Sunday, July 18, 2021

Carson & Rajsich win 2021 USA Racquetball Singles Championships

Rhonda Rajsich won Women’s Singles and Rocky Carson won Men’s Singles at the 2021 USA Racquetball (USAR) National Championships in Des Moines, Iowa Sunday. In the women’s final, Rajsich defeated Kelani Lawrence, 15-7, 15-14, to win her 12th USA Singles title, while Carson eked out a win over Alejandro Landa, 15-12, 15-13, for his 8th USA Singles title.

In comparing her 1st win to her 12th, Rajsich said they were similar in that the first was ”a big breakthrough” and this had a breakthrough type feeling after not playing last year because of the COVID pandemic. So, she was grateful to be there on a Sunday, and grateful that she’s earned another spot on Team USA, because it’s an “honor to represent the flag.”

Yet in both games of the women’s final, it seemed like it would go the other way, as Lawrence had big leads. She led 6-1 in game one, which caused Rajsich to call a timeout. Rajsich got a sideout when play resumed and then rolled off 12 unanswered points to lead 13-6, and was able to finish from there, winning game one 15-7.

Again in game two, Lawrence had the early lead at 8-3. But Rasjich came back to tie the game at 9-9. They were close after that with ties at 10-10 and 12-12. Then Lawrence went ahead with two winners that made it 14-12.

But Lawrence couldn’t finish it off. She had two chances to do so, but a great backhand kill shot return by Rajsich eliminated the first one, and a Rajisch forehand winner stopped the second. That opened the door, and Rajsich walked through it with two winners and an backhand error by Lawrence. The match ended on a classic three shot rally: a strong serve, led to a return that gave Rajsich an opportunity, which she took advantage of with a backhand down the line winner.

Lawrence described the match as “a serving game,” and that “Rhonda played amazing,” so “it just wasn’t my day.” Despite the loss, she’s excited to make Team USA, and play at the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championships later this year. She’s especially happy to do so, because that will give her an opportunity to qualify for the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, as the World Games competition will only have singles play, not doubles, with the IRF Worlds serving as the qualifying event for the 2022 World Games.

In the men’s final, game one was close the entire way. They got to 12-12, and then Carson was able to execute just a little better down the stretch to win it 15-12, getting the last point with a backhand winner.

But Landa was undeterred, as he went out to 5-0 lead in game two, and maintained a lead up to 13-6. Then Carson changed his serve. He was using the hard Z serve to the left - Landa’s backhand - which is his “go to” serve, for much of the match, but in game two was searching for a better alternative. Carson found it when he began to hit lob kiss serves to Landa’s backhand.

He used that serve exclusively from 8-13, and won every rally. It may not be Carson’s favorite serve, but he recognized that it was the most effective one on the day.

Afterwards, Carson said it “feels great” to win his 8th title, although the “first is always great,” but whenever you’re winning it feels good.

However, he didn’t think his performance was always great. It was great at times, but also sloppy at times, according to Carson. But he’s excited to be representing the USA once again, as “it’s the ultimate privilege.”

Watching the action

If you missed any of the action from Des Moines, you can check out the USA Racquetball Facebook page for the National Team matches, and some of the junior play as well. Also, most of the junior matches that were streamed are available on the USA Racquetball Livestream channel, so check that out as well.

2021 USA Racquetball National Championships
Des Moines, Iowa
US National Team Divisions

Men's US Team Singles - Final - Sunday

1) Rocky Carson d. 2) Alejandro Landa, 15-12, 15-13

Women's US Team Singles - Final - Sunday

2) Rhonda Rajsich d. 4) Kelani Lawrence, 15-7, 15-14

Follow the bouncing ball....

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