by Justin Johnson
If you check out Jaime Martell’s Facebook page, you can find a video from this past Sunday, October 4th posted at 2:29 p.m. It’s a short clip of him playing a practice game with racquetball legend Cliff Swain.
Martell included a message with the video, thanking the six-time IRT Champion and two-time U.S. Open title winner for the game.
“I learned a lot,” the message reads. “Now I’m ready for the US Open.”
Perhaps Martell got a feel for Swain’s game during that practice session. Or maybe the youngster is beginning to hit his stride on International Racquetball Tour. Whatever the case, Martell ended Wednesday’s U.S. Open qualifier the same way he ended that Facebook post – with a smiley face.
Martell turned in the most impressive performance of the opening day of the U.S. Open, upsetting Swain in four games to make it through the qualifier and into the main draw.
“I grew up seeing that guy play,” Martell said following the match. “The result is something I never expected.”
Fans who witnessed Martell’s performance might beg to differ. The young Mexican’s play against Swain can be summed up in one word - fearless. Martell stayed aggressive and controlled the match after dropping the first game to Swain 11-9.
“I was up in that first game and then I lost, but I said to myself, ‘Hey, you’ll be there. You can win.’ I started playing well and he lost confidence,” Martell said. “I feel good with the result.”
The result for Martell was one of the biggest moments of his career, winning by scores of 9-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-7. He moves on to face Mauricio Zelada, a player he defeated in their only meeting last season. A win over Zelada this time around would put him in the U.S. Open round of 16.
“This is a new year,” Martell said when asked about another matchup with Zelada. “He’s trained a lot and it’s going to be a tough match.”
Play at the U.S. Open will resume Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. Martell and Zelada will square off at 12:30 p.m.