A close, five-game match capped off a full weekend at the 2011 Cactus Salon NYC ProAm, treating fans that might have been surprised at Kane Waslenchuk’s early exit to a tightly contested final to watch where Jack Huczek came out ahead in a 5-game tiebreaker against Rocky Carson.
Jack Huczek d Rocky Carson (7), 10, 7, (8), 9
Both players started slowly with caution. Jack Huczek started firing first, fighting for center court. Both players got physical, bumping and holding their ground in the push for prime real estate. At first, Carson seemed to be in control, with Huczek showing his frustration before pulling it together and going on the attack.
More than a match was on the line. At #2 on the tour, Rocky Carson’s win
could have moved him within striking distance of the tour’s #1 spot. With Waselenchuk’s uncertain health and the Terre Haute Tier 1 pro stop a mere weekend away, Carson could have conceivably had a clearer shot at reaching a year-to-date #1.
At #4, Jack Huczek had a more immediate concern. His win might have pushed him past #3 Ben Croft and onto the bottom half of the draw sheet, where he won’t have to play though Waselenchuk to get to the finals. This is no minor detail. When Huczek has made it to the semifinals this season, Kane, in the midst of a record-breaking winning streak, is the guy who took him out. Although Carson defeated Huczek when they met in a Chijuajua, Mexico, which Waselenchuk missed after injuring his knee during the U.S. Open.
Each former #1 player (Huczek in ’07; Carson in ’08) knows how to perform under pressure, although each has had some disappointing tournaments this season. Rocky lost in the 16’s at the US Open, Huczek lost in the 16’s in Kansas City and neither pro made it past the quarters in Cali, Colombia.
Jack Huczek moves on to the Finals after Kane Withdraws
Kane Waselenchuk surprised racquetball fans at the Cactus Salon NYC Pro/Am when he pulled out of the tournament due to a flu-like illness. With an 81-match winning streak, Waslenchuck was favored to win the event, but instead handed #4 Jack Huczek a trip to the finals. The #1-ranked player on the IRT and favorite to win the 2011 Cactus Salon NYC Pro/Am, apologized for his early withdrawal from the tournament in this note to IRT President, Jason Mannino:
“I am really disappointed to inform you that I will be pulling out of the tournament. The past week I have been very sick with flu like symptoms and it does not seem to be getting better.. I tried to play and it seems my body is getting worse. We have a long season ahead of us and it’s important that I do everything to get better so I can finish the season strong. Also I am going to get tests done on Monday, hopefully that will give me the answers needed to get myself back on the court healthy again.. Thanks for your understanding and again I’m sorry…”
With a pass into the finals, #4-ranked Jack Huczek faced the winner of the #6 Shane Vanderson v #2 Rocky Carson match
#2 Rocky Carson defeated #6 Shane Vanderson 11-10, 9-11, 7-11, 11-4, 11-7
In the only semifinal played today. Vanderson came out strong but wound up falling to Carson 10, (9), (7), 4, 7. If Carson can pull off a win in the finals, he has the chance to pull within striking distance of Waselenchuk’s year-to-date rankings. That’s a big if, since he’ll have to play through Huczek who is there to make sure that doesn’t happen.
A Cactus Salon NYC IRT Pro/Am championship under his belt means Huczek could very well take back the #3 year-to-date ranking on the tour from Ben Croft, who lost to Vanderson yesterday in the quarterfinals. The #3 spot wouldn’t just let Huczek move up a notch, but switching positions with Croft would put Croft on Waselenchuk’s side of the draw, which has been a death sentence over the past few years…
See the Carson v. Huczek final tomorrow on the IRT Network at 12:00 pm EST.
The quarters went according to seed, except for #6 Vanderson taking out #3 Croft in four games, after Croft racked up a -1 score in the first game when he hit the ball hard after a rally, continuing the trend he started in California last weekend when he lost two points in a match for the same reason. The other matches went according to the seeds, yet Vincent Gagnon took Jack Huczek to 4 games before falling to the tour’s #4-ranked player.
Semifinal action starts Saturday at 4 pm EST when Rocky Carson faces Shane Vanderson followed by Kane Waselenchuk versus Jack Huczek .
#2 Rocky Carson d. #14 Andy Hawthorne 1, 6, 4
#1 Kane Waselenchuck d #9 Jose Rojas 3,2,4
#6 Shane Vanderson d #3 Ben Croft: -1, 6, (11), 9
#6 Jack Huczek d #21 Vincent Gagnon (8), 10, 1, 3
The Early Rounds
The Cactus Salon NYC Round of 16’s kicked off this morning with a few upsets pushing on into the quarters and a couple of surprises on the way to the semis…
Junior sensation and local boy #18 Nick Montalbano faced #2 Rocky Carson in the main draw. Carson won, yet Montalbano made the local crowd proud and fans looking forward to seeing more of him on the main stage.
# 9 Jose Rojas took his quest to get back in the top 8 one match closer by defeating #8 Chris Crowther before falling to #1 Kane Waselenchuk in the quarters.
#21 Vincent Gagnon faced Jack Huczek in the quarters after wining by an injury forfeit in the third game of his match against #5 Mitch Williams, who has been nursing the shoulder he injured in the U.S. Open. What does this mean for Mitch’s future?
Ruben Gonzales’ future includes his own quest to hit the pro tour at 60, in talks with companies to sponsor his own in his own “Dream Retirement,” playing the pro tour full-time until a planned retirement from racquetball at the 2011 U.S. Open.
Round of 16’s
#2 Rocky d #18 Nick Montalbano 3, 10, 4
#7 Hawthorne d #10 Pratt 3, 4, (8), 10
#6 Shane Vanderson d #11 Juan Herrera 8, (9), 4, 9
#3 Ben Croft d #14 Alejandro Herrera 8, 10, 9
#4 Jack Huczek d #13 Alejandro Landa 6, 5, 1
#21 Vincent Gagnon d #5 Mitch Williams 3, 5, Forfeit due to injury
#9 Jose Rojas d #8 Chris Crowther 5, 9, (9), (9), 5
#1 Kane Waselenchuk d #16 Tony Carson 5, 11, 7
From Sunny Los Angeles to Snow for the 2011 Cactus Salon NYC ProAm
Cross-country men’s professional International Racquetball Tour (IRT) Tier 1 tournaments have the world’s best pros traveling from sunny Los Angeles to snow for second half of the 2010-2011 IRT season and the 2011 Cactus Salon NYC Pro/Am, the second Tier 1 tour stop of the new year located at SPORTIME Syosset, an 11-court, 40,000 square-foot facility and the only club left in the country with showcase glass courts.
The large number of courts along with ample viewing area to watch the pros is a huge plus for any tournament, but Tom Keogh, Tournament Director, credits the great competition that gets players to the tournament each year. At the time we spoke before the tournament, he had received less than half of their eventual 244 entries, yet Keogh estimated they had already received entries from fifteen to eighteen states. For some players, this will be the only tournament they play all year.
While the Cactus Salon NYC ProAm evolved from the storied, twenty-year history of the Long Island Open that used to attract 950 players, today’s namesake company is the premier salon on Long Island. With twenty-six locations, this Paul Mitchell affiliate is about to add more, with plans to franchise and add the Enjoy Professional Hair Care line. Soon, customers will be able to come back and enjoy massages, facials, hair, and nail care from more areas across the country.
The reason people keep coming back to the tournament, however, is less about looking good and more about the way Keogh runs it. “I started running tournaments ten years ago because I was tired of waiting to play a game. I have games scheduled Saturday from 8 AM to midnight. Our 11 pm games will go off on time. I can guarantee that.”
Keogh can be so sure it because of the way he schedules matches. It’s simple.
“I have most of the whole tournament in my head and can tell a starting time without looking at a computer.”
It might be surprising to anyone who has run a tournament. He doesn’t sit behind a tournament desk and wait for things to happen. He’s out and about in the club, getting people to their courts on time. It’s a lot of work by the time it’s over, but his tournament runs on time and that’s the most important thing to him.
Important to many players is that every winner and finalist gets an award, even if it’s a racquetball-related item, like eye guards. The food hospitality is a big difference, too, since tourney staff supplements it with a meal voucher to the on-site restaurant. This means that everyone gets to eat their choice of one of the six fresh hot meals offered, a big plus to anyone who has scraped the bottom of a bowl of baked beans after a late-running match.
With an on-time tournament, competitive play, and the chance to watch the amazing athletes commonly called the IRT Pros, the Cactus Salon NYC Pro/Am gives racquetball fans some great reasons to come in out of the snow.
By Jen Sinclair Johnson