Abierto Mexicano de Raquetbol 2018 Wrap-Up

DLR wins the big Mexican Open draw.

Congrats to Daniel De La Rosa his win in the big Men’s draw this past weekend in Monterrey, NL, Mexico, taking down a who’s-who of Mexico racquetball players to win the 2018 Mexican Open.

r2sports link here: http://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=29995

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 Cardona fighting 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.

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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.

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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 Herrera overcame 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.

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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.

Abierto Mexicano de Raquetbol 2018 Preview

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 the r2sports link: http://www.r2sports.com/portfolio/r2-event.asp?TID=29995

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 Landa is 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.

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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 Waselenchuk at 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.

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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.

Semis prediction:
– 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.

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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.

—————–
There is a small Ladies Open event coincidentally; four of the top Mexican women are present and face off in a simple single elimination draw.
– Paola Longoria faces junior world champion Montse Mejia in one semi
– LPRT #4 Alexandra Herrera faces LPRT #6 Nancy Enriquez.

I’ll go with Longoria and Herrera in the final with a Paola win.

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Enjoy the matches! Follow FMR and RKT for streaming, or join the Racquet streaming group that JT Rball does a great job of keeping up to date.

IRT Points System Alternatives

 

Is the current ranking system unfair to Waselenchuk?

On 11/20/18, the 12-month rolling IRT rankings shifted enough points away from last season to account for a pretty monumental set of movements in the rankings table: Alejandro Landa ascended to #1 for the first time ever, while the sports most dominant player Kane Waselenchuk fell to #6.

Kane’s descent was due to two primary factors:

1. he missed a number of events in the second half of the 2017-18 season, and

2. There was a sudden drop in the number of events in the first half of the 2018-19 season.

When the IRT posted the update to facebook, A predictable firestorm of comments arose, criticizing the rankings and the ranking system.  I weighed in, pondering initially why it mattered (other than tourney seeding of course) what the rankings were in November, but many believe a different ranking system is needed.

Here are some Ranking system alternatives with some personal analysis.  I tried to emulate all the solid suggestions on the facebook thread from various players and commenters.  The working spreadsheet is available at Google Spreadsheets here.  I’ll just list the top 10 players ranked though I extended the logic down to the top 20 running players or so throughout the last 2+ seasons.

Important Caveats to the below:

  • I have only included points earned in Tier 1s and Grand Slams.  Some players (especially Landa and Parrilla) in reality have a decent amount more points thanks to success in non-Tier 1 events that still remain on their books.
  • I have also only included the core point totals earned per tournament, not bothering to figure out the slight point additions based on games won for simplicity.  In other words; if you made the semis I gave you 220 points though you may have lost the semis in a breaker and thus really earned 222 or 224 points.
  • There’s a couple of players outside the top 10 with points discrepancies I cannot reconcile with this simplistic logic.  Its likely also due to playing non-tier 1 events.  In the grand scheme of this analysis though, it shouldn’t matter.

Current Ranking System: utilizes a 12-month rolling calendar schedule that expires points the 366th day after the event occurs on an automatic basis.  It also drops all low results to “baseline” the rankings at 9 events.   More is available describing the logic at this IRT link and at the Current online rankings.

The exact rankings as of 11/20/18 that started all of this:

playerPointsRank
Landa, Alejandro2116.31
Carson, Rocky2112.182
De La Rosa, Daniel1986.163
Franco, Sebastian1674.154
Murray, Samuel1628.035
Waselenchuk, Kane1500.426
Mercado, Mario1496.027
Beltran, Alvaro1490.018
Parrilla, Andree1432.159
Allen, Jansen1152.0210

Issue with this system: Kane is too low given he’s currently riding a 66 match winning streak, penalizes players too much for missing time with injury.


Alternative #1: just use Season To Date Rankings.  The current season has had just two events thanks to several events held in the fall of last year falling off the schedule.  The current Season-to-date rankings are:

PlayerPointsRank
Carson, Rocky8401
Waselenchuk, Kane8002
De La Rosa, Daniel6003
Parrilla, Andree5904
Landa, Alejandro5205
Franco, Sebastian5206
Murray, Samuel4807
Mercado, Mario3908
Diaz, Jose3909
Bredenbeck, Jake27010

So, the top of this table looks normal enough: Rocky Carson is above Kane, but Kane missed the first event of the year.   Thanks to a hot start and a semis appearance at the US Open, Andree Parrilla is ranked 4th season-to-date.  Alvaro Beltran, a mainstay in the top 10 for a decade, is nowhere to be seen (he missed the first event, and was upset early in the second event of the season).  Landa drops to #5 here even though he has the most wins on tour outside of Kane in the last two years.

Issue with this system: not enough data, too much recency bias.


Alternative #2: Rank based just on last 9 events played.  This system excludes any missed events and totals the points from the last 9 times the player got on the court.  In some cases, we had to go back to the beginning of the 2016-17 season to get 9 events.

PlayerPointsRank
Waselenchuk, Kane43001
Carson, Rocky24002
Landa, Alejandro23003
De La Rosa, Daniel22304
Franco, Sebastian17605
Parrilla, Andree17406
Pratt, Charlie16707
Murray, Samuel16208
Beltran, Alvaro15409
Mercado, Mario149010

This system obviously shows how dominant Kane is; by giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and removing all their missed events, all players are showing their absolute best possible results.  Two notably high players here are again Parrilla (who we had to dip well into the 2016-17 season to get the 9th played event) and Charlie Pratt, who required us to go back more than two calendar years to find enough played events to qualify.  Even then some top 20 players don’t have 9 events played (specifically guys like Rodrigo Montoya and Javier Mar).

Issues with this system: does not reward “touring” players, over-rewards players who miss a number of events, goes back “too far” to get results in some cases.


Alternative #3:  Just rank based on the last 9 running events, eliminating Calendar dates.

PlayerPointsRank
Carson, Rocky21001
Landa, Alejandro20802
De La Rosa, Daniel19203
Murray, Samuel16204
Franco, Sebastian16105
Waselenchuk, Kane15006
Mercado, Mario14907
Beltran, Alvaro13908
Parrilla, Andree13209
Allen, Jansen117010

This system keeps tournaments hanging on irrespective of the date, so should address the complaints about “not having tournaments to defend points.”  So to get the last 9 running Tier 1s and/or Grand Slams we just sum the points dating back to the 11/2/2017 event.

However, this ranking almost exactly mirrors the Current rankings.  Rocky and Landa are flipped at the top, Sebastian Franco and Samuel Murray are flipped at the 4/5 spot, and Kane is still at #6.   In fact, the players in spots #7 through #18 are also identical in this system to the current 12-month rolling calendar.  Why?  Because all these players are playing nearly all the events, rarely missing events, and thus the point totals are basically the same.

Issue with this system: Does not address the issue; Still penalizes Kane for missing so much time in early 2018.


Alternative #4: Total Points, running 2-year calendar.  This system is basically the same system as is in place now, except it uses a 2-year rolling calendar instead of one.  I dropped each player’s two lowest scores (to emulate dropping just one low score for the current 12-month calendar season) and then ranked them:

Playertotal PointsRank
Carson, Rocky48901
Waselenchuk, Kane47002
Beltran, Alvaro31603
Landa, Alejandro31104
De La Rosa, Daniel27505
Franco, Sebastian25706
Murray, Samuel24907
Parrilla, Andree21908
Mercado, Mario18209
Allen, Jansen157010

I think this is actually a pretty good ranking, taking into account results in events played plus tour event participation.  Rocky is 1, Kane is 2, so Kane’s missed time penalizes him slightly but not overtly so.  Its important to remember, not only did Kane miss the four events to injury in early 2018, he’s also missed four OTHER events in the last two running calendar years for various reasons.  For similar reasons (missed events), both Landa and Parrilla are lower than they might be, while Beltran may be slightly higher than he should be, based on recent rankings.

Issue with this system: none really for me.


Alternative #5: Keeping points for tourneys that drop off Calendar.  Kane noted he’s dropped so far because there’s been a lack of tournaments this fall for him to “defend” points from last season.  So I adjusted the points sums to go back further in time to capture more tournaments.  The numbers below basically are a sum of all points earned from every tournament that happened past the 2017 US Open, totaling 11 events in all:

PlayerPointsRank
Carson, Rocky27001
Landa, Alejandro23002
Waselenchuk, Kane23003
De La Rosa, Daniel22304
Franco, Sebastian19805
Murray, Samuel18606
Beltran, Alvaro16907
Mercado, Mario16408
Allen, Jansen14809
Parrilla, Andree132010

In this system, Rocky is #1, then Kane and Landa are tied for #2 (I put Landa 2nd because throughout all of this Landa has a number of points from non-Tier 1 events that slightly elevate his ranking over his peers).   The rest of the rankings 4-20 more or less mirror the current rankings that expire points after the 365th day.

I like this option too; it seems to address the issue of tournaments falling off the calendar in a rather simple way.

Issue with this system: i’m not sure this system would “protect” any players besides Kane who go out with injury.  Kane wins a lot of points per event played and can “make up” several tournaments worth of points for a normal tour player each time.  If someone ranked in the 10-15 range missed a significant amount of time … they’d be buried in the rankings.


Other Alternatives explored:

  • I looked at average points earned in tournaments for each player for a one-year and two-year rolling period.  The problem with using an average is that missed tournaments basically destroy the average.  Kane ranks just 9th in average tourney points earned in the last calendar year, while Landa drops to 5th if you extend that average to two years.  Both results do not seem valid.

Conclusion: I think the simplest solution may just be to expand the system from a rolling 1-year to a rolling 2-year calendar (Alternative #4).  This will smooth out periods of absence for Kane and reward a longer period of excellence overall.

This suggestion also has the added benefit of representing a simple additional burden on the tour (and John Scott) to maintain.  Any more complex system might be too much of a burden to maintain in an ongoing fashion.

However … I do believe that the end of season rankings should only take into account the points earned in that season.   It would make no sense to have last season’s results impact this season’s end-of-season rankings.  So perhaps this is all just an exercise to find a better “seeding” system that does a better job of smoothing out the rankings to better indicate at any given point in time who is ranked where.  I am not advocating at this time to really change the way the rankings are done for the purposes of declaring a season-ending champ.

If you have different suggestions, I can run other scenarios as well.  Feel free to comment or drop me a line.

San Luis Potosi Open Wrap-Up

Montoya

Another Thanksgiving weekend event happened south of the border; the San Luis Potosi Open in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. An excellent draw of the top Mexican players were there and battled it out. Thanks to Pro Kennex’ Mike Michael Martinez for getting me the draw and keeping me up to date on this event, which was one of the few non-R2sports.com driven tourneys we see these days.

Picking it up at the round of 16, here’s how the event went:

-#1 seed Rodrigo Montoya Solis over a qualifier (I can’t quite read his name on the draw sheet) 11,10.
– Current 18U Junior World champion and #8 seed Eduardo Portillo Rendon over #9 Seed Eduardo Garay Rodriguez 14,13 (this one is available on Facebook if you follow Portillo: he live streamed it).
– #5 seed Javier Estrada over #12 seeded IRT semi-regular Jordy Alonso 3,4
– #4 Seed Christian Longoria (brother of Paola Longoria) over #13 Alan Palomino 1,2
– #3 Javier Mar, who we last saw giving Kane Waselenchuk a heck of a game in the round of 16 at the US Open, downed #14 Rodrigo Nino Loma 1,3
– #6 Edson Martinez beat #11 Carlos Bacmeister 4,11
– #7 Ernesto Ochoa, who has had a great year and has really shot up my personal rankings, beat semi regular IRT touring vet Erick Cuevas Fernandez.
– #2 Andree Parrilla downed qualifier Elias Nieto 9,11.

In the Quarters, some upsets by seeds:
– Montoya easily beat Portillo 2,2; the 2015 Junior World 18U Champ showed the 2018 Junior World 18U champ where he needs to be.
– Estrada upset Longoria 4,11. Estrada has had a number of excellent wins so far this year and continues his rise up the Mexican ranks.
– Mar downed Martinez 6,12.
– Ochoa beat Parrilla for the second time this year 10,14. A pretty big upset by seeds and by world ranking, but Ochoa has more than proven he’s on-fire in 2018. Parrilla made the semis of the US Open, the quarters of the IRT season opener, and pretty much is a threat to make the quarters or better now at every pro event he enters, but Ochoa was better this day.

In the Semis:
– Montoya went tiebreaker to beat Estrada (13),2,6.
– Mar ended Ochoa’s run 9,3. These two met in the quarters of the Sonora Open earlier this year, with Ochoa winning en route to the title.

A Great final; a re-match of the Gran Torneo Del San Isidro tourney from earlier this fall. There, Montoya got a walk-over win. Today thought Montoya won in two 9,11.

Next up in Mexico should be the Abierto Mexicano de Raquetbol 2018 the second weekend of December. It was set to be an IRT-affiliated event but the two organizing bodies broke off the agreement a few weeks ago. The poster in the r2sports site shows Montoya, Waselenchuk and Longoria so i’m curious to see who shows up.

WRT 2018 Canadian Open Preview

The World Racquetball Tour is back in action, hosting its 3rd tourney of 2018 and its first event since May. The tour is in Calgary … which is the first time (as far as I can tell) that pro racquetball has ever been hosted in this Alberta city.

There’s 24 players in the Men’s draw, including many IRT regulars. The draw represents a nice balance of Northern Hemisphere countries: 8 Canadians, 9 Mexicans, 6 Americans.

Lets take a look at the draw and highlight some notable potential match-ups and make some predictions.

In the 32s:
– Samuel Murray vs Taylor Knoth; Murray, the current #6 ranked IRT player, makes just his 2nd ever WRT appearance and is an early tourney favorite despite his #21 seed here. Knoth gets an unlucky match-up; he’s got the potential to advance in any pro tourney he enters, as evidenced by the win he got over a regular touring pro the last time he entered a pro draw (Jan 2018). I expect Murray to advance but Knoth will play him tough.
Eduardo Lalo Portillo vs Lee Connell: Portillo gets a tough match-up against the veteran Connell, who has been playing pro events since Lalo was 5.

In the 16s:
– the 8/9 match-up between WOR – World Outdoor Racquetball outdoor specialist Luis Avila and #8 seeded Justus Benson could be interesting. These two met on the WRT once before, in Sept 2016 with Avila advancing easily. Has Benson closed the gap?

– Murray v Alex Cardona. What a brutal round of 16 for both players; this is a semis quality match. Honestly, this is a great example of why you should have protected seeding for top ranked IRT players doing drop-ins to the WRT. Ironically, the only other time Murray played the WRT … he also met Cardona in the 16s. It was Atlanta 2015 and Cardona got him in a tie-breaker, but we’re 3 years on and these players are trending in opposite directions. Murray advances in two solid games.

– Andree Parrilla v Tim Landeryou; a great match-up between one of Mexico’s best and one of Canada’s best. Both players are routinely making quarters or semis of their federation National events. Parrilla has made the quarters or better in 7 of the last 11 IRT events he’s played in and is fresh off of a semis appearance in the US Open. Parrilla advances but it isn’t easy.

– Coby Iwaasa v Christian Longoria; another tough round of 16 match-up here; Iwaasa excelled at 2018 Worlds, losing two very tight matches to IRT top-10 ranked player Mario Mercado. I think Iwaasa upsets Longoria here and advances on home soil.

– Gerardo Franco Gonzalez v Alan Natera Chavez; a great match between two country-men who are up and coming players. Natera beat Franco in Mexico Nationals earlier this year while making a huge run to the semis and has been playing very solid. Look for a Natera win again here.

Potential Quarter finals match-ups
– #1 David Horn v #9 Avila: Horn’s slow start to the IRT season has dropped him to #12 there, but he remains #1 in the WRT. He should advance past fellow Californian Avila here.

– #21 Murray vs #4 Parrilla: Another great match here; Parrilla has met Murray already twice this year on the IRT and beaten him both times, including a solid 8,8 defeat at the US Open two weekends ago. Look for Parrilla to advance.

– #3 Jaime Martell Neri vs Iwaasa: Martell is the winner of the most recently held WRT event, beating both Horn and Bredenbeck to take the Atlanta Open in May. He played a couple of IRT Satellite events in Mexico in September with mixed results, but may have his hands full here. I’m not sure which way this potential match-up goes, but it’ll be tight.

– #2 Jake Bredenbeck versus Natera: Jake has been snake-bitten at IRT events lately; he’s fallen in the 16s or early in seven straight IRT tourneys. He’s gotten pretty rotten draws, and has been “stuck” right in that tough ranking range where he is constantly playing into one of the top 3 players in the round of 16. But on the WRT he remains tough; making the finals of 3 of the last 4 WRT events and winning in January (a solid win over Rodrigo Montoya Solís ). Natera probably gives Jake a solid game but falls at this gate.

Semis projection:
– Parrilla-Horn: The 1/4 match here was the 8/9 match in Laurel, won by Parrilla before he dropped an 11-10 heart-breaker to Rocky Carson. I think Andree gets his number again and advances to the final.

– Jake vs Iwaasa: If Iwaasa gets this far, he’ll try to take out both Bredenbeck brothers in one event (he faces Sam Bredenbeck in the first round). If this is Jake-Martell, it’ll be a rematch of the Atlanta 2018 final. Jake is 6-1 lifetime over Martell but he’s 0-1 this calendar year.

Finals projection: Parrilla over Jake. Jake is 3-0 lifetime over Parrilla … but all 3 matches were in 2015. Parrilla is on a tear and is the favorite for me to win this weekend in Calgary.

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There’s a solid doubles draw in Calgary; 10 teams. I’ll go with the team of Murray/Jake over Cardona/Franco in the final.

US Open IRT Mens Pro Doubles Wrap-up

Congrats to Alvaro Beltran and Daniel De La Rosa on their US Open Title.

Here’s the match report for the tourney: https://bit.ly/2C188Lc

Here’s a review of the event.

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First off… for racquetball fans of top-level tournament play, you cannot ask for more out of this doubles draw. Out of the 22 matches in this draw, 14 went to tiebreaker.  13 of the first 19 went tiebreaker, including two 11-10 matches. Every time we run another top-end doubles tourney, we seem to get more and more great play. I love this new focus on doubles in the Men’s Pro game.

An opinion from this observer: I wish the doubles qualified into the 16s and not the quarters: if there’s 23 teams entered it does seem unfair to give byes to four teams and force everyone else to play 2 or even 3 qualifiers.  I’m not sure how this decision was arrived at, if its driven by court availability (possibly) or just attempting to protect the top seeds (also a distinct possibility), but the 5th seeds really have a massive disadvantage as compared to the 4th seeds.

Here’s some notable 1st and 2nd round events for me:
– First, we have to start with the unbelievable match we saw in the round of 32; The 5th overall seeds Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz, who together as a team have made 3 finals in the last year, faced off against a team of 17-yr old phenoms in Sebastian Fernandez and Diego Garcia Quispe. Fernandez and Garcia had the 5th seeds completely flummoxed in the tie-breaker, running out to a 10-0 lead. However, Jake and Jose fought back, and saved off at least 8 attempts at match point across several trades of serves and came completely back to win 11-10. An amazing come-back that I can’t quite say i’ve ever seen in the pro game before. A quick note about the two juniors; they played top-level pro rball in this match and made a bunch of statement wins all weekend on the singles side.

– Andres Acuña and Felipe Camacho got a solid win over a tough doubles team of Charlie Pratt and Dylan Reid.

– Semi-regular IRT players Maurice Miller and DC-area native Troy Warigon teamed up to take out two accomplished IRT pros in Andree Parrilla and Gerardo Franco Gonzalez.

– College buddies from Baldwin-Wallace Thomas Carter and Kyle Ulliman shocked the team of Jansen Allen and Nick Montalbano in the first round.

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The round of 16 had all four “seeded” teams end up winning to qualify to the main draw … but all four matches went tiebreaker.
– David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas were stretched to 11-9 by the Miller/Warigon team.
– Bredenbeck/Diaz went 11-8 to advance past the Costa Rican team Acuna/Camacho.
– Top Bolivian team Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo and Roland Keller (the 2018 South American Games champs and 2018 Pan Am Games finalists) took out the Baldwin Wallace alumni team 11-0 in the breaker.
– Lastly, the tough Mexican team of Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Javier Mar had to go to extras to top the Denver duo of Adam Manilla and Nick Riffel.

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The Main draw featured some immediate upsets.
– Jose and Jake kept living on the edge, advancing again 11-10 over the Colombian pairing of Sebastian Franco and Mario Mercado.
– the Mexican team of Montoya & Mar took out the #3 seeds Alejandro Alex Landa and Samuel Murray in a tiebreaker.
– The #2 seeds and reigning IRF doubles champs Alvaro Beltran and Daniel De la Rosa ousted the Bolivian pairing of Moscoso/Keller in a rematch of the 2018 IRF Worlds semi final.
– Lastly, the #1 team of Kane Waselenchuk and Ben Croft, who havn’t lost a doubles match together since 2016, advanced over Horn and Rojas.

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In the semis:
– #1 Croft/Waselenchuk ended the Jake/Jose run, advancing 13,6
– #2 Beltran/DLR were pushed to the edge by country-mates Montoya/Mar, advancing with an 11-8 tiebreaker win.

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The Final represented a rematch of several notable pro doubles matches over the past year: this was the final of last year’s US Open, which resulted in an epic match some called “the greatest match ever played.” This was also the final of the World Doubles event in Denver last May, which ended in a controversial call/walking off the court.

On this night in 2018 in Minneapolis though, the Mexicans could do no wrong and took the doubles title by the surprising score of 11 and 6. It has been quite a year so far for Beltran and DLR; they won the Mexican Nationals, tnen won the world doubles title in Costa Rica, then took the 3-wall WOR doubles crown in Vegas just two weeks ago.


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US Open IRT Men’s Singles Quarters Review, Semis preview

International Racquetball Tour UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships

As with the ladies, 3 of the 4 top seeds advanced to the Men’s singles semis at the season’s major, and the fourth player to advance was no surprise entrant, having won one IRT event last season and made the finals of another. Lets review the quarters and project the semis and finals.

– #1 Rocky Carson downed #8 Mario Mercado in two games with ease. Mercado did well to advance here, ousting IRF World champion Rodrigo Montoya Solís in the 16s, who many considered a dark horse to go deep at this tourney. But in Carson, Mercado ran into the master of the control game.

– #4 Daniel De La Rosa took out upset-minded #12 Jose Diaz in two straight. De La Rosa ends up eliminating both Diaz’s in this event, putting and end to the Stockton clan’s tournament here.

– #3 Kane Waselenchuk made a statement in his win over #6 Sebastian Franco 6,1. After getting pushed in the 16s by Javier Mar, Kane came out swinging and Franco had no answers on this day.

– #10 Andree Parrilla provided the sole upset in the quarter finals, downing #2 Alex Landa in a tie-breaker. This is not as big of an upset as it seems; these two have played many times at the top levels of racquetball and Parrilla has had more than his fair share of wins.

Semis prediction:
– Carson holds a 15-8 h2h career lead over DLR … but the last time they faced off (Jan 2018) DLR crushed him. Of course … that was Rocky’s first tournament back after knee surgery so that result needs an asterisk. Still, DLR has looked great this tourney and knows how to beat Rocky, so look for a DLR win to advance to the finals.

– Kane and Parrilla famously met int he 2016 US Open round of 16, where Kane handed Andree a triple donut. At the time it was seen as a referendum on the fledgling WRT tour’s place in the racquetball heirarchy, but it is also worth nothing that Parrilla was a few days past his 20th birthday at that point and was a baby in terms of ability. The next time they met was an IRT Final a few months later. Kane is 6-0 against Andree h2h but they havn’t faced each other in more than a year. Meanwhile, Parrilla has been on a great run of form and can hang with anybody. I look for a decently entertaining game with Kane winning in 2, but by no means a blow out.

Final prediction: Kane over DLR in their 16th top-level meeting.

US Open IRT pro Singles 32 and 16 review, Quarters preview

Today, the Thursday of the US Open, is perhaps my favorite day of pro racquetball all season. Two rounds of top-level pro racquetball on both the men’s and women’s side. Lets take a look at the notable Men’s matches from today and preview the Quarters tomorrow.

IRT round of 32 notable matches.

– Felipe Camacho got a solid win over Thomas Carter in the always-competitive 16-17 match-up, taking the tie-breaker 11-8.
– In his first game back since his retirement talk this past off-season, #3 Kane Waselenchuk took out a player less than half his age, defeating Mexican 18U and current 16U world titlist Sebastian Fernandez in two. The kid is just 17 years old and played fantastically this weekend in both singles and doubles.
– Alvaro Beltran, playing in his 19th US Open, was the first to advance to the 16s on the day, downing country-man Rodrigo Rodriguez, who was making just his second ever IRT appearance.
– Veteran Charlie Pratt ended Bolivian 16U player Diego Garcia Quispe run 12,5 . Just to re-iterate; both Fernandez and Garcia are in their age 17 seasons.
Javier Mar upset #14 Adam Manilla 5,14.
Daniel de la Rosa took out Ricardo Diaz, the reigning US 18U champ, in his IRT debut. A great showing from Diaz on his pro debut beating two very solid IRT semi-regulars in Nick Montalbano and Troy Warigon.
– Huge upset win for Andres Acuña, downing #11 David Horn in a tiebreaker. Two straight one-and-dones in the first two IRT events for Horn, who lost his opener in Laurel as well. Not a great start to the season for Horn, who made a big step forward last year by making his first semi and first final.
Mauro Daniel Rojas stretched #6 seed Sebastian Franco, but the Colombian prevailed 11-8.
– Maurice Miller gave #2 Alex Landa a scare, taking the first game before falling in a tie-breaker.
– Samuel Murray got a fantastic win, holding off the dark horse Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo in a tie-breaker; this was a quarter-finals quality matchup
in the 32s and sends home Moscoso much earlier than last year (when he ran to the quarters in his only prior IRT appearance.

IRT round of 16 notables matches:

– In a surprise to me, #8 Mario Mercado came back from a game down to top current IRF World Champ Rodrigo Montoya Solís. This observer thought Montoya had a good shot at making the finals in this event; I wonder how much Montoya’s recent ankle injury has affected him this week.
– #12 Jose Diaz got perhaps the best win of his career with a tie-breaker win over #5 Beltran.  Some post-game drama; reportedly Diaz was 25 minutes late to this match but was not penalized or forfeited.
Javier Mar more than held his own in losing to #3 Waselenchuk 12,10.
– #10 Andree Parrilla easily handled #7 Murray, perhaps worn out from a brutal earlier victory. Parrilla has now made the quarters in 4 of the last 5 IRT events he’s played, and 7 of the last 11 stretching well into last season; that includes a win and a final too. He’s a dangerous opponent who is one or two more big results from being a protected seed going forward.

Quarter Finals Preview:
6 of the top 8 seeds ended up advancing, setting up some very solid match-ups in the quarters. Run the top-20 tour-wide Head to Head matrix (link here: https://bit.ly/2yf522N) to fire off a new Head-to-Head “Tale of the Tape” report complete with pictures, biographical information and detailed match history for players in the IRT top 20.
– #1 Carson v #8 Mercado: Rocky is 6-0 lifetime against Mercado on the IRT, and despite Mercado’s great win today, I see Rocky making it 7-0. Both are control players, but Rocky will out-control Mario’s control game.
– #4 De La Rosa vs #12 Diaz: DLR is 4-0 against Diaz on the IRT, and is playing really solidly this week. Diaz fights for every point and punches above his weight class though, and won’t go down without a fight.
– #3 Waselenchuk vs #6 Franco: Kane is 2-0 over Franco lifetime, but despite Franco’s crisp play you never bet against the king.
– #2 Landa vs #10 Parrilla: Landa is 2-1 over Parrilla on the IRT, but 6-2 lifetime across multiple tours and Mexican National events. They’ve had close games and blow-outs. Parrilla seems like he’s in every match these days, and quietly he’s made the quarters in 4 of the last 5 events, and 7 of the last 11 pro events, a span that includes a win and a finals appearance. Landa will need to be “on” out of the gate.

Prediction: going chalk; 1,4,3 and 2 into the semis.

IRT 2018 US Open Qualifying Review and Round of 32 and 16 Preview

We’re through two rounds of (often grueling) qualifying and are to the main draw. Here’s some thoughts about notable matches or surprises (to me) from qualifying and a look ahead at the first two rounds of the main draw.

r2sports main draw link here.

Qualifying Results of note:
– #17 Seed Thomas Carter(aka, the highest seed forced to qualify) lost the first game 0 before recovering to advance to the main draw.
Dylan Reid took a solid 11-8 win over veteran Guatemalan Edwin Galicia.
Scott “the Ref” McClellan fought back from dropping the first game to advance to the main draw.
– Daniel Maldonado saved match point in game 2 before advancing in breaker over David Austin.
Ricardo Diaz got a solid win over WOR Vegas singles titlist Nick Montalbano.
Jay Munoz got a win over Set Cubillos Ruiz in his IRT debut
– Ohio’s Kyle Ulliman got a solid W over Wayne Antone IV.
– Costa Rican Alexander Pirie took a solid win over Austin Cunningham.
Mauro Daniel Rojas had to work to get past IRT veteran Hiroshi Shimizu, who first played on the IRT tour in 2002. When Rojas was 4.
– Touring pro Robert Collins got a close 2-game win over long-time IRT player Alejandro Herrera Azcarate to advance to the main draw.

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Round of 32 matches to watch for:

– #9 Jansen Allen v #24 Rodrigo Montoya Solís; though this may be an upset by seed, few consider Montoya the underdog here. The big question for rball fans is the state of his ankle. Allen is no slouch and if Montoya is hobbled we’ll know pretty quickly.

– #12 Jose Diaz vs #23 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez; both players are capable of upsets and this should be an interesting contrast in playing styles.

– #13 Charlie Pratt vs Diego Garcia Quispe; great matchup of youth versus experience. Pratt’s cerebral playing style will likely control the youngster in this match … but Garcia plays like a veteran. Still amazing that a 16U player has made it this far already.

– #14 Adam Manilla vs #19 Javier Mar; upset alert here. Manilla went deep in the tour’s first event, making the quarters … but Mar has WRT titles and Mexican national titles and a run to the US Open quarters last year. Which Mar will show up though? Manilla has his hands full here.

– #6 Sebastian Franco vs #27 Mauro Rojas; Rojas beat Franco once before on the IRT, two years ago in Kansas … when he was just 16. Now freshly graduated from Juniors he’s been saddled with tough draws as he plays the tour full time. I like his game; he hits the ball really heavy and its just a matter of time before he gets a breakthrough win.

– #7 Samuel Murray vs #26 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo; tough break for Murray, who made the final of the first IRT event of the season. Like with Allen-Montoya, this will look like an upset by seed but Moscoso has more than established himself as one of the world’s top players by now irrespective of his IRT points.

Round of 16s that look interesting, if results go as I think they will:

– #24 Montoya – #8 Mario Mercado; Despite their international experience and long juniors history (they’re the same junior year, both born in 1996), I don’t have these two ever meeting in a senior event. If Montoya is healthy, he’ll be favored.

– #4 Daniel De La Rosa v #13 Pratt ; Pratt has wins over DLR in the past, and can play him tough. This could be a very tactical, strategic match.

– #26 Moscoso vs #10 Andree Parrilla; they met in the US Open last year, a 5-game brutal 11-8 win for the Bolivian. Parrilla plays everyone tough; there are no easy losses to Parrilla, who scraps and scrapes every point. Look for another marathon.

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We’ll be back Friday to preview the Q/S/Finals.

US Open IRT Doubles Preview

In addition to a great singles draw, there’s massive IRT Pro doubles draw at the US Open; lets do a quick preview.

r2sports.com links here.

There’s 23 teams entered, but just the top 4 qualify into the quarters, making for a very tough qualifying campaign for all but the top teams.

I’m going to predict a nearly chalk qualifying campaign, with the #5-8 seeds all advancing. That means:
– Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz
– David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas
 Conra Moscoso Ortiz and Roland Keller 
– Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Javier Mar

Though by all means, these teams will have to earn it, with really quality “round of 16” matches in order.

A little birdie has told me that perhaps the Moscoso/Keller team is out; this may pave the way for Jansen Allen and Nick Montalbano to make it into the quarters.

In the main draw, I’m also mostly going chalk, predicting a rematch of last year’s final and the World Doubles final. That means Kane Waselenchuk and Ben Croft versus Daniel De La Rosa and Alvaro Beltran.

This final resulted in one of the greatest matches in recent memory this time last year; will we get another classic?

Final Prediction: Kane/Ben repeat.