New Year Brings New Brand to NYC IRT Pro Stop

NYC Open 2016 LogoKane Waselenchuk successfully defended his title in Long Island and opened the second half of the 2015-2016 IRT season with a victory over Rocky Carson. Waselenchuk defeated Carson 11-7, 11-5, 11-2 in The New York City Open 17th Annual IRT Pro Stop Final.

New York City Open Pro Singles Draw 

Championship Final

Kane Waselenchuk d Rocky Carson 11-7, 11-5, 11-2

Sunday’s New York City Open Final at noon EST will be a rematch of last year’s final where #1 Kane Waselenchuk edged #2 Rocky Carson in Long Island. 

Kane Waselenchuk and Rocky Carson are the IRT’s two most consistent finalists and have been squaring off on Sunday’s against each other for the better part of 3 years. It is improbable that Carson will be unseated before the finals of any given event and it is almost unfathomable to picture a finals that Waselenchuk is not in. These two once again met in the New York City Open finals, a rematch of last years. Watching them play is akin to watching the two best players at a club, one beats everyone and the other beats everyone else. Why this analogy carries weight is that these two have played each other more than any other two active players on the tour have played each other. Waselenchuk has beaten Carson so many times that it becomes a question of not who will win but how he (Waselenchuk) will win. Issues of confidence, habituation and belief in an outcome must be potent reminders for both players. For Carson, one can suspect these feelings must weigh heavy upon his shoulders while Waselenchuk is afforded a lightness and a creative freedom to try new things.

Waselenchuk hit multiple double faults in the rounds leading up to the finals yet he continued drive serving on his 2nd serve. Though he missed two of his 2nd serves in the finals, it is merely an indicator of how confident and relaxed he is out there knowing he can double fault and still win. Waselenchuk killed may balls yes, but hard low kills is not how he won the finals. Rather he employed off speed dinks and down the lines. He brought the ball up, opting for medium speed passes along the glass over attempting thunderous roll-outs. He often rallied with Carson slowly moving into the front court to stick out his racquet and cut the ball off. Carson often found himself in the back court watching the ball bounce twice in front of him as he was expecting Waselencuk to move back on some of his setups and hit from deep in the court. Instead Waselenchuk would take many out of the air and touch them against the front wall. Though his serves were altogether strong he did not ace Carson often or even re-kill many of the 3rd shots. Instead he took his chances with the glass, putting many balls along the side walls. This proved to be a fruitful measure as Carson was passed and tied up along the walls often. Carson did not play terribly poorly, but he played expectantly, trying to lure Waselenchuk into long rallies over attempts to put the ball away. He hit a lot of ceiling balls and wrap-around passes. He did have his chances throughout the first 2 games but he slapped at the ball in many crucial moments rather than stepping up with a full swing. Ultimately, Waselenchuk won in 3, widening the gap of victory with each passing game and gaining just a little bit more confidence with each point.

Semifinals

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #5 Jose Rojas 11-5, 11-0, 11-3

#2 Rocky Carson d #6 Jansen Allen 11-9, 11-5, 11-8

#1 Kane Waselenchuk, #2 Rocky Carson, #5 Jose Rojas and #6 Jansen Allen. Those are the final four ranked players in The New York City Open Semifinals.

Semifinal Recaps

By Jen Sinclair Johnson and Eric Mueller

Fans packed in around the fishbowl show court for the first semifinal of the evening. #1 Kane Waselenchuk’s stellar star play hadn’t dimmed in 2016 and #5 Jose Rojas was coming off of a strong quarterfinal win against Daniel De La Rosa, reversing a loss suffered at the NYC tournament in 2015. 

In game one Waselenchuk’s blistering serves delivered a quick 6-0 lead, but Rojas came back with hard kills for three points. The #5 pro’s scoring run didn’t continue, as Waselenchuk began putting Rojas on the defensive who managed to get to the ball but left it up for Waselenchuk to put away. A Waselenchuk skip on a 38-foot-kill attempt gave Rojas another shot in the serve box, and another Waselenchuk skip hadRojas clawing to a 5-6 comeback.

Waselenchuk took advantage of the two-serve rule by delivering blistering ace drive serves that could also fall short, and even double fault. More often they earned weak returns that let him kill the ball. At game point, Waselenchuk set a ball softly into the front for an 11-6 win.

Waselenchuk again began game two with a scorching drive serve, but a double-fault gave Rojas a shot in the box. The court played a little slower and harder to put the ball down due to the glass side walls, and perhaps that was part of the reason for the extended rallies that followed, with the two pros exchanging shots but not scoring points. Undeterred, Waselenchuk stuck to game plan of delivering blistering z-serves and drives to the left and right for weak returns and a 4-0 lead.

Down 0-5, Rojas took a timeout while Waselenchuk hit the ball around the court and looked confident, calm, and ready to play. Jose’s athleticism was on display as he was able to get to the ball, but the resulting placement most often left easy shots for Waselenchuk to put away. Rojas’ go-for-broke style delivered skips, but also earned them. Re-killing the ball gave Rojas rallies, but not points as Waselenchuk took game 2 11-0.

Game 3 began with an injury time out after Rojas realized a slight injury on a dive in the previous game, but Rojas came back to serve, only to watch Waselenchuk bury the ball in the corner for the first point. Rojas fought back to a 2-2 tie, but Waselenchuk’s returns hit low and hard as he pulled away, 5-2. Another Rojas timeout. Kane started relying on z-serves, perhaps easier on his arm after the blistering drive serves in the first two games, and consistently killed the serve-return to pull away with the game 11-3 for the match.

#2 Rocky Carson d #6 Jansen Allen 11-9, 11-5, 11-8

The second semifinal featured #2 Rocky Carson against #6 Jansen Allen. In the seven prior meetings, Allen had never beat Carson. He entered this match after a huge victory over #3 Alvaro Beltran in last night’s quarterfinals. That was his first win over Beltran and he looked to continue that trend against Carson. Allen jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first game and looked good early. Carson started chipping away before finally taking his first lead of the game at 6-5. Carson used his rally game and slow methodical pace to bring the match under his wing and went on to take game one 11-9. In the second game Carson led early and often going up 8-3. Allen would make a late push but came short as Carson took game two 11-5. The third game looked to be all Carson as he led 4-2 and Allen looked out of it. Allen would bounce back and keep game three competitive tying it at 4-4 and then taking the late lead. Carson tied it at 8-8 before running away with the game 11-8 to win the match. Tomorrow’s New York City Open Final at noon EST will be a rematch of last year’s final when Kane Waselenchuk edged Carson.

Quarterfinals

#2 Rocky Carson d #7 Markie Rojas 11-2, 11-6, 11-1

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #9 Charlie Pratt 11-3, 11-0, 11-4

#6 Jansen Allen d #3 Alvaro Beltran 11-7, 10-12, 12-10, 11-6

#5 Jose Rojas d #4 Daniel De La Rosa 4-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-3

The New York City Open Round of 16s on Friday went pretty much as expected with the exception of #9-ranked Charlie Pratt beating #8 Felipe Camacho.

Quarterfinal Recaps

Blog by Tim Prigo

Rocky Carson returned from the IRT’s Holiday break looking as good, if not better, than he ever has. He beat Jake Bredenbeck handily in the Round of 16s and continued his run of good form in the first quarterfinal of the day against Markie Rojas. While all players were given a chance to refresh their bodies and mind over the break, Rojas seemed to be still adjusting to tournament play. Even more troubling for the young man from Stockton was that this was his tenth matchup against Carson and he seems to be trending downward against the world #2-ranked player. Carson was hitting the ball very hard and never reverted to around the world shots and used minimal off-speed shots. Rojas on the other hand was leaving the ball up time and again, giving Carson practice style setups. Rojas was also having difficulty finding the correct angles to pass or jam Carson, who seemed to jump all over most of his shots. Carson did well to keep Rojas in the backcourt and maintain control of center court, which lead to Rojas shooting more than half his shots from at least 35 feet deep. In game two however, Rojas was able to string together some impressive backhand kills with his back against the glass. He was never able to turn the momentum completely though and was left to dive and sprint around the court desperately as Carson carefully picked out his shots. Carson in three games.

Kane Waselenchuk drew a large crowd in his 2016 quarterfinal debut against Portland, Oregon native, Charlie Pratt. Many people watching the match online and at the venue were eager to see if the world’s most dominate athlete would come out as strong as he finished the first half of the season. Pratt, on the other hand, had played perhaps his best match all season in the round previous, besting Felipe Camacho in three. Waselenchuk jumped out to an early lead compliments of Pratt skips. Pratt had some good serves early in the first, while Waselenchuk struggled to get his over the line, twice double faulting. Pratt seemed to have a small opening in the first game but he was never able to make the move and put up quick points. Waselenchuk, after his first four or five service attempts started calibrating his blistering drive serve in for an avalanche of points. In the second, Waselenchuk rallied more with Pratt than we have grown accustomed to seeing. The pace however, was too much for Pratt as he almost always made the first mistake in these long exchanges. When Pratt did have setups he was unable to put them down, perhaps over hitting the ball due to nerves, allowing Waselenchuk to turn on his shots for winners. In this second game Pratt was held scoreless. By game three, Waselenchuk had his serve working, his footwork dialed in and his confidence through the roof. Pratt had some good front court re-kills in this game but ultimately put up little obstacle for Waselenchuk as he cruised to a 32 minute match victory.

The longest and most contentious match of the quarters was between Alvaro Beltran and Jansen Allen. These two have more similarities than differences in respect to their playing style. Smooth effortless strokes on the ball, finesse and angles over speed and power. Allen seems to float to every ball without ever making a noise on the hardwood, while Beltran at times appears to move so slow its miraculous he gets to as many balls as he does. This cerebral duo played a back and forth first game that lasted 22 minutes, just 10 shy of the last match’s entirety. At 6-7 Allen was first to make his move towards the finish line, ending the first game with some emphatic re-kills into the corners. Allen played very well all match, but this is not to say that he was shooting the ball as best as the Tour’s ever seen him. It was rather that he never folded after a run of bad shots, continuously finding his way back into the server’s box before long. This was best displayed at the end of game two and into game three. After winning the first game, and leading in the second a very familiar phenomenon happened. Beltran started killing the ball and took the lead. After a very narrow game two loss, 10-12, all the momentum seemed on Beltran’s side. Allen’s best attributes shined in the third game when he stayed consistent and aggressive, never allowing Beltran to frustrate him and go on runs. Allen had served at 11-10 and scored the game winning point via a serve-return-kill rally or so he thought. He was called back into the court as Beltran had successfully overturned the serve on an instant replay appeal. This was a true test and it became clear that if Allen were going to win this match he would be thoroughly tested. Exhibiting strong mental fortitude, Allen was able to strap back on his gear, walk back into the court and score the final game three point. Allen continued to play within himself and even as game four came towards an end Allen remained even keeled knowing he was merely points away from one of his biggest career wins. Allen advanced to the semifinals in four games over the world #3-ranked player.

The most memorable match of The 2016 New York City Open was undoubtedly Jose Rojas versus Daniel De La Rosa. They again would meet in the same round on the same day in the same time slot to anchor this year’s quarterfinal round. The stakes seemed bigger than just a semifinals berth as these two have grown to be tour rivals, both young and athletic and both in the conversation as possible future #1’s. Last year De La Rosa dolled out what must have been a heart wrenching five game defeat to Rojas. The tension was high at the start of the first game but De La Rosa was able to shrug off any jitters he may have had and started hitting smooth, almost casual kill shots, in response to Rojas swinging out of his socks. It was evident early on that not only was he killing more balls but that he had better shot selection than Rojas. At 11-4, De La Rosa seemed poise to run away with the match but in game two Rojas was better with his angles and passes. Though he still seemed to be searching for his kill ball he was stepping up and taking aggressive shots that sent De La Rosa to the floor or sprinting back to dig balls off the back. One thing of note is that Rojas not only looked extremely fit but that he also never showed signs of exasperation throughout the match. De La Rosa on the other hand, who is naturally very athletic and gifted, did not look as if the break treated him well. Not only did he look a bit out of training but also he seemed to miss some key shots late in the match due to fatigue. After winning the second Rojas who was up all game three, saw De La Rosa creep back in the score line. Rojas took the most fruitful timeout of any player on the day and was able to come back, collected and focused, scoring out game three. Game 4, while displaying many heroic efforts and entertaining rallies and shots from both players was all Rojas. De La Rosa looked defeated and seemed to understand that he was going to lose the match half way through this fourth and final game.

Round of 16s

Rocky Carson d Jake Bredenbeck 11-8, 11-4, 11-7

Markie Rojas d Robert Collins 11-4, 11-1, 11-5

Kane Waselenchuk d Alejandro Herrera 11-4, 11-4, 11-4

Charlie Pratt d Felipe Camacho 11-5, 11-5, 11-7

Alvaro Beltran d Mario Mercado 11-3, 13-15, 11-6, 11-7

Jansen Allen d Mauricio Zelada 11-2, 11-8, 11-3

Jose Rojas d Nicolas Bousquet 11-5, 11-6, 11-5

Daniel De La Rosa d Andree Parrilla 11-6, 11-5, 11-4

Thursday Qualifying Results

Round of 32s

Alejandro Herrera d Troy Warigon 11-8, 11-6, 11-8

Charlie Pratt d Jonathan Justice 11-2, 11-3, 11-2

Nicolas Bousquet d Matthew Majxner 11-6, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7

Andree Parrilla d Sebastian Franco 11-5, 11-8, 11-9

Mario Mercado d Maurice Miller 11-7, 11-0, 11-9

Robert Collins d Jonathan Clay 11-6, 11-2, 11-9

Jake Bredenbeck d Jose Diaz 12-10, 9-11, 11-8, 11-7

Mauricio Zelada d John Behm 11-6, 9-11, 11-7, 11-9

Round of 64s

Jonathan Justice d Marquis Miller 11-5, 11-2, 11-5

Nicolas Bousquet d Mitch Posner 11-0, 11-3, 11-0

Andree Parrilla d Joe Polazzo WBF – No Show

John Behm d Michael Leduc 11-7, 11-5, 11-1

Jonathan Clay d Kamyron Meeks 11-5, 6-11, 12-10, 11-6

Jose Diaz, Jake Bredenbeck, Robbie Collins, Mauricio Zelado, Maurice Miller, Sebastian Franco, Andree Parrilla, Mario Mercado and Troy Warigon are this weekend’s Reaching Your Dream Foundation Athletes. 

New Year Brings New Brand to NYC IRT Pro Stop

The men’s professional International Racquetball Tour will travel to The Empire State after a two-month break for the New York City Open at Synergy Fitness of Syosset on Long Island January 14-17 to open up the second half of the 2015-2016 IRT season.

Tournament directors Meredith Gilbert and Jonathan Clay are focused on bringing a “true fan experience” to the re-branded 17th Annual New York City IRT Pro Stop known as the NY Temperature Controls Pro/Am and Cactus Salon NYC Pro/Am after the title sponsors. “We are trying to take the history and put the branding around it and then take it into its next generation,” Clay said of bringing more energy to an already passionate New York crowd.

“I believe we can build this pro stop into one of, if not the largest, pro stops in the country when it comes to amateurs as well as the pro draw. This has the potential to be one of the biggest and most competitive tournaments in the country.”

For Gilbert, the racquetball director at the Synergy Fitness of Syosset, this event is just the start of her goals. “Something I would like to do next would be to bring the ladies (LPRT) here,” Gilbert said of bringing large-scale events to NY and provide amazing racquetball for their supporters. “Its just the beginning of what I see as the potential that we can do at this club.”

Clay and Gilbert will look to continue the success they had at the Tier 4 New Jersey Open this past December where they gave away $8,000 in prize money and sold out with 150 participants. “We’ve hit our stride when it comes to running events,” Clay said of the pair who have directed tournaments together for four years. “I think we put on a fantastic event and I think the proof is in the people who come to play.”

The duo complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses as tournament directors. Gilbert is in charge of running the courts and the players while Clay is the person on the floor who is doing everything to ensure everyone is having a positive experience. “Together we make a really strong team to lead the rest of our group,” Gilbert said of the seven-person group. “I feel truly lucky that I get to do this with some of my best friends.”

Top ranked Kane Waselenchuk will look to continue his winning ways at the 10 court Synergy Fitness Club after he won five of seven tournaments in the front half of the schedule. #2-ranked Rocky Carson and #3 Alvaro Beltran also captured titles in 2015. Waselenchuk has won the past two years in New York with Carson winning in 2012 and 2013.

“I want the matches to be awesome,” Clay said of his expectations for the tournament. “I want the players to be entertaining. I want a good fun final for the fans.”

By Eric Mueller

Eric Mueller started working with the IRT after joining the 2014 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships Media Team, where he garnered coverage for top racquetball pros and amateurs in their hometown media while also helping to provide updates to the racquetball community during the tournament. With a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Mueller also brings experience in sports reporting and news writing for newspapers like the Pioneer Press in St. Paul as well as the Southwest Journal and the Downtown Journal in Minneapolis. Mueller has also worked in marketing and public relations for Gopher Sports Marketing at the University of Minnesota, the St. Paul Saints professional baseball team and the 2015 Cowles Cup Champion Chicago Bandits professional softball team.