2012 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN

The 2012 UnitedHealthcare U.S. Open Championship results are in the books. Kane Waselenchuk extended his record with another win, the Stadium Court is down, and almost 700 players have carted their tournament bags away until next year. We’ve read the reports and followed the brackets, but what’s between the lines? 

Click HERE for the pro draw.

We asked a guy who’s been attending the Open for most of his 30+ years in the sport: IRT President, Jason Mannino. So…what’s it like to attend the sport’s biggest event? “From the minute people arrived at the host hotels, they were in for something special. Public transportation was easy from the airport to downtown, no need to rent a car. Shuttles left the Target Center every 15 minutes to take people to their matches at other clubs. Max wait—15 minutes! Unreal! At each of the host hotels, the logo and signs kept everyone updated, including information about the nightly parties.”

As usual, the event oversold the sponsor doubles on Wednesday night due to overwhelming interest and generosity by the fans. IRT Network’s own John Scott won and wore his medal around his neck the whole weekend.

Top-ranked players made appearances at the parties on Thursday and Friday and, of course, the huge gala on Saturday night. Each was well attended by the pros, amateurs, fans, and family. The social atmosphere is always such an integral part of the experience for everyone.

As usual, they oversold the sponsor doubles on Wednesday night due to overwhelming interest and generosity by the fans. IRT Network’s own John Scott won and wore his medal around his neck the whole weekend.

Stadium Court seating sold out from the quarterfinals on. Once the big matches hit the stage, the arena filled with energy, highlighted by the sheer spectacle of the all-glass Clear Court, which features the event’s top matches including the best male and female players in the world.

Having a thousand people screaming and cheering makes for a great racquetball atmosphere. The VIP section, of course, had the best seats in the house, including servers bringing beer, wine, assorted soft drinks/water, and 5-star food.

Fogo De Chao catered Saturday night, including filet mignon, chicken wrapped in bacon, pork loin, spicy sausage, and other marinated meats served right off the grill. This meal was only equaled by the Capital Grill mimosa brunch on Sunday morning, a sort-of “Breakfast at Wimbledon” affair. Quiche, fresh made eggs, herb potatoes, and a carving station with marinated pork loin, all topped off with a fresh OJ mimosa.

The main attraction, though, was on Clear Court. Right away the fans were behind Daniel De La Rosa and Alex Ackermann, as they surprised top-ranked players and propelled their way through the draw. (You can read their quarterfinal match recaps in the IRT coverage.)

Thumping music before and after each match keeps things “upbeat” while live entertainment between games was excellent. The bands were great, belting out songs from yesterday and today to keep everyone entertained.

We always sing our national anthem prior to the finals, and the woman who led the crowd was excellent. By the time Rocky and Kane took the stage, the place was pumped. The Tennis Channel is re-broadcasting the pro rounds during Thanksgiving weekend, so fans will be able to catch some of it then, too.

Attending the US Open is really something everyone needs to do. The support of the title sponsor, UnitedHealthcare, helped make the experience better than ever. Overall, it’s just a “must see,” one-of-a-kind, awesome racquetball experience!

It takes a title sponsorship to produce an event at such a high level.  In order to show UnitedHealthcare our appreciation, the IRT has taken some initiative by offering to help acquire leads for the company to quote health insurance. There is no cost or obligation when they call, so if you’d like to help us secure UnitedHealthcare long term, please email me at jason@irt-tour.com and allow UnitedHealthcare to save you money on your health insurance.

Thanks Everyone,

Jason Mannino

IRT President

Final Results

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #2 Rocky Carson, taking home his 8th US Open title and extending his record for the most US Open wins. Up next, the Red Swain Shootout, Nov. 1-4 in Davison, Michigan, home of the legendary Cliff Swain and rising star Brad Schopieray.

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #2 Rocky Carson 8, 5, 5,

The two top players stepped into Stadium Court with something to prove. Rocky ready to show he could take the win and Kane prepared to continue his domination on the tour. The two battled from the first ball drop, trading hard-fought rallies and racking the score up point for point. Tension radiated from the court as Rocky challenged Kane and Kane defied referee calls not going his way. Then, the two opponents hit 8-8 and the rally that clinched the outcome of the game and swayed the match. At 8-8, Rocky missed a front court shot. Kane pulled away with the first game, 11-8.

The next two games weren’t as close as Rocky just couldn’t execute. As he faced a handful of shots in the front court that could have turned the momentum his way, he missed. Kane never looked back, taking each of the next two games 11-5.

Semifinals Results 

Recap by IRT Intern Kathy Geels

#1 Kane Waaselunchuk d #4 Alvaro Beltran 5,9,8
After an intense three games of shooting and diving, Waselenchuk advanced to the finals again. First to get on the board then gain an early lead and close game one 11-5, he and Beltran both seemed to need time to settle into a rapid-fire shooting pace. Game two Beltran still struggled, this time with service faults, but eventually came up with an effective drive to the right. With highly offensive replies to Waselenchuk’s serve, some diving re-kills, and strategic ceiling shots, Beltran’s arsenal seemed to position him for a win right up until he lost game two, 9-11. Game three, however, momentum was with Waselenchuk, who seemed to have clocked Beltran’s drive, and kept him scoreless for the first 15 minutes, while hurtling to a 7-0 lead before Beltran was able to counter. Relocating his serve and using a high level of intensity to contest every rally, Beltran worked himself back into the game to a score of 8-8 before Waselenchuk cut him off for good. Waselenchuk got back into the box by flat-rolling a return of serve, then smartly played the last three points and finished the game and match with a pass that tangled Beltran up in the back court. The win puts Waselenchuk into the finals, where he will play against Carson for the second of two IRT tournaments so far this season.

Recap by IRT Intern Kathy Geels

#2 Rocky Carson d #6 Chris Crowther 1,4,4

It was almost painful to watch the two veterans grind out points for more than an hour before Carson’s win. Crowther’s execution was neat and his demeanor relaxed as usual, showing no clear signs of back-pain that forced injury time-outs the day before, but he seemed to lack both energy and explosiveness. With a few exceptions, (including the ace to the right side that won the match), Carson’s strategy seemed to be to engage Crowther using lower-risk serves (often a mid-height z), then wear him down with extended shooting matches from deep court. Crowther’s court-coverage, power, and tenacity, were barriers to a quick loss, but he seemed unable to gain an offensive foothold, and the final scores imply Carson comfortably controlled the entire match. The win advances Carson to the finals to play the #1 Kane Waselenchuk.

Quarterfinal Results

#6 Chris Crowther d #19 Daniel De La Rosa 9, (3), (5), 8, 6

The 19-year old Daniel De La Rosa stepped into his first top tier quarterfinal via two big upset wins on the biggest stage in the sport to square off against Chris Crowther, the #6 ranked player on the tour.

Game 1 showed both players to an advantage, with the younger De La Rosa darting around the court shooting for the kill while Crowther’s power, consistency, and steady movement delivered his 9-5 lead. De La Rosa’s offensive style, shooting from the shoulder and backcourt, risked skipped shots but when he made it to the front, didn’t give Crowther much opportunity to put the ball away. De La Rosa found a lob wall serve that helped him battle back, but Crowther took the game 11-9.

With the confidence of knowing he played well in the first game, De La Rosa continued his aggressive style of play, looking comfortable and not intimidated going into game 2. Crowther was solid, smoothly stretching for the ball and a 2-0 lead. De La Rosa’s scrappy hustle ended a long start to the second game as he pulled away. Crowther hit back hard, grunting carried through the on-court microphone but De La Rosa managed to pull away 6-2 when Crowther took a timeout. The two players stalled again at 9-3. De La Rosa hustled for another point and, when Crowther skipped the ball during De La Rosa’s forth chance at game point, took the game to tie the match at one game each.

The two players appeared to be even going into game 3, with extended rallies that brought De La Rosa to a 4-1 lead. Crowther began to look frustrated but De La Rosa looked and played like he could win the match. Up 7-3 in the third, De La Rosa demonstrated mental strength and smooth shot making that seemed to frustrate Crowther as much as some of IRT Official Referee Charlie Pratt’s calls. De La Rosa won 11-5.

Shortly into Game 4, Crowther, who has been plagued by back problems, took an injury time out. Returning to the court in less than the 7-1/2 minutes allowed, Crowther slowed the game’s pace down, throwing De La Rosa off his game and garnering a 7-3 lead. De La Rosa fought back, but it was his turn to show frustration with a demeanor that had changed from confidence to uncertainty since the previous three games. Chris took the game 11-8 and treated the fans to game 5.

In the tiebreaker, Crowther had solidly moved from a power to a control game, demonstrating his maturity as a veteran player by moving De La Rosa where he wanted him for a quick 4-1 lead. The younger player seemed to have lost confidence as the lead stretched, eventually to 10-6. Despite some great shots at key moments by his opponent, Crowther closed the game out at 11-6 to win the match.

#4 Alvaro Beltran d #28 Alex Ackermann 3, 3, 2

The string of major upsets for Alex Ackermann came to an end. Alvaro is a notorious slow starter, but this was definitely not the case as shot out of the gate on-fire. He never gave the younger and less-experienced Ackermann an inch. Alvaro looked as good as ever, killing and re-killing everything Ackermann came up with. The first game didn’t last long and ended with the score 11-3.

The second game was much of the same. We saw Alvaro looking very confident and Alex not looking like the same player that took out the #5 and #12-ranked player in the world on his way to his first top tier quarterfinal match. The second game came to an end with the same score as the first, 11-3.

The crowd was hoping Alexwould make some necessary adjustments and get into this match, but it wasn’t to be. It just looked like the big stage of the US Open quarterfinals had too much of an impact on Ackermann’s game for him to give it a solid run. Alvaro will move on to the Semifinals with a 3-game victory 11-3, 11-3, 11-2.

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #9 Tony Carson 1, (13), 4, 4,

#2 Rocky Carson d #7 Shanve Vanderson 3, (10), 9, 7

Quarterfinals 

Alex Ackerman is enjoying the best run of his career, taking out #5 Ben Croft in the 32s before #12 Anthony Herrera in the 16s for his first quarterfinal appearance. He’ll face #4 Alvaro Beltran, who rose up the ranks folllowing his finals appearance in Kansas City last month and will look to repeat his appearance in the Clear Court on Sunday. There to try and stop him will be the victor of the #9 Tony Carson versus reigning and 7-time US Open and World Champion #1 Kane Waselenchuk, the most dominating athlete in racquetball today.

#19 Daniel De La Rosa played the spoiler on the bottom half of the draw, taking a four-game win against #14 Ruben Gonzalz’, who capped his 30+ year career by finishing the match while injured, earning the respect and a standing ovation from the crowd. De La Rosa then faced #3 ranked Jose Rojas for another four-game win. De La Rosa will square off against #6 Chris Crowther, who is quietly working his way through the draw. The winner of their match will face the victor of #7 Shane Vanderson and #2 Rocky Carson.

Quarterfinal Match Schedule All Friday 10/5 Central Time

#28 Alex Ackerman v #4 Alvaro Beltran 1:10 pm

#19 Daniel De La Rosa v #6 Chris Crowther 2:10 pm

#7 Shane Vanderson v #2 Rocky Carson 5:10 pm

#1 Kane Waselenchuk v # 9 Tony Carson

Round of 16s

#4 Alvaro Beltran d Jose Diaz 7, 9, 2

Q12 Alex Ackerman d #12 Anthony Herrera 11, 10, (9), 11

Q3 Daniel De La Rosa d #3 Jose Roajs  5, (10), 9, 4

#6 Chris Crowther d #11 Javier Moreno 2, 2, 3

#7 Shane Vanderson d #10 Charlie Pratt 6, 3, (10), 3

#2 Rocky Carson d Q2 Polo Gutierrez (5), 1, 4, 1

#9 Tony Carson d Q9 Vincent Gagnon 6, 6, 7

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #16 Alejandro Landa 3, 2, 0

Round of 32s Results

Daniel De La Rosa d Ruben Gonzalez 5, (6), 6, 10 

By John Beninato

What an emotional ending to a great match and an even greater career. Ruben showed everyone at the US Open just how great of a person he is and the level of sportsmanship he has shown over his entire career. It is a shame that his time on the tour had to end with injury, but everyone will remember him for his tremendous heart and love of the game.
Ruben and Daniel battled hard for this entire match. Gonzalez kept up with the young shooter and hit some great slow drive serves to Daniel’s backhand. He got some quick points, but the longer rallies tired him out more quickly and he dropped this first game, 11-6.

In game 2, Ruben made some adjustments and really dug deep to give his best performance. He knew that this winning this match would be a huge upset and he was not about to lie down. In a stunning moment of sportsmanship, Ruben overturned a missed call after he hit a short serve and did not take the point. It was a great moment and that’s something that you rarely ever see the pros do. Ruben fought so hard to get this game and he earned it, 11-6.

As the match went on, fatigue became a huge factor for the veteran. Keeping up with the young and quick De La Rosa is no easy task. Gonzalez did his absolute best to put pressure on Daniel, but could not keep it going as well as he did in game 2. Daniel capitalized on Ruben’s weaknesses and took this game 11-6.

Now it was time for Ruben to make one last push. He needed this game to force a tiebreaker. You could see how much he wanted to keep the match alive and he played like he had nothing to lose. It was amazing to watch and it looked like he could force a game 5. Then it happened. 10-10 in game 4. Ruben hit the floor with an injury and everyone’s hearts stopped.  He had injured his left hamstring and even after some medical attention, he could barely stand. This match was over. The audience expected him to walk off and give the match to Daniel. But this is Ruben Gonzalez. He was not about to let this be his first and last forfeit on the tour. It was an incredible moment filled with so many emotions. Ruben stood back to receive two serves from Daniel, so he could say that he finished the match. Daniel hit two lobs for points and that was the match. Ruben preferred a loss over a forfeit.

That is true heart and drive. He could barely walk, but he had enough will inside him to stay on the court just for a few more seconds to finish what he started. Truly incredible. Ruben’s career may have come to an end today, but that moment will always be remembered.

Alex Ackerman d Ben Croft 7, 7, (7), (8), 9

In a major upset, Q12 Alex Ackerman earned his biggest win on the tour by defeating #5 Ben Croft in a 5-game tie-breaker. The match started with a 2-game lead by Ackerman. As Croft is able to come back after a slow start, Ackerman realized he’d have to step up his game. He didn’t make enough of the needed shots and lost games 3 and 4. In game 5, he turned it around. “I concentrated on hitting kills, not worrying about skipping balls. When you play someone like Ben who is fast, you have to think about running the ball.”

In a Facebook post afterwards, Croft noted that this loss marked the first time in his career that he’d gone down in the 32s at the US Open. He likened the refereeing to the NFL’s recent replacement-ref debacle, noting three different amateurs held the card during the match, questioning their qualifications and impartiality before ending with, “Disgusted doesn’t even come close to describe…”

Rocky Carson d Rafael Filippini 1,0,1

By John Beninato

No major upset in this round of 32 match. Rocky controlled this one from the very beginning and did not let Rafael gain any ground. Carson started off game 1 with a mix of Z serves to Rafael’s backhand. Filippini did not cut off the ball much and when he did, he either skipped it or gave Rocky a juicy setup. Rafael could not put any pressure on the #2 player and ended up skipping the last shot of game 1.

In game 2, Rafael decided to be a lot more aggressive, but could not be patient when he needed to. He ended up skipping shots and leaving it up for Rocky. Carson got in the driver’s seat, floored it, and took this game, 11-0.

The final game was pretty much the same story as the other two. Rocky took control and kept Rafael on defense. Carson started to use different serves, perhaps an effort to practice for his next match against Polo Guiterrez. He also shot some balls that were above his head and probably was just having fun as this match came to a close. Rocky showed how dominant he can be and took this match easily, 11-1.

By Brendan Giljum

 Rocky Carson left nothing to be determined in his Round of 32 matchup against Rafael Filippini, completely dominating his opponent from the start. Carson looked extremely comfortable on the glass court and was playing as well as he has all year, steamrolling through his first round match by the scores of 1,0,1.

Kane Waselenchuk d Mauricio Zelada 3,2,5

By John Beninato 

Kane is going on to the round of 16s. This was much like the match Rocky Carson had against Rafael Filippini. One player clearly dominated the other. Mauricio stepped into the box and came out drive serving to a powerhouse of an opponent. Zelada worked very hard but could not gain any momentum. Kane used a lob serve for this game and drilled just about every setup his was given. Mauricio did not cut off the lob and try to transfer some pressure to the #1 player and ended up paying for it in game 1, 11-1.

In game 2, Kane kept dominating Mauricio and would not let up at all. He was putting shots down so easily and Zelada did his best to stay in the game, but he could not keep up with Kane. Zelada started to skip a lot of shots because of the amount of pressure put on him and Kane took this game, 11-2.

Game three seemed like it would be the end of Zelada’s US Open experience. Mauricio made some mistakes and Kane started to sense that this match was in the bag. Maybe that’s how Zelada came up with a 5-0 run on Kane. Waselenchuk then decided to wake up and close this one out. Mauricio worked really hard, but could not get past 5 and dropped this game, and the match, 11-5.

By Brendan Giljum

Kane brought his best game from the beginning, something he normally does as much in the early rounds as in the finals. He took command of the match early over his opponent, Mauricio Zelada. But Zelada was not willing to give up that easy. He continued to drive and Z serve Kane, mixing up his selection of serves to both the forehand and backhand sides of the court. In doing so, he did not allow Kane to settle into any significant groove and kept himself in the game. Kane was able to pull out the first game, 11-3, and take the second easily as well 11-2. The third game lasted a little longer than the first two, as Zelada put together one last stand agains the top ranked player in the world, but in the end, the Kane train proved to much for the young up-and-coming Zelada as he fell to Waselenchuk 11-5.

Other Results

#4 Alvaro Beltran d Mitch Williams (9), 5, 5, 4

Anthony Herrera d Alejandro Herrera (11), (3), 6, 4, 11

Jose Diaz d Brad Schopieray 9, 9, 3

Jose Rojas d Marco Rojas 9, 9, (7), 3

Javier Moreno d Felipe Camacho (2), 5, 3, (9), 0

Chris Crowther d Nick Montalbano 4, 6, 1

Shane Vanderson d Gilberto Mejia (7), 1, 8, 6

#9 Tony Carson d Jansen Allen 9, 5, 1

Vincent Gagnon d #8 Andy Hawthorne 6, 6, 0

#10 Charlie Pratt d James Slamko 8, (3), (6), 6, 5

Polo Gutierrez d Juan Herrera 4, 2, 3

Round of 32s Preview

We’ll see some interesting match-ups when the Round of 32s starts this morning. Mitch Williams, who retired from the pro tour after suffering a shoulder injury in his quarterfinal match during the 2010 US Open, will face Alvaro Beltran, who lost to Kane Waselenchuk in finals of the same event. Beltran, who is climbing up the rankings after recuperating from knee surgery, reached the #4 position just last week by defeating Ben Croft in the quarterfinals of the Kansas City season opener. Beltran noted he is looking to “kick some butt” with “no Mr. Nice guy for the week” on a Facebook post, presumably toward a winning outcome. Of course, other top pros, including #1 ranked and 7-time US Open Champion, Kane Waselenchuk, are working to stop that.

Stockton, CA, an Ektelon racquetball powerhouse, is well represented, although the draw meant Marco Rojas (2012 USAR Nationals Singles Champion) and David Horn would face off in the early round. Rojas took the Q14 spot and will now face his brother, #3 ranked Jose Rojas. Recently-signed Team Head player, Brad Schopieray will face 2012 USAR Junior National Champion and Stockton Team Ektelon player, Jose Diaz, to earn the chance to meet the winner of the Beltran v Williams match.

The legendary #14 Ruben Gonzalez, who is ending his 30+ career playing professional racquetball by retiring after this event will face a promising up-and-comer, Daniel De La Rosa.
The Round of 32s starts today at 9:20 am Central Time with the 16s to follow, the last match scheduled to start at 7:50 this evening. You can watch Stadium Court action on the IRT Network, www.IRTNetwork.com.

#1 Kane Waselenchuk v Q16 Mauricio Zelada
#17 Carlos Keller  v  #16 Alejandro Landa
#9 Tony Carson v Q8 Jansen Allen
Q9 Vincent Gagnon v #8 Andy Hawthorne
#5 Ben Croft v Q12 Alex Ackerman
Q5 Alejandro Herrera v #12 Anthony Herrera
#13 Brad Schopieray v Q4 Jose Diaz
Q13 Mitch Williams v #4 Alvaro Beltran
#3 Jose Rojas v  Q14 Marco Rojas
Q3 Daniel De La Rosa v #14 Ruben Gonzalez
#11 Javier Moreno v Q6 Felipe Camacho
Q11 Nick Montalbano v #6 Chris Crowther
#7 Shane Vanderson v Q10 Gilberto Meja
Q7 James Slamko v #10 Charlie Pratt
#15 Juan Herrera v Q2 Polo Gutierrez
Q15 Rafael Filippini v #2 Rocky Carson

A 2012 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN IRT Preview

by Doug Ganim

K. Waselenchuk photo by restrungmag.com

Always the highlight of the UnitedHealthcare US OPEN, the IRT draw will undoubtedly deliver another memorable year for racquetball fans throughout the world.   More than ever, young stars and wily tour veterans will be gunning for the coveted US OPEN title.  For those of you that like to lay a little side wager on the action, allow me to give some insights that may help you make some cash.

Kane Waselenchuk (1:5 odds) – The chances of Kane not winning the UnitedHealthcare US OPEN are slimmer than slim.  Every time he steps foot on the portable court his game rises to ridiculous levels.  Not only does he win all his matches each year but often makes the other top players look downright silly.  Of course, an upset is always possible but highly unlikely with Kane.  If you want to see the game played at a level never before seen, pull up a seat for any of Kane’s matches and enjoy the show.  What he does on a racquetball court is truly incredible!