UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

Hannah Boden become the first Elite player to win three consecutive British Championships singles titles with victory in the final over Lauren Whiteman.  UK Racketlon’s other rising young star, Leon Griffiths claimed his first British Championships Men’s title with victory over Luke Barnes.  Hannah (with Michelle Hall) and Leon (with Ray Jordan) won the Ladies and Men’s A doubles respectively, before Hannah (with Dan Busby) claimed a trio of titles with victory in the Mixed A doubles final over Leon (with Lauren Whiteman).  Elsewhere there were National Titles for: Paul Doney (Men’s B), Amy Ainsworth (Ladies B), Ross Wilson (Men’s C), Daniel Ryan (Men’s D), Mark Steeden (Men’s O45s), Martyn Langston (Men’s O55s), Angus Howard (U13s), David Bennett (U16s), Rakesh Gupta & Bruce Shepherd (Men’s B Doubles), Neil Cuthbert & Nico Hadden (Men’s C doubles), and Michelle Hall & James Pope (Mixed B Doubles).  A packed weekend of Racketon, with results that suggest a very bright future for Racketlon in the UK, was played at the excellent facilities of the University of Nottingham’s recently completed David Ross Sports Village and the Nottingham Tennis Centre.  Full results can be found here, and pictures on the UK Racketlon Facebook Page, but for a flavour of the action the report is below.  

Our new British Championships Men's A & Ladies A Trophies provided by Lasers Are Us

Historic Hannah Dominates the Field
Hannah Boden started her campaign with the weight of potential history on her young shoulders, although she started as second seed to UK number 1, Lauren Whiteman.  Both seeds progressed with ease, Lauren wrapping up a thumping victory over Michelle Hall while Hannah was also similarly professional in polishing off Kate Russell, both players not needing to dig out a tennis racket.  They were joined in the semi-finals by Shirley Barre and Jo Shelley who weathered squash defeats to Matilda Parslow and Siobhan Robertson respectively, with their all round games helping them out to ensure the win.  Both semi-finals followed a similar pattern, with Lauren up against Shirley winning the TT and the badminton before losing the squash, a trend matched by Hannah facing Jo (in a repeat of the 2016 semi-final).  Both matches went to tennis, with Lauren cruising through to the final with a 3-0 tennis win, while Hannah reached her required target of 13 points leading Jo 13-7.  Onto the final and it was a tenacious Lauren who worked hard to stop Hannah settling into a rhythm on the TT table.  Unable to break away into a lead, Hannah seemed unsettled and Lauren capitalised to get into the business end of the set level at 15-15.  However, a strong finish from Hannah opened up a 5 point lead into badminton.  Hannah dominated the badminton, as expected in her strongest sport, but Lauren again worked hard to earn 5 points, although this gave Hannah a 21 point advantage into squash.  Lauren, with her excellent tennis in the locker, was looking to force the match to the tennis court, and putting the pressure on Hannah there.  Starting on the squash court with a very positive attitude, Lauren struck the ball assertively, however Hannah displayed excellent defensive skills, lunging across the court, often at full stretch to keep the ball alive, and with the weight of scoreboard pressure on her, the errors crept in and Lauren slipped to being 11-4 down at the half way stage.  Lauren rallied in the second half and picked up points but the gap was insurmountable and Hannah was able to win the squash 21-15 and with that her historic third Ladies A National Title.  Jo Shelley defeated Shirley Barre to claim third place, one better than in 2016.  

Leon Leads the Way
Duncan Stahl also began his Men’s A campaign with the possibility of a third consecutive title, however unusually the defending champion, currently the UK number 5, was left unseeded and would face 2014 champion Ray Jordan in the first round.  Burgling the TT off Ray, Duncan then fought hard to keep the man from Kent at arms length, however, a titanic effort from Ray left Duncan requiring 10 in the tennis to ensure his title defence wouldn’t fall at the first hurdle.  With Ray leading 18-8, the nerves were kicking in all over the place, but Duncan was able to clinch 2 of the next 3 points to ensure a 2 point victory.  There were few other dramas in the first round, with Leon Griffiths defeating Johnny Bispham in the first three sports of their tie to seal victory, Dan Busby (vs. David Bennett) and Alistair Prades (vs. James Watkins) both winning before tennis, while Luke Barnes required a single point on the tennis point to come past the valiant efforts of Stuart Rank.  However, the greatest display of courage came from our youngest ever elite player in the British Championships.  Youngster Luke Griffiths was playing Alex Du Noyer and early on the squash court he hurt his hip.  Fighting on, he played through some pain and a few tears (harsh critics would suggest Alex made a 13 year old cry, but never us…. – Ed), before accepting Alex’s insistence of an injury time out.  He returned to the court and kept battling, but couldn’t stop the victory for Alex (Luke would, go on to hand Johnny Bispham defeat ensuring Johnny lost to both Griffiths brothers inside about 3.5 hours).  Jordan Dainty (defeating Will Coley) and Mark Harris (defeating Jon Spinks) completed our quarterfinalists.  


Leon Griffiths at Full Stretch

In the top half of the draw both Dan and Luke were not required to trouble their tennis rackets with comprehensive victories over Mark and Alistair, Luke in particular very pleased to come away from that match with such an emphatic win as he has struggled against Alistair in the past. It was a similar story in the bottom half of the draw as Duncan and Leon also left their tennis rackets in the bag with their victories over Jordan and Alex respectively.  If any of our four had dreams of an equally simple semi-final then they were quickly crushed.  Leon, up against defending champion Duncan, was made to work hard by Duncan’s tenacity, particularly in the badminton (21-11 to Leon) before Duncan dominated the squash, leaving Leon a target of 14 on the tennis court to reach a first British Championships final.  In the end, the youngster was able to seal his place with a 14-9 victory.  In the second semi-final, it was another match between Dan Busby and Luke Barnes.  Matches between the pair have frequently been tight affairs as their skills and abilities match well, and this weekend it was no different.  Dan took the early lead with a 21-19 TT victory, before Luke edged a thrilling badminton set by the almighty score of 28-26 leaving the players dead level into squash.  Dan struck back with an equally gruelling squash victory, coming out of the court the victor by 23 points to 21, and therefore with a 2 point lead into tennis, a lead that could be seen as being very precious and earned!  Luke, who has in the past wobbled in the tennis against Dan, this time delivered a polished performance and with both players exhausted from their incredible efforts, he managed to control the court and seal (by the standards of their match) a thumping tennis win 21-11 and reach his first British Championships final.  

To the final and a far from clear cut outcome, Leon starting the favourite, but there had been just 7 points between these two at the London Open back in April and this weekend was no different.  As he had back in April, Leon won the TT 21-17 to take a slender lead into the badminton, which as at the London Open he also won, this time by the score of 21-11 (compared to 21-12 in April).  To the squash court, and Luke struck back, winning 21-13 (it was 21-14 to Luke in April!), and so once again Leon would need 16 on the tennis court.  Despite Luke’s best efforts, he couldn’t stop Leon from reaching 16 and winning his first British Championships title.  As a result of these victories, Hannah and Leon have also risen to the top of the UK Racketlon rankings.

Matilda Parslow flicks a cross court drop on the squash show court

Winners Galore!
It was a 12 draw for the Men’s B, meaning that the returning Paul Doney would need four matches if he was to take the crown, a feat he comfortably achieved.  After easily dismissing James Pope, he nullified a Stuart Preston badminton lesson with his own on a squash court to reach a semi-final against second seed Simon Lau, who had seen off Will Gregson in his opening tie.  Adit Patel, the top seed reached the semi-finals after he despatched our favourite Austrian, Martina Meißl where he was joined by James Langworthy, the fourth seed seeing off Geoff Woods.  Adit saw off James to reach the final, his dominance in the TT and badminton in addition to with much improved squash helping him take care of his competition, while Paul banked on TT and tennis to deal with the threat of Simon Lau.  In the final, Adit once again opened up a lead into the squash, however Paul was able to stick close to him, just 9 points down into the squash.  Here Paul demolished his opponent, with a 21-6 victory seeing the Scot head to the tennis courts 6 points up.  A comprehensive tennis set, 16-8, ensured that Paul would make the long journey back to Aberdeenshire with some silver-(well glass)-ware in the bag.  James Langworthy claimed third place ahead of Simon Lau.  

In the Ladies B, top seed Dianne Baker fell in the semi-finals to Amy Ainsworth, losing by just 4 points in a tie that swung one way than the other, both ladies winning a brace of sports in a very even contest.  Meanwhile, second seed Natalie Slater defeated Sally Walker in the second semi-final, TT and badminton victories setting her up for a simple task on the tennis court.  In the final, Natalie flew out of the blocks with a 21-1 TT victory giving her a real shot of victory.  However, Amy recovered from the early set back to win the badminton 21-6, to mean she now just trailed by 5 points heading to squash.  A 21-16 victory for Amy left the match all square on the way to tennis, with Amy sealing a 21-14 victory to take home the title.  Dianne defeating Sally to finish in third.  

In the Men’s C, Ross Wilson completed a seamless transition from previous Men’s D event victories with victory in the Men’s C final against Justin Crowther, both finalists having edged their semi-finals by just 2 points, Ross in particular having done exceptionally well to recover from 21 points down before squash against Peter Frobisher who finished third overall.  The Men’s D was won by Daniel Ryan, who having defeated his father, Ray, in his opening match proceeded serenely through the draw to defeat Stuart Stanyard in the final, Nico Hadden finishing in third place.  

Saturday Actions Sets The Ball Rolling
Saturday saw the doubles, vets and junior categories played as the tournament got up to speed with plenty of thrilling action.  In the Men’s O45s, Mark Steeden overcame the threat from Paul Doney to qualify for the final, where he faced Simon Lau.  Mark cruised to victory thanks to his domination of the TT and squash, which was enough to temper the impact of Simon’s excellent badminton performance.  Paul Doney defeated Geoff Woods to claim third place.  The top seeds both won their groups to qualify for the Men’s O55s final, as Martyn Langston was pitched against Steve Kneller.  With badminton and squash cancelling each other out, Martyn’s narrow TT victory followed by excellent control in the tennis proved to be enough for him to claim a first British Championships title.  In the U16s, Angus Howard made it three titles in a row in 2017 as he claimed emerged from the 4 player box league triumphant, his victory once again the result of exceptional performance on the squash and tennis courts.  Adam Boyce sealed second place ahead of James Vincent thanks to a thrilling 5 point victory featuring agonisingly close squash and tennis sets.  David Bennett claimed a maiden U16s British Championships title thanks to his win in another four player box league, he was pushed hard by Ross Wilson, with just a handful of points between them, Ross would finish second with Will Gregson in third place.  

James Watkins demonstrates his impressive mind control skills on the TT table

Finally, there were six doubles titles on offer, the Mixed A & B, the Ladies A and the Men’s A, B & C doubles titles to be claimed.  The Men’s A doubles title went to Leon Griffiths & Ray Jordan who defeated Alex Du Noyer & Luke Barnes in the final by the narrowest of narrow margins, a gumi-arm.  With TT and badminton having essentially cancelled each other out, Luke & Alex nicked the squash 21-17, to lead by 2 points into the tennis, leaving it a winner takes all set of tennis, with only one possible exception, Leon & Ray winning it 21-19.  This they promptly did, and having also won the spin, they “generously” allowed Luke to serve the gumi-arm.  Luke went for glory, but sadly that resulted in a fault and victory for Leon & Ray.  Johnny Bispham & Alistair Prades finished third.  Hannah Boden & Michelle Hall dominated the Ladies doubles box league, Shirley Barre & Kate Russell in second and Ellen Liddle & Jess Sharman in third.  The Men’s B Doubles title went to Bruce Shepherd & Rakesh Gupta, who after overcoming a tricky opening match against Nick Riddle & Matthew Rofe just about holding their nerve in the tennis.  Needing 12 to win, they had slipped 11-3 down, but were able to up their game in the second half to squeak to victory by 4 points.  They faced far fewer problems in the semi-final and faced Matthew Lau & Adit Patel in the final, where the vets showed their skills in the TT and squash to ensure a simple task on the tennis court to wrap up victory.  Paul Mathieson & Stuart Preston finished third.  Neil Cuthbert & Nico Hadden cruised through the Men’s C doubles box league on a bedrock of excellent badminton.  Scott Jessop & Joe Lazell finished second and Daniel Kent & Adam Turner in third.  The Mixed B Doubles was won by Michelle Hall & James Pope as they defeated Eszter Soos & Jon Spinks in a thrilling final.  Going into the tennis completely level a thrilling... [For the interests of brevity, we have edited the following essay by James on the tennis.  Anyone interested (or not interested) will surely hear about it for many years to come.  Someone pity his poor wife – Ed]… to win 22-20, a fair result for a very hard fought final.  Jess Sharman & Matthew Lau finished third.   

We finish, fittingly with the Mixed A Doubles.  The final pitted Hannah Boden & Dan Busby against Lauren Whiteman & Leon Griffiths, this may have been their first final of the weekend, but it would ultimately decide who won a trio and who won a double of titles between these two talented teens.  Hannah & Dan dominated the final, and despite losing the badminton 23-21, they were safely through thanks to their TT and squash victories.  The victory secured Hannah all three elite titles on offer to her and also by a slight quirk ensured the second seeds won all the elite titles on offer at this years British Championships.  Shirley Barre & James Watkins finished third.  

So, there we have it, the full run down of all that happened at the 2017 British Championships.  How these results affect the 2017 UK Racketlon Super Series standings will be released in the coming days, so keep an eye on the website and Facebook page for that release.  Finally, it is important to thank Dan Busby for his hard work as Tournament Director and all his volunteer helpers especially his sister Hollie for manning the desk for both days, never an easy task!  The UK Tour is back soon with four events on the horizon in Shrewsbury (Saturday 8th July), Manchester (Sunday 23rd July), Cardiff (5th & 6th August) and Canterbury (Sunday 13th August), we hope to see many of you soon.