Sunday, March 14, 2010

IRT - Florida Spring Break, Waselenchuk wins despite injury

Kane Waselenchuk continued his match winning streak Sunday, as he won the Florida Spring Break event on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), beating Rocky Carson, 3-11, 11-5, 12-10, 11-5. His match streak is intact, but not his game winning streak, as Carson took game one of the final.

In game one, Waselenchuk drove serve, but not effectively, as Carson was able to return it well. He tried one lob to the left side that Carson hit a roll out return off, so that serve wasn't going to be the answer either. Carson hit drive serves from the left side of the box to the right back corner, as well as some jam serves to the right side.

In game two, Waselenchuk found the serve that got him into the rally. He hit lobs to Carson's forehand. It rarely led to service winners, but got rallies started. Carson often used an overhead return, but that wasn't as effective as he needed to be.

Waselenchuk got the early lead in game three at 5-0, but Carson clawed his way back into the game. However, he couldn't seem to tie it, trailing 5-4, 6-5, 7-6, and 8-7. They played at 8-7 for nine rallies when Carson finally tied, as Waselenchuk twisted his left knee.

Waselenchuk had trouble putting weight on his left leg as he hobbled off the court taking an injury time-out. IRT players are allowed two 7.5 min time outs for injury. Waselenchuk used his first 7.5 min injury time out, and then got back on the court to see if he could finish the game and match.

Waselenchuk won the first rally when play resumed, but then gave it right back. Carson scored two points to make it 10-8. But then on game point he short served for his 4th fault serve of the game. Carson never got another chance to serve as Waselenchuk ran four points to take the third game 12-10.

They were close in game four, and Carson led at 4-3. But then Waselenchuk pulled away. There was a long rally that Carson had a great opportunity to win, but he skipped a set up off the back wall. Carson only scored one more point after that, as Waselenchuk despite being injured closed out game four 11-5, winning the match.

Afterwards, Carson said he "tried to put pressure on" Waselenchuk in the same way Waslenchuk puts pressure on his opponents. Thus, Carson generally drove serve straight or jams to the right side - Waselenchuk's backhand. Also, Carson was focussed on playing one point at a time, and did play strongly through the match.

"I didn't make many mistakes," Carson said, but he did fault serve several times, which was partly a product of the pressure style he was playing.

Waselenchuk attributed Carson's win in game one to his own errors. "I had opportunities but made more mistakes than usual," he said. He said he went to the lob serve in game two as "way into the rally," because he wasn't happy with his drive serving.

When he went down in game three, Waselenchuk said he felt "a pull and a pop and a pull," and was quite concerned about what happened. He didn't know what to expect when he went back on court, and he did seem affected by it in some of his movements. But Waselenchuk found a way to victory, and said he was happy with how "I kept my composure" throughout the match.

After the semis on Saturday, Waselenchuk said the final would be "statement time." Indeed, both players made statements Sunday. Carson with a stronger performance than many expected from him, and Waselenchuk by playing through an injury and Carson's strong performance.

Both players players rose to the challenge and the result was the best IRT final since October.

IRT - Florida Spring Break, Sarasota, Florida

Kane Waselenchuk d. Rocky Carson, 3-11, 11-5, 12-10, 11-5

Follow the bouncing ball....

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