Persson. The Winner.
The sixth English Racketlon Open, held in London over the weekend, became
a tournament of upsets and final drama with surprise victories in both Elite
events. See reports below.
Although Rickard Persson was mentioned in beforehand speculations as a probable runner-up few people thought that he would have a chance against big English favorite Douglas Struthers in the final. But he made it. By means of a single point victory. Then English Racketlon compensated the drawback on the Men's side with a major upset in the Ladies' class, where Natalie Lawrence took the title after an impressive performance against world no.1 Susanna Lautala-Näykki in the final.
Good Tennis, Persson!
But, as the tennis started, it became clear, very quickly, that Persson had very different plans. In a few minutes, and after impeccable play, he was in the lead by 8-1 and when he reached 16-5 the total score was level and it looked as if he was actually going to achieve the seemingly impossible. That's probably what Persson, also, was thinking and, as most Racketletes are aware, that kind of thinking has a tendency to bring out the "Gummiarm" (although the literal translation of this Swedish word is "rubber arm" a better way of describing it in English is probably "chicken arm"). And it certainly looked as if that was exactly what Persson was suffering from when his game suddenly changed to include unforced errors, unthinkable just a few moments earlier; Struthers got 4 straight points and 16-5 turned into 16-9. "Game Over" yet again? Maybe that's what Struthers was thinking... because now it was his turn to lose a series of straight points. The match was over at 21-9 and Persson had won it by one single point.
Persson-Struthers +1 (21-6, 9-21, 7-21, 21-9)
The end of the match seems to have been a clear case of "Gummiarm
Roaming" a term sometimes used to describe a phenomenon that occurs
when the Gummiarm moves - or roams - from one player to the other coinciding
with the thought of being close to victory. It certainly looked that way
and it is a fact that Persson lost 4 straight points at a stage when he
looked like a winner followed by 5 straight lost points by Struthers when
he came close. Gummiarm roaming or not, the match is certain to go down
history as one of the classics.
But how unexpected was it really? Persson has faced Struthers on two previous occassions; the first time at the Austrian Open in November 2006 and then shortly afterwards at the Swedish Open in January. And both times Persson has actually won the tennis(!) By 7-6 in Stockholm and by 16-11 (unconfirmed) in Vienna. The latter match seemed, in fact, to have much in common with the English Open final; In both cases Struthers needed 11 to win. And in both cases Persson won the tennis by a relatively clear margin. The low expectations on Persson are probably better attributed to the fact that he has, in most people's minds, become a bit of "the eternal runner-up"; He has, time after time, reached tour event finals. And he has, time after time, pulled the shortest straw. He has, in fact, according to his own estimates, achieved the final about 10 times and has won only once before; that was as long ago as at the 2003 British Open and a contributing factor behind that victory was that favorite Magnus Eliasson injured his foot and had to retire in his semifinal against Persson. This time Persson's victory can be explained by nothing else but his great performance. He is a winner. Finally.
Lawrence First Tour Title.
The Ladies' final too, became a dramatic affair. Finland's world no.1 Susanna Lautala-Näykki started out by winning both of the initial events by 21-14 but then lost her grip in squash to a hard hitting Natalie Lawrence (ENG, WR4), who only gave away 2 points(!) giving her a lead by 5 points before the tennis. The final set offered some high quality tennis between two tennis specialist and was very tight. At 12-12 Lawrence seemed to have the situation under control and at 16-17 she had secured five match points (including a potential Gummiarm tiebreak). At that stage Lautala-Näykki must have clinched her fist and managed to save the first three to 16-20. One more point and the audience would have had the Gummiarm tiebreak it desired. But a forehand cross from Lawrence that landed on the outer edge of the side line (one or two in the audience actually thought it was out...) meant, instead, a victory by 2 points for Lawrence.
Natalie Lawrence (ENG, WR4) - Susanna Lautala-Näykki (FIN, WR1)
No Threat Against Bredberg.
A slightly worried Bredberg (although both players are from Gothenburg, they actually never faced each other before) managed to beat Linse without set loss; +17 (21-19, 21-18, 21-11, 7-5) and Sach took care of Hellgren by means of a similar over-all difference (relying safely on his table tennis); +19 (21-4, 15-21, 21-19, 9-3). The final between Bredberg and Sach also became a quite straightforward affair with Bredberg leading comfortably before the tennis (normally very good news for him since tennis is his strongest sport);
Bredberg-Sach +17 (8-21, 21-10, 21-8, 11-5)
A Tournament of Upsets.
In fact, only 3 (Krenn, Persson and Struthers) out of the 8 seeds performed in accordance with expectations or better.
What a massacre.
Hot First Rounds.
O'Donnell-Marco Deeg +5 (21-3, 21-5, 7-21, 2-17)
Dickert-Wall +7 (21-2, 21-19, 20-22, 3-15)
The Road to Redbridge
It has also taken a series of impressive pioneering efforts. Here is one way of looking at the background:
Phil Reid was a Scottish badminton specialist that came up to me with half a bottle of whisky at the 2001 Gothenburg Open. He was the first Scot I ever met in a Racketlon context and he claimed that he was "very excited" about this new sport. Less than a year later he had organised the first Scottish Open, the first Racketlon event outwith Scandinavia (so we thought at the time - until we discovered that Racketlon had a tradition in Austria since 1994, probably exported there from Sweden).
One of the participants at that first Scottish Open was an inspired table tennis specialist by the name of Michael Auchterlonie. Exuberantly enthusiastic he had printed out much of the content of Racketlon.com and carried it with him in a folder. A few months later, in October 2002, he was organising the first English Open in the David Lloyd center in Heston-Hounslow (London).
One of the participants at that first English Open was a distinctly jolly character by the name of Stuart Foster. There was something practical and action oriented about this "no nonsense" Englishman. A couple of months later, in April 2003, he was the man behind the first British Open - held at the David Lloyd Racket Club in Watford-Bushey - and he was also going to take over the English Open in the autumn. Through his relentless organisation of a series of British and English Opens over the following years an English Racketlon community started to take shape. Two inspired figures in that community carried the names of Keith Lesser and Ray Jordan, who are now the main drivers behind the English Open.
So, thank you Keith and Ray.
And thank you Phil Reid, Michael Auchterlonie and Stuart Foster. Look what you started!
MEN'S JUNIOR U21
MEN'S VETERAN O45
Tournament Director's Report:
It was a Swede and an English Lady, not an English Man and a Finnish Woman who took the plaudits in what could be considered as two of the biggest upsets of the tour so far. Natalie Lawrence, established English Number One, took her first tour title in style. Boyfriend and coach Robert Watkins represents England at Over 40s squash (even though he looks 30) and Natalies 21-2 destruction of Susanna can not go unnoticed!
Rickard on the other hand, oh boy! Thats what dreams are made of, nice girl on his arm, nice trophy and cheque in his bag and a specially tailored QPR shirt as a present for one of the nicest and best racketlon players of all time.
Struthers Not Much Koepf
Great Scope, Great Courts, Bring on the World Champs!
More sponsors, plasma screens, sky TV, squash and badminton referees will give the tournament a world championship outlook. The management team have a two or three year plan to achieve all these things in a growingly demanding international playing climate I hope new countries are not put off by players expectations. At least the challenger status gives people a chance to try without the pressure .
The first step will be for England to hopefully host the 2008 Doubles World Championships which takes place this year in Vienna.
The next British tournament is in Ipswich and you can enter online via activeeurope.com the next international events are in Holland, Sweden and, Austria. Let's not forget the Scottish Open; Remember you have to pay in advance pls.
Best of the Rest
Eide, Qualtrough, Wolfbrandt (did you play tennis sometime before?),
SEE, Cornish, Sutlieff, Sach and of course ULF ULF ULF, no that isnt
a meat feast super supreme its Ulf Bredberg destroying everyone,
it looks more and more likely that we will have to wait for the Magnus
Eliasson generation to turn 45 in 5 years before Ulf is displaced as the
world number one. Carleke didnt make the trip, but probably Ulf
wants a rematch.
Special Service Award
We talked a bit about conduct on court and this can be improved. Listen:
1. During knock-up: There are 2 people on a squash court, both players
hit it to each other not just back to you
And most importantly smile
See you next year (maybe .)
Provisional 2008 British Tour
Jan English Champs Dominique Ford
Other Hampshire? Essex? Hull? Bristol/Bath? Welsh? Irish?
2007-07-20: First version.
2007-07-21: Added Tournament Director's Report.
2007-07-22: Added section "A Tournament of Upsets".
2007-07-22: Added pictures.