we’re catching up on the LPRT action from yesterday; here’s a review of the 32s and 16s.
In the 32s, here was the notable results for me:
– #17 Adrienne Fisher Haynes took out #16 Sheryl Lotts in a tie-breaker for a surprising result (for me). Haynes turns the tide on Lotts from the last time they played at the 2018 Nationals and moves on.
– #9 Masiel Rivera Oporto made a statement with a dominant win over #24 Jessica Parrilla 8,4. I thought this was an upset special; instead it was a dominant performance by Rivera, who continues to impress this season and is racing up the LPRT rankings.
– Big upset by #25 Erin Rivera who took out #8 Amaya Cris in two close games 13,13.
– #12 Montse Mejia defeated #21 Maria Renee Rodriguez 12,4 to move on. Credit to MRR for staying in game one against a tough opponent, but Mejia ran away in game two.
– #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein dominated #27 Bolivian Jenny Daza Navia 4,3 to move on. No hiccup here for Mendez; she kept the pressure on Daza relentlessly and controlled the match from the start.
– #11 Adriana Riveros Racquetball dominated #22 Kelani Lawrence 6,12 in a somewhat surprising result to me. Lawrence played Vargas really tight in Chesapeake but couldn’t get anything going against the Colombian on this day.
– #7 Nancy Enriquez took on #26 Hollie Rae Scott in a tense, contested match that was tight all the way through. Enriquez fought off game-point against in game two when it was looking like this might go tie-breaker and won 12,14 to advance. Not much between these two players on the day.
– #9 Rivera held on and ousted upset-minded #25 Groves in a tie-breaker to move into just her fifth ever career quarter final.
– #12 Mejia wiped out #5 Rhonda Rajsich 6,8 in a match that seemed to take about 15 minutes. Mejia showed the whole arsenal today; power drive serves, touch in the front court, rally control, and Rhonda couldn’t get anything going. Mejia plays fast, Rhonda couldn’t slow her down and she looks pretty focused for this event.
– #4 Alexandra Herrera ended #20 Munoz’ run, taking a close first game then moving on in two 13,8.
– #3 Maria Jose Vargas dominated former world number two and #14 seed Lambert 4,9; we heard during the match that Lambert was working in the ER til 2am on the day of hte match, caught a same-day flight then played two pro matches. Yeah; i think we understand why she may have lost to one of the best players in the world.
– #6 Mendez showed some mettle and outlasted #11 Riveros in a tiebreaker to setup yet another showdown in the quarters of a pro event against her doubles partner Vargas.
– #7 Enriquez got a solid win over outdoor specialist #23 Michelle De la Rosa, who pushed her to 11-7 in the breaker but held on.
– In the dominant performance of the day, #2 Samantha Salas Solis made a statement by downing 2018 world champ #18 Ana Gabriela Martínez12,4. Salas has been “upset” early in both pro events so far this season and faced a stiff challenge here, but she made a statement in this win.
——– 16s seed review: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 (seven of the top eight), then 9,11,12,14,17,18,20,23 … only one qualifier in #25 Groves into the 16s.
Then, the seeds into the qtrs: 1,9,12,4,3,6,7,2; mostly chalk, with #9 and #12 breaking in.
Same question for the men; is this the first time a US Open has not featured a single American into the quarters? here’s the QSF report by Nationality for LPRT: http://rball.pro/032ACA
Answer: yes it is the first time the US Open has not featured an American into at least the qtrs. It has happened multiple times before though (a LPRT event w/o an American into the quarters) before this; first time was Nov 2016 in Monterrey.
– Jenny Daza Navia took out US junior Annie Roberts 8,5 in Robert’s debut. Daza feeds into the 6th seeded Mendez, a player she can beat.
– Legend Cheryl Gudinas qualifies for another US Open main draw, downing Mexican youngster Anna Rivera 13,9.
Here’s some round of 32 matches to watch for:
– #9 Masiel Rivera Oporto vs #25 Jessica Parrilla; man, what a tough first rounder for Rivera, who has shot up the rankings in the last year and is on the cusp of a top8 ranking (Rivera was seeded 22nd in this event last year by way of comparison). Parrilla is of course on the come back trail from being a former top-4 pro. Expect a hard-hitting battle here and a possible upset by seed.
– #12 Montse Mejia vs #21 Maria Renee Rodriguez; they havn’t played in several years, and the draw is well positioned for Mejia to make a semis run this year. This is a first test. Rodriguez is trying to build on some solid wins in 2019 on the court.
– #14 Frederique Lambert vs #19 Angelica Barrios; Two years ago this would be a predicted blow out, as Lambert was ranked #2 on tour and Barrios was still in juniors. Now this is a dangerous match: Barrios dispatched two top-10 players in the Bolivian grand slam to make the semis and made the quarters of the Pan Am games before losing to Longoria. This one may come down to how rusty Lambert is.
– #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein vs #27 Daza; The veteran Bolivian has been known to take out top ranked players; in this event last year she topped Vargas, for example. Mendez needs to be on her A-game for this South American match-up.
– #7 Nancy Enriquez takes on #26 Hollie Rae Scott; this should be an interesting one. Scott is the reigning intercollegiates champ and was the losing US national finalist in 2019. I’m not sure Scott has faced someone with the power of Enriquez before (this is their first meeting) so this should be an interesting match.
– #10 Brenda Laime Jalil vs #23 Michelle De La Rosa; people forget, but in 2015 mDLR (nee Key) finished 7th on tour in her sole full-time season of touring before stepping back for family reasons. She’s a player. Laime has climbed into the top 10 on tour with some solid results, but this is a different challenge for her.
——————— We’ll regroup for the round of 16s later today.
Lets run through the qualifying rounds for the LPRT ahead of the main draw. Hopefully by the time you read this the matches havn’t already started 🙂
There’s 41 players in this draw, and the LPRT qualifies the top 24 into the main draw, so 17 players are competing for 8 main draw/round of 32 spots. This means one round of 128 and then a round of 32.
Here’s a quick run through notable round of 64 matches to look for.
– #32 Maricruz Ortiz vs #33 Linda Tyler; Costa Rican junior international Ortiz makes just her 3rd ever pro appearance and is set to play infrequent pro player Tyler. A good test for Ortiz, who started representing her country in her age-16 season and still has two full years left in 18U.
– #27 Jenny Daza Navia vs #34 Annie Roberts; another generational battle; Bolivian Daza has been playing for her country for more than a decade and, in 2018, took out Maria Jose Vargas Parada in the 32s of the Open. Roberts makes her LPRT debut here; she’s the two-time defending USA junior 16U champ and is playing in her 16U season.
– #31 Cheryl Gudinas, who has won this event twice, faces off against #34 Anna Rivera, who is just finishing up her age-18 year. Fun fact: Rivera was born in Feb 2000; Gudinas won four straight pro titles starting in 2001.
– #26 Hollie Rae Scott takes on Colombian veteran international #39 Carolina Gomez. Scott is the reigning intercollegiates champ and lost 11-10 in the US national final in May to Kelani Lawrence Meanwhile, we havn’t seen Gomez in a pro event since the 2010 US Open, though she’s been a regular fixture in the IRF circuit for Colombia for most of this decade.
————— Once the qualifiers are set, we’ll circle back and review the round of 32.
In the semis: – #4 Pratt took out #1 Franco in one semi 8,7. Pratt remains perhaps the most dangerous non-full time touring pro in the world, with a slew of solid wins, a semis finish in Portland last season, and a finals appearance at the 2019 PARC. – #2 Montoya beat #3 Mercado in the other semi in two straight forward games, avenging a loss in the Pan Am team competition.
In the final, Pratt again took out a favored player in Montoya, playing more consistent ball and putting away opportunities to win the title 12,9. I thought Montoya struggled with accuracy early and then struggled to maintain his focus as he battled calls that didn’t go his way on top of the ever-consistent Pratt.
—————- Women’s Singles recap: #1 Hollie Rae Scott beat local player Laurie Dreneck in one semi, and #3 Linda Tyler beat #2 seeded Ceci Orozcoin the other.
In the final… #1 Scott took out Tyler in two games for the title.
—————– Open Doubles results: the Canadian duo of Iwaasa and Brayley took out Josh Doniak and Mercado in the final.
—————– Congrats to all the organizers for bringing pro racquetball to Montana. Thanks to Matthew Ivar Majxner for sending me draw sheets and results and helping me write the preview and this summary….
We have one more lower-tiered IRT event on the schedule prior to the beginning of the tier 1 slate in Atlanta in two weeks’ time, and its this coming weekend in Missoula, Montana.
We’ve never had either a Men’s or a Women’s full-slate pro stop in Montana (at least as per what’s in the database for the IRT and LPRT), so its great to see the sport getting to a market where there’s clearly some players.
There’s 25 players in the draw, including 6 IRT regulars, three top-10 players, a couple other well-known amateurs and internationals, and a slew of top local players. 25 players with 5 countries and 13 states represented.
Lets preview the singles draw:
—————- The 32s are play-ins among locals for the most part.
In the 16s, here’s some potential match-ups to look for, assuming no upsets-by-seed in the 32s.
– #8 Andrew Gale vs #9 Hr Coe; Gale is a long-time pro player, with IRT appearances dating to 2006 and with some solid wins on his resume (he beat current #4 Andree Parrilla back in 2012 and even beat Cliff Swain in 2013). Coe has significantly less pro experience (just one result in the DB, a 1999 loss to Swain in Denver) but is a solid local player. – #5 Justus Benson vs #12 Rich Carter; Benson may have his hands full here against a guy in Carter who played a couple of pros tough in WRT events in Seattle over the past few years. – #6 Dylan Reid vs #11 Mitch Brayley; Brayley mostly plays locally in Canada regional and national events and has never ventured south to play a top-level USA-domestic event. Reid has some solid wins over IRT-touring pros on his resume and has qualified for several main draws in IRT events in the last few years. He also is, of course, the master of the Racquetball Podcast, a must-listen for fans everywhere of the sport. See https://podcasts.apple.com/…/the-racquetball-s…/id1310228396 for subscription information in Itunes. Disclosure: Reid interviewed me in June of last year (see https://podcasts.apple.com/…/episode-12-todd-…/id1310228396… for that episode).
Projecting the quarters: – #1 Sebastian Franco vs #8 Gale: Franco is fresh off the Pan Am Games, where he represents Colombia and was knocked out early in the round of 16 by Canadian Iwaasa (more on him later). He faces someone of a make or break season this year on tour, with a slew of names looking to push him out of the top 8. He shouldn’t have trouble with Gale here. – #4 Charlie Pratt Racquetball vs #5 Benson: Pratt also is a veteran of the 2019 Pan Am Games, having represented USA and played both singles and doubles. In singles, he also suffered an upset loss at the hands of Iwaasa, then exited in the quarters at the hands of Bolivian Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo(a rematch of the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships semis, where Pratt shocked the sport with an 11-10 defeat of the Bolivian Grand Slam champ. Pratt should advance easily here. – #3 Mario Mercado vs #6 Reid: Mercado also represented Colombia at the Pan Ams (playing #2 to Franco), and really had a solid tournament, taking out two-time defending PARC champ Carlos Keller Vargas and USA #1 Jake Bredenbeck before falling in the semis to #1 seed Alvaro Beltran. He also managed to beat Keller a second time in the team competition, along with both Iwaasa and Montoya to wrap up a fantastic tournament. Mercado’s attendance here indicates to me he’s going to plan on a full slate of tournaments, which is great news for the tour and could spell some trouble for the IRT players in the 7-10 range, based on the wins he got in Lima. Mercado should advance over Reid here. – #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #7 Coby Iwaasa; This is a finals-quality match-up that happens in the quarters, since Iwaasa has no ranking points. That’s a shame, because Iwaasa has demonstrated his ability to beat top IRT players. Representing Canada in Lima, he beat both Pratt and Franco before losing to Beltran in the quarters 13,14. The last time he played a pro event, he made the finals (WRT Calgary open in oct 2018). Meanwhile, Montoya took his second major international title in two years by winning the 2019 Pan Am gold over his countryman/teammate Beltran in a match that will long be remembered for Beltran’s hip check/shattered glass door (which just made ESPN’s top 10 plays of the day). I think Montoya wins this in the end, but it’ll be in two close games or perhaps drawn to a tiebreaker.
Projected Semis: – #4 Pratt over #1 Franco: they’ve played 4 times in pros and IRF events in the last three years and Pratt is 4-0. I think Pratt has Franco’s number, and should advance here. – #3 Mercado over #2 Montoya: they’ve played once in the DB; a Mercado win over Montoya at the 2018 US Open. They also played in the team event in Pan Ams, also a win for Mercado. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict the upset, even though I think Montoya is the better player.
Finals prediction: – #4 Pratt over #3 Mercado: they’ve played 3x in the database, and Pratt has never lost to Mercado. It goes tie-breaker but Charlie prevails.
—————- On the women’s side, there’s also a few solid players in town to compete: Hollie Rae Scott , Linda Tyler , and Cecilia Pratt head up the Ladies Open draw.
Lastly they populated the Open doubles draw with teams selected by raffle, to make for a fun integration of traveling pros with local players.
———————– Analysis/thoughts on Year End Rankings and notable player movement.
#1 Paola Longoriafinishes the year undefeated, 37-0 It is the 5th time she’s accomplished this feat, and she now has just four on-court losses in the last 8 professional seasons. She sews up her 10th career pro title. With her win in Kansas City, she gets her 91st career title in the Database (we’re aware of the discrepancy between our systems and her records and are working to figure out the delta actively).
She now sits as an astounding 439-30 in her pro career, a .936 winning percentage. She still trails Michelle Gould in this metric, whose database W/L percentage currently sits at 147-9 and which will only improve as we eventually fill in tournament detail in the mid 1990s. By way of comparison, both of these marks are better than Kane Waselenchuk‘s career mark of .918, which is considered in awe on the men’s pro racquetball circles.
#2 Samantha Salas Solis had as good of a season as you could have given that the #1 player went undefeated: she made 9 finals in 9 tries (missing one event due to travel issues mid-season). She’ll be kicking herself she didn’t claim the title in the one event that Paola missed … that being the Bolivian Grand Slam and the big check that comes with it. But a great season for Salas, who started the season ranked outside the top 10 due to injury comeback and is now firmly entrenched at #2 for the forseeable future.
Salas is now just 3-50 against Longoria though, and needs to find a way to beat her long-time rival if she wishes to put her name in the record books. She did stretch Paola to 5 games once this season, in Syosset, but most of their finals were 3-game affairs.
#3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada, like Salas, also started the year still working her way back into touring status thanks to a hiatus to have a kid. But thanks to her title in Bolivia, she ascended to #3, where she stayed the rest of the way out. She maintains a slight lead for 3rd over Herrera. Vargas is just 2-8 career over #2 Salas, which includes the win in Bolivia, so she has her work cut out for her if she wishes to ascend any higher.
#4 Alexandra Herrera had a very consistent season; she started it ranked 3rd, finished it ranked 4th, made a bunch of semis, never got upset prior to the qtrs … but really only had one break through tourney, making the final when the #2 seed Lambert got upset very early in Laurel. On the bright side, at season’s end she broke a career duck against Rajsich, finally beating her head to head in the season’s final event to secure #4 on the season.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich kept chugging in her 20th pro season, finishing in the top 5 for the 18th time. A couple of early season upsets dropped her to the 6th-7th seed, but then stronger results as the season went on got her back. She treads water from last season, finishing 5th for the second season in a row. Rajsich overtook Cheryl Gudinas this season and now has the most ever appearances in pro tour history, a streak she seems set to continue for the forseeable future.
– #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein started the season seeded 6th and ended it 6th, and made 8 quarters in 10 pro tourneys. She had an interesting 2nd half of the season, where her specific seeding drove four consecutive quarter-final match-ups with countrymate and doubles partner Vargas … resulting in four of her eight quarter final defeats on the season. There’s a significant points gap from Rhonda to Natalia, one that only a breakthrough tourney will solve. Her four-straight match-ups against Vargas has me thinking that maybe the LPRT should consider seed flipping like the IRT does; there were also a number of other repeated qtr final match-ups (Herrera-Rajsich, Salas-Enriquez) that would be mixed up and give the 5-8 seeded players a different look in the qtrs.
– #7 Nancy Enriquez took a slight step back from last season, taking a couple of early upsets and dropping from 6th last season to 7th this season. Her 7-seed routes her to #2 Salas each quarterfinal, a tough spot to be in considering how well Salas is playing and considering that Salas has just one career loss to Enriquez (way back in 2011).
– #8 Amaya Cris finished ranked 8th for the 2nd season in a row, and had a similar performance this year to last. She was able to fight back into the top 8 by season’s end, having dropped out of the top 8 mid-way through the season. She made 5 quarter finals in 10 tourneys but wasn’t able to break through to the semis.
– #9 Frederique Lambert missed half the season and dropped from #2 last season to finish 9th. As is well known, she completed Medical school this year and graduated in May, and even making half the tourneys this year seems like a pretty amazing accomplishment for someone finishing such a rigorous academic schedule. This breaks a streak of four straight seasons ranked in the top 4 for Frederique. One has to wonder what the future holds; after you finish medical school usually medical training commences and I have a hard time believing Lambert will be able to do a time-intensive internship and frequently take off 4-day weekends to compete in tourneys. We all await to see what happens as it pertains to the tour; nobody likes losing a top player.
– #10 Adriana Riveros finished 10th on the season, improving from 12th last season and now is the fourth straight season in this 10-14 range for the Colombian. She made two quarter finals in 10 tourneys on the year
———————– 11th-20th ranked players:
– #11 Gaby Martinez earned enough points from early events to finish 11th despite announcing her retirement from the sport to focus on school earlier this season. She made two semis in three events this year and got a career win over Longoria in 2018’s worlds final, making this observer wonder if she wasn’t the heir-apparent to the crown (or at the least, a good competitor for the top spot going forward). I hope she can find time to continue to play and compete at some point in the future, because (as with Lambert) its a bummer to lose a top competitor.
– #12 Masiel Rivera Oporto played a full season and was rewarded with her top ever finish. She made one quarter on the year thanks to probably her best win on the season, over Riveros at the Bolivian grand slam on home turf.
– #13 Brenda Laime Jalil made 6 main draws in 9 events, a big improvement from last season (when she failed to advance to the 16s all year) and enough to get her into the top 16.
– #14 Ana Laura Flores Saavedra made one quarter with a solid win over Mendez in the season opener, and played in 6 of the 10 events on the year.
– #15 Cassie Lee improved from #21 last year, making 5 main draws out of 9 tournaments attended.
– #16 Yazmine Sabja Aliss played just 4 events, being based in Bolivia, but made two quarters and got some solid wins along the way. One has to think that her playing the tour FT would have her challenging for a top 8 spot. too bad Bolivia is so far away.
– #17 Montse Mejia had an interesting season: she played 5 pro events and lost in the 16s each time (3 times to Longoria, once each to Lambert and Vargas). But, outside of the pro tour she won World 18U juniors (beating Gaby Martinez twice along the way), then at Mexican Nationals beat in order Enriquez, Salas and Longoria to take the title. She faltered at the PARCs as the #1 seed (losing to Mendez in the qtrs), but one has to wonder what she’s capable of if she can get out of the 14-16 seed range and get some deeper runs on the pro tour. I think she’s one of the top 5 women in the world right now and hope she can play a full slate next season.
– #18 Adrienne Fisher Haynes dropped in the season ending rankings for the 3rd successive season, getting upset in the 32s 5 times in 8 events this season.
– #19 Angelica Barrios made the semis of the Bolivian grand slam, beating two top 8 players along the way, which propelled her to a top 20 finish despite just three appearances. She’s also put her name into the mix for the Bolivian national team, representing her country at PARCs earlier this year.
– #20 Carla Muñoz Montesinos had a qtr and two main draws in 6 appearances this year, a busy one for her as she finished up school in Colorado, made the finals of NCAA intercollegiates and represented Chile at three different IRF events.
———————– commentary on players ranked 21st on-wards:
– #22 Susy Acosta finished 22nd … in her 21st pro season.
– #24 Michelle De La Rosa made a semi and played top ranked pros tough in limited appearnces this year.
– #25 Kelani Lawrence finished 25th in limited appearances but won the US National title.
– #31 Valeria Centellas finished 31st … and is the reigning World junior 16U champ. She played #1 for Bolivia at the PARC games in April and made the quarters … in her age 17 season.
– #37 Jessica Parrilla finished 37th after missing basically the entire season recovering from a bad knee injury. She will fight back to regain her status on tour starting next season after finishing 3rd last season. ———————–
That’s it for the season. We look forward to seeing what next year has in store. I sense a step up in events, I hope to see more dual tour events like what is done in Minneapolis and Bolivia, and I hope to see more events in Mexico that draw the local player base.
Rocky gets a chance to defend his two straight running Pan Am games titles; he was the 2011 and 2015 singles champion.
This limited number of players on the US team leads to some interesting decisions: – Thanks to 3 Men players … one player is pulling double duty playing both Singles and Doubles, while one player only gets to play doubles. Looking at this delegation, i’ll guess that its Rocky & Jake who play singles, and Jake/Pratt who play doubles. – Thanks to just 2 Women; they both have to play both singles and doubles … and they are a “forced” doubles team who may very well have never played before. I have no record of Rhonda and Kelani playing doubles together … so they’ll have to get some practice in.
———— Now for some discussion, because the selection of Rocky may be a bit controversial.
After the 2019 National singles results, the official US National team standings sat as follows on this page:
Rocky Carsondid not enter National Singles, and dropped to 4th in the standings … enough to keep him in the team discussions, and thus enough to make him eligible for his eventual selection. The US committed has selected Carson over Horn, which seems unfair given Horn’s pedigree and participation. Of course, this writer doesn’t know if Horn had a conflict and had to bow out, or if the committee made a judgement that Carson (who is inarguably the better player) was a better selection to bring back a medal in Peru.
This decision is also interesting to me because: – Pratt as a singles player has made the finals of the last two international events he’s entered. – Jake and Horn are frequent doubles partners, and represented the US in two recent Pan American Championships. – Carson is the 2x defending singles champ and still the 2nd best player in the world.
So it’d make sense to have Jake and Horn play doubles together, and it’d make sense to have both Carson and Pratt play singles. But … the team only got 3 spots, costing the team its preferred/full delegation. It will be interesting to see how the men’s team lines up.
are 1-2, with Hollie Rae Scottclose behind. Then there’s a size-able gap to the 4th ranked US player at current. But, only two players can go. Lawrence had to miss out the last time she qualified to represent the US internationally due to prior commitments (she got married the same weekend as the event) and isn’t missing out again.
In the end though, the selection of Rhonda and Kelani are supported by results on the court and are the best two US female players right now.
POST PUBLISHING UPDATE: the roles of the players were announced just ahead of the event, and Rocky is only playing doubles. That means no chance for him to defend his 2x title. An odd choice Rocky has made, not to attempt to compete for the Singles team spot.
In the 16s: – In the 8/9 game, Robert Collins got a solid win over Luis R Avila in a tie-breaker. – #5Adam Manilla took out hometown veteran favorite Woody Clouse and has a streamlined shot at the National Semis thanks to … – #4 seed Jose Diaz, who I thought could win this event, was a no-show, giving Utahian Anthony Martin a walk-over into the quarters. – Two IRT regulars met in Thomas Carter and Nicholas Nick Riffel, with Carter coming out on top in a tie-breaker.
In the Qtrs: – #1 Jake Bredenbeck cruised past fellow IRT top 20 player Collins 4,2 – #5 Manilla similarly cruised past Utahian Anthony Martin 3,2 – #3 David Horn was stretched by #6 Carter, going 11-7 in the breaker. Another solid result for Carter, but a good step towards keeping his National team spot for Horn. – #2 Charlie Pratt took out his local playing rival Dylan Reid 14,5.
In the Semis: – #5 Manilla played lights out for stretches, but not enough of them to take out #1 Bredenbeck, falling in an 11-5 tiebreaker. – #3 Horn got a great win over #2 Pratt, 11-7 in the breaker, to advance to the final and attempt to repeat as US Champion. Pratt has made the finals of the last two international events in which he’s represented the US … but a national title continues to elude him.
In the Final … Jake could do no wrong, and Bobby couldn’t do much to stop him. In an amazingly compete performance, Bredenbeck beat Horn 1,1 to take the US title. Its his third overall and he returns to the podium after a 3 year absence. Horn finishes runner-up for the 4th time.
There was just one play-in/round of 16 match: – Annie Roberts, the current 16U National champ and who still has 3 years remaining in the junior ranks, took on regular LPRT touring pro Cassie Leein the 8/9 match and came out on top in a tie-breaker.
In the Semis: – #5 Lawrence got a career win, beating the 8-time defending US national champ Rajsich in an a tiebreaker. These two had met in the singles finals of the last three major US national team qualifying events, and Lawrence got this breakthrough win on the same weekend that her mother Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey was inducted into the US Racquetball hall of Fame. – #3 Scott downed the legendary LPRT pro Cheryl Gudinas in two. Scott is going for a rather rare double: Intercollegiates and National titles in the same year. It’s only happened once before … in 1976, when Memphis State University’s Sarah Green won both events in the same year.
(side note: the 3rd place game, which we often don’t mention, thus is Rajsich vs Gudinas. Holy cow. That’s a combined 19 (!) US National titles between them to go along with 8 pro titles. In case you’re wondering … they’ve played no less than 50 times across pro, US nationals and IRF events now, with Rajsich leading 32-18. See http://rball.pro/A7470B).
In the Finals, Lawrence came from a game down and saved match point against to take the title 11-10 over Scott by running off two points at the end of the tie-breaker.
—————- Congrats to all who played. Later this week we’ll review the Canadian singles and Mexican Junior events form last week.
Next up on the rball schedule? There’s some lower tier IRT events in early June, one last LPRT Grand Slam in mid-june in Kansas, then the US Junior Olympics in late June in Portland.
This year’s version of event is the 52nd iteration of the event, and is as far as I know the longest running racquetball tournament in existence. It was first held in 1968 in Milwaukee, where two legends competed in the final (Bill Schultz defeated Hall of Famer Bill Schmidtke in the final).
Record holders for Most National Titles? –Rocky Carson holds 7 National titles, winning his first in 2000 and his most recent in 2017. Interestingly, despite still being ranked #2 on the pro tour, Rocky did not compete in the 2018 version, nor is he in this weekend’s draw.
– Rhonda Rajsich holds 11 National titles, winning her first in 2004. She’s also the defending champ, the #1 seed this weekend and has won the last eight National events.
Your defending champs are David Horn and Rajsich. I’m not entirely sure how Horn drops to the #3 seed behind Jake in particular (who he has bested round for round in the last few national qualifying events)., but would have had to play Pratt in the semis regardless so its a minor seeding nit.
————– Men’s Singles:
Lets preview some of the match-ups i’ll be looking for: In the 16s: – #8 Luis R Avila vs #9 Robert Collins; 8/9 match-ups are always tough, and this should be no different. Lefty touring pro Collins versus the defending outdoor 3-wall champ Avila, who periodically comes indoors and has some good wins on his resume. This is a good test for both. – #5 Adam Manilla vs #12 Woody Clouse; Woody Clouse back in action competing for the National team … for the first time since 2006. Clouse qualified for the team in 2005 and represented the US in the Pan American Games in April 2006, losing in the final to Canadian Kris Odegard 11-9. He also had several top 10 pro tour finishes during the deep mid 90s tour days. Now he’s back at age 53, playing in his home town. He faces off against fellow lefty Manilla, fresh off of a second top 20 season on tour with some good results. I think Manilla moves on but it’ll be a fun L vs L match. – #6 Thomas Carter vs #11 Nicholas Nick Riffel; two IRT regulars meet up; they faced each other 3 times in 3 months in early 2018, with Carter taking 2 of 3. Riffel had a tough end to his 2018-19 tour, forfeiting out of Syosset with an injury. Meanwhile Carter had a nice run at the end of the season, getting a couple of solid wins and making the main draw in both Florida and NY. Advantage Carter here. – #7 Dylan Reid vs #10 Jeff Stark; two West Coasters who have played more than a few times meet up in the first round. I think the podcasting Reid is favored here but they know each other’s game.
Man, lots of Lefties in action. At least four, maybe more. Something in the water in Denver maybe.
Projecting the Qtrs: – #1 Jake Bredenbeck vs Avila: Jake struggled with upsets all season … then blew it out in NY, taking out Pratt, Daniel De La Rosa and nearly beating Andree Parrilla. So which Jake shows up? – #4 Jose Diaz vs #5 Manilla: they’ve only played a couple times, but both matches were 3- or 5-game tiebreakers. I like Diaz here … in a tiebreaker. – #3 Horn vs #6 Carter: I don’t think they’ve ever played in a top-level event … so a first for everyone. Horn should win this one in two closer games. – #2 Charlie Pratt vs #7 Dylan Reid: another match-up of two upper northwestern guys, both hailing from Portland. Fly all the way to Denver … have a repeat of your tuesday night game. Pratt’s solid and advances here.
So i’m predicting Chalk to the semis … and then for some upsets to happen.
Semis: – #4 Diaz over #1 Jake: they’re pretty even career-wise h2h, but havn’t played in a year and a half. I like Diaz here. Diaz had the better season, nearly slipping into the top 10 and jumping Jake in the rankings. – #2 Pratt over Horn: They played in December in Portland, a close 2-game win for Pratt, and I like the year Pratt is having so far.
Final: – #2 Pratt over Diaz. head to head, Diaz has never lost to Pratt. But something tells me Pratt is on a mission this year.
—————- Women’s Singles: just 9 in this draw, but some good match-ups towards the back and one incredibly poor seeding job:
In the Quarters: – #1 Rajsich over #8 Cassandra Cassi Lee – #5 Kelani Lawrence over #4 Sheryl Lotts; here’s a seeding question. Lawrence made the Women’s singles final of the 2018 qualifier at Nat’l doubles, made the finals at 2018 Nationals, and made the finals at the 2019 Qualifier at Nat’l Doubles. So that’s basically the last three major National events…. how exactly is she seeded 5th in this event?? What more does she have to do to demonstrate that she’s basically the 2nd best American woman player right now? – #3 Hollie Rae Scott over #6 Adrienne Fisher Haynes – #2 Erika Manilla holds off retired LPRT legend Cheryl Gudinas
In the semis: – #1 Rajsich takes out Lawrence in a rematch of the last three major US national team final, instead of in the final like it should be – #3 Scott takes out #2 Manilla in a rematch of this year’s Intercollegiates semis.
In the final: Rajsich takes her 9th straight US title over Scott.
———————- Lastly, a note on attendance. There’s some separate conversations about the # of participants this weekend going on. Here’s a list of the participation numbers for the last 14 National Singles events (these are the “# of participants” from the r2sports page and should indicate unique players, not # of draw entrants):
The event held steady in the low 500s its last five years in H ouston, then spiked during its Fullerton years thanks to simultaneous IRT and LPRT events (some of the pro draws from those years were amazing; 70+ mens pros competing). But we’ve seen a precipitous drop in attendance over the last few years, including a 100+ attendee drop from 2015 to 2016, now not even able to clear 200 players this year. 191 players isn’t even close to what National Doubles got this year (306) and that number is basically halved from the beginning of the century.
I know there’s some fundamental industry issues that are driving down these numbers. But this is the NGB’s marquee event. You can’t turn back time and make it the mid 2000s again (to say nothing of the mid 1990s), but you can strategize other aspects of the event to make it more appealing to a larger audience, and I hope to see some turn around in the coming years.