Tuesday, September 7, 2010

2009-10 IRT Season Review

The International Racquetball Tour (IRT) begins another season this week with the Ghost of Georgetown tournament in Kansas City. It's been a few months since the end of the 2009-2010 season, so The Racquetball Blog has a review of last season's nine main IRT events and a look ahead at to what's to come.

2009-10 IRT Season
IRT Rank - Player - Wins - Seconds - Semis - Quarters

1) Kane Waselenchuk - 8 wins, 0 seconds, 0 semi, 0 qtrs
2) Jack Huczek - 0 win, 6 seconds, 0 semis, 1 qtr
3) Rocky Carson - 0 wins, 2 seconds, 5 semis, 2 qtrs
4) Jason Mannino - 1 win, 0 seconds, 5 semis, 2 qtrs
5) Shane Vanderson - 0 wins, 0 seconds, 3 semis, 5 qtrs
6) Ben Croft - 0 wins, 1 seconds, 3 semis, 2 qtrs
7) Chris Crowther - 0 wins, 0 seconds, 1 semis, 8 qtrs
8) Mitch Williams - 0 wins, 0 seconds, 0 semi, 7 qtrs
9) Andy Hawthorne - 0 wins, 0 seconds, 0 semis, 3 qtrs
10) Jose Rojas - 0 wins, 0 seconds, 0 semi, 2 qrts
13) Juan Herrera - 0 wins, 0 seconds, 0 semis, 3 qtrs
20) Travis Woodbury - 0 wins, 0 seconds, 0 semis, 1 qrt
32) Alvaro Beltran - 0 wins, 0 seconds, 1 semis, 0 qtrs

Event - Final - Semi-Finalists

Motorola World Racquetball Championships - Final: Waselenchuk d. Huczek - Semis: Vanderson, Carson
Lawler Sports Pro-Am - Final: Waselenchuk d. Huczek - Semis: Mannino, Carson
Kentucky Open - Final: Mannino d. Huczek - Semis: Carson, Vanderson
Choice Hotels US Open - Final: Waselenchuk d. Huczek - Semis: Mannino, Croft
California Open - Final: Waselenchuk d Huczek - Semis: Croft, Carson
New York City Pro-Am - Final: Waselenchuk d. Huczek - Semis: Mannino, Carson
Florida Spring Break Pro-Am - Final: Waselenchuk d. Carson - Semis: Mannino, Croft
IRT Network Pro-Am - Final: Waselenchuk d. Carson - Semis: Mannino, Vanderson
Mexico Open - Final: Waselenchuk d Croft - Semis: Crowther, Beltran

Waselenchuk dominates again

Kane Waselenchuk was undefeated last season following up the one loss season he had in 2008-09. Waselenchuk has dominated men's pro racquetball as no has before, and there's little reason to think that will change. He's 28, so still in his prime playing years.

Perhaps Waselenchuk's only concern is health. The only tournament Waselenchuk didn't win last season was one he missed due to illness. But with 20 events on the schedule this season, it will surely be more taxing on the players, including Waselenchuk.

Return to form?

Last year saw how much injuries can effect players and by extension the IRT. Alvaro Beltran injured his knee prior to the season and missed all but one of the events, coming back for the season ending Mexico Open. Jack Huczek and Mitch Williams also suffered injuries that caused them to missed events and hampered them in some of the tournaments they did play.

Thus, for this season one question is will those players who had injuries last year return to form? Huczek played well at the IRF World Championships this summer and Beltran won the racquetball event at the Central American Games as well as reaching the semis in his first tournament back, so both of them seem to be doing fine after their injuries.

Williams is perhaps another case, however. He was runner up to Waselenchuk in the last event of the 2008-09 season, yet didn't even reach the semi-finals once last season.

Continued improvement?

There were improved results from several players last season, including Ben Croft, Chris Crowther, Juan Herrera and Jose Rojas. Croft and Rojas are strong young players who should continue to have upward trajectories to their careers. Both are two time World Junior Champions in Boys U18, and the other players to have done that - Rocky Carson, Jack Huczek and Sudsy Monchik - all became #1 on the IRT.

Crowther's made it to the quarters in the first 8 tournaments last season and then in the last one he went one better and reached the semis for the first time in his career. He's a veteran at 31, so it would be a stretch to suggest his best racquetball is ahead of him. Yet many players have played well in their 30s, so it's not outside the realm of possibility to see better results from Crowther.

No one asked us, but ...

... The Racquetball Blog isn't on board with the IRT's decision to have 2 serves this season rather than 1. It will allow players to drive serve with abandon on their first serve and still be able to put the ball into play with a second serve if they fault on their first. That could help some players like Williams, Beltran and Crowther, who have strong drive serves.

With such a big change you'd think there was something wrong with IRT matches that demands such a change. Yet The Racquetball Blog doesn't see what was wrong. Unless you think it's Waselenchuk's dominance, and we don't think this change is going to alter that as Waselenchuk's one of the best drive servers on tour, so the change will only make him stronger.

Further will this change turn the IRT into a drive serving exhibition? Is that what people want to see? Aren't rallies more exciting than drive serves? If drive serving decreases the length of rallies, then it's unlikely to be a popular change.

Game on!

Nonetheless, we at The Racquetball Blog are happy to see another IRT season begin. We've missed you guys. Here's to another season of following bouncing balls.

The 2009-10 IRT Statistical Abstract

53 - Most points for in a victory: Polo Gutierrez d. Tony Carson, 11-9, 11-5, 10-12, 10-12, 11-4 in the Motorola World Racquetball Championships
51 - Most points against in a victory: Brad Kirch d. Alejandro Herrera, 12-10, 4-11, 11-9, 3-11, 12-10 in the NYC Pro-Am

99 - Most points in a 5 game match: Brian Simpson d. Tony Carson, 6-11, 12-10, 10-12, 11-9, 11-7 in the IRT Network Open
91 - Most points in a 4 game match: Alejandro Herrera d. Charles Pratt, 13-15, 12-10, 13-11, 11-9 in the California Open
66 - Most points in a 3 game match: Doug Ganim d. Mike Orr, 11-9, 11-9, 14-12 in the US Open

19 - Largest margin of victory 5 game match: Mitch Williams d. Javier Moreno, 11-7, 11-1, 8-11, 10-12, 11-1 at the California Open
29 - Largest margin of victory 4 game match: Jason Geis d. Simon Payne, 11-1, 11-1, 9-11, 11-0 in the Motorola World Racquetball Championships
32 - Largest margin of victory 3 game match: Cesar Castro d. Teobaldo Fumero, 11-0, 11-1, 11-0 in the US Open and Kane Waselenchuk d. Ivan Villegas, 11-0, 11-0, 11-1 in the US Open

Note: not all match points were recorded, so this abstract is based on incomplete data.

Follow the bouncing ball....

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