Dan Busby, Izzy Tyrrell, Leon Griffiths and James Silvester were the history makers as UK Racketlon dominated the Latvian Open in Riga this past weekend (8-10th July). For the first time in 5 years (and the first time in a world tour event away from the UK), both the Men’s and Ladies Elite singles champions were from the UK as Dan Busby & Izzy Tyrrell took home the titles. Meanwhile Izzy’s victory in the Ladies A Doubles (with Sweden’s Lillian Druve) and James Silvester & Leon Griffiths winning the Men’s A Doubles made it a record 4 Elite titles for UK players in a World Tour event. In addition, Leon claimed second in the Men’s A, losing to Dan in the first all UK world tour final in 6 years. There were a brace of third places as Izzy & Dan combined to finish 3rd in the Mixed A Doubles and regular pairing Dan and Mark Harris came third in the Men’s A Doubles. Finally, Mark added third place in the Men’s B to ensure that there were potential overweight baggage issues for the UK players on the trip home! With the World Team championships just 2 weeks away, these results will reverberate around the Racketlon community, the GB 1’s have gone from podium hopefuls to genuine title contenders, largely thanks to the form of Dan, Izzy & Leon.
It was victory for Busby & Tyrrell and a fantastic second place for Leon (Photos from Latvian Racketlon)
We start with Izzy, whose weekend got off to a flying start in the Ladies A Doubles with partner Lillian Druve, as the UK/Sweden pairing triumphed in the 4 pairings box league, finishing ahead of second placed Lieselot De Bleckere & Natalie Paul and third placed Anna-Klara Ahlmer & Nicole Eisler. The Mixed A Doubles saw Dan Busby & Izzy come third, recovering from a semi-final defeat to top seeds Natalie Paul & Kresten Hougaard, to claim bronze with victory over Swedish pairing Lillian Druve & Daniel Majetic. The Men’s A doubles saw an exceptional victory for James Silvester & Leon Griffiths as the debut pairing stormed to a great victory to give them both their first world tour titles. After an opening victory over the Swiss pairing of Roland Schmid & Lukas Spring, they then polished off the Swedish pairing of Magnus Edby & Daniel Majetic with considerable ease. In the final they faced the conquerors of Dan Busby & Mark Harris, the locals heroes, Uldis Dzirkalis & Arturs Zaicevs. Sticking to what they both did best, badminton and tennis for a foundation, they worked hard as a pairing to minimise their weakness and were the worthy winners. Dan and Mark defeated the Swedes Edby & Majetic to seal a first world tour elite doubles podium for the established pair from York.
Having got the UK off to a flying performance in the doubles, it was time for the UK players to pull out all the stops and work hard on their own. In the Ladies Elite singles, Izzy progressed to the final by first dispatching Sweden’s Anna-Klara Ahlmer and then recovered from a 21-3 badminton defeat to Belgium’s Lieselot De Bleckere, to progress to the final winning thanks to exceptional squash and tennis performances. In the final, she faced Nicole Eisler from Switzerland. Despite a gruelling squash set (22-20 to Izzy), overall Izzy had too much for the Swiss star and cruised to the 7 points she needed for victory in the tennis serenely. This was Izzy's first world tour victory for 2.5 years after being beset by a number of injuries. Everyone at UK Racketlon is delighted to see her back on the top step.
In the Men’s A, Dan Busby was looking to go one round further than in his last international outing in Belgium, where he was stopped in his tracks with a semi-final defeat to Denmark’s Jesper Ratzer. Dan came past 4th seed Swiss Christian Schaefer, winning before the tennis in a dominant display. He was made to work a fraction harder by Sweden’s Niclas Larsson, the pair exchanging tight 2 point victories in the TT and badminton sets before Dan’s squash prowess effectively ended the match as a contest. In the semi-finals, it was another Dane, in the shape of FIR President and world number 5 Kresten Hougaard. Dan has made Kresten something of his bunny in the last 6 months having defeated Kresten on every occasion they have played and Latvia was not to prove any different. After weathering some quite incredible Danish resistance in the TT and badminton, Dan found himself 4 points down going to squash. A squash win to 13, left Dan needing 18 for victory, which he achieved to earn his place in his first world tour final, even if it took him 2 hours to get past Kresten!
His final opponent was to be a known foe in the shape of 16 year old Leon Griffiths. Leon, fresh from an enforced tour absence for his GCSE exams, demolished Belgium’s Jeroen De Block before the tennis, before dispatching world number 17 and 3rd seed local hero, Latvian Uldis Dzirkalis, his badminton abilities proving to be the ultimate factor between the two players. Showing an appetite for seeds, Leon then dismissed 2nd seed Finn, Marko Valimaki, Leon progressing in some style needing just 13 at tennis to join Dan in the final, which he achieved with ease. So, we headed to a final that pitched the Wallington schoolboy against the St Olave’s school teacher, would it be victory for the unruly pupil or would Dan be handing out yet another lesson? 14 months ago, Leon had shocked Dan with a 21-0 TT victory on his way to an incredible win at the 2015 British Championships, but on this occasion, Dan had a plan for this lesson and taught it with finesse. A 21-16 TT victory set Dan up and despite a 10-21 badminton defeat, a dominating squash performance (21-2) ensured that he needed the relatively simple task of 9 for his first world tour title. Despite a gutsy fight from Leon, Dan stuck to the youngster and sealed his victory.
With strong performances in the Men’s A from Keith Lesser (=7th) and on his elite debut as a wildcard, Piers Boden (=9th), alongside Mark Harris’s third in the Men’s B (narrowly defeated by B champion Tobias Daneels in the semi-final), a 6th place in the Men’s Over 50s for Julian Clapp and Ray Ryan =19th in a 32 draw Men’s C, it was a weekend beyond all expectations for UK Racketlon. The Latvian Open proved immensely popular with the entrants and has shown itself to be a little gem of an event, once all the players hope will be back on the calendar for 2017.