White Rose Flies High
The inaugural Yorkshire Open Racketlon 2014 saw wins for Yorkshire born Luke Barnes, Piers Boden, Hannah Boden and Jake Clarke, as those born in Yorkshire dominated the top spots on the podium. There were also wins for Sam Marsden, Jo Shelley, Gary Lane, Nigel D’Arcy and Rafal Wilowski on a packed day at the Batley Sport & Tennis Centre.
A mammoth 59 entrants took part in the Yorkshire Open, making it the biggest Racketlon event to take place in the North of England, with Men’s A, B & C, Ladies A & B, Over 45’s & Over 55’s Vets and 2 Junior classes. Importantly, over half the entries were entering a Racketlon tournament for the first time; a promising development for those challenged with developing the sport in the North.
In the Men’s A, Luke Barnes was keen to deliver the title as his family watched on. However, with Phil Todd, Matej Dohnal and Alex Du Noyer as established A players, joining him in the draw it was sure to be a tough battle. The four seeds progressed through first round ties, Phil just squeezing past Ed Harvey, just back from a win in Wales and a podium in the Canadian Open. Luke saw off the challenge of Lancastrian Todd, whilst Czech star Dohnal saw off Du Noyer.
Todd saw off Du Noyer in the 3rd/4th place tie, leaving just Barnes & Dohnal to battle it out for the title. Luke was nervous, eager to win his first singles Racketlon title on “God’s Own” home soil. Seeking advice from everyone he could, he settled for the simple advice offered by one fellow player “Win more points than him”. This tactic served him well; after recovering from a tough table tennis leg (Dohnal winning 21-4) Barnes took the Badminton (21-6) and Squash (21-15), leaving it all on the tennis however Barnes reached the required 15 points to take his title.
Hannah Boden is one of the rising stars of English Racketlon, but that is all irrelevant when you are seeded number 1 in a tournament organised by your parents! 13 year old Hannah however coped with the pressure to deliver a faultless tournament. Facing second seed Angela Crossley, a fierce competitor and accomplished tennis coach, she was able to extend a strong enough lead through the table tennis and badminton to ensure a narrow defeat in the squash wouldn’t stop her taking the Ladies A title. The Ladies B title was taken by Jo Shelley, who was too strong for Beth Milburn in a final which was defined by the squash, which Shelley dominated.
The Men’s B was to contain some of the tightest matches of the tournament, with 3 ties won by 5 points or less. Ross Frisby tenaciously saw off James Pope by 2 points, before himself losing the semi-final by 5 points to Chris Johns from Teesside. Chris was joined in the final by young Piers Boden, like sister Hannah and fellow Yorkshireman Barnes, feeling the pressure of being seeded and with family watching on.
Piers, just 15 years old, had eased through his first two matches, seeing off Chris Poole in the semi-final but Johns was highly unlikely to provide an easy opponent, particularly after his excellent defeat of No. 1 seed Stephen Dow in the 1st round. After each handed out a 21-2 thrashing over the first two sports (Chris in the table tennis, Piers in the badminton), the match came down to the Squash and Tennis. Piers edged the squash (21-15) and was able to stay close enough to Chris in the tennis to reach the finishing line before his opponent and take the title by 3 points. Chris Poole saw off Ross meanwhile to take third place.
In the Men’s C, a massive 18 strong draw saw the 4 seeds reach the semi-finals. Top seed Nick Corking saw off 4th seed, local lad Elliot Walker, whilst 2nd seed Sam Marston defeated Dylan Leigh from Wales. Third seed Leigh defeated Walker to finish third, as Marston recovered from a 21-1 thrashing in the table tennis at the start of the final, to take the Men’s C title from Corking. The age group categories saw Jake Clarke defeat Ewan Gilbert in the U16’s with Lewis Howarth taking third place whilst in the U13’s young Rafal Wilowski justified the long trip down from NE Scotland to take the title ahead of William Gregson from Manchester, with local lad Paul Dean in 3rd place.
Gary Lane meanwhile saw off both top seed Jonathan Healey and second seed Geoff Woods to take the Over 45’s Vets title, Woods taking second and Healey third. Nigel D’Arcy won the Over 55’s box league, Ramon Miles finishing second and Ian Peerless third.
Overall, it was a tremendous event; 59 players is truly stunning for a regional first-time tournament and is testament to the hard work from organiser Malcolm Boden and his wife Lynn. It lays a tremendous base for continuing to push the development of Racketlon in the North, building on the recent County Championships entry and previous Northern tournaments. The Yorkshire Open will certainly return, with ambitious plans to expand it to a second day and include doubles events. With Malcolm’s energy and enthusiasm this expansion is a near certainty.