Nottinghamshire Open Preview OR ‘A seemingly long essay of rambling, over-the-top detail by a Racketlon junkie who had nothing better to do'
Before we start, some of you may scroll down and think this to be a tad excessive. Long story short, I got on the 25 bus back from work, not realising it would apparently take me via Glasgow (or equivalent distance) given how long it took. With nothing better to do (That’s the civil service for you – Ed), and for reasons best known to clinical psychologists, I proceeded to play out the entire competition in my head, then write it down. So keep reading for perhaps the most detailed preview we've had (or ever will have – Ed)...
UK Racketlon’s fantastic 2015 domestic tour may be drawing to an end, but there is one last opportunity to prepare those rackets, pack your bag to its fullest and head to Nottingham for what is shaping up to be a brilliant season ending event. Centrally located, with the North claiming it’s in the South, and the South claiming it’s in the North, this no-man’s land (better than Birmingham though! - Ed) will be playing host to entrants from all over in a fun packed weekend. At a venue new to Racketlon, the fantastic David Lloyd West Bridgford, we are hoping to end in style. With the insatiable George Roberts almost trying to push for more categories than a World Champs, the event will take place over two days, with Saturday being devoted to most of the Singles categories, and Sunday seeing range of Doubles categories, and the Juniors & Vets Singles. This has made the tournament becoming the one of the largest events on the 2015 UK tour, with over 150 entries over the weekend, second only to the British Championships.
But what will truly set this event apart from the rest is its fun focus, hosted by the man who doesn’t know that ‘an early night’ was actually something that people did (speak to messrs Durston or Mathieson if you don’t believe Jon – Ed), Mr Roberts himself. The plans are for anyone lucky enough to be sticking around on the Saturday evening to enjoy a roast dinner, with accompanying quiz, with Ray Jordan rumoured to be headlining our guest round setters! Regardless of whether you’re a veteran tour regular, or a ‘newbie’ to the sport it’s sure to be fun.
And in a weekend of new ideas, there will be a number of friendly (but probably dangerously competitive!) extra sporting competitions, with new British #1 Dan Busby taking on the field in squash, one point at a time, with the field being set a score of 5 to win on the Saturday evening. On the Sunday we will see the ‘One Pointer Extravaganza’ – a Racketlon tournament with an interesting twist! A knockout competition, the first round consists of 1 point in table tennis – the winners then progress to the next round, and play badminton. The winner of this then goes to squash, and if they win that the final two compete in tennis (yet more opportunities for tennis players to whinge they are badly done to while clearly having the best chance! - Ed). This is sure to be good fun, and could well see some big names drop out of the running early!
On a personal note, I’d like to announce the news that Johnny Bispham has eagerly been awaiting – the Nottingham Racketlon #CiskChallenge. Unfortunately only available to veterans of the recent Malta Open, I am promising one singular bottle of Cisk to my standout performer of the weekend, be it for an impressive result, friendly attitude or memorable moment. Hopefully this will inspire some spectacular performances over the weekend!
But now for the Racketlon…
Men’s A – Even with Dan Busby being unfortunately unavailable on the Saturday due to work, and several others hit by injury or prior commitments, the A grade is looking like a great one. On the search for another UK title will be perhaps the tournament favourite, Ray Jordan – but that’s if he can deal with any mutinous attempts from his Kent teammates Dave Ridout and Jack Bishop, who’ll be sure to want to upset the applecart. Obviously a standout thorn in Jordan’s side is one the A grade’s star risers, Nottingham’s (or as Mr Bispham claims, Norfolk’s - Ed) own Will Coley, whose imperious tennis dismissal of Jordan last time they met is sure to be still giving him nightmares. Not to be discounted are Coley’s other Notts teammates, James Watkins (also from Johnny’s boundless Norfolk empire – Ed) and Andrew Hopwood, who’ll both be looking to bring back victory to home soil. Also looking to stake their claim on the A grade are Tom Atherton and Mark Harris, both of whom who’ll be looking to round off an impressive year (including several B grade titles between them) by cementing their place in the top rung of the UK tour. It’s clear however that this will be a hotly contested affair, and sure to bring out some brilliant sporting performances.
Women’s A – As with the men’s, the women’s line-up is looking equally as exciting. Top seed on the day is Lauren Whiteman, who will obviously be looking to finish a fantastic breakout year with another UK tour victory to add to what is sure to be an ever increasing trophy cabinet once she can stop dropping her trophies! (I promise Lauren, we will let this go, at some point, maybe 2020? – Ed) But any thoughts that this would be a walk in the park should be banished immediately, with the likes of Jo Shelley hoping to come out on top in what have been some close tussles in the past. Also in the hunt for glory are the Russell sisters, Kate and Lorna, both hoping to bring some impressive squash results to bear against the opposition. Could we be seeing a sibling one-two on the podium?
Men’s B – Now we come to by far the most important category (all personal bias aside) – (I agree – Ed), in an extremely open field. Number one seed on the day is one of 2015’s most improved players, Johnny Bispham (not hard given he hadn’t heard of Racketlon in January…. – Ed). He’ll be hoping he isn’t ousted however by his Norfolk travel buddy, Simon Watkins (no relation despite name and badminton ability to James!), who will be hoping his profile and determination could see him through. Indeed this may turn out to be an interesting game of profiles, with almost every player able to beat and lose to one half of the draw or the other. Other B grade regulars James Pope and Matt Daggitt will be searching for a first chance at a title (James’ best chance to ever win are when carried in doubles – Ed), and with no former winners in the draw there is sure to be a first time champion. Stuart Rank looks like one to watch, with strong squash and badminton, while Christopher Lewis-Brown, Wilf Jessop & Ramon Miles will hope to perform well having made the step up to the B. The B is also seeing 3 ‘newbies’ with Andy Frost, David Maughan and James Best all looking to chance their arm. For myself I’m just hoping to avoid Johnny Bispham. In reality I’ll play him and lose on a gumi. (Whilst not in attendance, Paul Mathieson will be hoping for further opportunity to make below the belt Facebook posts towards Jon….. – Ed)
Women’s B – The women’s B is a sign of the success seen by targeting university students, being contested by the two most active university teams, Cambridge and Nottingham (the good one). The Cambridge contingent is made up of previous tour players Ruby Marsden and Jessica Pham, part of a sizeable travelling Cambridge team that has grown steadily over the year. Flying the flag for Nottingham however will be Siobhan Robertson (Knight), hoping to perform well on her ‘re-debut’ after several years out (colourful yet meaningless civil servant language here…. - Ed). Rounding out the field is another Nottingham player, Jess Sharman. As the Yorkshire Open B champion this year she’s shown some previous Racketlon pedigree, and she’ll be hoping to make this two titles from two.
Men’s C & D – The lower men’s grades have seen a truly impressive number of entrants, with a wide variety of tour regulars and newbies making them very tough to predict. The C grade sees a number of former title winners in the field, with Jonny Wan & David Bennett aiming to build upon 2015 victories. They should be wary of loveable tournament organiser George Roberts however, who will be sure to want to recover from his recent gumiarm final defeat. My personal dark horse for this line-up however is University of Nottingham's George Hargreaves, who performed very well in his first outing in Yorkshire this year, and will be gunning for a home title. Self-confessed as destined to fail however is Harry Courtney-Buddle, aggrieved that he was now ranked high enough to be bumped up. The D meanwhile is truly impossible to call, with previous players very evenly matched and an influx of newbies hoping to show they have what it take to be a Racketlon champ.
Juniors & Vets – 2015 has been an encouraging year for junior entries, with most competitions seeing decent fields, and a good range of friendly competition. Nottingham has proved to be no different, with a good blend of regular players and those new to the sport. The veterans category could end up being a ‘battle of the fathers’ (with Gregson, Tetley & Woodliffe all accompanying their offspring to the competition) and should be an interesting line-up (we will see "Who's the daddy.... - Ed).
Doubles (proper Racketlon – Ed) – Sunday sees a day entirely devoted to doubles, with a very strong selection of entries in both quality and depth. Having had to miss the singles, Dan Busby will be looking for victory in the men’s with partner Mark Harris, and it will be up to the pairings of Coley/Watkins, Lesser/Ridout & Atherton/Woodliffe to try and deny them. Busby will be pairing up with former British champ Barbara Capper in the mixed to create a formidable partnership, but in a game of Racketlon anything can happen, so don’t rule out the rest. The lower men’s doubles has seen a phenomenal number of entries, meaning it has now been split into 4 grades, all with many well-balanced pairings. With four family partnerships in the draw it is to be seen whether blood truly does run thicker than water, or whether they will fall to a pre-Christmas squabble! Also entering the mix in the men's doubles will be the partnership of Shelley/Whiteman, teaming up to show the guys who's boss. The mixed B doubles is another Nottingham/Cambridge battle, with two Cambridge pairs of Daggitt/Marsden and Woodliffe/Pham facing up against Nottingham’s Harland/Sharman combination.
All in all this should be a fantastic event for both old and new players, and one to remember! If you're a newbie not sure of what's happening, be sure to speak to someone for help - I can speak for myself that this is the friendliest atmosphere of any sport I've come across, and we're always ready to welcome new people (thanks Jon, cheques in the post! – Ed)
Jon Spinks, amateur (Racketlon enthusiast) :)
Editors comments mean no offence to civil servants, the editor works with quite a few…