The IRT Tier 1 slate may be done for the 2018-19 season, but a bunch of lower tier events are on the schedule still, including the 2019 Costa Rica Open, being held at the Costa Rica Country Club in San Jose, CRC.
There’s a solid Pro draw of 22 players, including 5 of the current top 10 players on the IRT, another 6-7 regular IRT touring pros, plus a number of internationals we normally only see at IRF events. We also get the #1 and #2 players from Cuba playing this event, which is a treat.
Lets preview the draw and predict the singles competition:
In the Round of 32/Play-ins, some interesting match-ups; – In the 16/17 two Guatemalan Internationals face off: Hanzel Martinez Perez versus Edwin Galicia – #12 Alan Natera Chavez faces off against Cuban #1 Maykel Mollet; Natera should advance, but Mollet is a tough player. – #11 Ernesto Ochoa takes on Cubvan #2 Enier Chacon, another relative unknown but who plays well in International events.
Projecting the 16s; here’s some fun round of 16 matches: – #8 Felipe Camacho vs #9 Andres Andres Acuña; doubles partners in this event, they met in the IRT season opener, an Acuna 2-game win. Since then Acuna has had a magical run to the semis of PARC. They’re both on home ground; both players hailing from Costa Rica, so this could be a spirited match. – #5 Rodrigo Montoya Solís vs #12 Natera: they just met in Syosset; a 2,2 Montoya crushing … which was kind of the reverse of 2019 Mexican Nationals, when Natera beat him in the quarters. I’m guessing Montoya advances here. – #6 Mario Mercado vs #11 Ochoa: Here’s an interesting point: Ochoa has never entered a Tier 1 IRT event. But he’s got a ton of solid wins in Mexican Nationals (including a win over Beltran in 2018) and on WRT events close enough to his home in Chihuahua. Now he’s flown to Costa Rica and ends up facing an IRT top 10 player. Should be an interesting match. I suspect Ochoa can win this. – #7 David Horn vs #10 Javier Mar; tough opener for Horn, having to face Mar, fresh off a Qtr final appearance in Syosset. Mar beat Garay, Montoya and Sebastian Franco in NY before falling to Kane; Horn has his work cut out for him here.
Possible Quarters: – #1 Rocky Carson vs #9 Acuna; they last played at the 2017 US Open; Rocky is 3-0 lifetime over Acuna on tour. Somehow these frequent international players have avoided each other in IRF events. Carson cruises here despite Acuna having the home crowd rooting for him. – #4 Alvaro Beltran vs #5 Montoya: they’ve already met twice on tour this year; both two game easy wins for Montoya. I think Montoya’s game is a bad match-up for Beltran right now, who can shoot and put balls away but not under pressure like he gets when Montoya’s power serve is on. – #3 Andree Parrilla vs #6 Mercado; Assuming Mercado gets past Ochoa, he runs into Parrilla, who drastically improved his ranking this year to finish 4th on tour. But, the last time they played it was Mercado dumping Parrilla out of the Bolivian Grand Slam on home soil. Look for Parrilla to junkball his way to a win here. – #2 Alex Landavs #10 Mar: wow, great match. Mar beat Landa in the 2017 FMR finals … and then Landa returned the favor beating Mar in the quarters of the 2019 event en route to the title. These are two very good players, very close in talent, and if Mar is on Landa will not be able to beat him. Any given sunday; this is a coinflip.
Projecting the Semis: – Carson over Montoya; a rematch of Chicago semis, where Rocky won 11,2 and gave Montoya a lesson in the second game on match control. – Landa over Parrilla: another tough match for Landa; if he gets to the finals here he’ll have more than earned it. If Landa gets by Mar though, I think he’s in jeopardy of losing here. Parrilla’s beaten him twice on tour this year and could do it again.
Final prediction: Carson over Parrilla. The last two times they’ve played, it was a Parrilla 11-8 win in Chicago 2018 … and a Laurel Carson 11-10 win where Parrilla blew a simple cross court pass on match-point to lose. I expect another close one but Rocky’s hard to beat.
———————- They’re also playing doubles in San Jose. The Mar/Montoya team is only seeded 4th somehow; they’ll likely face Beltran/Landa in one semi, while the Costa Rican national doubles team of Camacho/Acuna likely faces two IRT regulars paired together in Mercado/Horn.
I like Mar/Montoya over Camacho/Acuna in a loud final.
The altitude really played into these matches; normal kill shots were way up, rallies extended, lots of ceiling balls off the back wall. And, the size of the venue and the size of the crowds made it really seem like a major international event, especially when home town players were playing.
Here’s the notable Singles results by round to me:
In the 64s: – Carlos Keller Vargas pounded 18U Junior team member Gerson Miranda 9,0, showing the gulf between Bolivia’s adult and junior champs. – Similarly pre-tournament favorite Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo blasted 18U junior team member Fernando Ruiz Michel 6,2. – Several local Bolivian players took out seeded/traveling players: Sebastian Oata surprised #22 Christian Wer 6,14, Franco Gutierrez beat #21 Edwin Galicia 11,5, Jairo Perez took out #20 Hanzel Martinez Perez and Fabian Gutierrez beat #14 Set Cubillos.
In the 32s: – #16 Kadim Carrasco topped #17 MoMo Zelada in two, the only real surprise to me of this round. Carrasco really took it to Zelada, who has been playing solid ball lately, winning 1,9 to advance to the main draw. – #24 Carlos Keller Vargas took out #9 touring pro Thomas Carter 11-7. I thought Keller (a former PARC champ) would win here, but kudos to Carter for stretching him to the breaker. – #23 Moscoso blasted #10 Felipe Camacho 3,4 to make the main draw. Again, an expected result based on both players’ past international results, but surprised by the lop-sidedness of the win. – #15 Diego Garcia Quispe beat Guatemalan veteran #18 Juan Salvatierra 10,10 to advance to the main draw, an excellent result for the 17yr old.
In the 16s: – #1 Rocky Carson took it to Carrasco and won 2,4. Carson took advantage of the high altitude and really ramped up his drive-serve game. – #8 Jake Bredenbeck couldn’t convert on game point in the first game, opening a path for home town favorite Keller Vargas to advance 14,6. A loud, partisan crowd cheered Keller to victory. – #5 Mario Mercado took care of business against #12 Robert Collins 10,11. – #4 Andree Parrilla saved game point in the first game and then battled to a close two-game win over Eduardo Lalo Portillo 14,9. A back and forth match went Andree’s way on this day, but Portillo continues to improve and show that he will soon be among the elite on tour. – #3 Alvaro Beltran outlasted upset-minded Eduardo Garay Rodriguez 10 and 13. Garay dove all over the court and came at Beltran with significant pace, but Alvi made shots when he had to and put balls away when it counted. – The biggest upset of the tournament: #11 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez took out #6 Rodrigo Montoya Solis 11-10. Montoya reportedly arrived at the tournament just the morning of this match and it may have cost him against a player he should have beaten. Franco earned this win though, saving off match point against and diving all over the court. – #23 Moscoso blitzed by #7 seed David Horn to setup a fantastic quarter final against Landa. – #2 Alex Landalet the youngster Garcia get way up in game one, came back, then blew him away in game 2 to advance 13,2.
In the Qtrs: – #1 Carson left no doubt as to who the #1 seed was, advancing past home-town favorite Keller 8,11. Before the tournament I thought perhaps Carson would be at a disadvantage in this event thanks to his match load last weekend and the travel, but his fitness and his game has elevated here this weekend. – #5 Mercado, Bolivian native who now lives in the DC area and represents Colombia, really controlled #4 seed Parrilla throughout and advanced 7,11. I thought Parrilla was a dark-horse to make the final before this tournament, and was really surprised by how solid Mercado played here. – #3 Beltran left little doubt about his quality, downing upset-minded #11 Franco 11,5 to move on and ensure that the two oldest players in the draw made the semis. – In the most anticipated match of the event, #2 seed Landa was beaten by Bolivian #1 Moscoso in a scintillating match 9,(11),0. Moscoso drove the action with blistering drive serves, fantastic kill shots from all over the court and with knee-sliding re-kills that perpetually caught Landa off-guard. After losing steam in the middle of the second game, Conrrado caught fire in the tie-breaker and ran away to the 11-0 defeat. Its not often a former #1 player in the world gets donuted, and indeed this match elevates Moscoso to near the top of the world game.
In the semis… – #1 Carson fought back the upset-minded #5 Mercado, advancing in a tie-breaker win. – #23 Moscoso dominated #3 Beltran 10,6.
In the final, Rocky ran of 15 unanswered points to cruise to a game one win and was well on his way towards and embarrassing 2-game crushing when suddenly Conrrado made it a game, saved a couple of match points, and got a fluky rally win to take game 2 15-14 and get it to the tiebreaker. There, Rocky had no answers for Moscoso’s confident shot-making and the game got away from Carson quickly … Conrrado re-killed shots from absurd angles and frustrated Carson over and again and took the breaker 11-2 in dominant fashion. Moscoso found a serve that Carson struggled with, and Rocky couldn’t adjust in time to stay in the game.
Moscoso becomes the 40th ever IRT pro tour champ and earned it on the weekend, downing the #1, #2 and #3 seeds en route to victory.
The Bolivian #1 pair of Moscoso & Roland Keller took the doubles title against Carson & Camacho 9,9, giving Moscoso the double on the weekend.
Wrap: An amazing tournament that saw the surprise winner and the expected “what if” questions about the absence of Kane Waselenchuk. Rocky should ascend to #1 with the finals appearance, while Conrrado’s points total should put him just outside the top 10 (not that it matters; we likely won’t see him again until the US Open). Post publishing update: I guess the 2018 points expired earlier than I thought; Rocky remains at #2 while Moscoso rises to #17 based on irt-tour.com points standings updated as of 4/1/19.
I think I now agree with Sudsy Monchik, who has been extolling Conrrado’s skills for a while. I think you have to start thinking about Moscoso as being at the top of the tier of players just past Kane and Rocky, and we can only hope as fans of the sport that he finds more ways to play the tour and give us what we want; regular match ups against Kane, Rocky, Landa, DLR, Montoya and the rest of the world’s best.
(as of this posting, the draws are not yet active but can be gotten from IRT’s facebook page postings…)
There’s a huge draw in Chicago; 43 pros entered into singles. That’s the biggest non-US Open draw since Sept 2014, and this draw is stacked. There’s great representation from the top pros: 19 of the top 20 players are entered (missing only #13 Charlie Pratt, who’s playing Oregon State Singles this weekend instead), and the draw includes reigning World champ Rodrigo Montoya Solis to mix things up. He’ll be seeded 14th, playing into his Mexican national nemesis #3 Daniel De La Rosa for what could be a heck of a round of 16 match (we’ll get to that later)…
Because its Chicago, we get some Midwestern guys entered such as Geoff Goldblatt, Juan Martinez III, Alok Mehta, Ferd Samson and Nadeem Sharifuddin. Some of these guys are long-time players with match histories that go back a ways (Goldblatt’s first pro tourney on record was in 2006), some we havn’t seen since the 2018 Worlds (Mehta represented India at the 2014 and 2018 IRF events), and some are making their pro tour debuts (like Sharifuddin).
Interestingly, what looks like the entire Guatemalan national team is entered, and the qualifying rounds will include Edwin Galicia, Javier Martinez, Hanzel Martinez Perez, Jeovany Mendoza, Juan Salvatierra, and long-time veteran Christian Wer, all hailing from the Central American country. Its great to see so many great internationals in one place.
Lets preview the draw. There’s such a huge draw that they needed three round of 128 matches, one of which features two of the traveling Guatemalans. That’s a bummer: fly all the way up here and have a rematch of every Tuesday night at the home club.
We pick up in the 64s; here’s some matches to watch for: – #9 Jose Diaz is the highest ranked player w/o a bye into the 16s, and for his trouble he has to play twice in qualifying; he’s rewarded at first with a crap-shoot against the winner of the Mendoza-Martinez all-Guatemalan play-in. – #17 Long-time Costa Rican vet Felipe Camacho gets a tough opener against mid-westerner Kyle Ulliman. Ulliman has played a couple of pro stops already this year but doesn’t have a break-through win yet and Camacho is a tough out. – #20 Eduardo Lalo Portillo faces off against long-time Guatemalan #1 Edwin Galicia in a tough opener for both. Galicia has been representing Guatemala at International Racquetball Federation – IRF events for 6 years running, while Lalo (the reigning 18U junior world champ) is coming off a disappointing 1st round exit at Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol Nationals last month. – #12 Jansen Allen (who has now fallen completely out of the top 10), has a tough 1st rounder against regular Guatemala international representative Juan Salvatierra in his quest to get back into the top 10. – #22 Maurice Miller faces off against Mauricio MoMo Zelada, a rematch of the final of the February Open final at the Wintergreen event in Laurel, MD. Zelada won 6,12 then and seems a good bet to advance again. – IRT regular Justus Benson is the unlucky first round match for reigning IRF World Champion Rodrigo Montoya, looking to make a splash and keep his IRT ranking on the rise. – #15 Adam Manilla gets a tough Mexican up and comer Jordy Alonso as his 1st round opponent. – #18 Robbie Robert Collins faces off against long-time Guatemalan international Christian Wer, who I first have playing for his country in 2004 and who was on the Worlds team in 2018. That’s a pretty long int’l career. – #10 David Horn has the unenviable task of facing off against one of the more unheralded Mexican players today in Eduardo Garay Rodriguez. Garay has wins over IRT top 10 players on his resume in the past couple of seasons and has the ability to win here too.
In the 32s…here’s some projections based on potential match-ups:
– the #16/#17 match-up looks solid: Camacho vs Thomas Carter. A great test for both players; I sense the veteran Camacho advances to the main draw and a date with Kane. – #13 Jake Bredenbeck vs #20 Portillo: I like Portillo’s chances here against Bredenbeck, who has yet to get out of the 16s this season after multiple quarter-finals appearances in prior seasons and is coming off an upset loss in Pueblo to a guy who has never played a pro match. – #12 Allen over #21 Troy Warigon; the solid playing Allen should advance over part time IRT player Warigon here. – #11 Mario Mercado over Zelada: the all-DC Metro area match-up, with the two relative neighbors facing off for a chance at the 16s. Mercado has the edge but it wouldn’t surprise me if this went Zelada’s way. – Montoya vs Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; tough break for Franco, who runs into his countryman at this stage for the 2nd time in 3 months. He’s trying to build on the momentum of his run to the Mexican national quarters last month, but Montoya should advance here. – #15 Manilla vs #18 Collins: the very-rare lefty vs lefty match-up, likely a win for the up and coming Manilla.
In the 16s… – #1 Kane Waselenchuk starts off his title quest against the veteran Camacho and cruises to a win. – the #8/#9 looks like a dog-fight: Diaz versus Sebastian Franco. After a solid start to the season, Franco has faltered, with two straight round of 16 exits and having missed Sioux Falls (for his Honeymoon; can’t fault him there). One of those early exits was at the hands of Diaz, who may very well do it again here. – #5 Parrilla vs #12 Allen: Andree has been on a tear, but Allen plays solid, consistent racquetball and may cause Parrilla some troubles here. – #4 Alejando Alex Landavs Portillo: the newly crowned Mexican champ faces off against one of his country’s best young players; Landa should dominate this match based on playing styles. – #3 De La Rosa vs #14 Montoya; this is the match of the round. 3 vs 14 by seeds, but two of the best 5 players in the world by capabilities. They met in Sioux Falls and DLR destroyed Rodrigo 1,4. In fact, Montoya may be the reigning world champ, but DLR has beaten him 3 out of 4 times they’ve played in the past year. I think DLR advances and Montoya misses out on an opportunity to gain valuable IRT ranking points yet again due to the luck of the draw. – #6 Alvaro Beltran vs #11 Mercado; fresh off his surprise National finals appearance, Beltran runs into the mercurial Mercado (alliteration intended), who has beaten Alvaro in the past, but seems to be in a bit of a rut this season. Mercado has three one-and-done events this season and will have his work cut out for him to make it to this point. Alvaro advances. – #7 Samuel Murray vs #10 Horn; tough match for Murray here. Bobby beat Sam in April of 2018, but has three one-and-dones on the season and missed Sioux Falls b/c of injury. Horn did make the final of the Pueblo Shootout before getting waxed by Kane and seems to be healthy; can he outlast Murray here and put himself back on the winning ways? If he’s healthy, I think so. – #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Manilla: these two havn’t played in years on the pro tour, and while Adam can put up a fight against top players he should fall at this gate.
In the Quarters… – #1 Kane over #9 Diaz. I’ll bet the versatile Diaz conjurs up some 209-magic and stays in rallies longer than expected, but Kane advances. – #4 Landa over #5 Parrilla: I like Landa here, despite the fact that Parrilla took him in their last meeting (2018 US Open). Landa played so solidly at Mexican Nationals, its hard to envision him losing to Parrilla’s game-style. – #6 Beltran takes out his doubles partner #3 DLR in a classic let-down game after DLR’s tough win over Montoya. They played in Portland in December, and Alvaro trounced him in two there, and I’m betting on a similar result here. Beltran is on a career renaissance this season and continues his stretch of solid play. – #2 Carson defeats Horn in a battle of contrasting pace of play styles. Carson will slow it down, while Horn tries to speed it up. Neither are happy with the referee at the end of the match.
In the semis… – #1 Kane defeats former #1 Landa, but Landa puts up a fight and makes the scores 15-11, 15-9 or so. If Landa is on and making shots, Kane needs to find a slightly higher gear to beat him, which he eventually does since he’s such a master at the end-game of matches. – #6 Beltran goes up against his long time rival #2 Carson for the third time this season and makes it 2 out of 3 with an upset win.
In the final, Kane takes out Beltran with ease, but not before Alvaro plays his typical shooter’s delight game plan and makes Kane sweat for a while. Its worth noting that Alvaro is the last player to take a game off of Kane (the 2017 US Open) and still has the capability to run off a game even against a guy who is currently working on a streak of 64 straight games won in competition.
——————– There’s also a massive Pro doubles draw; a full 16 team draw. The #1 team is, as normal, DLR/Beltran, who just got upset at Mexico Nationals and will not have the opportunity to compete for 2019 IRF crowns. They’ll have to possibly work their way through 1/2 of the team that dethroned them in Montoya, playing here with Parrilla, who themselves have to get by the Columbian National #1 doubles team of Mercado & Franco.
On the other side of the draw, the other “best doubles team in the world” in Kane & Ben Croft makes a rare appearance, seeded 6th. They likely face #3 seeds of Jake/Diaz for an excellent quarter final match before likely facing the excellent #2 seeded pairing of Landa & Murray in the semis. However, Landa/Murray may have to get past Rocky Carson, who plays pro doubles for the first time since Sept 2017 (!). He’s playing with Manilla for a nice little lefty-righty combo, perhaps a nod by Carson to help get ready for the upcoming WOR championships (where doubles is king).
I like Kane/Croft over DLR/Beltran in the final, a slight reversal of how this match-up has gone the last couple of times … but also an indicator that DLR/Beltran may have some cracks in the armor after their upset in Chihuahua last month.