Welcome to perhaps the grandest international event in our sport; the quadriennial Pan American Games.
This is as close as our sport gets to the Olympic games right now. And they’re starting up this weekend, held in Lima,Peru.
This will be the 6th time Racquetball has participated in these games: they debuted in 1995, then have been in every iteration since (with the exception of 2007, when host country Brazil dropped the sport).
The first Pan Am games Men’s singles champion was John Ellis in his final amateur match; he avenged a loss in the previous year’s Tournament of the Americas event to long time US international player Michael Bronfeld. The first Pan Am games Women’s champion was the legendary Michelle Gouldwho won a slew of international events along with nearly every Pro match she played in the 1990s.
The Women’s singles competition this year will feature two-time defending champ Paola Longoria who won in 2011 and 2015. She’ll be challenged by her country-woman Montse Mejia, who beat her earlier this year in the Mexican Nationals. She’ll also have to fend with top LPRT pros and international veterans like Maria Jose Vargas, Frederique Lambert, Rhonda Rajsich and the like. And, just to add some intrigue, Guatemala’s Gaby Martinez has come out of “retirement” to compete … the same Martinez who beat Longoria in the 2018 Worlds final.
The two-time defending Men’s single’s champ Rocky Carson will only be playing doubles this event, so we’ll have a new champ. The 2015 finalist Alvaro Beltran will be playing singles, and one of 2015’s semi-finalists Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo may be the favorite in the event. But, don’t count out Moscoso’s Bolivian teammate Carlos Keller Vargas, who is the 2-time defending PARC champ, nor the USA #1 Jake Bredenbeck, who destroyed the competition in May to earn his spot, nor Canada’s Samuel Murray, who finished another solid IRT season and is a tough out.
Round Robins start this weekend, and then we’ll preview the knockout draw once it is announced.
Facebook news has been sparse on the event; unlike an IRF event, the host country more or less controls things and by all accounts it was difficult event to secure streaming rights on facebook. Which is a shame … since this should be the biggest event in our sport. Nonetheless, keep an eye out for enthusiasts posting live streaming links in the usual spots.
Over the past week or so, we found out through various forums that the Mexican National teams for the Pan Am Games were named in the past few days … and to say that the selection on the men’s side is “curious” would be an understatement.
As with the USA, the Mexican delegation’s team size was lowered to be just 3 players on the Men’s side due to results at the Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC) earlier this year. Which means that, like with the USA leaving off National singles finalist David Horn , that it was likely that a significant Mexican singles player would be left out.
The obvious and (frankly) ridiculous omission is Alex Landa. Landa WON Mexican National singles earlier this year. So your reigning National singles champ, an event that exists to decide who represents your country in international events … is being ignored when determining the team playing in an international event.
Apparently, the Mexican federation used the results of its singles players at the PARC event to chose its singles representative. In a response to the uproar, the FMR president claims to have informed the players ahead of PARCs that their results would matter, this despite the entry form for Mexican National Singles in 2019 specifically stating that the winner and finalist of singles would represent Mexico at both PARCs and the Pan Am Games.
The team of Mar/Montoya won Mexican National doubles, so they’re a natural doubles pairing. Montoya likely plays the second singles spot, given that he was the 2018 Mexican national singles champ and then subsequently won 2018 Worlds. Of course, Mar himself is no singles slouch; he was the 2017 National singles champ and has represented Mexico well in international events in limited experience. So we’ll have to wait and see who takes the #2 singles spot for Mexico (note: it seems it will be Montoya playing #2 singles based on press releases).
But to this outside observer, it seems like the Mexican Federation went out of its way to find the one plausible scenario where they could make an argument to exclude Landa at the benefit of Beltran. Not surprisingly, Landa took to social media, and the story was picked up by numerous media outlets, and (if i’m reading the posts correctly), Landa may be summarily quitting the Mexican national team altogether and exercising his dual citizenship option to begin playing for the USA. More to follow.
——————– On the Women’s side, there’s also some drama, but not nearly as bad as omitting the sitting singles national champ. The Mexican women’s team won both singles and doubles at PARC, giving them 4 team members in Lima. I’m inferring the team based on press releases/official posts on facebook pages. We know … – Paola Longoria – Samantha Salas Solis – Montse Mejia – Alexandra Herrera
Are named for Lima. But … by insider accounts, Longoria & Mejia will play singles, while Longoria/Salas together will play doubles, which leaves Herrera … named to the team and traveling to Peru only to sit and watch? Its unclear.
The “drama” on the women’s side? Despite the fact that Mejia beat Longoria to win Mexican National singles final earlier this year, Longoria will play #1 seed in Lima … by virtue of finishing higher at PARCs than Mejia. The FMR is using the same logic exercised to omit Landa in order to seed Longoria higher than the player who topped her at Nationals. Furthermore, Salas has lodged criticism in various forums that she was passed over, given her dominant position on the pro tour this season (and she’s not wrong … but lost to Mejia at Nationals at an inopportune time).
Longoria & Salas are the natural doubles representatives; they won Mexican National doubles and have a slew of international titles together, and this will apparently be the sole event Salas enters.
——————– However it turns out, and who ever plays, you have to think the Mexican contingent is favorites to take home a slew of medals across the board. ——————–
The Pan Am games starts 7/26/19 and runs through 8/11/19. Follow along at http://www.internationalracquetball.com/ , and follow @international racquetball federation on Facebook for live streaming throughout.
This year is the 46th annual version of this event, which crowns the “Outdoor Champion” for the year. For nearly all of those 46 years, it has been held at Marina Park in Huntington Beach, CA.
——————— Men’s Singles overview:
It is on these courts that Brian Hawkes became a legend, winning the first of his unbelievable 20 Outdoor titles in 1981. Towards the end of his career, he passed the mantle to Rocky Carson , who won the first of his 12 outdoor titles in 2002. This event has also seen other racquetball legends win titles, including the first pro champion Charlie Brumfield winning the first two iterations, Davey Bledsoe in 1978 and Marty Hogan in 1979. CalifornianLuis R Avila is the defending Men’s Singles champ.
Previewing this year’s event: there’s 9 men entered into the draw. I like #1 seed Avila from the top half, outdoor legend #7 seed Greg Solis to advance from the bottom, and for Avila to defend his title.
———————– On the Women’s Singles side, this event has been dominated by two players over the last decade; Rhonda Rajsich and Janel Tisinger-Ledkins. These two players have won 9 of the last 12 outdoor titles, and more often than not meet in the finals. But, don’t count out the dominant indoor players; #1 Paola Longoria won this event in 2009, and Jacqueline Paraiso-Larssonwon it in 2010. Neither Longoria or Rajsich is playing this weekend … surprising that Rhonda (a frequent outdoor competitor) didn’t make the event. She was nursing an injury towards the end of the pro season, so perhaps she’s saving up energy for Pan Ams later this summer.
There wasn’t a Women’s singles event in 2018, and there won’t be a Women’s Pro Singles division this year either, so the defending 2017 champ (Tisinger) still holds the title.
That’s a great collection of some of the legends of the outdoor game. Davis & Tucker won last year as the #6 seed, beating the #3, #2 and #1 seeded teams along the way, including Rocky Carson and Jesus Ustarroz in the final. Michelle De la Rosa & Munoz came out of a stacked round robin group last year as the #4 seed, topping the top two seeded teams along the way. In the 2018 Mixed event, Solis and Janel held serve as the #1 seed, holding off Emmett Coe and Jackie Paraiso-Larsson in the final.
This year, who is back to defend their title? Here’s some previews of the Doubles events:
————- Men’s Pro Doubles Preview:
10 teams entered this year, led by defending champs Davis/Tucker as the #1 seed. They’re going to have their hands full, as the world’s top indoor doubles team of Alvaro Beltranand Daniel De La Rosa are seeded 8th, making for one heck of a potential quarter final. If they can advance, they possibly face a doubles team in the semis that includes the #1 seed here Avila teamed with perhaps the finest outdoor singles player in the land, Robert Sostre.
On the bottom half, #2 seed Carson is teamed with Ustarroz, but will have to fight through teams that include Solis, Coe, Rick Kolland other top players teamed up in the bottom half.
I’m going to go with Beltran/DLR facing off against Coe/Koll in the final, with the indoor champs prevailing in outdoor as well.
———– Women’s Pro Doubles Preview:
There’s just two pro Women’s doubles teams entered; your defending champs mDLR/Munoz and the younger team of Jazmín Treviño and Heather Mahoney (you current 14U junior national champ). These two teams are the top seeds in separate round robin groups containing a slew of Elite, A and B/C teams. I’d expect the two pro teams to come out of each RR bracket and meet in the final, where i’d expect the defending champions to repeat.
—————– Mixed Doubles Preview:
There’s 6 teams entered this year; last year’s defending champion team is ineligible due to Tisinger’s suspension. But the draw features last year’s losing finalists (Coe and Paraiso-Larsson as the #1 seed and the two-time champ before that in 2016-2017 husband-wife team of DLR/mDLR as the #2 seed. It should be a solid event.
I like the two top seeds to advance to the final, and I like the husband/wife De la Rosa pairing (who also took the Beach Bash one-wall mixed title earlier this year) to come out on top.
—————— BTW, In case you’re wondering why most of the historical links only show champs to 2006-2008 range (for all categories besides Men’s singles). that was the beginning of the use of r2sports.com for tourney tracking. If anyone has a source for 2005 and earlier results i’m all ears; DM me or email me.
And lastly, in a new wrinkle, both the Men’s and Mixed doubles entry are double elimination. This is a new one for Pro Racquetball Stats: I do not have a double elimination event in the database right now and frankly have no idea how i’m going to do the data entry. I very well may just put in the winner’s bracket matches and hope for a clean winners’ bracket-loser’s bracket final at the end so as not to complicate our logic. We’ll see how it goes; the only DE tourney I can think of was the Mexican Women’s nationals event in 2018 … which they basically abandoned once they realized that the loser’s bracket winner (Alexandra Herrera) would have had to play like 4 straight matches potentially on the final day of the event. I’ll capture the results, but may only show winner’s bracket data. We’ll see.
I rec’d word after posting the preview that this tournament now counts as an IRT satellite event, which is great for the participants.
Here’s a quick wrap of the event, with notable results by round.
——————— Men’s Singles:
In the 32s: – #5 Alan Natera Chavez was stretched to a tiebreaker by youngster Elias Nieto. – #20 Daniel Maldonado took out top Guatemalan Juan Jose Salvatierra – In the biggest upset of the round, #4 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez was taken out by Jordy Alonso (14),14 and 9. Alonso has some solid results on his resume over the last two years, has gone back and forth with GFranco in several different venues, and made the semis of this event in 2017 (when it was an WRT event). – #23 David Ortega eased past #10 Christian Longoria 12,3, playing solid.
In the 16s. – #8 Ernesto Ochoa got a solid win over #9 seeded Ecuadorian veteran Fernando Rios 12,13. – #12 Lalo Portillo waxed #5 Natera 2,7 in a great career win. Portillo scored 25 of the match’s first 27 points to dominate a tough opponent like we havn’t seen before. – #3 Mario Mercado was stretched to a breaker by DR #1 Luis Perez before advancing. – In an equally surprising upset, last week’s dominant winner Javier Estradawas taken out by Ortega 8,13.
In the Qtrs: – #1 seed Andree Parrilla took out #8 Ochoa easily 5,5. – #12 Portillo continued his excellent run, topping off upset minded Alonso in dominant fashion 9,4. – #3 Mercado took a tough game one against #6 Javier Mar, who then retired with an injury. It looked like perhaps Mar suffered the injury towards the latter stages of game 1. – #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solis blitzed past upset-minded Ortega 1,9.
So in the end; your semi finalists are 1,2,3 and 12 seeds. Not too bad.
In the Semis: – #1 Parrilla ended Portillo’s run, dominating the younger player 9,5 – #2 Montoya was stretched to a tiebreaker by #3 Mercado but advanced.
In the finals, it was #1 vs #2 … and #1 won in dominant fashion 11,5. Montoya and Parrilla are the same age and played each other over and over in juniors coming up … Montoya generally has held the upper hand in their match-ups over the years; the last time i have them meeting in a top-level event was in the semis of 2018 Mexican Nationals, won by Montoya en route to the adult title. But now its Parrilla who is ranked in the IRT top 4, within spitting distance of #3, while Montoya has not played the tour full time and sits outside the top 10. Is the tide changing?
In the Qtrs: – #9 Jessica Parrilla got a tie-breaker win over #16 Ana Kristin Rivera (the walk-over recipient of Longoria’s late withdrawal). – #5 Amaya got a great win over #4 Alexandra Herrera in an 11-9 tiebreaker. They’ve played a few times in the past on tour and Herrera has mostly held the advantage. – #3 Montse Mejia took out #6 Carla Munoz 7,7 and is the new tourney favorite with the withdrawal of both top seeds. – #7 Maria Paz Munoz ran past #15 seed Ana Lucía Sarmiento (the beneficiary of the Salas walk-over) to advance to the semis.
So, your semi finalists are #3,5,7,8 seeds thanks to 1&2 withdrawing. Not bad.
In the semis: – #5 Amaya continued her great event, topping Parrilla in a tie-breaker. That’s three wins over top LPRT touring pros this weekend for Amaya. – #3 Mejia outlasted Ecuadorian vet Munoz 12,11 to advance.
In the finals, Amaya’s cinderella run ended quickly, losing to Mejia 4,2.
——————— Men’s Doubles
Just one upset to the semis by seed (#5 Natera/Mercado taking out #4 seeded Dominican Republic national team of Perez/De Leon).
In the semis, the top seeds Montoya/Mar cruised past Natera/Mercado, while #3 Parrilla/Portillo upset the 2nd seeded team of Ochoa/Estrada.
In the final, #1 Montoya/Mar took out their younger countrymen 13,9.
In the semis, The Longoria/Salas withdrawal opened up the top of this draw, and #4 seeds Parrilla/Delgado took out the Ecuadorian national doubles team of Munoz/Munoz, then the young Mexican team of Sacrisan/Sarmiento to make the finals. There, they face a former Mexican national doubles champion team of Herrera/Mejia.
In the final, Herrera/Mejia cruised to an easy win 1,5 to make Mejia the double winner on the weekend.
– June 2018: Jessica Parrilla, just finishing up the 2017-18 season ranked 3rd on tour, suffers a knee ligament injury while competing in the 2018 Mexican Worlds Selection event. She does not return to the LPRT until the last event of the 2018-19 season.
– August 2018: Guatemalan Gaby Martinez shocks the women’s racquetball world by upsetting #1 Longoria in the 2018 Worlds final in Barranquila, Colombia. She made a statement early, downing Vargas in the RRs, then easily beat Salas in the qtrs, Mendez in the semis before taking out Longoria in a tie-breaker final.
– Dec 2018: at the half-way point of the new season, #1 Paola Longoria and #2 Samantha Salas Solis have separated themselves from the rest of the pack; five of the six tournaments have been #1 vs #2 in the finals, and they’ve opened up a significant gap to the next tier of players. Frederique Lambert has fallen nearly out of the top 10 thanks to school commitments: she’s finishing Medical school.
– Mar 2019: Jessica Parrilla returns to the court for the first time since her June 2018 injury, competing in the Mexican Nationals. She played both singles and doubles in the event but did not travel to the subsequent LPRT event in Bolivia. She ends up playing just one LPRT event on the year, the season’s last tourney in Kansas in June.
– Mar 2019: Ana Gabriela Martinez suddenly announces her retirement from the sport at age 19, to focus on her studies and other interests. She retires ranked #9 on the tour despite only playing part time. In 2018 she defeated Longoria to take the IRF World Championship as an 18yr old, then later in the year missed out on a rare chance at the Adult/Junior double by losing to Mejia in the 18U world Junior final.
– Mar 2019: The Bolivian Grand Slam event happens, the first time an LPRT event has been held in the country. Unfortunately, Paola Longoria suffered a slight injury and missed the event. Despite Longoria’s absensce, the Ladies had a strong showing, with 8 of the top 10 players traveling (Lambert also missed the event). The local Bolivian players had a great showing, with Angelica Barrios making the semis and upsetting several top LPRT pros, and naturalized Bolivian Maria Jose Vargas taking the title in a hard fought 5-game tiebreaker over Samantha Salas.
– Jun 2019: Paola Longoria completes another undefeated season, with Samantha Salas making the finals of 9 of the 10 events on the year, clearly establishing themselves as the two top players on tour. Last season’s #2 Lambert has fallen all the way to #9 on the season, having finished medical school in May.
that’s it for the season. We anxiously await the announcement of the 2019-20 slate of events.
here’s a quick preview of the Men’s and Women’s “open” draw, which are basically pro draws. They’re using RKT seedings here, which will result in some wonky seeding as we’ll see below.
————————— Men’s Singles:
30 players, headlined by a number of the top Mexican players. Also, what looks like the projected Pan Am teams from Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Guatemala are entered to make for a solid draw.
Here’s a preview of what we may look for round by round:
In the 32s: – #9 Ecuadorian Fernando Rios takes on #24 Dominican Ramon de Leon in an IRF-worthy first rounder. – #3 Colombian Mario Mercado takes on #30 Guatemalan Javier Martinez in a tough first rounder for the top-10 IRT pro. – #23 David Ortega takes on #10 Christian Longoria in an interesting first rounder between two former Mexican junior phenoms.
In the 16s: – #8 Ernesto Ochoa likely takes on Rios in a great 8/9 seed match-up – #5 Alan Natera Chavez takes on #12 Lalo Portillo in a great match-up. Natera is a very dangerous player (he beat both Charlie Pratt and Sebastian Franco in Chihuahua earlier this summer), while Portillo has been steadily rising in the pro ranks. Could be a statement win for Portillo if he can handle Natera. – #3 Mercado likely takes on Dominica #1 Luis Perez, who had some really solid results earlier this year at the PARCs (beating Camacho, Murray and Ugalde). Might be a trip-up match for Mercado.
Projecting the quarters: – #1 Andree Parrilla vs #8 Ochoa: ignore the seeds; this is no easy match for Parrilla, who has lost to Ochoa twice in the last calendar year. Ochoa was upset in the 32s last event, but has the talent to beat anyone in this draw, and I think he has Parrilla’s number. Parrilla was down to Keller in the Black Gold cup before advancing and may be vulnerable. – #5 Natera vs #4 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez. they met in the Open draw in the last IRT event in Syosset, a Franco win. But I think Natera is the better player right now and is coming off a solid Chihuahua event. – #3 Mercado vs #6 Javier Mar; if Mercado can survive the gauntlet of early round opponents, he likely ends his run here at the hands of Mar, the most talented player in the draw irrespective of seeding. – #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #7 Javier Estrada. A rematch of the final of the stacked Black Gold event two weekends ago, won by Estrada in a tiebreaker as he achieved a career win. Can he follow up his performance in another city, against another stacked draw? I’m going to go with Estrada again; he’s got the hot hand.
Predicting the semis: – Natera over Ochoa ; they’ve played twice in the last couple of years, both Natera wins. – Mar over Estrada; I think Mar can handle Estrada’s power and advances, but this will be an excellent test for Estrada, as Mar can hang with anyone in the world.
Final: Mar over Natera, a rematch from 2018’s Mexican Nationals where Natera upset Mar … so this match-up if it happens could go eithe rway.
—————————– Women’s Singles
17 players in this draw, with a slew of top LPRT players and a very international look and feel. I count 6 different countries represented here, with a number of players clearly looking for competition ahead of the Pan Am games. Here’s a quick preview:
In the 16s: – #8 Marie Gomar, fresh off of an appearance at National Masters, takes on the recovering former top-4 pro Jessica Parrilla in the opener. – #5 Amaya Cris takes on #12 Maria Renee Rodríguez, I have the Colombian 6-1 over the Guatemalan here career across pro and int’l events, and even though they’re neck and neck in the pro ranks Amaya should advance. – #6 Chilean Carla Muñoz Montesinos takes on dangerous Dominican int’l #11 Mery Nanyely Ortiz in an IRF-flavored match.
Projected quarters: – #1 Montse Mejia vs #9 Parrilla; this will be an excellent test for Mejia, who has the talent to beat any of her country-mates but who generally doesn’t face a player of the calibre of Parrilla. – #4 Alexandra Herrera vs #5 Amaya: two LPRT pros who rarely meet; they’ve played four times … but none since May of 2016. Herrera should advance. – #3 Samantha Salas Solis vs #6 Munoz: they’ve met 8 times between IRF and LPRT events … and Salas has won all 8. – #2 Paola Longoria vs #7 Pazita Muñoz Albornoz; the Ecuadorian #1 has a long history against the Mexican #1; they’ve played 10 times dating to 2006 between IRF and LPRT events. Longoria is 10-0 in those match-ups.
Projecting the Semis: – Mejia over Herrera; they havn’t played since 2017. I think Mejia can outlast Herrera in a game-to-3 format. – Longoria over Salas: in what normally is the tourney final, these two face off in the semis. Longoria holds a 58-3 career record over her doubles partner … so its hard not to predict anything but a Paola win.
Predicted final: Longoria over Mejia. Mejia shocked the world topping Longoria at Mexican Nationals earlier this year, but Longoria handled their late pro season meetings and will stay focused to take this title.
15 teams in the Men’s Doubles: I like the experienced #1 Mar/Montoya over #5 Natera/Mercado in one semi, the solid #2 Ochoa/Estrada over the youngster team of Parrilla/Portillo in the other semi, and for #1 over #2 in the final.
8 teams in the Women’s doubles, highlighted by the #1 Longoria/Salas team, which is essentially unbeatable. Look for Longora/Salas to take out the Ecuadorian National team of Munoz/Munoz in one semi, and for the former Mexican champion team of Herrera/Mejia to take out Amaya/Munuz in the other semi. Hard to predict a Longoria/Salas loss in the final, but its happened before to the lefty/righty combo of Herrera/Mejia.
——————————- Looks like a great event; hopefully we see some streaming. The host club in SLP has a great side-wall glass court for streaming options.
———————– Analysis/thoughts on Year End Rankings and notable player movement.
#1 Paola Longoriafinishes the year undefeated, 37-0 It is the 5th time she’s accomplished this feat, and she now has just four on-court losses in the last 8 professional seasons. She sews up her 10th career pro title. With her win in Kansas City, she gets her 91st career title in the Database (we’re aware of the discrepancy between our systems and her records and are working to figure out the delta actively).
She now sits as an astounding 439-30 in her pro career, a .936 winning percentage. She still trails Michelle Gould in this metric, whose database W/L percentage currently sits at 147-9 and which will only improve as we eventually fill in tournament detail in the mid 1990s. By way of comparison, both of these marks are better than Kane Waselenchuk‘s career mark of .918, which is considered in awe on the men’s pro racquetball circles.
#2 Samantha Salas Solis had as good of a season as you could have given that the #1 player went undefeated: she made 9 finals in 9 tries (missing one event due to travel issues mid-season). She’ll be kicking herself she didn’t claim the title in the one event that Paola missed … that being the Bolivian Grand Slam and the big check that comes with it. But a great season for Salas, who started the season ranked outside the top 10 due to injury comeback and is now firmly entrenched at #2 for the forseeable future.
Salas is now just 3-50 against Longoria though, and needs to find a way to beat her long-time rival if she wishes to put her name in the record books. She did stretch Paola to 5 games once this season, in Syosset, but most of their finals were 3-game affairs.
#3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada, like Salas, also started the year still working her way back into touring status thanks to a hiatus to have a kid. But thanks to her title in Bolivia, she ascended to #3, where she stayed the rest of the way out. She maintains a slight lead for 3rd over Herrera. Vargas is just 2-8 career over #2 Salas, which includes the win in Bolivia, so she has her work cut out for her if she wishes to ascend any higher.
#4 Alexandra Herrera had a very consistent season; she started it ranked 3rd, finished it ranked 4th, made a bunch of semis, never got upset prior to the qtrs … but really only had one break through tourney, making the final when the #2 seed Lambert got upset very early in Laurel. On the bright side, at season’s end she broke a career duck against Rajsich, finally beating her head to head in the season’s final event to secure #4 on the season.
– #5 Rhonda Rajsich kept chugging in her 20th pro season, finishing in the top 5 for the 18th time. A couple of early season upsets dropped her to the 6th-7th seed, but then stronger results as the season went on got her back. She treads water from last season, finishing 5th for the second season in a row. Rajsich overtook Cheryl Gudinas this season and now has the most ever appearances in pro tour history, a streak she seems set to continue for the forseeable future.
– #6 Natalia Mendez Erlwein started the season seeded 6th and ended it 6th, and made 8 quarters in 10 pro tourneys. She had an interesting 2nd half of the season, where her specific seeding drove four consecutive quarter-final match-ups with countrymate and doubles partner Vargas … resulting in four of her eight quarter final defeats on the season. There’s a significant points gap from Rhonda to Natalia, one that only a breakthrough tourney will solve. Her four-straight match-ups against Vargas has me thinking that maybe the LPRT should consider seed flipping like the IRT does; there were also a number of other repeated qtr final match-ups (Herrera-Rajsich, Salas-Enriquez) that would be mixed up and give the 5-8 seeded players a different look in the qtrs.
– #7 Nancy Enriquez took a slight step back from last season, taking a couple of early upsets and dropping from 6th last season to 7th this season. Her 7-seed routes her to #2 Salas each quarterfinal, a tough spot to be in considering how well Salas is playing and considering that Salas has just one career loss to Enriquez (way back in 2011).
– #8 Amaya Cris finished ranked 8th for the 2nd season in a row, and had a similar performance this year to last. She was able to fight back into the top 8 by season’s end, having dropped out of the top 8 mid-way through the season. She made 5 quarter finals in 10 tourneys but wasn’t able to break through to the semis.
– #9 Frederique Lambert missed half the season and dropped from #2 last season to finish 9th. As is well known, she completed Medical school this year and graduated in May, and even making half the tourneys this year seems like a pretty amazing accomplishment for someone finishing such a rigorous academic schedule. This breaks a streak of four straight seasons ranked in the top 4 for Frederique. One has to wonder what the future holds; after you finish medical school usually medical training commences and I have a hard time believing Lambert will be able to do a time-intensive internship and frequently take off 4-day weekends to compete in tourneys. We all await to see what happens as it pertains to the tour; nobody likes losing a top player.
– #10 Adriana Riveros finished 10th on the season, improving from 12th last season and now is the fourth straight season in this 10-14 range for the Colombian. She made two quarter finals in 10 tourneys on the year
———————– 11th-20th ranked players:
– #11 Gaby Martinez earned enough points from early events to finish 11th despite announcing her retirement from the sport to focus on school earlier this season. She made two semis in three events this year and got a career win over Longoria in 2018’s worlds final, making this observer wonder if she wasn’t the heir-apparent to the crown (or at the least, a good competitor for the top spot going forward). I hope she can find time to continue to play and compete at some point in the future, because (as with Lambert) its a bummer to lose a top competitor.
– #12 Masiel Rivera Oporto played a full season and was rewarded with her top ever finish. She made one quarter on the year thanks to probably her best win on the season, over Riveros at the Bolivian grand slam on home turf.
– #13 Brenda Laime Jalil made 6 main draws in 9 events, a big improvement from last season (when she failed to advance to the 16s all year) and enough to get her into the top 16.
– #14 Ana Laura Flores Saavedra made one quarter with a solid win over Mendez in the season opener, and played in 6 of the 10 events on the year.
– #15 Cassie Lee improved from #21 last year, making 5 main draws out of 9 tournaments attended.
– #16 Yazmine Sabja Aliss played just 4 events, being based in Bolivia, but made two quarters and got some solid wins along the way. One has to think that her playing the tour FT would have her challenging for a top 8 spot. too bad Bolivia is so far away.
– #17 Montse Mejia had an interesting season: she played 5 pro events and lost in the 16s each time (3 times to Longoria, once each to Lambert and Vargas). But, outside of the pro tour she won World 18U juniors (beating Gaby Martinez twice along the way), then at Mexican Nationals beat in order Enriquez, Salas and Longoria to take the title. She faltered at the PARCs as the #1 seed (losing to Mendez in the qtrs), but one has to wonder what she’s capable of if she can get out of the 14-16 seed range and get some deeper runs on the pro tour. I think she’s one of the top 5 women in the world right now and hope she can play a full slate next season.
– #18 Adrienne Fisher Haynes dropped in the season ending rankings for the 3rd successive season, getting upset in the 32s 5 times in 8 events this season.
– #19 Angelica Barrios made the semis of the Bolivian grand slam, beating two top 8 players along the way, which propelled her to a top 20 finish despite just three appearances. She’s also put her name into the mix for the Bolivian national team, representing her country at PARCs earlier this year.
– #20 Carla Muñoz Montesinos had a qtr and two main draws in 6 appearances this year, a busy one for her as she finished up school in Colorado, made the finals of NCAA intercollegiates and represented Chile at three different IRF events.
———————– commentary on players ranked 21st on-wards:
– #22 Susy Acosta finished 22nd … in her 21st pro season.
– #24 Michelle De La Rosa made a semi and played top ranked pros tough in limited appearnces this year.
– #25 Kelani Lawrence finished 25th in limited appearances but won the US National title.
– #31 Valeria Centellas finished 31st … and is the reigning World junior 16U champ. She played #1 for Bolivia at the PARC games in April and made the quarters … in her age 17 season.
– #37 Jessica Parrilla finished 37th after missing basically the entire season recovering from a bad knee injury. She will fight back to regain her status on tour starting next season after finishing 3rd last season. ———————–
That’s it for the season. We look forward to seeing what next year has in store. I sense a step up in events, I hope to see more dual tour events like what is done in Minneapolis and Bolivia, and I hope to see more events in Mexico that draw the local player base.
Thanks to their performance at the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships earlier this year, Team Canada qualified two men and two women to the event, so these players will be pulling double duty singles and doubles in Peru.
On the Men’s side … the choices were pretty obvious. Murray and Iwaasa were the two finalists in all three qualifying events (the 1st National team Qualifier in Nov 2018, the 2nd Qualifier in February 2019, and Canadian Nationals In May 2019). Murray topped Iwaasa in all three events, and these two players have clearly established themselves as the top Canadian Men.
Murray plays the IRT tour full time and finished 7th on tour this year. He should be a favorite to advance deep into the knockout stages, given his tour accomplishments and his international experience. Murray has represented Canada 8 times before internationally; his best IRF result is making the 2016 world semis, losing toDaniel De La Rosa.
Iwaasa played just one pro event this season, the WRT event that occurred in Calgary in October. In that event (PRS match report here: http://rball.pro/E7785F) he topped a number of IRT semi-regulars before falling toAndree Parrilla in the final. This will be Iwaasa’s 6th international appearance; his best results previously were a quarter final apperance at the 2014 Pan American Sports Festival (where he lost to David ” Bobby” Hornand the 2015 Pan American Games (where he lost to Alvaro Beltran).
On the Women’s side, the two players selected are in-arguably the top two players in Canada, but some questions may arise from the qualification process. Lambert and Saunders were the finalists in the 1st qualifier, with Lambert winning. But, Lambert did not play in the 2nd qualifier nor Canada Nationals; there Saunders beat Christine Richardson in the finals both times. As it turns out, Canada’s team qualification guidelines specify exceptions for top-ranked IRT and LPRT pros, automatically qualifying them if they’re in the top 8 at the time of the team selection. See http://www.racquetball.ca/download/2019Racquetball_INP_PAGs.pdf for the guidelines (h/t to Frederique Lambert for the link).
Lambert obviously gives the team a better chance at medaling in Peru, but it comes at the expense of Richardson, who made a semis and two finals during qualifying and thus has a claim to the team based on the overall qualifying results.
Lambert finished the pro season ranked 9th on tour despite missing 5 of the 10 events (dropping out of the top 8 only at the last event). This after finishing the prior year ranked 2nd and making 5 pro tournament finals. She finished off Medical school, which limited her travel schedule. This will be the 10th time Lambert represents Canada; she has made two international finals, losing the 2012 and 2016 PARC finals to Longoria.
The limits of players on both teams also means that the selected players will be forced doubles partners. But luckily, the players do have some experience playing with each other.
– Murray/Iwaasa teamed up to win the 2018 Canadian National title – they also played together at PARC earlier this year, losing in the final.
– Lambert/Saunders first played together at the 2014 Worlds, losing in the qtrs. – They teamed up at the 2016 PARC event, losing in the semis to eventual champs Mexico – They made the semis at 2016 Worlds together, losing to the USA team. – They won 2018 Canada Nationals together – they last played at 2018 Worlds, struggling in the RRs and losing in the 16s.
In the round of 16,, results went exactly chalk. All top 8 seeds advanced. There were a couple of notable results though. – Unlike in Syosset, the Paola Longoria – Mejia match was a 3-game blow out, Longoria winning 3,1,4. – #8 Amaya Cris dropped the first game against #9 Masiel Rivera Oporto but won in 4. – Similarly, #4 Alexandra Herrera dropped the first game to Parrilla before winning in 4. – In a battle of Mexican LPRT vets, Susy Acosta Racquetball took a game off of Samantha Salas Solis before falling in four.
In the quarters, the draw went chalk … but not with out some tough matches: – #1 Paola Longoria trounced #8 Amaya in 3 – #4 Herrera got her first ever win over #5 Rhonda Rajsich, breaking a long-running streak and solidifying her top 4 finish on the year. – #3 Maria Jose Vargas was stretched to a 5th game against doubles partner #6 Natalia Mendez before advancing. – #2 Salas came from 2 games down to win a very close one against #7 Nancy Enriquez, 11-9 in the 5th.
The semis and finals went chalk; Longoria over Herrera in 4, Salas over Vargas in 4. In the final Salas took the first game off of Longoria but Paola prevailed, completing an undefeated season.
– All four top seeds advanced to the semis … but the #2 seeded Argentinian team of Vargas/Mendes had to save match point against before advancing against the all-Mexican team of Parrilla & Enriquez.
In the semis, both the top Mexican teams cruised to two game wins to face off in the finals.
In the final, the top seeded Longoria/Salas team dropped game 2, but held on for the title.
———————————- that’s it for the season! A dominant season for Longoria, and for Salas, who have really established themselves as the #1 and #2 players in the world. Once the final rankings post to lprtour.com, I’ll scrap them and do all the year end processing and send out a separate post summarizing the season.
Next up: we’ll wait for the final points standings to post and then do typical PRS end of season work and will send out a seasonal summary after that.
next up on the rball calendar? US Junior Nats, then WOR outdoors, then Mexican Jr Nats, ,then the Pan Am games in august.
In a rarity; there are basically only pro draws in this event; singles and doubles (with a smaller Open singles draw). This is definitely a high-light event for the women’s pros. 21 pros are in Kansas to compete in the last event of the year.
A couple of interesting entrants here that i’d like to point out: – Former top-10 pro Jessica Parrilla has finally returned to the tour after badly injuring her knee last spring: her last appearance was in April of 2018. She did play Mexican Nationals this year in March as her first tourney back, and now starts from square one. She’s seed 20th out of 21 entrants here (only Gomar is lower) and will have to fight starting next season to get back into the top 8. – Guatemalan Marie Gomar is entered; she’s got just one previous LPRT appearance (in 2014), and didn’t have any international appearances for more than 5 years. With the retirement of Gaby Martinez, Gomar has ascended to #2 in Guatemala and is representing her country for the first time in years.
What’s at stake from a rankings perspective? The top 2 are locked in for the year, and there’d have to be a pretty big upset of the 3-5 players for any change to happen there. The players ranked 6-10 however are each separated by smaller numbers of points, where a run to the semis could make a big change in the rankings thanks to the double points in this Grand Slam event.
Interesting round of 16 projected matches: – #1 Paola Longoria likely takes on Mejia in the 16s … again. They’ve met in the 16s two times already this year, including in the most recent pro event in Syosset (a brutal 5-game win for Paola Longoria). They also met in the finals of Mexican Nationals, an upset win for Mejia. Mejia seems to be in a points rut and needs a round of 16 win to get out of the 16-17 rankings range. Will it happen here? I favor Longoria, but i sense it’ll be a 5-gamer again. – The 8/9 match looks compelling: Amaya Cris versus Masiel Rivera Oporto . Colombia vs Bolivia, and two players who have very little history playing each other (just one match-up in 2014). Should be a good test for both. – #4 Alexandra Herrera vs Parrilla; Interestingly, Parrilla’s first match back from her knee injury in March was also against Herrera, in March at Mexican Nats. They’re 4-4 career h2h, but Herrera has won the last three. Parrilla’s had 3 months to improve fitness and knee stability; can she get the upset here?
Otherwise, i’m mostly predicting chalk in the round of 16.
Projecting the quarters: – #1 Longoria over #8 Amaya; Longoria is 9-0 versus Amaya on the LPRT, 13-0 including IRF events. – #5 Rhonda Rajsich over #4 Herrera; despite their ranks, Rajsich has never lost to Herrera, holding a 10-0 career h2h record. They’ve met in the quarters of the last two pro events too, both Rajsich wins … but they’ve both been 5-game marathons. I think Rajsich advances again, and once again its 5 games. – #3 Maria Jose Vargas vs #6 Natalia Mendez; these two just can’t get away from each other; after never playing prior to March … they’ve played each other 4 times in the last 3 months, including in the qtrs of the last three pro events. The two Argentinians (who are also doubles partners) likely face off again …and Vargas likely wins for the 5th straight time. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis vs #7 Nancy Enriquez; they are projected to meet for the 3rd time this season. Enriquez has a couple of career wins over Salas, but they’re forever ago and Salas advances here.
projected Semis: – Longoria over Rajsich; this would be the 5th semis meeting between these two this season … Paola’s got the first four, but it was a 5-gamer in Syosset. – Salas over Vargas: they’ve met in the last three pro events; Vargas won on home soil in Bolivia, but Salas won the last two meetings rather easily.
Predicted final: Longoria over Salas. This has been the final in 7 of the 9 pro events this season … so might as well be the final in the last one too.
——————————- Doubles preview
This event is serving as a warm-up event for a few national doubles teams for the forthcoming Pan Am games: the two top Mexican teams, the Argentinian team, and the Guatemalan team are all competing here (interestingly it seems like the Ecuadorian women’s team went to the Black Gold event instead of Kansas City to practice, competing in the Men’s open doubles event).
I’m going with #1 Longoria/Salas vs #5 Lotts/Munoz in one semi, #3 Herrera/Mejia vs #2 Vargas/Mendex in the other semi, and an all-mexican final with the top team winning.
Fun fact: LPRT commissioner Tj Baumbaugh is signed up, her first playing appearance on the pro tour since Aug 2016.
——————————– Follow LPRT on facebook for streaming; veteran broadcaster Timothy Baghurst is making the short drive from OK to KS to help broadcast this weekend.