Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Paola Longoria's winning streak

Paola Longoria, the #1 women's racquetball player in the world, is unbeaten since May 2011. But how many consecutive matches has she won?

This was discussed during the webcasts of the Christmas Classic on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) on the weekend (via the LPRT Network), and The Racquetball Blog staff have gone back to look at our records to see what's happened since May of last year.

There have been 13 Tier 1 or Grand Slam events over this period. Longoria played four matches in each of those events except for the two US Opens, where she played five matches each. Thus, she's won 54 matches in a row [(11 * 4) + (2 * 5)].

However, there were also two satellite events last season: one in Cincinnati and one in Fullerton, California. Longoria played in both, although she only played three matches in Cincinnati; she played four in Fullerton. But are we counting satellite events in the streak, because the full compliment of players isn't always at such events? (although the fields in both of last year's satellite events were stronger than in some of the satellite events from previous seasons).

If we are counting satellites, then Longoria's winning streak is at 61 matches in a row (54 + 7), as we reported on Sunday after Longoria won the Christmas Classic in Arlington, Virginia.

International Competition

But during this period Longoria has also competed in three major international competitions: the 2011 Pan American Games, the 2012 Pan American Championships and the 2012 International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships.

Longoria won six matches at the Pan Am Games - two in pool play and then four in an elimination round, six at the Pan American Championships - two in pool play and four in elimination rounds, and five at the World Championships. Thus, we could add 17 match wins to the 61 Longoria's had on the pro tour. That would put her winning streak at 78 matches.

In two of those competitions - the Pan Am Games and Worlds - there was a team competition as well. Longoria played twice in the Pan Am Games team competition and four times in the team competition at Worlds, winning all of those matches. Add those six to 78 and you get 84.

How many wins in a row?

So, Longoria's won 54 or 61 or 78 or 84 matches in a row depending on what you want to include in the streak.

Of course this only counts singles wins and Longoria's got several doubles wins (all with Samantha Salas) during this period as well.

Other aspects of the LPRT streak

Longoria's most frequent opponent during this period has been Rhonda Rajsich, who she's played in 12 of the 13 Tier 1/Grand Slam events (and 1 of the 2 satellite events).

But Longoria's second most frequent opponent may surprise you, because it's Grace Hughes, who's played Longoria five times. Krystal Csuk, Samantha Salas and Jennifer Saunders have each played Longoria four times since May 2011 (Csuk's played five times, if we're including the satellite events).

Only Rajsich, Saunders and Maria Jose Vargas have won even one game against Longoria during this period. Yes, in Longoria's 54 victories she's won 162 games and lost only 8 (six to Rajsich, one each to Saunders and Vargas). That's a 95.3 winning percentage.

Rajsich, Saunders and Vargas are three of the five players to score the most points (on average) against Longoria. Rajsich is averaging 24.8 points a match (12 matches), Saunders and Vargas 17.5 each (in 4 and 2 matches, respectively). Also, Jessica Parrilla and Sheryl Lotts got 22 and 18 points against Longoria, but each of them have only played Longoria once in this period.

Sarah Warhaftig has the dubious distinction of getting the most doughnuts from Longoria. She's received three of the fourteen doughnuts Longoria's served up during the streak. Other multiple doughnut recipients are Csuk, Hughes, and Mariana Tobon (2 each).

Perhaps curiously Kerri Wachtel has only played Longoria once during this period and that was in the final of the Cincinnati satellite tournament last January, when Longoria won in three straight games with Wachtel scoring 16 total points.

Longest ever?

The records of women's pro racquetball are incomplete, so we're not sure if Longoria's match streak is the longest ever. But in our records, we've got Michelle Gould winning 16 events in a row from 1994 to 1997. Thus, Longoria's 13 tournament winning streak isn't the longest in women's pro racquetball history.

But Longoria's streak is the second longest (according to our records). Lynn Adams and Jackie Paraiso also had double digit winning streaks - both with 10 in a row. Cheryl Gudinas won 8 in a row in 2002-2003 and Rajsich 6 in 2008.

Other women with multiple tournament winning streaks are Christie Huczek (nee Van Hees) with 5, Shannon Wright 5, and Peggy Steding and Caryn McKinney with 4 each. Interestingly, Heather McKay, who some might argue was the best women's player of all time, only ever won three tournaments in a row, which speaks to the quality of her opponents as she was often battling with Wright and especially Adams.

When will it end?

We don't advise betting against Longoria for the near future. We don't know if Vegas will even give you odds on beating her; ok, they probably will, but we're not suggesting you take them.

Longoria's only 23, so time is clearly on her side. But there are players coming up who could challenge her, including Vargas and Parrilla.

We still think Rajsich could defeat Longoria. Twice during the streak Rajsich has been up 2-0 against her, but both times Longoria came back to win.

Longoria is human, so she can be beaten. But she's a human who's very, very good at racquetball, so it will take something special to do it.

Follow the bouncing ball….

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