Rolling into October, the World Racquetball Tour is landing at a cool venue in Chicago this weekend. This marks the first US event this year that will be held outside of California. Last season, they held one stop in Flagstaff, AZ. Since their inception, most stops have been in either California or in Mexico, where they’ve been gaining traction with both Mexican and South American players. Maintaining their premise of offering easier access into deeper pro draws to strong young USRA sanctioned players here in the States, will depend on the tour’s ability to gain momentum from opportunities like Chicago. And the venue with its all glass court, promises to facilitate the party atmosphere the tour aims to bring to promoters and tournament directors.
After processing the last few weeks of play some thoughts come to mind. Not all WRT regulars hit the first two International Racquetball Tour pro stops. So, I don’t know if I’m surprised they didn’t seem to be able to break out of the 16’s. There were a couple of notable showings in Texas. Jamie Martell took Alvaro Beltran to 5 games and Coby Iwaasa getting by Jose Diaz then taking Daniel De La Rosa to 5 also, in a somewhat closer match. As far as other notable WRT players go, I can’t help but think on their motivations and more so, the relationship dynamics that play into handling pressure on big time courts and if it’s relevant. Traveling frequently, weeks at a time so closely together can be an intensely intersocial experience. Some of these younger players may be bringing something extra to deal with on court, when they meet each other in big event situations.
Of the 3 current WRT top 10 ranked players that won’t be in attendance, Alex Landa may be missing out on capitalizing on a unique position. Gil Mejia and Javier Moreno rarely travel outside Mexico for pro racquetball anymore. Alex Landa on the other hand could find this to be a lucrative season. He is currently ranked 13th on the IRT, which means he isn’t held to the restrictions that come with being in their top 8. Not surprisingly, Alex made the semifinal in Texas two weeks ago. He often makes waves at IRT Tier 1 stops. He could take advantage of the climate by taking the big cash at WRT events while syphoning off top 8 and top 4 money at IRT stops. I imagine that would take some planning and execution, of which, both are over my head.
The draw in Chicago will still be full with top WRT regulars though with some interesting additions to watch. Mike Green and Tim Landeryou (both from Canada) will be mixing it up in singles and Green will be hitting it in doubles with Cliff Swain. No doubt a good tune up for the US Open next week for these guys and a good time for this tour's top players to weigh in on just how good they want to be.
The tour will be in full on “gas and go mode” and my guess is that the Gearbox Bus will be maxed out for the 7 hour drive from Chicago to Minneapolis. You can watch the live streaming for free on the WRT website and on the Gearbox website.