Fine spring sunshine welcomed the Racketlon World Tour for its 15th visit to the Czech capital, Prague and the players responded with fine, competitive doubles Racketlon from the very start. Play started at 9am and concluded with the Mixed B final a little before 11pm in the evening as all doubles classes were completed on Day One.
Christine Seehofer and Bettina Bugl Win Epic Final
The top-seeded pairings were, on paper, the clear favourites to claim the Men’s A and Ladies A doubles, but both would have to work for their victories. In the Ladies A, Christine Seehofer and Bettina Bugl cruised into the final with a semi-final victory over Svetlana Kasilova and Stine Krogsoe. In the final, they would face second seeds, Hannah Boden and Zuzana Severinova. Hannah and Zuzana battled past Anna-Klara Ahlmer and Emmie Danielsson winning a “winner takes all” game of tennis, 21-14.
Into the final, the top-seeded Austrians started in a manner befitting the expectations upon them, 21-12 the TT score. The younger pairing fought back, nicking the Badminton 21-19 and then produced a strong squash performance (21-10) to lead by +4 into the tennis. In a truly pulsating game of tennis, both pairs seemed to be striking the decisive blow, yet every time they sneaked a few points clear, their opponents reeled them in. Neither pairing was leaving anything on the court. Seehofer hit the ground three times and, while each pair stood firm at the net, there were a number of brave reaction volleys. Ultimately, it was the top-seeded Austrians who prevailed, a 21-16 victory leaving Hannah and Zuzana one point from a gumi-arm.
Morten Jaksland and Dan Busby Show Dominance in Prague
In the Men’s A Doubles, the top-seeded pairing of Morten Jaksland and Dan Busby began with their closest match. Facing Piers Boden and Benjamin Graenicher, Morten and Dan squeaked through the table-tennis with a 23-21 victory, before Piers and Benny delivered a scintillating badminton performance to win 21-13. However, Morten and Dan as a pairing were strongest in the final two sports and a squash victory left them needing just 17 on the tennis court. They achieved it with some ease.
Next, they overcame the challenge of Andreas Escher and Steffen Neumann, without the need of their tennis rackets to progress to the final. In the final they would meet the second seeds, Tommi Laine and Luke Penttinen. The Finns had made light work of Marco Genzel and Rene Barnik, before breezing past home hopefuls Michal Horacek and Kamil Stanek in the semi-finals. Like Dan and Morten they too did not need their tennis rackets in the semi-final. The second seeds carried over their form, starting the final brightly with a 21-14 TT victory. However, the top seeds struck back. 21-12 in the badminton, followed by a crushing 21-5 victory on the squash court took the wind out of the Finnish sails, and the four points for victory were easily wrapped up. A third doubles title of the year for Morten Jaksland.
Partners Become Opponents While For Some It Seemed Like Deja Vu
Into the mixed doubles and it was all change as a variety of partnerships appeared. The Mixed A was headed by top seeds Christine Seehofer and Dan Busby with the Austrian second seeds Bettina Bugl and Emanuel Schopf at the base of the draw. In the top half, there was some déjà vu, as first Piers Boden (partnered by sister Hannah) and then Benny Graenicher (partnered by Anna-Klara Ahlmer) were once again on the wrong side of defeat to Dan Busby as the top seeds progressed to the final.
In the bottom half of the draw, the second seeds started brightly, defeating Marco Genzel and Ho Ching Chan before the tennis. However, they were unable to compete in their semi-final against Zuzana Severinova and Morten Jaksland, who as a result progressed to the final.
Into the final and it was now Morten against Dan, while Zuzana was looking for revenge over Christine. Like Morten, Christine was also chasing a triple crown here in Prague. It was first blood to the top seeds, who claimed a 21-12 TT victory. Zuzana and Morten struck back, 21-17 in the Badminton to keep themselves in touch heading to squash.
What followed was a thrilling game of squash, and towards the business end, Morten was in the ascendancy over Dan. Perhaps not wanting to lose to his partner from this morning, or maybe just because he is stubborn, Dan refused to fold. He saved game balls to bring it to 20-20, before edging away 23-21 gaining a crucial four-point swing. This meant our top seeds required 15 for victory. The victory was far from certain though.
The Zuzana-Morten combination is probably one of the most fearsome tennis combinations in Racketlon and a good start was necessary for Christine and Dan to have any chance of the win. They started well, and with the score at 5-5 – including a sizzling ace from Busby past Morten – you felt that the top seeds might just be able to edge it. However, perhaps aware of the scoreboard, Zuzana and Morten turned on the talent, winning 11 of the next 14 points. Both players formed a wall more usually seen on a squash court, the top seeds had no way around, over, or through it. 16-8 turned into 21-9 and Zuzana Severinova and Morten Jaksland claimed back-to-back Mixed A titles, following on from their victory at the Club La Santa Open last month.
Remaining Titles Shared Amongst the Nations
One feature of the Czech Open is it brings on the most nationally diverse fields of all the World Tour events, 16 different nationalities amongst the 141 players in attendance. Therefore, it was in some ways no surprise to see victories for eight of these nations amongst the rest of the doubles winners today.
Germany dominated the Men’s B doubles as Patrick Oettl and Simon Vaclahovsky defeated Switzerland’s Danijel Batinic and Michael Strassle in the final. The Women’s B Doubles was taken by Holland and Austria as top seeds Kirsten Kaptein and Irina Olsacher won their three-team-box-league to face home hopefuls Nikola Cemusova and Hana Rabova in the final. Eventually, the top seeds proved far too strong for the Czech pairing.
Into the age group doubles and there was home glory as the Men’s O45s featured an all Czech final. Second seeds Martin Bartos and Jan Port defeated top seeds Tomas Kuban and Milan Stupavsky, winning by seven points in a topsy-turvy game of Racketlon. Hungary got in on the medals with Men’s O55s doubles glory for Peter Sakovics and Zoltan Matecsa who defeated Neil Rayner and Bruce Shepherd.In the Mixed O45s, Esther Dubendorfer (Swiss) and Thomas Larsen (Danish) got their nations on the titles board. They saw off the challenge of Czech pairing Vera Kottova and Vlastimil Kolar in their final.
Finally, amongst the age group categories, the U16 doubles was won by David Ersil (Czechia) and Florian Harca (Austria) as they dominated their box league. This included a resounding victory over second placed pairing Czonger Molnar and Cornelius Reid.
Late Night Thrills to End a Great Day
We finish with the final event of the day, the Mixed B Doubles which concluded at a little before 11pm. Having been unseeded, Matilda Parslow and Johnny Bispham were required to play a 16-draw to completion starting at 5pm in the afternoon and featuring everything from a victory before tennis to a thrilling gumi-arm success (luckily not following the serving tactics to their fellow Brits earlier in the day) before a match against top seeds Stine Krogsoe and Roland Pichler.
It all boiled down to a game of tennis, and after nervy opening stages, Matilda and Johnny clicked in the second half and ran away with it, turning 11-10 at the turn into a 21-14 victory, and a second Mixed B title for the British pairing (who also triumphed in Latvia last year).
It’s an early start for many on Saturday morning as the singles gets underway from 8am. There will once again be a live blog on this website and frequent updates on the FIR Facebook and Instagram pages. Even if you can’t be in delightful Prague, we hope you will join us for what is shaping up to be a brilliant day of Racketlon.
If you want to follow the results as they come in, you can see all the matches here.
James Pope / FIR Media Officer