Last week, National Doubles was held in Tempe, Arizona, at the indoor sports complex of Arizona State University. The players and fans that were in attendance were treated to some top notch professional level doubles action, rivaled only by maybe the pro doubles at the US Open. Three matches, however, stick out in my mind, and I believe will be remembered by the fans for many years to come. These three matches were the two semis, and the final in the women’s US Team Qualifying division. I have long been a fan and a believer in women’s racquetball. This can be seen in the many ladies that proudly represent Team Rollout, and in the many close friendships I have and cherish with the women that compete on the LPRT and at the highest levels of women’s amateur racquetball. For many years though, women’s racquetball has been looked at as “second class” to the men, and the women’s matches at National Doubles become the precursor or the “under-card” for the more high profile men’s matches that usually follow them. This year was all together different however. Friday’s semi final action began with an amazing match between Laura Fenton/Cheryl Gudinas and Kim Russell-Waselenchuk/Rhonda Rajsich. This tie-breaker match left the crowd with a feeling of “if this is how the day is going to start, we are in for one hell of a show!” I was lucky enough to be in the broadcast booth with EnetLive.tv and commentated the match along side Brian Pineda and legendary coach Fran Davis, so I had a front row seat for this action. There was a buzz in the crowd after this match…
A very solid men’s match followed this, and then Aimee Ruiz/Janel Tisinger vs Michelle Key/Danielle Key took the court. This match was highly anticipated, as the Key sisters were playing in front of home town crowd, and this was a rematch of the 2013 final. You don’t need to know the scores, or play by play action, but there is one thing I need everyone to understand about this match. This doubles match was probably one of the single best matches in amateur racquetball tournament history. The story wrote itself, with the defending champs taking on the hometown heroes. The shot making, retrieving, strategy, and toughness displayed by all four players was something to be revered. After going on a 7-0 run to begin the breaker, the Key sisters were poised for an upset, but the defending champs fought back that huge lead, and fought back game point at 10-7 down in the tiebreaker to come back and win the match 11-10. I have very rarely heard a louder, more intense crowd in a match in my 15 years of racquetball. When the match finally ended, the crowd got the chance to finally sit back FROM the edge of their seats, and everyone gave the 4 players the standing ovation they deserved. My first words to Markie Rojas and Jose Diaz, who were going to be playing next against the number 1 seeds in the final semi match of the night was, “how do you plan on topping that?”
If Friday’s festivities weren’t enough, the women’s final did everything it could do nearly top the semis from the day before. Rhonda and Kim taking on Aimee and Janel was a final full of gutsy shots, tremendous diving gets, ups and downs, and everything in between. Once again, the four women on the court made a statement to the crowd that the men who followed them were going to have to do something special to top their performances.
These three women’s matches did what I haven’t seen done in many years in racquetball at national doubles, if ever, and that is steal the show. Women’s racquetball is seeing it’s biggest surge in recent memory right now with the success the LPRT is having, but this year, at National Doubles, the best US born female doubles players in the country made themselves a huge part of the current landscape of women’s racquetball. I could not be more honored and proud to have been a fan in attendance, a broadcaster of all three matches, and friend of most all of the competitors.