UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

On Friday 29th April 2022, one of the greatest British Racketlon players announced his retirement from singles action, ending a career in the sport which has had a massive impact for the UK community both on and off the court.  On court Dan was a Mixed Doubles World Champion, Captain of the 2019 World Teams title winning side, British National champion, a World Number 1 and a 34 time winner of Men's A Racketlon events in the UK.  Off the court he served as national selector, GB Captain, UK Racketlon company director and Vice President in the UK, whilst also serving as a member of the FIR World Council.  Dan still intends to play the occasional event, so he won't be completely vanishing from our sight, but it seems only fitting to celebrate his exceptional career!

 

"Newbie" Busby

Dan was mistakenly (by this editor) identified as first arriving in Racketlon at the Yorkshire Open in 2015 and his win as a Newbie to the sport was (again mistakenly) celebrated. He may not have been an actual newbie, but his return began a run of success never seen before on the UK Tour.  Further wins followed in 2015 in Staffordshire, Richard Lawrence, and Midlands Opens, however it was probably his win at the 2015 North of England Open that was most special, as he joined a rare club of players to win the Elite draw in the event they organised! That November, Dan won the first of his 17 Team GB Caps at the European Team Championships in Prague. 

 

World Stage

Dan continued to kick on through the UK Tour, even in his early seasons displaying a commitment to the UK Tour which had never been seen before, turning up regularly at events despite sometimes having to put in some long driving stints to get there.  However, despite the commitment he would at times show a remarkable lack of coordination on court with respect to the location of his partner in doubles...

 

Oops.. (I know Dan expects this to appear in this article!)


Minor issues aside, Dan was starting to be a force to be reckoned with, and in France he would claim a maiden World Tour title, the first of five singles titles he would win (3 IWT and 2 Challenger), not that many people saw him defeat Cedric Junillion in a rather dark tennis set.  Cedric had the best view of that match, so I leave it to his words to describe here.  

 

Top of the Titles Tussle

Dan's drive to play on the Tour saw him soon climb the Roll of Honour and for a short time was engaged in a tussle with Duncan Stahl to lead this table with both picking up titles through 2016 and 2017.  During this time he also started picking up other titles.  2016 saw him win the first of four Mixed A Doubles Titles at the British Championships, first with Barbara Capper before winning three with Hannah Boden in 2017, 2018 and 2019.  Dan would also win the 2018 and 2019 Super Series titles, however he would suffer some defeats along the way not least to Leon in the British Championships final in 2018.  However as 2018 started to fade away Dan was clearly hitting a purple patch.  He won the final two events of 2018, and that then led us into his finest year. 

 

2019 - The Year of the Busby

Dan started the year in great form, wins in East Midlands and Oxfordshire led to the British Championships at Parklangley. He may have claimed four Mixed Doubles National Titles, but the singles title eluded him throughout his time in the sport.  In 2019 he conquered all remaining demons to get that monkey off his back.  First up in the semi-final he faced defending champion Leon Griffiths, overcoming Leon 21-16 in the tennis to secure a first win against Leon in 3 years.  In the final, he faced another familiar foe, Duncan Stahl, in a winner-takes-all set of tennis, Dan was the man to claim it all, and he won his first (and only) Men's Elite British National Title.  

Dan was a first time winner, Hannah knew what she was doing by now!

Dan wasn't finished with 2019 however. Partnering legendary Austrian Chrisi Seehofer (who has also retired this week, congratulations on your career Chrisi), they arrived in Oudenaarde with only a World Mixed Doubles Title in their sights (as per this interview the week before). Win it they would. In a thrilling final, Dan found some of the squash of his life, turning a 1-11 score after Chrisi had played Astrid Reimer-Kern, into a 23-25 defeat against Kresten Hougaard.  Dan and Kresten had engaged in many an epic tussle, but this was probably Dan's finest effort on a Racketlon squash court. Chrisi and Dan secured the 10 points the needed and Dan Busby was a Racketlon World Champion, a first British Elite world champion since Calum Reid in 2011!

This wasn't enough for Dan in 2019.  He wrapped up the final four UK Tour events before heading to Leipzig as the Team GB Captain.  The GB 1's had been on an improving run of form, bronze in the 2017 Euros in Vienna (a first medal since 2004 in the Elite teams, also a bronze) before securing a first ever silver in 2018, after an agonising defeat to Austria in a thrilling final in Zurich.  Could 2019 be the year we won our first national title? After cruising past France and Sweden, it was an effective semi-final vs Denmark.  Inspired Danish tennis had ended our hopes in 2017, but in 2019 that was different and victory set up a final against Germany.  There was no stopping the British team and while you can read about the final here, as we are focussing on Dan it should be highlighted that he led this side but also the whole GB squad, GB 1-4, 4 x U16s sides, U21s, U45s, O55s and O65s; organising kit, supporting teams (especially the junior sides) as well as trying to concentrate on his own performance. It was a herculean effort and the return of four sides winning their respective categories, and a further three sides on the podium were a tribute to Dan and his efforts. 

 

Final Records and Goodbye

Having won the final four events of 2019, Dan set a new UK Racketlon record by winning a further three events to ensure he won 7 straight titles on the UK Tour, a feat not achieved before (but one that could soon by broken in the U16s...).  Even more incredibly this was split over 3 years, 2019-2021 due to Covid as Dan won in East Midlands, Oxford and then York.  He missed two events before finishing with four more wins, his final UK Tour win, number 34 coming in Letchworth at the Hertfordshire Open in October 2021. Dan won 34 of the 87 Racketlon events in the UK between his return to York in 2015 and his final singles appearance at the Nick Matthew Steel City Open.  Duncan his closest rival on this list has 20 titles, with Ray Jordan in third on 11; it is hard to see anyone surpassing Dan's tally

The Busby era may be closed, but the results of his efforts will be seen for years to come.  His off court involvement has helped strengthen the UK Board and as a result the UK Tour, while his commitment to playing so many events means that up and coming players such as Ross Wilson, Matthew Davidson and the Griffiths Brothers, have had the chance to battle with Dan, to see his skills and test their mettle against him. They can only have been stronger for having fought these matches.  When you consider his all round efforts then Dan Busby is (in the opinion of this author), the best player we have produced. World Champion, World Number 1, British Champion and loyal supporter of the UK Tour and UK players. Thanks Dan, and should you change your mind (again - Ed) I don't think anyone would mind, but if you don't, well we can but say thanks very much.