The week before the holiday break proved a grab bag of surprises: Official Referee, #11 ranked Charlie Pratt’s injury exit from the season and the withdrawal of #1-ranked Kane Waselenchuck from the ROLLOUT NJ Open. Once in Warren, #9 seed, Alex Ackermann upset #8 Andy Hawthorne (16s) while #11 Nick Montalbano took out #6 Shane Vanderson and #3 Jose Rojas (16s then Qs) for his semifinal debut. The shuffling culminated in a nearly 3-hour championship thriller featuring precision racquetball interspersed with on-court interplay that was both contentious and genteel, plus a bit of comedy thrown in between. Click for more and the pro draws.
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Final Results: Rocky Takes First ROLLOUT New Jersey Open Championship!
#1 Rocky Carson d #2 Alvaro Beltran 7, 3, (5), (9), 8
A standing room only crowd jammed into the Warren Health and Racquet Club to watch the highly anticipated ROLLOUT New Jersey Open final between Rocky Carson and Alvaro Beltran. Both players stepped onto the court hungry for the Tier 1 win—either Beltran’s first or Carson’s first since Waslenchuk’s January 2012 Cactus Salon NYC ProAm injury forfeit.Going point for point with touch shots in the corners, precise down-the-lines, and diving gets, the two closely-matched pros each played well, tying it at 4 and then at 7. Rocky took the game, 11-7.
Carson continued his game plan in the 2nd, delivering a variety of z-serves and going to the ceiling for long rallies that forced Beltran on the defensive or shooting from 38’. Beltran fell to the plan. One of the tour’s best control players frequently skipped with a disappointing backhand. Carson took game two, 11-3 and looked to game 3 for the match
Beltran needed an answer to connecting with his own shots while also knocking Carson off his game by cutting short the rallies. He did, coming out strong to dial into a rhythm for a 6-0 lead that frustrated his opponent. At 5-8, Carson, who’d been arguing with the official all night, overturned a call–benefiting Beltran–and then proceeded to pound an overhead smash into the front corner for the point anyway. At 5-9 Carson sent the purple Pro Penn ball sailing above the back wall, giving Beltran the opportunity for game point. Beltran returned a wallpaper down-the-line for the game, 11-5.
Both players continued hitting hard, tying it up at 5-5 at 1-1/2 hours into the match. The tension rose. The normally gentlemanly Carson got a warning for a delay of game, called a time out, took it back, and then called it again before stepping out the door. If Beltran’s plan was to plug away mentally at his opponent, he was a success. Carson was still stewing when he returned to the game, tied at 6-6. Beltran had his own timeout-mishap, returning to the court only to announce he’d lost his goggles before disappearing through the door again. He returend to find his score notched down 1 point after the ref called a delay-of-game technical. Beltran argued that the call should be backed down to a warning proved unpersuasive. Then, At 8-9, for the second time in the game, Carson overturned another call in his favor to put Beltran back in the box for a replay. Beltran took the match 11-9.
Carson came out in the 5th knowing what he had to do—and executed even as both players got down on the ground, charged back to the sides, sprinted to the back wall, and then raced toward the front, now 2-1/2 hours into the game. Despite the close game and Beltran reaching wihtin a few points of his first Tier 1 win, Carson closed it out at 11-8. Finishing the way he did “felt good,” according to Carson afterward, noting that he’d had a “rough year” in some ways from losing some matches he felt he should have won. That’s the way it goes, he acknowledged before adding,“it’s nice to win this one.”
By IRT Intern, Kathy Geels
#1 Rocky Carson d. #2 Chris Crowther 3, (8), 6, 4
Carson blistered through game one with a relentless low-to the ground pace, using cross-courts to move Crowther side to side and giving him little time to set up his 6′ 6″ frame. Crowther pushed back to take game two, slowing it down and bringing the ball-height up, but Carson regained control and maintained a confident lead throughout game three, which he won after some extended grappling. Game four, both athletes showed signs of wear as the match edged inevitably Carson’s way, seeming to stall for some bullying of the new IRT official, and as Crowther called a short injury time-out for his back. When they resumed, the pace picked up, and from 8-3, Carson moved it quickly forward, ending it with a decisive kill from deep court. The win puts him in a finals against his long-time and closely matched rival on the tour, Alvaro Beltran.
#3 Alvaro Beltran d. #11 Nick Montalbano 8, 2, 4
As expected, Alvaro Beltran defeated New York rookie Nick Montalbano in a steady but entertaining three-game match. Mainly controlling play with lob serves, Beltran kept Montalbano on the defensive, steadily setting himself up for winners rally after rally. In his first T1 semifinal appearance, Montalbano kept his balance and played an intelligent match, showing a poise and lanky counter-punching athleticism that seemed crafted after Beltran’s own style. The win advances Beltran to the finals where he will play the winner of the Carson-Crowther match-up.
#1 Rocky Carson d #4 Chris Crowther 3, (8), 6, 4
By John Beninato
Nick Montalbano d. Jose Rojas 12-10, 10-12, 2-11, 11-9, 11-9
Incredible play from both athletes! Montalbano came in after a big upset over Shane Vanderson and wanted to continue his streak. Both players stuck to drive serves early in the match and it seemed to be pretty even. Nick flew all over the court to get every single ball and put tremendous pressure on Jose. Rojas kept Nick deep but could not put the ball down when he needed to and dropped this game, 12-10.
Nick kept fighting hard in the second game and showed his unreal athletic ability. His jaw-dropping gets kept points alive and forced some skips from Jose. Even though Rojas had some bad shot selections, he was able to string points together and took an 8-5 lead. After a long battle, Jose cracked out a ball on the side wall to win this game, 12-10.
Jose started to use a new game plan in this third game that worked really well. He stuck with a high lob serve and made Nick make the mistakes. Montalbano hit a lot of balls into the floor and did not look like the same person that played the first two games. Jose cruised to a third game victory using his new strategy, 11-2.
Montalbano kept fighting so hard throughout this match and it was clear that he wanted his string of upsets to continue. Jose tried to squash this feeling and jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in game 4. Even with a lot of ground to cover, Nick never quit and went on a run to tie it up. The players battled back and forth for a while but Nick managed to come out on top and force a tiebreaker, 11-9.
This was it. If Nick was going to pull off the upset, this was his big chance. After a few rallies, Jose looked as if he was favoring his left side. Maybe an injury, but it was unclear. Montalbano was down a couple points, but never quit on the ball and took this incredibly hard-fought match in 5, 11-9. He will face Alvaro Beltran in the Semifinals.
Chris Crowther d. Jansen Allen 11-3, 11-4, 7-11, 11-4.
Crowther started this match much like he starts every match, with blistering power shots. He was in complete control in the first game and made Jansen submit to his will. Even though getting his first serve in seemed to be an issue, his played very well and used his awesome power to his advantage. He took game 1 easily, 11-3.
The story was the same for the second game as Crowther kept Jansen out of position and hit the ball at incredible speeds. Jansen could not gain any ground and it seemed like the end of the match was near. Crowther cruised to an early 2-0 game lead with an 11-4 win in this one.
Allen found some new energy in this third game and played a smarter game by trying to diffuse Crowthers’ power in any way possible. He used lob serves and other tactics to start to gain some ground. He tied up the game at 4 and played incredibly hard. Crowther started to lose his momentum and kept hitting a lot of short serves. Even though a technical evened up the game at 6, Jansen showed tremendous resilience and shocked Chris by taking this one, 11-7.
Chris came out shooting in game 4 because in his mind, game 5 was not an option. He wanted to end this as soon as possible and not give Jansen a chance to upset him. He stepped into the box and seemed to be more focused. Crowther played as good as he did in the first two games and Jansen had a tough time keeping up with him. Even though Allen fought hard it was not enough to stay alive and this match ended in 4, 11-4.
Rocky Carson d Alex Ackermann 2, 5, 4
Alvaro Beltran d Tony Carson 3, 10, 9
#1 Rocky Carson d #16 Augustin Trista 3, 2, 2
#9 Alex Ackermann d #8 Andy Hawthorne (9), 10, (10), 4, 5
#11 Nick Montalbano d #6 Shane Vanderson 5, 10, 8
#7 Tony Carson d #10 Arthur Schmeiser 1, 0, 5
#2 Alvaro Beltran d #17 Luis Reveron 6, 0, (10), 7
#12 Jansen Allen d #5 Brad Shopieray 8, 8, (8), 3
#3 Jose Rojas d Mauricio Zelada 3, 1, 2
#4 Chris Crowther d #19 Robert Santander 5, 0, 9
Seeded #1, Rocky Carson and #2 Alavaro Beltran could meet in the finals for the first time this season. They’ve only faced each other once in 2012-2013, at the Red Swain Shootout in Davison where Beltran came out ahead in a contentious, 5-game semifinal battle.
#3 seed Jose Rojas and #4 Chris Crowther have much to gain or lose this weekend, given the tight rankings with only 189 points separating the two competitors and a solitary point between Crowther and the next pro in the ranks, the absent Croft. #9 ranked Shane Vanerson came out ahead in 5 against Rojas in Michigan, making the points they take away on Sunday all that much more valuable to gain—or lose.
US Open spoiler, #9 seed Alex Ackermann, who upset Anthony Herrera in October has the opportunity for another upset, against #8 seed Andy Hawthorne, which would help Ackerman reach his goal of claiming a spot in the top 8 by season’s end.
Other up-and-comers include #5 seed Brad Shopiearay versus #12 Jansen Allen, each looking to make his mark on the tour.
The 16s are ON followed by the quarters at 4 pm Eastern. Follow online or in person to see how the matches play out.
Kane Withdraws from ROLLOUT NJ Open; Rankings Up for Grabs
“I love what I do and never want to miss a tourney,” said Waselenchuk during a press conference. With a nagging knee injury that has been progressively getting worse, he made the call rather than risk pulling out of the bracket. “The doctor said it would be in my best interest to take a rest, rehab the knee, and then be ready for the second half of the season.”
Most fans don’t realize the grueling training schedule the tops pros engage in during the weeks prior to a big event like the Tier 1 ROLLOUT New Jersey Open. Waselenchuk hinted at the effort. “Getting ready for a tournament means that taking time off isn’t in the cards for me. There’s no time to rest. It’s unfortunate because I really would like to be there.”
Fans will have to wait until January to see the sport’s top player hit the courts again, when he expects to be back full strength. “Without a doubt I’ll be ready to play. The big thing that I had to consider is that if I go to New Jersey, I could risk not being able to play the second half. I never like to be in this position,” Waselenchuck added, before giving credit to the efforts of tournament directors like Jonathan Clay, who is hosting the tournament.
#2 Rocky Carson was unfazed by his top competitor’s departure, but would have liked to put a game plan against him into place. “One thing I want to do is win more tournaments; there’s one big obstacle in the way.” While Carson thinks he has figured out how to get past the obstacle Waselenchuk presents, he recognized that saying he can and doing it are two different things. Seeing if he can “take care of it” will have to wait. In the meantime, Carson will approach this tournament like any other. “My focus is to get into the event and through my first round, making that happen. One step at a time.” The steps leading to the return of pro racquetball in New Jersey for veterans like Rocky, Kane, and #3 Alvaro Beltran have covered a long path, going back over 11 years, as Carson recalled. “It was a fun event and I’m looking forward to getting back there.”
The logistics of the pro stop started a little over a year ago, according to Clay. “I was able to work out details and then go full speed ahead.” Held at the Warren Health and Racquet Club, host to events in the “early ages of New Jersey racquetball,” Clay is most looking forward to running the tournament. It’s a role he stepped away from four years ago when he turned his full attention to his company ROLLOUT Clothing Company, title sponsor. Already, the ROLLOUT New Jersey Open is “officially the largest tournament in New Jersey” in 10 years and will set another milestone this weekend—the inaugural induction into the state racquetball hall of fame.
In addition to Waselenchuk, two other top pros won’t see the action. #6 Ben Croft will be in Florida, marrying Sarah Spinks and #11 Charlie Pratt is recuperating from an ankle injury that will see him out for the season, as he posted on his Facebook page. “Time to recover and rehabilitate. Looking ahead to 2013-2014!” With two Tier 1s in the first two weeks of 2013 plus 8 satellite events during that month, there’ll be plenty of opportunity for others to play.
Missing the ROLLOUT New Jersey Open might prove costly to a pro’s position in the rankings, however, Waselenchuk and Carson are still safely ahead, but Beltran has closed the gap to Carson and widened the distance to #4 Jose Rojas, who is within striking distance from #5 Chris Crowther. Likewise, bridegroom Ben Croft and #7 Shane Vanderson together are a mere 50 points behind Crowther, with only one point separating Croft and Vanderson.
As the pros wrangle for ranking points without the sport’s top player serving as top obstacle, anybody could take the title making the return the ROLLOUT New Jersey Open not only back, but better than ever. If you can’t make it in person, you can still watch it live on the IRT Network (www.irtnetwork.com) with Head/Penn sponsored HD instant replay incorporating super-slow motion for the first time. The free broadcast includes the Round of 32 at 8 pm EST Thursday, 12/13 and the Round of 16 at 11 am EST Friday 12/14. Then, subscribers can enjoy the quarters at 5 pm EST Friday before tuning in Saturday, 12/15 for the semifinals starting at 11 am EST and the final which begins at 7 pm EST.
By Jen Sinclair Johnson
Pro Racquetball Returns to New Jersey: The ROLLOUT New Jersey Open
By Becky Wiese
The Warren Health and Racquet Club in Warren, New Jersey, will host the ROLLOUT New Jersey Open Tournament, the first Tier 1 pro racquetball tournament to be held in the state since 2001. The event takes place December 12-14 and will include the top ten professional players in the world with a total pro draw of 40 players and an additional 200 players in the amateur draw.
Jonathan Clay, tournament director and sponsor, explains that the recent growth of the IRT and Clay’s NJ-based ROLLOUT Clothing Company, one of the leading racquetball apparel companies, allowed for a natural progression to work together on bringing a Tier 1 tournament back to the area. “Warren is a great location with a great facility,” says Clay. Located in the heart of the Watchung Mountains in Somerset County, Warren Township is a small but vibrant community. Its proximity to New York City contrasted with its rural feel are two reasons the community was listed as one of the “Best Places to Live” in 2009 by CNNMoney.com. “Our goal is to bring a different kind of event and atmosphere to the sport—not have just another tournament,” he says.
“We hope to build up intensity and interest as the tournament progresses,” says Clay. “The plan is to hold the pro quarterfinals on Friday night, the semis midday on Saturday, and the championship match Saturday night.” In addition, excitement for the amateur players increases by creating an “undercard” of sorts by having the Open singles semifinal matches play immediately prior to the pro final. The New Jersey Amateur Racquetball Association will induct its first member to the New Jersey Racquetball Hall of Fame immediately before the pro final.
Throughout the tournament, pros and amateurs will be playing side-by-side simultaneously on Warren Health and Racquet Club’s eight racquetball courts, allowing for non-stop action and excitement. Court 1 will serve as the stadium court, with seating for up to 250 spectators during the major matches.
The tournament will also offer some unique sponsorship opportunities as well as benefit four different charitable organizations. Each pro round starting with quarterfinals will have its own sponsor, creating a “mini-event” feel. Spectators will have the opportunity to vote for the “Match of the Night” during the quarterfinals, with the players who win earning a cash bonus for the charity of their choice. The Red Carpet Experience will allow fans to have their picture taken with their favorite pro, with 100% of the proceeds going to charity. Monetary donations will be split between Special Olympics New Jersey and the National MS Society. Gifts for Toys for Tots and gently used shoes for Green Sneakers will also be collected throughout the tournament.
Clay expects that 90% of the spectators will be racquetball players who want to see the pros like Kane Waselenchuk play. “Really,” he says, “the better value is to pay the entry fee and play rather than just buy a ticket—as a player, you get to watch for free, compete, and get all the giveaways.” Watching Waselenchuk, who has one of the longest winning streaks in history in any sport, would be worth it. “He’s just better at this point—he’s faster, hits harder, makes easy shots consistently, and creates shots others don’t think to make,” Clay says. “It wouldn’t be too smart to bet against him.”