Known as the “Festival of Handball” for highlighting 1-Wall, 3-Wall and 4-Wall handball, the Simple Green U.S. Open is a player and fan favorite, as legends are made on the backdrop of the Southern California coastline. Simple Green’s annual October extravaganza has become a player and fan favorite, with more than 340 of the world’s best professional and amateur players converging in Fountain Valley California’s Los Caballeros Sports Village October 22nd-25th to compete for the largest cash prizes in the sport and the opportunity to be recognized as one of the game’s greats.
The 2015 Simple Green U.S. Open will be celebrating its 25th year honoring the game’s greatest champion and tournament host, Naty Alvarado Sr. The Simple Green U.S. Open also hosts the Race 4 Eight for the fifth consecutive season and serves as the first of seven Race 4 Eight V events, with R48 Pros aiming to earn ranking points en route to the WPH Player’s Championship in May of 2016.
Paul Brady and Catriona Casey will headline the men’s and women’s 4-Wall singles fields, with both stars campaigning to defend their 2014 Simple Green U.S. Open championships. Brady and Casey are the undisputed Race 4 Eight number one stars, with each winning every Race 4 Eight event in which he and she completed last season.
Brady will seek to continue his unprecedented dominance that started in 2004, producing five consecutive World Handball Championships since 2003 and 10 USHA Four Wall National Championships. “The Gunner” has lost just two completed singles matches in 12 years, making him one of sport’s most dominant athletes of the 21st century. To repeat as the U.S. Open champion, Brady will have to contend with the world’s best from both sides of the Atlantic. Brady’s countrymen and current world doubles champions Robbie McCarthy and Diarmaid Nash and world singles finalist Killian Carroll will make the transatlantic flight from Ireland to California, and top American stars Luis Moreno, Sean Lenning, Emmett Peixoto, and Mando Ortiz will also be gunning for Brady’s crown. The Irish and American stars will be hoping to announce themselves as the next force in the sport. With $10k to the winner, the action promises to be intense and electrifying.
Brady will also enter the most prolific Men’s Open Doubles draw in U.S. Open history alongside Race 4 8 co-#3 Emmett Peixoto. The superstar doubles draw includes the aforementioned world champions Robbie McCarthy and Diarmiad Nash, current national champions Sean Lenning and Marcos Chavez, Killian Carroll and Irish phenom Colin Crehan, 2015 WPH Race 4 Eight Rookie of the Year Daniel Cordova and 2012 Race 4 Eight Elite 8 member Luis Cordova, and Southern California’s R48 stars Mando Ortiz and Vic Perez. Wow!
The Top Men’s Race 4 Eight Seeds
Paul Brady: The undisputed world and R48 #1 decimated the greatest players in the world in his first full season on the R48 tour, outscoring his opponents 650-257, winning all 20 matches in which he completed and claiming five titles. Brady showed no signs of slowing down after a leg injury suffered in April, as he dominated the field to win his 10th USHA Four Wall National Singles Championship in June. Brady clinched his unprecedented fifth consecutive world title in Calgary, a feat that will very well never be matched
Luis Moreno: Moreno has been the tour’s most consistent player throughout four Race 4 Eight seasons, remaining inside the top two in the R48 Power Rankings since January of 2012 and collecting nine Race titles in his career. An uncharacteristic slump in the second half of the R48 IV season saw Moreno fail to advance to the finals of the season’s final four events. A dominant victory at the Pre-Race Stop #2 at the Plummer Bash signaled that Moreno is prepared to re-assume his position at the top of the rankings
Emmett Peixoto: Peixoto brings unmatched speed and intensity to every match, making each R48 pro earn every point, while strategically and methodically searching for weaknesses and openings. The Handball Pro Emeritus at San Francisco’s Olympic Club, Peixoto advanced to the finals the R48 IV’s Del Grande Dealer Group Olympic Club Stop #4, defeating Luis Moreno in the semifinals and pushing Paul Brady in the final. Peixoto will be a force in the R48 V season, as he always is
Sean Lenning: After uncharacteristically struggling through the R48 III season and starting the R48 IV season with losses in round of 16 and round of 8, Lenning rediscovered the form that has made him the game’s most exciting and electrifying player for more than a decade. Lenning advanced to the final in the R48 IV Houston by defeating Luis Moreno for the first time in Race play and ended his season with an emphatic victory at the R48 IV Player’s Championship, earning him the year-end #3 R48 ranking (tied with Peixoto) and R48 Comeback Player of the Year honors. Expect to see Lenning in the top two of the R48 rankings by November of 2015
Mando Ortiz: After an incredible comeback season in the R48 III that saw Ortiz defeat Peixoto, Alvarado, Lenning and Brady, Ortiz stumbled in the first half of the R48 IV season, losing in the quarterfinals of the Simple Green U.S. Open, the round of 16 in Tucson and the quarterfinals in Houston. Ortiz caught fire late in the season, finding his confidence in a competitive loss to Paul Brady in the season’s final regular season event at the NYAC and carrying that confidence into the R48 IV Player’s Championship, advancing to the final with impressive victories over Emmett Peixoto and Luis Moreno. The enigmatic Ortiz is always dangerous and will be a fixture in the late rounds of the R48 V tour
David Fink: The fiery lefty has been just one of two R48 pros to have maintained a top 8 R48 ranking since the inception of the tour in 2011 (Moreno), reaching as high as #2 in January of 2013. Fink played his best ball in the second half of the R48 IV season, notching victories over Mando Ortiz in San Francisco and Emmett Peixoto in Salt Lake City
Daniel Cordova: After skipping the Simple Green U.S. Open to start the R48 IV season, Cordova qualified for the first time on the R48 tour in Tucson and continued to accumulate points throughout the season. Cordova advanced to his first quarterfinal in Houston, claiming fifth with a playoff victory over Marcos Chavez and earned his career-best fourth-place finish at the R48 Player’s Championship, securing R48 Rookie of the Year honors. Cordova’s hop serve has established him as one of the best “hop artists” in the game in his first season on tour, as Daniel creates offensive opportunities and points off his dominating serve. As youngest member of the Elite 8, look for Cordova to continue to climb the rankings, perhaps all the way to #1 in the coming years
Naty Alvarado: Despite multiple attempts to retire from Race play, the thrill of the competition and challenging the best players on the planet continues to lure “El Tigre” back to the tour. Maintaining his fitness and drive to play with the best in his early 40’s, Alvarado shows little signs of slowing down, defeating Mando Ortiz at the Simple Green U.S. Open ’14 and Emmett Peixoto at the NYAC ’15. Alvarado still possesses one of the most explosive “serve-and-shoot” games in the sport, often needing just one or two swings to earn points. Don’t listen to Alvarado’s retirement decrees, as he will be testing the game’s best players for years to come
Stephen Cooney: Moving to New York City and committing to the Race 4 Eight tour full-time in the summer of 2014, Cooney quickly established himself as a force on the R48 tour. A near miss in the round of 16 at the 2013 Simple Green U.S. Open followed by hip surgery only motivated the “Coondogg,” as he quickly rose to the top 10 of the 2014-2015 WPH R48 Power Rankings with victories over Fink, Iglesias, Bernhard, Perez and Selestow. Armed with one of the game’s best re kills and conditioning, Cooney has his sites set on the pinnacle of the R48 tour in the upcoming season
Robbie McCarthy: Ireland’s top all-around handball star has made the most of his four Race 4 Eight starts since 2011, finishing first, fifth, second, and first. The 2011 Simple Green U.S. Open Champion and 2014 WPH R48 Player’s Champion is one of the most explosive players in the sport, earning the nickname “Buzzsaw” for his ability to decimate draws with his two-handed attack and devastating consistency. Only Paul Brady has been able to defeat the “Buzzsaw” outside of Ireland since January of 2014, with McCarthy picking up victories against Lenning, Moreno, Peixoto and Ortiz at major events
Diarmaid Nash: “D” is one of only three players (Ortiz, McCarthy) to advance to a Race 4 Eight final as a qualifier, proving that he has the fitness and the game to compete against anyone in handball. Nash is known for his speed, anticipation, and crafty shot selection, catching even the top players by surprise with his deft re kills and clever corner kills. With Race victories over Emmett Peixoto, Allan Garner, Martin Mulkerrins, and Jonathan Iglesias, this lefty is a quiet force on the R48 tour
Killian Carroll: Despite making just one start in his Race career, the 22-year old Cork man has grabbed the attention of the handball world. Known for being one of the game’s greatest gentlemen, Carroll owns an undefeated record against Race stars Luis Moreno, Emmett Peixoto, and Andy Nett. A sensational run to the finals of the 2015 World Handball Championships announced Carroll of one of the game’s elite, capable of outlasting and outplaying the best in the sport. Look for Carroll to take his outstanding all-around game to the Race 4 Eight V tour and quickly rise towards the top of the rankings.
Catriona Casey will aim to keep her undefeated Women’s Race 4 Eight record intact at the 2015 Simple Green U.S. Open of Handball, as Casey has won all seven WR48 events held since the inception of the Women’s Race 4 Eight at the 2013 Simple Green U.S. Open of Handball. Catriona Casey will undoubtedly hope to have the opportunity to avenge her 2015 World Championship finals loss to her rival Aisling Reilly. Casey and/or Reilly have competed in every major women’s final since 2012, but the Irish sensations will have to advance through a loaded draw if they are to meet in the 2015 Simple Green U.S. Open Women’s Final. Martina McMahon, Jessica Gawley, and Tracy Davis have proven they have the skills to challenge Casey and Reilly, and will be setting their sights on the Simple Green title.
4-Wall Women’s Top Seeds
Catriona Casey: Casey is the only player to have ever started a Race event and never lost a match. This impressive 22-year old phenom may be the world’s best and most dominant athlete, compiling a 12-0 match record on the WR48 II tour with four titles and an astounding scoring ratio of 4.2:1 during the WR48 IV season. Casey is perhaps the most skilled women’s player in history, possessing no discernible weaknesses, two equally strong hands and the ability to make match-changing adjustments on the biggest stages. Casey plays must-see handball, as her on-court elegance and grace in unmatched in today’s game
Aisling Reilly: Reilly is the 2012 and 2015 Women’s World Singles Champion and the game’s #2 ranked pro. Reilly’s power and finesse is lethal combination, as the Belfast superstar can end rallies from anywhere on the court with either hand. Reilly has not lost to any player other than Catriona Casey in more than two years, while handing Casey consecutive losses in the 2014 and 2015 All Ireland Senior Championships. Reilly nearly defeated her greatest rival in at the WR48 Player’s Championship and the USHA Four Wall Nationals, splitting the first two games and losing the tiebreaker in both encounters. Reilly is one-half of the greatest rivalry in the sport, with the undeniable ability to claim the top spot in the coming season. Reilly played in her third consecutive world championship singles final Calgary, defending her 2012 world championship with a scintillating three-game victory against Casey
Martina McMahon: McMahon plays one of the smoothest and seemingly effortless brands of handball in the pro game. Never appearing to be rushed or out of position, McMahon unleashes one-inch high kill shots from virtually anywhere on the court with her devastating left hand that is as pretty as it is effective. McMahon ended the WR48 III season with consecutive third-place finishes against the strongest WR48 fields in history. “2M” will be a player to watch in every event she enters
Tracy Davis: By virtue of her incredible cross over play, sportsmanship, and engaging personality, “Trey Dey” has established herself as one of the most popular players in handball throughout the past two decades. Now in her late 30s, Davis continues to be one of the best all-around players and exciting athletes in the sport. With her devastating serve and rally-ending prowess, Davis has pushed WR48 #1 Catriona Casey to the limit on several occasions. Davis will aim to win her first Simple Green U.S. Open Women’s Singles title next week against the best women stars in the sport
Jessica Gawley: Canadian superstar Jessica Gawley is one of the best left-handed women’s players in the history of the sport. Combining flawless fundamentals with supreme conditioning, Gawley is a handball lifer that is a threat to every top player in every big event. Gawley has yet to claim a WR48 titles, but a finals appearance earlier this year in San Francisco demonstrated Gawley’s flair for the big stage
3-Wall Big Ball
3-Wall Big Ball stars Juan Santos and Samzon Hernandez will continue their rivalry on the heels of their scintillating final at the 2015 3WallBall Outdoor Championship final. Santos overcame three match points to defeat “The Machine” in a “Match of the Decade” candidate in Las Vegas just less than a month ago. A rejuvenated and motivated Samzon Hernandez will be difficult to beat at the U.S. Open, a tournament in which he has owned since 2012. Hernandez and Santos will have to contend with a strong field that includes 2015 WPH Outdoor Xrossover Big Ball champion Lobo Valencia, Ricky Ruiz, Timbo Gonzalez and a number of other top stars.
The 3-Wall Big Ball Doubles features 16 of the best 3-Wall Big Ball teams in the sport. 3-Wall Big Ball Doubles often produces the most fast-paced and exciting action of the event, and the 2015 Simple Green U.S. Open will likely be no exception. In a wide-open doubles field that could see any team winning any match, Samzon Hernandez and “Fast” Eddie Jocol and Juan Santos and Kevin Gonzalez appear to be the favorites.
1-Wall Big Ball Men
Timbo Gonzalez enters the 2015 Simple Green U.S. Open of Handball as the current 1-Wall Big Ball World Champion and the defending Simple Green U.S. Open of Handball 1-Wall Big Ball singles champion. Red Bull’s Timbo Gonzalez also captured the 2015 3WallBall 1-Wall Big Ball title with alarming ease, proving that he is undoubtedly the player to beat at Los Caballeros. Two-time 2015 Gonzalez conqueror and current 1-Wall Big Ball National Champion Tywan Cook will look to bounce back from consecutive major final losses to Gonzalez at the World Championships and the 3WallBall Championships to claim his first Simple Green U.S. Open of Handball 1-Wall Big Ball singles crown.
Tywan Cook and Carlin Rosa will aim to repeat their 2014 1-Wall Big Ball Doubles title at Simple Green U.S. Open in a stellar doubles field that includes 1-Wall handball legends Robert Sostre and Allen Sanchez.
1-Wall Big Ball Women
Current World 1-Wall Big Ball Women’s champion Danielle Daskalakis and current National 1-Wall Big Ball Women’s champion Sandy Ng will renew the best outdoor rivalry in women’s handball in the Women’s 1-Wall Big Ball singles at the 2015 Simple Green U.S. Open. Daskalakis rallied from seemingly insurmountable deficits in the finals of the World Championships and the 3WallBall 1-Wall International Cup to defeat Ng, proving that no lead is safe against the explosive lefty. Ng will aim to bounce back from disappointing losses in Calgary and Las Vegas to hoist her second major women’s 1-Wall singles trophy of the year in Fountain Valley. Daskalakis and Ng will have to contend with Tracy Davis, the greatest women’s outdoor player in the past two decades, the ageless wonder Yolanda Monroe, Bernice Torres, Tamiko Pearson, and a host of other top ladies en route to the final.
Daskalakis and Ng will enter the Women’s 1-Wall Big Ball Doubles as the overwhelming favorites, but will have to overcome one of the top New York City teams of Suly Ruiz and Tamiko Pearson, as well as WPH Outdoor Women’s #1 Tanisha Groomes and her partner Yolanda Monroe.
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WPH Senior Writer