The International Racquetball Tour pro stop this past weekend came and went with not many surprises. Kane continued his run with dominance. Also, as is becoming the case with the rankings watching, the other main interest is how key young players perform against Rocky Carson and Alvaro Beltran. And this week what was notable, was the play of 20 year old Daniel De La Rosa, who got by Rocky in the quarters and just missed in the semis against Alvaro. Alvaro admitted after this match that it was his fitness that caused him to loss control of rallies with De La Rosa. But it's easy to see that it's just a matter of time before the "looking up" factor isn't a factor anymore. You can read good event follow ups on the IRT website and The Racquetball Blog. The annual Cactus NYC Pro Am in Long Island provides a great opportunity to view racquetball with a glass main court. And it's an intimate venue, where pro players stay in close contact with fans. Not exactly NYC though...
Speaking of NYC...
This weekend the Tournament of Champions begins. Squash and it's showcase court smack in NYC's Grand Central Terminal. You can walk by and see the sport's best players but to get close you have to get tickets. This is one of the biggest squash event's in the world. Emphasis on event. Tons of New York based related play and gatherings. New York happens to have a deep squash base...so this is their most anticipated time of the year. NY Squash is also hosting play that is tied into the TOC, so when you play, you get access. And tickets? They run from as little as $8 for really early rounds and limited access to $7,500 patron packages for access with "perks". (This is a BIG money event and I'm not just talking winning it. The event organizers run a grand event.)
For just an email address, you can view highlights the day after play. SquashTV offers free "Roundups" that are pretty cool and significant with match play. The viewing will be made more interesting because this year, they are sanctioning "Gold Tour" status for the WSA, which means Squash's most dominant player, Malaysian superstar Nicol David will be playing. Think Paola Longoria, only with worldwide appeal and a way longer domination streak.
Marketing wise, some cool first time stuff is happening. Red Bull is tapping in on this event with the "Karim Darwish Challenge". Darwish is currently ranked #6 and a top squash figure from Egypt. Ten amateur players chosen from among key NYC squash clubs will be given the chance to play 5 point matches on the court with Darwish. Crazy interesting that one of those players is a top NYC One Wall handball player, Timbo Gonzalez. Red Bull is testing some waters here.
Being a diehard New Yorker, I like that this event exists here in NYC. I can see parallels with racquetball and significant differences all around. I also can't help thinking about the portable racquetball court.
Overall, things feel like they could be wide open.