New for 2018 is the Champion’s League second division, which will feature 4 teams who will play each other twice, once in Sweden and once in Germany. Due to player constraints, the format has been modified, each squad features 4 players, 3 men and 1 lady, with a fixture constituting 2 x Men’s singles, 1 x Mixed doubles, 1 x Men’s Doubles and 1 x Ladies singles. All four franchises selected their squads back in January after the conclusion of the Division 1 draft. Here we will introduce you to the new teams in this division, their squads and their captain’s opinions on all things Division 2.
iPro London 2 – Captain: Johnny Bispham (b)
Squad: Jordan Dainty (s), Frank Kleiber (g), Lindsay Johnson-Farge (b)
Few know more on the statistical likelihoods of results in Racketlon than Johnny Bispham, who favours cold hard mathematics over gut feeling. Having aided iPro London captain Duncan Stahl ahead of the draft in 2017, he was the logical choice to captain iPro London 2 in 2018. Johnny’s draft strategy was to select the strongest players available for each leg ahead of picking players who could play both events his desire for detail evening seeing him run a “mock” draft, during which he correctly selected 11 of the 12 players drafted and placed 9 of those 11 players in their correct sides.
Looking ahead to the competition and Johnny was very happy with how it all went, he expects Berlin to be the toughest challenge in Sweden while Malta will come to the fore in Germany. However, Johnny is not daunted. He fully expects iPro London 2 to win Division 2 winning “5 matches out of 6”. Should Johnny be so confident (or should we say cocky?). In this authors view, looking at his squad, his male line up in Sweden looks very strong, it was a surprise to some that Jordan Dainty wasn’t snapped up by a Division 1 side for Sweden, while Frank Kleiber makes for a great replacement in Germany. Much may depend on Lindsay Johnson-Farge, who faces a tough job against Jenny Schmitz and Dara Ladner, but if she can steal a few vital points, that could be all iPro London 2 need.
Berlin Berghain Boasters 2 – Captain: Jenny Schmitz (b)
Squad: Jean Michot (b), Tobias Hausen (g), Christofer Hellberg (s)
The Triple B2’s enter this event fully confident that they will dominate the fifth discipline or ‘the bar’ as it is known in common parlance (Surely these crack athletes are all responsible adults and therefore teetotal???? – Ed). However, they are a side who are not just here to make up the numbers. While she missed out on picking her dream squad in the draft, captain Jenny was able to secure the services of one player from her wish-list and is overall very happy with the team she has. In agreement with the assessment of her rival, Johnny Bispham, she expects to be a comparatively stronger side in Sweden, but has pleasantly heard that Tobias Hausen is practising hard and will be in great shape come the German leg. Jenny is however keeping her cards close to her chest, and while she concedes that she expects the Triple B2’s to be competing, she is unwilling to declare an overall winner of Division 2.
In this authors view, it is clear that the Swedish leg is vital for the Triple B2’s, the likely singles rubber between Dainty and Hellberg in the London vs Berlin fixture may well decide who leads after the first leg. Perhaps the crucial factor will be the form and fitness of their captain Jenny Schmitz. Rumours abound of recent injury troubles hindering her preparations for Sweden, and that will be massive for the Triple B2’s, as a fully fit Jenny is by far and away the dominate lady in Division 2.
Malta Magic 2 – Captain: Michael Skytte Pedersen (b)
Squad: Thomas Olsen (b), Heli Makela/Tanya Omlin (s/g), Hans Van Daele (g)
Captain Michael had the advantage but also pressure of first pick in the draft and certainly that position had weighed on his mind in the days running up to the first pick. It was a surprise to some (certainly Mr Bispham), that he opted for Thomas Olsen as his opening pick. For Michael this was entirely tactical: “On drafting day I changed my mind, from Heli Makela/Tanya Omlin, and instead picked Thomas Olsson. I knew this would leave Jenny and Dara in a very tough position, since they both had to pick a male player to play both events.”. Having seized some initiative away from his competitors, Michael feels that he had a very good draft, “I blocked Jenny & Dara’s first pick and as a bonus confused Johnny”. Looking ahead to his chances, Michael is very frank, “We are clearly comparatively stronger in Germany, especially when compared to London and Berlin teams for Sweden”. As a result, Michael goes to Sweden with low expectations, confident that his team can turn it on in the second leg in Germany. As for the final result, well Michael is backing only one winner, Malta Magic 2, however he does reserve praise for rival Dara Ladner from the Swiss Army Knives 2 “Dara had a really good, and clever draft, picking Fredrik Tor Groth for Sweden, Markus Klement for Germany and Graham King to play both events – I think she and her team will perform really well and come in second, to Malta Magic 2 of course!”
It is a different captaincy style to that of Johnny Bispham, but to this author it is apparent that Michael has put a lot of thought into his draft picks and his strategy. While they are not the favourite for the Sweden leg, they could pose a real danger in leg 2 in Germany. However, I do fear that they will be leaving themselves too much to do, unless they can grab an underdog victory in Sweden against either Berlin or London.
Swiss Army Knives 2 – Captain: Dara Ladner (b)
Squad: Markus Klement (g), Frederik Tor Groth (s), Graham King (b)
It was not such an advantage for Dara Ladner, as by her own admission, the first two picks almost destroyed her whole plan. However for the Swiss it still ended up ok, Dara admitting “I was surprised I was able to get Markus Klement, but in the end I got three players who were high up on my list”. Dara like her fellow captains is aware of the differences between the teams across each leg is really looking forward to playing everyone twice. Much like Malta Magic 2, Dara considers herself to be stronger in the second leg in Germany, however she reserves the right to be positive for the opening leg in Sweden, “Fredrik Groth has had some good results and will be good for us Sweden and of course no one should underestimate Graham King”.
Much like their Maltese counterparts, the Swiss Army Knives 2 look better set up for the second leg in Germany. Much will ride on the performance of Frederik Groth in Sweden, but also Dara herself, in particular her matchup against Berlin captain Jenny Schmitz. While this author does not see the Swiss winning Division 2, they are certainly going to cause a few headaches and I can see them dealing the decisive blow to either Berlin or London’s title charge in the second leg in Germany.
Now, the talking is all over and the action shifts to the courts in Sweden, this Friday, 23rd February. A new division, a modified format, which team will adjust best and get themselves ahead during Leg 1? To see how it is going keep an eye on the FIR Facebook page for updates throughout the day of competition and on Racketlon.net for a report on events next week.