Saturday, April 20, 2019

Longoria & Keller Singles Champions at 2019 Pan American Championships

Paola Longoria of Mexico won her 8th Pan American Championship in Women’s Singles Saturday at the 2019 Pan American Championships in Barranquilla, Colombia, where she defeated Argentina’s Maria Jose Vargas in the final, 15-7, 15-2. Longoria last won this title in 2016, but was runner up the past two years to the USA’s Rhonda Rajsich. She was not going to finish 2nd a third time.

Carlos Keller of Bolivia successfully defended his Men’s Singles Pan American Championship by defeating the USA’s Charlie Pratt, 15-2, 8-15, 11-5. Keller is the first South American player to win multiple Men’s Singles titles and the first man to successfully defend the title since Mexican Alvaro Beltran did so in 2009 (that was the last year of three consecutive titles for Beltran).

In the women’s final, Longoria took leads of 8-1 and 11-2 in game one, and won by a comfortable margin. But Vargas did score some points late in the game, so seemed to build some momentum for game two. However, any momentum Vargas built was quickly snuffed out by Longoria in the second game, as she jumped out to a 6-0 lead. The Vargas got stuck in at the point, and there were nine rallies producing only one point, which was in Vargas’s favour. But she still trailed 6-1.

Longoria seemed to go into cruise control from there, and Vargas looked like she gave up the fight. Vargas only served three times from 6-1 to the end, and made a few bad errors. Also, she didn’t call a timeout in game two. The last rally was indicative of the match, as Longoria on a second serve hit a lob to the left side that kissed off the side wall. Vargas swung at the ball, but completely missed it. A sad ending.

But in the match Longoria took care of business, and she could be a double winner Saturday, as she’s in the Women’s Doubles final also with partner Samantha Salas. Her eight Women’s Singles Pan American Championships are a record, and twice as many as the women with the 2nd most. Americans Rajsich, Michelle Gould and Cheryl Gudinas all won Women’s Singles four times at Pan Am Championships.

In the men’s final, Keller cruised through game one only yielding two points to Pratt. But Pratt had dropped the first game of both his quarterfinal and semi-final matches, so he was in a familiar position.

Pratt took the early lead in game two at 3-0, but Keller came back and took over the lead at 7-3. Once again Pratt came back, and tied the game at 8-8. He scored seven unanswered points from there, while holding Keller at 8, to win game two, 15-8. Keller made some bad skips late in game two, which didn’t bode well for the tie-breaker.

Yet in the breaker, Keller took the early lead with three winners on the first three rallies to lead 3-0. They exchanged seven sideouts at that point, and there was the sense that the player who broke that stalemate would win the match. Pratt broke it, getting his first point of the breaker when Keller skipped a backhand serve return off a lob serve to the left that came off the side wall. Keller made that mistake a few times in the match, but Pratt never used that serve as his first serve.

However, after scoring his first point, Pratt was unable to follow it up, as Keller hit a good ceiling ball that went deep into the back left corner and flummoxed Pratt, who was unable to keep the rally going. That led to Keller going out to a 9-1 lead. Pratt called both his timeouts in that stretch, but to no avail.

Pratt did get a few points to make the score 9-4, and it seemed like a comeback could be on order. Then Keller got point 10 with a great backhand down the line shot. Still Pratt didn’t give up, and fought off Keller’s first match point with a backhand cross court winner.

Back in the service box, Pratt scored a point to make it 10-5. But Keller took the serve back with backhand cross court that cracked out on the right wall. However, match point number two went by as Pratt forced Keller to hit the ball into the back wall, and it didn’t make the front wall.

Keller regained the serve with a solid backhand shot, and then won it with another backhand winner.

If you missed the finals, check out the matches via theIRF Facebook page or the IRF YouTube channel for matches.

XXXII Pan American Racquetball Championships
Barranquilla, Colombia - April 12-20, 2019

Women's Singles - Final - Saturday

3) Paola Longoria (Mexico) d. 12) María José Vargas (Argentina), 15-7, 15-2

Men's Singles - Final - Saturday

7) Carlos Keller (Bolivia) d. 4) Charles Pratt (USA), 15-2, 8-15, 11-5

Follow the bouncing ball….

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