- Freddy Ramirez
This Got Me To Watch A Full Racquetball Match In 2021
(IRT... you have a thumbnail issues on Youtube, just sayin'.)
Honestly, didn't even know this match was happening until I began scrolling Youtube on my TV set Friday night. This is a live broadcast of a quarterfinal match between Daniel De La Rosa and Alvaro Beltran and the team of Kane Waselenchuk and Sudsy Monchik. For those of you reading this who don't know these names, it will be only because you follow absolutely no professional racquetball whatsoever. And to those who fit into this category, this is probably the first match I felt compelled to pay attention to this year. What I can say in the way of keeping the why short here, is that I was compelled to watch for two reasons.
I settled in my chair to take in the presentation, which is on par for a niche sport of this size and reach. I actually had an expletive slip out as I realized it was the end of the second game. The compelling came when I wanted to rewatch the whole match. The first reason is that I know these four guys... or at least a healthy acquaintance with them. I also know what these players represent to the way diehards engage with the sport. These players right now are the biggest players in the way of fan-ship and interest across the board in the thinly spread world of international racquetball. The second reason is because this is a Doubles match with these players. If you know a little about me, you know my history, so, the who and the how teams play together offers a ton in the way of interest here. Add to that the way Doubles plays out spectator-wise for the sport. When Doubles was introduced to the US Open a few years back, it brought back the constant fan-roaring, that I had heard about from those in the know. Being able to scroll through timeouts and such opened up the engagement time for me.
As far as doubles teams go in racquetball, Alvaro Beltran and Daniel De La Rosa are the current super-team. Not only are they the US Open title holders but they have also taken racquetball championships outdoors. Alvaro is silky smooth as well as an engaging personality on-court and Daniel is, in my opinion, the best player doing anything on tour right now. Also, Daniel for me represents my entire time covering racquetball at the US Open. I saw him burst on the stage at the Open as a teenager and have seen how he has grown. I have a shelved video project that highlights a time of progression of these young players at the Open, where he is prominent figure in this group. (Think Rojas Brothers, Parrilla, Gaby Martinez, etc.) Seeing him in this light sort of ends this whole era for me. In my opinion, he was the best player on the court this night. That is saying something, because all four where showing "greatness" chops here. One announcer stated Alvaro and Daniel hadn't played much this year and were planning on playing to qualify for the Mexican national team next month. But I knew as teams go, this wasn't nearly problematic, because that was the case for most people... the not playing events much thing. Without a doubt in my mind, in a time of sporadic events, this a team every racquetball watcher knows well.
Remember that scene in the original Matrix, where Mouse excitedly tells the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar "Neo is fighting Morphius!" and they all leap up from the mess-hall table? That's the reaction I'd guess diehard racquetball fans will have for anything Kane and Sudsy playing these guys. In this space of professional racquetball players, grabbing a partners ad-hock to compete in pro tour doubles matches, these two players have actually spent a significant amount of "get to know your thinking time" with their formal Kane and Sudsy Experiences. Being both seasoned winners makes me think that just proximity alone would allow these guys to settle in with each other on the court. And that spells bad news for teams I can envision they may face. Here, experience plays more of a roll than any endurance issues that Father Time peppers in.I saw four players who are the supreme in this element at this time. I saw Kane in an element that wasn't exclusively his. Typically, on a racquetball court, the element has been his for a good long run. It also goes without saying that Kane with anyone in this group could garner attention. But with Sudsy, who is the most "active" player in any view today pushing expertise and engagement, and who is publicly sharing his time with Kane, this is where it all will meet the excitement road for the most engaged set of fans. And for racquetball it offers a type of hype that is seriously missing. At least for the casual fan like I've become. (Honestly, I'm not bullish on racquetball breaking through any more growth at the moment, being totally contingent on club access across America. Nothing new or progressive coming that I can find when I look.)
For racquetball, the buzz is this. Going into the 25th US Open this year, this is the story on the professional side aside from whether Kane and Paola will repeat. Again(s). To those taking the reign for next year, grow Doubles, across the board. These guys together on the court is the best energy you got. And learn how to film it.