Tuesday, July 12, 2022

More upsets than not in the quarterfinals at The World Games 2022

Mexican Paola Longoria, a two time gold medal winner at The World Games, is on track for a third gold medal at The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama, as she beat Chilean Carla Muñoz, 15-11, 15-5, 15-4. But there were more upsets than not in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

Longoria led for most of game one, but Muñoz was tenacious. She tied the game at 11-11, as Longoria made one of an uncharacteristic number of errors: skipping a backhand pinch shot. However, Longoria held on, and won the last four rallies to win the first game, 15-11. In the next two games, they were close early, and then the Mexican imposed her will upon them and won a series of points. In game two, Longoria went from up 3-2 to 13-3, and then won 15-5. Similarly, in game three, they were tied at 2-2, and then it was 8-2 for Longoria, who went on to win 15-4.

Longoria will play 5th seed Angelica Barrios of Bolivia in the semi-finals Wednesday, as Barrios upset 4th seed Natalia Mendez of Argentina in a close four game match, 15-9, 7-15, 15-14, 15-9. Game three was the pivotal one for Barrios, as Mendez led for the second half of the game, including at 14-11. Yet, she couldn’t convert any of her four game points, as Barrios hit winners on those four rallies to win 15-14.

The two matches on the bottom of the women’s draw were both upsets by the seedings, although not surprises. In a battle of former International Racquetball Federation (IRF) Women’s Singles World Champions, 6th seed Gabriela Martinez of Guatemala got the best of 3rd seed Rhonda Rajsich from the USA, 15-8, 15-9, 15-8. Then in the first tie-breaker of the competition, 7th seed Samantha Salas of Mexico came back from 2-1 down to defeat the 2nd seed Kelani Lawrence of the USA, 15-14, 13-15, 10-15, 15-6, 11-9.

It looked like Lawrence was going to beat Salas after she won game three. But the Mexican had other ideas, and stormed out to a 10-0 lead in game four - a Lawrence timeout doing nothing to stop her run. Lawrence got some consolation points, but it was clear that a tie-breaker was going to be necessary.

The breaker had three swings. Salas led early at 4-1. Lawrence tied it at 4-4, and then led until a tie at 8-8. From that point, Salas regained the lead with a backhand wide angle shot to make it 9-8, so Lawrence called a timeout.

Salas hit another winner when play resumed. This time a forehand cross court shot, as she’s done a million times in her long career. That put Salas on match point at 10-8. A great backhand cross court shot by Lawrence denied her that opportunity, but Salas won it on the next rally with a backhand cross court shot from mid court.

On the men’s side, Mexican Rodrigo Montoya - a former IRF Men’s Singles World Champion upset the current Men's Singles World Champion and top seed American Alejandro Landa, 15-7, 15-8, 11-15, 15-10. Landa did not seem to have his A game on the day. In games, one, two and four, they were close until the middle of those games (Montoya led 8-7 in each), when Montoya stepped it up and finished it.

Yet even after two lacklustre games, when Landa won game three - leading from 4-4 on - you had a sense that he could actually turn it around and make a successful comeback. But it wasn’t to be.

Landa’s team-mate Jake Bredenbeck, the 4th seed, also lost to a Mexican: Andree Parrilla, the 5th seed, 15-8, 15-12, 15-10. Bredenbeck’s powerful shots were too often up, so Parrilla was able to clean up the loose balls and put them away.

Third seed Mario Mercado of Colombia defeated Jose Daniel Ugalde of Ecuador, 15-5, 15-14, 15-8. After Mercado dominated game one, Ugalde came out strong in game two, leading 6-2 and 7-3.

Mercado fought back and tied it at 8-8 with a drive serve ace to the right side. Yet Ugalde led most of the second half of the game, and had two game points, as he led 14-13. But Mercado hit a winning backhand serve return on the first one, and a backhand winner during the next rally to close out game two, 15-14.

In game three, he jumped out to a 8-1 lead. Ugalde dug in, and got within three points at 10-7, but he wouldn’t get another point until it was 14-7. Ugalde did fight off the first match point with a great diving get that he softly put into the front left corner.

Mercado will play 2nd seed Andres Acuña of Costa Rica, who outlasted 7th seed Juan Jose Salvatierra of Guatemala, 15-13, 15-14, 15-5.

No medals for the USA

The losses by the American players mean that no USA player will win a medal on home soil, and perhaps more significantly, no American will medal at The World Games for the first time ever. There were no USA players in either the women’s or men’s final in 2013 - the last time racquetball was in The World Games - but Americans won bronze in each division. Rajisch won the 3rd place match on the women’s side while Rocky Carson did so on the men’s side.

CORRECTION: The semi-finals and the finals will be on CBS Wednesday, not the IRF YouTube channel, so you'll have to search for the matches. They may show up on the Olympic.com channel at some point, but maybe not live.

2022 World Games - Birmingham, Alabama
All times Central

Men’s Singles - Quarterfinals - Tuesday July 12

8) Rodrigo Montoya (Mexico) d. 1) Alejandro Landa (USA), 15-7, 15-8, 11-15, 15-10
5) Andree Parrilla (Mexico) d. 4) Jake Bredenbeck (USA), 15-8, 15-12, 15-10

3) Mario Mercado (Colombia) d. 6) Jose Daniel Ugalde (Ecuador), 15-5, 15-14, 15-8
2) Andres Acuña (Costa Rica) d. 7) Juan Jose Salvatierra (Guatemala), 15-13, 15-14, 15-5

Men’s Singles - Semi-finals - Wednesday July 13

5) Andree Parrilla (Mexico) v. 8) Rodrigo Montoya (Mexico) - 11 AM
2) Andres Acuña (Costa Rica) v. 3) Mario Mercado (Colombia) - Noon

Women’s Singles - Quarterfinals - Tuesday July 12

1) Paola Longoria (Mexico) d. 9) Carla Muñoz (Chile), 15-11, 15-5, 15-4
5) Angelica Barrios (Bolivia) d. 4) Natalia Mendez (Argentina), 15-9, 7-15, 15-14, 15-9

6) Gabriela Martinez (Guatemala) d. 3) Rhonda Rajsich (USA), 15-8, 15-9, 15-8
7) Samantha Salas (Mexico) d. 2) Kelani Lawrence (USA), 15-14, 13-15, 10-15, 15-6, 11-9

Women’s Singles - Semi-finals - Wednesday July 13

1) Paola Longoria (Mexico) v. 5) Angelica Barrios (Bolivia) - 9 AM
6) Gabriela Martinez (Guatemala) v. 7) Samantha Salas (Mexico) - 10 AM

 Follow the bouncing ball….

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