Podiums galore for Team GB in Malmo
The 2nd FIR World Tour event of the year held in Malmo, Sweden, proved a successful one for Great Britain with no less than 9 podium places secured across 7 categories.
Former World Champion Calum Reid was leading the charge for the home nations, and took 2nd place in the Men's Elite, losing out to Danish superstar Jesper Ratzer in a close final. The Scotsman showed his class with a smooth passage to final, the highlight of which was a comfortable victory over World Championship runner up Kasper Johnsson. A commanding squash score of 21-4 in that match was particularly impressive.
In the final against World Champ Razter, a heavy defeat in Badminton left him with a bit too much to do in the tennis, though he did come very close and pulled up only 4 points short, leading the tennis 17-9 when Ratzer secured the final point he needed for glory. There were some definite positives to take from the performance for Calum though; as in the World Championship 2013 semi-final he was victorious in 3 of the 4 sports; and Racketlon fans will look forward to Reid and Ratzer; the 2 stand-out players on the tour at the moment; doing battle again later on in the season.
Elsewhere in the Men's Elite, Englishmen Jermaine Manners, Duncan Stahl and Ray Jordan all crashed out in the first round after being handed very tough draws in the form of Kresten Houggard , Kasper Jonsson and Stefan Adamsson respectively. Some good performances from there on in though saw them finish in positions 10th, 11th and 13th respectively, with Manners taking out Jordan in an all-English tie along the way.
Over in the vets, the Brits gave further evidence that they are the nation to watch as badminton specialist Rakesh Gupta took home 3rd place in the over 50s with an emphatic win in the 3rd/4th playoff, while Maureen Thompson also picked up 3rd in the ladies over 45s.
The men’s over 45s final was an all-English affair which pitted Richard Middleton against Steve Kneller. Strong squash and tennis player Middleton has been working hard at the first two sports, and that made the difference against solid all-rounder Kneller, who had previously held his nerve well in a tight quarter-final. In the final the pair were all-square going into the squash, in which a heavy win for Middleton left him with only a handful required in the tennis, which he duly got.
It wasn't just in the vets that we were making in-roads though, as messrs Middleton Jr and Manners Jr (Patrick and Jordan) both finished on the podium in the Under 16s. Patrick took home 2nd place whilst Jordan came in 3rd, both losing out to a strong Finnish junior. It's always nice to see the youngsters playing with a smile on their face, and it will be interesting to see how these two continue to develop as they look to establish themselves alongside distinguished GB juniors such as the Griffiths brothers and Alasdair Prades.
There were also some good GB performances in the doubles, as Jordan and Stahl continued their blossoming relationship (on court) with a second place finish in the elite category. A good win in the semis against a strong Danish pair was followed up by a final against another in the form of Ratzer/Houggard.
This ultimately proved a bridge too far but they would have been pleased with an improved performance in the infamously tricky Badminton doubles set, picking up a credible 15 points.
Over in the men's B, Dave Ridout wasn't able to trouble the prize-givers, but was happy with his performances and a credible 6th place despite an agonising gummiarm defeat in the 5th/6th play-off! After edging a nervy tennis match 22-20 against 2nd seeded Michael Persson to leave the match all-square, Ridout lost the toss and was asked to serve the gummiarm point. He successfully negotiated the first hurdle of getting his serve in, only to tamely put a backhand lob wide a few shots down the line!
As well as being a successful tournament on court, there was a nice atmosphere and camaraderie amongst the British players on the trip. Banter was flowing as always, and there was plenty of supporting and coaching of one another where possible. The Brits will next be hosting some of Europe’s finest in the well-run Welsh Open next weekend, and there will be a strong contingent heading to Canada in a few weeks as Britain continues to maintain a strong and popular presence on the world tour. We wish all participants good luck in both of these tournaments.