Seeded or Not, Reigning Champions Start as Heavy Favourites
As we begin in Zurich, 1 year, 8 months and 29 days and a total of 26 tournaments (4 Super, 17 International and 5 Challenger world tour events) will have passed since Jesper Ratzer and Christine Seehofer were crowned World Champions in Nurnberg in Germany. As we approach the 2018 World Championships, it is the perfect time to look back at the last 21 months of Racketlon action and look ahead to what this might mean for the Elite draws in Zurich.
Seehofer Reigns Supreme
Reigning World Champion, undisputed world number 1 and crowned European Champion; since Christine Seehofer defeated Amke Fischer in Germany on the 27th November 2016 she has played 12 tournaments, winning 12 titles and has a perfect record of 32 wins from 32 matches. Her dominance is highlighted by the fact that even when you exclude Christine from the data, no lady can claim to be dominating their peers, the ladies game has seen players beating each other and the tournament titles shared around. Christine Seehofer is the exception to this rule, the order amongst the chaos.
Windischberger Would Be King, But…
In the semi-finals in Nurnberg, Lukas Windischberger was thoroughly crushed by Jesper Ratzer on the latter’s march to a dominant world title victory. Since that crushing, Austrian Lukas has been the man handing out some beatings, claiming 10 titles in that time, winning 47 out of 51 matches and rising to be the clear world number 1. However, he has been defeated and there-in lies his vulnerability.
Young Brit, Leon Griffiths has claimed his scalp on two occasions (English Open 2017, European Championships 2017) while Calum Reid defeated Lukas at the 2017 North American Open. In 2018 his only defeat was an injury retirement, but that too shows a potential weakness for his opponents to exploit, although victory at the recent German Open suggests he has recovered in time.
Away from Lukas, the men to beat (in terms of titles) are all currently in the top 4, world number 2 – Morten Jaksland (4 titles), world number 3 – Dan Busby (2 titles) and world number 4 – Kresten Hougaard (2 titles) have seen the top 4 dominate the men’s game. Yet, these three have not beaten Lukas in a completed match. Meanwhile, the last major title, the 2017 European Championships, was won by Poland’s Rav Rykowski, who dismissed Lukas’ conqueror, Leon Griffiths in a pulsating final in Vienna.
Looking back over the past 26 tournaments, you feel that Christine Seehofer will not care much about her draw, but in the men’s game it looks like the draw will be crucial! Therefore all eyes were turned to a flat in London, where Alex Du Noyer and Johnny Bispham conducted the live draws.
Top Seeds Face Early Tests
As you would expect, the top players in the world are all entered and ready for the 2018 World Championships, 8 of the Men’s top 10 will be in Zurich and they make up our 8 seeded players in the 32 player draw:
- Lukas Windischberger (Austria)
- Morten Jaksland (Denmark)
- Dan Busby (Great Britain)
- Kresten Hougaard (Denmark)
- Beni Graenicher (Switzerland)
- Duncan Stahl (Great Britain)
- Emmanuel Schopf (Austria)
- Kasper Jonsson (Denmark)
However, our leading players face a lot of danger from some unseeded threats: Rav Rykowski (European champion), Leon Griffiths (runner up at the European Championships) and Jesper Ratzer (no description necessary).
As names were plucked from the pot by Alex and Johnny, everyone was desperately hoping to miss these three threats, but as we reached the final pick in the top half of the draw, none of these players had yet arrived. Alas for Dan Busby, he heard the name “Rav Rykowski” followed by the words “will play Dan Busby”.
It is hardly much better for second seed Morten Jaksland, should he overcome the challenge of Luke Barnes in his opening match, he will face compatriot and Racketlon legend, Jesper Ratzer (barring miracle by a Bishop).
Our fourth seed, Kresten Hougaard, is hardly having a better time, he has a likely second round match against Leon Griffiths should both get past wild cards in the shape of Nico Hobi and Christian Wall respectively.
Glancing over the draw, the potential for some very tasty matches occurs as the rounds progress, especially in the bottom half of the draw. A potential quarter-final between eighth seed Kasper Jonsson and Jesper Ratzer would see a re-run of the 2013, 2014 and 2016 World Championship finals with the winner possibly facing Leon Griffiths in the semi-finals (that’s if all goes to plan for the young Brit).
Perhaps the very significant chance for three of the top four seeds to be eliminated by the Last 16 shows the danger of some lower ranked players and makes this year’s men’s draw particularly enticing and difficult to predict.
Can Seehofer Be Stopped?
12 ladies, including 7 of the world top 10, will compete for the Ladies World Title, with our top 4 seeds all receiving first round byes:
- Christine Seehofer (Austria)
- Bettina Bugl (Austria)
- Natalie Paul (Germany)
- Nicole Eisler (Switzerland)
The opening rounds pitch Zuzana Severinova (Czech) against Anna-Klara Alhmer (Sweden) with the winner facing a quarter-final against the reigning champion, Christine Seehofer.
Meanwhile impressive Danish wildcard, Stine Jacobson faces one of the leading French threats at this tournament, Margaux Randjbar, the winner facing third seed Natalie Paul. Should Natalie and Christine both come through their quarter final matches, then we will have a semi-final repeat of the 2017 European Championships final. In such a fixture, Christine starts as the overwhelming favourite, but as their recent Champion’s League encounter showed, Natalie has the ability to make this tie highly uncomfortable for Christine should the chance arise.
In the bottom half of the draw, there is a real potential for some intriguing matches as the draw unfolds. Firstly, Kirstin Kaptein (Netherlands) faces Astrid Riemer-Kern (Germany), with the winner facing home favourite and fourth seed, Nicole Eisler from Switzerland. Should Nicole face Astrid, she will be playing one of her firm friends on the world tour, but Nicole will have to put friendship to one side if she is to stop Astrid reaching her 2nd successive world championship semi-final.
Our final first round tie pits the youngest player in the ladies A, Hannah Boden (Great Britain) against the experienced Silke Altman (Germany). Silke and Hannah met in their opening match at the 2016 World Championships, with the German victorious in a winner takes all tennis set that day. Whether Silke’s experience, 2 years later, will get her over the line this time is too close to call.
The winner of this tie will play second seed Bettina Bugl and you feel both Silke and Hannah have the firepower to cause real problems for the second seed.
Who comes through this bottom half of the draw to play in the final is very difficult to call, but whoever does they then potentially have the monumental task of dethroning the most dominant elite player in Racketlon at the moment.
As everyone would hope for, there will be some great Racketlon on display across both the Ladies and Men’s Elite draws at this World Championships. To browse these draws or the draws for the other 25 events for yourself, please click HERE
Pic Credits: UK Racketlon, Swiss Racketlon Federation & Racketlon Federation Austria