Sunday, September 16, 2018

Carson defeats Murray to win 2018 IRT MWRA Pro-Am

Rocky Carson, the #1 player on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT), won the first tournament of the 2018-19 season as he defeated Samuel Murray, 15-7, 15-12, in the final of the MWRA Pro-Am in Laurel, Maryland. The win is Carson’s 26th pro title. In contrast, Murray was playing in his first final.

With 26 wins on tour, Carson has the 6th most wins in tour history. He’s three back of Jack Huczek’s 29.

Carson and Murray were close early in both games, and Murray even had a lead each game. He led 6-5 in game one, and 9-5 in game two. But in his 21st year on tour, there’s not much Carson hasn’t seen, few challenges he hasn’t overcome. And Saturday Carson was able to overcome Murray’s challenge.

After being down 6-5 in game one, Carson scored 10 points while holding Murray to 1 point. The game ended when Murray skipped a forehand pinch shot.

Game two was tighter, as they were tied at 2, 3, 4 and 5 before Murray pulled away to lead 9-5. Carson caught up at 9-9, and again they tied at 10 and 11.

Then Carson, who is not known for unconventional shots, hit a backhand winner while sprawling out just behind the service box on the left side of the court. It was fortunate that he was able to reach the ball, but given the opportunity Carson made the most of it. Capitalizing on opportunities is what separates champions from the rest, and that made difference in the final. That shot gave Carson a 12-11 lead, and he maintained that lead to the end of the game.

Murray skipped a shot to make it 13-11 for Carson, which led to Murray calling a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Carson hit a forehand cross court to set up his first match point at 14-11. He drove serve to the left on the next rally, and Murray returned it with a backhand pinch shot winner to keep the match alive.

Murray hit another winner to get within two at 14-12. But Carson took the serve back on the next rally with a forehand pinch shot. On his second match point, Carson hit a drive jam serve to the left side, and it comes around to the right side, where Murray caught up with it and hit it cross court. Then Carson hit a backhand kill shot to end the game and match.

Carson got to the final with a win over 4th seed Sebastian Franco, 15-8, 15-12, while Murray upset 2nd seed Alejandro Landa, 15-8, 9-15, 11-7.

In the Murray-Landa semi-final, games one and two started in the same way: Landa got a lead at 5-1, and then Murray came back to tie it at 5-5. But from that point in game one, Murray took the lead and Landa couldn’t catch up, while in game two the reverse happened, which set up the tie-breaker.

In the breaker, Murray needed to have a better start, and he did, as he went up 3-0. Landa came back to 3-3, and they tied again at 6-6, but the end game was all Murray. He went up 8-6, and got to match point at 10-7.

Landa called a timeout at that point to try to derail Murray’s momentum. When play resumed Murray got an opportunity on the right side, and some of The Racquetball Blog staff thought he was going to pinch it, which is a shot he likes. But to our surprise - and perhaps Landa’s - Murray hit a solid down the line shot that Landa could only get his racquet on but not hit effectively.

With the win, Murray reached his first final. He had been in the semi-finals four times previously, so the fifth time was the charm for the man from Qu├ębec, Canada.

Upcoming on the IRT schedule there is a Tier 4 event in Colombia, and a Tier 3 in Mexico. Then the World 3 Wallball Championships happen in Las Vegas, September 26-30. Those events lead up to the premier professional racquetball event of the season: the 2018 US Open in Minneapolis, October 3-7. If you missed any of this weekend’s action check out the IRT Network, the IRT Facebook page or the IRT YouTube channel.

2018 IRT MWRA Pro-Am, September 13-15, 2018
Laurel, Maryland

Final - Saturday

1) Rocky Carson d. 6) Samuel Murray, 15-7, 15-12

Semi-finals - Saturday

1) Rocky Carson d. 4) Sebastian Franco, 15-8, 15-12
6) Samuel Murray d. 2) Alejandro Landa, 15-8, 9-15, 11-7

Follow the bouncing ball….

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