Monday, September 9, 2013

2013-14 IRT Season Preview

The International Racquetball Tour's (IRT's) 2013-14 season begins this week with The Ghost of Georgetown racquetball tournament in Overland Park, Kansas. Thus, it's a good time to remind you what happened in the 12 Tier 1 or Grand Slam events last season.

IRT Rank - Player - Wins - Seconds - Semis - Quarters

1) Kane Waselenchuk - 9 wins, 1 seconds, 0 semi-finals, 0 quarters
2) Rocky Carson - 3 win, 5 seconds, 4 semis, 0 qtrs
3) Alvaro Beltran - 3 seconds, 4 semis, 3 qtr
4) Jose Rojas - 1 seconds, 5 semis, 4 qrts
5) Chris Crowther - 3 semi, 8 qtrs
6) Ben Croft - 2 seconds, 3 semis, 4 qtrs
7) Tony Carson - 8 qrts
8) Shane Vanderson - 1 semis, 3 qtrs
9) Daniel De La Rosa - 1 semi, 3 qtrs
10) Javier Moreno - 4 qtrs
11) Alex Ackermann - 2 qtrs
12) Andy Hawthorne - 1 qtr
13) Marco Rojas - 1 semi, 1 qtr
14) Jose Diaz - 1 qtr
15) Alejandro Landa - 1 semis, 2 qtr
16) Anthony Herrera - 1 qtr
17) Jansen Allen - 1 qtr
19) Nick Montalbano - 1 semi
21) Charlie Pratt - 1 qrt
35) Fernando Rios - 1 qtr

Event - Final - Semi-Finalists

Kansas City Final: Waselenchuk d. R. Carson - Semis: Beltran, J. Rojas
US Open Final: Waselenchuk d. R. Carson - Beltran, Crowther
Davison Final: Waselenchuk d. Beltran - Semis: Vanderson, R. Carson
New Jersey Open Final: R. Carson d. Beltran - Semis: Crowther, Montalbano
California Open Final: Waselenchuk d. R. Carson - Semis: Landa, Beltran
New York City Final: R. Carson d. J. Rojas - Semis: Crowther, Beltran
Florida Spring Break Final: Waselenchuk d. Croft - Semis: J. Rojas, R. Carson
Denver Final: R. Carson d. Waselenchuk - Semis: Croft, J. Rojas
St Louis Final: Waselenchuk d. Beltran - Semis: M. Rojas, R. Carson
Portland Final: Waselenchuk d. Croft - Semis: J. Rojas, R. Carson
Stockton Final: Waselenchuk d. R. Carson - Semis: Croft, De La Rosa
Ektelon Nationals Final: Waselenchuk d. R. Carson - Semis: J. Rojas, Croft

The 2012-13 IRT Statistical Abstract

Total matches played: 479

Percentage of 3 game matches: 57.4 (275 of 479)
Percentage of 4 game matches: 22.5 (108)
Percentage of 5 game matches: 14.0 (67)
Percentage of matches that were defaults or data was incomplete: 6.3 (30)

Most points scored in a victory

53 - (i) John Behm d. Arthur Schmeiser, 13-11, 8-11, 10-12, 11-5, 11-7, in the NYC Pro-Am, (ii) Alex Ackermann d. Andy Hawthorne, 9-11, 12-10, 10-12, 11-4, 11-5, in the New Jersey Open, & (iii) Alvaro Beltran d. Rocky Carson, 11-[-1], 11-1, 10-12, 9-11, 11-1

Most points scored in a loss

52 - Alvaro Beltran in loss to Ben Croft, 11-9, 11-9, 9-11, 4-11, 12-10, in the Denver Pro-Am
2nd most: 51 - (i) Alejandro Landa in loss to Daniel De La Rosa, 11-13, 11-8, 12-10, 6-11, 11-9, in the California Open, & (ii) Nick Montalbano in lose to Jose Rojas, 12-10, 10-12, 2-11, 11-9, 11-9, in the New Jersey Open

Most points in a...

5 game match: 102 - Daniel De La Rosa d. Alejandro Landa, 11-13, 11-8, 12-10, 6-11, 11-9, in the California Open
4 game match: 90 - Alex Ackermann d. Anthony Herrera, 13-11, 12-10, 9-11, 13-11 in the US Open
3 game match: 68 - Nick Montalbano d. Eric Muller, 11-7, 13-11, 14-12 in the New Jersey Open

Largest margin of victory

5 game match: 22 - Taylor Knoth d. Brad Schopieray, 11-4, 10-12, 9-11, 11-1, 11-2, in Portland
4 game match: 26 - Andrew Clarke d. Alexi David Cocco Hayes, 11-13, 11-0, 11-1, 11-4 in the Denver Pro-Am
3 game match: 33 by Roberto Santandar over Eli Mireles, 11-0, 11-0, 11-0 in the New Jersey Open

Smallest margin of victory

5 game match: -9 - Alvaro Beltran d. Ben Croft, 1-11, 11-8, 11-7, 2-11, 11-8 in the Kansas City Pro-Am
4 game match: 1 - David Horn d. Jansen Allen, 12-10, 5-11, 11-8, 11-9 in the Kansas City Pro-Am
3 game match: 8 - (i) Nick Montalbano d. Eric Muller, 11-7, 13-11, 14-12 in the New Jersey Open & (ii) Alejandro Landa d. Jose Rojas, 12-10, 11-8, 11-8, in the California Open

Waselenchuk dominance continues

Kane Waselenchuk maintained his dominant position in men's pro racquetball last season, although for the second consecutive season he missed some tournaments due to injury and he had to retire during the final of the Denver Pro-Am. Waselenchuk's will be 32 in November and he plays more racquetball matches than most of the other IRT players (although he generally only plays Tier 1 and Grand Slam events while most other players will enter some lower Tier events during the season), so he's got relatively more mileage on his body than others.

However, Waselenchuk's game level is still very high, and there seems little reason to doubt that he will again dominate the IRT this season.

The rest of the field

Waselenchuk's only lost on court in the past few season when he's been injured. You have to go back to January 2009 for his last on court loss. Will this be the season he loses again on court? We wouldn't place any bets on that, at least not without getting really good odds.

However, if he was to do so, who would do it? Rocky Carson re-established himself as the #2 IRT player last season, as he was the only other player to win any tournaments. We believe that it's possible for him to beat Waselenchuk, but clearly it's not an easy task.

It looked like Carson had an opportunity in the California Open, when Waselenchuk seemed to be injured late in the match (and he missed the tournament the next week), and Carson was ahead when they played in the Denver final prior to Waselenchuk injuring his knee that led him to retire after the third game.

So, Carson could beat Waselenchuk. Who else?

Alvaro Beltran is the last person to do (and we anticipated that), and he did reach three finals last season, losing twice to Waselenchuk and once to Carson. But Beltran's in his mid-30s now, so time's not on his side. Beltran's game style - good drive serves, lob serves tight to the right wall, and hitting winner off of diving gets - matches up well against Waselenchuk, but that style demands a lot of energy and fitness, which hasn't always been Beltran's strongest suit.

Ben Croft didn't win an event last season, as he did the season before. But he did improve his drive serve and did take a game off of Waselenchuk in one of the two finals they played together. However, one game isn't a match, but if Croft continues to improve his game, it's conceivable that he could get the better of Waselenchuk.

Like Croft, Jose Rojas won a tournament two seasons ago but not last season. He started last season poorly, but that was likely due to finishing up his college studies. With that done, he played well the in the second half of the season and is the youngest of the players in the top 4, so time is on side more than anyone else.

New blood

Six more players reached the quarter finals or better at an IRT event last season than in the season before (20 v. 14), so there have been some new faces in the later rounds of IRT events.

Daniel De La Rosa has been the best of the new players, as he finished 9th in the IRT rankings with one semi-final appearance and three quarter final appearances. De La Rosa is an exciting young player from Mexico, whose arm speed with his forehand shot is blurringly fast. He's younger than Rojas and if he plays the full season it will certainly be interesting to see how he does.

Alejandro Landa, another Mexican, also did well last season despite not playing the whole year. But in four events he had one semi-final and two quarter final finishes.

There were also some young Americans who did well last season, including Marco Rojas, Jose Diaz, Jansen Allen, and Nick Montalbano. Thus, we could see even an greater variety of players in the semi-finals and finals this season.

But in the end, we still like Waselenchuk's chances to dominate the IRT this season. He's tied with Cliff Swain for most IRT tournament wins all time at 70, and this time next week he may be the winningest IRT player ever. Considering Waselenchuk's won 70 tournaments in 108 tournament appearances* (64.8 winning percentage), and you can understand why people talk about him as the best ever.

This is sport, however, so strange things can happen, and probably will. And we'll be sure to cover it all for you during the 2013-14 IRT season.

* Note - The IRT Historical Archive lists 114 tournament appearances for Waselenchuk, but six of those were tournaments where he didn't play a single match; effectively, he wasn't there, so we've removed those events from the calculation here.

Follow the bouncing ball....

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