UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

British Men Triumph at World Champs 2011

 Huge congratulations to Calum Reid of Scotland and to Dave Lazarus of England who were crowned World Champions in the Mens Open and Mens Senior categories respectively.

Mens Singles A

Calum repeated his English Open final win over Jesper Ratzer of Denmark, losing heavily to the badminton specialist in that discipline, but proving that racketlon really is all about breadth of performance over the four disciplines, rather than peaking in any one. Steady table tennis saw Calum take an early lead 21-12, but this was rapidly wiped out by a 21-1 virtuoso badminton display by Jesper. Undeterred, Calum’s steady brand of squash saw him claw a few points back, 21-17. With the prospect of then having to win two tennis points to every one that Jesper won, it was looking decidedly awkward at 7-7, but then Mr Consistency found his line and length, concentrating heavily on the Danish backhand. Slowly, the points began to flow in Calum’s direction, and it seemed the more consistent Calum became, the more Jesper tried to out-hit Calum, and a string of unforced errors on attempted winners saw Jesper’s lead dwindle and then reverse as Calum won thirteen points in succession. Just a chink in the Reid armour exposed itself on match point when Calum conceded the next two points – who wouldn’t be nervous when one point away from being crowned World Champion? However, more concentration on Jesper’s backhand forced a netted slice return from the Dane and Calum’s task was complete. Ever gracious, he acknowledged Jesper’s continuing improvement in his post-match interview - one suspects this may not be the last time we’ll see these two gladiators battle it out for top honours.

Other home interest had centred on Jermaine Manners, who breezed through his first match, but then came up against an in-form Michi Dickert, considering the latter then went on to outclass the number 1 world ranked fellow-Austrian, Christoph Krenn. Jermaine’s final round walkover saw him finish in a creditable 9th place. Shawn Doney always knew a first round win would pit him against the world number 2, Joey Schubert. He probably also knew that would be a hell of a tough match, and so it turned out, being his last match of the category, finishing 29th, presumably to permit himself to concentrate on the seniors category. Rakesh Gupta had three close matches, with winning margins always in single figures – sadly none of them were in Rakesh’s favour and he finished 45th.

 Mens Singles Over45

While both Andrew Fletcher and Rakesh Gupta were busy losing to world number 1 senior Peter Sakovics of Hungary in rounds 2 and 4 respectively, despite unbeaten records up to those matches, Dave Lazarus and Shawn Doney were quietly making their way through the lower half of the draw. Sadly, this meant they met each other in the semis, which meant that Britain would be assured of a finalist, but would inevitably condemn one of them to an early bath. However, Dave’s pre-tournament training regime had seen him strike a rich vein of form, and apart from a slight wobble in round 3 against a low-ranked surprise Polish package who took him to within 4 points, Dave powered through 4 of his 6 matches without having to resort to the tennis. While one of these was his semi against Shawn, most impressive of these was the final, where world number 1 Sakovics never scored more than 11 points in any discipline – truly an awesome performance from the Redbridge squash coach, and fittingly complementary to that of his training partner Calum Reid.

Rakesh’s good early run saw him finish just off the podium in 5th place, Steve Kneller’s ranking and last round win kept the Welsh dragon flying with a 17th spot, and Andrew’s first round win guaranteed him a top-half finish, eventually finishing 25th. Fellow world champs first-timer Julian Kashdan-Brown found the going tough but finished with an intriguing final match, where strong squash left him needing only 12 points in the tennis for his first ever worlds win. Just when you’re banking on your opponent having average tennis, he goes and beats you to 4 points – racketlon can be a cruel sport! Next year, Julian!

Junior Singles Under16

It can be quite galling to lose closely to the eventual winner, only to see him have an easy passage to victory in the final. Josh Kashdan-Brown could be forgiven for thinking of his match “that should have been the final”. Still, Josh’s close loss by only 5 points was at least in the semis, which gave him the opportunity to still compete for a 3rd/4th playoff podium place. Well, it would have done if his opponent hadn’t conceded, automatically handing Josh a world champs bronze medal, only a short podium step down from the silver he probably deserved. That’s racketlon draws for you. Next year, Josh! Oh yes, and next year, try not to draw the world number 3 in the first round of the Under21 event too!

Mens Singles B

England’s young guns, Duncan Stahl and Chris McKee, fresh from impressive performances in the UK Tour 2011, commenced their campaigns in equally impressive form, navigating the first two rounds unbeaten. However, both were destined to lose to the same Austrian player by similar margins, Chris in round 3, and Duncan in the 3rd/4th playoff, having lost to the eventual winner in the semis. Almost a medal, but no podium for Duncan this time then - can’t be far off in the future though. Duncan 4th, Chris a creditable 10th. Dave Lazarus suffered a first round defeat, but won the remaining two matches – not bad considering what he was doing elsewhere in the O45s. I’m sure he’ll be telling his grandchildren about the O45 gold rather than his 35th in the Mens B, wouldn’t you agree?

Mens Singles D

With the spotlights shining on the elite events, the beginners categories were getting on with their business quietly but efficiently , none more so than newcomer Tony Nightingale, unbeaten in his first three rounds, and then losing to the eventual winner in the semis. Unlike Josh's playoff, Tony’s playoff opponent was doing anything but concede, and a very close match saw Tony pushed down into 4th place by only 8 points. A very impressive debut Tony – let’s hope we see more of you on the British Tour in 2012. Tony also finished 13th in the Mens Singles Over50s.

Mens Singles C

The curse of racketlon, an oh-so-narrow first round loss by only two points, meant that the best that Chris Johns of Wales could subsequently do was to finish top of the lower half. So he knuckled down and that’s just what he did – in a massive entry of 64, he finished 33rd. With a more favourable draw next year Chris, who knows where you could end up? In fact, why not come along to the Welsh Open at Cardiff on 18th Feb next year and show us!

Ladies Singles Over45

The gallant Maureen Thompson carried the flag for British womankind – the only Brit entrant in any female category in Vienna this year. Another close encounter with the podium for Maureen, but a 4thplace finish just deprived her of that honour – this year anyway! Come on girls – let’s see a few more entering next year!

Junior Singles Under13

And finally, last but not least, Jordan Manners didn’t quite succeed in his bid to outshine his Dad’s performance in the Mens A. However, he does get the plaudits for being the youngest Brit to make the journey to Vienna and try his heart out – good on you Jordan – keep it up and may you be a shining example to all those who didn’t make it out there this year (myself included – Ed).

Full Results

… are available at http://www.resultreporter.com/node/97506/draws/list

World Champs 2012 and …

Just a reminder to all players that next year’s World Champs will be held in Stockholm between 29th November and 2nd December 2012. Put it in your diaries, right after you’ve put all the 2012 UK Tour events in there, just announced at http://www.englishracketlon.org/events.html . Enjoy your winter break everyone, but don’t stop training completely!!