History is a common theme shared by the Long Beach Open and the Belmont Athletic Club as this inaugural event makes professional racquetball history with the first-ever all professional doubles tournament at a club that has seen history with heavyweights like Charlie Brumfield, Marty Hogan, the Peck brothers, Gerry Price, Jim Oliver, Andy Roberts and Cliff Swain. In the final, veterans Rocky Carson/Alvaro Beltran controlled the methodical, slow-and-deliberate cadence of the rallies and pace between serves while keeping level heads and maintaining solid play to win 15-4, 15-6 for the first-ever Long Beach Open Champions title.
Championship Match Recap
By Tim Prigo
Beltran/Carson d De La Rosa/ Rojas 15-4, 15-6
Game One- De La Rosa/Rojas scored first but quickly found themselves trailing the veteran team’s points, 6-2. Both Rojas and De La Rosa started skipping early. Rojas looked frustrated and called a timeout. When play resumed, Carson continued to put away backhand splats, something he had done all first game. At 9-2, De La Rosa got caught on the sidewall and was hit by a Rojas forehand ball, giving away the 10th point. Carson’s retrieve-ability combined with Beltran’s soft hands in the front court subdued any shift in momentum. Carson/Beltran ran out the game in dominant fashion, never allowing any serious inroads against their lead. 15-4.
Game Two- Beltran and Carson continued to hit high percentage offensive shots that pressured their opponents to end rallies, and ultimately produced more skips. At 0-2, something needed to change for the underdog and it did. First, Rojas started to roll balls from his backhand that, at times, overpowered Carson. Second, both Rojas and De La Rosa successfully served Carson’s backhand side. Rojas and De La Rosa appeared to have swung the momentum back in their favor at 4-4. The shift didn’t last however, as Beltran started shooting and connecting a flurry of kill shots, including a between-the-legs-from-behind-the-back swing for a pinch kill in a front corner. 8-4, advantage Beltran/Carson. The quick pace of this game, much like the first, favored Carson/Beltran. Unlike the previous match against Waselenchuk/Croft, both Rojas and De La Rosa lacked the fire and aggression that had carried them through the semifinals. The veterans controlled the methodical, slow and deliberate cadence of the rallies and pace between serves. De La Rosa/Rojas weren’t able to mount a threatening offense. Carson/Beltran kept level heads and solid play to win this game 15-6 for the first-ever Long Beach Open Champions title
Semifinal Round Match Recaps
After a thrilling challenge by the #12 seed and local favorites, Scott Davis/Tom Durham, #4 Charlie Pratt/Jansen Allen fell to the #1 Carson/Beltran in a tiebreaker 15-3, 6-15, 11-9. #3 Daniel De La Rosa/Jose Rojas upset the #2 Kane Waselenchuk/Ben Croft in another tiebreaker 15-14, 7-15, 11-6. Read the match recaps below and then watch the final on the IRTNetwork.com.
#3 De La Rosa/J. Rojas d #2 Croft/Waselenchuk 15-14, 7-15, 11-6
Game One- Rojas/De La Rosa started the match hot, jumping out to a 6-0 lead. Rojas put down the majority of the balls. This younger team looked in complete control at the onset of the match, but when it appeared as if they might run away with the game, Croft imposed. Croft was able to hit many forehand kills and bring his team back to a 5-6 score. Waselenchuk’s game remained unusually silent. Both teams stayed neck and neck, although Rojas/De La Rosa kept a slight edge at 10-8.
Waselenchuk scored 4 points in a row at a very opportune time, forcing Rojas to try to break his run by calling a timeout at 12-10. Croft, either accidentally or wanting to get into De La Rosa’s head, pushed into him after a rally. Waselenchuk seemed to sense that the win was at hand and buried two more missles into the right hand corner to reach point. On the next rally and after a Rojas backhand, De La Rosa was pinned in the back left hand corner while Croft, possibly going for the ball, slammed his back side into the younger player, which sent De La Rosa flying into the backwall with enough force to make the door swing open. Unfortunately for Croft and Waselenchuk, this must have fueled the young gunner’s passion as DeLaRosa/Allen regained the serve and rank off points in dramatic fashion to finish the game makeing a thrilling and resilient statement from De La Rosa and Rojas, 15-14.
Game Two- Croft/Waselenchuk commanded an early 3-0 lead when the teams returned to the court. Croft/Waselenchuk controlled the front court for At 7-3. Rojas/De La Rosa took turns hitting jaw-dropping roll-outs, but were not able to gain momentum they enjoyed at the end of game one. At 12-3 Waselenchuk imposed his will in the court, taking a majority of his team’s shots and putting most away. De La Rosa/Rojas were able to go on a small run by targeting their serves to Croft playing right, but eventually succumbed 7-15 to the red-hot Waselenchuk/Croft pair.
Game Three (tiebreaker)- Croft/Waselenchuk carrried momentum from the second game for a 5-0 lead. De La Rosa/Rojas began to show signs of life as they were able to stop hemorrhaging points and temporarily stall their opponents. As if skips were contagious, Croft picked up the habit infecting Waselenchuk, who followed suit. The #2-ranked duo skipped the younger team all the way into the lead at 8-6. Rojas caught a stunning shot off his bumper guard that rolled out perfectly to bring his team to 9-6, taking up the mantle as the hottest racquet on the court by killing shots from deep in backcourt. Both De La Rosa and Rojas carried themselves confidently, rejoiced, and shouted words of encouragement to each other after every point. Croft and Waselenchuk looked stunned, something not often seen. Before the veteran team could find their footing once more, Rojas served match point. Croft Skip. Game and match went to Rojas/De La Rosa, 11-6.
#1 Beltran/Carson d #4 Pratt/Allen 15-3, 6-15, 11-9
GameOne- Both teams began the match meeting blow for blow. No one player started the first game outstandinngly, and not many risks were taken. 3-3, Allen was the slowest to dial in, giving Carson/Beltran the lead with a series of skips, 7-3. Though Pratt/Allen were able to stop mishitting their shots, they couldn’t rack points. 3-10. Between Allen’s cold start and Beltran’s solid forehand, the underdogs found themselves in a sizable hole early, 3-12. Carson, playing left, ran out the rest of the game by creating set-ups for his partner and serving Pratt. Game one went to Carson/Beltran 15-3.
Game Two- Pratt/Allen showed little signs of life in game one, possibly due to the fact they had competed in a long quarterfinal barnburner match only 11 hours ago. Something would have to change as Carson/Beltran looked to be growing more and more comfortable in their respective roles. Beltran continued to hit well on his forehand, earning a 5-1 lead with soft hands north of the service line and by taking dink-exchanges that came his way. Pratt started to heat up and began sinking backhand splats. Now Allen and Pratt were took the offensive initiative for their first lead of the game at 9-6. Allen appeared to have shaken off the cobwebs, and buried chest-high forehands into the opposite corner. At 11-6, Carson/Beltran called a timeout. Pratt/Allen continued to steam ahead after the time-out, 14-6. On the first game point attempt, Pratt scored by targeting his shot to an out-of-position Beltran stuck hugging the wall. 15-6 in Patt/Jansen’s favor leading to a tiebreaker.
Game Three (Tiebreaker)- Beltran/Carson jumped into the lead first, appearing much more focused than at the end of the previous game. Allen had heated up in the second game, and continued to hit well at the start of the ‘breaker, making two consecutive rally-ending pinches. Pratt offered the support role to his partner, playing intelligently. 5-2, Allen/Pratt. Beltran, who had been playing well all match came alive with a flurry of splat kills, tying the game at 5-5. Pratt/Allen regained the serve and scored two points, one from a penalty hinder called on Carson, and took a 7-5 lead. Beltran/Carson earned the serve back for another tie at, 7-7. Carson connected a backhand zinger off of the backwall that left Pratt looking. Carson/Beltran’s lead, 8-7. Pratt elevated his play, siding out both servers before continuing his hot-hand scoring for the next two points and, 9-7. In a back-and-forth game, Beltran/Carson regained the serve and earned a run to the first match point of the game, 10-9. Carson expertly read what appeared to be an Allen rollout and was able to re-kill the kill for the match 11-9.
Charlie Pratt/Jansen Allen d Scott Davis/Tom Durham 15-14, 6-15, 11-10
Game One- Pratt/Allen reached to a 4-1 lead. Both teams proceeded hesitantly, testing each other, playing defensively. Pratt and Allen’s lead slowly slipped away as the local favorites tied it at 7-7. The beginning of this game kept a slow tempo, perhaps in part due to the smooth, sometimes subdued, style of both Pratt and Allen. This cadence of play favored the Pratt/Allen team as they nailed hard cross-court passes for points. Allen/Pratt took a sizable lead at 12-7, but soon the hometown vibes reinvigorated Durham and Davis as they earned back every point to tie the game at 12-12. Allen/Pratt took a timeout and upon time resuming Pratt rolled out a set-up.
Back in the box, Pratt/Allen received two points via Durham skips to bring them to 14-12 and the first game point. Davis/Durham fought off two service attempts to gain back the serve for what looked to be their final chance in game one. Davis, with the crowd at his back, rolled 2 straight balls, the first down-the-line, the second a cross-court backhand. At 14-14, the atmosphere in the crowd was palpable and the hopes of the Long Beach fans rested on the serving Davis. Serve-return-kill. The crowd popped. 15-14, Davis-Durham.
Game Two- Once again, Allen/Pratt jumped out to a quick lead, 6-0. It was Pratt who had the hot hand, hitting reverse wide angle kill shots, providing the lion’s share of the offense. Not only did Pratt dialed in on the backhand, but both Davis and Durham consistently skipped. At 5-12, Allen and Davis needed to make their move or else a tiebreaker was inevitable. Davis was able to serve-return-kill once, but could not hold onto the serve as Allen and Pratt got back in the box and scored another point. At 13-6, Davis called a timeout. When time resumed, Davis skipped a shot mid-rally and, on the ensuing point, Allen stepped into his forehand and put the ball and game two away. 15-6, Allen/Pratt.
Game Three (tie-breaker)- Durham/Davis jumped out early, 2-0. The crowd came alive. Another point from the Davis backhand, 3-0. The crowd noise escalated. Allen/Pratt appeared frustrated, missing many chances early in the game. Davis continued to shoot well, driving the ball into the corners from everywhere on the court. With each killshot from the Durham/Davis team, the crowd grew frenzied, hanging on every swing. 5-1, Davis/Durham. Allen/Pratt sensed that the heightened crowd fueled Davis/Durham, and took an opportune timeout. Davis/Durham exited the court to a roaring standing ovation from the crowd. Upon time resuming, Allen, who had played solidly but had not yet broken out, started to to swing bottom board. At 4-7 Davis/Durham regained the serve and tried to make the final push. Another Davis kill-shot, 8-4. Allen and Pratt, tour veterans, kept cool amid the fever pitch outside the court and sided-out the leaders.
Allen/Pratt immediately gained back two points to bring the score to 6-8. Davis/Durham timeout. Pratt killed the next ball from a set-up off of a weak Durham forehand. Durham, now being singled out, rose to the challenge and rolled the next two shots, siding out Pratt/Allen before scoring the next point. 9-7. Davis re-killed the next rally. Pandemonium erupted. 10-7. Davis missed the match point set-up to return Allen/Pratt get back in the box. Allen scored a quick two points that left the crowd in complete silence, 9-10. Double served again, Durham answered back and rolled the next ball from the right front corner to regain the serve for his team. After Durham’s shot, many fans were worked up into such a frenzy that they rushed the glass back wall and started pounding on it. It was now 10-9 and Davis/Durham had two chances to put the match away. The Cinderella story unraveled.
The #12 seed and local favorites who had played so valiantly with the entire Long Beach community behind them, were unable to find the elusive 11th point on either of the their serves. To Pratt/Allen’s credit, they managed to stay calm and focused, never playing outside of themselves in the most hostile of environments. Allen’s first serve to Durham resulted in a weak setup that Allen easily put away with a winning down the middle pass. Now at 10-10, Allen/Pratt went to work on a physically and emotionally exhausted Durham/Davis team. A hard shot that came awkwardly into Durham’s feet proved too much for him to dig out, for the 11th point. Allen/Pratt 11-10 in one of the most dramatic and raucous matches in recent tour history.
Daniel De La Rosa/Jose Rojas d Chris Crowther/Javier Moreno 15-13, 2-15, 11-7
Game One- Crowther started the match the strongest of all the players on the court, putting the most ball-ending rallies into play. De La Rosa had trouble finding a serve that Crowther did not kill. Long contested rallies extended the beginning of game one to 25 minutes at a score-line that read 5-5. Neither team was able to go on a run. 15 shot rallies were not uncommon at the start of this match. Rojas hit some well placed drive serves up the middle of the court that Moreno and Crowther failed to communicate on, this resulted in 3 consecutive points. At 9-6, Rojas and De La Rosa looked as if they might gain the momentum but Moreno methodically worked his team back into a tie by employing the corners. It was Rojas who ultimately proved to be the game changer as he continually brought chest-high backhands down to the bottom board to bring the score to 14-10. As the match time extended into the 40 minute mark, the younger team seemed to be getting stronger. Crowther was able to sideout the duo and make one final run before succumbing to De La Rosa and Rojas, 15-13.
Game Two- De La Rosa and Rojas’ youthful energy and superior conditioning continued to shine through into the second game, jumping out to a 3-0 lead. Crowther and Moreno looked a step slow and the thought that De La Rosa and Rojas would runaway with the match seemed relevant. The veteran team however had other ideas. Crowther began by rolling out a forehand off the backwall. This seemed to pick up the team and instead of diving all over the court as he did in game one, Moreno hit more offensive shots. Shot after shot fell in for winners and at 10-5, De La Rosa and Rojas looked frazzled. De La Rosa answered back with one of the most acrobatic diving kills imaginable that temporarily lifted his team to go on a 3-point run. The would-be comeback was short lived however, as Moreno and Crowther’s excellent shooting brought them the game two victory, 15-10
Game Three (tiebreaker)- De La Rosa and Rojas got out to an early 4-0 lead. Moreno, back in the serve box, opted for high, soft lobs that garnered his partner set-ups. Crowther put one away for the team’s first point but had trouble connecting after that. Crowther looked a bit lethargic while Moreno had trouble containing Rojas, who was, at this point, the hottest player on the court. The momentum seemed completely with the younger squad as Moreno and Crowther took a timeout down, 4-8.
When time resumed Moreno and Crowther were able to get a sideout and started making their push. Crowther hit hard demonstrative serves to the middle that confused Rojas and De La Rosa, and was able to find the crack on one instance for an ace. It was now De La Rosa and Rojas who were on the ropes and at 8-7 (advantage Rojas-De La Rosa), a timeout was called. The timeout proved invaluable as Rojas worked three straight kill shots to regain the serve and then drove his team to the first match point. After a very long rally, De La Rosa touched a shot into the right hand corner that no one could do anything with other than watch. Match, De La Rosa-Rojas, 11-7.
Rocky Carson/Alvaro Beltran d Jake Bredenbeck/Sebastian Franco 15-10, 15-9
Game One- Carson and Beltran drew first blood and get on the board at 2-0 from Carson down-the-lines. Once Bredenbeck and Franco got into the box they burned white hot. Franco killed the ball from everywhere on the court, even covering Bredenbeck’s forehand side at times. Bredenbeck stayed in the front court, re-killing any loose balls and using his large stature to slightly block out his opponents’ line of sight. Bredenbeck-Franco, 8-2. There was nothing Carson and Beltran could do, other than wait for the storm to pass. And pass it did. Beltran hit a bevy of forehand pinches that started what was to be a 9-0 run. The veteran team completely stymied the young gunners who had started out so strong. The formula went like this: Carson hit hard passes and around-the-worlds while Beltran connected with off-speed forehand pinch kills. Bredenbeck and Franco, who had cooled way off, could not find a chemistry to combat this system. Carson and Beltran cruised to 15, with momentum to spare.
Game Two- Bredenbeck and Franco started this game in complete inverse to how they started the first. Skips and slouched shoulders characterized the younger team at the beginning of game two. 6-3, Carson-Beltran. Franco, connected with a backhand kill from deep in the court. This seemed to boost his confidence and he once again found his rhythm. Bredenbeck hit hard passes, skipped a few opportune set-ups and largely stayed on his side. It was Franco though, who was bruising the corners, making diving kills, reading Carson, and earning points. Bredenbeck-Franco were able to get within two points at 8-10 by battling valiantly, despite a slow start and trailing big for most of them game. Beltran and Carson made their move scoring 4 straight points. At 14-9 Carson hit a hard z-serve that forced Franco up to the ceiling. Beltran moved back into the right corner and hit a splat rollout facing the backwall between his legs for the match. 15-9, Beltran-Carson
Kane Waselenchuk/Ben Croft d David Horn/Mario Mercado 15-0, 15-10
Game One- Croft began by re-killing the ball off of Waselenchuk’s serve. Croft then hit a jumping splat shot for the team’s second point. Mercado and Horn both fumbled a few balls early in the game and found themselves in a 0-7 deficit. Though Croft skipped 4 of his first 6 offensive attempts Waselenchuk stayed level and Mercado and Horn were unable to capitalize on any opportunities. Waselenchuk continued to hammer away at Horn on the left side who was unable to do much more than pop up ceiling balls. 11-0. Croft began to hit some crisp kill-shots to escape his early game funk. Waselenchuk pounded roll-outs into both corners. Mercado and Horn lost the first game in the blink of an eye as both the pace and control of the play proved far to great for the young team.
Game Two- Mercado began by hitting an excellent dink in the right-hand corner after a long rally to give his team their first point of the match. Mercado impressed early with a host of soft touch kills in the front court. Horn, yet to find his rhythm, or a serve that worked against Waselenchuk’s waiting forehand, struggled to find any meaningful offense. Mercado kept the score-line tied at 3-3 thanks to his forehand which began to find its range deep in the court. Horn made his first statement of the match, killing a backhand deep in the court, leaving Waselenchuk to only look. Croft and Waselenchuk, though garnering more resistance this game continued solid play, communicating well and looking relaxed. 15 minutes into game two, with Croft and Waselenchuk leading 8-5, Horn called a time-out. This showed to be a smart decision as they earned the serve and then a point. It appeared that Mercado and Horn might go on a run but Croft caught fire, foiling their momentum. Working off Croft’s forehand, the duo went on a 5 point run, 13-8. Mercado, showing no signs of being rattled by the veteran team and continued his stellar play, earning nearly every point for his team. At 13-10, Waselenchuk hit a splat with no one home in center court for the first match point. It would take Waselenchuk and Croft 4 service attempts before finally ending the match on a wrap around pass. 15-10.
Jason Mannino and John Scott pair up for Charity to Benefit RaphaHouse.org
The IRT and IRT Network are teaming up for Rapha House charity, which fights child trafficking and sexual exploitation, as Jason Mannino and John Scott pair up in the historic Long Beach Open this weekend. Pledge a minimum of $1 for each point the Mannino/Scott duo scores, or cap your pledge at a defined amount and every $10 you donate will earn one ticket for the Grand Prize: their racquets, signed. All gifts to Rapha House are tax deductible.
Make your Pledge for Points commitment on Facebook, and tune into the IRTNetwork.com April 9-11th for the first ALL Pro Doubles tournament at the Belmont Athletic Club. Write checks to “Rapha House,” and mail them to International Racquetball Tour, 39252 Winchester Road #107-413, Murrieta, CA 92563-3510 postmarked on or before midnight EST 4/17/2015. We’ll assign raffle numbers, draw two names for the winning racquets, and forward the donation to Raffa House. Winners to be announced April 30th.
Round of 16s
Belmont Athletic Club members Scott Davis & Tom Durham upset Jose Diaz & Markie Rojas. Jason Mannino & John Scott scored 13 points in their match against Bredenbeck & Franco to support www.raphahouse.org. Crowther & Moreno beat Majeed Shahin & Eric Harper in two games, Horn & Mercado defeated Tournament Director Brian Pineda and his partner Keith Minor and Charlie Pratt & Jansen Allen advanced by forfeit.
History Collides at First-Ever Long Beach Open Doubles Tournament
History is a common theme shared by the Long Beach Open and the Belmont Athletic Club as this inaugural event makes professional racquetball history with the first-ever all professional doubles tournament at a club that has seen history with heavyweights like Charlie Brumfield, Marty Hogan, the Peck brothers, Gerry Price, Jim Oliver, Andy Roberts and Cliff Swain.
Why only pro doubles? Long Beach Open Tournament Director Brian Pineda believes that racquetball is moving toward doubles over singles. “There are longer rallies in doubles and the players themselves seem to enjoy it a little bit more,” Pineda said. “It’s just a better fit for racquetball right now, the way the sport is trending. Plus at this club the players really enjoy playing doubles (in the league).”
The 25,000 square foot Belmont Athletic Club was established in 1980 after remodeling from the classic 1927 Belmont Theater. Its original 9th court was located in the middle of the bar. “Any given Friday they’d have their top players playing the entire night with crowds of over 200 to 400 people just watching the center court in the middle of the bar,” Pineda said
The club also hosted racquetball’s Catalina Tour, featuring players like Hogan, Bud Leach and Charles Drake. “It’s a club that’s been an untapped resource in the racquetball world,” Pineda said. “It’s kind of like the 80’s got stuck here. It’s got a great vibe and a lot of character that racquetball doesn’t always seem to have today. (This tournament) opens up another market to the racquetball world.”
The pros will play on today’s center court, Court 2, which was dedicated to longtime Long Beach resident and racquetball icon Cameron “Scotty” Deeds in 2012 as a birthday present. Widely known throughout Long Beach, Deeds was one of the original organizers of racquetball in the area. The plaque above the court reads: Scotty’s Place mentor, friend and inspiration Happy 90th Birthday “Deeds very much remembers the days of Charlie Brumfield, “Dr. Bud” (Muehleisen) and Drake,” Pineda said. “He is just a total time capsule of racquetball. He remembers it as if it was yesterday.”
Patrons can watch matches through the back glass wall at Murphy’s Irish Pub, which is one level above the racquetball courts. The live feed of matches will also be available onsite on HD TVs and down the street at Dogz Bar & Grill. Pineda will be broadcasting with John Scott on the IRTNetwork in addition to playing in the tournament.
The Long Beach Open showcases top-ranked teams like 2014 US Open Champions Kane Waselenchuk and Ben Croft plus Lewis Drug Champions Rocky Carson and Alvaro Beltran while also featuring Belmont Athletic Club locals Scott Davis and Tom Durham.
Other teams to watch out for include Sanjay Laforest and Nick Montalbano of New York, Jansen Allen and Charlie Pratt, Jose Rojas and Daniel De La Rosa (who lost to Carson and Beltran in three games at the US Open), Markie Rojas and Jose Diaz of Stockton, CA (who have a wealth of experience playing together from the junior level on) and Sebastian Franco (the 2014 World Doubles Champion with Alejandro Herrera), teaming up with Jake Bredenbeck, 2014 US National Singles Champion.
Pineda said the tournament is up for grabs and that there is no shoo-in. “You might see the best players in the world team up. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to win. Doubles is hardly ever won because of skill. Doubles is won based on the chemistry between the two players that compete with one another.”
By Eric Mueller
Eric Mueller started working with the men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) after joining the 2014 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships Media Team, where he garnered coverage for top racquetball pros and amateurs in their hometown media while also helping to provide updates to the racquetball community during the tournament. With a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota, Mueller also brings experience in sports reporting and news writing for newspapers like the Pioneer Press in St. Paul as well as the Southwest Journal and the Downtown Journal in Minneapolis. He has also worked in marketing for the St. Paul Saints professional baseball team and for Gopher Athletics at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Mueller currently works as a Public Relations Intern for the Chicago Bandits professional softball team.