With a total pot of prize money of record size in Racketlon (3000 Euro out
of which 1000 went to the winner of the Men's Elite and 500 to the winner of
the Ladies' Elite), an abundance of volunteers (even ball boys(!) in the Elite
final) and, above all, wirelessly connected computerized score boards(!) loved
by the audience this year's Swedish Open, the first Super World Tour Event -
goes down history as another milestone for the game of Racketlon.
With 194 entries from 9 countries it was also the biggest Racketlon tournament of its kind ever held in Sweden - not counting one or a few of the very first tournaments almost 20 years ago containing qualification rounds in several places all around Sweden before the Stockholm endgame. These initial tournaments would span over periods of several weeks and are said to have attracted up to 400 players. (And it is not quite clear that it was Racketlon as the FIR nowadays define it since the "every rally count" principle might not yet have been in place.)
On the men's side the winner was the usual suspect; Sweden's Magnus Eliasson has now won all(!) Swedish Opens since the tournament was first awarded world ranking status in 2002. His opponents in the finals have also, during previous years, been fairly easy to predict; Mats Källberg three times (2002, 2003 and 2005) and Stefan Adamsson twice (2004 and 2006). But this time the runner-up was a surprise in the shape of Germany's Elmar Schaub (WR5 before the tournament) who upset the seedings by first beating Adamsson (WR4) in the quarter final by 4 points (tt:21-5 ba:22-20 sq:6-21 te:19-18) and then, in the semifinal, Roland Helle (the runner-up in the 2004 World Championships) by one single point (tt:21-7 ba:17-21 sq:8-21 te:21-17). The final, however, became a relatively undramatic affair decided at 8-4 to Eliasson in the tennis; Eliasson-Schaub +18 (tt:15-21 ba:21-17 sq:21-5 te:8-4). However, Schaub has been advancing up the world rankings at remarkable speed since he first emerged at the inaugural 2005 Czech Open (less than 2 years ago!) and a gold medal at the recent Dutch Open combined with a silver medal now signal that Germany has now got a bright Racketlon star that is getting ready to compete for the top position!
The ladies' event became a much more open affair containing two major surprises; (1) Lilian Druve (Sweden, WR2), who just like Eliasson has been dominating the Swedish Open during the last years (winning 2004, 2005 and 2006) was knocked out in the quarterfinal already against England's Natalie Lawrence. (2) Germany's Jutta Schaub, the little sister of Elmar, advanced all the way to the final by beating much higher ranked Katy Buchanan (Scotland, WR4) and Linda Jansson (Sweden, WR1) in the earlier rounds. In the final against Finland's Susanna Lautala-Näykki (WR3) her march for victory was stopped, however, by her opponent's strong tennis performance; -9 (tt:21-23 ba:21-17 sq:18-21 te: 13-21).
In the Vets' Over 45, finally, Gothenburg's Ulf Bredberg managed to repeat his final victory from Gothenburg Open in November against Peter Bittár. And this time it was easier! +17 (tt:21-12 ba:13-21 sq:21-9 te:9-5) as compared to +7 (tt: 8-21 ba:21-12 sq:18-21 te:21-7) in Gothenburg. Very different figures, as seen. Bredberg won the table tennis after losing heavily in Gothenburg, lost the badminton after winning safely, and won the squash easily after losing. Only the tennis went as predicted by the Gothenburg figures. Bredberg leaves an ever more impressive mark in the vet's class and, given the fact that he is still relatively new to Racketlon having joined his first tournament only a few years ago, the general feeling is that he should soon be ready to challenge the mighty Pär Carleke (Sweden's Veteran World Champion, who has never come close of losing to another veteran). Bredberg is also a major contender for the prestigious Men's Elite title in the Gothenburg Regional Championships coming up in two weeks.
Please, find Lloyd Pettiford's report from the tournament
below. Pettiford was a participant in the Class B and the
following can also be said about him (as taken from the cover of
a book he wrote, that I keep at bedside at the moment):
"Born in Manchester 1966, Lloyd worked and studied in various parts of the world before settling in the East Midlands, where he is now Associate Dean of Arts, Communication and Culture at Nottingham Trent University. He has published widely on a range of topics, from International Relations to e-learning, and is the author of the best-selling Euro 2004: The Total Guide."
Swedish Open 2007 Report
Just 1 year since my first ever Racketlon matches (against Wales' finest - the Harris brothers, Owen (WR827) and Tom (WR268)) I was delighted to be able to celebrate this first anniversary not only by playing in Stockholm but also being asked to write the report. I just need to give a little context. First the results are already posted elsewhere and this report of necessity constitutes the personal opinions of someone who was both a competitor and a tourist; if I don't mention something important (especially who won stuff!) sorry! Second, my reading material for the plane was Romeo Dallaire's - Shake Hands With The Devil. Sandwiching the tournament between reading this account of 'the failure of humanity' as genocide visited Rwanda in 1994 gave a true perspective on the 'importance' of Racketlon. I hope those who did not play with the dignity the sport deserves or did not respect their opponents and umpires as they should, will reflect accordingly. You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one (as someone once said!). And if that sounds just a bit too high and mighty of me, I would say two things in my defence. First they are the words of a man ashamed of his behaviour on court when he was younger, and much happier to have left that behaviour behind. Second, I travelled to Stockholm with a non-playing friend who is new to Racketlon; it is clear that it doesn't matter how much of a 'nice guy' someone might be off the court, behaviour on court still leaves a really bad impression that Racketlon could do without.
But what about the tournament itself? Having said that this is a personal account, I did do some research amongst my fellow competitors and the general consensus is that this was a 'super' world tour event in all senses of the term. I was given an enthusiastic and warm welcome and then found help and advice easy to get whenever I needed it. The organisation was excellent and the new screens - to keep spectators up-to-date with the latest situation in the big matches - were a great innovation.
The Swedish Open Computerized Score Boards.
Everyone would agree that the computorized score boards used at the Swedish Open was a great move forward for the organisational side of Racketlon. Some people even talked about a "whole new level". The simple idea was to continuously display the overall result, including the results from previous sets, on huge computer flat screens next to each of the four centre courts. The score on display was operated by the referees through laptop computers and when a set was finished the score was transferred wirelessly to the next court - and onto the internet. Combined with the fact that almost all the Elite matches were played on the centre courts the effect was simply a more interesting experience for the audience. (No more "What's the score before tennis?" or "What was the result in badminton?" for which often no answers can be found.) And, as a side effect, it meant better value for sponsors since, during breaks, the screens were used for them too. And there is development potential. Now, when the screens are in place it is not difficult to imagine how they - and the internet! - could be connected to cameras in the future. And the step needed for "live scoring" - i.e. to be able to follow scores develop in real time point by point (as opposed to set by set, which was the case this time) should be quite small.
Before Stockholm I had played tournaments in Edinburgh,
Birmingham, Gothenburg and Vienna; each was great and had
different aspects I enjoyed, and it should not be read in any way
as a criticism of them to say that I think perhaps this was my
favourite so far. Those people who gave of their time to organise
and run the tournament should be especially thanked; as ever
marking/umpiring proves to be a difficult job and one or two
people thought criticism justified
with one poor referee subjected to sustained criticism it is
clear that if he made mistakes, he made honest ones - something
we, the players, should always remember.
Highlights of the tournament? Really too many to list here I think. It was really nice that so many had come from Britain, although as ever I probably earned the accolade 'worst player actually prepared to travel from the UK.' At the other end of that spectrum, another brave attempt from Doug Struthers to beat Magnus Eliasson - one day Doug! Actually from my point of view it's a shame that Alex Koepf isn't the best player in the world, although I think he is probably the funniest and most entertaining on court. What else? Ah yes, well done to Ray Jordan on conquering his fear of flying he was on the flight after me coming home, but since our take off was not nice at all, I hope you coped OK mate - well done! And I got to see many faces which are becoming increasingly familiar to me; from the always jolly Stuart, always hopeful Doug, always intense Marcel and always lovely to talk to Hans, it is great to already be regarding people in the Racketlon world as 'old friends'.
Finally, and despite an overwhelmingly positive impression of the tournament, it was difficult to work out why my third match (Men's B) was pushed on to tennis court 3 while some guys called Helle and Weigl got centre court! But seriously it was very odd that when my opponent hit a net-cord to win his 13th point (and as a consequence a very close match) there was an absolutely huge cheer it turned out that at the very same moment Helle had just won on gummi-arm against the FIR President to the evident delight of the home crowd. Engaged as I was in my own 'epic struggle', it was not a match I saw anything of but others may wish to tell 'breaking news' that story?
As for me
well I lost a game, won one and lost another
(all close) against Peter, Ralf and Rickard - thanks chaps, I
enjoyed every point. I applauded my opponents' good shots but did
not celebrate their errors. At the same time I competed hard for
every single point. I like to think of it as my positive mental
attitude and it ensured I left Stockholm feeling like a winner,
whatever the results. I hope others feel the same, but know that
the real winner after a tournament like this has to be the sport
of Racketlon itself. Well done and thanks to everyone involved -
I've had a great first year!
/LP (/H for the bold parts)
Results in Summary (for complete results, see Tournament Homepage).
Magnus Eliasson - John O´Donnell +22 (tt:21-13 ba:21-14 sq:21-16 te:2-0)
Douglas Struthers - Rickard Persson +15 (11-21, 21-10, 21-6, 6-7)
Roland Helle - Marcel Weigl +1 (21-19, 19-21, 21-10, 10-21, 1-0)
Elmar Schaub - Stefan Adamsson +4 (21-5, 22-20, 6-21, 19-18)
Magnus Eliasson - Douglas Struthers +9 (21-19, 20-22, 21-12, 13-13)
Elmar Schaub - Roland Helle +1 (21-7, 17-21, 8-21, 21-17)
Magnus Eliasson - Elmar Schaub +18 (15-21, 21-17, 21-5, 8-4)
Linda Jansson - Jayne MacFarlene +25 (21-11, 21-9, 21-18, -)
Jutta Schaub - Katy Buchanan +8 (15-21, 21-5, 13-21, 21-15)
Susanna Lautala-Näykki - Ulrika Björk +12 (21-13, 6-21, 21-19, 21-4)
Natalie Lawrence - Lilian Druve +3 (18-21, 10-21, 21-13, 21-12)
Jutta Schaub - Linda Jansson +20 (21-19, 21-9, 21-15, 2-2)
Susanna Lautala-Näykki - Natalie Lawrence +5 (21-11, 21-14, 5-21, 21-17)
Susanna Lautala-Näykki - Jutta Schaub +9 (23-21, 17-21, 21-18, 21-13)
Ulf Bredberg - Gunnar Nilsson +22 (21-9, 16-21, 21-8, 2-0)
Volker Sach - Claes Hellgren +18 (21-8, 21-19, 21-18, 4-4)
Peter Bittár - Ray Simpson +19 (21-15, 13-21, 21-12, 15-3)
Johan Linse - Anders Lundström +6 (11-21, 21-10, 21-15, 15-16)
Ulf Bredberg - Volker Sach +20 (10-21, 21-10, 21-9, 10-2)
Peter Bittár - Johan Linse +4 (21-8, 21-19, 15-21, 17-18)
Ulf Bredberg - Peter Bittár +17 (21-12, 13-21, 21-9, 9-5)