Monday, October 11, 2021

Weekend Round Up - IRT statement on the Waselenchuk decision & the Open Division winners from the US Open

IRT Statement on Kane Waselenchuk’s decision

The International Racquetball Tour (IRT) made an “Official Statement” prior to its US Open final on Sunday, which was posted on Facebook on Monday regarding Kane Waselenchuk’s forfeit of his semi-final match at the US Open versus Carlos Keller on Saturday. Waselenchuk’s decision was shocking, and in his post-match interview following his quarterfinal win he made no indication that he was even considering not playing.

The IRT’s statement read as follows:

”The IRT is disappointed in the decision by Kane Waselenchuk not to play in the singles semifinal at the UnitedHealthcare US Open on Saturday. It is an unfortunate decision that detracts from the tremendous play of all of the players and the celebration of the 25th anniversary of this event. The IRT is unaware of any injury or circumstances that would have prevented Kane from playing. The IRT provides the opportunity for open communication between all of our players and management. Our goal is to make the tour as successful as possible.”

There’s not a lot of content in that other than to express disappointment in the situation.

Of course, it’s a difficult situation for the IRT, who presumably aren’t interested in airing any “dirty laundry” in public, which is an appropriate stance for the organization to take.

Waselenchuk’s statement on Saturday about why he wasn’t playing cited “disagreements with the International Racquetball Tour,” so there is an onus on him to state what they are. The IRT can then respond to his statement. The IRT didn’t prevent him from playing. He chose not to play for reasons that are currently unstated.

While we would all like to have clarification on this situation, it won’t allow us to go back in time and have Waselenchuk and Keller play that semi-final. It’s always sad when a match isn’t played, regardless of the circumstances.

This situation was created by Waselenchuk, but that doesn’t mean the IRT had no part in it. We understand there has been friction between the two parties for some time, although the exact nature of that friction isn’t clear. Whether one of the parties somehow increased that friction Friday night or whether Waselenchuk tolerated that friction at the US Open as long as he was playing doubles with Sudsy Monchik is uncertain.

When Waselenchuk and Monchik, who were a fun team to see play, lost in the semi-finals Friday, Waselenchuk may have lost his real reason for being in Minneapolis. He’ll turn 40 next month, so Waselenchuk may be more focussed on the next phase of his life rather than racquetball. He has accomplished more than anyone else in IRT history, so his ability has been proven over and over.

Waselenchuk may have been intent on retiring after this US Open anyway, given his age and that Doug Ganim - the only tournament director the US Open has ever had - is retiring, which casts a shadow of uncertainty over the future of the event. Furthermore, Waselenchuk hadn’t played singles since prior to the pandemic, which suggests he might not be interested in competing anymore.

What’s clear is that this is a sad situation, and doesn’t reflect well on either party. Could they have done something so it wouldn’t have got to this point? Probably, though it’s difficult to say without knowing the causes of the friction, which will likely never be completely known.

If Waselenchuk has played his last IRT match, it will be a sad way to go out. But he’s left a legacy of excellence that will likely never be matched.

That is something to be admired.

Open Division winners at the US Open

The top seeds in Women’s and Men’s Open won their respective divisions on Sunday at the 2021 UnitedHealthcare US Open in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the women’s final, Angelica Barrios beat 2nd seed Carla Muñoz, 15-12, 15-6, while in the men’s final Andres Acuña came back from a game down to defeat 3rd seed Erik Trujillo, 7-15, 15-11, 11-4.

In the women’s semi-finals, Barrios beat 5th seed Kelani Lawrence, 15-14, 15-5, while Muñoz held on to defeat 19th seed Erin Groves, 15-13, 13-15, 11-5. In the men’s semis, Acuña defeated 5th seed Set Cubillos, 15-4, 15-11, and Trujillo beat 10th seed Shai Manzuri, 15-2, 15-12.

Barrios’s win was a successful defense of the Women’s Open title she won at the 2019 US Open. The open division is usually off limits for players ranked in the top 8 on the pro tours, and given Barrios’s semi-final finish in the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) divison in Minneapolis, she may not be able to make it three in a row next year, because she could be in the top 8 by season’s end.

A curious thing about the men’s division is that the 2nd seed Felipe Camacho lost his first match to Hector Barrios. Barrios then lost to Juan Francisco Cueva, who lost to Manzuri, who lost to Trujillo, who lost to Acuña. This means that Camacho gets the wooden spoon, or had the worst outcome in the division, which is an unusual thing to happen to the 2nd seeded player.

2021 UnitedHealthcare US Open Racquetball Championships
October 6-10, 2021 - Minneapolis, Minnesota

Women’s Open Singles - Final

1) Angelica Barrios d. 2) Carla Muñoz, 15-12, 15-6

Semi-Finals

1) Angelica Barrios d. 5) Kelani Lawrence, 15-14, 15-5
2) Carla Muñoz d. 19) Erin Groves, 15-13, 13-15, 11-5

Quarterfinals

1) Angelica Barrios d. 8) Maria Renee Rodriguez, 15-7, 15-5
5) Kelani Lawrence d. 4) Micaela Meneses, 15-10, 15-9

19) Erin Groves d. 6) Sheryl Lotts, 15-11, 12-15, 11-8
2) Carla Muñoz d. 7) Jenny Daza, 15-6, 15-9

Men’s Open Singles - Final

1) Andres Acuña d. 3) Erik Trujillo, 7-15, 15-11, 11-4

Semi-Finals

1) Andres Acuña d. 5) Set Cubillos, 15-4, 15-11
3) Erik Trujillo d. 10) Shai Manzuri, 15-2, 15-12

Quarterfinals

1) Andres Acuña d. 40) Luis Aguilar, 15-5, 15-0
5) Set Cubillos d. 13) Joe Kelley, 15-8, 15-6

3) Erik Trujillo d. 6) Edwin Galicia, 15-11, 15-13
10) Shai Manzuri d. 18) Juan Francisco Cueva, 15-12, 14-15, 15-8

Follow the bouncing ball…..

Sunday, October 10, 2021

De La Rosa wins his 1st US Open at the 2021 UnitedHealthcare US Open

Daniel De La Rosa won his first US Open International Racquetball Tour (IRT) title Sunday at the 2021 UnitedHealthcare US Open in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he defeated Carlos Keller, 15-13, 11-15, 11-3. It was the first US Open IRT final to go to a tiebreaker in the 25 years of the event. It makes De La Rosa the first Mexican man to win the US Open, and he joins Kane Waselenchuk as the only men to win both IRT Singles and Doubles at the US Open.

It was truly a day of firsts.

De La Rosa was heavily favoured heading into the final, as he's the #2 player on the IRT, while Keller is #12. Keller got a berth in the final after Waselenchuk's surprise forfeit of their semi-final on Saturday. Waselenchuk was the 12 time defending champion.

But Keller is the two time reigning Pan American Champion, so he's no slouch. Keller proved that in game one, as he got a quick start going up 7-1. In fact, he led the whole way in game one.

That is until it was 13-10. De La Rosa called a timeout then, and got the serve back on the next rally, as he appealed for an avoidable hinder, which the line judges granted. He then won the next five rallies to come back and win game one, 15-13.

The storyline of game two was similar, as Keller again led; this time 7-3. But De La Rosa's comeback was sooner as he tied Keller at 9-9. They tied again at 11-11.

But this time Keller got the last few points to win it, 15-11. De La Rosa did call a timeout at 13-11, but to no avail.

Often it seems that when two close games result in a tie-breaker, the breaker is lopsided. So it was Sunday, as De La Rosa stormed out of the gate in game three, taking a 5-0 lead. Keller called timeout.

Keller won a long rally when play resumed, but a great backhand return by De La Rosa of Keller's drive serve to the left side denied him any points. And De La Rosa kept scoring, as he took the score up to 9-0.

At that point, the referee called a De La Rosa shot a skip, but Keller acknowledged that the ball actually him, so they replayed it. The crowd applauded the sportsmanship, and it seemed that Keller would be rewarded with some good karma as he won the next two rallies, which got him on the board at 9-1.

He got a second point, but that was all Keller could get as De La Rosa was able to finish it, winning 11-3 when Keller hit a weak forehand shot that skipped. That was a sad ending to what was a very good match.

The IRT will next be at the 2021 3 Wall Ball Outdoor World Championships in Las Vegas, October 20-24. Following that the tour closes the year with two Tier 1 events.

They'll play at a combined LPRT/IRT (International Racquetball Tour) event in Arizona, November 11-14, and then on the next weekend, they'll be in Sarasota, Florida for the 2021 Sarasota Open, November 18-21.

2021 UnitedHealthcare US Open Racquetball Championships
October 6-10, 2021 - Minneapolis, Minnesota

IRT Singles - Final - Sunday

2) Daniel De La Rosa d. 12) Carlos Keller, 15-13, 11-15, 11-3

Follow the bouncing ball…..

Longoria wins 11th LPRT US Open Sunday at the 2021 UnitedHealthcare US Open

Mexican Paola Longoria won the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) US Open title for a record extending 11th time, and 10th in a row, Sunday at the 2021 UnitedHealthcare US Open in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She defeated Maria Jose Vargas of Argentina in the final, 15-3, 15-8.

In game one, they were close early, but after Longoria led 4-2, she scored multiple points each time she was in the service box. In contrast, Vargas struggled to even get in the box, let alone score points.

Of the three points Vargas got in game one, two were ace serves. She just wasn't getting it done in the rallies.

Game two was more competitive early and through the mid-game. Vargas actually led at 4-3 and 5-4, as it seemed there might be a chink in the Longoria armour.

But any flaw was quickly mended with four straight points to lead 8-5. Vargas did respond with a couple of her own to get within one at 8-7.

Then it was slow going for a bit, but Longoria did edge ahead to 11-8. After getting the serve back at that point, she called a timeout.

When play resumed, Longoria won the last four points on as many rallies for the victory. Two of the four points were from Vargas skips, and unforced errors at that.

If you are going to cause an upset - and defeating Longoria would be a big upset - you can't be hurting yourself, yet that's what Vargas did too often Sunday.

Vargas also hit the ball to Longoria far too often, which wasn't making Longoria uncomfortable. You want to make your opponent uncomfortable, especially when trying to cause an upset.

The LPRT will next be at the 2021 3 Wall Ball Outdoor World Championships in Las Vegas, October 20-24. Following that the tour closes the year with three Tier 1 events.

They'll play back to back weekends in November. First, there will be a combined LPRT/IRT (International Racquetball Tour) event in Arizona, November 11-14, which will be followed by the LPRT Turkey Shoot Pro-Am in Chicago, November 19-21. 2021 will close with the 30th Annual Christmas Classic in Severna Park, Maryland, December 10-12. That'll make for a busy finish to the year for the LPRT.

If you missed the final - or any of the other LPRT US Open action - check out the LPRT YouTube channel, as well as the LPRT Facebook page.

2021 UnitedHealthcare US Open Racquetball Championships
October 6-10, 2021 - Minneapolis, Minnesota

LPRT Singles - Final - Sunday

1) Paola Longoria d. 3) Maria Jose Vargas, 15-3, 15-8

Follow the bouncing ball…..