Saturday, March 3, 2018

Franco wins 2018 IRT March Madness

Sebastian Franco won his first International Racquetball Tour (IRT) final Saturday night by defeating Alejandro Landa, 15-9, 15-13, at the IRT March Madness tournament in San Antonio, Texas. Franco was seeded 7th, and defeated 2nd seed Alvaro Beltran in the quarterfinals, 3rd seed Jansen Allen in the semi-finals, and 4th seed Landa in the final. He becomes the first South American player to win an IRT event.

In winning, Franco denied Landa an opportunity to win back to back IRT events. Landa won the last IRT event in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Franco got off to a good start in the match, as he went up 6-0 in game one. But Landa answered with six points of his own to tie it at 6-6. They stayed there for seven rallies, and you got the feeling that the person who broke that tie would go on and win the game, even though it was still relatively early.

Franco broke the tie, and maintained the lead to win the game 15-9. He did need three game points to get it done. Landa denied the first game point with a forehand reverse pinch from deep in the court, but a Franco backhand return winner got him a second game point. Landa quelched that with a forehand pinch shot as the ball came out of the back left corner. But Franco got the serve right back with a forehand winner.

Franco won game one with a classic three shot rally. On second serve, he hit a backhand half lob Z serve to the left that Landa returned down the line. Franco stepped over and hit a backhand cross court kill shot to end it.

In game two, Landa scored the first two points, but then Franco took the lead at 4-2. He held the advantage until Landa tied it at 9-9. Landa broke that tie, and went up 11-9. Seventeen rallies later, and they were tied again: 12-12. Landa called timeout.

Eight rallies resulted in two points, and another tie: 13-13. Franco hit a backhand cross court winner to get to match point at 14-13. Then a long rally in which Franco hit three ceiling balls off strong Landa shots ended in a hinder call that Franco thought could have been an avoidable.

But the referee called a replay. On the next rally, Franco drove the ball to the left on the serve, and Landa returned it down the line. Franco ended it with a backhand pinch winner to become the 38th player to win an IRT tournament.

If there’s anything Franco proved this weekend, it’s that he can finish games. He closed out close games with Beltran, Allen and Landa. If Franco was nervous at all in his matches, it certainly didn’t show.

Franco is the fifth different player to win in as many IRT events with the previous winners being Kane Waselenchuk, Charlie Pratt, Daniel De La Rosa, and Landa. This is the first time in 23 years that there have been five different winners in consecutive tournaments. It last happened in 1995, when Andy Roberts, Sudsy Monchik, Drew Kachtik, Cliff Swain and John Ellis all won in a row.

The next IRT event will be in two weeks in Lombard, Illinois for the 33rd Annual Shamrock Shootout.

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

Final - Saturday

7) Sebastian Franco d. 4) Alejandro Landa, 15-9, 15-13

Follow the bouncing ball….

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