Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Top 10 Racquetball Stories of 2012

2012 has ended and 2013 has just begun, so it's time to reflect on the twelve months that have gone by and what's happened in racquetball during that period.

Thus, we present The Racquetball Blog Top 10 stories of 2012.

10) Ektelon. News of Ektelon's sale caused some ripples in the racquetball world, as Ektelon is the oldest racquetball manufacturer. But it seems like business as usual under the new ownership, which is good for all concerned. If a sport's companies aren't healthy, then how can the sport itself be healthy?

9) IRT Network. The IRT Network was created a few years ago to webcast matches from International Racquetball Tour (IRT) events, and they have continually improved their service. Racquetball is difficult to film but the IRT has multiple cameras and good definition, which makes following the action enjoyable. Moreover, they have expanded their coverage from IRT Tier 1 events to include Ladies Pro Racquetball Tour (LPRT) events as well as some outdoor events.

8) Krystal Csuk. Csuk (pronouced "CHUK") took a big step up in her game in 2012, reaching the semi-finals at three events, and she finished 4th at the end of the 2011-12 season, which was only her second top 10 finish (Csuk was 10th the pervious season). She's now ranked 3rd on the LPRT.

7) Injuries. Injuries always play a part in sports, but we can't recall a year when there have been more injuries to prominent racquetball players. It began in 2011 really, with Cheryl Gudinas having surgery on her left knee, and Samantha Salas sat out most of the 2011-12 women's pro season with an injury to her right shoulder. Also, Jennifer Saunders missed the last two events of 2012 due to neck and back issues. On the men's side, in second International Racquetball Tour (IRT) event of 2012, IRT #1 Kane Waselenchuk's back acted up on him and prevented him from finishing the final of the New York City Pro-Am, ending his tournament winning streak. Waselenchuk missed two more IRT tournaments before returning and beginning another winning streak. Then Waselenchuk missed the last tournament of 2012 with a knee injury. Also, Charlie Pratt will likely miss the rest of the 2012-13 season due to an ankle injury.

6) Rocky Carson. How's that old commercial go? "We're number 2. We try harder."? That could apply to Carson, who had another good year, as he maintained his ranking as the #2 player on the IRT. Carson also won the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championship for the 3rd straight time - tying him for most men's titles with Jack Huczek. Carson's not the #1 player in the world, but he's clearly the next best player.

5) International wins. Players from outside North America had more impressive results in 2012 at both senior and junior events. Guatemala got their first medal at the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships, and Bolivia won men's doubles at the Pan-American Championships, a first for a South American nation. At the IRF World Juniors, Guatemala and Costa Rica both won gold for the first time. International racquetball is becoming more competitive and the North American nations' advantage continues to diminish.

4) Ladies Pro Racquetball Tour. The women's pro tour reorganized itself yet again. The year began with the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) but in the summer the players decided that they needed to make a change and that led to the creation of the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT). The change has been mostly seamless, as the event schedule is largely the same as previous WPRO seasons.

3) Mexican Women's Team Title. Mexico won the women's team title at the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships this year, and it was their first win ever and the first time the USA women did not take the title. The Mexican team of Paola Longoria, Samantha Salas and Jessica Parrilla, almost didn't get to the final as they split their first two matches with Canada, as Jennifer Saunders beat Parrilla in singles (2-0) and Longoria and Salas beat Saunders and Josée Grand'Maître in doubles (2-1) before Longoria won the deciding match against Brandi Jacobson Prentice (2-0). In the final, Mexico defeated the USA in two straight matches: Longoria defeated Rhonda Rajsich (2-1) and Parrilla took out Cheryl Gudinas (2-1). The win signals the ascendancy of Mexico - and decline of the USA - in women's racquetball.

2) Kane Waselenchuk. He's the most dominant IRT player. It's been almost four years since someone got 11 points in three out of five games against Waselenchuk. In November, he turned 31, so Waselenchuk's likely closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and he has had some injuries in recent years. But if you're a racquetball fan, you need to see Waselenchuk play before his career ends, because he is the most exceptional racquetball player ever.

1) Paola Longoria. Longoria has won every event she's entered since May 2011. Singles, doubles, team events: she's won them all. LPRT #1, World Champion, gold medalist. She's at the top of her game and at only 23 could be at the top of women's racquetball for some years to come.

There are The Racquetball Blog's top 10 racquetball stories of 2012. If you think we missed something, please leave a comment.

We look forward to another year of following the bouncing ball.

Happy New Year everyone!

Follow the bouncing ball....

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