The Atlanta Open IRT Singles Recap
By: Kelly R. Diesel
The International Racquetball Tour (IRT) finished its’ first Tier 1 (T1) tournament this past weekend in Lilburn, Georgia at the Recreation ATL Sports Facility. The Atlanta Open kicked off the IRT season in grand fashion, with hundreds watching in-person at Recreation ATL and thousands more watching online. The season’s first T1 tournament didn’t get a chance to showcase the #1 ranked player on Tour, Kane Waselenchuk, who resides in Austin, Texas, but there was plenty of great racquetball action all weekend in Georgia.
Round of 16s:
Due to “personal reasons”, Waselenchuk was not able to attend this first event of the season and shook up the tournament draw right away. Because of Waselenchuk’s “forfeit by no-show”, Sebastian Fernandez, from Tijuana, Mexico advanced into his very first career IRT quarter-finals match. Fernandez ended last season as the #25 ranked player on Tour.
Rodrigo Montoya, from Chihuahua, Mexico is no stranger to the IRT and neither is his opponent from their Round of 16s in Lilburn, Sebastian Franco, from Cali, Colombia. Neither player had ever faced their counterpart before this match! Franco took control of Game 1 and after a tight start to their match, Franco rattled off toward the end and won 15-9. Montoya returned the favor in Game 2, not letting Franco get as many kill-shots and won 15-9. In the three-game tiebreaker, we saw more flashes of Game 1 from both athletes. A very tight start with neither player taking control, and the Franco stepping forward to finish out the match 11-7, sending Montoya home. Racquetball fans are certainly looking forward to more match-ups between Fanco and Montoya.
#5 ranked player on Tour, Alvaro Beltran, from Tijuana, Mexico had a relatively easy-going Round of 16, although he was against the ropes in Game 2! Gerardo Franco, from Monterrey, Mexico was defeated 15-5 in Game 1 of his match against Beltran, but gave the “Mexican Monster” everything he could handle in Game 2. After controlling most the match in Game 2, Franco let the Monster have to many killshots and let him regain his confidence to finish a tight Game 2 at 15-14!
Up and coming Tour star Andree Parrilla, from San Luis Potosi, Mexico didn’t have too much trouble in his Round of 16 against Carlos Keller Vargas, from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Parrilla finished Game 1 and Game 2 in a similar fashion, controlling the match from the start, and ending both games 15-8, 15-8.
Alex Landa, from Chihuahua, Mexico finished his Round of 16 match with Robert Collins, from Kapolei, Hawaii by scores of 15-3, 15-9. Landa came into the match with a 1-0 record against Collins, extending it to 2-0 all-time. Landa is ranked #3 on Tour while Collins is ranked 20th.
#6 ranked player on Tour, Daniel De La Rosa, who resides in Gilbert, Arizona had a tough time handling Eduardo Portillo Torres, from San Luis Potosi, Mexico in their Round of 16. De La Rosa took Game 1 15-12 after struggling to find gaps in Portillo’s game. Portillo found some gaps in De La Rosa’s arsenal in Game 2 and finished it off 15-13. In the three-game tiebreaker, De La Rosa showed why he’s in the Top 8 on Tour by taking his game to the next level and finishing off Portillo 11-4.
Samuel Murray, also known as “Big Canada” from Baie-Comeau, Quebec faced off against Mario Mercado, from Cali, Colombia in their Round of 16. Murray and Mercado came into this match with an even 2-2 overall record against each other, but it was Murray who broke the tie with a 15-12, 15-11 victory, advancing to the quarter-finals!
“Racquetball’s Iron Man/Golden Boy” Rocky Carson, from Ladera Ranch, California took the court against Eduardo Garay, from Cali, Colombia. The first 10 minutes of the match was played very tightly with neither player giving an inch, and Garay trailing just 5-3. Carson went on to show his dominance moments later and finished Game 1 15-5. Garay fought hard in Game 2, but didn’t have enough to overcome the #2 ranked player on Tour.
The quarterfinal matches at the Atlanta Open were every racquetball fan’s dream…each match ended in a three-game tiebreaker!
Fernandez came out sprinting against Franco in their Quarter-Final matchup, winning Game 1 15-5 in just 13 minutes of play! After an early 2-2 tie in Game 2, Franco stepped on the gas and never looked back, winning 15-6. Game 3 was an absolute barn-burner between Franco and Fernandez. Franco jumped out to a 5-3 lead before Fernandez battled back and took a 6-5 lead. After five minutes of play and both athletes just exchanging serves and no points, Franco battle for a 9-6 lead and ultimately pulled off the victory at 11-9, pushing him into the semifinals.
Coming into their quarterfinal matchup, Beltran had a solid 5-1 overall record when facing Parrilla on Tour. The #4 ranked player on tour, Parrilla, showed the “Mexican Monster” that overall records don’t mean everything! Parrilla started Game 1 on absolute fire and cruised past Beltran 15-6. The Monster looked like he wasn’t going to put up much of a fight, as he found himself down 9-3 quickly in Game 2. After a tremendous killshot from Beltran to get himself in the service box, the Monster rallied off six straight points to tie Game 2 9-9, and even pushed for a 15-14 win! In Game 3 Beltran couldn’t keep up with the fire Parrilla was playing with, and was sent home by a final score of 11-4. Beltran is now 5-2 overall against Parrilla, who advanced to his 4th career semifinal on Tour!
In the bottom half of the draw, the IRT and all its’ fans got to see #3 Landa take on #6 De La Rosa (DLR), a match-up the Tour has grown used to seeing Landa win (6-3 overall before the weekend). Landa took Game 1 relatively easily, never letting DLR find his rhythm, and finished with a final score of 15-5. In Game 2 Landa took an 8-5 lead over De La Rosa and it looked like it might be over early for the #6 ranked player on Tour. After taking a timeout at 8-5, DLR absolutely flipped the script and found his rhythm going on a consecutive 10 point run, finishing Game 2 15-8. In the tiebreaker, DLR took an early 5-0 lead before Landa rallied off five points of his own, tying the game 5-5. Game 3 continued to go back and forth until we were all tied up 10-10. Landa called a key timeout to catch his breath and find his way into the service box for his 6th opportunity at game/match point. A great serve down the left side wall and a tough return from DLR that hit the floor resulted in Landa advancing to the semifinals!
The last quarterfinal match of the Atlanta Open was one the IRT and its’ fans have seen over and over, Carson vs. Murray. Carson absolutely dominates their head-to-head record and continued his dominance over the weekend. After splitting the first two games of the match with Carson taking Game 1 15-10, and Murray taking Game 2 15-11, it was all Carson in Game 3. Carson went on to win Game 3 by a final score of 11-0, and extended his overall record against Murray to 10-0.
In the first Semi-Final at the Atlanta Open, Parrilla faced off against Franco, a match-up that has only happened once before on Tour with Parrilla coming away with the win. Parrilla started the match in control with a 6-2 lead in Game 1, before Franco started to battle back and tighten it up to a 7-6 lead for Parrilla. Unfortunately for Franco he could only find one more point in that first game, and lost by a final of 15-7. In Game 2 it was all Parrilla, quickly jumping out in front with an 11-2 lead. Franco stayed tough and battled back, similar to Game 1, but was defeated in the end by a score of 15-7.
In the other semifinal of the Atlanta Open, #2 Carson took on #3 Landa, Carson’s 68th career semifinals appearance and Landa’s 13th! In Game 1 it looked to be all Landa has he jumped out to a 9-2 lead and looked sharp. After some great “Z” serves and several flat roll-outs later, Carson closed the gap and only trailed 11-9. Carson was beginning to get hot and found his way back into the service box to find a way to overcome Landa’s lead and finish Game 1 with a victory, 15-11. Game 2 was similar but with Landa playing close from behind most of the game. Landa took a brief 12-9 lead in Game 2, but Carson stayed tough and squeaked out a 15-12 victory. Carson is now 8-4 against Landa in their career match-ups.
In the Finals of the Atlanta Open we got to witness #4 Andree Parrilla play in just his 2nd career IRT finals, we also got to see Carson play in his 75th! Parrilla and Carson had faced off five times before this Atlanta Open Final, with Carson taking three out and Parrilla taking two.
Carson got on the scoreboard first with an early 3-0 lead, before Parrilla came fighting back with two great serves of his own and finishing the rally, earning two points. Carson continued to push the lead in Game 1 and found himself with an 8-3 lead 20 minutes in. Parrilla climbed back once again and closed that Carson lead from 8-3 to 8-6 just four minutes later! This rally scoring pattern continued throughout Game 1, Carson taking a couple point lead to have Parrilla battle back and close the gap. Carson had a 14-13 lead in Game 1 as he finished it off with a magnificent killshot down the left side wall and finished off the game 15-13.
Game 2 started off in Parrilla’s favor as he jumped out to a 5-2 lead, but it only took a few minutes for Carson to knot it back up at 5-5. After a quick burst of points from Carson who lead Game 2 10-6, Parrilla decided to take a timeout to slow the momentum of Carson. Parrilla was able to score two more points after the timeout, but didn’t slow Carson’s momentum down enough as Carson took control and the match at 15-8.
The next IRT T1 event will be from September 19-22 in Laurel, Maryland for the 2019 Valentine Open, hosted by Tournament Director Tracie Valentine! For more details about the IRT or the Tour’s events, check out: www.irttour.com