Rocky's 20th Title: Red Swain Shootout Champion
Fans jam-packed outside the glass sidewall-back-wall courts reminiscent of an old-school pro racquetball stop, hit the bar-restaurant to watch the big screen between matches, and saw Rocky Carson take his 20th tier one title. Afterwards, International Racquetball Tour (IRT) President, Jason Mannino, commented that the Red Swain Shootout IRT ProAm is unique in a lot of ways. “The club reminds me of when I was a little boy playing. It has the feel of a racquetball country club environment with a very positive experience. The guys running the desk have fun while keeping everything going on time.”
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Don Schopieray, Tournament Director and USAR Member at Large, has been a huge supporter of the sport since he started traveling to tournaments with his son, Brad Schopieray. Don started the Davison, Michigan pro stop in 2011, and named it after the father of local player and 6-time World Champion, Cliff Swain. He credits his staff for “doing 99%” of the work, noting it provides fans the chance to mingle and watch world-class racquetball. “There are so many things that go on during the week of the tournament that are priceless. You can’t get that kind of stuff anywhere else. The players are so cool to work with,” he said after the inaugural tournament.
The players and fans appreciate the amenities, too. In addition to the onsite restaurant, the VIP section provided catered meals including food specialties, drinks, and upgrades in every way not often seen outside the US Open. Despite Michigan temperatures putting the chill on outside, the competition as the IRT season continues to heat up as #2 Rocky Carson’s win shaved points from #1 Kane Waselenchuk’s lead 606 ranking points, building to the Garden City Turkey Shoot the following weekend, and the ProKennex Tournament of Champions season-ending tournament in May.
Rocky Carson won the Red Swain Shootout Championship in four games against defending champion, Alvaro Beltran, 12-10, 11-3, 4-11, 11-2. Taking his 20th title will also extend the 2nd-ranked Carson’s 12-point lead in the rankings over Beltran, who is pressing from #3. Next stop: Garden City, Kansas for the 24th Annual Turkey Shoot.
Rocky Carson d Alvaro Beltran 12-10, 11-3, 4-11, 11-2
Game One- In what appeared to be a toss-up match to predict, both players came out shooting and moving well. The two began by trading points and side outs, serves consisted of Beltran’s high lob and Carson’s hard drives to the forehand and backhand. An encroachment call against Carson tied the game up at 4’s as Carson was looking to cut-off Beltrans high lob, something he would continue to due for the rest of the match.
The pace of the game slowed drastically between points and coupled with long rallies and second-serves the game hits the 30 minute mark at 6-6. Once Carson pulls ahead at 7-6, Beltran switches to the drive serve which earn him to points, now 8-7 in Beltran’s favor. Carson counter-punched with two excellent points of his own. Beltran took a timeout at 9-8. The timeout seemed effective as Beltran got back in the box to score 2 points, bringing him to game point at 10-9.
After 4 or 5 long rallies and sideouts, Carson earned a point to tie at 10-10. Beltran started to run into major difficulty, as he was no longer able to connect with the front on his forehand shots. He could only win rallies when he was not in the box. Eventually Carson wore him down and scored two points to finish the game, 12-10.
Game Two- This game was all Carson from the get go. Carson began the game with a serve-return-kill rally. Beltran’s forehand remained absent in this game as he either hit into the ground or left shots way up. Beltran was further frustrated when he didn’t get an expected encroachment call against Carson and slipped into a funk. Carson capitalized on the dismayed Beltran, completely controlling center court and making Beltran shoot from the back wall. 11-3, Carson.
Game Three- It was now Beltran’s turn to come out hot as he scored a quick 4 points off of punchy driveserves and smooth backhand pinches. It was Carson now who began to skip the ball. Realizing that the game was slipping away from home, Carson opted to take a time out at 5-0. This proved little help. Beltran had found his groove and continued to roll into an 8-0 lead. Beltran looked quick on his feet and sure of his shots in this 3rd game. 11-4, Beltran.
Game Four- An early call that went against Beltran seemed to frustrate him to the point of losing his focus while Carson jumped out to a 5-1 lead. Carson, switched up his serves to include half lobs, nicks, drive serves and wrap arounds. He scored in runs, bringing his lead to 7-1. Beltran, at a loss, made some really poor shot selections and was never really able to get into this game. Match went Carson at 11-2.
2013 finalist, #4-seed Daniel De La Rosa, and local favorite, #12 Cliff Swain, gave the fans a 5-game tiebreaker in the last quarterfinal of the evening. De La Rosa won to face #2 Rocky Carson in Saturday’s first semifinal. Jose Rojas v Alvaro Beltran follow.
#1 Rocky Carson d #4 Daniel De La Rosa 11-3, 11-2, 8-11, 11-6
Game One- The match started with a double fault from De La Rosa, which immediately brought to mind his serving struggles from the previous match. De La Rosa appeared a bit lethargic as he missed 3 of his first 4 setups to give Carson an early 6-0 lead. Carson, meanwhile, was sending howling-fast backhand drive serves that were ending up in serve, return and kill rallies. De La Rosa managed to put 3 points on the board and fend off 5 game points before finally succumbing to a very offensive minded Carson, 11-3
Game Two- The game was delayed due to an injury time out. De La Rosa was having pain in his right swinging shoulder. After about 5 minutes the game began. Carson came out much like he did in the first, hard drives to the De La Rosa backhand that were garnering weak returns and point after point. Carson was in control the entire game, claiming center court and shooting the ball very well. De Le Rosa, now visibly injured, seemed to not have much left in the reserve as Carson breezed by to an 11-2 win.
Game Three- De La Rosa continued to look weak as he appeared to be only swinging about 60% due to the nagging shoulder injury, which he grasped periodically for the duration of the match. He was however, coming up with some well-placed pinches that tie dthe game at 2-2. Carson began to cool off. He had, up to that point, played extremely offensively and with the end in sight started to go on the defensive. Though De La Rosa was unable to come up with points for the first half of the game, he began to settle into the match and perhaps the pain as he pushed past Carson 6-8, 8-8, then 11-8 for the surprising win.
Game Four- Carson quickly jumped out to a 6-1 lead with a flurry of rocketing drive serves. When De La Rosa was able to get into the rally, Carson was able to entice him into making poor shot selection decisions by getting many balls that looked to be winners for De La Rosa. De La Rosa never seemed like he was going to pull out the game or the match, in a large part due to his shoulder injury. Noted, however, were the soft hands that De La Rosa exhibited, particularly in the 4th game, putting many soft pinches down in the front court, where he may have normally opted for more powerful shots. Rocky Carson won the match, 11-6.
#2 Alvaro Beltran d #3 Jose Rojas 11-4, 11-3, 11-6
Game One- Jose Rojas had been exhibiting severe flu-like symptoms but played through it for the fans. He would had his work cut out for him against the defending Red Swain Shootout champion, a very well-rested, healthy Alvaro Beltran. Beltran began by hitting drive serves to try and take advantage of the obviously very ill and slow moving Rojas. Though Rojas was unable to hit the ball with any pace he still put a few nice setups down. Beltran in this case proved to be too much for a hobbled Rojas and prevailed, 11-4.
Game Two- Beltran was now mixing up his serves to include his patent high right side lob. He found success with everything as this game and match turned into more of a warm up session for the finals, as Rojas was having a hard time moving to the ball and was not putting any pressure on Beltran. Beltran ran through this game as well using mainly pinches, 11-3.
Game Three- Rojas, determined to get through the match, returned for a game 3. At many points during the game it looked as if Rojas might collapse as he was consistently using the back wall to hold himself up during the third and final game of the match. In a very heroic effort, Rojas was able to score 6 points on Beltran via well-placed down-the-lines. But he was unable to really explode towards the ball, and was never in a position to win the game or the match against a crisp-hitting Beltran. 11-6.
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Quarterfinal Round Recaps:
By Timothy Prigo
#4 Daniel De La Rosa defeated #12 Cliff Swain 11-3, 6-11, 11-4, 8-11, 11-9
Game one- Daniel got on the scoreboard first, coming out to a 5-1 lead in large part due to Cliff missing many shots. Though Cliff was playing with unrivaled intensity, he missed many setups. Daniel had a hard time getting a first serve in. Cliff didn’t capitliaze as his lead increased to 8-3. then 11-3 in an eight-minute game.
Game two- Cliff took early 2-0 lead. Daniel still couldn’t seem to find his first serve, and resorted to a lob on the seond. Cliff’s return of serve was noticably better this game, and was able to maintain his two-point lead 6-4 in a much longer game than the first. Cliff then nailed two amazing shots in a row that were reminiscent of his much younger self. The first was a backhand down-the-line rollout followed by a diving kill to the opposite cornerin the next rally. With the momentum now clearly in Swain’s favor he won the game 11-7.
Game three- Daniel continued to struggle with his first serve, but when the game hit the 20-minute mark he found his rhythm. Drive serves began dropping for him, earning five straight points for an 8-2 lead. Cliff tried to get back into the game, but was overpowered by the newly-awakened De La Rosa who won 11-3
Game four Daniel didn’t carry the moment into the fourth, instead he played conservatively. Conversely, Cliff played very offensively and jetted out to a 5-1 lead. Cliff then missed a few key shots that he should have put away, giving Daniel a glimpse of day light. De la Rosa went off on a run of his own for an 8-7 lead. Swain got into the service box and hit an ace to tie the score again. He carried that momentum to a 11-8 win.
Game 5- Swain was invigorated by the hometown crowd, but Daniel pulled to a 4-3 lead in the fifth. Cliff battled back to a 4-4 tie. Daniel looked pensive at the service line, as if trying to find something that will work for him. Though Daniel kept the lead, Cliff was hot on his tracks. At 5-10 in the fifth, Cliff double-faulted. That was it. Daniel served out the game for an 11-5 victory for the match.
#3 Jose Rojas d #6 Ben Croft 7-11, 11-3, 10-12, 11-3, 11-6
Jose Rojas versus Ben Croft. Though Rojas possesses the better rank, it would be difficult to pick a favorite as both players have scored major wins over one another in recent memory. This is perhaps the best rivalry on tour to date.
Game One- Ben very quickly racked up 3 straight points with good hard drive serves, even scoring an ace on the second. Rojas countered with 3 straight serve-driven points of his own. Both players continued to exchange blows and it appeared as though every shot was hit as hard as possible. The adrenaline and competitiveness from both players was evident. They hovered at 7-7 for about 10 minutes, both jostling for center court position. Eventually Croft gained momentum with good serves to take game one, 11-7.
Game Two- This game began similarly and both players stayed tight, keeping the score at 1-1. It was Rojas however, who gained momentum to take a 3-1 lead. Rojas found success with hard wrap-around z serves that forced set ups. Croft took a warning and a timeout after skipping a setup and then hitting the back wall in frustration. Rojas, with a frustrated Croft, took a 9-2 lead. Ben’s serve was no longer there for him like it was in game one. 11-3, Rojas.
Game Three- Croft began by hitting some excellent laser-like drive serves to Rojas’ backhand that resulted in aces or weak returns. Croft built momentum and was connecting on his pinch kills from deep in the back court. Rojas slowed the tempo of the match and began to inch back until the game was tied at 7-7. Rojas took the lead and Croft took a timeout to calm both Rojas and his own frustration, which was now being directed at referee Charlie Pratt. The timeout proved to be a smart decision as Croft came back to tie Rojas at 10’s. After multiple sideouts, Croft came up with two powerful serves to the backhand side to take the game, 12-10.
Game Four- Neither player could pull away as they traded points for the first ten minutes of the game. Rojas seemed a little unsteady as he periodically looked down to hold his leg and became unusually frustrated when an avoidable call went against him. Rojas did make a run however to 8-3, in part due to Croft forcing many shots and subsequently skipping. Rojas caught a crack ace to the backhand to win game 4, 11-3.
Game Five- Both players started slow and left many of their shots up. It was Rojas who found the momentum first, reaching 4-1. Croft seceded a point by hitting the ball after a rally for a technical, reducing his score from 1-4 to 0-5. Croft stayed resilient however, and battled back to stay in the game at 6-8. Rojas hit two beautiful foreward down-the-line passes to arrive at match point, 10-6. Rojas won 11-6 after a two-and-a-half hour match by expertly putting down a setup off of the back wall.
#1 Rocky Carson d #8 Marco Rojas 9-11, 11-8, 11-2, 7-11, 11-1
Rocky Carson entered this match as the number-one seed in the draw, and the heavy favorite over Marco Rojas who has fallen to Carson 11 times previous. Sitting at #9 in the IRT ranks, this would prove Rojas’s greatest win, if he could best Carson.
Game One- Rojas came out hot to take a commanding game-one lead at 6-0. Rojas was able to put many of his shots down while Carson opted to extend rallies and play defensively. After a Carson time out, he was able to get back in the box and rattle off a few points with strong forehand drive serves. Tied at 8-8. There were then many long rallies that saw Rojas making some very acrobatic diving gets off of the back wall. Both players inched closer to 11, but Rojas arrived first to take the game, 11-9.
Game Two- Rojas jumped out to a 5-1 lead as Carson continued a defensive style of play. Rojas was able to put away all of his setups at the beginning of this game even after having some very long exciting rallies with Carson. Rojas slipped some points to Carson, but with hard drive serves to the Carson backhand, Rojas took control of game two at 8-4. Carson’s slow persistent style of play eventually got into its groove or perhaps Rojas’s head as Carson snuck back to take the lead and the game 11-8.
Game Three- Though Rojas continued to play solid fundamental racquetball, Carson began to play more offensively. The top seed took an early, albeit, slow 4-0 lead. Carson increased the velocity of his drive serve utilizing his own strength off the cement front wall, forcing Rojas into weak returns that the now-confident Carson put away. Rojas appeared visibly frustrated as he was never really able to get into game three, losing 11-2.
Game Four- Rojas shot out to an early 4-2 lead. Unsurprisingly, Carson slowed down the pace of play. Unlike game three, Rojas stayed mentally strong and extended his lead to 7-3. Carson once again picked up the pace of his serve, forcing skip returns to close the gap to a single point. At 8-7, Rojas was able to turn on the gas and make a run to the finish line of game four, 11-7.
Game Five- Rojas seemed to have cooled off, perhaps the mental or physical fatigue from going deep into a match against Carson was starting to takes its toll. Rocky controlled center court for most of the game and Rojas missed many of his setups, 11-1.
#2 Alvaro Beltra d #7 Tony Carson 11-4, 11-6, 11-6
Alvaro Beltran came into his match-up with Tony Carson the favorite to win, not only is he ranked 5 spots ahead of Carson in the current IRT rankings but he is looking to defend his title at this event. However, with the cement front wall seemingly favoring hard drive serves and hard hitting players many thought that Carson could possibly pull off the upset.
Game One – After a series of side outs where both players appeared a bit tight the speculation surrounding Carson and the cement front wall proved to be well founded. Carson began to launch hard drive serves to Beltran’s forehand. Beltran was continuously off balance and fooled off the serve as Carson did well to disguise his intentions. With a total of 5 aces, Carson stormed through the first game to win 11-4
Game Two- This game begins with more of the same as Carson aces Beltran. When, on the next point, Beltran sides out he switches to his patent high wallpaper lob to the forehand, and the momentum changes. Beltran drove serve in the first game, possibly thinking about the cement front wall. Beltran, now forcing Carson to play at his tempo begins to score points. Carson cools. Beltran makes his first point run of the match and leads 6-2. Carson is able to rally his serve back for a few points but that proved only temporary. Beltran forced Carson to the hardwood many times in some very long rallies that heavily favored beltran. This appeared to take the steam out of Carson and Beltran persevered to win 11-6
Game Three- Beltran continues with the lob and it is evident that the momentum of the match has shifted in Beltran’s favor as he begins to put away all his pinches and pass shots. At 6-1 Carson takes a timeout in hopes of changing the dynamic of the game. Though he was able to get back in the box and score a few points, Carson never got that push he needed and Alvaro continued to put the ball down and won game three, 11-6
Game four- Carson appeared defeated at the beginning of the game, quickly falling to a 9-0 deficit. Carson, uncharacteristically, left many of his shots up allowing Beltran to pinch, pass and kill his way to an easy game 4 win for the match at 11-2
Round of 16
Local favorite #12 Cliff Swain breezed through the Round of 16 after his opponent’s absence. All of the other top 8 seeds advanced to the Quarterfinal Round that started Friday at 4 p.m. CST.
Rocky Carson d Felipe Camacho 11-3, 11-3, 9-11, 11-4
Marco Rojas d Jansen Allen 12-10, 11-1, 11-6
Cliff Swain d Chris Crowther WBF- No Show
Daniel De La Roas d Maurichio Zelada 11-6, 11-4, 11-7
Jose Rojas d Mike Green 11-4, 11-6, 7-11, 11-8
Ben Croft d Jacob Matthews 11-5, 11-3, 11-2
Tony Carson d Charlie Pratt 11-7, 11-9, 2-11, 11-5
Alvaro Beltran d Alenjandro Herrera 4-11, 11-4, 11-1, 11-4
While perennial #1 Kane Waselenchuk withdrew due to inner-ear problems, contenders hit the courts for the chance to face 2013 Champion, #2 seed Alvaro Beltran, or #1-seed, Rocky Carson The two have been trading wins and losses. Beltran won at the US OPEN, Carson at Pete Pierce’s Party with the Pros, and then Beltran again at the Racquetball De 1RA Tier 2 Satellite in Juarez, Mexico. Who’ll have a chance at the top?
Inner-Ear Relapse Sidelines #1 Kane Waselenchuk
After winning his 10th US OPEN tiltle, Kane withdrew from Pete Pierce’s Party with the Pros in St. Louis the following weekend, citing lingering injuries he’d hoped rest would give a chance to heal. At the time, he’s announced that:
“I’m following advice to take care of my minor injuries to avoid a potentially major one that could threaten the rest of the season. I hate to miss a pro stop, but will be licking my wounds after this grueling start to the season. I am not only disappointed about missing the opportunity to compete in St. Louis, but also to see local fans and supporters, like Pete Pierce who I would especially like to send well wishes to. Thanks also to Shari Coplen, who always puts on a great event.”
Unfortunately, rest was not enough to get him back on the court, as he announced the day before the draws were finalized for the 2014 Red Swain Shootout:
“I’m a pretty private person, and though I prefer to keep my injuries to myself, given the extent of my current injury, I would like to give the fans some more detail. I was hoping that the rest after the US OPEN and St. Louis would be enough for me to feel better, however it has not had that effect. I’m disappointed to say that I will not be able to compete in Michigan, and may miss extended play time this season due to the unexpected reoccurrence of the inner-ear problems which have plagued me my entire career. I will be seeing my specialist on November 18th, and IRT and I will keep racquetball fans informed of any news. Special thanks to the event directors that make these events possible. I can’t wait to get back on the courts and play for you. Thank you to my sponsors and fans for all your support!” Here, Kane Waselenchuk announced his injury forfeit at the 2012 Cactus Salon ProAm. Photo by restrungmag.com
Red Swain Shootout Hits Historic Courts written by Kyle Blasco
It’s time again for the IRT to return to the historic Davison Athletic Club in Davison, Michigan for the Red Swain Shootout. Anticipation’s high after Alvaro Beltran took down Daniel De La Rosa last year in four games to earn his first-ever Tier 1 championship.
Long-time racquetball standout, six-time #1 World Champion, and co-Tournament Director Cliff Swain, believes the timing of the event has always made it unique. The Shootout comes shortly after the UnitedHealthcare US OPEN Championships and near the endof the first half of the season. “This timing brings out all sorts of attitudes and behaviors,” said Swain. “Some of the guys that will be matched up versus one another have already played each other, often numerous times in the last few months and they’re sick of each other by now. That will show. You’ll also see the cream of the crop rise, and the weak wilt,” said Swain.
Swain should know, he had quite the run himself in the 2013 Red Swain Shootout, highlighted by his win over Jose Rojas, but ultimately ending in defeat to eventual champ Beltran. “Last year was fun,” said Swain, “It was the best I’d felt in a few years. I was hoping to play Kane that weekend but it didn’t work out, so my dream the night before was to play my friend Jose [Rojas] since he had beaten Kane at the Ghost of Georgetown Novasors Kansas City Open.” Swain got his wish and according to him, “I had a good day while catching Jose on an off day.” Though he’s currently battling a couple of nagging injuries, Swain hopes they will disappear before the start of the tournament. “It’s hard to sit and watch, that’s for sure,” said Swain.
The excitement will finally come to a head Wednesday as players from around the world start showing up to practice and get re-acquainted with the seasoned confines of the DAC. “I won my first pro match here in ‘83 or ‘84,” he explains. “It’s a racquetball-first club with 14 courts. The fans are right on you, too. The sidewall glass provides great viewing and is tough on the players,” said Swain, a challenge he likes as it makes (for some) less than perfect play leading to more diving and longer rallies. According to tournament director Don Schopieray, the club members and other attendees are frenzied enthusiasts. “The qualifying matches on Thursday night play to a full house, the energy is absolutely amazing.”
Schopieray’s son, Brad, who first turned pro after high school when he was 18 years old, will be competing in the pro division as the 25th-ranked player in the world. Brad’s favorite player happens to be Cliff Swain, who’s also serves as his coach. Swain has a lot of confidence in the young pro to compete with anyone who steps on that court with him in Davison. “With his big serve he could beat anybody on a given day and he’s definitely comfortable on his home court.”
Pro qualifying for the Red Swain Shootout starts Thursday at 3 p.m. with the round of 16 kicking off Friday at 10 a.m. The amateur draw starts on Saturday aside from the open tier, which will start Friday afternoon. The pro semifinals will begin Saturday at 11 a.m. with the championship match slated for a 7 p.m. start time. The open tier championship will take place just before the pro final at 5 p.m. Come on out and watch the best of the best leave it all on the court in Davison!
Alvaro Beltran hoisting 2013 trophy Photo by Cathy Holden