Luke Barnes and Jo Shelley were victorious in the A draws as Racketlon returned to the stunning Northern Lawn Tennis Club in Manchester for the 2016 Go Home Direct North West Open. They were joined in the winners enclosure by Joe Steele (Men’s B), Robbie Smith (Men’s C), Scott Hughes (Men’s D), Simon Lau (Men's O45s) and William Gregson (U16s). While Friday and Saturday rain kept the players off the Northern's grass courts that had been recently graced by Dustin Brown, Sunday itself was a glorious day of (rarely seen sunshine) in Manchester, for a really excellent day of Racketlon. The full results from the event are available here.
Jo Shelley stretches everything to keep the ball in play!
We start with the Men’s A, which was to be a four player box group, after James Pope volunteered to (be the sacrificial lamb and) come up from the Men’s B entries. James joined Dave Edgar, Andrew Hopwood and pre-event favourite Luke Barnes. In the first round of matches Dave Edgar polished off the volunteer Pope, dominating the badminton and tennis sets after James nicked close TT and squash sets. Meanwhile Luke Barnes set his ball rolling with victory over Andrew Hopwood, a strong TT performance from Luke ensuring an otherwise tight match was only ever going to end his way. In round 2, Andrew beat James, recovering from a TT defeat (that was death by net tape) to seal a comfortable victory. Luke overcame the awkward Edgar, once again strong TT setting him on his way, although he was pushed hard by Dave who took the badminton and tennis sets. In the final round of matches, Luke just had to ensure he survived in one piece to claim the title, which he did with ease, weathering early storms from James in the first half of each sport to cruise away after the chaneg of ends. Andrew and Dave faced off to determine who would claim second place and it was the Notts Racketlon player who came through by 5 points in a thrilling encounter. Andrew's TT and squash leading the way to his victory and second place.
It was a four player box for the Ladies A too, as Jo Shelley, Michelle Hall, Saoirse O’Sullivan and Alexandra Wilowska contested the title. Jo and Michelle came through the first round of matches with victories over Saoirse and Alexandra respectively, although Jo was made to work hard in her specialist sport of squash by Saoirse for a 21-16 victory. Round 2 pitched Jo against Michelle with the title on the line in this match. Michelle led into the squash by 3 points, however Jo’s strengths came through and her 21-5 victory ensured that despite Michelle taking the tennis, Jo would run out the eventual victor. Saoirse saw off the Scottish challenge, recovering from a TT defeat to come out with victory over Alexandra. In the final round of matches, Jo sealed her triumph by defeating Alexandra whilst Michelle edged out Saoirse, winning TT and tennis after the ladies shared badminton and squash sets both 21-4 a piece.
Even an experienced player can have a nervous will it/won't it land out moment
In the Men’s B, it was the battle of the badminton specialists as Joe Steele and Stuart Preston progressed to a winner takes all final match in their four player box league. Having both defeated George Roberts and Lee Richardson in the early rounds of the Men’s B box, they came together for a titanic battle. With Joe winning the badminton, he was in the box seat and claimed the Men’s B title ahead of Stuart, and despite losing the squash, it was close enough that Joe left Stuart no way back in the tennis, to claim the title, to add to a North of England Men's B title he won here in 2014. George defeated Lee in a match that featured a thrilling 25-23 tennis victory for Lee. In a strong Men’s C, both seeds were eliminated in the first round of a monrad 8 draw, as Jake Tetley fell to Matthew Rofe and Kieran Shelley losing to Robbie Smith. Robbie would progress to the final were he came across Gareth Webb. Robbie with a solid grounding in badminton and squash secured the Men’s C title by 8 points, leaving Gareth to claim second place. Scott Keeley defeated friend Mitchell Dytham in the Men’s D final, requiring just 12 to win in the tennis after a competitive D final.
In the O45s, the top seeds progressed to the final, as Jason Morris seeing off tournament organiser Lee Gregson in his semi-final while Simon Lau defeated Ian Evans. In the final it was a tight affair. Simon got out into the lead during the first two sports, but Jason fought back during the squash. Simon needing just 9 in the tennis was feeling the pressure as Jason went out into the lead, but he was able to cling on and grab the 9 needed to secure the title. Finally we come to the U16s, were Will Gregson, who recently went top of the all time UK Racketlon junior title winners list was looking to increase the number to his name, but in his way were 7 others looking to stop him in his home event, including the Wilowski brothers. Will overcame Kazio Wilowski in the semi’s to meet his younger brother Rafal in the final. Rafal got off to a good start with his excellent TT and a narrow badminton defeat leaving the young Scot well placed to stop the local boy. However, Will roared back on the squash court and his 21-4 victory in the process turning the match on its head, and gave him the chance to claim title number 7. A nervy tennis, saw Rafal just 5 points from victory, however Will was able to get over the line and take the junior title, his 7th.
Mitchell races a forehand past Scott, but this was a fleeting moment of success as Scott won overall
All in all another excellent event at the Northern LTC who kindly hosted us despite the event clashing with the Wimbledon Men’s final. The Northern is a fantastic venue, one of my favourites on the UK tour and one that always seems to be popular with the players. The North West Open was a new event for the tour, and with a new tournament sponsor Go Home Direct, and the event was excellently run by the Gregson’s, with everyone mucking in. In particular thanks are due to Jacki Gregson for her hard work on the tournament desk (and massive thanks to old hand Rachel Pitson for popping over to ensure that everything started up smoothly and to George for getting Team Gregson started on tournament software), Will and Maya for their hard work setting everything up for the event on the morning and in particular to Lee, for taking on the running of an event and adding another tournament organiser to the UK Racketlon ranks.