The 2014 ROLLOUT New Jersey Open featured on of the most interesting finals of the 2014-2015 pro racquetball season with two of Mexico’s best pro racquetball players: Daniel De La Rosa and Alvaro Beltran competing for the championship. Neither of the men’s professional International Racquetball Tour’s #1 and #2 ranked pros, Rocky Carson and Kane Waslenchuk, were in it. De La Rosa was going for his first tier 1 title of his career, and Beltran his second championship (#3 Alvaro Beltran: Tier 1 Champion). There was injury, and also a good deal of humor. Even when the match seemed like it might disappoint, it did not.
Match Recap by Tim Prigo
#4 Daniel De La Rosa d #2 Alvaro Beltran 11-4, 11-6, 9-11, 12-10
De La Rosa came out aggressively and scored off a quick serve-return-kill rally to get on the board first. He then hits an ace serve to Beltran which stalls him in his tracks. Beltran was able to get into the rallies more often than not, but appeared the slower, weaker of the two. He did hit some impressive backhand kills from deep in the court but was only able to score 4 points the whole game. Every time De La Rosa got in his first serve, he scored. Beltran skipped two in a row to bring De La Rosa to 9-2. De La Rosa ended the game in just over 11 minutes, roughly averaging one point every 70 seconds. He simply outplayed Beltran in every instance, winning 11-4.
Beltran came out hot and jumped out to a 4-0 lead. In fairness, 3 of the first 4 points came from De La Rosa skips. Beltran went to a drive serve where he aced De La Rosa twice to bring the score line in his favor, 6-0. A hinder was called against De La Rosa During the next rally when Beltran lunged to retrieve a down-the-line shot. De La Rosa didn’t like the call. He turned to referee Charlie Pratt and said, “He is too old to get that..” Said in jest, the comment brought a roar of laughter from the crowd. It also foreshadowed what was to come.
De La Rosa missed a lot of forehand setups, but managed to maneuver his way back into the game. At 5-6, De La Rosa’s serve and midway through the ensuing rally, Beltran appeared as if he could barely walk. He had tweaked something in his back and appeared in a lot of pain and unable to run. He took an injury timeout, and many were left wondering if Beltran would step back on the court. He did come back, but appeared hobbled. De La Rosa now felt the momentum shift, swung confidently, and scored from everywhere on the floor. Beltran didn’t score again as De La Rosa ran away with the game, 11-6.
Beltran’s back did not seem to be improving. Coupled with a confident De La Rosa swinging for the fences, signs pointed to an easy third-game victory for the 21 year old #4 seed. It came as a surprise when Beltran scored first. All waited for De La Rosa to pull away and go on a big run. That never happened. The two stayed tight in the scoreline with De La Rosa up by a single point or two at any time. Beltran did an excellent job of slowing down the pace of the game, strategically slowing down a redhot De La Rosa. Beltran inched closer, and at 4-5 he launched a drive serve surprisingly, at risk for exacerbating his back pain. He pulled into the lead with well-placed (albeit slow) drive serves. At 7-6, the improbable bordered on the unbelievable as Beltran began to dive. This put a lot of strain on Beltran. He took a timeout. It still seemed to be the final straw for the battered Beltran as De La Rosa got back in the box and scored three quick points. With the finish line now in sight, Beltran had to try to slow the tempo further. Beltran, employing every trick in the book from toweling down the court, raising his racquet, cleaning his eye guards, and letting the ball roll pass him in between serves tried to stay alive. Often times fans do not take kindly to this style of play, but in this instance the sense was that we were all watching a man hanging off a cliff, and no one wanted to see him slip. De La Rosa was thrown off a bit, allowing Beltran to sneak back into the box to score two points that evened the score. Beltran played the next two points with extreme focus and earned himself the unlikely victory in game 3, 11-9.
Beltran’s back seemed to be improving as he began to move better. He quickly reached a 3-1 lead. De La Rosa was visibly frustrated as he was hitting the ball between the rallies. De La Rosa had trouble getting in his first serve, but worked hard with acrobatic gets helping him steal the lead from Beltran at 5-3. Beltran answered back with an amazing over-the-head splat-kill from the back glass for 4-5. De La Rosa and Beltran were now battling for every point, and the match that had seemed so certainly De La Rosa’s was no longer that way.
At 8-7 De La Rosa scored two quick points to bring him to his first match point. De La Rosa earned what would appear to be a setup off of the back wall, but it hit the crack on the right hand side, and died in the corner. Beltran scored two points to make it 9-10. On the next rally, De La Rosa cut off a would-be pass before the bounce by sticking his racquet out to rollout the ball and serve for the match again. De La Rosa sided-out with a clutch 39-foot-backhand-rollout by the veteran. Beltran skipped his first shot after his serve and De La Rosa had match-point opportunity number 3. Beltran hung on yet again with a right-side hard-pass that De La Rosa couldn’t catch. De La Rosa became impatient and hit a deep low-percentage shoulder-high shot into the ground. At a 10-10 tie, De La Rosa hit a beautiful forehand pinch to get back into the box where he scored off of a soft pinch into the left corner. De La Rosa was now fired up and showing passion. His time had come. This was the fourth match point. De La Rosa put down a setup off of the back wall for match point and first ever career tier 1 title, 12-10.
Semifinal Match Recaps
The New Jersey Open semifinals showcased top-ranked Rocky Carson vs. #4 Daniel De La Rosa at 11 a.m. EST and #2 Alvaro Beltran against #6 Charlie Pratt at noon. Carson defeated #9 Alejandro Landa and De La Rosa beat #5 Jansen Allen after dropping the first game. In the bottom half of the bracket, Pratt upset #3 Jose Rojas in four games and Beltran defeated #7 Ben Croft.
#2 Alvaro Beltran d #6 Charlie Pratt 11-6, 11-7, 11-5
Pratt came out hitting well and for an early 3-1 lead. Beltran quickly answered and tied the game at 3-3. The two stayed very tight for the first part of game one, and neither player could go up by more then one point. At 4-5, Pratt aced the Beltran backhand twice for 6-5. Bektran got back in the box and to his first-point run to 8-6. Pratt continued to search for his absent backhand, as he drove multiple setups into the floor. Pratt took a timeout at 6-9, but after resuming play Beltran scored two quick points to take the first game, 11-6.
Pratt again came out with quality first serves for an early lead, 2-0. Beltran hit two perfectly placed 3-wall boasts followed by another backhand that Pratt skip to put the #2 see up, 3-2. This turned out to be a turning point in the match, as Pratt never led afterwards. Beltran crouched low to power drive, connecting a handful of aces that Pratt consistently returned setups. Pratt wasn’t able to get his first serves in play, which made Beltran work less to get sideouts. Down 4-8, Pratt called a timeout, regaining the serve on the return but not momentum. Beltran ran away with the game, 11-7.
Beltran came out with a high lob serve to get on the board first. Pratt continued to be haunted by skips as he couldn’t find his backhand. Beltran was alternatively loose and on fire, hitting shots under little pressure from Pratt. At 0-7 Pratt called a timeout, but it proved to be too little too late. Pratt was able to rally back a few points but never really got in this game as Beltran looked to be in control the whole way through. Final score was 11-5.
Semifinal Match Recaps
#4 Daniel De La Rosa d #1 Rocky Carson 12-10, 9-11, 11-6, 11-6
Quarterfinal Match Recaps
#2 Beltran d #1 Croft 11-1, 12-10, 11-7
Beltran came out in the first game using his signature high lob to the forehand for 3 straight points. At 5-0 Croft is beginning to get visibly frustrated, unable to put down setups. After he earned a warning for a lewd comment an argument ensued. This seemed to pull him further out of the match. Beltran took advantage of skips for an 8-0 lead. Beltran nailed his shots, especially his backhand deep in the court. Beltran high-lobbed the whole game giving up only a handful of mistakes, including a skip that gave Croft his only point of the game. Croft double-faulted at 1-10 to send Beltran back into the box, where earned a setup off of the back wall and then put it away for game one. 11-1.
The second game began much as the first had: high lob serves from Beltran; weak returns from Croft. Beltran took a quick 3-0 lead. Croft got into the box and served hard drives to Beltran’s backhand, a serve Croft kept with all match after it delivered his first point-streak of the match earned him points from his winners rather than Beltran’s mistakes. Croft picked up the pace of play and began to hit many cross-court winners to tie the score, 5-5. Beltran switched to the drive-serve and both players inched closer to 11, 6-6 then 7-7. Down 8-9, Beltran took a timeout. When the game resumed, he scored a sideout and then a tie-score, 9-9, where they were planted for about 20 minutes. Croft cut off a front-court ceiling ball to roll it out in the left hand corner for game point. Beltran returned Croft’s serve with a perfectly-placed wide-angle pass. He then hit a clutch backhand deep in the back court to tie the game 10-10. Beltran continued to rely on his backhand, the deadliest weapon on the court for this match. Game point Beltran, 11-10. Though Croft was able to give Beltran a sideout, he couldn’t capitalize on taking the offensive. Back in the box, Beltran won the final point for a 12-10 victory.
Both players came out playing solid fundamental racquetball making very few unforced errors. The score line resembled the neck-andneck play in the court at 2-2. Croft then scored on a controversial ace serve to the Beltran backhand that appeared to be noticeably short to both the crowd and to Beltran. Beltran began to get frustrated and voiced his disappointment. The two tied again 5-5, although (uncharacteristically), Beltran appeared ready to boil over with anger at any moment. Croft showed why he is one of the best retrievers on tour and dove and lunged to extend rallies. Though his play amazed the crowd, Beltran ended many of these points. At 6-5 Beltran’s favor, neither player could score a point. Sideouts ensured for about 15 minutes before Beltran hit a splat to the left side to notch up at 7-5. Beltran continued to punish Croft with his backhand. Beltran hit a hard z-serve ace for match point. Beltran becomed infuriated at referee Matt Majxner for not making an avoidable call against Croft and got a warning for the outburst. He was able to pull out the game in the next rally for the match, 11-7.
#2 Rocky Carson d #9 Alajandro Landa 11-1, 11-3, 11-7
Carson got out in front quickly. He controlled the tempo of play forcing Landa into shots he didn’t look comfortable taking. Landa gave Carson many setups, and the crowd watched as Carson buried nearly all of them. Carson continued to keep Landa off-balance with hard drive serves to both the forehand and backhand. At 10-1 Carson hit a pinch-winner for a game one victory, 11-1.
Landa came out looking shaky as he was unable to put any of his shots down. He looked unsure in his footwork, stutter-stepping to the ball and exploding late off of his heels. Carson kept his foot on the gas, 4-0. Both players broke racquets in the beginning half by going for shots against the hard cement court walls. Carson used an array of serves. He switched his positioning in the box, varied the speed of the ball and placed down-the-line as well as z-serves. Though Landa was able to score some infrequent points, it was Carson who contiued to march forward and take the lead at 6-2. After a Landa timeout, Carson scored two more points from unforced Landa skips. After Landa left shots up in the last game, he drove his setups into the floor in this game. Rocky won, 11-3.
Landa jumpe out to a 3-0 lead and looked to have some spring in his step. Even though Landa was definitely hitting better in the third game, most of his points were coming from Carson misses. It was not long before Carson baited Landa into his slow rhythmic defensive style to regain the lead. At 8-4 Landa saw the match slipping away from him and took a timeout. Landa earned a sideout upon their return, and three straight points including an ace to claw up, 7-8. Carson got back in the box and found daylight off of the back wall from a miss-hit ceiling ball to put it into the corner. The momentum was now all Carson as he closed the game and match, 11-7.
#6 Charlie Pratt d #3 Jose Rojas 5-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-3
Rojas began the match with blistering drive serves that kept Pratt off-balance for an early 3-0 lead. Pratt gained the serve for the first time in the match. Ace, delivered to Rojas’ forehand. At 3-1 Rojas continued his drive-serve assault and scored another ace, 4-1. The speed of Rojas serve seemed to put Pratt on the defensive. At 6-2 Pratt took a timeout but was unable to disrupt Rojas momentum as he scored another ace. The two exchanged sideouts for several rallies without a score change. Pratt switched to high lobs to the forehand and got two straight serve-return kills followed by a Rojas skip 5-7. Up 8-5, Rojas took a time out that proved fruitful to a score of 10-5. Rojas pounded Pratt’s backhand for the game, 11-5.
Both players were unable to score the first 6 rallies of the game. Rojas struck first, 1-0. Pratt earned a point of his own. Up to then, the advantage, if slight, was with Rojas. Until, Pratt’s first point of the second game heralded in a change of mood to the match. Pratt began putting away shots and therefore pressuring Rojas. Rojas began to skip point after point, delivering a 5-1 for Pratt. After a clean wrap around pass that Rojas was unable to get a racquet on, he called a timeout. When time resumed, Pratt placed two balls down the line for winners, up 8-1. Pratt continued to keep the ball out of Rojas’ reach for a score of 9-2. Pratt caught fire early in the second game and never showed signs of slowing down, until at 10-2 his dominance wore thin. Rojas was able to work back in the game for 20 minutes before Pratt came out ahead, 11-5.
Pratt regained some of the momentum that lost at the end of the second game for a 4-0 lead, largely due to Rojas skips. Pratt displayed his soft hands and pinching ability by taking many of Rojas shots and slowing them down into the corners. Pratt contiued to hit solid kill shots off setups and Rojas continued to suffer from skipping, which plagued hime since the match’s start. At 7-3 Pratt hit a kill to the left hand side. The addtional point for his opponent prompted Rojas to take a timeout. This proved to be effective after he scored three points in a row for 6-8. Pratt took a timeout. Time in, he regained the serve with a well-executed backhand. He scored the next two points for a 10-6 lead. Ater Rojas was unable to get back into position after a diving get, Pratt won the game 11-6.
The juxtaposition of Pratt’s crisp shots and Rojas’ skips continued into game four. Pratt was out front early at 3-0. Rojas looked disjointed in his play and body language, hinting at defeat. At 4-0 Rojas took a timeout, able to get back into the box and score two points. Pratt mounted an offensive. At 9-3 Pratt hit a down-the-line that Rojas was unable to get. Match point. Rojas skipped. Pratt won, 11-3.
#4 Daniel De La Rosa d #5 Jansen Allen 9-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-4
De La Rosa started off strongly. He nailed drive serves to jumped out to a 5-1 lead. Allen was able to find his placement in the game before it got out of his reach, earning a 4-point run to tie the game at 5-5. Allen continued to move to 7-5 before De La Rosa took a hard dive followed by a timeout. De La Rosa got back in the box and scored an ace serve, but the referee halted play after noting De la Rosa’s cut right kneww. Allen stayed hot after the medical stoppage, and ran three-straight points for the game, 11-8.
De La Rosa started off in control of the second game, 5-0. Allen was still higging well and didn’t make many unforced errors. It seemed as if De La Rosa was able to manipulate the ball whichever way he wanted. At the moment it appeared De La Rosa would run away with the game, Allen’s on-point pinches gave him a 5 point run. De La Rosa appeared visibly frustrated to have let Allen back in the game, but at 7-5 took off on a run of his own to close out the second, 11-6.
The two trade points, sideouts, and long rallies at the start of the third game. At 2-2, Allen found his serving rhythm. He was able to go on a run of three serve-return-kill rallies for the leasd at 5-2. It was now De La Rosa who heated up, scoring seven unanswered points for a 9-5 lead. Allen looked frustrated with his own play. A rising tension between the players escalated when De La Rosa accused Allen of trying to hit him. Allen believed that De La Rosa was crowding him, and continued to play tight. the game became emotionally charged. Allen was able to go on a nice run to tie the game at 9’s, but De La Rosa answered the call with two straight points for the game three win, 11-9.
De La Rosa started the game by putting a few extra miles-per-hour on his shots that pelted the front wall with deadly precision. 3-0 lead. Down 2-6, Allen displayed his quick-hands and controlled the front court to pull him within two, at 4-6. Both players were hitting the ball really well. De La Rosa had a little more ammo than Allen, as he was able to finish rallies. Not many ended from skips or errors in the fourth. De la Rosa went on a five-point run to end the game and the match. 11-4.
The 2014 ROLLOUT New Jersey Open Ends Year on High Note
by Eric Mueller
The ROLLOUT New Jersey Open returns to the Garden State, but #1 Kane Waselenchuk won’t be there. “My body needs a couple of more weeks to be in shape to compete at this level, and I’m looking forward to getting back on the court for the Cactus Salon NYC ProAm.” Rocky Carson, the #2-ranked pro and 2012 NJO Champion hopes to extend his winning streak after three straight IRT tier one tournaments and the Kitsap Splat tier three titles followed his semifinal appearance at the 2014 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships, where #1 Kane Waselenchuk took his 10th US OPEN title.
Since that record-breaking performance, Kane has missed most of the last three tier ones (he forfeited after his round of 16 win in Garden City, Kansas), and is sidelined for New Jersey as well. While Waselenchuk’s #1 ranking is safe for now, Carson has the opportunity to make inroads against the 756-point difference. “At the US OPEN I didn’t feel like I played that bad,” Carson said. “I didn’t finish really strong in terms of matches. I feel like I finished really well the last three tournaments, and that has been a big part of my success. At the US OPEN, I wasn’t serving all that great, pretty below par. My serve and my consistency with the rallies has been a lot better.”
Carson defeated #7-ranked Ben Croft in the finals to earn his second Garden City Turkey Shootout Championship and 21st career title. Before that tournament he defeated fellow California resident and #3-ranked Alvaro Beltran in back-to-back finals at the Pete Pierce’s St. Louis Party with the Pros and the Red Swain Shootout in Michigan.
The Red Swain Shootout victory increased Carson’s career head-to-head record against Beltran to 21-19. Beltran last defeated Carson in his home country at the Racquetball De 1RA Tier 2 Satellite stop in Juarez, Mexico (Oct. 23-26). Before that win, Beltran ended Carson’s 2014 US OPEN tournament in the semifinals. Carson said off the court the two are best friends but on the court the matches are tight battles.
“With the rivalry we both go on the court knowing that hey we better bring our A game,” Carson said. “Very rarely does one of us put on a bad showing against each other. We come mentally prepared. We come physically prepared. It’s one of those things we know we have to be ready to go.”
Health issues have affected top ranked Kane Waselenchuk and #4-ranked Jose Rojas who also hope to contend for the NJO. Both competed at the Turkey Shootout in November but weren’t at 100 percent.
Waselenchuk missed time on the tour after winning his 10th US OPEN Title and returned to competition in Kansas despite lingering inner-ear problems. He won his first match of the tournament but forfeited in the quarterfinals. Waselenchuk said his injury worsened from competing in the Round of 16 after a nine-hour drive to the event.
Rojas advanced to the semifinals of the Red Swain Shootout while battling what appeared to be severe flu-like symptoms. A week later at the Garden City Turkey Shootout Rojas once again fought the same sickness and reached the quarterfinals.
“I felt like I was fortunate enough to win in my previous match against Bradly Rogers,” Rojas said after his quarterfinal loss to Jansen Allen. “I have been fighting terrible stomach issues since last week in Michigan… I haven’t recovered from it. I lost at least 10 pounds. I felt fatigued and weak.”
The NJO will also have the top 11 ranked professionals including ROLLOUT sponsored athletes in Carson, De La Rosa, #11-ranked Charlie Pratt and #13-ranked Jose Diaz along with Tournament Director Jonathan Clay, owner of leading racquetball apparel company ROLLOUT and ROLLOUT Events (WearROLLOUT.com) competing in the tournament. De La Rosa placed second in his hometown tournament, the San Luis Open Nitropiso Tier 2 Satellite in Mexico, losing in the championship final to Beltran.
The Racquet Club at Warren features five glass back walls and two glass windows. Fans can watch the tournament from up top and below. Clay, the former New Jersey Racquetball President from Middletown, NJ, said they have packed in a couple 100 fans to watch the finals the past two years.
“It is a very old school club,” Clay said of the facilities in Warren. “The courts play really fast…In the true old school way of doing things, fans pack in and get cozy and get close and watch the matches.”
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, Mueller also brings experience in sports reporting and news writing for newspapers like the Southwest Journal and the Downtown Journal in Minneapolis as well as the Pioneer Press in St. Paul. He has also worked in marketing for the St. Paul Saints professional baseball team and for Gopher Sports Marketing at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.