It was a superb Finals Day in Belgium as four players won their first elite level World Championships title.
Bettina Bugl won the Women’s Doubles, Dan Busby triumphed in the Mixed Doubles, while Morten Jaksland and Kresten Hougaard took home the Men’s Doubles title.
Meanwhile, Christine Seehofer made history after winning the Women’s Doubles title with Bugl and Mixed Doubles title with Busby. Seehofer is now the joint-most decorated female racketlon player of all-time – based on total World Championship titles – with 11.
The World No.1 has won five Women’s Doubles titles, two Mixed Doubles, two Women’s Singles and two Team golds to put herself joint top with Finland’s Michaela Bjornstorm.
Seehofer Retains Women’s Doubles for Fifth Straight Year
Alongside the four debut champions, Christine Seehofer was her usual brilliant self. The Austrian was a four-time defending champion in the Women’s Doubles and had expectations to defend her title.
This year she was competing with fellow Austrian Bettina Bugl for the first time at a World Championships. In the final, the pair faced second seeds Zuzana Severinova and Nicole Eisler.
The table tennis was a close affair in the opening minutes, the two pairs tied at 5-5. The Austrian top seeds turned the screw in the second half, dropping just one point to eventually win 21-9.
They only built on that in the badminton. Bugl and Seehofer were dominant throughout the set, claiming it 21-13. That victory put them 20 points up heading into the squash.
Severinova and Eisler refused to go down without a fight though, winning the squash 21-15. From 16-7 up though, Severinova might feel she could have done more to punish the top seeds.
With the Austrians needing just eight it looked like a foregone conclusion. At 10-4 up, it seemed as though Severinova and Eisler were about to put together a remarkable comeback. It was not to be in the end though, with Seehofer and Bugl reaching the eight they needed to become World Champions.
“We know how each other plays and it was really good”
Speaking about the 10-4 deficit after the match, Seehofer said, “I believed that we can win but I was thinking that we should do something, not just play inside and wait for something to happen. So I tried to go to the net and go to the ball and that was very important”.
For Seehofer, it was the fifth victory in a row in this event, a sensational run which has never been matched by anyone at World Championship level apart from the Sweden National Team from 2002-2008. For Bugl, it was a first ever World Championship title and she was understandably emotional after the handshake.
“I’m feeling very good”, said Bugl after the final. “It’s my first [World Championship] title so I’m very happy.”
Seehofer added, “I’ve played many tournaments before with Bettina but yes, this is the first time at the World Championships. We know how each other plays and it was really good”.
After pushing the top seeds close, Amke Fischer and Silke Altmann secured bronze with a win over Natalia Prado and Anna Wall.
Dan Busby Becomes First Englishman Ever to Win an Elite Racketlon World Title
There was a similar success for Christine Seehofer in the Mixed Doubles. However, the story in that final belonged to Dan Busby who, in winning the title, became the first Englishman ever to win an elite Racketlon World title. Three Scots have won it in the past, but never an Englishman.
Unlike the Women’s Doubles, two rounds had to be played on Finals Day, with the semi-finals taking place in the morning. For Busby and Seehofer it was a relatively routine stroll into the finals, defeating Lieselot De Bleeckere and Peter Duyck by +20.
It was a much tougher test for Astrid Reimer-Kern and Kresten Hougaard. They just about managed to end the fairytale run of Amke Fischer and Luke Griffiths, defeating the wildcards by just four points.
The final was a real masterclass from Seehofer and Busby from start to finish. The top seeds snuck the table tennis 21-17 before producing a scintillating second half of badminton to win 21-11.
Squash was a lengthy affair, with Dan battling back from 11-1 down to eventually fall 25-23 to Hougaard. The strong performances over the opening two sports meant that Seehofer and Busby required just 10 for the World Title.
“It’s nice to get in there before one of the Griffiths boys”
The duo never looked like throwing it away in the tennis, winning 10-6 to secure the title. For Busby, this marked the first time a British player had won an elite level Racketlon World Title since Calum Reid’s Singles title in 2011.
Speaking about making history for UK Racketlon, Dan said, “That’s quite a long time 2011, isn’t it? It’s nice to get in there before one of the Griffiths boys does.”
Busby was understandably delighted with his historic title. “When you’re top seeds there’s a bit of pressure on you but I’m just so happy because Mixed Doubles is definitely my favourite discipline so this was what I came here for.”
“It’s just really nice to play with someone who’s so strong in all four sports. It just makes you relax knowing that it doesn’t matter if you have one bad sport, you’re so strong.
Seehofer added, “Last year I won the mixed title with Lukas and now I have a new partner and it’s great that I could win it a second time.”
Speaking about his partner and her experience in big finals, Dan said, “She’s so calm. She made me calm because she’s so calm. Even though she’s about ten years younger than me.
“Just having been in those finals and that experience and to go into it again, you’re just so much more relaxed.”
For Seehofer, this win meant she was able to retain the title she won last year with Lukas Windischberger. De Bleeckere and Duyck snatched the bronze medal, narrowly defeating Fischer and Griffiths.
Danes Topple French as Hougaard and Jaksland Claim Maiden World Titles
Like the Mixed Doubles, the Men’s Doubles also required the semi-finals and final to be played on the same day. Neither semi-final was an overly competitive affair.
After surviving their quarter-final match by one point, Hougaard and Jaksland strolled past Paul Sach and Paul Twisterling at the top of the draw. Likewise, Arnaud Genin and Cedric Junillon dispatched Cornelius Radermacher and Calum Reid with a cultured performance in the Belgian sunshine.
That set up a Denmark versus France final. Morten Jaksland and Kresten Hougaard against Arnaud Genin and Cedric Junillon.
At 6-5 down in the table tennis, it looked as though it was going to be a tough afternoon for Hougaard and Jaksland. They stormed through the second half of the table tennis though, winning 21-9 to open up a commanding lead.
The French duo had played some destructive badminton throughout the tournament and were at it again in the final. They held the Danes to just eight points to lead going into the squash by one point.
Hougaard got the Danes rolling again though, winning the first half of the squash 11-4. Jaksland then followed that up by completing the job with a 21-13 squash scoreline. That left Hougaard and Jaksland needing 15 in tennis.
They took an early lead in the tennis and never relinquished it, leading at the turn. At the second attempt, they sealed the match, enjoying the moment with the celebrations of the day.
“The final word we kept repeating was ‘energy'”
For Hougaard it was a welcome relief to finally get his hands on a World title after competing in his third final. For Jaksland, it was a welcome reward after a phenomenal 12 months which have seen him rise to the top of the Doubles World Rankings.
After the final, Kresten Hougaard said of his new World title, “It feels good. It was a goal of ours and it was nice to get there.”
He was quick to add, “It could have been over before it started really. In the quarter-final, we didn’t play very well but somehow scraped through with one point.
“Then it feels like when you get through one of those matches it feels like it’s okay. Then we’re going to get it.”
When asked about what the key sport in the match was, Jaksland replied, “For me it was definitely in the table tennis where we talked through all the situations we were going to face and the final word we kept repeating was ‘energy’”.
“We have to come with a good spirit on the court and I think that really came through.”
However, he played down any chances of celebrations on Friday night. “As much as I would like to celebrate, I think I still have the eyes on the King of Rackets as defending champion. It’s one of my favourite tournaments.”
Radermacher and Reid comfortably beat Sach and Twisterling to win the bronze medal.
Drama of the Day
After complaining about the lack of gumi arm in the Elite classes on the live blog, it turns out that the thing for me to do would have been to follow Volker Sach. The German had a crazy afternoon, losing his first match on a gumi arm in the Seniors +55 – but not before squandering 15 match points in the tennis.
Remarkably, Sach then had a gumi arm in the very next match. In that, he managed to win alongside Jo Shelley, securing second place in the Mixed Seniors +40.
A special mention has to go to the French contingent in the Men’s B/C Doubles. They managed to complete a clean sweep of the podium. Gold was sealed by Damien Andre and Loic Cencig, silver by Benoit Mavoungou and Remi Piau and bronze by Anthony Duthuille and Nicolas Lamercier.
This led to particularly rousing scenes at the evening medal ceremony with the French players not on the podium belting out the National Anthem.
Other Doubles Champions
Dutch star Paul Twisterling completed the +40 Doubles as he won the Men’s +40 with Duncan Stahl and Mixed +40 with Marjoke Van Doeland. The +45 Doubles was won by Hungarian pair Zoltan Czingraber and Levante Nandori while Michael Holzinger and Thomas Knaack took the +50 Doubles.
Another Hungarian pair – Tibor Karolyi and Tamas Marko – won the Seniors +55 Doubles while Great Britain’s Neil Rayner and Bruce Shepherd won the Seniors +60 Doubles.
In the Juniors, Anna Wall and Luka Penttinen took the Juniors Mixed U21 Doubles title for Finland while the U16 Doubles was snatched in style by Luke Griffiths and Angus Howard. Belgian duo Jef Duyck and Alexander Eeman won the U13 Doubles.
The Mixed Senior +55 title was taken home by Peter Sakovics and Carola Von Heimburg. German top seeds Tino Bieber and Felix Fischer took the Beginner Doubles title.
The full results from the 2019 World Doubles Championships are available here.
Relive the entire event with the Finals Day Live Blog.
The full FIR World Tour is available here.
Sam Barker / FIR Media Officer