Sunday, September 15, 2013

Rojas closes the deal, winning IRT Kansas City Pro-Am / Ghost of Georgetown

Jose Rojas finished the job on Sunday as he won the Kansas City Pro-Am / Ghost of Georgetown tournament - the first event of the 2013-14 International Racquetball Tour (IRT) season - by defeating Rocky Carson in the final, 11-4, 11-5, 9-11, 3-11, 13-11. It's Rojas's second career victory.

Rojas cruised through the first two games and looked like he was going to win in three straight, as he led in game three at 9-6. Carson had other ideas.

Carson got a point to make it 9-7, and then they went back and forth at that score before Carson put together four straight points on consecutive rallies to take the third game, 11-9.

Carson's momentum carried over into game four, as he went out to a 5-0 lead. Rojas called time out and got two points immediately after that making it 5-2, but he was only able to get one more point as Carson went on to win 11-3.

That set up a fifth game tie-breaker, and what a game that was. It mirrored the first four games, as Rojas took the lead early and stayed ahead. Carson never got closer than two points after it was 2-1 in Rojas's favour.

Rojas got the score to 10-5, and then stalled. He had five chances to win, but skipped most of those opportunities. This allowed Carson back into the game, and he tied it at 10-10.

Then Carson took the lead for the first time in the game, and served for the match. He hit a jam serve to the left that went long. On his second serve, Carson hit an off speed Z serve to the left that Rojas returned with a backhand kill shot.

Rojas couldn't score on his serve, giving Carson another opportunity to win it at 11-10. But on that rally Carson hit a forehand on the right side that came back to himself and Rojas was right there to play the ball. A penalty hinder, or avoidable, was assessed and Carson lost the rally.

Rojas seized the opportunity and won the next three rallies to take the game and match, 13-11.

At the end of the match, Rojas just lay on the floor for several seconds as Carson came over and congratulated him. Afterwards, Rojas said "I feel great and awful at the same time," as he seemed to be cramping up in the latter part of the tie-breaker.

But Rojas overcame that to win his second career tournament. The first came in February of 2012, when he defeated Alvaro Beltran in the final of the San Diego Open. That match also went five games with Rojas winning it 12-10 in the fifth.

Rojas was 4th seed in that tournament as he was this weekend, but he beat four qualifying players en route to the title: Juan Herrera, Javier Moreno, Tony Carson and Alvaro Beltran, who was coming back from a knee injury that kept him out for the better part of a year.

However, this weekend Rojas went through the IRT's #1 and #2 players in Kane Waselenchuk and Carson, respectively. Rojas defeated Waselenchuk in the semi-finals yesterday.

When Rojas was a junior player there was talk about him as a potentially the next #1 IRT player. That talk diminished with the great play of Waselenchuk, who's loss yesterday was his first in a complete match in over four and a half years.

But with Rojas's performance this weekend that talk may start up again. Consider that Rojas is one of five players to win the U18 IRF World Junior Championship twice (or more), winning it in 2008 and 2009. Three of the other four players - Sudsy Monchik, Rocky Carson and Jack Huczek - became #1 on the IRT.

Only Rojas and Ben Croft have yet to do so. But maybe this will be Rojas's year. He's certainly made a good start to it.

The next IRT event is the US Open in Minneapolis October 2-6. You can be sure that Waselenchuk, who hasn't lost a US Open match since 2002, will be prepared to defend the title he has won eight times.

2013 Kansas City Pro-Am - Ghost of Georgetown

Final (with seeding)

4 Jose Rojas d. 2 Rocky Carson, 11-4, 11-5, 9-11, 3-11, 13-11

Follow the bouncing ball….

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