Sunday, December 15, 2019

Longoria wins two tie-breakers Sunday at 2019 LPRT Christmas Classic

Paola Longoria defeated Maria Jose Vargas, 15-3, 12-15, 11-8, to win the 2019 Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) Christmas Classic in Laurel, Maryland Sunday in what was a great match. Longoria, the LPRT’s #1 player, has now beaten Vargas - LPRT #2 - in three of their four matches this season.

Longoria also defeated Vargas in the doubles final, as she and Samantha Salas came back to defeat Vargas and Natalia Mendez, 12-15, 15-11, 11-4. It's rare that Longoria plays a tie-breaker, so to play two on one day is especially rare.

In the singles final, it looked like the outcome was going to go the other way in the breaker, as Vargas carried over the momentum she had from winning game two to go out to a 6-0 lead. Longoria used her second timeout at that point. She used her first when Vargas was up 4-0.

Longoria looked completely undone, which we’ve never really seen before.

Timeouts can stop an opponent’s momentum, and Longoria’s TO at 6-0 did so, as she got a sideout. But the tide turned slowly, as there were eight sideouts before someone scored again.

It was Longoria who finally got on the board with her 8th time serve in the game. We’re not sure Longoria has ever served seven times without scoring. She got three points, and then Vargas got the serve back at 6-3, and extended her lead to 8-3.

But that was all Vargas would score. Longoria got the serve back and scored couple of points to make the score 8-5, so Vargas called a timeout. She got the serve back with a soft backhand shot, but Longoria took the serve right back with a forehand winner.

Longoria served it out from there. She started it with a great forehand ‘boast’ shot: hitting it into the right side wall that got it to the left wall and then to the front wall just off the floor for a winner. Vargas tried to get to it, but couldn’t reach it before the ball had bounced twice. It was a desperation move by Longoria that worked out perfectly.

Credit to Longoria for turning it around in the breaker, when it looked like she was done. And credit to Vargas for getting it to a breaker, as she was dominated by Longoria in game one. But Vargas dug in and won game two, although she trailed for much of it.

There was an unfortunate incident early in the match. At 1-1 in game one, Longoria hit the ball into the back wall to keep the rally going in what was a quick reaction play. In doing so, she hit Vargas on the follow through. It seemed the contact was to Vargas’s face, and she needed to take an injury timeout.

Vargas wasn’t in the form that got her to the final in game one, so maybe that early hit to the head effected her. Then again, Longoria played very well, and that could have been enough to cause problems for Vargas. Regardless, it seemed like Longoria was going to win the match in two games.

But Vargas found her form in game two, and won it to force the breaker.

The first two games of the doubles final were very well played with Mendez and Vargas winning the first 15-12, and Longoria and Salas winning the second, 15-11. Often after two close games, the tie-breaker is not close. That proved to be the case today, as Longoria and Salas won the breaker 11-4.

In the breaker, Longoria and Salas went up 7-0 and 10-2. Mendez and Vargas stopped six match points, and scored a couple of their own. But they couldn’t hold Longoria and Salas off forever.

Throughout the match, Mendez and Vargas both served to Salas on the right side, and they played most of the balls to Salas during the rallies as well. Clearly, their strategy was to try to isolate Longoria and see if Salas could beat them. In doubles, playing more balls to the player perceived to be the weaker of your opponents can be a effective strategy, but at this level judging one player to be “weaker” is a relative thing, especially when the “weaker” player is #3 on tour.

Sometimes playing all the balls to one opponent can mess up a team, as they have to play on both sides of the court rather than staying on one side or the other. But Mendez and Vargas handled that well and there were few communication errors.

If you missed any of the action from Maryland, check out the LPRT YouTube channel. The Christmas Classic is the final LPRT event of 2019. But they start off 2020 with a bang, as there will two LPRT events in January.

First, the Florida Open LPRT event happens January 9-11 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Then, the Sweet Caroline Open will be January 23-25 in Greenville, South Carolina. Overall, there are 8 events (maybe 9, as one is listed as tentative on the schedule) after the new year compared with 5 events so far, so 2020 looks to be a busy time for the LPRT.

2019 LPRT Christmas Classic, December 13-15, 2019
Laurel, Maryland

Final - Sunday

1) Paola Longoria d. 2) Maria Jose Vargas, 15-3, 12-15, 11-8

Doubles - Final - Sunday

1) Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas d. 2) Natalia Mendez & Maria Jose Vargas, 12-15, 15-11, 11-4

Follow the bouncing ball….

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