Friday, July 12, 2024

Weekend sports roundup from Mexico: A win for women’s soccer, pro tennis in recovering Acapulco

The upstart Mexican women’s soccer team qualified for the semifinals of a prestigious tournament during a busy weekend on the Mexican sports scene.

The activity included a men’s pro tennis tournament in hurricane-damaged Acapulco that the director called the “first stage in the rebuilding process,” and also the final regular season games in a new women’s pro softball league in Mexico. Here’s the recap:

Red-hot Mexico advances to semifinals

Fresh off its historic 2-0 win over the United States, Mexico beat Uruguay 3-2 in women’s soccer on Sunday to move into the semifinals of the Concacaf W Gold Cup tournament.

Mexico had leads of 2-0 and 3-1 at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles, but Paraguay’s second goal in the 72nd minute made for an exciting and nerve-racking finish.

Aguascalientes native Jacqueline Ovalle scored two goals, giving her five in Mexico’s last three games, and Nuevo León native Karen Luna added one. Goalkeeper Esthefanny Barreras, who was born in Phoenix, saved a penalty shot.

A soccer player in a green jersey jumps for joy and grabs her teammates hand, on a professional soccer field
Karen Luna of Nuevo León jumps for joy after scoring for her team. (Selección Nacional de México Feminil/X)

In Mexico’s  professional women’s league, Liga MX Femenil, Ovalle plays for Tigres UANL, Luna for Club América and Barreras for CF Pachuca.

With three wins and a tie in four games, Mexico next plays in the semifinals on Wednesday against Brazil, which advanced with a 5-1 win over Argentina. Brazil is ranked 11th in the world and Mexico is 35th.

The game will be at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego at 8 p.m. CST. In Mexico, it can be viewed on ESPN+, which is also available on the Star+ platform.

Wednesday’s other semifinal will be the United States against Canada. The world’s No. 2-ranked U.S. team rebounded from only its second loss to Mexico in 43 meetings to beat Colombia 3-0 in the quarterfinals. Canada beat Costa Rica 1-0.

Women soccer players celebrate a win on the field
Mexico’s 2-0 victory over the U.S. in California last week was the second time the Mexican women’s team had beat the U.S. on that country’s home turf. (Concacaf)

The championship is slated for Sunday night.

Concacaf stands for the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football. The association has had a Gold Cup for national men’s teams  since 1991, but this year marks the first for women.

Tennis tourney ‘worth gold’ in Acapulco

Alex de Miñaur of Australia became the first player to win back-to-back titles at the Mexican Open in more than a decade when he beat Norway’s Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday in Acapulco.

He was the fourth player to win back-to-back titles in this 31-year-old tournament, joining Austrian Thomas Muster (1993-96), Spaniard Nicolás Almagro (2008-09) and Spaniard David Ferrer (2010-12).

All-time great Rafael Nadal of Spain won the tournament four times, including most recently in 2022, but never consecutively.

Alex de Miñaur celebrates a win on the tennis court
Alex de Miñaur celebrates a mid-tournament win over Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. (Abierto Mexicano de Tenis)

“Acapulco is becoming like a second home,” said de Miñaur, 25, after earning his eighth title on the top pro men’s circuit, the ATP.  The win earned him US $412,555 out of a purse of US $2.21 million.

The tournament was in peril due to damage inflicted by a Category 5 hurricane in October, which left at least 52 people dead. The city’s oceanfront Diamond Zone, where the tennis stadium is located, was devastated; Arena GNP Seguros needed more than US $11 million in repairs, the newspaper Milenio estimated.

“We [the tennis players] wanted to bring some joy to this wonderful city and I’m sure that Acapulco will shine stronger than ever,” de Miñaur said.

The tournament drew approximately 35,000 fans over eight days, said tournament director Álvaro Falla, well short of last year’s record of 90,000.

“Much more than expected,” he noted in a press release. “I confess I had my doubts that it would be possible, but the fans really believed in the project. It’s a great number. It’s a nice first stage in the rebuilding process. The most important thing was to take this first step. It is worth gold for Acapulco.”

New women’s pro softball league

On Jan. 25, the Mexican Softball League began its first season after 2½ years of planning. The fastpitch La Liga Mexicana de Softbol (LMS) started with six teams, and most of the games were played in professional baseball stadiums.

The first game in the Monterrey Baseball Stadium drew 13,408 fans — a record for a softball game in the Americas, according to the New York Times. Overall, the league said it drew 109,000 during its first four weeks.

The bulk of the league’s players are from Mexico, but there have also been some “big-name” signings from  the United States and Cuba. Many of the teams wear uniforms that could easily be seen on a big-league baseball diamond.

Softball player Alejandra Casas takes a swing
Alejandra Casas of Veracruz at bat against the Bravas of León on Feb. 29. (LMS)

The short regular season of seven-inning games concluded over the weekend, with Monterrey (15-9) atop the final standings, followed by Jalisco (14-9), Mexico City (14-10) and Veracuz (12-12). Tabasco and León didn’t qualify for the playoffs.

The best-of-five semifinals will run from Tuesday to Sunday, with the inaugural Serie de la Reina (Queen’s Series) beginning March 12.

The championship series in the Mexican Baseball League (LMB) is the Serie del Rey (King’s Series). Opening day in the LMB, which will have 20 teams this year after expanding by two, is April 11.

The pro softball league has fewer teams because ownership groups were asked to make a three-year commitment.

Some of the stars of the league so far are Mexico City’s Leannelys Zayas, a Cuban who had a league-best .479 batting average, and Veracruz pitcher Yilián Tornés (also a Cuban), whose 141 strikeouts beat out 132 by Jalisco’s Yeraldine Carrión for the league lead. Four LMS players hit over .400.

The United States has had a few women’s professional leagues over the years, but all but Women’s Professional Fastpitch, a four-team circuit that launched last year, are defunct. Until now, there had been no other pro softball league in this hemisphere.

“I think we will be a mirror for many Latin American countries, and it is something very important for women’s softball,” said Denisse de Carmen, manager of the Mexico City Red Devils. “I am personally delighted to be part of this story. There is a lot of talent to see.”

Monterrey Sultanes manager Nancy Prieto added that the women are committed to putting on a good show for the fans. “We cannot ignore the great responsibility we have,” she said. “Rest assured that each of us will work to make the games good and attractive to the people.”

With reports from AP, Remezcla, Concacaf and Milenio

By Mexico News Daily staff writer Andy Altman-Ohr

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