Saturday, August 14, 2021

Herrera & Martinez wins guarantee new LPRT champion

Gabriela Martinez will play in her first final on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) Sunday at the 2021 World Singles and Doubles Open Championships in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, just outside Denver, as she upset the 3rd seed Maria Jose Vargas, 15-13, 15-10, in the semi-finals on Saturday. Martinez, seeded 10th, will play top seed Alexandra Herrera in the final, as Herrera was a winner over 5th seed Natalia Mendez, 14-15, 15-10, 11-5, in the other semi.

Vargas was up in game one versus Martinez, leading 4-1 and 8-3. But in the middle of the game Martinez switched from drive serving to lob serving, and that sparked her comeback. She tied the game at 11-11 leading to a Vargas timeout.

Martinez never trailed after that, either in game one, which she won 15-13, or the match. Martinez took a big lead in game two at 9-3, as she continued to use the lob serve to Vargas’s backhand. But Vargas did make the game close, getting within two at 12-10.

Martinez used some drive serves as Vargas came back, because the lobs didn’t seem to be as effective. Indeed, she got a service winner with a drive serve to the right side - Vargas’s forehand - to make the score 13-10. Match point came as Vargas skipped a backhand return of a lob to the left side. Martinez converted that match point with a great backhand reverse pinch winner.

In the other semi, Herrera had leads in all three games against Mendez, and was able to convert two of them to wins. But Mendez made a successful comeback from 8-1 down in game one to eke out a 15-14 win. That showed what Mendez is capable of, but in games two and three she didn’t execute as well as she did late in game one, despite having opportunities to do so.

In game two, Mendez led 3-1 early, but Herrera got the next ten points to lead 13-3. Cue the comeback, as Mendez got within three at 13-10. Herrera did get the serve back then and got to 14-10. But when she hit a plum into the floor on her first game point, you wondered if there would be a repeat of game one. But Herrera held her nerve, and got the serve back for a second game point, which she won with a backhand cross court from a front court position.

Herrera carried the momentum over into game three, as she took a 7-0 lead. Mendez helped her opponent, as she was hitting balls too high, which gave Herrera opportunities that she took advantage of. Mendez did shoot better in the second half of the game, but it wasn’t enough, as Herrera pushed on to win it 11-5.

While Martinez plays her 1st LPRT final on Sunday, Herrera will be playing her 6th, but she’s yet to win one. So, there will be a new LPRT winner on Sunday, and it will be the first time since 1979 that there have been new winners in back to back women’s pro tournaments. In November ’79, Heather McKay - now in the LPRT Hall of Fame - won her first tournament, and then Sarah Green won in December ’79, which was Green’s only win.

Montserrat Mejia won her 1st title at the last LPRT event in June, and either Herrera or Martinez will join her as an LPRT champion, and become the 29th women's pro tour winner.

The LPRT final will be Sunday at 11:15 AM Mountain time. Look for the action via the LPRT YouTube channel, as well as the LPRT Facebook page.

World Singles and Doubles Open Racquetball Championships
August 12-15, 2021 - Denver, Colorado

LPRT Singles - Semi-finals - Saturday

1) Alexandra Herrera d. 5) Natalia Mendez, 14-15, 15-10, 11-5
10) Gabriela Martinez d. 3) Maria Jose Vargas, 15-13, 15-10

LPRT Singles - Final - Sunday

1) Alexandra Herrera v. 10) Gabriela Martinez - 11:15 AM

Follow the bouncing ball….

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