Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rojas upsets Waselenchuk in semi-finals of IRT Kansas City Pro-Am / Ghost of Georgetown

Jose Rojas did what no one has done since January 2009: defeat Kane Waselenchuk, the #1 International Racquetball Tour (IRT) player in a complete match, as Rojas defeated Waselenchuk in the semi-finals of the Kansas City Pro-Am / Ghost of Georgetown tournament, 2-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-4.

Rojas, the #4 IRT player, will play IRT #2 Rocky Carson in the final on Sunday. Carson defeated IRT #3 Alvaro Beltran in the other semi-final, 11-8, 11-4, 11-2.

Rojas should be wary of tomorrow's final, as the last time Waselenchuk lost was also in a semi-final, when Beltran beat him in the 2009 California Open, and Beltran last in that final to Carson. It's often difficult to follow up a huge upset the next day.

In game one, Waseelenchuk looked comfortable and led all the way, winning 11-2. Rojas had a lead at the start of game two, going up 3-0 and 5-2 before Waselenchuk caught him and took his own lead a 9-5.

But Rojas held Waselenchuk at nine and scored six straight points to take game two, 11-9. Rojas hit drive serves to both the left and right as well as drive Z serves to the right, which was to the left-handed Waselenchuk's backhand.

Rojas kept the momentum up in game three, as he went out to a 6-1 lead. They went back and forth at the point and Waselenchuk worked his way back into the game, tying it at 7-7.

Most likely expected at this would where Waselenchuk steps it up or Rojas would fall apart, but neither happened. Rojas got the next point, making it 8-7, and maintained the lead to win 11-8, on a drive serve ace to the back left corner.

And so it was that Waselenchuk found himself down 2-1 for the first time since February 2011, when Carson was up 2-1 on him in the final of the San Diego Open. Then Waselenchuk came back to win 12-10 in the tie-breaker.

But in game four, Rojas again took a big lead early, going up 5-0. Waselenchuk came back and closed the gap, but never less than two, when he trailed 6-4. Rojas held the the #1 player at 4 as he scored the last five points of the match, winning game four 11-4.

Rojas won on the first match point, as Waselenchuk skipped a serve return of what might have been Rojas's worse serve of the match. He drove serve to the right, but hit it well high and it came off the right wall putting Waselenchuk in an awkward spot. Waselenchuk hit it to the left, which might have been a pinch attempt, but the ball hit the floor around the service box.

Afterwards, Waselenchuk said "today just wasn't my day," and "it is what it is." Asked about his knee, which caused him to default a match last season, Waselenchuk said "my body's good." However, he also said he "didn't care whether I won or lost" adding that it showed in his play, so it seems Waselenchuk wasn't in the right place mentally Saturday, and it cost him.

Thus, Waselenchuk won't set the record for most career IRT tournament wins. He's currently tied with Cliff Swain at 70. The next IRT event is the US Open in early October. Waselenchuk hasn't lost a US Open match since 2002, and it would be fitting if he set the career tournament wins record in Minneapoils at the US Open.

In the other semi, Carson had a relatively easy time with Beltran winning in three straight games, although he said afterwards he's always ready to play four or five games when facing Beltran. Carson was helped by Beltran who wasn't sharp Saturday. For example, Beltran skipped shots on the last four rallies of game two giving Carson a 2-0 advantage.

The IRT Network will webcast the final at noon CDT on Sunday.

2013 Kansas City Pro-Am - Ghost of Georgetown

Semi finals (with seeding)

4 Jose Rojas d. 1 Kane Waselenchuk, 2-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-4
2 Rocky Carson v. 3 Alvaro Beltran, 11-8, 11-4, 11-2

Final (with seeding)

2 Rocky Carson v. 4 Jose Rojas - Noon Sunday

Follow the bouncing ball….

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