UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

We all have our own, very personal reasons for playing Racketlon. It might be the mental challenge of dealing with every point counting, or the physical challenge of four different sports. It might be the desire to learn a new sport, or develop your skills in one you used to play. One reason for many of us to keep playing (especially through those frustrating times, when winning seems so far away), is the community. One thing that comes with that community is the joy of seeing you friends perform well, particularly when they achieve a first time goal. In 2019, there were lots of first times achieved as well as plenty of exceptional Racketlon, so let’s crack on.


UK Tour Roll of Honour
Busby. I could probably leave it there really. He entered 9 tournaments on the UK Tour this year and won eight of them. While he is used to winning events such as the East Midlands, Oxfordshire, North West, East Anglian, Hertfordshire, Robin Hood and Richard Lawrence Open’s, one title had eluded his grasp. Whether Duncan Stahl or more recently Leon Griffiths, Dan has always missed out on the British National Title in the Men’s Singles. In 2019, he set that record straight, defeating first Leon in the semi-finals and then Duncan in the final to win a first crown, quite literally the hard way. The keen eyed readers amongst you will notice Dan won only eight out of nine, one player did stop him in 2019. Luke Griffiths, long known as the rising talent of Racketlon, won his first UK Tour title by defeating Dan in the semi-finals of the Cotswolds Open. Luke was not the only of our rising stars to claim a maiden Men’s A title, Ross Wilson winning the Essex Open as well. There were also first titles in a while for some old hands, Ray Jordan ( Kent Open) and Alex Du Noyer (Northumberland Open) while Leon Griffiths won the World Tour event hosted in the UK this season, the inaugural London Open Challenger at Roehampton. Dan’s eight wins have now moved him well clear at the top of the Roll of Honour, seven ahead of Duncan Stahl.


Similarly, on the Women’s side, the UK Tour was dominated by one player, Matilda Parslow. Building on the consistency she showed in 2018, Matilda dominated the Oxfordshire, Cotswolds, North West, East Anglian and Richard Lawrence Open’s. She couldn’t stop Hannah Boden however in the British Championships final, Hannah powering to a fifth straight Women’s National Title. There were other regular winners on the podium as Lauren Whiteman (East Midlands Open), and Jo Shelley (Robin Hood Open); there were more first time winners on the Women’s Tour as well. Susie Dilloway picked up her first two titles with victories at the Staffordshire Open and the Kent Open, while Kathryn Schutterlin claimed two titles thanks to wins in Northumberland and Hertfordshire Opens. Matilda rockets up the Roll of Honour, joining Izzy Bramhall on six victories, while her win at the Robin Hood Open see’s Jo Shelley move joint third on the list. Hannah Boden still tops the pile with 14 wins.


In the Vets categories, Andy Hopwood picked up his first UK Tour titles, claiming Men’s O45s wins in the North West and Robin Hood Opens, while Jeremy Krzystyniak (Men’s O45s) and Martyn Langston (Men’s O55s) defended their British National titles. Sarah Ball claimed the Women’s O45s National title in the only Women’s Vets event in the UK in 2019, her first National title to boot. In the Juniors, Cameron Leighton was the boy to beat on the UK Tour this season, he claimed four titles in Northumberland, North West, Robin Hood and Richard Lawrence Opens. There were also a brace of wins for Freddie Whitfield (East Midlands and Staffordshire Opens), while a brace of Tristan’s (Hartwell and Hayman) also claimed titles. Sam Bennett and Leon Kashdan-Brown were the final set of single winners. However, Matthew Davidson claimed the main U16s prize of the year, he won his first British National Title and also the U16s title at the World Tour London Open! Ross Wilson claimed his first National Title with a win in the U21s, while Alexandra Ogram also won the U21s, claiming the Girls title. Cameron’s efforts see him join the gaggle of players on five UK Tour wins, but Will Gregson remains top of this pile on 9. All our Banded Singles, Vets and Junior winners from 2019 can be found on our Roll of Honour page.


Our final first of the UK Tour season, came in our only team event, as Nottingham finally landed the top prize in UK Team Racketlon, the County Championships title. With that title secured, Notts organiser in chief, Jon Spinks, then decided to head off to an organisational retirement in the Lanzarote sun!  There was also a first Division 2 title for Staffordshire as their second team dominated the competition.  

 

Champions from Nottinghamshire (l-r): Carol Whittington, Mark Green, Jon Spinks (c), Will Coley

Super Series
The Super Series continued in 2019 and remained as popular as ever! In the end it came down to the final matches in some categories at the North West Open, the final event of the series. Despite a monumental deluge affecting Manchester, the North West Open proceeded and the 2019 Super Series concluded, all the titles were up for grabs on the final day, although some where going to be closer than others. So, after the events of Manchester, who was crowned a winner at the Northern Club? Dan Busby became the first person to defend a Super Series title, as he sowed up the title in Manchester with victory in the Men’s A. It was a strong finish for Nottingham, as they claimed second and third on the podium with Will Coley and Jon Spinks. It was also great to see Ross Wilson finish in fourth place, the youngster really establishing himself in the Men’s A through the season so far. Susie Dilloway staggered on court to claim the Women’s Super Series, she finished third in Manchester, but that was enough to secure the title. Defending champion Matilda Parslow finished second (despite victory in Manchester) with 2017 Champion, Jo Shelley finishing third in the standings. Alas Will Gregson couldn’t make the Men’s A final in Manchester, so Stuart Rank won the Challenger Super Series in absentia, with juniors Matthew Davidson and Will Gregson finishing in second and third respectively. Martyn Langston’s performance in the Men’s A was enough to secure the Masters Super Series title, despite Andy Hopwood winning the Men’s O45s in Manchester. Andy secured second place, Jeremy Krzystyniak & Simon Lau tied for third. We save the closest event for last, the keenly contested Futures Super Series, and despite Cameron Leighton winning the Under 16s event in Manchester, second place was enough for Freddie Whitfield to claim the Futures Super Series title. Alexandra Ogram finished in second place, just 130 points behind Freddie and 310 points ahead of Cameron who finished third. Fergus Wilson won the U13s event to secure a fourth place finish in the final standings.  All the standings can be found here: Men's - Women's - Challenger - Futures - Masters


Brits on Tour – More Maiden Titles!
As ever the Brits were a great presence on the World Tour and that presence was felt by many in the Champion’s League and other tournaments. Of those making waves was none other than Luke Griffiths. Partnering Amke Fischer at the World Doubles Championships, they knocked out top seeds and heavy favourites Zuzana Severinova and Morten Jaksland on a run to the semi-finals. However, Luke was not the top Brit in this event, as Dan Busby claimed his first world title with victory in the Mixed Doubles with partner Chrissi Seehofer (Aut). Dan is the first British player to stand on top of an Elite World Championships podium since Calum Reid won the World Singles Title in 2011. There were also World Doubles Titles for Duncan Stahl (Men’s O40s with Paul Twisterling (Ned)), Bruce Shepherd & Neil Rayner (Men’s O60s) and Luke Griffiths & Angus Howard (Boys U16s). On the World Tour, one of the stand out Brits as Matilda Parslow, who won three out of three in the Women’s B, before testing her mettle against some of the best women in the World at the London Open in Amke Fischer and Zuzana Severinova. But perhaps, it was the World Singles and Teams Championships were it all really came together, particularly for one, very elusive title. After three bronze medals, one silver medal and seventeen years of trying, Great Britain won the World Title (although maybe not the karaoke prize). It was gripping, it was thrilling and at times it was sheer terror. Whether it was the Dane’s roaring back (as ever) in the tennis, or Dan Busby slipping 0-7 down in the tennis in the final, there were times when British fans were desperate for a sofa to hide behind. Thankfully, Izzy Bramhall bossed the court and a sublime winner sealed Great Britain’s maiden World Team Title. Izzy and Dan weren’t finished with the team event, both had excellent runs in the singles events, Dan making the semi-finals before being stopped by Morten Jaksland and Izzy Bramhall reaching the final. Alas Izzy couldn’t topple the exceptional Austrian Chrissi Seehofer, who continued her domination of the world of Racketlon throughout 2019.


The Challenge Cup (left), Nations Cup (right) and World Cup (centre), two of these are ours!


Elsewhere, there was more teams glory as the GB2’s and GB3’s sealed a 1-2 in the second tier Nations Cup, with GB2 avoiding the upset and defending their world title. However for both the British sides to reach the final shows the strength of the UK Tour to produce a volume of players able to succeed in Racketlon at all levels. The GB2s were not our only successful defenders, as once again the GB U16s won the World Title, extending a run that dates back to 2014. In the singles, the Brothers Griffiths (Luke and Leon) retained their U16s and U21s Singles titles respectively, Luke sealing a third U16s triple crown (singles, doubles and teams) in the process. Finally, Jo Shelley defended her Women’s O50s title, dominating the field to win in style once again. Finally, the O45s Team secured a first title since 2013, going one step further than 2017 and 2018.


Finally, and fittingly for the theme of our year, we had one more first time champion, as Alexandra Ogram claimed the Girls U16s World Title. All in all, it was another stunning year for the Brits on the World Stage, we sent our largest ever team to Leipzig and they all delivered. Updated caps lists can be found here, while a full report on our World Champions and all our medallists from the Doubles World Championships and the Singles & Teams World Championships can be found on our website.


2019 UK Racketlon Awards

UK Woman of the Year
This title developed into something of a three horse race in 2019, with three contenders emerging. There was strong Yorkshire based support for Girls U16s World Champion Lexie Ogram, however she was powerless to stop the march of our top two contenders, Izzy Bramhall and 2018 winner of this award Matilda Parslow. Izzy developed support for her heroics in the team final combined with the exceptional run to the Women’s Elite Final defeating Hannah Boden, Natalie Paul and Zuzana Severinova in an exceptional suite of performances. Matilda, by contrast was the dominant force here in the UK, claiming five UK Tour titles and also winning three Women’s B World Tour events. In the end there was just one vote in, the 2019 UK Racketlon UK Woman of the Year is… Izzy Bramhall.


UK Man of the Year
This wasn’t a contest, and to be honest there was only one man who it could be. A double World Champion, British National Champion, eight UK Tour titles and national team captain in our greatest year; I don’t think a British man has ever had a better Racketlon season. Winning this title, the equivalent of after one point of squash, your UK Racketlon UK Man of the Year is… Dan Busby.


International Woman of the Year
The competition for this title was also tight, with a two horse race developing between two exceptional talents. Amke Fischer returned to the World Tour as if she had never been away. She picked up a number of tour wins, returned to the Champion’s League as the Berlin Berghain Boasters captain and notably on these shores won the London Open, defeating squash professional Alison Waters, despite tearing her calf when a couple of points away from victory. However, she was up against a tough opponent, Austria’s Racketlon sensation, Chrissi Seehofer. Three World Titles, closing in on 100 unbeaten singles matches, and five years as the year end number 1, no player in Racketlon history has put their record on the line so frequently and walked away with it intact and extended. In 2019, your UK Racketlon International Woman of the Year is Chrissi Seehofer (A hat-trick of these titles too!)


International Man of the Year
Much like the UK Man’s title, this one was not a contest. Morten Jaksland has been a force of nature on the World Tour, only two men defeated him this year on the singles court, Leon Griffiths (London Open) and Jesper Ratzer (World Championships). He was most weekends, unstoppable. With a World Doubles title bagged, the World Number 1 spot claimed and seven World Tour titles, there really was no competition for the title. Your UK Racketlon International Man of the Year is Morten Jaksland.


UK Tour Event of the Year
This title is always competitive, and this author was mildly excited as the votes came in as his event, the County Championships stated to rack a few of them up. However, it was to come second, as for the second year running, there was only one event that really resonated amongst the UK Racketlon community. Played at the sensational Parklangley Club in Beckenham, and our biggest event of the year, your UK Racketlon UK Tour Event of the Year is… The British Championships.


International Event of the Year
What makes a popular event? Well the chance to win World Titles helps, as the World Doubles/King of Rackets event proved popular with the voters, as did its counterpart, the World Singles & Teams last month in Leipzig. However, who doesn’t enjoy the chance to play tennis on grass? Only the UK can deliver this to the World Tour, and for the first time in 6 years we were back on the grass at the London Open. The London Open was hosted by the glorious and very welcoming Roehampton Club and edging out the World Championships, your UK Racketlon International Event of the Year is… The London Open.


Match of the Year
What match got UK Racketlon aficionados purring in 2019? Well, obviously the GB1’s delivered two humdingers, the thriller against Denmark, and then the historic final against Germany. Similarly there were epic duels, the Ratzer vs Genin Men’s Elite Semi-final in Leipzig, Amke vs Alison in London or the Fisher/Griffiths vs Severinova/Jaksland bombshell of an upset at the World Doubles. All worthy winners, but there was an alternative. As we have mentioned, Dan Busby only came up short in one event in 2019, the Cotswolds Open. Just weeks after defeating Leon, he was felled by younger brother Luke Griffiths. Despite losing the squash 1-21, Luke produced an exceptional tennis display (again), winning 21-10 to take the match by a solitary point! Such a thrilling result, and an upset to boot, the UK Racketlon Match of the Year is.. The Cotswolds Open Semi-final Luke Griffiths vs Dan Busby.


Personality of the Year
An award that really highlights the person making a positive impact on the UK Racketlon community. In 2019 we have two very different but equally worthy contenders. Sam Barker needs little introduction, or maybe he does, as he is often seen glued to his phone throughout a Racketlon event. Sam has done wonders for the sport this year, whether the TD in York and Nottingham or promoting the sport across the World. All the more impressive is that Sam didn’t pick up a racket all year! By contrast, our other contender embodied some other traits of the Racketlon community, an eagerness to be involved. Despite throwing himself down a mountain in a climbing accident, Alex Martin was keen not to waste a weekend in Belgium, rocking up at the King of Rackets a few weeks later. It was only a few more weeks until he returned to action at the Cotswolds Open, winning the Men’s C and then making the final of the Men’s B at the Staffordshire Open. Guts and determination, crucial components for any Racketlon player and something we all (hopefully) see in ourselves. So, who is the 2019 UK Racketlon Personality of the Year? The winner is… both of them! The votes were tied, Sam Barker & Alex Martin are your personalities.

 


Sam LOVES this photograph!


Moment of the Year
This is the fifth year of these awards with an element of the public vote. At no time has something ever got close to being unanimous, but with 87% of the vote our 2019 Moment of the Year came pretty close. It is a moment that none of us will forget, a moment those of us around this sport for the last decade or so, maybe thought would not come along. But, a fabulous team effort over two days was finished in style by an inside-in forehand down the line by Izzy Bramhall. Understandably, unsurprisingly, the 2019 UK Racketlon Moment of the Year is…. The World Cup Final win!

The next few awards are determined by an editorial panel, consisting of James Pope, so all complaints to him.


Twitter Rivalry of the Year
In 2020, Alex Du Noyer may have to face his “one trick pony” comment at the Steel City Open in March, but back in 2019, the main rivalry was between two of our counties, Staffordshire (led by the indomitable George Roberts) and Oxfordshire (led by Jane Galsworthy). On court it was one win a piece, as Staffs beat Oxfordshire 2, but lost to Oxfordshire 1 in the third/fourth place match, but on Twitter the jousting never ended. We all love a good rivalry and let us hope that this battle is back on court as well as online at the 2020 County Championships.

 

Bone Crusher of the Year & Lazarus Award
Historically, the Bone Crusher award has been won on the court, and frequently involved someone hitting Jo Shelley with ball or racket. However, in 2019, Alex Martin took it off court, as he threw himself down a mountain breaking a few bones in the process, clearly our Bone Crusher for this year. However, he was back on the court within two months and picked up a title at the Cotswolds Open and made the final at the Staffs Open the following month, so our 2019 Lazarus Award for a miraculous recovery is also won by Alex Martin.

 

Assassin’s Creed Award for Causing An Upset
Strictly speaking, it is only a sporting upset if it is unexpected, but really, when it comes to this player, it is becoming more of an expectation. Whether it is the favourites for the World Doubles title, a new crowned British National champion or bossing the doubles rubber of the GB Elite side, on debut, he really has been exceptional. Long known as the Smiling Assassin, our final award of 2019 goes to none other than Luke Griffiths.

 

That is that for 2019, we’ll be back in the New Year, the third decade of Racketlon here in the UK. The 2020 Tour is live, and we look forward to seeing you all next year! Finally, that leaves us with nothing else to say than from everyone at UK Racketlon, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and remember racketsports are a great way to burn off that third helping of Christmas pudding!