Friday, October 31, 2008

WPRO rankings & IRT win-loss summary

We've got the latest Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) rankings courtesy of Brenda Kyzer.

Paola Longoria, on the strength of her US Open win, has moved up to third from fifth. Also moving up signifcantly are Veronica Sotomayor up to 13th and Aubrey O'brien to 21st. Moving down the rankings to 18th is Jennifer Saunders who lost in the 32s of the US Open to Christie Van Hees, who remains ranked 19th. Last year Saunders reached the 16s at the US Open and Van Hees was in the semis while this year she lost in the quarters.

Rank - Name - Hometown

1 Rhonda Rajsich, Phoenix, AZ
2 Cheryl Gudinas Holmes, Naperville, IL
3 Paola Longoria, San Luis Posti, Mexico
4 Kerri Wachtel, Cincinnati, OH
5 Angela Grisar, Santiago, Chile
6 Kristen Bellows, Pleasant Grove, UT
7 Adrienne Fisher, Centerville, OH
8 Brenda Kyzer, Leesville, SC
9 Doreen Fowler, Silver Spring, MD
10 Jo Shattuck, Denver, CO
11 Diane Moore, Griffith, IN
12 Samantha Salas, Leon, Mexico
13 Veronica Sotomayor, Ecuador
14 Vivian Gomez, Miami, FL
15 T. J. Baumbaugh, Reston, VA
16 Kimi Ferina, Rockaway Park, NY
17 Keely Franks, Euless, TX
18 Jennifer Saunders, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
19 Christie Van Hees, Calgary, AB, Canada
20 Candi Hostovich, Falls Church, VA
21 Aubrey O'Brien, Auburn, CA
22 Sofia Rascon, California
23 Cristina Amaya, Cali, Columbia
24 Susy Acosta, Chihuahua, Mexico
25 Brandi Jacobson Prentice, Saskatoon, SK, Canada

IRT Season Summary

There are some International Racquetball Tour (IRT) events this weekend, but no Tier I event for a couple weeks, when the Juarez Open will happen down in Juarez, Mexico. Thus, it's a good time to review what's happened so far this season.

Below are the win-loss record of IRT players who have won at least one match from the Round of 16 on (US Open matches prior to the 16s and qualifying draws not included) in the first 5 events of the IRT season.

Player - Match Wins & Losses - Games Won & Lost

Kane Waselenchuk 16-0 - 48-10
Jack Huczek 11-4 - 39-17
Rocky Carson 11-5 - 37-22
Alvaro Beltran 10-5 - 34-23
Jason Mannino 7-4 - 25-6
Shane Vanderson 5-5 - 18-17
Jason Thoerner 5-5 - 16-21
Mitch Williams 4-5 - 16-18
Ben Croft 4-5 - 16-16
Chris Crowther 1-4 - 7-12

Waslenechuk was won 4 of the 5 IRT events, with Huczek taking the other. Huczek's been in two finals as well as two semi-finals. For Carson it's three finals and one semi. Beltran one final and 3 semi-finals. Mannino has reached the semi-finals in three of the four events he's played, and Vanderson's been in the semis once.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who can beat Kane Waselenchuk?

Given the way Kane Waselenchuk is playing this International Racquetball Tour (IRT) season, punctuated by his dominant performance in the US Open final, when he gave up only 8 points in defeating the IRT's #1 player, Rocky Carson, it begs the question "who can beat him?"

After Sunday's final, we asked Waselenchuk which of the other IRT players could beat him. "All of them," he said. "They're the best racquetball players in the world. They can beat me if I'm not playing my best."

True enough, but perhaps too kind. We think there are some players whose game styles match up better against Waselenchuk than others. Players who can put pressure on him with their serve, and can make winning shots when saving balls are going to do better against Waselenchuk. We're talking about making diving winners here, not diving ceiling balls that will simply give Waselenchuk another opportunity to roll the ball out.

By putting pressure on Waselenchuk via the serve, we mean drive serving. Not all the players drive serve effectively enough that they use that serve against each other. Carson, Jack Huczek, and Jason Mannino all hit primarily lob and half lob serves. Huczek's drive serve is OK, but he often foot faults and when there are side-judges looking for that, it will get called, decreasing his drive serve's effectiveness.

Shane Vanderson also served half lobs during the US Open. But he can make diving winners, which isn't something that all other players do. And pulling a rally out with a saving shot like that is the second feature that we think will be important to beating Waselenchuk.

Alvaro Beltran can drive serve effectively and make a winning shot with a rally saving dive. Thus, we think his game style is most likely to defeat Waselenchuk. It's no surprise that they went five games in their match in the US Open quarter finals.

Mitch Williams also has the service game to put pressure on Waselenchuk, and did win a game against him in their Round of 16 US Open match. But does Williams have the game during the rally to come out on top? He's been close in matches with the players ranked above him, but Williams still needs to have a breakout win or better a number of wins over the players we've mentioned above to show that he could be a threat for #1.

The other elements that Waselenchuk's opponents need if they are going to come out on top is patience, confidence and discipline. Discipline to take the right shot in a rally, and patience to keep taking that shot even though it won't be successful 100% of the time, and confidence to know that the right shot will be successful most of the time.

The problem with these elements is while the top racquetball players rarely lack for confidence they aren't always so patient or disciplined. Part of that is the nature of the game. Racquetball rewards aggressive play, so often players, especially at the IRT level, try to making a rally ending shot every time they hit the ball. However, going for a winner on each shot will often mean that the shot does not end the rally in the shooter's favour. Can you say "skip?"

In sum, to beat Waselenchuk you need a strong drive serve, preferably one that puts him on the move. Then during the rallies you need to take the right shot, and keep taking it even if he's hit winners off a couple of them. Also, when he doesn't quite put the ball away during a rally, you need to be able to make some diving winners, snatching rally victory from the jaws of defeat.

And in doing so, you just might find what you need to beat Kane Waselenchuk.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Trails Brian Istace!

At last year's US Open we were talking to a fellow from West Virginia, who was there as a spectator. He said he'd watched a player who was drive serving like a cannon and it was so impressive that he thought seeing that alone was the worth the trip to Memphis.

He was describing you, Brian Istace.

You retired from racquetball following this year's Canadian National Championships, but as today's your 36th birthday, we're marking your retirement.

You played on Team Canada 14 times, beginning in 1997 at the then Tournament of the Americas and ending with this year's Pan American Championships (which is what the Tournament of the Americas is now called). Those appearances included 5 World Championships and the 2003 Pan American Games. But perhaps the highlight of your career is the Gold Medal you won in singles at the 2004 Pan American Championship.

Renown for your strong backhand, you played left side doubles with Mike Green the last several seasons, winning the Canadian National Doubles Championship three consecutive years from 2005-2007. You also won that title in 2001 with Kane Waselenchuk, though we assume you didn't play the left side then. You never won the Canadian singles title, but were runner up four times, in 1998 to Sherman Greenfeld, in 2001 to Waselenchuk and in 2002 and 2004 to Green.

Like many Canadian players, you didn't play the pro tour very often. Your best win on tour was at the New Jersey Pro-Am in February 2001, when you went through qualifying and beat Alvaro Beltran, Rocky Carson and John Ellis to reach the semi-finals against Sudsy Monchik. You even took the first game against Monchik, but then lost in four, and Monchik went on to win the event.

All in all you had a fine career. We wish you all the best with your future endeavors.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Awards and Rankings

The professional players tours handed out their annual awards at the US Open banquet Saturday night. The International Racquetball Tour (IRT) named Rocky Carson Player of the Year based on his 2007-08 season ending finish at #1. Hiroshi Shimizu was named Most Sportsmanlike, and Alvaro Beltran was named Most Improved Player.

Rhonda Rajsich was the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) Player of the Year. Angela Grisar was given the Janet Myers Sportsmanship Award and Veronica Sotomayor was named the Most Improved Player.

IRT Rankings

The IRT has released its rankings following the US Open. Kane Waselenchuk, winner of the US Open, has now moved up to 9th from 11th, so he will still have to qualify at the next Tier I event, which will be the Juarez Open in Juarez, Mexico, November 13-16 (assuming the top 8 players are also at the event).

Waselenchuk's move up has pushed Chris Crowther and Andy Hawthorne down one spot each to 10th and 11th, respectively.

The other significant change in the top 8 is Ben Croft's move past Mitch Williams on the strength of Croft's quarter final placing at the US Open. Williams lost in the 16s to Waselenchuk.

IRT Rankings (October 27, 2008)
Rank - Name - Points

1 Rocky Carson 4905
2 Jack Huczek 4616
3 Alvaro Beltran 3450
4 Jason Mannino 3439
5 Shane Vanderson 2783
6 Ben Croft 2505
7 Mitch Williams 2475
8 Jason Thoerner 2164
9 Kane Waselenchuk 2148
10 Chris Crowther 2108
11 Andy Hawthorne 1583
12 Juan Herrera 1425
13 Hiroshi Shimizu 1290
14 Alejandro Herrera 1260
15 Javier Moreno 1159
16 Kris Odegard 1155
17 Travis Woodbury 990
18 Andres Herrera 695
19 Lee Connell 671
20 Tony Carson 652

Follow the bouncing ball....

Monday, October 27, 2008

US Open - The Day After

We're back home from the US Open, and so is the power cord for our computer (note to self: don't put the computer power cord in checked luggage).

Open Divisions

Continuing a pattern we noted prior to the Open, a Mexican won the Men's Open division. Gilberto Mejia defeated Canadian Vincent Gagnon, 15-9, 15-6 to win the division for a second time. The first was in 2005. It's the 6th year in a row that a Mexican has won Men's Open at the US Open.

The Women's Open division was a battle of two teenagers, and again a non-US player came out on top. Veronica Sotomayor of Ecuador defeated American Aubrey O'brien, 15-8, 15-1.

We've spoken of how impressive Sotomayor is, so let us tell you a few things about O'brien. She was seeded 23rd in Women's Pro last week and defeated 10th seed Jo Shattuck in three straight games before losing to 7th seed Adrienne Fisher in a tie-breaker.

O'brien won Girls 16 and under at the 2008 US Junior Olympic Championships, and Girls 14 and under at the 2007 US Junior National Championships, so along with Sotomayor, O'brien has to be considered one of racquetball's good young players.

But as we mentioned last week, if you were looking for good young American players, you won't see them in the list of winners in Men's or Women's Open at the US Open, with the exception of Fisher who won Women's Open in 2005. There are some such players, of course, such as Ben Croft and Jose Rojas, who lost to Mejia in a tie-breaker in the Open division's Round of 16. However, we're sure Dave Ellis, coach of the US National team, would like to see more of them.

The We Hadn't Seen That Before Dept - Part I

This year's women's pro draw was likely the first time only one of the top 4 seeds made the semi-finals of either Women's or Men's Pro. Top seed Rhonda Rajsich lost in the quarters, as did 4th seed Kerri Wachtel. Third seed Angela Grisar went out in the Round of 16. Only 2nd seed Cheryl Gudinas Holmes reached the semis and then went on to the final where she lost to 5th seed Paola Longoria.

The We Hadn't Seen That Before Dept - Part II

In game 4 of her match with Grisar, Michelle Key changed socks during a time out. That's the first time we'd seen that in a match. Unfortunately for Key it didn't change the momentum as she lost to Grisar in four games.

The We Hadn't Seen That Before Dept - Part III

Speaking of socks and semi-finals, Shane Vanderson sported knee high socks in his semi-final match against Rocky Carson. They were the kind that a soccer player would cover his shin pads with, though Vanderson didn't have shin pads. As with Key, the socks didn't seem to be enough help to Vanderson who went down in three games to Carson.

Thus, dear Readers we believe that while socks may be necessary they are not sufficient for successful racquetball, even if you pull yours up, way up, like mom always wanted.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Sunday, October 26, 2008

US Open - Waselenchuk wins convincingly

Kane Waselenchuk won his fourth US Open title with a performance that should leave few doubting that he is the best racquetball player in the world, beating the International Racquetball Tour's (IRT's) #1 player, Rocky Carson, 11-2, 11-2, 11-4. The win ties Waselenchuk with Sudsy Monchik for most US Open titles.

Waselenchuk said "to be in Sudsy's company is truly remarkable."

It was clear early that things were likely to go Waselenchuk's way when he hit a cross court pass from between his legs and won the rally. He began the match with drive serves that jammed Carson forcing his opponent to move out of position.

Later in games two and three Waselenchuk lob served to the right, even though that was to Carson's forehand. The serves nicked off the right wall making it difficult for Carson to return.

It's been two years since Waselenchuk has played the US Open, because he was banned from the sport due to a positive drug test. He acknowledged that absence, and was emotional in thanking people for their "unbelievable support."

After the match, Carson said Waselenchuk came "ready to play," and was "at the top of his game, playing out of his mind." It meant Carson "couldn't do it today."

But Waselenchuk said Carson has "stepped up his game tremendously," congratulating him on getting to the final, and acknowledging Carson's the #1 IRT player.

Waselenchuk though also said he was aiming to be #1 at season's end, and has "worked hard" during his time away from racquetball. That work has shown up so far this season, as this is his 4th win in as many tournaments for him.

Men's Pro Finals (seeding)

(11) Kane Waselenchuk d. (1) Rocky Carson, 11-2, 11-2, 11-4

Follow the bouncing ball....

US Open : Longoria wins, and achieves two firsts

Paola Longoria is the first Mexican and at 19 the first teenager and youngest player ever to win the US Open. On Sunday she defeated two time US Open Champion, Cheryl Gudinas Holmes, 11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 11-7.

In game one, it seemed like it would be otherwise as Gudinas Holmes took the early lead at 6-2. But Longoria kept going, and tied the game at 8. Then she went on to win, 11-8.

Game two was close all the way until late, when Gudinas Holmes pulled away, winning 11-7. In game three, Longoria got the early lead at 6-1, and it was Gudinas Holmes who had to come back. She did, and got to within on at 8-7, but then Longoria finished it off, 11-7.

Early in game four, it looked like there was going to be a tie-breaker needed, as Gudinas Holmes took a 6-0 lead using straight drive serves to Longoria's backhand. But Longoria had other plans, and won 11 of the next 12 points to take the game and match 11-7.

During the match there were pinch shots that were left up by Longoria, but Gudinas Holmes just couldn't get to them today.

As the match went on, Longoria settled into her familiar serving pattern of hitting almost exclusively drive Z serves to the left side - her opponent's backhand, which successfully set up rallies for her.

Gudinas Holmes said afterwards that she thought she "played well, but [Longoria] played better."

Longoria said she was "happy to be the champion."

Women's Singles Pro - Finals: (seeding)

(5) Paola Longoria d. (2) Cheryl Gudinas Holmes, 11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 11-7

Follow the bouncing ball....

US Open - Lowe wins CPRT title

Jimmy Lowe defeated Woody Clouse, 5-9, 9-3, 9-3, 9-0, to win Men's 40+ at the US Open part of the Classic Professional Racquetball Tour (CPRT). It was the second year CPRT has been part of the US Open.

Afterwards Clouse said he "picked the wrong day to have a bad day," but "give all the credit" to Lowe.

Clouse seemed to tire as the match progessed, as little errors crept into his game. Shots that were winning kill shots in game one were skips in games three and four.

Also, after game one Lowe began to hit primarily drive z serves to the right side, which were to the lefthander Clouse's backhand. But Lowe also threw in some drives to the left, and off speed pseudo-drives to the right - one of which went for an ace. It was a winning service formula.

The shot of the match may have been when Lowe was off balance falling backwards in the back right corner, yet managed to hit a flat pinch shot into the front right corner. Lowe let out a shout after making it, and both the crowd and Clouse acknowledged how great it was.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

US Open - Carson has chance to defend title, to face Waselenchuk

Top seed Rocky Carson will have a chance to defend his US Open title, as he beat Shane Vanderson, 5th seed, in three straight games, 11-8, 11-5, 11-5. It seemed like an upset might be in the making, when Vanderson came back in game one to take a lead at 8-6. However, Carson recovered, and ran the next five points to take that game and pave the way for the rest of the match.

Vanderson was using effective lob serves that were nicking the right wall, making Carson's service returns difficult. For his part, Carson used a variety of serves, Zs and lobs to both sides.

Afterwards Vanderson said Carson "played awesome, and kept me off balance."

Carson's goal was "to make it so ugly that [Vanderson] would play even uglier," because "I know what he's capable of, and there's a reason why he was in the semis."

Kane Waselenchuk said he was "here to make history," and he stayed on track to his goal of tying Sudsy Monchik's record of 4 US Open titles by defeating Jack Huczek, 11-5, 11-6, 11-5. Huczek will have to wait another year to win his first US Open title, the only prize in racquetball that has eluded him.

Huczek said it "felt like I was always behind the ball," and Waselenchuk "played tough. Hats off to him."

Waselenchuk tried to "put pressure on" Huczek, because "he's so quick that he gets to everything." Also, Waselenchuk thought Huczek wasn't playing his best today.

Waselenchuk drove serve for much of the match. Huczek tried to counter with drive serves of his own, although he was called for foot faults twice.

In all three games, they were close until mid-game. Huczek even led early in games one and three. But Waselenchuk brought a little something extra, often setting up points with a drive serve to Huczek's backhand, to pull ahead and finish off each game.

Men's Pro Semi-finals (seeding)

(1) Rocky Carson d. (5) Shane Vanderson, 11-8, 11-5, 11-5
(11) Kane Waselenchuk d. (2) Jack Huczek, 11-5, 11-6, 11-5

Men's Pro Finals (seeding)

(1) Rocky Carson d. (11) Kane Waselenchuk

Follow the bouncing ball....

US Open - Gudinas Holmes to meet Longoria in finals

Second seed Cheryl Gudinas Holmes and 5th seed Paola Longoria advanced to the US Open finals with decisive semi-final victories. Gudinas Holmes defeated Kristen Bellows, 11-5, 11-5, 11-8, while Longoria beat Brenda Kyzer, 11-8, 11-7, 11-7.

It looked like Gudinas Holmes and Bellows would play more than three games, as Bellows had a 5-0 advantage in game three. However, Gudinas Holmes dug in, and worked her way back into the game. Gudinas Holmes generally hit drive Z serves to Bellows's backhand, while Bellows used a variety of serves - drive Z, lob to left and right sides - searching for an effective one.

Afterwards, Bellows said Gudinas Holmes "was putting a lot of pressure on me today."

"It's difficult to get to the finals," said Gudinas Holmes, and that Bellows "played a great match yesterday," which could have resulted in her being "flat" today. Yesterday, Bellows beat three time US Open Champion Christie Van Hees in the quarter finals.

Kyzer played well against Longoria, but didn't have the spring in her step or the service success that she had Friday against Rhonda Rajsich. Kyzer afterwards said she "knew it was going to be tough," because Longoria's an "awesome player."

Kyzer probably was not helped by being back on court approximately 15 hours after winning Friday. Her match with Rajsich ended around midnight, and her semi began about 3 o'clock. Longoria's quarter final match with Kerri Wachtel ended much earlier Friday night.

In their games, Longoria was generally ahead in the games, although in each Kyzer came back to make it close before Longoria closed it them out, using her usual strong drive serve to the left side.

At 46, Kyzer felt it was "awesome" to just make the semi-final of racquetball's premier event. It was her second US Open semi-final. The first was in 2006.

Regardless of who wins Sunday, it will be an especially remarkable achievement, as either Gudinas Holmes will win her 3rd title, tying her for most US Open Women's Pro titles with Van Hees, or Longoria will become the youngest player and first Mexican - woman or man - to win the US Open.

Women's Singles Pro - Semi Finals: (seeding)

(2) Cheryl Gudinas Holmes d. (6) Kristen Bellows, 11-5, 11-5, 11-8
(5) Paola Longoria d. (8) Brenda Kyzer, 11-8, 11-7, 11-7

Women's Singles Pro - Finals - Sunday: (seeding)

(2) Cheryl Gudinas Holmes vs. (5) Paola Longoria

Follow the bouncing ball....

Friday, October 24, 2008

US Open - WPRO Quarter Final Results - UPDATED

Brenda Kyzer caused one of the biggest upset in US Open history Friday night, as she defeated the #1 woman in the world and defending US Open Champion, Rhonda Rajsich, 7-11, 11-4, 11-9, 12-10. Afterwards, Kyzer said "dreams do come true," and "it's my greatest moment" in racquetball.

She'll play in her second career US Open semi-final Saturday against Paola Longoria.

Paola Longoria and Kristen Bellows were the first two women's semi finalists at the US Open in Memphis. Longoria and Bellows both defeated former US Open Champions in the quarter finals on Thursday.

Longoria seeded 5th defeated 4th seed and 2001 US Open Champion Kerri Wachtel, 11-8, 11-3, 4-11, 11-5. On the other side of the draw, Bellows beat three time US Open Champion Christie Van Hees, 11-8, 4-11, 11-5, 11-9.

In the other quarter final, two time US Open Champion, Cheryl Gudinas Holmes fended off Adrienne Fisher, 11-6, 11-4, 11-7, and will next face Bellows in the semi-finals.

Women's Singles Pro - Quarter Finals:

Brenda Kyzer d. Rhonda Rajsich, 7-11, 11-4, 11-9, 12-10
Paola Longoria d. Kerri Wachtel, 11-8, 11-3, 4-11, 11-5

Kristen Bellows d. Christie Van Hees, 11-8, 4-11, 11-5, 11-9
Cheryl Gudinas Holmes d. Adrienne Fisher, 11-6, 11-4, 11-7

Women's Singles Pro - Semi Finals:

Brenda Kyzer vs. Paola Longoria
Cheryl Gudinas Holmes vs. Kristen Bellows

Follow the bouncing ball....

US Open - Men's Quarter Final Results - UPDATED

Play has heated up as the quarter finals have begun on the men's side of the US Open in Memphis and upsets have been the order of the day so far. In the first two matches, 5th seed Shane Vanderson defeated 4th seed Jason Mannino, 11-8, 12-10, 11-8, 11-9, and 11th Kane Waselenchuk beat 3rd seed Alvaro Beltran, 11-6, 11-13, 11-2, 7-11, 11-5.

Observers might have wondered where the water was as the players were diving so often to keep the ball in play. More impressive was the number of times those dives resulted in winning kill shots.

Although an upset by seeding, Waselenchuk's victory over Beltran might not be considered an upset, as Waselenchuk won the first three tournaments of the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) season, defeating Beltran in the final of the Kentucky Open. Also, Waselenchuk's won the US Open three times.

Game one of their match was back and forth until they were tied 6-6. After that Waselenchuk pulled away and won 11-6. Game two was similar, but it was Beltran who pulled away in mid-game getting an 9-6 advantage.

But it looked that like wasn't going to be enough as Waselenchuk came back and took the lead at 10-9. However, Beltran dug in, fought off three game points, and then used a drive jam serve to Waselenchuk's backhand to set up a flat pinch shot into the front right corner, winning 13-11.

Game three was all Waselenchuk, as he took an early lead and cruised to an 11-2 victory. For those thinking that was going to be it for Beltran he quickly showed that he had other ideas, as he took a big lead in game four at 5-1 and then 9-1.

No lead is safe against Waselenchuk though, and he did come back to 7-10 before Beltran finished the game, 11-7, with a drive z serve to the back right corner - Waselenchuk's backhand - that forced his opponent to try to play it off the back wall, which was unsuccessful.

The extra energy that Beltran had to use to go from 9 to 11 in game four may have cost him in the tie-breaker, as Waselenchuk took a big lead early at 7-1. Although Beltran came back to 5-7, the early lead suggested the outcome was inevitable, as Waselenchuk won 11-5.

Afterwards Beltran said "hats off to Kane, because I played one of my best matches today, and he still won."

For his part, Waselenchuk agreed with his opponent, saying it was "a great match by Alvaro." Waselenchuk's "missed playing in Memphis," as it's been two years since he was last in the US Open. His absence was a result of a positive drug test when Waselenchuk, a Canadian, played in the 2006 Canadian National Championship.

Vanderson was mostly ahead during his match with Mannino. They were tied at 8 in game one, then Vanderson went on to win 11-8. Game two was back and forth as Vanderson was up 4-0, then Mannino was ahead 7-5, then Vanderson 9-7, and finally Mannino won 12-10.

There were several rallies with multiple dives by Mannino, who's known for going full out all the time, but Vanderson wasn't shy about diving either. In fact, at the end of game 3, he dove and hit a winning pinch in the left front corner for the winning point.

After their match, Vanderson said he "got lucky" as Mannino "was off today."

Mannino expressed his frustration as he felt he "had opportunities and let them go. I missed easy shots." But it's "always a battle" against Vanderson. "We have great matches," said Mannino.

Men's Pro Results (seeding)
Quarter finals

(1) Rocky Carson d. (8) Jason Thoerner, 11-3, 11-9, 11-4
(5) Shane Vanderson d. (4) Jason Mannino, 11-8, 10-12, 11-8, 11-9

(11) Kane Waselenchuk d. (3) Alvaro Beltran, 11-6, 11-13, 11-2, 7-11, 11-5
(2) Jack Huczek d. (7) Ben Croft, 11-7, 11-5, 12-10

Semi-finals - Saturday

(1) Rocky Carson vs. (5) Shane Vanderson
(2) Jack Huczek vs. (11) Kane Waselenchuk

Follow the bouncing ball....

US Open - Gudinas Holmes defeats Sotomayor - UPDATED

Cheryl Gudinas Holmes moved on to the quarter finals at the US Open by defeating Veronica Sotomayor, 10-12, 11-7, 11-2, 11-4. After winning the first game, it seemed Sotomayor - affectionately nicknamed 'Pipsqueak' by some - would cause a major upset in her rematch with Gudinas Holmes, who won when they played two weeks ago at the Canadian Racquetball Classic.

However, Gudinas Holmes characteristically dug in, gained an early lead in game two at 5-1, and went on to win it 11-7. After that it was all Gudinas Holmes as she won games three and four by comfortable margins.

Gudinas Holmes will next face the winner of Adrienne Fisher, who beat Aubrey O'brien in five games, 13-11, 9-11, 11-2, 3-11, 11-6.

Women's Singles Pro - Round of 16:

Rhonda Rajsich d. Keely Franks, 11-5, 11-2, 11-6
Brenda Kyzer d. Doreen Fowler, 11-1, 12-10, 11-4

Paola Longoria d. Samantha Salas Solis, 10-12, 11-7, 11-2, 11-4
Kerri Wachtel d. Susana Acosta, 11-7, 11-2, 11-7

Christie Van Hees d. Angela Grisar, 11-4, 11-4, 11-2
Kristen Bellows d. Diane Moore, 11-5, 12-10, 11-8

Adrienne Fisher d. Aubrey O'brien, 13-11, 9-11, 11-2, 3-11, 11-6
Cheryl Gudinas Holmes d. Veronica Sotomayor, 10-12, 11-7, 11-2, 11-4

Follow the bouncing ball....

US Open - Van Hees to quarters

Christie Van Hees has just cruised into the quarter finals of the US Open by defeating 3rd seed Angela Grisar, 11-4, 11-4, 11-2. Van Hees often has a slow start to her matches, but not this morning. Grisar got the first two points in game one, but then Van Hees stormed out to a 9-2 lead, winning 11-4.

Grisar struggled to find an effective serve. Late in game one, she hit drive Z serves to Van Hees's backhand, but after faulting on a third attempt never went back to it.

The speed of the ball and court may have been to Van Hees's advantage. They are playing with the Pro Penn HD ball, which is slower than the Ektelon Fireball normally used on the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) tour. Add to that they played on the portable court, which is slower than one with fixed walls, and Van Hees's power game style gains advantage because once the ball goes by her opponent they need to do extra work to retrieve it.

That extra work meant Grisar was often on the defensive throughout the match.

After they finished, and the crowd clapped, the song played through the tournament loudspeakers was Tom Petty's Don't do me like that.

US Open : Men's 16s

The men's field is down to eight at the US Open in Memphis, and it's an expected eight. The top 8 seeds - and top 8 International Racquetball Tour (IRT) players - with one exception are in Friday's quarter finals.

The exception is an expected one, as three time champion Kane Waselenchuk, seeded 11th, is the other player, as he defeated 6th seed Mitch Williams in the Round of 16. Waselenchuk was expected because he has won each of the three tournaments he's been in this season. Waselenchuk will play Alvaro Beltran (3rd seed) in the quarters.

Highlights from the Round of 16 included the five game match lasting over two hours between Jason Thoerner and Chris Crowther that Thoerner pulled out after being down two games to one. Also, Javier Moreno had game point on Jack Huczek when he was up 10-7 in the second game of their match, but Huczek came back to tie it at 10 and then win 12-10 and go on to take the match in straight games.

Men's Results Round of 16:
(Matches listed in draw order)

Rocky Carson d. Kris Odegard, 11-2, 11-3, 11-8
Jason Thoerner d. Chris Crowther, 11-8, 9-11, 5-11, 11-7, 11-3

Shane Vanderson d. Juan Herrera, 11-8, 11-0, 11-4
Jason Mannino d. Anthony Carson, 9-11, 11-2, 11-1, 11-2

Alvaro Beltran d. Alejandro Herrera, 10-12, 11-3, 11-2, 11-5
Kane Waselenchuk d. Mitch Williams, 11-3, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6

Ben Croft d. Andy Hawthorne, 11-5, 11-2, 11-9
Jack Huczek d. Javier Moreno, 11-4, 12-10, 11-9

Quarter finals

Rocky Carson vs. Jason Thoerner
Jason Mannino vs. Shane Vanderson

Alvaro Beltran vs. Kane Waselenchuk
Jack Huczek vs. Ben Croft

Follow the bouncing ball....

Thursday, October 23, 2008

US Open - WPRO results

There was one main upset in the first round of the Women's Pro division (Women's Profesional Racquetball Organization - WPRO) at the US Open in Memphis.

Twenty-third seed Aubrey O'brien defeated 10th seed Jo Shattuck, 11-2, 11-6, 11-9. O'brien will next face Adrienne Fisher, who defeated Krystal Csuk, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7, in tomorrow's Round of 16.

Perhaps the two most interesting matches in the 16s will be Cheryl Gudinas Holmes and Veronica Sotomayor, who played two weeks ago in Edmonton at the Canadian Racquetball Classic. Gudinas Holmes won three games to one, and played very well. She'll have to play that well again to fend off the 16 year old phenomenon from Ecuador.

The other match is also a replay, but not of a recent match as Christie Van Hees and Angela Grisar faced each other in the 2006 World Championships, which Van Hees won. However, Van Hees has only played one WPRO match since last year's US Open, and that was two weeks ago in Edmonton where she lost to Sotomayor in five games.

Grisar is a strong player, who's recently risen to 3rd in the WPRO rankings, so Van Hees will need to be on her game tomorrow, if she has any aspirations of adding another US Open title to her already impressive resume.

The women will play twice tomorrow - the Round of 16 and later the quarter finals - to narrow the field to four.

Women's Singles Pro - Round of 32:

Rhonda Rajsich vs. Luisa Aldrete, 11-3, 11-5, 11-7
Keely Franks d. Kimberly Ferina 2-11, 11-3, 7-11, 11-0, 11-7

Brenda Kyzer d. Jenny Daza Navia 11-2, 11-5, 11-5
Doreen Fowler d. Brandi Jacobson Prentice 2-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-7

Paola Longoria d. Frederique Lambert 11-2,11-7,11-0
Samantha Salas Solis d. Sofia Rascon 11-7,11-2,11-5

Kerri Wachtel d. Jessica Parrilla 11-4,11-5,11-4
Susana Acosta d. Vivian Gomez 11-4,11-1,11-3

Angela Grisar d. Michelle Key 9-11,11-5,11-4,11-5
Christie Van Hees d. Jen Saunders 6-11,11-9,11-2,11-0

Kristen Bellows d. Etsuko Noda 11-1,11-2,11-1
Diane Moore d. Cristina Amaya 11-5,11-9,3-11,11-8

Adrienne Fisher d. Krystal Csuk 11-9,11-9,11-7
Aubrey O'brien d. Jo Shattuck 11-2,11-6,11-9

Veronica Sotomayor d. T.j. Baumbaugh 11-2,11-1,11-2
Cheryl Gudinas Holmes d. Kara Mazur 11-4,11-1,11-3

Follow the bouncing ball....

US Open : Men's 32s

The anticipated Cliff Swain-Mike Green rematch won't be happening at the US Open as both players lost in the Round of 32 Thursday. Swain went down to Chris Crowther, 9-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-7, while Green lost in straight games to Jason Thoerner, 11-7, 11-9, 12-10. Thus, there will be a typical IRT (International Racquetball Tour) Round of 16 match when Crowther and Thoerner play, as they often meet in the Round of 16 in Tier I events. Thoerner holds a 2-0 advantage over Crowther this season.

Both the Swain-Crowther match and the Green-Thoerner one featured many comments to the respective referees by both players.

Other matches in the 32s included Anthony Carson's upset victory over Hiroshi Shimizu, 11-4, 11-4, 11-3. Carson was the only player to beat a higher seed in the 16 matches in the Round of 32. Agustin Tristan might have been on his way to an upset victory against Jason Mannino, as he was tied with Mannino at 10 in the second game (though he lost game one) when suffered an injury to his right knee and was forced to withdraw from the match.

Also, Andy Hawthorne and Ben Croft will meet in the Round of 16 for the second consecutive year. Hawthorne upset Croft last year, and you know he'll be trying to do that again. Croft defeated Eric Desrochers, 11-3, 11-8, 11-5, in the 32s, while Hawthorne took out Rafael Filippini, 8-11, 11-5, 11-7, 13-11.

Men's Results Round of 32:
(Matches listed in draw order)

Rocky Carson d. Jose Rojas, 11-8, 11-5, 11-7
Kris Odegard d. Travis Woodbury, 12-10, 11-1, 11-5

Chris Crowther d. Cliff Swain, 9-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-7
Jason Thoerner d. Mike Green, 11-7, 11-9, 14-12

Shane Vanderson d. Alex Landa, 11-1, 2-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7
Juan Herrera d. Ruben Gonzalez, 10-12, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7

Anthony Carson d. Hiroshi Shimizu, 11-4, 11-4, 11-3
Jason Mannino d. Agustin Tristan, 11-6, 10-10 - injury default

Alvaro Beltran d. Tim Landeryou, 11-5, 11-6, 11-7
Alejandro Herrera d. Anthony Herrera, 11-5, 11-8, 11-4

Kane Waselenchuk d. Polo Gutierrez Sotres, 11-2, 11-7, 11-1
Mitch Williams d. Doug Ganim, 11-6, 11-6, 7-11, 11-5

Ben Croft d. Eric Desrochers, 11-3, 11-8, 11-5
Andy Hawthorne d. Rafael Filippini, 8-11, 11-5, 11-7, 13-11

Javier Moreno d. Mauricio Zelada, 11-7, 11-5, 11-3
Jack Huczek d. Mike Orr, 11-3, 11-6, 11-1

Follow the bouncing ball....

US Open : Our predictions

Time to make our predictions for the US Open. You readers have voted for Kane Waselenchuk to win the men's side, and it's hard to argue against a player who has won every International Racquetball Tour (IRT) tournament he's played in this season.

So, we won't.

Your votes suggest there's more uncertainty on the women's side, as you split your votes between defending champion, Rhonda Rajsich, Christie Van Hees, who's won more US Open titles than any other woman, and the catchall "Another player" category.

Probably some of you were thinking of Paola Longoria as the other player, as she was the most recent victor on the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) tour, taking the Canadian Racquetball Classic two weeks ago in Edmonton. However, maybe some of you were wishfully thinking of another teenageer, Veronica Sotomayor, believing that she could make her breakthrough to the WPRO winner's circle on racquetball's biggest stage.

We're predicting Rhonda Rajsich will defend her title. We think the loss to Longoria will be the extra motivation that Rajsich will need to raise her game and take another US Open title, which would tie her with Van Hees with three career US Open titles.

However, Rajsich will need to get off to better starts in her matches this week. Two weeks ago in Edmonton she lost game one in each of her matches. Always getting yourself in a hole is difficult to recover from, and though she did it three times in Edmonton she wasn't able to recover the fourth time, as Longoria beat her in the final.

As we like to say, dear readers, when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

Follow the bouncing ball....

US Open : Men's 64 and Women's Qualifying Results

All the top men's seeds moved through to the Round of 32 at the US Open in Memphis, but there were a few minor upsets in the Round of 64.

In an all Michael battle, 34th seed Mike Orr defeated 31st seed Michael Burgess, 13-11, 11-7, 11-8. Lee Connell, seeded 19th, was defeated by 47th seed Mauricio Zelada 15-13, 11-4, 12-10. Agustin Tristan (36th seed) beat Keith Minor (29th seed), 11-4, 11-7, 11-6, and Doug Ganim (38th seed) showed that he's not just a tournament director as he went out against Gilberto Mejia (27th seed), and won their match 13-11, 7-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-4.

Also, 39th seed Eric Desrochers won by default over the 26th seed Charlie Pratt, who had flight difficulties, making him unable to get to the court in time for their match.

There are several interesting match-ups in the 32s, including Chris Crowther versus Cliff Swain, and Jason Thoerner versus Mike Green (a match featuring two players who have lost teeth during matches).

Kane Waselenchuk, who won easily on Wednesday by defeating Daniel De La Rosa, 11-1, 11-5, 11-1, will be up against Polo Gutierrez Sortes. The winner of that match will face the winner of Mitch Williams and Doug Ganim.

The men will play two rounds on Thursday with the 32s going in the morning, and the 16s going in the evening.

On the women's side, play begins on Thursday in the Round of 32. One of the interesting matches will be the all teenager battle between 19 year old Paola Longoria, who won the Canadian Racquetball Classic two weeks ago in Edmonton, and 15 year old Frédérique Lambert, the current 14 and under Junior World Champion.

Men's Results Round of 64:
(Matches listed in draw order)

Rocky Carson d. Allan Crockett, 10, 1, 6
Jose Rojas d. Vincent Gagnon, (10), (6), 4, 5, 8

Travis Woodbury d. Danny Lavely, 1, 4, 9
Kris Odegard d. Shannon Kohl, 0, 6, 4

Chris Crowther d. Kadim Carrasco, 5, 4, 2
Cliff Swain d. Shai Manzuri, 3, 5, 6

Mike Green d. Jason Geis, 2, 3, 5
Jason Thoerner d. Jonathan Burns, 3, 9, 8

Shane Vanderson d. Felipe Camacho, 4, 2, 4
Alex Landa d. Tyler Otto, 3, 4, (13), (6), 4

Ruben Gonzalez d. Felipe Munoz, 9,1,6
Juan Herrera d. Bradley Kirch, 0, 2, 6

Hiroshi Shimizu d. Cesar Castillo, 4, 6, 4
Anthony Carson d. Ruben Estrada, WBF - No Show

Agustin Tristan d. Keith Minor, 4,7,6
Jason Mannino d. Takaaki Hirose, 7, 2, 1

Alvaro Beltran d. Sadao Funatani, 9, 3, 4
Tim Landeryou d. Matt Stamborski, 7,3,7

Anthony Herrera d. James Landeryou, 3,(8),11,2
Alejandro Herrera d. Bradley Rogers, 6, (7), 2, (10), 9

Kane Waselenchuk d. Daniel De La Rosa, 1, 5, 1
Polo Gutierrez Sotres d. David Sabalesky, 9, 2, 2

Doug Ganim d. Gilberto Mejia, 11,(7),4,(4),4
Mitch Williams d. Eduardo Avila Ortega, 1, 6, 4

Ben Croft d. Andrew Thompson, 2, 4, 3
Eric Desrochers d. Charles Pratt, WBF - No Show

Rafael Filippini d. Joseph E Linnell, 2, 8, 9
Andy Hawthorne d. Patric Macorro, 7, 6, (5), 3

Javier Moreno d. Brandon Shoemaker, 9, 2, 7
Mauricio Zelada d. Lee Connell, 13, 4, 10

Mike Orr d. Michael Burgess, 11,7,8
Jack Huczek d. Taylor Knoth, 7, 0,

Women's Singles Pro Qualifying Division

Round of 32:

Jessica Parrilla d. Sheryl Lotts, 9,(4),6,4
Maiko Sato d. Lily Berry, (6),4,3,2
Etsuko Noda d. Janel Tisinger, WBF - No Show
Megumi Kozakai d. Alison Schlichemeyer, 8,3,(7),5
Jenny Daza d. Denise Haynes, (7),4,4,5

Round of 16:

Q1: Jenny Daza d. Da'monique Davis, (4),6,1,6
Q2: Krystal Csuk d. Megumi Kozakai, 8,1,8
Q3: Etsuko Noda d. Laura Brandt, (2), 4, 4, 8
Q4: Frederique Lambert d. Maiko Sato, (10), 3, (10), 8, 6
Q5: Jessica Parrilla d. Michelle Poage, 5, (7), 9, 8
Q6: Michelle Key d. Sharon Jackson, 6, 8, (9), 2
Q7: Kara Mazur d. Lisa Hachey, 10, 2, 1
Q8: Luisa Aldrete d. Genevieve Brodeur, 1, (8), (9),4,9

Follow the bouncing ball....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

US Open - Early Results

If you've been having difficulty getting the US Open draws to display for you on the R2Sports site, you are not alone. In fact, that you are not alone is exactly the problem. Requests to display the draws are overwhelming the server. They are working to get that sorted.

But here are the results from the Pro and Pro Qualifying divisions so far (up to 6:15 PM Central time) in the 2008 US Open in Memphis, Tennessee. The women's Round of 32 doesn't begin until Thursday.

Men's Pro

Round of 64:

Mauricio Zelada d. Lee Connell, 13, 4, 10
Anthony Herrera d. James Landeryou, 3,(8),11,2
Anthony Carson d. Ruben Estrada, WBF - No Show
Ruben Gonzalez d. Felipe Munoz, 9,1,6
Polo Gutierrez Sotres d. David Sabalesky, 9,2,2
Rafael Filippini d. Joseph E Linnell, 2, 8, 9
Eric Desrochers d. Charles Pratt, WBF - No Show
Doug Ganim d. Gilberto Mejia, 11,(7),4,(4),4
Agustin Tristan d. Keith Minor, 4,7,6
Tim Landeryou d. Matt Stamborski, 7,3,7
Mike Orr d. Michael Burgess, 11,7,8

Men's Pro Qualifying Division

Round of 64:

Erick Sandoval d. Sebastian Franco, 10,6,7
Eduardo Avila Ortega d. Stacey Young, 5,6,0
Armando Landa d. James Leone, 3,4,5
Teobaldo Fumero A. d. Chuck Meredith, 6,2,1
Kadim Carrasco d. Jon Tumas, 7,6,8
Patric Mascorro d. Sean Barclay, (6),1,4,6
Daniel De La Rosa d. Luis Reveron, (7),(6),10,5,8
Kelly North d. Felipe Alonso, 7, 10, (10), 3
Cesar Castillo d. Michael Arterburn, WBF - No Show
Hemhil Hernandez d. Russell Bruns, 3, (10), (5), 7, 0
Brandon Shoemaker d. Bronc Hughes, (8),7,2,1
Matt Emmel d. Michael Swift, 4,7,2

Round of 32:

Brandon Shoemaker d. Michael Anderson 10, 7, 7
Bradly Rogers d. Hemhil Hernandez, 6, (2), 6,5
Cesar Castillo d. Tony Jammal, 3,(9),4,3
Bradley Kirch d. Kelly North, 5,(11),6,1
Daniel De La Rosa d. Clint Wolff, 10,8,10
Patric Mascorro d. Ryan Smith, (9),3,(6),1,7
Kadim Carrasco d. Bryan Crosser, 5,4,3
Andrew Thompson d. Armando Landa, 3, (8), 5, 8
Eduardo Avila Ortega d. Jose Flores, Jr., 5,8,7
Felipe Camacho d. Erick Sandoval, 7,5,8
Takaaki Hirose d. Allan Hernandez, 1,7,(11),5
Sadao Funatani d. Ben Ryder, WBF - No Show
Taylor Knoth d. Jorge Hirsekorn, 5, 7, 5

Women's Singles Pro Qualifying Division

Round of 32:

Jessica Parrilla d. Sheryl Lotts, 9,(4),6,4
Maiko Sato d. Lily Berry, (6),4,3,2
Etsuko Noda d. Janel Tisinger, WBF - No Show
Megumi Kozakai d. Alison Schlichemeyer, 8,3,(7),5
Jenny Daza d. Denise Haynes, (7),4,4,5

Round of 16:

Krystal Csuk d. Megumi Kozakai, 8,1,8
Kara Mazur d. Lisa Hachey, 10,2,1

Follow the bouncing ball....

US Open : Match With Brightest Racquets

Doug Ganim, US Open Director and former US National Team player, defeated Gilberto Mejia, 13-11, 7-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-4, in a match where the players had perhaps the brightest racquets you'll ever see.

Ganim was playing with a bright orange Head racquet, and Mejia had a screaming pink Gearbox model in his hand.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

US Open: What to look forward to early on

In the US Open Men's Pro (International Racquetball Tour - IRT) division draws there are some potentially strong match ups in the Round of 32. Competition begins with qualifying for the Round of 64, with the top 48 IRT players seeded into that round. To qualify for one of the other 16 spots, players will have to play one or two matches depending on their seeding in the qualifying division.

Perhaps the most interesting potential Round of 32 match ups are Cliff Swain versus Chris Crowther, and Mike Green versus Jason Thoerner. Moreover, the winners of those matches play each other. Green won last weekend's West Michigan Open, and in doing so beat Swain in the semis, so Green is definitely a threat to make it to the quarter finals, which would be his first US Open quarter final since 2003, when he lost to Jack Huczek.

The Women's Pro draw (Women's Professional Racquetball Organization - WPRO) has the same format as the Men's, but half the players. So 24 players are seeded into the Round of 32 with a qualifying division to determine the other 8 players.

The highlight match up in the WPRO Round of 32 is the all-Canadian battle between Jennifer Saunders and Christie Van Hees. Van Hees, a three time US Open champion, is actually the lower seed, as she has only played one tournament since last year's US Open. That was two weeks ago when she lost to Veronica Sotomayor in the Round of 16.

Sotomayor will first face T. J. Baumbaugh and if she wins, will likely have a rematch with Cheryl Gudinas Holmes in the Round of 16. Gudinas Holmes beat Sotomayor 3 games to 1 at the Canadian Racquetball Classic in Edmonton, Alberta two weeks ago, and played very well in doing so. If they meet here, Gudinas Holmes will need to in top form again to get the win.

Watch the action on line!

The folks from are on hand in Memphis, and will be doing live streaming of some of the matches. Go to for more information.

Follow the bouncing ball....

It begins now

We've been at the US Open for 5 years prior to this, and it's been a similar atmosphere each year. It's good, but even good things need a little shaking up now and then.

There's a major change this year in Memphis as the new portable court is in place. It has three clear sides, and the back is translucent, so it's possible to see through it as well.

And it looks cool. We mean, C-O-O-L. Cool in that way that all bright, shiny new things look. Reportedly, the new court plays faster than the previous portable court used here, so it should lead to some exciting performances this week.

Charity Doubles

Players are warming up for the charity doubles event with proceeds going to the St Jude's Children's Research Hospital that kicks off the US Open. One pro player and one donar are drawn at random to form teams to play through a regular tournament schedule beginning with a round of 32.

Quiz Answer

Yesterday, we asked you Who did Sudsy Monchik beat in winning his four US Open titles?

Only one person left a response in the comment section, but that person, JTK, was correct. Monchik defeated Andy Roberts to win the first US Open. Then he won every second year, defeating Cliff Swain each time.

Well done, JTK!

Follow the bouncing ball....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Twas the night before Memphis....

Well, dear readers of The Racquetball Blog, it's US Open eve. The fun in Memphis starts tomorrow with the charity doubles event all proceeds going to the St Jude's Children's Research Hospital. That event is all about raising money for charity, but the outcome was pretty fun last year, as 14 year old Jose Diaz won with left-handed partner Javier Moreno, defeating Jason Mannino and Patrick Watson in the final. Just goes to show what a good leftie-rightie combination can do.

Jack Huczek - US Open Champion

Looking back over recent US Open programs, we note that Jack Huczek has been a US Open champion. Multiple times, in fact. But not in the Pro division. One of the big questions going into this year's US Open is whether this will be Huczek's year to win it all? With Kane Waselenchuk winning every tournament he's played since returning to the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), you know it will be difficult for Huczek to take the title.

Huczek's previous US Open titles were in 1999 when he won Men's 24 & under, and three consecutive titles in Men's Open from 1999 to 2001. Since Huczek's last Open win, only one American has taken that title. That was Josh Tucker in 2002. The last five years Mexicans have won Open.

Alejandro Landa won last year. Gil De Los Rios won in 2006, and Gilberto Mejia, Agustin Tristan, and Polo Gutierrez in 2005, 2004, and 2003, respectively. In fact, of last year's 8 quarter finalists in Men's Open at the US Open 3 were American (maybe, as we can't confirm the nationalities of all of the players), and only 1 of them made the semis.

If you were looking for your future professionals and US team members, and believed the Open division at racquetball's premier event should be the place to find them, you would be concerned. Very concerned.

Trivia Question

Everyone remembers the winners, but few remember who came second - or lower. For example, faithful racquetball fans will know that Sudsy Monchik has the record for most US Open titles at four, but few will know who he beat for those four titles.

We'll give you the answer tomorrow, but if you think you know or would like to guess, leave a comment on this note. Again, the question is Who did Sudsy Monchik beat in winning his four US Open titles?

Last Year's Results

Here's what happened last year in Memphis (11 months ago, not 12, as they've moved the date up a month or so).

International Racquetball Tour
US Open 2007 Results
Round of 16

Jack Huczek d. Polo Gutierrez, 11-4, 11-4, 11-6
Jason Thoerner d. Chris Crowther, 11-5, 11-2, 11-7
Shane Vanderson d. Hiroshi Shimizu, 11-6, 11-9, 7-11, 9-11, 11-0
Alvaro Beltran d. Javier Moreno, 11-6, 11-7, 11-5
Jason Mannino d. Kris Odegard, 11-8, 11-2, 11-1
Mitch Williams d. John Goth, 11-2, 11-7, 11-5
Andy Hawthorne d. Ben Croft, 11-9, 8-11, 11-8, 12-10
Rocky Carson d. John Ellis, 11-6, 9-11, 11-5, 11-5

Quarter finals

Jack Huczek d. Jason Thoerner, 11-5, 11-3, 11-5
Shane Vanderson d. Alvaro Beltran, 11-8, 11-9, 7-11, 4-11, 12-10
Jason Mannino d. Mitch Williams, 11-4, 11-9, 9-11, 11-9
Rocky Carson d. Andy Hawthorne, 11-7, 11-6, 11-5

Semi final

Jack Huczek d. Shane Vanderson, 11-2, 12-10, 11-4
Rocky Carson d. Jason Mannino, 11-3, 11-3, 1-11, 11-8


Rocky Carson d. Jack Huczek, 11-3, 7-11, 11-8, 11-6

Women's Professional Racquetball Organization
US Open 2007 Results
Round of 16

Rhonda Rajsich d. Candi Hostovich, 11-3, 11-5, 11-5
Paola Longoria d. Keely Franks, 9-11, 11-5, 11-1, 11-2
Angela Grisar d. Doreen Fowler, 11-0, 12-10, 11-5
Kerri Wachtel d. Susana Acosta, 11-13, 11-7, 11-4, 10-12, 11-2
Cheryl Gudinas Holmes d. Adrienne Fisher, 11-5, 9-11, 11-4, 11-8
Kristen Bellows d. Diane Moore, 11-6, 11-5, 11-9
Brenda Kyzer d. Samantha Salas, 11-7, 11-5, 6-11, 11-9
Christie Van Hees d. Jennifer Saunders, 11-6, 11-1, 11-5

Quarter finals

Rhonda Rajsich d. Paola Longoria, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9, 11-3
Angela Grisar d. Kerri Wachtel, 11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 11-5
Cheryl Gudinas Holmes d. Kristen Bellows, 11-6, 11-9, 11-8
Christie Van Hees d. Brenda Kyzer, 11-4, 11-8, 11-4

Semi final

Rhonda Rajsich d. Angela Grisar, 11-7, 11-8, 11-3
Cheryl Gudinas Holmes d. Christie Van Hees, 5-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-9


Rhonda Rajsich d. Cheryl Gudinas Holmes, 11-6, 11-5, 8-11, 11-9

Follow the bouncing ball....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

IRT Tier 3 & 4 Event Results

The Lou Bradley Memorial tournament - a Tier 3 event on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) - went pretty much to form, as top seed Shane Vanderson defeated second seed Mitch Williams in the final, 11-8, 11-9, 11-6, on Sunday in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. In the semi-finals, Vanderson beat fifth Juan Herrera, 11-4, 11-6, 12-10, who had upset fourth seed Jason Thoerner in the quarter finals, while Williams took out third seed Ben Croft, 10-12, 11-9, 12-10, 11-5.

Less expected results occurred at the West Michigan Open (a Tier 4 IRT event) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Mike Green upset two higher seeds in winning the event. Green defeated second seed and racquetball legend Cliff Swain, 12-10, 11-8, 11-6, in the semi-finals and then beat top seed Alejandro Herrera, 11-4, 11-6, 11-1, in the final. Herrera defeated fourth seed Eric Desrochers in the other semi, 11-2, 12-10, 10-12, 9-11, 11-2.

Lou Bradley Memorial

Semi finals

Shane Vanderson d. Juan Herrera, 11-4, 11-6, 12-10
Mitch Williams d. Ben Croft, 10-12, 11-9, 12-10, 11-5


Shane Vanderson d. Mitch Williams, 11-8, 11-9, 11-6

West Michigan Open

Semi finals

Mike Green d. Cliff Swain, 12-10, 11-8, 11-6
Alejandro Herrera d. 11-2, 12-10, 10-12, 9-11, 11-2


Mike Green d. Alejandro Herrera, 11-4, 11-6, 11-1

Follow the bouncing ball....

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tournaments and Rankings

The draws are out for this weekend's International Racquetball Tour (IRT) events. The Lou Bradley Memorial tournament (a Tier 3 event) in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin has potential semi final matches of Shane Vanderson (1st seed) versus Jason Thoerner (4th) on the top side and Mitch Williams (2nd) versus Ben Croft (3rd) on the bottom.

Over in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the West Michigan Open is going on (a Tier 4 event). Alejandro Herrera is the top seed there. He'll potentially meet 4th seed Eric Desrochers in the semis. The other potential semi could be a drive serving exhibition if 2nd seed Cliff Swain and 3rd seed Mike Green meet up, as they can both serve up rockets.

From the Lou Bradley draw on R2Sports, it seems the men's pro final will be Saturday night, which would be the third match of the day for the finalists. Curious scheduling, eh?

But it does mean that you could take in the Lou Bradley pro final (8 PM kickoff), catch a few winks, then head over to Grand Rapids to see the West Michigan pro final at 1 PM on Sunday. It's merely 328 miles, or 5, 5 1/2 hours driving time, between Sun Prairie and Grand Rapids.

Rankings - Those events are unlikely to affect the IRT rankings much, as there are fewer points for lower Tier events. Thus, the IRT rankings released this week will be very close to what's used to seed players for the US Open next week.

As The Racquetball Blog (TRB) expected, Kane Waselenchuk is still 11th, and well ahead of #12 Juan Herrera, who is in the Lou Bradley draw as the 5th seed. But the Alvaro Beltran and Jason Mannino have changed spots again, as Beltran's gone back to 3rd and Mannino to 4th. Mannino had been in the final of last year's Canadian Racquetball Classic, but only reached the semi-finals this year, so he dropped points from the event this year.

This means that Waselenchuk's path to the finals as the 11th seed would go through #6 Mitch Williams in the Round of 16, Beltran in the quarter-finals, and IRT #2 Jack Huczek in the semis.

The new Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) rankings reflecting the Canadian Racquetball Classic results aren't on their website yet, but TRB has got them from Brenda Kyzer.

As expected, there are some significant changes as Angela Grisar has moved up to 3rd and Kerri Wachtel is down to 4th. Also switching places are last week's winner Paola Longoria who's now 5th ahead of Kristen Bellows in 6th. The impressive teen, Veronica Sotomayor, is up to 15th from #20 just behind Jennifer Saunders in 14th.

Saunders made a significant move up 4 spots from 18. However, it seems her Round of 32 US Open match will be a tough one, as she looks to be up against fellow Canadian Christie Van Hees, who has taken a big move down to #19, losing in the 16s of the Canadian Classic after winning it last year. Van Hees and Saunders went tie-breaker at this year's Canadian National Championships, which Van Hees won, and Saunders has been playing well of late while Van Hees has hardly been playing. So, we'll have to see what happens; that is why they play the games.

WPRO Top 20

1 Rhonda Rajsich
2 Cheryl Gudinas-Holmes
3 Angela Grisar
4 Kerri Wachtel
5 Paola Longoria
6 Kristen Walsh-Bellows
7 Adrienne Fisher
8 Brenda Kyzer
9 Doreen Fowler
10 Jo Shattuck
11 Diane Moore
12 Samantha Salas
13 Vivian Gomez
14 Jennifer Saunders
15 Veronica Sotomayor
16 Kimi Ferina
17 Keely Franks
18 T. J. Baumbaugh
19 Christie Van Hees
20 Candi Hostovich

Follow the bouncing ball....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Happy 35th Birthday Jason Thoerner!

It's been a good year for you. In May, you were in the top 10 at the end of the 2007-08 International Racquetball Tour (IRT) season, which was your third consecutive top 10 season ending finish.

Then in August, you were part of Team USA at the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships in Ireland, where you played doubles with Mitch Williams. The two of you won gold in both the individual part of the competition, defeating a strong Mexican team in Gilberto Mejia and Javier Moreno, as well as the team competition, as the USA swept up the men's, women's and overall titles.

It was your fourth appearance on Team USA. You've played singles twice - first at the 2002 World Championship then at the 2003 Pan Am Championships, and doubles twice - at the 2005 Pan Am Championships with Mike Guidry as well as this year.

Also, you're off to a good start this season, reaching the quarter finals in each of the first four IRT events. That's led to a move up the rankings from 9th to 8th, which is a big deal, because it means you don't have to play a qualifying match in those Tier I events.

Finally, you serve as the main referee for the IRT. Refereeing racquetball is a very difficult task, because the discriminations that a referee must make (e.g., did that shot skip? was that serve short? was that a hinder or an avoidable?) are difficult. It's so difficult we think anyone who referees a racquetball match and believes they made all the calls correctly is a fool, because we think it's simply impossible to get all the calls correct.

We don't think you're that foolish, but we know you have to put up with some foolish behavior from the other IRT players when you're refereeing. The kind of behavior that's unbecoming of professional athletes. We wouldn't mind seeing you dole out a few technicals, and not just for taking time-outs when players don't have them.

Yes, it's been a good year for you, and we wish you many more.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

IRT : Events of Other Tiers

There are no Tier I events on either the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) or the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization tour, as most players are taking a break in preparation for next week's US Open.

However, there are two minor IRT events: the Lou Bradley Memorial tournament in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, which is a Tier III event, and the West Michigan Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a Tier IV event. Five IRT regulars will be in Wisconsin - Shane Vanderson, Mitch Williams, Ben Croft, Jason Thoerner, and Juan Herrera, while the Michigan event will feature Cliff Swain, Alejandro Herrera and Canadians Mike Green and Eric Desrochers.

For Vanderson, Williams, Croft and Thoerner it'll be their fifth tournament in as many weekends with no break before the US Open, racquetball's premier event. Last weekend at the Canadian Racquetball Classic in Edmonton, Jack Huczek said he welcomed the break, but he'd played more tough matches than those four.

Moreover, in Edmonton when asked about the consecutive tournaments Andy Hawthorne indicated it wasn't too much of a burden, as he wasn't playing too many matches. That's also the case with Vanderson, Williams, Croft and Thoerner who have generally played two matches a weekend.

They'll perhaps have to play four matches this weekend, if they get to the final, as there's 21 players in the draw in Wisconsin (15 in Michigan); the late entry deadline is on Wednesday, so it's possible a few more might be added. That's more than they have been playing in the last month.

Also, competing this weekend risks injury ahead of the biggest event of the season. If you were their coach, what would your advice be?

Other Results - Congratulations to Juan Gutierrez and Jimmy Lowe, winners of IRT Tier IV events this past weekend. Gutierrez defeated Jaun Rivas in the final of the XV International Racquetball Tournament in Cali, Columbia.

Lowe defeated Taylor Knoth in the final of the Auburn VW Open in Kent, Washington. The two also teamed up to win doubles, defeating Daniel Pischke and Richard Seiler in the final.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weekend Wrap Up

It wasn't such a good weekend for predictions by The Racquetball Blog (TRB) Readers. The Readers chose Rhonda Rajsich and Rocky Carson (in the absence of Kane Waselenchuk) to win in Edmonton, Alberta at the Canadian Racquetball Classic. They both made their respective finals, but neither won, as Paola Longoria defeated Rajsich and Jack Huczek beat Carson.

On Friday, it didn't look like TRB was going to do any better, as our choice on the women's side Christie Van Hees lost to the tremendous teen Veronica Sotomayor in the Round of 16. Then Huczek got clobbered by Mitch Williams's racquet in the fifth game of their quarter final match, as Williams followed through on a shot. It was looking like more evidence of TRB predictions being a media curse on those selected.

But Huczek got back in the court, and played superbly the rest of the weekend.

His victory made us 1 for 2, and TRB Readers 0 for 2. It's the first week TRB Readers have been 0 for the weekend.


The Canadian Classic is the last major tournament before the US Open, so it was the last opportunity to make a major move in the rankings. We'll be interested to see the new rankings as they will be the basis for US Open seeding.

WPRO: The primary questions on the women's side are where will Van Hees fall in the draw, as her loss in the Round of 16 in Edmonton combined with the fact that she won that event last year should mean she'll take a big hit in the rankings.

Yet we're not convinced that her ranking at 10 is accurate for her ability, so her dropping lower will mean some higher seed will have a more difficult road than she wants, as Van Hees could be playing one of the top 4 seeds as early as the Round of 16.

The other question on the women's side will be who has to face Sotomayor? With wins over Van Hees and Kerri Wachtel in the last two WPRO tournaments - as well as taking a game off Cheryl Gudinas Holmes in their semi-final match in Edmonton, Sotomayor has proven that she can play well against the top WPRO players.

IRT: There's really only one question of interest on the men's side: where will Kane Waselenchuk fall into the US Open draw?

Waselenchuk wasn't in Edmonton, although he had claimed he would be. Thus, he didn't improve on his #11 ranking. However, no one close to him in the rankings will likely pass him, so he'll probably be seeded 11th for the US Open.

That would mean he'll be on track for a Round of 16 meeting with Mitch Williams, assuming Williams stays at #6. Williams could match up well with Waselenchuk, as he's got a great drive serve that could result in some easy points. The question would be whether he could be disciplined during rallies and make the smart shot, not going for the spectacular splat but rather the simple down the line pass.

Spectacular play is made up of low probability shots, so it's unlikely to work for a whole match. Moreover, none of the top IRT players have naturally spectacular game styles other than Waselenchuk. Thus, we think high probability shots are the way to beat Waselenchuk. The question is does anyone have the discipline to hit those consistently throughout a match?

At #11, Waselenchuk would also be on track to meet #3 and #2, Jason Mannino and Huczek, respectively, on the way to the final.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

IRT : Huczek defeats Carson in Canadian Classic final

Jack Huczek overcame injury to win the Canadian Racquetball Classic on Sunday, the fourth event the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) this season, when he defeated Rocky Carson, 11-8, 11-3, 8-11, 11-(-1). Huczek had a black eye and 9 stitches above his right eye as a result of being hit by Mitch Williams's racquet in their quarter final match on Friday.

Game one was close all the way, but after being tied at 7, Huczek took a 10-7 lead, and held on to win 11-8. In game two, he led all the way, grabbing a 7-2 advantage and extending that to win 11-3.

Thus, Carson needed to win game three, and the IRT's #1 player did just that. He got the early lead at 6-3, and despite being tied at 8, went on to win 11-8. Perhaps the most impressive shot of the match was when Carson jumped up in front of the service box and hit an overhead backhand pinch into the front right corner that rolled out. It was an amazing feat.

But game three's outcome just delayed the inevitable, as Huczek was dominant in game four taking a 6-0 lead, then getting to 9-0 on a drive serve ace. Huczek had been drive serving both straight back to the corners and Zs throughout the match.

At 10-0 for Huczek in game four, Carson took a time out. However, he had already used his one time out that game, so he was charged with a technical. When play resumed, it was 10 serving -1, and Huczek won that rally to make the final 11 to -1.

Afterwards, Carson said "at least he didn't get a doughnut" in game four, and that when he was down 10-0 in game four it was a matter of either winning a few rallies or taking a technical, and "technicals are usually more enjoyable."

He praised Huczek for "playing a solid match" that was "frustrating" to Carson, as he "felt good" going in. However, it was his failure to "capitalize on Huczek's mistakes" that Carson said was the difference.

For his part, Huczek said Carson was "playing tough, and I had to play my best to beat him."

Later asked about playing with a large patch above his right eye, Huczek said it was "a new challenge," but one that he was able to overcome.

He also said playing four weekends in a row was "tough, and demanding physically and mentally," and he very much looking forward to the week off before the US Open in Memphis.

Asked will he win the US Open this year - the only tournament that he has not won, Huczek responded "I sure hope so!"

Canadian Racquetball Classic - Edmonton, Alberta
Finals (seeding)

(2) Jack Huczek d. (1) Rocky Carson, 11-8, 11-3, 8-11, 11-(-1)

Follow the bouncing ball....

WPRO - Longoria ends Rajsich's winning streak

Paola Longoria upset Rhonda Rajsich on Sunday at the Canadian Racquetball Classic - the third event of the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) season in Edmonton, Alberta, ending Rajsich's tournament winning streak at six going back to last season. It was the second final in a row for the pair as they also played in the final of Mexico Open two weeks ago when Rajsich won in five games. But in Edmonton, Longoria needed only four to break Rajsich's streak, winning 11-8, 11-6, 2-11, 11-2.

Rajsich, the #1 WPRO player, had slow starts all tournament, and that continued in the final, as Longoria went up 5-0 in the first game. However, Rajsich fought back and tied the match at 7. Longoria then took the lead again at 9-7, and held it to win 11-8.

In game two, it was Longoria all the way, as she took a 4-0 lead, and maintained a comfortable margin the rest of the game to win 11-6.

Rajsich had been down before in her matches this weekend, so some in the crowd were thinking it was only a matter of time before she turned it around and came back. It looked like that thinking was correct as Rajsich took a big lead in game three at 8-2, and won 11-2.

But game four was a return to what happened in the first two games, as Longoria took an early lead at 4-0, and stayed on top despite a couple of time outs by Rajsich. Longoria took game four 11-2, and won the match 3 games to 1.

Longoria's serves were almost exclusively drives and drive Zs to the left side - Rajsich's backhand, although her previous opponents - Jennifer Saunders in the quarter finals and Kristen Walsh in the semis - had served to Rajsich's forehand. More than once Longoria's drive Z serves forced Rajsich to return serve defensively by playing the ball off the back wall.

It's Longoria's second WPRO tournament victory, and her first since the Fayetteville, North Carolina event at the beginning of last season.

WPRO Canadian Racquetball Classic - Edmonton, Alberta

(6) Paola Longoria d. (1) Rhonda Rajsich, 11-8, 11-6, 2-11, 11-2

Follow the bouncing ball....

Saturday, October 11, 2008

WPRO - Canadian Classic Semi Final Results

Rhonda Rajsich, the #1 player on the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) tour has successfully reached her third straight final of the WPRO season at the Canadian Racquetball Classic in Edmonton, Alberta. On Sunday, She'll have a chance to extend her tournament winning streak to seven going back to last season.

But in the semi-finals Kristen Bellows gave Rajsich all she could handle, and for two and half games looked like she would end Rajsich's streak. However, you have to win three games to win a match, so two and half isn't enough, as Rajsich came back to win 13-15, 1-11, 11-8, 11-1, 11-3.

In game one, Bellows had a big lead at 10-4. However, Rajsich worked her way back into the game, and took a lead at 11-10. They traded a few more points, and at 12-12 there was an avoidable called against Bellows giving Rajsich the serve.

Immediately after that Bellows pushed into Rajsich showing the referee that she could get to a ball, but it seemed to unsettle Rajsich. The game continued to be tight, but Bellow pulled it out 15-13.

In game two, it was all Bellows as she took an 8-0 lead and easily won 11-1. In game three, it was more of the same, as Bellows took a 7-1 lead. Then Rajsich started to come back.

She closed it to 8-6, when Bellows regained the serve but hit a three wall serve to give it right back to Rajsich. Then a long rally at 8-8 in which Rajsich drove twice to keep the ball in play and then ended it by cutting off a ceiling ball - pushing it into the front left corner - and making it 9-8.

She went on to win game three 11-8, and seemed to take all the momentum, as games four and five weren't close.

Afterwards Rajsich said that Bellows "played great," and "it seemed like everything she hit was gold." And it was for two and a half games.

But not three.

In the other semi-final, Cheryl Gudinas Holmes reached her limit of teenage opponents as she lost to Mexican teen Paola Longoria, 11-8, 11-3, 12-10. Gudinas Holmes had played Canadian Frédérique Lambert in the Round of 16, and Veronica Sotomayor of Ecuador in the quarter finals.

Longoria served a combination of drive Zs and drive serves to the left rear corner - Gudinas Holmes's backhand side, while Gudinas Holmes struggled to find a serve she was comfortable with.

At the beginning of game three, Gudinas Holmes tried a backhand lob serve along the left wall that brought her some success, leading to a 8-2 lead. But Longoria dug in, and slowly crept back into the game.

Longoria fought off two game points, before tying the score at 10, and finishing it off 12-10 with a drive Z serve that Gudinas Holmes had to hit off the back wall. That led to a Longoria shot down the left line that came off the back wall. Gudinas Holmes responded with the same shot, and then Longoria hit a cross court pass that rolled out.

Gudinas Holmes said she "felt a little flat" in their late afternoon match, and "not as good as this morning."

The Rajsich/Longoria final is their second consecutive meeting in a WPRO final, as Rajsich defeated Longoria two weeks ago in the Mexico Open. But she did it by winning the tie-breaking fifth game 12-10, so Sunday's final should be a good one.

WPRO Canadian Racquetball Classic - Edmonton, Alberta

(1) Rhonda Rajsich d. (5) Kristen Bellows, 13-15, 1-11, 11-8, 11-1, 11-3
(6) Paola Longoria d. (2) Cheryl Gudinas Holmes, 11-8, 11-3, 12-10


(1) Rhonda Rajsich vs. (6) Paola Longoria

Follow the bouncing ball....

IRT - Canadian Classic Semi-finals

Rocky Carson and Jack Huczek - the top two players on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) - will play in the final of the Canadian Racquetball Classic on Sunday.

Huczek wasn't looking his best on Saturday having being hit above the eye by Mitch Williams's racquet in their quarter final match. The gash required nine stiches to close up, but first fragments of Williams's racquet to be removed from the wound.

Despite not looking his best, "one-eyed Jack" Huczek was certainly playing well in his semi-final match versus Jason Mannino. They were back and forth early in game one, but then Huczek took a 6-1 lead and never looked back, winning 11-3, 11-5, 11-6.

In the other semi, Carson, the IRT's #1 player, defeated IRT #4 Alvaro Beltran, 11-4, 11-7, 11-2.

Sunday's final will be their first meeting since the finals of the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships in August. Carson won that match 11-10 in tie-breaker.

Canadian Racquetball Classic - Edmonton, Alberta
Semi-finals (seeding)

(1) Rocky Carson d. (4) Alvaro Beltran, 11-4, 11-7, 11-2
(2) Jack Huczek d. (3) Jason Mannino, 11-3, 11-5, 11-6


(1) Rocky Carson vs. (2) Jack Huczek

Follow the bouncing ball....

WPRO - Canadian Classic Quarter Final Results

Cheryl Gudinas Holmes defeated the Ecuador teen sensation Veronica Sotomayor, 11-5, 5-11, 11-7, 11-9, preventing Sotomayor from causing another upset at the Canadian Racquetball Classic - a Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) event in Edmonton, Alberta.

Sotomayor had upset former WPRO #1 Christie Van Hees on Friday, but in Gudinas Holmes she found too tough an oppontent. Gudinas Holmes started the match hitting very crisp shots and making everything. She had a 8-1 lead in that game, and although Sotomayor got a few points, Gudinas Holmes really didn't let her play, winning 11-5.

Game two was the mirror opposite, as Sotomayor didn't fold her tent. Quite the opposite. She stormed out to a 10-0 lead, and the 11-5 final score flattered Gudinas Holmes. Curiously, Gudinas Holmes changed from the drive Z and drive serves to Sotomayor's backhand that she'd been using in game one to lob Z serves to her opponent's forehand.

At that point, an upset seemed possible, and that possibility continued to seem likely in game three - the turn, as Sotomayor get an early lead and stayed ahead into the middle of the turn, when Sotomayor was up 7-5.

However, Gudinas Holmes put together a three point run to take her first lead of the game at 8-7. After another three point run, game three was hers, 11-7.

Again Sotomayor continued to battle hard. In game four, they were close leading to a tie at 5. Then Gudinas Holmes went out to a 9-5 lead. Sotomayor took a timeout and got a side out when play resumed. She then got three straight points to draw within one. A sideout to and timeout by Gudinas Holmes didn't stop Sotomayor from getting another point to level the match at 9 and a tie-breaker seemingly necessary.

But Gudinas Holmes made it unnecessary as she finished off game four and the match, 11-9.

The difference between Friday and Saturday for Sotomayor was that Gudinas Holmes hit more winners than Van Hees, so Sotomayor didn't seem as on top of her game today as yesterday.

WPRO #1 Rhonda Rajsich was also fully tested by her quarter final opponent, Jennifer Saunders, but managed to squeak through in four games, winning 6-11, 11-5, 12-10, 13-11. Rajsich lost game one of their match just as she lost the first game in the Round of 16. Saunders got out to a big lead in game one at 7-1, and held it to win 11-6.

Like the Gudinas Holmes/Sotomayor match, game two was the opposite, as Rajsich got up big, 6-0 and 9-3 to win easily 11-5. In the turn game, Saunders regrouped and went up 7-1. But Rajsich came back and went ahead 10-9. Saunders leveled it at 10, but Rajsich took game three 12-10.

Game four was similar to game three, as Saunders went up 8-3. Rajsich though again came back helped by excellent drive serves to the back left corner. She tied the score at 8, and went up 10-8. Saunders came back and then took a 11-10 lead. She had a chance win it, when Rajsich saved a ball into the front right corner but it was up for Saunders to just bunt in and take the game. However, Saunders skipped the shot.

After that Rajsich got the serve back, and got a couple points to regain the lead at 12-11, and then closed it out, 13-11.

Though the top two seeds won their quarter final matches, the third and fourth seeds didn't. WPRO #6 Paola Longoria upset #3 Kerri Wachtel, 11-8, 11-7, 6-11, 11-4, and #5 Kristen Bellows upset #4 Angela Grisar, 11-7, 11-8, 11-6.

In the semi-finals later on Saturday, Gudinas Holmes will face Longoria while Rajsich takes on Bellows.

WPRO Canadian Racquetball Classic - Edmonton, Alberta
Quarter finals

(1) Rhonda Rajsich d. (9) Jennifer Saunders, 6-11, 11-5, 12-10, 13-11
(5) Kristen Bellows d. (4) Angela Grisar, 11-7, 11-8, 11-6

(6) Paola Longoria d. (3) Kerri Wachtel, 11-8, 11-7, 6-11, 11-4
(2) Cheryl Gudinas Holmes d. (10) Veronica Sotomayor, 11-5, 5-11, 11-7, 11-9


(1) Rhonda Rajsich vs. (5) Kristen Bellows
(2) Cheryl Gudinas Holmes vs. (6) Paola Longoria

Follow the bouncing ball....

IRT - Canadian Classic Round of 16 and QFs

Things have gone according to the script as the top four seeds are through to the semi-finals at the Canadian Racquetball Classic on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT).

The most dramatic match occurred in the quarter finals between Jack Huczek and Mitch Williams. Williams had come out drive serving, but Huczek was able to handle the Williams' missles, and took the first two games. Williams changed tactics to lob or half lob serves, especially Zs to the Huczek's backhand. That switch helped Williams take games three and four, necessitating a tie-breaking fifth game.

In game five, Huczek took an early lead, and built it to 8-2. Then Williams hit a down the line shot and on the follow through struck Huczek, cutting his opponent above the right eye and breaking his own racquet.

A great deal of blood was shed on the court before Huczek could get off it and apply pressure and ice to the wound. But he managed to get it stopped with the help of others and came back on court to finish the match.

Upon returning, he made a few errors that allowed Williams to draw close at 8-6, and it looked like insult in the form of a match loss was going to be added to injury. However, Huczek got the serve back, and put together three solid rallies to win the game and match.

In their post-match talks, Williams apologized for hitting Huczek saying it was "totally accidental," and Huczek said he held "no hard feelings" towards Williams, although he was going to go "off to the hospital" to have the cut looked at.

Later, The Racquetball Blog asked Williams whether anything similar had happened to him, and he said that it had in fact. Williams has hit four or five people on tour, including Andy Hawthorne earlier on Friday in their Round of 16 match.

"I've got a big swing, and am left-handed, which people don't take into account," said Williams.

Williams also said he "should be winning some of these matches" that are so close. Friday it was a matter of few "loose points in the fifth game" that cost him.

Huczek will face Jason Mannino in the semi-finals. Mannino had a much easier time of it, winning his quarter final match against Shane Vanderson in three straight games, 11-1, 11-4, 11-8. Afterwards Vanderson said his performance was "pretty embarrassing." That's a harsh assessment, but there wasn't much evidence to dispute it. Vanderson's frustration boiled over when he was down 7-3 in game three and smashed his racquet into the right side wall, breaking it.

Mannino said he "was fortunate that [Vanderson] wasn't on his game," and it "wasn't Shane's best performance."

On the other side of the draw, top seed and IRT #1 Rocky Carson won a tough match with Ben Croft. Croft took the first game, 11-6, after being down 5-3 early on.

Game two wasn't close, as Carson had an early 5-0 lead, and rode that to an 11-3 victory. Game three was neck and neck to mid-game, when Carson led 6-5. He then pulled away to win 11-6.

In game four, they traded the lead back and forth, and were tied at 6. Croft got the next point, but that's as many as he'd get as Carson pushed through to win 11-7. However, it did take 7 match points before he put it away.

The last quarter final had two tight games, and then a blow out as Alvaro Beltran defeated Jason Thoerner in three straight. Beltran led throughout the first game, but Thoerner drew close at 10-9, only to lose 11-9.

In game two, it was Thoerner who built the big lead at 6-1, only to give it all up and then some, as Beltran went up 10-6. However, Thoerner fought back to tie the game and then go ahead 11-10. But he couldn't finish it off. Beltran got the serve back and finished off the game 13-11.

Game three was all Beltran, as he went up 8-0 and 10-1. Thoerner made it respectable getting to 5, when Beltran finished it off, 11-5.

Afterwards being the gentlemen they are, the players praised each others' play. Beltran said "Thoerner was tough in the first two games," and Thoerner said "Alvi played good today."

Round of 16 (seeding)

(1) Rocky Carson vs. Vincent Gagnon, 11-5, 13-11, 11-3
(8) Ben Croft vs. Greg Thomas, 11-6, 11-0, 11-0

(5) Jason Thoerner vs. Travis Woodbury, 11-7, 11-4, 6-11, 11-4
(4) Alvaro Beltran vs. Lee Connell, 11-1, 12-10, 9-11, 11-9

(3) Jason Mannino vs. Tim Landeryou, 11-4, 11-7, 11-7
(6) Shane Vanderson vs. Kris Odegard, 11-8, 11-9, 13-11

(7) Mitch Williams vs. Andy Hawthorne, 4-11, 3-11, 11-5, 11-2, 11-7
(2) Jack Huczek vs. Michael Burgess, 12-10, 11-5, 11-1

Quarter finals

(1) Rocky Carson d. (8) Ben Croft, 6-11, 11-3, 11-6, 11-7
(4) Alvaro Beltran d. (5) Jason Thoerner, 11-9, 13-11, 11-5

(3) Jason Mannino d. (6) Shane Vanderson, 11-1, 11-4, 11-8
(2) Jack Huczek d. (7) Mitch Williams, 11-7, 11-6, 4-11, 6-11, 11-6


(1) Rocky Carson vs. (4) Alvaro Beltran
(3) Jason Mannino vs. (2) Jack Huczek

Follow the bouncing ball....

Friday, October 10, 2008

WPRO - Sotomayor defeats another major player UPDATED

Veronica Sotomayor has upset another major Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) player, as she defeated Christie Van Hees Friday at the Canadian Racquetball Classic in Edmonton, Alberta, winning 11-8, 9-11, 11-3, 4-11, 11-8.

Sotomayor, 16, is an unbelievable player. Thin, yet she puts plenty of power behind the ball. But it's the accuracy of her shots that's more impressive. Shot after shot was rolling out. The only hitch for her in the match was that she started missing shots in the middle of game four, and that continued for a few points in game five.

But then she got it back, and after being down 4-2, went out to lead 7-5, 10-6, and finished at 11-8. Very impressive.

Next up for Sotomayor in the quarter finals is another veteran, Cheryl Gudinas Holmes. Gudinas Holmes defeated Frédérique Lambert, who had to retire at the end of the third game due to an injury with her left leg. Hopefully, it's not serious, as Lambert is on Canada's Junior National Team for the Junior World Championships in Tempe, Arizona in December.

The only other upset in the Round of 16 was Jennifer Saunders's victory over Jo Shattuck, 11-6, 11-2, 11-9. Shattuck had a large lead in game three at 8-1, but Saunders dug in and worked her way back into that game to take the match in three straight games.

Saunders will now face WPRO #1 Rhonda Rajsich, who she was up two games to one against last month in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Rasjich had a slow start against Véronique Guillemette, losing game one, but came back strong to win in four games, 10-12, 11-0, 11-5, 11-8.

WPRO Canadian Racquetball Classic - Edmonton, Alberta
Round of 32 (seeding)

Véronique Guillemette (17) d. Genevieve Brodeur (16), 11-3, 6-11, 11-6, 11-2
Josée Grand'Maître (13) d. Lisa Hachey (20), 11-4, 11-0, 11-0
Michelle Poage (14) d. Christine Richardson (19), 11-5, 5-11, 12-10, 5-11, 11-7
Frédérique Lambert (15) d. Keri Allen (18), 11-1, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7

Round of 16

Rhonda Rajsich (1) d. Véronique Guillemette (17), 10-12, 11-0, 11-5, 11-8
Jennifer Saunders (9) d. Jo Shattuck (8), 11-6, 11-2, 11-9

Kristen Bellows (5) d. Catherine Nichols-Dickinson (12), default
Angela Grisar (4) d. Josée Grand'Maître (13), 4-11, 11-1, 11-3, 11-3

Kerri Wachtel (3) d. Michelle Poage (14), 11-3, 11-6, 11-3
Paola Longoria (6) d. Brandi Jacobson Prentice (11), 11-1, 11-1, 11-2

Veronica Sotomayor (10) d. Christie Van Hees (7), 11-8, 9-11, 11-3, 4-11, 11-8
Cheryl Gudinas Holmes (2) d. Frédérique Lambert (15), 11-6, 5-11, 11-9 - injury default

Quarter finals

(1) Rhonda Rajsich vs. (9) Jennifer Saunders
(4) Angela Grisar vs. (5) Kristen Bellows

(3) Kerri Wachtel vs. (6) Paola Longoria
(2) Cheryl Gudinas Holmes vs. (10) Veronica Sotomayor

Follow the bouncing ball....

Thursday, October 9, 2008

IRT : Canadian Classic Qualifying Results

Most of the seeded players made it through qualifying for this weekend's Canadian Racquetball Classic on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT). The big exception is Chris Crowther, who missed the time for his match with Greg Thomas, and as a result lost by default.

For his part, Thomas barely survived his battle with Jamie Slamko, the hometown teen who won the 16 and under title at this year's Canadian Junior National Championships. Their match went tie-breaker, and it wasn't pretty.

The other match that was an upset by the IRT rankings was Vincent Gagnon defeating James Landeryou in three straight games. However, Gagnon is ranked higher than Landeryou in the Racquetball Canada rankings, so his victory is not unexpected.

The Racquetball Blog has heard several people express their disappointment that Kane Waselenchuk is not playing this weekend, especially as Edmonton is his hometown. There's been much speculation as to the reasons for Waselenchuk's absence, but we haven't substantiated any of them.

Qualifying Draw
First Round (seeding)

(16) Greg Thomas d. (17) Jamie Slamko, 11-8, 11-7, 8-11, 4-11, 11-5

Second Round

Q1: (16) Greg Thomas d. (1) Chris Crowther, default
Q8: (9) Vincent Gagnon d. (8) James Landeryou, 11-5, 11-4, 11-8

Q5: (5) Lee Connell d. (12) Michael Vogan, 11-5, 11-8, 11-6
Q4: (4) Travis Woodbury d. (13) Nathaniel Husulak 11-2, 11-5, 11-8

Q3: (3) Kris Odegard d. (14) Ben Ryder, 11-0, 11-0, 11-0
Q6: (6) Tim Landeryou d. (11) Darryl Thomas, 11-1, 11-4, 11-0

Q7: (7) Michael Burgess d. (10) Sebastien Boissonneault, 11-8, 11-0, 11-4
Q2: (2) Andy Hawthorne d. (15) Troy Brooks, 11-3, 11-9, 11-5

Main Draw

(1) Rocky Carson vs. Vincent Gagnon
(8) Ben Croft vs. Greg Thomas

(5) Jason Thoerner vs. Travis Woodbury
(4) Alvaro Beltran vs. Lee Connell

(3) Jason Mannino vs. Tim Landeryou
(6) Shane Vanderson vs. Kris Odegard

(7) Mitch Williams vs. Andy Hawthorne
(2) Jack Huczek vs. Michael Burgess

Follow the bouncing ball....

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

IRT : Canadian Classic first round

The draw for this weekend's Canadian Racquetball Classic tournament on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) is now available on There are 17 players in the qualifying draw, and 13 of them are Canadians and the others are American. Thus, there's not a wide international flavour to the event.

Also, the official draw confirms what The Racquetball Blog reported earlier that Kane Waselenchuk is not playing this weekend. But Jason Mannino is back on tour after missing last week's Kentucky Open due to injury.

We think the matches to watch - prior to the semis and final, which should be good regardless of who's playing - are on the bottom of the draw. The potential quarter finals of Mitch Williams versus Jack Huczek and Mannino versus Shane Vanderson are attractive.

In the qualifying draw, we're a little confused why Greg Thomas is seeded 16th. There are seven players in qualifying who aren't on the latest IRT rankings, so how did they seed them? Randomly? Though Thomas doesn't have IRT points now, he has been an IRT regular in the past, so we're thinking he should be higher than 16th.

Thomas's seeding is also odd because in the Open division he's seeded ahead of some players he's seeded behind in the Pro Qualifying Draw. But we can see how a random draw among the seven players who don't have a current IRT ranking is arguably be the best process to seed unranked players.

Here's how they'll match up for the weekend:

Qualifying Draw
First Round (seeding)

(16) Greg Thomas vs. (17) Jamie Slamko

Second Round

Q1: (1) Chris Crowther vs. winner of Greg Thomas vs. Jamie Slamko
Q8: (8) James Landeryou vs. (9) Vincent Gagnon

Q5: (5) Lee Connell vs. (12) Michael Vogan
Q4: (4) Travis Woodbury vs. (13) Nathaniel Husulak

Q3: (3) Kris Odegard vs. (14) Ben Ryder
Q6: (6) Tim Landeryou vs. (11) Darryl Thomas

Q7: (7) Michael Burgess vs. (10) Sebastien Boissonneault
Q2: (2) Andy Hawthorne vs. (15) Troy Brooks

Main Draw

(1) Rocky Carson vs. Q8
(8) Ben Croft vs. Q1

(5) Jason Thoerner vs. Q4
(4) Alvaro Beltran vs. Q5

(3) Jason Mannino vs. Q6
(6) Shane Vanderson vs. Q3

(7) Mitch Williams vs. Q2
(2) Jack Huczek vs. Q7


This week we're going with the defending champ. Yes, The Racquetball Blog is touting Jack Huczek to win his fourth Canadian Classic in a row. Canada's been a very good place for him to play, and we think it will continue to be so this weekend.

Also, it's the fourth consecutive weekend of IRT competition. That many tournaments in a row can take a toll on the players. As Huczek is one of the fitter players on tour, his fitness should be even more of an advantage than usual this weekend.

Our IRT predo record is 1/3 (we went with Huczek once before, with Rocky Carson once, & once with Waselenchuk, who's won thrice). The TRB Readers have not missed so far, although there was a tie vote for the first IRT event. Most people have gone for Waselenchuk, but that was prior to the knowledge of him not being in the draw. So, perhaps this time we'll accept the player getting the second most votes as the TRB readers' choice.

Follow the bouncing ball....