Friday, April 3, 2015

Semi-final madness at 2015 Pan American Championships

More tie-breakers were needed Friday at the XXVIII Pan American Racquetball Championships in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in the semi-finals of the Men's and Women's Singles and Doubles events. Mexico is in three of the four finals, and the other is an all-American affair.

In Men's Singles, Americans Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz will battle it out in the final, as they beat their Bolivian opponents in the semi-finals. Bredenbeck defeated Carlos Keller in two close games, 15-13, 15-13, and Diaz beat Conrado Moscoso in a tie-breaker, 10-15, 15-13, 11-6.

Bredenbeck led the whole way in a close first game. He did have a 13-7 advantage in the middle of the game, but Keller closed it to a single point at 13-12 and 14-13, before Bredenbeck finished it off.

In game two, they were again close throughout with Bredenbeck holding a slight advantage, although they were tied at 7-7 and 10-10. Keller went ahead 13-12, and looked like he might force a tie-breaker. however, Bredenbeck held firm, and won it on his first match point opportunity with a forehand pinch winner to the front right corner. Keller appealed the shot, but one line-judge agreed with the referee that it was a good shot, so the call stood.

In the other semi, Moscoso won the first game relatively comfortably, as the 15-10 score flattered Diaz who scored most of his point late in the game. However, Diaz took the early advantage in game two going out to a 8-2 lead. Moscoso dug in and came back to tie it 10-10.

He then eked ahead to lead 13-11, but lost the serve on a called skip that he appealed and again one line-judge agreed with the referee that it skipped so the call stood. Diaz won out the game from there scoring four straight points to win it 15-13.

In game three, Diaz again went out to the early lead, going up 5-0, although it took fourteen rallies to get there with several sideouts and a couple of hinders along the way. Moscoso closed the gap to one point with three winners and a service return skip by Diaz, making it 5-4.

Diaz took a timeout, then hit a backhand pinch when play resumed to regain serve, and extended his lead to 7-4. A fault serve by Diaz, who was hitting backhand half lob serves to the left side - Moscoso's backhand, but this time hit one short, gave Moscoso back the serve, and he again cut Diaz's lead to one point at 7-6.

However, Diaz hit a winner to get the serve back, and then scored four straight points to finish the game and match. The last came when Moscoso skipped a service return.

The Women's Singles semis were not as dramatic, as both were straight game wins for Paola Longoria of Mexico and Veronica Sotomayor of Ecuador, although Sotomayor did need to come back in her second game with Cristina Amaya of Colombia to win it.

Longoria defeated María José Vargas of Argentina, 15-3, 15-8, while Sotomayor beat Amaya, 15-9, 15-14. Amaya was up 9-5 in game two versus Sotomayor, although Sotomayor came back and led 13-11. Yet it was Amaya who got to 14 first, leading 14-13.

However, Sotomayor got the serve back, and on her first match point opportunity, she drove the ball to the right side. Amaya hit a forehand cross court and Sotomayor finished the rally with a backhand pinch to the left corner.

In the doubles semi-finals, Longoria and partner Samantha Salas also won in two straight games, as they defeated Amaya and Carolina Gomez (Colombia), 15-6, 15-3. They will face Argentina in the final, as Vargas and Véronique Guillemette defeated Bolivians Carola Loma and Adriana Riveros, 15-11, 10-15, 11-6, in the other semi.

Argentina and Bolivia were close in game one, as they tied at 11-11. But Bolivia couldn't score another point, as Argentina got four unanswered to win the game, although they needed five tries to get the winning point.

Bolivia led throughout game two, although Argentina did tie the score at 9-9. But Bolivia was still able to win the game and force a tie-breaker.

In the breaker, Argentina led almost all the way. Bolivia made it close when Argentina led 4-3 and 6-4 but after that the gap was never less than three points. Guillemette hit the winning shot in three of the match's last four rallies, including a backhand that won it.

The Men's Doubles semi-finals were both dramatic, as both required tie-breakers to determine the winners. Mexico with Alvaro Beltran and Javier Moreno came out on top of the Dominican Republic's Luis Perez and Ramon De Leon, 14-15, 15-7, 11-6, and Costa Ricans Felipe Camacho and Teobaldo Fumero beat Venezuelans Cesar Castro and Cesar Castillo, 15-5, 13-15, 11-8, to put Costa Rica in the final for the first time ever.

Game one between Mexico and the Dominican Republic was close all the way. Mexico got to 14 first, and had two chance to win game one, but failed to convert them. When the Dominican regained the serve, De Leon, who was playing on the right side with Beltran hit two drive Z serves to Beltran, who skipped the returns. Previously, all the serves had gone to Moreno.

Then at 14-14, De Leon hit a jam serve to Moreno, and on the ensuing rally Beltran again skipped a shot.

In game two, Mexico took an early lead at 7-1, and never let the Dominicans get closer than four points, as they won comfortably.

The teams were close in the tie-breaker with the Dominicans holding a slim lead at 6-5. Then Beltran hit a forehand volley that seemed like a low percentage shot, but it rolled out, putting Mexico back in the service box.

Mexico then hit four winners two by Moreno and two by Beltran, which put them on match point at 10-6. The Dominicans had called a timeout at 8-6, but to no avail. On the first match point, Moreno held up for a shot, and the referee called a hinder. Mexico appealed that the call should have been an avoidable, and the line-judges agreed, bringing a great match to an anti-climatic end.

The Costa Rica-Venezuela match was messier and more controversial, as the players were more argumentative, especially the Costa Ricans.

After winning the first game, Costa Rica was up 7-1 in game two, only to see Venezuela come back to tie it at 7-7. Costa Rica again went ahead, and got to 12-9, although their twelfth point was earned after an appeal that they somehow won, and that was not a popular decision with the crowd watching.

Despite that deficit and strange calls, Venezuela came back to win six of the next seven points and take game two, 15-13.

The strangeness continued early in game three, as two calls were overturned, one that we thought the referee got right, yet was reversed by the line-judges, and one we thought should have been overturned.

They were close the whole game with no more than a two point difference between them until 8-8. Then Castillo skipped a shot to give Costa Rica back the serve. They called timeout, and when play resumed Camacho hit a winning backhand pinch and Castillo skipped another ball to give Costa Rica its first match point.

On that rally, Castro had a set up and looked to be going for a pinch shot, but the ball broke. Castillo hit a winner on the next rally to put Costa Rica half down, then on match point number three, Fumero hit a winner down the line on the right side to put Costa Rica into their first ever men's final at the Pan Am Championships.


We think the Men's Singles final is a toss up. Bredenbeck is a power player, but with the one serve rule in effect in Santo Domingo, he hardly drove serve at all in the semis, so that weapon's diminished. Diaz is great at keeping the ball in play; in one rally today he was on the floor four times, so we don't think he'll be overpowered by Bredenbeck. It will definitely be an interesting final.

In the Men's Doubles final, Mexico has to be favoured again. In fact, we think they had a tougher test against the Dominican Republic today in the semis than they will face from Costa Rica in the final. Although Costa Rica has surprised us in beating Canada and Venezuela to get to the final, so maybe they can do it again.

Longoria has to be favoured in the Women's Singles final, as she's the two time World Champion, and #1 professional women's player. But she's also a drive server, so she might not be as effective serving against Sotomayor, who is more of a control player.

The Women's Doubles final should also favour Mexico, as the three time World Champions Longoria and Salas are a tough team to beat. Vargas and Guillemette are a good team, and Guillemette has played well. She's playing the left side, and how she fares against Longoria's serve could be the key to the match.

You can see if we're right on our predictions live on Saturday by watching the streaming of the finals via the International Racquetball Federation website.

XXVIII Pan American Racquetball Championships
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - March 28-April 4, 2015

Women's Singles - Semi-finals

1) Paola Longoria (Mexico) d. 4) María José Vargas (Argentina), 15-3, 15-8
7) Veronica Sotomayor (Ecuador) d. 11) Cristina Amaya (Colombia), 15-9, 15-14

Women's Singles - Final

1) Paola Longoria (Mexico) v. 7) Veronica Sotomayor (Ecuador) - 11 AM EDT

Men's Singles - Semi-finals

5) Jake Bredenbeck (USA) d. 8) Carlos Keller (Bolivia), 15-13, 15-13
7) Jose Diaz (USA) d. 6) Conrado Moscoso (Bolivia), 15-10, 13-15, 11-6

Men's Singles - Final

5) Jake Bredenbeck (USA) v. 7) Jose Diaz (USA) - Noon EDT

Women's Doubles - Semi-finals

1) Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas (Mexico) d. 4) Cristina Amaya & Carolina Gomez (Colombia), 15-6, 15-
6) Maria Jose Vargas & Véronique Guillemette (Argentina) d. 2) Carola Loma & Adriana Riveros (Bolivia), 15-11, 10-15, 11-6

Women's Doubles - Final

1) Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas (Mexico) v. 6) Maria Jose Vargas & Véronique Guillemette (Argentina) - 2 PM EDT

Men's Doubles - Semi-finals

1) Alvaro Beltran & Javier Moreno (Mexico) d. 5) Luis Perez & Ramon De Leon (Dominican Rep.), 14-15, 15-7, 11-6
3) Felipe Camacho & Teobaldo Fumero (Costa Rica) d. 2) Cesar Castro & Cesar Castillo (Venezuela), 15-5, 13-15, 11-8

Men's Doubles - Final

1) Alvaro Beltran & Javier Moreno (Mexico) v. 3) Felipe Camacho & Teobaldo Fumero (Costa Rica) - 3 PM EDT

Follow the bouncing ball....

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