The professional racquetball season begins this weekend with the Outback Steakhouse Blast It tournament in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the first event of the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization's (WPRO) 2008-2009 season.
Rhonda Rajsich, the WPRO's #1 player, is the tournament's top seed. This summer was the worst of times and the best of times for Rajsich, as she was severely beaten near her home in California in early June. However, she made a speedy recovery to win her first World Championship at the International Racquetball Federation World Championships last month in Ireland.
Cheryl Gudinas Holmes is the second seed this weekend. She had three WPRO wins last season, second only to Rajsich's five, and was the runner up to Rajsich at last month's World Championships.
Rajsich is clearly the player to beat, yet she's not the defending champion. Last year Rajsich lost to Paola Longoria in the Fayetteville final. Perhaps stranger is that Longoria, who finished the season ranked as the WPRO's 6th ranked player, won't be in Fayetteville to defend her title.
Other players who won't be in North Carolina are the 5th ranked Kristen Bellows, and 9th ranked Christie Van Hees. There's no word on the reason for these absences.
But the WPRO's top four players will be there, as Kerri Wachtel and Angela Grisar, the 3rd and 4th ranked players respectively, will join Rajsich and Gudinas Holmes this weekend. While these players are the ones to beat, Longoria's victory last year shows that there's no certainty as to who'll come out on top.
That uncertainty is perhaps especially so as this is the first event of the season, so players may not be at peak performance yet. And those who played in Ireland last month - Rajsich, Gudinas Holmes, as well as Grisar, may show the effects of having little time off this summer.
All in all, it's sure to be an interesting event down in North Carolina.