The Greatest Upsets in Racquetball History:
(Inspired by a conversation on meetandplay.com, initial list according to Marty Hogan)
These also include great runs by unseeded/unheralded players:
Davey Bledsoe over Marty Hogan in the finals of the 77 NRC Pro Nationals. Considered the greatest upset of all time. Marty absolutely dominated the 76-77 season. He entered the National Championships with a record of 47-1 for the season. His lone loss on the entire season was in the final of the first tourney of the year. He had defeated Bledsoe four times over the course of that season. Both players breezed into the finals, where Bledsoe played the match of his life, beating Hogan 21-20, 21-19 in what most players of the era considered the greatest Racquetball match of all time (past or present).
Marty Hogan's run at the 1975 Burlington Pro stop: Hogan was a brash up and comer on the tour, playing in just his 8th tour event. Hogan defeated Kruger and Bowman to make the quarter finals. Hogan had made two quarter finals before then, never advancing further. Not in Burlington. He defeated the defending season's champ (and eventual 75-76 champ as well) Brumfeld in the quarters, squeaked out a tremendous win over Serot in the semis 18-21,21-16,21-20, and defeated Keeley in the final 13 and 17. Unseeded at the start of the tournament, Hogan's victories in the quarters, semis and finals were over the top three players in the world at the time.
Cliff Swain winning the 1985 Tulsa Open as a qualifier. The only player to ever win a Pro stop as a qualifier (* this result is now asterisk'd with Waselenchuk's victory upon returning from suspension), Swain was playing in just his 7th pro event. Swain beat Steve Lerner in the 32s in a 5-game
thriller, then rebounded to beat Brett Harnett (a top 5 player at that time) in the 16s. In the quarterfinals, Swain took on and beat Jerry Hilecher, who was on the downside of a stellar career, before taking out Gerry Price and Scott Oliver in the semis and finals, both in 5 games, both with a super-tie breaker of 11-10 in the fifth. Two interesting notes about Tulsa 85: current tour commish Dave Negrete made the main draw, losing in the 32s to David Gross; and Marty Hogan was not in the draw, one of the few tourneys he missed in his career.
Sudsy Monchik's first win: CFC Pro Nationals, June 1994. Sudsy had just started playing the tour, with a string of early round losses to his name. While not quite unknown because of a semis appearance earlier in the year, Pro Nationals was only his 7th pro tourney, and only the second time he'd advanced past the round of 16. A quality 5-game win over #6 seed Mike Ray in the 16s setup a quarterfinal against hard hitting Egan Inoue. After dispatching Egan in 4, Sudsy got his second win of the season over #2 Tim Doyle, and then beat #4 Drew Kachtik in the final 4,6,(8),0.
Kane Waselenchuk winning the 2001 Chicago Pro Stop.Kane's first appearance on tour was a shot across the bow of the racquetball elite; an impressive showing at Pro Nationals in Las Vegas. However, his first tournament win was still impressive for its timing; coming in only his 6th pro event, the fastest win ever. He upset Mannino in the 16s, handled fellow Canadian Mike Green easily in the quarters, then swept through Monchik in the semis. In the final, he survivied a 5-game thriller against Ellis for the victory. Mannino, Monchik and Ellis were 3 of the top four players of the day, an impressive run that helped spark Kane to a 4th place 2001-2 tour finish in his first pro season.
Mike Locker's run at the 2000 US Open: Mike was better known as a top-notch Open player from the great frozen north of Minnesota with a very unusual and frustrating style, but his play at US Opens past opened some eyes. He took out North Carolinian Brent Walters in the opening round, and then frequent playing partner Jim Frautschi in the 32s. He then beat #6 seed Guidry in an epic 5-game round of 16 match, 12-10 in the fifth. He had to turn right around and play #3 seed Ellis in the Quarterfinals, and overcame a 2 game deficit to win the 5th game 11-9. At the end of the evening, Mike was so dehydrated he had to be taken to the hospital to receive IV fluids. This did not stop him from junk-ball serving his way through his semi final match with Sudsy, eventually losing 9,(10),10,3. After the match, Sudsy had nothing but praise for Mike's effort and game.
Eric Muller's run to the semi finals at the 1998 US Open: Racquetball's marquee event is known for drawing the best players from around the country, but rarely do non-tour players make the semis at the biggest stage. Muller was an off and on tourney player, always talented but never a regular. He was actually IN graduate school at Harvard, and took time off to play the event. His appearance paid off; He survived the early rounds to face fellow upset-minded Mike Locker (who had knocked off Andy Roberts in the 32s). After downing Locker in a 5-game round-of-16 match, Muller faced Ray in the quarters, beating him for the second time in as many tries in Memphis. His run ended in the semis, losing to training partner and fellow Bostonian Cliff Swain.
Kane Waselenchuk's victory over Mannino at the 2000 US Open: Though not really an upset by the time the season was over, it was still a tremendous blow to the defending champion's season to go out in the round of 32 at Racquetball's premiere event. It was a terrible draw for Jason, and Kane triumphed (3),4,8,8. He didn't last much further, losing in the quarterfinals to Beltran, but it also wasn't long before Kane was playing, and winning, with regularity on tour.
Corey Brysman just out of the juniors beating Mike Yellen twice in 1984-5. Corey doesn't have the greatest credentials on tour; his career record stands below .500 and his career best showing on tour were two separate semi finals appearances (a loss to Inoue in June of 87 and a loss to Harnett in October of the same year). But he can always hang his hat on two big wins over Mike Yellen. In Sept 84 he beat Yellen in a greuling 5-game match in Davison and then again later in the 84-85 season in Baltimore. These were shocking wins for a player who had difficulties getting past the round of 32, and who only made it past the 16s 6 times in his career. Despite the two early round losses for Yellen, he managed to win the season-ending title by Hogan's loss in the semis of the DP National touranment in june 1985.
Tim Sweeney win over Swain in 32s in Chicago 95 Sweeney was a good tour player for many years in the late 80s and early 90s, and by 1994 had stopped playing tour events that were not within easy driving distance to his home town of Chicago. In October 1995, the tour rolled into Chicago, with three-time defending tour champ Cliff Swain fresh of a win in Montreal. Swain's dominance on tour was coming into question though; he had only one one of the four events thus far, with newcomer Sudsy Monchik playing better every week. A horrible draw puts #1 Swain against a fired-up Sweeney on his home court, and Sweeney did not disappoint, beating Swain in 4. The round of 32 loss, the only such loss in Cliff's professional career, eventually cost him dearly; not only did he lose the #1 ranking because of it, he lost the 95-96 tour title race by TEN POINTS (to put this in perspective, you got 20 points just for making the round of 32, which the top 8 pros got byes into anyway).
Bill Schmidtke over Charlie Brumfield in the 71 Nationals. 1971 pre-dated the pro racquetball tour, and a host of Legends were pioneering tournament play. For several years, the US National champion was the equivalent of today's IRT Tour chamption. Charlie Brumfield quickly came to dominate the early days, and for a period of time from 1971 to 1975 was as dominating as Swain or Monchik was in their prime. However, that did not stop Brumfield from losing the national title game to fellow racquetball pioneer Bill Schmidtke, in what was considered a very surprising result at the time. Schmidtke went on to gather another amateur title in 1974, by which time Brumfield had moved on to the fledgling pro tours.
Rise of the Mexicans 2007 Motorola World Championships: Starting with the 2007-8 pro season, commissioner Dave Negrete unveiled a season-opening grand slam championship with major sponsors in Motorola and Verizon. Many questioned the presence of a major so early in the season, but tennis has had this situation with the Australian Open's timing or years. Sure enough, whether it be the altitude or early season rustiness, the #1 and #2 players at the time were both defeated in the round of 16. Youngster Polo Gutierrez beat 3 players just to qualify for the round of 16 main draw, then outlasted then #1 Jason Mannino in a 5-game thriller. Similarly, tour journeyman player Javier Moreno, who had only made one quarterfinal in a 10-year career, faced up then #2 Jack Huczek and handled him in 4 games. Both players continued their runs into the semis before losing to the #3 and #4 players at the time. The early season loss enabled Rocky Carson to win the season's first major and put some points-distance between himself and his rivals, helping him to eventually take the 2007-8 season ending title. This also marked the first time both top seeds had ever lost so early in a pro tournament.
Rojas over Kane in Kansas City 2013: At the point in which Kane Waselenchuk met Jose Rojas in the
2013-14 IRT season opener, there was little question who was the favorite. Waselenchuk and Rojas had met 17 times previously, and Kane was 17-0 against Jose. Not only that, but Jose had managed just one GAME win in those 17 matches. When Kane won the first game of their Kansas City semi-final 11-2, no one would have been surprised to predict yet another
quick 3-game set back. But Rojas fought back, took the second game 11-9, the third 11-8 before cruising to take the
fourth game and the match 11-4. Is this a signaling of the changing of the guard in Pro Racquetball after years and
years of complete Waselenchuk dominance, or a fluke victory by a possibly distracted Kane?
Pratt over Rocky Carson in Dec 2017 and eventual tourney win: playing in his home town, infrequent tour veteran Pratt as the #14 seed blitzed through the draw, beating #3 De La Rosa, #6 Allen then #2 Carson in 5 grueling games to reach his first career final. Carson had been nursing a season-long
knee issue, but this was Pratt's first victory over Rocky in 11 times on tour and represented one of the highest ever seeds to reach an IRT final.
There he met #8 seed Mario Mercado, also in his first career final by virtue of his winning the "top side" of a draw weakened by a late Kane withdrawl and a surprise upset of Tony Carson over #4 seed Daniel De La Rosa. The final features a #8 and #14 seeds, an amazing fact. There, Pratt handled
Mercado easily to become the 36th ever tour champion.
Honorable Mentions: I'm always taking suggestions for those who think I'm missing cool events above.
Scott Reiff makes semis as a #14 seed in New Orleans 1995
Sherman Greenfield run to quarters as qualifier, Chicago 1995 (beats Ray, Fowler)
Brian Simpson's win over #5 Ellis as a #28 seed in Atlanta 1996
Eric Muller's win over #7 Ray as a qualifier, US Open 1997
Rocky Carson's two straight wins over #5 Mannino as a qualifier, Sept 1997 and Jan 98
San Diego 1997: Paraiso, Gonzalez and Eagle all beat two seeds each to make quarters.
Paraiso does the same thing later in the season, beating Ray and Karp in succession as a #23 seed.
Derek Robinson's run to the finals as a #15 seed, Columbus 1998 (defeats Monchik, Guidry, Fowler)
Steve Lerner (CA) Taking out #8 Ray as a mid 40's seed, Pro Nat'ls 1998
Jeff Bell over #5 Jason Mannino, Pro Nat'ls 1998
Tim Doyle's last gasp run to semis in Pro Nationals 1998 as a #23 seed; beats Karp, Fowler, Robinson.
Mike Guidry's first pro stop win, Jan 2003 in Long Island, after not having event made a final since 1996.
Shane Vanderson's run to the semis of the 2003 US Open as an #11 seed.
Derek Robinson's run to the finals of the 2003 US Open, despite making only 1 final previously
Kyle Veenstra's two straight Quarter Finals appearances, after never having qualified for the 16s before, in mid 2
004-5. Wins over Mannino and Beltran.
Jose Rojas's run to the semis in only his third pro event Jan2009; could this be a precursor to another Sudsy-esque junior becoming a force on tour?
Alex Ackermann's upsets of #3 Croft and #12 Anthony Herrera at the 2012 US Open, reaching the quarters as a qualifier and the #28 seed. Almost as significant, #19 Daniel De La Rosa's upsets of Ruben Gonzalez (eliminating him from his last Pro tournament) and then #3 Jose Rojas to make the quarters as well. Croft complains publically on facebook about the referee he had in his tough 5-game loss in the round of 32. But Ackerman's subsequent play precludes one from calling the upset a complete fluke.