UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

The UK Tour reaches its premier event of the year, as we head to the University of Nottingham’s state of the art David Ross Sports Village for the 2017 British Championships.  Never before has a player won a hat-trick of consecutive British National Titles in the Men’s or Ladies A*, yet in 2017 double defending champions Hannah Boden and Duncan Stahl are in the hunt for achieving this feat.  In addition to the hunt for National Titles, there are a range of sub-plots for the Racketlon aficionado to enjoy on topics such as the 2017 European Championships (and I don’t mean when will bring us the breaking news on the official tournament toilet roll provider!) and of course how the results this weekend will affect the 2017 Super Series standings. With respect to the European Championships, our national selectors will be prowling the event, checking out the players in action making their final decisions for each of our squads, while the second event in the Super Series gives additional motivation for everyone keen to take home the first ever titles in this format.  With two days of action, including doubles, juniors, vets and the usual banded singles, there is plenty of action to come, the draws are all online here and you can now dive into them with this preview!

Second Seed Leon Starts As Favourite
There are 5 real contenders for the Men’s A title, but without doubt Leon Griffiths starts as favourite, but he faces a tricky half of the draw to reach the final.  After a simple opening match against Johnny Bispham, he faces the winner of a historic tie.  Alex Du Noyer, always an awkward character on court (with a wonderful range of self-depreciating comments) faces the youngest ever entrant into an Elite draw** at the National Championships, in the form of Luke Griffiths.  With the winner of this match playing Leon, the possibility of Griffiths Jr vs Griffiths “the even more” Jr is on!  Elsewhere in the bottom half of the draw, we have the past two champions facing each other in the tie of the first round as 2014 champion Ray Jordan (4th seed) faces the unseeded 2015 & 2016 champion, Duncan Stahl.  The winner of their titanic tussle faces the winner of an intriguing match up between Jordan Dainty and Will Coley.  These two young(ish) players have slightly asymmetric profiles, therefore the winner may not be clear until deep into this tie, making for some potentially nervy Racketlon!  The top half of the draw has been kinder on top seed Dan Busby and third seed Luke Barnes.  Dan opens his account taking on another promising junior in the shape of David Bennett while Luke starts against the comparatively older, wiser and significantly taller, Stuart Rank.  They are joined in the top half by Jon Spinks, Mark Harris, James Watkins and Alistair Prades, a line up with plenty of skill, but nothing you would expect to stop Dan and Luke facing each other in the semis for what is sure to be another cracking match between the two of them.  It is hard to call between Dan and Luke, the two have always pushed each other hard, but the winner is likely to face the Leon in the final.  

Reaching for a first National Title: Leon Griffiths

T’other Second Seed Looks Strong Too
For the Ladies A, it looks like another talented junior and second seed in the shape of defending champion, Hannah Boden who has, on the back of her strong performance at the English Open, to start as favourite for the title.  She faces competition from current UK number 1 and top seed, Lauren Whiteman, but they are not alone in hoping to take home the title.  They will be joined by a host of regulars who will be keen on taking home the title including Kate Russell (who starts against Hannah), Jo Shelley (who opens up against local hopeful Siobhan Robertson), Michelle Hall (who starts against Lauren) and Shirley Barre (Shropshire Open organiser, who starts against Matilda Parslow).  While it is hard to look beyond a top seeds final, Racketlon and Racket Sports are never beyond a shock or four (just look at Queen’s this week!).  

Strong Supporting Casts
Away from our Elite draws, there are a range of interesting ties across the Men’s B, C & D and the Ladies B.  The one name that leaps out of the Men’s B is our friendly neighbourhood Austrian, Martina Meißl.  Martina, one of the best ladies in the world, and English Open champion, is ineligible to compete in our Ladies A event at the British Championships, due to her Austrian nationality, but not to be put off playing in this great event, Martina is setting her sights on Super Series points in the Men’s B.  Standing in her path are Matthew Lau before (should she win) top seed Adit Patel in the quarter-finals.  Adit, recently returned from his winter training camp in Mumbai is ready to go for it in Nottingham and is relishing the opportunity to pit his wits against one of Austria’s finest.  Adit is not alone in this regard, with tour regulars Paul Mathieson and Geoff Woods (who have each other to overcome first), James Langworthy, Simon Lau, James Pope, Will Gregson and Stuart Preston, all hoping to stop Martina from joining the exclusive club of female winners of “Men’s B” titles in the UK along with Lillian Druve (2002 Scottish Open) and Hannah Boden (2017 Staffordshire Open)!

Having mixed it with the top ladies, Martina (right) is now fancying her chances against the boys!

There is strong Notts representation in the Ladies B, with Ester Soos, Jess Sharman, and second seed Natalie Slater all in the mix, but they will be facing competition from the current leader of the Ladies Super Series, London Open champion Dianne Baker, while at the other end of the age scale (sorry Dianne) is yet another talented youngster, Fallon Reid who has been mixing it with the U13 boys with success and shocked Kate Russell at the English Open.  Dianne has never won consecutive UK Tour titles, can she do it for the first time this Sunday?

Wide open draw of the championships is probably the Men’s C featuring a range of old hands and upcoming youngsters.  Top seed is Ross Wilson, Ross having won the Men’s D titles at the 2016 Racket Masters and 2017 English Open will be keen to add a further title to how collection.  However he faces a range of stiff competition with strong Notts representation from the likes of Jonny Wan, Jake Tetley and Scott Hughes, in addition to the likes of Lee Gregson (organiser of the next Super Series event in Manchester), Kieran Shelley and Peter Frobisher, making this Men’s C a really interesting event and one that will be very hard to call.  Meanwhile, the Men’s D throws up a father vs. son tie as second seed Ray Ryan faces Daniel Ryan in the first round.  Also featuring in the Men’s D, is Ben Larcombe, a TT coach who was involved in an interesting project to turn a beginner into a top UK player in just a year.  Stuart Stanyard is our top seed in the Men’s D and he will be keen to ensure he is the only one handing out the lessons in the Men’s D.  

Saturday Racketlon Fever
Of course, the banded singles follows on the Sunday after the Saturday is spent doing the proper stuff, by which I mean doubles (the author of this may be biased in his views which do not represent UK Racketlon – Ed) and of course the junior and vets singles events.  In the Juniors, the U13s pitches the third round of an interesting rivalry, as Angus Howard and Fallon Reid once again do battle.  So far it has been all Angus who was victorious at the London and English Opens, but Fallon will be keen to change the record on Saturday.  They are joined by James Vincent and Adam Boyce.  In the U16s, David Bennett will be keen for another title, but he faces opposition from Will Gregson, Ross Wilson and Maximus Sutton-Parker.  With both junior events 4 player box leagues, there will be lots of Racketlon for these youngsters to enjoy!  In the Men’s O45s, 6 players in two groups will compete to determine the final positional play offs.  The top seeds are Mark Steeden and Jon Foley, however Mark faces a tricky task in his group with Paul Doney making the trip down from Scotland, one half of the Doney brothers, quite the Racketlon force north of the border.  It is the same set-up in the Men’s O55s, with top seeds Martyn Langston and Steve Kneller competing against four others for the title in 2017, with just Nigel D’Arcy as a previous champion (2012) amongst their ranks, the odds are in favour of a first time winner in 2017!  

Doubles (and title trebles?) On Offer
The whole event will kick off with the various doubles events, with three Men’s Doubles draws, two Mixed Doubles draws and a Ladies Doubles draw.  Hannah Boden will fancy her chances of having two titles in the bag by Saturday teatime forming fearsome partnerships forged in Yorkshire as she joins Michelle Hall and Dan Busby.  The stiffest test in Hannah’s way will be when the Killer B’s (Boden & Busby) face the Laughing L’s (Lauren Whiteman and Leon Griffiths) in the likely Mixed A final.  In the Mixed B there is the first round match up as graduates of Jesus College, Cambridge plays (some more) graduates of Jesus College, Cambridge with Marsden/Daggitt playing Kerusauskaite/Lewis-Brown.  


Trophy Suppliers: Lasers Are Us and the Lau Family


And Finally
2017 will see the first awarding of the new British Championships trophies for the Men’s and Ladies A champions.  Provided by Matthew Lau (of Lasers Are Us) in memory of Brandon Lau.  These new trophies, engraved with our previous champions will be handed on from winner to winner over the coming seasons, our thanks to the Lau family for this.  So there you have it, time to head to Nottingham for a new venue for UK Racketlon with fantastic facilities.  With a jam packed draw that filled weeks ago, there will be plenty of top class Racketlon (although no accreditation passes) on display.  Good luck to all the players and for those who can’t make a full report and pictures will be here and on the UK Racketlon Facebook page next week!

*Duncan Marlow did achieve this feat in the Men’s O55s with victories in 2014, 2015 and 2016, but sadly he won’t be looking for number 4 in 2017!
**Hannah Boden previously held this record, however, our detailed research has Luke as 2 months younger than Hannah, so he steals her crown!