Jim Floyd and Tim Hansen got slow, and Michelle Gilman and Jackie Paraiso played slow. Both strategies proved right and both teams became U.S. National Racquetball champions on Sunday.
Floyd, from Davison, Mich., and Hansen, from Palm Beach, Fla., beat Mike Guidry and Drew Kachtik, both of Texas, 5-15, 15-10, 11-6, in the men's open.Gilman, from Ontario, Ore., and Paraiso, from El Cajon, Calif., beat Malia Bailey, from Norfolk, Va., and Toni Bevelock, from Santa Ana, Calif., 15-6, 15-12, in the women's open.
The open finals ended a five-day event that brought together nearly 600 of the country's top racquetball players.
Gilman and Paraiso were up first on the glass-sided court at the Sports Mall. They were, as the No. 2 seed, the underdog to Bailey and Bevelock, the top seeded team. As play progressed, however, it was evident they were not.
Bailey and Bevelock were in trouble after the first couple of points. Gilman found her corner pinch shot and Paraiso a passing shot down the right side. The two went up 10-3, then at 14-6 Paraiso put away a forehand down the right.
The second game was simply more of the first. Gilman and Paraiso went up 9-1, but Bailey and Bevelock started to clog and center and control the game and came back 9-10. Gilman and Paraiso then got a run going, but Bailey and Bevelock came back to 12-14. Finally, Paraiso put a corner pinch shot away for the win.
Gilman said after that their strategy was to be quick and catch a slower team out of position.
"We knew they would be slow. We counted on that. We hit to Toni because we felt she was the slower of the two, then waited for them to set us up," said Paraiso.
Earlier the two had played on opposite sides in mixed doubles. Gilman won and Paraiso lost, but both said it was an advantage because it warmed them up.
In the men's finals, Floyd (the shorter one) and Hansen (the taller one), played their typical game - start slow and then claw their way back ever so slowly.
They lost the first game rather convincingly. Then came the second game and suddenly everything wasn't so convincing. Scoring went 4-4, then 8-8, then 9-9. Floyd then hit a pinch shot in the corner and caught Guidry out of position on a forehand down the right. At 14-10, Hansen hit an overhead that Kachtik returned into the floor to even things.
And what was the difference between the two games?
"We tried to hit singles shots. Kill shots. They were just too quick and killed us," said Floyd.
"So we slowed the game down," added Hansen. "We tried to hit it out with them in the first game and it didn't work, so we slowed it down. Instead of going for the low shot, we lobbed or hit it behind them."
In the third game, the 11-point tie breaker, neither team got control early. Finally, Floyd and Hansen took advantage at 9-6, but Hansen found it unsettling position, especially when both teams agreed to replay a questionable point.
"Two years ago," said Hansen, "We were leading 10-6 when my partner called a replay on a point that would have won it for us. We eventually lost. At 9-6 I saw it happening all over again.
That has haunted me for two years and I didn't want to have to live through it again."
After several exchanges, and on match point, Guidry hit an off-balance backhand that hit into the floor.
This was the first time Floyd and Hansen have played doubles together. Hansen old partner couldn't play, so the first person he thought of was Floyd.
"He's short and he's quick. He can back me up," said Hansen.
"If you notice, all the top two seeded teams has a short players left and a tall player on the right. That's us and it worked," added Floyd.