Luke Barnes and Hannah Boden claimed the Elite titles at the North West Open on Sunday 23rd July as Racketlon returned to Manchester and the Northern Club. Their victories also catapulted them to the head of the UK Racketlon Men’s and Women’s Super Series standings with a single event left in Cardiff on the 5th & 6th August. Elsewhere, the were victories for James Langworthy (Men’s B), Bram Gevaert (Men’s C), Scott Hughes (Men’s D) and Stephen Davey (Men’s O45s). The full results from all matches can be found here.
Barnes Feels Right At Home
Defending champion Luke Barnes was to be made to work far harder in the 2017 North West Open than he was in 2016 with a host of regular and challenging names in the draw. Top seed Luke overcame the Jon Spinks challenge in his opening match, while second seed Alex Du Noyer saw off James Watkins via a battling 23-21 badminton victory. They were joined in the semi-finals by local boy Dave Edgar and Will Coley who overcame third seeded Mark Steeden and fourth seeded Jack Bishop respectively. Dave with the standout win, holding his nerve on the tennis court to win 21-10 and take the match by 3 points from Mark. In the semi-finals, Alex progressed to the final, as 21-19 TT and squash victories coupled with an excellent 21-9 badminton victory helped him ease past Will Coley. Luke faced the local hopeful, Dave and after handing out respective gubbings in the TT (21-5 to Luke) and badminton (21-6 to Dave), Luke was able to win the squash 21-12 and stick close to his opponent in the tennis to achieve his target of 12 points and a place in the final. In the final, Luke struck first with a 21-16 TT victory, before Alex nicked the badminton 21-19. A brave effort from Alex on the squash court, same him claw 13 points off Luke to give himself a chance, however, Luke once again kept his composure and never let his opponent get out of sight on the tennis court and to ensure he sealed a second North West Open title. Will defeated the local hopeful Dave to claim third place.
Hannah Hits the All Time Top
Top seeds Hannah Boden and Jo Shelley dominated the Ladies draw, both reaching the semi-finals with crushing victories over Annya Sekula and Jo Bennett respectively. However, their semi-final opponents both came through a pair of thrilling encounters. Hannah would face Katie Barclay, who flew out of the blocks against Jessica Coldwell with a 21-2 TT victory. It would however be the only sport she would win in their tie. A 21-9 badminton victory for Jessica reduced the early arrears to 7 points and a 21-18 squash victory reduced this lead to 3 points, meaning Katie would need 19 points at tennis to take an incredible victory. With both ladies battling hard, Katie was able to claw her way over the line reaching 19 points with Jessica on 20 for a 2 point victory. It was as close, but slightly more conventional for Jo’s semi-final opponent Michelle Hall. Facing Shirley Barre, the ladies shared the sports, however that required some nerveless tennis from Michelle. With Shirley in need of 16 points for victory, Michelle calmly played her tennis game to ensure she progressed with a 21-14 tennis victory to take the whole tie by a solitary point. In the semi-final’s, Hannah once again dominated against Katie, with a clinical performance from the youngster ensuring she progressed to the final.
Jo started out equally efficiently against Michelle, with a 21-7 TT victory, however Michelle struck back with a 21-9 badminton win to keep the tie alive. However, effortless squash from Jo, which she won 21-4 resulted in a simple equation of 3 points at tennis, which Jo accomplished with aplomb and she eased back into the final, to defend her 2016 title. The final, was a fiercely contested affair, Hannah having previously come unstuck against Jo in a UK Tour final before. Hannah started well with the TT winning 21-16, before handing out another badminton lesson, wining 2105 (Hannah dropped just 12 points on the badminton court in the event!). Jo flew out of the blocks into an early lead in the squash, chasing the comprehensive win she needed to make for a tricky tennis. However, in a very strong second half, Hannah struck back and while Jo claimed victory, it was only by 3 points, leaving Hannah in the box seat, 18 points ahead to tennis. Jo made a valiant effort to cause some wobbles for her younger opponent, but Hannah was never in huge threat, reaching her required 4 points with Jo on 8. Hannah’s victory here gave her a tenth Ladies A Racketlon title here in the UK taking one ahead of Barbara Capper on 9 on the all-time winners list. Michelle defeated Katie to claim third place.
Seedings Dominate the B
The four seeded players, David Bennett, James Langworthy, Stuart Preston and Ross Wilson all progressed to the semi-finals of the Men’s B, Ross notably at the expense of his U16’s team mate for the upcoming European Championships. The seedings were to then further progress as scheduled, with top seeds David and James reaching the final, David largely thanks to an excellent squash victory (21-2) over Stuart while James gave Ross very little to work with as he won the first three sports to leave a simple equation on the tennis court. With third seed Stuart defeating Ross in the third/fourth playoff, a perfect day for the draw computer was on the line as top seed David faced second seed James in the final. James nicked a compelling TT set, winning 26-24 in a thrilling start to the final, before dominating the badminton, to win 21-11. David struck back in the squash, winning 21-18, leaving James needing 13 points for victory on the tennis court. Despite a valiant effort from young David, James prevailed to seal his first UK Tour singles title and upset the draw computer…. The result of this match means that the Challenger Super Series is a two horse race into the final round in Cardiff. James (2080 points) is ahead of David (2015) points. With their closest challengers Luke Griffiths (1575) and Jon Spinks (1275), hard pressed to over haul them, it becomes a straight shootout between the two should the both trek over to Cardiff.
Both the Men’s C and Men’s D were full 16 draws, which were played to completion with all players scheduled four matches in a 15 up monrad, ensuring they got plenty of Racketlon. Bram Gevaert claimed victory in the final over Sam Barker, his solid foundation of excellent TT ensuring he kept his opponents under plenty of pressure, and despite Sam’s best efforts he was unable to stop Bram sealing victory in their match. Baillie Watterson finished in third place. In the Men’s D, top seed Scott Hughes (thanks to a brace of two point victories) and Paul Lord progressed to the final. Scott dominated the squash court in the final, with a 15-1 victory the bedrock of his victory in the match, by the margin of 14 points. In the battle for third place, James Yeo overcame Greg Eden by a solitary point, reaching his required 11 points on the tennis court with Greg tantalisingly close to victory on 14.
Finally, Stephen Davey (passing through from Scotland) and Julian Clapp progressed from their respective 3 man box leagues to reach the final of the Men’s O45s. Julian making it through in the nerviest of circumstances. Leading by 2 points into the tennis against Phil Todd, with the winner to progress to the final, their tennis set reached 20-20. Should Phil edge it the tennis, we would have a gumi-arm, Julian just needed the win. 20-20 become 23-23, before Julian was able to strong together the two points necessary to progress to face Stephen in the final. Stephen dominated the early proceedings with 21-13 and 21-10 victories on the TT and badminton courts respectively, before Julian struck back on the squash court to win 21-17. However, that left Stephen needing just 7 points to secure victory which he achieved in an otherwise tight tennis set. Phil recovered from the painful earlier defeat to beat Duncan Hurlstone to claim third place.
Our thanks to the Gregson family for running the North West Open once again at The Northern LTC in Manchester, with Lee working hard in the build-up before handing it on to the rest of the family (mainly Maya and Jacki) to run the day itself from the control desk. The fourth and final round of the 2017 UK Racketlon Super Series takes place in Cardiff on the 5th & 6th August, entry is open for just one more week here, with further regular tour events in Kent (Sunday 13th August – Enter Here) and Limpsfield (Sunday 3rd September) to come. The UK Tour will be back up North in York for the North of England Open on Sunday 24th September.