Sunday, October 2, 2016

2016 US Open Championships - IRT Preview

It’s that time of the year, racquetball fans! US Open time! The 2016 United Healthcare US Open begins this Wednesday, October 5, in Minneapolis. It’s a true Grand Slam event in the sense of having both the professional men (International Racquetball Tour - IRT) and women (Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour - LPRT) competing at the same site. The Grand Slam scope of the event is even fuller the last two years, as the pros will be playing doubles as well as singles.

There is much to talk about, so we’ll break it into two parts. First, the IRT draws. Kane Waselenchuk, the IRT’s #1 player, is the 8 time defending champion, and will be looking to win his 12th title overall. Waselenchuk hasn’t lost a US Open match since 2002, when the event was still in Memphis, Tennessee. He’s undefeated in Minneapolis.

Waselenchuk has also won the two IRT US Open Doubles titles that have been held so far. He won both with Ben Croft, and they will be teaming up again this year, although Croft has not played any IRT matches since last year’s US Open doubles final. Croft had shoulder surgery last year, and was reported to need extensive time to recover from that. We’ll see how much Croft has recovered.

Our understanding is that Waselenchuk and Croft will be seeded #1 based on their defending champion status, and despite the fact that Croft’s IRT ranking has fallen to 43 due to his inactivity while recovering from his injury.

The top 14 IRT players - and 25 of the top 30 - are in the US Open draw. That should make from some great matches, although anyone betting against Waselenchuk winning his 12th title would easily find someone to take that bet.

Indeed, it’s unclear whether any one would even bet against Waselenchuk winning the final in three games, as he’s won the final in three straight games 9 of the 11 times he’s been in the final. In 2010, Alvaro Beltran forced him to a fourth game, and the following year so did Rocky Carson. Both times it was the first game that Waselenchuk lost before rebounding to win three straight.

We’ve got the top 16 seeded players (unofficial) listed for you below. There are 67 players entered in the IRT division, and the top 16 will be seeded into the Round of 32 with the remaining players playing qualifying matches to claim one of the other 16 spots in the draw.

Some highlights of the players who will have to qualify for the Round of 32 include former IRT #1 Cliff Swain, Japanese veteran Hiroshi Shimizu, young Californians Jose Diaz and David Horn, as well as Mexicans Alejandro Landa, Edson Martinez, Javier Mar and Jaime Martell, and Ecuadoran Fernando Rios and Canadian Samuel Murray.

We believe that last year’s Doubles Champions - Waselenchuk and Croft - will be seeded #1 in doubles with runners up Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz seeded #2, but we’re not sure what the seedings will be past that. IRT President Jason Mannino said the US Open will do the seedings themselves.

But there are some intriguing teams, past last year’s finalists. People probably thought Waselenchuk and Croft would face Rocky Carson and Alvaro Beltran in the final last year, but Bredenbeck and Diaz beat them in the quarterfinals. However, Carson and Beltran are back again this year. The Rojas brothers - Jose and Marco - are also playing together again this year, and IRT #3 Daniel De La Rosa will play with countryman Edson Martinez. They won 2014 Pan American Championships together.

Maybe the most interesting new team is Swain, a left-hander, with righthander Jansen Allen, who is the IRT’s #6 player and half of the Pan American Games gold medal winning side (with Jose Rojas). With strength on both sides, they could be tough to beat.

The 2016 United Healthcare US Open begins Wednesday October 5 and finishes Sunday October 9 at the Life Time Athletic Target Center club in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

2016 United Healthcare US Open
Minneapolis, Minnesota - October 5-9, 2016

IRT Men’s Singles
(with unofficial seedings based on IRT rankings)

1 Kane Waselenchuk
2 Rocky Carson
3 Daniel De La Rosa
4 Alvaro Beltran

5 Jose Rojas
6 Jansen Allen
7 Marco Rojas
8 Sebastian Franco

9 Felipe Camacho
10 Mario Mercado
11 Jake Bredenbeck
12 Robert Collins

13 Mauricio Zelada
14 Scott McClellan
15 Charlie Pratt
16 Andree Parrilla

Follow the bouncing ball….

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