Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Mexico defeats USA to win 2018 WRT Challenge Cup

Mexico defeated the USA, three matches to two, to win the World Racquetball Tour's (WRT's) first Challenge Cup on the weekend in Fremont, California. The Challenge Cup saw two Mexican players play two USA players in a team competition. Jake Bredenbeck and David Horn represented the USA with Rodrigo Montoya and Alejandro Cardona representing Mexico in a format like that used in Davis Cup (men) and Federation Cup (women) tennis competitions with each player playing singles twice as well as doubles. Mexico and USA split their first singles matches, and then the USA won the doubles to lead 2-1. But Mexico came back to win the event with two victories in the last two singles matches.

They split the matches in the first round of singles, as Bredenbeck defeated Cardona, 12-15, 15-1, 11-3, and Montoya beat Horn, 15-3, 15-7.

In tennis, it’s often said that doubles decides the winner in Davis Cup or Fed Cup battles, and in this Challenge Cup the doubles winner was going to be up 2-1 after they split the singles matches. The USA took the doubles match, but only narrowly, as Bredenbeck and Horn won 15-9, 4-15, 11-9, over Cardona and Montoya.

The Americans were ahead early at 5-1 and 8-3, but the Mexicans came back and took a lead at 9-8. But the USA got a sideout, and then won three straight points to end it, 11-9. Mexico took a timeout at 10-9, but to no avail. Thus, the USA held the advantage going into the second round of singles on Sunday.

In the second round of singles (or reverse singles), Cardona and Horn played first, and as in the doubles, they went breaker with Cardona squeaking out a one point victory, 15-13, 11-15, 11-10. In game three, Horn had the early lead at 5-2, but seemed to pick up a leg injury that limited him in the mid-game, as Cardona took the lead at 8-5, and then 9-7.

But Horn kept fighting, trying to do as much as he could given his condition, and got the serve back and tied the score 9-9. But Cardona took the serve back, and got to 10-9 with a solid forehand down the line shot. Horn fought off the first match point with a forehand shot from left to right, and then hit a crack serve on the right side that was just over the line for an ace.

He tried to do it again, but was short. Cardona won the rally after Horn’s second serve with a backhand cross court pass. The match winning point came as Cardona hit a second serve Z to the left side, and Horn put his backhand return into the floor.

Cardona’s win meant the Challenge Cup came down to the last match, and Montoya again came through for Mexico - just as he had in the first round of singles - as he beat Bredenbeck, 15-8, 15-12.

By the current WRT rankings, the USA should have been favoured, as Bredenbeck is #1 and Horn #2 with Montoya #4 and Cardona #5, although both the Mexicans have been ranked #1 in the past, as has Horn. Thus, the players were all close in skill level, which made for some great matches.

Thoughts on Team Competitions

The WRT Challenge Cup was an interesting competition, but it’s something we’ve seen before in racquetball. The Men’s and Women’s Team Competitions at the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships used to be a best of three matches: 2 singles and 1 doubles, although they have eliminated that at the last two World Championships and instead awarded points for player performances in singles and doubles to determine the team winners. But while Worlds doesn’t have a true team competition anymore, the 2015 Pan American Games did.

However team competitions are fun. Often in an individual sport like racquetball it can be awkward to cheer for one player over another, because that seems like a personal insult against one of them. But when the players are on teams, especially representing their countries, then it becomes clear who to cheer for - or against, which no longer feels like a personal insult to a player.

One twist on this Challenge Cup would be to expand it to more than four players, and maybe more than two countries. Perhaps the Intercollegiate model that uses a team of six players could be adopted, so that there were six singles matches in round one, then three doubles matches, then a reverse six singles matches to finish off.

And you could have a team of six USA-Canada players against a team of six Latin American players to make a broader field, which would make it more like golf's Ryder Cup or President's Cup, although both the USA and Mexico could likely come up with six quality players on their own.

Upcoming WRT events

The next two WRT events will be the Georgia Open in Atlanta, May 17-20, and then the Torneo Internacional in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, June 14-16. If you missed any of the action from Fremont, check out the WRT Facebook page or their YouTube channel.

2018 WRT Challenge Cup, April 14-15
Fremont, California

Singles - Round 1

Jake Bredenbeck (USA) d. Alejandro Cardona (Mexico), 12-15, 15-1, 11-3
Rodrigo Montoya (Mexico) d. David Horn (USA), 15-3, 15-7

Doubles - Round 2

USA d. Mexico, 15-9, 4-15, 11-9

Singles - Round 3

Alejandro Cardona (Mexico) d. David Horn (USA), 15-13, 11-15, 11-10
Rodrigo Montoya (Mexico) d. Jake Bredenbeck (USA), 15-8, 15-12

Follow the bouncing ball….

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