History made at the inaugural Kent Open
The August bank holiday weekend brought the end of an eager wait, as the UK Racketlon Tour resumed service with the historic city of Canterbury playing host, after a 3 week break since the incredibly successful Racket Masters.
42 players, including 4 title holders from the Racket Masters, descended upon the Kings Recreation Sports Centre for the inaugural ‘Kent Open’ run by Racket Masters chief scheduler Ray Jordan and his trusty sidekick Jack Bishop.
Men’s A - Griffiths creates UK Tour history
The A draw involved a stellar cast including the singles return of 2014 Race winner Alex Du Noyer, after a bout of illness, and the comeback of former tour regular, Chris Batey.
The tie of round 1 came in the form of recent Racket Masters U21 champion Leon Griffiths and 2x 2015 Tour winner Dan Busby. Poised nicely at +3 in Griffiths’ favour going into the tennis, the youngster’s summer practice paid off, with strong, consistent play too good for Busby, with Leon winning the tennis 19-13. The rest of the draw saw Jordan beat Langworthy, Gupta ruin Batey’s comeback and Du Noyer take out his old nemesis Ed Harvey.
The Invicta Horse On Display
The day didn’t get easier for Griffiths as he took on fellow Badminton specialist Du Noyer in the semi-final. Again beautifully set up going into the tennis, with Leon +1, his nerve shone through again winning 21-13. He was joined by the Invicta horse himself, Jordan, who saw off Rakesh Gupta +18. Gupta’s day did end impressively though seeing off Du Noyer before tennis, as the ‘Silver Fox’ felt the effects of a lack of match practice.
The "Silver Ever Present ADN Fox" thinks "Oh No, Not Some Wobbly Tennis"
And so to the final, where it would be Griffiths’ day, creating history as the youngest male winner of a UK A grade singles title. After taking a very credible 17 off Jordan in squash, Leon’s strength in tennis showed again as he won 21-7, as Ray fell 9 short of the 16 points needed to take the title. A hugely impressive day for the 15-year old as created several problems for the England selectors ahead of the European Champs. Watch this space.
Women’s – Debut delight for Tucker
The women’s draw saw a refreshing change with 8 unranked players including 6 making their tour event debuts. In such an open field, it was Louise Tucker who came out on top, who only had to visit the tennis court once!
Round 1 saw victories for Louise Gregory, Chris Cooke and Joanna Bennett, with Gregory in particular holding her nerve to win the tennis 21-18 to win +5 versus Michelle Kingsland. It was Tucker who took the most impressive 1st round win, overturning at 25 point deficit at half way to beat Helen Mattock +12, Mattock herself looking very strong at TT and Badminton.
Cooke and Tucker came through their semi-finals comfortably before Tucker was just too strong in the final, winning 21-12 21-4 21-11. Some great promise all round and we hope to see all the ladies again at an event soon!
Over 45s – Andy makes it double joy for the Griffiths’
Andy Griffiths made it double glory for the family as he took the Over 45s title, unfortunately taking the final on default after an injury to Gaz Clarke. In the 6 man field, Clarke came through his 3 man group with good wins over Table Tennis player Brian Lees and Racket Masters Over 60s champion Wilf Jessop. While Griffiths won out the ‘Group of Racketlon Fathers’ as he defeated Geoff Jordan (Dad to the great Ray Jordan) and debutant Jerry Bishop (Dad to the even greater Jack Bishop).
Jessop took 3rd place, with his superior tennis downing Geoff Jordan, while Bishop Snr took his maiden Racketlon match win beating Brian Lees +6 – impressive after being bageled at the Table Tennis. Securing a grand total of 2 Table Tennis points over 3 matches, provides genetic proof of why Bishop Jnr struggles so much in this discipline!
Like Father, Like Son!
Men’s B – Fab-tastic from Mauroy
The Men’s B provided for many the most intrigue prior to the event, with a series of unknown Squash specialists joining tour regulars Mauroy, Spinks, Bispham, Hume and Luke Griffiths in a 12 man draw.
Opening round wins for Tom May (including an epic 22-20 squash set win vs. Duane Harrison), Chris Hall, Steve Reeves and David Cooke saw them join respectively Mauroy, Griffiths, Bispham and Spinks in the Quarter-Final match ups, with Mauroy, Hall, Reeves and Spinks all coming through unscathed into the semis.
And it was the charismatic Frenchman Fabien Mauroy and squash specialist and big-hitting Steve Reeves who would contest the final after comfortable semi-final victories. Mauroy’s 18 point half-way lead was eradicated in the squash as Reeves won out 21-1 to create gummi potential in the tennis. How it was ‘Fab Tennis’ which won the day as he took a tense tennis set 21-14 for victory.
Spinks took 3rd place over Chris Hall – a small return for his incredible 4-day round trip from Worcestershire to get to the event. Now that is commitment!
With a 9-0 match win record since his Tour return last month, many are already calling that the Frenchman is running a mockery and his future B grade entry requests maybe rebuffed.
The B draw also saw one of the funniest matches of the day as the ‘rivalry’ between Luke Griffiths and Johnny Bispham continued in the 5th/6th play-off. An incredibly amusing squash set, with more lets than points played, was followed by a hilarious tennis set, with Luke winning 21-15 to win +7. A match that personified what makes Racketlon great, we hope this spirit follows to every event. If anyone has any spare money and would like to fund Luke’s flight to Malta to play doubles with Johnny, please get in contact!
Damn, French, coming over here, winning in Men's B....
Men’s C – 5th Time lucky for Bennett
After 4 finals and 4 runners-up trophies, the Kent Open really showed it was a place to make dreams happen as David Bennett finally took his first title. Needing 17 in the tennis against Rik Clarke, he held his nerve to take it 17-16, and make it double glory for the Bennett family after Jo Bennett took 3rd place in the women’s draw. A great final, with tight scores in all 4 sets – 12-21 21-15 21-13 17-16 – just how a final should be!
Hats off to the Farrer-Newey family as well who provided 3/8s of the draw with brothers Tom and Jack and dad Peter. It was Tom who took 3rd place, beating Lee Robinson in the 3rd/4th place play-off.
The UK scene really does go from strength to strength, with another thumbs up for the third ‘1st time’ tour event of the season - of the 42 entrants, 18 were playing their first tour event and two-thirds were Kent natives. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ the 2nd Kent Open (aka the Invicta Masters) will be, with Jordan already sowing seeds of potential 2 day event in the future.
A huge thank you to all those who played and organised, with a special mention to Jack’s brother-in-law, Pete, who went to great lengths to help transport Table Tennis tables (though this particular writer wouldn’t mind if this sport was altogether omitted from Racketlon…)
Next stop Limpsfield – see you all there!
Jack Bishop (Duke of Kent (Racketlon))