Sunday, April 8, 2018

Landa wins 2018 IRT Cincinnati tournament, joins exclusive club

Alejandro Landa won his 2nd International Racquetball Tour (IRT) tournament Sunday, when he defeated Alvaro Beltran, 11-15, 11-7, 11-8, in the final of the IRT Mercedes Benz of Ft. Mitchell Raising Some Racquet for Kids tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio. Landa won his first career IRT event earlier this season at the Lewis Drug Pro-Am in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The win lifts Landa into elite company, as he now has a winning record in IRT finals (2-1). According to the Pro Racquetball Stats database only eight other players (who have been in multiple finals) have winning records in finals.

Unsurprisingly, Kane Waselenchuk has the best record in final matches, winning an astounding 109 times against 10 losses (91.6%). But the player with the second best final winning percentage may be a surprise, as it’s Brett Harnett, who won 16 times against 5 losses over 21 finals (76.2%). That’s ahead of Marty Hogan (60-22, 73.2%), Sudsy Monchik (43-24, 64.2%), Cliff Swain (71-42, 62.8%), Charlie Brumfield (16-11, 59.3%), Gregg Peck (4-3, 57.1%) and Jason Mannino (22-18, 55%).

(note: Sebastian Franco and Charlie Pratt have 100% records in finals, but have only played once).

Early in the final, it did not look like Landa was going to join that company, as Beltran played very well in game one, and controlled it most of the way. But it was a long game. For example with Beltran up 9-6, the game stalled, as they played twelve rallies at that score, and after eleven of them, Beltran took a timeout.

Landa broke the deadlock, but he was only able to score once, making it 9-7, before Beltran took the serve back with a forehand pinch return off a Landa drive serve to the right side. That led to four unanswered points, as Beltran made it 13-7.

However, Landa responded with a run of three points to cut the deficit to 13-10. But another winning serve return by Beltran - this time a backhand pinch off a drive Z to the left - stopped Landa’s run.

They traded a few sideouts, and then Beltran made it 14-10 with a great backhand splat shot. Beltran’s backhand pinch shots were very good in game one. Landa did prevent Beltran’s first game point with a forehand return down the line off one of Beltran’s signature lob serves to the right side.

Landa put one more point on the board to make it 14-11, but then a backhand cross court shot got Beltran the serve back. He ended the game with a backhand shot that hit Landa, and the referee judged it to be a straight in shot, so Landa was given a penalty hinder, and Beltran got his 15th point, winning game one 15-11.

Game two started out like game one, as Beltran took the early lead at 5-1. But Landa came back and tied it at 6-6. They were back and forth in the mid-part of game two with 17 rallies taking place to score 4 points in going from 6-6 to 9-7 in favour of Landa.

But from there, Landa rolled, scoring six unanswered points with Beltran serving only once during that period. After being down early in game two, Landa outscored Beltran 14-2, and he definitely had momentum going into the tie-breaker.

In the breaker, Landa’s momentum continued, as he went up 6-1, although that took 27 rallies, so it didn’t happen quickly. Beltran kept fighting, but he didn’t get within two until Landa was already on game point at 10-8.

After being unsuccessful on his first two match points, Landa called a timeout before his third. When play resumed a long rally ensued, which included a great diving get by Landa, but it was ended by Beltran with a flat forehand pinch shot.

But Beltran couldn’t capitalize on that opportunity, as Landa drove a serve return into the middle that forced Beltran to try to hit it between his legs, which resulted in a skip.

On match point #4, Landa won it with a backhand down the line that was just out of Beltran’s reach. He had lob served to the left side, and Beltran returned it straight in, but the return was in the middle of the court, which allowed Landa to drive it down the left side close to the wall, and out of Beltran’s reach.

If you missed the action from Cincinnati, you can see some of it via the IRT YouTube channel, although the latest videos are currently mislabelled as “2018 Shamrock Shootout.”

The 2017-18 IRT season concludes later this month at the Florida IRT Regional Championships in Sarasota, Florida, April 26-29. But the IRT players are also participating in the World Doubles Open Championship in Denver, May 2-6.

2018 IRT Mercedes Benz of Ft. Mitchell Raising Some Racquet for Kids, April 5-8, 2018
Cincinnati, Ohio


4) Alejandro Landa d. 3) Alvaro Beltran, 11-15, 15-7, 11-8

Follow the bouncing ball….

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