Speculation about results and player match-ups inevitably turns toward the barometer used to measure their success: the rankings. We decided to take a closer look, starting with a season-by-season analysis to see how the players stacked up since the IRT’s first full season under new leadership, 2010-2011. In this first of a two-part article, we’ll take you from 2010 to today as we face the second half of the 2014-2015 season. Check back next week when we’ll publish part two, focusing on the 2014-2015 beginning with the season-opening Krowning Moment Bob Cat open through to the ROLLOUT New Jersey Open, the last top tier tournament in 2014.
2010-2011 IRT Season:
Kane’s dominance within the current ranking system certainly appeared to peak during the 2010-11 season, where he finished with over 5500 points and his closest competitor, #2 Rocky Carson, was over 1300 points behind. Fans will remember that was the season that Alvaro missed a substantial portion of due to surgery recovery, and saw perennial top American player Jack Huczek retire. These two factors certainly, combined with excellent play during the season of course, contributed to Ben Croft’s highest ever season finish at #3, and other notables Chris Crowther, Andy Hawthorne, Jose Rojas, and Shane Vanderson rounding out the top 8.
The 2011-2012 IRT season ended in similar fashion at the top, with Kane earning less total points with 4200 but still in dominant position almost 800 points ahead of Rocky, solidly in at #2 700 points ahead of the next player. Jose Rojas built momentum from the previous season, passing Croft to take the #3 spot and Alvaro was on the comeback trail but had been fighting an uphill battle with his lower rank for most of the season to finish at #5. The same three players as the previous season, Chris Crowther, Shane Vanderson, and Andy Hawthorne, rounded out the top 8, albeit in a different order.
The 2012-2013 IRT Season saw the smallest point gap between Kane and Rocky of the last 5 years, along with Alvaro finally regaining his rightful place at #3. Croft’s rank took a bit of a slide to #6, with Rojas and Crowther pulling ahead of him, and Tony Carson – cracking the top 8 for the first time in his career – and Shane Vanderson rounding out the top 8.
Last season, the gap between #1 Kane and #2 Rocky remained similar in 2013-2014 as in 2011-2012, but Alvaro more solidly established himself as the #3 player by closing the distance to #2 Rocky to less than 100 points, and increasing his cushion over #4, Jose Rojas, to 700 points. Daniel De La Rosa enjoyed his breakout year last season, as the young Mexican star catapulted up the ranks in dramatic fashion from outside of the top 16 just two seasons before to #5. Croft again was forced to settle for #6, with Crowther dropping 2 spots to #7 while young Texan star, Jansen Allen, edged out USA Racquetball Team doubles partner, Tony Carson, for the #8 spot.
Several pockets of closely ranked players emerged after the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 rankings were in the books. In 2013, while Jose Rojas and Chris Crowther both finished ahead of Ben Croft, less than 150 points separated the three players at #4-6. For those unfamiliar with the ranking system, this is the difference between making two semifinals versus exiting in the quarters, or making it to one semifinal instead of exiting in the round of 16.
Another tight group was seen in the #9-12 spots where the difference was just over 150 points. This was largely due to the high number of young players coming onto the scene demonstrating big games that caused some upsets. Alejandro Landa broke into the top 16 in the 2011-12 season, and while his rank has not greatly increased since then, it was more an indication of tournament participation than his level of skill, which was most recently displayed during his run to the semifinals at the 2014 US OPEN Racquetball Championships in October.
Jansen Allen, Marco Rojas, Jose Diaz, and Alex Ackermann are three other young players whose great results at a small number of tournaments have allowed them a privileged spot in the top 16, but who likely could finish higher if they played more events. This trend continued into the 2014 season, albeit at different places, as the top-5 became more solidly established, while the gap shrunk further down the ranks. Now only 180 points separates #6 Ben Croft and #9 Tony Carson, and the difference between inside the top 8 versus outside is less than 30 points. The same 180-point spread also captured the players ranked #13 all the way down to #20.
Breaking onto the scene last season were former #1 player in the world, Cliff Swain, young California workhorse David Horn, and CPRT top dog Thomas Fuhrman, who finished #13, #14, and #16 respectively. Other notables included Matthew Majxner (#27), Danny Lavely (#33), and Jake Bredenbeck (#31) who all showed they had game to crack the top 16 if they took in enough events.
Written By Tim Landeryou
Photo by restrungmag.com
Check back next week for “Pulling Rank: The 2014-2015 Season So Far”