ProKennex Tournament of Champions presented by Campbell Group: Storied Racquetball City Writes New Chapter

Top ranked Kane Waselenchuk beat #3 Daniel De La Rosa 5-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-3 to win the 2016 ProKennex Tournament of Champions Final and his ninth title of the 2015-2016 IRT Season. 

2016 ProKennex Tournament of Champions Pro Draw

Championship Final

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #3 Daniel De La Rosa 5-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-3

Semifinals 

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #5 Jose Rojas Saturday 11-8, 12-10, 11-3

#3 Daniel De La Rosa d #2 Rocky Carson 6-11, 11-7, 3-11, 11-4, 11-7 

Quarterfinals Recaps

Blog by Tim Prigo

Rocky Carson d Charlie Pratt 11-7, 11-0, 11-5

Charlie Pratt, the hometown favorite, and Rocky Carson squared off in the first quarterfinal of the evening. Pratt started out strong, serving well enough to keep Carson off balance. He was able to jump out to an early lead at 6-4 in the first game. The splats and down-the-lines that Pratt found success with ran dry midway through the first. Carson came roaring back, and went on a scoring tear of 19-0 to win the first game and serve up a donut for the second. Pratt had difficulty executing ceiling balls towards the end of the match, which Carson would promptly put away into the corners for winners. Though Pratt found some footing in the third, he would never be able to make a legitimate threat against Carson, who seemed to grow stronger as time went on.

Kane Waselenchuk d Mario Mercado 11-4, 11-6, 11-1

Mario Mercado did not have to qualify for the main draw for the first time in his professional career, and his reward for the achievement was playing top seed Kane Waselenchuk in the second quarterfinal. Though Waselenchuk would go on to win in three straight games and like Carson continued to improve as the match went on, there was a lot for the young Bolivian national to hang his hat on. Mercado impressed with his calm and confident demeanor. His backhand also caused, at times, Waselenchuk fits. Mercado skipped very little and got to a lot of balls. This is not to say that he was ever in a position to win the match but that he is on a strong upward projection in the IRT. Waselenchuk on the other hand, had not played an event in over six weeks and would come into the match shaking off some cobwebs. Waselenchuk exchanged with Mercado in many long rallies but by the third game he was back in form and Mercado struggled to put strings on the ball. How will Waselenchuk fair going forward? We will see if he continues to regain his strength or tire from the inactivity.

Daniel De La Rosa d Jansen Allen 11-1, 11-3, 11-4

Daniel De La Rosa was absolutely on fire. It was the bad fortune of Jansen Allen to meet the young gun in the third quarterfinal. “I had a new strategy. I was trying to only hit the ball this high from the ground,” De La Rosa said after the match as he measured on his fingers about 3 inches. Indeed he was shooting well as Allen was left on his heels, hitting the ball falling backwards and on the next shot De La Rosa would step up and kill the ball. This was repeated time and time again as De La Rosa would tee up against an opponent he knew was off balance and/or out of position. De La Rosa shot well regardless but certainly Allen not having proper footing in many of the rallies fed into the young Mexican’s confidence.

Jose Rojas d Andree Parrilla 11-6, 11-8, 6-11, 2-11, 11-7

In the final match of the night, Andree Parrilla and Jose Rojas battled. Rojas, looking the veteran was able to settle into the match first, scoring many smart points via speed shots and shooting the ball at the right moments. Parrilla had flashes of excellence and his hand speed was apparent but never was able to go on a large scoring run against Rojas. Up two games to none Rojas left too much breathing room and Parrilla capitalized. One defining characteristic of Parrilla’s game is that he is able to run and run and that his wide angle passes give towards long rallies. Parrilla was able to lunge, dive, twist and scrap to win games 3 and 4. Game 5 was an absolute war, seeing both players constantly diving and momentum change from minute to minute. Rojas made the first move, changing up his serve, slicing the ball from the server’s box scoring six unanswered points. Up 10-6, Rojas found the final serve in the left hand corner for an ace and the match.

Quarterfinals

Rocky Carson d Charlie Pratt 11-7, 11-0, 11-5

Kane Waselenchuk d Mario Mercado 11-4, 11-6, 11-1

Daniel De La Rosa d Jansen Allen 11-1, 11-3, 11-4

Jose Rojas d Andree Parrilla 11-6, 11-8, 6-11, 2-11, 11-7

Round of 16s

Rocky Carson d Dylan Reid 11-2, 11-5, 11-2

Charlie Pratt d Felipe Camacho 

Kane Waselenchuk d Fernando Rios 11-2, 11-2, 11-1

Mario Mercado d Robert Collins 11-4, 9-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-2

Reaching Your Dream Foundation Athletes Robert Collins and Mario Mercado face off in a noon Round of 16s match in Portland. 

Jansen Allen d Matthew Majxner 11-2, 11-6, 11-4

Daniel De La Rosa d Cliff Swain 7-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-1

Jose Rojas d Scott McClellan 

Andree Parrilla d Alvaro Beltran 11-8, 4-11, 11-2, 11-4

Thursday Pro Qualifying 

Round of 32s

Fernando Rios d Javier Moreno 11-8, 11-8, 11-2

Robert Collins d Sunji Spencer 11-6, 11-6, 11-4

Scott McClellan d Dane Elkins 8-11, 11-8, 11-3, 11-3

Cliff Swain d Hiroshi Shimizu 11-5, 11-9, 11-2

Matthew Majxner d Farshid Guilak 11-6, 11-2, 7-11, 11-3

Charlie Pratt d Wayne Antone 4-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-0

Dylan Reid d Majeed Shahin 11-9, 11-5, 7-11, 11-6

Andree Parrilla d Kamyron Meeks 11-2, 11-7, 11-8

Round of 64s

Sunji Spencer d Tim Prigo 11-4, 4-11, 11-4, 11-2

ProKennex Tournament of Champions presented by Campbell Group: Storied Racquetball City Writes New Chapter

The ProKennex Tournament of Champions presented by Campbell Group returns to Portland, Oregon, May 12-15. Portland, located in the heart of the Northwest, is a storied racquetball city. The vibrancy of the racquetball community here is unequivocal in its enthusiasm and passion for the sport. It is known as one of the best racquetball cities in the country, from its large junior and high school programs to its high number of top amateur players. In the middle of this epicenter, stands one club above the rest: The Multnomah Athletic Club, known to Oregonians as simply “The MAC.” The top 8 players in the world, the best amateur players in the region, and international competitors will all be vying to write their names in the halls of one of the most prestigious racquetball clubs in the country. This tournament, though having undergone various transformations, can be traced back to the invention of the sport.

In the early ’70s, Sports Illustrated featured The MAC hosting the first ever “Hands versus Racquets” event (Dan Levine, 2-7-1972, “THE GREAT MANO A RAQUETA”, Sports Illustrated) featuring Bud Muehleisen taking on the top handball players. In the 80’s, the format changed to a winner-take-all invitational. Two top professionals were invited to play in racquetball’s version of a prizefight; many of these contests became instant classics featuring such match-ups as Marty Hogan against Cliff Swain.

In the 90’s, the IRT’s top 8-ranked pros and Portland’s top-8 local players would be allowed to enter the 16-man draw. Now the event is back and better than ever. In 2013 The Tournament of Champions returned and, according to Tournament Director Hank Marcus, “The biggest reason for this is that the MAC club has always been a focus for racquetball events and has always hosted the greatest players of the era. We wanted to re-start the tradition in modern times.” The event’s rich pedigree and its outstanding facilities coupled with some of the sport’s loudest fans make this a player’s dream.  

Marcus and ProKennex President, Mike Martinez, partnered with the IRT in order to bring the racquetball world something unique. ProKennex, the title sponsor of the event for the third straight season, works year round to make sure this event happens. “We market the event year round via our accounts, team and contacts,” said Joanna Reyes, National Director of Player Operations for ProKennex. “We bring in some of the top talented players in the world.”

Not only will they attract racquetball’s top professionals, but they will also bring back the newly added ProKennex Women’s Challenge in which Lucia Gonzalez, a Mexican National Champion, will be competing. Gonzalez will, in all likelihood, meet MAC local and USA Racquetball Champion Lexi York en route to the title in a repeat of last year.

Elliott Saunders, who runs the tournament desk, describes his job as “high stress, and high reward.” The tournament hosts full draws on the amateur side of play, intermingling local amateurs with international pros at the 10-court venue.

“It feels like a national event, from the hospitality to the food,” Saunders said. “Based on my previous experience at the event, the bleachers as well as the standing room will be full. I have had many people contact me from far away just to come watch the pros.”

Excitement around center court will be at a fever pitch as the crowd will be large and vocal on Friday and Saturday night during the IRT matches. The fans in the Northwest have a tendency to heckle as much as they cheer. Last year after winning the title Kane Waselenchuk addressed the crowd. “Sometimes you guys really annoy me but I really love that everyone is so into it. I don’t care if you are rooting for or against me, I am just glad you are so involved.”

The Multnomah Athletic Club is one of the premier facilities in not only the Northwest but in the country. The two-glass-wall show court will feature all of the top pro matches and accommodates upwards of 700 onlookers. Even many of the amateur courts feature bleacher seating. The club is situated in beautiful downtown Portland, and immediately adjacent to the Major League Soccer’s Portland Timber’s Providence Park, which it overlooks. There are train lines that run from the airport to directly in front of the club. Within walking distance of the courts are Portland’s renowned shops, bars, restaurants, and city parks.

Racquetball is alive and well in the Pacific Northwest. Need proof? Attend the tournament. The atmosphere can only be described as electric. In Portland, the fans are a third man on the court. The Portland metro also is home to many players who can play high-level ball and compete with the best. Simply put, there are a lot of racquetball players here.

“No Portlanders are fans of particular IRT players rather they are fans of racquetball and they want to see how the local boys stack up,” #13-ranked IRT professional Charlie Pratt said of the community. This however, is not altogether true as Pratt, a Portland native and MAC member, is the clear hometown favorite. “I know for a fact I play harder when friends and family are watching, so that’s to my advantage.” Look for Pratt’s matches to draw a raucous crowd.

The IRT enjoys giving back to communities surrounding the sport, which fits in well with Marcus’ approach to the sport as he’s also co-founder of the Military Racquetball Federation (MRF). “It has always been important to serve not only the current men and women in active military duty, but also veterans.”

Marcus and the MRF will hold an exhibition of wheelchair racquetball featuring several top pros during the tournament. “This is to raise awareness for wounded and disabled individuals who still want to take part in our sport,” Marcus said. “We wanted to show people what wheelchair racquetball is all about so they can see hard it really is.” Marcus credits Bryan Dornon, a wheelchair athlete and Oregonian, who has pushed for more wheelchair racquetball in the Northwest.

The ProKennex Tournament of Champions presented by Campbell Group in Portland will be pivotal as the second-to-last tournament of the 2015-2016 IRT season. Portland is a city often renowned for its offbeat and creative culture, a place where bicycle riding is preferred to driving and beer is preferred to most else. But it is also a place where you can bump into someone on the street who also plays racquetball in one of the city’s numerous racquetball gyms.    

“Put it this way, I have been to countless tournaments and hundreds of pro tournaments. Aside from the US Open, Portland is the best IRT tournament in the world,” Pratt said of his impressions on the tournament.

By Tim Prigo

IRT Writer, Tim Prigo, is a lifelong racquetball enthusiast who competed in his first tournament at ten years old in Claremont, California, where he grew up. Since then, Tim has played in many IRT events, ranking among the top 40 at his best. He earned a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy from Franklin Pierce University in 2009, where he spent many years abroad, traveling, and studying. In addition to regularly contributing stories and match recaps for the IRT, Tim is an aspiring poet and sports journalist. He also is the club pro at Lloyd Athletic in Portland, Oregon, where he now resides.

Media Coverage

Charlie Pratt’s Interview with Locals Only/750 AM The Game