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.
Happy New Year. Just as the hangovers from NYE have abated, we’re back in action on the IRT for one of the tour’s biggest annual stops; the 2019 California Open, held in Canoga Park, CA.
37 Pros are entered, a 20% increase over last year at this event and continuing a healthy trend of improved IRT event participation over the past year and a half of tourneys. There’s also some surprise entrants to this event thanks in part to RYDF sponsorships for distant players.
Top 20 players missing: #9 Mario Mercado didn’t make the cross-country trip. #13 Charlie Pratt continues to be a part-time tour player and also didn’t make the long trip. #16 Thomas Carter misses his first event in a while. So just 3 of the top 20 missing.
Lets preview the qualifying and draw.
Notable Round of 64 matches: – Diego Garcia Quispe vs Eduardo Portillo Rendon; a fun match-up of the current reigning 18U World Junior champ and 16U World Junior Champ. I think you have to favor the older player. Bummer these two guys couldn’t go against more established tour players to see how far they’ve advanced. – Mauro Daniel Rojas vs Dane Elkins: Northern California versus Southern California, and even though Elkins has the home town advantage Rojas advances here. – Felipe Mercado Sandy vs Felipe Camacho; notable in that I believe this is the first time two players named “Felipe” have met on tour. I might be wrong though. Advantage Camacho here. – John Wolfe vs Erick Cuevas; an interesting match-up of two frequent IRT tour players; this is a good opportunity for both to get a tour win. – Luis R Avila – Nick Riffel; an interesting contrast in styles, as Avila (reigning WOR outdor 3-wall champ) faces off against one of the newer IRT touring regulars.
Possible round of 32s to watch for: – #16 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez vs #17 Rodrigo Montoya Solis; tough draw for Gerardo Franco here, running into the reigning World Champ Montoya, who enters an IRT event for just the 6th time in the last three seasons. – #9 David Horn vs Portillo: Horn is the highest ranked player who has to play an extra match and gets a tough but winnable match-up against the quickly improving Portillo. I think Horn still advances here. – Sebastian Fernandez vs Adam Manilla; fun match-up between the 18U Junior World runner-up in Fernandez and recent Intercollegiate champ Manilla, who has been playing tough on tour this year. Advantage Manilla. – Rojas vs Camacho; excellent match to see if Rojas can take the next step, heading up against the veteran Camacho, who is a tough out. – Robert Collins vs Riffel: Collins, who is coming off a great tourney where he took Rocky to a tie-breaker, gets another shot to qualify for a main draw against Riffel. Expect a close match.
Projecting the 16s. Lots of play-in matches, but here’s how I’m seeing the round of 16 playing out. – #1 Alejandro Alex Landavs #17 Montoya. Landa is the one who gets screwed by Montoya’s presence, having to play him in the 16s instead of the semis or finals of an event. For those of you who saw my personal top 50, you know that I think these two are neck and neck. Montoya beat him a couple weeks ago, and I like Montoya again here, paving the way for him to make a semi final on the weekend. But expect a battle; Landa doesn’t generally lose easily or quickly. – #8 Samuel Murray vs #9 Horn: Horn beat Sam the only time they met before (April 2018), but I like Murray’s form over Horn’s right now. – #5 Andree Parrilla vs Manilla: Parrilla should advance here, unless he’s looking ahead at his potential quarter final opponent. – #4 Kane Waselenchuk vs #13 Jake Bredenbeck; an interesting match up for Kane, who goes against the guy who gave him his most recent on-the-court (albeit still involving an injury forfeit) loss. Jake beat Kane in May 2016 in a 5th game default. I wonder if Kane will want to “make amends” here. – #3 Daniel De La Rosa vs Rojas: DLR gets started against the hard-hitting youngster, but controls the game as he is apt to do and advances. – #6 Sebastian Franco vs #11 Jose Diaz; hard one to predict here; we know Franco has been nursing an injury and that Diaz has been playing well. I’ll go with Diaz in an upset here. – #7 Alvaro Beltran vs #10 Jansen Allen; Jansen has beaten Alvaro the last couple times they’ve played on tour … but they havn’t met since Nov 2017. Beltran has had the break to rest up from his typically busy playing schedule and he made the final of the last IRT event, so i’ll give him the nod here. – #2 Rocky Carson vs Collins: Collins gets a re-match of the round of 16 match from last IRT event; Carson still advances.
Projecting the Quarters: it could be a fun event: – Montoya-Murray: they’ve met in the past; Murray beat Montoya at the Lewis Drug event last year. So this is not a cut and dried mach. But for me, Montoya is hot and moves on. – Parrilla-Kane: last time they met was in the semis of the US Open, where Kane won 3,12. Parrilla is a tough out, and can make life miserable for even the likes of Kane. I’d expect another similar match, where one of the two games goes long. – DLR vs Diaz: they last met in the qtrs of the US Open, a two game win for DLR 10,9. I’d expect a similar result here. – Carson vs Beltran: these guys have met 48 times on the IRT so far, i think they’ll meet again. They met in the semis of the Portland event and Alvaro advanced in a testy tiebreaker. I’ll gamble and predict he wins again.
Semis: – Montoya – Kane: this would be my ideal semi; these guys have met twice, most recently in a very anticipated 2017 season opener that was won by Kane by the lopsided score of 1,0,3 but which also high-lighted what could be for the back end of IRT tourneys if we could get Montoya playing more frequently. – DLR-Beltran: another match-up between best buddies and doubles partners. They met in Portland and Beltran dominated him … but then DLR turned around and won the Mexican Open in a draw that featured every top Mexican player (including Beltran) in the game today. I’ll go with DLR here.
Final: Kane over DLR.
——————– There’s a solid Doubles draw: 10 teams. I like the #1 vs #2 teams to meet (DLR/Beltran and Landa/Murray), but wouldn’t count out the #4 team of Diaz/Jake to make some noise.
The two Americans both fought hard but fell at the quarter-final stage. Los Angeles native Dane Elkins took #1 overall seed Fernando Ruiz Michel to a tiebreaker, and Stocktonian Ricardo Ricky Diaz (brother of IRT pro Jose Diaz) played #3 seed Bolivian Gerson Miranda tough, eventually falling 13,12. The two Mexican top seeds both advanced tot he semis with ease.
In the semis, it was Bolivia vs Mexico on both sides of the draw … and it was both Mexican’s advancing to the final to force a rematch of the Mexican Nationals final in May. #4 Eduardo Portillo Rendon took out #1 seeded Fernando Ruiz Michel in two hard fought games, while #2 Sebastian Fernandez cruised past #3 seeded Gerson Miranda.
In the Final, we got a rematch of the Mexican 18U Junior National final from past May (won by Fernandez), the 18U selection event final in Mexico (again won by Fernandez) and a rematch of the 2016 16U World Juniors final (won by Portillo). On this day though, Portillo was the better player, dropping the first game 14 then cruising to the title (14),4,7.
The knock-out rounds featured all four top seeds advancing with relative ease into the semis; only #4 Gaby Martinez had more than 3 points scored against her in any quarter-final game, downing Canadian Alexis Iwaasa 9,5.
In the semis, Martinez took out the #1 seeded Mexican Ana Laura Flores with ease 5,3, while #3 Montse Mejia took a close match against #2 Angelica Barrios 14,8.
The Final thus was a rematch of 2017’s 18U world championship (won by Mejia), and of the 2016 16U World championship (won by Martinez), and represents a fitting end to both players’ junior careers. A fantastic match ensued, with Mejia taking the first game 14, dropping the second game 8, then controlling the tiebreaker to down the reigning World Champ and defend her 18U world championship. Final score: 14,(8),6. Martinez is denied a chance at becoming just the second player ever to hold both a Junior and World Adult singles title simultaneously.
The two top seeds advanced to the semis with little fan fare, with #1 Jose Carlos Ramos topping Texan Cayden Aikens in two, and #2 Bolivian Diego Garcia Quispe getting an injury fft win. #12 seed Mexican Guillermo Ortega “upset” the #4 seeded Bolivian Adrian Jaldin (though Ortega was the #3 seed entering the round robins) to make the semis. Lastly American #6 seed Sahil Thakur could not capitalize on a one-game lead and fell in a tiebreaker to #3 seed Ecuadorian Juan Sebastian Flores.
In the semis, Ramos topped fellow Mexican Ortega a rematch of the 16U National selection event in August (also won by Ramos), while pre-tourney favorite Garcia pasted Flores 3,2 to advance to the World final.
In the final, Garcia took a dominant win 4,10 over the #1 seed to take the title. Garcia did not drop a game in this tournament, and the 15-10 second game in the finals was the most any player scored on him in this tournament. He’s set to be a force to be reckoned with going forward.
The top four seeds advanced to the semis, taking out both Canadians (Juliette Parent and Cassie Prentice) as well as the lone remaining American (Annie Roberts).
In the semis, #1 seed Valeria Centellas advanced over the Mexican Guadalupe Griffin 5,10 while #3 Costa Rican Maricruz Ortiz topped the Mexican #1 Maria Fernanda Gutierrez, making for the only of these four finals to feature no Mexican juniors.
In the final, Centellas dropped the first game 9, then dominated the rest of the way, taking the final (9),4,3 to take the world 16U title for Bolivia.
Quick wrap of Doubles action:
– Boys 18U final featured four of the best singles players in the tourney, as Mexico and Bolivia went at it in a rematch of the scintillating RR match. In the final, the Mexican team of Fernandez and Rodrigo Rodriguez came out on top, getting revenge for their RR loss to the Bolivian team of Fernando Ruiz and Gerson Miranda for the title.
– Girls 18U final featured the top Mexican team versus Ecuador. The Mexican team of Ana Laura Flores and Abril Sacristan cruised to a world title.
– Boys 16U also featured Mexico vs Bolivia in the final (like the 16U). The Mexican team had to play just one match to get to the final (getting a bye and an inj-fft), but could not overcome the Bolivian team powered by the singles champ Garcia.
– Girls 16U was Bolivia vs Canada, who ousted the higher seeded Mexican team in the semis. On this day the Bolivians cruised to the title 8,7 over team Canada.
The Girls 16U final was notable for this fact; Bolivian Valeria Centellas won the Adult World doubles championships earlier this year with Yazmine Sabja Aliss and now holds the 16U junior worlds doubles championship … as far as we can tell, this is a first in the international game (having a player hold both the Adult and the junior world title in doubles).
A quick note: as we’ve clearly been seeing for a while, the balance of power both in Juniors and on the pro tours is clearly no longer with the originating countries of the sport. USA and Canadian players failed to advance to even the semis in either 16U or 18U. Team USA did experience some success; the Americans swept the 14U doubles titles, made the finals of both 14U singles events and American Nikil Prasad won the boys 12U in dominant fashion. But the older levels were completely dominated by Mexico and Bolivia.
The 2018 30th annual International Racquetball Federation – IRF World Juniors event has been underway since Saturday in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The round robin matches are now complete and the knockout brackets are set. We’re to the business end of this tourney, so lets preview the draws and make some predictions.
Draws are available at IRF’s website http://www.internationalracquetball.com/ by clicking on the event and then the direct link for draws. Follow the IRF on facebook to get notified of live feeds; Timothy Baghurst is broadcasting all day every day for a week straight and is doing a great job.
Note: we only really track 16U and 18U (for now), so here’s a preview of the 16 and 18U knockout draws for both Boys and Girls. Lots of familiar names in these draws, especially for fans of international racquetball and the growing international game.
In the Boys 18U, USA 18U champ and pre-tourney #1 seed Ricardo Ricky Diaz lost twice in the RRs, dropping his knock-out seed to #11 Similarly, USA #2 Dane Elkins saw his pre-tourney seed take a hit with two round-robin upsets himself. The two favorites to make the final (the two top Mexicans) Sebastian Fernandez and Eduardo Portillo Rendon both cruised through the round robins to maintain their top four seeds in the knockout phase.
Predictions for the knockouts: I can see some minor upsets in the early rounds, especially with the two now under-seeded Americans, but I still see the top four seeds (the two Bolivians and the two Mexicans) advancing to the semis.
In the semis, I see the two Mexican players advancing over their Bolivian rivals; Portillo over #1 seed Fernandoz Ruiz Michel and Fernandez over #3 Gerson Miranda (which would be a rematch of the 2017 16U world final). This would setup a re-match of the 2018 Mexican Junior 18U final, won by Fernandez in a tiebreaker. I see Fernandez taking this title and becoming a force to be reckoned with on the pro tours soon.
In the Girls 18U, the top four seeds entering round robin play maintained their seeds into the main draw, and gave us a likely preview of the final on day one. Looking ahead at the draw:
– Look for the two Americans Elyse Duffy and Graciana Wargo to advance to the quarters but run into heavy favorites.
– In the Quarters, the top 3 seeds Ana Laura Flores, Bolivian Angelica Barrios and #3 Montserrat Montse Mejia should advance easily to the semis. #4 seed and current reigning adult World Champion Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez fell to Mejia in the round robins and has to face #5 seeded Alexis Iwaasain the quarters. Martinez beat Iwaasa at this same stage in last year’s World Juniors and should win again.
– In the semis, Martinez should outlast the #1 seeded Flores to setup a rematch with Mejia of the 2017 World 18U girls final (2017 18U match report here: https://bit.ly/2RCPMVu).
– In the final, I predict Martinez returns the favor and captures the first ever double-double world title of Adult and 18U.
In the Boys 16U, there’s a couple of familiar names in the draw to those following the IRT this year. #2 seeded Diego Garcia Quispe played in both the Laurel event and in the US Open and acquitted himself quite well. I predict he runs to the title, defeating American Sahil Thakur in the semi and #1 seeded Mexican Jose Ramos in the final.
In the Girls 16U…the two Americans Annie Roberts and Erin Slutzky have to play each other in the first knock out round, but the winner plays into the #2 seed Mexican Maria Gutierrez. It may not matter; the #1 overall seed is current reigning World doubles champion Valeria Centellas, who played 18U last year in World Juniors (as a 15 yr old) and still made the semis. I predict Centellas over Gutierrez in the final.