Kane Waselenchuk serves Daniel De La Rosa at the 2015 ProKennex TOC Final by Kevin Savory

Kane Takes All-ProKennex Tournament of Champions Final

toclogo_200Two ProKennex pro racquetball players met in a rowdy Saturday evening final on May 16, 2015. Daniel De La Rosa played through two four-game matches against a tough up-and-comer, Coby Iwaasa and then the top seed, Rocky Carson to reach the final. The dominating 9-time World Champion, Kane Waselenchuk, sailed through his matches, giving up only 9 points before the final. Waselenchuk continued the trend, taking out his younger teammate 11-4, 11-1, 11-2. Click for match recaps and updates. Watch live @ IRTNetwork.com.    

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Match Recaps

By Tim Prigo

The ProKennex Final

#2 Kane Waselenchuk d #4 Daniel De La Rosa 11-4, 11-1, 11-2

Kane Waselenchuk serves Daniel De La Rosa l 2015 ProKennex Tournament of Champions by Kevin Savory

Kane Waselenchuk serves Daniel De La Rosa l 2015 ProKennex Tournament of Champions by Kevin Savory

Game one- The two ProKennex players entered the court in front of a packed house. Waselenchuk hit the bottom boards first, taking pace off his serve and jamming De La Rosa unexpectedly. The two traded multiple sideouts. altphoto credit: Kevin SavoryDe La Rosa was off of his game early, donating many points to Waselenchuk via skips. De La Rosa, down 1-4, switched to high lob serves to the Waselenchuk backhand. De La Rosa found success with this serve, as Waselenchuk was only able to hit the ball from shoulder high, which the young Mexican to get back into center court. De La Rosa was able to tie the game at 4’s but Waselenchuk started rocking his drive serves to the backhand for a 5 point run, 9-4. It looked as if Waselenchuk would run away with this game in a hurry, but De La Rosa  signaled to head referee Charlie Pratt that his back was hurting him for an injury timeout. When time resumed, Waselenchuk ran out the rest of the points against a De La Rosa who looked much slower than normal. 11-4. 

Game two- Waselenchuk continued his solid play into game two and quickly found himself up 2-0. De La Rosa did not look in form, and much to Waselenchuk’s credit, the younger ProKennex player was unable to string together any meaningful rallies. Now down 0-7, De La Rosa needed to make his move or he would be too deeply buried to dig out. Waselenchuk’s march towards 11 was unflinching, hitting from all cylinders. Pinches, down-the-lines, soft touches, and ace serves all fell in for points. 11-1 Waselenchuk.   

Game three- Was De La Rosa done? Waselenchuk started the third game running De La Rosa around the court in altPhoto Credit: Kevin Savorya literal circle before he put down a pass for the first point. Waselenchuk scored in quick succession to bring the score line to 4-0. De La Rosa, who looked so impressive in his earlier rounds, now appeared overwhelmed and slightly injured. Waselenchuk appeared to be playing with his prey as he sent De La Rosa diving left and right before deciding to touch the ball for a winner. De La Rosa’s spring was gone. Ace after ace dropped in and Waselenchuk showed ever-building confidence. At 7-0, Waselenchuk started to hit behind the backs and between the leg shots as if to say to the crowd, “Sorry for a quick final.” De La Rosa continued to hemorrhage points and soon found himself down 2-10. Waselenchuk, serving for the match, put the next pass so far behind De La Rosa that the young gun found himself unable to even connect off the back wall. Game and match 11-2, Waselenchuk.

Semifinals

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

Game one- Unforced errors against each player kept the score level at the beginning of the match. At 1-1, Carson was able to create angles that put De La Rosa off balance. Carson went on a 4-0 run. De La Rosa seemed to be shaking the cobwebs off at the start of this 11am game after playing a match at such high intensity the previous night. It took about 15 minutes for De La Rosa’s fast twitch muscles to reawaken and with one or two diving gets the wind had once again filled his sails. De La Rosa missed many of his down-the-lines, but put sufficient pressure on Carson with his retrieving ability to climb back to a 6-7 score. De La Rosa had the most success in the front court when he sent the ball into the corners. Carson did not help matters when he earned himself a technical, and the resulting one-point deduction from arguing excessively with referee Charlie Pratt. De La Rosa was able to gain the momentum and finish off Carson in game one, 11-6.

Game two- The game stayed very tight early on, neither player scored more than one point in several service attempts. With hardly anything to separate the two, De La Rosa was able to have one or two less skips to give him the slight edge at 5-4. The momentum of the match was very much in the balance at this point. The first run of the game was due to De La Rosa getting his touch shots to fall while Carson skipped his shots. These two factors put De La Rosa in the driver’s seat at 8-5. Carson was able to score on some well-placed drive serves that cracked out on the right  side, but yet again De La Rosa’s touch game was the difference maker in the game. 11-7, De La Rosa.

Game three- De La Rosa started this game with some electrifying diving gets that energized the crowd. De La Rosa was now finding his down the line that eluded him most of the match and was firing away with confidence. Firmly in control of the match, De La Rosa had Carson in danger of losing the match. As if sensing the match was getting away from him, Carson made his move by taking speed off of his pinches and passes while increasing the velocity of his serves. This forced lightening quick De La Rosa to catch up with more balls before the backwall, which put pressure on him to dive more. Many more of Carson’s shots were hitting low for kills. Carson now had the lead at 7-3. Carson continued to roll smoothly to an 11-4 victory. 

Game four- De La Rosa came out looking the more energized of the two, visibly hitting the ball harder and going for more offensive opportunities. At 4-0 De La Rosa was able to find the corners time and again for winners. Carson scored 1-6 with an ace serve. Interestingly, De La Rosa had yet to have an ace serve this match while Carson had multiple. De La Rosa earned match point with a serve-return-kill rally and then finished the match with a splat rollout to earn a spot in the finals. 11-3.

Kane Waselenchuk def. Alvaro Beltran 11-4, 11-2, 11-3

Game one- With his silky smooth touch Beltran put away the first point in the front court for a 1-0 lead. Waselenchuk answered back with a winner down the right hand side from 38 feet. Both players’ scores were close and, at 2-2,  Waselenchuk started to exploit the hobbled Beltran by making him run side-to-side. Even when it looked as if  Waselenchuk could have put it down, he left one or two extra shots up before putting away the rally. Beltran played surprisingly well despite his problematic left ankle. Having to move less meant having to put the ball away more, which made Beltran dangerous. Waselenchuk turned up the intensity on his serve at 4-4, and began to give Beltran major problems in regards to an offensive return. In mere moments Waselenchuk scored 4 consecutive points. This forced Beltran’s hand to take a timeout down 4-8. The timeout only delayed the inevietable as Waselenchuk found his serving groove and continued serve-return-kill exchanges until he reached 10. At the first game point, Waselenchuk aced Beltran along the sidewall glass. 11-4.

Game two-  Waselenchuk continued his serving exhibition into the second game 4-1, keping Beltran guessing which side the ball would be hit.  Beltran, who was not missing many shots, seemed to get a late start from the back court in order to get into the ensuing rally. This hurt Beltran doubly as it left Waselenchuk with center court position and it kept the pressure of of  Waselenchuk who had plenty of space to shoot the ball. At 8-2,  Waselenchuk sailed to an uncontested victory, 11-2. 

Game three- Though not lacking in excitement, the third game started with very few points. Beltran did a commendable job of slowing down the feverish Waselenchuk scoring flurry. He did this by taking some speed off the ball on his return-of-serves, forcing Waselenchuk to lunge toward the front wall which bought Beltran some time to get into position. As fierce as the competition was, both Beltran and Waselenchuk took time to engage the large crowd, often times joking between points. Beltran did well to keep Waselenchuk from going on a scoring run for most of the game, but it was only a matter of time as Waselenchuk kept pressing. Waselenchuk’s serves eventually outlasted Beltran’s legs and 5 consecutive points dropped in. At 3-9, Beltran needed to make a run, but Waselenchuk rolled out a crosscourt backhand. Waselenchuk got back into the box and scored from a passing shot with Beltran out-of-position. At 10-3,  Waselenchuk aced Beltran backhand for the match. 11-3.

Quarterfinal Round Match Recaps by Tim Prigo

The ProKennex Tournament of Champions semifinals are set and will feature the top-four ranked players on the IRT. #1 Rocky Carson will face #4 Daniel De La Rosa at 11 a.m. in semifinal #1 & #2 Kane Waselenchuk takes on #3 Alvaro Beltran at noon in semifinal #2. In the quarterfinals: Rocky beat Tony Carson, De La Rosa won in four games against Coby Iwaasa, Alvaro defeated Jansen Allen and Kane beat Markie Rojas. 

#2 Kane Waselenchuk v #7 Marco Rojas 11-2,11-0,11-0

Game one- Waselenchuk  started the game with a serve-return-kill rally. It was evident early on that Waselenchuk’s drive serves were jumping off the paneled front wall with astonishing pace. He was able to throw Rojas off early by hitting thunderous 180 mph drive serves followed by 5 mph ‘dinks’ into the corners. At 5-2, Rojas was able to sideout  Waselenchuk many times, but could never find the serve to capitalize on his efforts. After two consecutive Waselenchuk aces, Rojas called time. Waselenchuk never looked back and closed out the game with 2 more aces upon time resuming. 11-2.

Game two-  Waselenchuk began game two with another ace. This was followed by two serves that Rojas put into the ground, 3-0. Waselenchuk, cruising and working every point off his serve, was not only carrying the momentum from the first game, but building on it. Rojas tried to put some water on the red hot Waselenchuk by taking a time-out at 6-0. No such luck. Waselenchuk continued his onslaught of drive serves to both corners. Ace after ace continued to fall. Waselenchuk closed out the game to the tune of 11-0. He did so with 6 aces and 3 serve-return-kill rallies, meaning he only rallied twice. 

Game three- The master class display continued into game 3 as Waselenchuk touched, passed, and splatted kill-shots from everywhere on the court. Young Rojas looked deflated and perhaps a bit out of his element as he had no answers to any of Waselenchuk’s shots. The most impact Rojas made on the match was when he took his timeouts. At 7-0, Waselenchuk hit an ace to the Rojas forehand followed by an ace to the backhand. At 10-0 Rojas looked as if he wanted to be off the court and  Waselenchuk obliged him by hitting an ace to the backhand side. Rojas scored only 1 point the entire match, serving only a handful of times. 11-0, Waselenchuk.The question now would be, with  Waselenchuk in such form, can anyone give him a game, much less a match?  

#1 Rocky Carson d #9 Tony Carson 11-6, 14-12, 11-8

Game one- Tony Carson started the first game the same way he ended his round of 16 match, on an upward projection. Jumping out to a 3-0 lead, Tony utilized his backhand to hit hard down-the-lines against the sidewall glass. Rocky found his traction by extending rallies and making Tony hit one or two extra shots. The two stayed tight in the score line for much of the middle of this pivotal game one. At 6-6, Rocky found his stride by hitting deceptive down-the-lines, often exploiting Tony’s foretelling footwork. Tony proved early on that he still could hang with the likes of Rocky and that the match had the potential to be very interesting, although Rocky won 11-6.

Game two- Rocky got out to a 3-0 lead via hard drive serves to Tony’s forehand. Before Rocky could run away with the game, Tony was able to dial in his backhand and put points by his name. Tony, still showing that his backhand was the best part of his game, battled back from a 3-8 deficit to tie at 8-8. Tony continued to roll  shots from his backhand and upped his intensity, perhaps sensing the finish line in sight. Rocky was not to go down easily as he fended off 4 game points before meeting Tony at 10’s. Rocky reached 11 first by way of a soft pinch. Tony answered back with a 38-foot, down the sidewall glass, shoulder-high kill. Rocky regained the serve and then, from a weak return, put down an off-the-backwall set up into the right corner. Tony got the serve back and put a cross court kill shot down from across his body. Rocky was the one who ended this back-and-forth as he was finally able to string together two straight points off hard drive serves to the forehand side. 14-12.

Game three- One wondered if Tony had anything left in the tank as he had not been training and had expended a huge amount of energy in the second, marathon-like, game. But as par for the tournament, Tony continued to surprise and impress. He gained a 7-0 lead over the world #1 by getting offensive from his first shot after the serve. Rocky, who went for the hard passes, was finding that Tony was cutting off most of them in the air in the front court. Rocky adjusted, and using his racquet like a chisel, began chipping away at the lead in slow, methodical movements. Rocky went on a 6-0 run. This run was to be the straw that finally broke Tony as his heroic match efforts were now weighing heavily on his body and mind. Rocky, on a 10-1 run, found an ace serve to end a very long contentious match. 11-8. 

#3 Alvaro Beltran v #6 Jansen Allen 11-9, 11-3, 11-3

Game one- Beltran started the game slower than usual. He seemed apprehensive about leaning or pivoting off of his left leg, which was taped up at the ankle. Allen, who won impressively in his first round, was hitting more powerfully than previously seen. Despite the obvious handicap, Beltran was showing why he is the #3-ranked player on Tour, finding ways to contest most of the rallies. Beltran soon found himself in the driver’s seat with a 9-4 lead. What Beltran lacked in mobility, he made up for in precision. He was able to connect bottom board from almost anywhere on the court. Beltran, perhaps trying to compensate, drove serve the entire first game, and successly. Allen played solidly the whole game, at times skipping set-ups, but with no blaring errors. Beltran escaped a very close game, winning 11-9. 

Game two-  Beltran continued the momentum from his game-one victory and shot out to a 5-1 lead. His legs could not carry him so he had to rely on his hands and fail them they did not. Beltran was hitting more aggressively than normal, and this played to his advantage as he was skipping very few. Allen started to show some visible signs of frustration as he started to skip at an alarming rate. Beltran kept the pressure high and shot his way to a 11-3 victory. 

Game three- Beltran kept his (injured) foot firmly on the pedal and jumped out to a 6-1 lead. Allen looked deflated. Beltran selected uncommon (for him) drive serves, which continued to improve as the match ticked on. Beltran may have benefited by his injury in some ways, forced to revert to kill or be killed methods. Beltran killed a ball between his legs from the back court to earn match point at 10-3. He finished the match with a soft lob serve to Allen’s backhand that garnered a weak return that Beltran put down for the match, 11-3. 

#4 Daniel De La Rosa v #12 Coby Iwaasa 11-6, 11-7, 11-5, 11-6

Game one-  Both players hit blistering drive serves to both sides of the court to start the match. Iwaasa took a one point lead at 4-3, working from his very fast, very consistent drive serves to the backhand side. The two stayed tight throughout the first half of the game, the difference maker being Iwaasa’s drive serve.  De La Rosa was having trouble returning some of Iwaasa’s drive jam serves, often returning them at waist height. Down 5-10, De La Rosa started to lob serve and found a point from a missed ceiling, ball but it was not long before Iwaasa was back in the service box to close out the game. Both athletes exhibited amazing physicality and, much to the delight of the fans, were able to extend rallies with acrobatic diving gets. Iwaasa however, dominated the young Mexican protégé on almost every aspect of play. 11-6, Iwaasa.

Game two- The two stayed very equal throughout the beginning of the second game. Iwaasa stayed aggressive, looking to cut off any and all balls headed towards the backwall. De La Rosa was able to regain some control in this game, maintaining a slight one-point edge. In this second game, the crowd enthusiastically responded, as the dynamics in the court were contagious. The fans were treated to some of the most exciting racquetball in recent memory, as each of the player’s athleticism was on full display. Murmurs in the crowd even stated that this was the best racquetball match they had ever seen. De La Rosa impressively read Iwaasa well and slowed down the momentum of the match. De La Rosa, the veteran on the court, used lob serves and off speed pinches to disrupt the Iwaasa style. De La Rosa won, 11-7.

Game three- De La Rosa continued his strategics into game three as he took a commanding 8-0 lead. De La Rosa was able to take all of Iwaasa’a hard passing shots and place them in the corner. Iwaasa stayed  aggressive and cut off the shots that he could while De La Rosa stayed patient, allowing the ball to drop to its lowest point before hitting. De La Rosa put faith in his lob serves for the entirety of the third game and it paid off as Iwaasa was forced to the ceiling or to hit chest high cut-offs. De La Rosa led the whole game, and at 10-5 served a lob along the glass that earned him a set-up he expertly put down into the left hand corner for the game, 11-5.

Game four-  De La Rosa stayed consistent and by leaving his feet almost every other rally managed to maintain center court. Both players worked hard for every point. Neither was able to amount a sizable lead. At 6-6 De La Rosa went on a run to 10. He was able to finish the match with a pinch kill, which was emblematic of the match. 11-6,  De La Rosa.

Round of 16:

11 a.m. Pacific:

#2 Kane Waselenchuk d #18 Jordy Alonso 11-1, 11-3, 11-0

#7 Marco Rojas d #10 Robert Collins 11-2, 11-6 11-3

#9 Tony Carson d #8 Charlie Pratt 12-10, 12-10, 11-0, 11-5

Tony Carson competed in his first Tier 1 tournament since November 2014. Last night he defeated Andres Acuna in the Round of 32s, and today Charlie Pratt. Pratt competed in front of his hometown crowd, giving them a tight two games to kick off the four-game match. 

#1 Rocky Carson d #16 Adam Manilla 11-2, 11-3, 12-10.

Adam Manilla, the 2015 USAR National Intercollegiate Singles and Doubles Champion (with partner, Nicholas Riffle) challenged the top seed to a 10-12 tiebreaker in the third, but Rocky Carson’s 11-2 and 11-3 wins in the first two games meant the IRT veteran would be moving on ahead. 

#6 Jansen Allen d #11 Tim Landeryou 11-0, 11-1, 11-1

#3 Alvaro Beltran d #14 Andrea Parrilla 11-4, 11-4, 6-11, 11-7

#4 Daniel De La Rosa d #13 Felipe Camacho 11-5, 11-7, 12-10

#12 Coby Iwaasa d #5 Jose Rojas 11-5, 11-6, 12-10

ProKennex Tournament of Champions: Champions Will Rise

By Tim Prigo

The ProKennex Tournament of Champions returns to Portland, Oregon May 14th -17th. Portland, located in the heart of the Northwest is a storied racquetball city. The thriving racquetball community enthusiastically and passionately supports its sport. One club stands above the rest in the middle of this epicenter: the Multnomah Athletic Club. “The Mac” as it’s known to Oregonians, will host the top-8 players in the world, the best amateur players in the region, juniors, and international athletes converge in a tournament that can be traced back to the invention of the sport.

In the late 60’s, Sports Illustrated featured the MAC ’s first-ever “Hands verse Racquets” tournament, featuring “The Father of Racquetball”, Bud Muehleisen, against top handball players. By the 80’s, the event had turned into a winner-take-all invitational where top professionals of the day, like Marty Hogan and Cliff Swain, faced off in racquetball prizefights that became instant classics. In the 90’s, the top-eight ranked players on the IRT and the local top-eight players would be allowed to enter the sixteen-man draw. Back and better than ever, the event returned with the 2013 ProKennex Tournament of Champions, the company with top champions going back to Marty Hogan prize fights to nine-time IRT champion, Kane Waselenchuk, today.

“The MAC club has always been a focus for racquetball events and has always hosted the greatest players of the era,” said Tournament Director Hank Marcus. “We wanted to restart the tradition in modern times.”

The event has a rich pedigree. Marcus and ProKennex President, Mike Martinez, partnered with the IRT to bring the racquetball world something unique. ProKennex, the title sponsor of the event for the third straight season, works all year to make sure this event happens. Joanna Reyes, National Director of Player Operations for ProKennex, takes the lead. “We market the event year round via our accounts, team and contacts. We bring in some of the top talented players in the world. This year we have a new addition to the TOC, the ProKennex Women’s Challenge in which Lucia Gonzalez, Mexico National Champion, will be competing.” Gonzalez will, in all likelihood, meet MAC member and National High School Champion, Lexi York, en route to the title. In addition to this, ProKennex will also unveil their new line of racquets, including Daniel de la Rosa’s new stick.

Elliott Saunders, who runs the tournament desk at the event, describes his job as high-stress, high-reward as he commands a full draw on the amateur side of play, allowing locals and top pros to mingle at the ten-court venue. “It feels like a national event, from the hospitality to the brewers and food. Based on experience, the bleachers will be packed and standing room full. I have had many people contact me from far away just to come watch the pros.”

The Multnomah Athletic Club is one of the premiere facilities in the country, not just the northwest. The two walled glass show court, #10, accommodates upwards of 700 onlookers for top pro matches. 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 Timber’s Providence Park field, which the club overlooks. Train lines run from the airport to the club’s front entrance. Shops, bars, restaurants and the city parks that Portland is renowned wait within walking distance of the courts.

Racquetball is alive and well in the Pacific Northwest, as the electric atmosphere those at the MAC’s historical tournament enjoy. Portland fans become the “third man on the court” and its elite players can 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,” explained nine-ranked IRT pro and Head Referee, Charlie Pratt. This however, is not altogether true as Pratt, a Portland native and MAC Club Pro, 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 ProKennex Tournament of Champions presented by Campbell Global will see the highly contested IRT 2014-2015 season wind down almost to its end. With Rocky Carson hanging onto a slim lead in the rankings over ProKennex’s reigning champion, Kane Waselenchuk, both players want to make a statement in one of the most legendary racquetball venues in the country. Intense completion paired with a historic club makes the MAC a favorite place to play. Pratt had this to say when asked about the tournament. “Put it this way, I have been to countless tournaments and hundreds of pro tournaments and aside from the US Open, Portland is the best IRT tournament in the world.”

By Tim Prigo

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.