- Freddy Ramirez
Where Is Your Outdoor Game Against Kane?
(Disclaimer: I know there is a ton of speculation about what anyone needs to do against Kane. I'm speaking specifically of Rocky...in my opinion.)
I've been watching Rocky outdoors since 2005. I've written about it a few times... but it's late right now, so I won't dig up the articles. Basically, Rocky is a beast on the big 3 Wall courts in Huntington Beach. His reach, his power, his speed. All showcased. No ceilings. No sidewalls behind the short line. So, he shoots straight in mostly as necessity. Overhands are necessity. And he's really good at that.
I've also had the pleasure of watching Rocky play Kane live several times from really close angles all over the court. (Working the camera...Perk!) And I began noticing that Kane hits way more overhand shots than Rocky does when they play. Now, I've seen Rocky shoot overhand type shots and spikes against other players, but rarely against Kane.
My thoughts: Rocky. Stay OFF the sidewalls as much as you can. Especially from behind and when controlling center court. And keep away from the ceiling when you are controlling center court. Shoot straight in, drive Kane back with overhand drives, and battle right at him when you both are playing the front court.
The more time anyone gives Kane, the more command of their position he controls. I've seen, twice, situations where after Kane hits a shot, as the player is running towards the ball to make a play, Kane ran to the exact spot where the player hit it...before they hit it. Both were well away from where his opponent made contact with the ball and both 3 wall shots. Again, both where easy winners for Kane. I've seen him do it against Rojas and Landa. He reads the ball like no one I've seen.
The IRT Network didn't yet have the final at National Singles archived, so I watched the Stockton Final. I saw really good examples of Rocky playing sidewalls too much, giving Kane control too easily. I also saw Rocky winning points and side-outs when he was driving straight to the front wall from behind.
If you can, watch the first game. Rocky was in it all the way. When playing outdoors, out of necessity, he has to shoot straight in during returns, though he is known to lob. When he was shooting straight in against Kane, he was more in command of rallies. He also has to find a way to attack or go straight in hard when retrieving balls. That would reduce the time Kane has to deliberately move him around the court. (Rocky is a ridiculous athlete, so he can manage it, if he puts himself to that.) He should be playing right at Kane, hard, when Kane is in the front. Disclaimer: Kane has ridiculous hands, but it's the only way I see to keep pressure on him and prevent him the time to send Rocky to the back court...where he then makes it look easy.
Around 20:30 in the game it got interesting. I was just thinking that Rocky should be attacking Kane directly when John Ellis stated the words "...should not be afraid to hit it back at him." Rocky was siding out prior to that when he shot straight in hard and flat. I think at around 4 serving 6, Rocky had control of his serve, until, as he was retrieving a ball by the receiving line. He went sidewall and Kane took center with a straight overhand outdoor type shot pushing Rocky to the back right. Making Rocky work from behind again. Yet, Rocky wins the rally with a hard straight in kill from the back left. It's often stated on the IRT Network that you have to kill balls against Kane... staying of the sidewalls more will tend to make you do that more in my opinion.
With lesser players, Rocky's junk game gives opponents too much time to think and let's Rocky extend rallies. He conserves energy that way I think. Not like he needs to. But it is also why he sometimes finds himself in really long matches. Junk ball just doesn't work with Kane. That was rightly stated by Russ Mannino during that first game. He also stated, "...forces Kane to the ceiling - that's a win." Rocky need to drive right at Kane continuously. Because once Kane controls the rallies, that leads him to controlling the match, (again,) where he then just makes it look easy.
Now, I play One Wall. And I'm not bragging by stating I know what I'm doing on those courts. I also try continuously to be a student of the game. I remember sitting in Dave Ellis' home showing him One Wall racquetball video, Dave right away began making statements on what you need to play that game. He is really insightful. The court is only 20 feet wide and the short line is 16 feet from the front wall. The long line is only 34 feet. Most of the game is played 16 to 20 feet from the front wall. And the rallies are long. A lot of straight player to player stuff. There is a big difference between making an opponent hit the ball in the area from waist to shoulder, as opposed to below their waist. It matters in how you structure winning points.
I've seen Kane structure points completely like he was playing One Wall. Simple for him. You're in the back left corner. He drops it straight in the front right...straight. Easy. He hits it right at his opponent, then puts them in the backcourt, off the weak survival get. And I've watched him a lot in the past two years. He will end a point, straight and to the point. Straight and flat. He cuts the ball off every chance he gets, to get it to the front wall.
Rocky, when playing outdoors, drives right at players, causing them to just get it back by reflex, but mostly plums, where he then pounds where ever he wants, sending them to the back court. It won't be that easy with Kane. But it could be a fresh look for Rocky during his outings against Kane.