Berlin Berghain Boasters made a near-perfect start to their Racketlon Champions League defence as they top the table with eight points after the first leg.
Sportyfriends Copenhagen are the other unbeaten team in the competition but sit on seven points after missing out on a crucial bonus point.
There were also wins for iPro London, C&C Racketlon Union Austria and Three Percent Malta Magic, but all three are already some distance behind the top two teams.
Berlin’s Title Defence Up and Running
For those new to the Racketlon Champions League format, each match consists of six mini-matches, with each sport played to 11. There are three Men’s Singles matches, one Women’s Singles, one Men’s Doubles and one Mixed Doubles. The winner is the team with the highest cumulative total.
Amke Fischer’s Berlin Berghain Boasters began the day against Kresten Hougaard’s Three Percent Malta Magic, in what ended up being their closest match of the day.
With a clean sweep of the table tennis, Berlin raced into a commanding +25 lead. The badminton was a much closer affair, with Berlin only winning that collectively by +6, moving them +31 ahead overall.
It was Cornelius Radermacher and Vikram Narayanaswamy who were doing the damage so far. Radermacher was +11 over his opponent Joerg Kanonenberg while Narayanaswamy – making his Champions League debut – was +8 over Markus Klement. In the Mixed Doubles, Amke Fischer and Cornelius Radermacher also held a +10 lead over Kresten Hougaard and Hannah Boden.
The squash was where Malta began their fightback. Five of the six squash sets went the way of Malta, as they looked to fight their way back into this match. Radermacher’s solo win for Berlin was a saving grace though, as he took the squash 11-0 to limit the damage.
Heading into tennis, Berlin were +23 up and looking to wrap up the win. However, Malta knew that if they could get the total score below +20 then they would win a bonus point. The Malta team rallied in the tennis and, despite drawing the tennis sets 3-3, did enough to claw the difference down to +18. That meant that Berlin took two points and Malta took one.
Berlin Roar Past Sweden and Austria
After facing Malta, Berlin would go on to face the Swedish Vikings and C&C Racketlon Union Austria. These were much more straightforward victories.
It was a tough day all-round for the winless Swedish Vikings who – aside from captain Anna-Klara Ahlmer – struggled to get much going. Trailing by +55 after the badminton, the Vikings knew it was basically impossible to stop Berlin from getting the win. They did rally in the squash and tennis, but it was too-little-too-late as Berlin won by +52 overall. By guaranteeing they won by +40 points, Berlin picked up their first bonus point of the day.
It was a similar story against C&C Racketlon Union Austria, as Berlin won five of their six matches. Once again it was the table tennis and badminton that did the bulk of the damage, Berlin emerging as +34 leaders after these two sports. Their challenge now was to secure a second bonus point of the day.
Heading into the final pair tennis sets, that looked like quite a challenge. However, it was Radermacher and Narayanaswamy who stepped up once again. Radermacher defeated Simon Vaclahovsky 11-1 before Narayanaswamy sealed the bonus point with an 11-9 loss against former World No.1 Lukas Windischberger.
Sportyfriends Copenhagen the Biggest Challenger to Berlin
Boasting World No.1 Morten Jaksland, World No.2 Zuzana Severinova and World No.5 Arnaud Genin, Sportyfriends Copenhagen were widely considered to be the team to beat in this year’s Champions League. Copenhagen certainly showed their intent in their opening match against the Swedish Vikings.
Led by a +21 win for Morten Jaksland over Loic Cencig, and a +27 win for Arnaud Genin over Roland Pichler, Copenhagen won the match by +56. First bonus point on the board.
This win was made even more impressive when you consider that Sweden won two of the six matches. Anna-Klara Ahlmer defeated Zuzana Severinova by +1 while Damien Andre had a +9 victory against Korbinian Heim.
Ironically, in their next match against C&C Racketlon Union Austria, Copenhagen won five of the six matches. However, this time there would be no bonus point. The margins of victory were slimmer than against Sweden and Lukas Windischberger repaired some of the damage with a dominating +25 win against Ed Harvey.
Windischberger’s performance for Austria meant that Copenhagen only won by +34, leaving them without a bonus point in this match.
That was nothing compared to the heartbreak in Copenhagen’s final match. 2017 champions iPro London were the opponents as Copenhagen attempted to make it three wins on day one. Once again though, Copenhagen had a chance to win a bonus point.
It all came down to the final tennis set between Anders Fyrst and Korbinian Heim. Played in near darkness, Heim needed to win 11-4 or better to secure the bonus point. Fyrst managed to reach five points though, leaving Copenhagen with a +39 point victory, agonisingly one point short of the bonus point.
Regardless of not picking up that second bonus point, it is clear that Sportyfriends Copenhagen is the biggest challenger to Berlin for the Champions League crown.
Other Results from the Champions League First Leg
iPro London’s chances of lifting another Champions League trophy took a big blow. They opened with a +46 loss to C&C Racketlon Union Austria. Only captain Duncan Stahl was able to secure a win as London lost five of the six sets.
London did bounce back in their second match, beating Three Percent Malta Magic by +27 to get their first two points on the board. The key result in that match was a thumping +33 win for Christian Wiessner against Markus Klement.
“It immediately became obviously that Hougaard played much better tennis when he couldn’t see the ball.”
The final match of the day also turned out to be the closest of the lot. Swedish Vikings took on Three Percent Malta Magic with both looking to record their first win. In the end, it all came down to the final tennis set between Kresten Hougaard and Loic Cencig.
Here’s how iPro London captain Duncan Stahl saw this final set:
“Meanwhile…over on the other dark court, the final game of tennis between Swedish Vikings and Malta Magic saw Kresten Hougaard start two points ahead against Loic Cencig. It immediately became obvious that Hougaard played much better tennis when he couldn’t see the ball.
“Loic became increasingly frustrated at the Danes uncanny ability to see the ball in the dark, as Hougaard brought home the won for Malta with an 11-4 win”
Player of the Day
There are two main candidates for Player of the Day; Cornelius Radermacher and Morten Jaksland. Both won all six of their matches – three singles and three doubles each. Both helped guide their team to making an unbeaten start to the Champions League. Amazingly, they both shared a level points difference of +92 for the day.
In the end, we’re going to award the Player of the Day award to Cornelius Radermacher, for the simple reason that he played the three captains of the three teams he faced and beat them all. He also helped guide his team to two bonus points instead of just one. Congratulations Cornelius!
The final standings are below and see Berlin Berghain Boasters lead from Sportyfriends Copenhagen. The second leg will take place in Paris in October with Berlin and Copenhagen to play their group game against each other.
The full results from the FIR Champions League are available here.
Sam Barker / FIR Media Officer
Image Credit / Duncan Stahl