The Racketlon season may be drawing to a close, but the inevitable sadness that this bring is tempered by the knowledge that it involves a return to the glorious island of Malta. The Malta Open represents a holistic Racketlon experience with fantastic facilities and a wealth of opportunities to socialise off the court. However, you are not reading this for me to wax lyrical about the benefits of playing the Malta Open, but for the sport itself. Sport loves an undefeated player or team. Arsenal in 2003/04, the boxer Rocky Marciano, Jesper Ratzer’s final seasons and this coming winter the Australian cricket team*. However, it is one thing to be undefeated, it is another thing to put your undefeated record on the line, and at the 2017 Malta Open, Amke Fischer is doing just that. Make has never lost a Racketlon match, singles or doubles in Malta and she is back for a third year running, looking for further glory and also to further extend that run. She’ll be facing stiff competition in all three draws, with the Malta Open offering a full programme of sporting events for the Racketlon community, which can be viewed on fir.tournamentsoftware.com
If Amke is to maintain her Maltese record, she will face competition from 5 other challengers in the Ladies A, which has been split into two box leagues of 3 players. Amke is top seed and heads Group A, while second seed Nicole Eisler heads Group B. Amke faces the future, both her opponents young in years, but steeped in Racketlon experience, as she faces Hannah Boden and Zuzana Severinova. Riding in Amke’s favour however is recent victories over both these ladies, at the German Open (Zuzana) and European Championships (Hannah). In Group B, Nicole faces the challenge of wildcard Katrin Maldre, whom she may not know a huge amount about, but her second opponent she knows a lot more about, fellow Swiss Army Knives captain and friend, Astrid Reimer-Kern. The box league format means these ladies are guaranteed to enjoy the Marsa Sports Club’s fabulous tennis courts in glorious sunshine, it also brings in the element of uncertainty, a spurious result that can set the cat amongst the pigeons, something Amke will be seeking to avoid.
Morten Keen For More Fun In The Sun
Morten Jaksland is top seed in the Men’s A and having taken the Men’s A title earlier in the season at the other Racketlon island paradise of Lanzarote, he will be keen to once again earn victory in sun, sea and sand surroundings. Morten, and fellow seeds, Kresten Hougaard, Dan Busby and Duncan Stahl all get a round off in this 12 man monrad draw, but it is unlikely to be plain sailing for the seeds in this event once they do get going. Keen to make his mark on this draw will be the Men’s B European Champion, Jorn Sultrup who opens up against Adolphe Fernandez-Diez while the only active members of the 2015 Malta Open podium, Cedric Junillon (2 nd ) and Rickard Persson (3 rd ) face each other in the first round. Once the seeds enter in the quarter-finals, they’ll be thinking about making those semi-finals, a task that may be fractionally tougher in the bottom half of the draw.
Fewer Brits, More Maltese, More Everyone
The 2017 Malta Open sees its smallest contingent of Brits at the event, yet with its ever growing popularity around the rest of the tour nations and an increasing number of local entries, the entry is the same as in previous years. This reduced number of Brits is most evident away from the elite draws with only 2 in the Men’s B and 2 in the Ladies B, however it is probably the brace of French men (JB Montagon & Loic Cencig) and women (European Ladies B Champion Helene Lechemolle and Dorothee Gazeau) in each of these draws who will be favourite to take home the titles. In both draws top seeds Ersoy Korer (Men’s B) and Dianne Baker (Ladies B) will be hoping to stand in their way. The Men’s C features a geographically broad range of entries from Malta to South Africa, however a host of experience campaigners including top seeds Hans Van Daele and Fabian Mauroy who will be hoping to conquer the rest! After the appearance of Jurgen Melzer at the European Championships, hearts went aflutter at the Malta Open HQ when a Belgian named Vandamme entered, however Cristof not Jean-Claude will be hoping to make an impact in the Men’s D. He’ll be joined by 11 others, including 3 male Brits who will be hoping to avoid the wily fox, Dianne Baker, who is looking for a Ladies B-Men’s D Double, the seedings headed by Ray Ryan and Harry Courtney as 1 and 2 respectively. Away from the open singles there is the usual collection of doubles and Vets draws to ensure no one misses out on the maximum amount of Racketlon fun in the sun.
Beyond The Court
The Malta Open is much more than just three days of Racketlon. Aside from the glorious weather synonymous with the island of Malta, tournament director Duncan Stahl has made sure that the Malta Open offers plenty of opportunities for players to experience more than just a fantastic on court experience. Supported by now Maltese resident, FIR president Kresten Hougaard, the 2017 Malta Open features a presidential penthouse welcome party, in addition to the regular bonus events of the Friday night BBQ at the Marsa Golf Club, Sunday Roast and the Monday boat trip to the iconic Blue Lagoon. With the players party situated conveniently close to the Tournament Hotel, the Malta Open really is one of the most rounded Racketlon experiences. A great weekend awaits all the players, with sunshine very much on the cards, good luck to all the players!
*I owe this to Leigh Sands.