A New Class. Always Showing Class.
What we saw this past weekend, was a fresh young talent in Maria Jose Vargas find her way into her first final. Notably coached by Cliff Swain, she's on a steep learning curve. Growing into her own as she gains critical experience for becoming a champion. I'll have plenty to say about her in the coming seasons, I'm sure, because she is one of the women who represent the future of the sport. Right now though, I'll leave the play by plays to our friends at The Racquetball Blog. They're way better at that than I am. (And thanks for the Canadian Maple Syrup and T-shirt!)
But someone that I thought heavily on this weekend was Rhonda Rajsich, currently ranked #2 on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour. She lost to Vargas in the semifinal in what I saw as a motivational and technical loss for her. I'll explain what I mean in a moment.
I want to first point out just how much of a professional Rhonda is. You hear it when she addresses the fans after matches, especially after tough losses. She manages this time and time again, as she did this weekend after her tough loss to Vargas. (Which you can catch archived on the LPRT Network.) Even though she typically rolls through the draw and is always the cream, I personally know she doesn't take losing well, though you would never know it. She's gracious and always positive. And leaves the discouragement to her alone-personal time after hard fought loses. She's a total professional in every sense of the meaning.
Yet, even as she manages to get in a right state of mind before matches, I think she may need to tweak her motivation a bit. But I think that only comes with finding a fresh look at her strategies on the court. And if you know anything about what's been happening on tour, then you know I'm talking about getting over that final's hump. And now I will include, schooling the younger players with the "not just yet wins".
Last year, I went on about something similar with Rocky Carson. And although the circumstances may not be entirely same, there is definitely a similarity to what is going on with their chart positioning and search for that #1 spot. Part of the fix I suggested in "Where Is Your Outdoor Game Against Kane?" is playing directly at Kane. And I think it's something Rhonda should consider also. I'll tell you why.
Rhonda is a beast on the court. She's the same size as I am, literally...(we wear the same size jeans, don't we Rhonda. ;) ) So, athleticism is not in question. I think she should be putting it on her main opponents. Drive right at them, stay off the sidewalls a bit. Muscle them up. Take the front position. That kind of thing. Trade the shooting for some mid-drive right at them type stuff. I think it will lead to less diving and more command of the front court. I believe she has a ton left in her tank. And this type of play might spark her motivation some. And technically, it could change her game somewhat without her sacrificing her dynamic style of play. But that's just my 2 cents.
That aside, she's always a professional, and being a senior member on the tour, who is still going strong, she is also someone the other players should be looking to as an example. All the way around. Just look at her record representing the U.S. internationally. (Which is something we have been talking about the past few posts.)
I'm not noting her professionalism because she is always gracious with giving us shout-outs and just happens to be one of my most respected and loved friends in the sport. I'm saying it because it's the truth.