Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mannino wins Kentucky Pro Am, first win in over two years

Jason Mannino has won the Kentucky Pro Am Racquetball Championships in Bowling Green by defeating Jack Huczek in the final, 11-6, 14-12, 6-11, 0-11, 11-7, and he did so after aggravating an existing left calf injury in the game three. It's Mannino's first win in over two years, and the third time in three tournaments this season that Huczek has finished runner-up.

It was a match that had "are you kidding me?!?" written all over it, as fourth seeded Mannino - a surprise semi-finalist - took the first two games, only to become hobbled in game three and take a donut in game four.

It seemed that Mannino might stop at that point, and Dave Negrete, commissioner of the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), did ask Mannino about continuing after he lost game four 11-0. But with on site medical advice and a don't quit attitude Mannino decided to play on.

It proved to be a good decision.

Mannino, the oldest player in the top 10 on the IRT, said afterwards that being near the end of his career did play a part in his deciding to continue despite playing poorly in game four with the injured calf, adding "I'm bad at giving up."

Huczek started the match well, taking the first three points of game one. But then Mannino ran eight points for 8-3 lead. At 10-4, Huczek had to take the first injury time out of the match, as his right elbow was bleeding after diving on the court. It wouldn't be the last injury time out of the match.

Huczek seemed to get some momentum after that time out, winning cutting Mannino's lead to 10-6, but then Mannino finished it off 11-6.

In game two, Huczek again had the early lead at 4-2, and also at 8-5. But it was Mannino who got to ten first, leading 10-9 at that point. Then a bad error by Mannino let Huczek tie it at 10-10. They tied again at 11.

Huczek had a dreadful skip on a service return for Mannino's 12th point, which was one of many unforced errors Huczek made throughout the first two games of the match. At 13-12, Huczek hit a poor service return and Mannino flat rolled a pinch in the front right corner to go up two games to zero.

It was tight early in game three. Huczek had a small advantage at 7-6, but around that point Mannino said afterwards was when he aggravated an injury to his left calf that he picked last month during the Denver tournament.

Mannino's mobility was limited after that, and Huczek took full advantage, winning game three 11-6, and then taking game four 11-0, as Mannino was having trouble making any shots. He looked especially bad on his backhand as he stumbled off balance after almost all of those shots. Mannino did use injury time and received medical attention after game three and again after game four.

With little pressure on him, Huczek was not making the errors he had in the first two games.

It wasn't clear whether Mannino would continue after game four, but afterwards he said he only considered stopping during the fourth game when he was down 7-0.

But between game four and five Mannino refocussed saying after that he told himself Huczek's "just hitting me ceiling balls, and you can't beat me just hitting ceiling balls."

That renewed determination, and icing his calf between games, helped Mannino temendously. As Mannino won some rallies, and got some points, it was clear that he wasn't going to simply roll over for Huczek.

Nevertheless Huczek had the early lead in game five at 4-2, but that was the last lead he'd have as Mannino ran six points to go up 8-4. Huczek closed it to 8-7, but then Mannino pushed on to win 11-7. He was helped by Huczek skipping a shot to give Mannino his 10th point, and then Huczek hit a weak service return on the first match point and Mannino killed the ball up in the front left of the court.

The last time Mannino won an IRT tournament was in September 2007 - over two years ago - when he won the Kansas City Pro Am also defeating Huczek in the final.

It's Mannino's 22nd career victory.

The match will be archived for viewing at the IRT Network, where you can also see the finals from the first two tournaments of the season.

2009 Kentucky Pro Am Racquetball Championships

Jason Mannino d. Jack Huczek, 11-6, 14-12, 6-11, 0-11, 11-7

Follow the bouncing ball....

1 comment:

Jose said...


Watched tha match on Sunday on and can only say it was a terrific match by Jason... big clap for him... what a player and a fighter.