Sunday, September 22, 2019

Waselenchuk defeats Carson to win 2019 IRT Valentine Open

Kane Waselenchuk defeated Rocky Carson, 15-(-1), 11-15, 11-4, to win the 2019 International Racquetball Tour (IRT) Valentine Open in Laurel, Maryland Saturday. It was the 80th match Waselenchuk - the IRT’s #1 player - and Carson - IRT #2 - have played on tour, and Waselenchuk has won 77 of those matches. But this was the first time Carson has won a game off Waselenchuk since the IRT changed to a best of 3 games format in January of 2018. The last time Carson won a game against Waselenchuk was at the 2017 US Open.

Waselenchuk was dominant in game one, holding Carson scoreless. The frustration took its toll, as reportedly Carson hit his racquet against the wall, and was assessed a technical, which meant he lost a point. Thus, the 15 to -1 scoreline.

Given that first game - and their head to head record - you could be excused for thinking that Waselenchuk was going to just roll through game two also. But that’s not what happened.

Waselenchuk did take an early 5-1 lead in game two. But Carson kept at it, and tied the game at 5-5. Then he went into the lead, 7-5. Waselenchuk tied it at 7-7, but Carson again took the lead 11-7.

He extended the lead to 13-8, but then stalled. He served at 13 five times, as Waselenchuk was trying to stage a comeback. When they exchanged sideouts six times at 13-10, there was a feeling that Waselenchuk's comeback would be successful. He called a timeout after that sixth sideout, which Waselenchuk sometimes does prior to serving. But this time Carson got the serve right back, and then finally got off 13, as a rally ended with a hinder call. Carson appealed for an avoidable, and the line judges awarded that avoidable, overturning the referee’s hinder call.

However, Carson skipped a backhand pinch shot on his first match point opportunity. Waselenchuk then got his 11th point with a forehand pinch, but he lost serve on the next rally when he went for a forehand reverse pinch and skipped it.

Carson closed out game two by serving a lob Z to the right side that Waselenchuk cut off with a backhand from shoulder height. Then Carson hit a flat kill shot to end it, and force a tie-breaker.

In the breaker, Carson carried over the momentum of game two, and went out to a 3-0 lead. Waselenchuk tied it at 3-3, and then went ahead 5-3. Carson make it 5-4, but that was the last point he would get. Indeed, Carson didn’t serve again, as Waselenchuk won six consecutive rallies to win the game 11-4, and the match, 2-1.

Waselenchuk ended four of those six rallies with forehand winners, and Carson was called for an avoidable, which ended a rally that saw Waselenchuk hit a ball between his legs and then behind his back. But the match winner was a backhand cross court shot.

Notable in the match was how often Waselenchuk lob served, which he did for much of the tie-breaker - lobbing serves over to the right side: Carson’s forehand. There also seemed to be more ceiling balls than usual by both players in the match. Waselenchuk also made more errors than we have come to expect from him, which is the large reason why the match went three games. To be fair, Carson’s play forced some of those errors from Waselenchuk, but not all of them.

The IRT’s next event is the US Open October 2-6 in Minneapolis, although some of the IRT players will be at the 3 WallBall World Championships in Las Vegas next weekend. If you missed any of the action from Maryland, check out the IRT media outlets: The IRT YouTube channel or the IRT Facebook page.

2019 IRT Valentine Open, September 19-21, 2019
Laurel, Maryland

Final - Saturday

1) Kane Waselenchuk d. 2) Rocky Carson, 15-(-1), 11-15, 11-4

Follow the bouncing ball….

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