Mexicans dominate as Hot Rod wins year-opening tourney in Austin
By LAURA McCORMICK
The World Racquetball Tour began the new year with its biggest event of the season. The Longhorn Open sells out within a few weeks, and at 336 participants, this year’s event sold out in a record six days. Housed in Austin, Texas, the event raises money for the UT Racquetball Program to support sending players to National Colligates.
The event also begins a new season for the WRT, and 29 players entered the main draw with many locals hoping for an upset.
But there was little drama in the round of 16 with the exceptions of 10th seed Edson Martinez (MEX) upsetting 7th seed Francisco Troncoso (CHI), and 22 seed Javier Mar (MEX) beating 6th seed Christian Longoria (MEX) in a dramatic 11-10 tiebreaker.
The match extended well into the night, and Mar staved off multiple match points to come back from 10-6 down in the breaker. Longoria will return home ruing a missed opportunity, as Mar continued his run of fine form to the final.
The quarter-finals saw 2016 WRT Tour Champion and number 1 seed Alex Cardona (MEX) easily handle Gerardo Franco (MEX), but who is becoming a regular quarterfinalist. Number 5 seed Rodrigo Montoya (MEX) managed to stave off a game point against 4th seed Jaime Martell (MEX), but eventually won in two straight games. Both matches on the other side of the bracket went to tiebreakers. Mar defeated 3rd seed Andre Parrilla (MEX), and 2nd seed David Horn (USA) defeated Martinez.
The semi-finals were surprisingly comfortable for both finalists. Montoya won the first game against Cardona 15-8, but was down in game two only to come back and win it 15-12. There were several tremendous rallies in this match in particular and you can see one of them here (https://www.facebook.com/WorldRballTour/videos/1226593510768668/).
In the other semi-final, Mar must have been delighted to finally win a match in two straight games, defeating Horn 15-13, 15-6.
The final saw 5th seed Montoya face 22nd seed Mar, which is a testament to the depth of play found in the WRT. Mar started the match sharp and controlled the first game winning 15-13.
However, perhaps the lack of tournament play and the number of tiebreakers began to take its toll and he visibly tired in the second. A brief rally in the tiebreaker could do little to halt the more consistent and fitter Montoya, who closed out the match 12-15, 15-8, 11-2 for his second WRT title.
That Montoya claimed his second title is not surprising to those who have watched him mature over the past year, and he has every chance of finishing the year as number one. He certainly has the pure talent and athleticism. However, to do so he must improve his consistency week-in and week-out.
The emergence of young Mar was perhaps the talking point of the tournament. Mar represented Mexico at last summer’s World Championships, and to qualify from a country deep with quality players is a testament to his talent.
With size, power, and a surprising soft touch, he certainly has the potential to be a regular in the top two or three on the tour, especially if he can improve his fitness levels. Doing so will allow him to better compete in multiple matches for three or four consecutive days.
For now, it remains to be seen whether he will commit to playing on the tour full time. For the neutrals, we hope he does!
The WRT’s next stop is The World Racquetball Tour West Coast Championships in California from January 26-29. You can learn more about the WRT by visiting their website (www.worldracquetballtour.com).
Picture courtesy of WRT