Two upsets marked the 2013 Tournament of Champions in Oregon starting with the Round 16 when #14 Charlie Pratt, back after an ankle injury sidelined him at the end of last year, defeated #3 Alvaro Beltran. After #6 Ben Croft took out Pratt in the Quarterfinals, Croft delivered the next upset during an intense battle against #2 Rocky Carson in the semis. #1 Kane Waselenchuk ended Croft’s run however, winning the revived Tournament of Champions in 3 games.
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#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #6 Ben Croft 3, 4, 7
The first and second game were pretty much business as usual, as Kane got off to several point leads in both, winning 11-3, 11-4. The third game stared off the same, however at 3-8 Ben started to make a comeback after getting into a debate with someone in the crowd about their heckling. Ben scored several points in a row on the adrenaline rush, coming back to from the deficit to reach 7-8 before Kane said “NO MORE,” and ran out the game for an 11-7 victory and the match.
Recaps by IRT Intern, John Beninato
#6 Ben Croft d #2 Rocky Carson 0,9,8
A shocking upset in Oregon!! Ben started off strong and did not let up at all in this match. Croft dominated the first game by playing very smart racquetball. Serve, return, kill was the name of the game and allowed Ben to put a ton of pressure on Carson. Rocky got frustrated early on and earned a couple of technical fouls. It was an incredible start from Ben, but Rocky needed to step up his play if he had a chance to take this one. Ben worked very hard to earn points and stunned the number 2 player with an 11-0 game one victory.
In game 2, Rocky earned himself another technical when he hit the ball out of the court after a rally. It looked bleak for Rocky. He needed to change up his game to get points against Croft. Carson started to play smarter and take control of the pace of the game. He briefly used an injury timeout, but the reason was undisclosed, which led some to believe that he was just trying to stop Ben’s momentum. Later in the game, Ben also took some injury time, but quickly got back on the court claiming it was a “Rocky Carson miracle.” From that moment on, this match was an intense battle. Rocky tried to steal this one, but it ended up going to Ben, 11-9.
Ben knew that if he did not win this third game, Rocky could potentially come back and take a tiebreaker win. Croft settled in and played hard and very smart to thwart any comeback attempts from his tough opponent. The players battled hard in this game and Ben had to dip deep to end this game and the match, 11-8. Ben played wonderfully and hopefully he will be able to give Kane a tough match in the finals tonight.
#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #5 Jose Rojas 4,6,7
Jose put up a great fight against Kane, but it was not enough to stop the number one player. Kane hit a few short drive serves at the start of game 1, but made a quick adjustment and used his powerful serve effectively. He played aggressively and made Jose work for every point. Rojas hit the floor to get a racquet on some serves and did his best to keep up with the pace of the match. Kane took an 1 game to none lead, 11-4.
The tremendous effort put forth by Jose continued throughout the rest of the match. There were a few incredible gets and dive kills from the young player out of Stockton. The crowd appreciated this effort and Jose gained some momentum to stay in this game. Kane did his best to stop this and took a game 2 victory, 11-6.
If Jose wanted to stay in this match, now was the time to really turn up the heat and take it to Kane. Rojas did not have an easy task ahead of him and Kane made him work for every point. Waselenchuk had an early lead, but Jose started to capitalize on a few missed opportunities by Kane. Jose fought to tie up the game at 6-6 and started to double drive serve to put some pressure on Kane. However, Waselenchuk was unfazed and took this game and the match, 11-7.
#6 Ben Croft d #14 Charlie Pratt 7, 2, 4
Hometown boy Charlie Pratt got out to a 6-3 lead in the first game, and all signs pointed toward him being in control of the match until Ben mounted a comeback. Charlie could only muster up one more point, as Ben went on to win the first game 11-7. After that, it was all Ben as he got off to an early lead in the second game and never looked back. Ben went on to win 11-2, 11-4, and moves on to meet Rocky in the semifinals.
#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #8 Javier Moreno 0, 1, 3
Some thought the charismatic Javier Moreno would bring his fire to the court and get underneath Kane’s skin to make it a match. That fire never lit. Kane scored the first 15 points. The crowd went wild when Javier scored his first point, although he lost the first two games 0-11, 1-11. After the match, some fans walked away saying, “at least the third game was close.” Kane won it 11-3, showing his dominance and leaving the fans with the impression that scoring 3 points off of him made for a “close game.”
#2 Rocky Carson d #7 Tony Carson 7, 8, 6
The match started off with fire, as both players didn’t give an inch. A late run gave Rocky the 11-7 win. The second game was much of the same, until once again Rocky pulled away taking game two 11-8. Game three went a little more quickly, as Rocky’s games will go. Rocky won the third 11-6 after one of the longest 3 game matches of the season, clocking in at just over 94 minutes.
#5 Jose Rojas d #4 Chris Crowther 13, 7, 6
The Round of 16
#14 Charlie Pratt d #3 Alvaro Beltran (6), 9, (7), 7, 6
After splitting the first two games 11-6 (Alvi), 11-9 (Charlie), Alvaro won the third game seemingly putting him in control of the match. The fourth and fifth games were similar as the two traded points. Charlie took the fourth 11-7 and, at 6-6 in the fifth, he never looked back winning the tiebreaker 11-6.#7 Tony Carson d #10 Jose Diaz 9, (11), 5, 9
#2 Rocky Carson d #18 Francisco Troncoso 5, 3, 5
#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #17 David Horn 1, 1, 0
#8 Javier Moreno v #9 Marco Rojas
#6 Ben Croft v #27 Christopher Barton
#4 Chris Crowther v #36 Taylor Knoth
The reigning collegiate champion came out looking confident after his win over fellow up-and-comer #13 Brad Schopieray and #20 Tim Prigo to face #4 Chris Crowther. While Roth pushed Crowther to a 10-12 score in the first game, he also fell in the next two games. Crowther moves on to the quarterfinals.
#5 Jose Rojas v #12 Daniel De La Rosa
Tournament of Champions Revival Supports Veterans
By Nick Rynerson
The men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) Tier 1 racquetball has made its way back to Portland, Oregon for the Ektelon Tournament of Champions April 25-28 at the Multnomah Athletic Center (MAC). The revived staple from the 80’s-90’s will serve as a qualifier for Ektelon Pro Nationals and a fundraiser for the nonprofit Military Racquetball Federation (MRF).
The vision for resurrecting the Tournament of Champions took shape during a meeting between IRT president Jason Mannino, MAC Club Pro/Ektelon Consultant, Hank Marcus, and Ektelon VP, Scott Winters. Bringing professional racquetball back to the historic courts became a reality with the reputation of the IRT, and the eagerness of the Multnomah Athletic Club’s racquetball community, and the financial backing of Ektelon.
Located at 555,000 square feet, in the Multnomah neighborhood of Southwest Portland, the MAC is the largest private athletic club in the world seating for 1,200 spectators at on point. Although renovations reduced the number, the club’s illustrious reputation remains. The flagship Court Ten, which will host the final rounds of play, featured the first nationally televised racquetball matches. With the Tournament nearly sold out over a month in advance, the MAC will again host one of the most exciting pro events of the year.
Here, the top Tier 1 players in the country will rub shoulders with ambitious young players on and around the MAC’s ten courts. Ektelon representatives will be keeping an eye on the young players shooting to qualify for Nationals in May as they’re always seeking to strengthen their team. With several Team Ektelon players in the top eight, the company is also looking for a strong showing for more trophies in their already impressive case.
On top of the unique history, the TOC will raise money for the MRF. In 2008, Active solider, Steven Harper and the MAC’s own Hank Marcus had the idea to use racquetball to improve soldiers’ quality of life and started the MRF. Today the organization focuses its time and resources on using racquetball as a rehabilitation tool for wounded soldiers. The Federation seeks to build relationships with veterans hospitals and patients, using racquetball as a physical therapy and stress reliever. With over 36,000 soldiers severely injured in combat and upwards of 750,000 soldiers suffering from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Harper and Marcus strive to improve the lives of those who have and are serving in the nation’s military. This year, the MRF hopes to build long-term relationships with upwards of 250 wounded veterans through racquetball. Executive Director Steven Harper has seen veterans’ lives transformed by the sport. “I’ve had guys tell me, ‘this racquetball thing has saved my life’ and others tell me ‘[racquetball] saved my marriage.’ It gives the soldiers purpose, they want to get out and play.”
Right now the organization is rapidly expanding with grants from the US Olympic Committee, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), and a continuing partnership with Ektelon. They hope to broaden the use of racquetball as a healing agent by establishing roots among veterans’ hospitals in the Portland area. The collaboration between the Military Racquetball Federation and Ektelon is great for the culture of professional racquetball, showcasing the altruistic nature of both professional sponsors and players. In addition to inviting military personnel to participate, the event offers opportunities to support the MRF financially, including a Play-the-Pro doubles for eight fans making a $200 donation.
The revitalized Tournament of Champions adds an exciting tournament to the men’s professional Racquetball Tour (IRT) top-tier schedule, offering fans the chance to rub shoulders with the pros while also supporting a great organization that uses racquetball to help hundreds of veterans.