The USA Racquetball Team Qualifying Championship match came down to a tiebreaker, with #2 Rocky Carson/Jose Rojas defeating #4 Ben Croft/Mark Fuhrmann 12-15, 15-14, 11-3. The winner’s coach, Fran Davis, posted her congratulations. “It was an awesome match by all four players who gave the crowd their money’s worth. I couldn’t even believe some of the shots and gets they made…so unbelievable.”
Pair up for Valentine’s Day at the National Doubles Championships
By Nick Rynerson
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, one of the year’s most exciting events is about to kick off in warm Tempe Arizona. The USA Racquetball National Doubles Championships presented by HEAD Penn is set for February 12th-16th at the Arizona State University Student Recreation Complex. This amateur competition includes the U.S. Team qualifying division, offering winners the chance to represent the United States in world events. Click here to follow the US Team Qualifying Draw.
The National Doubles Championship has a long and impressive reputation for excellent play and top-tier competition. The first official racquetball tournament in history included a doubles competition, held in Wisconsin in 1968. At the time, there wasn’t a professional racquetball tour, and the all of the top players competed in the men’s open division.
The next year, racquetball organized as a sport. Jim Hiser, USA Racquetball’s Program Manager, started entering tournamentsten years later, but recalled talking to those who were there when the sport took off. “After it organized, the sport was really booming,”
There were no skills divisions until other tournaments offered every bracket, except the open level. In time, they combined the events into one, with straight skill divisions including the elite competition. The next major change came in 2007 when organizers added the US Team Qualifying division for elite players, instead of all of the top players competing in the men’s open division.
Today, there are over 75 pro stops a year and National Doubles draws over 300 competitors annually. Doubles events offer fans and players a unique, cooperatively competitive experience, depending more on teamwork than raw athletic ability. “Our aging population enjoys doubles because it’s less physical and more social,” says Hiser. “You depend on your partner and they depend on you.”
Last year, Tony Carson and Jansen Allen beat out higher-ranked pros Rocky Carson and Ben Croft for the Championship. “Playing for Team USA has been a wonderful experience for me,” said Allen, one week before the 2014 tournament began. “It’s an honor to represent my country. The USA team coach Dave Ellis and team leader Cheryl Kirk do an amazing job preparing us to compete…I have made many memories [at National Doubles] and I hope to make many more. National Doubles is my favorite tournament of the year and I am looking forward to the tough competition this year!”
This year, along with the 350+ amateur players that will be competing across a variety of divisions, National Doubles will feature top professional players. On the men’s side, the #2 seeds Rocky Carson/Jose Rojas pair up after defeating the #1 seeds Carson /Allen last month at the Lewis Drug ProAm–which, as the only IRT tournament to offer a pro doubles division, serves as an unofficial warm-up for the Championships. With stiff competition and the ever-dynamic variable of cooperative team play, the advantage of dominant IRT players is less than secure. As it was with Allen /Carson’s 2013 victory, upsetsare in the cards at “Nat Dubs”.
The prominent world events that players will qualify for, which have typically been dominated by American players, will include the PanAmerican Racquetball Championships to be held in Santa Cruz, Bolivia from April 11-20 and the International Racquetball Federation XVII World Racquetball Championship in Burlington, Canada from June 14-21.
The action begins for the U.S. qualifying team Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. with championship matches for both men and women Saturday evening. Other divisions will compete throughout the week, ending with the amateur championship matches on Sunday the 16th. And to make this tournament even better, racquetball fans will be able to view the U.S. National Team Qualifier matches free of charge.
And for those who can’t make it down to Tempe for the action, the IRT Network channel will be broadcasting matches from both U.S. Team Qualifying and other top divisions at enetlive.tv.