Saturday, March 3, 2018

Franco & Landa to battle for 2018 IRT March Madness title

Sebastian Franco, seeded 7th this weekend, will play in his 1st International Racquetball Tour (IRT) final Saturday night, as he defeated 3rd seed Jansen Allen, 15-11, 15-14, in the semi-finals of the IRT March Madness tournament in San Antonio, Texas. It was the 6th career semi-final for both Franco and Allen. If Allen had won, he would have been in his first IRT final. Thus, it was a big match for both players, but to their credit, there was no indication of nervousness in their play.

Like Franco, 4th seed Alejandro Landa also had an upset victory, as he defeated #1 seed Daniel De La Rosa, 6-15, 15-14, 11-3, in the other semi.

They were close all the way in game one, as they were tied at one, three, four, seven, and eight. Allen then took a slight lead at 10-8. Eighteen rallies later, and they were tied again, 11-11.

Franco stepped it up from there, as he scored three points to reach game point at 14-11, which was his biggest lead of the game. Allen fought off that game point with a backhand cross court winner off a backhand half lob serve down the left side. But Franco got a sideout right back. With his second game point, Franco made no mistake, as he hit a backhand drive serve to the left, which Allen returned cross court, and Franco hit a great forehand pinch winner from deep in the court to take the game, 15-11.

In game two, Allen took the early lead at 6-0. Franco got to within three at 9-6, only to see Allen extend the lead to 11-6. Franco didn’t stop working, but he didn’t tie it until 13-13. Franco hit a forehand winner to make it 14-13.

They traded a few sideouts, and then Allen tied it at 14-14 with a forehand pinch. But he didn’t convert that game point, as Franco hit a great forehand pinch shot of his own. Franco served for the match for the 3rd time, and it was a long rally that ended when Franco hit a forehand that went wide from right to left, and as it came back to the right off the back wall, Allen moved over to get it, but couldn’t connect on the shot.

Thus, Franco is into his first IRT final.

In that final, he’ll play Alejandro Landa, who came from a game down to beat Daniel De La Rosa, 6-15, 15-14, 11-3, in the other semi-final. It was unexpected result, as Landa was pedestrian at best in game one, when De La Rosa was in complete control.

But Landa stepped it up in game two, and took a 9-0 lead. Yet, you weren’t sure Landa was really going to do it, and that uncertainty only grew as De La Rosa worked his way back into the game, and when De La Rosa eventually drew even with Landa at 13-13, you could be excused for thinking that the match was going to be over in two games.

De La Rosa getting to 14 first only increased the suspicions that he’d win in two straight games. But Landa got the serve back when De La Rosa skipped a backhand shot. However, Landa returned the favor with an unforced backhand skip of his own to give De La Rosa match point number two. Landa prevented De La Rosa converting that match point with a forehand winner, and then scored on his own serve to tie the game at 14-14.

It was De La Rosa’s turn to deny Landa a game point, which he did by forcing a skip from his opponent. But Landa regained the serve with a backhand winner, and finished the game with a strong forehand cross court shot to force a tie-breaker.

In the breaker, they were close early on, tying at 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4. But then Landa went on a run. At 6-4, De La Rosa took a timeout, and he did get a sideout when play resumed, but Landa got the serve right back. Landa went from 6-4 to 10-4. His 10th point was a forehand serve return skip by De La Rosa, who then had an angry outburst that resulted in a technical, and a loss of a point.

On the next rally, De La Rosa skipped a backhand serve return off a second serve lob to the left side by Landa, who as a result won the game, 11-3, and the match 2-1.

Landa’s win means he has a chance to win back to back IRT titles, joining an illustrious list of players, including current IRT #1 Kane Waselenchuk and #2 Rocky Carson. If he does so today, Landa will join Davey Bledsoe as the only players to have two career wins in back to back tournaments.

The final will be 6:50 PM (Central time) Saturday night, and you can see it live via the IRT Network.

2018 IRT March Madness, March 1-4, 2018
San Antonio, Texas

Semi-finals - Saturday

4) Alejandro Landa d. 1) Daniel De La Rosa, 6-15, 15-14, 11-3
7) Sebastian Franco d. 3) Jansen Allen, 15-11, 15-14

Final - Saturday

4) Alejandro Landa v. 7) Sebastian Franco - 6:50 PM

Follow the bouncing ball….

1 comment:

Bruce Penman said...

DLR is my main man, but Landa beating him right now is no upset. Landa plays a strategically flawless game, so when he is hitting his shots, he is very hard to beat. I think Kane is the only dude that could take him out of his game no matter how well Landa is playing.