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 #2 Jose Daniel Ugalde Albornoz in 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 Rajsich destroyed 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.
– #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.
– #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.