UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

Article reproduced from: http://www.racketlon.com/newbritsweep04.html

 

Date: 2004-10-12
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Only two years after the first trembling Racketlon tournament in England (the English Open 2002, see report) Racketlon now seems to be almost as established in the UK as it is in Scandinavia. The UK had, in fact, already before the tournament passed Finland as the second biggest Racketlon country - in terms of the number of players on the Racketlon World Ranking (162 players as against Finland's 147 - Sweden is still in the lead by 248). And the English Open emphasized this picture. With 88 entries from 9 different countries it became the biggest tournament so-far on British soil. Racketlon.com reports below from the third Racketlon English Open.

 

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The winners in all classes (men & women) at the third English Racketlon Open were British, with the most notable victory coming in the Men’s Elite when Doug Struthers, the man who gave Eliasson a scare at the Gothenburg World Open last year, defeated Austria’s number 1 Marcel Weigl in the final held at the David Lloyd centre in Heston last weekend. One onlooker reports…….

 

“Doug Struthers outlined his credentials as a Racketlon powerhouse with a sublime victory in the third annual English Open over the weekend 8/9/10th October. However, do not be deceived by the large margin for victory in the final. Weigl matched Struthers point for point until around half way through the squash set, where he seemed, finally, to have run out of energy. The match was level at 9-7 (Marcel marginally won table tennis 21-19) however Doug, as the more experienced squash player eventually found his rhythm and cruised home comfortably, game on. Badminton was another surprise, Marcel again showed supreme athleticism to match Struthers until the very end. 20-17 down, Doug showed some clever spinning drops to fight back to win the next five points. The Struthers serve was dominant in the short tennis set, ending the match 11 points to 1. Two main factors stood out from the Struthers (1st ever Brit to win an elite men's tour event) triumph. Firstly, after a gruelling badminton point, ending with a smash to the Austrian's body, Doug exploded roaring "come on" twice. This guy has found some fight and some heart and wants to play Racketlon and be the best. The second feature which must be commented on, is the table tennis. Stockholm last Junuary: O'Donnell 21-4 Struthers. London: O'Donnell 21-19 Struthers. Sparring partner Chris Noakes meets with Doug twice a week to practice routines and refine technique. There is no doubt in this case, practice brings results!”

It was a very interesting final to watch; Weigl’s amazing energy levels and court coverage in the squash set was impressive – he has clearly improved at this discipline and at 7-7 many of us began to wonder whether Doug would indeed be able to finish him off – which in the end he did. Marcel also led for the entire badminton set (until the very end of course), again showing incredible resilience and stamina. Also interesting though was the way in which Doug lifted his game to destroy his opponent in the final discipline, and alongside his 21-3 semi-final tennis defeat of O’Donnell it proves you need to be well up going into the tennis against Doug to have any chance!!!

 

Before the tournament began a lot was being made of the two possible semi-finals between Doug and John, and Marcel and Calum. Between the two Englishmen the table tennis was the crucial factor – 21-19 to John just wasn’t enough for the brave brummie and Doug kept in touch before handing out a thrashing in the tennis. Maybe the possibility of moving to world number 2 put too much pressure on JOD?…

 

Once again, Marcel v Calum was an excellent match and although not a gummiarm as it was in Scotland last August, there was only one point in it. Calum will admit that he did not do enough in the table tennis this time (21-13) although impressively he took Marcel to deuce in his third sport, badminton. It is possible that his first two matches were harder than Marcel's as he faced Gary Zucconi in the last 16 and then just edged out his fellow countryman Steve Thomson (+2) in the quarter final, but either way I’m sure he will want to get revenge in Vienna if possible!

 

Henrik Håkansson will be disappointed to have been drawn against the (unseeded) champion in the first round, but consolation came as he won the plate event, defeating Niclas Larsson in the final. The battle of the table tennis stars (Belgium's Gert Peersman and Germany's Heinz Nowicki) in round one was won by the Belgian although the table tennis failed to live up to its billing – both players nervous of giving away too many points no doubt. Calum Munro had a fantastic first round match against badminton expert Kristian Achenbach – the German won the badminton 21-12 but Calum managed to fight back to win the tennis 21-7 and then take the gummiarm – the cautious Scot admitted he thought he had very little chance going into the final set but he just did enough!

The ladies’ event went with the seedings although unfortunately there was no time to finish the final (they will complete it back in Scotland so I am told!), Sarah will no doubt be favourite due to a very good start in table tennis (21-6). Hopefully the two ladies will inform us when the rest has been played!!!

The Class 1 event turned out to be a very strong affair with newcomers such as eventual winner Darren Kerins, Mark Jackson and Paul Hodgetts mixing it with the likes of Sarah, Phil Reid, Jez Bennett, Richard Whitehouse and Stu Websdale to create some very interesting matches and results, Stuart and Sarah being the only 2 seeds in the quarter finals – and they had to face each other!

 

Darren beat Sarah by 2 points in the final; I am reliably informed that she could barely move by that stage but to keep her to 1 at badminton and then match her at tennis is an excellent achievement, especially considering it is his first involvement with the sport – let's hope we see more of him, and the other newcomers at future tournaments.

 

Up until now England hasn’t had a problem with the amount of new players entering the World Ranking list, but now the quality and strength in depth of the English competitors is improving, undoubtedly helped by good publicity on the English badminton and table tennis websites (Darren K told me that was when he had first heard of racketlon, on the English badminton site – 3 weeks ago)

 

Of course, England and Scotland are two separate countries and will compete separately at the World Championships but on recent results a Great Britain v Sweden team match would be very interesting, and if you take into account Sarah v Lilian in Scotland, John v Stefan in Germany, Doug’s vast improvement since losing –12 to Magnus a year ago and any one of 3 very strong Scottish men at number 3 I’m not sure the Swedes would win…..but that’s a discussion for another day.

Continuing the theme of successful newcomers Alistair Jones won the amateur event, defeating Mark Scott in the final, very impressive seeing as he only entered on the Friday night when someone pulled out!!! A strong ‘2 sports’ player, he seemed dead and buried in the semi-final against Katy B having only won 13 points in the first two disciplines but then his very strong badminton and strong tennis combination kicked in to win it for him, exactly as it did in the final against Mark.

 

England also now seems to have 2 vets who can compete with the world’s best in Graham Norton and Richard Whitehouse. They both reached their seeded positions in the final where Graham was defending his title won last year. Identical profiles for these two men made for a very interesting and close final, although the key in the end was Richard’s stronger squash which aided him in his victory; Graham however ought to have done a little better than 21-18 at table tennis as he plays more often. I am certainly looking forward to more contests between these two men in the future.

The second ever Racketlon doubles event was very warmly received and very hotly contested. It is the nature of racketlon that winners are very hard to predict, and in doubles it is even harder! One or two people mentioned before the start that the Scottish paring of Steve Thomson and Calum Munro would be the ones to watch and in the end they won relatively easily, beating the Austrians Weigl and Dickert in the final (+16). Their badminton was, unsurprisingly, very impressive, beating O'Donnell and Websdale (both strong badminton players) 21-8, also keeping myself and Stuart Foster to 0, and we were lucky to get that many!!! O'Donnell and Websdale knocked out the seeded Peersman and Håkansson in the first round which was an interesting game, and in the ladies doubles the Scots (Buchanan/McFadyen) overcame the Germans (Seifert/Altman) by ten points.

The author was too tired and ‘complaining of a cold’and had to drive on the Saturday evening to enjoy a night of ‘partying in Heston’; however there is another competitor’s perspective we can call upon…

 

“Phil Reid, Gert Peersman and Henrik Håkansson must be further commended on a sterling, authentic performance on the Saturday evening. Ian Wallace will make his 2nd appearance at this year's world championships in Vienna if he has recovered. Also, a special mention to Gert and Henrik's taxi driver who managed to drop them home at 740 AM, after a 2 and a half hour taxi ride (12 mile trip to the centre of London!!!!). The buffet had some outstanding dishes and the timing was perfect. Steve Thomson feasted on chicken and sausage, celebrating alongside fellow Scot and Badminton specialist Callum Munro. The Scots had just given a lesson to Weigl and Dickert in a pulsating final. The doubles was a great start to the competition and a good warm up for all involved. Future organisers should try where possible to include such an event. Good luck to Stuart on his operation this week, a somewhat remarkable fellow. Hopefully, in the future volunteers will endeavor to support this competition and aid the continual growth of this great sport….”

Of course lastly, many thanks go to Stuart for once again putting in all the time (not only over the weekend but in the weeks leading up to it) into organising this tournament – and of course thanks go to Katy too for yet again producing a great website and sorting out the entries and draws – these two people do pretty much everything on their own; it is a wonder they can find time to play as well! Also, thanks to Magnus for not entering and letting someone else win!!

 

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Results in Summary (full results will be available on the English Open Tournament Homepage shortly):

Finals Results

Men's Open

Doug Struthers beat Marcel Weigl
19-21,21-10,22-20,11-1 (+21)

Men's Class 1

Darren Kerins beat Sarah Macfadyen
9-21,17-21,21-1,19-21 (+2)

Men's Amateur

Alister Jones beat Mark Scott
9-21,11-21,21-3,21-14 (+4)

Men's Vets

Richard Whitehouse beat Graham Norton
21-18,12-21,21-19,16-21 (+3)

Men's Doubles

Steve Thompson/Calum Munro beat Marcel Weigl/Michael Dickert
15-21,18-21,21-6,21-11 (+16)

Ladies' Doubles

Katy Buchanan/Sarah Macfadyen beat Silke Altmann/Irene Seifert (+10)

Ladies' Open Plate

Helen Bandey beat Pernille Thomson
21-9,1-21,21-13,21-7

Men's Open Plate

Henrik Hakansson beat Niclas Larsson
21-10,21-19,17-21,21-15 (+15)

Men's Class 1 Plate

James Greenhead beat Wayne Donaldson
21-19,21-12,21-12,7-21 (+6)

Men's Amateur Plate

Andrei Wall beat Neil Russell
21-10,21-12,21-11

Mens Vets Plate

Sid Hodgetts beat Geoff Jordan
21-13,18-21,21-10,9-21