UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

The 2017 London Open (and first stop in the 2017 Super Series) was dominated by the Griffiths family as Leon claimed the Men’s A title and younger brother Luke took the Men’s B title.  Elsewhere Dianne Baker claimed her first UK singles title since January 2014 winning the Ladies event, Laurence Sanders took home the Men’s C title, Sam Barker the Men’s D, Mark Steeden the O45s while James Gibbons (U16s) and Angus Howard (U13s) claimed the junior crowns.  All the results can be found here.  However, the star of the show was perhaps the excellent facilities of the Parklangley Club, which excelled at hosting the biggest ever one day Racketlon tournament (with 76 players taking part).  The Parklangley Club is certain to become a quick and firm favourite of the UK Racketlon Tour.  

Leon Cruises Through A Stellar Field
The Men’s A this weekend offered up one of the most competitive fields for a UK Tour event, headed by Luke Barnes after his victory in the season opening East Midlands Open.  Luke came past the always awkward Keith Lesser in his opening match, Keith stepping in as a last minute replacement for the injured Piers Boden.  Luke recovered from (the expected heavy) TT defeat to deal effectively with Keith’s tenacious play to progress to the semi-finals.  Here he would meet Leon Griffiths, who weathered the Richard Middleton squash storm thanks to a dominating display in the badminton.  In the bottom of the draw, Jordan Dainty on his elite debut, threw up a few tricky questions for Alex Du Noyer, however Alex was able to overcome the promising talent.  In the final first round match, second seed Ray Jordan faced his Kent team mate and co-organiser Jack Bishop for their first competitive meeting.  Competitive badminton (24-22) and squash sets followed, however Ray’s dominance on the TT table ensured he progressed to a semi-final with Alex.  For Ray vs Alex, the TT and badminton cancelled each other out, leaving the match a squash and tennis competition.  Ray dominated the squash court, running Alex ragged and leaving the younger man to verbalise an intriguing range of perceived personal flaws.  A 21-6 win left a simple equation on the tennis court for Ray as he made the final.  In the second semi-final it was Leon vs Luke, and while in future years this may refer to a Griffiths vs Griffiths elite final, today it was Griffiths vs Barnes in the semi’s.  It was a fiercely contested affair, Leon nicking the TT before an intense badminton battle, with both players straining every sinew to keep the shuttle alive, Luke with bringing out some trademark dives to forage one of many wicked drop shots from Leon.  Leon took it to 12, before Luke struck back on the squash court with a win to 14.  A keenly contested tennis set followed, with Leon reaching his required victory margin with the score 16-15.  Defeat for Luke, but one indicating that he is really hitting his straps this season and will continue to be a man to fear facing in any event.  In the final, Leon saw off the challenge from Ray Jordan, a surprise TT victory for Leon followed up by a badminton winning margin which ended the final as a contest, giving young Leon his third elite UK tour title and the early lead in the Elite Super Series.  

Baker Bags the Title
It was also an 8 draw in the Ladies event, with seeded players Dianne Baker and Jo Bennett progressing to the semi-finals with relative ease, where they were joined by Dom Ford and Jane Galworthy, who recovered from a 21-0 TT defeat to overcome Natalie Slater.  Dianne polished off her friend Dom in the first semi-final while Jane again came from behind to defeat Jo Bennett, dominating the tennis after keenly contested badminton and squash sets.  In the final, Dianne flew out the blocks against Jane to set up an early lead with victories in the TT and badminton, before working hard to stay close to Jane in the squash, losing to 18.  Then (in a change to Dianne’s usual programming), she raced out into a lead in the tennis to reach the 12 points required to clinch a first title since the Bedford Open in January 2014.  Jo overcame Dom to clinch third place.  

Anything Leon Can Do, Luke Can Do To!
It was a hectic and fiercely contested day for the Men’s B, with a full 16 draw requiring our finalists to play out 4 matches, with nearly every main draw match requiring tennis rackets to be drawn.  Our four semi-finalists had already worked hard to get there in one of the toughest Men’s B in a UK Tour event.  David Bennett was first into that semi-final, overcoming Johnny Bispham in revenge for defeat in the B final in the East Midlands Open.  He faced World Doubles & Teams partner Luke Griffiths who held his nerve in the tennis to progress to the semi’s at the expense of local player, Zubin Siganporia.  James Langworthy was first into the second semi-final, he overcame Fabien Mauroy by 2 points in his opening match before coming past Peter Browning in the quarter-finals by the similarly narrow 6 points.  His semi-final was against Stuart Rank, who had ended Joel Durston’s hopes in the quarterfinal stage thanks to an exceptional badminton performance.  Against Stuart, James produced one of his finest performances as he took the first three sports, in fiercely contested play, 21-17, 21-14, 21-18, those points meaning he only needed 8 on the tennis court, which he achieved with relative ease to make the final.  In the battle of the juniors, Luke proved too strong in the TT and badminton for David, before David struck back with an excellent squash set to force Luke to the tennis and to earn his victory.  In the final, Luke struck early to take the lead, taking the TT to 12 and the despite the very best efforts of James, he nicked the badminton to 18.  James struck back in the squash, but he wasn’t able to stop the younger man reaching the victory target of 18 at tennis, Luke claiming victory and sealing an excellent day for the Griffiths family.  

Incredible Scenes As The Preview Held Correct Predictions
In a (quite unusual) break with tradition, a draw prediction made on this website was found to be accurate as Mark Steeden and Jeremy Krzystyniak won their respective groups in the O45s to set up a final against each other.  Their final bounced one way and the other with the opening sports shared, Mark produced an impressive squash performance against fellow squash player Jeremy to require just 8 to take the O45s title.  Jeremy pushed him all the way in the tennis, reaching 14 points before Mark achieved the 8 he needed for a maiden vets title for the Kent man.  Rakesh Gupta saw off Nigel D’Arcy to claim third place.  Despite winning just 7 badminton points across four matches, Laurence Sanders claimed the Men’s C title.  Having seen off Peter Frobisher and top seed Robbie Wong, he tucked into fourth seed Matt Jackson in the semi-finals before finishing it off by defeating second seed David Kearnes in the final, for a thoroughly deserved victory!  Another correct prediction was seen in the Men’s D as the renewed right hand of Sam Barker ensured he “left” the rest of the field in his wake, defeating Harry Courtney in a nip and tuck final, with both players cancelling each other out at each turn.  Sam was able to finally lay the decisive blows in the tennis and claimed the title for himself and his right hand.  The U13s was dominated by Angus Howard and Fallon Reid, with both players excelling against their fellow opponents in a four player box league.  In their head to head match, Fallon started strongly winning the first two sports, before Angus struck the decisive blows in the squash before holding his nerve to win the tennis, 21-10, sealing a 6 point victory and the U13s title.  James Gibbons wrapped up the U16s title in exceptional style as he claimed victory without dropping a set of any sport.  This included impressive TT and badminton victories over Will Gregson, 21-19 and 22-20 as James claimed the decisive victory which pushed Will into second place.  

So, there we have it, a thrilling day of Racketlon, glorious sunshine and an excellent venue.  The tour moves onwards now from west to east London as we have back to back events at the Redbridge Sports Centre, with the Essex Open leading into a flagship event, the SWT English Open (5th to 7th May), entry is open for just 2 more weeks before it must close.  The Super Series returns in June, at the British Championships (24th and 25th June) in Nottingham.  With a strong local community entry for this event, we expect capacity to be reached before the scheduled closing of entries (especially for Sunday’s singles), so please enter early to avoid missing out!  The first set of Super Series standings will go live here later this week.