Friday, February 27, 2015

Top three seeds through to semi-finals at IRT Florida Pro-Am

The top two International Racquetball Tour (IRT) players - Rocky Carson and Kane Waselenchuk - won their quarterfinals matches at the Florida Pro-Am in Sarasota, Florida, although #1 Carson needed four games to defeat Charlie Pratt, 9-11, 11-2, 11-8, 11-5, while #2 Waselenchuk beat Jose Rojas in three straight games, 11-5, 11-6, 11-6. Thus, they remain on track to meet in the final for a second consecutive year. Waselenchuk won last year.

Pratt played well in game one versus Carson, but after winning it he took an injury time out, as apparently he and Carson knocked knees, and Pratt took the worse of it. When game two began, Pratt was lob serving, which he hadn’t done at all in game one. That change wasn’t successful, and eventually Pratt went back to drive serving.

Pratt got another opportunity in game three, when he ran four straight points to from 4-7 down to 8-7 up. But Carson called a timeout, and when play resumed he got a sideout. That led to four straight points and a 2-1 advantage.

Game four started slowly, as a point wasn’t scored until the eighth rally, when Carson hit an ace serve that he drove to the left (to Pratt’s backhand). Carson went up 4-0 and then 7-1. Pratt kept fighting, but couldn’t get closer than 8-4 before Carson finished the match.

In the semi-finals, Carson will play Daniel De La Rosa, a winner over Jansen Allen, 11-3, 11-9, 11-2, while Waselenchuk faces Alvaro Beltran, who defeated Ben Croft in five games, 11-8, 2-11, 3-11, 11-5, 11-5.

Beltran didn’t use his typical straight lob along the right wall in the first three games against Croft, choosing instead to hit most drive serves, and especially drive z serves to the left side (Croft’s backhand). That went well in game one, but Croft played better in game two and three, so Beltran didn’t have much of a chance to serve in either of those games.

In game four, Beltran again was drive serving to both sides, as well as some z serves to the left, and he took a 7-0 lead doing so. Croft cut the lead to three at 8-5, but Beltran closed it out to force a fifth game.

Beltran pulled out the lob right early in game five, and took an early advantage at 3-2. On that ensuing rally, Beltran held up as Croft had hit a ball down the right side, and Beltran and the ball got to where Croft was before he could get out of the way. An avoidable was called, and seemed to the be the correct call.

But not in Croft’s opinion.

Croft questioned the call, and seemed to be off his game for the next few rallies. He then got a technical for hitting the ball violently after the rally, which wasn’t the first time he’d done that. That made the score 6-1 for Beltran.

Croft is never one to say die though, and he scored a few points to make it 7-4. But Beltran got a sideout then, and switched tactics. He hit lob serves from the right side of the service box to the left wall that kissed off the wall deep.

That serve got him three straight points - including two skipped returns by Croft - to put him on match point before Croft hit a winning return.

Beltran got the serve back at 10-5, and after a long rally with some good shots and gets by both players, he was able to win it with a backhand cross court shot off after the ball took a big bounce off the back wall into the front court.

In the last quarterfinal, De La Rosa defeated Allen in three straight games, 11-3, 11-9, 11-2, and looked comfortable doing it. But Allen did have a lead in game two at 6-3, so it looked for awhile like they would have an extended match. But De La Rosa caught him at 7-7, and then pushed on to game point at 10-7.

Allen made De La Rosa work for the last point, fighting off three game points and scoring a couple more points to narrow the gap to one at 10-9. But De La Rosa got the serve back after Allen hit a lob to the left on a second serve, and then De La Rosa hit a drive serve to the right side that was an ace to win the game.

Game three was like game one, and not close, as De La Rosa closed it out in three straight.

The IRT Network will carry both semi-finals live over the web beginning Saturday 11 AM EST. Note: the final will be at 7 PM EST Saturday night.

2015 Florida Pro-Am
Sarasota, Florida

Quarterfinals (with seeding)

1 Rocky Carson d. Charlie Pratt, 9-11, 11-2, 11-8, 11-5
4 Daniel De La Rosa v. 5 Jansen Allen, 11-3, 11-9, 11-2

3 Alvaro Beltran d. 6 Ben Croft, 11-8, 2-11, 3-11, 11-5, 11-5
2 Kane Waselenchuk d. 7 Jose Rojas, 11-5, 11-6, 11-6

Semi-finals (with seeding)

1 Rocky Carson v. 4 Daniel De La Rosa - 11 AM EST
2 Kane Waselenchuk v. 3 Alvaro Beltran - Noon EST

Follow the bouncing ball….

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