Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Say it ain’t so! - LPRT changes match formats

The Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) announced this week via Facebook that they will be changing their match format to a best of 3 games - first two to 15, tie-breaker to 11 - from the best of 5 games format with each game played to 11. This format is effective immediately, so it will be in place at the start of the 2019-20 LPRT season, which begins next week with the Paola Longoria Experience in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, August 22-25.

Reasoning for the change was based on being consistent with other racquetball organizations. International Racquetball Federation (IRF) events use a best of 3 format, and the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) switched to the best of 3 format in January 2018 from the best of 5 format. Reportedly a vote on the LPRT format change was unanimous in favour of the change.

At the risk of sounding like the guys in the balcony on The Muppet Show, we have to ask “Does NOBODY care about TRADITION?!?!!” The best of 5 format has been used for decades in racquetball. Why abandon that? Just to be like everyone else? Is that a valid reason to making the switch?

When there is a major change like this one has to ask what is the problem being solved? Was there really a problem? The best of 5 format has been used in pro racquetball since the early 1990s. It distinguished the pro matches from non-pro matches. Best of 5 was part of the pro racquetball brand. Why abandon that? Are people really confused by whether matches are played to 11 or 15?

Now, while we'd prefer if the pro tours continued to play best of 5 games, as we'd previously stated when the IRT made this switch, rather than best of 3 games, we’re not too upset about the number of games in a match. But what we are massive proponents of is WINNING BY 2 POINTS. With the switch to a best of 3 games format, the LPRT will also have those games won by 1 point rather than 2, as in the previous best of 5 games format.

Winning by one point is inconsistent with every other sport that plays games to a limit (e.g., to 11, 15, 21, etc.). Every other sport - volleyball, tennis, squash - uses a win by 2 rule. Why not racquetball? We don’t have a good answer for that, and neither would any racquetball organization for why they insist on being different.

Canada remains the bastion of sensibility, where matches are played under a win by 2 rule. That just makes sense for a game in which serving is such a major factor. One serve - or one bad return - could be the decisive play of a match, when playing win by 1, and that’s just not good enough. Pretty much everyone in sport agrees on this.

Except racquetball people.

Follow the bouncing ball….

Monday, August 12, 2019

Summary of 2019 Pan American Games

The 2019 Pan American Games ended yesterday in Lima, Peru. Thus, the next Pan Am Games quadrennial begins today with the culmination being the XIX Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile from October 22-November 5, 2023. Let’s review what happened in Lima before we look ahead to Santiago.

Mexicans won five of the six events in Lima, sweeping the four individual events - Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles - and winning Women’s Team gold. They only came up short in the Men’s Team event, losing in the semi-finals. This was as impressive as it was unsurprising. Mexico has been the power to reckon with in racquetball for some time now, surpassing the USA as the #1 racquetball country.

Bolivia won gold in the Men’s Team event, which was the first gold for them at the Pan Am Games. Colombia was runner up in the Men’s Team event, capturing their first Pan Am Games silver medal. Also, Costa Rica won their first Pan Am Games medal, a bronze in Men’s Doubles, as did Guatemala: a silver in Women's Doubles. On the negative side, the USA came home from Lima without a gold medal, which was a first. Canada came home without a medal at all, another first.

Who will be in Santiago?

Lima may have been the last Pan Am Games for some players. Alvaro Beltran (Mexico) and Rocky Carson (USA) are both 40 (Beltran will be 41 in October). Rhonda Rajsich is a year older. Shai Mazuri (Argentina) and Jennifer Saunders (Canada) are also over 40. Will they be able to compete at this level in four years time?

There are also some significant players over 30: Cristina Amaya (Colombia), Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica), Fernando Kurzbard (Argentina) and Jenny Daza (Bolivia). Even Mexico’s Paola Longoria turned 30 in July, and Samantha Salas will be 33 in December.

Mexico shouldn’t worry, as there are several young Mexican players who will compete for spots on the Mexican team that will go to Santiago. Even from the team that was in Lima, Montserrat Mejia is still a teen-ager (turning 20 in December), and Javier Mar and Rodrigo Montoya - at 24 and 23, are not much older. With other countries, it’s more difficult to see who is coming up, even with the USA.

But there could be surprises. A few years ago Charles Pratt may not have been thought of as potential USA Team material, but he comes back from Lima with two bronze medals to go with the silver he earned in Men’s Singles at last year’s International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships. However, Pratt is also 33.

Will we see them?

While it’s great for racquetball to be included in a major multi-sport event, like the Pan American Games, it can - ironically - be the least available for racquetball fans, who have gotten spoiled from on line streaming that is done by the pro tours - both the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) and Ladies Professoinal Racquetball Tour (LPRT) - as well as at international events by the IRF.

The reason for lack of viewing at big events is clear: a major broadcaster has bought the rights for the event, so only it can show the sports. However, any broadcaster will be limited in what they can show to the public through their channel (or channels). Broadcasters are going to select sports with broader appeal, like basketball or baseball, over sports with narrower appeal, like racquetball. Thus, even though racquetball is at a big event, not much racquetball is seen by those not on site.

This must be the case with other smaller sports, so perhaps racquetball could band together with other small sports to try to address this issue with broadcasting rights holders at future events. In the past, broadcasting was expensive and difficult and only possible through televisions, but with the internet the costs and difficulty of broadcasting are way down, as computers and mobile devices are platforms for receiving broadcasts.

Small sports at multi-sport games should want to have their events seen by as many people as possible, which was difficult with old technology. But with current technology this should not be acceptable, and a solution should be found that can allow fans of small sports to see their sport showcased at major multi-sport events.

2019 Pan American Games - Lima, Peru


Men’s Singles

GOLD - Rodrigo MONTOYA (Mexico)
SILVER - Alvaro BELTRAN (Mexico)
BRONZE - Conrrado MOSCOSO (Bolivia)
BRONZE - Mario MERCADO (Colombia)

Women’s Singles

GOLD - Paola LONGORIA (Mexico)
SILVER - Maria José VARGAS (Argentina)
BRONZE - Natalia MENDEZ (Argentina)
BRONZE - Adriana RIVEROS (Colombia)

Men’s Doubles

GOLD - Javier MAR & Rodrigo MONTOYA (Mexico)
SILVER - Roland KELLER & Conrrado MOSCOSO (Bolivia)
BRONZE - Andres ACUÑA & Felipe CAMACHO (Costa Rica)

Women’s Doubles

GOLD - Paola LONGORIA & Samantha SALAS (Mexico)
SILVER - Gabriela MARTINEZ & Maria RODRIGUEZ (Guatemala)
BRONZE - Natalia MENDEZ & Maria José VARGAS (Argentina)

Men’s Teams

GOLD - Bolivia - Carlos KELLER, Roland KELLER and Conrrado MOSCOSO
SILVER - Colombia - Sebastian FRANCO and Mario MERCADO
BRONZE - Mexico - Alvaro BELTRAN, Javier MAR and Rodrigo MONTOYA

Women’s Teams

GOLD - Mexico - Paola LONGORIA, Montserrat MEJIA and Samantha SALAS
SILVER - Argentina - Maria José VARGAS and Natalia MENDEZ
BRONZE - Bolivia - Angelica BARRIOS, Valeria CENTELLAS and Jenny DAZA

Follow the bouncing ball….

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Team finals at the 2019 Pan American Games

Mexico won a 3rd consecutive Women’s Team gold medal at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru on Saturday, as they defeated Argentina in two straight matches. Bolivia won the Men's Team final two matches to one against Colombia to capture the country’s first gold medal in racquetball at the Pan Am Games. Despite the loss, Colombia’s silver medal is their first in racquetball at the Pan Am Games.

In the Women’s Team final, Paola Longoria beat Maria José Vargas, 15-4, 15-11. After a dominant first game, Longoria was down in the second, as Vargas led 9-5 and 11-6. However, Longoria - the gold medal winner in both Women’s Singles and Doubles earlier this week - came back to tie the game at 11-11, and then went on to win it 15-11, and give Mexico the first match of the final.

In the second match, Montserrat Mejia defeated Natalia Mendez, 15-12 15-10. Mendez led in the middle of game one at 7-5 and 9-7, but Mejia tied the game at 10-10 and 11-11. She then took the lead 13-11, and got to match point at 14-12. Mejia then won it 15-12.

Mejia carried that momentum into game two, as she took a 7-1 lead. But Mendez slowly worked her way back into the game, and tied the score at 10-10. But her points ran out there, as Mejia got the last five points to end the game, 15-10, the match 2-0, and the final two matches to none.

As Mexico won both singles matches, the doubles match with Longoria and Samantha Salas versus Mendez and Vargas didn’t have to be played. Longoria and Salas were the two players to win Women’s Team gold for Mexico at the last two Pan Am Games: in Toronto four years ago, and Guadalajara eight years ago. Mejia, playing in her first Pan Am Games, goes home with her first medal, and it’s gold.

The Men’s Team final came down to a deciding 3rd match, which was doubles, as they split the two singles matches. In doubles, Conrrado Moscoso and Roland Keller beat Sebastian Franco and Mario Mercado, 15-11, 15-2. The Bolivians had a lead in game one at 8-4, but Colombia came back to tie it 10-10. However, from that point on Bolivia outscored Colombia 20-3, as they closed out the first game and ran away with the second. A 9-0 lead in game two put the writing on the wall.

In the first match of the final, Moscoso beat Sebastian Franco, 15-12, 15-8. Franco actually led in game one, 5-1, but Moscoso tied the game 6-6. Franco again went ahead, 9-6, only to see Moscoso tie it again at 11-11 and 12-12, as he went on to win 15-12. Moscoso took a 7-1 lead in game two, and maintained a lead throughout the game.

That put Mercado in a must win situation against Carlos Keller in the second match of the final. Keller took the first game, 15-10, to add to the pressure on Mercado. He responded by winning game two going away, 15-3, in only 14 min, which was less than half the time it took to play the first game (31 min). Thus, Mercado forced a tie-breaking third game.

In the breaker, although they were close all the way. Keller had the lead for most of the game, but never by more than two points. Then Mercado caught up at 9-9, and he managed to close it out, 11-9, to win the match, 10-15, 15-3, 11-9, and force the tie-breaking doubles match.

Looking ahead, the next Pan American Games will be in Santiago, Chile in 2023. We fully expect that racquetball will be included in the program.

2019 Pan American Games - Lima, Peru


Men’s Team - Final


Conrrado MOSCOSO (Bolivia) d. Sebastian FRANCO (Colombia), 15-12, 15-8
Mario MERCADO (Colombia) d. Carlos KELLER (Bolivia), 10-15, 15-3, 11-9
Roland KELLER & Conrrado MOSCOSO (Bolivia) d. Sebastian FRANCO & Mario MERCADO (Colombia), 15-11, 15-2

Women’s Team - Final


Paola LONGORIA (Mexico) d. Maria José VARGAS (Argentina), 15-4, 15-11
Montserrat MEJIA (Mexico) d. Natalia MENDEZ (Argentina), 15-12, 15-10
Paola LONGORIA & Samantha SALAS (Mexico) v. Natalia MENDEZ (Argentina) & Maria José VARGAS (Argentina) - not played

Follow the bouncing ball….