Friday, February 15, 2013

46th USA Racquetball Doubles Championships - Top seeds upset

The men's and women's defending champions and #1 seeds are out at the 46th USA Racquetball National Doubles Championship in Tempe, Arizona. On the women's side, the Key sisters - Danielle and Michelle - were again the giant killers, as they defeated defending champions Rhonda Rajsich and Kim Russell-Waselenchuk in the semi-finals Friday, 9-15, 15-5, 11-8.

The Keys will play 2nd seeds Aimee Ruiz and Janel Tisinger, who defeated Cheryl Gudinas and Kelani Bailey, 15-13, 15-6.

On the men's side, 4th seeds Jansen Allen and Tony Carson ousted the defending champions Rocky Carson and Ben Croft in two straight games, 15-7, 15-14, to advance to Saturday's final.

Allen and Carson will play Chris Crowther and Cliff Swain in the final, as Crowther and Swain beat Andy Hawthorne and Jeff Stark, 15-8, 15-11, in the other semi-final.

Women's Semi-finals

Key and Key were toe to toe with Rajsich and Russell-Waselenchuk in game one, as they were tied at 9-9 before the defending champs went on a run and won it 15-9.

But in game two, the momentum completely reversed as Key and Key took an 11-0 lead, and won comfortably 15-5 to set up the tie-breaker.

The score was close early on in the breaker but after being tied at 3-3, the Keys took the lead up to 7-3 and then 9-4. The champs dug in and cut the lead to 9-6 and momentum seemed to be shifting; Michelle Key especially seemed to be getting a little nervous.

The Keys signalled for timeout but they had used both of their timeouts, so instead they were assessed a technical, which made the score 8-6 with Rajsich and Russell-Waselenchuk serving.

One had to wonder if that technical was going to make a difference in the match, as Rajsich and Russell-Waselenchuk tied the score at 8-8. But then Michelle Key hit a backhand pinch that rolled out to get them the serve back.

They regained the lead at 9-8, but were then sided out. However, the champions couldn't take advantage as they failed to score a point, and gave the serve back when Rajsich hit a three wall serve.

Danielle got one point then Michelle hit a drive Z serve to Rajsich, who skipped the return to give the match to the Keys.

Afterwards, Michelle Key said she was "so excited" and it was "a lot of fun" to play the match. Asked about how they got the big lead in game two, Danielle Key said "we really wanted it," and didn't want to go out in two straight games.

In the tie-breaker, Michelle said they felt "we have nothing to lose," which helped ensure they didn't lose.

In the other women's semi-final, Aimee Ruiz and Janel Tisinger were just too much for the team of veteran Cheryl Gudinas and junior Kelani Bailey. Gudinas and Bailey played them close in game one, losing 15-13, and of course, if they'd won that game the match may have had a different outcome.

However, Ruiz and Tisinger won it, and then took a big lead in game two at 9-3. At that point, Gudinas and Bailey switched sides on the serve return so Tisinger was serving to Gudinas, but they gave up two more points before getting side out at 11-3.

At that point it was really only a matter of time before Ruiz and Tisinger won the game and match.

Men's Semi-finals

On the men's side, Allen and T. Carson started well against the defending champions Croft and R. Carson, getting a 3-0 lead and never relinquished the lead. Croft and R. Carson took a time out at 11-5 down, but couldn't right the ship as Allen and T. Carson took it 15-7.

Croft and R. Carson came out better in game two, and had a lead at 7-3, when Allen and T. Carson called time out. That led to five straight points, as Allen and T. Carson pulled ahead 8-7.

But the defending champs responded with a four point run of their own to retake the lead at 11-8. Again Allen and T. Carson called time out.

The time out proved effective with Allen and T. Carson regaining the lead at 12-11. However, Croft and R. Carson dug in and got to game point first, leading 14-12.

But they couldn't close the deal, leaving the door open for Allen and T. Carson, who were more than happy to walk through it. T. Carson won the match with a forehand kill shot off the back wall that also cracked out of the right side wall.

Tony Carson said their strategy was to "try to control front court, and keep [Croft and R. Carson] in the back court," and "play hard and hope for the best."

When asked about his serving strategy, as T. Carson served several times into the middle, which R. Carson took with his forehand, he said "I don't like serving the same serve over and over" because the returner can get into a groove, especially players as good as R. Carson (Tony Carson and Rocky Carson aren't related).

For his part, Allen said "I was just trying to react as fast as I can." And several rallies required very fast reactions in what was a very entertaining and competitive match.

In the final semi of the night between two righty-lefty teams, Crowther and Swain won game one comfortably, as they went up 5-1 and never trailed, although Hawthorne and Stark did close the gap to one point at 8-7. Yet Crowther and Swain went on to win 15-8.

However, in game two Hawthorne and Stark went up 7-0 and it looked like the match might go to a tie-breaker. However, a time out at 7-0 began the start of a comeback by Crowther and Swain, who tied the game at 9-9, and then held Hawthorne and Stark at 9 while they got the final six points to win the game and match.

Swain hit a variety of drive serves from several different spots in the service box, including having Crowther stand on the left side as he served to Hawthorne on the right. Crowther often lob served to Stark, who as a left hander, was playing on the left side despite Swain being on that side.

2013 46th USA Racquetball National Doubles Championships
Tempe, Arizona
US National Team Divisions



Jansen Allen & Tony Carson d. Rocky Carson & Ben Croft, 15-7, 15-14
Chris Crowther & Cliff Swain d. Andy Hawthorne & Jeff Stark, 15-8, 15-11


Chris Crowther & Cliff Swain v. Jansen Allen & Tony Carson



Danielle Key & Michelle Key d. Rhonda Rajsich & Kim Russell-Waselenchuk, 9-15, 15-5, 11-8
Aimee Ruiz & Janel Tisinger d. Cheryl Gudinas & Kelani Bailey, 15-13, 15-6


Aimee Ruiz & Janel Tisinger v. Danielle Key & Michelle Key

Follow the bouncing ball....

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