The International Racquetball Tour (IRT) kicks off the second half of the 2010-2011 IRT season with the 2011 Coast to Coast California Open. Watch the pros live on IRT Network starting Friday, January 7th.
Click here to view the pro draw.
2011 Coast to Coast California IRT Open
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Rick Roussin, CEO, develops relationships in and around the courts the way the company builds its business – by interacting with people in a positive way while saving them money. Sponsoring last weekend’s Coast to Coast Open in Canoga Park, California was just an example. “I did this because I love the sport and want to promote it. It was a super positive experience,” said Roussin after the event. I can’t think of any other sport with people who are great athletes and you can get anywhere near them, let alone spend the weekend rubbing shoulders with the top ten players in the sport.”
“Our members love watching the pros,” said Tournament Director, Debbie Tisinger-Moore. With almost 300 people signed up in the draws, including the IRT and WPRO players, the Spectrum Club was lively all weekend. Anyone who has had the chance to attend a Tier 1 tournament knows how much fun the vibe can be. Fans had plenty of opportunity to enjoy all aspects of the game, whether chatting around the club, playing sponsor/pro doubles, or just watching from the stands.
The top seeds on the men’s side advanced to the semis, except for a couple of upsets including Alvaro Beltran, a finalists for the last two Tier 1 tournaments, including the 2010 US Open, who withdrew after suffering a back injury during the qualifiers and with the defeat of Mitch Williams by Charlie Pratt in the Round of 16’s.
During the first semifinal, #2 Rocky Carson brought a 14-2 record to his match against #3 Ben Croft, who didn’t seem to have his usual quick explosive step. It may have just been Carson’s constant switching up the speed and height of his serves between dominating center court that put Croft on the defensive and didn’t let him get into a groove. Either way, Carson took the first two games, 11-4 and 11-6.
Croft found more consistency, taking the offensive more quickly in the rally than his usual style, winning the third game 11-9. Down in the 4th with a score of 5-8, Croft lost two points after chalking up two technicals, bringing his score down to three. Although it could easily take the steam out of a player, his flat-roll out that followed showed he was still fighting as the match hit the two-hour mark. In the end, Carson won 11-7, taking the match.
Next, #1 Kane Waselenchuk faced #4 Jack Huczek, who looked sharp and crisp taking an early lead of 5-2. Waselenchuk showed why he’s the most dominating, and perhaps most frustrating player of all time, as he seemed to flip a switch to win the game 11-5 in about thirteen minutes. The next game saw Huczek continuing to play solidly, racking up 6-1 lead with a consistent backhand, forehand, and a deceptive drive serve that didn’t give Waselenchuk the chance to set up. Once again, however, Waselenchuk pulled away, winning 11-9.
Demonstrating how he does a great job of getting in front and blocking out his opponent before burying the ball, Waselenchuk reached a 10-3 lead before coming back on the court to win the game 11-3 and moving on to the finals.
Sunday saw Carson come out strong in the final, taking an early lead before Waselenchuk tied it up at 7-7. Eventually, they exchanged game point opportunities with Carson coming out ahead, 14-12 for game one. Waselenchuk’s 6-0 lead in the second game proved too much for Carson to overcome as he lost the second game 4-11. Game three saw Carson taking the early lead, but Waselenchk came back, eventually tying the score at six. Again, Waselenchuk walked away with the victory at 11-6 in game three and 11-1 in game four, taking the championship and bringing his winning streak to nineteen consecutive tournament wins.
2011 Coast to Coast Open Kicks Off Second Half of Season
It took a racquetball club annexing the adjacent roller skating rink to create a facility big enough to host the Coast to Coast California Open this weekend.
For the first time in about fifteen years, the WPRO will join the men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) and amateurs as over 270 entrants compete in the 20-court Spectrum Athletic Club, creating a buzz in the building that, in the past, has the locals hesitant to play their own games rather than watching the pros.
Picking between watching the pros and playing their own match can be quite a dilemma, especially for this round robin tournament, with age groups also skilled so it’s not a one and done. Players can plan when they can watch, however, since staff runs the mixed doubles on Friday night, singles on Saturday, and final rounds on Sunday. It also helps avoid unnecessary commutes.
Whether playing or watching, there will be plenty to do. There’s been a lot of movement in the rankings of the WPRO, with year-end rankings determine the seeding for each of the tour stops in the following year. Year-to-date rankings are unofficial, but the give a picture of how the race for #1 is progressing for the current season. With six events played in the first half of the season, the top ten ranked players are, starting with number 1, Rhonda Rajsich Paola Longoria, Samantha Salas, Kerri Wachtel, Cheryl Gudinas, Jen Saunders, Susy Acosta, Christie Huczek, Krystal Czuk and Adrienne Fisher.
“For some of the pros, like Jackie Paraiso and the IRT’s Rocky Carson, it’s like coming home. Rocky loves coming back to southern California. Watching superhuman player Kane Waselenchuk play is a big buzz around the court — that superhuman player.” Tisinger-Moore’s members have good reason to be excited, especially after watching the World Junior Championships. Tisinger-Moore likened it to bookends, with the pro stop on the other side.
by Jen Sinclair Johnson