Top ranked Kane Waselenchuk defeated #2 Rocky Carson 11-7, 11-3, 11-9 to win the 2017 Coast to Coast California Open in Reseda and open the second half of the 2016-17 IRT Season.
Kane Waselenchuk d Rocky Carson 11-7, 11-3, 11-9
Kane Waselenchuk d Jose Rojas 11-5, 11-0, 11-4
Rocky Carson d Daniel De La Rosa 11-5, 11-7, 11-5
By Dale Gosser
Waselenchuk defeats Rojas
The No. 1 player in the world continued his dominance, still not dropping a game this season on his way to defeating No. 5-ranked Jose Rojas, 11-5, 11-0, 11-4, in the semifinals.
Game 1 was much more competitive than the score or match indicates. With the scored tied at 3-3, Waselenchuk took a 5-3 lead but Rojas fought back to tie it again, his fifth point an ace to make it 5-5.
From there, Waselenchuk forced weak return after weak return with a dominant serving performance and casually won with a 6-0 run. In game 2, it was all Waselenchuk. Again, dominant serves kept Rojas off balance. Rojas managed only three serve opportunities.
Rojas stopped Waselenchuk’s 17-point run between games 1 and 2 by taking a quick 1-0 lead in game 3. Rojas took a 2-0 lead with a reverse pinch kill.
Waselenchuk served up an ace to gain his first point of the match and quickly tied it at 2-2. After siding out Rojas once more, Waselenchuk then scored seven straight points to take a commanding 9-2 lead. Rojas managed to cut it to 9-4 but Waselenchuk proved too much and finished up the game and match with a pair of soft kills.
Carson sweeps De La Rosa
It will be another matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the finals after Rocky Carson swept by Daniel De La Rosa in the semifinals, 11-5, 11-7, 11-5.
The match was a typical Carson match, lasting about an hour and 20 minutes, and De La Rosa couldn’t gain control at any point.
Carson used his methodical style of play to go up 10-3 in game 1 before De La Rosa used a soft pinch kill and another roll out kill to cut it to 10-5. However, on his second attempt to close out the match, Carson did so.
In game 2, De La Rosa held an early 3-2 advantage but Carson went on a 5-0 run to eventually go up 7-3. During the run, Carson used a variety of kill shots, including a forehand kill, a backhand kill, a backhand cross court kill and a soft backhand touch-shot pinch kill.
Carson extended his lead to 9-3 with two more kills, including a backhand pinch.
De La Rosa managed to cut it to 9-5 with a backhand kill and sidewall crack shot that died. Six side outs later, Carson managed to go up 10-5, but De La Rosa closed to within 10-7. Carson served for the game three times before eventually taking it, 11-7.
In game 3, it was more of the same for De La Rosa, who fell into Carson’s style of play. Carson went up 7-3 before De La Rosa served up an ace to get within 7-4. A Carson forehand cross court roll out made it 8-4 but De La Rosa kept the pressure on with an ace to Carson’s forehand. It was De La Rosa’s lone ace of the match.
Carson put the match away on his next serve. He served up an ace, a backhand pass kill and another ace for the final point.
Rocky Carson d Charlie Pratt 11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 11-3
Kane Waselenchuk d Mario Mercado 11-5, 11-3, 11-7
Daniel De La Rosa d Jansen Allen 12-10, 11-9, 11-8
Jose Rojas d Alvaro Beltran 11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 11-8
By Dale Gosser
Rojas knocks off Beltran
In the mild upset of the quarterfinals, Jose Rojas defeated Alvaro Beltran, 11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 11-8 as No. 5 knocked off No. 4.
Rojas led in every game and jumped out to a 10-3 advantage on Beltran in game 1. Beltran had won eight of 14 meetings with Rojas before this match and now holds a narrow 8-7 advantage.
Beltran managed to close the gap with a 6-0 run to make it 10-9, but Rojas finished it off with a power pinch roll out.
Rojas led 7-3 in game 2, but Beltran came back to take a 9-8 lead and held on for the 11-9 victory. In game 3, Rojas led 8-3 but again Beltran battled back to close to within 10-9. Beltran had a chance to tie it at 10-10, but missed a backhand pinch to give Rojas a chance to take a two games to one lead. And he did with a solid drive z serve to Beltran’s forehand.
Game 4 was no different in competitiveness. Both players fought through several long rallies but Rojas took control with an ace serve up 9-8 to make it 10-8. He then finished off the match on the next point.
De La Rosa holds off Allen
No. 3 Daniel De La Rosa held off No. 6 Jansen Allen in a tough first game, 12-10, before slipping by in games 2 and 3, 11-9, 11-8.
It looked as though De La Rosa might run away with game 1, leading 7-0 early in the match. However, Allen fought back and went on a 10-3 run to tie the game at 10-10. De La Rosa forced a side out and finished off game 1 with two straight kills after forcing weak return serves by Allen.
De La Rosa held Allen off in games 2 and 3 for a solid victory to set up a matchup with Rocky Carson in the semifinals.
Waselenchuk defeats Mercado
No. 1 Kane Waselenchuk, who hasn’t lost since 2013, kept his streak alive by beating No. 11 Mario Mercado, 11-5, 11-3, 11-7.
Mercado kept it close in game one, trailing 6-4 early, but Waselenchuk used a 3-0 run to make it 9-4 and never looked back.
It was much of the same in game 2 as Waselenchuk overpowered Mercado. Mercado managed to keep it close at 4-3 but it was all Waselenchuk from there. In game 3, Mercado found a bit of a groove and forced Waselenchuk to work a bit harder than the first two games.
Waselenchuk led 4-2 but Mercado tied it at 4-4. Waselenchuk led 6-4 and then 7-6 as the pair battled to an almost stalemate. The key play came when Waselenchuk hit an apparent short drive serve that was not called and eventually lost the rally. However, he appealed his own serve and won the appeal to maintain serve.
From there, he finished off the match with a 4-1 run.
Carson defeats Pratt
No. 2 Rocky Carson dropped a game against No. 13 Charlie Pratt but held on to win in four games, 11-8, 11-5, 9-11, 11-3.
Carson and Pratt took their time getting started in game 1, battling back and forth to a 6-6 tie early. Pratt took an 8-7 lead but didn’t score another point. However, he didn’t make it easy for Carson who served four times for the game before putting it away.
In game 2, Carson controlled the tempo and jumped to a 10-3 lead before cruising to the 11-5 win. Game 3 was much like game 1 with the pair fighting to a 9-9 tie. But this time it was Pratt who finished it off to win 11-9. Game 4 was all Carson, who led 9-1 and eventually won 11-3.
Round of 16s
Rocky Carson d Daniel Mauro Rojas 11-3, 11-2, 11-1
Charlie Pratt d Sebastian Franco 11-8, 4-11, 11-6, 11-8
Kane Waselenchuk d Francisco Troncoso 11-3, 11-3, 11-2
Mario Mercado d Robert Collins 11-6, 8-11, 11-7, 11-4
Daniel De La Rosa d Majeed Shahin 11-3, 11-2, 11-1
Jansen Allen d Sebastian Fernandez 11-2, 11-13, 11-8, 11-8
Jose Rojas v David Bobby Horn
Alvaro Beltran d Jose Diaz 11-5, 11-7, 11-8
IRT Rings in 2017 at the Coast to Coast California Open
The top men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) pro stop in California will ring in 2017 with ear-shattering shots as the world’s best players aim to dethrone “King” Kane Waselenchuk at the Coast to Coast California IRT Open January 5-8 at the 360 Health Club in Reseda, just north of Los Angeles.
Nothing like kicking off the second half of the 2016-2017 IRT Season in glam style in sunny Southern California.
Fans “will get to see the game at it’s best,” said Debbie Tisinger-Moore, tournament director for the annual Tier 1 event.
They will get to “see the players live” instead of watching them on YouTube, she said. Plus, there will be opportunities to interact with the players at a Thursday night meet-and-greet and at a clinic hosted by IRT pros Jose Rojas and Charlie Pratt.
Asked who her favorite player is, Tisinger-Moore was torn, saying, “I love Rocky [Carson]…I love Kane.” She also mentioned the “NorCal” (Northern California) guys. Not wanting to leave anyone out, she joked she feels like a “mother” to all the top players because she has watched them grow up.
Last year’s pro draw totaled 64 players, with top ranked Waselenchuk defeating #3 Daniel De La Rosa, 11-4, 11-2, 11-0, in the final on the showcase stadium court at the 360 Health Club. Both players are signed up again, as well as #2-ranked Carson, #4 Alvaro Beltran, #5 Jose Rojas, #6 Jansen Allen, #7 Markie Rojas (Jose’s brother), #10 Felipe Camacho and #13 Charlie Pratt, among others.
Tisinger-Moore, a Hall of Fame racquetball player, expects a similar turnout for the pro division. She noted that Carson is a local favorite (he lives about two hours away from Reseda in Ladera Ranch) and should have a big following. But she predicts Waselenchuk, the longtime reigning “King” of racquetball with 12 US Open Titles, will notch another victory.
John Ellis, a former IRT pro who now is the director of racquetball for In-Shape Health Club, said Waselenchuk is “several levels ahead” of everyone and will continue to dominate as long as he plays.
However, the Stockton-based coach and mentor anticipates a shake-up is brewing. “By this time next year, the (IRT) rankings will be changing,” he said, referring to the top two to four spots.
Tisinger-Moore agreed with his assessment.
Ellis didn’t name who might climb up the ranks, but thinks age will catch up with players like Carson and Beltran. He also believes Jose Rojas hasn’t maximized his potential and is a “couple of big wins” from being in the top three.
The well-regarded racquetball veteran mostly focuses on running club and junior programs these days, but he stays in regular contact with the top players in his region.
Ellis would like to see the pros out of Stockton do better than he did on the Tour, where he won about 10 singles and doubles titles. “I’m pulling for them to do that,” he said. In addition to Jose Rojas, players with Stockton ties include: Markie Rojas, Mauro Daniel Rojas (Jose and Markie’s cousin), Jose Diaz, and David Bobby Horn.
Tisinger-Moore and Ellis both think the Coast to Coast tournament will be the top pro stop in California in 2017, given the level of talent. Other Tour events are scheduled for the state, but none are Tier 1, which guarantees the best will compete.
Rick Roussin, CEO and founder of Coast to Coast Computer Products in nearby Simi Valley, is the title sponsor. And Rick Betts, another sponsor, hosts some of the pro players at his Malibu home, Tisinger-Moore said with clear appreciation.
She also praised Roussin for his years of financial support, particularly because it’s getting tougher to obtain backing for racquetball tournaments.
In addition to the pros, there will be several amateur divisions. But there are limits on the number of participants because matches have to be spread among four racquetball courts at the 360 Health Club, according to Tisinger-Moore.
The brackets likely will fill up “like a snowball” after the holidays, said Randy Lam, co-director for the tournament.
Last year, the event was held in May as renovation work was being completed at the club. The entry deadline is fluid because it depends on the first paid players in each division, which is capped with a certain number of participants.
“We’re all excited,” Tisinger-Moore said of the club members. She anticipates about 100 amateur players will compete in the tournament, which also will feature racquetball companies showing off their latest gear.
“Debbie is great,” Ellis said. “Kudos to her for keeping it [the tournament] going.”
Reflecting on the state of racquetball, Ellis noted that there’s a young crop of talented players coming up from Mexico and South America. Others have also recognized the trend, including Waselenchuk and Tisinger-Moore.
“Building those relationships is critical for the tour,” Ellis said, adding that IRT stops need to be scheduled in Mexico and South America where the sport is flourishing with strong financial backing.
By Jim Medina
Jim Medina is an award-winning writer who got hooked on racquetball at the former Dan Gamel’s Racquet Club in Fresno, CA. A graduate of Fresno State, he now lives in Oxnard, CA. He is an A-level player striving to raise his game to Elite with the help of a thriving racquetball community at LA Fitness in neighboring Ventura. He is a media consultant who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.