Ratzer & Zeoli Crowned Racketlon Royalty, but Britain Stood Proud!
14 Brits went over to the King of Rackets tournament at the start of this month, and our overseas tournament reporter and racketlon king commentator, Dave Ridout filed this report! No less than 14 GB-based players made the short and pleasant journey over to Oudenaarde for this year’s King of Rackets (KOR) tournament, one of the most popular stops on the World tour. With its friendly staff, great viewing facilities and beer and music flowing throughout the venue, the KOR manages to strike an excellent balance between an almost carnival-like atmosphere at times and maintaining the seriousness and standard of the sport itself, and it’s easy to see why it’s considered a “must-play” amongst many players keen to take their Racket skills abroad.
This year was no exception and as we kicked off in the basking sunshine with the doubles tournaments on Friday there was a sense of optimism amongst the GB players. The competition was fierce however, and both defending champions (Lesser + Ridout) along with new pairing Mauroy + Barnes were dumped out in round 2 of the men’s B doubles. Meanwhile in the A’s, former UK resident Loic Cencig teamed up with Duncan Stahl to take home 4th, and Scotsman Calum Reid teamed up with friendly Swede Steffan Adamsson to form a formidable pairing that duly made it to the final, where they met FIR delegates Kresten Houggard and Thorsten Deck. Hougaard in fact also beating Deck in singles to reach the quarters including a tennis victory (a big upset). The final stayed level until the Tennis, where Reid and Adamsson proved far too strong and ran out 21-7 winners. Reid’s response to encouragement from Ridout to “get this over with quickly one way or another so we can all have a beer”… 2 huge aces in the first 2 points… was particularly impressive!
We were well represented in the mixed as well, with all English pairings Ridout + Baker and Barnes + Barclay joined by Lesser and Romanian partner in the Bs, and Izzy Tyrell and Jermaine Manners playing, with their respective foreign partners, in the A. All the players held their own, and there was more silverware for team GB as Barnes + Barclay and Lesser and partner Iulia Bucur taking home 3rd and 2nd respectively. Bucur unfortunately injuring herself in the ladies doubles which was a shame given they were favourites for gold.
Neil Rayner also made the trip over, and added the final GB medal in the Men’s over 50s, beating Graham King in the 3rd/4th playoff after a respectable loss to World Champion Antonio Zeoli in the semi-finals.
Onto the rest of the singles and we’ll start in the As where the Brits found it tough going, with Jordan and Lesser both out in round 1, and Stahl and Manners out in round 2. There were some encouraging signs though certainly, Stahl giving a reasonable account of himself against finalist Stefan Adamsson before narrowly losing to 7th seed Markus Zeoli in the latter rounds. Manners also performed well after his loss to Duyck, scoring an impressive win against Thorsten Deck, winning the first 3 sports. Lesser lost to Joachim Gersdorf by one point in the first round with patchy Tt but decent badminton. He did get a win under his belt later on, pipping Jordan in one of many all-English matches later in the piece, though the British Champion’s main focus was on nursing his calf through the tournament, and he was pleased to come through unscathed. After many trips to KOR, Jordan only played one tennis set all weekend winning or losing prior to tennis which lead to the tennis referee concerned for his whereabouts!
The GB casualties meant that Calum Reid was once again flying the flag for team GB, but his run ended in the quarter finals this year as he lost out to Kasper Johnsson in a repeat of last year’s final. It’s also tight between those 2, particularly on the clay courts that favour last year’s champ Johnsson’s style of tennis, and he just about had enough to hold off Reid, winning the tennis 21-18. Jonsson himself was taken out by the aforementioned Adamsson in a thrilling semi-final ending on a gummiarm, but the Swede was powerless to prevent Jesper Ratzer, world number 1 and dominant force on the tour this year, from taking home another title in the final.
We were very well represented in the men’s B as well, with Ridout, Barnes, Todd, Du Noyer and Mauroy all making it through to the 2nd round. That was where it ended for four out of the five though unfortunately, with Du Noyer left as the last man standing in the quarters after taking out his 2nd round opponent 21-0 at squash! He next took on Danish world U16 champion, the talented and improving Mikkel Bodzioch. Du Noyer more than held his own, winning the Badminton to 10 and nicking a brutal squash set 22-20 in the stifling heat! He fell short in the tennis though, but continued his form to take home 6th, losing out narrowly to last year’s finalist in the 5th/6th play-off. Elsewhere, places 9-16 turned into a mini English tournament, with Todd taking out Mauroy but then losing to Ridout. Todd performed well only narrowly losing to French badminton sensation Sylvain Ternon. Ridout and Barnes, perhaps fittingly as they’d lost to the 2 finalists, had their first ever meeting in the 9th/10th play-off. Barnes prevailed relatively comfortably in the end, but it was high quality match in which both players can take encouragement with their performances in their weaker sports.
Izzy Tyrell was the pick of our performers on the ladies side, reaching the semi-finals of the A before narrowly losing out the strong German Amke Fischer. Elsewhere in the draw, Maureen Thompson and Dianne Baker, both bumped up to the As owing to their ranking, were holding their own against some strong foreign players. They met later in the draw, with Thompson taking the victory owing to her superior tennis. Katie Barclay did play in the Bs and took home a respectable 8th on her world tour debut.