The First Ever Scottish Racketlon
- a report by Phil Reid
The Next Generation Club, Monifieth (Scotland) made history
over the weekend of 10/11 August 2002 by staging the first ever
Racketlon event to be held outwith Scandinavia. A Scottish
Racketlon event was the dream of Phil Reid following his
participation in the Gothenburg World Open 2001 where he
experienced Racketlon for the first time. On his return from this
historic event he discovered that a lot of other racket sport
players were interested in this unique format. With this in mind
on the first day of January 2002 he made a 'resolution' to stage
a Scottish Racketlon competition.
Finding a suitable venue in Scotland was not easy, but the Next Generation Club in Monifieth, specifically General Manager Iain Stevens and Rackets Manager Ian Woodcraft, offered to support this innovation through provision of their facility and help with the overall organisation. So the dream became reality and following fairly limited promotion a total of 32 people entered the event, including 5 Swedes keen to promote the concept of Racketlon outwith Scandinavia.
Among the Swedish contingent was Magnus Eliasson, the current Swedish No1 and World No2 ranked Racketlon player. Magnus made his intentions clear when he arrived at the Next Generation club the day before the event and asked if he could find some sparring partners. He proceeded to play squash with some club members for over 2 hours to get a 'feel for courts'! He also organised to play tennis later in the evening but mysteriously failed to appear - was he running scared? All would be revealed the following day .
This historic event commenced at 9am on Saturday 10th August and it was only fitting that the first competitive Racketlon match to be held outwith it's spiritual home featured Mr www.racketlon.com himself, Hans Mullamaa. He was playing in the initial group phase of Pool B against a local challenger, Richard Miller, the more athletic younger brother of Iain Miller, an absentee in Scotland but threatening to flex his considerable bulk at this year's World Open! The Mens Elite draw was restricted to 12 entrants playing initially in 4 groups of 3 players. Following this initial phase the finishing group positions would dictate placement in the knock-out phase to be held the following day, with Magnus Eliasson seeded to meet Rickard Persson in the final. All 4 groups featured close matches, but none more so than the 'Group of Death', Pool D, where Rickard emerged victorious following 2 good matches with Phil Reid and Scottish No2 Table Tennis player, Gavin Rumgay (including a 33-31 badminton victory). In the remaining match in this group Phil triumphed over Gavin by 2 points, thanks surely to the 4 points he managed to pick up at table tennis - the true essence of Racketlon - every point can be valuable! Anyway, after a good day's Racketlon there was a distinctly Swedish feel to the semi-final line-up with Magnus to face Hans, and Rickard to face the crafty Scot, Steve Thomson, early on Sunday morning.
In the Ladies Elite event Swedish No1 & World No2, Lilian Druve, was seeded to meet her sister Anneli in the final of this knock-out event. However, following some excellent all-round play Scotland's Katy Buchanan defeated Next Generation member Laura Hart, followed by Anneli, to book her place in Sunday's final where she would meet hot favourite Lilian. However, before Saturday was finished the 3 first round losers played-off in a group format to decide the winner of the Ladies Plate event. All 3 matches were close encounters of the Racketlon kind, but Laura Hart secured victory thanks to her finishing strength, particularly the tennis where she didn't lose a match all day.
The Mens Masters proved their fitness by playing their group of 4 round-robin event on the one day - a taxing 3 matches each! Once again there were some great battles, but as you would expect at a Racketlon event, all matches were played in a very friendly way and there was a strong camaraderie amongst these experienced campaigners! At the end of the day all 4 men were still standing, but a clear winner had emerged in Stewart Milne, whose daughter had also featured in the Ladies Elite event. Runner-up spot went to late replacement and Next Generation club member Graham Orr, who blamed his defeat against Stewart on excessive effort in winning the squash!! Don't worry Graham, you weren't the only player struggling with the tactics of Racketlon, a sport as mentally demanding as it is physically exhausting!
The final places to be decided on the Saturday were the finalists and plate finalists in the Mens Amateur event. Lilian Druve (yes - of ladies elite fame) looked in commanding form as she progressed to the final without ever needing to win even a point at tennis!! In the bottom half of the draw the impressive Michael Cardno scored a good semi-final win over Drew Bell despite losing both the table tennis and squash events! However, it was the Plate event that produced the most exciting matches. Andrew Christie won the table tennis and squash then hung-on to defeat Chris McDonald by 10 points. The other plate semi-final between Duncan Clarke and Andy Hirst was even closer. Following a 21-11 victory by Duncan in the tennis the match was tied at 60 points each and for the first time ever the 'gummiarm rule' came into play. This rule was being tested at this event for the first time and basically means that if the match is tied it is decided by one point of tennis, with the same service rulings being applied as in the main match, but with only one serve allowed ie. no second serve! Exciting indeed, but I don't think that is the word that Duncan used when he realised that he was the one to serve to decide the match. There was tension in the air and drama on the court as Duncan started his service action. To his credit his service did land in the court, but I promise you it was so slow and short that some of the crowd were convinced that they could read 'Penn' on the ball whilst it was crossing the net. In fact, it's lack of pace and depth caught Andy completely by surprise and he struggled to run forward to hit the ball before it's second bounce - he did reach it, but unfortunately for him and to Duncan's relief all Andy could do was hit it tamely into the net - the first ever gummiarm rule victory went to Duncan!!
Duncan's match was actually the last match of the day on Saturday and everyone was providing their version of events when they sat down to the pasta buffet that had been laid on by the Next Generation club. In fact, such was the bonding of the 'friends of the 4 rackets' that a small group of Mens Elite competitors agreed to meet up in nearby Broughty Ferry later on that evening to sample the local hospitality. Rumour has it that some of the group managed as little as 4 hours sleep that night - not that this hindered any performances on Sunday morning!!
Despite the fact that 3 of the 4 semi-finalists in the Mens Elite event had been seen socialising until the early hours of the morning there were no surprises as each match went according to the seeding. Magnus defeated Hans without needing to play the tennis and Rickard was always in control against Steve following a very good start to his match, finally triumphing by 13 points. Before the final was played some of the other places were still to be decided. Gavin Rumgay secured 9th place by defeating Graeme Thompson, Phil Reid finished 7th after a straightforward win over Richard Miller and David Atkins finished 5th after an epic 'gummiarm rule' victory over the highly competitive Mike Auchterlonie, a newcomer to Racketlon but already talking about staging an English Racketlon Championships!!
In the Mens Amateur event Lilian Druve again proved too solid across the board as she won by 27 points over Michael Cardno. In the plate final Duncan Clarke looked as though he had still to recover from his semi-final 'gummiarm rule' victory the previous evening and was heavily beaten by a very sharp Andrew Christie.
Both Elite events went to the respective Swedish No1s and World No2s. In the Ladies event Lilian Druve won by 28 points against Katy Buchanan, despite suffering a 21-2 defeat at squash. Lilian's strength at table tennis and badminton proved decisive, but young Katy has a bright future at Racketlon ahead of her if she can improve these 2 sports. In the Mens event Magnus Eliasson defeated Rickard Persson by 15 points in a closely contested match. Rickard started very well, winning the table tennis by 21-12 then achieving his highest ever points tally against Magnus at squash (21-10 defeat), but Magnus proved he is still No1 in Sweden by playing very solidly to win 21-11 at badminton then edging a very competitive tennis match by 21-18. Both Elite finals were both enjoyed and appreciated by the small crowd that followed the players around the venue.
At the conclusion of the finals a small presentation ceremony took place for event winners and runners-up and special awards were made to Katy Buchanan and Steve Thomson for finishing as 'Best Scots'. Everyone who played the event had a thoroughly enjoyable time and already plans are being made for the Scottish Racketlon Championships 2003. I'm sure that next year's event will be bigger and better and, having been made very welcome, the Swedish visitors are promising to return next year in larger numbers. When asked why they were so keen to return, Magnus Eliasson replied, "quite simply the Next Generation Club in Monifieth is the best venue I have ever experienced for a Racketlon event". High praise indeed!
Until 2003 ..