Saturday featured the R48 and SR48 quarterfinals and semifinals, as well as R48 Playoff action and the Texas State Doubles Championships, featuring several of the top pros.
The R48’s first quarterfinal of the morning pitted 9-time R48 champion Luis Moreno against 13-time R48 qualifier Anthony Selestow. Selestow was sharp from the outset, taking the action to “The Natural” and clinching game one with brilliant serving and defense. Selestow appeared to run out of energy in his third match and fourth hour on-court since Friday morning in the second and third games, falling quickly to Moreno. In a rematch of the R48 V New Orleans final, Paul Brady had little difficulty overcoming his Irish compatriot Killian Carroll, advancing in two games. Mando Ortiz played the best handball of the morning, blitzing Emmett Peixoto in a one-sided route. Sean Lenning was able to outlast Jonathan Iglesias in the final quarterfinal clash, overcoming early-game deficits in both games to advance in two games.
The first Houston R48 V semifinal produced the best and most dramatic match in the five-year and 31-event history of the R48 tour. Mando Ortiz entered his semifinal clash with 11-time R48 champion as one of only two players to defeat “The Gunner” in the past 12 years at the 2014 R48 IV Player’s Championship. Brady started the match with a sensational five-point run to seize a 5-0 lead, but Ortiz caught fire, scoring 15 of the next 16 points with breathtaking shot making and skills. “This is just really exciting to watch the drama unfold,” revealed top 25 R48 pro Adam Bernhard between games speaking to WPH Reporter Kara Mack. Brady fought back in game two, slowing down Ortiz with an underhand lob serve to the left and squaring the match. Ortiz regained the momentum in the tiebreaker, racing to a 12-3 lead and sitting just three points from taking down Brady for the second time in 22 months. Brady and Mando traded points over the next 11 points until Mando arrived at match point, 14-9. A nearly perfect serve yielded a back wall setup for Mando to end the match, but Mando’s kill attempt bounced into the side wall, allowing Brady to keep the rally alive and a Mando error four shots later handed Brady the serve. Brady rattled off four consecutive points to grab the momentum and pull within one of Mando. Clearly battling his nerves, Mando executed a kill for a side out and closed out the match on his fourth match point with a right corner kill. “I did this for my grandma,” stated Ortiz and emotional Ortiz lamenting the loss of his grandmother earlier in the week. “I want to thank everyone for supporting me throughout the years but I’m not done. Everyone comes to these events to win them and that’s what I want to do tomorrow.”
9-time R48 Champion Luis Moreno faced 5-time R48 Champion Sean Lenning in the second semifinal and their first R48 match-up in 13 months. Lenning controlled the action throughout the two-game sweep, executing first-strike kills and the spectacular shots that only “The Freak” can hit.
Ortiz and Lenning will meet in Sunday’s final for the third time in the last five R48 events, as Ortiz will aim to win his first R48 title and Lenning will aim to win his third R48 title in six events and nine months.
Marcos Chavez cruised to the final of the SR48 IV Stop #2, defeating Jeff Wall and Dan Zimet to advance to the final. Tyler Hamel defeated Juan Flores and outlasted Andy Schad in a 95-minute semifinal clash to advance to the final.
Sunday’s LIVE ESPN3 Broadcast Schedule, by WPH:
To watch Sunday’s R48 and SR48 finals and the R48 Playoffs live on ESPN, go to the Watch ESPN App
Log onto wphlive.tv, Like the World Players of Handball on Facebook, or follow the WPH on Twitter @dfwph and @wphlive for all of the handball news from Houston’s Race 4 eight V Stop #4! The World Players of Handball is a non-profit foundation aiming to grow the game of handball through innovation and inspiring the next generation of players through junior clinics with certified WPH coaches, junior tournaments and the Race 4 Eight tour.