- Official website of the National
"The Four Wall Game
- "CAN ANYBODY HERE BEAT KELLY?
- By LOU GIAMPETRONI
Ann Arbor, Mich. -- Kelly Gelhaus proved last year was
no fluke as he successfully defended his National Paddleball
Association national open singles title here March 13, 2005.
Gelhaus, of Riverside, Calif., topped Mike Wisniewski,
21-15, 21-9, in the Old IM Building of the University of Michigan.
Wisniewski, of Bay City, Mich., has won eight national
singles crowns. Next best is five victories for Steve Keeley
in the 1970s.
Last year, Gelhaus easily defeated three-time champion
Andy Mitchell in the final. It was Gelhaus's first NPA tournament
and he was an unknown quantity.
Gelhaus's win this time was similar to his conquest in
2004 of Wisniewski in a semifinal, 21-13, 21-9.
Gelhaus, who will be 35 on July 17, did not display the
skills he showed in last year's tournament. But he wasn't far
Both players started out slowly and the score was tied
at six before each scored a point here and there, with neither
Eventually, Gelhaus took a 14-8 lead with one of the points
coming when one of Whiz's shots was let go by Gelhaus and the
ball hit Wisniewski.
Wisniewski always seemed to be on the short end and was
trailing, 15-11, when he got three straight points to cut it
to a point deficit.
Gelhaus's 16th point was a little short of miraculous.
The players got into a heated rally near the front of the court,
during which Gelhaus was off balance and had his back to the
Somehow, Gelhaus slapped at the ball backwards, kept it
in play and, after a few more hits, won the point.
Gelhaus then expanded his lead to 19-15 and 20-15 before
winning the first game.
The finalists were playing in the Old IM Building's Court
14, site of the 1979 final between Keeley and Marty Hogan, a
classic three-game struggle won by Hogan.
In the second game, Wisniewski stayed with Gelhaus early,
with Gelhaus holding only a 9-8 lead. But after that, Gelhaus
began to settle down and suddenly take control of the match.
Gelhaus, who said he picked up a paddle only a couple
of weeks ago in preparation for the tournament, is very skillful.
He's got all the shots. And more importantly, he usually controls
the pace of the match.
He doesn't appear athletic but if he has to dive, he dives
-- and he did that several times during well-played rallies.
If he has to hit dink shots in the corners, he hits dink shots
in the corners.
Those corner soft shots are a big part of his repertoire.
He makes several top-level open players look a little
bewildered when he finally throws in a soft kill in the corner
after running his opponent all over the court. Much of the time,
his foe is off-balance.
That's the one thing that is very evident -- Kelly Gelhaus
usually controls the tempo of the match. He doesn't look overly-excited
Asked how he could play at this level while not playing
paddles that much, Gelhaus said: "I play a pretty fundamental
game. I don't reach over my head and try to hit an overhead backhand.
"He had me off balance in the first game. I had all
that nervous energy and my legs wouldn't react. I didn't really
feel comfortable until midway in the second game."
Gelhaus now has beaten convincingly everyone he
has played in the last two National Singles Tournaments.
If he decides to play again next year, he's got a good
chance for a three-peat. He's that good.
Only two players -- Mitchell and Steve Wilson -- have
won three successive national NPA singles championships in the
44-year history of such events.
Gelhaus also teamed with Steve Lerner to win the 2004
NPA national open doubles crown.
(Last update 03/14/05)
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