Friday, July 24, 2015

Carson & Longoria repeat gold medalists at 2015 Pan American Games

Repeat, repeat. That was the story for Men's and Women's Singles Friday at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, as the gold medalists from four years ago in Guadalajara won again. Paola Longoria of Mexico defeated Maria Jose Vargas of Argentina in the Women's Singles final, 15-12, 15-9, and American Rocky Carson beat Mexico Alvaro Beltran in Men's Singles, 15-11, 15-10. Both matches were highly competitive and very entertaining.

Longoria started well against Vargas, going up 4-1 in game one. But Vargas fought back, and tied the game at 7-7, then went ahead 11-7. Longoria called a timeout at that point.

When play resumed, Longoria got the serve back by forcing a skip from Vargas. Then she started lob serving, and five straight points came her way, making the score 12-11.

They traded points, and then Vargas short served at 12-13. Longoria called another timeout, and when she came back in Longoria scored two straight points to end the game 15-12.

In game two, Longoria again started well, and Vargas responded early, as they were tied at 5-5 and 6-6. Longoria then scored four straight points to go up 10-6. A Vargas timeout didn't help, as Longoria scored three more to make it 13-6.

Vargas scored her 7th point with a off speed z serve to the left that Longoria skipped. It was odd to see Vargas lob serving, as she serves almost 100% drive serves. However, desperate times can call for desperate measures, and down one game and 13-6 in the second against the reigning champion is a desperate time.

Vargas did make Longoria work for the title, despite being behind in game two. But the final two points were an anticlimax to a good match, as Longoria - also primarily a drive server - hit two kiss lobs to the left side, and Vargas went for kill shots as the ball came off the back glass but skipped both returns.

Carson and Beltran also had a great battle in the Men's final. Beltran said afterwards that he "knew it was going to be a battle" coming into the match.

Carson was ahead in most of their two games, but not entirely or ever really comfortably. Carson started the match strong, going up 5-0. But it was Beltran who scored the next seven points to lead 7-5.

Carson got four straight points after that to go ahead 9-7, and he stayed ahead, although Beltran was always within striking distance, including trailing 13-11. However, Beltran skipped shots to give Carson the last two points.

The final one came on a return of a Carson drive serve to the left side - Beltran's backhand. Carson served well all day, and indeed, all tournament. In the final he had eight aces or service winners, while Beltran had none.

Beltran felt that Carson's serve was a factor in the match, as did Carson, who said the "biggest difference was my drive serve" in the match.

Carson led most of game two, although Beltran went ahead 10-9 late in the game. It was a period of the match where momentum stalled for both players, as it took 14 rallies to go from 9-9 to 10-10.

It took another 14 rallies for Carson to end the game, and match, becoming the first man to win two Pan Am Games gold medals in Men's Singles.

Beltran has two gold in Men's Doubles, and has now medaled in four Pan Am Games going back to 1999, when he and Javier Moreno won the bronze medal in Men's Doubles. And they did win that as that year there was a bronze medal match.

Early in game two, the referee had the notion to stop the match prior to Beltran serving at 0-2 and measure the players' racquets. The result was a technical against both players as their respective racquets were too long. That must be a first in a racquetball competition, and it made the score -1 to +1 when play resumed.

Afterwards, Beltran said the incident "didn't effect the game," and that he and Carson were fine with each other's racquets as they were. Corson confirmed that he was fine with the racquets as they were. He felt it was "sad that the referees had to get in the middle of" the match, when the players fine with the conditions as they were.

Carson said it was "an honour" to win two gold medals, as "not too many athletes get to win one gold medal let alone two." Also, his achievement "hasn't really sunk in yet."

The Men's and Women's Team competition - best of three matches, two singles singles and a doubles - will begin Friday afternoon and conclude Sunday.

For updates during the event - between postings on the website - follow us on Twitter: @racquetballblog.

2015 Pan American Games - Toronto, Canada

Women Singles


1) Paola Longoria (Mexico) d. 6) Maria Jose Vargas (Argentina), 15-12, 15-9

Men Singles


1) Rocky Carson (USA) d. 6) Alvaro Beltran (Mexico), 15-11, 15-10

Follow the bouncing ball....

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