Mexico swept Men’s and Women’s Doubles at the XXX Pan American Racquetball Championships in San Jose, Costa Rica, which is the fourth year in a row that Mexican teams have won both doubles divisions at the event. Paola Longoria and Samatha Salas won the Women’s Doubles title for the third straight year, beating Ecuador’s Maria Paz Muñoz and Veronica Sotomayor, 15-12, 15-5, in the final. Then Polo Gutierrez and Alejandro Landa came from a game down to defeat Jake Bredenbeck and David Horn of the USA, 10-15, 15-8, 11-4, which gave Landa his second straight Pan American Championship Men’s Doubles title and his second Pan American Championship this year, as he won Men’s Singles earlier in the day.
In fact, all these Mexicans are multiple champions at this event. Longoria and Salas have won five of the last seven Women’s Doubles title at the Pan American Championships, and Salas is six of seven, as she won with Susana Acosta in 2014, when Longoria missed the event. Polo Gutierrez won his third Men’s Doubles title with the others coming in 2013 and 2011 both playing with Javier Moreno, who was Landa’s partner last year.
In the women’s final, Mexico took a the lead early at 6-0. Ecuador scored a couple of points to make it 6-2, but Mexico extended their lead to 10-2, and then 14-4. Ecuador dug in there, and with the serve back they scored two points to make it 14-6. Their sixth point was from an avoidable call on Longoria, which seemed harsh. Mexico appealed it, but the call was upheld, and in disputing the call, Mexico was assessed a technical, which made the score 13-6.
Ecuador scored three straight points to make it 13-9. Mexico called a timeout, and got the serve back but couldn’t score as Muñoz hit a winner and Salas skipped a shot. Ecuador drew within of Mexico when Muñoz hit a drive serve to the left side - she was playing on the right - that cracked out for an ace.
But on the next rally, Longoria hit a pinch shot winner to regain the serve. Sotomayor made an error on her backhand that put Mexico on game point at 14-12, but she put Mexico half out with a backhand cross court winner. Longoria then serve a lob down the middle, which Sotomayor took on her forehand and skipped, giving game one to Mexico, 15-12.
In game two, Mexico again got the early lead at 5-1. Ecuador made it close at 7-5, but then they didn’t score against, as Mexico scored eight unanswered points to take the game, 15-5, and the match in two straight games.
The USA was in control of game one in the Men’s Doubles final, as they never trailed Mexico after taking a 3-0 early. Mexico made it close late when they were within three at 13-10, but two winners from Bredenbeck - a forehand reverse pinch, and a forehand pinch from deep in the court - closed out the game.
Game two was the reverse, as Mexico took the early lead at 7-0, and never trailed from there. Gutierrez made several winners early in the game, as Mexico seemed to take over the match. They won game two as Gutierrez hit a half lob Z to Horn on the right side, and Horn returned it cross court, where Landa hit a shoulder high backhand reverse pinch that rolled out of the right front corner.
The tie-breaker went slowly early on, as after 25 rallies the score was only 4-3 in Mexico’s favour. But Mexico scored four unanswered points from there to go up 8-3. The game stalled a bit there, as nine rallies only produced one point, making the score 8-4 for Mexico.
But Mexico scored on three straight rallies to end it. Horn tried climbing the wall in the back right corner to retrieve a ceiling ball, which was an unsuccessful attempt, then Gutierrez hit a forehand winner, and finally Horn was forced into an error as he tried to hit a backhand ceiling ball to keep the rally going.
“I’m very happy,” Gutierrez said afterwards. “I wasn’t even [planning on] playing Nationals,” but Landa “convinced me” to play. They won that event, which is how they were selected as the Mexican team for this event.
“I feel OK thanks to Polo,” said Landa, when asked about playing the doubles final after he played the singles final earlier.
“I just wanted to win,” Gutierrez said in reference to how they turned the match around after losing the first game, and he did seem to turn it up, especially early in game two.
XXX Pan American Racquetball Championships
San Jose, Costa Rica - April 8-15, 2017
Women's Doubles - Final Saturday
1) Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas (Mexico) d. 3) Veronica Sotomayor & Maria Paz Muñoz (Ecuador), 15-12, 15-5
Men's Doubles - Final Saturday
1) Polo Gutierrez & Alejandro Landa (Mexico) d. 2) Jake Bredenbeck & David Horn (USA), 10-15, 15-8, 11-4
Follow the bouncing ball....