The English Open is one of the most historic tournaments in Racketlon and it is back in 2017 for its 14th running. Over the years it has been won by all the greats of our sport, Eliasson, Kubanova, Lawrence, Ratzer and Reid to name just a few. For the 2017 edition we are guaranteed a new winner in the ladies event while in the men’s event, just Duncan Stahl (the defending champion) and Michi Dickert (2009) have tasted English Open glory before. Although entry is slightly lower than we would have hoped, the players who have entered and the resulting draws will make for an excellent event at the only Olympic quality Racketlon facilities in the world at the Redbridge Sports Centre. After another great UK Racketlon live event for the elite draws (re-watch it here), you can now find all the draws here. UK Racketlon will also be Live Blogging throughout here, so everyone will be able to keep in touch with the event throughout.
The desire for that historic English Open title can break many a player
Less than two weeks after his impressive win at the Czech Open, Austria’s Lukas Windischberger heads to London aiming to take home his first English Open crown and a fourth tour title of the season after wins in Vienna, Malmo and Prague. In his way are his fellow seeds in the shape of a pair of Danes, Morten Jaksland (2nd seed and Lanzarote Open champion) and Kresten Hougaard (4th seed, FIR President and 2016 runner up), and finally his countryman Michi Dickert (3rd seed). The live draw has delivered us some delicious ties and Saturday morning will be a delight. Lukas will begin against Piers Boden, just 2 weeks after they were doubles partners in Prague. Lukas will face (sorry Piers), either Luke Barnes or Leon Griffiths in the quarter-finals, in what is, for me the tie of the first round. Leon and Luke met in the semi-finals of the London Open a month ago and there is barely a sheet of paper between them and this will be a thrilling match, showcasing two real talents of UK Racketlon. Elsewhere in this half of the draw, Jack Bishop faces Sylvain Ternon, and Richard Middleton takes on fourth seed Kresten.
In the bottom half of the draw, our two previous winners face each other as third seed Michi starts his tournament against defending champion, Duncan Stahl, in what looks like a very tight opening match. Both players will fancy their chances of winning and setting up a quarter-final against the winner our next juicy tie. They are two titans of UK Racketlon, and just 12 hours after he will formally stand down at an EGM, Keith Lesser, free of responsibilities and concentrating on Racketlon, takes on his old friend and (still) long time organiser extraordinaire of UK Racketlon, Ray Jordan. The table tennis will be good, the rest will be err interesting... Finally, towards the bottom of the draw, Alex Du Noyer faces Dan Busby in another all-British clash that is pretty hard to call. Alex is one of those players who on his day can upset many a UK player’s applecart and despite Dan being in good nick after his recent exploits in Prague, ADN could easily stop him in his tracks. The winner of that tie takes on the victor from the final tie in the draw between second seed Morten and the UK wildcard, Jermaine Manners. All in all, it looks like Lukas’ title to lose, he is the man in form and it will take a great effort to stop him. Many will fancy it and it takes real mental strength to adopt the Ratzer mantle of being the target, the one to beat, but all of us who saw his final in Prague have little reason to doubt in Lukas’ mental abilities.
It is a 4 lady round robin for Ladies A event and as a result each player will be faced with playing three matches to completion, ensuring that this Ladies event will be both a technical and endurance challenge. The brave four include our two seeded players, with numbers (or is it targets?) by their names, top seed Belgium’s Lieselot De Bleeckere and the twice Racket Master, second seed Martina Meißl (Austria), who has only lost a single Racketlon match in the UK. They are joined by a brace of challengers, Germany’s Natalie Paul and the UK’s Hannah Boden. Natalie is making her Racketlon debut in the UK, hoping to call on performances which saw her finish second in the Czech Open. Hannah meanwhile will have been buoyed by her strong performances at the Lanzarote Open and at the recent Bundesliga which included a victory over Amke Fischer. Obviously there is a temptation to make a prediction for this Ladies event, however, (mainly on the threat of pain and death), I have been forced to concede it would be unwise for me to do so…
A 12 draw awaits the Men’s B, so our four seeds, Alistair Prades, Mark Harris, Greg Lorkiewicz (Poland) and Johnny Bispham (yes, do not adjust your sets, it is him), get an opportunity to put their feet up for the first round and leave the running around to younger, sprightlier chaps, before finding out who they will play in the quarter-finals. A few ties jump out in the first round of the Men’s B, in particular the first round tie between Jordan Dainty (with a height befitting of his name) and the rather tall, Mohammed Tarik Koubaa, however the Racketlon between these two will be "highly" entertaining and not "short" of thrills. The other three Brits in the draw all start with international opposition, with Jon Spinks starting against Switzerland’s Nicolas Lenggenhagger, a badminton match (I can attest from personal experience) Jon will find challenging! Oliver Oxland faces Germany’s Christian Borner and James Watkins begins against Frenchman Josselin Gade. Definitely a good chance of a British winner in this event, however third seed Lorkiewicz and Swiss Lenggenhagger are potentially likely to feature in the business end of the draw.
A 16 lady draw awaits the competitors in the Ladies B, so unlike the Men’s B, our seeds, Jo Shelley, Dianne Baker, Esther Dubendorfer (Switzerland) and Kate Russell will not be able to enjoy a round with their feet up. A high quality Ladies B draw, featuring the experienced campaigners like Maureen Thompson, Dom Ford and last years winner Jo Bennett in the mix with newcomers such as Spain’s Natalia Prado and British youngster Fallon Reid, who was 6 points from the U13s London Open title last month. An interesting event to be sure and as already mentioned there will be no predictions for this Ladies draw.
Men’s C & Men’s D
It is another 16 draw in the Men’s C, which will be led by the man who knows all the rules, Hans Van Daele (from Belgium). Hans will be joined with the definite target of a seeding number, by Joel Durston, Tomas Torstensson (Sweden) and James Pope. James was recently accused of talking about himself in these previews and has therefore decided to strike back against such rumours by barely mentioning himself (in the first person at least). Some interesting potential match ups as this draw progresses, with an intriguing potential quarter final between Joel Durston and David Bennett, which could be a close run affair. Hard to see a clear winner, but looking at the way the draw opens up, I fancy Joel Durston to be challenging for the title come the end of the event. The Men’s D is a mainly British affair, contesting a 15 draw, France’s Aurelien Panthou the sole non-Brit. Our top seed is Ray Ryan and he will be joined by Lee Gregson (Father), Sam Barker and Will Gregson (Son), however can Sam Wilson, UK Racketlon’s charity boxing sensation land a knockout punch?
Vets and Juniors
There are a range of Junior and Vets draws all of which feature round robins testing these players across all four disciplines. The event includes: U13s, U16s, U21s, Men’s O40s, Men’s O45s, Ladies O45s, Men’s O45s doubles, Ladies O50s and Men’s O55s, simply too much to properly detail here. However the draws are chock full of quality, such as double U16 world champion David Bennett in the U16s who faces competition from the most successful junior in UK Tour events, Will Gregson. In the U21s, there is the salivating tie between Leon Griffiths and Piers Boden, the two young men both developing at a rapid pace and hoping to stamp their authority on the U21s division while simultaneously making names for themselves in the Men’s A draws. In the O40s it is Germany vs Britain, so here's hoping it doesn’t go to penalties for Andrew Hopwood and Jermaine Manners. The Ladies O45s represents a subset of the Ladies B draw, while in the Men’s O55s, Racketlon Germany’s president, Frank Kleiber is the sole international player standing between Martyn Langston, Duncan Marlow and Bruce Shepherd from some home glory.
Finally, the event will begin with the usual range of doubles with three open Men’s doubles categories featuring 21 pairings, plus two mixed doubles categories and a ladies doubles, offering a lot of Friday afternoon Racketlon for all the involved players. On Saturday evening there will be a chance for some additional TT, with tables reserved at Bounce Ping Pong (Farringdon, near Chancery Lane tube station on the Central Line) between 10pm and 11pm for the Players Party. A reminder for all our UK viewers, that an EGM will take place following the close of play (about 8:30 pm) on Friday 5th May in the Norman Booth building (squash and tennis centre) bar. There is free car parking is available by the Jean Brown indoor centre, drive through the first car park to reach this free parking (you will be charged to park should you do so by the Norman Booth building). Last, but most certainly not least, UK Racketlon would also like to thank our sponsors, details of which can be found here.
So, there you have it, a wide range of high quality Racketon on offer, with some intriguing draws and competition awaiting us at the Redbridge Sports Centre. UK Racketlon will be Live Blogging the event and you will be able to view the live blog here, so even if you are not playing, we hope you will be joining us on the blog to keep up to date with the 14th English Open.
You do know what you are doing on the Live Blog, Johnny?