Thursday, September 23, 2010

Two Down, Eighteen To Go

Two tournaments are in the books on the International Racquetball Tour's (IRT's) 2010-11 season, and the IRT has changed its serving rule from one serve to two serves. What has been the effect of that change?

Consider who the semi-finalists have been so far: Kane Waselenchuk, Mitch Williams, Chris Crowther, Ben Croft, and Rocky Carson, with Waselenchuk, Croft and Williams all reaching the semis in both tournaments.

Three of those players - Waselenchuk, Williams, and Crowther - are big drive servers. Moreover, these results were Williams's 3rd and 4th career semis and Crowther's 2nd career semi (and 1st final). That suggests the rule change is indeed favoring players who are primarily drive servers, as most people would have expected.

Oh fer four

An alternative explanation for improved results from Crowther and Williams could be Jack Huczek being off his game. Huczek has now failed to reach the semis in four straight tournaments (five if you count the tournament he missed due to injury: the Mexico Open).

You have to go back to 2002-2003 - only his 2nd season on tour - to find a stretch where Huczek failed to reach the semis in four straight tournaments. In fact, in the 7 and half year period since then there haven't been two consecutive tournaments without Huczek reaching at least the semi finals, so not doing so in four tournaments is arguably the biggest slump of his career.

That's not a hinder!

The Racquetball Blog staff was looking at the Waselenchuk-Croft semi-final from Kansas City on the IRT Network archive, and on the first rally of the match Waselenchuk is given a hinder against Croft despite Croft being well out of the way. Waselenchuk indicated he was going for an overhead shot to the front left corner from the back right corner with Croft in the middle of the court.

But isn't the rule that you need to give your opponent the front wall and not the side wall? Croft was giving Waselenchuk the front wall, so we don't think there was a hinder on the play. Waselenchuk should have hit a straight in winner.

If a player wants to hold up for safety once, well, OK. But in a situation where your opponent has given you all the space he/she needs to, then you shouldn't expect to get that call again.

Even if you're Kane Waselenchuk.

Follow the bouncing ball....

1 comment:

Brad said...

I also noticed that call during the match. Certainly Ben was happy that Kane did not remove his shoulder but it was not a shot to which Ben was required to yield. I believe the rule is straight in and cross court. This might be a good candidate for Otto Dietrich to discuss in Racquetball magazine.
When is shot selection allowed to justify a safety hinder? When a player has "the" two shot options but prefers a third can the player hold up for a safety hinder if one exists on the third option?