——- Here’s some random observations about the players on tour this year who finished ranked 31st or higher.
– Former top 10 player Jansen Allen took a significant step back from touring, playing in just 2 of the 10 events and finishing #32 on the season.
– #33 Kadim Carrasco played 7 of the 10 events and won 7 qualifying matches, but never enough in one event to make a main draw.
– #34 Jaime Martell Neri fought his way into the main draw of the US Open from the round of 256 and had a couple of wins over tour vets/former top 10 players along the way. He went 5-2 on the season in two events. He’s one of those guys who, if he played the tour full-time, would likely be in the upper teens in rankings.
– #35 Jose Diaz’s ranking plummeted from #11 last season as he took a hard look at the costs of touring and decided to stand down this season. He played 3 events this year.
– #36 Maurice Miller played three events and got four qualifier wins, but never was able to break through to the main draw.
– #38 Ernesto Ochoa played just one tier 1 this year (the US Open) but continues to get solid wins in RKT local events in Mexico, and is one of those “best kept secrets” of players who might really surprise if they played the tour full time.
#42 Anthony Martin quietly made it to 6 tier 1 events, running into a number of tough opponents in qualifying.
#43 Erick Cuevas played four events and got a couple of qualifier wins on the year.
#48 Lee Meinerz got a couple of qualifier wins during the tour’s mid-west spin in Jan/Feb and played tour regulars tough.
#51 Erik Garcia, the reigning intercollegiates champ, played a couple of events on the season with some success.
#77 Francisco Gomez made the main draw of the US Open by qualifying from the round of 256 as the #68 seed; it was his only appearance on tour all year but he took out two tough players in Benson and Natera along the way.
——– That’s it for the 2019-20 season. Thanks to the pandemic, nobody is really sure when the next event will be, but we’ll hope for Aug/sept.
Its time for one of my favorite tournaments of the year; Its the 2020 Campeonato Nacional Selectivo de Raquetbol. This year the event is being held in Tijuana, not one of the hotbeds of racquetball in the country like San Luis Potosi and Chihuahua, which will be an interesting home-town advantage for some Tijuana based players and may also explain the dip in attendance from last year’s event.
There’s 26 in the Men’s open draw and 15 in the Women’s open: compare this to last year’s Nationals event in Chihuahua; 34 in Men’s Open, 19 in Women’s. Nonetheless, the draws are stacked and nearly every round of 16 match on the Men’s side (and all the quarters on the women’s side) are “back end of the tournament” pro-quality match-ups.
First, some interesting players missing, and some similarly interesting players entered. First off, the elephant in the room; as most of the rball world knows, former Mexican #1 Alex Landa is not here; he entered (and won) US National Doubles a few weeks ago after having asked for his release from the Mexican team mid last year in the wake of the Pan Am Games Team selection controversy. So in his place, last year’s finalist Álvaro Beltrán ascends to the #1 seed in this draw.
We also see that Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez is entered here, and specifically did NOT enter US National doubles a few weeks back. Fernandez (like Landa) has dual citizenship and has represented both US and Mexico in years past. However in a 3-week span in 2019 he played in both US national doubles and in Mexico National doubles, prompting some eligibility and access questions. No such issues this year.
Other notables missing: Ernesto Ochoa misses the event; he was the #11 seed last year. No Jaime Martell Neri here this year; he lost in the 16s last year and had a great run at the 2019 US Open. The draw also misses frequently seen players such as Jordy Alonso, former junior phenom David Ortega, last year’s #7 seed Edson Martinez and two of the top juniors in the land Emir Martinez and Jose Ramos.
Here’s some matches to watch:
In the 32s, there’s 10 matches, many involving top touring IRT pros. I don’t see much in the way of upset potential, but here’s a couple of interesting play-ins:
– @Miguel Rodriguez Jr. will give #9 Andree Parrilla (current #5 ranked IRT pro) an early run for his money. – Mexican 18U top player Manuel Moncada faces off against Daniel Rodriguez. – Mexican 18U reigning champ Sebastian Fernandez will face last year’s 16U finalist Erick Trujillo – Two of the top players in 16U last year face off for a shot at #3 Natera in Sebastian Longoria and Guillermo Ortega. I like Ortega in his home town here even if there’s little between these two players.
The fireworks start in the 16s. – #1 Beltran likely gets his tourney started against #17 IRT regular Erick Cuevas. – #9 Parrilla likely takes on #8 Christian Longoria in a battle of SLP tour regulars. – #5 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez gets zero favors from the draw, likely having to face an underseeded #12 Javier Estrada. Estrada has been giving the IRT a go this season and has a couple of solid wins, but no breakthroughs past the round of 16 yet. But we know what he’s capable of given his win last summer at the Black Gold cup. Franco has proven to be a tough out at times, with a quarter final appearance in the most recent IRT stop. – #4 Javier Mar likely takes on the junior Moncada in the 16s here. – #3 Alan Natera Chavez will kick off his latest Nationals event likely against the young Ortega, who will be spirited in defeat. – #6 Former WRT #1 Alex Cardona gets a brutal opener against #11 Fernandez. I still think the part-time tournament player Cardona is the better player, but Fernandez has been improving and looked tough earlier this year. This could be a statement win for either player, and could go down to the wire in the breaker. – #7 Rodrigo Montoya Solís] takes on #10 Lalo Portillo in another fantastic round of 16 match. Montoya crushed Portillo in Portland in December, but it was Portillo making a final in Sioux Falls a couple months later. its odd to see Montoya seeded 7th here, considering the fact that he’s the defending Pan Am Games and World Singles champ. He’ll have his work cut out for him again to make the team here unless we see more chicanery from the federation (see Landa, Alex). – #2 Daniel De La Rosa will face a relative unknown (to me) either way to get his nationals tourney started; it should serve as a great warm-up for his brutal projected quarter final match. Read on.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Beltran over #8 Parrilla. I know Parrilla finished last year higher than the elder Beltran, but he’s going through a really tough stretch. Andree lost three straight IRT round of 16 matches while Beltran held serve and eventually jumped him in the rankings last month. Beltran is 6-4 over Andree in their career, and i like Alvaro to rise to the challenge in his home town to move on. – #4 Mar over #12 Estrada; in a battle of Javiers, i give Mar the upper hand. Estrada beat Mar h2h twice in two RKT events in Dec, but Mar gets up for these national events and I think handles Estrada. – #6 Cardona over #3 Natera; yes I know Natera has made the semis in this event two years running with a slew of upsets. I like Cardona here if he can get past the bulked up Fernandez. – #2 DLR over #7 Montoya: this is a rematch of the 2018 Nationals final AND the 2018 Selection event final. But its DLR who has had the upper hand in this rivalry lately, winning their last 3 meetings and 4 of 5. Some of their matches have been close … but often DLR really dominates Montoya, including a 1,4 stomping in the semis of the 2019 Lewis Drug. I think DLR builds off of some great recent results on tour and moves on here.
Great projected quarter finals here: it includes potentially four of the current IRT top ten players and another 2-3 players who are top 10 quality.
My semis: – Mar over Beltran; if Mar gets to this point, I like his chances of taking out Beltran. Mar faced Beltran in the semis of the 2016 Mexican Nationals event and topped him then, and I like him to move to the final here. – DLR over Cardona: Cardona’s run ends at the hands of DLR, who can handle his power and will outlast him from a fitness perspective on the court at the end-game. These two faced off in last year’s nationals in the quarters, and DLR advanced in a tie-breaker. I see a similar result here.
Final: DLR over Mar, a rematch of the 2016 National final also won by Daniel. DLR returns to the title seat of Mexican racquetball.
————– Women’s singles draw preview;
15 women in the draw. All the major LPRT touring pros are present, meaning the quarters on should be action packed.
Notables missing:no Ana Laura Flores here after she dominated the Mexican 18U event last year. Also missing are periodic LPRT players like Montserrat Pérez, Denisse Maldonado, Eleni Guzman Velgis, Diana Aguilar, and Sofia Rascon (who I don’t have any tourney results for in more than two years now).
Round of 16s to watch for: – #5 Nancy Enriquez takes on #12 Lucia Gonzalez in an upset-special. Gonzalez made the semis of the 2018 Mexican Nationals (she also made the semis of 2015 version just after graduating juniors), but missed 2019 so she gets a bottom seed. Nonetheless, she’s proven her ability to beat top LPRT players and Nancy should be on the watch here. I’m going to go with the upset; there’s always a 12 seed beating a 5-seed, right NCAA fans? – #4 Alexandra Herrera takes on the 14U phenom Angela Veronica Ortega. Ortega was the 14U finalist in 2019 in Mexico, then made the Junior worlds 14U final as well. She’ll be playing in her home town against the touring pro Herrera. – #10 Erin Rivera takes on the 2018 Mexican 16U champ Maria Gutierrez in the opener.
Projected quarters: – #1 and defending champ Montse Mejia likely takes on Jessica Parrilla in a pretty tough quarter for the #1 seed. Mejia has never beaten Parrilla … but they also havn’t played since 2017, which means they havn’t played post knee injury. Parrilla continues to struggle to get back to her former lofty ranking; the talent pool is deeper and she has had really rough luck running into top players early in these draws. I think Mejia moves on but it could be a nail-biter tie-breaker. – #12 Gonzalez takes on #4 Herrera; These two are familiar foes; they’re the same age and played on the junior circuit frequently, often in junior national finals. The last time they played was 2018 Mexican Nationals, a straight-forward 2-game win for Gonzalez. I’ll predict another upset. – #3 Samantha Salas Solis vs #6 Susy Acosta Racquetball; Salas has really struggled on tour this season, but I don’t see her losing to the veteran Acosta at this stage. These two veterans have played more than a few times so they’ll know each other’s game well. – #2 Paola Longoria who must feel odd not being seeded #1 in an event for the first time in perhaps a decade or so, likely faces up and coming LPRT player Rivera at this stage. Longoria is on a mission and isn’t stopping till she gets to the final.
My semis: – Mejia over Gonzalez to end the run – Longoria over her doubles partner Salas
Final: Longoria re-takes the title and downs Mejia in two quick games in similar fashion to their past few pro meetings.
————— Doubles preview:
In the Men’s doubles, 13 teams headlined by two of the best doubles teams out there in the top 2 seeds. DLR/Beltran were upset in the semis last year and slip to the #2 seed, while Montoya/Mar are the defending champs and #1 seed. Despite the seeding, DLR/Beltran have never lost as a team to the Montoya/Mar team, so if seeds hold expect DLR/Beltran to retain the title.
Standing in their way are a couple of intriguing teams: #6 Portillo/Parrilla are a frequent pairing on the IRT and could make for an edgy semi against the veterans. The #4 seeds of Estrada/Natera are a frequent pairing that could make noise … but they face a dark-horse in #12 Franco/Cardona, an intriguing pairng that includes the very talented doubles player in Cardona.
In the Women’s doubles draw there’s 8 teams entered but really only 2 teams to talk about: the #1 seeded Longoria/Salas team is one of the most decorated doubles teams of all time, but the #2 seeded team of Mejia/Herrera has been pushing into their territory, taking a couple of pro doubles titles already this season, including the US Open title. Expect #1 vs #2 and for the Longoria/Salas team to push for the win and the international representation spot.
—————- Streaming options: there’s usually good streaming of these events, by following FMR or RKT on facebook and by following the specific players’ pages.
One of the sports biggest amateur events has added the IRT men to its slate of competitors, making for a massive tournament in Austin this coming weekend. No less than 457 players are entered into this weekend’s Longhorn Open, with a healthy 39-man pro draw.
The IRT returns to the state of Texas for the first time since March of 2018 … and to Austin for the first time since Feb 2003. Its also the first time the tour’s #1 player Kane Waselenchuk has been able to play a “home” event since Oct 2015.
In the 39 man singles draw, we have the hoped-for strong Mexican player contingent, which is going to make for some *great* preliminary rounds and some fascinating match-ups. We are missing some key names though from the draw: – #3 Rocky Carson announced on FB last week that he’s decided to skip this event to give his surgically repaired knee a bit more time to heal. He had a small knee op done in mid-Dec and isn’t quite ready to go yet. – #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solís also missing.
These two absences jump #10 Lalo Portillo into the top 8 … and then thanks to the flip seeding this event he secures a lofty #6 seed. FYI, in case you’re wondering why the 5-8 seeds look odd, the flip seeding has resulted in slightly altered seedings versus rankings this event: – #5 seeded Samuel Murray is ranked 8th at current – #6 seeded Portillo is ranked 10th as noted above – #7 seeded Daniel De La Rosa is ranked 6th at current – #8 seeded Conrrado Moscoso is ranked 7th at current.
The more apparent and obvious implication of the flip is the possible Moscoso-Waselenchuk match-up in the quarters.
Other top 30 players missing in this event are #18 Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez, #27 Sam Bredenbeck and #29 Jansen Allen, the longtime touring pro who misses an event that’s drive-able from his home outside of Dallas.
—————————— Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:
In the round of 128: – #32 vs #33: Christian Longoria vs Andres Gomez; tough first rounder for the Colombian; Longoria is sneaky good and could be pressing for a main draw spot. – #28 Justus Benson vs #37 Diana-Shai Manzuri; Manzuri continues to represent Argentina internationally well into his 40s, and will be a tough out for the regular tour player Benson. A home-state match-up for two Texas residents. – #26 Kadim Carrasco vs #39 Edson Martinez: Martinez is seeded 39th of 39 players here, but he’s not the 39th best player in this draw. He’s made the quarters of this event twice in the last three years (albeit, when it was an WRT event). This could be a close match.
In the round of 64: – #33 Longoria vs #17 Robert Collins; Collins just misses out on the bye into the 32s, and may run into a player who can top him in Longoria. – #20 Javier Mar vs #29 Alejandro Cardona; what a brutal match for these two. Mar is one of the top 6-7 players in the world, and Cardona isn’t far behind him. This is a quarter-final quality match happening way too early. I like Mar to move on and make a deep run here, as he frequently does during his rare IRT appearances. – #19 Adam Manilla versus #30 Ernesto Ochoa; a great “show me” match-up between an IRT touring regular and an up and coming Mexican player with a ton of impressive wins on his resume. I like Ochoa for the upset. – #23 Javier Estrada versus the Carrasco/Martinez winner; Estrada had a number of quality wins in the latter part of 2019, including two wins over Javier Mar. But he’s proven to be inconsistent. His last IRT appearance featured a win over Horn to make the main draw. Can he repeat here?
——————————- Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible matchups, though the depth of this draw could make for some upsets and make these predictions moot: – #9 Jake Bredenbeck vs #24 Alan Natera Chavez; Natera is another wild-card; he’s made the semis of Mexican Nationals two years running and has a ton of high-level wins, but he also can take curious losses. Which Natera will show up here? He can handle Jake’s power for sure; will that be enough? Jake looks to build on a solid pro season so far, which features no main draws missed and a semis appearance in Portland. – #12 David ” Bobby” Horn vs #21 Jose Diaz; fly all the way to Texas to play the guy who lives down the road. Horn/Diaz know each other’s game pretty well, both being NorCal players frequenting the “209.” Who will have the upper hand on the day? I’m going to flip a coin and go with Diaz. – #13 Carlos Keller Vargas vs #20 Mar: tough one for Keller; these two met at the US Open and Mar advanced. I think Keller’s streak of making the round of 16 ends here. – #30 Ochoa vs #14 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; Ochao downed Franco the last time they played last year in an RKT event; i think he wins again. – #10 Sebastian Franco vs #23 Estrada: This could be a great match-up; I think these two are pretty close talent wise and if both are on their games, expect a dog-fight. I’ll go with Estrada here. – #15 Thomas Carter vs #18 Eduardo Garay: Garay if he’s on his game can overpower Carter here, despite the Ohioan’s good play as of late.
——————————- round of 16: – #1 Kane over Acuna – #8 Moscoso over #9 Jake – #5 Samuel Murray over #21 Diaz – #20 Mar over #4 Alvaro Beltran; Beltran gets one of the few qualifiers who I think can beat him. Mar pipped Beltran in the 2016 Mexican nationals to take a natioanl team spot from him, and since then Mar has continued to exude class. – #3 Andree Parrilla over #30 Ochao; Ochoa has beaten Parrilla in the past (San Luis Potosi in 2018), but Parrilla needs to take advantage of his seeding to try to make a run to the final. i think he’ll move on here. – #11 Mario Mercado over #6 Portillo: Portillo has run into talented players and one-and-dones the last two tournaments at this stage, and he runs into another one in Mercado. Mercado has the patience to beat the youngster Portillo and will move on with a tactical approach. – #23 Estrada over #7 Daniel De La Rosa: I don’t think DLR’s heart is in it right now; i think he’s vulnerable to upset and a fired up guy like Estrada, who beat DLR the last time they played, could spell a one-and-done for the pickleball pro. – #2 Alex Landa vs #18 Garay: Garay’s power won’t phase Landa, who’s putting together his best season and has shown little in the way of cracks in the armor.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – #1 Kane vs #8 Moscoso: the US Open final rematch, a scintillating match on the sport’s biggest stage that showed the world what we could be in store for, if only the Bolivian played the tour full time. They met a few weeks later in teh semis of Arizona and Kane issued a schooling 10,2. What may happy here? Has Conrrado fixed his foot fault issues? Can he press the King? – #20 Mar over #5 Murray; they’ve played a few times, and I don’t think Mar has ever lost to the Canadian #1. – #3 Parrilla over #11 Mercado – #2 Landa over #23 Estrada; Estrada’s magic runs out, though notably i don’t have a meeting between these two in the database. Would love to see these two face off.
Semis and Finals: – Kane over Mar – Landa over Parrilla
Finals; Kane over Landa.
——————————- No pro doubles this event, but the Men’s Open is a full 32 strong, headlined by a slew of touring players. Since Portillo is ranked outside the top 10, he’s “allowed” to enter the Men’s Open draw despite being the 6th pro seed, and he’s the favorite in that draw. But there’s a slew of top local and Mexican players also in that draw, making it as compelling to the neutrals as the pro draw.
I also wanted to point out that there’s 52 players in the Men’s A draw. 52. There weren’t 52 combined men in Open, Elite AND A at the 2019 US Nationals event. Its no wonder the USAR is moving its Nationals event to this part of the country.
——————————— Look for Streaming in the regular places; can’t wait for this event!
Welcome to the 2nd half of the 2019-20 IRT season, racquetball fans! We’ve already seen six Tier 1/Grand Slams in the books this season, and we have at least another six Tier 1/Grand Slams on the slate for the spring, perhaps more to be announced. Here’s five predictions on what will happen the rest of the way out this season:
(Reminder: these are in the opinion of Todd Boss, not the IRT. This is for entertainment purposes only).
Prediction #1. Kane will win his 14th title … but will lose a match between now and the end of the season.
The first prediction probably isn’t that ground breaking, considering that Kane Waselenchuk has yet to be beaten on the court this year. But he’s going to have to work a bit to get the title; he has about the same amount of points to defend in the spring as Rocky Carson, but he’s slightly behind Alejandro Landa in YTD points right now.
But I’m predicting that Kane drops another match on the court at some point this year. Its hard to stay 100% healthy deep into your 30s, and I’m guessing that somewhere along the line Kane runs into a nagging injury that costs him a match. The schedule in Jan-Feb is tough: three straight weeks of Tier 1s, including the Tier 1 “plus” Lewis Drug Pro-Am in Sioux Falls that generally gets the best and biggest draws outside of the US Open. I wonder if we’ll see “load management” out of some of the IRT’s veterans to get through this section of the season. I hope not; the Sioux Falls event is great, and the Lou Bradley Memorial deserves a great showing since its a Tier 1 for the first time. But if it does, more opportunities for upsets and surprise runs from younger players.
Prediction #2: Landa will pip Carson for #2 at year end…. but Carson holds off Parrilla for #3
Carson dropped out of the top 2 on tour at the end of the Portland ToC event for the first time (save a brief period in 2016) in nearly a decade. After making the semis or better in all nine tournaments last season, he’s been upset in the quarters or earlier in 3 of the first 6 events this season. This has enabled Landa to take over #2 this season at the half way point. But the news doesn’t get much better for Rocky the rest of the way: Rocky has 400 more points to defend from the 2nd half of last season as compared to Landa, and Landa already has 300 more earned points this season.
A better question might be this: can Andree Parrilla overtake Rocky for #3 by season’s end? Rocky has a sizeable current lead in the rolling-12 month points standings over Parrilla for #3 … but like Landa has significantly more points to defend in the season’s second half. Rocky earned roughly 1,770 points from Jan 2019-season’s end, as compared to ~1,365 for Landa and ~1305 for Parrilla. Parrilla’s big problem now is his #4 ranking; he’s set every tourney for a tough 4/5 quarter, then feeds into Kane in the semis … making it really hard for him to make a final (or win the event) unless there’s a significant upset or Kane skips an event. Parrilla may need a tourney win to eclipse Carson for #3 this season.
Nonetheless, some interesting battles to watch for at the top.
Prediction #3: Eduardo Portillo will finish top 10 … but not top 8.
One of the big risers this season has been the young Mexican Portillo, who won Junior Worlds 18U in 2018 and is making a full time push on the pro tour. Playing half time last season, he finished 17th on tour, making the main draws in all five events he entered. He’s continued that streak of making main draw in ever event he enters this season, throwing in a couple of solid wins over top players to make the Semis in Arizona.
Portillo currently sits 10th in the rankings, 9th in season-to-date. But he’s gone one-and-done in the last two pro events at the hands of his direct competitors for the last top 10 spots (Franco and Montoya respectively) and needs to gain success in these matches to take the next step.
Prediction #4: Moscoso will make the Bolivian Open final again
The Bolivian Grand slam is set to occur in mid May 2020, a month and a half later than it was held in 2019. Right now Moscoso sits 7th in the rolling 12-month rankings and 7th in season-to-date rankings, but he’ll lose a significant chunk of his ranking points in early April when the points from his 2019 Bolivian GS event expire. This will send his ranking down significantly, probably into the 13-14 range, but it shouldn’t stop him from making a similar run to the final.
Who will he play there? Will we see Kane make the trip this year? I certainly hope so: I think the Bolivian crowd would love to see a rematch of the US Open Final between Kane and Conrrado. But, coming from a 13-14 range seed will make it that much tougher for Moscoso to advance through.
Prediction #5: The end of the season will see a number of “Retirements” of long-time touring players
I can’t read minds, and I won’t name names, but fans of the sport can already see a number of long-time touring players taking significant steps back already this season. In some cases sponsorship changes have forced players to make hard choices about the costs of touring. In other cases the realities of the current state of the game have exposed their true talent levels and they find themselves dropped well out of even a top 16 seed.
Bonus prediction: 2nd half should see more Mexican players playing Tier 1s.
The locations of the 6 tourneys on the schedule for the spring of 2020 are: Austin, Sioux Falls, Sun Prairie WI, Chicago, Bolivia and Denver. We also had a couple of additional stops on the schedule (New York and Chihuahua). The nice part about these stops? A lot of them are in easy airline hubs or close to/in Mexico, making it a lot easier from a cost perspective for the up and coming Mexican contingent of players to attend.
So here’s hoping that guys like Mar, Estrada, Natera, Martell, Cardona, Garay, Ochoa, Alonso, Longoria and the like play more this spring.
Happy New Year and here’s to an exciting 2nd half of racquetball!
There was a small RKT sponsored event in Juarez over the weekend with an 18-man pro singles draw. No r2sports link, and it was a bit tough to get the results, but here’s a quick wrap.
If you follow Xtreme deportivo on Facebook you can find some video for the matches from the quarters onward.
In the qtrs: – #1 Javier Estrada advanced to the semis. , #4 Javier Mar advanced to the semis. – #3 Ernesto Ochoa defeated #6 Rogelio Ramírez Castillo, – #7 Rodolfo Esparza upset #2 Alan Natera Chavez 11-9 in the breaker for a surprise win.
In the semis: – #1 Estrada d #4 Mar, a second successive win over Mar for Estrada in a local Mexican event and a good statement on his ability to consistently play with top players like Mar.
– #3 Ochoa d #7 Esparza to move on to the final.
Final: #1 Estrada d #3 Ochoa.
there’s one more RKT event on the schedule for December; it’s two weeks from now again in Juarez and is a lower-tier IRT sanctioned event, so it should have a solid showing.
13 in the Men’s pro draw. Lets review the notable matches. The draw went chalk to the quarters.
In the quarters: – #1 Javier Estrada got a straight forward win over #8 Juan Loreto in two. – #5 Alex Cardona was taken to the distance by #4 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez before winning 11-10. Despite being basically a part-time pro player Cardona continues to get wins. – #3 Alan Natera Chavez advanced in two over #6 Erick Cuevas. – #7 Jaime Martell Neri took out #2 Ernesto Ochoa in two games. This was an upset by seeds, but not by our personal rankings, which have Martell playing exceptionally well lately and really rising up the world ranks.
In the semis: – #5 Cardona avenged a recent loss to Estrada in Mexico City, advancing in a tie-breaker after two close games. – #3 Natera took out #7 Martell in an 11-9 breaker
In the final – #3 Natera saved match point against in game two, then got it to the tie-breaker where he ran away with the win over #5 Cardona (13),14,4.
I have Natera slowly creeping up my personal world rankings; i’ve now got him just outside the top 10. He’s one of a slew of top Mexican players who I wish could compete on the IRT more frequently to see how they’d rate. Cardona is well known to racquetball enthusiasts, as a 2-time WRT winner and a constant for years in the back ends of Mexican regional events.
—————- In doubles, Franco/Cardona met up with Estrada/Natera in the final. Both teams featured excellent doubles players, making for an exciting final. Franco & Cardona came out on top 12,12, preventing a double win on the weekend for Natera.
Here’s a quick wrap up of the excellent RKT event held this past weekend in Mexico City, Mexico, which featured a solid set of top seeds of Mexican Nationals, a full 32-man Open draw, and a solid 15-team doubles draw.
Even experienced fans may have had a tough time recognizing the bulk of the draw in this event; past the top 8 seeds there are not too many players who have appeared in pro events in the past, but the top seeds in this event made for a great saturday/sunday of action. Lets recap the action:
The quarters featured top-level racquetball by number of Mexico’s finest: – #1 @Gerardo Gerardo Franco Gonzalez took out youngster Erick Cuevas 12,3. Franco had benefited from the rare double forfeit to basically get a bye into the quarters here. – #5 Ochoa got a very solid win over #4 Alan Natera Chavez 11,4. Ochoa lost to Natera in a local Juarez event earlier this year, but turned the tides to take this solid win. – #3 Javier Estrada had the most impressive win in the round, avenging a loss in the Juarez event earlier this year and topping the dangerous former WRT champ Alex Cardona 11,13 to move on. Since his Black Gold win, Estrada has struggled to maintain consistency in his results and could use a solid run of wins. – #2 Javier Mar, the tourney favorite despite being seeded behind Franco, eased past NIeto 5,10 to setup an excellent semi against Estrada.
————- In the semis, a couple of upsets and surprising results.
– #5 Ochoa continued his run of upsets, taking out #1 Franco in two solid games. Great tourney for Ochoa.
– #3 Estrada outlasted #2 Mar in an 11-8 tie-breaker. This is the best win Estrada has had since he took the Black Gold Cup.
————– In the final, Estrada held off Ochoa’s attempts in game 2 to push the match to a tiebreaker and took the title 9,14.
————— In the solid Doubles draw:
– Mar/Ochoa, as the 1 seeds, advanced to the final with a walkover win over Ruben Martinez/Romo in the semis. – Franco/Cardona upset the #2 seeded team of Estrada/Natera 11-8 to make the final.
In the final, Cardona continued to show why he’s one of the best doubles players out there by helping his team to victory, winning 10,13.
——————- Great event, I hope they continue it and coordinate with the IRT next year so there’s not a scheduling conflict.
The IRT has released the draws for this coming weekend’s Arizona IRT Pro-Am, so its time to do a preview!
(to see the released draws before they’re available on R2, follow the IRT on facebook where they’ve been posted as of Noon Tuesday 10/22/19).
The IRT returns to Arizona for the first time in many years; the tournament is being held on the campus of Arizona State University, which has become a popular spot to host major tournaments. ASU’s campus in Tempe has held USAR National doubles every year since 2005, has hosted a slew of USAR intercollegiates championships in that same time (including 2019’s tournament), and hosted the USAR National singles event in 2017.
But, its been a while since we’ve seen either pro tour head to Arizona at all. The last time a tier 1 Men’s event was in Arizona was in May 2003, when the school hosted the season ending Pro Nationals event. For some historical context of that event and season: Huczek beat Alvaro Beltran in the final, it was the last event in Mannino sole year end title, and the top 4 seeded players in the event were all were upset in the quarters (Mannino, Swain, Waselenchuk and Ellis). Waselenchuk lost to Carson … one of the three career wins Rocky has on his long-time nemesis. Before 2003, you have to go all the way back to the mid 1990s, when a regular tour stop was held in Phoenix for several seasons, and before that the mid 1980s when the Arizona Pro-Am featured winners like Hogan and Brett Harnett.
The Ladies tour hasn’t been to Arizona in more than decade itself; in Feb 2008 the WPRO Fireball Pro-Am featured a final between the 1 and 2 seeds, as Rhonda downed Cheryl on her way to the 2008 year end title (Longoria was just starting on tour and finished 6th that season).
So, great to have pro racquetball back in Arizona. Thanks to tournament director Jim Winterton for his efforts and sponsorship.
The Men’s draw has 37 players, a good mix of southwest-locals and traveling regulars. Who is missing this weekend? The top 8 players are here, including Bolivian Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball, who moved up to being ranked 8th on the back of his US Open final appearance. However both the 9th and 10th ranked players (Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Sebastian Franco) are missing. Other top 20 players missing include #13 Mario Mercado, #15 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez, and #16 Jose Diaz. Diaz missed the first two events on the year, both east-coast based, perhaps for travel related issues. But now he misses a west-coast event; are we seeing him stepping back officially from touring? Perhaps so. Along the same note, former top 8 player Mercado has now slipped to 13, and former top 8 player Jansen Allen is now outside the top 20.
Also missing from this draw are a slew of players from Mexican hot-beds like Juarez and Chihuahua; both of which are easy drives to Tempe. I would have initially expected, like we used to see with WRT events in the south western part of the country, a junket of carpooling of Mexican players heading to the event. But, unfortunately, there are a couple competing events this weekend (an IRT Tier 4 in El Paso,Texas State Singles & Doubles, but most notably, a big RKT tournament in Mexico City). The Mexican event’s top 8 seeds (GFranco, Mar, Estrada, Natera, Ochoa, Cardona, Nieto, and Cuevas) are all IRT regulars these days and players who would be pushing for the 16s or the quarters if they were here. Furthermore the El Paso event pulled two other top Mexican players (Eduardo Garay Rodriguez and Jaime Martell Neri) away from the Arizona event. We’ll do quick previews/wrap-ups of those events later this week, but if you’re wondering where these guys are … well there’s your answer.
The Arizona draw does the “flip” seeding, so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled. 5th ranked Parrilla is seeded 6th, 6th ranked DLR is seeded 7th, 7th ranked Murray is seeded 8th, and 8th ranked Moscoso is seeded 5th. Probably goes without saying that this flip most benefits Moscoso, who achieves a top 8 rank and seed for the first time in his career and avoids Kane until a possible semi-final meeting, and most penalizes Murray, who is forced into Kane’s quarter.
One last thing worth noting: the IRT has listened to fan requests with the streaming schedule and will be streaming significantly more matches this weekend. Check out the match times on the bracket; the streaming schedule allows for double the matches to be shown at each round throughout the weekend. The plan is to stream no less than 8 qualifying matches on Friday, then have staggered start times Saturday to show more of the 16s before streaming all the qtrs/semis/finals as normal.
Broadcast schedule; 8 friday, 5 sat, 1 sun. That’s a lot of matches for us fans, and a lot for Mr. Dean DeAngelo Baer to call … but is awesome for those of us remote.
Lets preview the draw highlighting matches that I think are compelling.
In the 128s: five play-in matches to get to the 32s, mostly with Texas/Arizona locals battling it out, but also including traveling players like Jim Douglas (Oregon) and Thomas Gerhardt (from VA).
In the 64s: – Ruben Baez takes on Chilean veteran Francisco Troncoso. So, in case you don’t know who Baez is … he played in the Pueblo lower tier IRT event in March, entered as the 27th seed, beat Jake Bredenbeck in the quarters and lost to Horn in the semis 13,14. He’s a very solid player who can make waves in this event if he plays the way he did in Pueblo and gets the right match-ups.
– Set Cubillos Ruiz continues his challenging travel schedule by returning to the states just a few days after competing in (and winning) the Barranquilla Open in his home country of Colombia, right on the back of competing in the US Open, to take on a play-in winner between Douglas and Arizona’s Preston Tribble.
– Gerhardt vs Justus Benson: Gerhardt is a tough player from Virginia who frequently competes in both indoor and outdoor venues: if he gets past Arizona’s Coy Jay Rogers, he can make life difficult for Benson. Justus is coming off of two straight one-and-dones in IRT events, including a loss in Laurel to Pennsylvania amateur Geoff Heskett, and needs to get his season going.
– Nick Riffel vs Anthony Martin: Martin is a Utah local with just a couple of results on his resume; he played the Atlanta IRT event earlier this season and took Gerardo Franco to a breaker. This might be a closer match than IRT touring regular Riffel wants at this juncture.
– The younger Bredenbeck brother Sam Bredenbeck gets a solid opener against infrequent IRT participant Daniel Neri; Bredenbeck has some really solid results lately, with wins over IRT regulars like Carter and Riffel at the 2019 Lewis Drug.
In the 32s: – #16 Adam Manilla takes on #17 Andrés Acuña; great match between two solid up and coming young players. I like Acuna here; he’s on a roll and has been improving at every stop.
– #9 David ” Bobby” Horn takes on Baez in a re-match of the CSU-Pueblo shootout semis that was so close. Can Baez turn the table here? Horn missed the first two events of the season with injury, played solidly at the US Open and then took a dominant win on his home court two weekends ago to win the Bay Club Open over a solid draw that included a win over Charlie Pratt in the final. I expect a close match here.
– #14 Thomas Carter takes on the winner beween Gerhardt and Benson; Carter’s been playing solid lately, with a win over Diaz at the US Open and taking two very good players to breakers in losses (Keller and Carson). I like Carter to move on here.
– #10 Lalo Portillo takes on the younger Bredenbeck; Eduardo is now in the top 10 and he’s earned it. He’ll move on here despite the challenge from the improving Bredenbeck.
——————————- Projecting the 16s: Assuming qualifying goes as I expect, here’s some interesting 16s to look for
– #8 Samuel Murray vs #9 Horn: 8/9 is always tough, and these players have split their 3 meetings somewhat evenly. Horn won their most recent meeting, in Florida in April, in two close games. I’ll go with Horn backing up his excellent win in Pleasanton with the upset here to move into the qtrs.
– #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz vs #12 Sebastian Fernandez: another brutal draw for the teenager Fernandez, who had to play former top 5 touring pro Marco Rojas in the first round of the Bay Open and lost in a breaker, and now funnels into the red-hot Moscoso, fresh off of a solid run to the US Open finals. This is the hard part about being a player ranked in the teens: you have to start getting wins over top 8 players to move into the top 8, and every draw is an uphill battle.
– #6 Andree Parrilla vs #11 Jake Bredenbeck: a great throw-back match-up between two long time WRT players. They’ve met 6 times in top level events: Jake won their first 3 meetings (all in the 2015 time-frame), while Andree has won the last three meetings (all in the 2019 calendar year). The matches are always close, so I’ll predict another Parrilla tie-breaker win. After a solid opening to the season, Parrilla has lost two winnable matches in Laurel and the US Open to see his ranking (which had peaked at #3) slip a bit, and he needs to be making semis regularly to take the next step.
– #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Portillo: These two met in Atlanta in Sept, and DLR advanced in a tie-breaker. Portillo has been rapidly moving up the rankings, but has also now exited at this juncture (the round of 16) in seven straight IRT events. He needs a high-profile win over a top 8 player. But, is DLR the right guy? This event is essentially a home event for him, hailing from Mexico but now living in Arizona the next town over from Tempe. He’ll have family cheering him on and could be primed for a solid run.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Carlos Keller Vargas: wow, two straight brutal round of 16 draws for Carson, who gets no benefit from the #2 seed in having to play a solid international player in Keller who has more than a few titles to his credit. They’ve played twice: at the 2011 Pan Am games and at the 2019 Bolivian grand slam, both two-game quarter final wins for Carson. So advantage Rocky … but Keller ran through this list of names to take the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships title: Coby Iwaasa, Horn, Beltran and Pratt. So if he gets hot, he can get wins.
Possible Qtrs: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #9 Horn; they’ve only played a handful of times, All Kane wins. Their last meeting was in Florida in April 2018, Kane’s first event back after his knee injury, and Horn played a solid game against the hobbling and distracted Kane before losing in two. Kane’s got his focus back now, and will try not to look past this match at his possible semis opponent.
– #5 Moscoso over #4 Beltran: they’ve met twice; once a dominant Beltran win at the 2015 Pan Am games, the other a dominant Moscoso win at the Bolivian grand slam earlier this year. I think we’re more likely to see the latter result than the former here; Moscoso has the same shooter mentality as Beltran, but can drive serve with the best of them, keeping Beltran from setting his feet and likely leading to a lot of 3-point rallies on his serve.
– #3 Alex Landa vs #6 Parrilla: Landa has had a nice start to his season; two semis and a quarter, to maintain his #3 ranking for now. But Parrilla matches up well here: he’s beaten Landa 5 of the last 6 times they’ve faced each other going back several years. Parrilla’s playing style matches up well with Landa, he can hang with his shots and can retrieve well. I look for Landa to hold serve, but barely. And an upset here would not surprise me.
– #2 Carson vs #7 DLR: Carson waxed a possible disinterested DLR in their last meeting (the season finale in Sarasota in April), but DLR had three straight defeats of Rocky before that and could be looking at this as a way to get his season back on track. Meanwhile, Rocky needs to rebound from his round of 16 loss on the sport’s biggest stage; he’s still safely in the #2 spot, but needs to continue to make finals to stay there. I like DLR here in the upset.
—————— Projected Semis:
– #1 Waselenchuk vs #5 Moscoso; well, this is what the people want. I think it may happen. A rematch of the US Open final, which featured a tight back and forth game 1 before Kane ran away with it in game 2. What did Moscoso take from that match? Hopefully he took away the need to work on his serving motion so that foot faults don’t dominate the conversation surrounding his game. A more consistent serving game with first/drive serves pacing his game will do wonders to help him drive the conversation against Kane. I still think Kane has the upper hand, but cannot wait to see this possible match-up if it happens.
– #7 DLR vs #3 Landa: two old adversaries meet again; i’ve got them meeting 13 times across pro and Mexican Nationals events over the years, with Landa holding a 6-5 advantage overall. Landa’s won their last 5 meetings … but those include two 11-10 wins (including the quarters in Atlanta in September). Point is this: these guys play close every time, they know each other’s game, and there’s just a knife’s edge between them. I will go with DLR getting the slightest of home court advantages and moving to the final.
My predicted final: Kane over DLR. DLR’s sole win over Kane was in the ill-fated 2018 California Open, when Kane hurt his knee the round prior to DLR’s meeting and withdrew with the injury that ended up costing him 4 months and the 2017-18 title. They havn’t played since the final of the Lewis Drug in January, a 4,2 shellacking by Kane to take the high profile Sioux falls event. I like DLR showing some spunk in this match, perhaps with flashes of brilliance at times, but Kane winning in the end.
——————– As always, follow IRT for streaming options throughout the weekend, say high to Dean Baer online, and support pro racquetball 🙂
In the qtrs: – #1 Alex Landa advanced over a local player.
– #5 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez upset Alan Natera Chavez to move on; Natera was upset early in the US Open and I probably would have favored him in this match too. Garay has been trying to get it going this season but has been unlucky in match-ups on the pro tour thus far (his losses this season have been to Carson, DLR and Keller; a tough slate).
– #3 Javier Mar took out Javier Estrada, who was not able to replicate his success from the Black Gold event in his home town.
– #7 Alex Cardona upset #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solís to move on. This was much better than a 2/7 match-up; the two-time WRT winner holds a 4-2 career h2h lead over Montoya on that tour … and beat him again here.
In the semis: – #1 Landa topped hard-hitting #5 Garay – #3 Mar beat #7 Cardona (11),4,4; I wonder if this score-line indicates a lack of match fitness for Cardona; after beating the very top-quality Mar in game one, he gets wiped out in games 2 and 3.
In the final: #1 Landa eked by #3 Mar 14,10, a scoreline I would have expected knowing the quality of these two players. Mar has more than demonstrated that he’s a top 8 player in the world through his periodic IRT results.
———————- Doubles wrap-up:
The doubles draw was solid, and quality teams such as Ernesto Ochoa/Estrada, the Nateras and the Garays couldn’t even make the final.
The final ended up being #1 vs #2: Landa/Cardona d Montoya/Mar 11-7 to make Landa a double winner on the weekend. Its saying something when the defending Pan American champion team of Montoya/Mar is beaten by their countrymen on the depth of the doubles circuit right now.
#1 DLR/Beltran defeated the upstart Bolivian team of Keller/Carrasco team (which had defeated the heavily favored #5 team of Jose Diaz and Jake Bredenbeck in qualifiers) in two.
#2 Kane/Croft played a complete match to down the very solid #3 Landa/Murray team 7,7.
In the final, we got the two teams we wanted. This is a rematch of the last two US Open finals and the 2018 World Doubles final. The 2017 US Open doubles final was considered to be among the finest matches ever played on the pro circuit, a come from behind win for Kane/Croft. DLR/Beltran turned the tide in the 2018 US Open and dominated for a win. The World Doubles final was controversy filled, with the Mexican team walking off the court at match point against. What would we get here?
As it turned out, we got a solid match and a return to the winner’s circle for the now 3-time US Open champion team of Kane and Ben, who won the title 11,8. They’re now 28-5 as a team on the pro circuit with 7 titles since 2014.