2014 ProKennex Tournament of Champions Logo

9-Time World Champ Kane Keeps 2014 Tournament of Champions Purse in ProKennex Family

altProKennex’s reigning champion, #1 Kane Waselenchuk, secured the IRT season-ending ProKennex Tournament of Champions crown and bolstered the points backing his 9th IRT World Champion crown.  Click HERE to watch on the IRTNetwork.com
 
 

Championship Match Recap:

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #2 Rocky Carson 

As the two faced off in a Saturday night final, Rocky Carson had to face his biggest challenge mere hours after a grueling 5-game battle. He knew he needed to get the #1 player off his game – slow it down, move him around, and deliver perfect execution on his shots. Waselenchuk’s game plan proved to have more success, as he was able to clinch his shots, power ace serves, and block Carson. 

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #5 Daniel De La Rosa 7, 5, 10

After the coin toss, the two ProKennex players stepped into position for game one. De La Rosa came out drive serving similar to how he ended his quarterfinal match against Jose Rojas; very face paced game style which pushed Waselenchuk to keep up. Waselenchuk started off unusually, lob serving De La Rosa’s forehand. At 8-6, Waselenchuk took an unusual step and slipped, pulling a groin muscle.  He pushed through a couple of points before taking a timeout, coming back to finish game 1, without De La Rosa scoring another point.

 Game two started off similarly to the end of game one, as De La Rosa began to find his rhythm and put the pressure on Waselenchuk. It looked like the momentum was about to change, when De La Rosa dove, hitting the sidewall and injuring his shoulder. De La Rosa took a timeout, after which Waselenchuk decided it was time to pick up the pace, drive-serving as he normally does.

Game three the excitement amped up as the players went back and forth. You could see the pain in both players, as the two pushed through their injuries, leaving it all on the court. Waselenchuk slowly pulled away to send him to his last final of the 2013-2014 season. 

#2 Rocky Carson d #6 Ben Croft (7), 4, 6, (9), 6 

Ben Croft took a 6-0 lead as Carson disputed calls. Carson battled back, reaching a 7-7 tie. Croft’s turn to dispute came after a replay was called. He wanted a penalty hinder. Carson joined in before the two got back to business. After the next call, Croft complimented IRT Referee, suggesting he’d made a make-up call. “Nice split.” Croft pulled ahead for a win, serving as Carson was still arguing with the ref well after the allotted ten-second window allotted after the score was called. Croft won game 1, 11-7.

 In game two, emotions seemed to settle down as the two players battled with their racquets instead of their voices. They traded rallies and serves, keeping it close to ratchet up point by point with no player dominating en route to a 4-4 tie, until Carson pulled ahead. Deliberate, focused, and calm, the #2 pro controlled his emotions and game, taking the second, 11-4.

In game three and with the crowd behind him, Carson seemed to have both the game and his emotions under control, pulling to an 8-1 lead. Croft attempted a comeback to 6-9, his fiery game style leaving everything on the court. Carson thought he closed the game at 10-6, opening the door to walk off the court –  until Pratt called a skip. Undeterred, he nailed a pinch kill for the next serve, but again couldn’t close out game point. The two battled on, traded punches, until Carson closed it out for real, 11-6.

In game 4, Rocky pulled ahead 6-1 while Croft fought back, on the defensive and banging his body around diving across the court. Point by point he worked his way to a 6-6 tie. The two continued to trade blows, hitting hard to a 9-9 tie. Croft broke through, bringing the match to a tiebreaker by hitting a winner from his knees.

 Game 5 was another tight match, as the two kept it close tied at 6-6 until Carson pulled away for the match at 11-6.

 

Quarterfinal Round Results

#2 Rocky Carson d #7 Chris Crowther 11-2, 11-7, 11-4

Rocky Carson and Chris Crowther seemed intense as they stepped onto the court. Rocky immediately ripped into a power grove, serving up a string of ace drive serves to Crowther’s backhand for a quick lead. Crowther was off. Whether from a bad night or as a result of Rocky’s screaming serves, his 6’6” wingspan couldn’t get to the ball. Crowther’s frustration showed, as argued with IRT Referee, Charlie Pratt, earning a technical and a loss in game one 2-11. Game two played out much like game one, a frustrated Crowther unable to dial in to fight back against a focused Carson whose serves in game one were about the best any had seen. 

In game three, Crowther contended in a different way than the first, keeping the score close to tie at 4-4 before Carson started pulling way. With a soft touch to the front wall, Carson notched 4 unanswered points to bring the score to 8-4. Crowther took a timeout. He didn’t find the answer. Carson won game three 11-7 for the match.

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #8 Jansen Allen 0, (8), 5, 2

Fans were excited to see what Jansen Allen, who took out hometown favorite and IRT referee, Charlie Pratt in the Round of 16, could do in the quarterfinal round. Visibly shaking, Allen stepped into position for the return of serve. The echo of Waselenchuk’s drive serves rang with a high pitch, as he drove through a quick game one by mixing up rocketing power, a soft touch, and deft placement for an 11-0 win.

Jansen served up an ace to start game two, earning a point and round of applause from the crowd. A grin replaced his shaky nerves as he settled to deliver a couple of pinches and a wide angle for a run of his own, up 4-0.  Waselenchuk came back, with a backhand pinch to the front for the serve. Allen wasn’t deterred, demonstrating the pinpoint placement low on the wall that got him deep into the draw. Up 8-2, the pressure seemed to get to him.

“He’s thinking too much,” said one fan to another. “Had a good lead, but got loose, putting pressure on himself,” agreed another. Waselenchuck came back, earning a long, hard-fought rally and a skip to bring his score to 4. Then he skipped, giving Allen a trip back to the serve box. A tight pinch from center court gave Allen a chance at game point. He served to Waselenchuk’s forehand. The #1 player killed the ball and strolled between the red lines, familiar territory for the man looking to close out his 9th season at #1. After Waselenchuk notched a couple of more points, 6-10. Allen took a timeout. Fans backed the underdog. Back on the court and in the serve box, Allen put away a reverse pinch to take game 2, 11-6

In game three, Waselenchuk didn’t back down, with an unpredictable shoulder high shot from the back glass for 1-0, an screaming serve raising for 2-0, and on to 10-0. Allen had some shots. Waselenchuk dominated to 10-0, when Allen got the serve, his own back court overhand reverse pinch got him on the board for a catch-up run with tough shooting from the back court, cutting down shots, and tight pinching in the corner. Still, he could only rack up 5 points. The game was closer than the 5-10 score.

Game three Allen showed he could return power with power, keeping the score close even as Waselenchuk pulled ahead, 4-2.  That was it, as Waselenchuk demonstrated why he is the reigning champion, taking game four,11-2, for the match.

#6 Ben Croft d #3 Alvaro Beltran 3, 3, 1 

Murmurs in the crowd had Beltran taking this one, but Croft came out swinging, firing ace serves, tight pinches, and power shots from all over the court, wining game 1, 10-3.

In game 2, Croft again took a commanding lead, 8-3. A down-to-business atmosphere emanated from the court, replacing Beltran’s usual joviality and Croft’s banter with the crowd. Both players focused, as Croft darted to get every shot and Beltran seemed sluggish in comparison. Croft took game 2, 11-3.

Croft continued firing in game three, and made incredible gets when fired at back. As Croft served 3-1, Beltran’s body language started to show his frustration, and seemed ready to take out on IRT referee. “Not two bounces,” Beltran called up to the official’s stand before raising three fingers. Beltran game had been off, but maybe it returned with his sense of humor as he clawed back, overtaking the lead 4-3. Both kept it close from there, exchanging the lead. Up 7-6, Beltran took a timeout. Croft scored when they came back, and the two seemed stuck at 7-7 for longer than the first two games of the Carson-Crowther match. Beltran pulled ahead, but couldn’t convert game point for a win to stay in the match. Croft delivered an ace to bring the score 9-10. The next ball was called good, but many in the crowd and Beltran saw it skipping at Croft’s feet, at an angle that couldn’t have been seen from the official’s perch. Croft delivered what one fan called “the best serve of his career” to tie the score at 10-10, notched 11-10 after a demanding rally before closing out the game 12-10 for the match.

#5 Daniel De La Rosa d #3 Jose Rojas 3, 7, 7

After Rojas’ 5-game tiebreaking win over De La Rosa a mere two weeks prior, the fans eagerly settled in to see who would come out ahead. The two played it fast and tight, tying at 2-2 before De La Rosa took with a 6-2 lead. Usually a quick, hard-hitter, Rojas seemed off – delivering shots six inches higher on the front wall and near to center court, leaving easy pickings for the Tour’s biggest rising star, whose #5 season-to-date ranking after Stockton is the best earned on the Tour. Key skips from Rojas help De La Rosa. Down 3-8, Rojas took a timeout. Rojas came back firing. De La Rosa fired back, with an uncanny ability to bend, pivot, and switch around to the ball. Rojas appeared more like an elder statement against the De La Rosa’s elasticity, but Rojas didn’t have his usual intensity. De La Rosa earned an easy 10-3 win after a tight pinch from 39’ back. 

In game two, Rojas pulled ahead, notching a perfect down on the wall kill and hitting with authority. De La Rosa caught him cheating left and hit a pinch – for the serve and point. De La Rosa was on fire, shooting to the front lower and harder. Rojas passed him on the right. De La Rosa dove to his knees nailing a reverse pinch for a 5-3 lead as applause rang out for both. At 7-3, Rojas took a timout, but couldn’t dial into us usual game against an opponent who was more focuses, dialed in, and eager. De La Rosa dialed in scored point after point. Neither player spoke. De La Rosa’s backcourt splat brought his score to game point. Rojas had an answer (4-10), and served a left lob with a deft touch (5-10), and down-the-line kill (6-10) before skipping a backhand reverse pinch at 7-10.  Daniel served and then buried Rojas’ return for the win, 11-7.

 In game three, Rojas was up 3-1. De La Rosa spoke first time in the match to Pratt after an avoidable was called. ”What? It was down,” he questioned, with a disbelieving smile on his face.” No matter. De La Rosa got the next rally to serve, but couldn’t convert. The two started to play the aggressive game fans expected from the start, as Rojas sent De La Rosa diving wall to wall. After De La Rosa served at 2-3, Rojas had an answer of his own – a short hop reverse pinch that even fleet-footed De La Rosas couldn’t retrieve. The pinch worked again, as Rojas pulled ahead 4-3. A sidewall glass skimming down the line returned De La Rojas to the box. The two battled back an forth, Rojas ahead 5-4, then De La Rosa 7-5. Rojas timeout, when his coach advised. “Go finish.” It wasn’t over. Serving at 6-9, Charlie called a skip. The first true smile of the match spread across De La Rosa’s his face. When Pratt called a replay hinder next, neither player was happy as De La Rosa wanted the avoidable. It was Rojas’ turn to smile as he served 10-7, but De La Rosa’s indisputable cross court pass earned the serve for another shot at match point, but he didn’t put away after Roja’s slick down the line right side pass. At his third chance at game point, De La Rojas ended the match with an easy between the legs kills shot, 11-7.

 Round of 16 Results

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #17 Mauro Rojas3, (4), 5, 12-10

#8 Jansen Allen d #9 Charlie Pratt 10, 3, 8

#7 Chris Crowther d #10 Cliff Swain 9, 2, 6

#2 Rocky Carson d #18 W Antone lv 5, 2, 3

#4 Jose Rojas d Connor Laffey 3, 2, 6

#5 Daniel De La Rosa d #12 Thomas Fuhrmann 7, 7, 6

#3 Alvaro Beltran d Andree Parrilla 11, 0, 7, 8

#6 Ben Croft d #11 Hiroshi Shimizu 5, 6, 1

ProKennex Tournament of Champions Showcases Elite 8

 By S.L. Young

Only a select few will attend the last event of the 2013–2014 IRT season, reserved for only the best players on the Tour and amateurs in the Northwest. Unless you’re a real contender … you won’t be there.  

The ProKennex TOC is the IRT’s year-end event that will be held at the prestigious Multnomah Athletic Club (The MAC – www.themac.com) in Portland Oregon from May 15 – 18.  The MAC is known for its ability to host high quality events and top ranked players.  The MAC is a premier club with 10 back-wall glass courts that have plenty of viewing area, along with the ability to snap photos and videotape the incredible matches that will happen throughout the tournament.

The MAC’s racquetball professional (Pro) Hank Marcus commented on the upcoming tournament by saying, “MAC and all of Oregon is excited to be continuing the tradition of ProKennex Tournament of Champions.  The history of racquetball’s legends playing on MAC’s Court 10 goes back to the 80’s.”  Some of the legends who have played at The MAC include: Marty Hogan, Mike Yellen, Dan Obremski, Mike Ray, Andy Roberts, Drew Kachtik, Tim Doyle, Ruben Gonzalez, Marty Hogan, Cliff Swain, Mike Guidry, John Ellis, Sudsy Monchik, Jason Mannino, and many more.
 
The players who have already punched their ticket to be at this event are: #1 Kane Waselenchuk, #2 Rocky Carson, #3 Alvaro Beltran, #4 Jose Rojas, and #5 Ben Croft.  The #6 and #7 positions will most likely be confirmed by Daniel De La Rosa and Chris Crowther, respectively — at the Ektelon Battle of the 209 two weeks prior.
 
Based on the IRT rankings as of March 31, #6 De La Rosa has a chance to move into the #5 slot over Ben Croft who has a 5 point advantage.  However, the real battle is for the last spot to receive an invite to the TOC.  The players battling for this last slot are #8 Tony Carson and #9 Marco Rojas, as there are only 38 points separating each from an invite to this premiere event or the beginning of their summer break.
 
This tournament would not occur without the collaboration between The MAC and its staff, ProKennex President and CEO (Michael Martinez), IRT President (Jason Mannino), Tournament Director (Elliott Saunders), and the MAC’s Pro (Hank) to deliver a high-quality professional event.  Notwithstanding any of these contributions, this event would not be possible without the commitment of The MAC, which is one of the largest and historically significant racquetball clubs in the U.S.  The MAC has hosted racquetball events since the 1960’s, as well as being the creator and only host to the ProKennex TOC.
 
Tournament Director Elliott Saunders added, “It is great to be a part of such a prolific tournament that has such a rich history.  Being able to bring the pros to Portland and showcase them for the Pacific NW is an opportunity I would not pass up!”
 
altThe presenting sponsor of this event is ProKennex Racquetball, which is an industry leader in the delivery of advanced technology and high quality gear for professional and amateur players. ProKennex’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Michael Martinez, conveyed his excitement about its sponsorship, “ProKennex Racquetball is extremely pleased to be the title sponsor of the IRT season ending Tournament of Champions.  Our commitment has been and is to the pro game and by sponsoring this event it further exemplifies our dedication to the sport of racquetball.”
 
ProKennex also sponsors the #1 player on the IRT tour and 8-time world champion Kane Waselenchuck along with the quickly rising #6 player in the world Daniel De La Rosa.  At last year’s final, Waselenchuk bested Ben Croft in three games: 11-3, 11-4, and 11-7.
 
Can anyone go the distance against Kane to put some doubts into his mind during the last tournament of the year?  This might not be likely, but it’s also not impossible.  Will this battle of the elite 8 be the beginning of the changing of the guard on the IRT tour?  Only time will tell, but there are a lot of excited fans awaiting the outcome.
 
Written by S.L. YoungS. L. Young (www.slyoung.com) – author, blogger, and inspirational speaker