Last Sunday saw the UK Racketlon Tour 2016 kick off in Nottingham, and a wealth of competative, well spirited Racketlon was played. With all the details I turn you over now to Jon Spinks:
Starting Where We Finished
On Sunday UK Racketlon returned to Nottingham to start the 2016 year where we finished the last, back at the central David Lloyd West Bridgford. With Jon Spinks and Sam Barker taking the organisational helm, the ever expanding Nottingham Empire looked to make this tournament something truly great. With entries filling out unprecedentedly quickly for a domestic event, many had to be turned away due to the sheer popularity of the event.
The top titles went to familiar names, with Lauren Whiteman and Dan Busby claiming the Ladies and Men’s A titles respectively. Also taking winner’s trophies were Jess Fernandes (Ladies B), Kevin Lewis (Men’s B), Toby Harland (Men’s C), Dylan Leigh (Men’s D), Scott Hughes (Men’s E), Harper Leigh (Junior u13s) and Joshua Ben (Junior u16).
Busby and Whiteman take top honours
Dan Busby yet again claimed victory on the UK Tour, but not without a fight. First off he had to see off practice partner Mark Harris, followed by a semi-final win over Will Coley. The final went to seeding, with a repeat of the 2015 North of England final against Luke Barnes. Luke came flying out of the blocks with some great attacking play, taking a 21-13 TT victory and a close 23-21 badminton win. In the squash Dan was able to cancel out the first two with a 21-8 win, meaning he needed 19 for victory. With both players very evenly matched on a tennis court, this was sure to be a great ending. In the end Dan took the set 19-17 to claim victory.
In the Ladies, Lauren Whiteman took the title in a round robin format, at the loss of only 2 squash games all day. Unfortunately for local Nottingham girls Jess Sharman and Siobhan Robertson they were unable to cope with Lauren’s powerful play on their step up to the A grade. Once again it looked like the final result would be decided by a match between Lauren and Jo Shelley, with Lauren in the end able to see off her GB teammate to victory.
Match of the Day
In my eyes the match of the day has to go to the Men’s C encounter of Matt Lau and Stuart Preston. As both extremely strong badminton players (the Men’s C boasting 7/8 players as badminton specialists, with the standard rivalling some international A draws!), it was clear that it would be an interesting match. Matt was able to take a narrow 22-20 lead into the badminton with some much improved table tennis, however he was then pegged back 15-21 by Stuart. Knowing he would need a strong squash effort, Matt proceeded to pull out a 21-8 win.
With Matt needing 13 to win, this is where the true drama begins however. Despite some self-professed ‘atrocious’ tennis ability, Matt was able to keep in enough of the points to force himself through to 12 points to Stuart’s 21. Clearly neither of them had taken maths degrees though, as both returned exhausted to the desk believing Stuart to have won.
So when Sam Barker revealed that they were in fact on a gumi, both seemingly collapsed at the thought of playing yet another point. With a crowd now gathered, Stuart won the toss, and sensibly gave away the serve, at which Matt Lau was astounded to learn he would only get one serve. Despite this he served in, but was no match for Stuart in the end.
Racketlon Spirit of the Day
To pick a player of the day I think you need to look no further than the ranks of the Whiteman family. This time it is Roger Whiteman who can claim this prize, having shown a great spirit and attitude throughout the tournament, showing that youth is no match for experience and some strong tennis. I had the good luck to see the ecstatic man straight after his first two matches of the day – a singular point victory of Sam Wilson, followed by a gumi arm win over Zar Damani. While unable to claim overall victory, he set an example both on and off the court that everyone should aspire to.
Whirlwind of Success
I think it says it all about how great Racketlon is, that yet another standout part of the tournament comes from the Men’s E grade, showing that good matches and drama can be found wherever you look.
Getting a mention from me is local Nottingham player, Scott Hughes, who has had perhaps the most whirlwind train of Racketlon success in the past few days. Having only found out about the sport on Thursday, he was then included in the draw on the Saturday evening after a late dropout, and proceeded to win his debut event on the Sunday!
Separated at birth?
One rumour that arose from the day is that Will Coley and Chris Batey may in fact actually be the same person. With both wearing identically coloured outfits, long hair, headbands and possessing identical Racketlon profiles, many were hard pressed to identify one from the other. Eventually Will was able to emerge victorious, but not before Johnny Bispham heard Chris may have once sneezed in Norfolk and claimed him for his Counties side.
Rock on Wales
So in the end it was a great event, miraculously running to our precise 12 minute schedule, with some great showings from both new and old players. In the end I also got to play, perhaps setting a record for the first player to play in both the A and E grades on the same day! (As a fill in due to injury withdrawals)
Now we get ready for the first international (sort of) event with a trip to Wales in a couple of weeks, and a year full of great Racketlon events!