Mike Green of Burlington, the current Canadian Champion and No. 1 ranked racquetball player came through for his country on Friday (Aug. 10), winning the deciding match against Mexico in the semi-finals of the men’s team competition at the 16th International Racquetball Federation (IRF) World Championship in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
It’s gives Canada a chance to win its first men’s team title since 2002.
The team competition involves countries facing off against each other in a best-of-three match format: two singles matches and a doubles match. If one team wins the first two matches, then the third is not played. The order of the matches varies by round, so doubles could played first, second or third, if necessary.
Green defeated Mexican Polo Gutierrez 15-8, 7-15, 11-10, in the third and deciding match against Mexico. Kris Odegard of Sasktoon won the first match, beating Gilberto Mejia, 15-11, 15-6, in what was a rematch of a quarter final match in the individual competition earlier in the week, which Odegard lost.
But like Green, Odegard came through for Canada on Friday.
After Odegard’s win, Green and Vincent Gagnon of Montreal played doubles against Alvaro Beltran and Javier Moreno. The Canadians won game one against the Mexicans, who won the doubles World Championship earlier in the week, but then couldn’t finish the match, losing 10-15, 15-6, 11-5.
That set up Green’s heroics.
He came out blasting his drive serve, and went up 9-0 in game one against Gutierrez, going on to win 15-8. But in game two, the roles were reversed as Gutierrez built a 11-5 lead, and won 15-7.
In the tie-breaking third game, they were close all the way. Then Green edged ahead with a 9-6 lead. But Gutierrez held him there and got to 10 first.
In international racquetball, you only need to win by a one point margin, so Gutierrez had match point at 10-9. However, Green got the serve back, tied the score, but then on his first match point opportunity, he skipped the ball, hitting into the floor before the front wall.
But Gutierrez couldn’t convert his second match point, so Green got the serve back. He hit another powerful drive serve, and Gutierrez hit a ceiling ball return, but the ball didn’t get to the front wall, giving Green the 11th point, game and match.
The Canadians were to face the USA in the final.
Earlier on Friday in the quarter finals, the Canadian men beat Ecuador in two straight matches to reach the semi-finals. Green and Gagnon defeated Jose Daniel Alvarez and Fernando Rios (Ecuador), 15-11, 12-15, 11-0, and then Green beat Rios, 15-6, 15-9.