Two childhood racquetball rivals hit it out yesterday in the final of the second event of the VCI Challenge Cup Series at Merritt Athletic Club.
By the end of the match, one player was shaking his racket and the other was shaking his head.
No. 2 seed Mike Ray of Hilton Head, S.C., needed five games to beat No. 1 seed Andy Roberts of Memphis, Tenn., 9-11, 11-9, 2-11, 11-3, 11-6, and regain his No. 1 world ranking.
Ray, previously the No. 2 ranked player in the world, was down 2-1 in games and pulled ahead early in Game 5. With Ray serving for the title at 10-6, Roberts hit a ball that was called a skip. Roberts appealed umpire Ruben Gonzalez's call and Ray was awarded the title and the $5,000 winner's check.
"That was the only appeal I won the whole match," said Ray, 29, who appealed four of five allowed calls in Game 1, which he lost 11-9.
"I thought I played well early in the match, but as the match progressed, I don't think I played as well," said Roberts, 26. "I played a little tentative and I wasn't able to move the ball."
Roberts estimates that he and Ray have played each other 60 to 70 times in their amateur and professional careers. They also have battled each other for the No. 1 ranking for the past few years on the International Racquetball Tour.
"It's a friendly rivalry. I think the fans like it," said Roberts, who took home the $2,500 runner-up check.
Ray fell behind in Game 2 but tied the score at 9. Serving for Game 2 at 10-9, Ray called a two-bounce call on himself, which resulted in a side out. On his next serve, Ray hit a down-the-line winner for the game.
With the match tied at 1, Roberts played a flawless game and won 11-2. But Game 4 brought out a fist-pumping Ray, who breezed to a 10-3 win to tie the match 2-2.
"I was able to use the glass wall and was able to keep him on the defensive," Ray said. "I was finally able to get him a little frustrated."
Said Roberts: "Physically, in the fifth game, I ran out of gas. I'm really looking forward to the holidays when I can get a week off."
The VCI Challenge Cup series features five events. The series opened in September in Montreal, and the other three events will be held in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Minneapolis.