2019 sees a re-branding of the team events at the World Team Championships. National Teams will compete in the World, Nation and Challenge Cups. Regular competitors Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands and Switzerland will face relative newcomers to team Racketlon events, India and the USA.
Whether a first-team trying to earn a place at the top table that is the World Cup or for the status as the best second, third or even fourth team in the World, every player across the Nation and Challenge Cup will be laying it all on the line for their national pride. Because there is no better feeling in sport than pulling on your national jersey and playing for your country.
The match format is two men’s singles, a women’s singles and a men’s doubles with four men and one woman needed per match. No player can double up in the tie. As always, it is every point counts, as the team with the most will win the tie. If it comes to it, the Men’s Singles 2 will play the gumi-arms.
In this article, we’ll tackle the FIR Nations Cup and FIR Challenge Cup draws. The draw for the FIR World Cup will be completed the night before the competition begins.
FIR Nations Cup: Defending Champions Are Top Seeds Amid Draw Quirk!
Champions in Zurich last time out, Great Britain 2 are the top seeds for this event and were placed in Group A. There was a quirk, however, to determine who joined them as second seeds.
The seedings are based on the sum of the top three men and the top lady’s rankings. France 2 and Netherlands 1 both had a combined total of 298, meaning that a random draw had to be performed to determine who would be the second seeds, the loser would return to the pot with the other five nations to be drawn. The Netherlands were drawn and declared second seeds and head Group B.
Additionally, as no two teams from any one nation can play each other in the group stage, Great Britain 3 were added to Group B, leaving Austria 2, France 2, Czechia 2, Germany 2 and Switzerland 2 to be drawn amongst the two groups.
Top seeds GB2 look like the favourites for Group A, especially when they can call on talented players such as Matilda Parslow, who has won three out of three World Tour Women’s B titles in 2019. However, with France 2, Austria 2 and Switzerland 2 in the group, it looks like a Battle Royale will ensue to find out who will also qualify for the semi-finals alongside GB2. There is also a potentially tasty battle between good friends Patrick Burgi (Switzerland 2) and Roland Pichler (Austria 2) in this mix.
If Group A is a Battle Royale, then Group B is a full-blown Hunger Games Quarter Quell. Second seeds the Netherlands face a real battle to make the semi-finals past Germany 2, Czechia 2 and Great Britain 3. The Dutch side, however, know all about earning victory. They have earned their spot in the Nations Cup by dominating the Challenge Cup’s predecessor, Division 2, last year in Zurich. They went unbeaten to be crowned champions and earn promotion and that determination will be necessary once again.
Elsewhere in the group, Germany 2 are calling on the talents of Korbinian Heim and Beatrice Dommasch amongst others. Meanwhile, Czechia 2 and Great Britain 3 bring bags of experience to the table with the likes of Jack Bishop and Hana Rabova! When you take all this into consideration this group is going to be filled with some very hard-fought racketlon.
Beyond the group stages, who knows what will happen. You feel that whoever wins this will have worked as hard as any team in the history of this competition to achieve the Nations Cup World Title.
FIR Challenge Cup: New Nations Looking to Leave a Mark in FIR Challenge Cup
Old foes may meet, with top seeds Germany 3 and second seeds Great Britain 4 in Groups A and B respectively. Austria 3 are also here, representing the traditional Racketlon nations. But, probably the most exciting feature in this draw is the presence of India, who are fielding two sides as they debut in the World Team Championships.
India is rapidly developing as a Racketlon nation with individual players already making waves on the World Tour, a recent event in India featuring 150 players and an upcoming International Challenger in 2020. They are a welcome addition to this event and will be looking for some scalps off their more experienced rivals. The USA are also back after a debut in 2018, and they will be keen to build on the strong impression they left in Zurich.
Looking at the groups and teams, top seeds Germany look like favourites to make it to the medal matches. A wealth of experience is dotted throughout their line-up, such as Marco Genzel and Tim Vaclahovsky who are both top 100 players.
Meanwhile, in Group B, the India 1 side boasts two exceptional players in Adarsh Vikram Narayanaswamy and Ashutosh Avinash Pednekar. Second seeds GB4 and Austria 3 will eagerly be scouting out the rest of the Indian squad. Both sides have experienced captains in Martina Meissl and James Pope, who will be drawing on all their knowledge to give their sides the best chance of success.
Always hard to predict in team events, but I would be surprised if we don’t see India 1 and Germany 3 in the mix for the medals. Could the Indians have a dream debut in the team event and be crowned Challenge Cup World Champions? Who knows, it would make for a fairy-tale start to their national side representation!
The full World Team Championship draws are available to see in full here.
James Pope / FIR Contributor
Image Credit / Rene Zwald