Los Compadres Auto Sales Open Recap | By Kelly R. Diesel
Winter weather keeps approaching, and the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) continues sheltering to the sunshine, warm-weathered states! In the Tour’s fourth Tier 1 (T1) tournament of the 2019-2020 season, the action has moved from Tempe, Arizona to Fullerton, California, for some great racquetball action in the Golden State. It was a final that everyone in the IRT community dreams about, and I don’t think anyone was disappointed in the effort shown on the court.
Round of 16s
#2 Rocky Carson, from Ladera Ranch, California faced off against Sebastian Fernandez, from Tijuana, Mexico in their Round of 16s at the Los Compadres Auto Sales Open. Carson seemed to be in full control in Game 1, forcing Fernandez to take a timeout at 8-3. Coming back from the timeout and scoring two more quick points, Carson was cruising, and Fernandez couldn’t do much. After several impressive rallies and tightening the gap at 12-7, Fernandez put some pressure on Carson, who responded with great Z-serves and fantastic returns to finish Game 1 15-10. Game 2 was a close battle between the two, Fernandez not letting Carson get a comfortable lead and Carson not allowing Fernandez hold the service box for long. At 9-6, fans thought we might see a tiebreaker, but Carson was sure to shut down those ideas and finished Game 2 at 15-10, ending it on a well placed down the line backhand for the match.
It was a Round of 16s matchup that most fans of the Tour would consider a toss-up with the unusual, inconsistent play #6 Daniel De La Rosa (DLR) residing in Gilbert, Arizona, has been demonstrating this season. DLR battled #11 Pan Am Games and World Champion Rodrigo Montoya from Chihuahua, Mexico, who has had his struggles early in the season as well. DLR seemed to be ready to prove a point, 15 of them in fact, and took hold of Game 1 15-7. Montoya responded in Game 2, stretching out for some athletic rallies and finding some great shots to the corners of the frontcourt, but it was DLR who had more gas in the tank at the end as he took Game 2 15-10.
Another Round of 16s matchup featured a battle of the giant from Marine, Minnestota, #12 Jake Bredenbeck, and the young phenom from Chuquisaca, Bolivia, who keeps climbing up the rankings, #7 Conrrado Moscoso. Bredenbeck let Moscoso know things weren’t going to be easy in Game 1, burying the ball in the frontcourt and keeping himself active on the extended rallies. Bredenbeck controlled Game 1 and finished it off 15-9, but seemed to use a lot of energy that cost him in the next two. Moscoso came out of the gates sprinting in both Game 2 and the Game 3 tiebreaker, absolutely owning every inch of the court and finding his way to another quarterfinal at 15-2, 11-1.
#14 Mario Mercado, from Cali, Colombia, gave #5 Andree Parrilla everything he could handle in Game 1 of their Round of 16s matchup. Parrilla, who has now only made two quarterfinals appearances in five IRT events, looked like he might not reach this one either as he and Mercado battled it out 15-14 in Game 1. Game 2 looked like the Parrilla the Tour, and its’ fans have grown used to seeing out there on the court, closing the door on Mercado 15-4.
Another great, unpredicted matchup in the Round of 16s was between #4 Alvaro Beltran, from Tijuana, Mexico, and #21 Eduardo Garay from Cali, Colombia. Beltran looked like the smooth, soft handed Mexican Monster that’s been on the Tour for over two decades in Game 1, finishing it at 15-8. Game 2 was a completely different story as Garay, who previously made only one Round of 16s in four IRT events this season, absolutely owned the court and achieved a small upset with a 15-5 victory. In the Game 3 tiebreaker, fans didn’t know who was going to pull it off, the Mexican Monster who is expected to win or the #21 Garay who is going for an all-time upset for his career. In the end, Garay gave the fans all they could ask for but came up short as Beltran won the match 11-9.
#8 Sam Murray, from Baie-Comeau, Quebec handled business in his Round of 16s match against #28 Javier Estrada from Chihuahua, Mexico. Murray had only made it past 50 percent of his Round of 16s so far this 2019-2020 season, but he looked solid in California. Estrada kept in close in Game 1 but lost 15-11, and Game 2 was in Murray’s full control as he took it 15-7.
Moscoso isn’t the only new guy on the block making noise this season, #9 Eduardo Portillo Torres, from San Luis Potosi, Mexico has also really shined in the early season. Portillo faced off against #10 Sebastian Franco from Cali, Colombia, and Franco showed Portillo grit. Game 1 went Portillo’s way at 15-7, but Games 2 and 3 didn’t pan out so well for the young star. Franco kept it close and battled his way to game point in Game 2, winning it 15-12 and used the momentum he found to close out the tiebreaker at 11-8. Franco seemed to slow the momentum Portillo was gaining throughout the first quarter of the 2019-2020 IRT season, but look for Portillo to respond in a big way in Portland, Oregon.
The always consistent #3 Alex Landa, from Juarez, Mexico, faced off against #17 Carlos Keller Vargas, from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Unfortunately for Vargas, who played great at the previous Arizona T1 last week, it was all Landa on the court in California. Landa started the game with a five-point unanswered stretch, which set the tone right away. Vargas managed to find four points of his own but was all he managed to find as Landa took Game 1 15-4. Vargas had a streak of his own to start Game 2 has he jumped out in front 6-0 on #3 Landa. A skipped attempt at a rollout from Vargas put Landa in the service box, and things got ugly for Vargas. A stretch of 12 unanswered points from Landa gave him all the momentum needed to finish Vargas 15-7 and advance to the quarterfinals.
Although Franco played a great three-game tiebreaker against the young up-and-coming star Portillo and found his way into the quarterfinals, that’s where his run ended has he faced off against #3 Landa. With a 7-0 stretch to start the match, Franco found himself in a hole early and never found a way out, losing Game 1 15-4. In Game 2 Franco showed more fight, scoring the first two points of the match and keeping it close for a hot minute. Landa found his way up 10-2, and Franco continued to battle, cutting his deficit to 10-6, but it wasn’t enough as Landa went on to win 15-7 and entered his second semifinal of the season.
#4 Beltran was absolutely on fire in Game 1 of his quarterfinal matchup against #8 Murray. A stretch of nine unanswered points showed just how in control of the match Beltran was, and he never let Murray find any light in Game 1, winning it 15-1. Murray didn’t roll over in Game 2, finding his way to some tough balls in the backcourt and keep rallies alive for a potential kill shot in the corners of the frontcourt. At 7-3 Beltran looked like he was beginning to pull away, but Murray dug deep and found some key points, cutting the lead to 7-6. Back-and-forth they went until they found themselves all knotted up at 13-13 in Game 2. Beltran scored another, 14-13, and Murray was forced to take a timeout at game and match point. A high lob serve that was tight against the wall, and a wrong guess from Murray cost him the match as Beltran put the return down the left side wall and clinched a spot in the semifinals.
A highly anticipated quarterfinal matchup between #5 Parrilla and #7 Moscoso lived up to all the hype. With both players scoring back-and-forth and keeping it tight, it was Moscoso who held a 6-5 lead in Game 1. Two bounces followed up with a skip in the backcourt from Moscoso gave Parrilla the lead at 7-6, and in the blink of an eye, a cross-court down the line dime followed by a Parrilla skip gave the lead back to Moscoso at 8-7. There was never more than a two points lead in Game 1 until Parrilla started to pull away toward the end and finished it off 15-13. Game 2 started similarly as Game 1 with both players rallying away scoring point for point. Parrilla found himself a 5-2 lead, and you could tell Moscoso was beginning to run out of gas. An excellent comeback effort at 5-8 had the crowd thinking there was something left in Moscoso, but Parrilla quickly turned away that idea and finished strong with a 15-7 win.
#2 Carson faced off against #6 De La Rosa in their quarterfinal match in Fullerton, California, at the Los Compadres Auto Sales Open. Over their careers, Carson and DLR have faced each other 26 times before coming into this match, so we knew we’d get a close battle before we started. DLR started the scoring off with four straight points, but it didn’t take long for Carson to even it up at 4-4. Carson scored five more of his own and nine unanswered, forcing DLR to take a timeout at 9-4. Carson kept the pressure on coming out of the timeout and scored two more before DLR found his way into the service box, trailing 11-4. Some terrific serves and bullets for backhands got DLR some momentum, and he bullied his way back into the match and tied it at 11-11. Five minutes passed without either player scoring a point, just battling for a chance to serve before DLR found his second lead of the match and extended it to game point, 14-11. Most believed DLR was taking Game 1, but not Carson, Carson dug deep and knotted it up 14-14. Carson took advantage of some balls left up from DLR and was gifted a skip in the backcourt from DLR to take Game 1, 15-14.
In Game 2, DLR’s energy seemed to have run out from Game 1, and Carson took advantage. At 7-2 with Carson serving, DLR battled his way back into the match and made it a close 10-7 deficit. Carson didn’t let DLR find any gas or momentum after his stretch of good play and finished off Game 2 15-7. Carson improves to an overall 17-10 against De La Rosa.
In the first semifinal of the night, we watched #4 Beltran battle #3 Landa in a matchup we’ve seen eight times coming into the night. Beltran has struggled in the past against Landa if you look at only the end results, which in the end is all that matters, but it’s always a pleasure to watch this high-profiled matchup. Both players started the night off going rally for rally, point for point, and we found ourselves knotted up at 5-5. A great cross-court pass from Beltran gave him a taste of the lead, and he extended it to 8-5. It only took Landa a couple of minutes to tie it back up at 8-8 before extending his lead to 13-8. With a game point on the line at 14-11, Beltran kept himself alive with some soft hands in the frontcourt scoring a smooth point, making it 14-12, but it wasn’t enough from the Mexican Monster as Landa finished him off 15-12.
In Game 2, we saw Beltran come out on absolute fire, similar to his Game 1 performance in his quarterfinal matchup against #8 Murray. Down the line passes, and soft hands gave Beltran a comfortable 6-0 lead before Landa was finally able to get in the service box. Landa rallied off several points of his own but still found himself behind at 10-5 before turning it up a notch. With even a small lead at 7-10, Beltran decided to take a timeout and catch his breath and postpone Landa’s momentum. Beltran’s plan seemed to backfire as Landa came out of the timeout hotter than before, rallying off seven straight points and taking it to match point at 14-10. Beltran managed to score two more points but couldn’t find his rhythm and lost, 15-12, with Landa advancing to back-to-back finals at an IRT T1 event!
In the other semifinal match of the 2019 Los Compadres Auto Sales Open, #2 Carson matched up against #5 Parrilla. Carson came into this match with a 4-2 overall record against Parrilla, but as all fans know from the action on Tour thus far, no one is safe out there on the court anymore. Parrilla got on the board first with skip into the front wall from Carson. A beautiful down the line strike from Carson put him in the service box, and there he scored four consecutive points. A back-and-forth battle led us to a 6-3 score before Carson started to pull away. At 13-5, Parrilla dug deep and started to show a comeback in the works, rallying off points and trimming the lead to 14-7, but it wasn’t enough as Carson took Game 1 15-7.
Game 2 was not kind to Parrilla, and things didn’t go his way. With an early and short lead after the start of Game 2, Parrilla was unable to come up with a terrific frontcourt finish from Carson, and his quick lead was erased with a tie game 3-3. Carson would go on to finish out the game and match and also held Parrilla to that short lead he once had. A 15-3 finish gives Carson an overall 5-2 winning record over Parrilla, and Carson advanced to his second IRT T1 final of the season.
In the 2019 Los Compadres Auto Sales Open final, we got to witness what many consider the best match of the 2019-2020 IRT season. #2 Carson faced off against #3 Landa, a matchup we’ve seen precisely 12 times in IRT history. Carson was the favorite coming into the finals with an 8-4 overall record against Landa, but Landa let his play speak for itself and not the records. Carson got on the board first with a smooth cross-court pass to the right side of the court that was no chance for Landa. Carson jumped out 2-0 before Landa got in the box and evened it up 2-2. With some baby soft hands in the frontcourt, Carson got himself into the service box but wasn’t able to do much as Landa smoked one of his own down the line. Landa scored three more points before Carson stepped into the box and completely took over. A run of nine straight points unanswered gave Carson an 11-5 lead. Landa cut the lead down to 11-8, but Carson continued to be on top of his game and finished it off 15-9.
Landa knew he had to play better and step it up in Game 2, and he did just that, his problem was that Carson never stepped down from his terrific play. Game 2 started with Carson jumping out to a 4-1 lead before Landa found some “plumbs” left up from Carson, and he took full advantage. Landa found himself with his first lead in Game 2 at 5-4 and continued to stay in front and keep the pressure on Carson. With an 11-6 lead, Carson was forced to take a timeout and find some momentum. Carson came out of the timeout with three straight points before Landa would strike again, 12-9. An absolute bullet that somehow didn’t burst the ball in play gave Landa a 13-9 lead, but Carson wasn’t going away. Three more points from Carson forced Landa to take a timeout, and we found ourselves in a 13-12 game. Carson came out on top of the timeout and pushed it to match point, 14-13, but this time it was Landa’s time to come back. Serving at 13-14, Landa forced Carson into a plumb set up with a great serve and buried it into the front wall for the point, 14-14. Deja Vu on Landa’s next serve as Carson again left a ball up that Landa took full advantage of and capped off Game 2 15-14, forcing a three-game tiebreaker.
In-Game 3, the Tour and its fans got their money’s worth and more! Back-to-back skips from Carson gave Landa the first two points of the tiebreaker, and Carson was visibly upset. Carson did get on the board shortly after with a great punch into the right corner, 1-2. A return the favor skip from Landa tied the match up at 2-2, and both players hit the pause button on the point-scoring. For eight and a half minutes, neither player scored until finally, Landa broke the standoff. Without letting Landa get more than a point away from him, Carson continued to battle, and we found ourselves at 6-6. A front wall to side wall crack and a shiner down the line gave Landa a two-point lead, 8-6, and forced Carson to take a timeout. Landa scored two more out of the timeout and held a 10-6 lead at match point, but Carson wasn’t ready to get off the court. With three points rallied off in about one minute and a half, Landa used his final timeout with a slim 10-9 lead. Coming out of the timeout, Carson placed one of the best shots of the tournament with his backhand down the line, making Landa turn all the way around just to watch is sail pass him, 10-10. Landa managed to return a tough z-serve from Carson and followed it up with a crushed rollout into the right corner of the frontcourt, placing himself in the service box with a chance to serve for the match. A great serve followed by great gets from both players ensued, and it was Landa who pinched a match-winner into the right corner for his first T1 victory of the 2019-2020 season!
The Tour will be heading up north for the next T1 tournament of the season, the 2019 SPC John A. Pelham Memorial Tournament of Champions from December 5-8 in Portland, Oregon. You can catch all the racquetball action online for free at the Tour’s multiple social media platforms!