Kane Waselenchuk: 71 Titles for 9th UnitedHealthcare US Open Win

altKane Waselenchuk left Minneapolis with his 9th US Open Racquetball Championships title and a record-breaking 71st top tier win. Afterwards, he explained he was “for once” speechless and then thanked all, asked to hold his trophy, and recognized Charlie Brumfield, who was honored during the weekend. Watch it on the Tennis Channel Thanksgiving weekend, click here for the draws, and below for the  match recaps.

Final Round

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #2 Rocky Carson 9, 1, 6

The competition at the UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Championships showcases racquetball like no other event, with rarified air seeped in the sport’s history and a gritty determination from those competing through the draw. After celebrating Charlie Brumfield with other preceeding champions who joined to honor his accomplishments on Saturday night, the top seeds faced off on the Stadium Court on Sunday.

#2 Rocky Carson looked to prove he could beat the reigning champion, #1-ranked Kane Waselenchuk, who was coming off of his first loss in four years, had a “mission” to defend his US OPEN crown and break the last remaining record he hadn’t yet struck down — his 71st top tier win.

Kane and Rocky started with an iron-willed focus, keeping the ball low and shooting hard. Kane seemed to move a little more slowly, but wasn’t left behind, exchaging rallies and points to tie at 4-4.

Rocky pulled ahead first, 5-4. Kane sank to both knees and hit a kill for the rally. Again, Rocky pulled away, 7-5, recovering from a miss against the left side glass to hit a winner that died in the crack of the back-right corner. Both pros nailed tight shots that would have other players walking away shaking their heads. At one point, Kane purposely swung and missed, glancing at Rocky before taking the shot off the back wall. Diving and racing to return the next, Kane scrambled to get out of Rocky’s way. IRT Referee Charlie Pratt called an avoidable hinder, giving Rocky the rally.

Kane disagreed. “What [hinder], for beginners that can’t swing?”

Rocky toook the next two rallies, scoring 9-5. A spectator remarked that Kane seemed to be slightly stiff and moving slowly, taking shots that demanded less from his body, like lob serves, not drives. “He’s not in his usual Gumby form,” the former pro said.

Kane steadily progressed and then pulled ahead. At 9-10, Rocky hit a pinch kill from 38 feet back, but it wasn’t enough. Kane closed out game 1, 11-9.

Rocky’s tension showed in game 2, although Kane looked more loose and relaxed, quietly waiting as Rocky asked Charlie if he’d seen the ball slide on the first point. Was it a wet ball? Charlie didn’t see it. Kane served, quickly racking up 3 points. Rocky looked for a hinder he didn’t get. Kane kept rolling ahead, reaching 5 points before Rocky scored his first. “Finally,” he said.

Sideout. Again Rocky looked for a hinder from Charlie. “You didn’t see that? Am I hallucinating or was it good?”

“It was good,” Charlie evenly replied from outside the glass.

Kane killed the ball from the back while moving around more easilty than in the first game, like sinking to his knees to snag a pass shot mid-court. At 1-7, Rocky took a timeout. He returned to the court and played aggressively, heard saying over the microphone “…make it work…” His skip ended the game. Kane took game 2, 11-1.

Game three started out in a slug fest as the score rose 3-0 in in Kane’s favor. Rocky hit from between his knees and down on the deck, but couldn’t get any points to Kane’s 4. Pratt called a skip on Kane at 4-0.

Rocky agreed. “Good job. You got one right.” Looking lead and mean, he buried a pinch in the corner for his first point and then raised his arms in celebration. “Finally!” His run didn’t last.

At 2-4, an overruled call saw Kane back in the box. Then it was the defending champion’s turn to disagree with Charlie. “Sometimes you’ve just got to give me one.”

“He gave you about four,” Rocky shot back.

Rocky served up the next for his third point in an extanded rally that had fans on their feet. They exchanged turns in the serve box, with Rocky scoring to tie the game at 4-4 as they began exchanging serves and points again. After an overhand kill from the back glass, Kane served. His reply to Rocky’s return sailed out of the court for a sideout. Rocky controlled the next rally from the start, sending Kane back and forth across the court in a rally that ended in a 2-point lead for Rocky at 7-5. Kane’s perfect serve-return kill left Rocky watching the ball bounce past. Sideout. Kane scored next to raise his lead 8-5, but a rare dive-and-miss put rocky back in the box. Still, Kane kept Rocky on the move. Charlie called a replay hinder.

“I could have hit the ball,” Rocky said, stepping off the court for a chat. The call didn’t change and Kane scored the next two rallies for the chance to serve game point. It had to wait after Charlie called an avoidable hinder.

“I’m gonna come out and talk to you a bit so you’ll make a call for me,” Kane said, referring to Rocky’s chat. Kane stood in the door’s opening while asking Charlie about his morning and what he’d eaten. “Eggs…bacon maybe? No?”

Back on the court, Rocky served. Kane skipped. Rocky scored another for 6-10, but that was it. Kane won game 3 for the match, 11-6. Afterwards, he fell to his knees and then kissed the court. Rocky stepped away as fans flooded courtside.

Kane Waselenchuk left Minneapolis with his 9th US Open Championship and a record-breaking 71st top tier win. Afterwards, he explained he was “for once” speechless and then thanked all, asked if he could hold his trophy, and recognized Charlie Brumfield and his sponsors.

Semifinal Round

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #5 Ben Croft 7, 1, 7

Driving hard to Kane’s backhand, Ben started the match with 3 quick points just on serves. IRT Referee, Charlie Pratt, called a skip ball to give Ben 3 more. Ben dove repeatedly to keep the ball in play. Ben’s skip at 6-0 sent Kane to the box for the first time in the match. Kane scored three in a row. A shoot-and-kill power-game was on display as both players hit hard and low, risking short serves and skips to keep the pressure on. Kane tied up the score at 7 and then took the lead. At 9, Ben called the first time out of the game. Kane lost a rally at 10-7, giving Ben a chance to close the gap, but Kane’s soft touch and wily shots were too much for the #5 player. Kane took game 1, 11-7.

A controversial replay called against Kane in the first rally set the tone for the second game. The number one player earned the serve and a point, ribbing Pratt after the score was called. Ben wasn’t any happier, talking to himself and the crowd through the microphone. “Give him opportunities like that. Man up.” Whether Ben gave opportunities or Kane made them, Kane racked up the score to 5-0 lead and then to 6 with a kill that left Ben with nothing to do but step into position in the rear court.  The crowd got in the act, cheering for the two players. Ben took a timeout, pacing behind the court and calling the skip “garbage” while Kane consulted with his coach. The crowd got into the act, heckling Ben. Back on the court, Ben addressed the crowd. “You paid money to watch me, not listen to yourself.” Fans ate it up. Kane’s double-fault serve sent Ben back to the box at 0-9 when he earned his first and only point of the game. Kane closed out game 2, 11-1.

Ben stepped over the red line in for a foot-fault, which many noted hadn’t been called during the quarterfinals. He couldn’t convert his second serve into a point, but had “one good shot” (as he said over his microphone) after Kane racked up 3. Ben’s return to the box paid off and he tied the game. A driving ace gave Ben the lead. A kill gave him another. Ben was up 5-3 before he dove against the sidewall, but missed the shot. As always, Ben gave it his all, diving across the floor. As always, Kane demanded opponents put the ball away or he most likely would. Ben stepped up, back in the box at 5-5, was called on a footfault. After which a fan called, “Do you know the rule Ben?” The crowd cheered at the reference to Ben’s questioning the officials, and again as Ben took a hard dive. Back in the box, Kane took control of the court, raising his lead to 8-5, when Ben took a time out. The players exchanged rallies and serves, but in the end Kane’s steadily and controlled power game was too much, giving the #1 pro the chance to take a record-breaking 71st win and 9th US Open Championship when he faces off against Rocky Carson at noon Sunday.

Bruised, battered, and sore, Ben stepped up to the microphone and asked, “Where is that loud guy?” He thanked all for cheering, getting into the game and getting loud. Mentioning seeing Kane’s girls around the court and with Ben’s first child on the way, the #5 player thought he played well but admitted going against the best player in the world kept him off balance. He thanked his sponsor, Racquetball Warehouse, and the guys watching, “I love you guys even though you may not love me.”

Kane congratulated Ben’s play and growing family, he mentioned the “unfortunate” last tournament (where he lost his first match in four years), saying it gave him a whole new motivation, noting Rocky would be tough tomorrow. He’s “on a mission” to take the title home.

#2 Rocky Carson d #3 Alvaro Beltran (3), 8, 8, 2

Lights dimmed and music blared as the cameras rolled for the first semifinal match to be broadcast Thanksgiving weekend. Alvaro served and scored first and second with a sweet, between-the-legs crosscourt pass. Rocky’s overhand pass earned him a spot in the box, but he skipped after Alvaro’s return. Rocky’s serve returns were dead on – solid shots down the line and across the court giving him the chance to rack up his score. He just couldn’t convert for the point. Both players demonstrated tight shots, sending the ball screaming to the front. Alvaro’s play was too much for Rocky. Alvaro took game 1, 11-3.

Game two started out much the same, with both players focused, hitting low, hard, and fast. Rocky took a slight lead, until his outdoor overhand hit didn’t get past Alvaro. Neither did the next or the return. The #2 player showed his frustration. His comment to the Charlie Pratt, Official Referee came clearly over the microphone. “Make a good shot and you give it to him.” Alvaro took the next two points, pulling ahead 6-4. Rocky’s ball flew out of the court for 7-4. Rocky almost went out next, bumping into the back wall and knocked down onto the floor. Afterwards, he took the next rally and then a time out, down 4-8. He crawled back to tie the score, 8-8 with a crack serve Alvaro thought hit three walls. A down-the-line skimmed the side glass and gave him the serve. The two players rallied until Rocky fired a scorching pass to serve the next and take the lead, 9-8. Alvaro took a time out. It didn’t help. Rocky nailed the next two for the game at 11-8.

The players exchanged points and serves at first, tying the score at 1-1 until Alvaro pulled ahead, 5-1. Rocky fought back. 2-5, and then the two demonstrated an extended rally/diving exhibition that left marks on the floor. Rocky chalked another point, 3-5. They  went back and forth, tying it up at 7-7 and 8-8 until Rocky pulled ahead, followed a wrap-around shot to put it away in the front for the game, 11-8.

Down 2 games to 1, Alvaro put his mark on the scoreboard first. Again the two battled, tying the score at 2 each, until Rocky pulled away, taking the game 11-2 for the match.

“I have a ton of respect for Alvaro as a player and a person,” Rocky said before thanking his team and mentioning the new court grabbers. While fans won’t be seeing him wipe his hands on his feet, they can see him face the winner of the second semifinal match.

Quarterfinal Round Friday

Kane Waselenchuk d Daniel De La Rosa 3, 6, 9

Daniel De La Rosa scored first, with the crowd cheering the #8 seed as he faced the Tour’s most dominating pro, #1 Kane Waselenchuk who’d just come off of his first loss in 4 years. Kane’s serious expression reflected his readiness to extend his domination. He did, winning the first two games 11-3 and 11-6.

Daniel wasn’t intimidated. His streaks of mastery, like in the aces he served to Kane, tied the score 8-8 before pulling ahead 9-8. Kane put the ball away and stepped back in the box to begin a rally where Daniel dove and did an off-balance-twisty-on-the-floor maneuver to get back in the service box, taking the lead at 9-8. Fast and hard racquetball seems the way to get points on Kane, but it’s hard to maintain against a guy who hits hard, accurately, and also has a quiet touch in the frontcourt. In the end, Kane won 11-9, graciously gave the younger player a hug and a few words before leaving the court.

“Every match is a big match,” Kane said afterwards.“Give Daniel a hand. What a player; the kid’s going to be awesome. Can’t wait to battle in years to come.” Then Kane addressed the crowd. “Who said my run was over? Lose one match and all of a sudden I’m washed up, huh?” Kane enjoyed a laugh with the crowd, but got more serious when he continued, referencing his goal for another US Open Championship title and what would be his record-breaking 71st top tier win. “I want number 9…It’s not over yet.” Kane will face Ben Croft in tomorrow’s semifinal.

Rocky Carson d Tony Carson 2, 4, 5

The two Carsons faced off for the first time since they met in the quarterfinals of the Tournament of Champions at the end of last season, when Rocky won in 3 games. This time, Rocky pulled to a commanding lead from the start. Tony scored his first and second point after Rocky notched 9. That was it. Rocky won 11-2.

Tony got on the board earlier in game 2, when Rocky was up to 2, but Tony couldn’t maintain. Showing frustration as Rocky notched point after point, Tony chalked up two more before Pratt called game point in Rocky’s favor, 11-4.

Game three started out much the same, with Tony struggling against Rocky, who appeared to be playing some of the best racquetball seen from him on the Tour. Rocky took game 3 at 11-5 for the match. He’ll face Alvaro Beltran during tomorrow’s first semifinal.

Alvaro Beltran d Chris Crowther 4, 2, 10

The two veteran players moved more methodically then Jose and Ben had during the match before. Alvaro dominated from the start, taking the first 11-4 and the second, 11-2. Dialed in, he hit hard and low, racking up the points.

Game three started much like the first two. Alvaro was clearly ready to close it out. At 9-5, he groaned after a skip. Game point would have to wait. Chris served for a skip, getting his 6th point. Alvaro took the next rally and stepped back into the box. Couldn’t convert. Chris clawed back to 7. Alvaro’s cross-court gave him a pass to the serving box, but Chris killed the return. Alvaro got it back. They shot it back and forth, until a skip gave Alvaro the chance to serve game point. He skipped, not closing it out. In a side-arm snatch, Alvaro picked the ball out, but skipped on match point. Chris clawed back, tying it up at 10 until Alvaro ended his run at 12-10.

Afterwards, Chris said, “Alvaro’s a great player, obviously if you don’t play well you’re going to get beat. I just needed to play better, but didn’t.” Alvaro will step back onto the court for the 12:10 PM semifinal tomorrow.

Ben Croft d Jose Rojas 0, (10), (7), 7, 4

Ben Croft stepped onto the court, music blasting around the darkened court. He never looked back. Perhaps the jitters from expectations got to the #4 ranked player, as Jose’s all-or-nothing game style landed on the latter, with short serves and skips helping Ben out. Former #1 Sudsy Monchik watching the game was overheard to say he wondered how well Jose was seeing the ball, with expectations killing the less-experienced playing coming off of a season-opener upset of the #1 ranked Kane Waselenchuk and #2 ranked Rocky Carson. Ben Croft took full advantage, focused and determination on the court. Ben didn’t need the assistance as he fired in tight kills and drives while charging around the court for the first, 11-0.

Jose stepped into the box, firing hard but falling short with a double fault. Ben chalked up three before Jose got his first point of the match, soon tying it up 3-3. Ben shot hard from the back, but couldn’t get by Jose in middle. They took to the ceiling for a defensive rally. Ben skipped his usual banter, fired-up and focused, his determination was clear. Jose fought back, tying it again at 8-8. They each scored until Ben had game point first. The two top players gave the fans an extended rally, with off-balance hits and dives, but Ben skipped and couldn’t close it out. Jose got back in the box, fired a way at 9-10 to tie up the score. Tied 10-10, both fired back and forth. Ben took an off-balance kill. Looked beautiful, but the ball had broken. Jose followed with an overhand backcourt kill. Ben pointed to Jose’s coach, Dave Ellis. “You taught him that.” At 10-10, Ben questioned skip. Charlie Pratt, ref didn’t budge. At 11-10, Jose killed the ball in the corner. It died inches from the front wall for Jose’s match, 12-10. Ben left the court, hitting the ball hard against the glass.

Ben the contrarian came out onto the court, still holding on to the tension from the last game, he argued with the ref in the way that the crowd has come to expect to see. The game was close, Jose quietly hitting the shots. Ben argued all the way, losing a point to a technical. Jose pulled away for game 3, 11-7.

In game 4, Ben had the crowd cheering with him hitting a winner at 1-3 that left Jose laying on the hardwood. Ben got back in the box at 2-3. Jose took it back, keeping a close matched close, exchanging tough shots and the lead until Ben pulled away for game 4, 11-7.

Game 5 started with Ben returning to the focus he demonstrated in the first game. Both pros kept at the game hard, but Ben outplayed Jose in the end, taking the game and the match, 10-4. Afterwards Ben said, “Whether I lost or won today, I love playing in front of you guys and that’s the honest truth.” Jose was more introspective, noting that to be #1, a player has to win consistently and that he’d go home and practice hard.

Round of 16 Thursday October 3, all times Central

Kane Waselenchuk d Anthony Herrera 11-2, 11-1, 11-1

Daniel De La Rosa d Hiroshi Shimizu 11-4, 11-13, 11-3, 11-2

Ben Croft d Polo Gutierrez 11-5, 11-2, 11-9

Jose Rojas d Jose Diaz 11-8, 6-11, 11-6, 11-2

Alvaro Beltran d Jansen Allen 11-7, 11-9, 11-5

Chris Crowther d Coby Iwaasa 11-0, 11-2, 11-0

Tony Carson v Cliff Swain 11-8, 11-7, 11-6

Rocky Carson d Alejandro Landa 11-9, 11-6, 11-8

UnitedHealthcare US Open Championships

By Becky Wiese

Excitement and anticipation for the 2013 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Championships is quickly reaching an all-time high. The 18th annual tournament takes place October 2-6 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the fourth consecutive year, Billed as racquetball’s original “Grand Slam” event, the most prestigious tournament of the year offers more than $65,000 of total prize money.

This event will bring the best of both professional and amateur players together in an action-packed weekend. More than 700 players will compete, including top-ranked professional men and women as well as amateur players in over 80 USA Racquetball sanctioned age and skill divisions, pushing the tournament to capacity numbers and causing organizers to add a fourth venue for overflow matches.

All professional matches and several amateur matches will be held at the Life Time Fitness Target Center, which also serves as the primary venue and tournament central. The unique Lucite stadium court will host all professional matches starting with the semifinals for both men and women. More than 1,000 spectators will be able to view the match through the four see-through walls.

Adding to the excitement in the pro men’s side is the stunning upset of #1 ranked Kane Wasenlenchuk in the semifinals of the first pro tournament of the 2013-14 season. #4 Jose Rojas defeated Wasenlenchuk in four intense games in Kansas City. Rojas went on to beat #2 Rocky Carson to win the tournament, but perhaps the biggest achievement was to show himself and the other pros that Wasenlenchuk can, in fact, be beaten.

Not that it will be easy to repeat such a feat—Wasenlenchuk will be eager to regain his domination by defending his US Open crown, as well as get his 71st tour win. Rojas’ confidence will be at an all-time high given the fact that he had to beat both the #1 and #2 players in the world to win the Ghost of Georgetown/Novasors tournament. The atmosphere and anticipation for each of these matches will be electric as the pros battle to reach the finals.

Another special event taking place on the Stadium Court during the semifinal matches on Saturday, October 5, is the presentation of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” to Charlie Brumfield. “Charlie had an incredible impact on the sport of racquetball,” says UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Championships Director Doug Ganim. Not only did Brumfield dominate the sport in the 1970s by winning four national championships, but he “recognized that it was his job to not only win matches, but to entertain the huge crowds that turned out to see him play.” Known not only for his intense competitiveness, but also for witty comments, of the best Charlie Brumfield quotes reveals his drive and passion for the game of racquetball—both for playing and winning: “Nobody remembers second place.”

A special Legends Reunion of stars from the 1970s and 1980s will also take place. Former top players such as Dr. Bud Muehleisen, Marty Hogan, Rueben Gonzalez, and Brumfield’s nemesis and authorized biographer Steve Keeley will participate.

For the second year, UnitedHealthcare, a company dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers, is serving as title sponsor. US OPEN Championships Director Doug Ganim couldn’t be more pleased with the response for this year’s event. Not only is registration for players at capacity (and near record numbers), but spectator tickets have also been selling at a record pace. Only a limited number of Ticket Packages remain and individual session tickets will be sold on site only if space is available. Find out more details regarding ticket availability and other tournament information at UnitedHealthcareUSOPEN.com.

Record numbers of participants, intense professional rivalries, record numbers of spectators, and legends of the game, both past and present—it all makes for a thrilling weekend of racquetball! Watch IRT pro racquetball action for all of the top tier tournments in the 2013-2014 season live at www.irtnetwork.com and follow the action on the International Racquetball our (IRT) website at www.irt-tour.com.