IRT Suivant Consulting Pro-Am Grand Slam Wrap up

Murray becomes the 41st ever winner on the pro tour. Photo Kevin Savory 2018 US Open

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:

– Singles: Samuel Murray

– Doubles; Alex Landa/Sudsy Monchik

Also congrats to the winners of the massive Open and 18U draws (which we’ll talk about later on):

– Men’s Open: Andres Acuna

– Men’s Open Doubles: Moscoso/Carrasco

– 18U Juniors: Erick Trujillo

Murray, who was in jeopardy of not even traveling to the tournament thanks to Covid-related travel restrictions coming out of Canada, becomes the 41st ever Tier 1 tournament winner in the history of Men’s pro tours. Ironically, the previous person to fulfil that particular bucket list item was also the player he vanquished in the final. Murray had a fantastic event, getting his first ever wins over both Mar and De La Rosa, then playing solid racquetball all weekend to win the title. Arguably Murray was the underdog in every match from the round of 16 on, and proved all pundits and prognosticators wrong.

(see http://rball.pro/ABA6F8 for a list of all tour winners in history).

On the Doubles side, the reigning US national team champs topped a number of top teams en route to the final, including two top international teams that they might face in the next IRF championship. They seem to be growing as a team and looking more dangerous the more they play together.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=34826

——————

Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.

Singles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/A1D93C

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In the 64s, the huge draw made for 16 round of 64 matches, and we saw a couple of surprising results and tough tiebreakers:

– Up and coming Costa Rican international Gabriel Garcia moved past solid Alabama-native Destry Everhart 9,9 in the always-tough #32/#33 matchup.

– Junior Timmy Hansen moved past the ref Scott McClellan 12,11 in a hard fought opener.

– Another member of the Costa Rican team

Sergio Acuña

was stretched to a tiebreaker by home-town favorite Austin Cunningham before advancing (13),13,7.

– #19 Sam Bredenbeck dropped the opener against relative newcomer Texan Brennen Jennings before moving on (9),11,4.

– #23 MoMo Zelada was pressed by top amateur player from Monterrey Daniel Diaz 13,9 before advancing. This is the first time i’ve seen Diaz in any top-level competition tracked by PRS and he played well, hope to see more of him on tour.

– In one of the best matches of the opening round, 18U junior lefty Andrew Gleason came from a game down to beat tough Bolivian Miguel A. Arteaga Guzman (5),5,7. Gleason showed some great mental toughness for a junior, many of whom would have folded after a first game beat down.

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In the 32s, we saw the top 16 pros enter into the draw for the first time … and the draw went perfectly chalk. Every one of the top 16 seeds advanced. There were a couple notable matches though.

– the #16/#17 seed match always seems to provide a close call, and this was no exception. #16 Javier Estrada took out his doubles partner and good friend

Alan Natera Chavez

12,10.

– #9

Sebastian Franco

was stretched a little too close for comfort against improving youngster

Erick Cuevas

before advancing 8,14

– #14 Costa Rican number one Andres Acuña came back from a game down against the improved Sam Bredenbeck to advance in a breaker.

– #11

Thomas Carter

was also stretched to a tie-breaker by the Bolivian veteran

Kadim Carrasco

before moving on.

– #10 Mario Mercado blitzed by Zelada 6,8, making much faster work than the last time they played (season opener in Laurel in Sept 2019).

—————-

In the 16s, despite the size of the draw and all the upset potential …. the draw went chalk again. All top 8 seeds advanced.

– #1

Alex Landa

took a game off, but advanced over the big man from Chihuahua Estrada. Final score 11,(1),9

– #8 Jake Bredenbeck advanced past fellow big hitter #9 Franco] 6,10 in the 8/9 match which is typically a lot closer.

– #5

Samuel Murray

fought back from dropping game one to the dangerous #12 Javier Mar before advancing 11-7 in the breaker. I thought for sure this was an upset special.

– #4 Daniel De La Rosa made fast work of #13 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez 7,1 … a result that might give the rest of the tournament pause.

– #3

Andree Parrilla

crushed the Costa Rican #1 Acuna 1,4 . A great result for Parrilla, who was struggling for consistency when the tour paused.

– #6 Eduardo Portillo Rendon was stretched to a breaker by the suddenly dangerous Carter before advancing.

– #7

Conrrado Moscoso

beat fellow Bolivian native #10 Mercado in two straight, a solid win against an opponent that used to give him trouble.

– #2 Rocky Carson shook off the rust and advanced past

Adam Manilla

, who played him tough in game two but could not force the breaker.

—————-

In the Quarters, we started to see the seeds breaking down, in a slew of fantastic matches that put the show court behind nearly 3 hours inside of 3 matches (the last quarter final was a 1pm scheduled start and didn’t go on until nearly 4pm). Lets recap

– #1 Landa over #8 Jake: Landa made it 10 for 10 in top competitions versus Jake, but the big Minnesotan did not make it easy, keeping it close throughout. Landa advances 11,13.

– #5 Canadian number one Murray got his first career win over #4 DLR in an 11-9 thriller. Game one was back and forth, with DLR coming back to eke it out 15-14, then Murray blitzed game two in about 10 minutes to force the tiebreaker. There, the players were neck and neck, playing back and forth racquetball that was just great for the neutrals, with DLR shooting constantly, Murray putting on a defensive and diving clinic, and then Sam pulling out a great winner to break a 9-9 tie that had lasted several service changes before DLR pressed on a forehand winner to skip out at match point against.

– #6 Portillo showed some real veteran poise throughout his match against #3 Parrilla, keeping to his game plan and grinding out the 11-8 tiebreaker win. This isn’t necessarily Lalo’s best ever win (he beat Carson in Arizona in 2019) or his best result (he made the final of the 2020 Lewis Drug) but it was the kind of match he won when he wasn’t necessarily favored to win, and he did it by just out playing and out thinking his opponent.

– #7 Moscoso got another win over #2 Carson in an IRT event (the third in as many pro meetings), but really had to dig deep to do so. Carson controlled game one, but Moscoso ground back in game two before racing to the 11-4 breaker win. Kane and Sudsy were on the mike for the first part of this match and put on a broadcasting clinic, with some of the best in-match analysis you’ll ever see. It is worth a re-listen to the broadcast.

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In the Semis

– #1 Landa seemed to show some of the effects of the layoff and lots of play on Saturday, looking tired throughout the match. He was pressed continually by the Canadian #1, who put on an absolute clinic on defensive racquetball and athletic prowess diving around the court and showing amazing agility for a big man. Murray saved match point against and ran off a couple points for victory on the back of a couple of pretty amazing kill shots from the back court. This was one of those matches you wished was still win by two, because there was little separating these two players on the day. Murray advances to just his second ever pro final, first since Sept 2018 with the 11-10 thriller.

– #7 Moscoso advanced to the finals over #6 Portillo, but Lalo continued to show his maturation as a player, bouncing back from an embarrassing first game 15-2 shellacking to take a game from one of the world’s best players before falling quickly in the breaker. Moscoso advances to his 3rd major final in just 10 career tournaments and is in a great spot to take another title.

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So, just to note the pathway for the two finalists:

– Murray has beaten Mar, DLR and Landa to get here.

– Moscoso has beaten Mercado, Carson and Portillo.

Murray in particular really having a great event.

In the Finals…

Murray controlled game one easily, playing smart racquetball and exposing Moscoso’s go-for-broke style. Conrrado came back in game two, getting on a hot streak to push to a breaker. In the tie-breaker, Murray continued to grind out points, playing smart racquetball and counter-punching against Moscoso’s shots. Momentum seemed to swing against Murray as Moscoso ran off four straight towards the end … but Murray stiffened up, played smart racquetball, mixed in a few highlight-reel 39 foot roll outs of his own to match the flashier Moscoso, then ended the match with a diving re-kill roll-out to take his first ever IRT title.

Murray played lights out all weekend, and more than earned this title.

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Points Implications of results

Well, we’re not entirely sure what the points implication of this event will be, because we’re not sure what the tour will do yet with the rankings points The points have been frozen since March, but just turning the system back on and expiring 9 months of points will have a pretty radical effect on the rankings.

There’s talk of changing the points system as a result, to go away from a rolling 12-month calendar for the time being to something based on the last 10 tourneys, or perhaps the last two years of events. There’s also talk of moving to a calendar year system versus a rolling seasonal system.

IF (and this is a big if) we were to stick with rolling 12-months and just expire the points dating to the end of 2019 … then these are some of the big-time moves we’ll see in the rankings:

– DLR jumps to #2

– Finalists Murray and Moscoso jump to #3 and #4 respectively.

– Landa drops to #5

– Mercado jumps to #7

– Estrada, amazingly, jumps from #23 to #8

– Parrilla gets dropped to #9

– Manilla, also surprisingly , jumps from #21 to #10.

– Beltran drops all the way to #11

– And lastly, most amazingly, Carson would drop from #3 all the way to #15. That’s right; Rocky, a player who has not been outside the top 3 in 20 years or so, had such a badly timed run of results and missed early 2020 events due to injury that he’d nearly be out of the top 16.

Take all this with a grain of salt, because I sense the ranking system needs to be modified to protect against such radical moves. Stay tuned.

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Pro Doubles review

Doubles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/6066EC

The 14-team doubles draw provided a ton of interesting results on the first night of competition, with a ton of really surprising results. Here’s a walk through.

In the 16s:

– #3 seeds DLR and tournament sponsor Donald Williams were handled by the local team of Zachary Patterson and Austin Cunningham 14,3. I thought the presence of top doubles player DLR would get them at least a round further, but they fall at the opener.

– #6 seeded Colombian’s Garay and Franco dug deep to hold off the tough pair of Mexicans from Chihuahua Natera & Estrada in two tight games 14,10. They’re setup for a good shot at the final.

– #10 seeds and new pairing Carter & Mar really surprised me and blew past the all-Colombian team of Mercado and Herrera 6,5. Mercado is such a good doubles player, I thought this would have gone the other way based on the inexperience of Carter+Mar pairing … but as they say, this is why they play the games.

In the Quarters

– #1 Murray/Jake had to go breaker to top the experienced Costa Rican pair of Acuna/Camacho.

– #4 Sudsy Monchik and Landa had a tense, tight match against the Bolivian team of Moscoso/Carrasco, pulling it out in a heated breaker where the American reps came back from 5-8 down in the breaker to run the match out. At the death, a highly contested two-bounce call, several debatable replays and then match point awarded via an avoidable when Monchik had a setup in the middle of the court that hit a jumping Moscoso. It was an animated finish to say the least.

– #3 Garay/Franco destroyed the Cinderella local team of Patterson/Cunningham to move into the semis.

– #2 Parrilla/Portillo took a close 2-game win 11,13 over Carter/Mar.

In the semis…

– The US national team of Monchik/Landa stiffened up after a first game blowout loss to #1 seeded Murray/Jake and eventually cruised to the tiebreaker 11-3 to move into the finals.

– The Colombian national team of Franco/Garay held off match point in game two, then blew it out in the breaker to move into the final over the #2 seeded all-Mexico team of Parrilla/Portillo.

In the final…

– Monchik & Landa had match point on their racquets … twice, but the new Colombian pairing of Franco/Garay fought back and forced the breaker. There. the US champs controlled throghout and ground out the win. The tail end of game two was some of the best doubles play i’ve ever seen, with all four players hitting amazing shots, and both teams showing tactical adjustments on the fly to try to strategize their way to a win.

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Men’s Open review; a 35-man open draw went down, with a ton of top pro players dipping down into the draw and making for some great matches.

In the final, Acuna topped Natera in a breaker. Floridian vet

Alejandro Herrera Azcarate

and Costa Rican newcomer Gabriel Garcia were the semi finalists.

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18U Junior draw review

The IRT is embarking on a new program to highlight juniors, and Atlanta was their first foray into the program. A large scholarship purse was devoted to the draw and they got a fantastic multi-national 18U junior draw as a result.

The top two 18U players from Mexico advanced to the final, with

Erick Trujillo

topping 2019 Mexican 16U champ Sebastian Longoria in a breaker. American juniors Gleason and

Benjamin Horner

were the semifinalists.

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Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Dean DeAngelo Baer, Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew . Also a special shoutout to

Sudsy Monchik

and Kane Waselenchuk, who provided amazing commentary for some of the Saturday afternoon matches.

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Next up? the next “known” event from any major organization is Mid March’s Shamrock shootout in Chicago-land. We hope to have something hit in February but the odds seem low.

——————-

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Suivant Consulting Pro-Am, presented by Zurek Construction tournament Preview

Moscoso is a player to watch this weekend. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

After nearly a year, the IRT is back in action, hosting its first full Tier 1 pro stop since March of 2020. And its a grand slam welcome back to the sport’s top level.

The draws are now online for your review:

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=34826

48 players are entered into this draw, making it the biggest men’s pro draw since the 2019 US Open, and the first time we’ve breached 40 pro player entrants since the May 2019 Syosset Open in Long Island.

Big news for this event; #1 Kane Waselenchuk has bowed out of the event. Kane’s place of residence (Texas) has been quite restrictive with gym openings, and reportedly he has not seen an indoor racquetball court in 8 months. He doesn’t even have outdoor courts nearby to practice on. But, he’ll be in Atlanta and helping with the broadcast to support the event.

#5

#5 Alvaro Beltran underwent gall bladder surgery on Monday and had to miss the event as well (he’s doing well though; just bad timing for this event). This really opens up the top side of the draw, and will make for a potentially wide-open event.

Other top-30 players missing from Atlanta (and the reasons for missing the event if known):
12. Rodrigo Montoya: visa issues
16. Sebastian Fernandez: taking a step back from touring with a new job with the family business. Also lives in California where court access is highly restricted.
18. Gerardo Franco: unknown
19. Carlos Keller Vargas: unknown
22. David Horn; no court access; reported on FB that he would not play in a pro event if he could not train.
24. Robert Collins; unknown but based in California where courts are closed.
28. Charlie Pratt; unknown but in Oregon where courts are closed.

The event is a Grand Slam, which means the top players play from the round of 32 on. With 48 players, that’s just one qualifying round before the action starts.

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Lets preview the draw. Here’s some notable qualifying matches that I’m looking forward to:

In the round of 64, I see several matches to keep an eye on:

– #17

  • #17 Alan Natera Chavez faces #48 Jordan Deeney: Natera misses out on the last unprotected top seed and gets one extra match for his troubles, against the lowest-seeded entrant in Deeney. Natera is well traveled these past couple of weeks; he was just in Chile to celebrate his marriage to LPRT touring pro Carla Muñoz Montesinos. Congrats to both.

– #21 Scott McClellan takes on #44 Timmy Hansen, son of the USAR hall of famer Tim Hansen and up-and-coming junior.

– #29

Dylan Pruitt

(who is NOT a lefty, I need to keep reminding myself) takes on #36

Erick Trujillo

in a battle of teenagers. Pruitt is recently graduated out of juniors, while Trujillo is playing in his age 18 season. Expect a battle here.

– #22

Kadim Carrasco

] takes on #43 Pedro Castro in a battle of seasoned international vets. The Bolivian is favored over the Canadian (who hails from Chile), but it is great to see Castro traveling to and playing in a pro event again.

– #26

Alejandro Herrera Azcarate

takes on #39 Matt Fontana in a battle of seasoned top Florida players. We haven’t seen Fontana in a pro event in nearly 5 years.

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Projecting the 32s: here’s notable matches from my projected round of 32s.

– #16 Javier Estrada vs #17 Natera: a brutal match between two good friends who are familiar with each other from many regional tournaments in Mexico, and who happen to be playing doubles with each other this event. This probably is the match of the 32s. Natera beat Estrada en route to the San Antonio IRT Tier 4 title in 2019, their last known meeting. Natera is perpetually underrated and under-seeded and I like him here as an upset, unless he’s too jet-lagged from his weekend wedding trip to Santiago.

– #14

Andres Acuña

vs #19 Sam Bredenbeck; the younger Bredenbeck brother has been steadily improving his game and could give Acuna a run for his money, especially since we know the

Beastmade Apparel

crew has been playing regularly up in Minnesota.

– #22 Carrasco vs #14

Thomas Carter

; Carter was playing well on tour before the Covid-break, but could face a challenge here from the Bolivian veteran.

– #10 Mario Mercado vs #23

MoMo Zelada

; these two familiar foes used to face off frequently when both lived in the Washington DC area. They met in the 2019-20 season opener in Zelada’s home Laurel courts and it went breaker. Mercado will have to play solid to avoid the upset.

– #15

Adam Manilla

vs #18

Felipe Camacho

; the long-time touring pro Camacho can still ball, and Manilla needs to keep focused to advance into the round of 16. Manilla takes a break from his

Manilla Athletics

initiative to play in Atlanta.

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Round of 16: here’s my projected round of 16;

– #1

Alex Landa

vs Natera/Estrada winner; for his troubles of being elevated to the #1 seed, Landa faces a very dangerous opponent in either Natera or Estrada. Both are capable of putting an early loss on the top seed, who can sometimes be a slow starter in early round matches.

– #8 Jake Bredenbeck vs #9

Sebastian Franco

; a hard hitting matchup here; I give Jake the edge because he’s been trending better and has been getting regular court time.

– #12 Javier Mar over #5

Samuel Murray

; Murray gets the early match up against the dangerous Mar, and I see Mar advancing into the quarters. Mar was a late addition to the event, and an unwelcome one at that, since he makes waves nearly every time he enters a pro draw.

– #4 Daniel De La Rosa vs #13 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez; I’m a Garay fan, but DLR has controlled him on the court in the past and should move on here.

– #3

Andree Parrilla

vs Acuna/Bredenbeck winner: This will be a great test to see where Parrilla’s game is. Parrilla’s last few months before the shutdown were rough, with lots of early losses. Acuna is a solid player who doesn’t make mistakes and makes you beat him.

– #6

Lalo Portillo

vs Carter/Carrasco winner: either way, I favor Portillo to make another quarter and continue his upward trajectory on tour.

– #7

Conra Moscoso Ortiz

vs Mercado: a tricky opener for Moscoso, who is a dark-horse favorite here but who has struggled against the Bolivian turned Colombian Mercado in the past.

– #2 Rocky Carson vs Manilla/Camacho winner: a winnable opener for Carson, who has struggled with court time in Southern California and may be a bit rusty this event. He’ll have a chance to play himself into tournament shape here.

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Projected Qtrs:

– #1 Landa over #8 Jake: Landa has dominated the head to head over his former WRT rival, having never taken a loss in a top-level event.

– #4 DLR over #12 Mar; a really tough match-up that could go either way, and two guys who play a really similar game. But, DLR plays the control game just a bit better and should move on.

– #3 Parrilla over #6 Portillo; doubles partners are projected to face off against each other; Parrilla gains confidence early on and beats his younger countryman to advance.

– #7 Moscoso over #2 Carson: Moscoso has two wins already over Rocky, and makes it a third. Rocky’s rustiness shows on the court and Conrrado moves on.

Semis:

– #1 Landa over #4 DLR: they’ve played quite often, and Landa has come to dominate their H2Hs lately … DLR hasn’t topped Landa since the 2017 Lewis Drug in a Tier 1 event, but beat him a few months ago on these same courts in a Tier 4 event. Their matches are always close. Another good test to see where DLR’s game is these days; he ended the 2019-20 season on such a high note. I’ll go with the historical trend of Landa’s dominance, as opposed to the recentcy bias of DLR’s last on the court win.

– #7 Moscoso over #3 Parrilla, though Parrilla beat him easily in California in Nov 2019, Moscoso has the higher ceiling right now and will be looking to add another Grand Slam win to his list of titles.

Finals;

#7 Moscoso over #1 Landa. He beat Landa the last time they played, and something tells me Moscoso sees the grand slam and sees a pathway to the title without Kane in the draw and will not be stopped.

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Doubles review

The IRT doubles event should be intriguing as we have some unexpected teams thanks to last minute withdrawals.

– Beltran’s absence has DLR playing with tournament sponsor Donald Williams as the #3 seed.

Sudsy Monchik

has flown up to play with his US teammate Landa, which splits up the regular Landa/Murray pairing.

– Murray pairs with Jake at the #1 seed instead.

– The #2 seeds are now the season-long regular team of Portillo/Parrilla.

– Two all-Columbian teams are competing; Garay & Franco are the #6 seeds and Mercado/Herrera are the #7 seeds.

– Estrada & Natera are a dark-horse #11 seed.

– two guys with DC-area ties Pruitt and Zelada form a solid team that could make waves. Just like the frequently seen all -east coast team of Troy Warigon and

Maurice Miller

, both of whom skipped out of the pro singles draw here curiously.

The match of the opening round will be Estrada/Natera vs Garay/Franco. In the quarters, I look forward to a Landa/Monchik battle against the Bolivian pair of Moscoso/Carrasco.

I see the 14-team draw coming down to the US national team from the top Landa/Monchik and the increasingly successful Parrilla/Portillo partnership from the bottom, with the veterans coming out on top.

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There’s a solid Men’s Open draw, plus a new featured Junior 18U draw that will be showcased on the live stream throughout the weekend.

——————————–

Thanks to title sponsors

Suivant Consulting

] and

Zurek Construction, LLC

, with proprieters/sponsors Donald Williams

and

Francisco Fajardo

. Without you, these events could not happen.

———————————

Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live.

Look for Dean DeAngelo Baer, Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!

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3WallBall Vegas Event 2020 Preview

De La Rosa had a fantastic 2019 Vegas event, can he repeat in 2020 with the massive influx of competition? Photo 2019 outdoor Nationals by Mike Augustin/Game Changer Photo

The time has come for the event we’ve been talking about for months now. The largest event of 2020; its the 11th annual 3WallBall event on the grounds of the STRAT hotel in Las Vegas.

600 players among three racquet sport disciplines are signed up, with play set to start Thursday Morning. More than 330 racquetball players are entered,

I’m bummed; I have been planning on attending for months but had to pull out of traveling last minute, so i’ll be listening in on the streams all weekend with the rest of you.

This is set to be quite the unique event; a number of top touring pros on both the Men’s and Women’s side are set to make their outdoor debuts, which will make for a highly entertaining draw and fantastic matches all weekend.

——

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=34945

Your defending champs are as follows:
– Men’s 3-wall Doubles: De La Rosa/Beltran
– Women’s 3-wall Doubles: De La Rosa/Munoz
– Mixed 3-wall Doubles: the De La Rosa husband/wife combo

– Men’s 1-wall Doubles: Sostre/Rolon
– Women’s 1-wall Doubles: Maldonado/Stephen
– Mixed 1-wall Doubles: Montalbano/Munoz

– Men’s 3-wall Singles: Montalbano
– Women’s 3-wall Singles: Rajsich

Not all of these teams are back together this year, and the talent depth in all the draws should make it tough for repeats this year.

——————————
Lets preview the draws. 3-Wall Doubles first.

First up, the Mens Pro 3-wall doubles draw, which has had the most “buzz” associated with it thanks to the influx of top players from the IRT playing outdoor competitively for the first time ever. And what a draw we have. 23 teams that include 8 of the top 10 indoor players and a large slate of the best outdoor players in the world.

The big pre-tournament buzz was where to seed, in particular, #1 player in the world Kane Waselenchuk and his regular doubles partner Ben Croft, neither of whom have a ton of outdoor experience. True to form, WOR has stayed true to their own ranking system and gave the two (along with the Alex Landa / Sudsy Monchik pairing) bottom seeds, which will make for some pretty interesting round of 16 matches.

here’s some matches to watch for in the 32s
– #21 Jake Bredenbeck / Brian Pineda vs #12 Sergio Rivera/ Dylan Pruitt ; shoutout to some of my DC-area local players, who go up against the basher in Jake and a long-time outdoor aficionado in Pineda.
– #13 Wayne Antone Racquetball / Andree Parrilla vs #20 Tim Hermann / Mike Myers: an interesting match-up between a long-time doubles partnership in Herman/Myers and the two up and coming players in Antone/Parrilla, who have little experience playing with each other. How much does outdoor experience and team chemistry play into a match-up? Look for the upset here.
– Long-time buds and IRT touring regulars Adam Manilla and Nick Riffel team up to take on #10 MoMo Zelada and Danny Lavely in what could be a tight opener.

– And of course, the Kane/Croft and Sudsy/Landa openers, both of which are happening later in the afternoon Thursday.

Projected 16s; and we have some doozies. We’re highlighting three potential match-ups in particular:

– #1 Daniel De La Rosa / Alvaro Beltran versus #17 Landa/Monchik. Well, the defending champs get a test right out of the gate. I’d have rather seen this match-up in the quarters, but I think DLR/Beltran move on.
– #5 Rocky Carson / Jesus Ustarroz, who have two Outdoor national titles playing together, return to action as a pairing and likely face off against the Jake/Pineda pairing.
– #2 Robert Sostre and David ” Bobby” Horn projected to face the King Kane/Croft partnership. What a match, and what a bummer for the #2 seeds right out of the gate. The hall of famer Sostre is better known for his one-wall prowess, but he’s accomplished in all outdoor disciplines as well. Look for this to be tight, but for Kane/Croft to move on.

Projected Quarters: they could be awesome
– #1 DLR/Beltran over #8 Gerhardt / Jordan Walters
– #5 Carson/Jay over #4 Emmett Coe / Rick Koll ; this is a tough one, featuring four accomplished outdoor players and a player in Koll who is frequently in the semis and finals of pro draws in these major outdoor tournaments.
– #3 Marcos Gravier / Roy Hernandez over #6 Brandon Davis / Alejandro Barcelo . This is a great match-up of outdoor specialists who may not be well known names to the “indoor racquetball” fan, but who are all among the best of their trade in the outdoor game. I like the top Florida pair to move on here, topping a team that includes one of the best up and coming outdoor singles players out there in Davis.
– #15 Kane/Croft over #7 Mike Peters / Patrick Allin ; the hall of famer Peters will certainly make this an entertaining match to watch for the neutrals, but the firepower of Kane/Croft should persevere.

My semis:
– #1 DLR/Beltran over #5 Carson/Ustarroz; this was the outdoor nationals final in both 2016 and 2017, but the #1 team has stepped up their game and has proved to be very difficult to beat, indoors or outdoors. I think the #1 team moves on to the final.
– #15 Kane/Croft over #3 Gravier/Hernandez: if there’s a spot where the indoor specialists get tripped up, its here. It will not be a surprise to any outdoor player if the talented Florida duo shock the world here. That being said, I don’t think Kane is to be stopped and the pair will have worked out all the outdoor adjustments they need by this point.

Finals: DLR/Beltran over Kane/Croft; this is the match-up everyone wants to see, and I’m glad it doesn’t happen til the final. It would be a fitting final for this event, for the size of it and for the buzz. These two teams have faced off in multiple major events: this was the 2017 US Open final (what many call the best ever racquetball match), the 2018 World Doubles final, the 2018 US Open final, and the 2019 US Open final. DLR and Beltran took the 2018 final in dominant fashion but have otherwise fallen to Kane/Croft.

Not this time; their outdoor experience leads them to a win over Kane/Croft in a fantastic match.

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Women’s 3-wall doubles preview

There’s 7 teams here, and a possible draw change for the #2 seeds, which list Rhonda Rajsich and Samantha Salas Solis playing together. Salas recently underwent shoulder surgery and is not attending, so its hard to predict out this draw. Is Rhonda replacing her partner? Or is there to be a forfeit?

All 7 teams are filled with top LPRT players and there should be great competition all around.

I like the #3 seeds Paola Longoria and Janel Tisinger-Ledkins, returning to competition after a forced layoff, to advance to the final irrespective of who Rhonda might pickup as a partner, set to face the #1 seeds and defending champs Carla Muñoz Montesinos and Michelle De La Rosa.

In what should be a fantastic final, the four players (two of whom are basically outdoor specialists) should put on a great display of talent. In the end, I like Longoria/Tisinger to take the crown.

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Mixed 3-wall doubles preview

A robust 15-team Mixed draw should make for amazing watching, especially in the top half of the draw, which is stacked.

Here’s some round of 16 matches to watch for:
– #13 Landa/ Kelani Lawrence take on #4 Gerhardt/ Aime Brewer in a match filled with players with Virginia connections. Its an interesting pairing for Landa and it should be interesting to see how this match goes, especially given that both Gerhardt and Brewer are huge outdoor specialists.

– #3 Sostre/Munoz take on #14 brother/sister combo Andree and jessica Parrilla: i cannot say that i’ve seen these two play before as a team; how well will they play together? They face off against an incredibly accomplished duo in Sostre/Munoz; a great match.

Projected qtrs:
– #1 and defending champs DLR/DLR possibly take on Jake Bredenbeck and Hollie Scott
– #12 Alvaro Beltran playing with Longoria likely set to take on Landa/Lawrence in a great matchup of regular pros.
– #3 Sostre/Munoz vs #6 Tisinger/ Majeed Shahin; an excellent display of outdoor play, with one of the best females ever to play outdoor in Tisinger against the hall of famer Sostre.
– #2 Rajsich and Soda Man taking on the winners of a fascinating play-in involving two all South American teams.

My semis:
– DLRs over Beltran/Longoria; but expect it to go the distance.
– Sostre/Munoz over Rajsich/Koll

Final: DLRs repeat.

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Lets run through the one-wall doubles events.

Men’s One-wall doubles Pro has 9 teams, head lined by the Sostre/Rolon team that will be hard to beat. But look for an interesting dark horse team in Jose Diaz and David Horn in the upper bracket looking to make noise. On the bottom side of the draw look out for one-wall florida outdoor specialist Ignacio Espinal and his partner Servando Daniels to make the final. I like Sostre and Rolon to repeat.

There isn’t an official One-Wall “pro” division for Women, but there is a good 3-team RR to determine the title. Look for Virginia outdoor player Aime Brewer, teamed up with Kelly Gremley to take the title as the #1 seeds.

Mixed One-Wall doubles: 6 teams here; i like the #2 seeds of defending ch amp Munuz teamed with one-wall specialist Rolon to top the Rajsich/Koll team in the final.

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Lets look at the 3-wall Singles draws:

On the Men’s side: a 13-man draw is set to play out that will guarantee a new champ, as both of last year’s finalists are missing. #1 seed William Rolon projects to have a tough quarter final match against IRT tour regular Adam Manilla, and #2 seed Thomas Gerhardt will be the unlucky quarter finals opponent of #4 ranked touring IRT pro Andree Parrilla.

There’s also a slew of solid outdoor-capable players in this draw from all over the country who could make noise. Derek Izzi, Nick Riffel, Dan Lavely and Majeed Shahin all are threats to make the semis. A last minute withdrawal of the unknown #3 seed gives the dark horse outdoor specialist Marco Antonio Mijares a bye into the quarters and a clean path to the semis.

I’m predicting Rolon advances to the final, Parrilla upsets Gerhardt and also advances to the final, but Rolon takes the title.

On the Women’s side, four top LPRT touring pros are entered and should all advance to make for some great semi final action. #1 seed and defending champ Rhonda Rajsich should advance over #4 munoz, while in the bottom half world #1 Longoria returns to outdoor for the first time in years and should advance past #2 seed Jessica Parrilla.

In the final, I’ll favor Longoria over the outdoor legend Rajsich, despite Rhonda’s experience. Longoria is no stranger to outdoor and will play away any sense of rust in the discipline by the time she reaches the final.

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Phew! that might be the longest preview i’ve ever written.

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Look for Streaming in the regular places; both the LPRT and the IRT are streaming. Follow both organizations on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live.

Look for Dean DeAngelo Baer, Favio Soto, Pablo Fajre and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike streaming one court, and look for Timothy Baghurst, JP Edwards and Tj Baumbaugh on the mike, calling the shots!

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Tags

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2020 IRT Atlanta Open Wrap-Up

DLR takes the singles title in Atlanta. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

Congrats to your winners on the weekend:
– Singles: Daniel De La Rosa
– Doubles; Eduardo Garay/Juan Pablo Rodriguez

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31746

Lets review the notable matches in the Singles draw.(reminder: this was not a Tier1, therefore there’s no results in the PRS database).

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In the 16s:- 7 of the top 8 seeds advanced, with the only “upset” being Austin Cunningham topping #8 Jim Douglas with a double donut. For the most part the traveling pros dominated local competition in their openers, with no tie-breakers and only a couple games that were competitive. This setup some great quarter final action.

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In the Quarters- #1 Alex Landa cruised past #9 Cunningham 4,12. – #5 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez blitzed past his countryman #4 Mario Mercado 11,4 to advance. This seems like an important result, as Garay trails Mercado in the current IRT standings, but just supplanted him on the Colombian national team and seems set to make a rise up the standings when we get back into full time touring.- #3 Sebastian Franco was stretched to a breaker by the home-town favorite Maurice Miller before advancing 11-4.- #2 Daniel De La Rosa dropped the first game 14 before advancing in a breaker over the pesky #7 MoMo Zelada.

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In the Semis- #1 Landa cruised past #5 Garay 4,11 to move to the final. Garay had to take the court immediately after a long doubles match and looked a bit winded in game one, then Landa held on as Garay settled in for game two.- #2 DLR dominated #3 Franco 7,7 to move into the finals.In the Finals, DLR dropped the first game 14 but rebounded to push it to a tiebreaker. In the breaker, he raced out to a commanding lead that Landa could not overcome and DLR gets the win over his long-time rival (14),11,4. Solid win for DLR, who stayed calm and stuck to his game plan to take out Landa. Both players played well, showing a bit of rust, but I liked DLR’s calm approach.

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Doubles reviewThe 8-team Men’s doubles draw kicked off the festivities Friday night, and all four quarter final matches were close. The draw went chalk (with all four top seeds advancing), but three of the four top seeded teams needed a tie-breaker to advance. The #2 seeded team of DLR and tournament sponsor Donald Williams was pushed the hardest, dropping the first game 6 before rebounding to take the tiebreaker 11-9 over the all-Colombian team of Franco and their coach Francisco Fajardo.

In the semis:- the #4 team of Miller/Mercado surprised the #1 seeded team of Landa/Zelada. Mercado has always been a solid doubles player, and spurred on the run along side the home town favorite to push into the final. It was a surprising result, given Landa’s IRT pro doubles accomplishments as of late.- The #3 team of Colombians Garay and Juan Pablo Rodriguez eked past one of the top doubles player in the world in DLR, teamed with tournament sponsor Donald Williams 11-10 in the breaker. Rodriguez is an up and comer; he represented Colombia at the 2019 world Juniors in 14U, making the semis before losing to USA’s NIkhil Prasad. Rodriguez out-hit Williams on the forehand side, and the #2 seeded team’s tactics couldn’t push them past the Colombians in the end.

In the final, Rodriguez stepped up and helped his all-Colombian team outlast two seasoned IRT pros 13,8. Garay/Rodriguez take the title over Miller/Mercado.

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Men’s Open, other drawsThe young Colombian Rodriguez had a heck of a tournament, winning Pro doubles, making the final of Pro Consolation/Men’s Open (where he lost to long-time top Floridian Andres Ramirez in a breaker), and also winning Elite Doubles with fellow top junior international Maricruz Ortiz.

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Thanks for all the streaming on the weekend, especially from broadcasters Dean DeAngelo Baer and Pablo Fajre and the who streamed all weekend.——————

Next up? 3WallBall Outdoor World Championships in Vegas! More to come on that in this space soon.——————

-tagsSuivant Consulting (Donald Williams’ firm and tournametn sponsor).Formulaflow (Zelada’s sports retail firm)International Racquetball TourInternational Racquetball Federation – IRFUSA RacquetballFederación Mexicana de RaquetbolRacquetball ColombiaFederacion Colombiana de RacquetballFederación Costarricense de RacquetballFederación Boliviana De Raquetbol – FeboraReaching Your Dream Foundation

2020 IRT Atlanta Open Preview

Landa leads the field at the 2020 Atlanta Open. Photo from 2020 USAR National doubles by Kevin Savory

Well… its been six months since I wrote a pro tournament preview in this space. I almost forgot how to write one of these things. But somehow, we have pro racquetball happening this weekend.

The 2020 IRT Atlanta Open, which was initially set to be the 2020-21 Tier 1 slate season opener, has been repurposed as a Tier 4 event and is being held this weekend at Recreation Atlanta in Lilburn, GA.

Interestingly, the draw features a huge chunk of the Colombian national team playing, including its top three ranked singles players and some players who have traveled up from Cali. I’ll call them out in the preview below.

R2 Sports App​ link for the tourney: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=31746

There’s 16 players in the pro singles draw and 9 pro doubles teams. Its a solid draw, featuring a slew of touring pros, so its worth running through a preview.

Lets preview the draw. Here’s some interesting matches from the round of 16.
– #1 Alex Landa ​vs #16 Andres Ramirez​; interesting first rounder for the current #2 player in the world. He takes on a long-time Florida star Ramirez, who has been playing pro events for nearly two decades and has even played internationally in the past. This is no cakewalk for Landa.
– #5 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez​ takes on home-town favorite #12 Marquis Miller​ , the twin brother of regular tour player Maurice Miller.
– #6 Maurice Miller​ takes on traveling Colombian @Juan Pablo Rodriguez in his opener.
– #7 MoMo Zelada​ gets a tough first rounder in solid Florida amateur Matt Fontana.

Projected Qtrs
– #1 Landa over #9 Austin Cunningham, to advance over Jim Douglas.​
– #5 Garay over #4 Mario Mercado​; two Colombian teammates battle it out in the 4/5 spot. Mercado has been an enigma on the court; sometimes he’s lights out and sometimes he’s one-and-done. His 2019-20 season had a final reached and three round-of-32 exits. Garay topped him for the second Colombian team spot earlier this year, and that could be a trend for the young ex-Mexican junior national team member. I like Garay’s game but this could be a close one. Garay to edge Mercado in the breaker.
– #3 Sebastian Franco​ vs #6 Miller: Franco also had an up-and-down season, making two semis but also getting upset in the qualifiers a couple times and missing a bunch of events. He faces the tough Miller playing on his home courts under interesting circumstances. Has Franco been playing? The court availability in the DC area isn’t the same as Atlanta, where the clubs have been open for a bit. Upset watch here, but Franco advances.
– #2 Daniel De La Rosa​ vs #7 MoMo Zelada; DLR makes the bit trip eastward to compete in this event and gets DC-area native Zelada. I like MoMo (shoutout to Formulaflow​) but DLR outclasses him here and moves on.

Projected Semis:
– #1 Landa over #5 Garay: these two met twice last season and split, so Garay won’t be intimidated by Landa’s game. This is a contrast in style; Landa plays controlled and clinical, while Garay plays powerful and passionate. Landa ekes it out.
– #2 DLR over #3 Franco: they’ve met 9 times in top level competition (IRT and IRF) and DLR leads 7-2. Interestingly, they have not met professionally since Jan 2017 despite both being regular tour players for the past few years. DLR finished the season on fire, and I like him to keep going. DLR in two.

Finals: Landa over DLR. Yes, Landa owns the head to head record between these two, and it has been more than 3.5 years since DLR beat Alex on the court. But when they do play, they play close. Multiple 11-10 or 12-10 in the fifth encounters between them. Both have similar game styles; both are shot makers who rely more on skill than on power. If DLR is on, he’s hard to beat. But these two have played so much that they find it hard to get into their preferred game against each other. Look for Landa to win 11-9.

Doubles review
Nine teams entered, with a good mix of locals playing with traveling pros. I like the #1 seed of Landa/Zelada advancing over #4 Mercado/Miller on the top, with DLR/Donald Williams topping two teams with Colombian pros in the bottom. In the final, Look for Landa/Zelada to take the win and give landa the double.

Don’t forget to try out the IRT Fantasy Brackets this year!https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=36277 is the R2sports link for the Fantasy bracket. Enter for a chance to win and go head to head against me as I put in my picks (as predicted above).

Look for Streaming in the regular places; follow the IRT on facebook and sign up to get notifications when they go Live. Look for Dean DeAngelo Baer​ Favio Soto ​, Pablo Fajre​ and the IRTLive crew all weekend on the mike, calling the shots!

Tags

International Racquetball TourInternational Racquetball Federation – IRFUSA RacquetballFederación Mexicana de RaquetbolRacquetball ColombiaFederacion Colombiana de Racquetball

US Nationals Wrap-Up

Landa secures the National team Doubles spot in his first US competition since switching countries. Photo Kevin Savory

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.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31680

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Lets review the notable matches in the Men’s Doubles draw.

Men’s Doubles Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/989C2B

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.

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In the Quarters, we saw some fun matches.

– #1 Rocky Carson and Charlie Pratt Racquetball dominated the #9 seeded team of Zelada/Collins 9,3 to move on.

– 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.

– After dropping the first game, #6 David ” Bobby” Horn] and Erik Garcia] were able to get the upset over #3 Adam Manilla] and Nick Riffel (7),3,5.

– #2 Jake Bredenbeck and Jose DIAZ were pushed to a breaker, but eventually advanced over #7 Maurice Miller and Troy Warigon.

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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.

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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.

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Women’s Doubles review

Match report in the PRS database: http://rball.pro/846600

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.

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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.

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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.

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National Team Standing Implications of these results.

(see https://www.teamusa.org/…/Team-U…/Qualifying-for-the-US-Team
for qualifying guidelines and point scoring here).

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.

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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.

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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.

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USA Racquetball
International Racquetball Tour
LPRT
International Racquetball Federation – IRF

US National Doubles (with Singles qualifier) Preview

Carson to go for the double this weekend as the #1 seed in both Singles and Doubles. Photo Portland 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

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.

Click here for a full list of all Men’s titlists: http://rball.pro/8862E4

Click here for a full list of Women’s titlists: http://rball.pro/A7F6CA

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.

R2 Sports App link: https://www.r2sports.com/tourney/home.asp?TID=31680

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Lets preview the Men’s Doubles draw:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Final:

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.

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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.

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2020 Wintergreen Wrap-up

Zelada captures a strong Wintergreen pro field. Photo via youtube screenshot capture of Formula flow promotional video

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.

R2 Sports App home page for event: https://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=30705

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In the Men’s Pro:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Great play all around

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Asociación Argentina de RacquetballRacquetball Tournament in Laurel, MD USA at SportFit Total Fitness Racquet Club. 1/17/2020 – 1/19/2020 2020 Wintergreen Classic.R2SPORTS.COM

Xmas Classic IRT Tier 5 Singles wrap-up

Maurice Miller the triple-winner on the weekend. Photo US Open 2019, Photographer Kevin Savory

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.

IRT Men’s Qualifying wrap-up and round of 32 preview

Jaime Martel lis the higest seeded player to qualify for the 2019 main draw. Photo via Roby Partovich/US Open 2015

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].

– An intra-Dallas inter-generational battle was taken by the veteran; Diana-Shai Manzuri took out Lukas Le 5,6 to advance.

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In the 128s:
– Andrew Gale took out IRT regular Nick Riffel in a tie-breaker; very solid win for the veteran player Gale, who first played in the US Open in 2006.

– Francisco Reyes took out IRT touring regular Justus Benson 6,12.

– Erik Garcia took out the tough Mexican Christian Longoria by the scores of 10,2.

– Troy Warigon dominated rematch of a qualifier in Laurel two weeks ago against Yacouba Keita, advancing by the dominant scores of 3,1.

– Sam Bredenbeck took out Colombian international Andres Gomez in two solid games.

– Sebastian Fernandez himself still an 18U junior, was stretched to a tiebreaker by a fellow Mexican junior (albeit a younger one) in Guillermo Ortega before advancing.

– Pennsylvania amateur Joe Kelley stretched Alan Natera Chavez to a tiebreaker before the Mexican advanced.

– Former top WRT pro Jaime Martell Neri took out 20th ranked Costa Rican Felipe Camacho.

– In a battle of two IRT veterans, Colombian Alejandro Herrera Azcarate took out Japanese legend Hiroshi Shimizu in two close games to advance.

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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.

– Bolivian vet Kadim Carrasco was pushed to a tiebreaker by Colombian Set Cubillos Ruiz before advancing.

– 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.

– Eduardo Garay Rodriguez held serve and topped MoMo Zelada 11,9 to advance into the main draw.

– Maurice Miller ended Gale’s upset run to qualify.

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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.

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We’ll circle back for the 16s once the 32s are done.

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