UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

What better way to celebrate father’s day than competing alongside your dad in a Racketlon tournament?   That was certainly the opinion of the Gregson, Lau, Ryan and Sweetnam families who all descended on Shrewsbury for the 2nd  Shropshire Open!  Would any of the Father’s or Son’s return home with a trophy?  Standing in their way was a host of 1st time players, complimented by a smattering of grizzled tour veterans eager to snuff out their ambitions. To bring us all the results and tidbits on this event is tournament director, Paul Mathieson. 

The event was sure to deliver surprises, with Men’s A, B and C all guaranteed to crown a first time winner for that category.   First up, the Men’s A, which delivered perhaps the biggest surprise of the day, with Dylan Leigh running out the eventual winner!   In Group A, Dylan was up against local badminton coach Stuart Preston and Danish veteran Graham Cain.  Dylan eased past Preston in the first match, despite losing table tennis and badminton, a trademark defensive display in the tennis, set the scene for an eventual +5 victory.   He backed this up with an impressive +32 dismantling of Graham to reach the final.   Meanwhile in group B, Tournament Director Paul Mathieson was looking to follow the example set by Johnny Bispham the previous week and actually do well in his home tournament.  He was up against local newcomer Matt Lynch and Matt Lau.  Paul started out with a comfortable +21 victory against Matt Lynch, where a heavy badminton win gave him the confidence to go into tennis swinging and gain an improbable 15 points against the tennis specialist.  Next up was Matt Lau, who was sure to provide a sterner test with his high level badminton and superior fitness on the squash court.   Paul took an early 4 point lead from TT, but that soon turned into a 13 point deficit following badminton.   A big win in tennis for Paul meant that it was all square going to squash.  A lengthy battle ensued, with Matt employing his fitness and power to attempt to dominate from the back of the court.  It was nip and tuck until the closing stages where superior ball control eventually helped Paul to a 21-17 win.    And so to the final!  Paul got off to a flying start, taking the table tennis to 14.  With an expected big loss coming up in badminton, Dylan’s prospects looked bleak.  Badminton defeat duly followed, but only by a narrow 5 point margin, Dylan firing in some lethal cross court drop shots that kept racking up the points against a tiring opponent.  Next up, Tennis.  Let’s just say it didn’t capture the imagination of the crowd, Dylan put up “the wall” and there was simply no way past for an increasingly frustrated opponent.  With Dylan needing 17 points in Squash to win, the odds were still heavily stacked against him.  The first point set the scene however, with Dylan hitting a cross court nick directly from the serve.   With the score at 20-16 to Paul, a gummi loomed, but Dylan somehow held his nerve to cut out a cross court drive to claim the title!   In the 3rd / 4th playoff match Stuart Preston secured a comfortable victory over Matt Lau, a badminton win for Stuart being key as that nullified Matt’s main weapon.

The Men’s B seen a round Robin with Simon Lau, Pete Kempner, Robin Morris and Lee Gregson.  Shropshire man Pete recently made his debut in Bath and was keen to continue his Racketlon development with a good performance in his home event.   In the end though, it was tour veteran Simon Lau who ran out victorious, with 3 wins out of 3 securing him the Men’s B winner’s trophy (supplied by himself!).   Pete Kempner came in 2nd with solid Table Tennis proving decisive in the matches against the other competitors.

The Men’s C event was a 5 man draw (15up) with three debuts from local players, Matt Appleby, Thomas Sweetnam and Vasan Srinivasan.   Nottingham player Scott Hughes and the 3rd Lau family member Hayden, made up the rest of the group.  Matt Appleby got off to a flying start, winning his first two matches including two ruthless 15-0 victories on the badminton court.  As the day progressed however it was Hayden Lau that kept racking up the victories.    The early victory for Hayden against Scott Hughes (+17) proving to be the pivotal match, with neither player going on to lose any other match it was Hayden who claimed victory, and a second trophy for the Lau family! 

Men’s Over 45 seen the return of The Dr. Soos to Shropshire looking to defend the title he won last year.   Standing in his way as part of a round robin group of 5 was a trio of newcomers from Shropshire, Chris Breese, Paul Sweetnam and Christopher Smith alongside the experienced Ray Ryan.  Chris Breese made an impressive Racketlon debut, Using his Table Tennis and Tennis to good effect to rack up three wins out of four.  Dr. Soos was not to be denied however, In the head to head Chris couldn’t live with the impressive Table Tennis skills of Dr Soos and only managed 2 points from his main rival.  That proved to be crucial and Dr Soos racked up a +15 point victory to successfully defend his title.  Special mention to Paul Sweetnam who’s enthusiasm for the event was infectious all throughout the day!

The Ladies event seen an all Shropshire line up of Shirley Barre, Joanna Morris and Kath Gardner.   Both Joanna and Kath were making their debut, but were expected to make Shirley at least work for her first Shropshire title.  Shirley had other ideas though and ran out the clear winner with +21 and +46 victories.  Everyone enjoyed the experience however and Kath claimed 2nd place by beating Joanna thanks to largely to a 21-7 victory on the badminton court.

The juniors section was perhaps the hardest category to predict.  On one hand we have 4 newcomers from Shropshire, all of whom boasted an impressive resume.  It’s tough to win a tournament on your first attempt however, so rising start of the tour Will Gregson and Dan Ryan were looking to use their experience to good effect.   In group A, a local derby saw Travis Austin beat Arlie Chetter by 1 point!  Arlie won the tennis to 3 and looked on course for a victory, but a crushing 21-1 victory in squash gave Travis the win on his competitive debut.   Daniel Ryan dispatched Arlie Chetter with little fuss, but found the going slightly tougher against Travis.   Daniel eventually won 3 out of the 4 sports and secured the victory by 15 points despite a big win for Travis on the squash court.   In group B, another local duo Alistair Perkins and Cameron Parry were up against the experienced Will Gregson.   Cameron Parry got off to a flying start with a an impressive +29 point victory over Alistair.   William Gregson looked in fine form however, racking up +28 and +40 wins against his group stage opponents.   The final saw the most exciting and dramatic match of the day!  Will and Daniel have played several time before, but this was the first time that will has had to play the final sport.  Dan, a strong tennis player managed to use the change of sport order to his advantage and build up a strong lead going into squash, needing just 9 points to win.  Will, the stronger squash player, build up a nice lead in squash,  however Daniel battled for every point and managed to the position where he had two match points.   Will was able to save both of these and so the crowd would be treated to a gummi point in the final!  The tension was palpable… Will won the racket spin and chose to serve.  A fantastic rally ensued with both players taking risks, but Will managed to force will to the back of the court and eventually ran out the winner!  That victory means that Will Gregson overtakes Leon Griffiths the most successful UK junior with respect to winning junior titles, with 6 to Leon's 5, and more surely to be added. 

Well done to everyone who took part in another fantastic Shropshire Open.   The Lau family won the battle of the families, taking home two winners medals!

All the results and matches can be found here.