UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope


Jermaine Manners returning after injury dominated the English Championships Mens A draw in Surrey on Sunday 23rd January. Isabelle Tyrrell and Rakesh Gupta also had notable victories in the Ladies and Veterans. Tyrrell once again defeating World Championship silver medallist Natalie Lawrence (+17). The over 40's England tennis player left Lawrence no chance going almost level into tennis. Another highlight was a double victory for junior Alexander Oliver in U21's and Mens C. A gumi arm victory for maiden pairing Keith Lesser & Edward Batson over Alex Hartley & Luke Barnes was enough for the Mens Doubles crown.




1st 2nd 3rd
Mens A Jermaine Manners Ed Batson Alex Hartley
Ladies A Isabelle Tyrell Sarah Jane-Perry Dianne Baker
Mens B Colin Schermer Matt Bernard Joshua Kashdan
Mens U21 Alexander Oliver Michael Robinson  
Mens U16 Joshua Kashdan Matthew Wilson  
Mens C Alexander Oliver Resham Sagoo Jagdev Sagoo
Mens D Darren Vickory Dan Century Alex Hoad
Mens O45's Rakesh Gupta Stuart Foster Bob Parker
Mens O55's David Hall Richard Lawrence Ken Tunstall
Mens Doubles Lesser / Batson Hartley / Barnes Stahl / Mckee

Scroll through the below text to see the report for each specific category.

Mens A

Through all four rounds of the elite mens competition Jermaine was never taken to the tennis, always obtaining a win by the close of the squash.  Jermaine produced sublime performances in badminton, and a surprising turn of events displaying some good table tennis skills.  As most Racketlon players will be aware table tennis is a developing component in Jermaine’s game and the evidence on Sunday did show improvement in 4-0 winning streak (never been seen before).

The final was fast and furious with a real feast of skills and excitement for the many viewing spectators. Ed Batson played some extremely good badminton and endured some energy sapping rallies in squash. Despite being unable to play since November, Jermaine’s match fitness was once again evident and with matches being played back to back this worked in his favour. Some consolation to Batson will be his imporoved badminton form. Wins over Barnes and even Gupta (extremely impressive) will give the Hitchin man some heart!

Alex Hartley had a good tournament, playing well to beat Stuart Hobden (5th) in the quarter finals and Bruce Wheatley for 3rd place. A very respectable semi final scoreline against Batson (with some brutal squash), saw a mere plus 10 scoreline. On balance, you would have to say Batson's draw of Barnes, Gupta (7th), Hartley (3rd) is slightly harder than Kerins, Culshaw and Wheatley. This isn't from a standard point of view but a profile point of view. Jermaine showed against weaker table tennis players that he would take no prisoners and this gave him the confidence to even win the table tennis in the final (which was a surprise). If the Yorkshireman wins the TT, you know you are in BIG trouble!

Bruce Wheatley had a brutal match with Duncan Stahl, which he eventually won by 5 points 2-21, 21-12, 18-21, 21-3. He then went on to command a match with Keith Lesser, 2-21, 21-12 (again) and this time 21-4 and 15-3. Wheatley showed great strength at the final two sports, but very weak table tennis. This proved a nightmare scenario for the Ilfracombe tennis player and with only 5 and 4 v Manners in the 1st two sports, there was no coming back in the semi final. A 21-10 win in squash did however show that if he got to tennis, he can challenge some of the top players on a regular basis (especially the strong table tennis players like Ray Jordan). Duncan Stahl came back strong with wins over Oliver Close and Darren Kerins (11th). Stahl is one of the most improved players of 2010 and expect a tour win soon. A decent win for Keith Lesser (5th) over David Culshaw (7th) - 21-0, 21-12, 6-21, 7-18, reversed the result seen at the Surrey Racketlon Circuit in November. Anthony Phillips (13th) had a good tournament with victories over Oliver Close and Luke Barnes and was unlucky to miss out against Culshaw (by 1 point). Luke Barnes (14th) will be downbeat about finishing 14th, but he did have a tough draw. Mark Steedan (11th) reversed the result at last year's South London Open beating the badminton specialist. Barnes is looking for practice partners in Stockport, should anyone wish to oblige! Andy Hopwood also did well to put himself in a good position for 9th place.

Ladies A

After the unfortunate pullouts of former British Number One Jane Cook (hockey injury) and number two seed Fiona Sime (car trouble) the Ladies event turned round to be one of the most successful of the tournament. The increase in interest in the Ladies game has been one of the main stories thus far in 2011 and this is shown further by a stunning 10 entries (at time of writing) for the upcoming Cambridge Open. This is 5 times the current Mens A entry! This is likely to change with the likely entries of Edward Batson and Raymond Jordan, although the tournament is nearly full so they better get a move on. So anyway, go the ladies! Racketlon is clearly where it's at. Dianne Baker will be particularly happy with 3rd, thanking anyone who would listen for a kind draw. Who can blame her? Two of the best players in the world (if not the two best discounting Women's world champion Michaela Bjornstrom from Finland?) met in the quarter finals. Luck of the draw as they say, but this would have been a worthy final of any World tour event and shows the strength of racketlon in the women's game is certainly improving, as it is across the board. Lisa Wilkes was a new name for many and did well to beat seasoned traveller Dominique Ford to clinch a place in the semi finals.

Mens O45's

With the champion of the last two years David Lazarus absent, it was up to the Tournament Organiser and highly world ranked player Rakesh Gupta to take his highest accolade in British Racketlon. After previous losses to squash specialist Duncan Marlow, Rakesh was by no means done and dusted in winning the tournament. The final was a fight from start to finish, well until the squash when Stuart Foster ran out of gas. The tennis specialist doesn't have a good profile to beat TT & Badders supremo Dr Gupta and would have preferred a squash player like Marlow. That's racketlon for you! Newcomer Bob Parker looked at home in the competition and did particularly well to finish 3rd in his first competition. Steve Kneller had no answer for Foster's raw power, although the former Premier League official will no doubt be back for more. Stuart's semi final badminton looks to be the best of his career, 21-6 v Kneller, what a result! There was no coming back from there. Rakesh, unbeaten at table tennis and only dropping 11 points in badminton (in 3 matches), built up insumountable leads going into squash. Marlow may have been able to pull it back, but after a quarter final loss to Parker, he didn't get the chance. Jonathan Healey's steady improvement has not gone unnoticed and it is rumoured a certain super hero who goes by the name of superman may have something to do with this*

Mens O55's

Five intrepid veterans, all the wrong side of 55 years young, set out to prove that you don't have to be twenty-something to play competitive racketlon. Four seasoned campaigners plus one very welcome newcomer to the fold, David Hall from Essex, played full-length round robin matches (no namby-pamby stopping early for these brave boys) into the early hours of the evening, with generally very close games throughout. With no more than 6 points between the scores in the matches between the eventual top three, the group matches finished with the eventual fifth place player, Charles Eaton, finishing only four points down on the eventual winner, David Hall, despite a lead of 8 points going into the tennis, playing 15-up. How close was that?!!

David has certainly thrown down the gauntlet, stamping his mark on his very first tournament, and, we trust, not his last. With a strong table tennis pedigree, this Essex-based racket stringer certainly withstood the tension to overcome Richard Lawrence (2nd) with an unexpectedly strong tennis performance, which only Ken Tunstall (3rd) came close to matching, forcing an 18-16 setting to finish with before going down, where the reverse score would have forced a gumiarm. Roman Szwaba's squash saw him home against Charles to grasp 4th spot.

Such a tight group surely bodes well for the coming season, and with other Over55s known to be out there, the prospect of a full season of such events looks rosy.

Mens Doubles

The very impressive English Open Mens Doubles champions Chris McKee & Duncan Stahl finished 3rd, losing out to Hartley / Barnes +1 and Lesser / Batson +23. Hartley displayed excellent squash throughout the weekend. This was not enough to present a gumi arm loss to Batson and Lesser. Hartley put in a great serve only for Lesser to return a lob, Barnes missed a smash, that was 20-15 and enough for a draw. Lesser than missed an easy volley to set-up the gumi. Hartley then elected to serve and Batson to receive, Hartley serve volleyed, only for the ball to trickle under the key net line and for the pair to stare into the stars. Major / Major put up a decent fight, and looked in good company, with great squash and tennis matches.

Mens B & U16's

With a limited U16's entry, the event was combined with the Mens B which took place on the same day. Matthew Wilson showed some good stuff, particularly pushing strong Mens Doubles player Andy Major all the way to the squash, before giving up his lead. Joshua Kashdan wasn't content with the U16's title and proceeded to reach the semi finals of the B competition. He took out great players like Steve Kneller before eventually succumbing to eventual winner Colin Shermer. Now that's a debut! Kashdan definitely looks like one for the future. Matt Bernard and Rory Juss are also names to watch out for. When you consider former Class B winners Dan Woodley and Adam Gross were only half way up the finishing positions, it shows how much depth the events now have.

Mens C & U21's

Alexander Oliver stole the show, picking up two titles and cementing his place in the England Junior team. Michael Robinson made a worthy debut, but Oliver (who would have excelled in the A draw on this form) took no prisoners. Oliver beat great players like Steve Davies and Jagdev Sagoo. Jagdev, being a very strong tennis player, knew Ed Batson from his tennis days, which means watch this guy for future tournaments! Steve Davies (with Luke Barnes type enthusiasm) took to racketlon like a duck to water and will no doubt comeback for more at a future date. Fabien Mauroy was the other name of note in the Mens C. Mauroy, part of the "Beckley & Stahl Racketlon School" looks like a table tennis player on a squash court, but that is something his teacher will no doubt fix very soon! Beckley, who is a master of mini table tennis, won the table tennis battle of the day against Steve Davies, but could not translate this into anything higher than a 7th place finish. Beckley, should his body hold up, will be a very handy Veteran (very soon). Resham Sagoo, also very solid at tennis, beat Jagdev to the final (where have you been hiding them Lucky?) and whilst the Sagoo family look to dominate draws of the future, it didn't happen at this particular tournament.

Mens D

Jonny Stoller once again will be cursing racketlon HQ as is close friend and racketlon adversary Dan Century again got the better draw and reached his first final! Stoller was unlucky to meet eventual winner Darren Vickery in round one. Vickery looked pretty solid at the middle two sports and will surely have a go at Mens C in the future. Alex Hoad had his best ever result, and was good to see his return. Hoad, however, had no answer for table tennis specialist Century in a brutal semi final. Our best wishes go to Mario Orgill who had to be rushed to hospital after a nasty badminton injury. Mario is recovering and is ok, which is pleasing news.

Overall Event

"Congratulations to competition organiser Rakesh Gupta on his victory & to all the other category winners. Overall the competition was most enjoyable and the format of a midday start and events completed in a day worked extremely well for those travelling from afar".  Jermaine Manners, British Number One, World Ranked Number Six.

"The venue proved an excellent new host (for the English Championships) and with a 115 entries, this was one of the most successful tournaments we have had. We got past the obstacle of the number one seed pulling out injured and Ray Jordan (ERA Vice Chairman) even came along and helped run the event. Rakesh Gupta and team (particular thanks to the centre, the staff, Selwyn Walmsley and Niranjan Shimoga) did a fantastic job. With Rakesh working alongside the ERA events team, we had a match made in heaven. It was great to see the returns of Gary Tovey, Alex Hoad and Darren Kerins.".  Keith Lesser, ERA Treasurer

"The well heeled residents of croydon were dazzled by a glittering display of racquet-craft. Sadly my journey was a short one, but hats off to Darren winning the battle of the Century in the D's. Roll on Cambridgeshire" Jonny Stoller, Mens D enthusiast.

*Superman is otherwise known as Richard Whitehouse