Saturday, February 4, 2012

Croft wins 1st career IRT event in Salt Lake City

Ben Croft won the first International Racquetball Tour (IRT) Tier 1 event of his career by defeating IRT #2 Rocky Carson, 4-11, 11-7, 11-5, 5-11, 11-5, in the final of the MonaVie Salt Lake City Pro-Am in Salt Lake City, Utah. Croft, the IRT's #3 ranked player, was playing in only his second IRT final, having lost the 2010 Mexico Open to Kane Waselenchuk.

But he was a winner in Salt Lake City.

Croft and Carson went back and forth all match, except perhaps for the first game, which Carson won 11-4. In game two, they were tied at 2, 3, and 5, before Croft put together a streak of points to go up 10-5, and win 11-7.

In game three, Croft built a big lead early at 6-1. But then Carson narrowed the lead to one at 6-5. But that was as much as he got, as Croft won 11-5.

Carson took the early lead in game four at 4-1. Croft then tied at 4-4 before Carson extended the lead to 7-4, and stayed ahead to win 11-5 and force a tie-breaker.

In the breaker, they again were neck and neck early with ties at 1, 2, 3, and 4. Then Croft got the next five points to put him two points away from his first tour win. Croft might have gotten a little tight as Carson clawed a point back, but that was all Carson could muster on this day, as Croft finished it off 11-5.

Upon winning Croft dropped onto the court, lying on his back in perhaps both joy and disbelief, as afterwards he said "it's surreal" and "I'm happy."

Croft's service strategy was to hit drive serves to the right side, Carson's forehand. Asked about that strategy afterwards, he said Carson's "backhand is so tough" and with the left side of the court a glass wall, Croft figured Carson's backhand server returns into that wall would be hard to pick up.

Thus, Croft served to the solid white right side wall, which also put the ball on his strong side: his forehand side. "I feel my forehand's better than my backhand," said Croft.

When he needed a second serve, Croft stood slightly left of center in the service box and drove the ball into the front left corner to produce Z serves that went to the right back corner, just as his straight drive serves were doing.

It's only Croft's third career win over Carson, and first in 10 meetings.

Croft got to the final by defeating Alvaro Beltran in the semi-finals earlier on Saturday, 6-11, 11-1, 11-7, 11-5, while Carson beat Shane Vanderson, 11-2, 11-0, 11-7, in the other semi.

The next IRT event is the San Diego Open, February 22-26 in Sorrento Valley, California.

2012 MonaVie Salt Lake City Pro/Am - Salt Lake City, Utah


Ben Croft d. Rocky Carson, 4-11, 11-7, 11-5, 5-11, 11-5


Rocky Carson d. Shane Vanderson, 11-2, 11-0, 11-7
Ben Croft d. Alvaro Beltran, 6-11, 11-1, 11-7, 11-5

Follow the bouncing ball....

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