HM USA IRT Regulars: Thomas Carter, Robert Collins, Scott McClellan, Troy Warigon, John Wolfe
HM USA periodic players: Taylor Knoth, Nick Montalbano, Majeed Shaheen, Matthew Majxner, Maurice Miller, Brad Schopiery, Luis Avila, Brent Walters, Tim Prigo
HM USA Up and comers: Kevin Vasquez, Erik Garcia, Jordan Barth, Nick Riffel, Mauricio Zelada, Wayne Antone IV, Justus Benson, Danny Lavely, Lukas Le,Dylan Pruitt, Kyle Ulliman, A.J. Fernandez, Sam Bredenbeck, Sunji Spencer
HM retired pro players: Alex Ackermann, Gilberto De Los Rios, Kris Odegard, Ricardo Monroy, Anthony Herrera, Shai Manzuri, Javier Moreno ——————————
Phew. Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone; let me know in the comments if you think I did. Look forward to your commentary. Happy Holidays!
I have been capturing these Canadian National selection events, as well as Mexican Selection events into my staging data but have not loaded them to the Amateur database. Instead the Amateur database just shows the champions of the annual “National” tournaments. Especially with the Mexican selection events (which determine who has been going to international events instead of the National champs as of late), i’m debating whether to enter the data into the database since they’re top-level competitions. I’m open to suggestions.
In the meantime, congrats to Samuel Murray and Frederique Lambert on their wins on the weekend. both entered as #1 seeds and pretty much the current unquestioned #1 players in Canada. There were few surprises in the draws, which mostly went according to chalk. Notable results to me:
– Pedro Castro just barely squeaked by Nicolas Bousquet 15,14 in the 4/5 seed quarter; very close matches. (Note: Canada plays win-by-2, so that score isn’t a typo; final score was 17-15, 16-14).
– Tim Landeryou committed Canadian racquetball fratricide, ousting his younger brother James Landeryou in the quarters.
– #2 seed Coby Iwaasa took the first game off of Murray in the final before falling in a rematch of the 2018 Canadian Nationals final. Iwaasa played great at Worlds and made the final of the WRT event in Calgary last month and looks to be nearly fully returned to the scene after a 3 year layoff.
On the Women’s side:
– Danielle Drury took out #4 seed Alexis Iwaasa in the quarters; the sole deviation from chalk seeding in the event.
– #3 seed Christine Richardson was not able to follow-up on her career amateur best result and fell in the semis.
– The Ageless Jennifer Jen Saunders made the final, losing in two to Lambert. Saunders has made the final of Canada Women’s Nationals an astounding EIGHTEEN straight years, winning 10 of those 18 finals.
These two results are big first steps for Murray, Lambert, Iwaasa and Saunders qualifying for the big 2019 international events. The annual Pan American Racquetball Championships of course, but the big event of 2019 is the quadrennial Pan American Games, which are including Racquetball for the 6th time in event history.
The World Racquetball Tour‘s 2018 Canadian Open is in the books; congrats to Andree Parrilla on his win. Parrilla gets his 5th ever WRT tourney win, and is the third straight different winner in as many WRT events this year.
Lets re-cap the event, with commentary on the notable matches (to me) by round:
In the 32s, no major upsets but some good matches:
– Tanner Prentice took a close one over fellow Canadian Mitch Brayley14,11.
– Tim Landeryou, who has made the Canadian Nationals finals four times in 8 years, was stretched to a tiebreaker by current Canadian 16U champ Ian Frattinger.
– Eduardo Lalo Portillo got a solid win over veteran Canadian Lee Connell.
The fireworks started in the round of 16, when 5 of the top 8 seeds were ousted.
– #9 Luis Avila topped #8 Justus Benson in a tiebreaker.
– #21 seeded Samuel Murray beat #5 seeded Alex Cardona in a tiebreaker. An upset by seed, probably not an upset by overall world standings, and the match did not disappoint. Back and forth action and then a furious rally in the end before Murray got the 11-9 tie-breaker win. Tough draw for Cardona, but good viewing for the neutrals.
– #14 Jordy Alonso upset #3 seeded Jaime Martell Neri 8 and 12. Martell has a number of solid wins on his resume, so this isn’t a completely shock result, but Martell is the winner of the most recent WRT event and was a favorite for the semis here.
– #22 Coby Iwaasa unsurprisingly upset #6 Christian Longoria 9,6. Iwaasa won a stacked WRT event in Lombard IL in 2014 before heading out on a 2-year sabbatical, and he seems nearly back to his top form.
– But the biggest upset happened at the bottom of the draw; Mexican Junior Eduardo Portillo upset #2 seeded Jake Bredenbeck 9,9. Portillo doesn’t have a ton of pro events on his resume, but was a finalist at 2017 18U worlds and in the 2018 Mexican Junior Nationals. A really shocking result for Bredenbeck here, who has 5 career WRT titles including in January.
In the Quarters….
– #1 Bobby David Horn eased past Avila in two straight.
– #4 Andree Parrilla took out Murray in two straight. As I noted in the preview, this result should surprise no-one despite Murray’s higher ranking on the IRT. I sense it is just a matter of time before Andree Parrilla is ranked in the 5-6 range on the IRT.
– Iwaasa continued his run, dominating Alonso 5,9 to force his way into the semis as the 22nd seeded player in a 24-man draw.
– Gerardo Franco Gonzalez took out upset-minded Portillo in a tie-breaker to advance to his 3rd ever WRT semi-finals appearance.
In the Semis:
– Parrilla evened their career senior h2h record over Horn by advancing in a tactical tie-breaker win.
– Iwaasa got his fourth straight 2-game victory over WRT regulars, this time dispatching Franco with ease.
In the Final, Parrilla ended up winning 11 and 13, though the scores did not reflect the very streaky nature of the match. Parrilla was down big in game one before rattling off 10 straight to win it, and was up 14-4 before a huge Iwaasa come back.
I had predicted a Parrilla win, but definitely did not predict an Iwaasa final. But this is no surprise result for the Canadian, and I hope we get to see more of him going forward.
In the Doubles…
– Top seeded Horn/Benson were trounced in the quarters by the all-Canadian team of Landeryou/Brayley. The other top 4 seeds advanced to the semis. The final was thought to be the expected match-up of Murray/Bredenbeck versus Cardona/Franco … until Murray dropped out and was replaced by Jake’s brother. Cardona and Franco prevailed … I’ll likely make a note of this result in the notes but will transcribe it as if Murray advanced to the final. Either that or I record a fft loss for the losing team.
The World Racquetball Tour is back in action, hosting its 3rd tourney of 2018 and its first event since May. The tour is in Calgary … which is the first time (as far as I can tell) that pro racquetball has ever been hosted in this Alberta city.
There’s 24 players in the Men’s draw, including many IRT regulars. The draw represents a nice balance of Northern Hemisphere countries: 8 Canadians, 9 Mexicans, 6 Americans.
Lets take a look at the draw and highlight some notable potential match-ups and make some predictions.
In the 32s:
– Samuel Murray vs Taylor Knoth; Murray, the current #6 ranked IRT player, makes just his 2nd ever WRT appearance and is an early tourney favorite despite his #21 seed here. Knoth gets an unlucky match-up; he’s got the potential to advance in any pro tourney he enters, as evidenced by the win he got over a regular touring pro the last time he entered a pro draw (Jan 2018). I expect Murray to advance but Knoth will play him tough.
– Eduardo Lalo Portillo vs Lee Connell: Portillo gets a tough match-up against the veteran Connell, who has been playing pro events since Lalo was 5.
In the 16s:
– the 8/9 match-up between WOR – World Outdoor Racquetball outdoor specialist Luis Avila and #8 seeded Justus Benson could be interesting. These two met on the WRT once before, in Sept 2016 with Avila advancing easily. Has Benson closed the gap?
– Murray v Alex Cardona. What a brutal round of 16 for both players; this is a semis quality match. Honestly, this is a great example of why you should have protected seeding for top ranked IRT players doing drop-ins to the WRT. Ironically, the only other time Murray played the WRT … he also met Cardona in the 16s. It was Atlanta 2015 and Cardona got him in a tie-breaker, but we’re 3 years on and these players are trending in opposite directions. Murray advances in two solid games.
– Andree Parrilla v Tim Landeryou; a great match-up between one of Mexico’s best and one of Canada’s best. Both players are routinely making quarters or semis of their federation National events. Parrilla has made the quarters or better in 7 of the last 11 IRT events he’s played in and is fresh off of a semis appearance in the US Open. Parrilla advances but it isn’t easy.
– Coby Iwaasa v Christian Longoria; another tough round of 16 match-up here; Iwaasa excelled at 2018 Worlds, losing two very tight matches to IRT top-10 ranked player Mario Mercado. I think Iwaasa upsets Longoria here and advances on home soil.
– Gerardo Franco Gonzalez v Alan Natera Chavez; a great match between two country-men who are up and coming players. Natera beat Franco in Mexico Nationals earlier this year while making a huge run to the semis and has been playing very solid. Look for a Natera win again here.
Potential Quarter finals match-ups
– #1 David Horn v #9 Avila: Horn’s slow start to the IRT season has dropped him to #12 there, but he remains #1 in the WRT. He should advance past fellow Californian Avila here.
– #21 Murray vs #4 Parrilla: Another great match here; Parrilla has met Murray already twice this year on the IRT and beaten him both times, including a solid 8,8 defeat at the US Open two weekends ago. Look for Parrilla to advance.
– #3 Jaime Martell Neri vs Iwaasa: Martell is the winner of the most recently held WRT event, beating both Horn and Bredenbeck to take the Atlanta Open in May. He played a couple of IRT Satellite events in Mexico in September with mixed results, but may have his hands full here. I’m not sure which way this potential match-up goes, but it’ll be tight.
– #2 Jake Bredenbeck versus Natera: Jake has been snake-bitten at IRT events lately; he’s fallen in the 16s or early in seven straight IRT tourneys. He’s gotten pretty rotten draws, and has been “stuck” right in that tough ranking range where he is constantly playing into one of the top 3 players in the round of 16. But on the WRT he remains tough; making the finals of 3 of the last 4 WRT events and winning in January (a solid win over Rodrigo Montoya Solís ). Natera probably gives Jake a solid game but falls at this gate.
– Parrilla-Horn: The 1/4 match here was the 8/9 match in Laurel, won by Parrilla before he dropped an 11-10 heart-breaker to Rocky Carson. I think Andree gets his number again and advances to the final.
– Jake vs Iwaasa: If Iwaasa gets this far, he’ll try to take out both Bredenbeck brothers in one event (he faces Sam Bredenbeck in the first round). If this is Jake-Martell, it’ll be a rematch of the Atlanta 2018 final. Jake is 6-1 lifetime over Martell but he’s 0-1 this calendar year.
Finals projection: Parrilla over Jake. Jake is 3-0 lifetime over Parrilla … but all 3 matches were in 2015. Parrilla is on a tear and is the favorite for me to win this weekend in Calgary.
There’s a solid doubles draw in Calgary; 10 teams. I’ll go with the team of Murray/Jake over Cardona/Franco in the final.