UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

A crushing squash performance in the final of the Hertfordshire Open, saw Dan Busby gain revenge over Duncan Stahl as the UK’s top two players met for the first time since the latter defeated the former at the British Championships. Elsewhere, Kate Russell claimed her first Ladies A title, while Martyn Langston (Men’s B), Dom Ford (Ladies B), Peter Browning (Men’s C) and Dan Roworth (Men’s D) all claimed titles on a busy but flowing day of Racketlon at the Letchworth Squash & Tennis Club. All results are available here.


The Men’s A featured 6 players in two box leagues, with top seeds Busby and Stahl being pitted against tricky opponents in both boxes if they were to meet. Busby headed Box A joined by the Australian number 1, Leigh Sands and Chingford’s number 1 (probably), Keith Lesser. Leigh & Keith fired the first salvos to clear the morning mist, with the TT and badminton results more or less shared, Keith led by a solitary into squash. Leigh, a formidable squash player then brutally pushed the ginger ninja around winning 21-6 and therefore needing 8 at tennis to claim Keith’s scalp, the Aussie managing this with relative ease. Keith was then thrown straight into a tussle with the top seed Busby, and it started well for Keith, with 21-8 TT win. Hustling hard in the badminton, Keith forced Dan to stretch hard resulting in a tweak of Dan’s hamstring and Keith worked hard to push Dan to breaking point and beyond, to ensure he had a lead into the squash. Despite the tender leg, Dan roared back on the squash court and a thumping 21-5 victory left him needing 12 points to win. Despite Keith’s valiant efforts, he couldn’t cause Busby any further drama’s and Dan came home the victor and setting up a winner takes the group tie with Leigh. Dan flew out of the blocks and dominated the TT set, winning 21-8, once again showing his improvement in this discipline. The reeling Aussie, now up against it, fought hard in the badminton (losing 21-17) and squash (winning 21-19) but it was not enough and with Dan needing just 7 in the tennis to take the group, he stuck close to Leigh and at 7-8 he claimed the win.

 

Box B was an all London-based affair, as second seed Stahl faced Alex Du Noyer and new to London, Alistair Prades. The opening match pitted ADN against Prades and it was a real match of two halves. Alistair started the stronger taking the TT (21-18) and the badminton (21-14) to open up an early lead. That lead was quickly eroded on the squash court as Alex struck back with a comfortable 21-11 victory and then a controlled tennis set ensured he won the opening encounter. It was a somewhat different story in AND’s next match as he faced up to British Champ, Stahl. Duncan crushing his younger opponent with a 3 out of 4 sports victory, 21-15, 12-21, 21-3, 21-15, an impressive performance from Duncan which left Alex to soulfully lament “You used to be good” during the tennis as he spanked (what should have been) a forehand winner, wide. Duncan took a similarly brutal approach to his next opponent, Alistair and despite losing the badminton set (21-19), it was mainly one way traffic as young Alistair was crushed by the Stahl juggernaut 21-18, 19-21, 21-5, 5-2. Duncan claimed the group title and a final against Busby, with ADN facing Leigh in the battle for third and Alistair and Keith each wishing to avoid the wooden spoon.


Finals between Dan and Duncan have followed a regular pattern. The opening two sports are close, just a few points in it, Dan wins the squash and then the tennis comes down to whoever holds their nerve and sticks to their game plan. In Letchworth it started off following the script, as Duncan edged the TT 21-19, before Dan struck back to take the badminton 22-20. With the final poised as they usually are, it headed to squash for the usual 21-(10-14) win for Dan. Maybe something was in the air, but this time the script went out the window as Dan smashed Duncan for a 21-4 victory with some truly sensational squash that left Duncan trailing in his wake and the title in the bag, Dan easing to the 5 points he required in the tennis and his first win over Duncan for 7 months. Leigh recovered from slipping 16 points behind Alex after TT and badminton to come roaring back in the squash (21-3), before holding his composure for a 21-19 tennis victory and sealing third place by the slender margin of 4 points, Keith then defeated Alistair to send the young fresher home with a wooden spoon.

 


Kate Russell stretches out for victory


It was an 8 player monrad for the Ladies A, which was filled with tight matches throughout. Top seeded Kate Russell faced some tough challenges but it was her exceptional squash that carried her to the final with both her quarter-final (vs Sarah Hills) and semi-final (vs Rosalind Crawley) victories being massively helped by 21-2 squash wins coupled with some steely nerve holding in both tennis sets to ensure the finish line was crossed. In the bottom half of the draw, second seed Dianne Baker was able to call on TT skills to help her progress, vital when facing a fellow badminton player in the first round Jane Galsworthy and strong squash player Caroline Richmond in the semi-finals. With the top seeds meeting in the final, it was certain to be a tough match up. Dianne roared out of the blocks and into an early lead, with a 21-11 TT victory. This was swiftly followed up by an identical victory in badminton, ensuring a 20 point lead into the squash. However, here Kate produced her best squash of the day and a thumping 21-1 win ensured that it was all square into the winner takes all tennis. Rosalind seeing off Caroline to finish third.


Continuing something of a theme for the day, the Men’s B was also a frightfully tight affair filled with single digit victories and a few upsets. The first semi-final of this 11 player monrad draw featured the first and third seeds as Martyn Langston faced Mark Green, whilst the other semi pitched (the returning to Racketlon) Ollie Close against (the rarely not at Racketlon) James Pope. Martyn and Ollie progressed to the final, both showing great control in the tennis to seal their respective victories in two pulsating semi-finals. In the final, Ollie started strongly, 21-13 in the TT and 21-14 in the badminton allowing him to open up a healthy lead over Martyn. Martyn however fought back into contention with a 21-5 squash victory, to take a 1 point lead into the tennis. In a thrilling tennis set, neither player was able to gain the definitive lead, but Martyn just found the edge when it mattered most and sneaked home 21-18 to secure the title and continue to build an impressive resume in UK Racketlon with back to back Men’s B titles to go with his O55s Racket Masters title. Mark Green then book-ended the Pope’s specialist sports (or only Racketlon sports – Ed) sports of badminton and squash with a TT bagel and an impressive 19-2 tennis set to secure third place.


The Ladies B was a 4 lady round robin, with no player going undefeated in a painstakingly close event.  Highlighting how important player profiles can be in Racketlon, no player could dominate.  In the end it came down individual results to determine the final placings, with Dominque Ford the final winner thanks to her victory over second place Rachel Sheridan, both ladies finishing with 2 wins and a defeat.  Elizabeth White finished third ahead of fourth place Angela Sharman thanks to her victory over Angela, but Angella (vs Dominque) and Elizabeth (over Rachel) both claimed wins over the top two finishers.  A great event that was highly competative. 

The Men’s C final was the battle of the Peter’s as Peter Browning faced Peter Frobisher. Peter F started strongly winning the TT 21-15, but Peter B struck back as he held his nerve in sudden death to win the badminton 26-24, both players totally unwilling to give an inch to their opponent. Peter B then dominated the squash (21-5) to give himself a 12 point lead into tennis and in an evenly matched tennis set it was final victory to Peter B. Vladimir Danis sealed third space ahead of James Lamont. James having endured the set of the day as in his quarter-final against Tim Lawrence, he had come out 29-27 in a brutal squash set. In the Men’s D, Dan Roworth weathered the TT storm from Connor Green (UK National U10’s Champion) with badminton and squash dominance to seal the Men’s D title ahead of the talented youngster. Ian Campbell claimed third place ahead of Lewis Lamont.


Once again it was a pleasure to return to the Letchworth Squash & Tennis Club and as with our previous visits here, it was a highly competitive Racketlon event. We now head to the midlands to the David Lloyd West Bridgford for the final event on the UK Tour in 2016, the Nottinghamshire Open, Saturday 19th & Sunday 20th November. Entry is now OPEN here!