Saturday, March 26, 2016

2016 Pan Am Championships - Semi-finals

Mexico, the host country for the 2016 Pan American Championships, which are being played in San Luis Potosi, has a chance to sweep the gold medals Saturday, as they have players in the finals of Men's and Women's Singles and Doubles. Hometown hero and top seed Paola Longoria has a chance to win two gold Saturday, as she is in the Women's Singles final and the Women's Doubles final with Samantha Salas.

Longoria reached the singles final by defeating Jenny Daza of Bolivia, 15-13, 15-5. They were close through game on. In fact, Daza was up 12-11, and seemed to have momentum, when she hit a fault serve. With the one serve rule in effect at these championships, Daza lost serve, and allowed Longoria to regain momentum, which the reigning two time World Champion did. After Longoria pulled out game one, she was never threatened, going up 10-1 in game two on route to a straight game victory.

Frédérique Lambert, the tournament's 2nd seed, will face Longoria in the Women's Singles final Saturday, and she didn't have nearly as easy a time in her semi-final match, as she needed three games to see off Guatemalan teenager Gabriela Martinez, 15-9, 14-15, 11-5.

In game one, Martinez was up 6-2, but Lambert then scored nine straight points to lead 11-6, and went on to win 15-9. But the roles were reversed in game two, as Lambert led 10-5, only to see Martinez come back to trail by two at 12-10, and then one at 13-12, then tie it at 14-14.

Martinez got the game winning point when Lambert skipped a shot that she was trying to touch back to the front wall.

In the tie-breaker, Lambert served first, and got the first point. Several rallies later, Martinez tied it at 1-1, but that would be the last tie of the match, as Lambert went out to a 4-1 lead. Martinez drew close at 7-5, but she didn't score another point from there, as Lambert took the breaker 11-5.

Lambert's been using a kiss lob serve to the left side primarily in San Luis Potosi, and did so throughout the semi-final. Martinez used a variety of serves in the match to try to keep Lambert off balance, and it was nearly a winning strategy.

Men's Singles

The Men's Singles will also be a battle between the top two seeds, as 1st seed Daniel De La Rosa of Mexico plays 2nd seed Jake Bredenbeck, and just as on the women's side, the top seed won his semi-final in straight games, while the second seed needed three games to advance.

De La Rosa beat Fernando Rios of Ecuador, 15-12, 15-7, in one semi with Bredenbeck defeating Javier Mar, 15-8, 14-15, 11-6, in the other. Bredenbeck looked like he was going to win in two straight games, when he lead 14-9 in game two. But Mar battled hard, fought off three match points, and hit some nice backhand pinch shots to come back and force the tie-breaker.

In the breaker, Mar led early at 4-1, and looked like he was going to complete the comeback. But Bredenbeck scored eight unanswered points to lead 9-4, and that put the writing on the wall. Mar did score two more points before Bredenbeck closed it out 11-4 to advance to the final.


In doubles, the top seeded Mexican teams are in the final, but neither is playing the second seeded teams, as the USA and Ecuador split matches with the third seeds defeating the second seeds in each case.

On the women's side, Longoria and Salas beat Canadians Lambert and Jennifer Saunders, 15-5, 15-8, while Americans Kelani Bailey and Michelle Key came back to defeat the Ecuador team of Maria Paz Muñoz and Veronica Sotomayor, 11-15, 15-14, 11-5.

Those wins set up the first Mexico-USA Women's Doubles final at the Pan American Championships since 2013, when Americans Sharon Jackson and Rhonda Rajsich defeated Longoria and Salas in the final. We believe that's the last time Longoria and Salas have lost a doubles match.

On the men's side, two exciting tie-breakers were needed to determine the semi-final winners. In one, Mexicans Javier Moreno and Alejandro Landa defeated Canadians Pedro Castro and Tim Landeryou, 15-11, 14-15, 11-4, while in the other Rios and Jose Daniel Ugalde of Ecuador came back from a game down to see off Americans Bredenbeck and David Horn, 10-15, 15-1, 11-4.

After dropping the first game to Mexico, Castro and Landeryou took a 9-0 lead in game two, and looked to be lock to force a tie-breaker. But Moreno and Landa came all the way back, and then some, as they led 14-13. But Moreno skipped match point, which gave the Canadians back the serve, and they won the game on another Moreno skip.

In the breaker, Canada went up 3-1, but Mexico came right back, helped by three winners from the left-handed veteran Moreno, to lead 5-3. The Mexicans extended that lead to 10-3, as the Canadians couldn't score any points in four times with the serve. One more point for each side, and Mexico won 11-4.

The USA was in control in game one of the other semi-final, as Bredenbeck and Horn took a 14-4 lead on Ecuador. Ugalde especially seemed off, as he skipped six shots in that period of play. But he and Rios didn't quit, and scored six points before the Americans closed out the first game, 15-10.

Those half dozen points seemed to give the Ecuador players the lift they needed, as they went up 9-0 in game two, holding the USA off the scoreboard on four occasions (though one of those was the start of the game, when the Americans only had one server).

Bredenbeck and Horn had two more chances to serve, but only scored one point from those chances, so Ecuador won game two 15-1.

The tie-breaker was close early, as they teams were tied at 1-1, 2-2, and 3-3. But perhaps a telling play of the match happened at 3-3, when a ball came around the left side into the middle, and the Americans got their signals crossed as to who was going to play it. Thus, neither did, and Ecuador took the lead 4-3.

Ecuador scored five more points without giving up serve, including three winner by Uglade, who played well after his slow start in game one. But he did skip a shot that gave the USA the serve back trailing 9-4.

But again, the Americans could only score one point before Ecuador got the serve back with a winner by - you guessed it - Ugalde, who also hit the match winning shot: a forehand reverse pinch to the front right corner.

After the match, Bredenbeck was upset at the outcome, and didn't shake hands with the Ecuador players, as he apparently he felt there were calls that went Ecuador's way that the Ecuadorian players could have overturned. It did seem that more appeals were won by Ecuador than the USA, but not all of them. Moreover, from the point in game one when the USA led 14-4, the Ecuador team outscored the USA 32-6, and while a few calls might have gone against Americans, they wouldn't have made up for that 26 point difference.

The win puts Ecuador in the Men's Doubles final for the first time, according to our records, which are admittedly incomplete. Nevertheless it is a great accomplishment for Ecuador, and especially Ugalde and Rios, who'll be a double medalist this year.

The final matches are being streamed live from San Luis Potosi via the International Racquetball Federation's (IRF's) partnership with the World Racquetball Tour (WRT). Go to the WRT website for the link to the live streaming.

XXIX Pan American Racquetball Championships
San Luis Potosi, Mexico - March 19-26, 2016

Women's Singles - Semi-finals

Paola Longoria (Mexico) d. Jenny Daza (Bolivia), 15-13, 15-5
Frédérique Lambert (Canada) d. Gabriela Martinez (Guatemala), 15-9, 14-15, 11-5

Women's Singles - Final

Paola Longoria (Mexico) v. Frédérique Lambert (Canada) - Noon Saturday

Women's Doubles - Semi-finals

Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas (Mexico) d. Frédérique Lambert & Jennifer Saunders (Canada), 15-5, 15-8
Kelani Bailey & Michelle Key (USA) d. Maria Paz Muñoz & Veronica Sotomayor (Ecuador), 11-15, 15-14, 11-5

Women's Doubles - Final

Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas (Mexico) v. Kelani Bailey & Michelle Key (USA) - 2 PM Saturday

Men's Singles - Semi-finals

Daniel De La Rosa (Mexico) d. Fernando Rios (Ecuador), 15-12, 15-7
Jake Bredenbeck (USA) d. Javier Mar (Mexico), 15-8, 14-15, 11-6

Men's Singles - Final

Daniel De La Rosa (Mexico) v. Jake Bredenbeck (USA) - 11 AM Saturday

Men's Doubles - Semi-finals

Alejandro Landa & Javier Moreno (Mexico) d. Pedro Castro & Tim Landeryou (Canada), 15-11, 14-15, 11-4
Fernando Rios & Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador) d. Jake Bredenbeck & David Horn (USA), 9-15, 15-1, 11-4

Men's Doubles - Final

Alejandro Landa & Javier Moreno (Mexico) v. Fernando Rios & Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador) - 1 PM Saturday

Follow the bouncing ball….

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