Friday, December 29, 2017

Top 10 Racquetball Stories of 2017

We have come down to the last weekday of 2017, so it’s time to reflect on the racquetball year that was. There have been several significant events and great outcomes in racquetball this year, and here’s what The Racquetball Blog thought were the most important.

Top Racquetball Stories of 2017

10. Junior Worlds Performances.
The Bolivian girls won the Girls Team title for the first time at the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Junior Championships this year by sweeping singles and doubles in U14 and U16 and taking both bronze medals in U18 singles. Also, Montserrat Mejia of Mexico defeated Gabriela Martinez of Guatemala to win Girls U18 Singles, and Mauro Rojas of the USA won Boys U18 Singles by beating Eduardo Portillo of Mexico.

9. Frédérique Lambert. Lambert has emerged as Paola Longoria’s primary rival, finishing the 2016-17 Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) season as the #2 player. She was a finalist at the US Open for the first time in 2017, and has finished 2nd to Longoria in that event as well as the other two events she’s played this season. This despite being a 4th year medical student in her hometown of Montreal. 2018 is an International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships year, and we are looking forward to a Lambert-Longoria final in Women’s Singles, because if there’s one woman who could prevent Longoria from a 4th World Championship, it’s Lambert. 

8. Sudsy Monchik. Monchik made a successful return to competitive racquetball in 2017. He played the US Open for the first time in 11 years, and made it to the quarterfinals. Then he won doubles at the World Racquetball Tour (WRT) Utah event with Sebastian Franco. Monchik has coached the Ecuador team for the past two years, although he resigned from that position earlier this year. But the experience clearly inspired him to pursue competitive racquetball again. He’s going to play doubles with Rocky Carson at the 2018 USA Racquetball Doubles Championship. If they win - and we wouldn’t bet against them - Monchik would qualify to play at the IRF World Championships, which he has never done.

7. Rhonda Rajsich. Rajsich won Women’s Singles at the 2017 Pan American Championships in Costa Rica by defeating Paola Longoria, the two time defending champion, in three games. It was Rajsich’s first international singles title since 2011, when she also won singles at the Pan American Championship. Overall, Rajsich has won three Women’s Singles and two Women’s Doubles titles at Pan Am Championships. Additionally, Rajsich won the US Team Qualifying division at the USA Racquetball National Singles Championships for the 7th consecutive time and 10th time overall. At 39, Rajsich is still holding the torch high for women's racquetball in the USA.

6. Samantha Salas. In June, Salas won the Paola Longoria Challenge in Chihuahua, Mexico, her 2nd career Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) victory. She did it in dramatic fashion by coming back from two games down to defeat Longoria in the semi-finals, and then beat Rhonda Rajsich in three straight games in the final. Perhaps making Salas’s accomplishment even more impressive is that almost immediately after the win, she had shoulder surgery, which had been planned in advance, so presumably she wasn't 100% in that tournament, but still found a way to win it. Salas hasn't played on the LPRT this season, but plans to return in 2018.

5. David Horn. Horn won 4 events on the World Racquetball Tour (WRT), including 3 of the last 4 events of the year, and finished as the WRT Player of the Year as the #1 player at year’s end. Horn was also a coach with the US Junior Team under Pratt. Horn is an interesting player, because he came to racquetball later than other players. Yet he’s worked hard to develop his racquetball skills, and it’s paying off for him. 

4. Charlie Pratt. Pratt had a journeyman career on the IRT until December, when he won the Tournament of Champions in Portland, Oregon. That makes him the 36th man to win an IRT Tier 1 event. Pratt also represented the USA for the 1st time, and was a finalist at the 2017 Pan American Championships in Costa Rica. Pratt was also the Head Coach of the USA Junior Team for the 2017 International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Junior Championships in Minneapolis, where they won three gold medals in the World Cup divisions and finished 3rd overall as a team. It was a good showing for the USA, especially considering Pratt was leading the team for the first time. 

3. Paola Longoria. Longoria was named the Univision Female Athlete of the Year, which was a great honour for her. She won her 7th consecutive US Open and 8th overall, and is clearly the best women’s player currently. Yet, 2017 wasn’t her strongest year on tour, although she remains the #1 women’s player on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT). Two losses were why it wasn’t Longoria’s best year. Two losses in one year for other players would be amazing, but for Longoria who has been undefeated in a year previously, it’s sub-par. We don’t think the losses are indicative of any sort of decline for the 28 year old, although her main rivals are now younger not older, but that being said she lost to older players in 2017, as Rajsich defeated her at the Pan American Championships and Salas beat her on the LPRT in June. 

2. Kane Waselenchuk. Waselenchuk went through the 2016-17 IRT season undefeated. Not just without losing a match, but without losing a game. A GAME! It’s astounding, and adds more fuel to the argument that he is the best male racquetball player ever, which is an argument The Racquetball Blog would be happy to make at any time. He won’t repeat that feat this season, as he dropped games at the US Open, but he won the Open for the 10th straight time and 13th overall. As we have suggested before, you should see Waselenchuk live, as he’s something to see and you won’t see the likes of him again any time soon. 

1. IRT changes hands. The International Racquetball Tour (IRT) is the longest existing professional racquetball tour, and it changed hands in 2017. John Scott, owner of the IRT Network, led an investors group that took over the IRT from the leadership of Jason Mannino, who had led the organization since 2011. That was a significant move in itself, but then the recent news that the IRT will change its match format makes this change even more significant moving forward. The Racquetball Blog is on record as being against the change in match format, but we know that Scott and his group have the best interests of racquetball at heart, and we wish them well. 

Honorable mentions: Cristina Amaya, who won gold at the 2017 Bolivarian Games and was also a runner up in Women’s Doubles at the 2017 US Open with Adriana Riveros - both were career firsts. The US Open Men’s Doubles final, which was won by Waselenchuk and Ben Croft in a tie-breaker over Alvaro Beltran and Daniel De La Rosa, as some are saying this was the best racquetball match ever. Alejandro Landa won Men’s Singles and Doubles (with Polo Gutierrez) at the 2017 Pan American Championships in Costa Rica.

As you see, 2017 was a great year for racquetball, and we trust that 2018 will be also. 2018 will mark be a significant anniversary for The Racquetball Blog, as it will be our 10th year. Over the past decade we have put out 2589 articles on racquetball, so about 5 a week. We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading them, and we welcome your comments. The Racquetball Blog is also on Facebook and Twitter (@racquetballblog).

Here’s to another year of following the bouncing ball.

Follow the bouncing ball….


Unknown said...

You are the best Evan! Keep up the great work. Have a happy healthy 2018! All the best.

millhead said...

What Negrete said...