In the Semis; – Landa and Natera battled in a close game 1, then Landa pulled away to take game two 15-3 and advance to the final of his namesake tourney. – Cardona took two close games from Garay 13,12 to “upset” his 2nd straight seeded player and advance to the final.
In the Final: – Cardona took the first game, then Landa took over, beating his frequent Juarez club playing partner (12),5,6 to win the singles title in his name sake event. Not a bad showing for Cardona, who has stepped back from competitive play but still remains a dangerous player in every draw he enters. For Landa, two solid wins over tough opponents and a good warmup for the new season coming.
In Men’s Doubles: – #1 seeds Landa/Cardona were upset in the semis by #4 Estrada/Ochoa in a tiebreaker. – #2 Natera/Garay downed #6 seeds (who got a walkover over #3 seeded team in the qtrs) Jose Martinez / Manuel Villarreal: to advance to the final.
In a good final entirely consisting of solid Mexican players who rarely feature in USA domestic IRT events, Estrada and Ochoa blasted their way to a win over Natera/Garay.
————————- Next up; the start of the 2019-20 pro season with the LPRT heading to San Luis Potosi.
Like last week’s event in SLP, there’s a solid Men’s Pro draw (18 players). its also an IRT sanctioned event; a Tier 2, meaning the winner does get a somewhat significant number of rankings points (120 points).
——————- Men’s Pro Singles draw
Lets pick up a preview at the quarter-final levels, given that it seems unlikely to have any upsets prior to that stage.
Projected Quarters: – #1 Alex Landalikely faces #8 Ruben Estrada, brother of Javier (who is also in the draw). Ruben was a force in Junior racquetball in the early 2000s, winning multiple Junior world titles but an accident in the late 2008-early 2009 time-frame derailed his promising career. He returned to pro racquetball in 2015 and has played sporadically since.
– #4 Ernesto Ochoavs #5 Alan Natera Chavez; a great match-up between two dark horses in pro racquetball. Natera’s win over reigning Pan Am Games champ Rodrigo Montoya Solís earlier this year at Mexican Nationals represents the potential of his game. They’ve played before and I favor Natera here.
– #3 Javier Estrada vs #6 Alex Cardona: a tough one to predict, given that Cardona has really stepped back in his pro touring. I’m going to predict Cardona gets the upset here.
– #2 Eduardo Garay Rodriguez vs #7 Polo Gutiérrez; I can’t wait to see what Polo has left in the tank after a long international career and having recovered from an arm injury. I suspect Garay is the favorite here.
Projected Semis: – Landa vs Natera: here’s some of the players Natera has beaten this year: Montoya, Estrada, Cardona, Gerardo Franco, Sebastian Franco and Charlie Pratt. That’s a lot of talented players. This is no cake walk for Landa, who I think should advance in a breaker but don’t be surprised by an upset. – Garay vs Cardona: Despite Garay’s resume of recent accomplishments, i still like Cardona here.
Finals: Landa over his doubles partner Cardona in a rematch of their every tuesday night league night.
——————- They’re also playing doubles at the events; 7 teams. The top seed is Landa/Cardona, the 2nd seed is the solid Garay/Natera team (who made the finals last weekend). Also in the Mix is the Ochoa/Estrada team.
I like the draw to go chalk; both Cardona and Landa are solid doubles players.
Congrats to your 2019 Mexican National Team, set to represent Mexico at both the International Racquetball Federation – IRF major events this year: – Men Singles Finalists: Alejandro Landa & Alvaro Beltran – Women Singles finalists: Montserrat Mejia & Paola Longoria – Men’s Doubles champions: Rodrigo Montoya & Javier Mar – Women’s Doubles champions: Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas
In the 32s…there were no major upsets, no amazing #32 over #1 upsets like we’ve seen in the past. Best matches of the round: – Jaime Martell Neri topped Eduardo Lalo Portillo with a solid 10,7 win to avenge a h2h loss at Monterrey mid last year. – Alvaro Beltran cruised by Polo Polito Gutierrez 4,13 to avoid an early upset. – Gerardo Franco Gonzalez got a solid win, topping the hot Ernesto Ochoa 13,10 for the upset by seed, if perhaps not by talent.
In the 16s… – #1 seed Daniel De La Rosa overcame a slow start to get past Rodolfo Esparza 12,8. – 2-time WRT champ #9 seed Alejandro Alex Cardona pasted Sebastian Fernandez 6,4 to advance to the quarters. This result surprised me; usually 8/9 match-ups are close, and Fernandez has a number of solid showings on tour lately while Cardona has stepped back a bit from touring … but this is a dominant win. – Former world #1 Alex Landacruised by the over-seededChristian Longoria9,6 to setup an excellent quarters match with Mar. – #4 Seed Javier Mar blew out #13 seeded Martell in the first, but then it turned into the close match we expected and he held on for the win 2,(14), 7 – #14 Beltran, as under-seeded in this draw as Landa, was calm and collected while controlling his match against #3 Andree Parrilla, advancing in two games that probably weren’t as close as the scores suggest (8,13). – #22 seed Gerardo Franco beat #6 seed Javier Estrada 11-10 in a marathon match that featured the players diving on nearly every point. Two really solid wins in a row for Franco here over two solid players. – #10 seed Alan Natera Chavez saved match point against and advanced over #7 seeded Edson Martinez in another 2-hour marathon (9),14,6. – Reigning World Champ and #2 seed Rodrigo Montoya Solis raced past the veteran Javier Moreno 3,4.
Quarter final seeds: #1, #2, #4 … then #9, #10, #12, #14, and #22. When 5 of your top 8 seeds fall, you know the seeds were out of whack.
In the Quarters: – #1 DLR had to work for it, topping #9 Cardona in a drawn-out tiebreaker. Final score: 12,(13),3. A solid tourney for Cardona, who has really limited his tourney playing schedule lately but looked great this weekend. – #12 Landa played a complete game and advanced over #4 seed Javier Mar in two straight games. Landa was in control throughout, was playing his typical crisp shots and Mar could do little to turn the tides. I predicted Landa to fall at this gate, the third tourney in a row where i’ve called for his upset early. From now on, i’ll take the opposite of what I think for Landa predictions 🙂 – #14 Beltran played his typical controlled match and outlasted #22 Gerardo Franco 8,13. Beltran has really played well so far this event, playing smart, controlling racquetball and outlasting younger and (perhaps) better players. – In the upset of the event, #10 Natera topped #2 seed and presumptive favorite to return to the finals for the 3rd major Mexican Singles event in a row Rodrigo Montoya 9,9. This marks the second National singles finals in a row that Natera has made the semis in, both times as a drastic underdog and with significant wins over major players. If you’ve never heard of Natera it is understandable; he has yet to play in a single IRT event.
Montoya’s loss means that Mexico will have a new singles representative in this year’s PanAms/Pan Am Games, and that Montoya will not have a chance to defend his 2018 World title in the next set of international events.
So your semis are #1, … and #10, #12 and #14 seeds. Mexican Nats always seems to bring out the upsets.
In the Semis… – #12 Landa was in control from the start and never seemed in jeopardy of losing to his long-time rival #1 De La Rosa, hitting shot after shot and advancing 11,10. Landa improves to 7-5 in all top-level competitions against DLR. Landa returns to the finals for the first time since 2017, and returns to the Mexican National team for the first time since he won the 2017 PARC tournament. – #14 Beltran dominated his semis match against upset-minded #10 Natera, advancing to his first Mexican final since 2015. This will also be the first time he has represented Mexico in singles since that 2015 year, where he made the quarters of PARC and the finals of the Pan Am Games.
So the final ends up being the #12 and #14 seeds, ironically the two players I called out as being most under-seeded in this event in the preview. Coincidentally, if you’re wondering how i’d have seeded this draw, I’d have gone DLR, Montoya, Landa, Parrilla, Beltran, Mar, Cardona, Natera. Maybe we’d still have the same final, maybe not. The top three guys in Mexican racquetball all seem capable of beating each other week in, week out.
In the Final, Landa controlled his long-time rival Beltran, dominating in the final for (what I believe is) his first Mexican National title 8,7.
In the 16s… a couple of notable matches: – #9 Ana Laura Flores raced past #8 seed Erin Rivera 11,3. – In her return to the court after 8 months off, #5 Jessica Leona Parrilla split two games with her fellow LPRT touring pro (and drastically under-seeded) Alexandra Herrera before running out of gas and falling in a tie-breaker 13,(11),0. – #13 Montserrat Perez waxed #4 Diana Aguilar 10,3, and in doing so confirmed that the 5/12 and 4/13 match-ups probably should have been reversed seed-wise
In the Quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria dominated the youngster lefty #9 Flores 7,2 – #12 Herrera cruised past #13 Perez in two 11,5 – #6 Monste Montse Mejia got one of the best wins of her career, coming back from a game down to move past #3 Nancy Enriquez (10),4,6. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis advanced past the veteran #7 Susana Acosta in two 7,2
So your semis seeds are #1, #2, #6 and #12. Not too bad, since the #12 seed probably should have been the #4 seed.
In the Semis, we saw a couple of regular LPRT match-ups: – #1 Longoria waxed #12 Herrera 4,3. They’ve played 12 times (10 times on the LPRT) and Longoria has now won all 12. Longoria returns to the Mexican National team in search of extending her current IRF title record of 17 international titles. She’ll get two more shots in 2019. – #6 Mejia got her second major upset in a row, downing #2 Salas in relative ease 11,4. This was a rematch of last year’s quarters, a close Salas win, and now Mejia has earned her first Adult national team appearance.
In the Final, Mejia shocked the racquetball world and took out the world #1 Longoria in two games 8,14. She accomplished the unique task of defeating the #1, #2 and #3 players in the draw on the weekend, and now holds simultaneously both the Adult and 18U Mexican National titles.
A huge upset in the semis, when the #4 team of Landa/Cardona upset the reigning pro and world champion #1 seeded team of DLR/Beltran, knocking them out of the international events for 2019. On the other side, the #2 team of Montoya/Mar fought off the tough #3 team of Parrilla/Martinez to play for the National team berth.
In the final: the two teams traded games before Montoya/Mar caught fire in the tie-breaker to win 11-0 and clinch their first national doubles title and berths in Columbia & Peru later this year.
The semis went according to seeding, though the #2 team of Longoria/Salas was taken to tiebreaker by the young Rivera/Perez team before advancing. The #1 defending champs Herrera//Mejia fought off the #4 team of Parrilla/Enriquez 11,12 to advance to the final to defend their title and national team berth.
In that final, Longoria/Salas got revenge for last year’s finals defeat and took out the #1 seeds 13,5 to clinch the IRF berths for 2019.
This is the singular tournament (at least as far as I read the website) that will determine Mexico’s team that will play both the Pan Am Racquetball championships in Columbia in April and the Pan Am Games in Peru in August. Both singles finalists and the winning doubles team will represent the country. So this is a pretty big event for Mexican players.
———————– This is one of my favorite tourneys of the year to cover. We generally get the full force of the current state of Mexican racquetball in one place, all competing to represent the country at future International Racquetball Federation – IRF events. It isn’t like International Racquetball Tour events, where several of the top Mexican players rarely play, and it isn’t like the World Racquetball Tour where the top Mexicans committed to the IRT cannot play. Its everybody.
The Men’s draw features 34 players this year, and it is a who’s who of Mexican male singles players. The only men missing from my personal top 50 I see are Eduardo & Rodrigo Garay and Jordy Alonso. Even Javier Moreno came out of “retirement” to play the singles draw.
As always with Mexican National events, I find myself questioning the seeding. The Men’s draw is seeded 1-4 DLR, Montoya, Parrilla, Mar, which is fine and defend-able based on talent, past results and the RKT rankings. But 5-8 goes Longoria, Estrada, Martinez and Fernandez. That is the 11th, 9th, 13th and 7th ranked players by RKT. Meanwhile clearly superior players like Landa and Beltran are in the teens, and other players currently in RKT top 8 are nowhere to be found. This really makes no sense to me. And, it makes for unfair matches early on. And, I’d like to point out, it goes directly against the claim on the FMR website that they use the RKT rankings for “seeding of nationals.”
The Women’s draw is similarly stacked; it features every LPRT touring professional ranked in the top 30. The big news is the return to the court of Jessica Leona Parrilla, who has been recovering from injury since damaging her knee ligaments last June. She’s back after “only” 8 months recovery, so I’d temper expectations, but she is playing doubles with her regular partner Nancy Enriquez (who she was on the court with competing when she injured herself). The seeding is more or less accurate, with a couple of oddities: why is Herrera, current ranked 3rd in the world, seeded 12th?? And, i’m not sure how Diana Aguilar is seeded 4th. But lets move on.
———————– Here’s a preview of the Men’s Singles Draw:
In the 32s, matches to look for: – Right out of the gate, #1 seed Daniel De La Rosa gets a solid match, going up against accomplished junior Juan Loreto (if Loreto can win the play-in of course). – The best round of 32 match projects to be Eduardo Lalo Portillo vs Jaime Martell Neri. Both players are relatively under-seeded (13th and 20th) based on their accomplishments (world 18U junior reigning champ and current WRT #1). In talent rankings i’ve got these two neck and neck; this should be a really entertaining match. – Another too-early match-up of talented veterans is the 14/19 match-up between Alvaro Beltran and Polo Polito Gutierrez. This was the Mexican National singles FINAL in 2014, and now its a round of 32 match. They’ve met 7 times that I have in the databases, and Beltran has won every time. Polo has essentially retired from pro playing at this point, while Beltran continues to tour and make the back ends of IRT events. I’m going with Beltran here. – Ernesto Ochoa vs Gerardo Franco Gonzalez. Another excellent 1st round match-up between two talented players. I have Franco slightly higher in my personal rankings, but believe Ochoa can win this and advance based on his past results. This will be a dog-fight.
In the 16s, the match-ups get even better: – #8 Sebastian Fernandez vs #9 Alejandro Alex Cardona. Two-time WRT champ Cardona has really slowed down his tourney schedule lately, with just a handful of events in the last two years. Meanwhile Fernandez has rebounded from his 18U World junior finals loss to get some really solid wins on the IRT. I favor Fernandez slightly, though wouldn’t be surprised at all if Cardona went on a run. – #12 Alejandro Alex Landafaces #5 Christian Longoria, in a case where really the two seeds should have been switched. Longoria is a solid young player, but should prove no match for two-time IRT tourney winner Landa. – #4 Javier Mar vs #13 Portillo: Assuming Lalo gets by Martell, the enigmatic Mar awaits. Mar entered the 2018 Mexican Nationals as the defending champ and #1 seed … and was promptly beaten in the round of 32. In more recent events he played Kane Waselenchuk as tough as he’s been played lately, losing at the US Open 12,10 and won the 2019 Longhorn Open. Mar and Portillo have met a couple times in top-level events … but they’re long enough ago that they’re relatively meaningless. Portillo should give Mar a run for his money but should fall here. – #3 Andree Parrilla vs #14 Beltran; another too-early match-up of (arguably) two of the best six players in this draw. Parrilla has been on fire this season in the IRT, projecting to easily finish in the top 8. Beltran meanwhile keeps hanging on and is also holding onto that top 8 ranking. They’ve met 7 times in my database: Beltran holds the advantage 4-3 AND won their most recent meeting … but this seems like a Parrilla win. I sense that Beltran’s much more interested in winning the doubles at this event and may be distracted in singles. – #6 Javier Estrada vs #11 Ochoa; this could be an awesome match: I have these two neck and neck in my personal rankings. Ochoa has wins in the last year over Parrilla, Beltran and Mar, and was beating Montoya in Sonora when Montoya went down with injury. Estrada meanwhile has wins over Landa, Beltran, Cardona, and has played Montoya tough. Both players have the capability to win a stacked event … but only one can advance. Advantage slightly to Estrada here. – #10 Alan Natera Chavez vs #7 Edson Martinez; Natera came out of nowhere as the #32 seed in last year’s event to advance to the semis, beating Mar, Longoria and Franco along the way. Martinez was a semi finalist in this event in both 2014 and 2015, but has not come close to repeating that performance since. I give the edge to Natera here. – #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solis should advance easily over #18 Javier Moreno.
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 DLR over #8 Fernandez: they play similar games … but DLR plays it a lot better right now. – #4 Mar vs #12 Landa: This is a rematch of the 2017 Mexican Men’s final, won by Mar in a tiebreaker 11-7. Its the only time i’ve got these two playing in the database. Since ascending to #1 on the IRT, Landa has struggled; in 5 IRT events this season he’s got two semis, two quarters and one round of 16 loss (to Montoya in a tough seeding match-up). Landa also has a recent history of getting upset early in these events: he lost in the 16s of this event last year to Martell, and in the 16s of the Worlds selection event last June to Estrada. I’m going with Mar here, but it’ll be a marathon. – #3 Parrilla takes out #6 Estrada; I like Estrada’s game, but don’t think he can match-up with the grinding capabilities of Parrilla. – #2 Montoya takes out #10 Natera. Same story; while I like where Natera’s game is, Montoya is one of the sport’s elites right now.
Semis: – DLR over Mar: this would be a rematch of the 2016 Mexican Nationals final, a straight-forward two game win by DLR. Mar may play with more power, but DLR can and will out control the match throughout, and can match Mar shot for shot. For Mar to win this game, he needs to be more perfect than DLR typically is. – Montoya over Parrilla; these two have plenty of experience playing each other; they’re the same age, and battled all throughout juniors. On the adult/pro stage, this is a rematch of last year’s semis (a 2-game Montoya win). Montoya leads h2h over time and has won the last couple times they’ve played, and advances here.
Final: DLR beats Montoya. A rematch of both the 2018 Mexican Nationals final (a Montoya win), the 2018 Mexican Worlds selection event (a DLR win), and more recently, the semis of the 2019 IRT Lewis Drug Pro-Am event (a DLR blow-out win), these two continue to show why they’re the top two seeds. The problem is … no matter who wins this final, both players advance to the international events, so sometimes we see players cruise through the final knowing they’ve guaranteed their national team spots. This could especially be the case here, since both of these players project to make the doubles finals and have the chance to double-represent the country. I think, when the chips are down, DLR is the better player and his on-the-court results generally prove it.
———————– Here’s a preview of the Women’s Singles Draw and matches to look for.
In the 16s, we have tough matches right out of the gate: – In the 8/9: two young players face off in Ana Laura Flores and Erin Rivera. Flores still has a year in 18U (I believe), while Rivera made the finals of Mexican 18U in 2018 in her last year of competition. When Rivera couldn’t travel to 2018 junior worlds, Flores took her place and made it to the semis. But I don’t have them ever having played in my records. I’ll go with Flores, based on her recent LPRT wins. – #5 Parrilla vs #12 Alexandria Herrera: poor seeding makes a semis-quality match-up happen here, even more unfortunate for Parrilla in her first event back. Herrera has gotten the better of Parrilla on the pro tour the last couple times they’ve played and I’ll favor her in this match as well. – #4 Diana Aguilar vs #13 Montserrat Perez: perhaps a reader can help here: how exactly is Aguilar seeded 4th here? I don’t have her entered into a Mexican National singles event since 2014. Is this a typo and should be Delia Aguilar? I’m not sure who wins this match: both players are young and seem to be in the same age group; they’ve met for the finals of multiple Mexican junior championships, always won by Aguilar, so I’ll give her the nod here.
In the quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria faces the lefty Flores and should advance easily. – #12 Herrera should overpower the youngster Aguilar. – #3 Nancy Enriquez faces #6 Montse Mejia in an interesting battle of youth and experience. Mejia, the reigning 18u Mexican and junior world champ, has not played since her Nov 2018 worlds triumph. Meanwhile, Enriquez has been busy making the back ends of LPRT events. Mejia has shown she can take games off of the world’s best; can she string together a complete match against a tough player? I’ll give Enriquez the edge in a tiebreaker. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis faces off against long time adversary Susana Susy Acosta. This is a rematch of the semis of the 2016 Nationals, a Salas win then, and another in this event.
Projected Semis: – Longoria over Herrera: this is a rematch of last year’s semis too. They’ve met 11 times in all formats, all 11 Paola wins. – Salas over Enriquez: this would also be a rematch of last year’s semis. Enriquez does have some wins over Salas in their career (she topped Samantha for the 2005 Junior world title for example), but Salas has dominated otherwise.
Finals: Longoria over Salas. They’ve met 58 times across pro tours, Mexican national events that I have records for, and international events. Longoria is 55-3 in that time. These two have also met in 5 of the 6 LPRT pro events so far this season … all Paola wins as well. Its possible Salas pulls the upset, but not likely. Look for Paola to take her 6th Mexican national singles title (that we have records for … she likely has many more but we have no records for anything prior to 2014. If you’re reading this FMR; i’d love to get access to your past records and enter them into the PRS database!)
———————– They’re also playing doubles in Chihuahua with all the best teams playing together. Here’s how I think they’ll end up.
Men’s Doubles: 15 teams battling it out, but its hard not to go with 1 vs 2 again, in a rematch of last year’s Nationals final. The DLR/Beltran team is the best in the world and have proven it time and again (at the US Open, at Worlds, etc). The #2 seed Mar/Montoya is no slouch though, and they’ll both have their hands full with excellent #3 and #4 teams in Parrilla/Martinez and Landa/Cardona respectively.
Javier Moreno, who holds the Men’s record for most international doubles titles, is not entered, so he does not have an opportunity to extend that record 🙂
Women’s Doubles: the dominant team of Longoria/Salas was upset in the final of the 2018 worlds selection event and hence are the #2 seeds here. I wouldn’t count on another upset. I think Longoria/Salas take this draw, beating all comers. The interesting part may be their finals opponents: Parrilla/Enriquez were beating the #1 seeded Herrera/Mejia team in last year’s selection event before defaulting due to Parrilla’s injury; if Parrilla can compete, this may result in a new finals pair.
(Notable; there was not a 2018 National doubles final in the database for Mexico … the event was cancelled/not held during last year’s nationals).
——————- Phew, that’s it for the preview. Can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
Happy Holidays! During this little break in the tournament action, here’s some content for everyone to argue about. 🙂 This is my current Men’s World Top 50. Thanks to the ever-widening popularity of the sport, multiple tours and the inability for some top players to play the International Racquetball Tour regularly, the IRT rankings do not really give a full picture of the current state of the world game. This attempts to do so.
I have rankings divided into “groups” so this isn’t a hard and fast 1-50 necessarily, as I’ll explain as we go.
Usual caveats: this is my opinion. No offense intended if you think someone is too high or too low. This is for entertainment purposes only. Its mostly stat/match result based. Its tough to do pure 1-50 b/c of game style match-ups (i.e., a guy in the 30s always beats a guy in the 20s for some reason, but can’t beat anyone in-between). Also, one big win over a top 10 player does not make you a top 10 player … i’ve noted solid wins for players below the top of this list, but look for consistent results over and again before rising up the ranks.
I hope you enjoy!
1. Kane Waselenchuk Large Gap to #2: Kane is head and shoulders ahead of anyone else.
2. Rocky Carson Smaller Gap to #3-6; Rocky still has a lead over the next group and continues to demonstrate it on the court.
I have these guys 3-6, and they’re constantly changing positions. Up until the Mexico Open I had Landa above Montoya, but then Montoya got him H2H. Honestly, I think they’re a coin flip for #3 and #4 right now. Meanwhile, DLR is 3-6 H2H against Landa across senior events so i’ve got him just below Landa … just beat Parrilla and Montoya to win in Monterrey, but lost to Montoya at Mexican Nats earlier this year. Parrilla beat Landa at the past US Open but for me day in, day out is slightly below these other three. On any given Sunday though, these four can all put losses on each other. It is not a surprise that these four were then fou semi-finalists in Monterrey earlier this month.
Moscoso has wins over the guys ranked 3-6, but just lost to Montoya at Worlds and lost to Murray at US Open. I know some people think he should be higher (ahem, Sudsy 🙂 ) but i’ve got him just a hair below. Mar is an enigma; he’s demonstrated the ability to beat all the guys ranked 3-6 and has in the last couple of years, but not quite consistently enough to break into that group. Murray has wins over Montoya, Landa and Moscoso in the last few events; he’s becoming much more consistent winner as of late. Lastly you have Alvaro, who has been showing his age but then turns around and trounces the likes of DLR in Portland. He’s still a tough out, week in and week out but has been consistently slipping down this ranking over the past couple of years.
One last comment on my current top 10: a quick breakdown by country:
And the one American player is nearly 40. The next generation of dominance in our sport is coming from south of the US border.
I call this group the “retired but could still make noise if they weren’t” group. Jose retired after three straight finishes at #5 on tour, and he didn’t retire because he was losing suddenly. Mejia hasn’t played in a while, enough that we may want to remove him, but when we last saw him playing WRT events he was beating consistently those ranked just behind him in the next grouping. Marco Rojas retired after two 7th place finishes on tour, and has winning career records against DLR and Landa, and against guys in the next grouping (Horn, Jake), so its no surprise he’s still this high. Lastly Tony Carson consistently demonstrates he can continue to win, with wins over DLR and Parrilla in the last two IRT events he’s entered.
Here’s where it starts getting tough. This group here is a mix of international players we rarely see, leading World Racquetball Tour players, and mid-ranged IRT players. You may argue that I have Polo too high; but every time he plays an IRT event he makes noise. He’s coming off an elbow injury and is 35 though, so he may be slipping. Horn has some wins against higher ranked players and won 2018 US Nationals in a draw that included Jake, Pratt and Jose Rojas. Pratt has some h2h wins over players in this group, over Beltran, and beat Mar en route to the 2017 Pan Am final. Franco has recent wins over Landa and DLR, and has a solid argument to be higher. Mercado too; he’s 2-2 vs Murray career but just 1-5 against Horn and this feels about right. Iwaasa took several years off, but has not lost his touch, taking Mercado to the edge at Worlds twice and making the Finals in the WRT Canada event in a draw that featured several guys in this group. Keller Vargas won the 2018 Pan Ams over Montoya and Horn, but lost to Franco at Worlds; I used to have him much higher and wonder if he’d be a top 10 player if he played the tour regularly. Lastly Jake; he’s one of the few players to have wins over Kane, DLR and Rocky ever, but has struggled to beat players in this group or the grouping above lately and has been slightly slipping down in this ranking after having some early IRT season struggles.
Croft is pretty much retired, so not much recent to go on; he beat Horn but lost to Jake in a singles event in Denver earlier this year. Estrada, Natera and Ochoa are all rising Mexican players to watch out for. Estrada beat Landa at Mexican world selection event, just beat Beltran in Monterrey and has played Montoya tough twice this fall. Natera has recent wins over Mar and others in this grouping. Ochoa has recent wins over Beltran, Parrilla, and Mar and may very well be higher. Cardona used to be in the next group up as the reigning king of the hill in the WRT but has been losing ground to the likes of Horn and Jake and the youngsters rising up in Mexico over the past year or so.
Sudsy made the semis of the US Open last year by beating Allen, then beat Diaz but lost to Jake in an WRT event so this seems about right (thought I wouldn’t argue if you thought he was higher). Allen has had some solid wins against the likes of Beltran, Mercado, Murray lately, and beat Diaz in the Laurel season opener, and may be a bit higher. Lastly you have the younger Rojas, who has consistently beaten players below here but not too many above and who has the game to start breaking through and moving up.
This grouping could benefit from more head to head meetings; would Allen beat the likes of Estrada, Natera and Ochoa if they played? Here’s hoping for some more IRT events held in Mexico to get more full draws.
32. Cliff Swain; even though he hasn’t played in more than a year, I still think he could beat anyone listed below here. I’m hoping he plays some more pro events and tries to break some of Ruben Gonzalez‘s more amazing feats of reaching the end stages of pro tourneys at advanced ages.
As with the group above, its tougher in this area to really rank guys sequentially because there’s not a lot of h2h to go on. Gerardo Franco probably has an argument to be higher, with recent wins over Sebastian Franco, over DLR and Jake in Cincy18, etc. I’ve got Lalo just ahead of Sebastian on account of his h2h win at Junior Worlds, but Lalo has lost multiple times to Gerardo Franco in the last year so this trio feels right. Martell has great wins (Landa, Jake, Horn), but then also has early tourney losses in recent WRT and amateur events. Garay has wins over guys in this grouping and against the likes of Parrilla and might be higher. Alonso plays the guys in this grouping tough, has wins over Parrilla in the past but needs more consistency.
Landeryou has h2h wins over both the next two guys below him hence the ranking, but not much else to go on. Reid has a win over Mercado and a US Open title in Men’s open in a draw that featured many players in this group or just below, so this ranking makes sense. Green has reigned over Canada racquetball for two decades but may be retiring and most recently lost to Landeryou at Canadian Nationals. Longoria has some wins over the likes of GFranco and Estrada and may have a case to be a bit higher. Lastly Manilla just took out Mercado in Laurel18 and has had a promising start to the new season, so this seems about right.
Herrera is a long-time IRT vet, just took the 2018 US Open Men’s Open draw over Acuna in the final and beating several Honorable Mention players along the way. Acuna has some solid wins recently (Portillo, Camacho, even Horn at the US Open) and may have a good argument to be higher. Rios doesn’t have much to go on recently but has good wins internationally in the past. Garcia is the 16U reigning world champ who has beaten a few of the HM players in limited adult tourneys. Mollet is the Cuban #1 who makes noise whenever he enters (beat Camacho h2h at Central American games in 2018 for example). Camacho has some wins over higher players (Fernandez, Allen) but has losses to players right in this group so this feels about right. Bousquet had some solid wins over HM players in 2017.
And it should be noted, there’s a slew of HM players below who might very well be in this group, or slightly higher. In fact, as I typed this I wondered if any number of the below players shouldn’t be in this 40-50 range.
Honorable Mentions: I can’t tag more than 50 players per post, so nobody below is tagged, but here’s the players just outside the top 50 by category:
———————— HM Int’l players: Fernando Kurzbard, Jose Daniel Ugalde, Juan Salvatierra, Francisco Troncoso, Andres Gomez, Teobaldo Fumero, Luis Perez, Christian Wer, Hiroshi Shimizu, Lee Connell, Set Cubillos, David Garcia
HM Mexican Players: Edson Martinez, Rodrigo Garay, Rodrigo Rodrigez, Alejandro Almada, Edwin Galicia, Miguel Rodriguez Jr., Daniel Neri, Erick Cuevas Fernandez, Alan Palomino
HM USA IRT Regulars: Thomas Carter, Robert Collins, Scott McClellan, Troy Warigon, John Wolfe
HM USA periodic players: Taylor Knoth, Nick Montalbano, Majeed Shaheen, Matthew Majxner, Maurice Miller, Brad Schopiery, Luis Avila, Brent Walters, Tim Prigo
HM USA Up and comers: Kevin Vasquez, Erik Garcia, Jordan Barth, Nick Riffel, Mauricio Zelada, Wayne Antone IV, Justus Benson, Danny Lavely, Lukas Le,Dylan Pruitt, Kyle Ulliman, A.J. Fernandez, Sam Bredenbeck, Sunji Spencer
HM retired pro players: Alex Ackermann, Gilberto De Los Rios, Kris Odegard, Ricardo Monroy, Anthony Herrera, Shai Manzuri, Javier Moreno ——————————
Phew. Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone; let me know in the comments if you think I did. Look forward to your commentary. Happy Holidays!
In case you missed any of the matches, marquee matches were streamed live by RKT and were well covered in the Streaming Racquet sports facebook group.
Lets review the draw and the notable matches by round:
In the 32s, most every match went as I expected except for…
– Gerardo Franco Gonzalez blasted IRT #5 ranked Sebastian Franco 9,5. That was a long flight for a one-and-done for S.Franco, and is a very solid win for Gerardo.
– Daniel De La Rosa (DLR) played a closer-than-expected match against #31 seed Jordy Alonso winning 11,13.
– Juan Loreto made his opener with Polito Gutierrez a little closer than I would have expected, losing 9,11.
– Erick Cuevas eked out an 11-9 tiebreaker win over Daniel Neri in the 15/18 match-up.
– … But the big upset was Javier Estrada taking out IRT #6 Alvaro Beltran in a tiebreaker. Not an upset by seeding, but certainly a very solid win for Estrada. Beltran looked sluggish on the court … almost as if he was a 40-yr old who in the last 5 days has had to play an hour and a half final against the best player in the world, fly home, rest a day, fly to Monterrey and then play a match against a red-hot Estrada. Lets see if Estrada can build on this win and make a run.
In the 16s…
– #1 Rodrigo Montoya Solis played a close one against Alejandro Alex Cardonafighting off a furious 2nd game comeback to advance 11,14.
– #9 Eduardo Portillo Rendon got a statement win over WRT regular #8 Jaime Martell Neri 7,8
– #5 Javier Mar took out the veteran Polo Gutierrez 9,10 by playing an aggressive match and turning up the pressure on his opponent.
– #13 Alejandro Alex Landa“upset” #4 seed Alan Natera Chavez 14,3. In the first, Landa stormed back after Natera jumped out to a big lead … then just rolled in the second game, consistently sending Natera the wrong way on serves and just controlling the match.
– #3 Andree Parrilla ended Gerardo Franco’s upset run 3,12.
– #11 Christian Longoria got a solid win over #6 Estrada in a tiebreaker. One of Longoria’s best career wins for me.
– #7 Sebastian Fernandez controlled Edson Martinez for a comfortable 2 game win.
– #2 DLR advanced with ease over Erick Cuevas 4,5.
So 5 of top 8 seeds advance into the quarters.
In the Quarters…
– Montoya handled Portillo, though Lalo certainly improved his performance over the last time they played, going down 7,11. Portillo has made great strides in his game over the past calendar year and could be a force on the pro tours quite soon.
– In the Match of the quarters, two of the worlds best went head to head, with Landa taking out Mar 3,(12),2. Landa dominated the first game with his classical pressure game; he relentlessly drive serves, often puts his opponents in positions where they have to take defensive shots, and is a world-class shot maker/kill shot artist from any point in the court. Mar turned the tables by winning a close one in the second, but Landa turned back up the pressure and ran away with the tiebreaker. In my prediction piece I thought perhaps Landa would get upset here, but he’s playing with a spring in his step that you don’t often see. I think he’s motivated and a threat to win this draw now that he’s gotten past two dangerous opponents.
– Parrilla cruised past Longoria 8,12. Parrilla is a sneaky opponent; he adapts to any playing stile, is a world-class retreiver, and is in good enough shape to outlast most any opponent. He’s still a little inconsistent (he’s had some upsets early in amateur events of late) and got a little unlucky in the Portland draw (having to face Kane in the 16s), but I think he’s headed towards a top 8 IRT season.
– DLR blasted newly matriculated junior Sebastian Fernandez 5,3. Both these guys have similar playing styles, and can look quite “casual” with their serves and demeanor on the court. Fernandez stepped it up, especially at the US Open in October, but clearly has a ways to go to compete with his country’s best.
Its notable that the last 8 of this event included both kids who made the 18U national and junior worlds finals this year; both Portillo and Fernandez seems well equipped to compete with the adults going forward.
In the Semis, we saw just how great top-level racquetball can be, with two fantastic matches that include (for me) the four best players in the world behind Kane and Rocky.
– Montoya and Landa played a scintillating match, with Montoya edging Landa 15-14 in the first game fittingly on a blistering killshot from deep in the court. Landa jumped way ahead in game 2, leading 10-3 at one point … then Montoya took over, scoring 12 unanswered points to take the match 14,10. Landa and Montoya have now split 4 head-to-head matches in big-time events over the past couple of seasons and the margin between them is razor thin.
– DLR and Parrilla were one point away from the “perfect match,” splitting two games 15-14 before DLR took the tiebreaker 11-9. Parrilla took a slight knock at 8-7 in the breaker, took a few minutes injury time, then traded clutch shots at match point for and against before DLR got a service winner to take the match.
In the final…DLR played a complete game and really shut down Montoya, winning 8.8. DLR was his same consistent self, with a controlled game plan, while Montoya’s game seemed a bit off and that was enough to make for a not-very-close final.
There was also a very healthy Doubles draw, featuring all the top players. Unfortunately, the current World IRF doubles champ team of Beltran & DLR forfeited out (presumably b/c Beltran lost in the first round of singles, but that’s an assumption), robbing the draw of a great team. Nonetheless, the other 3 top seeds all advanced to the semis. There:
– Landa/Gutierrez downed Cardona/GFranco, who were the beneficiaries of the forfeit loss of the top team. They were made to work for it though, winning two close games 13 and 14.
– Mar/Montoya faced Parrilla/Edson Martinez and also advanced in two closer games 13,11.
In the final, Mar/Montoya run away with the first game 15-3, and held on the second to win in two.
Also, congrats to Paola Longoria for taking the small Women’s draw over three of her LPRT top 10 compatriots.
In the semis, Longoria put a dominating win on the current 18U Junior World champ Montse Mejia 7,2, while Alexandra Herreraovercame a first game loss to donut Nancy Enriquez in the second and then take the tiebreaker 11-5.
In the Final, Longoria ran away from Herrera by the same scores that she downed Montserrat by: 7 and 2.
Summary of the event: a fantastic inaugural event if it becomes a regular fixture on the circuit. You couldn’t ask for much more in terms of domestic talent. I’d have loved to see the rest of the top IRT touring players there; imagine a 50 person pro draw with the breadth of the IRT players showing up and making every round of 16 match even more competitive. Hope to see more from RKT going forward.
There’s a break in the pro schedule this weekend. That wasn’t always meant to be the case, as this weekend’s huge tournament in San Nicholas (Monterrey), Mexico was initially scheduled to be an IRT event. The RKT/Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol and the IRT parted organizational ways … but the event is still huge. There’s a 32-man Open draw that’s a literally who’s who of Mexican racquetball today.
Just about the only top Mexican players I don’t see here is Ernesto Ochoa, who’s been red-hot this year with a bunch of good wins, and the Garay brothers.
Here’s a preview of the draw, which I’m really looking forward to:
First, a comment on the seeding. Much like the IRT has to go with its ranking system to seed tournaments, the RKT/FMR is clearly using its own internal country ranking system to seed this event. The top 2 seeds are also the finalists from the Worlds selection event in June, and the rest of the top 8 seems to be drawn from either that event or Mexican Nationals from February. That means that current IRT #1 Alex Landais seeded a ridiculous #13, and the finalist from last weekend’s IRT event Alvaro Beltran is an even more ridiculous #27. But it also means we have pretty compelling matches from the round of 32 on-wards.
Here’s some round of 32 matches to watch for:
– Polo Polito Gutierrez goes against Juan Loreto. Gutierrez in his prime was one of the most dangerous players in the world, routinely making waves in the few IRT events he entered. He’s back from an elbow injury and is always a threat to advance deep into a draw.
– Sebastian Franco versus Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; they’ve met four times in pro events that I track so they have some familiarity. Franco is in-arguably a top 8 player in the world, won an IRT event last year .. and is the #19 seed here. Tough draw for Gerardo Franco in the opener.
– Beltran versus Javier Estrada; easily the best match of the first round. Estrada made semis of Mexican Nationals in 2017, beat Landa in Worlds selection event in 2018, played Montoya tough the last couple times they’ve played .. he’s a darn good player. Despite the star power, this would not be a huge upset if Estrada beats Beltran here. Unfortunately this is a quarters match, not a round of 32. I’ll give it to Beltran, given how he played last weekend in Portland.
– Daniel Neri vs Erick Cuevas Fernandez; 15/18 match-ups are always fun and this one could be tight. I’ll give the slight nod to Neri.
– Daniel De La Rosa goes up against Jordy Alonso in the opener, a tough draw for Mr. Alonso.
Projections for Round of 16 match-ups:
– #1 Rodrigo Montoya Solis vs #16 Alex Cardona; this is a semis or finals on the WRT but the round of 16 here. Cardona leads h2h 4-2 but they havn’t met in a year. The current World champ Montoya should advance here based on form but i’m sure he’d have hoped for an easier early round match than this.
– #8 Jaime Martell Neri vs #9 Eduardo Lalo Portillo; a fun match between the current world 18U junior champ Portillo and one of the top ranked WRT players who has a WRT win on his 2018 resume. Portillo has the chops to win this match, having taken out top WRT pros in the past. Martell has been playing solid in non-pro events lately, making the finals in San Antonio last weekend. I’ll go with the youngster in a tie-breaker.
– #5 Javier Mar vs Polo Gutierrez: wow, what a great match this could be. Contrast in styles: Mar plays a control, tactically focused game while Polo’s unconventional but incredibly accurate swing throws players off. I like the way Mar is playing these days; he looked great against Kane Waselenchukat the US Open and made two finals in two attempts in big local Mexican events, both times dropping the championship to Montoya. This will be a good test of how far Polo is back from injury.a
– #4 Alan Natera Chavez vs #13 Landa: man, tough match-up for Natera, coming off a nice win in San Antonio last weekend but having to face up against the current #1 ranked player in the world. Natera has literally never played an IRT event, but does have some WRT history and made the semis of Mexican Nationals in February. Landa has had some puzzling losses in big-time Mexican events lately (he lost in the 16s at both Mexican Nats and the Worlds selection event this year) but should win here.
– #3 Andree Parrilla vs Sebastian Franco: they have a couple of meetings h2h but they’re from several years ago. In the meantime, both have become first-time IRT winners. Andree Parrilla has been up and down lately; making the semis of the US Open but then getting upset early at SLP Open in November. I favor Parrilla.
– #6 Estrada/Beltran winner vs Christian Longoria; I think Longoria is an underdog to either player advancing here.
– #7 Sebastian Fernandez versus #10 Edson Martinez; Fernandez was the world junior 18U runner up, capping off a decorated juniors career both domestically and internationally. He also has had a number of sterling wins on both pro tours and is favored here against the mercurial Martinez.
– #2 DLR vs Neri: DLR, unlike a lot of his top-ranked compatriots, gets no surprises in either the 32s or the 16s.
Projecting the Quarters. I’ll be the first to admit that the above projections may be totally wrong. Mexican events tend to have upsets, crazy upsets. So take the following with a grain of salt.
– #1 Montoya vs #9 Portillo: a meeting of the current reigning World Adult and World Junior champs could await. These two met a few weeks ago in the SLP open and Montoya won handily 2,2. I see another win here for the #1 seed.
– #5 Mar vs #13 Landa: Mar-Landa would be fantastic if it comes to pass. These two met in the finals of the 2017 Mexican Nationals (won by Mar, though Landa then went and won the Pan American Championships later that summer). I like Mar here; he’s in good form and plays Landa well. However, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this was Natera vs Polo. Just a tough quarter.
– #3 Parrilla vs Beltran: Parilla and Beltran have gone back and forth, last meeting in Sarasota in April. I think Parrilla takes this one.
– #2 DLR vs #7 Sebastian Fernandez: They’ve met once, in Mexican nationals in February, a straight-forward DLR win. I like the way DLR is playing (despite his early loss to doubles-partner Beltran in Portland last weekend). DLR in 2.
– Montoya over Mar for the 3rd time in the last couple of months
– Parrilla over DLR; they havn’t met in a while, but Parrilla has some wins over DLR in the past.
Final: Montoya over Parrilla; these two have met a number of times over the years, in both juniors and adult competitions. They’re the same rball year, and met in Mexican junior finals in 16U and 18U. Montoya had the early upper-hand, and has taken their matchups as of late. It’d be a great final if it comes to pass, and i’d favor Montoya.
Of course, if the semis were instead Montoya-Landa and DLR-Beltran, it could be a completely different final; I like Landa over Montoya and Beltran over DLR right now, and Landa taking it. These guys all play each other constantly, and there’s a lot of match-up based play.
Coincidentally, if you had asked me to seed this tourney here’s how I would have seeded it:
– 1-8: Landa, Montoya, DLR, Parrilla, Mar, Beltran, Polo, Sebastian Franco
– 9-16: Natera, Estrada, Cardona, Martell, Gerardo Franco, Portillo, Sebastian Fernandez and Jordy Alonso.