A Scottish World Champion?
Those were the headlines at the second British Open, held at
the David Lloyd Racket Club in Watford-Bushey during the first
weekend of April.
Some 70 players took part in the tournament. An increase of almost 40% from last year´s event and the biggest racketlon event ever to have taken place on British soil. But still a slight disappointment in some other respects. For example, there where no players from Finland (the origin of Racketlon...) and only one German. From Belgium Steven Verbruggen was alone to hold the flag. The Swedes (11 players) and the Austrians (10) were the biggest overseas contingents.
In the Men's Open the huge favorite Magnus Eliasson was - again - in a class of his own. As a matter of fact, he didn´t get to play tennis - the last sport - even once during the whole weekend! In the semifinal he beat Ola Carleke by 20 points, although Ola won the squash 21-16. Not even the finalist Rickard Persson could make it to the tennis, as he was 26 points down after badminton. Surprisingly, Eliasson even won the table tennis (21-18) against tt-specialist Persson. Before that game, Eliasson had never got more than 12 points against Persson in table tennis. It proves that he is still improving his game. A nightmare for the challengers...
The only non-Swede in the semifinals was John O'Donnell, and Englishman, who lives in Canada and is the most travelled racketlon player in the world. O'Donnell this time lost to Persson (14 points) in the semifinal and Carleke in the 3rd-prize game (by 1 point). But - as the racketlon community has grown quite used to over the last year - O'Donnell showed his lack of nerves during the first rounds where he beat Steven Verbruggen by 2 points and Scotland's Steve Thomson by 1 point. The latter of these two incredibly tight matches was decided through the gummiarm single point tie-break. Thomson got the serve - and missed it. The short history of the gummiarm tie-break shows that the receiver often wins the game, simply because he/she never needs to return the serve.
"I have never thougt of that" Thomson said. "I think it's an advantage to serve and I would do it again".
We may also have seen the breakthrough of the next ladies world champion, Sarah McFadyen from Scotland. She played fellow countryman Katy Buchanan in the final and won by 18 points. The experienced Buchanan hade no chance against tennis specialist McFadyen. This girl will surely be a real threat to World #1 Lilian Druve in the near future.
"I think Sarah is already better than Lilian", Buchanan said. If she is right McFadyen is very close to become the first Racketlon World Champion from a country outside Scandinavia.
8 players took part in the ladies event and the 3rd prize went to newcomer Sally Weston, a great table tennis player with a nice touch of the ball.
British Open was played during three days and it started with an experiment doubles tournament, the first in the history of Racketlon. Real doubles were played in all sports except in squash, which was decided through two singles games, where the first couple played to 11, and the other continued the game to 21.
World #7 Rickard Persson and Hans Mullamaa, the IRF president, were topseeded but faced an embarrassing disappointment. Mullamaa was so confident of winning that he forced his partner to eat just before the first round started. "It's going to be a long night with three straight matches and we will not play the final until close to midnight. You have to eat", he told his partner. But it turned out to be an unexpectedly short affair as they were knocked out immediately in the first round by Nick Macey and Ged Doherty, England.
Tennis specialist Doherty and Macey, a true talent and a possible future racketlon star (he lost by only a few points to Sweden's Håkansson in the singles event), made an impressive performance. They reached the final where the highly spirited Swedes Niclas Larsson and Michael Mattsson were waiting. Larsson is reported to practise at least 20 hours a week and look more like a wrestler than a racketlete, while Mattsson is probably the best chess player in the Racketlon community. This colourful combination turned out to be successful enough to take Larsson/Mattsson to a draw. And, again, the server (Ged Doherty) missed. Mattsson was so delighted with the victory that he smashed his partner in his back with the hand, visibly adding to the severe pain that Larsson already suffered due to a knee injury. But the pains did not keep him from picking up the prize later on. "I've done this for so long and so many hours but never got a prize. Now I've got it", Larsson cheered.
The IRF Racketlon World Tour now continues with the Finnish Open in Lahti 14-16 May, and the D'Hont Open in Belgium 5-6 June.
Results in summary (complete results soon available at the tournament homepage)
(Order of play: table tennis, squash, badminton, tennis)
Joachim Nilsson-Wayne Donaldsson +35
Calum Monro-Mattias Engblom +35
Niclas Lasson-Jeremy Bennet +20
Nicholas Macey-Michael Mattsson +26
Robert Kirschner-Neil Frankland +7
Steve Verbruggen-Robert Libal +46
Calum Reid-Chris Noakes +11
Julian Bidlake-Mattias Kern +29
Second round (Last 16):
Magnus Eliasson-Joachim Nilsson +37
Calum Monro-Nichlas Larsson +19
Henrik Håkansson-Nicholas Macey +3
Ola Carleke-Robert Kirschner +38
John O'Donell-Steve Verbruggen +3
Steve Thomson-Calum Reid +10
Hans Mullamaa-Julian Bidlake +3
Rickard Persson - Gary Zuconni +20
Magnus Eliasson-Calum Munro 21-9,21-9,21-9 +36
Ola Carleke-Henrik Håkansson 19-21,21-0,17-21,8-21 +2
John O'Donell-Steve Thomson 21-14,21-2,12-21,4-21,1-0 +1
Rickard Persson-Hans Mullamaa 21-10,21-5,21-14 +34
Magnus Eliasson, Sweden-Ola Carleke, Sweden + 20 (21-10, 16-21, 21-7)
Rickard Persson, Sweden-John O'Donnel, England + 14 (21-10, 21-23, 10-21, 21-5)
Final: Eliasson-Persson + 26 (21-18, 21-13, 21-6)
Kary Buchanan-Billie Carrigan +31
Louise Barnett-Daniela Mikulitsch +15
Sally Weston-Irene Frey +55
Sarah McFadyer-Lisa Everingham +52
Katy Buchanan, Scotland-Louise Barnett, England + 27
Sarah McFadyen, Scotland-Sally Weston, England + 29
McFadyen-Buchanan + 18
Richard Whitehouse-Dave Griffiths +17
Andy Petersons-Peter Libal +17
Pär Carleke-Richard Whitehouse +38
Garry Pound-Lennart Eklundh +7
Peter Verow-Leopold Ille +23
Graham Norton-Andy Petersons +20
Par Carleke, Sweden-Garry Pound, England + 43
Peter Verow, England-Graham Norton, England + 15
Carleke-Verow + 43 (21-8, 21-14, 21-7, 21-7)
Michael Mattsson/Niclas Larsson, Sweden won by 1 point, decided by the gummiarm rule. Nick Macey and Ged Docherty, England, finished second.