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………………