Monday, September 26, 2022

2022 US Open Preview

The 2022 US Open begins in Minneapolis Wednesday, and it might be the most anticipated US Open ever. Most anticipated because this will be the first US Open without Doug Ganim as tournament director. That responsibility now falls to Connor Shane, the USA Racquetball’s Director of National Events.

The concern about this change is evident from the racquetball community is evident in the fact that participation is down for the event. A little under 400 people are registered to play in Minneapolis, which is about 300 fewer than its had in recent years. That may not be directly related to the change in tournament director, as to the change in venue.

The US Open has been in Minneapolis since 2010, but this will be the first year that the University of Minnesota will be the venue. Previously, it was held at the LifeTime Fitness location under the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis, and featured a show court that allowed viewing through all four walls. It was a special court that provided some rare views to the action. It was used this year in Birmingham, Alabama at the 2022 World Games, but will not be used at the US Open.

There are advantages to the University of Minnesota. There are two show courts that are side wall and back wall glass, and there are 12 courts. There were 9 - including the show court - at the LifeTime Target Center location, so two other facilities were needed to handle all the US Open matches. One other facility will be used this week.

A true Grand Slam

Regardless of the off court changes, what will be the same is the quality of play on court, as the top players from both the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) and the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) will be in Minneapolis to contest the most prestigious prize in pro racquetball. Those contests could be the most interesting in some time.

Paola Longoria - the LPRT’s #1 player - is the 10 time defending US Open champion (11 time winner overall), and she’s the favourite to win again. However, she comes in having lost her last LPRT match, and has only won three of her last six LPRT events. Winning half the pro events a player entered would be a great record for most players, but Longoria has gone through some seasons undefeated, so it’s surprisingly off her standard.

That does speak to the quality of players now on the LPRT. There are several players who have a chance to win this week, including Alexandra Herrera, the LPRT #2, and a three time winner on tour after winning in Maryland earlier this month. Gabriela Martinez has also won an LPRT event, and Angelica Barrios is the current Pan American Champion, and they are both real threats to win their 1st US Open.

Last year, Daniel De La Rosa won his 1st US Open. That win helped him become the #1 player on the IRT, so he’s a real threat to win again. But as on the women’s side, De La Rosa may be the favourite to win again, but there are other possibilities.

Among the possibilities are Conrrado Moscoso, who was in the final in 2019 and is the current International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Champion in Men’s Singles, Andree Parrilla and Alejandro Landa, who are both multiple IRT winners, as well as Samuel Murray and Eduardo Portillo, who each have one IRT title under their belts.

No one has won more US Opens than Kane Waselenchuk - 15 total and 12 straight from 2008 to 2019. He’s 41 years old now - turning 42 in November, and was entered in the field this year, but he suffered what looked like a significant injury to his right leg just two weeks ago at the last IRT event. Waselenchuk is now not in the field, presumably due to that injury.

They will also play doubles in Minneapolis, and those matches should also be great. The Mexican teams of Longoria and Samantha Salas on the women’s side, and De La Rosa and Alvaro Beltran on the men’s side - are the defending champions, respectively, and both won their respective divisions at the IRF World Championships in August. Thus, they are clearly the teams to beat.

However, there are teams that could beat them. On the men’s side, two teams that could win it are Javier Mar and Rodrigo Montoya - the 2021 IRF World Champions, and Moscoso and Roland Keller, who were the finalists at Worlds against Beltran and De La Rosa this year, losing in a fifth game tie-breaker.

On the women’s side, Kelani Lawrence and Hollie Scott won their first LPRT doubles title earlier this month, and Gabriela Martinez and Maria Renee Rodriguez have also been a successful team over the years. We think that Herrera will play with Jessica Parrilla, which also makes for a strong team.

Curiously, Valeria Centellas and Natalia Mendez, who were two points from winning Worlds this year against Longoria and Salas, are not playing together. We would have thought they’d want to continue to play together given how close they were to a World Championship. Yet Centellas is playing with Micaela Meneses, and Mendez is playing with Erika Manilla.

All in all, this year’s US Open has the makings of a great event, which will continue the tradition of great racquetball events that was established over the first 25 US Opens.

We’re looking forward to it.

Follow the bouncing ball…..

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