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Hat trick: Retornaz claims third straight Grand Slam men’s title at WFG Masters

SASKATOON — Joël Retornaz and his team from Italy captured their fourth Grand Slam of Curling championship and third consecutive of the season after successfully defending the WFG Masters men’s title.

Retornaz scored a single in the eighth end to edge Ross Whyte’s squad from Scotland 3-2 during Sunday’s final at Merlis Belsher Place.

It was just a little over a year ago when Retornaz, third Amos Mosaner, second Sebastiano Arman and lead Mattia Giovanella claimed their first-ever trophy in the series during this event and opened the season with back-to-back title wins at the HearingLife Tour Challenge in October and last month’s KIOTI National.

“Winning last year, the first time a Grand Slam, it was something huge for me and for my team, but now we’re four-time Grand Slam champions, three consecutive Slams we’ve won, it’s unbelievable,” Retornaz said. “It’s unbelievable, but I’m so proud of my team because we work really hard. We put a lot of effort into what we’re doing. I think we deserve to be here and we need to enjoy this moment now.”

Team Retornaz joined Team Kevin Martin (2006-07), Team Brendan Bottcher (2018-19) and Team Brad Jacobs (2019-20) in an exclusive group of clubs who have won three straight Grand Slam men’s titles in a single season.

“If you look at the names of other skips who have won three Slams in a row, you’re talking about the elite of world curling and the history of curling,” Retornaz said. “I think it’s very special for me. It’s me putting my name there, but I have to give a lot of credit to my team because they’re not named in that group but, of course, I couldn’t do it without my team.

“As I said, I’m super proud of them. We’re really doing a great job, teamwork is amazing including coach (Ryan Fry) and everybody. It’s really special to be in that group of people.” 

The world No. 1 Retornaz lost his first game of the tournament Tuesday to Winnipeg’s Team Reid Carruthers but won five straight heading into the final to open with the hammer.

Neither team blinked during the first three ends and it wasn’t until the fourth when Team Whyte fell into a wee bit of trouble, but their skip made a game-saving come-around draw against three Retornaz stones in the house. Retornaz was able to follow the path though and bumped Whyte’s rock to score a deuce and finally put points on the board.

Whyte held the hammer for the first time in the game during the fifth end. Retornaz got by the guard to hit and lie two and forced Whyte to tap for just a single.

That handed the last-rock advantage back to Retornaz for the sixth end, however, he hit and rolled too far on his last as Whyte stole one to tie it 2-2.

Whyte bailed out his team again in the seventh end with a thunderous triple takeout to clear the house and Retornaz blanked once more to retain the hammer for the final frame.

Retornaz needed to draw fully into the four-foot circle with the last rock of the game, and his shooter touched the button for good measure.

Whyte, third Robin Brydone, second Duncan McFadzean and lead Euan Kyle were playing in their first-ever Grand Slam final following a marathon Saturday. Whyte won three straight elimination games against Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin in a tiebreaker, Canada’s Team Brad Gushue in the quarterfinals and Switzerland’s Team Yannick Schwaller in the semifinals to reach Championship Sunday.

“We knew we were facing a very good team,” Retornaz said. “Every team here in the Slams is a good team, but Whyte is showing on the ice he’s really close to winning a Slam.

“We played them in a semifinal this year already in a Slam. He made it to the final by beating lots of good teams. We knew we were facing a very strong team and winning with the last shot in the last end shows that both teams were even on the ice even though we always kept a small advantage.

“A few bad shots in the sixth from me. We gave up a steal so they were able to tie the game, but I think we still kept control of the game and our goal was to be in the last end with the hammer, so that’s what we did.”

Although it’s now time for the holidays, Retornaz wants to keep rolling — or keep on truckin’ if you will — as the Grand Slam of Curling season resumes in the New Year with the Co-op Canadian Open, Jan. 16-21, at Servus Arena in Red Deer, Alta.

“It doesn’t end here. The year is ending now but our curling season is not ending,” Retornaz said. “Our curling careers are not ending either, so we really want to keep going. We’re going to for sure enjoy our families during Christmas and festivities, then hit the ice and be ready for the next event in January.”

Earlier, Rachel Homan captured a record-extending 14th Grand Slam women’s title. Homan and her Ottawa-based club doubled up on Team Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland 8-4 in the WFG Masters women’s final.