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In-Shape WPRO Championships presented by Ektelon

April 25th, 2011 by John Ellis

Hey Racquetballers, I hope you all had a Happy Easter Sunday and a nice weekend off from tournament play.  I’m not sure how many tournaments were taking place this past weekend with the exception of the IRF Pan Am Champs in Nicaragua, but that one event had a huge upset victor in Mexico’s Daniel De La Rosa.  De La Rosa was able to win the Men’s Singles with a victory over both US and Canada’s top players en route.  His victory over Crowther in the finals is probably the biggest finals upset that event has ever witnessed.  De La Rosa will certainly be a threat to win the 18 & Under World Champs this summer and will be an outstanding professional during his career.  He plays with poise, smart game plans and a little chip, which is exactly what you need to succeed in professional racquetball.  I look forward to watching my dudes from Stockton play Daniel a bunch over the next 15 years!!

But now on to what I really meant to write about and that’s the upcoming In-Shape WPRO Championships this coming weekend here at our home club in Stockton, CA.  This is the third year in a row and fifth out of six years that we’ve hosted a Tier One WPRO Stop either in Stockton or Sacramento.  We’ve been fortunate enough to have nice support from a few local business owners and a few “friends of racquetball” when it comes to raising the $10K to host the WPRO.  This area loves professional racquetball whether its the men or the women and I know we’ll have great crowds throughout the weekend.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care who made the finals as we’re no different from other WPRO cities in that we want to see the big rivalry between Paola and Rhonda go down here in the 209.  It was an awesome final last year with Paola outlasting Rhonda in a tough fought five game battle.  But, I do know that there are a few other gals on the WPRO that are capable of taking one or both of them down so whomever reaches the final, we know we’ll be in for a great match.

I get asked a lot why I host a WPRO Stop and not an IRT Stop.  There are a few key answers, but it should be clear that I would love to host an IRT Stop and believe that we will eventually bring back the Stockton Pro-Am, which used to be the longest running pro stop in the game.  But for now, my ties are connected to the women’s game and the WPRO.  The fact that racquetball has become even more of a man’s game over the past 10 years is really a sad situation and one that I want to help drastically change.  I grew up at a club where we had almost as many women playing racquetball as men and the atmosphere at the club was awesome because of this.  The social aspect of racquetball is one major factor that drew me and my parents to the game of racquetball and that social atmosphere is barely alive, even at the national level.  I believe that this mostly has to do with the lack of women at events.  It’s just not that much fun to have a tournament with 95% of the players being men.  Our WPRO Stop takes on a different vibe because of having so many women in the club at the same time.  I can’t explain it in detail other than it’s just that natural feeling of men and women being involved in the same thing, making most everyone feel like they’re apart of something special.  Of course my dad has held the position over the past two years as Deputy Commissioner for the WPRO and that certainly influences my decision to host a WPRO Stop.  And, yes I’m apart of the Ektelon Management Staff so it makes sense to have a WPRO Stop with Ektelon being the Official Ball of the WPRO.  But, I’m very pro IRT and look forward to the year that we get back to hosting the guys here in Stockton.  I believe the IRT is heading in a good direction and their schedule looks solid for next season, plus we have plenty of players here in Stockton that would love to play a pro stop at their home club.  It will eventually happen…….

But for now, let’s embrace women’s racquetball here in Stockton and prepare to enjoy a great weekend event.  We need it around here as the Shootouts have taken over the tournament scene and the nature of shootouts is not very social at all.  Having said that, we need the women of Nor Cal to sign up and support this tournament.  The numbers are not great for this event as we’re at about 120 players today, which happens to be the deadline date.  Hopefully we’ll see a spike in the number of entrants today, especially with the amateur women.  Come on ladies, what better way to get motivated about your racquetball game then to watch the best females in the game at the same event you’re playing??

Lastly, I’m very thankful to Racquetball Warehouse for being apart of our sponsorship team.  As the Official Retailer of the In-Shape WPRO Championships presented by Ektelon, they provide a ton of stability for this event and a service that most tournaments don’t have anymore.  RW has been a great partner for me over the past seven years and to be honest, without them in my life, I might be out of RB at this point and doing something else for my living.  I can’t thank them enough!!  Please support RW whenever possible and feel free to use my referral code of RWEllis whenever you order online.  This code does not make me any income, it’s there for you!!

If you’ve read this far down my blog today then I want to thank you for taking the time to read my rant!!  Best wishes to all of the RBers and remember to Keep Em Rollin…………………….

John Ellis

Posted in Racquetball Reality | 90 Comments »

His Name is David Bobby Horn – The Other Stockton Baller

March 11th, 2011 by John Ellis

I realize there are many good young players around the states and definitely in Mexico and I’m not trying to claim Stockton, CA as the best of the young guns.  BUT, we do have solid representation in the age range of 17-21.  It all begins with Jose Rojas of course.  He’s earned that recognition so far with his countless Junior National and World Titles, two Collegiate National Titles and his solid start to an IRT career with a #8 ranking and his upset wins over Jack Huczek, Ben Croft, Shane Vanderson and the Commish, Jason Mannino.  Jose has lost a few matches to players that will not have the career he’ll have, but let’s not forget that he’s only 20 years old, a full time college student, a kid from the East Side of Stockton who’s parents have kept a close blanket over him so that he stays alive and involved in a serious relationship, which always takes one’s attention.  Now, I’m not saying Jose is a sure thing future #1 player, that’s yet to be determined.  He hasn’t had the start that the greatest of all times have had, meaning he’s not Hogan, Swain, Monchik, Waselenchuck or Huczek.  Those guys won stops early, before their 20’s, but he’s also in the era of the greatest of all time in Kid Kane. BTW, Yellen is apart of the greatest of all time list, but I believe he did his first winning after the age of 20, but I’m also not 100% sure of that. The point is that Rojas will be a top 5 player in due time and he will win stops.  He’s in this game for the long haul and those that think he won’t be a major force by the time he’s 27-28 are crazy.  He’s only 20, he’ll peak in eight years!!

Enough about Rojas, someday he’ll be happy with just being the best player in his own family with brother Markie already taking a tournament match from him…… I’m writing today to talk about this Horn kid from Stockton.  David “Bobby” Horn is now 21 years old and I speak from experience when I say that he is already one of the fastest humans on the court that I’ve ever scene.  It’s raw speed and he doesn’t know how to handle it just yet, but he’s super fast.  He’s 6’0, 170 lbs of pure muscle and has an attitude of “I don’t give a s__t about any of the top players.  He’s respectful and fun to be around off the court, but on the court, he brings an attitude that can get under one’s skin.  His diving ability personally makes me nervous as I always fear that one of his flying gets will end right in the middle of my 38 year old knees, finally putting me down for the count.  But, it’s on my mind and it will be on the mind’s of IRT players over the next decade and a half.  What most don’t realize about Bobby is that he didn’t begin playing until he was 14 years old.  He was the kid hanging around the club, playing hoops and generally just looking for something to do.  He and Jose Diaz first struck up a relationship playing hoops at the club, which of course was a schooling for Diaz as Bobby was a starting point guard for his high school team.  This led to Horn trying racquetball, and from that first moment, he had natural abilities.  He’s only been playing serious for six years while all the other Stocktonians having been racquetballing since they were 5 years old.  Like any young player, Bobby will not peak for another seven or eight years, but the experience he’ll gain over that time will be his racquetball experience and I’m telling you all, he’ll be a solid pro that will threaten to win a stop at some point in his career.  He has a team of friends around him that want the same thing for themselves, but will also do whatever it takes to help him accomplish his goals.  That’s the bonus Bobby has with being from Stockton.

Bobby plays Kane today at 11:30am and it’s likely that the match will be a three game win for the #1 player.  It might even be a rout, but this experience will go along way to what will be a successful racquetball career.  If you haven’t watched Bobby Horn play yet, then today is a great opportunity to get your first look at this talented, but extremely raw player.  You’ll enjoy his speed and his ability to shotmake, although the latter might not be as available today with Kane being his opponent.  You’ll also get a kick out of his little “Stockton mustache” too!!  They all seem to think that is the cool style now adays.  I don’t get it……. Enjoy the matches from Tampa, especially my boy Bobby Horn.

Posted in Racquetball Reality | 328 Comments »

Women’s Racquetball Day – It’s a Necessity!!

March 3rd, 2011 by John Ellis

If you’re a racquetball manager for a health club or you’re prominent enough of a racquetball player in your area that you have permission to host racquetball events, then one event you most try is what I’ve entitled Women’s Racquetball Day.  Now, I’m definitely not trying to claim this title as mine, since I’m sure others have hosted this type of event with this name in the past, but here in Northern California, we’re committed to hosting Women’s Racquetball Days at the In-Shape Sport Clubs.

What are Women’s Racquetball Days?  Well, they could be whatever you want them to be with the obvious focus on getting many women together in the club from your region to enjoy a day of racquetball.  Women really do want to play racquetball with each other more so than only be forced to play singles with men or mixed doubles.  The problem is that most clubs no longer have a strong contingency of women racquetball players, so women that enjoy playing with other women are forced to play with only one or two other women from their club.  That will eventually get stale and a bit boring.  The In-Shape Women’s Racquetball Days will all be five hour events, making it well worth the effort for women to drive longer distances since they’ll have the club’s courts for an extended period of times.  The commraderie that’s built with these events is awesome to be apart of and very motivating for the players.  It is to be hoped that our Women’s Racquetball Days will lead to more women deciding to play our In-Shape Shootouts and Tournaments so that I can again begin offering women’s divisions in all events.  With my position as Racquetball Director with In-Shape, these Women’s Racquetball Days also provide me a great venue to promote our In-Shape WPRO Championships presented by Ektelon, which is naturally all about women’s racquetball with the best female players in the world attending the tournament.  NOTE, always welcome beginning players to this event and have a separate plan for how to make the day fun for them as well………… Here’s two separate itineraries for how to host a Women’s Racquetball Day.  If you do decide to try an event like this, make it your own in some way by adding a unique feature to the day’s events.

Women’s RB Day Itinerary One (9 courts)

9AM-9:15AM: Opening Discussion & Introduction of Instructional Staff

- Ten instructors will be on hand to assist.

9:15AM-9:25AM: Walk Through of Interval Drills & Contests

9:25AM-9:40AM: Warm-up

- Three to four players per court. Basic warm up.

9:40AM-11AM: (10 minute intervals)

Court 1 – FH & BH Down the Line Target Contest (15 shots from each side, behind the encroachment line)

Court 2 – Racquetball Aerobic Games (1min 30 sec)

Court 3 – Drive Serve Target Contest (15 serves to each side)

Court 4 – Pinch Drill (30 sec, 1 min, 1 min 30 sec intervals)

Court 5 – Lob Serve Contest (15 serves DTL from both sides)

Court 6 – Center Court Cross over ball toss hitting drill

Court 7 – Wide Angle Contest (15 shots from both sides, behind the encroachment line)

Court 8 – Splat/Down the Line Drill

Court 9 – Ceiling Ball Contest (Most cosecutive from each side, 2 attempts per player)

11:00AM-12:30PM: Organized Doubles Play (8 min intervals, King Court Style)

11:30PM-1:00PM: Lunch Throughout

1PM-2PM: Singles or Mixed Doubles Play

2PM-2:30: Closing Remarks & Free Play

Women’s RB Day Itinerary Two

10AM-10:30AM: Check In, Partner Pairing, Court Assignment & Introduction of Intructional Staff

- Partners will be assigned by a drawing. All players will put their name in an intermediate or advanced box for selection. Beginners will be kept seperate for doubles play….. Ten instructors will be on hand to assist.

10:30AM-10:45AM: Warm Up

10:45AM-12:30PM: Doubles Queen’s Court (intermediate and advanced)

12:30PM-1PM: Lunch

1PM-3PM: Mini clinics (4 courts, 30 minute sessions)

Court 6 – Serve & Serve Return

Court 7 – Various Hitting Drills

Court 8 – On Court Speed & Agility Drills

Court 9 – Basic Forehand & Backhand Mechanics

1PM-3PM: Singles Challenge Courts (4 courts)

Court 1 – Advanced

Court 2 – Intermediate/Advanced

Court 3 – Intermediate

Court 4 – Beginner/Intermediate

1PM-3PM: Hard Hit Contest (court 5)

3PM-4PM: Closing remarks & Mixed Doubles

Best of luck to all of you out there that decide to host your own Women’s RB Day.  Make it an In-Shape Day!!

John Ellis

Posted in Racquetball Reality | 123 Comments »

Why a Tournament Director Should Sanction

February 19th, 2011 by John Ellis

As a tournament director that hosts 20+ racquetball tournaments/shootouts per year, I get asked why I sanction my tournaments quite a bit.  Naturally the club players that are not diehard tournament players question why they have to join a state organization for $50 Annual Membership when they’re only going to play one or two events per year.  Even the $20 One Event Fee annoys these players and definitely forces them to question their participation.  So, I prefer to have the conversation with these players so they can get a true understanding of why I sanction 99% of my In-Shape events.  Generally, my explanation will give them the understanding they need and often lead to a new yearly member of the California State Racquetball Association (CSRA).  Here’s my list of reasons why I sanction my In-Shape Racquetball events.

Liability is by far the number one reason I sanction events.  With the insurance coverage that the USAR has in place for it’s state affiliates, I believe it’s my duty to make sure that my tournament players have coverage if something happens to them at the club or on the court.  I would never assume that all the event players would have their own personal insurance to cover any accidents that may occur and I want to make sure that if something does happen to a player, their first concern isn’t about how they’re going to pay for that initial visit to the doctor or hospital.  One might ask, doesn’t In-Shape cover the liability for people in their clubs?  Of course, but I’m an outside entity hosting events using their courts, and even though waivers are signed for non In-Shape members on both my end and In-Shape’s, I do not believe that In-Shape should have to worry about injuries that happen due to my racquetball events.

The R2 site is a close second to the insurance coverage when it comes to sanctioning.  Ryan and Tish Rodgers have created a program that has revolutionized the tournament directing industry and the accessability that directors have with the racquetball tournament playing public is a powerful source.  I was with Ryan and Tish from the beginning when it came to R2 and in the early years, I kind of felt like their test dummy!  There were some late nights with the program when they first had it up and running due to the kinks that existed, but over time, they’ve hammered out a program that works nearly flawlessly for every event.  If I do have an issue then I send out a quick email to Ryan and he gives me the answer in minutes.  Usually it’s an answer that I should have thought of myself, but regardless, they’re customer service is awesome.  The truth is, I can send an email to thousands of racquetball players promoting my upcoming event in a matter of minutes.  There is no substitution for that type of advertising.  The ease of creating the draws and times are the bonus to the whole situation.  Of course, the players themselves are now able to follow the event throughout the process.  I really does not get much cooler than that!

Advertising on the CSRA website ( is a factor for me when hosting events.  I know there are over a thousand CSRA members and I’m sure a good percentage of those players are checking the state website to see what events are upcoming.  Unlike many states, California does a fantastic job of updating their website when it comes to the schedule plage.  I try to stay about two months ahead on promoting my upcoming In-Shape events so you’ll constantly see In-Shape’s presence on this site.

You can’t host a racquetball tournament without racquetballs.  As a sanctioned CSRA event, you’ll receive the new Ektelon balls needed to successfully host your event.  This will save you at least $75 in expenses and of course, the players appreciate being able to use a new Ektelon ball for their matches.

Although I’ve had a few gripes about the CSRA and certainly the USAR over the years, the fact is I’m pro state/national organization.  I love this game and want to see the sport consistently thriving.  To do that, national organizations, state organizations, event directors and players have to work together to grow racquetball’s numbers so that we can continue to grow as an entity that has value in numbers and organization.  This includes the entire sport of racquetball, the IRT, WPRO, WOR, IRF and every other association out there.  National, regional and local businesses need to see the value in numbers if we’re ever going to receive financial support from outside the industry.

I could go on for a while and probably come up with another 5-10 points about why I sanction all of my In-Shape events, but these are the main reasons.  Support your state association.  If the association is not performing up to par then ask yourself what you can do to help the situation.  If you’re not willing to help then you can’t complain.  I’m not saying being a board member for a state racquetball association is for everyone, I’ve yet to be on the CSRA Board, but not sanctioning your events are not helping anyone in the sport, not even your local members that complain about a small yearly payment.  I know times are tough for people financially, but the insurance coverage alone should end the conversation on why all racquetball players should be USAR members.

Posted in Racquetball Reality | 108 Comments »

Racquetball Reality – Club Racquetball Questions

December 30th, 2010 by John Ellis

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions by email about situations that are coming up during club play for the players emailing me.  Most of the questioning has to do with how to handle situations that involve hinders or other interpretations of the rules.  So I thought I’d take a moment and address a few of these issues on the Racquetball Warehouse Blog……. First, let me start with the good ol “PENALTY HINDER”.  When should this type of hinder be called while playing non tournament or league matches at your local club?  Good question and one that will have a few different answers for different types of people.  For me, club play is just practice and meant to be a lot of fun.  I’ve been playing racquetball matches since I was five years old, so thirty-three years later, winning a club match for me doesn’t matter a lot and shouldn’t depend on a penalty hinder call.  Needless to say, I never call them on my opponent unless my opponent simply can’t live with themselves knowing they definitely were in a penalty hinder position or if they were lying on the ground right in front of me and couldn’t go anywhere.  I don’t really care about forcing a player to give me a point during practice, although I will take that same call in a tournament.  Why do I do this since you’re suppose to practice like you play?  Because it’s just practice to me and I’m not looking for freebies or static between me and my opponent if they don’t agree with the penalty hinder call.  Now, I’m not saying you should all be like me in this situation, but it’s an option.  If you can’t play that way, then take the call and get ready for the banter that could come with it.  And oh yeah, don’t get caught in a penalty hinder position yourself or one that’s even close or you’ll be giving up the call!!  A penalty hinder occurs when a player takes away an offensive opportunity for their opponent, regardless if they were trying to get out of the way or not.  Obviously without a ref, this situation will most likely be debatable………….. The next most popular topic players are reaching out to me about is the “HOLDING UP A LITTLE, BUT STILL TAKING THE SHOT”.  This one cracks me up when I see it at the club because it happens all the time, mostly at the A level and lower and it always produces some arguing on the court.  I love it when a player kind of holds up, yet still takes the shot and makes it.  They always walk up like they meant to do that and their opponent just stands there and looks at them like they’re scum for taking the shot.  OR, they miss the shot and then immediately call the hinder, which of course is really the conversation I’m wanting to see.  BOTTOM LINE IS THAT IF YOU TAKE THE SHOT THEN YOU LIVE WITH THE SHOT!!  If you don’t take the shot and you hold up for safety then your opponent should understand and oblige you with a hinder.  If they give you static because you held up for the hinder in that situation then you know what to do the next time that moment occurs, RIP THEM IN THE ASS.  Or the back of the leg, maybe the back fat just above the bum!!!…………. Last example for today is the “CALL FROM OUTSIDE THE COURT”.  This happens all of the time too and most of the time it’s a C player out there trying to interject.  People, if you’re outside the court and they want help from you on a call, forget about it!!  If you don’t say anything then you might find yourself watching an awesome conversation.  Why ruin that just because you can’t resist being apart of the play that you have nothing to do with?  Did you agree to ref the game before it began?  Probably not.  I can see maybe rolling your eyes a little to kind of tell them what you think, but don’t say a word.  Let them handle it on the court as they should be able to do in any practice play situation.  If they’re smart and understanding of the concept that racquetball is just a game then they’ll likely just replay the point.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very competitive and don’t like being taken advantage of, but I’m not that crazed about RB that I can’t just replay some points even if I think I’m getting the short end of the call.  I never go home thinking I should have won because of a call.  RB does not rule my dome like that and it shouldn’t rule yours either……….. If you find yourself reading this post and thinking that I’m that controversial guy or gal then now is your time to make a change.  It’s almost 2011 and you can add these concepts to your New Year’s Resolutions!!!  BTW, for those of you that read this blog, I’ll be back tomorrow midday for my Ellistyle Top 20 2011 New Year’s Resolutions.  All for now, keep em rollin………………..

Posted in Racquetball Reality | 138 Comments »

My Take On The US Open Finals

October 24th, 2010 by John Ellis

I slept in today as it’s 7AM PST and I just drilled a 5 Hour Energy to get going. The Big Show is about to begin and I’m looking forward to taking in some great racquetball for the next four hours or so. Of course, setting my NFL fantasy lineup and making sure I’m ready to go for a big day of watching NFL football takes precedence these days…… What a great day of watching racquetball yesterday. The WPRO matches were a little anti climatic but we all kind of expected that and actually hoped that would be the case. We want Paola vs Rhonda, period. The IRT matches were both very intriguing and high quality entertainment. I preferred the Beltran/Croft match just a bit more because of the evolution that we all witnessed in the greatness that is Alvi!! I mean he completed looked out of it in the first two and by game three I thought there was no chance of Alvi even competing in the match. Then all of a sudden, there he is, getting better with each rally until there was absolutely no denying him. Ben aided the cause a bit with average play, but let’s not forget that Ben’s average play up 2-0 on most players easily wins the match. Alvaro took it from him because he’s a veteran that’s been in a ton of huge matches and he wanted it more. That’s the bottom line, Alvi wanted in more than Ben deep inside his sole. That’s some cool stuff right there!!!…… With the Kane/Jack match, we knew Kane would get it together at some point. For a second I thought Jack might win but then Kane went on a 29-2 run and was up 2 games to 1. Props to Jack for playing very well and giving himself a chance to win. More props to Kane for winning a tough match when he was playing average for himself. BTW, he still won kind of easily in four, although he didn’t cover my line of 15 total points for Jack……… I did not watch any CPRT matches yesterday but my finals prediction is in place and it should be a decent match today. I’m pulling for my boy Woody Clouse!! Here we go………

IRT Finals (12PM): #18 Alvaro Beltran vs #1 Kane Waselenchuk
This is a classic finals match up of two veteran players. Kane is the greatest of all time already and may just be playing at his peak these days. Alvi is the greatest of all time never to win an IRT Stop and that isn’t even debatable. What is debatable is whether Alvaro has won a stop or not. He did win a Tier One event in Virginia back in the early 2000’s but there is a definite asterisk on that win. The asterisk wasn’t applied to the finals in which Alvi beat Jack in an awesome five game win. But rather the round of 32 and 16 as the courts were so wet and slippery that all of the players got together and decided that everyone would get the same prize money and ranking points but play out the event at their own risk. By the finals the courts were fine so I’m not sure if Alvi claims the victory and I don’t mind if he does because I know I made the same money that weekend and same ranking points. So you decide for yourself and Alvaro can as well. If he wins today then there are no more questions about the topic. What a first win it would be too!! However, it’s not going to happen and it won’t even be close. I believe that Kane will come out and put so much pressure on Alvi that he won’t be able to get the himself even into the match enough to elicit the crowd’s help in route to a win. The crowd will want to pull for Alvi to make it a great match and even win but Kane will have none of that today. I’ve seen it twice before with Kane beating up on the second greatest ever in Clifford Swain at the US Open Final. Kane had his close match yesterday, which obviously had him concerned throughout the match. He’ll loosen up today and the talent will be on full display in a three game win that will last about 50 minutes. Great tourney for Alvi and he’s one of my favorite players, but like I mentioned yesterday, we’re just in the middle of the Reign of Kane. We still have another 6-8 years of this conversation to go. He’s that good and the rest of them are that average.

WPRO Finals (11AM): #2 Rhonda Rajsich vs #1 Paola Longoria
This is obviously the match of the day and could have even been played after the IRT match and most would stay to watch. I know I would if I was in Minneapolis. Both ladies are rolling through the draw, taking out tough opponents yesterday without much concern. This is meant to be this year and could also be the finals match up for the next few years. I have no idea what the overall match up record is and to be honest, it doesn’t matter that much to me. I’ve noticed that generally there are no runs of three wins in a row for either gal. Sometimes one or the other will win two in a row but then it ends at that. Who’s turn is it? I have no idea on that either as I do not follow every Rhonda vs Paola match up. Ask my dad and he’s liable to tell you who won the last 25 match ups as he’s the “gopher boy” for Shannon and the ladies of the WPRO!!! Actually, not sure now that I want my dad to read this, I might get in trouble!!…….. I’m going with Rhonda Rajsich today in a really exciting and hard fought five games. No real reason why I’m picking Rhonda over Paola, just a gut feeling. I hope it does go five for all of the fans in attendance and all of us at home watching. The WPRO Finals going five actually gives the IRT match a little more hype as the fans will feel the excitement build with each close point. Plus, I love the idea of many of the players in attendance racing through the Minneapolis airport frantic, trying to catch the last flight out so they can get back to real life at home and away from the Racquetball Vacation they were all on!!! I don’t miss that at all!! Enjoy these two drastically different women get it on in what promises to be an epic encounter.

CPRT Finals (10AM): #14 Jeff Bell vs #1 Woody Clouse
Jeff Bell is very good for those of you who do not know who he is. He’s one of those guys that could easily by a top 20 player on the IRT if he dedicated his time to RB instead of the real life and job he has. I actually expected him to be in the finals today when I first saw the draw. Where in the hell is Cliff and Ruben? I know they’re both there and them not playing hurts this division and tour…… Woody is very well known and like Jeff could easily be a top 20 player on the IRT at 44 or however old he is. Whatever his age is, I know for a fact that Woody is in better shape then he was at 30 or even 25. Woody has dedicated himself to winning tournaments on the CPRT, making up for all of the losses he took as a full time IRT player. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, it’s hard to win on the IRT during any era. I really admire my great friend as he’s continued to grow as a player over the years and Woody at 44 would beat Woody at 25 at least 50% of the time. Woody at 50 may just be better than the Woody right now and that reminds me a lot of Ruben…….. I’m taking Clouse in four decent games today. It will be a very nice warm up match for the two big matches to follow and the level of play will be that of a Round of 16 IRT match so expect big time shot making. This is not old man’s ball with the idea of just entertaining. Real prize money is on the line and of course the title of US Open Champion.

Congratulations to Doug Ganim, the USAR and IRT Network for a successful US Open presentation. I have no idea if this event is indeed successful but from my angle it looks great. I hope the party was better than it was in Memphis over the last four years that I was there. I’m sure it was, Minnesota racquetball players know how to party and drink like Canadiens!!…….. This is my last blog about the Open. Check back for new topics later this week. As always, keep em rollin…………… I will be today if you know what I mean!!!

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My Take On The US Open Semi Finals

October 23rd, 2010 by John Ellis

It’s 5:07AM and I have a huge day planned!! Soccer game with Julius at 8AM (7:30AM warm up), picking up 50 homemade tamales from Carolina Diaz (mom of Jose Diaz) and heading to a golf scramble/birthday party in the East Bay……. Yes, I’d rather be with all of my 209 buds in Minneapolis getting ready to watch a great day of men’s, women’s and old farts racquetball!! I’m very thankful for the IRT Network as it was great to take in some matches yesterday. I would have liked to see a little bit of WPRO play in the morning but I’m sure John and his crew need a little down time as well……… So on with the pics for today’s Super Saturday Semi Finals.

IRT Semi Finals #1 (11AM): #18 Alvaro Beltran vs #3 Ben Croft
So Alvaro made sure I didn’t go 100% yesterday with my picks, which is no surprise really when I think back about the number of times I lost to Alvaro in key quarterfinal matches. Believe me it was a few too many times. Alvi looked smooth in his three game win over my boy Rojas. Jose will have to find his “ugly” side if he wants to win on tour. He is way too nice. It will be interesting to try and read Alvi’s body language today in his match up vs Ben. Is fatigue going to set in today? Is Avi the best “Rope A Doper” on tour? I believe the answer to both questions are a definite Yes!! Of course, Ben has his own unique path to the US Open Semi Final with his forfeit win over Mitch Williams while on the verge of defeat. Ben was extremely gracious in his victory and understanding of the difficult situation Mitch was going through………. Bottom line, I really have no idea who to pick in this match. Both are on a destiny trip to a beat down in the final. The match is at 11AM, which is strange for a US Open Semi and favors Ben. So, I’ll take Ben Croft today in five games. Someone has to outlast Alvaro. He’s not in good shape, that’s evident from 2,000 miles away. I’m just going to bank on the fact that Ben will not give up points as easily as everyone else has this week and that will extend Alvi past his limits. Funny thing is that I know Alvaro is a better player, but I’m still taking Ben.

IRT Semi Finals #2 (3PM): #4 Jack Huczek vs #1 Kane Waselenchuk
This is the match of the tournament even if it’s a three game whooping for Kane. We know this, Jack will not win in three or even four for that matter. No way it can happen, Kane is playing at too high a level. Jack played well yesterday, getting past a very game Charlie Pratt. Kane was Kane was again and he looks like the type of champion that will continue to dominate for the next decade. I literally mean that by the way. I believe Kane will hold onto the #1 ranking for the next 8-10 years and force the world as we know it to take a good look at racquetball just for the simple fact that one person will have dominated the sport for 15+ years in a row. That’s how great I recognize his game to be. He’ll lose here and there and I’m sure Jack realizes that this is another great opportunity to get a huge win from the best. I think Jack will play well but still lose in three straight. If I’m setting the line, I’d put it at 16 total points for Jack in this Semi Final. Don’t think I’m being harsh here either, that total of 16 is only 5 points less than the total number of points Kane’s given up in the last three matches. Absolutely crazy!!!

WPRO Semi Final #1 (10AM): #22 Christie Huczek vs #2 Rhonda Rajsich
This is the first of two great WPRO Semi Final matches. Both Christie and Rhonda had convincing wins in their Quarterfinal matches and they certainly know each other’s game styles. This used to be the best rivalry on the WPRO, but with the emergence of Paola as the on again, off again #1 player, Rhonda now has two clear cut rivals and believe me, there is no fear what so ever in Christie’s mental make up. I’m sure she believes she should win this tournament…….. It’s tough to make a call on a Rhonda match without watching her play yet. I believe the outcome of this match will depend on whether Christie can keep the ball off the back wall. If she can then it will be a close match that she’ll have an opportunity to win. But, I think the court being as tough to play on as it is and the fact that she’s probably not in prime condition from all of her recent life changes will keep Christie from peaking today. I’ll take Rhonda in hard fought four game win. All of the games will be close and sparks could fly a little so tune in early. 10AM, what’s up with that???

WPRO Semi Final #2 (2PM): #5 Samantha Solis vs #1 Paola Longoria
Another great match to take in today and one that should make the Mexican Federation extremely proud of their junior programs. These two girls are very young still and each have a long future in the sport. Samantha seems to have her mental game in check these days, which is a major change from how she would handle pressure situations in the past. She’s more powerful than Paola, just as passionate and very intimidating. But, Paola is the smarter player of the two. She has the ability to find flaws in the other girl’s games and then just constantly attack those areas with a barrage of pressure. Samantha will have to treat this match like she’s playing one of the other girls that she dislikes, which is probably many of them. If she’s in there playing her good friend and doubles partner then she’ll go down because Paola has her eyes on the big prize always. Samantha has to make this an “ugly” match. There I go using that phrase again!!……… Paola is just too much for Samantha right now. Maybe that will change later in their career but for now I’ll take Paola in another four game battle. Paola and Rhonda are on a collision course and Samantha vs Christie would actually be a very entertaining match for 3rd place!!

CPRT Quarterfinal  & Semi Final Preview
I’ll leave my full breakdown for the finals tomorrow and just give you all my pics for today’s Quarterfinals and Semi Finals. It’s not that complicated on the top half as Woody Clouse will take down Mike Ray in their quarter and find himself matched up with Jimmy Lowe in one semi. Jimmy will outlast Louis Vogel in his quarter and their is no way Louis has the stamina to play with Jimmy Lowe. The bottom half is not complicated either for me with Doug Ganim advancing over Brad McCunniff and Jeff Bell getting past Dale Valentine…….. Things get a little interesting in the Semis as the match ups are legit pro level matches. The bottom will see the division’s first major upset as I’ll take Jeff Bell to get by Douglas in a tough five game battle. Doug will have a lot going on with the semis in the IRT and WPRO, but he’s a game and will put up a great fight. Jeff is tough and could play the tour and do well if he wanted…… I’ll take my boy Woody Clouse in the top half. Woody and Jimmy can be a very entertaining match if Jimmy brings out all of his antics while playing great. If he’s pressuring Woody and getting under his skin then this will be a five game battle. I’ll still go with Woody in four as I believe he’s the best athlete and player in the division. Hopefully Joe Lee is there to witness so Woody can talk even more dukie to Joe. BTW, I’ve seen Woody shut Joe Lee up in the lobby of the Downtown Houston YMCA and then take $100 off him the next day in a bet on a match. It was hilarious but not sure why I feel the need to share this………

Enjoy the matches everyone. I sure wish I was there but life is good in the 209 as well. Good luck to all players left in the draws. Keep em rollin………………

Posted in Racquetball Reality | 130 Comments »

My Take On The US Open Quarter Finals

October 22nd, 2010 by John Ellis

Okay, it’s 5:30AM PST and I’m up early from a great night’s rest here in Stockton, CA and wishing I was in Minneapolis at the US Open today. It’s tough to stay home from the biggest tourney in racquetball when you love the sport as much as I do, but I’m getting kind of used to it now. The alternative here in the Nor Cal is good too. I get to taxi Julius around to various activities and spend a lot of time with my two ladies of the house. So I’m good with missing a few US Opens and other national events for a few years. I’m 38, so providing the CPRT can stay in business for a few more years, I plan on cleaning up on that tour in the very near future!!……. But enough about my sorry situation, let’s get into today’s great match ups on the IRT and WPRO. The CPRT draw isn’t quite worth discussing yet…….

IRT Quarter Finals
First off let me say that I find it interesting how the times are set up for the IRT Division. The first two quarters are at 1PM and 2PM then there is a break for the division until the 5PM hour. The WPRO does not play at the same time so I’m wondering if they’re going to play CPRT matches on the show court during this down time, which could affect the crowd or are they just anticipating longer matches since it’s the #4/5 and #3/6 seeds? It’s not a major topic and I don’t think the extra rest that the first two winners receive will affect the semis matches, but it’s also worth noting that the schedule could have just read by the hour in order, knowing that they were all going to be played one after another.

Quarter Final #1 (1PM): #12 Charlie Pratt vs #4 Jack Huczek
Great win for Charlie over Chris Crowther, especially in three straight. Chris is a massive man with equally talent to his stature and to take him down at the US Open is Charlie’s biggest win to date…… Jack has looked solid so far, especially with his Round of 32 result in dismantling future star Carlos Keller of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. No surprise with Jack’s level, he’s always playing at least above average……. I actually expect this match to be fairly entertaining in a low expectations kind of way. Charlie has a good head for big matches, he’s proven that with decent results on the outdoor courts in front of a lot of spectators and his game style is calm and composed. Not sure he has the stamina for the win but he won’t just beat himself. I actually like watching Jack even though he and I no longer have conversations due to his asshole treatment of my buddy Shawn Royster, but I certainly do like watching him play and respect his racquetball game immensely. The reason I like watching Jack is because he doesn’t BS around too much, taking all kinds of time. He gets in the court and plays hard and fast. I think Jack will win this match in four games and it will be a struggle for Charlie to even win the one game, but he’ll tough one out. Jack will control the three games he wins and will advance to a match up with Kane….. Oh wait, did I just give that away??

Quarter Final #2 (2PM): #6 Mitch Williams vs #3 Ben Croft
This quarter will have the most on court fire of them all. What I mean is the intensity in this match will surpass all others for the day. Ben is obviously very intense on the court, to a fault at times, but always ready. If Mitch brings that same intensity it will be on!! Honestly, I really hope the referee affects this match. I know that’s wrong to say but I’m being honest here and I love to see the reactions of Ben when he’s pissed at the world, especially when he’s playing a buddy. At least I think they’re buddies, I know they hung out in Pueblo together. Mitch has been battling injuries for the past year and because of that, I’m not sure how ready he is to advance in such a big event. Good wins for both players in the Round of 16, so no advantage there…….I’ll take Ben in four because I’m certain he wants it bad and I can’t wait to see my boy Rojas take him down in the semis……. There I go again, giving it up too early!!!


Quarter Final #3 (5PM): #18 Alvaro Beltran vs #7 Jose Rojas
I’m super biased with this match up so I’ll tell you right off the bat, expect the obvious with this pick!! But what a win for Alvaro!! From behind the computer it seemed as if the bad call early in game one woke Alvi up and then from that point on he played as calm as I’ve ever seen him play. When Alvi is calm and feeling it, he’s the second best player in the game. Even when he’s slightly chubby and definitely not fit enough to win this tourney, he’s still a threat to beat anyone, evident in his win over Rocky. Alvi’s splatting ability on this court is serious and Jose will have to defend against that by not allowing a lot of splatting opportunities for Alvi. Easier said then done but Jose is not your ordinary player. Jose toughed out a win vs Alejandro Landa, who’s probably the best player nobody really knows about……. I’m taking Jose Rojas in five games tonight. Alvi will be awesome for parts of the match and extremely average for other parts, mixed in with a lot tired at the end. Jose will wear Alvi out in the end and win game five convincingly. This will end up being the best match of the night. It’s already the most intriguing of the night and second to Croft/Williams in most anticipated. 209 will represent!!

Quarter Final #4 (6PM): #8 Andy Hawthorne vs #1 Kane Waselenchuk
This match will last 27 minutes!!!! But really, does anyone have anything for Kane? I don’t think so this tourney. He’s just on another level, which is stating the obvious, but it’s in all phases. He plays better shots than everyone. He plays at a faster pace than everyone. He has better stamina than everyone, including Rocky. AND, he’s WAY MORE CONFIDENT than everyone!!! You all have no chance and I find that kind of funny. It’s a bit depressing as well since the outcome is already nearly 100% known. Oh, this won’t last forever, he’s 28 and others will get stronger, but for now, it’s reality. Much respect to Kane, he’s great and would probably be just as awesome in a few other sports as well…… Blah, blah, blah. Kane wins in three, total points of 9 for Hawthorne. Good tourney Andy!! I’m sure you’re playing 25+ too and maybe a doubles or two of some sort.


WPRO Round of 16’s & Quarters
This is a great day of racquetball for the WPRO as they have the spotlight or a good portion of the morning and maybe a piece of the afternoon. There are a few quality match ups in the Round of 16, beginning right at the top and ending at the bottom. Both top seeds will be tested early today and both could actually lose in the 16’s. Sounds crazy I know, but it’s true and just may happen in a few hours!! Here’s my take on the day’s action through both rounds.

Round of 16’s (9AM): #13 Susy Acosta vs #4 Kerri Wachtel & #12 Cristina Amaya vs #5 Samantha Solis
Susy vs Kerri will take quite awhile as they are so closely matched. If Susy’s drive serve is on, she’ll win but if it’s coming off the back wall then advantage Kerri. I’ll take Kerri in this one in five close games. Both were tested in the 32’s and this is really a pick em match for me…… Samantha vs Cristina will have plenty of exciting rallies but Sam will win the majority of them and advance with a four game win. I’m giving Cristina one game because she’s obviously playing good to take out Maiko Sato of Japan in four games. But in the end, Samantha is one of the top 3 players in the world right now even though her ranking is not quite that high. She’ll get it done………. This gives us a Wachtel vs Solis quarter final at 5PM. A solid quarter final match up and I expect the play to be entertaining. I’m picking Samantha in four games as she’s just too powerful for Kerri at this stage of their careers. Samantha has her emotions more under control these days and that factor allows her to get past all the close matches she used to give away.

Round of 16’s (10AM): #14 Aubrey O’Brien vs #3 Cheryl Gudinas & #11 Christie Huczek vs #6 Adrienne Fisher
The word I’m hearing is that Cheryl is not 100% with her health. I think it’s her knee but I’m not sure either so this is all hearsay. The past match ups between these two have basically not been close. Maybe there was one decent match in the lot of them, but Cheryl owns Aubrey. Hate to say it because Aubrey is a fellow Nor Californian, but I’m taking Cheryl in three. I hope I’m wrong about this, but Aubrey has to prove it first…….. Christie vs Adrienne is kind of interesting because Adrienne can match Christie with power but ultimately Christie can wear her down. I’ll take Christie in four games, conditioning being the key factor. Christie knows how to win and is a major threat to win this tournament…………. So, Gudinas vs Huczek for the semi final berth is a nice, nice match. Although it won’t be, Christie will hammer Cheryl. Always does and with Cheryl not being healthy, it’s a wrap for Christie. I can’t even see Cheryl winning a game so I’m taking Christie in three. Again, I hope I’m wrong with this pick and for the crowd’s sake, Cheryl is up for the challenge.

Round of 16’s (11AM): #15 Angela Grisar vs #2 Rhonda Rajsich & #26 Jessica Parrilla vs #23 Sharon Jackson
Angela vs Rhonda used to be the highlight match up anytime they played. Now it’s a tough, tough Round of 16 match for Rhonda. I’ll take Rhonda in this match and it will be three straight. Angela must be playing okay to beat Janel but Rhonda is ready and understands the importance of not underestimating Angela’s abilities. Angela is kind of like Alvaro on the women’s side with her talent being second to none, but I don’t think she’s as dedicated as Alvi is to the profession of racquetball. That will keep her from performing at her peak today and Rhonda won’t let up……… Okay, this is the match all the dudes are waiting for today!! It’s definitely two very attractive young ladies getting it on in a very passionate and aggressive game style. Please put this on the show court so the world can watch!!! Honestly though, DO IT, DO IT. I have no idea who to take, nor do I care. Both are tough and will compete well against Rhonda in the next round, but I’m quite certain that everyone just wants to see it go five!! For what it’s worth, I’ll take Jessica in a close five. She’s a crazy animal on the court and that passion will be the deciding factor……… I’m spent with this section already, so I’ll keep it short, Rhonda in four. She’ll have a tough time focusing against either opponent and will simply get caught up watching for at least one game. She’ll recover to win three easy ones but I guarantee Rhonda will enjoy this match up more than all others all season long!!

Round of 16’s (12PM): #17 Jacqueline Paraiso vs #1 Paola Longoria & #25 Aimee Ruiz vs #24 Nancy Enriquez
Great matches, save the best for last. Very nice scheduling, especially since at least one of these matches should be on the show court. Jackie can beat Paola, no doubt about it. But, she won’t. Paola in four games in this very tough Round of 16 battle. I don’t think the two gals are that friendly either so hopefully you all get some fireworks going during this match. Jackie will not back down and Paola is the best right now so the rallies will be tough and this is a great showcase match for the event……. Ruiz vs Enriquez is a very solid match too. It’s a pick em as Nancy is just now getting fully back into playing a lot of pro racquetball and Aimee is a very talented player who is beginning to play more herself. I’ll take Aimee in a tough five game battle that will be the match of the day in the WPRO Division. Aimee’s serving abilities will be what wins it for her in game five. She won’t have much left for Paola later tonight but so what, a quarter final result at the Open earns her some much needed ranking points………… So you guessed it for the Quarter Final match, Paola in three. She’ll be too much for either gal at this stage of the tourney. Aimee will play well at times but Paola will win without a lot of struggle an advance to another match up with her girl Samantha.

*Enjoy today’s matches!! Let this blog stand as my word on my pics so that when I go 100% today, I can boast it up. If not, so what, it’s fun to write and I hope you all enjoy. Feel free to shout out to me on the RW Message Board if you want to comment about my picks. I’ll be back tomorrow morning with my Semi Final picks. Until then, keep em rollin…………….

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Racquetball Reality with John Ellis – Vol. 1 – Shootouts

October 5th, 2010 by Ben

Shootouts – The 21st Century Racquetball Tournament

Times have changed in our world of tournament racquetball. The 70’s and 80’s were a unique time in racquetball as the sport was truly a social gathering of athletic people that wanted to stay in shape by playing this crazy new game of racquetball. Most clubs had bars in house and usually overlooking the courts, which made for some very entertaining viewing of racquetball. But the 90’s ruined all of that when we decided that it was healthy to stay in shape and not drink beer and wine after your workout!! Various forms of workouts such as aerobics, nautilus machines and adding basketball courts became the fad in the health club industry. As we all know, that was the beginning of the decline of “True Racquetball Clubs”.

In the twenty years following the “Jane Fonda Aerobics Era”, racquetball tournament play has dwindled down to a huge tournament being a draw of 200+, far different from the days of every tournament being 200+. The reality is that tournaments can’t be much larger than a couple hundred players when there are only a few handfuls of facilities across the nation that have the court space to host large events. So does this mean the eventual end of racquetball tournament play?

The answer is no way, it’s just the beginning of the “new aged” style of tournament play known as the “Shootout”. The phrase shootout has been around for a long time and this style of tournament play is not really new, but the idea of almost every racquetball event being a shootout style of tournament is new. That’s exactly what’s happening here in the hotbed of racquetball, Northern California. Shootouts have taken over the schedule as I’ll be hosting nearly twenty shootouts in a calendar year at the In-Shape Sport facilities of Nor Cal. Other club chains are doing the same here in the region and the players seem to love it!! Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of true die hard racquetball players that enjoy a full weekend of tournament play, but the overwhelming consensus is that today’s tournament racquetball players would rather spend 3-5 hours of constant play in a pool play or round robin setting and be done for the day or weekend rather than playing a couple of matches a day and spending all weekend in the club. I can’t lie, this makes me a little sad as I grew up with racquetball and weekend events, but I also know that it feels good to be home with my family as early as 7PM on a Saturday night while knowing that the 50-80 players that played that day all had a great tournament experience while appreciating the in and out nature of the play. I may have already hosted my last normal racquetball tournament already as I see no reason not to make every tournament we host at an In-Shape facility “Shootout Style”, even the WPRO Stop we host in May or the eventual IRT Stop we’ll host one of these years. This does not mean the Pro Divisions or even Open Divisions for that matter will play the Shootout Style, but the rest of the tournament will…… Here’s a list of the important factors in hosting a successful shootout:

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