Despite less than 9 months having passed since the unprecedented combined singles, doubles and teams European Championships in Vienna, we begin the first of two World Championship events in 2018. The Singles and Team events take place in Switzerland in August: ENTER HERE but we first turn our attentions to the World Doubles Championships taking place this coming week in Nussloch, Germany. Coupled with an IWT singles event over the weekend, a total of 117 players will compete for doubles titles in 16 categories from the Elite draws up to an O60s event. All the draws are available online HERE
Men’s Elite Doubles is Difficult to Predict
Our Elite Men’s and Ladies draws will both feature box leagues with all the pairings playing each other in a round robin format. As a result, and given the regular ability of doubles Racketlon to throw up the odd unusual result, you can fully expect there to be some hasty calculations before the final round of matches, especially in the five pairs Men’s A.
We will start here in the Men’s A, with the defending champions from 2016, Danish duo Ratzer & Jonsson not competing, it falls to a new pair of Danes to do the business for the Viking nation. That responsibility (and pressure) falls on Kresten Hougaard & Morten Jaksland who line up as top seeds. In 2016, it was an all Austrian pair (Stoisser & Austeller) who came second and hoping to go one better in 2018 are another all-Austrian pairing, second seeds, Michi Dickert & Lukas Windischberger. Michi & Lukas defeated Kresten & Morten in a keenly contested final at the 2017 European Championships, so these two start as favourites. However, the remaining pairs are no pushovers. Dan Busby (GB) & Benjamin Hampl (Sui) start as the third ranked pair and certainly have the weapons to hurt our top two seeds whilst the youth representatives of Lukas Penttinen (Fin) & Emanuel Schopf (Aus) will be excited by the chance to cause some ripples in the group. Our final pairing are the home favourites of Christian Wiessner & Thorsten Deck. Fans of the Champion’s League will already be aware of Thorsten’s return and many (especially his soon to be captain, Lukas) will be keen to see what Thorsten’s form is like on his return. The Germans start as the outsiders, but are genuine dark horses for the title.
Can Anyone Stop The Clear Favourites for the Women’s Elite Title?
It is a four pair box league for the Ladies A and the clear top seeds and favourites are defending World and European champions Natalie Paul (Ger) & Christine Seehofer (Aus). In Austria last year, this pairing were invincible, dropping just 1 sport (table tennis) in their four round robin matches, improving on their performance from Denmark in 2016. Second seeds, Nicole Eisler (Sui) & Bettina Bugl (Aus) were second and third respectively in Austria, so have now joined forces to try and topple the defending World champions. Our remaining pairs include German wildcards Svenja Kleb & Ann-Kathrin Pfiefer and British/Swedish pairing Izzy Bramhall & Anna-Klara Alhmer, both pairs who you would expect to be targeting their match against each other in a bid to secure third place on the podium behind our top seeds.
Austrians Look to Dominate the Mixed Elite
It is a straight 8 draw monrad (to the relief of some of our players) in the Mixed A Doubles, with Austrian pairing Christine Seehofer & Lukas Windischberger the top seeds ahead of Swiss pairing Nicole Eisler & Benjamin Hampl. While it is hard to look past the combined forces of world’s top ranked men’s and ladies singles players as the overwhelming favourites, there are some interesting match ups amongst the pairings. The first round tie between Svenja Kleb (Ger) & Dan Busby (GB) vs Anna-Klara Ahlmer (Swe) & Morten Jaksland (Den) looks an enticing tie, while both our seeded pairs will have to overcome friends, with Seehofer facing her Ladies doubles partner Natalie Paul (playing with fellow German and Champions League team-mate Christian Wiessner) and Eisler facing her friend Astrid Reimer-Kern (the German playing with Denmark’s Kresten Hougaard) as their opening round matches. The final match is Germany vs Austria as Silke Altmann & Ottmar Neidhardt face Bettina Bugl & Emanuel Schopf. Natalie Paul may start as defending champion (having won in 2016 with Jesper Ratzer), but she will be hard pressed to defend her title this season.
European U21 Mixed doubles champion Emanuel Schopf returns with a new partner, fellow Austrian Irina Olsacher, and Emanuel will be looking to add a World junior title to his collection. To do so, they will have to overcome three other pairs, including Finnish pair Anna Wall & Luka Penttinen. The Finns, who have finished in third in both the recent European and World Mixed U21s events, will be keen to move up the podium in 2018. The final two pairs are Dara Ladner (Sui) & Oskari Laiho (Fin) and Ho Ching Chan (Hkg) & Senne Blommart (Bel). This Finnish pair start as second seeds but represent the most established pairing in the draw, does that give them the edge over the Austrians?
Numerous Seniors Doubles Titles To be Won
Into the Seniors categories and it is a largely German affair in the Men’s O40s which see’s 6 pairs start in two groups of 3, with 3 all German pairs and a brace of German’s in mixed pairing. One of these mixed pairings are our top seeds Anders Akesson (Swe) & Marco Genzel, with all German pairing Torsten Kuntz & Ulrich Schlepphorst as second seeds. It is the same set up in the Men’s O45s and a bit of role reversal amongst our seeds as Ulrich and partner Manfred Grab (Ger) are the top seeds while Anders, partnering Joakim Gersdorf (Ger) are the second seeds. In both events, the winners of these 3 player box leagues will play off for the World Title, with new champions to be crowned in both these events.
The Ladies O45s will be tough work for all involved as it is a five pair round robin to determine our World Champions. Defending World Champion, Izzy Bramhall (GB) has joined forced with current European Champion, Esther Dubendorfer (Sui), (both ladies having won their respective titles partnering Barbara Capper who is not in attendance this year). Unsurprisingly, the pair start as the top seeds and heavy favourites for the event, however second seeds and British pair, Jo Shelley & Dianne Baker will be looking to upset the apple cart. In the Mixed O45s and once again the defending World Champion, Izzy, has joined forces with the current European Champion Levante Nandoori (Hun), however the pair settle for being second seeds in this 8 pair monrad draw. The top seeds are Esther who is partnered by Bruce Shepherd (GB), and you would fancy both our seeded pairs to meet in the final, but will it be past victories or higher seeding that prevails?
In the Men’s O50s it is a same nationality partners only as three German pairs, face a brace of Swedes, a Czech, Danish and finally a Hungarian pair making up the mix in this 8 pair monrad draw. Top seeds are the Czechs, Richard Hobzik & Milan Stupavsky, with second seeds the experienced German pairing of Manfred Grab & Volker Sach. Throw Hungarian legend Peter Sakovics (with Tibor Karolyi), the exceptionally experienced Frank Kleiber (with Frank Bohm) and you have what looks like a very tasty little event. The event wasn’t held in 2016 at the last World Championships, however Peter and Tibor are the current European Champions and a tricky potential semi-final test for our top seeds from the Czech Republic.
It is seven pairs for the Men’s O55s with top seeds Joachim Gersdorf & Frank Klieber (Ger) given the group of three, while second seeds Richard Hobzik (Cze) & Peter Sakovics (Hun) facing the additional match in their group of 4, the key question will be whether it is an additional match too far for the eventual winner of group B? Joachim is the defending World Champion from 2016 while current European Champions, Swedish pairing Magnus Edby & Peter Soderstrom will face the second seeds, Richard & Peter in Group B. We finish with the most distinguished and experienced Seniors class, the Men’s O60s where three pairs will play off in a round robin to see who will be crowned World Champion. Current European Champions, Julian Clapp (GB) & Graham King (Sui) are the highest ranked pairing in the draw and they will be excited by the possibility of adding a world title to their collection. In their way are the vastly experienced British pairing of Graham Norton & Bruce Shepherd and Lubomir Budinsky (Svk) & Jesper Nielsen (Den).
The “Amateur” Classes – Where the Real Drama Happens!
Our final four draws are the Men’s B, Ladies B, Mixed B and Men’s C doubles, with 42 pairs involved in these draws. It is two groups of three for the Ladies B with top seeds Anastasiya Bruzgina (Blr) & Lisa Seidensticker (Ger) in Group A and second seeds Stine Krogsoe (Den) & Laura Smits (Ned) in Group B.
10 pairs in the Men’s B doubles so it is first round byes for the seeded pairings and those who get the luck of the draw, in what looks a stonker of an event. Steffan Nuemann (Ger) & Guus Van De Burgt (Ned) top seeds and Patrick Burgi (Sui) & Roland Pichler (Aus) are the second seeds. There may be no Jurgen Melzer in the World Championships Men’s B, but there is a number of dangerous looking unseeded pairings including Belgians Senne Blommaert & Pieter de Bleeckere and wily British pairing Steve Kneller & Graham Norton (no doubt delighted with a first round bye!).
14 pairs for the Mixed B doubles headed by top seeds Anastasiya Bruzgina (Blr) & Ulrich Schlepphorst (Ger) and second seeds Stine Krogsoe (Den) & Roland Pichler (Aus) who both receive first round byes. The tie of the first round and probably the most interesting first round monrad match pitches third seeds Esther Dubendorfer (Sui) & Michael Kristensen (Den) against German pairing Stefan Nuemann & Ann Kathrin-Pfiefer, a match in which you’d favour the third seeds will be the first seeded victims of the tournament!
Finally, we finish with the Men’s C, 12 pairs competing here including the top seeded pairings, both from Germany, Torsten Kuntz & Andreas Mrazek (top seeds) and Felix Fischer & Michael Holzinger (second seeds).
That pretty much wraps up all the draws for this event, all results will be regularly updated on FIR Tournament Software while there will be updates on the FIR Facebook page where you can of course leave your comments on this article and make your own predictions….