Nearly 400 Racquetball players from 32 states and 6 countries descended into Las Vegas, October 14-18, to play the first major racquetball tournament held in months, joining hundreds of Handball players and a slew of Paddleball players to comprise the 2020 version of the 3WallBall Championships.
These athletes endured COVID-19 mandated spectator limitations, travel restrictions, and the loss of all the great social activities that normally accompany this event and make it memorable. But they played some of the most competitive racquetball we’ve seen in years at the 3WallBall event, making it a great success for all the participants.
Per 3WallBall’s Mike Coulter, “We were pretty happy with the turnout. We had to cut off registrations at 600 players per city restrictions, otherwise we would have had record-breaking attendance. The weather turned out great; we had no real problems; 85 degrees and not a ton of wind. Thursday put us behind with COVID-related restrictions that caused registration delays, which was frustrating, but we fixed it in time for Friday and the rest of the tournament ran really smoothly. I think most people had a great time, and the finals were fantastic.“
Congratulations to the Pro Champions on the weekend:
- Men's 3-wall Doubles: Daniel De La Rosa & Alvaro Beltran
- Women's 3-wall Doubles: Paola Longoria & Janel Tisinger-Ledkins
- Mixed 3-wall Doubles: Daniel De La Rosa & Michelle De La Rosa
- Men's 1-wall Doubles: Robert Sostre & William Rolon
- Women's 1-wall Doubles: Kelly Gremley & Amie Brewer
- Mixed 1-wall Doubles: Rick "Soda Man" Koll & Rhonda Rajsich
- Men's 3-wall Singles: Andree Parrilla
- Women's 3-wall Singles: Paola Longoria
Thanks to COVID-19’s forced cancellation of every IRT and LPRT event (not to mention every USAR and IRF event) planned since March, the Vegas draws were filled with top touring pros and US National team members. Seven of the top ten IRT pros; nine of the top LPRT pros; and nearly the entire US National team on both the Men’s and Women’s sides entered, combining to make for fantastic doubles pairings across the board.
Men’s Pro 3-Wall Doubles Recap
The Men’s Pro 3-wall doubles draw had perhaps the most "buzz" leading into the tournament, thanks to the influx of top players from the IRT playing outdoor competitively for the first time ever and especially the presence of one player in particular, that being #1 Kane Waselenchuk. Kane first broached the idea of playing in interviews over the summer and then teased his participation with social media posts showing him practicing on a one-wall court in an undisclosed site in Texas. Soon racquetball fans got the news they were looking forward to: Kane was entering the pro draw with his long-time doubles partner and fellow former touring pro Ben Croft. Indoor fans predicted that the duo would cruise through the draw, while Outdoor fans predicted that the pair would struggle on a surface on which they had little experience.
Waselenchuk appeared on the IRT’s “Outside the Rally” with Dean Baer in mid-August after committing to the event and was asked why he was going to play. He responded, “It’s really simple. It was really about having fun for me. At a time where there’s not really much to look forward to in Racquetball, there had been a lot of talk about me playing [in Vegas], and of course I haven’t played [before]. I thought I’d entertain it more since the indoor game and the tour is on hold, and I thought it would add some excitement to Racquetball in general.”
A ton of other present and past IRT pros joined Kane and Ben in the draw, including the reigning US National Doubles champions Sudsy Monchik and Alex Landa. They fed into a bracket that included multiple WOR Hall of Famers Robert Sostre and Mike Peters; three-time defending champions Alvaro Beltran and Daniel De La Rosa; two-time Outdoor National doubles champions Rocky Carson and Jesus Ustarroz; and some of the best outdoor specialists in the world.
Landa and Monchik could not get past the #1 seeded defending champs (Beltran and De La Rosa) in the Round of 16, but Kane and Croft took out the tournament’s #2 seeded team of Sostre and Bobby Horn (the 2016 champions) in a spirited tiebreaker. From there, the two teams cruised into the highly anticipated final, one that neutral fans of the sport had predicted and looked forward to. There is a long history of major doubles finals between these two teams, including multiple Tier 1 tournaments, the 2018 World Doubles Championship, and the last three US OPEN pro doubles finals that includes the epic 2017 US OPEN final, a match that some call “the greatest match in the history of the sport.”
In the final, Kane and Croft battled to a game 1 win, but the #1 seeds battled back to control games two and three to take the title (12), 9, 8 and cement their status as one of the best doubles teams in the history of Outdoor racquetball.
After the match, Beltran reflected, “It was pretty much what I expected. We knew it was going to look kind of like an indoor match, we needed to draw from our outdoor experience. We had to be smart and patient to not play into Kane and Ben’s game -- we had to use our experience as an advantage.”
Waselenchuk used his great drive serve to get points all weekend. When asked about how they neutralized Kane’s serve in the final, Beltran replied, “Teamwork. We knew Kane was going to go for the crack, so I told Daniel to take side-wall balls in the middle. I only had to worry about out the door, so I moved a bit to the right more than usual to be able to deal with his pace. That was a big reason why we were able to neutralize his serve.”
Women’s Pro 3-Wall Doubles Recap
In the Women’s Pro 3-wall event, defending champs Michelle De La Rosa and Carla Muñoz were beaten in the final by the top-notch team of World #1 Paola Longoria and outdoor legend Janel Tisinger-Ledkins. Longoria returned to the Las Vegas event for the first time in four years and teamed with one of the sport’s most decorated outdoor players to dethrone the champions (12), 9, 5. Tisinger-Ledkins’ accomplishment was even more impressive considering that she played the event at 7 months pregnant. Longoria did the “double,” downing long-time pro rival and defending champion Rhonda Rajsich in the singles final.
Per Paola Longoria (appearing on the Sudsy & Ellis show 11/1/20), “After 7 months of not playing [due to the] Coronavirus …. When I played the outdoor [tournament] in Vegas it was great, because I really wanted to feel the competition again, to have the nerves to be back on a court, even if it was not the indoor that I regularly play. And it was fun to compete and to have those feelings.”
Mixed Pro 3-Wall Doubles Recap
In the Mixed Doubles pro division, the husband-wife team of Daniel and Michelle De La Rosa won the Vegas title for the 6th time in 7 years by defeating the upset-minded South American duo of Mario Mercado and Adriana Riveros in the final. This finals was a re-match of the Pro Mixed World Doubles draw from 2018, and the Mercado/Riveros team showed their mettle to advance over so many solid teams to face off against the reigning champs.
After the final, Michelle De La Rosa remarked, “I love playing Mixed; it is my favorite division. It’s even more of a bonus being able to play with Daniel. We make a really good team -- our games complement each other’s very well. We always have so much fun playing together. Our partnership has evolved over time. When we first started playing together in 2012, we had an instant chemistry on the court. We have fine-tuned things since, and Daniel has become the most dominant player in Outdoor, and I’ve been there to watch it all happen.”
Men’s Pro One-Wall Doubles Recap
WOR Hall of Famer Robert Sostre teamed with top one-wall specialist William Rolon and took out three tough competitors en route to repeat as Vegas One-wall Men’s Pro champions. Sostre has now been part of the winning team in 6 of the 8 years Vegas has offered the event and continually adds to his impressive tournament resume by the year.
Here’s a quick recap of the rest of the Pro and Open finals:
- IRT #4 Andree Parrilla took out upstart Bolivian Marcelo Vargas Aguilar to win the Men’s Three Wall singles title.
- Kelly Gremley and Amie Brewer outlasted Sonja Septon and Susie Boulanger to take the Women’s One-Wall Pro doubles title.
- Rick “Soda Man” Koll and Rhonda Rajsich teamed to take their third Mixed One-Wall Pro doubles title in the last four years.
- Koll teamed with Alvaro Beltran to take out the talented Rocky Carson/Jesus Ustarroz team in the CPRT 40+ final.
- California veteran doubles team Tim Herman and Michael Myers topped the Florida outdoor specialists Jack McDonald and Rob Mijares to win the Men’s Open doubles title.
- Jessica Chen and Jazmin Trevino took out Septon/Boulanger to win the Women’s Open doubles title.
Event director Mike Coulter recently discussed just how close the event came to being called off due to shifting regulations, capacity limits, and last-minute permitting surprises. You can read the whole organizational challenge story here at 3WallBall.com: https://www.3wallball.com/single-post/racquetball-handball-paddleball-tournaments-in-the-time-of-covid-19
Our hats are off to Mike, tournament director Peggine Tellez, and the entire 3WallBall crew for navigating the waters and dealing with the stress of organizing this 2020 event. We look forward (hopefully) to a 2021 event free of restrictions and the pandemic in general.
To review the brackets and results, visit: https://www.r2sports.com/website/event-website.asp?TID=34945
MRF ProAm Doubles at the 3 WallBall World Pro Championships
Article & Photo By Terry Rogers
The MRF would like to express their gratitude to the players who stepped up and donated to the event and to the pros who volunteered to be their partners. The evening was fun and filled with friendly competition. Mike Blackney and Jose Diaz emerged as the 2020 ProAm Doubles Champions defeating Steven Harper and Adam Manilla in the final match of the evening. We would also like to thank Mike Coulter and 3 WallBall for once again inviting the MRF to be a part of this great event.
Who are those masked players?
Adam Manilla, Jason Sauer, Rhonda Rajsich, Mike Blackney, Janel Tisinger-Ledkins, Ernest Diemoz, Norm McNutt, Ken Shockley, Michelle De La Rosa, Daniel De La Rosa, Howard Chennault, Carla Muñoz, David Nix, Freddy Ramirez, Jose Diaz
Not pictured: Geoff Holmes, Wendall Pelham, Doug Fulp, Steven Harper, Vic Mandella