Saturday, March 26, 2016

Mexico sweeps gold at 2016 Pan American Championships

Saturday saw a Mexican sweep at the 2016 Pan American Championships in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, as players from the host country won all four finals in Men's and Women's Singles and Doubles. Paola Longoria won gold in both Women's Singles and Doubles with partner Samantha Salas, while Daniel De La Rosa won Men's Singles and the team of Alejandro Landa and Javier Moreno won Men's Doubles. This is the first year Mexico has captured gold in all four divisions.

And only Landa was a rookie Pan Am Champion, as the others have won gold previously. De La Rosa won Men's Singles in 2011 and Men's Doubles in 2014 (with Edson Martinez). Javier Moreno won his fifth Pan Am Championship with his fourth different partner. His previous wins were with Gilberto Meija (2008), Polo Gutierrez (2011 & 2013) and Alvaro Beltran (2015).

Longoria won Women's Singles for the seventh time Saturday, and she and Salas have now won Women's Doubles four of the last six years together. Salas has two other Women's Doubles titles at these championships with Susana Acosta has her partner, so she's won Women's Doubles at Pan Ams six of the last seven years.

You know it's not going to be a good day when you get called for an avoidable hinder on the first rally. That's how American Jake Bredenbeck's match against De La Rosa began, and unfortunately for Bredenbeck, it didn't get better, as De La Rosa was in control throughout the match, winning 15-2, 15-1.

It was a clinic on playing well at altitude, as De La Rosa didn't drive serve at all, and put the ball away when he had the opportunity. By our count, De La Rosa hit 37 winners against 6 errors in the match, with only one error in game two. Bredenbeck had 11 winners and 11 errors, and 8 of those errors were in game two, as the match took less than 30 min from start to finish.

Longoria's Women's Singles final against Canadian Frédérique Lambert didn't take much longer, as she also won in two straight games, 15-3, 15-6. Longoria got a good start in game one, going up 5-0, and only made one error in the game, which was when she was called for an avoidable hinder.

Game two was close early, as they were tied at 3-3. But Longoria took a lead from there at 5-3. From there she was never behind, as Longoria increased the lead to 11-5, and won 15-6.

In the match, Longoria made 30 winners and only 9 errors, while Lambert hit 14 winners against 15 errors.


The most competitive match of the day was the Men's Doubles final between Landa and Moreno and Fernando Rios and Jose Daniel Ugalde of Ecuador, which went Mexico's way 15-11, 15-10, although Ecuador led in both games.

In game one Ecuador led 6-1, only to see Mexico come back and tie it at 7-7, and then go up 13-7, as the Mexicans scored eight unanswered points.

Ecuador's eighth point came when Landa skipped a shot, and in frustration he hit the ball aggressively after the rally, which garnered him a technical from the referee, and made the score 12-8. Ecuador then scored two points from a Moreno skip and a Rios pinch shot, and it seemed like the Mexicans had lost focus and let the momentum shift to Ecuador.

But Moreno then hits a cross court shot to get Mexico the serve back, and they score two points to make it 14-10. Ugalde hits a great backhand pinch shot to get Ecuador back the serve, but they can only score one point, as Landa hits two winners to side out Ecuador, and then comes up with the game winning shot - a forehand pinch to the left front corner from deep.

Landa was the man of the match, as he had a solid game after not playing well in the semi-final against Canada, when Mexico needed a tie-breaker to advance to the final. On the other hand, Rios was off his game after being stellar in the semi-final against the USA. Rios didn't skip any balls in games two and three of that semi, but in the final he had 9 errors and only 8 winners, while the other three players each had approximately twice as many winners as errors.

In the Women's Doubles final, Longoria and Salas defeated Americans Kelani Bailey and Michelle Key, 15-5, 15-10. It's only the third time Longoria and Salas have played Americans in the Pan Am Championship final, and they are now 2-1. Previously, they had defeated Krystal Csuk and Rhonda Rajsich in 2011, and lost to Rajsich and Sharon Jackson in 2013.

The woman of the match might have been Salas, who made no errors in game one, and only three in game two against a total of 14 winners in the match. Longoria was also effective with 18 winners against 8 errors. The Americans were about 50-50 with winners and errors, as Bailey was 16 and 16 and Key 12 and 11 over the two games.

In game two, Bailey, who was playing in her first international event for Team USA at the senior level after several appearances on the US Junior Team, hit jam serves to the left, so the ball would travel around to Salas on the right side. The strategy was effective, as Salas had some trouble with those serves. However, Longoria adjusted to it by playing hitting the return herself, so the ball didn't get to Salas, which negated that serve's effectiveness.

Game two was close, and the USA actually led 5-4. But after being tied 6-6, Mexico got four unanswered points on two Longoria winners and two Bailey skips to lead 10-6. USA drew close again at 13-10, but couldn't get closer as Mexico closed it out when Salas hit a forehand winner for their second match point opportunity.

The next main international event will be the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships in July in Cali, Colombia.

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

Women's Singles - Final

Paola Longoria (Mexico) d. Frédérique Lambert (Canada), 15-3, 15-6

Women's Doubles - Final

Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas (Mexico) d. Kelani Bailey & Michelle Key (USA), 15-5, 15-10

Men's Singles - Final

Daniel De La Rosa (Mexico) d. Jake Bredenbeck (USA), 15-2, 15-1

Men's Doubles - Final

Alejandro Landa & Javier Moreno (Mexico) d. Fernando Rios & Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador), 15-11, 15-10

Follow the bouncing ball….

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