UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

The UK Racketlon: Review Of The Year 2016!Quite amazingly, another year has passed, or at least it is that time of year when people exclaim such things, recount their successes and hand out some arbitrarily determined awards.  With no wish to appear any different, it is once again time again for UK Racketlon* to undertake the same. 

 

Roll of Honour for 2016

We start quite rightly with the roll of honour and the British tournament winners.  It has been a stunning year for UK Racketlon, and all our winners can be found in the Roll of Honour.  For the UK Tour 2016 can be found here for the Men’s and Ladies Banded Singles and also for Vets and Juniors

There are some notable highlights, with first UK Tour elite wins for Piers Boden and Dylan Leigh in the Men’s, whilst in the Ladies their were 5 first time winners: Shirley Barre, Michelle Hall, Louise Tucker, Sue Gotham and Kate Russell.  The Men’s Tour was dominated by Dan Busby (5 wins) and Duncan Stahl (3 wins) across the 17 events, Luke Barnes also picking up two titles.  Dan has now moved into a clear second on the all time winners list, with 11 UK titles, Duncan still leading the way with 18.  Ladies titles were shared around with Lauren Whiteman, Hannah Boden, Jo Shelley and Shirley Barre all picking up 2 titles a piece.  This leads to little change in the all time list, Hannah though now just one title behind Barbara in top spot. 

In the Juniors and one young lad was the UK Tour star, Will Gregson picking up 5 of the 16 available titles to move clear at the top of the all time junior winners list.  Luke Griffiths picked up 3 to sit just 1 title behind older brother Leon on the all time list.  There were first titles for Harper Leigh Toby Baker and Cherisse Lau this season all at U13s level, while Josh Ben picked up his first title (at U16 level) and we hope to see the three of them fighting it out for more titles in future seasons. 

In the Vets, it was the usual collection of names, Barbara Capper dominant in the Ladies Vets, whilst in the Men’s Duncan Marlow, Paul Thompson, Richard Middleton and Istvan Soos all well known winners.  There were first titles for Simon Lau, Geoff Woods and impressive newcomer Martyn Langston. 

Internationally, 2016 was one of the best for British players with several titles picked up at elite levels and in the three world championship events held this year.  Dan Busby led the way with victories in Finland and Latvia, whilst Leon Griffiths & James Silvester (Men's A Doubles) and Izzy Tyrrell (Ladies A) claimed elite victory in Latvia as well.  At the World Championships, there was team gold in the Amateur event for GB 2 and the U16s team event, whilst there were doubles world titles for Barbara Capper & Izzy Tyrrell (Ladies O45s), Barbara Capper in the Mixed O45s (with Emil Bergander of Denmark), Hannah & Piers Boden (Mixed U21s) and David Bennett & Luke Griffiths (Boys U16s).  At the Singles world championships, Barbara Capper (Ladies O45s), Richard Middleton (Men’s O50s) and Luke Griffiths (Boys U13s) all came home as world champions in a fantastic event for British entries. 

All the details can be found on the Racketlon.co.uk website with articles, links and the UK Roll of Honour page!

 

James’s Predictions: Where They Even Vaguely Close?

Last January, before the season started, James Pope went and made some predictions for the season to come.  But how well did James do?  A quantifiable one, was the prediction for who would be the Year End Number 1.  James plumped for Dan Busby & Lauren Whiteman, and he was half right.  Dan did indeed finish the year the UK Number 1, but Lauren had to settle for second spot, behind Izzy Tyrrell. 

However, James’ were not the only predictions made this season.  A prediction competition was held for the Elite draws at the 2016 World Singles Championships this November in Nurmberg.  With points awarded for correctly naming players in each round rising as the rounds went on, the competition was fiercely close.  The results were:

 

 

Men's A

Ladies A

Total

Alex Du Noyer

79

60

139

UK Ratings System

78

52

130

Jack Bishop

79

40

119

Jon Spinks

79

40

119

FIR World Rankings

69

49

118

Keith Lesser

76

32

108

James Pope

62

37

99

Johnny Bispham

76

15

91

 

Congratulations to Alex, who was the best predictor in both the Men’s A and the Ladies A and heartily deserves his title!  Less well done to Johnny Bispham, who after a barnstorming start in the Men’s came rather unstuck with his predictions regarding the Ladies events. 

 

Awards

Obviously, no end of season review is complete without a few awards.  Some of these are serious and based in facts and others are awarded from observations taken throughout the season.  We hope that all the winners are pleased with their awards!

 

Overseas Racketlon Player of the Year

We open with a very deserving winner, a simply unstoppable force of Racketlon who has achieved nearly everything in the game (and Magnus’s wins record will be toppled next).  Undefeated in 3 and a half years, Jesper Ratzer this year sealed a unique grand slam as he won Elite Team, Mixed, Men’s and Singles World Titles in 2016.  The pièce de résistance being sealing that world title without needing to pick up his tennis racket, such is his dominance in this sport.  Jesper is to Racketlon what Usain Bolt is to sprinting, a dominant force that draws in the crowds.  In a year which saw him get married and become a father, he has still managed to dominate our sport.  Congratulations to Jesper on a sensational 2016. 

 

Newcomer of the Year

There was quite a clear winner in this category, a certain individual entered his first tournament but without any prior racketlon experience was shuffled down from the British Champs B to the British Champs C. He went onto to comfortably win the British Champs B draw which was fairly strong beating the likes of Joel Durston and Andy Hopwood.  Pete Highmore, was a revelation with excellent squash and tennis in particular and was encouraged and straightaway selected for the famous GB4 team in Denmark in July 2016. He had a few good performances in UK tour events including a podium finish in the Richard Lawrence Open. Highmore in typical racketlon spirit quickly trying to improve his weaker sports and definitely one to watch for the future.

 

Herald of the Year

There are obvious honourable mentions to Ray Jordan (for his excellent walk on videos and player announcements at the Racket Masters) and to all our best tournament desk organisers (Rachel Pitson, Steve Bispham & Helen Ford).  These people ensure that UK Racketlon events flow and certainly make their fair share of vital announcements.  However, our winner displayed a level of thoroughness and dedication to his announcements that he can be the only winner.  Having (sensibly) hid her for many, many tournaments when she was just his girlfriend, our winner went to town at the 2016 Malta Open asking everyone in attendance: “Have You Met My Wife?”  Perhaps the phrase of the tournament, James Pope wins this award for most eager and thorough announcer. 

 

Epic Journey of the Year

Many a Racketlon player has trekked many a mile to get themselves to an event, but each season someone goes that extra mile in the face of adversity.  However, this season, our award winners earn this prize for enduring supreme hardship to achieve their end goals.  Ready to head to Denmark to the World Teams and Doubles Championships, the Family Boden where heading to Stansted.  Alas, there was heavy traffic and like many a person before them, they missed their flights check in.  Last minute flights to Denmark are not cheap, and many a player would have left it at that, cut their losses and headed home.  But the Boden’s, led by Malcolm, are nothing if not resourceful and determined.  With the support of the UK Racketlon community, they flew to Berlin, and then via a fleet of trains and a hire car arrived in Copenhagen in time for the tournament.  Hannah & Piers then went on to claim team Silver in the U21 Teams and the U21s Mixed Doubles World Title.  The combination of determination to get there with eventual success makes the Boden Family our worthy winners. 

 

Lazarus of the Year

Johnny Bispham wins the award for his exceptional recovery powers.  Having been carried (literally) out of the Malta Open with a busted knee, he returned a month later to play events in Hertfordshire, Antwerp and the World Championships.  A feat of recovery that makes the biblical sponsor of this award fearful it will  be known as doing a “Bispham” next season. 

 

Bone Crusher of the Year

While unlike previous award winners, no damage was this time done to Jo Shelley, she was once again the victim.  Playing doubles tennis in the Mixed B Doubles 3rd/4th match at the Racket Masters in August, Jo was in the service box while her son Kieran waited to receive our winners serve.  Our winner is known for giving his first serve something of a very decent whack, which on occasion goes in and more often goes elsewhere.  On this occasion, our winner serving from the “Ad Court”, went for a booming first serve ace down the T, a canny plan it seemed.  Dragging this serve to the left, but with no less power, it flew over the net to hit Jo flush on the ankle.  Extracting a yelp of surprise and pain and some later discussion about the rules of tennis (it was technically our servers point, but he was unwilling to take it, because it was highly embarrassing), it was, all in all, quite an unusual affair.  But who was this wild server?  Well for those who haven’t yet guessed, it was none other than James Pope.  A second award, awarded to himself, but really there was no escaping this one for James after his merciless teasing of the 2015 winner.  

 

Hard as Nails Award!

We all play through the occasional little niggle, those irritating pains that we put to one side to enjoy our racketlon.  However, on occasion, some players play through a little more than a wee niggle to achieve their aims.  These players, we dub “hard as nails”, last year Jo Shelley played the Racket Masters with a broken hand, and this year she is honourably replaced, by Lauren Whiteman.  Lauren, played the Ladies A event at the 2016 Singles World Championships with “a back niggle” of some sort.  Fighting hard to a 12th place finish in a very competitive event, Lauren returned home to a diagnosis of a stress fracture to her back, so slightly more than a niggle!  Everyone at UK Racketlon hopes Lauren is recovered soon and back on the tour!

 

 

Diamond in the Rough Award

On occasion, the Racketlon Tour WhatsApp group can descend into very poor humour as people try and make Racketlon players into some category.  On one particularly dire occasion, it was “Racketlon Players as utilities or shops” which was dredging all sorts of rubbish out of people.  But, then, gleaming in the dirt of rubbish being message around, came this gem “(Amke) Fischer & Chips Shop”, quite simply brilliant and so this award is won by Lee Gregson

 

Players UK Personality of the Year

Into our serious awards now, those voted for by the UK Racketlon Tour WhatsApp group (contact Johnny Bispham to join).  The players personality award goes to the player who brings the most to the sport on court and off court, just not necessarily in the results.  There are a couple of honourable mentions before we get to the 2016 winner.  Obviously, you can’t talk about personality without mentioning George Roberts, and nearly winning it for nominating himself is Alistair Prades.  Meanwhile, James Langworthy for his piano playing in Malta won him praise and a nomination.  However, only one player got more than two votes, and he is a worthy winner in 2016.  The UK Racketlon Players UK Personality of the Year is.... Johnny Bispham

 

Racketlon Tournament of the Year

Including all those on both the UK and World Tours, this is another category voted for by you.  There were self-nominations (for the North West Open at the Northern in Manchester), and also for Latvia and the World Championships both the singles in Germany and the Doubles & Teams in Copenhagen.  However, the runaway winner is the 2016 Malta Open.  With warm, sunny weather, incredible playing facilities, an onsite pool, and a host of events for players from a BBQ, a Sunday roast and the excellent post-event Boat Trip.  The Malta Open returns in 2017 and all who have played it before will (I am sure) heartily recommend that you enter it!

 

Players UK Player of the Year

Our final award is also the most prestigious.  The Players UK Player of the Year represents the player their peers consider to be the best player of the 2016 season.  We have a shortlist of three, final candidates for the award in 2016, covering a range of ages.  First up, Leon Griffiths.  Leon has had a sensational year, winning two world championship silvers and earning podium places in Latvia and the Racket Masters in the Men’s A grade.  All this and he sat his GCSE’s!  An impressive effort from the young man who is developing into an excellent racketlon player.  Moving up in age, we get to our second nominee, last years winner, Dan Busby.  Dan claimed two Men’s A world tour titles in 2016 and added a further 5 UK Tour titles to his collection.  Finishing the year as the UK number 1 and in the world top 10, he has excelled in 2016.  Dan still has the motivation and desire to exceed his current achievements and lay down a marker to the rest of the world in 2017.  Finally, we come to a man who has seemingly boundless energy, enthusiasm and passion to win, all wrapped up in a bundle of politeness and fair play.  Richard Middleton, the Men’s O50s World Champion, personifies everything you want in a racketlon player.  Continual improvement in all four sports, energy on court and the highest level of sportsmanship.  Frequently playing 4 events at a world tour event, Richard quite often comes home with a few trophies and plenty of scalps.  One of the most popular people in Racketlon, Richard’s ascent to earn his first world title is one of the moments of the season for all at UK Racketlon. 

But, despite our three worthy finalists, there is only one winner.  Voted for by his fellow UK Racketlon players, the 2016 UK Racketlon, Players Player of the Year is.... Leon Griffiths.  Congratulations Leon and all our nominees. 

 

That is all for the 2016 UK Tour review and Racketlon for 2016.  A huge thank you to all of the players, you make this sport what it is and we couldn’t play it or be the community we are without you all.  We look forward to seeing you in 2017 on the UK Tour, the first event is the East Midlands Open, in Nottingham on 11th February!

 

* These awards are entirely by James Pope, and all anger should be therefore targeted at him, not Keith, Ray, Duncan, Jack, Dom, George, etc.