2015 British National Champions Duncan Stahl and Hannah Boden will return to the Surrey Sports Park this weekend to try and defend their national titles, but they face a fierce fight from across the UK Racketlon community. 94 players (127 entries) will contest the various categories, or as we could say, 2.97 times the size of the Turkish Open also taking place this weekend...
In the Men’s A, Duncan’s task (along with those of Dan “Matchmaker” Busby, Luke Barnes and the “Ever Present” Alex Du Noyer) is made easier through the benefit of a first round bye. For the other 8 players, they each face a tricky start to their personal campaigns. With Will “two dinners” Coley facing Jeremy “Countdown” Krzystyniak, that match will face a brutal squash set which could be vital to determining the outcome of this match. Oliver Oxland will be hoping to recover from his first round gumi-arm defeat at the English Open by seeing off Jack Bishop. Meanwhile, Richard Middleton will be confident of politely negotiating his way around James Watkins. The most intriguing tie of the first round pits Keith “Ginger Ninja” Lesser against Piers “No. 2” Boden. Keith is in many respects the personification of the traditional Racketlon mentality, after handing out a thrashing in his specialist sport, he doggedly gives you nothing easy for the other three sports, he makes you beat him. Piers represents the (irritating) younger generation, aims to just get excellent at everything. This clash of styles will be an interesting match, who wins, I favour Piers, but write off Keith at your peril.... Overall, it is hard to look past a Stahl vs Busby final and another chance for these two foes of the UK tour to do battle again. Presently these two are tied at three wins each in the head to head, but I favour Duncan to make it 4-3 come Sunday evening.
Who will be brought to their knees this weekend?
In the Ladies A, tie of the first round is in the bottom half of the draw, as Shirley Barre takes on Jo Shelley. The winner of what will be a gruelling encounter probably faces second seed Hannah “No. 1” Boden, who opens her account against Mariana Zabell. English Open champion, Lauren “ooooo Leon Smith” Whiteman* faces Kathryn Milne in the first round before a (likely) semi-final against Barbara Capper, who starts against Lisa Hogben. I expect this semi-final to be a belter, but I expect Barbara to come through on top and face Hannah in a repeat of the 2015 & 2014 finals, but this time seeing Barbara reclaim her title.
The Men’s B offers a few chances for quick revenge on English Open results. First round allow Johnny “puppydog” Bispham to look for a chance to dispatch Joel Durston, whilst Adit “the accidental” Patel, will be hoping it is third time lucky when he opens up against Jon “Spinker” Spinks. The B draw is headed by top seed Mark “Sicknote” Harris, who returns to the tour for 2016 after living up to his nickname so far this season! The B draw is, once again, pretty brutal and there are a large number of exciting match ups. Home favourite Barrie Keeley faces Nigel D’Arcy, Phil Todd has to tackle the promising Jordan Dainty and certainly the loudest match will be Julian Clapp against Fabien Mauroy. It’s nigh on impossible to make a sensible prediction for the Men’s B, the top seeds “sicknote” and Andrew Hopwood are both recovering from injury layoffs and while they would be usually firm favourites I think this opens up the draw for them. I expect the winner will come from either Stuart Rank, Baz Keeley or Jon Spinks.
In the Ladies B, Alexandra Wilowska has achieved her Racketlon career highlight, by being seeded number 2. Once again the Wilowski’s are going the extra mile to play in the event, as they arrive down from Aberdeen. They clearly demonstrate that there is really no excuse not to be playing all the events! The draw is headed by the return of Katie Barclay, but as an 8 player monrad draw is a very healthy set up for the UK Tour. Elsewhere, Wilf Jessop is the top seed in the Men’s C, although he faces strong competition from (in my eyes the favourite) Ross Frisby. Kieran Shelley is my pick for the Men’s D, in a draw featuring a number of our promising youngsters including Rafal Wilowski and William Gregson.
Fierce competition in all four sports at the excellent Surrey Sports Park
This is of course, what awaits us on Sunday. Saturday is the preserve of age group and doubles categories. U16 and U13 draws feature box leagues aplenty and the suthors requirement to determine a group of death. The U16s is in two box leagues before a final round and Group B is very much the group of death. I fancy whoever wins this group will take the U16 National title. In the U13s, there is a clear favourite in this event, as the European U13’s Champion Luke “smiling assassin” Griffiths looks unstoppable! Luke is the defacto best U13 in the world and it is a great chance for our other juniors to see where they line up in comparison. For our Vets, the Men’s O45s will be feeling the effects of a hard days work on the Saturday, with their 5 player group to determine the victor. The draw features Richard Middleton, Simon Whale, Marc Thornley, Simon Brown and Mark Jackson and the winner of this event will have had to work hard for their title. Racketlon, does not get harder than this! Four ladies will compete for the O45s title, and so long as her car doesn’t let her down, it is hard to look past Barbara Capper for the title, not that Dianne Baker, Kathryn Milne and Jo Shelley will be letting her get it that easily! In the O55s, Duncan Marlow will be looking for a second title in a matter of weeks, and looks a strong favourite in this 6 man event.
There are also a host of doubles events, far too many to fully document, however the British Championships see’s the first outing in 2016 for the Lottery Doubles format. The draw has been performed and the best looking (metaphorically) pair seems to be Johnny Bispham and Ross Frisby. Although, (as in the name) this event is a complete lottery. Other highlights are whether anyone can force the Busby/Capper mixed pairing to use a tennis racket or can Dan Busby and Mark Harris communicate properly on a badminton court in the men’s doubles. In the Men’s B, Joel Durston will be hoping he is only required to carry partner James Pope on court and not home to his flat again….
Communication is key Gents....
So, a brief foray into the 2016 British National Championships, this weekend. There will be results available on Tournament Software as the events progress and keep your eye on the UK Racketlon Facebook page and @keithracketlon for all the insider news on both days.
* Lauren recently earned the right to go on a Davis Cup inspired coaching programme with GB Davis Cup captain Leon Smith. She may have mentioned several hundred times since then that she met Leon, and so some gentle teasing was very much requried!