Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 10 Racquetball Stories of 2013

On this the final day of 2013, The Racquetball Blog has put together its list of the Top 10 Racquetball Stories of the year. There were several to choose from, and before we get to the top 10 here are some Honourable Mentions: Rocky Carson, Rhonda Rajsich, Marco Rojas, Cliff Swain, and the doubles team of Jansen Allen & Tony Carson.

The Top 10 Racquetball Stories of 2013

10) Mexican Dominance at World Juniors. Mexicans won gold in four of the six World Cup singles divisions (U18, U16, U14 Boys & Girls) and swept all six doubles divisions at the 2013 International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Juniors in Bolivia. It's the kind of performance that the USA junior team used to do, but the Americans haven't done in some time, and the USA had their worst outcome this year with only three (3!) medals. To be fair, two of their Junior National Champions weren't in Bolivia, but nonetheless it has to be a concern.

9) Maria Jose Vargas. The 2012 World Junior U18 Girls Champion made a big splash on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) in 2013 and is currently the 4th ranked LPRT player, having reached the semi-finals in four of the five LPRT events this season.

8) Daniel De La Rosa. There have been several young Mexican male players do well at the junior level, but none has really broken through at the senior level. Until now. De La Rosa has been on the radar for a few years, and this season he reached his first International Racquetball Tour (IRT) final, where he lost to fellow Mexican Alvaro Beltran. A string of good performances have got De La Rosa up to 6th on the IRT rankings.

7) World Racquetball Tour. A new racquetball association was created this year: the World Racquetball Tour (WRT). WRT events have been held in the southwest USA and in Mexico and Chile, and are aimed at developing mens players. The idea of having more racquetball competitions isn't bad in and of itself, although having another racquetball association that may be aimed at rivalling the IRT could be problematic if it leads to a division among the elite players, as in what happened in boxing, which had three different associations at one point each with their own champion in each weight class so it was difficult to figure out who, for example, was really the heavyweight champion of the world.

6) Alvaro Beltran. Beltran got the monkey, which was probably King Kong size, off his back by winning a IRT Tier 1 event in early November. He's been a winner in several other venues - internationally (IRF World Champion in 2000) and outdoors - but he hadn't got that big IRT win. Beltran's the 3rd ranked IRT player, and deservingly so.

5) Cristina Amaya. Amaya reached new heights in 2013. She was a silver medalist at the 2013 World Games in her homeland of Colombia, and late in the year reached the #3 position on the LPRT despite having some inconsistent results in the first half of the LPRT season. However, Amaya's game is clearly in the ascendency.

4) Jose Rojas. Rojas got his second career IRT win in Kansas City when he defeated IRT #1 Kane Waselenchuk and IRT #2 Rocky Carson in back to back matches. Rojas has had some disappointing results, but he seems to have raised the top end of his game, so that when he's playing his best he has a great chance to beat anyone.

3) Young players on the LPRT. Several young players have played well on the LPRT so far this season, including Amaya and Vargas, mentioned above, but also Aubrey Kirch, Veronica Sotomayor, Maria Paz Muñoz, Frédérique Lambert and Sharon Jackson. The LPRT began a scholarship program to help young players get to events, and this was begun through a suggestion by Rhonda Rajsich, and good on her for doing so. The elite of the LPRT in recent years have been over 30, Cheryl Gudinas, Kerri Wachtel, Susana Acosta, as well as Rajsich, and though they can still play at a high level, there was a need for new players to step up and this scholarship program will help them do so.

2) Kane Waselenchuk. Waselenchuk lost in his first tournament of the IRT season, but then rebounded to win his 9th US Open, which was his record setting 71 career IRT win surpassing Cliff Swain's 70 wins. The record helps to solidify Waselenchuk's position as the best men's racquetball player ever, which is something we at The Racquetball Blog have thought for sometime.

1) Paola Longoria. Longoria's on court performance has been great - she's won every women's pro event since May 2011, and could be enough to put her on top of this list alone, although it would be close with what Waselenchuk has achieved. But Longoria's the top story because of the impact she's having in Mexico, where she is a big deal. Big. Deal. Forbes Mexican edition named its most influential women in Mexico and Longoria was included along with judges, lawyers, and social activists. A tournament was created in her name and televised live within Mexico. These are things that the men's game dreams of having, and they are the reason Longoria is the biggest story in racquetball right now.

Clearly, there were a lot of good stories in racquetball in 2013 and we look forward to more of the same in 2014, when we'll continue to…

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