Friday, October 10, 2014

IRT Quarterfinals at 2014 United Healthcare US Open Racquetball Championships

The United Healthcare US Open Racquetball Championships in Minneapolis is the premier event on the racquetball calendar, and the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) quarterfinals illustrated why on Friday, as there were three dramatic matches.

Less dramatic was the last quarterfinal, as IRT #1 Kane Waselenchuk defeated Tony Carson in three straight games, 11-5, 11-5, 11-2. Waselenchuk is on pace to win his 10th US Open title.

The day started with a shock as 13th seed Alejandro Landa continued his good season as he had another upset victory; this time Daniel De La Rosa was Landa's victim, and the match was over in three straight games, 11-2, 11-8, 11-6. The win puts Landa in the US Open semi-finals for the first time in his career.

The second match was a long four game affair between 3rd seed Alvaro Beltran and 6th seed Chris Crowther, with Beltran coming out on top 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8. He ended both games three and four with diving shots for winners.

IRT #2 Rocky Carson and #7 Ben Croft then played a five game match in which Croft had six match points in game three, but Carson fought them all off to win it, 7-11, 9-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-5.

Landa drove serve throughout his match with De La Rosa, and generally drove serve to the right side - De La Rosa's forehand. When a second serve was needed Landa used a high lob to the right side.

After scoring nine unanswered points to win game one, 11-2, game two was closer with several ties, including at 8-8. However, De La Rosa never led in game two, which Landa won 11-8.

There was little surprising in Beltran and Crowther's match. Crowther played his hard hitting game, hoping it would be enough, and it did get him close, but it was not enough today. A positive sign for Beltran is the two dives he did that ended games three and four. That's an ability that few players possess and one of the qualities that could help get Beltran the US Open title.

Carson and Croft had an epic battle. The stuff US Open legends are made of, though often such matches happen in the semi-finals.

Croft came out hitting hard, driving serving even on second serve, which resulted in a two double faults. But he led throughout the game, although Carson drew close late, when Croft led 8-7. That was as close as Carson got, as Croft won the game with a backhand wide angle pass.

Croft, known for his strong forehand, hit many winning backhand shots against Carson.

In game two, it looked like Carson was going to level the match, as he had leads of 5-1 and 9-3. However, Croft fought back, scoring eight unanswered points during which Carson only served twice.

That put Croft up 2-0 and a game away from reaching the US Open semi-finals for the first time.

In game three, Carson again had an early lead at 5-1. But Croft tied it at 5-5. Carson called timeout, yet when play resumed Croft scored three straight points to make it 8-5. A Carson serve return skip made it 9-5 for Croft.

Carson cut the lead to two at 9-7, but then Croft got to 10-7: his first match point. Carson fought that off with a backhand pinch, and he score two points of his own before Croft got his second match point.

After winning the rally that got him match point number two, Croft called a timeout. When play resumed, Croft drove serve to the left - most of his drive serves in the match were to the right - and a long rally ensued that included two ceiling balls from Croft. It ended with Croft skipping the ball, but a forced skip.

Croft got four more opportunities to win the match - six match points in all. But he couldn't covert any of them. Three of the other four were winning shots by Carson with one skip from Croft.

Carson finally got a 10th point with a backhand pinch shot. He followed that up immediately with two more points to win the game, 12-10, and force a fourth game.

In game four, they were close all the way to 7-7. From there Carson held Croft off the board, and scored four points of his own to win it, 11-7.

In the fifth game, Croft began to favour his left leg. He may have been cramping. Carson took advantage and a 9-1 lead. Whatever Croft was feeling, he certainly didn't stop trying to win, and kept diving for balls.

In fact, he staged a small comeback, as he scored four points to make the score 9-5. But that was as close as Croft got in the breaker, as Carson won it 11-5.

Croft's fighting spirit was there to the end, as he dove three times on the last rally of the match.

Thus, the semi-finals are a relative unknown in Landa against the Waselenchuk, who many consider to be the best of all time and who's trying to win a 10th US Open title, and the IRT's #2 and #3 players in Carson and Beltran.

It should be good.

The IRT semi-finals will be Saturday at 11 AM and 2 PM. Play will streamed live via the IRT Network.

2014 United Healthcare US Open
IRT Singles Draw
Minneapolis, Minnesota - October 8-12, 2014

Quarterfinals - Friday

1 Kane Waselenchuk d. 8 Tony Carson, 11-5, 11-5, 11-2
13 Alejandro Landa d. 5 Daniel De La Rosa, 11-2, 11-8, 11-6

3 Alvaro Beltran d. 6 Chris Crowther, 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8
2 Rocky Carson d. 7 Ben Croft, 7-11, 9-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-5

Semi-finals - Saturday

1 Kane Waselenchuk v. 13 Alejandro Landa - 2:00 PM
2 Rocky Carson v. 3 Alvaro Beltran

Follow the bouncing ball….

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