Each year competitive racquetball players calendar tournaments offering the best competition with the most exciting matches to watch. The events also serve as a great mini-vacation and reunion of friends. The most notable tournaments offering the most memorable experiences are, of course, the US Open and the USAR National Singles Championships. But there is a little gem tournament in Austin, Texas that has the makings of a spectacular event.
On January 13-15, 2012 the University of Texas Racquetball Club held the Longhorn Open as their sole fundraiser to finance their team’s trip to the USAR National Intercollegiate Championships. This tournament is held annually on the UT campus in two separate facilities with a total of 18 courts. Both gyms are state-of-the-art facilities with beautifully equipped glass back wall courts and one stadium court that seats 500 spectators. If there was ever a place to watch great racquetball, this is the stage to do so.
The Longhorn Open is a long tradition with UT Racquetball. But only recently did the tournament take leaps to be called one of the best tournaments to play in Texas. The recipe for the tournament is simple: great hospitality, fun non-racquetball related events, and some amazing racquetball matches on display. That simple recipe results in a tournament that reaches a capacity of 325 participants one month in advance of the tournament with a waiting list of 75 people eager to fill any cancellation.
For the 2011-2012 IRT season the tournament upgraded to become an IRT satellite event on the men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) division. The division drew 33 participants from around the nation. This draw was as competitive as they come with very exciting matches starting in the round of 16s. The semi-finals were played Saturday evening with people crowded around the stadium court excited to witness stellar racquetball. This year’s semi-final started with Alex Ackermann and Jimmy Lowe. This pairing was a rivalry that has been brewing for several years at this tournament. In past year’s Lowe has topped the young Ackermann. But this year Ackermann’s training proved superior as he beat Lowe in a four game nail-biter.
The following semifinal was what is now being called the match of the tournament. Erik Leetch and Jansen Allen squared off in a battle. The match started a bit off schedule just past 10:00 PM with over 100 spectators impatiently anticipating a closely played match. Both Leetch and Allen played with great sportsmanship and valor. The spectators maintained the edge of their seats as each point was played with every ounce of effort these players could muster. The rallies were long. The points were amazing. The crowd was fighting the urge to call it a night and held their positions screaming and cheering after nearly every point. And just past 1:30 AM, Allen claimed victory in a very close five game match. The air was electric as the crowd stumbled out of the gym realizing they witnessed one of the best matches ever played at the Longhorn Open.
In the final, Ackermann proved too strong for Allen. He defeated Allen in three games to gain the title as the 2012 Longhorn Open Champion. Perhaps Allen could not recover from the exhausting play the previous night. Perhaps Ackerman had trained much harder throughout the year and honed skills making him unbeatable. The one thing that is certain is the stage is set for future rematches that will continue to draw participants and spectators to this one-of-a-kind event.
By Soly Kor