UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

James Greenhead and Fiona Sime won the Men’s and Women’s titles at the Carlton & Dunlop English Racketlon Championships held last weekend at Next Generation in Romford. Mark Jackson and Ray Jordan won the Men’s Doubles with Dominique Ford and Keith Lesser

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Men’s Singles
James became the second ever Carlton & Dunlop English Champion after defeating surprise finalist Simon May early on in the tennis set. It was a tournament of upsets as 3 of the 4 seeds crashed out at the quarter-final stage or earlier, and with Doug Struthers and last year's winner John O'Donnell not present, the Men’s title was anyone's for the taking. Greenhead survived an enormous scare in the quarter-final against Tom Whitehouse, who squandered 5 match points before losing on a gummi-arm to the eventual winner, who was forced to serve on the deciding point and still came through. Maybe the stress of arranging sponsorship for the tournament was too much for the badminton star from Staffordshire! 

It would have taken a bold man to predict a semi-final line up of Shaw v May & Greenhead v Hobden but that’s exactly what happened. Gareth Shaw has improved his squash immensely over the past year or so and is now a contender for UK tour events. After two very narrow victories (+1 against Simon Lucas and +2 against Ray Jordan) he met his match in Simon May, who won the table tennis comfortably in their encounter, lost the middle two disciplines but pulled an incredible 21-4 tennis victory out of the bag to send him into the final. That, along with good wins against Gary Zucconi and newcomer Simon Whale earned him player of the tournament. In the other half James beat Stuart Hobden with relative ease; Hobden having earlier taken out both Richard Whitehouse and badminton & tennis specialist Martin Hoyland (conqueror of Keith Lesser). In the final Simon was exhausted and James won both the badminton and squash with enough of a margin to just need 3 in tennis, which he got without any problems. What of many people's pre-tournament favourite, Darren Kerins? He lost in the first round to new boy Simon Whale, the scores were relatively close in all 4 disciplines but Simon's 21-11 table tennis victory was the difference between him and an out of sorts Kerins.

Wrong venue, Rachel!!!
Last year's ladies champion Rachel Hood arrived to play with plenty of time to spare...except she arrived at the wrong venue! As she was due to play in Romford, East London, she was waiting at the David Lloyd in Heston, West London! Unfortunately there wasn't enough time to make it round which meant there were only two ladies competing. Kentish lady Fiona Sime, recent runner-up in the ladies vets at the World Championships, defeated organiser Dominique Ford +15, a 21-4 squash win being the decisive element. Hours of practice at the Stour Centre in Ashford paying off there Fiona! We need more ladies for the future, and this will be a key growth area for the remaining tournament events.

Newcomers & youngsters shine!
It was particularly good to see a large number of newcomers to this event, with many competing and holding their own in the A category. Simon Whale and Martin Hoyland impressed with good wins and Jeremy Krzystyniak has potential to cause upsets in the future. Dheeraj Verman had the perfect racketlon debut as he won Men’s C, defeating Shane Lindsay in the final. As well as many newbie’s, the average age seems to be getting lower, mirrored by the increasing number of racketlon juniors on the international circuit. The best example here was Alexander Oliver. He finished third in Men’s B, losing by 1 point to the winner Russell Smart at the semi-final stage. Not bad for a 14 years old! Russell won the final, defeating experienced racketloner Oliver Close in the final, who had won the battle of the flat-mates one round earlier when he beat Dave Maynard. In fact, such is Oli's commitment to racketlon that he has replaced his bed with a table tennis table. He simply sleeps on a mattress under the table that slides under each night – simple! Rumour has it his girlfriend isn't too happy though. Charles Eaton won the Men’s D event in a round robin.

Delightful doubles!
The Saturday was once again dedicated to the doubles events. With only two entries in the mixed, Dominique Ford and Keith Lesser were victorious, beating more newcomers Ben Brown and Romany Hoyland into second place. In the Men’s Doubles favourites Mark Jackson and Ray Jordan retained their title by defeating the father/son pairing of Richard and Tom Whitehouse in the final. Good table tennis (21-5) and tennis (21-10) victories saw Mark and Ray home in a close final.

Thanks Dominique!
Dominique Ford did a fantastic job of organising the Carlton & Dunlop English Racketlon Championships. For this reason Dominique was awarded a special award – The Paul Davies Trophy. Paul, who played in this event last year, unfortunately died of Cancer in November.

Thanks also to the Whitehouse’s, Stuart Hobden, Robbie Wong & Dan Gillett for their invaluable help. The number of events and players on the UK Racketlon Tour is increasing constantly, and with ERA (English Racketlon Association) officially up and running there will be more work for the likes of Keith, Stu Foster and me (Ray Jordan) to do, especially with the English Open this year incorporating the World Doubles Championships. If anybody is able or willing to help run an event, perhaps local to them that would be fantastic, and especially if anyone can volunteer to help with the English Open in August that would be excellent!

Thanks you and congratulations to all at this event, especially the number of players who stayed for the presentation ceremony, a superb crowd. Keep your eyes peeled for more events soon and also a new website coming in the next month or two. Bye for now, and happy racketlon,