Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Going back 30 years

There's no pro tournaments going on this weekend, so The Racquetball Blog is looking back 30 years to the Jack In The Box tournament in St. Louis, Missouri that was the first event on the '78-'79 Colgate Tour. It was a remarkable event, as both men's and women's professionals were there (so it could be called a Grand Slam event), yet neither the top men's or women's seed won the event.

The men's winner was Steve Strandemo, who was seeded 16th, as he'd been out of action most of the previous season with kidney problems. It was Strandemo's first win in almost four years with his previous win coming in Sunnyvale, California in January, 1975.

Strandemo had a shocking upset of #1 seed Marty Hogan in the Round of 16. Hogan's loss marked the first time he had not been to the finals in over two years. They split the first two games, and Strandemo was up 5-0 when Hogan was charged with a technical following a collision in center court, making the score 5 to -1. Hogan did come back, but Strandemo held on and won the tie-breaker and match, 17-21, 21-13, 11-8.

Strandemo said his next match against Craig McCoy was the toughest mentally, because it would have been easy to let down after beating Hogan. But Strandemo believed "in order for the win over Hogan to mean anything, I had to go all the way," so he worked hard and made it happen, winning 19-21, 21-18, 11-4.

Strandemo then defeated Richard Wagner in the semis, 21-14, 21-13, to set up a final against Jerry Hilecher. The final went to a tie-breaker, and Hilecher was up 8-6. However, Strandemo was able to come back with four straight points. Hilecher stalled him at 10, but was unable to score any points himself, so Strandemo won it, 21-7, 12-21, 11-8.

On the women's side, fourth seed Jennifer Harding was the winner, defeating Peggy Steding in the final, 21-6, 21-14. In the semis, Harding beat reigning US Champion Shannon Wright, 21-18, 21-16, avenging a lop-sided loss in the Nationals final a few months earlier.

1978 JACK IN THE BOX, St. Louis
Men's Pro

Quarter finals
Steve Strandemo d. Craig McCoy, 19-21, 21-18, 11-4
Richard Wagner d. Dennis McDowell, 21-8, 21-8
Jerry Hilecher d. Mike Yellen, 21-11, 21-14
Davey Bledsoe d. Charlie Brumfield, 21-19, 21-19

Semi finals
Steve Strandemo d. Richard Wagner, 21-14, 21-13
Jerry Hilecher d. Davey Bledsoe, 21-5, 21-8

Steve Strandemo d. Jerry Hilecher, 21-7, 12-21, 11-8

Women's Pro

Quarter finals
Shannon Wright d. Kathy Williams, 21-13, 21-13
Jennifer Harding d. Martha McDonald, 21-11, 21-7
Peggy Steding d. Sarah Green, 21-4, 20-21, 11-7
Karin Walton d. Janell Marriott, 18-21, 21-12, 11-6

Semi finals
Jennifer Harding d. Shannon Wright, 21-18, 21-16
Peggy Steding d. Karin Walton, 21-16, 21-9

Jennifer Harding d. Peggy Steding, 21-6, 21-14

Source: National Racquetball, Vol. 6, No. 12, December 1978, p. 68-77.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

WPRO: New Jersey Open Results

First our apologies to the loyal readers of The Racquetball Blog. We were off this weekend slaying dragons, not entirely successfully, so incommunicado.

However, we have returned, and find that Veronica Sotomayor slayed some dragons of her own at the New Jersey Open - a satellite event on the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) tour. She won the title defeating three major players along the way.

Sotomayor began with the quarter final match TRB anticipated against reigning doubles World Champion Aimee Ruiz. Sotomayor won in four games, including an 11-0 turn (third) game. The score line was 11-5, 9-11, 11-0, 11-4.

Then in the semi-finals, Sotomayor made short work of WPRO #9 Doreen Fowler, winning in three straight games 11-4, 11-1, 11-4.

Rhonda Rajsich, the top women's player in the world, was on the other side of the draw. She got to the final by defeating Karen Morton, 10-12, 11-0, 11-6, 11-2.

But in the final, it was Sotomayor who came out on top, winning 11-8, 11-5, 10-12, 11-9. At 16, Sotomayor may be the youngest player to win a WPRO event, although this was not a WPRO main event.

For Rajsich, it's the fourth consecutive event - two main events (Canadian Classic & US Open) and two satellite events (Long Island Open, New Jersey Open) that she has failed to win after winning six WPRO main events in a row. Rajsich lost to Paola Longoria in the final of the Canadian Classic, and to Brenda Kyzer in the quarter finals of the US Open, as well as in the final of the Long Island Open to Cheryl Gudinas Holmes, in addition to Sunday's loss.

Thus, Rajsich is often getting to the finals, but has not been coming out on the winning end of late.

Men's action

The men's open draw of the New Jersey Open wasn't an International Racquetball Tour (IRT) event, but it did feature some ranked IRT players and a surprising finalist.

Nick Montalbano was the surprising finalist, as he's only #168 on the latest IRT rankings. But he reached the final by defeating Jason Sylvester (IRT #28) in the quarters, 15-6, 15-10, and Bradley Kirch (#64) in the semi-finals, 15-8, 8-15, 11-8. However, Montalbano's luck ran out as he lost the final to the legend, Ruben Gonzalez, 15-8, 15-4.

New Jersey Open - Women's Pro

Quarter finals

Doreen Fowler d. Christina Vandling, 11-4, 11-2, 11-8
Veronica Sotomayor d. Aimee Ruiz, 11-5, 9-11, 11-0, 11-4
Karen Morton d. Dolly Watson, 11-2, 11-5, 11-2
Rhonda Rajsich - BYE

Semi finals

Rhonda Rajsich d. Karen Morton, 10-12, 11-0, 11-6, 11-2
Veronica Sotomayor d. Doreen Fowler, 11-4, 11-1, 11-4


Veronica Sotomayor d. Rhonda Rajsich, 11-8, 11-5, 10-12, 11-9

Follow the bouncing ball....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How do I rank thee? Let me count the ways.

The new International Racquetball Tour (IRT) rankings that we posted here yesterday are now on their website also. The IRT, like the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) and the professional tennis tours, use players' performances over a one year period to create the rankings, so there are some results from this season and some from last season included to produce players' current ranking.

It's one way of ranking players, but it's not the only way. And it penalizes players for not playing a lot, as they earn points each time they participate in a tournament. That's good if you want to reward participation, but bad if you want to accurately rank players on their performance.

Thus, players who haven't played many tournaments in the past 12 months are lower ranked than perhaps they should be. On the men's side, Kane Waselenchuk and Javier Moreno may be examples of this, while Christie Van Hees and Aimee Ruiz could be examples on the women's side.

If you wanted a snapshot of players' performances in this IRT season (as the PGA does with their money list rankings), you could track players from the start of the season, which is what The Racquetball Blog did, and the result is below. We assigned points for how many players were left in the draw when a player's run ended, so if a player won a tournament, then 1 point was assigned. Losing in the finals was 2 pts, in the semis 4, and so on. The last round of qualifying was 32 points, with the second last qualifying round being 64, etc. Thus, fewer points are better.

We then divided the number of points by the number of events that player has played to create a mean per event. That mean was used to rank the players.

Also, we only used the Tier 1 IRT events. Here's the result.

RankPlayer Points EventsMean
1Kane Waselenchuk441.00
2Jack Huczek2163.50
3Rocky Carson2764.50
4Jason Mannino2454.80
5Alvaro Beltran3065.00
6Ben Croft5268.67
7Mitch Williams5669.33
8Shane Vanderson60610.00
9Jason Thoerner64610.67
10Javier Moreno24212.00
11Chris Crowther88614.67
12Greg Thomas16116.00
13Andreas Herrera32216.00
14Tony Carson32216.00
15Juan Herrera96519.20
16Kris Odegard80420.00
17Hiroshi Shimizu80420.00
18Alejandro Herrera80420.00
19Andy Hawthorne128621.33
20Jose Rojas48224.00
21Agustin Tristan48224.00
22Tim Landeryou48224.00
23Polo Gutierrez80326.67
24Travis Woodbury160626.67

Thus, Kane Waselenchuk is the number 1 player using this method, and Jack Huczek is ahead of Rocky Carson, which isn't the case on the current IRT list. And some other players, like Moreno, Tony Carson, Jose Rojas and Agustin Tristan, are higher here than on the IRT list.

There are caveats with this method also, of course. Greg Thomas is number 12, which probably isn't accurate, as he's only played one event - the Canadian Classic, where he made the main draw due to a default by Chris Crowther in the last round of qualifying. Results from one event - or even two or three - isn't a solid basis for a ranking.

Waselenchuk is #1 on the USA Racquetball rankings. USA Racquetball and Racquetball Canada use a process that tracks players' best wins, and moves players up when they have beaten two players ahead of them. That is, if a player ranked 200 beats players ranked 170 and 150 in a tournament, that player will be moved up to 170 (the 170 ranked player will then be 171). This method is explained on the USA Racquetball web site, and was devised by Usher Barnoff, Racquetball Canada's President.

There can be problems with that process also. For example, in tennis Guillermo Canas defeated Roger Federer in back to back tournaments in early 2007, when Federer was #1, so under this process Canas would have become #1, which probably would not have been accurate. He was #55 when he beat Federer the second time at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.

Nevertheless, the best win method is good for ranking a lot of players, when not all of the players play each other (certainly difficult with any sizable group), and many of them are not playing very often.

Whether one method is more accurate than another is debatable, as it's difficult to make accurate assessments of athletic performance in general, and especially so when there's little data.

But it's fun to do!

Follow the bouncing ball....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

IRT's Latest Rankings

Dave Negrete, Commissioner of the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), told The Racquetball Blog that he's having some trouble updating the IRT web site. But he was able to provide TRB with the latest IRT Top 50 that includes last weekend's Juarez Open as well as the Tier 3 and 4 events that took place the weekend before.

Here they are:

2008-2009 Season - Current IRT Rankings
As of November 17, 2008

RankProPointsPrevious RankSeason To Date RankSeason To Date PointsSeason To Date Best

1CARSON, ROCKY46761120562056
2HUCZEK, JACK44212319201920
3BELTRAN, ALVARO33793416621662
4MANNINO, JASON32784513951395
5CROFT, BEN25546712771277
6VANDERSON, SHANE25135613091309
7WILLIAMS, MITCH23557812321232
8WASELENCHUK, KANE21489220292029
9CROWTHER, CHRIS21001010867867
10THOERNER, JASON19888912131213
11HERRERA, JUAN14211212593593
12HAWTHORNE, ANDY14141111677677
13HERRERA, ALEJANDRO12181413519519
14MORENO, JAVIER11511518352352
15SHIMIZU, HIROSHI10881314461461
16ODEGARD, KRIS9751615454454
17WOODBURY, TRAVIS9301716428428
18HERRERA, ANDRES7141822278278
19CONNELL, LEE5931919326326
20CARSON, TONY5782017413413
21HERRERA, ANTHONY D.5212226224224
22GONZALEZ, RUBEN5102136109109
23MEJIA, GILBERTO4542731147147
24SWAIN, CLIFF4522524243243
25GREEN, MIKE4322634110110
26FILIPPINI, RAFAEL4302325226226
27GUTIERREZ, POLO3262420326326
28SYLVESTER, JASON317281241313
29ROJAS, JOSE2953121295295
30MINOR, KEITH2953223262262
31SIMPSON, BRIAN29233594545
32BURGESS, MICHAEL2423633120120
33LANDERYOU, TIM2332929176176
34LANDA, ALEJANDRO2233027223223
35ORR, MIKE22038429393
36TRISTAN, AGUSTIN2054028181181
39GAGNON, VINCENT1534330153153
40PRATT, CHARLIE14837664040
41OTTO, TYLER1384535109109
42LANDA, ARMANDO13110732131131
43GANIM, DOUG13139439090
44CASE, DAN12048673838
45ROGERS, BRADLEY1194940100100
46CAMACHO, FELIPE11663468383
47ZELADA, MAURICIO11246477979
48STAMBORSKI, MATT10947506868
50MANZURI, SHAI10754487474

Of note, Kane Waselenchuk has moved up to 8th in the rankings despite not playing in Juarez. The IRT rankings work on a 12 month schedule, so players can drop points if they do not earn points to replace what they did 52 weeks ago. Thus, Jason Thoerner dropped from 2164 points in the October 27, 2008 IRT rankings to 1988 points now.

Being 8th means that Waselenchuk will be put into the main draw (16 players) at the next IRT Tier 1 event - assuming no ranking changes before then. Thus, Waselenchuk will not have to play any qualifying round matches to make the main draw, or Round of 16.

However, Waselenchuk fell to 2nd in the season to date ranking, as Rocky Carson's victory in Juarez moved him ahead of Waselenchuk for points this season.

Ben Croft's move up to 5th is also notable, as TRB believes this is his highest ranking ever.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WPRO: New Jersey Open

There's a small draw at this weekend's New Jersey Open - a satellite event on the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) tour, but it features two top 10 players: WPRO #1 Rhonda Rajsich and WPRO #9 Doreen Fowler.

In addition, Veronica Sotomayor, one of the most exciting WPRO players this season, will also be in New Jersey. Sotomayor, the WPRO's 13th ranked player, is the 16 year old player from Ecuador who defeated Christie Van Hees at the Canadian Classic last month and won games from WPRO #2 Cheryl Gudinas Holmes at both the Canadian Classic and the US Open.

Here's what The Racquetball Blog expects the draw to be:

Quarter finals (WPRO ranking)

(1) Rhonda Rajsich v. BYE
(9) Doreen Fowler v. (-) Christina Vandling
(13) Veronica Sotomayor v. (54) Aimee Ruiz
(28) Karen Morton v. (53) Dolly Watson

A Sotomayor-Ruiz match would be something to see. Ruiz, a strong left handed player, would be a new challenge for Sotomayor. Ruiz's ranking at #54 doesn't accurately reflect her quality as she generally only plays a few tournaments in the New Jersey/New York City area. But she is the reigning two time World Champion in doubles.

Note, in making up this draw The Racquetball Blog is using the WPRO rankings on their website, which doesn't include the Long Island Open results, where Ruiz had a win over Sheryl Lotts to make the semis. That win might put Ruiz ahead of Watson in the rankings, as they are so close; Ruiz has 14.27 points and Watson has 14.80 points.

If so, then Ruiz and Watson would flip places in the above layout, and a potential Sotomayor-Ruiz match would have to wait for the semis.

Women's Participation

Although the women's pro draw is small, the New Jersey Open is a sizable tournament with 135 players registered. However, only 23 of them (17.0%) are women (note: this count examined the women's singles and doubles draws as well as mixed). Women's participation in racquetball is really something that needs to be addressed by racquetball organizations.

Of course, tournament participation is only a small part of racquetball play, and women may be less likely to participate in tournaments. However, if women only make up 15-20% of all racquetball players, then there's a lot of work to do.

We know we've mentioned this before, but it's a topic that bears repeating. Let's get more women playing, and more elite level women. As players like Rajsich and Sotomayor demonstrate women's racquetball can be as great to watch as men's.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

IRT : Juarez Open Final Results

Rocky Carson, the #1 player on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), won the Juarez Open Sunday, defeating Jack Huczek, the IRT's #2 player, 11-9, 11-9, 11-6 in the final. This is Carson's first win of the season in a Tier 1 event.

Carson won a Tier 3 event, the Shawn Hyatt Excavating Shootout, last weekend in Yakima, Washington.

There's now a long break from Tier 1 IRT competitions, as the next one will be the California Open, January 8-11, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

Juarez Open - Final (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson d. (2) Jack Huczek, 11-9, 11-9, 11-6

Follow the bouncing ball....

Saturday, November 15, 2008

IRT : Juarez Open Semi Final Results

The top seeds have risen to the top at the Juarez Open on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), as Rocky Carson, the IRT's #1 player, will meet #2, Jack Huczek in the final on Sunday.

Carson defeated Jason Mannino in one semi-final, 11-5, 11-3, 11-3, while Jack Huczek took out surprise semi-finalist Ben Croft, 11-6, 3-11, 11-8, 11-2.

It's the second time Carson and Huczek have played this season. Huczek beat Carson in the final of the Canadian Classic in Edmonton, Alberta in October. But Carson did defeat Huczek to win the International Racquetball Federation World Championship played in Kingscourt, Ireland this past August.

Semi Finals (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson d. (4) Jason Mannino, 11-5, 11-3, 11-3
(2) Jack Huczek d. (6) Ben Croft, 11-6, 3-11, 11-8, 11-2

Finals (IRT Ranking)

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

Follow the bouncing ball....

IRT : Juarez Open Early Results - UPDATED

Two things that we were looking for happened Friday at the Juarez Open, the current stop on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT). For one, The Racquetball Blog (TRB) thought the first round match up of Shane Vanderson and Javier Moreno would be a good one, and it did not disappoint. They went the full five games with Moreno upsetting Vanderson, 11-7, 11-7, 4-11, 11-13, 11-9.

That win put Moreno into the quarter finals against Jason Mannino, who beat Armando Landa, 11-4, 12-10, 11-6 in the 16s. Mannino defeated Moreno in four games, 11-6, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7.

Ben Croft put together one of those break through victories the TRB was also looking for, as he beat Alvaro Beltran in three straight games, 13-11, 11-5, 11-9, to reach the semis for the first time this season.

Also in the semis, are the top two seeds: #1 Rocky Carson, who defeated Chris Crowther in their quarter final match, and #2 Jack Huczek, who defeated Mitch Williams. Both Carson and Huczek won their matches in four games.

Round of 16 (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson d. Gil Mejia, 11-4, 11-5, 11-8
Chris Crowther d. (8) Jason Thoerner, 14-12, 11-1, 10-12, 11-6

Javier Moreno d. (5) Shane Vanderson, 11-7, 11-7, 4-11, 11-13, 11-9
(4) Jason Mannino v. Armando Landa, 11-4, 12-10, 11-6

(3) Alvaro Beltran d. Andreas Herrera, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5
(6) Ben Croft d. Juan Herrera, 11-9, 11-6, 11-7

(7) Mitch Williams d. Andy Hawthorne, 13-15, 11-4, 11-7, 9-11 [sic]*
(2) Jack Huczek d. Ruben Estrada, 6-11, 11-2, 11-3, 11-9

Quarter finals (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson d. Chris Crowther, 6-11, 11-0, 11-7, 11-7
(4) Jason Mannino d. Javier Moreno, 11-6, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7

(6) Ben Croft d. (3) Alvaro Beltran, 13-11, 11-5, 11-9
(2) Jack Huczek d. (7) Mitch Williams, 11-5, 8-11, 11-1, 11-2

Semi Finals (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson v. (4) Jason Mannino
(2) Jack Huczek v. (6) Ben Croft

*Note: only 4 game scores are reported on the IRT site.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Friday, November 14, 2008

IRT : Juarez Open Main Draw

It seems there were some other absences at the The International Racquetball Tour's (IRT's) Juarez Open in Juarez, Mexico, as five of the eight first round qualifying matches were won by forfeit. What's up with that? These are other absences because as we noted yesterday, Kane Waselenchuk has passed on another IRT Tier 1 event, as he's not in Juarez this weekend. Word is family commitments have led to Waselenchuk missing this weekend.

Qualifying Results

There were three upsets in the second round of qualifying. Armando Landa, ranked 139th, defeated IRT #17 Travis Woodbury in three straight games, 11-5, 11-6, 11-6. Also, Ruben Estrada, ranked 66th, beat #22 Anthony Herrera in a five game match where he lost the first two games before coming back to win, 3-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-5.

The third upset was a minor one, as #27 Gilberto Mejia of Mexico - winner of the recent IRT event in Chihuahua, Mexico where he defeated Chris Crowther in the final - won a close match with countryman and #25 ranked Polo Gutierrez, 15-13, 9-11, 11-7, 13-11.

Thus, the Round of 16 is all set. Maybe the most interesting match up will be Shane Vanderson versus Mexican leftie Javier Moreno. And there's another installment in the Jason Thoerner/Chris Crowther series, which Thoerner has dominated this season winning all three of their meetings.

Qualifying Draw Results

First Round

Alejandro Cardona d. Brian Zachery, fft
Eric Sandavol d. Jesus Jasso, 11-4, 8-11, 11-4, 10-12, 11-8
Gil De Los Rios d. Miguel Ladera, fft
Eduardo Avila d. Pedro Gonzalez, fft
Armando Landa d. Alberto De La Rosa, fft
Felipe Camacho d. Rey Gutierrez, 11-3, 11-6, 10-12, 11-7
Ruben Estrada d. Oliver Moreno, fft
Gil Mejia d. Manuel Villareal, 11-1, 11-4, 11-0

Second Round

Q1: Chris Crowther d. Alejandro Cardona, 5-11, 11-1, 11-7, 11-7
Q2: Andy Hawthorne d. Eric Sandavol, 11-6, 11-5, 11-1
Q3: Juan Herrera d. Gil De Los Rios, 4-11, 11-2, 10-12, 11-9, 11-9
Q4: Javier Moreno d. Eduardo Avila, 11-1, 11-4, 11-1
Q5: Armando Landa d. Travis Woodbury, 11-5, 11-6, 11-6
Q6: Andreas Herrera d. Felipe Camacho, 11-8, 11-5, 11-5
Q7: Ruben Estrada d. Anthony Herrera, 3-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-5
Q8: Gil Mejia d. Polo Gutierrez, 15-13, 9-11, 11-7, 13-11

Main Draw - Round of 16 (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson v. Gil Mejia
(8) Jason Thoerner v. Chris Crowther

(5) Shane Vanderson v. Javier Moreno
(4) Jason Mannino v. Armando Landa

(3) Alvaro Beltran v. Andreas Herrera
(6) Ben Croft v. Juan Herrera

(7) Mitch Williams v. Andy Hawthorne
(2) Jack Huczek v. Ruben Estrada

Follow the bouncing ball....

Thursday, November 13, 2008

IRT : Juarez Open qualifying draw

The International Racquetball Tour (IRT) has posted the draws for this weekend's Juarez Open in Juarez, Mexico, just across the US-Mexico border from El Paso, Texas.

The draws are listed below, and the first thing you might notice is that Kane Waselenchuk is not there. He was listed on the Juarez Open website as having registered, as was Hiroshi Shimizu, but neither is in the draw.

This is the second tournament that Waselenchuk has passed on in his return to the IRT after his two year ban. He's won all the tournaments he has entered, so it's surprising that he's not playing some.

Waselenchuk has stated that he wants to be ranked #1 at the end of the season (he's currently #9), and that the way to ensure that he is would be to win all the tournaments, something that's never been done. However, he's already failed to win all the tournaments, as Waselenchuk was not at the Canadian Classic (ironically, held in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta).

There was much speculation as to why Waselenchuk passed on the Edmonton event. Some of that focussing on the fact that Edmonton was the site of his positive drug test in 2006 at the Canadian National Championships, which led to his 2 year ban from the sport.

However, with Waselenchuk missing this weekend's event one wonders if there's something about out of USA events that is a problem for him. Distance shouldn't have been a concern this weekend, as Waselenchuk resides in Texas.

It's puzzling.

Wrong before it begins

Moreover, it's thrown our prediction of Waselenchuk winning this weekend out the window! That's what we're really concerned about! Ah well, it will make for an interesting tournament, as the door is thrown open to the field to take the title.

So, will Alvaro Beltran win his first IRT Tier I event? Will Mitch Williams - or Shane Vanderson or Ben Croft - get the breakthrough wins that would show they are taking their level of play up a notch? Will Jason Mannino work his magic once again? Will Rocky Carson have recovered from the pasting he received from Waselenchuk at the US Open? Will Jack Huczek come through and win the title in Waselenchuk's absence as he did in Edmonton?

Yes, there are many questions arising from Waselenchuk's absence. But perhaps no question is greater than why is he absent?

Qualifying Draw

Q1: Chris Crowther v. winner of Alejandro Cardona v. Brian Zachery
Q2: Andy Hawthorne v. winner of Eric Sandavol v. Jesus Jasso
Q3: Juan Herrera v. winner of Miguel Ladera v. Gil De Los Rios
Q4: Javier Moreno v. winner of Eduardo Avila v. Pedro Gonzalez
Q5: Travis Woodbury v. winner of Alberto De La Rosa v. Armando Landa
Q6: Andreas Herrera v. winner of Felipe Camacho v. Rey Gutierrez
Q7: Anthony Herrera v. winner of Ruben Estrada v. Oliver Moreno
Q8: Polo Gutierrez v. winner of Gil Mejia v. Manuel Villareal

Main Draw - Round of 16 (IRT Ranking)

(1) Rocky Carson v. Q8
(8) Jason Thoerner v. Q1

(5) Shane Vanderson v. Q4
(4) Jason Mannino v. Q5

(3) Alvaro Beltran v. Q6
(6) Ben Croft v. Q3

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

Follow the bouncing ball....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This week's winner will be....

Kane Waselenchuk has won all the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) events that he has entered this season. Thus, picking him to win this weekend's Juarez Open seems like a no brainer.

We here at The Racquetball Blog could overthink this though, as Mexican Alvaro Beltran, one of our favorites to defeat Waselenchuk, will be playing on home soil. It would be great to see Beltran win his first Tier 1 event in Mexico.

(note: on the Boss Consulting IRT stats site, it lists Beltran as winning a pro stop in McLean, Virginia in 2002. However, Boss informs TRB that "the courts were so wet [at the tournament] that the top pros all got together and voted to split the points evenly for the event so that nobody would get hurt badly while competing for the title" so Beltran has "never won a pro stop that was competitively played.")

But Waselenchuk has to be the heavy favorite for Juarez, and given our unflattering record at selecting tournament winners so far this season, we're not going to go against a heavy favorite.

At least not this time.

You can make your prediction on the right side of the blog. Make sure to vote before Friday morning.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest we forget

Ninety years ago today the armistice ending World War I was declared (on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918). It's Veteran's Day in the United States, Remembrance Day in Canada, as well as a holiday in France.

So today, The Racquetball Blog honours those who have served their countries in military service.

One way to honour the military is to read about war to help understand what is involved and how decisions on going to war get made. Human Smoke is a recent book by Nicholson Baker that we recommend to TRB readers. Its subtitle is The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization.

Baker's taken clips from many primary sources, often the New York Times, and laid them out in chronological order leading up to the outbreak of World War II showing what the mood was in many parts of the world and how that led to the war.

Rarely more than a page in length each, the clips are so compelling in relating the events of the time that few, if any, are aware of now. Baker rarely editorializes, as the clips speak for themselves. Some examples include the reports that the German generals were not in favour of going to war. It was Hitler who forced them down that path. Such was the generals' opposition that there was a plot to remove Hitler from power in 1939, prior to any military action.

That plot fell through, of course, but the mind boggles at the thought of it succeeding, given the hindsight of what actually happened.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Results of a busy, busy weekend

A busy, busy racquetball weekend ended yesterday with five International Racquetball Tour (IRT) events and one Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) event concluding. Of the five IRT events, one was a Tier 3 and the others were Tier 4, while one of those events was also a WPRO satellite event. First the Tier 3 event.

33rd New Mexico Invitational

The Tier 3 event was the 33rd New Mexico Invitational Pro Am Racquetball Championships in Albuquerque. IRT #3, Alvaro Beltran defeated IRT #7 Mitch Williams in a four game final, 12-10, 1-11, 11-9, 11-7. In the semis, Beltran defeated fellow Mexican Polo Gutierrez, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6, while Williams beat Rafael Filippini, 11-3, 11-9, 11-9.

Here are the complete results from the men's pro division courtesy Tournament Director Gary Mazaroff:

Round of 32
Dave Solomon def Alvin Archuleta, 11-7, 11-5, 11-10
Jesse Harden def Dustin Webster, 11-8, 11-3, 9-11, 12-10
Chad Whitehead def Robert Lee, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7
Ken Cheshire def Andrew Clarke, 11-8, 11-8, 11-5

Round of 16
Alvaro Beltran def Dave Solomon, 11-3, 11-4, 11-8
Armando Landa def Eduardo Avila, 11-8, 11-6, 11-8
Alejandro Landa def Erick Sandoval, 11-7, 11-7, 12-14, 11-2
Polo Gutierrez def Jesse Harden, 11-3, 11-3, 11-1
Rafael Filippini def Chad Whitehead, 11-9, 6-11, 6-11, 11-1, 11-5
Ray Maestas def Felipe Camacho, 11-5, 5-11, 11-2, 11-5
Matt Melster def Jose Ramos, Win by default
Mitch Williams def Ken Cheshire, 11-1, 11-6, 11-4

Quarter Finals
Alvaro Beltran def Armando Landa, 11-6, 11-3, 11-7
Polo Gutierrez def Alejandro Landa, 11-1, 11-6, 9-11, 11-5
Rafael Filippini def Ray Maestas, Win by default
Mitch Williams def Matt Melster, 11-1, 11-0, 12-10

Semi Finals
Alvaro Beltran def Polo Gutierrez, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6
Mitch Williams def Rafael Filippini, 11-3, 11-9, 11-9

Alvaro Beltran def Mitch Williams, 12-10, 1-11, 11-9, 11-7

Tier 4 Events

Jason Thoerner was in three finals at the Long Island Open, but he only won those in which he had help. That is, he won men's and mixed doubles, with Ruben Gonzalez (defeating Sanjay Laforest & Shane Wood in the final) and Aimee Ruiz (beating Andy Hawthorne & Rhonda Rajsich in that final), respectively, but lost the men's singles final to Andy Hawthorne, which was an upset as Hawthorne (IRT #11) was second seed and Thoerner (IRT #8) was first seed.

On the women's side of the Long Island Open, a similar thing happened, as WPRO #2 Cheryl Gudinas Holmes upset WPRO #1 Rhonda Rajsich in the final.

There were upsets in the semis and finals at the Sunset Turkey Shoot in Portland, Oregon. In the semis, third seed Charles Pratt defeated top seed Chadd Westwood and fourth seed Christopher Barton took out second seed Jimmy Lowe, 15-10, 15-10. Then in the final, Barton beat Pratt, 15-13, 10-15, 11-5.* Barton also won the doubles event with partner Nick Baida.

The Shawn Hyatt Excavating Shootout in Yakima, Washington went pretty much according to form, as Rocky Carson, IRT #1, defeated Ben Croft (IRT #6) in the final, 12-10, 12-10, 11-6. In the semis, Carson defeated fourth seeded Jason Samora, 11-8, 11-2, 11-1, and Croft took out third seed Jose Rojas, 11-6, 11-7, 11-4.

Finally, Chris Crowther, IRT #10 and top seed, defeated second seed Greg Solis in the final of the Pomona Valley Open in California.

* Note: only two or three scores are reported for the draw of the Sunset Turkey Shoot on the R2Sports site, so we're assuming the matches were 2 games to 15 and tiebreaker to 11 rather than the IRT match standard of best of five games each to 11.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Friday, November 7, 2008

Give them a hand

If you were watching some of the matches at the recent US Open, then you may have heard Joe Lee's enthusiastic support during some of them. Lee was a strong supporter of Cliff Swain during his match with Shai Manzuri, and also of Jimmy Lowe during the CPRT final against Woody Clouse.

Lowe and Lee are friends, and after winning the CPRT final, Lowe thanked Lee for his support. Lee, who's a three time US Open champion in 55+ (2006-2008), was sometimes over the top in his vocal support (he and Clouse actually got into a bit of a shouting match at one point in the CPRT final), but really he stands out because he cheers and others don't. Period.

Racquetball is played in a box, so the players are separated from the crowd. Thus, the crowd can be detatched from the play. It's easy for crowd members to have conversations during rallies, especially at the US Open when players on the show court are several feet (at least) away from any spectators. That doesn't happen at tennis matches.

And that kind of behavior diminishes the importance of the matches. If people aren't paying full attention to a match, it suggests they don't care about it much. You can say what you will about Lee's cheering, but you can't say he doesn't care about the matches he's watching.

Now, maybe you're saying to yourself, but I'm not as vocal as Joe Lee. I just don't have that in me. But I do want to show my support for the players. Does The Racquetball Blog have an answer for me? Yes, we do.

We suggest clapping after the match. Every match. Regardless of whether it's Women's D, Men's B doubles, juniors or the pros. Applaud. Show your support for those playing.

It's not easy to put yourself on display in a tournament, and it can be especially difficult for those who come out on the losing end. But they all deserve your support. These are your fellow racquetball enthusiasts, so you should support them. Don't you want to be hear the applause after your match? Of course you do.

So show them the way.

We'd like nothing better than to hear clapping after every match at the next tournament we attend, or to hear about tournaments where this happens. We can do this.

Yes, we can.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Happy 30th Birthday Chris Crowther!

You are the 10th ranked player on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT). In a game that often favors players of moderate stature, you stand out as the tallest IRT player at 6' 5".

You're one of those players lurking outside the top echelon, having never made the semis at a IRT Tier 1 event. You've been in the quarters of the US Open once (2003).

But you were part of one of most curious US Open stories. In 2004, you were playing on the far back court at The Racquet Club of Memphis against Javier Moreno. The referee called a hinder. You'd opened the door to hear the referee's explanation of the call, and then closed it "with a little more force than usual." Not unlike many players have.

However, this time the door must have caught something and twisted slightly, because the next sound was that of glass fragmenting and then crumbling down in heap of little pieces. Oops.

The curious thing about the door was it was a different shape from those on the other back courts, so it wasn't going be replaced easily. However, Randy Stafford's Court Company is resident in Memphis, and they recalled that just such a door - the style of which had gone out of production 12 years earlier - had been saved by an employee to use as a table for his mother.

A phone call revealed that the table had never been made, so after 14 years of it sitting in the mother's garage, it was delivered the Racquet Club, installed and play resumed.

That all took some time. But you and Moreno were shuffled to another court in the meanwhile. After you were bandaged up from some cuts suffered as a result of the incident, you got back in and won that game, the second of the match, which evened the match at one game a piece. Unfortunately, Moreno won the next two games to take the match 3-1.

Your racquetball career has taken you many places, including Korea, Canada, Mexico and Santiago, Chile, where you were a member of Team USA at the 2007 Pan American Championships taking home a bronze medal in singles.

Yes, racquetball has been good to you over your three decades. And may your good fortune continue.

*source The Daily Racquet #4, On-site publication of Racquetball Magazine.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Where we'd like to be

Grant Park might have been the place to be last night, but this weekend, we're thinking the place we'd most want to be is on Long Island, New York for the Long Island Open.

They don't have the highest ranked International Racquetball Tour (IRT) players, but Jason Thoerner, Andy Hawthorne and Ruben Gonzalez will also be playing doubles, which would be cool to see. Moreover, there are 31 players in the Pro draw, with some players who have been in qualifiers this year, such as Jason Sylvester, Bradley Kirch, Danny Lavely, and Kadim Carrasco.

So, there should be plenty of good matches and the possibility for upsets.

Moreover, Rhonda Rajsich and Cheryl Gudinas Holmes, the top two players on the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) tour, will be playing on Long Island. It's a WPRO satellite event, so there's a small field, but it also includes two time World Champion Aimee Ruiz. And these players will be playing mixed doubles too, which again should be something to see, as should the potential Rajsich-Ruiz semi-final.

Foreign Results

The IRT has reported that Shane Vanderson defeated Tony Carson to win the Japan International Event in Tokyo last weekend. That was a Tier 4 event.

Also last weekend, Gilberto Meija won the Chihuahua Open (a Tier 2 IRT event) in Chihuahua, Mexico defeating Chris Crowther, 11-9, 11-8, 6-11, 11-8.

Finally this past weekend, Martin Klippel won the Hamburg Open, defeating Oliver Bertels, 9-15, 15-14, 11-4. Yvonne Kortes won the women's Open division defeating Lara Ludwig, 15-8, 15-9, in the final. It was the second event on the European Racquetball Federation calendar. Next up is the Belgian Open in Brussels, November 21-23.

Follow the bouncing ball....

Monday, November 3, 2008

Busy weekend ahead

This coming weekend could be the busiest in the racquetball season despite the fact there's no Tier I event on either the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) or Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) schedule. However, there are five - count 'em 5! - pro events across the USA.

In Yakima, Washington, Rocky Carson, Ben Croft, Taylor Knoth, Mike Orr and Jose Rojas will be action at the Shawn Hyatt Excavating Shootout. Down the coast in Portland, Oregon the Sunset Turkey Shoot has 168 players with 16 in the pro division highlighted by US Open Champion Jimmy Lowe and Charles Pratt. Further down the west coast, the Pomona Valley Open in Claremont, California will feature Chris Crowther, Andres Herrera and Willie Tilton.

Those tournaments are IRT Tier 4 events. The highest tier event this weekend is the New Mexico Pro Am in Albuquerque, a Tier 3 event, where according to tournament director Gary Mazaroff about 100 players will be competing including 20 in a pro draw highlighted by Alvaro Beltran, Mitch Williams, and Polo Gutierrez.

But the largest tournment this weekend - at 200 participants - will be the Long Island Open, which is both an IRT Tier 4 and WPRO satellite event. Playing there will be Rhonda Rajsich, Cheryl Gudinas Holmes and Aimee Ruiz on the women's side, as well as Jason Thoerner, Andy Hawthorne and Ruben Gonzalez on the men's side.

Two hundred players might seem big to you, but tournament director Tom Keogh told us that their January event - an IRT Tier I stop - is bigger with 250 players expected. Last year there were 48 in the IRT qualifying draw alone.

Thus, most of the pro players will be in action one place or another this weekend.

Follow the bouncing ball....