——- Here’s some random observations about the players on tour this year who finished ranked 31st or higher.
– Former top 10 player Jansen Allen took a significant step back from touring, playing in just 2 of the 10 events and finishing #32 on the season.
– #33 Kadim Carrasco played 7 of the 10 events and won 7 qualifying matches, but never enough in one event to make a main draw.
– #34 Jaime Martell Neri fought his way into the main draw of the US Open from the round of 256 and had a couple of wins over tour vets/former top 10 players along the way. He went 5-2 on the season in two events. He’s one of those guys who, if he played the tour full-time, would likely be in the upper teens in rankings.
– #35 Jose Diaz’s ranking plummeted from #11 last season as he took a hard look at the costs of touring and decided to stand down this season. He played 3 events this year.
– #36 Maurice Miller played three events and got four qualifier wins, but never was able to break through to the main draw.
– #38 Ernesto Ochoa played just one tier 1 this year (the US Open) but continues to get solid wins in RKT local events in Mexico, and is one of those “best kept secrets” of players who might really surprise if they played the tour full time.
#42 Anthony Martin quietly made it to 6 tier 1 events, running into a number of tough opponents in qualifying.
#43 Erick Cuevas played four events and got a couple of qualifier wins on the year.
#48 Lee Meinerz got a couple of qualifier wins during the tour’s mid-west spin in Jan/Feb and played tour regulars tough.
#51 Erik Garcia, the reigning intercollegiates champ, played a couple of events on the season with some success.
#77 Francisco Gomez made the main draw of the US Open by qualifying from the round of 256 as the #68 seed; it was his only appearance on tour all year but he took out two tough players in Benson and Natera along the way.
——– That’s it for the 2019-20 season. Thanks to the pandemic, nobody is really sure when the next event will be, but we’ll hope for Aug/sept.
Congrats to your winners on the weekend: – Men’s Doubles: Sudsy Monchik & Alejandro Landa – Women’s Doubles; Aimee Ruiz & Erika Manilla
And the winners of the Singles qualifiers: – Men’s Singles: Rocky Carson – Women’s Singles: Hollie Scott
Sudsy/Landa win three straight 11-9 breakers over former USA National doubles championship teams to take the title. Ruiz secures her 12th title (13th won on the court) and brings along Manilla for her first ever National Doubles title.
All three round of 16 matches were two game wins that weren’t necessarily that close: #9 MoMo Zelada/ Robert Collins “upset” the #8 seeded team of Brent Walters and Thomas Gerhardt 13,3 as the round’s closest match.
– The #5 team of Alex Landa and Sudsy Monchik barely got by a very good #4 seeded team of Tony Carson and Jansen Allen (13),12,9. Carson/Allen jumped out to a huge lead in game one and it looked for a time like the match would be a blow-out, but Landa/Monchik battled back and lost game one on a disputed call. Game two was more in Landa/Monchik control towards the end, leading to the inevitable tiebreaker.
In the breaker, a very tense match reached its crescendo. There was almost nothing between these teams and throughout the 3rd game rallies often ended with spectacular pinch winners or debatable hinders. Carson’s backhand was lethal throughout the match, and his backhand hard Z gave Sudsy fits all night. At the end, Landa was able to find a serve that Allen couldn’t (or didn’t) attack, which led to scoring opportunities that they didn’t miss to pull away and get the last two points to win 11-9.
– #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ were pushed to a breaker, but eventually advanced over #7 Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon.
————— In the Semis – #5 Landa/Monchik dethroned defending champs Carson/Pratt in a fascinating match that went down to the wire. After dropping the first game rather easily, the #5 seeds regrouped and forced a tie-breaker. There, it went down to the a couple of critical rallies, just as their match in the quarters. Carson & Pratt looked like they had the match in hand, up 8-4 with the serve … they missed two opportunities to push it further, giving the serve back. There, a skip, a funny bounce a mis-communication and a crack-ace quickly got the match to 8-8. From there, Landa crushed a service return for a half out, then Rocky buried a pinch kill from 39 feet for 9-8. Sudsy then crushed a pinch kill to get a side out … called a skip for 10-8 but overturned by both line judges for a critical side-out at 8-9 for Landa/Monchik. From there … destiny took over; Pratt got hit by a call heading for a setup for 9-9, Landa buried a kill shot for 10-9 and then Pratt skipped a service return for an anti-climactic end to a great match.
– #2 Jake/Diaz overcame a first game defeat to cruise to the win, advancing to the final for the third time in five years, defeating #6 Horn/Garcia (11),5,3.
In the Finals, Sudsy/Landa looked for a time to be cruising to the title, jumping out to a big game one lead before Jake/Jose fought back to make it a game. Game two was one-way traffic, setting up yet another nail biting tiebreaker. There, the veterans jumped out to a big lead, only to have Jake/Jose grind back to 9-9. Then, as with the two previous matches, Landa/Monchik faced 9-9 down without the serve, got it back and served it out for the match.
The cardiac kid veterans beat three former champs, each time 11-9 in the breaker, to secure the title and claim National team spots.
In the quarters, two matches: – The young #4 seeds Jazmin Trevino and Erin Slutzky prevailed in a breaker over #5 Cassie Lee and Fran Transfiguracion 11-8. – the #3 seeds of collegiate stars Hollie Scott and Lexi York dominated the team of Graciana Wargo and Jessica Chen 4.3.
In the Semis: – #1 seeds Aimee Roehler Ruiz and Erika Manilla cruised to the final over the #4 team of Trevino/Slutzky 7,7 – #3 Hollie Scott and Lexi York] outplayed the #2 seeded team of Kelani Lawrence and Sheryl Lotts, winning in two games 8,13 to move into the final.
In the Finals: the #1 seeds dominated, led by Ruiz’ experience and cruised to the title 6,9.
—————- Men’s Singles Qualification:
(No match report in PRS database b/c we’re not loading this data right now).
Here’s a review of the singles qualifier:
round of 16 notable matches: – #8 Maurice Miller got a solid win over #9 Erik Garcia 12,(6),5. – #12 MoMo Zelada got the biggest upset of the night, playing a solid match to down #5 Charlie Pratt 12,11. Pratt made the semis of the last two US Nationals event, and Zelada has really been playing well lately. – #6 Thomas Carter came back from a 15-0 first game defeat to down #11 Robert Collins (0),7,9 in a battle of lefty IRT tour veterans. Collins really couldn’t do anything wrong in the first, but Carter made some adjustments to advance. – #7 Manilla took two solid games over the improving #10 Sam Bredenbeck 8,12 to move on.
In the Quarters: all four top seeds advanced in two games in the near-chalk draw: – #1 Carson over #8 Miller – #4 Horn over #12 Zelada – #3 Bredenbeck over #6 Carter – #2 Landa over #7 Manilla
In the Semis: – #1 Carson remained undefeated against #4 Horn, but was pressed to a tie-breaker to advance. – #2 Landa also remained undefeated against #3 Bredenbeck, winning in two straight.
In the final, a fatigued Landa fell to Carson in two games; it looked for a bit like Landa could rally for a breaker in the second game, but a couple of curious calls went against him at the tail end of game two, he lost focus and the match was over; Carson wins 6,14.
—————— Women’s Singles
Round of 16 notables: – #8 Jessica Chen took out her doubles partner #9 Wargo in two. – #6 York dropped the first game against junior Slutzky before advancing.
In the quarters: all four top seeds advanced. – #1 Rhonda Rajsich over #8 Chen – #4 Erika Manilla went tiebreaker to advance over #5 Lotts, dropping the first game 6 then winning (6),7,3. – #3 Scott downed her doubles partner York 8,9 – #2 Lawrence took out fellow LPRT touring regular Cassie Lee 6,1.
In the semis: – #4 Manilla got a career win, topping #1 Rajsich in a tie-breaker. – #3 Scott upset #2 Lawrence in a rematch of last year’s US National singles final.
I said my peace on the seeding issues here in the preview; this event was mis-seeded, and these semis match-ups demonstrate why it was mis-seeded and why Lawrence in particular probably feels hard done by here.
In the final…Scott prevailed over Manilla in the breaker to put herself in the driver’s seat for a National team spot.
—————— National Team Standing Implications of these results.
On the Men’s side, if my calculations are correct, then the top for candidates in the race for the two National team singles spots are: 1. Landa: 36 2. Carson: 32 3. Jake: 20 4. Horn.20
Despite losing the final here, Landa is in the lead for a national team spot thanks to the vast difference in US OPen results. Landa and Carson have a pretty sizeable lead over Jake and Horn; the only way Jake or Bobby could surpass Landa or Carson is to win US Nationals this coming May and have one of Landa/Carson upset prior to the semis.
On the Women’s side, here’s the current standings: 1. Scott: 31 2. Manilla: 24 3. Rhonda: 20 4. Kelani: 19
Hollie pretty much has a spot sewn up at this point: The second spot will come down to how 2 thru 4 play at Natioanls in May.
—————— Other notable draws from National Doubles:
– Miller and Warigon took the Men’s Open Doubles title. – Trevino and Slutzky took the Women’s Open Doubles title.
—————— Next up?
There’s no major tournaments anywhere in the world (pro or amateur) until the first week of March. So we have a bit of a break.
Welcome to the first major Amateur Nationals event of Fy2020. Its the US National doubles event, being held in Tempe, AZ on the campus of Arizona State University.
This is the 53rd iteration of US National doubles: The first was held in 1968 in Madison, Wisconsin and the first Men’s US national title was won by the team of Simie Fein and Jim White. The Women’s event doesn’t seem to have started until 1972; the first winners I have on record were Jan Pasternak and Kimberly Hill, who won the title in Memphis in 1972.
Rocky Carson holds the Men’s record for most National Doubles titles; he has 11 titles in 13 appearances. Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson holds the record on the Women’s side with 14 titles in 15 appearances.
The Men’s draw has 11 teams, highlighted by both of last year’s finalist teams as the #1 and #2 seeds. The big news of course this year is the entry of one team in particular: Alex Landa , the current #2 player on the IRT has entered with 5-time pro tour champ and Hall of Famer Sudsy Monchik.
Landa, who has represented Mexico his entire career, famously was left off the Mexican delegation to the Pan American Games last year despite winning the 2019 Mexican Nationals event. The Mexican federation made this decision based on rather “debatable” guidelines to say the least, and in the aftermath Landa asked for (and was granted) his release from the Mexican team. He’s a dual citizen and has resided in Texas for many years, and quickly was able to obtain clearance to enter in US national events. He’s an accomplished doubles player, currently ranked #3 on the IRT doubles ranking, and is a right-side (forehand) player. He’s teamed a legend and a great left-side (backhand) doubles player in Sudsy to make a pretty formidable team. They’re handed the #5 seed, meaning they’ll have to play through both top seeds to win it.
——————————- Lets preview the Men’s doubles draw:
Round of 16: there’s three play-in round of 16 matches, with some interesting match-ups
– In the 8/9 matchup; an east coast flair: North Carolina native Brent Walters teams with top Virginia player Thomas Gerhardt to take on Maryland native MoMo Zelada and his partner, Hawaiian-turned-NorCal guy Robert Collins: Collins as a lefty gives that team an advantage here over the two east coast veterans. – The solid #6 team of David ” Bobby” Horn and reigning intercollegiate champ Erik Garcia takes on #11 team of Arizona youngsters Ben Baron and Preston Tribble. – #7 team of good friends from the east coast Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon take on #10 team Justus Benson and Sam Bredenbeck. Four semi-regular IRT players here battle it out and a ton of hard hitters.
—————————— Projected Qtrs: – #1 Defending champs Carson and Charlie Pratt Racquetball likely take on Zelada/Collins and should control the floor. – #5 Monchik/Landa get started against the #4 team of Jansen Allen and Tony Carson, the 2013 champions. Both former top-10 IRT pros, Carson is just coming back from a year-long injury to his achilles heel and had to forfeit out of the last pro event he entered, while Allen has taken a step back from touring full time. This will be a good first test for Monchik/Landa and a tough draw for the former champs. – #3 Adam Manilla and his college buddy Nick Riffel likely play Horn/Garcia. Manilla as a lefty gives this team a big advantage, but Garcia can be the x-factor here. Look for the upset. – #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ likely face the #7 seeds Warigon/Miller and should advance.
Semis: – I like Monchik/Landa to upset the #1 seeds Carson/Pratt here. My simple theory in predicting doubles matches is to look at the match-up on the right-hand side to predict matches; If there’s a weak link on the court, it often presents on the forehand side of the weaker team. Pratt is by no means a “weak” player, but Landa isn’t #2 in the world by accident. I think Sudsy hangs with Rocky on the backhand and Landa makes the difference on the forehand. – I like #2 Jake/Diaz to make the final again; they’re just too experienced playing together and too good of a team.
Finals: – Landa didn’t switch to the USA to not make the team; he’s on a mission in Arizona, and I like them for the upset win.
——————————- Lets preview the Women’s Doubles draw:
Just 6 teams entered here. #1 seed includes one member of last year’s on-the-court champion team in Aimee Roehler Ruiz, who is second all-time to Paraiso-Larseen in career US National doubles titles with 11. She was part of the winning team last year before having the title vacated, but now she’s back with a new partner as the top seed. The #2 seeds from last year (the Key sisters Michelle De La Rosa and Danielle Maddox) are not entered, thus we’ve got a wide-open field.
In the Quarters i’m predicting chalk: – #4 Jazmín Treviño and Erin Slutzky over #5 Cassie Lee and Fran Transfiguracion – #3 Hollie Scott and Lexi York over #6 Graci Wargo & Jessica Chen.
In the semis: – i like the #1 team of Ruiz and Erika Manilla to advance to the final. – I think the #2 seeds of Kelani Lawrence] and Sheryl Lotts, two LPRT regulars who are impressing this season, will have their hands full with Scott and York but will prevail.
Predicted final: I like Lawrence/Lotts over Ruiz/Manilla. Ruiz’ leftiness helps, but I suspect that the overall talent level of the #2 seeded team will overcome the #1 seeds in the final.
——————————— Singles qualifier Review:
The USA added the singles event to National Doubles in 2016 as part of a revamping of the way the National team is decided. US players now compete in three events to gain “points” towards team qualification; the US Open in October, National doubles in February and National singles in May. One may argue that using US Open pro results is unfair (it is; you’re often playing non-US players while competing towards a US team spot), but it is the only other “major” event we have at the moment.
A reminder: I have captured these non-Nationals events in my staging area, but they are NOT loaded into the database and are not currently queryable. I’ve had requests to add this data for a better head to head representation (especially for Canadians, who have been holding these types of events for years), or to get winners of these past events … but it would take significant retrofitting of the reports to do so, so its back burnered for now.
That being said, its a great draw in Tempe and I look forward to it as a fan.
——————————— Men’s singles draw review:
Some questions have arisen related to the seedings here: if Landa just converted to USA … how is he seeded 2nd? Well that’s because USAR uses their internal rankings and Carson is ahead of Landa. See https://www.usaracquetballevents.com/rankings.asp . The USAR rankings do include basically all pro players, and is driven mostly by head to head match-ups. But, just because playerA beats playerB doesn’t automatically move them ahead; the last time Landa played Carson was in the final of the Nov 2019 Fullerton event, a Landa win … yet he remains behind Rocky until he beats him again.
Here’s some notable matches from the 16s I look forward to: – 8/9 Erik Garcia vs Maurice Miller should be a great match; I think the collegiate champ moves on. – 5/12 Zelada vs Pratt is interesting: Zelada doesn’t play every pro event but can hang with the players regularly in the 9-16 range. Pratt used to make noise in nearly every event he entered, but as he winds down from full time touring he’s been taking more and more earlier early round losses; in his last 7 pro stops over the last two years he’s made just 3 main draws. – 6/11: Collins vs Thomas Carter: love the lefty on lefty matches. – 7/10: Adam Manilla vs Sam Bredenbeck: could be an interesting match here; can Sam get the upset?
Projected Quarters: – #1 Carson over #9 Garcia – #4 Horn over #5 Pratt: Bobby beat Charlie in last year’s US Nationals and recently in a local event on his home court and I think he prevails again. – #3 Jake Bredenbeck over #6 Carter – #2 Landa over the Manilla
Semis: – #1 Carson moves on over Horn; he’s 4-0 lifetime over Bobby. – #2 Landa tops Jake Bredenbeck; he’s 8-0 lifetime over Jake.
Final: tough one to call; I think Landa is super motivated to win and get a big leg up on qualifying for the team. If this was actually Nationals i’d go with Landa, but here Rocky takes the title since by Sunday I perceive Rocky will be out of doubles while Landa will be shooting for two titles.
——————————— Women’s singles draw review:
First, can someone explain the seeding in this event to me? Right now, on USAR’s ranking page Kelani Lawrence is ahead of Rhonda Rajsich. Kelani BEAT Rhonda in Nationals last year en route to the title and is the defending champ. How is Kelani not seeded #1? I don’t get it. You may say “oh seeding doesn’t matter you have to beat everyone to win” … but as you’ll see, Kelani now has a significantly harder semis match than the #1 seed has.
Nonetheless, here’s a preview of this draw. Notable early matches to watch: – 8/9 Wargo vs Chen: young doubles partners square off early. – 6/11: York vs Slutzky: can the junior Slutzky (just finishing her 16U year and making her adult debut) challenge York?
quarters projection: – #1 Rajsich over Wargo – #5 Lotts over #4 Manilla; this should be a great match. – #3 Scott over #6 York, again doubles partners squaring off. – #2 Lawrence over #7 Lee.
The rubber meats the road in the semis.
– #1 Rajsich vs #5 Lotts: Rhonda has had a tough pro season so far: four times she’s lost in the 16s, but she’s also made two semis. Lotts has competed well against top-8 players but has yet to break through with a round of 16 win. Rhonda has never lost to Lotts, and this may go deep but Rhonda prevails. – #2 Lawrence vs #3 Scott: this is a rematch of last year’s final (which is why seeding accuracy is so important); Kelani prevailed there 11-10 but it could have gone either way. Since then, Lawrence has made a concerted effort to play the LPRT more, and has a slew of solid results. I think Lawrence has grown more in the last year as a player than Scott, and prevails here.
Lawrence and Rajsich again. These two met in US Nationals events in 2016, 2018 and 2019. They’ve also met in this qualifier event every year since it started: 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. So its only fitting that they meet in the 2020 iteration.
In all of these 7 matches, Rhonda is 6-1. But that one win was in last year’s Nationals event. Lawrence got that break through win and hasn’t looked back. Lawrence for the win here too.
——————————— Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow USA Racquetball on Facebook and register for live video notifications. Leo Ray Vasquez on the mike all weekend as usual.
Congrats to your winners on the weekend: – Singles: Paola Longoria – Doubles: Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas
Longoria dominates the competition, never giving up more than 8 points in a game on the weekend to cruise to her 97th career tier-1 title. And, the #1 doubles pairing holds serve against the upstart Mejia/Herrera duo to take the title.
—————- In the Quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria dominated her young Mexican rival #9 Montse Mejia 3,8 to move into the semis. More and more Mejia’s win over Longoria at the 2019 Mexican Nationals is looking like a fluke; Longoria has beaten Montse the last three times they’ve played on tour by the score lines 5,6 then 2,6 and today 3,8. – #4 Alexandra Herrera needed a tie-breaker to get past #5 Natalia Mendez Erlwein in what could be an interesting budding rivalry. – #6 Rhonda Rajsich became the latest player to get an upset win over #3 Samantha Salas Solis this season, taking out her long-time rival in a breaker by the slimmest of margins 11-10. Salas has now been beaten prior to the finals in all six of this season’s events she’s entered; last season she played 9 events and made 9 finals. – #2 Maria Jose Vargas Parada was pressed in game one by the junior phenom Centellas (now officially her country-woman having made the switch to represent Argentina), but pulled away to win in two.
————— In the Semis – Longoria continued to dominate in Greenville, beating #4 Herrera in two games 3,7 to return to the final. – Rajsich pushed Vargas to the breaker and looked for a moment like she could get to a final for the first time since June 2017 … but ran out of gas in the breaker.
————— In the Finals, we get the 5th final between Longoria and Vargas on the season. The first four were Longoria wins … and we got another Longoria win here too. Paola dominated the #2 player on tour to win 5,6 for the singles title.
—————- Points Implications of results: there’s definitely some interesting movement in the rankings as a result of this event.
– The top 1-6 stay the same, and in the same order. Longoria treads water in that she’s the defending champ, while Vargas gains on her and Salas loses more ground. Vargas now has a large enough lead on Salas that it likely is impossible for Samantha to regain #2 this season. – Despite her run to the semis, Rhonda actually loses ground to Mendez for #5 thanks to Rajsich having to defend semis points from last year. – The big news is that Enriquez has been knocked from the #7 perch that she’s held for quite a while. Mejia has moved up to #7, which means that she avoids Longoria in the quarters and could have deeper implications for draws going forward. This also bumps Amaya to #9, which is less impactful to her in that 8-9 still plays into #1. – Parrilla has now ascended to #11; its been a long grind for her attempting to get back her top 4 ranking, due partly to unlucky play-in matches and partly to increased depth on tour. But every tick up in rankings means a slightly “easier” round of 16 for her, and more opportunities for her to get deeper into events. – Munoz makes a big jump from 18 to 13, and will continue to rise since she played no events in the 2nd half of last season, meaning every point earned is a net point gained on the rest of the field. I could see her getting up as high as #11 by the end of the season, but it’d be tough to get much higher thanks to a points gulf from 11 to 10 on tour. – Centellas continues her meteoric rise; last week she was ranked 25th, now she’s 16th. She started the season outside the top 30. And she’s proving that her results are no mistake, taking down multiple top 10 players along the way.
While the International Racquetball Tour was in Austin this past weekend for the Longhorn Open, one of the longer continuously running events in the land was happening back in my neck of the woods, with an IRT Tier 5 draw plus a solid Women’s open draw that saw some great matches and contributed to some great Mixed Open play.
Here’s a wrap-up of the 2020 Wintergreen Classic from Laurel, Md this past weekend.
Seeds when chalk to the semis, where the top four seeds advanced in #1 Maurice Miller, #2 MoMo Zelada, #3 Troy Warigon and #4 David Austin. We saw all these players in action in Laurel when the IRT visited in September, and they were all back here for this event.
Other notables in the draw: LPRT touring pro and Momo’s wife Masiel Rivera Oporto competed in the draw, upset the 5th seed and fell in the quarters. Top east coast junior Dylan Pruitt, who represented the USA playing doubles in the World Juniors last November, was the 6th seed and fell to home-town player Warigon in the qtrs.
In the semis: – #1 Miller defeated New Jersey’s #4 seed Austin 5,7 – #2 Zelada went tie-breaker with #3 Warigon as they often do, with Zelada coming out on top again 11-4.
In the final, Zelada outlasted Miller for the third time in the last year in east coast events, blanking him in the breaker to take the title.
————— Women’s Open:
Virginia’s Kelani Lawrence was the 3rd seed of three LPRT pros in this round robin, but beat both Valeria Centellas and Masiel Rivera in dominant fashion to take the title. It was definitely a statement by Kelani, who has now broken into the LPRT top 20.
Interesting side note: Centellas’ home town in r2sports was listed as Buenos Aires, Argentina. I had heard rumors that she was considering a country switch from Bolivia to Argentina and I wonder if it is now official. This is an interesting development for the international game; Argentina has long been represented by two top LPRT pros in the international game (Maria Jose Vargas and Natalia Mendez, ironically themselves both Bolivian-born and naturalized as well). We’ll see if this gets officially announced at some point.
—————- In Men’s Open Doubles; the 2nd and 3rd seeded singles players Miller and Warigon teamed up to dominate long-time Virginia-based tourney players Ross Weinberg and Raul Berrios in the final. Good showing by the veteran team to oust the #2 seeded youngsters of Pruitt/Austin to advance.
—————- In Mixed Open Doubles: the presence of a number of top women’s players made the Mixed Open draw fabulous.
In one semi, #1 seeds Warigon & Lawrence took out top dc-area doubles players Weinberg and Kristen Junkin Jones, and in the other semi #2 seeds Miller and Centellas defeated Rivera and Pruitt.
In the final, the reigning world doubles champion Centellas helped spur her team to victory, with Miller/Centellas winning a tight two-game match against Warigon/Lawrence.
There was a 14-man IRT Tier 5 event at the LPRT Xmas classic; here’s a recap of that and some of the other amateur events that went on.
A ton of the LPRT pros played Mixed Open, there was a solid Women’s Open draw, and a few Men’s Open teams as well.
In the IRT Singles draw: – #1 Maurice Miller took out top VA amateur #4 Thomas Gerhardt in one semi, and then #3 Troy Warigon defeated #2 Mauricio Zelada in the other. The 2/3 match was pretty special; the two home-court players played the perfect match: 14,(14),10. – In the final, MIller overcame a game-1 loss to defeat Warigon for the title.
In Men’s Open, the two singles finalists teamed up to take the Open Doubles title over #3 seeds Dylan Pruitt and Jersey native David Austin.
In Women’s Open: Carla Muñoz Montesinos made up for her quarters loss in pros to take the singles Open title over Lexi York.
In Mixed Open, the two Mens singles finalists advanced again to the finals, and there Miller teamed up with Natalia Mendez Erlwein to take the title over #2 Warigon, who played with Virginia native Kelani Lawrence.
This made Miller the rare triple-winner on the weekend.
Here’s a wrap-up of the Pro Doubles qualifying, which had some pretty amazing matches.
Before we get into it though, a bit of opining.
– 27 total teams entered, so that means 23 teams were competing for 4 spots in the main draw? I think the tour has to fix this going forward. That’s just too much of an advantage to the four teams that got byes into the quarters. At the very least it should have been 23 whittled to 8 spots in a round of 16. This would have given main draw exposure to one of several teams that ended up getting eliminated at the qualifying stage.
– Why did seeding for the Pro doubles deviate from the IRT pro doubles rankings? It looks like the doubles draw utilized the typical USAR method of automatically seeding last year’s finalists 1 and 2. On the one hand, yeah I think Kane/Croft deserve a top 2 seed b/c, well, I think they’re one of the two best teams. However, what I “think” shouldn’t be a factor; that’s why you have a ranking system and it should have been used irrespective of where the teams landed. Jose Diaz has a point.
Here’s the notable qualifying matches on the Men’s doubles side:
We’re down to the top 32, having played 2-3 rounds of qualifiers Wednesday to whittle the field from 94.
here’s the matches I found notable or upset-worthy from Wednesday’s marathon qualifying.
In the 256s: – fellow Virginian Rich Benderoth took a tiebreaker win over Erik Solter. Shout out to Rich, who regularly spanked me a decade ago when I used to actually play this sport. Unfortunately he injured himself in the process and forfeited his next round.
– USA 18U junior Lucas Shoemaker gets a win in his professional debut, downing Bolivian Vladimir Fernando Salas in a tie-breaker.
– Colorado native Jacob Kingsford gets a win in his debut pro/national level event over Ecuadorian Fabian Cuesta].
– In a battle of two IRT veterans, Colombian Alejandro Herrera Azcarate took out Japanese legend Hiroshi Shimizu in two close games to advance.
———————- In the 64s.
– Kansas amateur Bradley Rogers upset the highest ranked player in qualifying, 17th seeded Robert Collins 12,8 to earn a main draw berth. Rogers gets his best win on tour in four years.
– Javier Estrada advanced over Bolivian junior phenom Diego Garcia Quispe, who had to retire mid-game2 with injury. The two were playing close though, with the score 13-14 at the point of injury.
– Javier Mar dominated Ernesto Ochoa 13,5 to advance to the main draw and a meeting with his doubles partner. Tough draw for Ochoa, who was making his IRT Tier 1 debut here after putting up some very impressive results in 2019.
– Big upset of a dark horse candidate for me: Colombian Francisco Reyes Gomez upset Natera in a tiebreaker to advance. We don’t know much about Reyes; he’s got a few US Open appearances in the past but this is probably his best career win.
– Martel gets a great win to advance into the main draw, topping Garcia 14,6.
now for the 32s. And there’s some amazing matches today. Here’s what i’m looking for:
– #1 Kane Waselenchuk vs #33 Estrada: Estrada made a statement at the Black Gold cup, topping 4 top 10 players to take the title. Well, now he can measure up against the worlds best for a status check.
– #9 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #24 Mar: these two ran into each other in the round of 32 at the Syosset open as well; just a function of unlucky seeding. Mar took that last meeting en route to a quarter final appearance. Expect a close match between these doubles partners that know each other’s game pretty well.
– #8 Samuel Murray vs #25 Keller: pay no attention to the seedings here: this is a battle of two evenly matched players. They met in the 16s of the Pan Am Games in Lima, a tie-breaker win for the Canadian. But Keller is no easy out; he’s an experienced, accomplished international player with two PARC titles on his resume
#13 David Horn vs #77 Martell; This is an interesting matchup between two long stalwards of the WRT. These two met 9 times on the old WRT, with Horn leading 5-4 h2h but Jaime Martell Racquetball taking the most recent meeting (May 2018 in Atlanta). This could go either way; Horn has missed time with an injury this season; is he 100%? He’ll need to be to beat his long time rival. (post-publishing correction; initially I had Martell playing into Landa here; my staging tables were incorrect and hence this correction after publishing).
– #14 Lalo Portillo vs #19 Charlie Pratt; Watch out for the upset here; every time Pratt enters a draw he makes noise. Pratt could lose here to the rapidly improving Portillo, or he could run to the semis. Expect a tactical battle here.
– #6 Daniel De La Rosa vs #27 Garay: I like this match; Garay’s power versus DLR’s guile. Daniel won’t be surprised by Garay’s pop; they met in teh 2016 Mexican nationals prior to Garay’s re-flagging and he advanced in a tiebreaker. I like DLR here but I think it goes breaker.
– #10 Mario Mercado vs #23 Sebastian Fernandez; this is a fascinating match-up between Mercado, who despite having (in my opinion) improving results on the court lately is treading water from a rankings perspective thanks to rising pressure of up and coming players, and Fernandez, who seems set to jump straight from 18U into the pro ranks and make a splash. I think this goes down to the wire with the veteran advancing.
– #15 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo vs #18 Andres Acuña; this should be another barn burner; they’ve met four times in IRF junior and senior events and 3 times it has gone breaker. All four are Moscoso wins … but Acuna always make sit hard on the Bolivian number one.
We’ll circle back for the 16s once the 32s are done.
Here’s a prevew of some of the projected match-ups I’ll be looking for on the first day of the US Open 2019. Below are fun match-ups to look for in the 3 rounds of qualifying.
In the opener/round of 256: – #68 Colombian Francisco Gomez takes on Mexican youngster Manuel Moncadain a good opener for both. – Two top east coast amateurs face off in #78 Floridian Jonathan Burns versus #83 New Jersey native Samuel Kelley. Kelley played well at the Laurel event two weeks ago as a nice warm-up to this event, while Burns has been playing the US Open for more than a decade.
– #79 Diana-Shai Manzuri versus #82 Lukas Le; what an interesting match-up here: the international veteran and long-time Argentinian representative Manzuri (who practices medicine in Texas) faces up against a fellow Dallas-area resident in Le, who’s currently playing intercollegiates and is half Shai’s age. Will youth or experience win out?
—– In the round of 128 (assuming some play-in match results):
– #41 Mexican Ernesto Ochoa takes on Canadian veteran Tim Landeryou. Ochoa is a dark-horse here; he’s got multiple wins over IRT top 10 players in the last two seasons. Landeryou played two pro stops last year and can make trouble for any opponent.
– #37 Colombian Set Cubillos ruiz takes on #60 Texan A.J. Fernandez in a match that could be closer than the seeding looks.
– Current Intercollegiates reigning champ #45 Erik Garcia takes on #52 Mexican Christian Longoria. Garcia is a tough out, with several wins over regular IRT touring pros. But Longoria has a unique playing style and has some significant wins on his resume too. Great match-up.
– #77 Jaime Martell Neri takes on #20 Costa Rican Felipe Camacho in a solid match for this round. Martell left the old WRT as its #1 ranked player and won the 2018 WRT Georgia Open with wins over Horn and Bredenbeck along the way. Camacho missed the first two IRT events and may be stepping back from touring, but is a solid player worthy of his top 20 ranking. Look for a barn burner here.
– #36 Troy Warigon vs #62 Yacouba Keita an unlucky match-up between two good friends and sometimes doubles partners; they also met in the qualifiers at Laurel, a tiebreaker win for Warigon is what happened in Maryland two weeks ago and what should happen again here.
——— In the round of 64 (again, assuming some earlier match results):
– #33 Javier Estrada vs #32 Bolivian 16U Diego Garcia Quispe. 32 vs 33 never disappoints; Estrada had an unbelievable tournament this summer, topping four of the best 15 players in the world to take the Black Gold cup, but his results have been hit or miss since. This will basically be his first appearance in earnest on the IRT, ever (he played in 2010 as a 15yr old when the tour came to his home-town of Chihuahua for his sole previous IRT appearance). I’m highly anticipating his performance here. To get to the main draw though, he has to go through a tough up and coming Bolivian player in Garcia, who has a slew of World Junior titles and is the current reigning 16U world champ. Garcia can hang with Estrada but it should be a win for the Mexican here.
– #24 Javier Mar vs #41 Ochoa; great match; Mar is no longer the dark-horse in these major events like he used to be; he’s got National titles in singles and world titles in Doubles to his name. And every time he shows up at the US Open he makes a deep run. Meanwhile Ochoa is a dangerous opponent here and has the capabilities of making the 16s or quarters of an IRT event, but I like Mar’s experience to move on.
– Assuming earlier results, Garcia is set to meet Martel for an entry into the main draw. I think either player could win, I think Martel should be favored but he has to play one additional match on Wednesday which could sap his endurance enough to cost him here. Look for Garcia to outlast Martel to move on.
– #27 Mexican native and Colombian national Eduardo Garay Rodriguez vs Bolivian turned DC-area native MoMo Zelada; A fun match-up here between the under-rated Zelada (who has shown he can hang with top players) and the powerful Garay, who just took the Colombian national championships over 10th seeded Mercado and can play. If you’re in the club when this match is going on, you’ll know it b/c Garay is one of the hardest hitters on tour.
– #22 Jansen Allen vs #54 Andres Gomez; Gomez is an upset pick to get here by seed, but he’s gotten some results this year, including an upset of Mercado in the PARC event in april 2019 while representing Colombia. Allen is a former top 10 player who has missed the first couple of events this season after many years of consistently touring; he’s got his work cut out to get to the main draw here.
– #31 Maurice Miller vs #34 Nick Riffel; a tight match between two touring regulars. Miller’s been active in events this summer and fall, while Riffel has missed the first couple IRT events and seen his ranking slip a bit. I like Miller here in a tiebreaker.
– #18 Costa Rican Andres Acuña Quesada vs #50 Alejandro herrera; Florida native Herrera first played the US Open in 2003 and represented Colombia internationally as recently as 2016. He’s a hard-hitter who relies on his serve to generate points. Acuna has seen his rball career drive forward in jumps lately; he made the semis of 2019 PARC, made the quarters of the Laurel IRT event and just made the singles final of Vegas 3-WallBall despite barely playing outdoor before. He’s a tough out.
——————– My predicted qualifiers (in the order of the Qualifying draw on R2sports, not in seed order or Qualifier # order):
Men’s Pro Singles: Kane Waselenchuk Men’s Open Singles: Andres Acuna Men’s Open Doubles: Carlos Keller/Kadim Carrasco
Note: no pro doubles this weekend, so we had pretty solid Open Singles and Open Doubles draws. The Men’s singles open draw featured three players who made the quarters (or better) of the pro draw and a great draw of east coast amateurs to challenge the traveling pros.
And, a reminder; the 5-8 seeds were “flipped” this tournament. Seeds listed below are for this event, not of the actual rankings on tour at the moment of the event.
I had the opportunity to be at the Sportfit Laurel club for Thursday night round of 64 and 32 matches, so I’ll describe some of the more interesting matches I witnessed in a bit more detail.
Lets review the matches of note by round:
Round of 64:
#24 Mauricio Zelada, playing on his home courts and with the cheering of the home crowd, eked out a brutal tiebreaker against #25 Kyle Ulliman. Zelada is a protege of former touring pro and fellow Maryland native Dan Fowler, and his game-style is really familiar to those who remember Fowler’s days on tour. Similar stroke mechanics, similar drive serve setup, and a similar game style. Zelada plays consistent ball, always putting solid consistent contact on the ball. Ulliman’s game style is flashier, more of a shooter style, taking chances and succeeding often. It was a fantastic match-up that went down to the wire, with Zelada winning on a gimme-error from Kyle after a long match.
#20 Maurice Miller faced off against #33 Joe Kelley in a battle of top east coast amateurs (Miller from GA, Kelley from PA). It did not disappoint, and was a back and forth athletic match between two guys with great getting ability. In the end Miller pulled away in the tie-breaker to advance.
#22 Hometown favorite Troy Warigon, spurred on by a vocal local cheering section, went tiebreaker against Atlanta newcomer #27 Yacouba Keita before advancing. Definitely the “loudest” crowd of the night, cheering Warigon on.
Colombian #23 Set Cubillos was taken tie-breaker by New Jersey top amateur #26 David Austin before advancing.
The biggest upset of the round and the sole upset by a local player over a traveling pro was #30 Pennsylvanian Geoff Heskett taking out #18 Justus Benson 10,12. Both players really put some power into the ball, and Heskett was able to really control the points with his excellent drive serve to Benson’s backhand.
Round of 32:
In a marathon evening match, #16 Bolivian Carlos Keller Vargas took a barn-burner over #17 Colombian Eduardo Garay (13),11,7. This match was a contrast in styles: Keller’s drive serve approach is controlled power, with emphasis on the location and efficiency of the drive, while Garay has as much power as anyone on tour. The ball just sounds different off of Garay’s racquet on the drive serve. But, once the ball is in play, Keller’s putting as much pace on it as anyone else. Garay flings himself around the court, with incredible getting ability, while Keller’s length (he’s well over 6-feet tall) enables him to reach a lot of shots and cover a lot of court. This match went on so long that I believe Garay soaked four shirts. Vargas outlasted Garay in the end, but both of these players if playing full time are top 10 material.
In the evening’s other latest running match, two players with DC-area ties fought to the end. #9 Mario Mercado split two close games with home-town favorite #24 Zelada, who (like Warigon) plays out of the club and had a large local cheering section. The toll of the earlier match got to MoMo though, as he ran out of gas in the tiebreaker. Mercado efficiently advanced 11-1 to get to the main draw. This match won the award for biggest crowd of the night.
#23 Cubillos nearly forfeited his match against #10 Jake Bredenbeck before showing up just before the deadline. Jake seemed distracted as a result in the first game but eventually advanced 11,2.
#14 Andres Acuna dispatched Bolivian veteran #19 Kadim Carrasco in two games to advanced to the main draw yet again. Acuna is quietly moving his way up the ranks and putting his name into the discussion for top 10.
Round of 16 Action:
#1 Kane Waslenechuk kicked off his tournament with a 1,3 pasting of #16 Keller. I don’t know if Keller was beat from two matches the night before, or if Kane was especially fired up to play. I looked forward to this match and was rather surprised to see it be such a dominant beat-down. If you wondered about the difference between an IRF champ and the Pro champ … well here you go.
For the second tournament in a row, #8 Rodrigo Montoya could not advance out of the round of 16 against an opponent he’d normally be favored against. He loses in two straight to #9 Mercado 14,11. This second early loss in as many events to start the season should drop him right back out of the top 8.
In a battle of Francos (not related), #5 Sebastian Franco was taken to the edge by #12 Gerardo Franco, eventually advancing 11-9 in the breaker. Sebastian gets past an important hurdle on his home courts.
Both #4 Alejandro Landa and #2 Rocky Carson were stretched to tiebreakers in surprising fashion by tour regulars, by lefties Robert Collins and Thomas Carter respectively. Landa in particular has a habit of being a slow starter, something that’s harder and harder to overcome in the 3-game format.
In the upset of the round, perhaps the tournament, Costa Rican #1 and #14 seed Andres Acuna continues an impressive year of results by taking out #3 Andree Parrilla 4,(7),7. Parrilla made the final of the first event of the year and had ascended to the #3 ranking, but gets upset early by the solid play of Acuna and will drop back to #4 for the US Open. Meanwhile, Acuna achieves his first ever pro quarterfinal appearance in his 9th season of playing pro events.
#6 Samuel Murray staved off an upset attempt from #11 Eduardo Portillo, splitting the first two games by razor thin margins before pulling away in the tiebreaker.
In the quarters…
#1 Waselenchuk took out #9 Mercado in two straight forward games 6,8. Even a favorable crowd couldn’t push Mercado forward. Mercado will stay ranked 10th on tour despite the quarter-final finish, but he’s significantly narrowed the gap to the 9th spot on tour.
#5 Franco gets a key win on home soil, taking out #4 Landa for just the second time professionally. Sebastian crushed Landa in game one 15-3, but then had to work for it, saving game point before serving out the match 15-14. Franco gets his second semi-final in a row to open the season after making just one semi all last season, a great sign for his battle to retain a top 8 ranking this year. Despite the loss, Landa will regain the #3 seed for the US Open by virtue of Parrilla’s upset early loss.
#6 Murray traded 15-3 game blow-outs with #14 Acuna before closing out the match in a tiebreaker. Acuna improves his ranking to #18 with this result, pushing him to his highest ever ranking.
#2 Carson met #7 Alvaro Beltran for the 50th time on the pro tour and improved to 28-22 against him, advancing in (what else) a tie-breaker. Thanks to Daniel de la Rosa‘s absence here, Beltran widened his lead over DLR for the 5th ranking on tour and gained a bit on the now-4th ranked Parrilla.
In the Semis:
#5 Franco pushed #1 Kane on his home courts to make game one close, but Kane dominated game two to advance to the finals 11,7. With this result, Franco jumps to the #7 spot on tour, which means he avoids the likes of Montoya in an 8/9 match-up and avoids Kane in the quarters at the US Open.
#2 Carson met #6 Murray for the 11th time professionally and improved to 11-0 over the Canadian #1 11,4. Murray just couldn’t execute shots against Carson in game two and the match slipped away from him quickly. With this semis showing, Murray bumps Montoya for the last of the top 8 protected seeds for the US Open, a significant event that means Murray avoids possible dangerous qualifiers while Montoya may run into a tough player in the 24-25 range on tour.
The final was #1 vs #2 as it normally is; Rocky vs Kane has been the final in eight events over the last two seasons. this was their 80th meeting on tour. And like 76 times before, Kane topped Rocky for the title. But it was an adventurous match: Rocky was on his way to a donut in game one and was assessed a technical towards the end; game one score of 15 to -1. But Carson rebounded to take game 2; it had been nearly 2 years since Rocky took a game off of Kane. But Kane rebounded in the breaker and won -1,(11),4 to take the title.
Its Kane’s 117th career pro win.
Quick Recap of Men’s Open Singles: 4th Seeded Mercado survived a brutal quarter against Eduardo Garay (a rematch of last week’s Colombian National championships, won by Garay) to then cruise to the final over Set Cubillos from the top half (#1 seed Murray withdrew after making the pro semis). The bottom half of the draw went chalk amongst all top seeds, with #2 seed Andres Acuna topping #3 Maurice Miller to make the final. In the final, Acuna took out Mercado 11,9 to turn the tides on their meetings as of late.
Quick Recap of Men’s Open Doubles: it was #1 vs #2, Colombia vs Bolivia in the final, with two quality teams battling it out. #1 Mercado/Garay battled against #2 Keller/Carrasco in the final. There, the #2 seeded Bolivians put a second consecutive Sunday afternoon loss on Mercado, winning the Open Doubles title 7,12
Congrats to Tournament Director Tracy Valentine for all her hard work, thanks to IRT staff Mike Grisz, Dean Baer, Pablo Fajre for all their hard work. Great to meet IRT statistician-in-training JP Edwards, who I hope gets more involved going forward.
Also, a quick shout-out to Kane, who took to the court Thursday night upon arriving to play some pro-am doubles with tournament sponsors. The normal Thursday night sponsor doubles got cancelled, but some boosters had put up money specifically to have a shot at playing with Kane, and kudos to him for taking the court to help with sponsorship efforts.
Next up? 3-Wall championships next weekend in Las Vegas, then the US Open in Minneapolis.