Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend Round Up

You were right again, dear readers. You correctly picked Kane Waselenchuk to win the International Racquetball Tour's (IRT's) Kansas City Open and Rhonda Rajsich to win the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization's (WPRO's) Mexico Open.

We here at The Racquetball Blog weren't quite as accurate. Although we did pick Rajsich to win in Tijuana, we had Rocky Carson winning in Kansas City. At least, our picks don't seem to be a complete media curse on players.

The men are in action again this week in Bowling Green, Kentucky for the Kentucky Open. It's their third of four tournaments in a row, so fatigue and injuries may start to take their toll. Jason Mannino certainly seemed to be hurting in his semi-final match on Saturday against Jack Huczek in Kansas.

You can pick who you think is going to win the Kentucky Open by clicking on a response in our poll at the right side of the blog. It's a voting season here in North America with elections in the United States and Canada, so you can get some voting practice in here at The Racquetball Blog.

International numbers are up

Last week, we noted that there were seven international (i.e., non-American) players in the Round of 16 in Kansas, and suggested that may be the most there's ever been. It wasn't. In fact, it's the second consecutive year that the Kansas event has had seven internationals in the Round of 16, which is the second most ever at an IRT event. The most internationals in the Round of 16 was eight at last season's San Diego event.

The trend for internationals in the main draw (Round of 16 and beyond) has been upward.

Season - Mean Number of Internationals in Round of 16

2003/04 - 3.46
2004/05 - 4.00
2005/06 - 4.00
2006/07 - 4.46
2007/08 - 5.71

In two tournaments this season there have been five and seven internationals in the main draw for a mean of 6.00, which would continue the upward trend.

The players most often represented by these statistics are those internationals ranked in the top 8, as they are seeded into the main draw. During this period, Alvaro Beltran of Mexico and Kane Waselenchuk of Canada are the two players most often in the top 8.

Of course, Waselenchuk was suspended for the last two seasons of this period, yet the international numbers continued to increase. Those in Europe may be saying "yeah, but those internationals are mostly other Americans, not truly international." This is correct.

The only player from outside the Americas to reach a main draw during the five seasons in question is Hiroshi Shimizu from Japan. He's been in the Round of 16 several times, but hasn't reached the quarter finals.

For its part, the IRT does include tournaments abroad as satellite events, so players in Europe and Asia can get IRT ranking points. Yet few players from the main tour go to those events and few from those events come to the main tour.

The top 8 players are contracted to be at every IRT main event, and it's a hectic schedule, so it would be difficult for any of them to get away to play overseas. There have been some exceptions. A few years ago Cliff Swain played at the French Open. He won, but in the final Martin Klippel of Germany was certainly a strong opponent for him. And earlier this year Chris Crowther played in Korea.

Creating more international players by sending your players overseas is one way to do it, and the NBA has successfully used that development technique by having exhibition games overseas. But another way to go is to develop coaches abroad, because coaches will always look for players to coach and then they will support those players to get better.

Some of both of these things has been happening in the Americas, and the results are starting to be seen both on the pro tours as well as at international events.

So, we expect the international numbers to continue to rise, and the next great racquetball player - man or woman - might not be born in the USA.

Follow the bouncing ball....

(Note: Statistics from Boss Consulting; also, Ruben Gonzalez was not counted as an international although he has played for Puerto Rico at some international events)

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