UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

The British Championships returned at a sunny Parklangley Club this past weekend (9th & 10th April) and returned in some style.  Defending champions were defeated by former champions in finals to regain their titles, newcomers shone and the Women's title was won in a gumi-arm playoff! With categories from the Elite to Juniors, with a host of doubles events, there was a huge away of winners. They were: Leon Griffiths (Men's A), Jo Shelley (Women's A), Anant Gupta (Men's B), Bethany Pye (Women's B), David Dyson (Men's C), Chase Burgess (Men's D), Daniel Austin (BOys U13s), Chase Burgess (Boys U16s), Holly Ranson (Girls U21s), Jo Shelley (Women's O45s), Mark Steeden (Men's O45s), Martyn Langston (Men's O55s), Leon & Luke Griffiths (Men's A Doubles), Jo Shelley & Luke Griffiths (Mixed A Doubles), Susie Dilloway & Cherisse Lau (Women's A Doubles), David Dyson & James Trueman (Men's B Doubles), Dianne Baker & Mark Steeden (Mixed B Doubles), Oliver Barton & Chase Burgess (Men's C Doubles).  All match results can be found here and the British Championships section of the Roll of Honour has been updated with our new champions.  Photographs from the event can be found on our Facebook page!

Our 2022 Elite British Champions: Jo Shelley & Leon Griffiths

Multiple World Champion Becomes First Time British Champion

In 2021, Jo Shelley had one of the great Racketlon autumns, coming back from injury to be win the Women's O50s champion for the third time, plus winning the Mixed O50s title a few weeks later.  However, she had never claimed a British National Title in either singles, doubles or the O45s category.  Jo arrived in Parklangley with three chances to set that right in 2022. In the Women's A, there were two women standing between her, Alice Flatman (2021 East Anglian Open winner) and Susie Dilloway (winner the first two events in 2022 in East Midlands and Garden City Open). Jo got her campaign up and running by seeing off the challenge of Alice, dominating the badminton and squash to secure the win.  When Alice defeated Susie, thanks to a commanding tennis performance, it all looked like the pieces were falling into place, Jo having never lost to Susie! Alas, there is something of a magic to the British Championships, and people rise to the occasion, and Susie did just that.  Taking a big lead from the opening sports into squash, Susie limited the damage to need 12 on the tennis court. While Jo was edging ahead, it was Susie who clung on, securing the victory, leaving all three ladies as having beat each other. Now, in years gone by, it would have been calculators out, and points differences calculated.  However, the FIR have updated the laws of the sport, and now in the event of a tie involving players in a box league or group, they compete in a gumi-arm play off.  In this, each player faces the others for a point in each sport, with the player with the most points winning the title.  You can relive the gumi-arm play off drama here. Jo actually endured the worst possible start, losing both her TT points, before clipping the outside of the line in Badminton against Susie to get herself going, Susie convinced it was out, until her eyes told her the truth (and she called it in!). Jo then never looked back, winning 6 points to Susie's 4 and Alice's 2.  As a result Jo secured a first national title, but she this wasn't her only success, but more on that later!

 

Leon Wins Battle of the Brothers Before Beating Busby to Regain his Title

When the draw came out, we saw there were two chances for Leon and Luke Griffiths to face each other in the competition, including in the semi-finals of the Men's A.   The first round ties went pretty much as expected, top seed Busby defeated Ross Wilson to face Ray Jordan (who overcame Alex Du Noyer), and Leon Griffiths polished off James Langworthy before tennis, setting up the tie against his brother Luke (who got a walkover due to a late injury to Matt Davidson).  Into the semi-finals, and first up was Ray vs Dan.  With the TT (21-2 to Ray) more or less cancelled out by the squash (21-3 to Dan), the match revolved around the badminton and tennis. Dan claimed the badminton to 11, so when it all shook out in the wash, after squash, he needed 13 on the tennis court. In glorious sunshine, both men hit some great shots, but Dan was able to keep Ray at bay, and return to the final, where he could defend the crown he claimed last time out in 2019.  

In the second semi-final, it was brother on brother, World Championship runner up Leon, vs World Championships 4th place Luke Griffiths.  First blood went to the younger brother, as Luke claimed the TT 21-14; but after that older brother Leon took control.  He won the badminton 21-7, the squash 21-13, and therefore needed just 7 on the tennis. Both brothers played their shots, Luke refused to roll over, but it was an impossible task, and in one of the moments of the day, the brothers embraced at the net. Leon may have won, but they were still brothers, in a photograph that reminded so many of their embrace in Vienna in 2017, when little Luke was so proud of his big brother, in London in 2022, he acknowledged the skill of his big brother, but you know he will be chasing him down as soon as he can!

 

 

The final therefore pitted the 2017 & 2018 champion against the 2019 champion, Leon vs Dan.  It was dominated by the two-time champion, he got off to the perfect start by taking the table tennis, before producing a stunning badminton set to win 21-4.  Trailing by 26 points, the remaining wind was taken from Dan's sails, and Leon cruised home to reclaim his title, and to join Duncan Stahl on 3 wins, in 2023 he goes for the record of most successful Elite man at the British Championships.  

 

Doubles Delight for TeamGB

TeamGB (Griffiths Brothers) arrived at Parklangley looking to defend their crown, and to do so, they had to overcome top seeds Dan Busby & Jeremy Krzystyniak.  After edging the TT, the brothers Griffiths dominated the badminton, 21-5; and despite a narrow squash defeat, they needed just 4 points on the tennis court, which they cruised to, securing the defence of their title. Leon is now reigning Men's Doubles World and British Champion, having won with Calum Reid back in November 2021.  In the Mixed A Doubles, the partnership was split, Leon teaming up with Cherisse Lau, and Luke teaming up with Jo Shelley as second seeds.  As both brothers reached the final, it was time for a UK Racketlon first, the Griffiths Brothers facing each other in a final.  After the TT and badminton were split, 21-18 each, it all boiled down to the final two sports.  Jo & Luke took a comfortable 21-12 squash victory, leaving them a target of 13 on the tennis court for the title and there was no stopping them, they romped home 13-7.  First blood in a final to Luke, but I doubt it will be the last time these pair meet to contest national or international titles! In the Women's Doubles, top seeds Susie Dilloway & Cherisse Lau dominated their final against second seeds Alice Flatman & Gemma Sgariglia; after losing the TT, the were untouchable in the badminton and squash, to secure victory before the tennis, and first national title for them both!

 

Steeden Regains, Langston Retains, Shelley Claims!

 In the Men's O45s, top seed and defending champion Jeremy Krzystyniak advanced to the final, defeating Rakesh Gupta and Ed Westmacott to set up a final against second seed Mark Steeden.  Mark, champion in 2017, saw off the challenge of Peter Barton and Alistair Munro to reach the final, which this pair have contested now for four consecutive iterations. As in the three times before, this was a close and hard fought affair.  Jeremy edged the TT, Mark struck back in the badminton, just a point separated them both. Mark won a tenacious battle on the squash court, 21-17, to lead by 5 onto the tennis court.  This gap was just what he needed, and at 17-14, Mark regained the title he first (and last) won in 2017.  

A five player round robin greeted the ladies in the Women's O45s, but with a World Champion as top seed, it was always looking like there would be one woman to beat. Jo Shelley however was not for beating in this event. Despite the best efforts of her opponents Jude Urwin, Katie Hill, Dianne Baker and especially Claire Kedward, Jo emerged undefeated from her four matches, dropping just the one sport in the process (squash vs Claire), in as classy and dominating a performance as you were likely to see.  In the process, Jo completed her 9th match of the Championships (the most played by a single player) and secured a third British title of the weekend. 

Someone, who knows about winning British titles is reigning Men's O55s champion, Martyn Langston.  Martyn is one of just three players to have won three consecutive singles titles in the same category (Hannah Boden in Women's A & Duncan Marlow in Men's O55s as well the other two).  Could he make it four on the spin? First things first, win his box group, which he did, defeating Bruce Shepherd and Ray Ryan in the process.  With stage 1 complete, he had to await his opponent for his final match.  Group B had been labelled the group of death, featuring as it did second seed Rakesh Gupta, 3 times former champion Duncan Marlow and World O60's Bronze medallist, Alan Plater.  It was to be Alan who would win out of the group and face Martyn in the final. In the final, Martyn took an early lead with a 21-6 TT victory, and while Alan clawed it back in the badminton, 21-10, Martyn dominated the squash to leave just 12 points to get on the tennis court, which he duly did.  Martyn winning four on the spin, puts him 1 behind equalling Hannah's record of 5 consecutive titles at the British Championships, a challenge for 2023 for sure!

 

Style Abounds as Burgess & Ranson Arrive, While Wilson's Journey Continues!

Chase Burgess has been tearing up trees, winning the four events prior to the British Championships with U16s wins at Stamford, Hertfordshire, East Midlands and the Garden City Open.  However, how would he fare in his first British Championships? He was top seed, with (his Men's C doubles partner) Oliver Barton second seed.  This pair were dominant, both reaching the final without requiring their tennis rackets as they saw off the challenges of Raif Fontanelli, Daniel Austin, Jamie Courtier-Dutton and Jasper Riley between them, they faced off in the final, and what a final.  In the closest final of the weekend, Oliver started like a rocket, 21-7 in the TT, before Chase started to close the gap, grabbing 4 points back in badminton, and 3 points back in squash.  However, Oliver still led by 7 points, he would need 15 for the title. Chase however was not rolling over, and a stunning 21-11 tennis set gave him a first National title by the margin of just 3 points. Thrilling Racketlon from some of our youngest entrants! Within the U16s event, the Boys U13s title was award for eligible competitors, with Daniel Austin winning a first National Title in this age group, another in his first 12 months of playing Racketlon!

Another first-time national championships performer was Holly Ranson.  Having just arrived in Racketlon this year, Holly appeared in the Girls U21s and produced some scintillating performances that got better and better as the weekend progressed. After emerging victorious from Group A with wins over Ellie Thomas and Bethany Pye.  She faced Cherisse Lau in the final, Cherisse having emerged the winner of Group B with victories over Izzy Wase and Lois Perryman.  In the final, Holly flew out the blocks, winning the TT 21-11 and badminton 21-9.  Although Cherisse hit back on the squash court to win 21-13; it wasn't going to be quite enough.  Holly needed 8 for the title, and despite the huge efforts of Cherrise, who led 16-7; Holly managed to get over the line to win her first Racketlon title in the shape of the Girls U21s National Title. 

Holly and Chase maybe at the start of their journeys, particularly in the junior categories, another is well down the road.  Ross Wilson, returned to defend his U21s title. Ross may be now showing his prowess in the Men's A (including victory at the East Midlands Open back in January), but he wasn't to have it all his own way in the U21s.  His defence was almost derailed by Anant Gupta, who came within point of knocking Ross out, Ross managing to win the tennis 21-6 to keep his charge alive, while it was only 9 points that got him past Jamie Watkin-Rees in a real battle of a group.  Cam Leighton had a far smoother ride in Group B, cruising through to the final with wins over Ryan Bezer and Harry Nott.  Ross however was clearly done with stiff challenges, dominated his badminton and squash against Cam to ensure that he would win a second Boys U21s title.

 

There is STILL more!


Still More, keep reaching for it!

Aye,  it is  the British Championships and there are a few more titles to bring you! We will start with some of our stars from above.  Chase Burgess won the Boy's U16s title against Oliver Barton, but they linked up perfectly as a team to defeat Matthew Page and Kieran Shelley in the Men's C Doubles final, winning by just 2 points in another thriller of a final, again a stormer of a tennis performance, 21-11 (Chase making a habit of those clearly!).  Chase wasn't done with that title either, he also claimed the Men's D, defeating another U16's competitor, Daniel Austin in that final! In a good sign for our sport, Anant Gupta recovered from his solitary point defeat to U21s champion Ross Wilson to dominate the Men's B, he cruised past Alan Plater in the final, wrapping up victory before the tennis. Another defeated junior dominated the 5 player round robin Women's B.  Having lost to Holly Ranson in the Girls U21s group stages, Bethany Pye dusted herself off to claim the Women's B title seeing off all the competition, Holly (who finished second) ahead of Kirsten Atkinson, Dianne Baker & Katie Hill.  It is fantastic to see so many of our junior players winning titles and matches across the other grades, showing the strength of competition they bring. 

David Dyson stood head and shoulders above the competition in the Men's C, winning the final against Yudo Wong thanks to wins in the final three sports.  David also picked up another title, as he and partner James Trueman saw off regular doubles runner up James Pope and his partner Peter Barton in the Men's B Doubles final, winning by just 4 points thanks to an impeccable tennis set built on some sensational volleying at the net. Finally, Dianne Baker won a second Mixed B Title, as with partner Mark Steeden she reclaimed a title she last won in 2015.  Mark and Dianne defeated Claire Kedward & Graham Norton in the final, edging their opponents out in the opening three sports to leave some simple maths on the tennis court. 

Congratulations to all our winners, and a huge thanks to Tournament Director Ray Jordan and his collection of on the day helpers including dad Geoff, the Wilson Family and Steve Bispham amongst others.  Our thanks also to the Parklangley Club, for once again being quite wonderful hosts, as Racketlon came and took over a chunk of their club for the weekend, they once again delivered wonderful hospitality!