Mighty Mexican powers through in straight games
By Laura McCormick in Alamo City
The Alamo City Open in San Antonio, Texas served as the final instalment of what has been a lengthy but very exciting World Racquetball Tour (WRT) year.
In fact, coming into the final event of the season the previous five tournaments had been won by no fewer than five different players! As such, there was plenty of excitement surrounding the arrival of defending champion Alex Landa (Mexico), who doesn’t always play the tour, but when he does, is usually in superb form.
With Landa’s lower seeding, he was drawn to play number three seed Andre Parrilla (MEX) in the quarter-finals, number two seed Jaime Martell (MEX) in the semi-finals, and number one seed and 2016 WRT champion Alex Cardona in the final.
He did exactly that, and defeated each in two straight games. Parrilla arrived late to his match, and without a warm-up, found himself down early, and while he rallied late in game one, it wasn’t enough, and Landa’s power and precision outclassed Parrilla 15-12, 15-11. Although Parrilla fought hard, the match never appeared in doubt, especially when Landa hit two ace serves to close it out.
Perhaps Landa’s biggest challenge came in the semi-finals against Martell. Just the week before, Landa had comfortably beaten Martell in a tournament in Mexico, but this was a different day, and Martell was clearly motivated. With both players competing at possibly the peak of their form, rallies were fierce but clean, with both athletes playing intelligently and making few errors.
It was a fine example of the sport being played at its best, and it is worth watching again once the WRT upload it to their YouTube Channel
Once again Landa was able to grind out victory 15-11, 15-13. Each game was close until the very end, but greater experience and fitness appeared to be the difference in this match.
However, the future is bright for 24-year-old Martell, who has risen rapidly in the WRT ranking over the past 12 months. Much will depend on his commitment to the sport and the ability to play at this level consistently.
Landa faced number one seed Cardona in the final, whose arrival there had been relatively easy, reflecting his status as the top seed.
Some expected a fiery contest against Rodrigo Montoya in the semi-final, a new and up-and-coming player on the tour, but after having comfortably taken the first game 15-3, he was able to close out albeit a much closer second game 15-13. Just like Martell, Montoya has incredible potential, but it requires guidance through training and dedication to becoming number one.
The final was a competitive affair, but Landa controlled both games by taking an early lead and never relinquishing his advantage. Cardona is a powerful shooter with softer hands than most realize, but he is at times prone to making mistakes, which gave Landa an advantage. Landa played high percentage racquetball keeping Cardona in the back court with passes and then pinching the ball to the front court periodically to keep Cardona off-balance.
Landa’s serve was particularly effective throughout the weekend, creating poor returns that were punished. Although Parrilla, Martell, and Cardona all pushed him hard, Landa demonstrated his superiority completing his conquest of the three-seed trifecta without a game lost.
The keys to Landa’s superiority appear to be his defense, fitness, and shot selection. He is a very intelligent player who changes the pace of the ball and moves opponents around the court while waiting for his opportunity to strike.
Should he compete on the WRT full time, he would certainly be the player to beat. However, based on season total points, Cardona finished the season as number one followed by Bobby Horn (USA) and Parrilla.
For more information on the WRT, visit their website www.worldracquetballtour.com or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WorldRballTour/