Player Previews: Rounding out the Top 8
With one week to go before the national championships, we’re taking a look at what the top players on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) bring to the court as the 2010-2011 IRT Season winds down. Do you agree with our recap of the season? Who has the best chance to pull an upset and make it to Sunday? Click to read about the men who round out the top-eight players on the professional tour.
#5 Chris Crowther
With a strong finish last spring and the return of the two-serve rule, this season seemed made for power player Chris Crowther. He didn’t disappoint, following up a two-and-a-half hour marathon match against Rocky Carson during the San Diego Racquet House ProAm with a trip to the finals at the Cali, Colombia Grand Slam, where he took one game from Kane and displayed the best technical, physical and mental game of his career. Big drive serves and a huge reach coming off of his 6’6” frame have helped this reliable quarterfinalist. Yet, he struggled to make it to the semis in the back half of the season. He’ll have to battle an intermittent injury along with his opponents to advance to Saturday’s round.
#6 Jose Rojas
A leader of Ektelon’s Team Adrenalin, Jose Rojas’ all-or-nothing style is characterized by skipped shots mixed with flashes of mastery, making this twenty-one year old a top contender to eventually dethrone Kane. For now, agility, speed, and an apparent kill-everything game plan have sent him up the ranks. Upset wins, including one over Ben Croft and a five-gamer over Jack Huczek during last month’s Mexico Open, should bolster his confidence coming into this weekend. With the distraction of college behind him for the summer, this Stockton, California local will enjoy home-state support as he competes to make it to and breakthrough his third semifinal appearance this season.
#7 Andy Hawthorne
Andy Hawthorne hit the courts almost every weekend, competing and working his way into the quarterfinals of each Grand Slam and almost every Tier 1 event. As Hawthorne steps inside the glass walls, he’ll carry the confidence earned from consistent improvement, culminating in a five-game match against Rocky Carson in St Louis and taking Ben Croft to four in the Mexico Open. One of the most exciting players to watch, he’s known to dive and battle after the ball as he goes all out for every rally during each game. Hawthorne is very close to some big wins. One could happen here on the center stage.
# 8 Shane Vanderson
A tour professional since the age of fifteen, Shane Vanderson has shown he continues to have what it takes to compete with the upper echelon of players in the sport. A family tragedy cost him more than valuable ranking points at the U.S. Open, but he came back strong, making his two semifinal appearances after the first of the year. Armed with a formidable backhand and scorching drive serves, Vanderson can be an aggressive opponent on the court. Yet, his contract is up at the end of this season. Will this be his last stop as a fulltime professional on tour?