If there is a single play that will be remembered from the AVP’s 2017 season, it is undoubtedly Sean Rosenthal’s absurd, twisting, reverse direction, flailing dig in the Hermosa Beach Open finals that caromed off his right arm and, conveniently, directly to his blocker, Trevor Crabb, who somehow poke-punched it to the back corner for a kill and one of those plays that Jake Gibb could only look across the net and laugh.
It was just Rosie being Rosie, something Gibb had the fortune of experiencing on the same side of the net for two straight quads.
It was decidedly awesome to have Rosenthal back in peak form this season. Aside from being able to witness plays like that, which I firmly believe only Rosenthal is capable of, there’s just a certain nostalgic factor to watching Rosie play. It’s not a whole lot different from watching Federer or Nadal or Kobe a few years ago or even Tiger, all of whom are either in the final acts of their illustrious careers or just finished them.
Rosie’s comeback this year — four AVP finals appearances — inspired the editors of DiG Magazine to send me out for a feature on the 37-year-old Torrance native. That comes out later this month. This is a little piece on what did not make it into the magazine, though I felt the quotes were too good to let sit idly by on my laptop: An account from Gibb, Rosenthal and Crabb’s perspectives of the makings of that play from the Hermosa Beach finals, which landed at the No. 2 spot on SportsCenter later that night.
Said Jake Gibb, who would go on to win the match with Taylor Crabb:
“First of all, it was a lucky play. But luck in a play comes to people who are able to put themselves in a place where it was even possible. So for me, I think 95 percent of all the world’s best players don’t even make a move on that ball.
“I remember playing with Rosie and there were balls that were touched off the block and his ability, the strength in his legs compared to the weight in his upper body because he’s so thin up top and his legs are these tree trunks, he has the thickest legs on tour, his ability to go – you know, change directions when all his momentum is going one way and to flip back, is just unseen and unheard of. Nobody else can do it. And so for him to be running down a high line shot that Trevor touches and then to – people don’t understand that’s the magic there, running that down and then stopping that momentum and then head back the other way and the only way he can reach it is to do a 360 backhand at it and throw it off of Trevor.
“That part was the lucky part, but the physical part of being in a position to get lucky is the magic.”
“It was all natural reaction. That thing was coming at my face so fast, I just kinda put my hand up as quick as possible and luckily it went straight back onto the line on the other side of the court. I kind of tried to flip it to the other side of the court but it was so fast that I had no control over it.
“You watch that replay like 100 times over and over and you see that no look reverse dig and it was definitely one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen.”
“I served Taylor and we were blocking line, and he hit a line shot and I got a good jump on the line, and Trevor tipped it back to where I was, so I kinda got a good luck at where it was gonna go, so I just stopped and turned and threw my arm out, just who knows, and luckily I got a piece of it.
“When I hit it I thought it went straight down to the ground, but it didn’t, it shot right to him and I didn’t even know where he was. There was some luck involved, no question, but it was a good play from Trevor to to react and get that ball over. You can’t really explain those. It’s just reactive and when it happens – the SportsCenter talk was going around, and sure enough we saw it that night.
“We were all at Tower 12 in Hermosa, a big player party over there. We were all at the bar to see SportsCenter and once it got past 4 I was like ‘Ah, man, I don’t think it’s gonna make it,’ and then it got to 2 and it popped up and the whole bar was jumping up and down. It was pretty funny. We were saying that night ‘We won the tournament. We’re on SportsCenter!’”