The answer to large questions loomed going into the New Year and second half of the International Racquetball Tour 2014-2015 IRT season. Starting at the top of the ranks, fans wondered whether Kane Waselenchuk had conquered the inner ear issues that had kept him out of competition in order to reclaim his ranking, or whether Rocky Carson, who won four of the five tournaments Kane missed, would hold on to the lead he’d earned by the end of December’s ROLLOUT New Jersey Open. To all eyes, the answer was yes and maybe.
Waselenchuk returned to competition for January’s tier one tournaments, the New York Temperature Controls IRT ProAm and the Lewis Drug IRT ProAm in South Dakota (a “tier one plus” with pro doubles), sweeping the competition without dropping a game in singles, and ceding his Lewis Drug doubles title to the Carson/Alvaro Beltran team. It wasn’t enough.
By February, the IRT rankings, which are based on a rolling 12-month system, showed Waselenchuk earned 1000 points for his two first-place singles and second-place doubles finishes, while doubles champion and two-time singles runner-up, Carson, walked away with 750 points. Carson held on to first place by 72 points.
Beltran maintains a strong grip on the #3 slot after two quarterfinal finishes, bowing out to #7 Ben Croft in New York and South Dakota. Croft’s two semifinal singles appearances and a second place doubles finish (with Waselenchuk) propelled the #7-ranked pro up two ranking positions to #5 – smack in the middle of where the most turmoil lies.
Daniel De La Rosa and Jose Rojas have been battling for the #4 rank. The top-four spot is a big deal, as it keeps players out of the “flip”, facing a (presumably more beatable) opponent ranked #5-#8 in the quarters, instead of a top-four contender. De La Rosa defeated Rojas in a five-game quarterfinal in New York before Rojas returned the favor with a four-game win over De La Rosa in the Lewis Drugs quarterfinals. By the end of the month, De La Rosa held the #4 position, a mere 7 points ahead of #5 Croft while Rojas had slipped to #6 with a comfortable 614 point advantage over his younger brother, #7 Marco Rojas. Jansen Allen rounds out the top 8, although the coveted top-eight rankings will depend on how well and in how many events players like #9 Charlie Pratt and #10 Tony Carson compete. With 64-points between Allen and Pratt, and another 79-point difference between Pratt and Tony Carson, there’s a lot of season left to battle into the top-8 ranks.
Top-8 positioning allows players a bye through the qualifying rounds, saving energy for the 16s, which becomes even more critical as the second half of the season leads to the ProKennex Tournament of Champions, May 14-17, capping the 2014-2015 season at the Multnomah Athletic Club (MAC), 1849 SW Salmon Street in Portland, Oregon.