Pro Racquetball Stats/Top 5 Predictions for the Remainder of the 2019-20 Season.
Welcome to the 2nd half of the 2019-20 IRT season, racquetball fans! We’ve already seen six Tier 1/Grand Slams in the books this season, and we have at least another six Tier 1/Grand Slams on the slate for spring, with perhaps more to be announced (in fact in some breaking news the Florida Event has just been announced for late April, and a new event for mid-June in Atlanta has been put onto the schedule).
Here are five predictions on what will happen the rest of the way out this season:
(Reminder: these are in the opinion of Todd Boss, not the IRT. This is for entertainment purposes only, no offense intended, etc. etc.).
Prediction #1. Kane will win his 14th title…But will lose a match between now and the end of the season.
The first prediction probably isn’t that groundbreaking, considering that Kane has yet to be beaten on the court this year. But he’s going to have to work a bit to get the title; he has about the same amount of points to defend in the spring as Rocky, but he’s slightly behind Alejandro Landa in YTD points right now.
But I’m predicting that Kane drops another match on the court at some point this year. It is hard to stay 100% healthy deep into your 30s, and I’m guessing that somewhere along the line, Kane runs into a nagging injury that costs him a match, either on the court or by virtue of a forfeit. The schedule in Jan-Feb is tough. Three straight weeks of Tier 1s, including the Tier 1 “plus” Lewis Drug Pro-Am in Sioux Falls that generally gets the best and biggest draws outside of the US OPEN. I wonder if we’ll see “load management” out of some of the IRT’s veterans to get through this section of the season. I hope not; the Sioux Falls event is great, and the Lou Bradley Memorial deserves a great showing since it’s a Tier 1 for the first time. But if it does, more opportunities for upsets and surprise runs from younger players.
Prediction #2: Landa will pip Carson for #2 at year end… But Carson holds off Parrilla for #3
Carson dropped out of the top 2 on tour at the end of the Portland ToC event for the first time (save a brief period in 2016) in nearly a decade. After making the semis or better in all nine tournaments last season, he’s been upset in the quarters or earlier in 3 of the first six events this season. This has enabled Landa to take over #2 this season at the halfway point. But the news doesn’t get much better for Rocky the rest of the way: Rocky has 400 more points to defend from the 2nd half of last season as compared to Landa, and Landa already has 300 more earned points this season. And. We got word over the holiday break that Carson had to have a small knee procedure done, which will cost him the Longhorn Open (just the second pro tournament he’s missed since Aug 2000, amazingly) and will rob him of vital opportunities to gain/retain points.
A better question might be this: can Parrilla overtake Rocky for #3 by season’s end? Rocky has a sizeable current lead in the rolling-12 month points standings over Parrilla for #3, but as noted above has significantly more points to defend in the season’s second half. Rocky earned roughly 1,770 points from Jan 2019-season’s end, as compared to ~1,365 for Landa and ~1305 for Parrilla. Parrilla’s big problem now is his #4 ranking; he’s set every tourney for a tough 4/5 quarter, then feeds into Kane in the semis making it hard for him to make a final (or win the event) unless there’s a significant upset or Kane skips an event. Parrilla may need a tourney win to eclipse Carson for #3 this season.
Nonetheless, there are some exciting battles to watch for at the top.
Prediction #3: Eduardo Portillo will finish Top 10… But not Top 8.
One of the big risers this season has been the young Mexican Portillo, who won Junior Worlds 18U in 2018 and is making a full-time push on the pro tour. Playing half time last season, he finished 17th on tour, making the main draws in all five events he entered. He’s continued that streak of making the main draw in every event he enters this season, throwing in a couple of solid wins over top players to make the Semis in Arizona.
Portillo currently sits 10th in the rankings, 9th in season-to-date. But he’s gone one-and-done in the last two pro events at the hands of his direct competitors for the last top 10 spots (Franco and Montoya respectively) and needs to gain success in these matches to take the next step.
Prediction #4: Moscoso will make the Bolivian Open final again.
The Bolivian Grand slam is set to occur in mid-May 2020, a month and a half later than it was held in 2019. Right now, Moscoso sits 7th in the rolling 12-month rankings and 7th in season-to-date rankings, but he’ll lose a significant chunk of his ranking points in early April when the points from his 2019 Bolivian GS event expire. This will send his ranking down significantly, probably into the 13-14 range, unless he plays several events this spring (which it’s looking like he may do; he’s entered into the Longhorn open and may be a presence in the next three events). Wherever he ends up seeded, though, it shouldn’t stop him from making a similar run to the final as long as he’s on the opposite side of Kane.
Who will he play there? Will we see Kane make the trip this year? I certainly hope so: I think the Bolivian crowd would love to see a rematch of the US OPEN Final between Kane and Conrrado.
Prediction #5: The end of the season will see several “Retirements” of long-time touring players
I can’t read minds, and I won’t name names, but fans of the sport can already see a number of long-time touring players taking significant steps back already this season. In some cases, sponsorship changes have forced players to make hard choices about the costs of touring. In other cases, the realities of the current state of the game have exposed their true talent levels, and they find themselves struggling to even qualify for the main draw any longer. Without making the 16s, there’s no prize money, which makes it that much harder to justify the costs going to the next event. This is the reality of a sport like ours.
Bonus Prediction: 2nd half should see more Mexican players playing Tier 1s.
The locations of the six tourneys on the schedule for the spring of 2020 are: Austin, Sioux Falls, Sun Prairie WI, Chicago, Bolivia, and Denver. We also had a couple of additional stops on the schedule (New York and Chihuahua, which have been removed from the schedule). The nice part about these stops? A lot of them are in easy airline hubs or close to/in Mexico, making it a lot easier from a cost perspective for the up and coming Mexican contingent of players to attend.
So here’s hoping that guys like Mar, Estrada, Natera, Martell, Cardona, Garay, Ochoa, Alonso, Longoria and the like play more this spring.
Happy New Year and here’s to an exciting 2nd half of racquetball!
Photos By: KSphotography