Monday, January 23, 2023

Natera & Trujillo win at 43rd Annual Lewis Drug Pro-Am

Alan Natera won Men’s Open Sunday at the 43rd Annual Lewis Drug Pro-Am in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he defeated Gerson Miranda Martinez, 11-15, 15-4, 11-6, in the final. In the semi-finals, Natera, who was the top seed, defeated 5th seed Lee Connell, 15-11, 11-15, 11-3, while 3rd seed Miranda Martinez upset 2nd seed Jordan Barth, 15-11, 15-8.

There was also an International Racquetball Tour (IRT) U21 division in Sioux Falls, as the Lewis Drug Pro-Am was an IRT event. There were four players in the U21 division, so it was a round robin competition.

Erick Trujillo won the U21 division going undefeated against the other three players without losing a game. Curiously, Trujillo’s closest match was against Benjamin Horner, an American teen-ager who finished 4th without winning a game. But Horner’s two games versus Trujillo were close with Trujillo winning 15-11, 15-13.

Why are there U21 divisions?

The IRT introduced U21 divisions last year, as a result of the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) including U21 in their World Junior Championships. The IRF was concerned about players getting to the end of their junior eligibility (previously the oldest division at World Juniors was U18) and quitting racquetball, when they could still develop into good players.

That’s a real concern, and not isolated to racquetball. Players in other sports will quit once they get beyond their teenage years or junior years, because their lives change significantly from being kids at home to becoming adults away from home. Things that were once priorities - like the sports they played - can fall by the wayside as other things - school, work, etc. - take priority.

But the dream of any athlete should be to play for their country. The IRF has extended the possibility of fulfilling that dream for another three years at the World Junior level by introducing the U21 division. This is a good move, because racquetball has grown internationally through international competitions. The IRF got racquetball included in the Pan American Games - the highest level of international competition outside of the Olympics - and that trickles down to smaller international competitions, like the Central American and Caribbean Games.

Countries want to compete in those games, so they develop sport programs to do so. That’s why we’ve seen the development of so many elite racquetball players outside of the United States, where racquetball originated.

Do the pro tours need U21 divisions?

While a U21 division at the IRF World Junior Championships makes a lot of sense, U21 divisions on the pro tours make little sense. The Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) seems to get this, as they have not had U21 divisions in their events this season with the exception of the US Open. Having a U21 LPRT division at the US Open may have been decided by USA Racquetball, as they would have wanted to have equal opportunity for both men and women, so if there was to be an IRT U21 division, then there should be a LPRT U21 division.

The U21 IRT draws are often small, usually fewer than ten players. Going to World Juniors, a weeklong event where you are representing your country and you can be assured that there will be a good field of players, is one thing, but going somewhere for a weekend tournament, which will likely have a small field of players, is another thing.

We believe that the IRT introduced U21 - with some prize money - as a means to help younger players pay for expenses to compete on tour. But we’d prefer the prize money from a U21 division to go into the Open division, and have the open division pay out for semi-finals as well as the finalists.

For example, the New York Open last year had $500 for first and $250 for second in U21, while Open was $600 for first and $400 for second ($1750 over both divisions). We think it would be better to have it all in Open with $750 for first, $500 second, and $250 for each semi-finalist.

Having younger players in Open means that they are could play “wily veterans.” Wily vets have been around awhile, seen a few things, have a few tricks up their sleeves, and are happy to school a young’un on the court. That schooling would be more useful to a young developing player than playing another kid of a similar age.

The young players may beat the wily veterans, and that’s great. In the long run, the young players should beat the wily veterans, because time is on the side of the young players, and they should use that time to develop skills to beat the wily vets. One way to develop those skills is by playing experienced players, i.e. the wily veterans.

Upcoming events

While the pro tours are off until late February, the focus next weekend will be on national events. USA Racquetball is having its 2023 National Doubles and National Singles Championships in Tempe, Arizona, February 1-5.

Also, Racquetball Canada will hold its second National Team Selection Event of the season February 3rd and 4th in Grande Prairie, Alberta, and Mexico’s Campeonato Nacional Selectivo 2023 will be in Juarez, Mexico, February 1-5.

43rd Annual Lewis Drug Pro-Am
January 19-22, 2023 - Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Men’s Open Singles


1) Alan Natera d. 3) Gerson Miranda Martinez, 11-15, 15-4, 11-6


1) Alan Natera d. 5) Lee Connell, 15-11, 11-15, 11-3
3) Gerson Miranda Martinez d. 2) Jordan Barth, 15-11, 15-8


1) Alan Natera d. 8) Carlos Ramirez, 15-3, 15-3
5) Lee Connell d. 4) Anthony Martin, 15-9, 15-5

3) Gerson Miranda Martinez d. 6) Ty Hedalen, 15-4, 15-2
2) Jordan Barth d. 7) Matthew Majxner, 15-2, 15-9

IRT U21 Singles

Rank - Player - Record

1) Erick Trujillo - 3-0 (6 games won, 0 lost)
2) Diego Garcia - 2-1 (4, 2)
3) Carlos Ramirez - 1-2 (2, 4)
4) Benjamin Horner - 0-3 (0, 6)

Follow the bouncing ball….

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