It'll be #1 vs. #2 in the final of the Motorola International Racquetball Tour (IRT) Pro Nationals in Chicago Saturday, as Kane Waselenchuk and Rocky Carson won their semi-final matches on Friday. Both victories were by surprisingly comfortable margins.
Waselenchuk, the IRT's #1 player, beat #4 Alvaro Beltran, 11-4, 11-5, 11-3. Beltran's the only player to defeated Waselenchuk this season, but afterwards said Waselenchuk "played out of his mind," and "really showed why he's #1."
Waselenchuk for his part said he "wanted to make a statement."
He certainly did, although it was some time coming at the start. After Waselenchuk won the first two points of game one, each player served at least 5 times. There were so many side outs, we lost count. Beltran did tie it at 2-2, before Waselenchuk got a small lead at 4-3.
Then Waselenchuk extended that to 8-3, and went on to take game one 11-4.
In that game, Beltran used a variety of drive serves, and made a couple of diving winners, while Waselenchuk lob served to the left early and then drove served to that side late in the game.
Waselenchuk took an early lead in game two at 5-1, and it looked like it might be all downhill for Beltran. But he was able to tie the match at 5-5. However, that was as many has he could manage, as Waselenchuk won it 11-5. Perhaps the highlight of the game was a winner Waselenchuk hit between his legs while facing the backwall to get his 5th point.
Game three was all Waselenchuk, as he took a lead of 6-1, and won it 11-3.
The other semi-final also took awhile to get going, but that was partly because Jack Huczek was bleeding at the elbow after a dive with Carson leading 2-0. But Huczek then took a 4-2 lead, and seemed to have all the momentum.
But momentum is a fickle thing, and it swung back to Carson in a big way, as he took a 5-4 lead at which point there was another delay to stop Huczek bleeding. Then Carson went on to win game one 11-5.
Huczek began by serving to the right side in game one, but switched to serving to the left side and continued that in game two, using drive Zs to Carson's backhand. That was a winning formula, as Huczek took a 5-2 lead, and won it 11-4.
Game three was close all the way, but with Carson leading 6-5, the story of the match emerged, as Huczek skipped backhands in three consecutive rallies, including one while trying to return Carson's Z serve to the left side. That made it 9-5 for Carson, and although Huczek came back to make it 9-8, Carson won it 11-8.
Those Huczek errors continued in game four, as Carson took a leads at 5-1 and 6-3 before winning 11-3.
Afterwards, Huczek acknowledged the backhand errors saying it was "pretty frustrating," and he "didn't play well, and Rocky deserved to win." Huczek said the match came down to "poor service return" and giving up "too many easy points."
But he also vowed to work hard this off season, so as to have a better season next year.
Carson said he was "extremely pleased with how I played," but acknowledged he "caught [Huczek] on an off day." Also, Carson said while "the scores may not have been close, it didn't feel easy."
Carson also said it was "extremely hard to see" on the court with the extra lighting used Friday. The matches were filmed for the Versus network, so extra spotlights were set up. The players did appear brighter in some spots of the court but that didn't effect the watching, but then we weren't on court trying to retrieve balls hit at well over 100 mph.
Waslenchuk and Carson also met in the final of the only other IRT Grand Slam event: the US Open in Memphis last October. Carson will be hoping for a better performance Saturday than he had in Memphis, as Waselenchuk won easily in October.
Motorola Pro Nationals
Kane Waselenchuk d. Alvaro Beltran, 11-4, 11-5, 11-3
Rocky Carson d. Jack Huczek, 11-5, 4-11, 11-8, 11-3
Final 3 PM Central Saturday
Kane Waselenchuk vs. Rocky Carson
Follow the bouncing ball....