The first day of singles competition concluded yesterday in Brossard with very few surprises on both the men's and women's sides of the competition. Here's a brief recap of the action, along with predictions for the women's side of the event.
With ten women in the main draw at this year's nationals, only two round of 16 matches took place yesterday. Some controversy took place over the seedings near the bottom, where local player Catherine Foisy, who has not been active for several years, was placed ahead of Albertans Alexis Iwaasa and Erin Geeraert, and young up-and-comer Cassie Prentice. Many thought this was an error, due to the strength of the aforementioned players and Foisy's absence from tournament play for the better part of a decade. Unfortunately, the precedent had been set at earlier events to use historical ranking to seed inactive players and, in Catherine's case, hers was higher than the other three. This worked out for Geeraert, who benefited from an easier first round match and opportunity to gain ranking points, but not as well for Iwaasa, now on the top half of the draw and playing into the #2 player in the world, Frederique Lambert in the second round. Geeraert and Iwaasa both won their first round matches in two games, but will face much stiffer competition from here on out in the event.
The overwhelming favourite to win this event is Lambert, who continues to improve her already phenomenal play while simultaneously attending medical school in Montreal. Improving her Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) rank to #2 this season, she has her sights firmly placed on Paola Longoria and the #1 spot. Barring catastrophe, she should take the national singles title in straightforward fashion this week. Record holding champion Jen Saunders would be next in line, having beaten everyone else in the draw other than Lambert the last two years. She should win her quarter final match over Erin Geeraert, although the Albertan certainly has the mobility and game style to push the champ. Look for a close two-game win for Saunders in that match up. The other two quarter finals are certainly more contentious and thus harder to call. The Fallu/Richardson match up is especially interesting, with Fallu suffering an injury which sidelined her just after her strongest season. She showed strong serving on the doubles court and will push Richardson, but I'm not sure hard enough. Christine is playing solid ball, and will be full of confidence after securing her second national doubles title with Michele Morissette earlier in the week. Add to that a win against training partner and #2 seed Jen Saunders earlier this season, and the balance of power shifts in her favour. The most congruous match of the quarters is Drury/Morissette, who come into singles competition as #4 and #5 both on the national rankings and as seeds in the competition. They have also split matches this season, so by all accounts this will be close. The slower courts will favour Morissette (the better shooter), who should also have more experience with them than Drury, so the slight advantage goes to the Quebec native, although this will be a tiebreaker win for whomever takes it.
Unfortunately, for whoever makes it though that battle, Frederique Lambert will be waiting on the other side and neither player is likely to offer much resistance. On the bottom half, Saunders still has the advantage over Richardson in that contest. Her loss to Christine early in the season was avenged via a straight-games win at the second selection event of the season in Calgary, but it's clear that Richardson has the tools to win. If she can bring everything together in the semis, it should be a good match at the very least. If these predictions end up being correct, we should have a Lambert/Saunders final and a Richardson/Morissette match for bronze. Lambert should take the final over Saunders barring bizarre circumstances, and with Richardson's strong play so far I'm picking her over Morissette in two close games.
The men's side of competition was without surprise yesterday, at least on the results side, with all the top seeds advancing with relative ease. Look for closer battles and potential upsets today, but the top seeds should all advance again. The main court will be streaming all day, beginning at noon EST with the Richardson/Fallu match. Check it out here: https://www.twitch.tv/racquetball_sani
*Please note you will need an account to log in and view the streaming matches, but it is free.