The 2013 Party with the Pros takes place in the vibrant city of St. Louis, Missouri. Now in its 4th year, the Tier 1 event will also serve as a region al qualifier for amateurs to advance to 2013 Ektelon National Singles in May. Kane Waselenchuk won after an injury forfeit by Alvaro Beltran. Click to read more and follow the draws.
Click HERE to view the pro draw.
Kane Waselenchuk d Alvaro Beltran WBF-Injury
Any questions as to the strength of Kane’s knee were quickly quashed as he came out strong, burying the ball in the front wall from the front, back and everywhere in between. Alvaro had a few answers of his own, but couldn’t string two rallies together to get a point on the board, taking a timeout with the score at 0-9. The players stepped back inside the glass where Kane quickly ended game 1, 11-0.
Game two started out the same, with Kane continuing to hit the ball low and flat forcing Alvaro to perfect shots or watch them die or pass him by. He did, raising his arms in celebration at getting his first point on the board. He doubled his score in the next rally. Kane struck back. The two players battled back and forth at 2-2, with both nailing shots skittering off the front wall. Kane started to slowly pull away. At 7-3 Alvaro took his second timeout of the match. He came back strong for a 4-8 score, but Kane’s soft hands inches from the front sent Alvaro back to the receiver’s position in back. He worked his way back into the game at 6-9, lobbing Kane’s backhand for a down-the-line reply followed by a cross-court shot Alvaro just couldn’t get to in time. Again, the players exchanged rallies until Alvaro clutched his back after lunging for the ball and took an injury timeout before forfeiting.
No player likes to win in that way, which Kane knows as well as anyone, but took the match on a WBF-Injury.
Alvaro Beltran d Rocky Carson (9),1, 8, 10
Rocky and Alvaro seemed relaxed at the start of the match, laughing and joking with each other and IRT ref, Charlie Pratt, who has stepped back into service and will play in Ektelon’s Tournament of Champions May 2-5.
Rocky scored first, racking up three points before a skip sent Alvaro between the red lines for his first point, which he proceeded to tie it up, 3-3. A skip sent Rocky back in the box, where he drove a short serve followed by a z. Alvaro put it away with a backhand crosscourt….4-3, then 5 and 6. Rocky’s timeout. It must have worked. Rocky sent a down-the-line snuggly against the wall for a sideout before nailing a frontcourt kill to bring the score to 4-6.
6-5 Alvaro served and patiently waited for Rocky’s around the world return that dropped in the rear right corner. Alvaro dug it out for a kill in front. His next shot skipped. Rocky was back in the box at 5-7. The two players exchanged points and serves, keeping within a couple points of each other. When Rocky stepped up to serve at 8-9, Alvaro took his first timeout. After the players stepped back onto the court, Rocky tied it up at 9-9. Two big skips from Alvaro followed, giving Rocky the first game, 11-9.
Game 2 Alvaro served first, but a sideout put Rocky in the box. Once again, the players exchanged serves and points with a more methodical playing style than the fans saw in the first semifinal, a shoot-and-kill match. At 3-1, Alvaro delivered a wallpaper lob. Rocky nailed the return. 4-1. In textbook racquetball style, the two players hit ceilings waiting for the moment to go hard, low, and fast. They exchanged rallies, points and serves. Alvaro managed to hit an off-the-back wall for a setup that Rocky didn’t put down, only jumping high to get out of Alvaro’s way. Alvaro delivered a kill out of the way, pulling ahead, 5-1. Rocky took a timeout as Alvaro was about to serve at 6-1. Still, the #3 player drove his score forward racking up the points to 8-1, then 9.
At game point, Alvaro switched up his usual lob for a drive serve that went short. He then lobbed starting a back-and-forth that ended when Alvaro got caught up front after Rocky pinched the ball from the back. Alvaro hit a reflexive, funky behind-the-back shot that skipped, but smiled with the crowd at the rally that was just plain fun to watch. Alvaro won the match 11-1 on an ace—an unexpected drive serve to Rocky’s forehand.
Game 3 The third game went much like the first two, Rocky’s game seemed off yet Alvaro was the first to express his displeasure at a call–a replay hinder rather then a penalty hinder with the score at 3-0. Pratt held firm. At 4-1, after Pratt called an encroachment on Rocky, the ref and two players had a chat ending with Rocky suggesting the ref call a technical on himself for the call. Charlie shut the door and called the score instead. They all got back to the business at hand, with Alvaro diving to and scrambling, slowly racking up the points. The two players were jovial at times, with Alvaro “accidentally” bumping into Rocky after losing an extended rally. Rocky smiled in return, but requested a timeout at 4-6 for a phone consultation (presumably) with his coach, Fran Davis. He clawed back, but it wasn’t enough Alvaro won the third 11-8.
Game 4 Both players seemed more serious as the match came down to what could be the last game. Their joking around seemed minimized and discussions with the ref picked up. Charlie called encroachment on Rocky (at 5-9) and then a replay hinder which Alvaro thought should have been an avoidable. The players exchanged rallies and turns in the serve box, until Rocky finally up the score to 6-9. Alvaro took a timeout. Rocky climbed back taking the lead at 10-9 when Alvaro hit a winner for the serve. A frontcourt pinch tied it up at 10, until Alvaro finished it off to take the game at 12-10 for the match.
Kane Waselenchuk d Marco Rojas 3, 1, 4
After a WBF-Injury from Chris Crowther sent Marco Rojas to his first quarterfinal, an almost 2-hour five gamer that closed the club last night, Marco Rojas stepped onto the court to face #1 Kane Waslenchuk. The reigning champion raced to a quick 3-0 lead before Marco served. He was able to convert for his first 2 points with precision shot-making, but Kane returned the same to regain the serve. Kane drove up his score to 6, and with a rare skip Marco had the chance to score, but couldn’t convert. A time out at 8-3 didn’t change the momentum, and Kane won the first game 11-3.
Game 2 – If Kane’s going to lose a game in a match, it’s usually his first. Kane came out firing in the second, making an 11-8 win seem like a “slow start.” Hitting the front wall inches from the floor, making down the lines that practically skimmed the hardwood, and making the impossible hits possible had fans in the stands asking “What do you do with that?” shrugging and with palms up. Marco took a timeout at 9-1, but couldn’t find the key and lost 11-1.
Game 3 started out with much the same, rising to a quick 4-0 lead with plays that had those watching murmuring as he’d set for a shot and then, with a quick shuffle and fast hands, maneuver to kill even a squirrely ball. The younger Rojas brother put on a show, diving to get the ball and going defensively to the ceiling, which Kane would take out of the air to hit back. At -05 Rojas made it back into the box. “One of the few he’s given up,” said one fan, referring to the less-blistering pace of the ball.
More often, Rojas was doing well to keep pace with the ball. Kane’s ace serve at 6-0 brought the score to 7-0 followed by a rare skip that had the crowd groaning and laughing in empathy. 9-1, Rojas back in the box. The screaming sound of the ball rose even higher than the pro’s usual high-pitched siren from some of the frontcourt pinches. Kane made unusual skips giving Rojas the chance earn a few points. 4-10. With Kane back in the box Rojas called a timeout, but couldn’t hold him back any further. Kane took the third game at 11-4 for the match.
By Brendan Giljum
Marco Rojas d Alex Landa (9),(5),10,5,7
In a match that not many people could have predicted with the absence of Crowther from the tournament, two of the better non top ten players, Markie Rojas and Alejandro Landa met in the quarter finals for the right to take on Kane. Both players were forcing the other to skip open looks early on with their quick feet and power and the score reflected this, fluctuating back and forth. Landa took the first big lead though and went out 10-6 until Rojas was able to force Landa into defensive shots. Rojas’ offensive mindset put him back in the game and the score at 9-10. Landa put together a couple great serves and shots in a row to get back the serve and take the game 11-9.
Landa’s experience seemed to play more of a factor in this game as he took a large lead from the get go, taking a 9-3 lead. Markie was able to stop Landa for a bit, getting the serve back and scoring two to make it 9-5. But Alejandro pulled through in the end, winning game two by a score of 11-5.
Landa was not messing around to start the third game, carrying over his tenacity from the one previous, and running Markie all over the court with his precise shots. Alejandro took an early 8-0 lead. Markie put together a rally of his own though and scored 3 straight before breaking his racquet and giving Landa a short lived service. Rojas kept pushing onward, getting the serve right back and 4 points with it to tie the game at 8-8, forcing Landa to take a time out. Both players went after it again, forcing a 10-10 tie until Markie was able to look past the first two games and take the third by a score of 12-10.
Game four was a war of attrition and was the last match being played for the day in the building. Neither player wanted to give in but both started playing more fatigued as the match went on until the score was tied at 5. Markie continued battling back from originally being down 2 games to 0. He had to win this game and he did, holding Landa at 5 and winning in the end, 11-5.
Game five seemed to last forever due to fatigue and both players will to win and punch a ticket to their first semi final. The score was tied at 6-6 and then again at 7-7 until Rojas took control. Markie made all the right shots down the stretch and took over the game, closing it out with a final score of 11-7.
Alvaro Beltran d Shane Vanderson 11, 6, (8), 5
A couple of years ago these two players, Beltran and Vanderson, would have been diving all over the place but this match seemed to be more of a conservative and mental game with shot selection being key. Shane utilized his lob right from the start to take a large lead 7-2, but Alvaro and came back to take the lead 9-8. They both exchanged rallies, tying the game up at 10 a piece and forcing extra innings. Alvaro was able to pull it out in the end though, taking game one 13-11.
Alvaro showed he was ready to play in the second game, coming out early and making smart pass shots, while taking advantage of Vanderson’s somewhat slower play to that point in the match. Shane battled back and rattled off a couple in a row, but Alvaro’s smart play was eventually too much, and he took game two as well, 11-6.
Game three was one of the more friendlier grudge matches the sport has seen, with both players trading shots and points back and forth while still joking around with each other. Shane eventually was able to pull ahead and take a lead 10-7 and eventually the game 11-7, forcing at least a fourth game.
Shane took a quick lead 2-0 and looked to be playing hot until Alvaro decided to start making smart returns to Vanderson’s serves. Beltran then proceeded to put up ten straight points making the score 10-2. Shane was able to put the brakes on at game point and bring his score up to 10-5. After several sideouts, Alvaro stepped back in the serving box and got a set up he could put away, winning the game and the match, 11-5.
Kane Waselenchuk d Ben Croft 7, 3, 7
Kane tends to be a slow starter on the occasional first game and Ben took advantage, jumping out to an early 4-2 lead. Kane switched from lobs-only to match Ben’s drive-only service pattern and tied up the score at 4-4. Ben played fast and aggressivekt though diving to get three in a row to rack up the score 7-4. Kane battled back, as is his custom, and even without having completely healthy legs, he used smart shots and quick hands to take the first game 11-7.
Kane didn’t waste any time getting into the second game, coming out to take the first 10 points in a row. He played incredibly smoothly and it seemed like everything that he touched rolled out. This forced Ben to try to hit the perfect shot every time and play to Kane’s level which ultimately led to Ben skipping the ball and giving Kane the serve back frequently. Ben started to get extremely frustrated and hit his racquet on the door, giving up even more points. Finally Ben prevented getting a donut put on him by getting one point, only to then lose the next one and then lose the match 11-3.
Ben had a renewed fire at the start of the third game, taking a 6-1 lead early on. Kane then stepped on the gas pedal and took his game to another level and started putting everything away and acquiring a ton of points, eventually taking the third game and the match, 11-7.
Rocky Carson d Jose Rojas (6), 10, 4, 2
Game one started with Rocky methodically moving around the court and Jose hitting hard and fast, attempting to beat the #2 player for the first time in his career. They kept it close, exchanging points and serves with Jose firing from 38’ for a flat splat roll out to tie it up 5-5. Rocky came right back for the next point but followed with a skip, sending Jose back into the serve box where he tied it up again, this time at 6-6 by returning Rocky’s wallpaper lob in the left corner with a front court kill. On fire with backcourt kills, Jose took and kept the lead until, at 9-6, Rocky called a timeout to “let him cool off.” Jose didn’t, taking game 1, 11-6.
Game two started out differently, with Rocky taking an early 4-0 lead. Jose’s shot to the opposite corner earned him a visit to the serve box, which he converted to a point for his first point. Still, Rocky had the control, forcing the #5 player to defensive dives and shots off the back wall. Jose took a timeout at 6-1. A few tough bounces and a miss left Jose with a score of 2-8. Jose fought back, hitting his shots to get back in the box at 4-8. This time, Jose was the one swinging hard, with paid off with a score of 5-8, then 6-8 after getting the tip of his racquet on a crack ball to flick it to the front. Rocky call a timeout. The two players exchanged rallies, until Rocky called a skip on himself to bring Jose’s score to 7-8 score, which Jose then proceeded to tie at 8-8. Rocky didn’t let up, drive serving to 10-8 until an avoidable brought Jose back into the box. He ripped an overhead from the rear court, hitting inches on the front wall and, after Rocky’s skip, the next two points. Rocky showed his frustration hitting the glass for a technical warning from Charlie Pratt, the official, but earned the serve to bring the score to 10-10 and a fist-pumping roar. The game ended with a swing and miss from Jose as Rocky took the game 12-10 to tie up the match with one game each.
The question at the beginning of game three was whether Jose could regain momentum or cool off. Several rallies into the game left the question in the air with the players exchanging rallies until Rocky served an Ace to get onto the board. Rocky didn’t look back, once again reaching a 4-0 lead. Jose took a timeout, but Rocky kept up the pressure, raising his lead to 8-0 before Jose stepped back between the red lines for his first score, then a skip that sent Rocky back to serve. The two players exchanged sideouts, until an extended rally that saw Jose hitting a behind-the-back shot and both players demonstrating quick feet before Jose’s skip brought the score to 9-1. Rocky served. Jose skipped for 10-1. Rocky’s skip got the sideout. Jose won the next rallies to bring his score 4-10 before Rocky was back in the box. He sent Rocky diving, but Rocky couldn’t get his racquet on the ball so Jose returned to try and make up for the deficit. The ball got past him on a tough shot off the back wall. Rocky served a backhand drive, which Jose sent crosscourt for the point. Jose served a backhand drive but skipped trying to return Rocky’s down the line. Rocky served and took the match on a front corner pinch. 11-4
In game four, Jose stepped into the serve box knowing he had to win the game to stay in the match. Fast hands and feet brought Rocky a quick 5-0 lead afterwhich Jose took the first timeout of the game. Rocky continued to make great shots to keep Jose off-balance until Rocky skipped from the back wall to put Jose in the serve box where he earned his first point of the match, 1-6. Rocky controlled center court, ready for any ball that Jose didn’t put down. Jose got back into the box to bring his score 2-8, but that’s as far as he got. Rocky took game three 10-2 for the match.
Round of 16 Match recaps by IRT Intern Kathy Geels
#12 Alex Landa d. #5 Tony Carson 7,8,1
In a shooting match more closely contested than the scores imply, Alex Landa moves on to the quarterfinals to play Marco Rojas. Carson played a shrewd game, varying serves and moving Landa around the court in an effort to cool him off. The two appeared closely matched in speed and agility, but Landa played with a marginally more gutsy, athletic style relative to Carson’s game, which showed slightly too much gray matter this time. Mainly a display of extended shooting rallies and remarkable court coverage by both players, as they grappled Landa went for deadlier, higher risk shots just slightly sooner in the rallies, and in all three games managed to finally lunge past Carson for the wins.
#3 Alvaro Beltran d. #19 Sebastian Franco 9,(10), 3, 10
All four games were dominated by lobs and half-lobs, and points often decided by Beltran’s unforced errors. Franco appeared somewhat inhibited, but when attempting to break tempo Beltran’s offensive risk seemed to follow suit, forcing him back into a somewhat plodding tempo. Franco showed steadiness and good hands, but had a tendency to stay too deep against Beltran’s clean, low angles in the front court. Beltran advances to the quarters to play #6 Shane Vanderson.
Other Round of 16 updates:
#1 Kane Waselenchuk d. #16 Juan Herrera 4,1,3
#8 Ben Croft d. #9 Javier Moreno 5,1,7
#13 Marco Rojas d. #4 Chris Crowther WBF
#6 Shane Vanderson d. #11 Anthony Hererra 2,10,8
#7 Jose Rojas d. #10 Andy Hawthorne 3,10,4
#2 Rocky Carson d. #15 Jansen Allen 3,3,4
Party With the Pros in St. Louis: Crowther Sidelined with Back Injury
A back injury sidelined #4 Chris Crowther from Missouri’s Party with the Pros, which started yesterday. His tough break heats up a tight race to the season’s end with only a few top-tier events remaining. Click to read what Crowther had to say, the implications, and more about the event.
“I was just starting to warm up to play squash with Tim Doyle,” Crowther said in a statement after an injury forfeit forced him from Missouri’s St. Louis Party with the Pros. “I hit about 5 balls and I felt the twinge in my back and knew I was done. I’ve been lying on the floor icing ever since to try and get the swelling down.” Despite a trip to the chiropractor that morning, he realized he had “no business” trying to play. “I literally left on my hands and knees and had to get a ride because I couldn’t drive.” After expressing disappointment because he’d been feeling great and looking forward to competing, he said he’s now facing a weekend of rest while looking forward to Ektelon’s Tournament of Champions in Portland so he can finish the season strong. “It’s just a bad break,” he said. There is a bright side. “The only positive is I get to do nothing this weekend but enjoy watching the masters…tough consulation.”
Crowther’s tough break may prove favorable to his nearest competitors with only 166 points separating him from #5 ranked Jose Rosas and an additional 52 points from #6 Ben Croft. Other tight races include #2 Rocky Carson, leading in season points against #1 Kane Waselenchuk, the tour’s most dominating player who has had to forfeit recently due to a reoccurring knee injury.
With only a few top-tier tournaments remaining for 2012-2013, the competition is heating up and making this weekend’s Party with the Pros in St. Louis must see racquetball as the season plays out. Watch it live on the IRT Network: www.enetlive.tv.
Party with the Pros in St. Louis
By Becky Wiese
The 2013 Party with the Pros takes place in the vibrant city of St. Louis, Missouri. Now in its 4th year, the Tier 1 event will also serve as a region al qualifier for amateurs to advance to 2013 Ektelon National Singles in May. The combination of the best pros in the world with very talented and competitive amateurs will make for an exciting and action-packed tournament.
Adding to the racquetball fervor is the fact that the event will be held at the historic Jewish Community Center facility. The “J” (www.jccstl.com) has a rich and storied history regarding racquetball as it served as the Mecca for all the top players of the 1970s and 80s including Marty Hogan, Jerry Hilecher, Steve Serot, Ben Koltun, and Jerry Zuckerman. “The J has a great racquetball history,” says Shari Coplen, Party With the Pros tournament director. “The actual building these racquetball greats played in has been torn down, but the new facility in the Fitness and Wellness Building at the Staenberg Family Complex is just a few years old and is a fabulous location for the tournament.” The six courts have glass back walls for great viewing opportunities for spectators. A limited number of stadium seats will be available for the pro matches; tickets can be purchased online through the tournament website.
Because this tournament serves as a regional qualifier, Coplen is expecting up to 150 participants in the men’s and women’s divisions. Amateur play starts late on Friday afternoon, while the pros will get started on Thursday with early rounds and the Sponsor Pro-Am Doubles in the evening. The round of 16 and quarterfinals will take place on Friday, with semifinal matches on Saturday and finals on Saturday night. The intensity and excitement will definitely be in high gear!
“Kane Waselenchuk has won the last three years,” says Coplen, “so it will be interesting to see how things turn out this year. I expect Ben Croft will have a pretty large following since he’s from the Chicago area and Rocky Carson has been a local favorite.” #1 ranked Waselenchuk was forced to forfeit the championship match in the third game at the Mile High Pro/Am in March due to a re-injury to his knee. His current status is unclear, but if his knee is better, he’s sure to be a strong contender. #2 ranked Carson will have momentum coming off his recent win at the Mile High Pro/Am and will likely be ready to add to his success. #5 Jose Rojas and #6 Ben Croft, who played semi-final matches in Denver against Waselenchuk and Carson respectively, as well as quarterfinalists #3 Alvaro Beltran, #4 Chris Crowther, #7 Tony Carson, and #8 Andy Hawthorne will be vying for top finishes in St. Louis.
The Party With the Pros Tournament would not be possible without the support of the sponsors, according to Coplen. “Gershenson Construction is the Title sponsor for the fourth straight year. Ed Gershenson is a quiet, unassuming guy who has a deep passion for the sport. Pete Pierce of QSP (Quality Stainless Products) is another four-year sponsor and is a big supporter of racquetball in the community.” Other returning sponsors include Starbeam Lighting Solutions, Barry McClure of Ironhorse Resources, and Hoffmann Heating & Cooling. Josh Koritz of Dynamic Vending is a new sponsor this year. “Most of the sponsors are members of The J, so it will be nice for them to have a tournament on their own courts,” says Coplen.
Although racquetball will be a huge draw for people, Coplen also hopes spectators will look at the opportunity to enjoy many of the other amenities and activities available in the St. Louis area before, during, or after the tournament. “St. Louis is known for its rich history, architecture and its wonderful Italian restaurants. ‘The Hill’ offers the best Italian restaurants,” she explains. Forest Park is one of the largest city parks in the United States–500 acres larger than Central Park–and is home to the Saint Louis Zoo, Art Museum, and Science Center, all of which are free! Another fun and interesting place to visit is the City Museum. This one-of-a-kind museum that young and old alike will enjoy is an eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique objects found within the city’s municipal borders. The reclaimed building materials that make up some of City Museum’s most interesting features include old chimneys, salvaged bridges, airplanes, and a school bus.
Sports enthusiasts (in addition to playing and/or watching the best racquetball players in the world!), will be able to see great hockey and baseball, as both the St. Louis Blues Hockey team and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team are in town during the tournament.
Coplen encourages players and spectators to come for the racquetball…and enjoy as much of what St. Louis has to offer as possible while you’re in town!