Saturday, October 7, 2017

Longoria & Lambert into LPRT Final at 2017 UnitedHealthcare US Open

Paola Longoria, the #1 player on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT), will have a chance to extend her US Open winning streak Sunday at the 2017 UnitedHealthcare US Open in Minneapolis, as she defeated Rhonda Rajsich in straight games, 11-7, 11-5, 11-6. Rajsich turned 39 today, but wasn't able to give herself a gift of another US Open final appearance.

Rajsich holds the record for most US Open final appearances with 11. Sunday will be Longoria's 10th consecutive US Open final, and she's won seven of those, including the last six.

It looked like Rajsich might be able to upset the six time defending champion early on, as she led 7-4 in game one. But she wasn't able to the lead, as Longoria came back with seven unanswered points to win it, 11-7. Longoria's game winner was a forehand pinch shot off a ceiling ball serve return.

In game two and three, the pattern duplicated itself, as Rajsich looked strong early, and was tied with Longoria at 5-5 in both games. But Longoria was the one able to finish each. Longoria won the match with a forehand reverse pinch from the left side of the court.

Thus, the Longoria-Rajsich rivalry will be renewed on Saturday in the semi-finals. They have met 58 times on tour with Longoria holding the advantage 43-15. But Rajsich did beat Longoria recently, when they met in the final of the 2017 Pan American Championship in April.

In the final, Longoria will play 3rd seed Frédérique Lambert, who defeated 7th seed Natalia Mendez, 11-8, 2-11, 11-2, 8-11, 11-8, in what was the first LPRT meeting between the two. The win made Lambert "super, duper happy," and puts her in the US Open final for the first time ever. She was a first time semi-finalist last year.

After dropping game one, Mendez stormed out to an 8-0 lead in game two, so easily won that game to level the match at 1-1. But momentum from game two didn't carry over to game three, as Lambert jumped out to the early lead, 4-0, and then 7-2. In game three, Lambert hit several effective Z serves to the right side: Mendez's forehand.

Mendez used a variety of serves through the match, and especially Z serves to the left side: Lambert's backhand. In game four, Lambert hit a couple of Zs to the right, as in game three, but they were not as deep, so Mendez was able to return them effectively, which led to Lambert using more lob serves to Mendez's backhand.

There were four lead changes in game four. Lambert led first, but Mendez led last, so she forced a deciding game five tie-breaker. In breaker, Lambert never trailed, but when it got to the end, it was nervy, as she served for the match four times. On the first match point, Lambert hit a drive serve to the right side, which may have been only second of the match, and Mendez hit a winning forehand return.

Lambert skipped the second match point, and Mendez fended off the third with a great backhand serve return off a lob serve. Mendez followed that up with a drive serve to the right, which was a winner, and made the score 10-8. She had a good chance to make it 10-9, but Mendez skipped a backhand pinch shot. That error gave Lambert her fourth match point, and that time she made good with a forehand cross court winner.

Over the last seven seasons, Longoria has only lost three times. But one of those was to Lambert. Sunday, Lambert will try to make it two, while Longoria tries to win her 7th US Open title.

The 2017 UnitedHealthcare US Open LPRT final will be at 10 AM Sunday at the Life Time Athletic Target Center club in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

2017 UnitedHealthcare US Open
Minneapolis, Minnesota - October 4-8, 2017

LPRT - Semi-finals - Saturday

1 Paola Longoria d. 5 Rhonda Rajsich, 11-7, 11-5, 11-6
3 Frédérique Lambert d. 7 Natalia Mendez, 11-8, 2-11, 11-2, 8-11, 11-8

LPRT - Final - Sunday

1 Paola Longoria v. 3 Frédérique Lambert - 10 AM

Follow the bouncing ball….

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