By LOU GIAMPETRONI
E. Lansing, Mich. -- If Kelly Gelhaus really concentrated on paddleball, he might well nigh be unbeatable.
Gelhaus, 36, of Riverside, Calif., won his third National Paddleball Association national singles title in four years Sunday, March 18, 2007, at the Michigan Athletic Club here.
And he did it in very convincing fashion, thrashing Mike Czabala, 30, of Ventura, Calif., 21-7, 21-11.
The only match Gelhaus has lost in those four years was in a tiebreaker in a national singles semifinal last year to Czabala. He admitted then that he had not practiced much before the tournament and was not in the best of shape.
And as a matter of fact, he doesn't work as hard at his game as do other paddleballers. Many top-level players generally concentrate much of their time on playing and practicing almost year-round.
Gelhaus has other interests and with his wife, Sara, purchases fixer-upper homes, refurbishes and then rents them. So he doesn't have a paddle in his hand all the time.
But he did say after Sunday's match that he had worked out in preparation for this tournament.
"As a matter of fact, I was playing better before the tournament," he said. "And Mike was off his game."
It probably wouldn't have mattered even if he was on it.
Gelhaus, who also has won the last three NPA national doubles titles, Sunday displayed some of the tremendous skills he showed for the first time when he won his first national singles championship in 2004.
Gelhaus took a 4-0 lead in the first game and then expanded it to 12-2, 18-3, before closing out the first game with a patented, soft backhand into the left side of the front wall.
The second game was much the same, with Gelhaus taking leads of 7-3 and 12-4 before Czabala had his best showing of the match, outscoring Gelhaus 4-2 to cut it to 14-8.
But then Gelhaus turned it up again, taking a 15-10 lead before closing out the match with his usual array of spectacular shots and power drives.
There was no question that Czabala was not playing well. But Gelhaus does that to you.
"I had a lot of my favorite shots, and I missed most of them," said Czabala. "You work for those opportunities and I didn't take advantage of them."
So that's six wins out of the last seven national singles and doubles championships for Gelhaus. Not a bad percentage. Think about it and you come up with: "That's amazing."
After winning Sunday, someone said to Gelhaus that "three out of four (singles titles) ain't bad."
Gelhaus responded by saying: "Yeh, just a little glitch last year."
Gelhaus defeated Brandon Creamer, 21-9, 21-11, in a quarterfinal match and 8-time national singles champion Mike Wisniewski, 21-16, 21-16, in a semifinal.
Czabala topped Kirk Loveday, 21-12, 21-7, in the quarterfinals and Greg Badger, 21-6, 21-9, in the semis.