The 2016 UK Racketlon tour is good to go and it is beautifully laid out on our 2016 Tour Poster. The tour is not complete and we hope to add additional events as the year goes on, but as a starting point you cannot go wrong. Certainly two peaks in the season jump out of the poster with busy periods in April/May and through August/September. Taking it to a new level, there are three UK events and the King of Rackets event in June on consecutive weekends. Events are listed on the website, and entry is through Tournament Software. As he has shown an uncanny knack with the weather, we thought it would be good to see what our weather prediction guru can achieve with his insights for the season ahead. We now turn to James Pope for his predictions for the 2016 UK Tour. Feel free to head over the UK Racketlon Facebook page and offer your views on James’ wonderful predictions/spouted nonsense in the comments!
UK Number 1s 2016
Her appearance on the Vienna Classics entry lists hopefully heralds the return to full fitness of Izzy Tyrrell, presently ranked as the UK Ladies number 1. Izzy has fought a number of injuries in the past 18 months or so, but fingers crossed she is back. Her prowess was on display in Vienna as she took home silver in the Ladies Elite with good victories over Lillian Druve and Bettina Bugl. However, the ladies game in the UK is tightening up, Hannah Boden is the stand out junior in our ranks, but with a busy year ahead for the youngster with GCSEs looming to ruin her summer (as they ruin all students summers...). Barbara Capper is as ever lovely and deadly and will be looking to stake out the top spot. Meanwhile Jo Shelley continues to be hard as nails, 2015 saw her claim her first two titles and she'll be eager to add to them in 2016. Finally, Lauren Whiteman has taken to Racketlon with aplomb and has a competitive edge that will make her a force to be reckoned with. These 5 ladies will all covet that top spot but I'll go out on a limb and suggest Lauren Whiteman will be the top of the UK Rankings come the season end. Luckily, there is no trophy for this to drop, should Lauren achieve it!
In the Men's game, it is equally close. Dan Busby returned to Racketlon and re-announced himself in style, victories across the country and a stand out win on the World Tour in Bordeaux. Proving tough obstacles as ever, the long standing Ray Jordan and Duncan Stahl suffered from a couple of injury niggles during the season and will be hopeful of returning in 2016 with a clean slate to try and knock Busby off his perch. Talent is rising from below, with Alex Du Noyer and Will Coley knocking on the door and Leon Griffiths not so much knocking on the door as using plastic explosives to blow the door to bits. Will took his maiden UK Tour title at the 2015 season ender in Nottingham and will be keen to add more to his collection. Meanwhile the "Ever Present" will be glad to see the back of a 2015 where a rather freak injury hindered his progress. Leon is class, it is as simple as that, more than one tweet over the festive period considered him the new Ratzer. However for now his age maybe his weakness reducing his playing frequency and just keeping him on the back burner for the time being. All in all, I can't see anyone stopping the Yorkshire juggernaut who has a passion for Racketlon and winning, and therefore I expect that Dan Busby will finish as the UK's Number 1 Man in 2016.
Ones to Watch
2015 saw the rise of many players, Leon Griffiths one of the key developers along with Will Coley, but Paul Mathieson was the season's most improved player in the ratings. But who are the players to keep an eye on in 2016? I’m going to offer my 5 players to watch and one to really concentrate on. First up we have Piers Boden who was on a rocketing rise up the charts in the early part of 2015 only for growing pains to slow him down. After 6 months out the game, he plans to return and really target Racketlon in 2016 & 2017. Whilst only 2nd best in his family at badminton, he is still more than handy and is developing his skills on the TT tables and squash courts. Next up and now returned to his spiritual home in the East Midlands, James Watkins is another player to be watched closely in the 2016 season. With the weapons to beat the best (Busby in particular) and a calm mentality, he is in a great place to rock the boat in 2016. Should she get the opportunity to play more frequently, Olivia Chivers will be one of the ladies to watch in 2016, some excellent performances in the European Championships and near faultless tennis suggest she is someone to beat before the final sport if you want to be in with a shot. From the south east, it is impossible to not consider the Russell sisters as being potential big names on the UK Tour in 2016, Kate and Lorna have caught the Racketlon bug and shown real promise in the 2015 season. The ladies game is as already mentioned tightening up and these three ladies just add to that excitement.
However, my main one to watch in 2016 is Luke Barnes. Luke had some of his best results to date in 2015, with a third place in elite at the French Open world tour challenger and second place in the Men’s B at the Racket Masters, where to many observers he played his best Racketlon to date. Luke has been a known property in UK Racketlon for many years, described by some as “always stylish”, Luke brings a real flair to the Racketlon scene and it is my belief that 2016 will be the year he brings all his skills to bare and achieves the results he has been aiming for.
Rising Junior Stars
There are of course a couple of juniors to keep an eye out for. David Bennett has taken to Racketlon (and Twitter) with huge enthusiasm, he has also shown great promise and has a very solid skill set. Luke Griffiths is already well known to some, either as the smiling assassin younger brother of Leon or as the nemesis of Johnny Bispham. The U13s Racket Masters & European champion in 2015, when Luke finds the growth spurt that Leon has experienced then he will become a thorn in many a player, not just Johnny's sides. Kieran Shelley is also pretty cheeky, but is also getting immensely keen at developing his skills in his weaker sports. He'll be looking to make a name for himself in 2016 having started to take a couple of UK Tour junior titles in 2015 (including a double Shelley win with mum Jo in Staffordshire). Will Gregson made a name for himself in the 1 point Racketlon extravaganza in Nottingham last November, with the TT shot of the century. As he dispatched Johnny Bispham's serve like a young Ben Stokes thrashing South African bowling. Young Will is developing and with a very solid base in TT, he is pushing to improve in other areas. It is great to be able to write about so many juniors and it is a real strength of Racketlon in the UK, these kids are the future of the sport and the future looks really good for us.
It would be easy to start predicting tournament of the year or other such things, but that is unfair. One of the joys of the UK Racketlon community is that it is an immense amount of fun to be a part of. We will make our own humorous stories as the season progresses, the 2015 review of the year proves that enough will happen on its own. One thing that is easy to predict is that 2016 will be a continuing success. Racketlon continues to grow in the UK, thanks largely to the energy of new players and tournament organisers helping us spread the sport to new areas. The excitement is all about seeing how we can top some of 2015s great moments, but whatever happens it will be a blast!