The IRT season started with a bang this year, with Grand Slam events, return of top players, live streaming on ESPN360.com, and an "all glass" court hosting matches in a open downtown metropolitan area. Congrats to Kane Waselenchuk for winning both of his first two events this season, I think he’ll be setting the high mark all year long.
Mike Boatman, from Mike Boatman Photography was lucky enough to be shooting on the new court in Denver, and got some great racquetball photos to start off the season. Mike is a consummate professional, and national commercial photographer for his day job. Check out his website if you’ve got any photo related needs!!
Here is the gallery of his shots (ALL COPYRIGHT MIKE BOATMAN):
The first photo slideshow / video of Kane Waselenchuk’s return to the IRT Tour has been posted to YouTube. There sure were ALOT of bells and whistles for only being a Tier 2 IRT Stop I’m really liking the limo that Rocky Carson and Andy Hawthorne stepped out of, and the fog machine for the player intros was a nice touch (I’m a BIG fog machine fan!). Great job to the organizers of the 2008 Steadman Hawkins IRT Greenville Open!
Kane left no fans disappointed this weekend at the 2008 Steadman Hawkins IRT Greenville Open, where he dispatched two top IRT players on his way to a tournament win. In the seminfinals, Kane met Alvaro Beltran (#3 IRT), and was able to make an immediate statement winning in three games – 3, 10, 0. This win would create a showdown in the finals against current IRT #1, Rocky Carson. Although the scores of the games are missing from the official online draws (1, 5, -10, 5 ?) the four game victory for Kane will undoubtably set the tone that he is ready and waiting to reclaim the top spot on the tour. There are going to be some brutal qualifying matches in the coming months as Kane makes his way back into the top 8. I guess the bright side is that some qualifying players who don’t normally make the main draw will get a chance to play against one of the most dominant players in the sport.
Normally end-of-season Tier 2 events (not affecting year-end outcome of rankings for most pros) don’t get much attention from racquetball fans outside of the host city, but the 2008 Steadman Hawkins IRT Greenville Open is generating some buzz. This event marks the return of one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen, Kane Waselenchuk. Armed with his new racquet, the Krowning Moment KM175, Kane will be testing the waters of the IRT tour against some of the tour’s top players, including: Shane Vanderson, Alvaro Beltran, and Rocky Carson (**assuming all top seeds advance).
Kane will play Shane Vanderson at 5:30PM EST TONIGHT, and you can bet I’ll have some updates online as soon as they are ready. Assuming Kane picks up where he left off two seasons ago, he’ll play in the semifinals at 4:30PM on Saturday, and then in the finals at 12:30PM on Sunday.
I had a chance to have a few conversations with both Mike Martinez and Kane Waselenchuk this past weekend at the 2008 USA Racquetball National Singles Championships, and both seem very excited to start the 2008-2009 season. Kane looked to be in great shape, and seemed back at home while mingling and signing autographs on the tournament scene at National Singles. His new signature racquet, the Krowning Moment KM 175, had some great graphics, and will undoubtedly be in high demand this season. He was also sporting some custom clothing, featuring Kane’s signature “GBWM” logo.
ProKennex International Signs Kane Waselenchuk
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Orange County, CA . May 26, 2008
ProKennex International Co., Ltd., a world leader of graphite sports equipment and technology is proud to announce the signing of Kane Waselenchuk. The agreement between ProKennex and Kane will include the development, manufacturing and marketing of the Krowning Moment line of products. The first product introduction will be the KM 175 racquet built to Kane.s personal playing characteristics and specifications.
Waselenchuk was the #1 racquetball player in the World in 2004-05-06. In addition, he holds 3 consecutive U.S.Open Singles titles and over 25 tour victories.
“I am very pleased to welcome aboard one of the most gifted and dynamic players in history” said Mike Martinez, VP North America, ProKennex International Co .This business relationship represents innovation and commitment to provide premium equipment for the serious player.
“This is a great opportunity for me to compete for the #1 World Ranking and have a significant role in the future of ProKennex Racquetball” said Waselenchuk.
The KM 175 racquet will be available June 15, 2008.
ProKennex International Co., Ltd. is based in Taichung City, Taiwan and specializes in graphite sports equipment and technologies. ProKennex designs, manufactures and distributes tennis, racquetball, squash and badminton products to over 60 distributors around the world.
Now official? Come to think of it, I haven’t received too many pro racquetball player announcements from Pro Kennex in the past, so I guess the word of Russ Mannino is as good as any If anyone knows what Pro Kennex is up to, it’s probably the father of their #1 player, Jason Mannino. Great news for PK officially getting Kane Waselenchuk on board, I expect to see those two guys continuing their great play for the 2008-2009 season. Also good to hear that Pro Kennex has the financial position to keep Jason around for a few more years. Someone send me some pics of Kane’s new Krowning Moment racquet!!!
Kane Waselenchuk, 3X #1 player in the world, teams up with, Jason Mannino, 2X US Open Champion, to form an intimidating presence on the 2008 – 2009 IRT Pro Tour, giving Pro Kennex two great players and unique personalities for all racquetball players and fans to watch this upcoming year.
Jason Mannino resigns up to the 2010 season.
Kane will be showcasing his new racquet, The Krowning Moment.
Jason will also be unveiling the new Pro Kennex Kinetic Quad 170, both will resale for under $200.00
Kane Waselenchuk’s two year absence from the pro racquetball tour has seen two new IRT year-end champions crowned, and one new victor to the sport’s premiere event, the US OPEN. As of June 2008, Kane Waselenchuk is again eligible to compete in events sanctioned by the International Racquetball Federation (IRF), and more importantly, USA Racquetball (as USAR sanctions all IRT events). Many anticipate Kane will immediately return to the top spot in the sport, while others speculate that he’ll need some play time to get his game back on par with “big boys”.
Kane has been sporadically participating in regional exhibition events in Texas, but gets the opportunity to “level” his skills in just two days during a non-sanctioned event against Jason Mannino. His next stop will be in Arlington, TX where he will complete against all the top ranked IRT pros in a Tier 2 … . Hmm, just as I am writing this, it looks like the Arlington event has been “downgraded” to a one-day shootout as part of the “Triple Crown” in Texas. Damn! I guess if you want to see Kane play prior to his official comeback during the 2008-2009 season, you’ve got to go the “Battle of the Champions” versus Jason Maninno.
I think many people were really looking forward to see how Kane’s game has changed after being gone for two years, and now we’ll have to wait for a few more months to see how he holds up for a full-fledged event. This is going to be a long off-season!
The other unknown is Kane’s new equipment for the up-coming year. He has started a relationship with Pro Kennex for his own racquet, the Krowning Moment. Little is known about where the racquets will be sold, specs, etc.
Prior to his official tournament comeback in June 2008 on the IRT Tour, Kane Waselenchuk will get his “court legs” back against Jason Mannino in an exhibition match on May 15th, 2008 in Encinitas, CA. This should be a great event featuring two of the best players of all time! I’d advise anyone in the area to ATTEND (and then send pics to me to post on Double Donut)!
THE RETURN OF KANE—–BATTLE OF CHAMPIONS, Thursday, May 15, 2008
Kane Waselenchuk, 3X #1 player in the world, will make his long awaited return, with a pro style exhibition match with, 2X US Open champ and ‘ 02-’ 03 #1 player in the world,
LA Fitness Encinitas, 201 S. El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA., 92024, 760-753-5600.
Itinerary; 6 PM – Racquetball clinic by Jason Mannino
6;30 – Q + A with Jason and Kane
6;45 – Match
8 PM – Raffle for Pro Kennex products
Arrive early, admission is free, the entertainment will be priceless.
‘Tis the time of year that the major equipment manufacturers start announcing any new contracts with Pro level players. This list is not comprehensive of all Pro players, as many are in the middle of existing contracts. Here is a quick summary:
Rhonda Rajsich – 2 year contract
Shane Vanderson – 3 year contract
Jason Thoerner – 3 year contract
Mike Guidry – 2 1/2 year contract
Mike Green – 2 year contract
Ryan Smith – 2 year contract
Kane Waselenchuk (*** no official word has been released to date, but Kane has been seen on event posters with his new “Krowning Moment” racquet. It appears to be his own line, produced by Pro Kennex – as noted by the Pro Kennex logo on the posters and racquet stencil)
I’ll update this list as any new information surfaces ..
Last night’s broadcast of the 2007 US OPEN Racquetball Championships on The Tennis Channel featured a quarterfinal match between 2006 US OPEN Champion Jason Mannino and 2007 US National Champion Mitch Williams. Both players had a ton of great gets, and it was a fun match to watch. Part way through the second game, Shawn Royster and Mike Ceresia were joined in the announcers’ booth by none other than three-time US OPEN Champion, Kane Waselenchuk. Kane stated that he has been training hard, and will be ready to play at the first IRT stop of the 2008-2009 season. He likened his comeback to his first years on the tour, where he will have to battle his way through the qualifiers and into the main draw. Has anyone done the math to figure out if Kane can capture the year-end number ranking in his first year back? The draws are going to be VERY interesting with Kane coming in as a low seed for the first several events .. can’t wait!
Here’s a flashback from the 2005 US Open - Rocky Carson backstage being interviewed by Shawn Royster for the Tennis Channel Production of the event. Rocky would go on to what many would call the best match of the event; with his incredible game 5 comeback against Kane Waselenchuk in the semifinals (that Kane would go on to win).
Kane Waselenchuk ended all doubt regarding his number one status this past weekend at the 2006 IRT Pro National Racquetball Championships. Without losing a single game during ANY of his matches, he rolled through the draws dominating every oponent he faced. With the #1 season finish on the line, Kane delt punishing victories to his early round opponents who scores TOTALED: 13 (Croft), 6 (Gonzalez), and 5 (Carson).
Finals – Waselenchuk def. Huczek (6, 8, 7)
On the women’s side, Cheryl Gudinas was a force to be reckoned with. Ronda Rajsich came out the gates firing, taking the first two games. The tides quickly turned however, and Gudinas battled back to take the final three.
After a minor amount of speculation on where Kane would stand after his two-stop absence, he laid all nay-sayers to rest with a five-game victory in the finals over Jack Huczek. This makes 12 consecutive finals appearances for the Texan ..
While still unsigned by a major sponsor, Kane Waselenchuk was able to reclaim his unofficial title of “best player on tour” with a win over Rocky Carson in the finals of the San Diego Open Racquetball Championships this weekend. All questions of Kane’s physical and mental focus were laid to rest after his 5-game victory in the finals.
Another player making waves at this event was SoCal’s own Rocky Carson. He first upset number four seed Alvaro Beltran, followed by a five game stunner over number five Jason Mannino. Looks like Carson’s win over Mannino at the 2005 US Open was no fluke. Carson kept steam into the finals, but there was no stopping Kane’s victorious return to the tour.