2004 National Singles Report
PLAYER WINS PADDLEBALL TITLE
BY LOU GIAMPETRONI
Ann Arbor, Mich. -- Mike Wisniewski and Andy Mitchell are two of the best players in the history of indoor, four-wall paddleball. Between them, they had won 11 of the last 15 National Paddleball Association national open singles titles. But Kelly Gelhaus made them look very ordinary as he wiped out both to claim his first national open singles title in the 2004 NPA National Singles Championships March 19, 20, 21.
Gelhaus, 32, of Riverside, Calif., played nearly flawlessly at the One-On-One Club as he methodically befuddled first Wisniewski, the top seed and defending champion, in a semifinal and then Mitchell, the No. 2. seed in the final. Gelhaus whipped Mitchell, 21-5, 21-7, for the championship. It was no contest. Whipped is not a very kind description but it accurately painted the picture of a very-tired Mitchell running all over the court just to make defensive retrieves. He was never in the match.
Gelhaus, who buys fixer-upper homes with his wife, Sara, refurbishes and then rents them, played nearly flawlessly in sweeping to the championship. He doesn’t look like an athlete. Several fans said he looks as if he just got off a bar stool . But he can play the game. He displayed every facet of the game -- great shooting ability, deceptive power and a penchant for dropping soft shots in the corners when the opponent is expecting a hard drive.
Gelhaus ran off five straight points to open the first game and never looked back. Mitchell didn’t get his third point until he trailed, 15-2. Trailing 20-4, Mitchell got the serve with a pretty good shot, and he raised his arms as if to say “I got one.” He got his last point and then Gelhaus closed it out with a fine overhead, backhand kill to the right corner.
started the second game by scoring first but that was about it. His best
offensive output in the match was when he scored back-to-back points when he was
Gelhaus topped Wisniewski, 21-13, 21-9, and while the scores were better, the new champion also had his way with Whiz. It was 18-13 in favor of Gelhaus in the first game and they exchanged serves nine times with neither player able to get a point. Then Gelhaus got three straight to close it out. In the second game, Wisniewski didn’t get his second point until he was trailing, 13-1.
Suffice to say, it wasn’t pretty for diehard PB fans who have been used to seeing Mitchell and Wisniewski post some of the best records ever in the sport. In both cases, Gelhaus appeared to be toying with them. Neither Whiz nor Mitchell could get comfortable with his style -- which is aimed to get the opponent off balance. He always appears to hit the ball on a solid part of the paddle. He has very few bad hits. Gelhaus hits low drives -- they appear to be soft ones that hit behind the second red line -- and the opponent strives just to get to them. Generally, the opponent doesn’t have much of a shot.
and Wisniewski had only good things to say about Gelhaus.
“This was fun,” said Mitchell. “No bones about, the guy’s good and he beat me.”
Then, in the way Mitchell usually does, he started saying things like: “Maybe if I had lobbed more,” or “I should have tried to drive more,” or ... On this day, it wouldn’t have mattered.
I've seen just about every national singles final in the last 34 years and I can never remember seeing such domination by one player over the other.
In his earlier matches, Gelhaus defeated Jim Owens, 21-13, 21-13, and Mike Schafer, 21-4, 21-8, in the quarterfinals. Gelhaus said he was been playing court games, mostly racquetball, since he was 10. It sure looked as if he knew what he was doing this weekend. He's a member of the Paddleball Nation -- a group of West Coast born-again paddleballers and others new to the game.
In the audience and cheering for Gelhaus was Charlie Brumfield, the leader of the Paddleball Nation and a two-time NPA national singles champion in the late 1960s.
Complete results and photos coming soon!
Maybe even some video!!