– Both tours for all the efforts you make with streaming matches so that we nerds can watch from home. Jerry J Josey Jr.osey Jr. and Pablo Fajre n particular.
– Speaking of broadcasts, special thanks to the lead broadcasters on the pro tours Timothy Baghurst and Dean DeAngelo Baer. Also thanks to those who help out on broadcasts JP Edwards, Favio Saravia and many others who help out and make the streaming entertaining for those of us at home.
– thanks to Ryan and Tish Rodgers for R2 Sports App; where would we be without that system and its prevalent use to provide real-time tracking of tournaments. IRF: take note! can we please move to r2sports and move away from PDFs stored in dropbox?
– Thanks to Kramer X for everything you do with The Racquetball Blog, the only person out there really writing about the sport in a blog-format.
– Thanks to all the skilled photographers out there associated with the various organizations; keep up your great work. I’m talking Ken Fife, Kevin Savory, Mike Augustin, Freddy Ramirez, Roby Partovich, Geoff Thomsen, Mike Boatman, and others who I may have forgotten.
The big story ahead of this event was LPRT #1 Paola Longoria going for her 100th professional win. She had family and media on site for the event, but lost in the final. I’m sure she’s under a bit of pressure to hit a milestone win that’s been pushed in social media for months … and now she’ll have another opportunity to do so at the sport’s biggest event, the US Open.
As some of you may have noticed from the broadcasts, yours truly was at this event Friday night to see the 32s and 16s, and I got to help with the broadcast for the quarter final matches on the show court. It is the first time in a while I’ve seen the Ladies pros up close, and I had a blast working along side Timothy Baghurst, LPRT Commissioner Tj Baumbaugh and LPRT gadget king Jerry J Josey Jr., who work tirelessly to put on these events. My first time on the mike was a lot of fun and I hope you all enjoyed listening to the commentary as much as I had calling the matches.
—— Lets recap the event, and I’ll provide some additional commentary for the matches I saw up close.
There were three round of 32 matches, all involving traveling pros and local VA players, including tournament director and Hall of Famer Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey (who fell in two to Jessica Parrilla).
Notable Round of 16 matches: – #9 Brenda Laime Jalil got a solid win over #8 Adriana Riveros 3,14. – #4 Rhonda Rajsich was somewhat fortunate to get by #13 Carla Muñoz Montesinos in their round of 16 match, advancing by the scores of (14),14,4. This was a back and forth match for the entirety of the first two games, with the ladies trading points back and forth, trading leads, etc. Both veteran players played solid tactical games. Munoz had the advantage in game two, leading 14-12 when an odd sequence of events occurred; the referee asked for a replay of a point well after it was completed due to a belated ruling on the serve; this seemed to slightly unnerve Munoz, who lost the 2nd game and wasn’t competitive in the tie-breaker. Credit to Rajsich though; she sensed something was amiss, got the call she needed and kept her composure to win out. – #3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada advanced over reigning US National champ #14 Kelani Lawrence in two tight games 13,10. Lawrence was playing on the courts she grew up on and had the home town crowd rooting her on against one of the world’s best. I must also note; it’s not too often we see two generations competing in the same event like we did here with Mom Malia and daughter Kelani. That was cool to see. – #6 Nancy Enriquez outlasted #11 Sheryl Lotts (12),8,0. Lotts really played a solid game to take the first, but Enriquez settled in, took over game two with her power, and then went on a run that Lotts couldn’t stop in the tie-breaker to secure the 11-0 tiebreaker win. Enriquez has sneaky power; you don’t realize it until you’re up close how much pace she hits with. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis topped former top-4 touring pro Jessica Parrilla7,8. Salas struggled even to get to this event on time, pushing through the same local storms in the Monterrey region of Mexico that prevented 4th ranked Alexandra Herrera from traveling. She arrived in time though to face off against a tough opponent in Parrilla, and a slug-fest ensued. Both players really put some velocity onto the ball, but i’m not sure i’ve ever seen a harder hitter than Salas. Towards the end of game two, Parrilla started working Salas’ backhand more on the serve, had some success, but it was too little, too late as Salas moved on.
In the Quarters, thanks to Alexandra Herrera‘s absence we had some unexpected match-ups … in fact three of the four quarter final matches featured players who had never played each other professionally. It made for some unexpected results.
– #1 Longoria cruised past #9 Laime 1,4. Laime was outclassed by the veteran, but credit to her for getting this far (a career best showing). – #4 Rajsich squeaked past #5 Natalia Mendez in the first game, then cruised to a two game win 14,1. This is only the 2nd time these two have met in a pro setting. – #3 Vargas dominated #6 Enriquez 6,3 to move into the semis. – But the surprise of the round, perhaps the surprise of the last two seasons, was #7 Masiel Rivera Oporto beating #2 Salas 12,14. Rivera hung with the hard-hitting Salas, worked her backhand well, and got a career win to advance to her first semi final. Salas played 9 pro events last season and made the final of all nine, but now has been upset in both events so far this season.
In the Semis: – #1 Longoria raced past #4 Rajsich 5,3 to move into the finals, continuing her dominant tourney. – #3 Vargas mashed her way past Rivera 11,9 to move into her second final of the season.
In the final, Longoria took game one in her quest for 100 … but Vargas had other ideas, winning game two and the tiebeaker to spoil Longoria’s record-setting win attempt. Vargas gets her first ever professional win over Longoria and gets an early lead in the points rankings in her quest to take over the #2 spot from Salas, or perhaps to challenge for the year end title.
In a rarity; there are basically only pro draws in this event; singles and doubles (with a smaller Open singles draw). This is definitely a high-light event for the women’s pros. 21 pros are in Kansas to compete in the last event of the year.
A couple of interesting entrants here that i’d like to point out: – Former top-10 pro Jessica Parrilla has finally returned to the tour after badly injuring her knee last spring: her last appearance was in April of 2018. She did play Mexican Nationals this year in March as her first tourney back, and now starts from square one. She’s seed 20th out of 21 entrants here (only Gomar is lower) and will have to fight starting next season to get back into the top 8. – Guatemalan Marie Gomar is entered; she’s got just one previous LPRT appearance (in 2014), and didn’t have any international appearances for more than 5 years. With the retirement of Gaby Martinez, Gomar has ascended to #2 in Guatemala and is representing her country for the first time in years.
What’s at stake from a rankings perspective? The top 2 are locked in for the year, and there’d have to be a pretty big upset of the 3-5 players for any change to happen there. The players ranked 6-10 however are each separated by smaller numbers of points, where a run to the semis could make a big change in the rankings thanks to the double points in this Grand Slam event.
Interesting round of 16 projected matches: – #1 Paola Longoria likely takes on Mejia in the 16s … again. They’ve met in the 16s two times already this year, including in the most recent pro event in Syosset (a brutal 5-game win for Paola Longoria). They also met in the finals of Mexican Nationals, an upset win for Mejia. Mejia seems to be in a points rut and needs a round of 16 win to get out of the 16-17 rankings range. Will it happen here? I favor Longoria, but i sense it’ll be a 5-gamer again. – The 8/9 match looks compelling: Amaya Cris versus Masiel Rivera Oporto . Colombia vs Bolivia, and two players who have very little history playing each other (just one match-up in 2014). Should be a good test for both. – #4 Alexandra Herrera vs Parrilla; Interestingly, Parrilla’s first match back from her knee injury in March was also against Herrera, in March at Mexican Nats. They’re 4-4 career h2h, but Herrera has won the last three. Parrilla’s had 3 months to improve fitness and knee stability; can she get the upset here?
Otherwise, i’m mostly predicting chalk in the round of 16.
Projecting the quarters: – #1 Longoria over #8 Amaya; Longoria is 9-0 versus Amaya on the LPRT, 13-0 including IRF events. – #5 Rhonda Rajsich over #4 Herrera; despite their ranks, Rajsich has never lost to Herrera, holding a 10-0 career h2h record. They’ve met in the quarters of the last two pro events too, both Rajsich wins … but they’ve both been 5-game marathons. I think Rajsich advances again, and once again its 5 games. – #3 Maria Jose Vargas vs #6 Natalia Mendez; these two just can’t get away from each other; after never playing prior to March … they’ve played each other 4 times in the last 3 months, including in the qtrs of the last three pro events. The two Argentinians (who are also doubles partners) likely face off again …and Vargas likely wins for the 5th straight time. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis vs #7 Nancy Enriquez; they are projected to meet for the 3rd time this season. Enriquez has a couple of career wins over Salas, but they’re forever ago and Salas advances here.
projected Semis: – Longoria over Rajsich; this would be the 5th semis meeting between these two this season … Paola’s got the first four, but it was a 5-gamer in Syosset. – Salas over Vargas: they’ve met in the last three pro events; Vargas won on home soil in Bolivia, but Salas won the last two meetings rather easily.
Predicted final: Longoria over Salas. This has been the final in 7 of the 9 pro events this season … so might as well be the final in the last one too.
——————————- Doubles preview
This event is serving as a warm-up event for a few national doubles teams for the forthcoming Pan Am games: the two top Mexican teams, the Argentinian team, and the Guatemalan team are all competing here (interestingly it seems like the Ecuadorian women’s team went to the Black Gold event instead of Kansas City to practice, competing in the Men’s open doubles event).
I’m going with #1 Longoria/Salas vs #5 Lotts/Munoz in one semi, #3 Herrera/Mejia vs #2 Vargas/Mendex in the other semi, and an all-mexican final with the top team winning.
Fun fact: LPRT commissioner Tj Baumbaugh is signed up, her first playing appearance on the pro tour since Aug 2016.
——————————– Follow LPRT on facebook for streaming; veteran broadcaster Timothy Baghurst is making the short drive from OK to KS to help broadcast this weekend.