The 2019 Arizona Pro Am Recap | By Kelly R. Diesel
Photos By Ken Fife
It should be clear to the entire International Racquetball Tour’s (IRT) community that absolutely no one who steps through the door and onto the court is safe at any Tier 1 (T1) tournament anymore. The top 8 continues to shuffle, and what once fans considered upsets are now becoming rivalries. This past weekend in Tempe, Arizona, at the third T1 on the IRT’s 2019-2020 season showed everyone around the sport that, in fact, “these times they are a changing,” – Bob Dylan.
Round of 16s
We start with #1 Kane Waselenchuk, residing in Austin, Texas, taking on Andres Acuna, from Costa Rica, San Jose. Acuna did well to battle in Game 1, keeping it close for the majority of the game, and even found himself trailing by only one point halfway through Game 1 at 7-8. It didn’t take long until Waselenchuk proved he was ready for the end of this match and ready to move forward all weekend. Waselenchuk took Game 1 15-8, but found himself in an all-out battle with Acuna in Game 2. Acuna jumped on top in Game 2 with a 5-0 lead, and stayed in front until Waselenchuk knotted it up at 9-9. Waselenchuk cruised into game and match point at 14-12, but Acuna wouldn’t lay down, as he managed to tie it at 14-14. On his third match point opportunity, Waselenchuk started with a great serve and after a couple of returns, it was Acuna skipping the ball in the front court that sealed the deal for Waeslenchuk, 15-14.
In a match that certainly looks good on paper, the action on the court was even better. David “Bobby” Horn, ranked #12 in the world from Sockton, California took on #8 Samuel Murray from Baie-Comeau, Quabec, in quite the showdown. Horn and Murray have been seen as friendly competitors on and off the court, with mutual respect for each other’s game. Horn had a slight advantage coming into this match with a 2-1 overall record, but Murray made sure to even things up at 2-2 after taking Game 1 and 2 at 15-12, 15-8.
An athlete all IRT fans were excited to see this weekend, Conrrado Moscoso, from Chuquisaca, Bolivia, faced off against Set Cubillos from Barranquilla, Colombia. Moscoso has made quite the name for himself in the past month and a half, consistently advancing through tournament draws and even testing Waselenchuk in the US Open Finals. Moscoso made light work of his Round of 16s, advancing 15-4, 15-6.
#16 in the world Robert Collins, from Kapolei, Hawaii matched up against #4 in the world, Alvaro Beltran, from Tijuana, Mexico in their Round of 16s. Collins came into the match 0-2 all-time against Beltran, and unfortunately, he couldn’t turn the history books around in Tempe. Beltran improved his head-to-head record against Collins to 3-0 and advanced to the quarterfinals with a 15-7, 15-3 victory!
Former #1 ranked player in the world Alex Landa, from Juarez, Mexico would battle against currently ranked #19 Thomas Carter, from Wheaton, Illinois in their Round of 16s. Carter, who has consistently made the Round of 16s this season, has just really struggled to find a way into the quarterfinals. Landa would find out just how much Carter wants that quarterfinal birth, as he struggled to dominate in both games, managing a 15-11, 15-11 match victory. Carter is now 0-3 in his Round of 16 matches this season, look for him to find the missing piece in his game.
In a match that ignorant fans across the sport could consider a “mountain vs. a pebble,” Andree Parrilla, from San Luis Potosi, Mexico showed how size doesn’t matter in the great game of racquetball. #5 Parrilla faced off against #13 Jake Bredenbeck, from Marine, Minnesota, and it didn’t look they there was a clear difference in players in Game 1. Tied at 6-6, Parrilla rallied a couple of points off to make it 10-6, but Bredenbeck rallied off some of his own points and cut it to a 9-10 deficit. Parrilla finished Game 1 strong at 15-9 and continued his strong play into a much closer Game 2, with a 15-11 victory.
#6 in the world, Daniel De La Rosa (DLR) residing in Gilbert, Arizona continues to struggle this season as lost his Round of 16 matchup against the young phenom Eduardo “Lalo” Portillo, from San Luis Portosi, Mexico. Portillo continues to show up in the later Round of T1 tournaments, and he shows that he deserves to be there with his play! In their Round of 16s, DLR jumped out to a 9-3 lead in Game 1, but Portillo would not back down. Working the frontcourt and spreading DLR out got Portillo an 11-10 lead after trailing by six points. A battle at the end with Portillo winning 15-13 had everyone watching amped for Game 2. Game 2 was almost a copy of Game 1 except there was no six-point deficit, the entire game was neck-and-neck until Portillo squeaked out the 15-12 winner.
#2 Rocky Carson, from Ladera Ranch, California battled #20 Carlos Keller Vargas, from Santa Cruz, Bolivia for a chance at the quarterfinals in Tempe. Carson, who usually has close and slow matches with anyone he faces on the court, showed no surprises in this one. With neither player taking more than a two-point lead in Game 1, it was Carson who finally started to separate himself at 9-7. Great Z-serves and killshots from Carson opened up a 14-7 lead until Vargas decided to pull out some magic of his own. With the score at 14-13 and Carson serving for his sixth game point opportunity, a return from Vargas left Carson with a perfect down the line shot to cap off Game 1. Game 2 started just as tight as Game 1 finished; both players controlling the service box until the other makes a great counter in a rally. Carson started to edge forward late with a 12-6 lead, a lead he didn’t let slip like Game 1, and finished off the match at 15-8.
Waselenchuk faced Murray in their quarterfinal match up, and unfortunately for “Big Canada” Murray, Waselenchuk made it a quick one. 15-5 and 15-4 were the finals of both games, and Murray is now 0-4 when facing Waselenchuk. Murray continues to play well in the IRT’s 2019-2020 season, look for him to find better luck in the draws.
Moscoso taking on Beltran in their quarterfinal battle, was one to see both in-person and online. Ten minutes into the match, we have a 4-3 Beltran lead, and things looked like it would take all day for this one to end. We were wrong. In the blink of an eye, both players were tied up at 7-7 with fist pumps and cheers coming all over the court and from the crowd. Mosco jumped to a short lead at 12-9 and held onto that lead to finish out Game 1 15-10. Game 2 seemed to be the exact same game on the court, with just different results in the end. Jumping out to a 6-1 lead, the “Mexican Monster” (Beltran) didn’t look to let Moscoso back in the match. With an 11-3 lead, Beltran let off the gas, and Moscoso used everything he had to get back into the game. Although Game 2 ended with an 11-15 defeat for Moscoso, rallying off eight points gave him the confidence he needed in the Game 3 tiebreaker. Beltran scored the first point of Game 3, but then it was all Moscoso. Age and stamina may have played a part in the three-game tiebreaker, but an overall terrific quarterfinal match as Moscoso took it 15-10, 11-15, 11-3.
A battle of Mexico territory took place in the quarterfinal matchup between Landa and Parrilla. In what most expected to be a tight and high-action match, some fans may feel disappointed in the performance. Landa showed a clear difference in being the #3 ranked player in the world at really controlled the entire match against #5 Parrilla. Finals of 15-3, 15-7 may have shocked lots of players and fans, but Landa played like it was always going to be this kind of result. Landa and Parrilla are now 3-3 overall in their career matchups, look for the next battle to be a big one.
The young phenom Portillo took on #2 Carson in their quarterfinals matchup and what a match it turned out to be. In Game 1, Carson took an early 4-0 lead before Portillo battled back, and about 10 minutes into the game, we found Carson with a 7-2 lead. Carson held a 9-4 lead when Portillo stepped into the service box, and in just two and a half minutes of play, Portillo tied it up at 9-9, forcing Carson to use a timeout. Carson got the point he was looking for coming back from his timeout, but it wasn’t enough to keep his energy going as Portillo grinded it out for a 15-10 Game 1 win. In Game 2 Portillo found himself with a quick and early 8-3 lead, which he used to propel himself to a 15-8 win and a birth into the semifinals. Portillo and Carson are now 1-1 overall in their career matchups.
For the third time in IRT history, we got to see “King” Waslenchuk take on the up-and-coming Moscoso in a matchup everyone in the sport was looking forward to seeing. In Game 1 Waselenchuk held a 6-3 lead with Moscoso stepping into the service box. Great serves followed by great control in rallies led Moscoso to his first lead of the match, 8-7. An appeal by Waselenchuk that was not overturned seemed to be a tipping point in the match for the “King.” Moscoso would score two more points after the appeal, but you could see how fired up Waselenchuk was beginning to get. Waselenchuk found himself serving at 10-7 and never stepped out of the service box until Game 1 was over at 15-10, scoring eight unanswered points to take the first game. In Game 2 Waselenchuk’s fire continued to burn inside him, and it was apparent to everyone, including Moscoso, that he was not there to play a tiebreaker. Moscoso found himself behind 8-0 and never could find the momentum to get back into the match, losing 15-2.
In the other semifinal match, we got to see another young talent, Portillo, face Landa, and what a battle this turned out to be. Landa showed great control in Game 1 and took an early 7-1 lead just five minutes into the match. Four minutes later, Landa opened the “floodgates” and found himself with an 11-1 lead. Portillo continued to serve well and did everything he could to try and find some openings in Landa’s game, found himself on the winning end of some rallies, but ultimately lost Game 1 15-5. Game 2 started with Portillo sprinting out of the gates, and you could see he was ready to force a breaker. Unfortunately for Portillo, a 6-3 lead disappeared pretty quick, and all of a sudden, it was 9-9 with Landa in the box to serve. Landa didn’t seem to want to leave the service box as he finished off Portillo by a final of 15-9.
It seemed to be a final Waselenchuk had been waiting for his entire life, that’s how dominant he was against Landa in the Tempe finals. The appeal that was not overturned in Waselenchuk’s semifinal match seemed to stick with the “King” throughout the night and into the next morning because he was red hot. Six minutes into the finals, Waselenchuk held a 6-0 lead before Landa would finally get on the board. Landa gave up one, but rallied for a couple of points of his own and trimmed the deficit to 7-4. Four was all Waselenchuk was willing to give up in Game 1 as he took it 15-4. Game 2 started similar to Game 1, but Landa buckled down and showed some toughness out there on the court. Snatching his first, and only, lead of Game 2 at 5-4 Landa looked as if he was going to give Waselenchuk all he could handle. The “King” has no time for that as he quickly got into the service box and shut down almost everything Landa would hit at him. Landa managed to score two more points, but Waselenchuk was too much to take down, as most come to find out, and finished off the match and tournament with a 15-7 finals victory
The 2019 Arizona State Pro-Am showed that there are some new deputies in town, but still one Sheriff Waselenchuk. If there were brackets to fill out for the 2019 Arizona State Pro-Am tournament, no one would have had the perfect bracket, some October madness if you will. Two of the sport’s youngest talents made a name for themselves in previous tournaments, and now they’ve made sure everyone will remember their names after this T1 in Tempe, Arizona. In case you missed the action, you can still watch it all on the IRT’s multiple streaming services and social media platforms!