UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

Racket Mastery from Ratzer and Meißl

Jesper Ratzer and Martina Meißl were crowned the inaugural Racket Masters after three days of sensational Racketlon involving 166 players featuring 261 entries in 22 categories from Under 13s to Over 60s.  Jesper and Martina would also enjoy doubles successes, with Jesper, a triple Racket Master winning the Men’s A and Mixed Doubles with Marcus Christiansen & Anna-Klara Ahlmer respectively, whilst Martina claimed the Ladies Doubles with partner Hannah Boden.  Alongside Hannah, there was home success for Dave Ridout & Mark Steeden (Men’s B Doubles), Kathryn Milne & Ed Harvey (Mixed B Doubles), Kate Russell (Ladies B), Barrie Keeley (Men’s C), Barbara Capper (Ladies O45s), Richard Middleton (Men’s O50s), Neil Raynor (Men’s O55s), Wilf Jessop (Men’s O60s), Leon Griffiths (U16s) and last, smallest but definitely not least, Luke Griffiths (U13s).  The full results are online at Tournament Software.

Overall, the Racket Masters enjoyed a strong debut, with competitive fields across the classes, first rate facilities and (as promised) glorious weather.  An excellent base from which we can continue to grow both the Racket Masters event and the sport in the UK.

 


Martina Jumps For Joy For Winning the Ladies Elite Title

 

 

 

Danes Destroy Hosts England

The Elite draw was billed as Denmark vs England with four first round matches between the two nations, and sadly for the hosts it was all Danish delight with Leon Griffiths, Keith Lesser, Ray Jordan and Duncan Stahl all being sent packing by the quartet of Jesper Ratzer, Jesper Hougaard, Thomas Pilak & Kresten Hougaard respectively.  The last of these ties proving to be the closest as Kresten held his nerve on the tennis to win 21-18 and take the match vs. Duncan by 1 point.  The semi-finals saw Jesper play Lukas Windischberger and Martin Bjorkryd took on Mikael Hansen.  Lukas pushed Jesper hard, forcing the Dane to tennis, however Jesper’s sensational badminton being the crucial difference between the men after Lukas had taken the table tennis leg.  Both Mikael & Martin had accounted for seeds earlier in the draw, Mikael defeating Thorsten Deck and Martin taking out Kresten.  After exchanging lessons in table tennis and badminton respectively, Mikael took command through the squash and sealed victory over Martin in the tennis.  Sadly, he could not account for fellow Dane Jesper in the final, Ratzer proving too strong in all areas as he romped home to claim the inaugural Men’s Elite Racket Master’s title.

 


Pilak vs Jordan Didn't Buck The Danish Dominance

 

Meißl’s Mettle Stays Strong

The Ladies A generated some nerve-shredding performances as the draw largely followed the seeding, only birthday girl, Anna-Klara Ahlmer failing to make the semi-finals as she was undone by a flawless performance from Barbara Capper.  In the other quarter finals, Martina accounted for Heike Voigt, Eefje Henkelman defeated Lauren Whiteman and Lieselot de Bleeckere saw off Jo Shelley.  Martina handed Eefje a thrashing in the first semi-final, before under the lights of the tennis courts, Lieselot ended Barbara’s campaign thanks to commanding wins in the badminton and squash.  The final matches proved to be wonderful spectacles with both matches going right to the wire.  Eefje secured the final podium place with a 2 point victory over Barbara Capper, managing (just) to cope with Barbara’s nerveless serve & volley tennis to squeak home into third.  The Ladies A final, pitted the first and second seeds against each other in a topsy-turvy battle that swung both ways.  Lieselot started strongly in the table tennis, before Martina roared back in the badminton.  A hotly contested squash leg saw Lieselot head to the tennis a point up, for a winner takes all tennis leg.  Martina flew out of the blocks before Lieselot got herself into the match.  But, with neither player ever able to take full control in the glorious sunshine, it was the strong start that saw Martina bouncing for joy.


Neither Lady Willing or Able to Give The Other An Inch

 

Barnes Turns On the Style, But Edged Out By Sylvain

Luke Barnes raced to the final of the Men’s B, accounting for compatriots Will Coley, Josh Kashdan-Brown and James Silvester, before meeting the French badminton specialist Sylvain Ternon.  Sylvain accounted for home hopefuls himself, in the form of James Watkins, Dave Ridout and Dan Busby.  The final was a pulsating one, Luke got off to a solid start, taking the table tennis to 14 and opening up an early lead.  Luke knew he was the favourite for the squash, but also that he was facing huge pressure in the badminton.  Sylvain, had so far only conceded 18 points in 5 sets of badminton, Watkins and Busby having managed to take 6 points each off him, his “hardest” matches.  He was an overwhelming favourite.  However, Luke Barnes can be a tenacious beast, with a love of a spectacular dive, so off he fought in the badminton and at the turn it was 11-7 to the Frenchman, would he crack under the most pressure he had faced? Sadly for Luke, no he wouldn’t (the official line, is that Luke was bemused by the “advice” of Dave Ridout at the changeover), and Sylvain rattled off ten points for a 21-7 victory.  Luke down by 7 into the squash, however his Duracell bunny style running and his natural ability on a squash court, saw a thumping 21-9 victory and a lead of 5 into the tennis.  Here, however the Frenchman was too strong and he romped home to victory and the Men’s B title with a 21-8 victory, whilst Silvester edged out Busby to claim third place on the podium.  Despite the final defeat, it was a belting performance from Luke which has drawn (rightly) much praise within the UK Community.


Luke Stretching Every Sinew To Gain Badminton Points

 

Fantastic French

A number of French players had exceptional weekends with the Men’s B, C & D finals all featuring a French player.  Sylvain Ternon’s victory in the Men’s B the stand out result and the French were the UK’s only rivals in the quarter finals of the Men’s B.  Baptiste Echeveste won the Men’s D defeating British youngster David Bennett in the final, however, Barrie Keeley was able to salvage some home pride in the Men’s C final, defeating Jean-Brice Montagnon by 2 points, 21-18 in the tennis.  Another “Frenchman”, Fabien Mauroy came fourth in the Men’s C, though he has been in the UK so long, we count him as ours these days!  There was also a third place finish in the Men’s B Doubles for Jean-Brice Montagnon & Mandrin Mouchet.  French Racketlon is clearly on the move including an upcoming FIR Challenger in Bordeaux and we wish them the best of luck for that event.

 

The Future’s Bright, The Youth Are British!

Home juniors performed strongly in all three categories as well as throughout the open draws.  Luke Griffiths won the Under 13s title, playing some excellent Racketlon against newcomer Joshua Ben to win a thrilling final.  Luke edged the first two sports, before Joshua struck back in the squash, to leave a must win tennis.  Luke however held his nerve to take the tennis leg and the U13s title, whilst leaving the question hanging about whether his beaming grin will ever fade?  It is worth noting that while both players were desperate to win, they played the final in a mature sporting spirit that betrayed their young age.  The Griffiths boys had a fabulous weekend as Luke’s older brother, Leon, claimed the U16s title without playing tennis as well as taking on Jesper Ratzer in the Men’s Elite as if it was a daily occurrence.  Leon would go on to take 10th place in the Men’s elite with impressive victories over Marcus Christiansen and Thomas Wegmann, before losing to Thorsten Deck in his twelfth and final match of the weekend.

Elsewhere, the UKs juniors were in action around the draws with Hannah Boden winning the ladies doubles with Martina Mießl before mixing it in the Ladies Elite.  Additionally, David Bennett finished second in the Men’s D and Josh Kashdan-Brown battled with Denmark’s Marcus Christiansen in the Under 21s final and made the quarters of the Men’s B.  Clearly, there is an immense amount of young talent in UK Racketlon.  However, these are just the highlights from what was an excellent weekend for the UK juniors.  Almost certainly this talent is a product of our domestic Racketlon tour which covers the length and breadth of England across 10 months of the year.

 

Veteran Performance from Hosts

The hosts featured strongly in the vets draws with home victories for Barbara Capper (Ladies O45s), Richard Middleton (Men’s O50s), Neil Raynor (Men’s O55s), Wilf Jessop (Men’s O60s) whilst a pair of Scots, the Doney brothers, Paul & Shawn came down to take second place in the Over 45 doubles, losing to the Swedish pairing of Patrik Wartia & Magnus Edby in the final.  The Doney’s enjoyed further success in the Men’s O45s singles with Paul in third place and Shawn in second place defeated in the final by Thomas Knaack from Germany.  In the Men’s O50s, Richard recovered from losing the table tennis and badminton to Rakesh Gupta to dominate the squash and secure victory in the tennis, Frank Kleiber taking third.  Round Robin draws were the order of the day for the O55s and O60s, with Neil Raynor only losing one sport across his three matches.  However, it was a tight battle over second placed Duncan Marlow, with Neil securing the title thanks to a 23-21, 26-24, 19-21, 21-5 victory.  Wilf Jessop secured the O60s title ahead of John McCredie, thanks in part to some excellent tennis.  Barbara Capper secured the Ladies O45s ahead of Jo Shelley with Kathryn Milne in third place.

 

Double Acts

Crunching badminton and tennis wins secured Jesper Ratzer & Marcus Christiansen the Men’s A Doubles title in the final against Kresten Hougaard & Thorsten Deck, whilst Jesper Hougaard & Lukas Windischberger defeated the home hopes of Ray Jordan & Duncan Stahl to snatch third place.  The Ladies A Doubles saw a brilliant semi-final win for Katie Barclay & Kim Hay over Swedes Anna-Klara Ahlmer & Therese Malmberg, before losing to Hannah Boden & Martina Meißl in the final.  Jo Shelley & Lauren Whiteman defeated the Swedish pairing in a grippingly close match (19-21, 21-17, 21-18, 17-16) to finish third, a great overall result for the hosts.  The Mixed A Doubles saw Jesper & Thorsten cross rackets once again partnered by Anna-Klara Ahlmer & Lieselot de Bleckere respectively.  Thorsten was unable to prevent the same result, once again having to settle for the second step on the podium.  Martina Meißl & Kresten Hougaard finished third.  Dave Ridout & Mark Steeden played a stunning tournament to capture the Men’s B Doubles title, with some fantastic victories, their semi final victory over the French pairing of Jean-Brice Montagnon & Mandrin Mouchet was a lesson in tenacity as they scraped home by 2 points, recovering from a thrashing on the badminton court!  In the final they defeated the Swedish pairing of David Gustafsson & Fredrik Quistbergh!  Finally, in the Mixed B Doubles, Kathryn Milne & Ed Harvey defeated Therese Malmberg & James Mendes in the final to secure the title.  In what is becoming far too regular for James’ liking, Dianne Baker once again defeated James Pope in a Mixed B match (the third time this year).  Dianne & Jon Spinks finishing third pushing James & Fiona Sime into fourth.

 

George Takes No Prisoners!

A tournament such as this, needs a presence at the desk to ensure it runs.  In previous years this has been provided by Rachel Lawrence, but with the wee one touring Europe with her new husband (many congratulations and best wishes to you both!), we needed someone new.  But how do you replace, the irreplaceable Rachel?  We had wonderful weekend cover from Steve Bispham & Sally Middleton lined up, but the first day’s play needed something new.  In came the (literally) big man, George Roberts.  George brought a rather unique style to the first day of the front desk, and when the world number 1 was a tad late returning a score sheet, George took a hands on approach, as you can see in the image below.  Fair play to Jesper who took it all in great spirit and (wisely, given George’s size) did exactly as he was told!

 

 

A Massive Thank You

An event like the Racket Masters does not happen without the support of a cast of volunteers.  The Saturday & Sunday tournament desk was expertly manned by Steve Bispham, with heaps of assistance from Sally Middleton.  I can vouch that it is not the easiest job at the tournament, but it is vital so a huge thank you to them.  Thanks to all the players who took a stint in a badminton chair, or marking a squash match or running the court control desks.  The event ran smoothly and these positions are vital to this happening, thanks in particular to The Boden Family, Patrick Middleton, Johnny Bispham, The Notts Uni crew, Leigh Sands and Geoff Jordan.  We are also indebted for the time of Alan White (table tennis referee) and Mary Miller (squash referee) across the weekend.  It was great of people to give up some of their free time at the tournament to ensure it could be a success.  Huge credit (or complaints) to Jack Bishop for organising the schedules for all the volunteers and ensuring the stations were manned throughout the tournament!  Thanks also to Magda Sarna for filling the void of tournament photographer.  The pictures she and James Pope took across the three days are on the UK Racketlon Facebook page.  It is important to remember that all the players who help out, risk sacrificing their tournament performance to ensure it can even occur, and it couldn’t without them!

Huge credit should go to Keith Lesser, Ray Jordan and Duncan Stahl.  They put a huge amount into this tournament, in the months leading up to it and throughout the event to ensure it runs smoothly as well as conceiving the idea over a year ago, of a World Championships legacy event.  It is not a trivial undertaking to start up a new tournament, there are a host of unknowns, and they put a lot of effort into making this event a reality.

 

Keep Calm and Crack On

A final, highly honourable mention for one player in particular.  On Day 1 in only her second match, Jo Shelley was on the squash court with Martina Meißl.  Jo was on the receiving end of Martina’s follow through, with her left hand taking the brunt of the impact.  Jo is made of tough stuff and despite this impact fracturing her fifth metacarpal, an injury requiring a midnight trip to hospital with doubles partner Lauren Whiteman (what a star going with her!), anaesthetic while the bone was reset into place, an epic amount of taping and the arm in a sling when she wasn’t playing, she soldiered on to finish second in the Ladies Over 45s, third in the Ladies Doubles (with Lauren), 7th in the Mixed A Doubles (with Dan Busby) and 7th in the Ladies A.  There are Herculean efforts and then there was Jo Shelley this weekend!

 

Belting Weekend for the Host Nation

Overall, UK Racketlon has had a phenomenal weekend, hosting a top event.  The Men’s A saw promising elite performances from Leon Griffiths with very impressive wins over Marcus Christiansen and Thomas Wegman.  The Men’s B saw 6 of the 8 quarter-finalists being from the UK, with a range of ages and experiences.  There were excellent junior performances, obviously the stand outs were the Griffiths brothers, but very honourable mentions to podium finishers in the U13s Joshua Ben and Ross Wilson.  With Hannah Boden, Josh Kashdan-Brown and David Bennett as well as Leon competing strongly in the banded singles, there is a raft of UK talent on the rise.

Amongst the vets classes, it was nearly all one way traffic, with home domination in all but the Men’s O45s, with many of these players also competing in the main draws, such as Barbara Capper (4th, Ladies A) and Richard Middleton (quarter finals, Men’s B).  This strong UK showing gives us hope of the UK players competing across a range of categories at the European Championships in Prague this November, in both singles and team events.  It is likely this weekend will have generated some (very pleasant) selection headaches for the England squads for Prague.

This weekend was everything that when you commit to running an event, such as the Racket Masters, you hope for.  We wanted to get the Worlds best back in the UK to play Racketlon and we wanted to see our best talent mixing it with them.  Add to that wonderful weather, great play across the classes, some beaming smiles from the winners and the messages of thanks in the days since, it really was worth all the effort.  A massive thank you to all those who entered, and made the inaugural Racket Masters, what it was, we will see you next year!