This coming weekend is the 33rd annual High School Nationals, being held in Portland, Oregon at the same Multnomah Athletic club that hosted last year’s Junior Nationals and the annual John Pelham Memorial IRT event.
Fun Facts about HS Nationals:
– this is the 33rd event: the first was held in 1988 and won by Jim Floyd (Michigan) and Holly Grey (Virginia). Holly would later marry hall of famer Ed Remen and now lives in North Carolina. – There’s been two 4-time HS champions: Adrienne Fisher Haynes from 2000-2004 and Lexi York from 2012-2016. – There’s never been a 4-time male champ; the closest we got was Taylor Knoth, who took it 2007-2009. Knoth lost in the quarters his freshman year to the 2006 winner Chris Coy. – The tournament has been dominated by players from California and Oregon: 30 of the 66 singles titles awarded in its history have come from these two states. – The list of past champs is littered with eventual pro tour champions. Sudsy Monchik won this title in 1991, Jack Huczek won it twice, in 2000 and 2001. Michelle Gould won it in 1989, Rhonda Rajsich twice in 96 and 97. – Three different members of the Rojas clan have HS national titles: Marco Rojas in 2010, Mauro Daniel Rojas in 2014 and 2016 and current title holder Antonio Rojas. – Interestingly, current IRT pro Sebastian ‘Patata’ Fernandez took the title in 2015 as a freshman, then again in 2018 as a senior, missing the two events in-between. He would presumably have had a great chance of a 4-peat.
Here’s a quick preview of the Gold #1 Singles draw, looking at the top 8 seeds. They’re dominated at the top by players from Northern California.
In the Boys #1: – Defending HS National champ and Stockton native Antonio Rojas is back and is the #1 seed. Rojas is the current reigning 16U and 18U US Junior national champ and is already one of the most decorated junior players in US history. He’s going to be tough to beat. See this link for a matrix of all US Junior National boys title holders: http://rball.pro/68C60E – Last year’s finalist and East Bay resident Vedant Chauhan is the #2 seed. Chauhan has several junior national titles himself, was the runner-up in 14U in 2019 and lost in world 14U juniors in the quarters to the eventual winner Bolivian Jhonatan Flores. See this link for Chauhan’s match history in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/1EB9AD – #3 is the player who vanquished Chauhan in last year’s 14U US final and who advanced to the final of 14U at Junior worlds, Fremont native Nikhil Prasad. Prasad himself owns 5 junior national titles and will be a favorite to make the final here. Prasad enters HS nationals for the first time. – #4 Cody Boucher has competed at US Junior Nationals for the past few years, was the #3 seed here last year and was upset early. – #5 is another Stocktonian, one with a great pedigree in Julius Ellis (son of long time IRT vet John Ellis. Ellis and Boucher met in the 2018 16U junior nationals event, and are slated to play into each other in the quarters here. – #6 Cody Thomas made it to the quarters of the 2019 16U nationals event in 2019. – #7 Rory Lampe was taken out of the 16U junior Nationals last year by #1 seed Rojas – #8 Nathan Soltis made the 16s the last two years in the 16U draw at junior nationals.
Predictions: Its hard not to see Rojas repeating, and the #2/#3 re-match of last year’s 14U final between Prasad and Chauhan could be great.
————— In the Girls #1,
– Defending champ Annie Roberts is the #1 seed and is playing in her home-town. Roberts is the two-time defending US 16U junior national champ and had a great run to the semis of Junior worlds last November. – Roberts will not have last year’s finalist as a competitor, as Nikita Chauhan has graduated despite still having one year remaining in 18U. We look forward to seeing Chauhan at intercollegiates this year competing for UC Berkeley (my father’s alma mater).
– the #2 seed this year is Heather Mahoney, the two-time defending USA junior 14U champ and an incoming freshman for 2020. She already holds 8 USA junior national titles and is the reigning 2019 World Junior 14U champ and will be a favorite here. – #3 is Alondra Canchola, a semi-finalist last year here. – #4 is Arya Cyril, also a semi-finalist at this event last year and who lost 11-10 to Chauhan in the semis. – #5 is Erin Slutzky, the 3rd seed last year and who is coming off a quarter final appearance at 16U junior worlds last November. – #6 is Shane Diaz, who made the semis of US 18U junior nationals last year. – #7 is Megan Carver, who lost in the quarters of last year’s 18U junior nationals to Diaz. – #8 is Karena Mathew, who holds 4 junior national titles but none since she was in grade school. She’s coming off a 3rd place showing at last year’s 14U nationals and is a rising freshman ready to make some waves.
Hot on the heels of the Longhorn Open, we have one of the longest running tournaments in the nation being held in Sioux Falls, SD. its the 42nd annual Lewis Drug Pro-Am.
Renowned for its hospitality for the touring pros, this event has become one of the favorite stops each season, and continues to draw players from far and wide.
The Lewis drug pro-am is also known for delivering fans of the sport upsets and surprises. To wit, here’s some of the surprising results from past years:
– in 2019, #1 Alex Landa was upset in the first round by fellow Mexican and eventual World Rodrigo Montoya Solís. Montoya made a run to the semis before falling. – in 2018 Landa got his first ever IRT Tier 1 win as the #8 seed, topping #1 Rocky Carson in the quarters and then winning a thrilling 11-10 tiebreaker over countryman #2 Daniel De La Rosa to win the title. – in 2017 Landa made a run to the semis as a 14 seed, and DLR got just his second ever pro win in the final. – in 2016 Jose Rojas topped both the #2 and #3 seeds to make the final before falling to #1 Waselenchuk – 2015 featured a mostly chalk draw, with Kane at #2 topping Rocky at #1 but not before both the 3 and 4th seeds fell in upsets in the qtrs. – 2014 was the final pro appearance of long time touring vet Mike Guidry, who hadn’t entered a pro event in years after retiring in Jan 2006. He fell in the 16s to eventual tourney finalist Alvaro Beltran.
So that’s some fun history.
The 2020 instance is also setup to perhaps provide some surprises … because we have late breaking news that #1 Kane Waselenchuk is ill and is not attending. So now we get a wide-open draw and possibly some surprises. And, let me tell you, projecting out the tourney here I see the possibility for some fascinating, rarely seen match-ups between top players.
36 players entered, and its a solid draw. As we saw in Austin, we have a number of non-regular top players in this draw waiting to make some noise. The biggest question mark for me is the health of Moscoso; he hobbled out of the Austin event and looked like he may have badly hurt his knee.
We are using a slight flip seeding this time, but thanks to the absence of #1 Kane just one top 8 seed got flipped away from where they should have been: 9th ranked Portillo got a top 8 seed, then got flipped 5th seed in the event. Seeds 6,7,8 mirror where the players are currently ranked.
Top-20 players missing; past Kane, we’re missing #10 Sebastian Franco (who misses his 3rd event of the season), #14 David Horn (who misses his 4th event of the season), and #17 Eduardo Garay, who misses out on a chance to build on his big wins last weekend in Austin.
—————————— Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that i’m looking forward to:
In the round of 128: – The tour welcomes back #32 seed Tony Carson Racquetball, who tore his Achilles heel nearly a year ago. He plays Minnesota-native Lee Meinerz, who hasn’t played an IRT event in several years but could be a good first-back-match for former top -10 player Carson. – there’s three other play-ins in the round of 128, all involving non-tour regulars from the mid-west or Canada. Its great to see the tour in areas where these guys can travel and play.
———————————- In the round of 64: – #17 Sebastian Fernandez, who has struggled to make it to events this year and has seen his ranking fall, likely faces Carson to move on. A solid match here that could go either way, depending on how recovered Carson is from his injury. Its worth noting that in the last three IRT events that T.Carson has played … he’s got wins over De La Rosa, Parrilla and Mercado. – In the #24/#25 seed, Kadim Carrasco takes on former touring regular Jansen Allen in an interesting match. Allen has taken a significant step back from touring and missed an event close to home last week in Texas but travels to South Dakota for this one. this could be a close match. – #21 Felipe Camacho vs #28 Sam Bredenbeck: Camacho is another former top-10 touring pro who has stepped back from touring, now seeing his ranking fall into the 20s. He faces off against the younger Bredenbeck, who got two solid wins over tour regulars at this event last year to make the main draw. – #22 Alan Natera Chavez vs #27 Charlie Pratt Racquetball; wow, what a tough match in the 64s; I think both of these guys are pushing for top 10 spots if they were still touring full time, and now they meet here. As I often observe, Natera can be hit or miss; one day he’s beating Montoya and Mar (as he has done in the last two Mexican Nats), then the next day he’s losing to relative unknowns in local events. Meanwhile, Pratt has a history of getting solid wins even as he curtails his touring. – #18 Robert Collins vs #34 Tim Landeryou; Assuming Landeryou gets past Andres Gomez in the play in, he faces an opponent that he can hang with in the 64s. Could be an upset in the making here.
——————————- Projecting the 32s: here’s some possible match-ups to watch for and some upset warnings:
– #16/#17 Adam Manilla vs the Fernandez/Carson winner: Was last week’s version of Manilla a one-off fluke, or has he turned the tide under the tutelage of a new coach Jim Winterton? This will be a good first test; which ever player advances will be a tough opponent that, up until last week, I’d have favored over Manilla. Now? I’m not so sure who to predict. – #14 Andres Acuña vs #19 Javier Mar: Acuna has to be frustrated with this draw; the under-seeded Mar can beat practically anyone at this tourney and he travels through Acuna to get into the main draw. – #11 Mario Mercado vs the Natera/Pratt winner: Pratt has never lost to Mercado in an event PRS tracks, and hasn’t played Natera in nearly 5 years. This is an upset warning for a 20-seed to advance here.
——————————- round of 16:
– #1 Alex Landa vs #16 Manilla: so, assuming that Manilla gets here … is this a possible 16 over 1 situation? I mean, Landa as a #2 seed was upset by the 18th seed Garay last week, and Manilla had the best event of his career with wins over Parilla and Mercado and going one game up on DLR. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this be a 5,6 blow out for Landa or a monumental upset by Manilla. – #8/#9: Samuel Murray vs Jake Bredenbeck; its a coin-flip between these two hard hitters; they’ve split their 2 prior match-ups and play a similar game style. – #5 Lalo Portillo vs #12 Carlos Keller Vargas; Portillo has now been beaten in the round of 16 four straight times … and I think Keller makes it 5 for 5. These two play a very similar game style, which makes sense since they both are tall, lanky and have great court coverage. Can Keller finally break through and make a pro quarter? Or can Lalo reverse his trend of getting upset early? – #4 Alvaro Beltran vs #20 Javier Estrada: well, last week I thought Beltran might get upset by a younger countryman who’s been making waves in Mar … and I think the same could happen here. I also think back to back tourneys and flights add up for a 40-yr old; i’m predicting the upset here. – #3 Andree Parrilla vs #19 Mar: a brutal round of 16 for Parrilla, who’s coming off an upset loss in Austin in the same round. Not a lot of past history to go on; they met a few times on the WRT back in 2016-2017 range, and they met in a local RKT event in SLP late last year. They’re about even on the court head to head through these matches; who will prevail here? I expect a dog-fight and for Mar to prevail in the upset. – #6 Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball vs … someone. Is this Natera, Pratt, Mercado? It could be any of these guys. Bigger question is; how healthy is Moscoso here? Is he 100%? How much of a run can he make? If Moscoso is not at full strength, he can easily lose to whichever of these plays advances out of this section to meet him. Lets hope he’s healthy, since he’s traveled an awfully long way to play these events. – #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Rodrigo Montoya Solis; Another gang-busters round of 16; this is the final of 2018 Mexican Nationals and the semis of this event last year. I think DLR has Montoya’s number; the only win Montoya has over DLR h2h was in a match that had already guaranteed both guys spots on the Mexican international team. DLR looked like a new guy last week in Austin and despite being the 7th seed has a draw he must like to get back to the finals again. – #2 Rocky Carson vs Gerardo Franco: both guys missed Austin; Carson still recovering from a knee op in December; is he 100%? I don’t think Franco can beat him, but I wonder if Carson is ready to take on this deep field.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – Landa over Murray; Landa takes out his frequent doubles partner. – Estrada over Keller: I like Estrada’s big serve over Keller’s tactical game. – Mar over Moscoso: I sense Moscoso still isn’t 100% and may fall at this juncture to a veteran pro – DLR over Carson: DLR is hot, Carson is recovering, and when they do play its often close. I like DLR with the upset here.
Semis: – Landa over Estrada: I’m not sure they’ve met …its hard to keep track of all the RKT draws that feature all these players. But by game style I think I like Landa to outlast Estrada. – DLR over Mar; flip a coin between these two on the court, if it comes to this. I’ll go with DLR just based on experience and recent form, even if I have Mar slightly ahead of him on my personal world rankings.
Finals; Landa over DLR, a rematch of the 2018 Lewis Drug final.
——————————- Doubles review
Great doubles draw. I’d expect the #1 team of DLR/Beltran to make the final from the top, and for Mar/Montoya to make it from the bottom for a solid all-Mexican final. It’d be a rematch of the 2018 Mexican Nationals and I’d favor the #1 seeds.
——————————— Look for Streaming in the regular places; can’t wait for this event! make sure to log in and say high to Dean DeAngelo Baer and Favio Soto on the facebook feeds.
These reports are available for USA, Mexico, Canada and World Juniors throughout the history we have loaded up (which is complete for USA and IRF, not so much for Canada and Mexico).
————————— Here’s some observations/highlights about some of the draws: – Boys 18U: Antonio Rojas takes the 18U title as the #2 seed over #4 seed Micah Farmer. Farmer survived match-point against in the qtrs to cruise past #1 seed Cayden Akins to make the final, while Rojas topped #3 seed Ben Baron in the semis en route to the final.
– Boys 16U: Antonio Rojas takes the 16U title without dropping a game. The draw went chalk from the quarters on, with Rojas topping Krish Thakur in one semi and finalist Timmy Hansen topping #3 seed Andrew Gleason in the other.
Antonio Rojas becomes just the 3rd ever junior boy to hold both 16U and 18U titles simultaneously; previously done by Jack Huczek in 2000 and Antonio’s cousin Jose Rojas in 2007. Rojas also secures his 7th and 8th junior national titles, tying him for 4th all time for USA boys. He adds to his 2019 haul, having won HS nationals earlier this year.
Top winner in history for US Jr titles? Huczek, who won 13 titles (two each in every available jr category from 8 to 18 plus an extra18U title).
– Boys 14U: Nikhil Prasad took the 14U title as the #1 seed over #3 seeded Vedant Chauhan. Prasad topped Gatlin Sutherland in one semi, Chauhan upset #2 seeded Josh Shea in the other. This is Prasad’s 5th US junior title.
– Girls 18U: #1 Seed Briana Jacquet cruised to the title, defending her 2018 18U championship and representing her 5th career junior title. She missed 2018 jr worlds, and probably looks forward to competing at worlds one last time. She topped #2 Nikita Chauhan in the final, with #3 Graciano Wargo and #5 seed Shane Diaz comprising the semi-finalists.
– Girls 16U; #1 seed Annie Roberts earned her 3rd jr title and added to her earlier 2019 High School Nationals title by defending her 16U title. The draw went mostly chalk the entire way, with Roberts topping #4 Shane Diaz in the semis, while finalist #3 Heather Mahoney topped #2 Erin Slutzky in the sole upset-by-seed in this draw. Roberts came from a game down in both the semis and finals to win.
– Girls 14U: #1 Seed Heather Mahoney defended her 14U champ and won her 8th career US junior title, topping #3 Ava Kaiser in a tie-breaker final. #4 Karina Matthew and #2 Arya Cyril to the semis. She stands a chance to beat Adrienne Fisher Haynes‘s record for most ever female junior titles if she can continue to win year over year.
————————– A reminder; we don’t load Junior doubles results. But doubles winners are an important part of the Jr National teams.
Singles and Doubles winners on the weekend qualify to represent hte US at this year’s World Juniors event. 2019’s World Juniors event is going to be in mid-November in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Congrats to all the winners, thanks to Leo Ray Vasquez for traveling and broadcasting all weekend.
Next on the schedule? We have a couple of RKT/Mexican summer tournaments, which sometimes get solid draws. Mid July features WOR outdoor nationals in Huntington Beach, and then Mexican Junior Nationals.
I wanted to do a quick post reacting to Kane Waselenchuk‘s shock loss last weekend in the quarters of the Florida pro stop to Alvaro Beltran , and then talk about the implications heading into the season’s final event.
Kane’s loss is historically notable for a number of reasons.
– This is Kane’s first on-the-court, non injury or forfeit related loss since a semis Kansas City loss to Jose Rojas in 2013. Some may also point out a loss Kane took to Jake Bredenbeck in May of 2016, where Kane won the first two games, suffered an injury, then retired in the 5th. See this link for all of Kane’s career losses: http://rball.pro/8F1B46
I’d like to point out how crazy it is that we’re talking about a singular loss by a player in a one-on-one sport. Roger Federer is widely considerd the GOAT in Tennis; his best ever season by W/L was in 2006 when he went 92-5. That’s 5 losses in a year … while Kane doesn’t have 5 losses in the last decade. This situation kind of reminds me of the Russian wrestler Aleksandr Karelin, who went 13 years without losing (nor even dropping a point!) a match, and when he did give up a point it was so shocking that the officials went to video replay to confirm the referee’s decision.
– this loss breaks a 74 game winning streak; http://rball.pro/D30B92 . This was the 2nd longest ever Game winning streak, 2nd only to Kane’s 113-game winning streak that covered the whole of the 2016-17 season. This loss includes the first game loss Kane has suffered since the conversion to best-of-3 scoring format on tour.
– this loss also breaks an 83 match winning streak: http://rball.pro/569297 . This was the 3rd longest ever such streak (which skips fft losses), 3rd only to two longer streaks that Kane has achieved earlier in his career.
—————— I did not see the match live; only seeing texts and notifications after it had happened, so I went back and watched it on International Racquetball Tour‘s facebook page (tangent; what a great resource, having all these past matches available at the click of a button).
I watched it end to end, to see if there was evidence of an injury or some other root cause for this shock loss. Kane definitely seemed “off” his game, both in this match and against Thomas Carter in the 16s. And in a sport where the margin of error against top pros is usually measured in millimeters, it was enough to give Beltran (a very skilled shot-maker who can put balls away at any point when he can set his feet) the openings he needed to win.
I thought Kane really struggled with his serve on the day; I can’t recall the last time I saw him leave drive serves coming off the back wall as easy setups (which Beltran dutifully buried), and I can’t recall seeing him miss his lines or skip so many shots that he’d normally roll out.
I’m no pro, but I can tell very quickly when getting onto the court if i’m “on” or “off” that day, and sometimes there’d just nothing you can do about it except try to work around whatever struggles you’re having. These guys play day in, day out for 8 months out of the year and their livelihoods depend on maximizing their talent without allowing for “off days” really, so its hard to criticize one particular outing versus another.
——————— Implications for the 2018-19 race heading into the Syosset event.
Next weekend’s Syosset event is the final tier 1 of the season. However, there’s four additional IRT non-tier 1 events listed on the schedule right now: https://www.irt-tour.com/events/ . Two of those are Tier 2s, which give 120 points to the winner (no small amount of points, given the analysis below):
https://www.irt-tour.com/singles-rankings/ has the current rankings, post Florida rankings and Kane has a 134 point lead over Rocky Carson for the season. The Syosset event is “new” and there’s not corresponding points from last season to “defend,” so its winner takes all here on out.
With a 138 point lead, Rocky basically has to finish two “rounds” ahead of Kane while advancing sufficiently deep this coming weekend to keep the title lead. Here’s scenarios that could result in this situation: – Rocky wins (400 points), Kane loses in semis (220 points): this is a net +180 for Rocky, enough to take over the title lead – Rocky makes final (300 points), Kane loses in qtrs (150 points): net +150 for Rocky, enough to take the lead. – Rocky makes semis (220 points), Kane loses in 16s (90 points): net +130 for rocky … NOT enough to take the lead.
Here’s where it’d get interesting. It is close enough between Kane and Rocky that some of these lesser tier events may come into play. Lets say Rocky or Kane comes out of New York trailing by less than 100 points: if you win a Tier 2, that’s 120 points. There’s two Tier 2s remaining (in Costa Rica and Mexico), a Tier 3 in Kansas, and a Tier 4 in Arkansas.
There are some limitations as to how many non tier 1s that top pros can go to. I don’t know the exact details. Kane went to the PAC Shootout earlier this spring (a Tier 4) and won it. Has Rocky gone to any non-tier 1s this season?
Here’s a fun one to discuss during this slight break in the rball tourney schedule; what’s the best Father/Son combo in our sports’ history? How about Husband/Wife or Brother/Sister?
Here’s some opinions on each category from yours truly, with others that I considered. Did I forget someone? Am I totally wrong? Feel free to chime in.
1. Best Husband/Wife combo: Jack Huczek and Christie Van Hees Only husband-wife team where both sides have won tour championships. Both retired way too soon; I would bet money Jack in particular could still be making the back end of pro tournaments if he was still playing (he was born in 1983, so hes younger right now than Kane/Rocky/Alvaro).
There’s actually a slew of Racquetball playing couples with pro experience on both sides … i limited this to just the best and the top 3 honorable mentions. If you want to include the Pratts, Fowlers, Wachtels, Kirches, Hawthornes, or others, I wouldn’t blame you.
Another category where there’s lots of honorable mentions; I left out the Paraisos, the Doyles, Kerrs, and Odegards in particular. I sense there’s a lot of younger players in the junior ranks that could qualify here too.
Lots of good examples of brothers playing right now. Bredenbecks, Murrays, Kurzbards, Garays, Kellers, Acunas, etc. And there might be more in the Latin Americas that i’m not aware of, since there’s so many players with common surnames.
I thought of a few other father/son combos where at least we knew both sides played at a high level (examples: Schopiearys, Ullimans, Elkins). But I couldn’t think of a single instance of a top pro from our entire sport’s history who has a son playing at a high level right now.
With the win, these players qualify to represent the US in this year’s two International Racquetball Federation – IRF events: the Pan American Racquetball Championships in Columbia in April, and the Pan American Games in August in Peru.
Both teams are no strangers to international competition nor National doubles championships: combined these four champions now have an astounding 29 combined US national doubles titles between them.
These titles represent the nth title for each player: – Carson: 11th career National title. He won 6 with Jack Huczek, then has won 1 each now with Ben Croft, Jose Diaz, Jose Rojas, Sudsy Monchik and now Pratt. Rocky won his first title in 2004. He now sits 5th for National doubles titles world-wide. – Pratt: This is his 1st National doubles title; he’s made the semis a few times in the past with various partners in National events, and has one pro IRT doubles title (with Jansen Allen in 2016). – Ruiz: 12th career National title. She won 2 with Laura Fenton, 5 with Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson, and now 5 with Tisinger. She is tied for 3rd globally for National doubles titles with Canadian Jen Saunders. First place is Canadian legend Josee Grand Maitre with 15 career national doubles titles, and 2nd all time is Ruiz’s former partner Paraiso, who has 14. – Tisinger earns her 5th title, all with Ruiz.
Click here for a list of all Amateur national doubles champions for the three major countries: http://rball.pro/4A22B0
Quick summary of the Men’s draw: the semis were chalk according to seeds: there #3 seeded Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz took out #2 seeded Bobby David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas to reach the final. There, the two finalists split games and headed to a tie-breaker, eventually taken by the champs 11-7.
Quick summary of the Women’s draw: it was upsets galore here, with the 5th seeded team of Michelle De La Rosa and sister Danielle Maddux upsetting defending champs and #1 seeds Kelani Lawrence and Sharon Jackson in an 11-10 tiebreaker win en route to the final. On the other side, 3rd seeded Ruiz/Tisinger took out 2nd seeded and last year’s finalists Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts in a tiebreaker to get to the final. The final was a 2-game win for the veterans.
—————————– The Tempe event also had a singles component, with players competing for qualifying points towards representing the USA in singles. Here’s a quick run-through these draws:
On the Men’s side, #1 seed Carson topped #2 Pratt in two games to take the draw. There were a few notable upsets by seeds in the earlier rounds (Thomas Carter over Mauro Rojas, and Erik Garcia over Robert Collins being perhaps the biggest), but the semis-onward more or less went as expected.
On the Women’s side, the #1 seed Rajsich also took the draw, taking out #3 seeded Lawrence in a rematch of the last two such National level singles draws. The quarters featured two pretty significant results: Hollie Scott trounced Sheryl Lotts in the quarters, and doubles specialist Tisinger took out #2 seeded Sharon Jackson 11-10.
(Reminder: I do not enter these non-National results into the database).
—————————– Lastly, a bit of opinion expression from yours truly based on a situation that arose and was talked about in some of the FB groups.
This was the USA National Doubles Championships. It determines the United States champions in the various divisions and helps select representatives (in both singles and doubles) of our country in international competitions.
So why were there foreign nationals who represent other countries internationally in the draw?
A bit of history: the “US National championships” were, for a time, open to all countries. In fact, the US National amateur singles champs in 75 and 75 were both Canadians (Wayne Bowes and Lindsay Myers respectively). In 82 the then named “AARA” changed the requirement to have the US national singles only be open for US citizens. This is (coincidentally or not) right around the time that the first “international” championships were held; in the 1970s there was just the tournaments held in the USA, and even the professional year end championships declared “National champions.” I don’t ever recall a situation where there was even a question about someone’s citizenship competing for the USA national team … until now.
It says pretty clearly on the entry form that you have to be a US citizen or “have a citizenship application in process.” Understood; some people hold dual citizenships. But how is it possible we’re letting players who have represented other countries internationally (quite recently) compete in the US championships?
There were three examples of this situation this past weekend: – Sebastian Fernandez: He competed in US team qualifying in doubles. Fernandez represents Mexico in juniors, where he was the runner-up in Junior worlds just last November, entered Mexican National Singles last February, and entered the Mexican World Selection event in June. How is he competing in a tournament to represent the USA just a couple months later? – Erik Garcia: hails from Chihuahua, now attending college in the USA … and represented Mexico in Junior worlds in 2013 and competed in Mexican amateur nationals in 2014. Yet he was entered into BOTH singles and doubles USA national team qualifying events.
(Note: post publishing i’ve been informed that Garcia is in fact a US Citizen, born in US. Which then begs the question; how is he playing in Mexican national events? Its the same issue but perhaps in reverse).
– Melania Sauma Masis: has been representing Costa Rica in various junior and senior events since 2009, including playing in the 2017 PARCs and the 2018 Caribbean games. Clearly grew up in CRC, but now attends the host college of this past event (ASU). Less of an issue for Sauma Masis in that she didn’t compete in the National team events (since the application says that “all other divisions are open to US Citizens and residents) … but she did compete for a “US National title” against US citizens, which some have a problem with.
I get that these players may have dual citizenship, which technically would have allowed them to enter the tourney (it was reported that Fernandez does; but I’m not sure how the other two possibly would). I suppose the bigger question is this: how can someone just switch back and forth like (especially) Fernandez has done? Olympic athletes can switch … but they have to wait a few years in-between competitions. Professional Soccer players can switch from one country to another, but only once, and only before officially representing a country at the senior/adult level (at which point they are permanently “capped” to a specific country).
Internationally, there’s a long history of players switching countries. Among others, Ruben Gonzalez, Veronique Guillemette, Natalia Mendez, Mario Mercado, Maria Jose Vargas, and most recently Brenda Laime have switched countries … but i’m not aware of anyone switching to and back like we’ve now seen out of Fernandez over his career.
To take this to the extreme, consider these hypotheticals. Daniel De La Rosa is married to a US citizen and now lives in Arizona (I have no idea if he now has a US passport, if he’s applied for citizenship, etc; this is a hypothetical). He has always and continues to represent Mexico … but lets say DLR plays in Mexican Nationals in February and gets knocked out early but really wants to go to Peru for the Pan Am games. Would you be ok with him then entering USA nationals in May to try to earn a spot? Also hypothetical: Kane Waselenchuk has now lived in Texas nearly as long as he lived in Canada, and marred a US citizen years ago; would you be ok if he entered US Nationals in May?
I think we need some guidelines going forward, where players have to declare to represent one country or another and stick with it. I’m ok with switching countries, but you have to have a legitimate connection, and you have to “sit out” a period of time to prevent venue shopping for IRF representation.
PS: I want to emphasize this point; i’m not making a political statement here. Its more about the inherent conflict of interest that exists.
Happy Holidays! During this little break in the tournament action, here’s some content for everyone to argue about. 🙂 This is my current Men’s World Top 50. Thanks to the ever-widening popularity of the sport, multiple tours and the inability for some top players to play the International Racquetball Tour regularly, the IRT rankings do not really give a full picture of the current state of the world game. This attempts to do so.
I have rankings divided into “groups” so this isn’t a hard and fast 1-50 necessarily, as I’ll explain as we go.
Usual caveats: this is my opinion. No offense intended if you think someone is too high or too low. This is for entertainment purposes only. Its mostly stat/match result based. Its tough to do pure 1-50 b/c of game style match-ups (i.e., a guy in the 30s always beats a guy in the 20s for some reason, but can’t beat anyone in-between). Also, one big win over a top 10 player does not make you a top 10 player … i’ve noted solid wins for players below the top of this list, but look for consistent results over and again before rising up the ranks.
I hope you enjoy!
1. Kane Waselenchuk Large Gap to #2: Kane is head and shoulders ahead of anyone else.
2. Rocky Carson Smaller Gap to #3-6; Rocky still has a lead over the next group and continues to demonstrate it on the court.
I have these guys 3-6, and they’re constantly changing positions. Up until the Mexico Open I had Landa above Montoya, but then Montoya got him H2H. Honestly, I think they’re a coin flip for #3 and #4 right now. Meanwhile, DLR is 3-6 H2H against Landa across senior events so i’ve got him just below Landa … just beat Parrilla and Montoya to win in Monterrey, but lost to Montoya at Mexican Nats earlier this year. Parrilla beat Landa at the past US Open but for me day in, day out is slightly below these other three. On any given Sunday though, these four can all put losses on each other. It is not a surprise that these four were then fou semi-finalists in Monterrey earlier this month.
Moscoso has wins over the guys ranked 3-6, but just lost to Montoya at Worlds and lost to Murray at US Open. I know some people think he should be higher (ahem, Sudsy 🙂 ) but i’ve got him just a hair below. Mar is an enigma; he’s demonstrated the ability to beat all the guys ranked 3-6 and has in the last couple of years, but not quite consistently enough to break into that group. Murray has wins over Montoya, Landa and Moscoso in the last few events; he’s becoming much more consistent winner as of late. Lastly you have Alvaro, who has been showing his age but then turns around and trounces the likes of DLR in Portland. He’s still a tough out, week in and week out but has been consistently slipping down this ranking over the past couple of years.
One last comment on my current top 10: a quick breakdown by country:
And the one American player is nearly 40. The next generation of dominance in our sport is coming from south of the US border.
I call this group the “retired but could still make noise if they weren’t” group. Jose retired after three straight finishes at #5 on tour, and he didn’t retire because he was losing suddenly. Mejia hasn’t played in a while, enough that we may want to remove him, but when we last saw him playing WRT events he was beating consistently those ranked just behind him in the next grouping. Marco Rojas retired after two 7th place finishes on tour, and has winning career records against DLR and Landa, and against guys in the next grouping (Horn, Jake), so its no surprise he’s still this high. Lastly Tony Carson consistently demonstrates he can continue to win, with wins over DLR and Parrilla in the last two IRT events he’s entered.
Here’s where it starts getting tough. This group here is a mix of international players we rarely see, leading World Racquetball Tour players, and mid-ranged IRT players. You may argue that I have Polo too high; but every time he plays an IRT event he makes noise. He’s coming off an elbow injury and is 35 though, so he may be slipping. Horn has some wins against higher ranked players and won 2018 US Nationals in a draw that included Jake, Pratt and Jose Rojas. Pratt has some h2h wins over players in this group, over Beltran, and beat Mar en route to the 2017 Pan Am final. Franco has recent wins over Landa and DLR, and has a solid argument to be higher. Mercado too; he’s 2-2 vs Murray career but just 1-5 against Horn and this feels about right. Iwaasa took several years off, but has not lost his touch, taking Mercado to the edge at Worlds twice and making the Finals in the WRT Canada event in a draw that featured several guys in this group. Keller Vargas won the 2018 Pan Ams over Montoya and Horn, but lost to Franco at Worlds; I used to have him much higher and wonder if he’d be a top 10 player if he played the tour regularly. Lastly Jake; he’s one of the few players to have wins over Kane, DLR and Rocky ever, but has struggled to beat players in this group or the grouping above lately and has been slightly slipping down in this ranking after having some early IRT season struggles.
Croft is pretty much retired, so not much recent to go on; he beat Horn but lost to Jake in a singles event in Denver earlier this year. Estrada, Natera and Ochoa are all rising Mexican players to watch out for. Estrada beat Landa at Mexican world selection event, just beat Beltran in Monterrey and has played Montoya tough twice this fall. Natera has recent wins over Mar and others in this grouping. Ochoa has recent wins over Beltran, Parrilla, and Mar and may very well be higher. Cardona used to be in the next group up as the reigning king of the hill in the WRT but has been losing ground to the likes of Horn and Jake and the youngsters rising up in Mexico over the past year or so.
Sudsy made the semis of the US Open last year by beating Allen, then beat Diaz but lost to Jake in an WRT event so this seems about right (thought I wouldn’t argue if you thought he was higher). Allen has had some solid wins against the likes of Beltran, Mercado, Murray lately, and beat Diaz in the Laurel season opener, and may be a bit higher. Lastly you have the younger Rojas, who has consistently beaten players below here but not too many above and who has the game to start breaking through and moving up.
This grouping could benefit from more head to head meetings; would Allen beat the likes of Estrada, Natera and Ochoa if they played? Here’s hoping for some more IRT events held in Mexico to get more full draws.
32. Cliff Swain; even though he hasn’t played in more than a year, I still think he could beat anyone listed below here. I’m hoping he plays some more pro events and tries to break some of Ruben Gonzalez‘s more amazing feats of reaching the end stages of pro tourneys at advanced ages.
As with the group above, its tougher in this area to really rank guys sequentially because there’s not a lot of h2h to go on. Gerardo Franco probably has an argument to be higher, with recent wins over Sebastian Franco, over DLR and Jake in Cincy18, etc. I’ve got Lalo just ahead of Sebastian on account of his h2h win at Junior Worlds, but Lalo has lost multiple times to Gerardo Franco in the last year so this trio feels right. Martell has great wins (Landa, Jake, Horn), but then also has early tourney losses in recent WRT and amateur events. Garay has wins over guys in this grouping and against the likes of Parrilla and might be higher. Alonso plays the guys in this grouping tough, has wins over Parrilla in the past but needs more consistency.
Landeryou has h2h wins over both the next two guys below him hence the ranking, but not much else to go on. Reid has a win over Mercado and a US Open title in Men’s open in a draw that featured many players in this group or just below, so this ranking makes sense. Green has reigned over Canada racquetball for two decades but may be retiring and most recently lost to Landeryou at Canadian Nationals. Longoria has some wins over the likes of GFranco and Estrada and may have a case to be a bit higher. Lastly Manilla just took out Mercado in Laurel18 and has had a promising start to the new season, so this seems about right.
Herrera is a long-time IRT vet, just took the 2018 US Open Men’s Open draw over Acuna in the final and beating several Honorable Mention players along the way. Acuna has some solid wins recently (Portillo, Camacho, even Horn at the US Open) and may have a good argument to be higher. Rios doesn’t have much to go on recently but has good wins internationally in the past. Garcia is the 16U reigning world champ who has beaten a few of the HM players in limited adult tourneys. Mollet is the Cuban #1 who makes noise whenever he enters (beat Camacho h2h at Central American games in 2018 for example). Camacho has some wins over higher players (Fernandez, Allen) but has losses to players right in this group so this feels about right. Bousquet had some solid wins over HM players in 2017.
And it should be noted, there’s a slew of HM players below who might very well be in this group, or slightly higher. In fact, as I typed this I wondered if any number of the below players shouldn’t be in this 40-50 range.
Honorable Mentions: I can’t tag more than 50 players per post, so nobody below is tagged, but here’s the players just outside the top 50 by category:
———————— HM Int’l players: Fernando Kurzbard, Jose Daniel Ugalde, Juan Salvatierra, Francisco Troncoso, Andres Gomez, Teobaldo Fumero, Luis Perez, Christian Wer, Hiroshi Shimizu, Lee Connell, Set Cubillos, David Garcia
HM Mexican Players: Edson Martinez, Rodrigo Garay, Rodrigo Rodrigez, Alejandro Almada, Edwin Galicia, Miguel Rodriguez Jr., Daniel Neri, Erick Cuevas Fernandez, Alan Palomino
HM USA IRT Regulars: Thomas Carter, Robert Collins, Scott McClellan, Troy Warigon, John Wolfe
HM USA periodic players: Taylor Knoth, Nick Montalbano, Majeed Shaheen, Matthew Majxner, Maurice Miller, Brad Schopiery, Luis Avila, Brent Walters, Tim Prigo
HM USA Up and comers: Kevin Vasquez, Erik Garcia, Jordan Barth, Nick Riffel, Mauricio Zelada, Wayne Antone IV, Justus Benson, Danny Lavely, Lukas Le,Dylan Pruitt, Kyle Ulliman, A.J. Fernandez, Sam Bredenbeck, Sunji Spencer
HM retired pro players: Alex Ackermann, Gilberto De Los Rios, Kris Odegard, Ricardo Monroy, Anthony Herrera, Shai Manzuri, Javier Moreno ——————————
Phew. Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone; let me know in the comments if you think I did. Look forward to your commentary. Happy Holidays!
On 4/28/18, minutes after winning the final event of the 2017-18 season, Kane shocked the racquetball world by announcing that he was “90%” sure he was retiring from full-time touring.
There’s all sorts of chatter here and there on this subject on facebook right now in the rball community, a lot of it inexplicably negative. So how about some positivity in reflecting on what an amazing career he’s had to date?
I’ll say this, from my perspective as the guy who tracks allof this data for www.proracquetballstats.com: Kane’s dominance is the reason many of the cool reports on the site exist, and I’ll be bummed to see him go and stop chasing records. There are not too many people in the professional sports landscape who get to say that they won their last match. As for the future, as a fan of the pro sport and someone who is always trying to predict who beats who in head to head match-ups, I’m also excited to see the next era of the sport, to see who steps up next year to challenge Rocky for the next title. It was always an inevitability that the current elder statesmen of the tour were going to step aside; i’m just surprised by who bowed out first and when. I sincerely hope he changes his mind and chases a 13th title (and beyond).
Its quite a few months away from the start of the 2018-19 season, and 90% isn’t 100%, so this whole post may be premature … but going under the assumption that we’ve seen the last of Kane full time on tour, I thought it’d be fun to put out some fun stats on his career. Every one of these figures can be found by running a report on the website, but if you have any questions how to see these data points for yourself, i’m always available.
Pro Tour Titles: – 12 pro tour titles; 6 more than the next closest competitor (Cliff Swain‘s 6 pro titles)
Some Tournament title stats: – 110 pro tournament wins, 39 more than the next closest competitor (Cliff’s 71 “known” tour wins) – Tournament win percentage of 68.3% for his career. To put this in perspective, if 68.3% was his MATCH won/loss percentage he’d still be top 15 of all time. – He reached the finals in 74.5% of the tournaments he ever entered. Think about that fact; 3 out of every 4 tournaments for his career featured him in the final. – He won the 7th pro event he ever entered (same as Cliff and Sudsy Monchik in terms of fastest ever). – He owns 13 US Open titles, triple the closest competitor.
Wins and Losses – “Retires” with a career record of 553-50, a .917 winning percentage. – He’s so far ahead of the 2nd best player in terms of career W/L percentage (Marty Hogan at .844) that he could lose 50 straight matches and still be in the lead. Fifty. This to me is the most amazing stat about Kane’s career.
– 13 of his 50 career tour losses were forfeits where he never even took the court (either through injury or missing a tournament after the draw had been made). So some would like to say his career W/L record is even more impressive than it already appears. – Most wins against him: Cliff Swain, who finished 9-13 head to head against Kane. – He’s had just 12 losses in the last decade, most by forfeit. – There’s just one player in the history of the tour who has a winning record against him: John Ellis , 2-1. – He’s 73-3 for his career against Rocky Carson, who was his closest competitor for most of his reign. – the last on the court loss he suffered was to Jake Bredenbeck in May 2016, retiring in the 5th game after winning the first two and suffering an injury. – The last on the court, non-fft related loss was to Jose Rojas in Sept 2013. Prior to that you have to go back to Jan 2009, a semis loss to Alvaro Beltran. That’s nearly a decade ago.
Streaks – Won 19 consecutive tournaments entered between Jan 2009 and Jan 2011. – He owns the top six consecutive tournaments won streak of all time, each of which is in the double digits.
– Compiled a 134 match on the court winning streak, between Jan 2009 and Jan 2012. – Also had additional such streaks of 108 matches and he retires with an intact 61 match winning streak on the court. He owns the longest three such match winning streaks in pro tour history (Marty’s great 1976-77 season is the fourth longest winning streak).
– Completed two fully undefeated seasons (forfeits or otherwise); 2009-10, 2016-17; the first such seasons ever done on tour. – Several other seasons, when accounting for forfeit losses, were also “undefeated” seasons.
– He completed a perfect season in terms of games won/lost, going 85-0 in games played during the 2016-17 season. – This was part of a streak of 113 consecutive games won between May 2016 and Oct 2017. For me, this might be his most amazing accomplishment on the court. He was so dominant for so long that he didn’t even drop a game for a year and a half.
Miscellany – Career donut count: 130 given, 3 taken. During tournaments, I’m often asked to recall the individual donuts he’s received in lieu of match losses. (In case you’re wondering; Swain gave him a donut in 2001, again in 2004, then Rojas gave him a donut in 2012 before getting donutted himself in the second game. – He won a title in the last 15 seasons in which he competed.
– He owns the top 7 most dominant finals performances in terms of points conceded, and 19 of the top 22. – He owns the top 17 most dominant tournaments in history (and 33 of top 34), once winning a tourney and conceding just 19 points in 12 games across 4 matches. – Just about the only records he doesn’t own in the history of the tour are longevity/age based, ones that I’d have no doubt he could eventually eclipse if he were to continue playing deep into his 40s.
So, that’s some fun stats for you. I hope you enjoy, and long live King Kane.