Pro Racquetball Hits Downtown Seattle for the Seattle IRT ProAm

The historical landmark designated Washington Athletic Club (WAC) sets the stage for the Seattle Pro Am Nov 3-6, where players and fans will enjoy world-class racquetball at a top-notch facility offering a wide variety of services within and outside its doors. All that downtown Seattle has to offer, including nearby Puget Sound, Pikes Market, island ferries, shopping, and cultural activities are mere steps away.

Click HERE to view the pro draw.

Of course, the main attraction will be the professional racquetball competitors, including six-time World Champion, Kane Waselenchuk who is working to extend his record string of 126 unbeaten matches as he strives to top Cliff Swain’s record of six year-end titles during this 2011-2012 IRT season. One of the strongest contenders to end Waselenchuk’s streak is #2-ranked Rocky Carson, who has taken him to four and five game matches, including a four-game final at the US Open Championships.

Carson’s Coach, Fran Davis is co-Tournament Director for the event. After moving from San Francisco to Seattle about six years ago, Davis finds the Seattle racquetball community to be closer together with a more condensed geographic location making the state’s largest city the hub of racquetball for Washington. Among the northwestern players competing in the event is local lefty, Jeff Stark, consistent competitor and a former pro circuit player who continues to support racquetball. Rising star and Fran Davis’ student, #24-ranked Taylor Knoth will also make his appearance.

While Davis is known as a Hall of Fame coach for top tour professionals, she spends most of her time instructing recreational players, providing clinics and camps all over the country. She also works with Head Racquetball’s 900 sponsored amateur players. Davis and Co-tournament director, George Brewer, are holding a Tier 1 Tournament at “the WAC” in order to give back to the community, bringing the big-tournament feeling so local players and fans have the chance to see the best in the world at or near their home club.

Davis explained, “I travel to tournaments around the country and I wanted to do a mini US Open, giving out goody bags, holding a dinner with the pros, a fundraiser for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and hosting a get together with the pros at Hagerty’s,” one of several onsite restaurants.

Brewer, a racquetball player, former heavyweight lifter, and WAC member, met Davis while playing tournaments and though different people she’s coached, eventually including him. He also wanted to bring something special to Washington. “What’s unique for me are the players. They’re the heroes, with many donating money so we can bring the pros in. Every amount is significant. A two-time national racquetball titleholder, Brewer likes competing in big time tournaments. “Part of the fun for me is learning your trade and getting your comeuppance. You won’t win every time, but meeting everyone and visiting another area is fun. Seattle is a great city and we wanted to bring players here.”

Davis and Brewer are hosting the 1st Annual Seattle Pro Am in order to bring a national-style tournament to their city for the benefit of those who can’t travel. According to Brewer, “We’d like them to see what it’s like. It’ll catch on fire if everyone sees what we see.”

Finals Recap by IRT Intern Seth Brody

Waselenchuk d Carson (11-0, 12-10, 11-3)

 The number 130 may not mean anything to some folks but in the world of racquetball, it’s a continuous streak of consecutive match wins by the #1 player in the world, Kane Waselenchuk. The finals at the Seattle Pro/Am were between Kane Waselenchuk and #2 Rocky Carson. This was the third matchup this season between these two, all played in the finals match. Prior to finals, Rocky Carson was having an amazing tournament, never giving up a single game. On the top end of the draw, Waselenchuk wouldn’t lose a single game either. Only difference is that Waselenchuk has lost a game since the US Open, almost a month ago. However, Carson outplayed Waselenchuk in points lost prior to this finals match. Carson, on average, only allowed his opponents 3.2 points per game, while Waselenchuk allowed 3.7 points per game. Not a big difference, but for Carson, any advantage would be helpful going into his third try at taking down Waselenchuk.

Game 1 began was lopsided as possible. Waselenchuk completely shut down Carson racking up 11 points before Carson could ever get on the board. Game 2 was looking to be the same way. However, as Carson gained back the serve at 2-6, the engines turned on the Carson Express would push on Waselenchuk to bring the game within a point by the time it was 7-6 Waselenchuk. The Kane Train regained control of the match as he had a quick run to 10. But Carson wasn’t done yet as he tied everything up at 10 forcing Waselenchuk to win by 2. Carson hung on tight but wouldn’t be enough as Waselenchuk scored 2 at finished out game 2 at 12-10. Game 3, again, would have the same start with Waselenchuk on the run (in points) and Carson on the run (trying to catch up). Carson didn’t muster the gunpowder to regain focus and enough control as Waselenchuk won the game (11-3) and match. There is a nice break before another T1 stop which means as much rest as possible should be taken because Waselencuk is not slowing down; he’s only getting better. 130 and rising…

Semifinal Recaps by IRT Intern John Beninato

Kane Waselenchuk d Jose Rojas 11-0, 11-5, 11-4

Kane started strong in this match and immediately put Jose on defense. Rojas was having a very hard time stopping Kane’s momentum. Waselenchuk was hitting perfect shots and Rojas could not capitalize on the small number of mistakes Kane was making. Kane put on the pressure early and won this game, 11-0. Jose stepped into the box for game 2 and wanted to get something goings after 11 unanswered points from Kane. Rojas was able to get a couple of points on his incredibly tough opponent, but ended up dropping this game too, 11-5. Kane was making Jose run around the entire court and made it look almost effortless. Jose started to pull out all the stops and was fighting for every point in game 3. Kane had a few misses, but was still able to hold Jose to 4 in game 3 and came away with the win in the semifinals. The stage is set for the final matchup of the Seattle Pro/Am. It will be Rocky Carson up against Kane Waselenchuk. If Rocky is serving and playing as well as he has been, it could be a long and tough match for Kane.

Rocky Carson d Ben Croft 11-1, 11- 1, 11-8

Unreal serves from Rocky was the story behind this match. His drive serves were near perfect and he quickly went up 8-0 in game 1. Croft was clearly getting frustrated and was awarded a technical warning from Charlie Pratt for hitting the ball after the rally. Carson was in the driver’s seat for this game, as Ben was having a really hard time getting the ball to the front wall without skipping. Carson took this game 11-1. Game 2 was the same story from Carson. He was dominating center court and was steamrolling Croft with his serves. Rocky got a commanding 9-0 lead on Ben in this game. Croft was noticeably frustrated and kicked the ball out of the court, which got him a technical. Rocky went on to win this one, 11- 1. Spectators assumed that game 3 was just going to be the same story. Ben was still frustrated and was getting angry at Charlie Pratt’s calls. However, he tried to get something started against Rocky and this game was much closer than the previous ones. Carson had a 5-0 lead, but Ben fought his way back to tie it up and put some pressure on Rocky. Croft was not skipping as much and it seemed that he was back in the match at 9-8. Unfortunately, Rocky did not want this one to go longer than it had to and took the game and the match, 11-8.

Quarterfinal Recaps by IRT Intern John Beninato

Rocky Carson d Anthony Herrera   11-3, 11-5, 11-2

Rocky was in control of this entire match from start to finish. Anthony played some aggressive ball, but was skipping a lot which gave Rocky points. Game 1 was all about Carson’s drive serves to Herrera’s forehand and backhand. Anthony could not put anything on the return and it led to Carson winning game 1, 11-3. Game 2 was just more of the same from Carson. He was hitting incredible ace serves to Anthony and quickly got a 6-0 lead. His straight in drive serve to the forehand side had a ton of pace on it and was almost impossible to return. Herrera was still fighting hard and managed to get 5 points in game 2. Things were looking bleak for Anthony, as Rocky’s serves were crisp and powerful. Anthony was going to have to dig deep in order to get a game off of Carson. Unfortunately for him, Carson was on fire in game three and only gave up 2 to Herrera. Rocky was looking really solid in this match and he will be tough to beat if he keeps up the intensity.  

Kane Waselenchuk d Shane Vanderson   11-6, 11-1, 11-6

Shane came out shooting in game 1 and was determined to put some pressure on Kane. He started strong by going up 4-0, but Kane warmed up and started to play incredible ball. Kane was hitting powerful and accurate drive serves and was putting everything away. Despite this strong start from Vanderson, Kane took the first game, 11-6. In game 2, Kane displayed why he is the #1 racquetball player. He was hitting amazing shots and put a tremendous amount of pressure on Shane. Waselenchuk went up 9-0 in this game and it was looking like he was going to hand out a doughnut, but the referee called a skip on game point and it allowed Shane to get serve and get a point. That was all he would get in this game though, as Kane won, 11-1. In game 3, Shane was having some good points against Kane and they were close for a while, but Kane started to pull away and ended up winning this game and the match, 11-6.

Ben Croft d Chris Crowther 12-10, 11-4, 11-8

The audience expected this semifinal to be a battle between two great players. Croft and Crowther have played each other a number of times and have had some amazing points and matches. Game 1 started and Croft was mixing up his playing style by hitting more passes, which got him some points. Both Croft and Crowther were frustrated with the referee and wanted the calls to be more precise. This led to some intense points and it was looking like it would be a 5 gamer as Croft won the first, 12-10. Croft knew that he had to keep the momentum going and was fighting for every point to try and win this game and put a lot of pressure on Crowther. Ben was stringing together some great points and this annoyed Chris, who was having a tough time ending rallies. Croft won this one easily, 11-4. Crowther needed to raise his intensity in game 3 in order to keep up with Croft. Ben was using a drive Z serve to Crowthers’ backhand almost exclusively because he was getting skips and setups on the return. Crowther was frustrated by these misses and it seemed that Croft had the match locked up. Ben was looking to close it out, but Chris was not going down without a fight. Crowther started getting some much needed points, but it was not enough to force a game 4 as Ben won the game and the match, 11-8.

 Jose Rojas d Charlie Pratt 11-6, 6-11, 11-1, 11-4

As this game started, it looked like a very even matchup. Both players were hitting great shots and serves. Rojas was missing a few backhands, but was able to rely on his drive serve for some points as he won the first game, 11-6. Pratt brought up his level of play in the second game as he took a commanding lead of 9-3. It was obvious that Charlie was playing hard and wanted to put the pressure on Jose. A few calls by the referee in this game upset Rojas and this may have ended up costing him the second game as he lost, 11-6. The end of the second game was very back and forth and Jose came into the third game trying to let Charlie know that this match was not going past a fourth game. Rojas took a 9-0 lead in game 3 and Charlie was missing shots that he would normally make. Pratt lost this one, 11-1 and it looked like Rojas was going to close it out in four. In game four, Jose showed why he is one of the most dangerous players on the court today. He was nailing every shot that Charlie was giving him and got a 10-0 lead. Pratt was giving away a lot of points by skipping, but tried his best to get some points and avoid getting shut out. Charlie fought hard, but ultimately lost this game and the match, 11-4.