Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pan American Championships - Off Day Review

Tuesday is an off day at the Pan American Championships in Cali, Colombia, but there were some surprising results from Monday's last preliminary round matches. The draws for the elimination round are out, and things definitely look interesting, but it should only be seen as tentative at this point. More on that later.

Women's Divisions

The biggest surprise on Monday was Bolivan Jenny Daza Navia's victory over American Rhonda Rajsich, 15-12, 15-9. It was the second match of the day for both players, but their first matches were not equal, as Daza Navia easily defeated Diana Ortiz (Puerto Rico), 15-0, 15-1, while Rajsich went tie-breaker with Cristina Amaya (Colombia), winning 15-8, 11-15, 11-4.

Couple that with the short period between the matches (3 hours scheduled from the start of the first matches to the start of the second ones), and perhaps you have an explanation for the upset.

Still it's a shock, and the repercussions for the elimination round are huge. With the win, Daza Navia becomes the second seed, with Rajsich seeded 16th. This makes for a potential meeting between Rajsich and Paola Longoria in the round of 16.

Furthermore, Cheryl Gudinas Holmes (USA) is also on the top half of the draw, seeded fourth. She's had troubles of her own in the preliminary round, as she needed tie-breakers in two of her three matches.

It could be that the hot humid conditions are taking a toll on the older players.

Canadian Jennifer Saunders is also on the top of the draw and lined up to meet Gudinas Holmes in the quarters. Joining Daza Navia on the bottom of the women's draw are Samantha Salas Solis (Mexico), Frédérique T. Lambert (Canada), and Ecuador's Maria Paz Munoz, a semi-finalist in Girls 16 & under at last year's World Junior Championship.

In women's doubles, contrary to what is posted on the R2Sports.com site, the Canadian team of Josée Grand'Maître and Véronique Guillemette lost to Bolivians Daza Navia and Carola Loma. This again highlights how easy it is to make an error on R2, which is a great system, but those who are responsible for the scores on that site need to be ever vigilant to ensure that the information posted is accurate.

This is the fourth error in a high profile event that we know of regarding an incorrect score being entered on R2 (the others occurred in a recent WPRO event, last year's Canadian National Championships, and the Pan American Championships from two years ago). Professionalism in reporting racquetball results - and don't get us started on people entering the scores correctly, which is problematic also - needs to be higher. And it needs to be correct the first time it's entered!

The International Racquetball Federation's recent Strategic Planning session identified "excellence and professionalism in everything we do" at the top of their "Core Operating Principles," but it's easy to let this slip with the R2Sports site's ease of use.

Men's Divisions

The other shock upset Monday came in mens doubles, as the Ecuadorian team of Juan Diego Rodriguez and Fernando Rios beat Mexicans Gilberto Mejia and Javier Moreno, 15-8, 15-13. Reportedly, the Ecuadorians were full value for the victory.

The win could put them in the top seed spot in the draw pushing Mexico into the 5th seed spot, but that's only speculation as the elimination draw has not been released yet. If so, then there's a potential Mexico-Canada match up in the quarter finals.

Americans Ben Croft and Mitch Williams had little difficult in qualifying, winning their three matches in two straight games each, and will be the 2nd seed.

No shock results from the preliminary round of men's singles, so you may be surprised to see Americans Chris Crowther and Andy Hawthorne seeded 7th and 5th, respectively, in the elimination draw. But the seedings are based partly on how the USA did last year in the Pan American Championships, and last year's American men's singles players - John Ellis and Jose Rojas - both lost in the quarter finals, while the Canadians - Kris Odegard and Ryan Smith - made the semis, and Mexicans Alvaro Beltran and Polo Gutierrez were in the final (Beltran won).

Hence the Mexicans are the top seeds, having won their preliminary round matches and done well last year, and the Canadians are seeded 3rd and 4th, and the Americans 5th and 7th.

Other players to watch out for are Colombians Juan and Andres Herrera, who could benefit from playing in their home country. Juan Herrera could meet up with Beltran in the quarter finals, while Andres could meet Crowther in the 16s with the winner on track to meet Odegard in the quarters.

A final on court note: word is the Cuban team in Cali may have the most athletic players there. But they lack racquet skills and playing experience. But if they develop those skills and get more experience, they could definitely be a force in racquetball.

Off court issues

Any draws on R2Sports should be seen as tentative, because it was noted that one of the rules for setting up the elimination round was not being followed. The main issue is that players in the same preliminary round pool should not play each other in the first round of the elimination round. Quite sensible, but it has not been applied in all of the elimination round draws.

For example, the four players in Group 2 of men's singles - Kris Odegard (Canada), Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica), Santiago Canedo (Chile), and Mauro Barbosa (Brazil) - make up two of the first round matches in the elimination draw as it currently is on R2. Thus, the draws need to be reviewed prior to the beginning of the elimination round on Wednesday.

On a longer time line, tonight's Pan American Racquetball Confederation congress is scheduled for tonight, and one of the items on the agenda is the scheduling of the World Junior Championships, because there's a conflict with the Central American Games (CAG). Racquetball is one of the sports in in the CAG, which is a good thing because it helps get racquetball in the Pan American Games.

However, this year's CAG is in mid December, which conflicts with the traditional dates for the World Juniors Racquetball Championships. This will likely necessitate a move of the dates for World Juniors, because you know CAG isn't going to accommodate racquetball. They'd more likely drop racquetball before accommodating it, and no one wants that.

Thus, don't book those flights for the Dominican Republic, where World Juniors are to be hosted, for mid-December just yet.

Follow the bouncing ball....

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