Duncan Stahl and Hannah Boden achieved a UK Racketlon first, as they both became the first players to successfully defend their British Championships titles. These victories were the culmination of a jam packed weekend of Racketlon played in glorious weather at the excellent Surrey Sports Park. In addition to Hannah and Duncan, there were singles wins for: Peter Highmore (Men’s B), Sue Gotham (Ladies B), Simon Lau (Men’s C), David Kearnes (Men’s D), Mark Jackon (Men’s O45s), Barbara Capper (Ladies O45s), Duncan Marlow (Men’s O55s), Luke Griffiths (U13s) and Joshua Ben (U16s). In doubles there were victories for: Luke Barnes & Alex Du Noyer (Men’s A), Graham Norton & Bruce Shepherd (Men’s B), Matthew & Simon Lau (Men’s C), Barbara Capper & Dan Busby (Mixed A), Shirley Barre & Paul Mathieson (Mixed B) and Jordan Dainty & George Roberts (Lottery Doubles). All the results are available online here.
Stahl Supreme In All Areas But One
The early rounds of the Men’s A were a topsy turvey affair at times, in particular the first round ties involving Oliver Oxland vs Jack Bishop and Will Coley vs Jeremy Kryzstyniak. For Jack and Oliver it was a nervey badminton which Oliver nicked 25-23. With TT and squash (roughly) cancelling each other out, this left Oliver needing just 18 on the tennis court to win. Jack however fought bravely and went down 18-15, a very impressive tennis result for Jack against tennis expert Oliver. For Will and Jeremy it was four cagey sports as Will came through the winner, 14-21, 21-14, 21-18, 21-17 for a narrow win. Crucially for all, the first round tie featuring Piers Boden and Keith Lesser, which had attracted attention in the build-up, saw Keith recover from 1-11 in the badminton to lose 21-13. Despite defeat he had bettered the expected number of points by Duncan…*. In the quarter finals, top two seeds Stahl and Dan Busby swept their opponents (Will Coley & Keith Lesser) away as expected, however the third and fourth seeds both suffered defeats. Oliver dominated the tennis court against third seed Luke Barnes to win by 6 points, keeping Luke to 7 points with a clinical display that was set up by fighting hard on the badminton and squash courts to keep Luke in sight when they got to tennis. Fourth seed, Alex Du Noyer was defeated by Richard Middleton in a Racketlon match of two halves as the two lefties battled it out.
The 2016 British National Champions: Hannah Boden (top photo, on left) and Duncan Stahl (bottom photo, on left)
In the semi-finals, Duncan defeated Oliver, needing just 3 in the tennis which he achieved with relative ease, this allowed Duncan something of a rest, a luxury not afforded the other finalist Dan Busby. Dan faced the task of getting past Richard Middleton, a man who belies his age every time he walks onto a Racketlon court. After Dan and Richard exchanged the first two sports to 10 a piece, they went level to squash. Richard fought valiantly and pushed Dan all the way, however, Dan’s greater consistency of length allowed him to edge out Richard’s superb defence. It was a vital win to 12 for Dan, as the tennis was a close affair, Richard just 7 points from victory when Dan made it to his required 13 points. Richard defeated Oliver in the first three sports to take third place, leaving nothing but Dan and Duncan to determine who would be the Men’s UK National Champion 2016. Currently these two are the two best players in the UK and they are tied three apiece in their head to head records and this closeness was evident in a match with swung either way, both players mixed brilliance with basic errors. Duncan nicked the early lead, 22-20 in the table tennis, Dan left to rue missing the contact between bat and ball when serving at 20-20. Dan seemed to be suffering something of a brain fade as he allowed Duncan the early lead in the badminton. With Duncan up 7-5, he was in a box seat and Dan not at the races. From no-where Dan found something and won a strong of points to lead 13-7 and with the box seat now very much in his ownership, a good badminton win and a lead into squash seemed assured. However, the see-saw flipped and Duncan came back with a final surge to nick the badminton 21-17, and go to squash 6 up. On the squash court, Dan took the early lead and managed this time to stay in front. A 21-13 win doesn’t do justice to the high quality squash offered up by these two players, Dan finding enough to move Duncan around and control the court for the majority of the rallies. Busby 2 up to tennis, so an all or nothing tennis game for the UK title, just as we want it. It was not to start as Dan would want it to however. Duncan roared out into a 7-1 lead and he never looked back. Dan fought bravely, but the early damage was done and despite some end of game nerves, Duncan saw the match out and reclaimed his UK National Title.
“No. 1” Boden Reinforces Her Position
In the Ladies A, Hannah Boden, Lauren Whiteman and Barbara Capper all progressed with relative ease to the semi-finals, whilst (as expected) Jo Shelley was made to work hard by Shirley Barre. Jo and Shirley played (in something of a theme for the day) a pulsating match. They exchanged 2 point victories in badminton and squash, but ultimately Jo’s marginally better TT gave her the edge as there was barely a hair between them at 17-16 on the tennis, when Jo secured victory. Hannah then demolished Jo in three sports, after edging out the TT 22-20 and thrashing Jo in the badminton, Hannah pulled out one of the most surprising single sport results of the day, beating Jo 21-14 in squash. Hannah’s improvement on the squash court is continuing apace and makes her ever more dangerous when added to her badminton prowess. The other semi-final pitted Lauren Whiteman against Barbara Capper. After handing out respective thrashings on the first two sports (21-4 TT to Barbara and 21-5 badminton to Lauren), Lauren nicked the squash 21-19, her improvement here also apparent. Lauren leading by a point to tennis pitted the two excellent tennis players against each other. In a thrilling tennis match, two very different styles came to fore, Lauren adept at the baseline with glorious passing shots, Barbara with supreme touch and anticipation at the net. The two slugged it out, testing each other to the limits, however in the end Lauren was able to come through the victor 21-15 and reach her first National Championships final. In the final, Hannah was dominant, winning 21-9, 21-4, 14-6 to reclaim her title. Lauren, however comes away from an excellent tournament, a first win against Barbara under her belt and an increasingly strong set of foundations to build on. Barbara recovered from her semi-final defeat to take third place.
How to sum up Racketlon in one photograph!
There is (High)more to come from B Champion, Peter
In the Men’s B, newcomer and late draw promotion, Peter Highmore stormed to the Men’s B title as he overturned experienced Racketlon players apple carts. He progressed through Joel Durston, Barrie Keeley before eliminating pre-tournament preview favourite Stuart Rank in the semi-finals. In the final he faced the experienced Andrew Hopwood, who had brushed James Pope aside before slipping past Fabien Mauroy in the quarter-finals. He was pushed all the way in his semi-final by Adit Patel, Andrew lost the first two sports 21-10 and 21-6, but a 21-1 squash thrashing gave him half a chance. With Adit needing 16 to win through to the final, and the match posied at 10-10 on tennis, it seemed to be Adit’s match, but Andrew reeled off a string of points to ensure victory and set up the final with Peter. Peter edged the TT 23-21, before Andrew struck back winning the badminton 21-10. Andrew, an excellent squash player, would normally feel in a pretty good place with these scores, however, Peter is an exceptional squash player and won 21-5, and needing just 15 points at his second sport tennis to win a title on debut, he duly delivered it. One suspects we won’t see Peter winning many more B titles as he will be competing in the A draws. Adit fought back from his harrowing defeat to claim third place against an exhausted Stuart Rank.
Johnny Bispham, who had volunteered to swap with Peter Highmore, made the final of the Men’s C where he faced Simon Lau. Johnny dominated the TT (21-2) but after that it was one way traffic, with Simon winning 21-7 and 21-8 at badminton and squash, to take a lead into tennis, which he was not to surrender. In the Ladies B it was another newcomer to Racketlon who scooped the title. Sue Gotham and Michelle Hall, having won their respective groups, progressed to the final, where badminton and squash specialist Sue recovered from a TT defeat (17-21) to win the next two sports 21-9 and 21-0 and clinch the Ladies B title. Katie Barclay came home in third. David Kearnes defeated Will Gregson in the final of the Men’s D, his badminton strength the key difference in his win over the talented youngster Will.
Age Groups More or Less Go to Plan
In the junior events, Luke Griffiths claimed his first National Title to go along with his English Open title two weeks ago. He defeated Islay Thornicroft in the final, however Islay gave him a good fight in the squash. Maximus Sutton-Parker defeated Will Gregson to take third place. In the U16s, Joshua Ben and David Bennett won their groups to progress to the final of the U16s. These two have a tight record and both fancied their chances of defeating the other. This time Joshua dominated the first three sports to set up a simple equation on the tennis court, needing just 2 points to win, which he achieved with relatively little fuss and claim his first National title.
A five man, 15 Up, round robin faced the competitors of the Men’s O45s, leaving Simon Whale fearing for his evening conversational abilities. In the end the title was settled with narrow winds for Mark Jackson over Simon Whale (+3) and Richard Middleton (+7), giving Mark the National O45s title. Richard took second defeating Simon who took third place. Duncan Marlow and Mark Johnson won their respective groups in the O55s to set up their final meeting. Despite a heavy badminton defeat, Duncan won the other three sports (including TT!) to secure the National Title by 7 points. Paul Robertson defeated Nigel D’Arcy for third.
Barbara Capper claimed the Ladies O45s title with victory over Jo Shelley in a closely contested final. Barbara opened up a healthy lead in the first two sports, before Jo struck back on the squash court. However Barbara’s tennis made life easy for her to wrap up the 13 required points for the National title.
The spectators take in the entertaining final
Tennis Rackets Required!
Dominant Mixed doubles pairing Barbara Capper & Dan Busby collected the National Title, however they were for the first time as a partnership required to fetch their tennis rackets in anger. Facing Lauren Whiteman & Mark Harris in the final, Capper/Busby dominated the TT before being pushed hard in both badminton (21-17) and squash (21-18) to force them to tennis. However, the three points they required was not enough to trouble the established pairing and they took home the title. Harris and Busby joined forces in the Men’s doubles but they were unable to overcome the northern born southern dwelling pairing of Luke Barnes & Alex Du Noyer. Impressive wins in the first three sports for Barnes & Du Noyer (21-18, 21-17, 21-13) ensured they needed only a handful of points on the tennis court for the title to be theirs.
Doubles Delight As Bridesmaid Passes On the Moniker
In the Mixed B Doubles, Paul Mathieson claimed his first Racketlon title with partner Shirley Barre, as Team Shropshire dominated the Mixed B Doubles. In the process, this result in combination with the Men’s B Doubles result, ensured Paul passed on his Bridesmaid title to another player…. Shirley & Paul defeated Dom Ford & Keith Lesser in the final, as the Shropshire pairing recovered from TT defeat to the last three sports and take the Mixed B title. In the Men’s B Doubles, Graham Norton & Bruce Shepherd defeated Joel Durston & James Pope, as they dominated their final, putting James & Joel on the ropes from the get go, and despite squash victory, James & Joel where not able to recover against this excellent pairing. Defeat was James & Joel’s second final defeat this month (after losing the Men’s C doubles at the English Open). It was also James’ fifth final and fifth defeat and with Paul’s earlier victory the bridesmaid mantle surely passes onto him…. The third/fourth match in the Men’s B doubles, featuring Baz Keeley & Jon Spinks against Paul Mathieson & Johnny Bispham was one of the matches of the weekend, final scores of 24-22, 24-26, 21-23, 21-18 resulting in a 1 point victory and third place Keeley & Spinks. I don’t think Racketlon can come tighter than that!
The Future Continues To Be Bright
The National Championships was everything you would hope for, keenly contested Racketlon between the vast majority of the UK’s top players. Strong draws, seeing some players having to drop below their usual class, were a feature of the banded singles, means we crowned a number of deserving champions this weekend. With GB team selections being made in the coming week or so, this was exactly the sort of event the selectors will have been looking for. The event also attracted a number of newcomers and hopefully they will have caught the bug and be coming back for more. We are of course greatly indebted to the control desk volunteers, primarily Rachel Pitson and Helen Ford, with able support from Dom Ford during the weekend. Special mention also to FIR President, Kresten Hougaard who acted as Rachel & Helen’s domestique, replacing balls, refereeing sports and keeping time on the tennis court. A big thank you to those four, without whom the event would have descended into chaos for all those of us playing. Pictures from the event will be online on the UK Racketlon Facebook page, so head over there, like the page and tag away!
The "super-domestique", Kresten Hougaard
* Sadly, Duncan "welch" Stahl renaged on his bet, but at least he now has a nickname....