Saturday, October 1, 2022

Manilla & Mendez win 2022 LPRT US Open Doubles Championship

Erika Manilla and Natalia Mendez won the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) 2022 USA Racquetball US Open Doubles Championship at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis by defeating top seeds and defending champions Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas, 15-14, 7-15, 11-4, Saturday night.

The win is the first US Open title for Manilla and Mendez. They have won LPRT doubles titles in the past - Mendez three times, and Manilla once - but never together.

Longoria and Salas got the first points of the match to lead 2-0, but then Manilla and Mendez responded with 10 unanswered points to lead 10-2. That streak ended when Mendez couldn’t keep a ball in play by hitting into the back wall.

Longoria and Salas don’t need much of an opening to take the advantage, and that was enough for them, as the current International Racquetball Federation (IRF) Women’s Doubles World Champions went on a streak of their own to get within one at 10-9.

From there it was back and forth. They were tied at 11-11, but then Manilla and Mendez scored three points - over 13 rallies - to reach game point at 14-11. But Mendez, who was playing the left side with Manilla on the right, skipped a forehand shot to give up the serve.

Longoria and Salas pounced again, scoring three points over four rallies (one court hinder) to tie the game at 14-14. But Salas then skipped a forehand shot. Mendez followed that with a backhand cross court winning return off a lob serve that got her side the serve back.

There was a hinder on the next rally, as Longoria held up with Manilla in front of her. The referee called a hinder, but not a penalty hinder, which maybe should have been the call. Longoria and Salas would have appealed that call, but they were out of appeals, so the call stood. On the next rally, Longoria hit Salas with the ball to end the game at 15-14.

No good player or team goes quietly, and Longoria and Salas are more than good: they’re great. So, you knew that they were going to come out strong in game two. They did take the early lead at 4-2. But the young team was not to be put off, as Manilla and Mendez came back to lead 7-4.

However, they wouldn’t score any more as the defending champs won 11 points to win game two, 15-7. They didn’t surrender serve during that streak.

Thus, momentum was clearly on the defending champs side going into the tie-breaker. But the crowd was clearly on the side of the young underdogs, cheering for each good shot - and some bad ones, if the other team hit them.

Longoria and Salas served first in the breaker, but a Manilla forehand cross court shot immediately took them out of the service box. She and Mendez then reeled off four straight points to lead 4-0.

They continued to pile up the points, and deny Longoria and Salas scoring opportunities, extending the lead to 7-1. Longoria and Salas made it 7-3, and then 11 serves went by without anyone scoring.

A Mendez skip broke the deadlock, and gave Longoria and Salas their 4th point. It would be their last. Salas skipped shots on the next two rallies, which surrendered the serve to Manilla and Mendez.

They proceeded to serve it out. A Manilla forehand reverse pinch shot made it 8-4. Mendez made it 8-5 with a backhand pinch shot. Then Salas hit one winner to put them half out, but followed that with a skipped reverse pinch shot putting Manilla and Mendez on match point at 10-4.

They only needed the one opportunity, as Mendez hit a backhand winner on the next rally that was just out of Longoria's reach.

Manilla will have chance to do the double on Sunday: winning both singles and doubles, as she is in the LPRT singles final against Longoria. That will be at 12:10 PM CDT Sunday.

If you missed the final, and want to see it - and you do want to see it, go to the LPRT YouTube channel or their Facebook page.

2022 US Open - University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
September 28-October 2, 2022

LPRT Doubles - Final - Saturday

3) Erika Manilla & Natalia Mendez d. 1) Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas, 15-14, 7-15, 11-4

Follow the bouncing ball…..

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