Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk on his win in Tempe this past weekend. Notable facts and stats on the win:
– 119th title – W/L now 552-53 for his career, 13-1 for the current season – He increases his lead at the top of the rankings to more than 800 points over #2 Carson (that’s two Tier 1 wins worth of points, btw).
In the 64s, some upsets: – Texan Ruben Baez took out Chilean veteran international Francisco Troncoso 11-9 in the breaker. – IRT regular Justus Benson fell to top Virginia amateur Thomas Gerhardt 9,8. Solid night of qualifying for Gerhardt, who wins both Thursday matches to move into the 32s in (and I had to check this twice) his first ever IRT Tier 1 appearance. Local players to the east coast know him well as one of the top players in Virginia and a frequent local area tournament participant; can he keep the run going in the next round? – Similarly to Gerhardt, Utah amateur Anthony Martin also took out a regular IRT touring pro in Nick Riffel 9,8 to move on. Solid win for Martin, who earns a spot against #11 Jake (and a spot on the live streaming) on Friday morning.
In the 32s, a couple of surprises: – Colombian Set Cubillos Ruiz got perhaps his best ever career win, playing solid ball to oust #12 Sebastian Fernandez in a breaker. After taking a close first game, Fernandez came out on fire in game two to win it 15-3 … but then couldn’t keep up the pressure as Cubillos really earned it.
– #14 Thomas Carter played two solid games to oust #30 Gerhardt in two 12,9. Great showing by Gerhardt in his tour debut.
– The final round of 32 to complete featured a close match that may have surprised some observers: relative unknown player Ruben Baez, making his IRT Tier 1 debut, took it to the #9 seed David ” Bobby” Horn, beating him in game one before running out of gas in the tiebreaker to fall (14),10,3. Baez’s USAR ranking, per the comment box, is #626. He certainly doesn’t play like the 626th ranked player in the land.
—— Round of 16 observations: just one upset by seed, but some solid matches.
– #17 Andres Acuña really pushed #1 Kane Waselenchuk , nearly taking game two from him before falling 8,14. As I’ve mentioned in this space a lot over the past few months, Acuna’s game has improved by leaps and bounds in the past year, he made his first pro quarter in Laurel in Sept, and I think he can continue to rise.
– #9 Horn could not follow-up on his solid Bay Club win, falling to #8 Samuel Murray in two.
– #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz‘s first match since the US Open was up against the surprising Colombian Cubillos, a nice all-South American match-up. Moscoso made short work of Cubillos though, winning 4,6 to move on.
– #14 Carter played pretty well to push #3 Alex Landa, falling in two 11,11.
– In the round’s sole upset by seed, #10 Eduardo Portillo Rendon took out home-town favorite #6 Daniel De La Rosa in two close games 13,12. They met in Atlanta earlier in the season, but Portillo was able to turn the tide here. He advances to just his second ever pro quarter final, while DLR surprisingly is one-and-done in his home-town tournament (one that I thought he’d leverage the crowd support to make a finals run). This win is nearly enough to put Portillo into the top 10 for the first time, while DLR continues his uneven start to the new season.
———— In the Qtrs: – Kane committed canuck-on-canuck crime, defeating his country-man Murray comprehensively 5,4
– #5 seed Moscoso was stretched to a tiebreaker by #4 Álvaro Beltrán before advancing.
– #3 Landa turned the tide on a recent trend of losing to #6 Parrilla head to head, completely dominating their quarter final and advancing 3,7.
– But the story of this event happened in the final quarter; #10 Portillo, playing in just his 2nd pro qtr … took out #2 Rocky Carson in two games 10,8 to reach his first ever pro semi. Portillo finished last season ranked 17th while playing the tour part time, but has consistently made the main draws of the last seven pro events he’s entered to push his ranking to the cusp of the top 10.
—————- In the semis; – We got our highly anticipated re-match of the US Open final in the top half, with Kane and Moscoso going at it. Far fewer FFs this time from Moscoso, who introduced a new motion and clearly has worked on his footwork. It did not help; Kane does what he typically does against good opponents who hang with him for portions of game 1; he hung in there til about 10-10, then ran off 5 straight to take the first game. Demoralized about missing out on chances, Mosocos got wiped out in game two to lose 10,2. Kane is still the master, even if you watch Conrrado’s game plan and see a possible pathway forward for him at some point in the future. With this result, Moscoso will move up to 7th in the tour rankings despite only having points from four events.
– #3 Landa made fast work of the youngster Lalo, ending his run 5,9 to advance to his 5th ever IRT pro final. With this result, Portillo should move up to 9th on tour, putting himself in position to get a top8 seed if one of the existing top 8 misses an event.
—————– In the final, Kane demoralized Landa, put away mistakes on the service return with clinical precision, and dominated the match to win 4,7. He improves to 15-1 against Landa head to head (the sole loss was a fft/no-show).
—————— Points ramifications: based on my points projections, here’s the ramifications of this weekend on the tour rankings: – Moscoso and Murray swap places at 7,8 – Portillo improves from 12 to 9 – By virtue of Portillo’s move, he pushes Montoya, Franco and Horn each down one slot. – Collin’s moves up 2 spots from 18 to 16 – Acuna jumps up 4 spots to #22. – Cubillos improves 10 spots from 39 to 29.
———————- Next up; the IRT moves to Fullerton for the Los Compadres Auto Sales Open, which should get a pretty solid draw. There’s also a big Costa Rican tourney, which may pull away the likes of Acuna and Camacho to compete on home soil
The IRT has released the draws for this coming weekend’s Arizona IRT Pro-Am, so its time to do a preview!
(to see the released draws before they’re available on R2, follow the IRT on facebook where they’ve been posted as of Noon Tuesday 10/22/19).
The IRT returns to Arizona for the first time in many years; the tournament is being held on the campus of Arizona State University, which has become a popular spot to host major tournaments. ASU’s campus in Tempe has held USAR National doubles every year since 2005, has hosted a slew of USAR intercollegiates championships in that same time (including 2019’s tournament), and hosted the USAR National singles event in 2017.
But, its been a while since we’ve seen either pro tour head to Arizona at all. The last time a tier 1 Men’s event was in Arizona was in May 2003, when the school hosted the season ending Pro Nationals event. For some historical context of that event and season: Huczek beat Alvaro Beltran in the final, it was the last event in Mannino sole year end title, and the top 4 seeded players in the event were all were upset in the quarters (Mannino, Swain, Waselenchuk and Ellis). Waselenchuk lost to Carson … one of the three career wins Rocky has on his long-time nemesis. Before 2003, you have to go all the way back to the mid 1990s, when a regular tour stop was held in Phoenix for several seasons, and before that the mid 1980s when the Arizona Pro-Am featured winners like Hogan and Brett Harnett.
The Ladies tour hasn’t been to Arizona in more than decade itself; in Feb 2008 the WPRO Fireball Pro-Am featured a final between the 1 and 2 seeds, as Rhonda downed Cheryl on her way to the 2008 year end title (Longoria was just starting on tour and finished 6th that season).
So, great to have pro racquetball back in Arizona. Thanks to tournament director Jim Winterton for his efforts and sponsorship.
The Men’s draw has 37 players, a good mix of southwest-locals and traveling regulars. Who is missing this weekend? The top 8 players are here, including Bolivian Conrrado kevin Moscoso Ortiz Racquetball, who moved up to being ranked 8th on the back of his US Open final appearance. However both the 9th and 10th ranked players (Rodrigo Montoya Solís and Sebastian Franco) are missing. Other top 20 players missing include #13 Mario Mercado, #15 Gerardo Franco Gonzalez, and #16 Jose Diaz. Diaz missed the first two events on the year, both east-coast based, perhaps for travel related issues. But now he misses a west-coast event; are we seeing him stepping back officially from touring? Perhaps so. Along the same note, former top 8 player Mercado has now slipped to 13, and former top 8 player Jansen Allen is now outside the top 20.
Also missing from this draw are a slew of players from Mexican hot-beds like Juarez and Chihuahua; both of which are easy drives to Tempe. I would have initially expected, like we used to see with WRT events in the south western part of the country, a junket of carpooling of Mexican players heading to the event. But, unfortunately, there are a couple competing events this weekend (an IRT Tier 4 in El Paso,Texas State Singles & Doubles, but most notably, a big RKT tournament in Mexico City). The Mexican event’s top 8 seeds (GFranco, Mar, Estrada, Natera, Ochoa, Cardona, Nieto, and Cuevas) are all IRT regulars these days and players who would be pushing for the 16s or the quarters if they were here. Furthermore the El Paso event pulled two other top Mexican players (Eduardo Garay Rodriguez and Jaime Martell Neri) away from the Arizona event. We’ll do quick previews/wrap-ups of those events later this week, but if you’re wondering where these guys are … well there’s your answer.
The Arizona draw does the “flip” seeding, so the 5-8 seeds are jumbled. 5th ranked Parrilla is seeded 6th, 6th ranked DLR is seeded 7th, 7th ranked Murray is seeded 8th, and 8th ranked Moscoso is seeded 5th. Probably goes without saying that this flip most benefits Moscoso, who achieves a top 8 rank and seed for the first time in his career and avoids Kane until a possible semi-final meeting, and most penalizes Murray, who is forced into Kane’s quarter.
One last thing worth noting: the IRT has listened to fan requests with the streaming schedule and will be streaming significantly more matches this weekend. Check out the match times on the bracket; the streaming schedule allows for double the matches to be shown at each round throughout the weekend. The plan is to stream no less than 8 qualifying matches on Friday, then have staggered start times Saturday to show more of the 16s before streaming all the qtrs/semis/finals as normal.
Broadcast schedule; 8 friday, 5 sat, 1 sun. That’s a lot of matches for us fans, and a lot for Mr. Dean DeAngelo Baer to call … but is awesome for those of us remote.
Lets preview the draw highlighting matches that I think are compelling.
In the 128s: five play-in matches to get to the 32s, mostly with Texas/Arizona locals battling it out, but also including traveling players like Jim Douglas (Oregon) and Thomas Gerhardt (from VA).
In the 64s: – Ruben Baez takes on Chilean veteran Francisco Troncoso. So, in case you don’t know who Baez is … he played in the Pueblo lower tier IRT event in March, entered as the 27th seed, beat Jake Bredenbeck in the quarters and lost to Horn in the semis 13,14. He’s a very solid player who can make waves in this event if he plays the way he did in Pueblo and gets the right match-ups.
– Set Cubillos Ruiz continues his challenging travel schedule by returning to the states just a few days after competing in (and winning) the Barranquilla Open in his home country of Colombia, right on the back of competing in the US Open, to take on a play-in winner between Douglas and Arizona’s Preston Tribble.
– Gerhardt vs Justus Benson: Gerhardt is a tough player from Virginia who frequently competes in both indoor and outdoor venues: if he gets past Arizona’s Coy Jay Rogers, he can make life difficult for Benson. Justus is coming off of two straight one-and-dones in IRT events, including a loss in Laurel to Pennsylvania amateur Geoff Heskett, and needs to get his season going.
– Nick Riffel vs Anthony Martin: Martin is a Utah local with just a couple of results on his resume; he played the Atlanta IRT event earlier this season and took Gerardo Franco to a breaker. This might be a closer match than IRT touring regular Riffel wants at this juncture.
– The younger Bredenbeck brother Sam Bredenbeck gets a solid opener against infrequent IRT participant Daniel Neri; Bredenbeck has some really solid results lately, with wins over IRT regulars like Carter and Riffel at the 2019 Lewis Drug.
In the 32s: – #16 Adam Manilla takes on #17 Andrés Acuña; great match between two solid up and coming young players. I like Acuna here; he’s on a roll and has been improving at every stop.
– #9 David ” Bobby” Horn takes on Baez in a re-match of the CSU-Pueblo shootout semis that was so close. Can Baez turn the table here? Horn missed the first two events of the season with injury, played solidly at the US Open and then took a dominant win on his home court two weekends ago to win the Bay Club Open over a solid draw that included a win over Charlie Pratt in the final. I expect a close match here.
– #14 Thomas Carter takes on the winner beween Gerhardt and Benson; Carter’s been playing solid lately, with a win over Diaz at the US Open and taking two very good players to breakers in losses (Keller and Carson). I like Carter to move on here.
– #10 Lalo Portillo takes on the younger Bredenbeck; Eduardo is now in the top 10 and he’s earned it. He’ll move on here despite the challenge from the improving Bredenbeck.
——————————- Projecting the 16s: Assuming qualifying goes as I expect, here’s some interesting 16s to look for
– #8 Samuel Murray vs #9 Horn: 8/9 is always tough, and these players have split their 3 meetings somewhat evenly. Horn won their most recent meeting, in Florida in April, in two close games. I’ll go with Horn backing up his excellent win in Pleasanton with the upset here to move into the qtrs.
– #5 Conra Moscoso Ortiz vs #12 Sebastian Fernandez: another brutal draw for the teenager Fernandez, who had to play former top 5 touring pro Marco Rojas in the first round of the Bay Open and lost in a breaker, and now funnels into the red-hot Moscoso, fresh off of a solid run to the US Open finals. This is the hard part about being a player ranked in the teens: you have to start getting wins over top 8 players to move into the top 8, and every draw is an uphill battle.
– #6 Andree Parrilla vs #11 Jake Bredenbeck: a great throw-back match-up between two long time WRT players. They’ve met 6 times in top level events: Jake won their first 3 meetings (all in the 2015 time-frame), while Andree has won the last three meetings (all in the 2019 calendar year). The matches are always close, so I’ll predict another Parrilla tie-breaker win. After a solid opening to the season, Parrilla has lost two winnable matches in Laurel and the US Open to see his ranking (which had peaked at #3) slip a bit, and he needs to be making semis regularly to take the next step.
– #7 Daniel De La Rosa vs #10 Portillo: These two met in Atlanta in Sept, and DLR advanced in a tie-breaker. Portillo has been rapidly moving up the rankings, but has also now exited at this juncture (the round of 16) in seven straight IRT events. He needs a high-profile win over a top 8 player. But, is DLR the right guy? This event is essentially a home event for him, hailing from Mexico but now living in Arizona the next town over from Tempe. He’ll have family cheering him on and could be primed for a solid run.
– #2 Rocky Carson vs #15 Carlos Keller Vargas: wow, two straight brutal round of 16 draws for Carson, who gets no benefit from the #2 seed in having to play a solid international player in Keller who has more than a few titles to his credit. They’ve played twice: at the 2011 Pan Am games and at the 2019 Bolivian grand slam, both two-game quarter final wins for Carson. So advantage Rocky … but Keller ran through this list of names to take the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships title: Coby Iwaasa, Horn, Beltran and Pratt. So if he gets hot, he can get wins.
Possible Qtrs: – #1 Kane Waselenchuk over #9 Horn; they’ve only played a handful of times, All Kane wins. Their last meeting was in Florida in April 2018, Kane’s first event back after his knee injury, and Horn played a solid game against the hobbling and distracted Kane before losing in two. Kane’s got his focus back now, and will try not to look past this match at his possible semis opponent.
– #5 Moscoso over #4 Beltran: they’ve met twice; once a dominant Beltran win at the 2015 Pan Am games, the other a dominant Moscoso win at the Bolivian grand slam earlier this year. I think we’re more likely to see the latter result than the former here; Moscoso has the same shooter mentality as Beltran, but can drive serve with the best of them, keeping Beltran from setting his feet and likely leading to a lot of 3-point rallies on his serve.
– #3 Alex Landa vs #6 Parrilla: Landa has had a nice start to his season; two semis and a quarter, to maintain his #3 ranking for now. But Parrilla matches up well here: he’s beaten Landa 5 of the last 6 times they’ve faced each other going back several years. Parrilla’s playing style matches up well with Landa, he can hang with his shots and can retrieve well. I look for Landa to hold serve, but barely. And an upset here would not surprise me.
– #2 Carson vs #7 DLR: Carson waxed a possible disinterested DLR in their last meeting (the season finale in Sarasota in April), but DLR had three straight defeats of Rocky before that and could be looking at this as a way to get his season back on track. Meanwhile, Rocky needs to rebound from his round of 16 loss on the sport’s biggest stage; he’s still safely in the #2 spot, but needs to continue to make finals to stay there. I like DLR here in the upset.
—————— Projected Semis:
– #1 Waselenchuk vs #5 Moscoso; well, this is what the people want. I think it may happen. A rematch of the US Open final, which featured a tight back and forth game 1 before Kane ran away with it in game 2. What did Moscoso take from that match? Hopefully he took away the need to work on his serving motion so that foot faults don’t dominate the conversation surrounding his game. A more consistent serving game with first/drive serves pacing his game will do wonders to help him drive the conversation against Kane. I still think Kane has the upper hand, but cannot wait to see this possible match-up if it happens.
– #7 DLR vs #3 Landa: two old adversaries meet again; i’ve got them meeting 13 times across pro and Mexican Nationals events over the years, with Landa holding a 6-5 advantage overall. Landa’s won their last 5 meetings … but those include two 11-10 wins (including the quarters in Atlanta in September). Point is this: these guys play close every time, they know each other’s game, and there’s just a knife’s edge between them. I will go with DLR getting the slightest of home court advantages and moving to the final.
My predicted final: Kane over DLR. DLR’s sole win over Kane was in the ill-fated 2018 California Open, when Kane hurt his knee the round prior to DLR’s meeting and withdrew with the injury that ended up costing him 4 months and the 2017-18 title. They havn’t played since the final of the Lewis Drug in January, a 4,2 shellacking by Kane to take the high profile Sioux falls event. I like DLR showing some spunk in this match, perhaps with flashes of brilliance at times, but Kane winning in the end.
——————– As always, follow IRT for streaming options throughout the weekend, say high to Dean Baer online, and support pro racquetball 🙂
In addition to Mexican Nationals and High School Nationals, there were a couple of lower-tier IRT events this past weekend. This is a wrap-up of the best of them, the Pueblo Athletic Club Shoot out, a Tier 4 held in Pueblo, CO that featured a few familiar names and a couple of surprising results.
Reminder: we don’t load non-tier 1 or higher events into the PRS database; this post is just a wrap-up as a fan of the game. I’ll pick up the draw reviews at the latter stages when the familiar pro names start playing each other.
———– Men’s Pro Singles:
The draw featured 30 players, and its top 4 seeds were tour regulars that included #1 Kane Waselenchuk. David Horn, defending champ Jake Bredenbeckand Nick Riffel formed the top four seeds. This is notable to me because I can’t recall seeing Kane play in a non Tier-1 IRT tournament in .. well a long time. It may be b/c I don’t generally track non-Tier1 events.
The 5th seed is the dangerous Erik Garcia, who beat touring pro Robert Collins before taking a game off of eventual champ Rocky Carson at the US Singles qualifier event in Tempe last month. The rest of the draw featured mostly local players, with a sprinkling of traveling players w/ enough IRT points to rate a seeding.
In the Quarters. a couple of surprises: – Erik Garcia got a solid win over touring pro Nick Riffel in a tiebreaker in the 4/5 match. He earns a match against the King in the semis. I’d like to see Garcia play more pro events; he’s got some good results lately and I think he could make some noise on tour. – Complete unknown (to me) Ruben Baez ousted #3 seed Jake Bredenbeck 10,(5),5. I can’t find Baez playing any match in any format that the PRS database tracks, and he was seeded 27th in this event, traveling up from El Paso to play it. I saw bits and pieces of this match: Baez plays a control game, has a very effective lob serve, and was completely non-plussed by Jake’s power, re-killing power DTL shots and anticipating power-pinches. He earns a match-up against #2 seeded Horn in the semis for his efforts.
In the Semis: – Waselenchuk took out Garcia 8,3. Garcia kept up with the champ briefly, but eventually fell in typical Kane dominance. – Horn took out the upstart Baez by the close scores of 13,14. Thanks to Matt Melster for streaming this one real-time; I watched part of this match as well to see how Baez matched-up with the different playing style of Horn, one which was much closer seemingly to his own … and as expected this was a very back-and-forth close match throughout.
In the Final, Kane turned up the heat and cruised by Horn 7,0, showing his typical dominance that the rest of the IRT tour sees on a regular basis.
———– My take-away here: it isn’t often that a player just shows up without any prior pro experience and plays so well against two of the top 20 players in the world. I hope to see more of Baez in the future.
Men’s Pro Doubles:
The Pueblo supporters were also blessed to have with them one of the two best doubles teams in the world. Kane teamed up with Ben Croft, and they’ve won more than a few major doubles titles in their day. They were the #1 seed, with Jake & Horn teaming up to be the #2 seeds and Riffel/Garcia being the #3 seeds.
In the semis, Bredenbeck/Horn took out Riffel/Garcia 11-9, while Kane/Ben took out the team with the surprising Baez teamed with Daniel Bautista.
In the Saturday night final, the #1 team did not disappoint and won in two 10,5 over the #2 seeds.