Kane Waselenchuk 2014 UnitedHealthcare US Open Champion

UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Upsets Didn’t Topple Kane

Kane 310 385x480Racquetball’s original grand slam took on a Shootout-at-the-OK-Corral aura. At one end of dusty Main Street stands Kane Waselenchuk, reigning king of racquetball, the man everyone guns for. At the other end, a gang of hungry racquet slingers hope to make a name by knocking off the top draw. Could it be done? Not this time. #3 Alvaro Beltran and #1 Kane Waselenchuk put on a great show as Waselenchuk earned his 10th US OPEN title at the 2015 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships. Read the updates here, and watch live or archived matches on the IRTNetwork.com.

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2014 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships:

Match Recaps by Tim Landeryou

Kane Waselenchuk (#1) vs. Alvaro Beltran (#3) 11-6, 11-1, 11-6

If there were any man in the draw who might be in the same talent pool as the Champ, it was Alvaro, but his road to the final had been much tougher, having had a four game battle with #6 Chris Crowther, and hotly contested upset win against Rocky in the semis. Meanwhile, Kane had seemed near immortal in his dispatching of opposition thus far in the tournament. Not only had Kane not dropped a game; he hadn’t been challenged, giving up a total of only 31 points thus far in the entire tournament. To give some perspective, 31 points over the three matches (excluding his first round walkover) is an average of only 10 points per match, so each of Kane’s opponents averaged fewer points over three games than it takes to win one.

Game #1

Alvaro showed he came to play, starting with an ace to the left to start the match for 1-0. Kane responded with fantastic serving of his own, forcing weak returns and putting them away in the front to roar ahead 4-1. Beltran got the serve back and notched his second ace in as many points for 2-4 but couldn’t stop Kane’s offense as he kept mixing his serves kept marching ahead to an 8-3 lead before the Mexican called a timeout. Kane notched his ninth point after the break, which seemed to indicate the timeout had provided little advantage to Alvaro, but Beltran dug deep into his service bag, going on a point spree consisting of a crack ace to the right, an unreturned to the left, and a splat rollout from the back left corner to close to 6-9. A skipped splat attempt on the next rally by Beltran saw Kane get the serve back though, and he pushed a pass down the right side for his tenth and powered a cross court kill for his eleventh point to quickly erase any momentum Alvaro had built, taking the first game 11-6.

Game #2

Kane was nearly unstoppable to start the second game, hitting an ace to each side and 2 more unreturned serves, followed by a Beltran error to lead 5-0. Alvaro would notch a point of his own, as if to say “I’m still here!” but then it was back to the Kane show, with another ace and three more quick winners to lead 9-1 in a matter of minutes. Another winner for Kane gave him his first game point which Alvaro fought off with a forehand kill shot down the line, but Kane was not to be denied, killing Alvaro’s next drive serve down the line and notching another crack ace to the right side to take a very one-sided game 11-1.

Game #3

The third saw a much more even start than the first two, with Kane enjoying a slight edge after a ridiculous behind the back kill shot to go up 3-1. Alvaro responded with a between the legs kill shot of his own and another ace down the right side to tie at 3-3. A forehand kill shot down the line gave him the lead 4-3 and for the first time in the match, the play looked even, as opposed to what had been nothing short of complete dominance on the part of Kane thus far in the match. With the types of shots the Champ was forcing Beltran to make to win rallies though, you wondered how long the Mexican phenom could keep it up. Both players tightened up their games, trading serve several times without a point scored. After an awkward lunging get by Alvaro saw Kane put the ball away for a winner the Mexican, visibly limping, came off the court for in injury timeout. After having his left ankle taped, Alvaro returned to the court to continue the battle. Beltran again hung with Kane and even seemed to be getting the better of the exchanges after the break, notching two more points on splat kills from the right, one of which was off of a dive to go up 6-3. Kane, as if sensing that the game he had played thus far was no longer good enough, simply put it into the next gear, hitting a kill down the right side, forcing a diving skip error from Alvaro and tied up the game with a 39 and 3/4ft splat kill that didn’t look possible. Visibly shaken, Alvaro called a timeout to try and come up with a strategy, although what this might be you could only guess. Kane continued to roll after the break, killing a forehand down the line, then forced another diving skip from Beltran with a great pass to go up 8-6. Another forehand splat kill seemed to foreshadow the end of the match, as referee Charlie Pratt called no hinder for Alvaro during the front exchange which followed and Kane put the match away with perfect pass down the right side on his first opportunity to take a record setting, though routine looking, 10th US Open title in three straight games 11-6.

IRT UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball SEMIFINALS

The #2 and #3 players on the IRT have had many battles over the years and while seeing a matchup happen many times over the course of several seasons can contribute to a stagnant effort, these two great players never seem to disappoint in the excitement department.

Alvaro Beltran (#3) d. Rocky Carson (#2) 8-11, 11-8, 12-10, 2-11, 11-4

Game #1

Rocky came out firing his drive serve and playing aggressively to take the early lead 2-0. Alvaro got the serve back and hit solid drives of his own to the left to tie 2-2. Both players were playing consistently and conservatively, until Alvaro made two unforced errors to give Carson the lead 4-2. Play tightened from here, as Beltran reduced his errors and Carson continued to play patiently, which resulted in the players trading points until 5-4 Carson. Another two Alvaro errors though, allowed Rocky to open up another lead of 7-4, which prompted a Beltran timeout. The best rally of the game occurred after the break, which saw Alvaro dive 6 consecutive times as Carson sent him to all four corners of the court before finally hitting a loose pass which allowed Beltran to go on the offensive. Two shots later though, an exhausted Beltran left his touch pinch a bit to high in the front and Carson dove to push it into the back court for a winner. Carson was able to capitalize on the tired Mexican with a winner into the front corner on the next point, which extended his lead to 8-4. Alvaro dug in and held Carson there, and they exchanged serve several times with neither player giving up a point. Looking to change the momentum that had begun to shift the Mexican’s way, Carson called a timeout with the score still 8-4. After the break though, it was Beltran that came out swinging, getting the serve back and hitting a crack ace to the right and then getting a skip error from Rocky to close to 6-8. Rocky regrouped, retook the serve and rolled a 39ft deep backhand splat from his shoulders for 9-6, followed by an ace of his own to the right for 10-6. Alvaro responded by getting the serve back and hitting 2 backhand splat winners from the backcourt for 8-10. Rocky would need two opportunities, but closed out the hotly contested first game 11-8 on a forehand rekill crosscourt.

Game #2

The second game began with Alvi dictating play, either hitting a winner or making an error, the one error from Carson difference as Alvi led 4-3. Players traded point for point, error for error and winner for winner through the mid point of the game. An encroachment call that gave Alvi the lead at 7-6 seemed to fire up Carson, who got the serve back and promptly took the initiative with a winner of his own from the back court to tie at 7-7. Another long rally saw Beltran make another error to give Carson the lead 8-7. After several changes of serve with no change, Beltran called a timeout. The timeout proved beneficial as Alvaro killed Carson’s ceiling ball down the backhand line for 8-8 and forced a skip error from Rocky on the next serve to take the lead. Another long rally with both players hitting great angle passes and jockeying for position saw Alvi take the advantage, pulling Carson wide to the right side and putting the next ball down the left to lead 10-8. Another backhand winner down the line from the deep court gave Beltran his 11th point and leveled the match at one game each 11-8.

The third game saw Alvi dictating play much as he had at the start of the second, the difference being that he was on the wrong end of the +/- this time, with 2 extra error giving Carson lead 3-1. Rocky, sensing an opportunity to take hold of the game, forced the action and unfortunately it didn’t work out for him, notching 3 errors in the next 4 points and allowing Alvaro to tie 4-4. Another Carson error and a between the legs killshot from Alvaro gave him the lead 6-4 before Rocky went back to playing more patiently. A couple of Beltran errors got him back in the game at 6-6 and the players traded the next two points for 7-7. Beltran called a timeout but it seemed to help Carson more than him, as he skipped 2 balls after the break to give Carson a 9-7 lead. Several changes of serve ensued, including a fantastic rally, which saw both players dive back to back before Carson finally killed the backhand down the line to get the serve back. Wanting to create some momentum Carson called a timeout to regroup. Much like Alvaro’s timeout earlier, the break seemed to favour the person not calling it and Alvaro notched two quick winners to tie 9-9. Carson would get the first opportunity at the game but Alvaro rolled the forehand to get the serve back, and made another fantastic 39ft backhand pinch kill to tie at 10-10.  A skipped serve return from Carson gave Alvi the first opportunity and he made it count killing his forehand down the line to take the game 12-10.

Beltran struggled with his consistency again at the start of the 4th game; notching 3 skipped backhand splat attempts to give Carson a 4-1 lead. Rocky took it to Alvaro, moving him around. A winning cross court pass by Rocky followed by another skipped pinch attempt by Alvi lengthened the lead to 6-1 and prompted a timeout from the Mexican. The break allowed him to regroup hitting a backhand splat kill and a forehand splat kill to get his second point of the game. Unfortunately it wouldn’t solve his problems, as Carson got the serve back, notching a backhand splat kill of his own, followed by a wallpaper pass down the left side and a forehand crosscourt kill to extend his lead to 9-2. Alvaro didn’t have an answer to Carson’s near perfect drive Z serves to the backhand, and Rocky would notch two more winners on his way to a routine looking game 11-2.

Carson came out with the momentum in the tiebreaker, notching two quick pass winners to open the scoring. Alvaro dug deep though and found the range on his backhand, hitting two splat winners and a perfect splat down the left side for 3-2. Another two splat winners, combined with a Carson skip extended his lead to 6-2 and a frustrated Rocky called a timeout. The break unfortunately didn’t favour Carson, as Alvaro came back after it with a splat winner on each side to extend the lead to 8-2. Rocky would get the serve back to make it 3-8 but Alvaro was not to be denied, matching every one of Carson’s great passes with soft pinch kills into the front.  The serve changed many times, with both players showing that they wanted the win more than the other. Carson would score first to make it 9-4, but Alvaro notched another two backhand splat winners for his first match point at 10-4. Just like at 9-3, the service exchanged several times again with Rocky doing everything he could to claw his way back into the game, but Alvaro had the answer at every turn and wouldn’t’ be denied. While it took 5 times in the service box to do so, Beltran eventually scored his 11th point off of a rare Carson error to take the match 11-4.

Kane Waselenchuk (#1) d. Alejandro Landa (#13)  11-4, 11-2, 11-2

It would be extremely difficult to predict a Kane loss in the second semifinal, let alone to a player outside the top 8 on the IRT, but Landa had produced nothing but surprises and exceptional racquetball thus far in the tournament, so the house was packed with racquetball fans looking forward to another fantastic show from both these players and you could tell there were more than a few in the house that held onto hope that Landa’s Cinderella racquetball story at this year’s US Open might continue for just a bit longer.

Game #1

Both players came out firing in the first, fighting to assert their will on the outcome of the match, and the young Mexican hung with the champ, making 2 diving gets in one rally before forcing an error and notching a winner of his own down the right side to lead 2-1. Back in the box, Kane hit an ace down the left side to tie at 2-2 and then took control. Pushing Landa around the court, seemingly able to put the ball away in the frontcourt at will while Landa struggled to stay in the rally. At 2-6 Landa called a timeout but it didn’t stem the flow of points as Kane extended his lead to 9-2. Landa settled in a bit, making two pinch winners into the left side to get to 4-9 but that’s as close as he would get, as the champ took back the serve, scoring two quick points to take the first game 11-4.

Game #2

Kane was a wrecking ball personified in the second game, with Alex having to hit perfect shots while running or diving just to win a rally. Kane didn’t hit any aces early, but was getting setup returns from Landa almost every time and putting them away. It was 7-2 before it felt like the game had started which is what likely caused Landa to call a timeout.  Kane came back after the break to hit another straight ace down the left side after which Alex settled in a bit and began making some winners of his own, but still couldn’t score on the serve as Kane was putting away every loose ball that he saw. After a great rally, which saw Alex narrowly skip a running forehand in the frontcourt to give the champ his tenth point, Kane finished the game with another crack ace to the left side to take the second 11-2.

Game #3

Alex came out strong in the third game, notching another crack ace to the right, followed by a forehand winner to lead 2-0. Kane meanwhile came out more relaxed, hitting second serve lobs instead of drives that Alex was able to be more aggressive with. Alex struggled to score on his serve as Kane settled back into his return game, hitting a winner on every serve that Landa didn’t crack out. Kane went back to the drive and opened up the lead 6-2 and never looked back. It was all Landa could do to get back in the service box and every loose ball Alex hit seemed to be Kane’s last meal as he gobbled them up with hard straight kills or deft touch shots into the front for winners. Landa was visibly deflated as Kane killed the last setup off the back wall with a pinch winner for the game and match 11-2.

IRT UnitedHealthcare US OPEN QUARTERFINALS

Kane Waselenchuk (#1) d. Tony Carson (#8) 11-5, 11-5, 11-2 

Game #1

Kane’s dominance on the racquetball court is something often discussed but, as hyperbolic as it may sound, is still something to see in person. Tony Carson is a great player, with incredible speed and great hands, but he still didn’t have an answer for Kane’s impeccable serving. When he was able to get in the box, his straight drives to Kane’s backhand were proving moderately effective, but he still found himself down 6-2, and then 8-5 after 2 crack aces from Kane to the left in a row. A timeout wouldn’t help, as Kane notched another 2 crack aces after coming back in and took the first game with a forehand pinch kill into the front 11-5.

Game #2

The second began much the same as the first, although Kane seemed more relaxed, working straight, jam, and Z serves and waiting for Tony’s response before promptly putting it away. Carson was still able to score a few points when he put in perfect serves to the right side, but Kane quickly grabbed a 5 point lead which he wouldn’t relinquish, running out to take the second game 11-5 as well.

Game #3

Tony brought everything he had to start the 3rd game, chasing down exceptionally hit pinches and passes from the champ, but Kane was just too good, cracking his first two serves and building a lead off of a ridiculous behind the back retrieval to 5-2. Tony was able to get the serve back a few times, but was unable to score, as Kane had made the adjustment to the straight drive serve Tony had been hitting in the first two games and was putting the returns away consistently. Unable to score points, it was only a matter of time until Kane eventually took the game and the match 11-2.

Alejandro Landa (#13) d. Daniel De La Rosa (#5) 11-2, 11-8, 11-6

Landa’s upset victory against #4 seed Jose Rojas in the round of 16 must certainly have added to his confidence in his ability to make his first ever IRT semi-final. Any nerves the Mexican might have been feeling were certainly belied by his relaxed and cool demeanor as he entered the court for the warmup.

Game #1

This calm demeanor must have been hiding an intense focus though. As he and De La Rosa exchanged serves and points early in the first game, Landa was getting the better of the exchanges and pulled out to a 5-2 lead. Both players seemed to have a similar strategy, mixing straight drive serves to the left side for their first serve and a high straight lob to the right side as their second. Landa’s focus intensified as he tightened up his shots through the midpoint of the game, hitting powerful serves and passes which put his younger compatriot off balance and on the defensive. De La Rosa didn’t seem to have an answer for anything Landa threw at him and conceded the next several points and eventually the game, before he ever got into it 11-2.

Game #2

The second game saw Landa come out firing again, hitting two killshot winners to go up 2-0. He struggled with his drive serve for the next several points, which allowed Daniel to get his footing in the game, increasing his aggressiveness to respond to Landa’s excellent play and tie at 3-3. Landa found his serve range again though, showing off his offensive skills with two routine winners off of weak drive serve returns, and his defensive skills during a fantastic rally comprised of 3 diving gets before finally hitting a winner, the sum of which put him at a 6-3 lead, before Rosa would call a time out. The timeout proved fruitful, as Daniel’s server return cracked out, which he followed up with 2 points of his own to close the lead to 1 point 5-6. Several more service changes saw no points scored as both players tightened up their games, not giving away any easy points. Landa, becoming frustrated with his lack of progress, eventually called a timeout in an effort to shake things up. His timeout proved not as fruitful as De La Rosa’s, as the younger Mexican scored another point after the break to level the game at 6-6. Landa would get the serve back though and score two points off of great drive serves. When Daniel got the serve back at 6-8, he changed serving strategies, electing to hit a half lob to Landa’s backhand, which proved to be the change he needed, producing two loose shots from his opponent before Landa made the adjustment and hit a winner on the third attempt. Landa’s drive serve was again the answer to his woes, as two solid drives to the left followed by easy winners and a crack drive to the right allowed him to hold off De La Rosa and finish the game 11-8.

Game #3

The third game was the tightest start of the match, with both players reaching deep for their best games and showing that they were exceptionally even. Several changes of serve were required before a mistake was made for a point on either side. De La Rosa showed signs of frustration at 3-3 not being able to score which led to a couple of errors, giving the lead to Landa 5-3 and then 6-4. Landa put several phenomenal serves together, which Rosa simply couldn’t do anything with but get back in play, extending his lead to 9-4. Daniel regrouped to get the serve back and put in a few great drives of his own for 6-9, but that’s all he would be able to do as 2 more great drives, including a crack to the right for match ball gave the game to Landa 11-6 and ended the match.

Alvaro Beltran (#3) d. Chris Crowther (#6) 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8

Crowther, while not completely deflated, definitely showed telling signs of the battles he already fought to make it to the quarterfinals of the 2014 US Open. Two extremely physical 5-game matches the previous day, including a thrilling 12-10 tiebreaker win against #11 seed Charlie Pratt, saw the normally herculean “Crippler” look remarkably human and low-energy in the warm up.  The cool as cucumber and smooth as butter Beltran by comparison looked almost energetic.

Game #1

Both players would come out calm and collected, being very strategic and patient with their shot selection. Nearly no errors were made in the first portion of the game, but Alvaro had a decided advantage with the winners, creeping slowly ahead to lead 6-2 before Crowther called a timeout. The break didn’t seem to help the Crippler though, as Alvaro heated up his drive serve, going on a spree, lead to 9-2, then 10-3. Oddly, this run seemed to motivate Crowther, who got the serve back and began a serving spree of his own. He would almost get back to even at 8-10 before Alvaro finally got the serve back and made a fantastic backhand pinch winner to take the game 11-8.

Game #2

The second game saw Crowther hold onto the momentum he had begun to build in the first, blasting straight drives and putting away the returns for a 4-1 lead. Alvaro would get a couple of points back but his errors took the spotlight after that, as Crowther would keep chipping away, alternating between splat winners of his and errors from Alvaro to lead 9-3. Alvaro finally righted the ship, getting the serve back and putting a few winners of his own together to get back to 6-9 before Crowther called a timeout in an effort to stymie his opponent’s progress. Another winner after the break though put Alvaro almost back to even, but this was quickly followed by another unforced error from midcourt on the next point to give Crowther the serve back. There were multiple service changes following this error though, which seemed to indicate Alvaro was finding his range again, but Crowther continued to push the pace and was the first to score another point for 10-7 off of yet another Beltran error. The last point was a hectic one, which saw great passes and a front court exchange, with Crowther finally pushing a rekill cross court off of a left up Alvaro splat for the win 11-7.

Game #3

The third game began much more contested than the first two, with neither player seeming to have a clear advantage or strategic edge. Alvaro played more patiently, than he had been of late, reducing his errors, and Crowther also seemed content to stick with a less aggressive passing strategy rather than go for clear winners as he had near the end of the previous game. He also seemed to be moving better, as if the first two games had finally warmed and loosened up his stiff legs. Alvaro seemed to turn the momentum his way with a diving get followed by a pass hit from his knees for a winner to take the lead 5-4. Another point after a lengthy rally for a two point lead brought upon a Crowther timeout at 6-4. The timeout seemed to be the break Crowther needed as he quickly tied the game after returning at 6-6. From there though Alvaro took control, lengthening the rallies and using solid passes to move Crowther around, pushing him out of position before hitting his winners. Crowther would get the serve back a couple of times but couldn’t seem to score. Alvaro would finish in dramatic fashion with a diving backhand rekill to take the 3rd game 11-6.

Game #4

The 4th game started as evenly as the third, with many changes of serve but only a point for each player to show for their efforts after 10 minutes on court. Alvaro, somewhat frustrated with the lack of point production, found another gear on his drive serve, catching Crowther off guard with a straight bullet to the left, followed by a great Z to the right. An ace straight down the right would give Beltran a 4-1 lead and prompted a timeout from Crowther. The next point was a heartbreaker for Crowther, as he hit two great jamming passes which forced Alvaro to hit the ball between his legs both times just to keep it in play. Crowther pinched the setup that followed into the front court, but left it just a bit too high, and Alvaro was able to get just enough of his frame to the ball to rekill it in the front for a winner. Crowther, irritated by this act of the racquetball gods, used this as motivation and responded, getting the serve back and hitting 3 fantastic serves in a row, 2 to the left and one to the right, of which Alvaro only got 2 back in play to close the lead to just one point. From there it was a very even battle, as Alvaro would score 1-2 points, relinquish the serve, and allow Crowther to close the lead. At 9-8 though, the Mexican veteran seized his opportunity with a diving forehand pass winner for his 10th and a diving backhand kill shot on the following rally for his 11th point, ending the 4th game in even more dramatic a fashion than the 3rd and taking the match in 4 games 11-8.

Rocky Carson (#2) d. Ben Croft (#7) 7-11, 9-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-5

In what must have been the, or at least one of the, most hotly anticipated matchups of the quarterfinals, the inhumanly speedy and reputably villainous Ben Croft was set to match up against the athletic and decorated “Golden Boy of Racquetball” Rocky Carson.

Game #1

Keeping with his reputation, Croft came out firing on all cylinders, hitting great cracking drive serves to Rocky’s forehand and near-rolling three 39ft splats on the backhand to roar out to a 5-0 lead. Rocky adjusted, got back in the serve box, and began to score points of his own, primarily off of drive serves to Ben’s backhand. Electing for a more passive strategy, Carson forced Croft to shoot from high and deep on the backhand, which produced errors and allowed Carson to close the scoring gap to 8-6, at which point Croft elected to call a timeout. Rocky came back after the break with his patented drive Z left which Croft was struggling with and scored another point for 8-7. Croft got the serve back though and put in 3 of his best serves of the game, the final shot a perfect backhand pass past Rocky for the game 11-7.

Game #2

The second game saw a serious shift in momentum, as it was Carson who came out the aggressor, hitting laser beam drive serves and following with winners off of Croft’s loose returns. It was 5-1 before long and while Croft was able to get serving opportunities, he was serving more often to Carson’s backhand and not having nearly the success he had enjoyed in the first when he had been picking more on the forehand side. He would toss off his eyeguards and throw his racquet in disgust after finally calling a timeout at 8-3 Carson.  The break unfortunately didn’t seem to help Croft, as Carson looked poised to take the game easily, scoring another point for 9-3 after coming back in. The momentum shifted though as Ben dug in, scrapping through the next couple of rallies to get to 5-9. A frustrated Carson skipped 2 more balls before calling a time out of his own at 7-9. Seemingly spurred on by Carson’s frustration, Croft tightened his grip on the momentum of the game, putting in 2 of his best straight drive serves to the right so far in the match to get to 9-9. A straight serve to the right which Carson had a beat on saw croft step over and flat roll the forehand splat off of Rocky’s well hit pass for 10-9, and he would finish the comeback with a forehand pass down the right side to beat Rocky and take a 2 game lead in the match 11-9.

Game #3

The third game began with a lot of anticipation and both players didn’t disappoint, bringing their best shots and diving gets thus far in the match. While the exchanges seemed extremely even, Rocky came out with small advantages at each stage, and made a mile out of inches to lead 5-1. Not one to give up, Croft pushed back and frustratingly for Carson, found 4 great serves to level the game at 5 in 1 minute, erasing Carson’s lead built over the previous 10. Croft continued his impeccable serving, and while Rocky was getting into the rally most of the time, he struggled with his opportunities to end rallies, allowing Croft to build a lead to 9-5. Carson to his credit dug back in and started chipping away, and closed the lead to 7-9. Ben scored for 10 and couldn’t score on two match points before Rocky eventually scored again, closing the lead to 9-10. Carson would fight off another 4 match points against a visibly tight Croft before finally scoring a point on his 7th opportunity to tie the game at 10. He would bring the confidence into the next two points, taking them and the game 12-10.

Game #4

The 4th game began with Rocky taking an early lead on the back of sharp serving and a still visibly frustrated Croft, who may have been mentally unhinged after allowing so many match points to slip away in the third game. At 1-4 down though, Croft regrouped and began to fight back, digging in with some great straight drives of his own to both sides and tying the game up at 5-5. Rocky continued to be the calmer of the two though, which seemed to aid in him having a slight edge and Croft would finally call a timeout at 7-8. After getting back both players seemed intent on grinding out the game, but it was Rocky who would get the better of the exchanges, and one point at a time, chipped away until he finally served for the 4th game at 10-7, following a long point which saw an irate croft smash his racquet in frustration. This didn’t result in an intensified focus on Ben’s part though, and after a short break to change racquets, Rocky would put Croft’s serve return away for the last point and level the match at 2 games each 11-7.

Game #5

Ben, still visibly frustrated, started the 5th game a step slower than he had earlier in the match and Carson took full advantage. After Rocky’s third straight point on the back of one of the matches longer rallies, Croft came up after diving with a visible limp. It was perhaps the most disappointing and heartbreaking part of the match, as Croft simply didn’t look the same after that. Carson played patiently, moving the obviously injured croft around the court as much as possible before going for the winner. The strategy was working exceptionally well and Carson roared ahead to a 9-1 lead. Showing that he still had some heart left in the tank, if nothing else, Croft got the serve back and threw in 4 of his best drives in the match followed by killed pinches into the front court and, for a brief moment, it looked like he might be able to pull off a similar comeback to the one he performed in the 2nd game. It was not to be, however, as he couldn’t hit the near aces every serve, and Rocky recovered the serve, keeping with a similar passing strategy, and took the next two points and the match, capping off an exceptional 2-0 comeback and defending 6 match points in the 3rd game to take the match in a tiebreaker.

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #13 Alejandro Landa 11-2, 11-8, 11-6

The upset maker couldn’t put together the biggest upset of his career, falling in three games.

Men’s Pro Doubles Quarterfinal Round

#4 Jose Rojas’ loss to #13 Alejandro Landa was the only upset in the Round of 16 men’s singles pro draw. An injury marred the first quarterfinal pro doubles match, forcing #5 seed Jansen Allen/Tony Carson to forfeit to #4 Alejandro Landa/Chris Crowther. The top seeds in pro doubles advance to the semis Friday starting at 6:10 PM.

#5 Alenjandro Landa/Crhis Crowther d #5 Jansen Allen/Tony Carson 4-4, WBFInjury

#3 Daniel De La Rosa/Jose Rojas d #6 Jose Diaz/Marco Rojas 13-15, 15-10, 11-0

#2 Alvaro Beltra/Rocky Carson d #7 Charlie Pratt /Sebastian Franco 15-14, 15-4

#1 Ben Croft/Kane Waselenchuk v #8 Cliff Swain/Mike Green 15-8, 15-3

Round of 16 Men’s Singles

In the biggest upset of the tournament and the first match of the Round of 16, #13 Alejandro Landa defeated #4 Jose Rojas, forcing the higher-ranked pro into a diving exhibition that may have lead to a cramping knee injury leaving him laying on the court after rallies, including the match-ending 11th point. Landa will face #5 Daniel De La Rosa in the first match of the IRT Quarterfinal round on Friday, 11 AM CDT.  

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d Cliff Swain 11-5, 11-4, 11-2

#8 Tony Carson d #9 Jansen Allen 11-3, 9-11, 4-11, 11-9, 13-11

#5 Daniel De La Rosa d. #12 Jose Diaz 11-6, 11-7, 12-10

#13 Alejandro Landa d #4 Jose Rojas 3-11, 11-9, 14-12, 6-11, 11-4

#3 Alvaro Beltran d David Horn 11-9, 11-3, 12-10

#6 Chris Crowther d. #11 Charlie Pratt 11-8, 9-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-9

#7 Ben Croft  d #10 Marco Rojas 11-15, 11-3, 11-8

#2 Rocky Carson d #18 Danny Lavely 11-2, 11-1, 11-7

Men’s Single Round of 32 

Samuel Murray’s upset win against the #1 seed in the Qualifying Draw, Alex Ackermann, earned Murray the 17th Qualifying slot in the Round of 32, where he fell against former #1 and 13th seed, Cliff Swain. Other upsets include David Horn’s defeat against #14 Seed, Thomas Fuhrmann and #18 Danny Lavely who beat # 15 Hiroshi Shimizu. #1 Kane Waselenchuk’s match turned into a 20-minute warm-up after fellow Canadian, Mike Green forfeited. 

After the IRT Singles Main Draw was set, the seriously fun competition in pro/am doubles raised over $10,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and JDRF. Into the evening the qualifying round of the first IRT pro doubles hit the US OPEN made-for-TV Stadium Courts

#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #32 Mike Green WBF – No Show

# 16 Cliff Swain d. #17 Samuel Murray 11- 9, 11-4, 11-8 

#9 Jansen Allen v. Andree Parrilla

#8 Tony Carson d #25 Coby Iwaasa 11-9, 11-5, 11-2

#5 Daniel De La Rosa d. Felipe Camacho 11-4, 11-2, 11-4

#12 Jose Diaz d. #21 Taylor Knoth, 11-4, 4-11, 12-10, 11-3

#13 Alejandro Landa d. #20 Matthew Majxner, 11-9, 11-1, 11-5

#4 Jose Rojas v. #29 Polo Gutierrez 4-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-7

#3 Alvaro Beltran d. #30 Fernando Rios, 11-2, 11-9, 4-11, 11-8

#19 David Horn d. #14 Thomas Fuhrmann, 11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 11-7

#11 Charlie Pratt d. #22 Javier Moreno, 11-7, 11-8, 11-2

# 6 Chris Crowther d. #27 Jake Bredenbeck10-12, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9

#7 Ben Croft v. #26 Alejandro Herrera 3-11, 11-1, 11-5, 11-5

#10 Marco Rojas v. #23 Thomas Carter 11-5, 11-1, 8-11, 11-3

#18 Danny Lavely d # 15 Hiroshi Shimizu 11-4, 11-6, 7-11, 11-5

# 2 Rocky Carson d. #31 Sebastian Franco 11-4, 11-1, 11-3

Wednesday: IRT Men’s Pro Qualifying Draw 

Over 700 competitors in four clubs took to the courts Wednesday for the 2014 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Racquetball Championships, as Lifetime Fitness Target Center showcased the pro qualifying rounds on the Stadium Court. After #33-seed Samuel Murray defeated #1-seed Alex Ackermann to claim the #1 qualifying spot in the main pro draw of the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), amateurs and pros started warming up for the Pro-Am Doubles competition, raising over $10,000 to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Afterwards, for the first US OPEN IRT Pro Doubles Qualifying Round hit the Courts. Watch Live on the IRTNetwork.com

Top Draws Shoot for 2014 UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Championships

By Don Grigas

Racquetball’s original grand slam took on a Shootout-at-the-OK-Corral aura. At one end of dusty Main Street stands Kane Waselenchuk, reigning king of racquetball, the man everyone guns for. At the other end, a gang of hungry racquet slingers hope to make a name by knocking off the top draw. Can it be done?

Unseating “King Kane” while he is at the top of his game will be no easy task. The current number one-ranked player on the International Racquetball Tour has put together an impressive run over the last decade, winning nine US OPEN titles and dominating the professional Tour as no one has before (Sudsy Monchik ranks second in number of US OPEN titles with four).

King Kane is a dynasty unto himself, and has already bolted out of the starting gate of the 2014-15 IRT season, winning his namesake Krowning Moment Pro Invitational and the Bobcat Open in Texas on September 21 and taking top prize the next weekend in the more recent Novasors Kansas City Open the following weekend. He defeated Rocky Carson in the finals of each tournament, losing only one of seven finals’ games. Waselenchuk didn’t lose a game in all six of his preliminary matches in both tournaments, giving up a total of only 53 total points in 18 games, an average of slightly less than three points per game.

Waselenchuk shows no signs of losing his edge any time in the near future according to Sudsy Monchik, 4-time US Open champion and five-time number one-ranked professional. “I see him winning the US OPEN again this year,” Monchik said in a recent interview. “He is beating everyone, and he seems to be doing it easier every year.”

So who today can challenge the supremacy of King Kane? 

The King

Waselenchuk doesn’t just win, he smothers the competition. To review his string of accomplishments over the years would be redundant, but a peek at his last three U.S. Open championships givers an accurate snapshot of his recent dominance – and the gap that separates the rest of the field from King Kane. In each of the last three U.S. Open tournaments King Kane has beaten his closest challenger, Rocky Carson, in decisive fashion. Last year it was a three-game sweep by scores 11-9, 11-1 and 11-6. In 2012 it was another three-game sweep by scores of 11-8, 11-5 and 11-5. In 2011 Rocky was able to break through by winning one of the four finals’ games, with King Kane winning the final three games 11-2, 11-4 and 11-7 after Rocky won the opening game 11-7.

“Are there players out there who can win a game against Kane now and then?” asked Monchik. “Sure,” he answered. But right now Kane is so confident that he feels no one can beat him (three out of five). When a player is that dominant it also adds to the pressure opponents feel because they know they can’t make any mistakes against him. It has a snowball effect. I see Kane winning another US Open. Not that there aren’t other pros out there who can hit the same kill shots and are in great physical condition. But in order to beat Kane it will require a near flawless match, the ability to kill shots when the opportunity arises and not just hitting shots that extend the rallies. Right now, Kane dictates the pace, he dictates everything he wants on the court.” 

“When a player dominates the way Kane is doing, everyone – even the players – have a mindset that everyone else is playing for second,” said Monchik.

Next in Line?

Rocky Carson would seem to be the player with the best chance of scoring a win in the finals over Kane. Rocky is the one who consistently gets to the finals against King Kane, and also has been dominant in U.S. Open championships in recent years – except when it comes to the finals. An occasional game victory over King Kane shows Carson has the ability to win, but not the necessary three games to earn a title.

The Field

Players like Alvaro Beltran, Ben Croft, Jose Rojas, Tony Carson and Chris Crowther are all familiar names who are capable of making it into the semifinals or finals. At some point one of the challengers may play flawless racquetball and press King Kane to the limit, but the question remains: when?

“I think the player who eventually will close that gap, who will develop the skills to challenge Kane, is not even on the tour yet,” Monchik said. “I think Kane can stay on top until he retires.”

While many eyes will be riveted to the men’s professional bracket, the U.S. Open also brings together an eclectic array of stars from the entire racquetball galaxy. The tournament includes the top players from the Ladies’ Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT), the Classic Pro Racquetball Tour (CPRT) and more than 700 amateur players competing in dozens of divisions at Life Time Fitness in Minneapolis from Oct. 8-12. You can read more about the activities offered during the event on the US OPEN website (http://www.unitedhealthcareusopen.com).

The women’s professional bracket could result in a rematch somewhere along the way between current top-ranked Paolo Longoria and her arch-rival, Rhonda Rajsich. The two have squared off in the finals of the last five US OPEN tournaments, with Longoria winning most recently in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Rajsich won the title in 2009 and 2010 by defeating Longoria, and also took top honors in 2007 defeating Cheryl Gudinas in the finals. Longoria won the title in 2008, also beating Gudinas in the championship match. Samantha Salas, a US OPEN semifinalist each of the last four years, also has to be considered a threat to make the finals, if not come away with the brass ring.

The Classic Professional Racquetball bracket for men over 40 years of age will include the likes of Jimmy Lowe, former age group national champion, Keith Minor and Doug Ganim. All are registered to play as of press time, and the draw is expected to expand to include other top “vintage” players from throughout the country. This year a new wrinkle has been added to the tournament: professional doubles for both men and women, each division offering prize money.

For updates during the event, log on to the IRT-Tour.com website for the men’s pro draw and follow us on Facebook for photos, video, and posts during the event. https://www.facebook.com/IRTfan?ref=bookmarks