Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The 10 Best Racquetball Stories of 2009

We hope you are all in fine voice when belting out Auld Lang Syne tomorrow night. Now that it's the end of 2009, The Racquetball Blog has put together its list of The 10 Best Racquetball Stories of 2009.

10) 2015 Pan Am Games awarded to Toronto. Toronto's selection means that racquetball will likely be included in one of the largest multi-sport games in the world. That's very important for racquetball's growth and global presence. Moreover, this will hopefully give racquetball a boost in Canada, and that is dearly needed.

9) Jason Mannino wins another International Racquetball Tour (IRT) event. At the start of this IRT season, The Racquetball Blog had doubts as to whether Mannino would win another event, based on his performances the previous season. But when Kane Waselenchuk wasn't able to make the Kentucky Open, Mannino stepped onto the court and took the title, beating Rocky Carson in the semi-finals and Jack Huczek in the finals, and that was despite Mannino suffering a calf injury midway through the final match.

8) Kristen Bellows winning the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) Ektelon Championship. In May, the WPRO focus was on whether Paola Longoria or Rhonda Rajsich would finish #1 after the final event of the season. But Bellows beat them both - Longoria in the final and Rajsich in the semis - in winning her first WPRO tournament.

7) Alvaro Beltran's injury. Beltran was the 4th ranked player at the end of last season, and the only player to defeat #1 Kane Waselenchuk. But he has not played an IRT event this season due to a pre-season leg injury. It's unclear when Beltran will return to the IRT and what sort of form he'll be in when he does. His absence has made the difference between the top few players and those below them even more evident.

6) Rhonda Rajsich wins 2009 US Open. Rajsich tied Christie Van Hees for most US Open titles by a women with three when she defeated Paola Longoria in October. The win put Rajsich back on top of the WPRO rankings.

5) Bolivians win big at World Junior Championships. Prior to this year, Bolivia had 2 gold medals at World Juniors: one in 2008 and one in 2007. This year they won 3 more. Their improvement may create some disappointed North Americans, but in general this is a good thing for racquetball, as North Americans have been too dominant for too long. If racquetball is going to be a global game, then this kind of thing needs to happen more often.

4) Racquetball returns to World Games. It had been 16 years since racquetball was last in the World Games, a multi-sport event for non-Olympic sports. The games were held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, so it was an opportunity to showcase racquetball outside North America. Rocky Carson and Paola Longoria won the gold medals.

3) Paola Longoria finishes #1 on WPRO. Longoria became the first Mexican player to be #1 on either the WPRO or IRT. She won 4 titles last season, including her first US Open title in 2008. So far this season, Longoria and Rajsich have split the four WPRO events, winning two each. This is going to make for an exciting second half of the season.

2) Dave Negrete resigns as International Racquetball Tour Commissioner. News of Negrete's resignation was shocking. The IRT improved greatly during his tenure as commissioner, and there was no indication that a change was coming. Jason Mannino has stepped into the position. He'll continue to play until the end of the season, when he will retire and completely devote himself to the commissioner's role. This change in the midst of economic uncertainty is of great concern, as sponsors, which the IRT is dependent on, are more difficult to find.

1) Kane Waselenchuk. His return to the IRT was our top story of 2008, and his continued excellence is the reason we're putting him on top again. Waselenchuk suffered only one match defeat in 2009. He's lost only once in 16 months, and it's hard to see when Waselenchuk will lose next.

There you have it. The top 10 racquetball stories of 2009. If you think we missed something, leave a comment.

Happy New Year everyone!

Follow the bouncing ball....


bubie said...

I think one of the biggest news in Woman’s Racquetball in 2009 was Aimee Ruiz winning Nationals Singles. For over ten years only Rhonda and Cheryl have won Nat’s but in 2009 Aimee seeded 10 had to go thru Kristen Bellows, Rhonda and Cheryl to win the whole thing. Now that is the story on the Woman’s side

The Racquetball Blog said...


That's a good point. Ruiz's victory at US Nationals was a great accomplishment and worth noting.

Thanks for pointing that out.