Sunday, January 6, 2013

IRT - Waselenchuk wins 2013 California Open

Kane Waselenchuk eked out a victory Sunday at the Coast to Coast California Open in Reseda, California, as he defeated Rocky Carson, 11-13, 11-6, 11-8, 8-11, 11-8, to win the International Racquetball Tour's (IRT's) first tournament of 2013.

It was four years ago in this event that Waselenchuk last lost a completed match (injury defaults aside), and it looked like that might happen again Sunday as Carson took game one, 13-11. Waselenchuk didn't look to be his best this weekend, dropping two games en route to the final and he also looked a bit shaky early in the final. We counted 10 skips by Waselenchuk in game one, and although some were forced errors that's often as many errors as he makes in a match, not a game.

That said, Waselenchuk did fight off Carson's first game point at 10-9 and then got one of his own at 11-10. But he wasn't able to finish it off.

Carson's service strategy was primarily to use drive and off speed serves to the right side - Waselenchuk's backhand - but setting up just to the right of the drive serve line on the left side of the service box.

The upset looked on as Carson went up 6-0 to start game two. But Waselenchuk dug in, having switched to lob serves to the right side - Carson's forehand, and cut the deficit to 6-5, when Carson called a time out.

That changed nothing as Waselenchuk continued to pile up the points and held Carson at bay winning the game 11-6 on eleven unanswered points. That's the kind of performance that people expect from the IRT's #1 player.

Game three started slowly as they played 10 rallies at 1-1 before Waselenchuk got a point to make it 2-1. He got four more points in quick order to make it 6-1.

This time Carson responded and cut the lead to 6-5 before another stagnation that lasted 10 rallies, ending with a point for Carson after Waselenchuk skipped a backhand serve return that made it 6-6. Waselenchuk ran the score to 10-6, and was able to close out the game at 11-8.

At that point, you'd be excused for thinking that it was going to be Waselenchuk in four games, as he seemed to have got things sorted out. If you weren't thinking that after the third game, you may well have been thinking it when Waselenchuk went up 6-0 in game four.

However, Carson is a never say die type of player, and he got a couple points back and then gave up a couple points to put Waselenchuk up 8-2. After several rallies at 8-3, Carson got a point to make it 8-4, and then in the course of 11 rallies won the game.

It was a colossal change of momentum that resulted in a fifth game tie-breaker.

The tie-breaker was close all the way with neither player having more than a two point advantage until the end. Then at 5-3 for Carson, Waselenchuk seemed to injure himself or perhaps more severely feel the effects of the knee injury that kept him out of last month's New Jersey Open.

After that Waselenchuk clearly seemed to labor at times, especially moving to the left. However, he seemed to respond by trying to shoot the ball more accurately, so that he needn't move as much.

And there were a few rallies where Carson helped Waselenchuk out by skipping a shot that seemed to be very makable without the need for anything spectacular. Combined with Waselenchuk's extra attention to detail was enough for Waselenchuk to pull out game five 11-8 and win the match.

If Carson is the sort of person to regret missed opportunities, he might be having some regret tonight, as Waselenchuk never seemed to have his 'A' game during the match, and didn't seem to be 100% physically in game five. Thus, the situation seemed set up for an upset.

But the mark of a true champion is to win when you're not at your best, and that's exactly what Waselenchuk did.

The IRT will be back in action on the east coast next weekend with the New York Pro-Am in Syosset, N.Y. Play begins on Thursday January 10, 2013.

2013 California Open - Reseda, California


Kane Waselenchuk d. Rocky Carson, 11-13, 11-6, 11-8, 8-11, 11-8

Follow the bouncing ball....

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