We’ve already released our analysis of most of the World Team Championships draws. The draw for the rebranded FIR World Cup will not take place until the night before the tournament begins. However, the teams have already been released so we can evaluate them beforehand.
Despite being rebranded as the FIR World Cup, the format remains the same. Eight teams. All featuring giants of the racketlon world. Lets have a look at each team in detail.
Austria – 2018 Result: Champions
2019 Team: Bettina Bugl, Christine Seehofer, Bernhard Pilsz, Stephan Schmutzer, Emanuel Schopf, Hans Sherpa, Marcel Weigl, Lukas Windischberger
We haven’t seen a team defend the World Team Championships since Sweden retained it for seven consecutive years between 2002 and 2007. Austria are in a great position to end that streak as they bring back six of the fearsome eight that triumphed last year in Zurich.
World No.1 Christine Seehofer is back to spearhead the team towards victory while she is complimented by top-5 star Bettina Bugl. Despite retiring from singles, former World No.1 Lukas Windischberger is also back to represent his country, a huge boost for their chances. Also returning from the 2018 team is Marcel Weigl, Bernhard Pilsz and Emanuel Schopf. This leaves Austria in a great place as they retain the core of their team.
There are two changes though for the 2019 World Cup. Georg Stoisser and Thomas Wagner are both out, replaced by Stephan Schmutzer and Hans Sherpa. Losing the experience of Stoisser and Wagner is a small blow to the team but Schmutzer and Sherpa are both solid additions and leaves them with plenty of depth.
Last year Austria were pushed mightily close by Great Britain in the final. In the end it was Emanuel Schopf who held his nerve to clinch the tennis and seal a +4 victory, a dramatic moment in racketlon history. With the spine of the team still in place, Austria is primed to have another serious run at the title.
Great Britain – 2018 Result: Runners-Up
2019 Team: Hannah Boden, Izzy Bramhall, Dan Busby, Leon Griffiths, Luke Griffiths, Ray Jordan, Duncan Stahl
The 2018 final was agony for Great Britain whose +4 loss to Austria denied them a first World Team Championships crown. With a slightly reshuffled pack, the team return, looking for revenge as they continue to hunt their first title.
There are a few more changes to the Great Britain team than the Austrian team. They will be delighted to welcome Izzy Bramhall back into the picture after another stellar year for the former World No.2. She replaces Katie Birt and joins Hannah Boden in the lineup. World No.3 Dan Busby returns alongside Duncan Stahl, Leon Griffiths and Ray Jordan.
The absence of former World Singles Champion Calum Reid will certainly be felt in the team. However, with Reid not in Leipzig it feels like the baton is being passed to the next generation as U16 World Champion Luke Griffiths steps up to join his brother Leon. The younger Griffiths brother has certainly made his presence felt in his few elite appearances this season. Their 2019 team is also one smaller than 2018, with Luke Barnes stepping down into the GB2 team after a quiet season.
After last years run to the final, it’s hard to not see Great Britain as a contender again. The additions of Izzy Bramhall and Luke Griffiths certainly do plenty to cover the hole left by Calum Reid. One of just three teams in the elite draw yet to have won the title, is this the year they finally manage it?
Germany – 2018 Result: 3rd
2019 Team: Amke Fischer, Natalie Paul, Jorg Kanonenberg, Thorsten Lentfer, Cornelius Radermacher, Paul Sach, Simon Vaclahovsky, Christian Wiessner
The 2013 World Champions took a heavy beating in last year’s semi-final against Austria but return with a revamped side ready to cause carnage. While there are heavy roster changes, Germany has retained most of its starting five.
Amke Fischer returns to replace Nathalie Vogel and create another strong female pairing alongside Natalie Paul. Fischer brings both experience and leadership after captaining the Berlin Berghain Boasters in the Champions League. 2018 World Doubles Champions Christian Wiessner and Thorsten Lentfer are also back and are joined by Simon Vaclahovsky who has had an impressive 2019.
Three new faces enter the German ranks; Jorg Kanonenberg, Cornelius Radermacher and Paul Sach. While all three are superb additions, Radermacher stands out after impressive runs at both the IWT Berlin Open and SWT King of Rackets this season. These three replace Florian Baumgartner, Jorn Sultrup and Joshua Zeoli, none of who are in Leipzig.
What the German team perhaps lack in individual star power they make up for with depth. This is one of the most complete rosters at the championships with a deep squad and all players capable of slotting in when needed. With a home crowd also on their side, write off Germany at your own peril.
Denmark – 2018 Result: 4th
2019 Team: Stine Jacobsen, Jesper Hougaard, Kresten Hougaard, Morten Jaksland, Philip Pedersen, Malte Thyregod
Only there points away from the final a year ago, Denmark might feel they need to make amends. A year later and they boast the male World No.1, World No.2, and the only woman to come genuinely close to beating World No.1 Christine Seehofer this year.
The core of the team remains remarkably similar to 2018. World No.1 Morten Jaksland and World No.2 Kresten Hougaard both return. They are flanked by reigning Men’s B World Champion Philip Pedersen and Malte Thyregod. Stine Jacobsen, who almost beat Seehofer just last month, comes to Leipzig in some of the best form of her life.
The key difference in the squad this year is that it has been trimmed down. Last year Denmark took eight players but this year it is opting for just six. Kristian Jorgensen and Michael Holm Kristensen are the male victims while Stine Krogsoe is also cut. There is a return for former top-5 player Jesper Hougaard though, as he joins his brother in Denmark’s elite team.
Morten Jaksland has already found team success this year, guiding Sportyfriends Copenhagen to the Champions League title. His confidence, coupled with the weapons the rest of the team brings, propels this team right into the mix for the World Title. Can they deliver a second World Team Championships for Denmark?
Sweden – 2018 Result: 5=
2019 Team: Anna-Klara Ahlmer, Jonas Engstrom, Joakim Hellgren, Rene Lindberg, Jon Svensson, Jimmy Tay
Tied-5th was probably not the result that Anna-Klara Ahlmer and company were looking for last year. However, after being dealt a rough draw alongside Austria and Denmark, it is perhaps no surprise that they were just edged out of the semi-finals. Ahlmer returns this year, sporting a number of new names as Sweden looks to win the title for the 9th time.
Ahlmer, Rene Lindberg and Joakim Hellgren are the only survivors from the 2018 team. Mikael Rehn, Bengt Sonnert and Christian Wall are all out, leaving Jonas Engstrom, Jon Svensson and Jimmy Tay to take their place. Engstrom is a junior who has made quite a splash this year, while Jimmy Tay has also found success in 2019. The truly fascinating name on this roster is Jon Svensson. The Swede makes his international racketlon debut at the World Team Championships, coming in as an unknown.
With Lindberg picking up a recent IWT elite singles title and Ahlmer reaching a string of finals, this team is certainly riding a wave of good form. There are question marks over whether it has the depth to truly challenge the main contenders. However, it is one of the most intriguing teams in the competition and could certainly be labelled as a dark horse.
Switzerland – 2018 Result: 5=
2019 Team: Nicole Eisler, Dara Ladner, Yannic Andrey, Oliver Buhler, Benjamin Graenicher, Cyril Hohl, Nicolas Lenggenhager, Philipp Peter
Just like Sweden, Switzerland heads to Leipzig with some new talent on the team as it looks to improve on its joint 5th-place finish last year.
Nicole Eisler, Yannic Andrey, Benjamin Graenicher and Nicolas Lenggenhager are the four players returning after 2018. Oliver Buhler has been rewarded for his superb season with a call-up from the Switzerland 2nd team and is joined by Cyril Hohl and Philipp Peter. Hohl and Peter are interesting choices with Hohl only making his international debut this year and Peter not playing since 2016. With Esther Dubendorfer choosing to focus her attention on defending the +40 World Team title, Dara Ladner earns a call-up to the elite team.
The Swiss team contains a fascinating blend of players. From the most experienced veterans to the freshest faces on the circuit, it will be interesting to see how well this team gels. If it can get all the pieces to click, perhaps it can make a surge into at the World Cup semi-finals at least.
Czech Republic – 2018 Result: 7th
2019 Team: Zuzana Severinova, Zuzana Vancurikova, Michal Horacek, Jan Port, Martin Sopko, Kamil Stanek, Jakub Svec, Patrik Zak
2018 was a tough year for the Czech Republic as they finished bottom of their group, eventually finishing 7th. With a small change in personnel, it looks as though it may be another tough battle for a team lacking a male powerhouse.
Zuzana Severinova is undoubtedly the star of the team. The World No.2 has had a fantastic year, winning her first IWT elite singles title and reaching an array of other finals. Zuzana Vancurikova, Michal Horacek, Jan Port and Martin Sopko also rejoin her from the 2018 squad. Three new faces are drafted in; Kamil Stanek, Jakub Svec and Patrik Zak. All three boast extremely impressive performances in the B grade but are yet to test themselves at the very top level.
The Czech Republic certainly fall into the outsider’s category in this year’s tournament. They have done well to put together a fairly new team with dependable depth. However, that lack of true star quality among the male players will be punished against some of the competition’s frontrunners. To reach the semi-finals would be a mighty success for this squad.
France – 2018 Result; 8th
2019 Team: Margaux Randjbar, Loic Cencig, Arnaud Genin, Mandrin Mouchet, Sylvain Ternon
Few nations can argue that they have made more noise than France on the FIR World Tour in 2019. Spearheaded by the arrival of World No.4 Arnaud Genin, France is emerging as a real force on the World Tour and will hope to demonstrate that at this year’s FIR World Cup after a disappointing 8th-place finish in 2018.
The one thing France cannot boast about is depth after trimming its squad from seven to five this year. Natalia Prado and Sebastien Plancon make way, along with the newly-retired Cedric Junillon. Badminton specialist Sylvain Ternon joins the team though, strengthening a team already boasting a wealth of badminton experience.
Ternon joins Margaux Randjbar, Loic Cencig, Arnaud Genin and Mandrin Mouchet to make a strong but shallow team. There is no better selection of badminton players than in this French team and that is a big plus for them. Fitness could be a key factor in their success with no subs to turn to. You would expect this French side to improve on their 2018 performance – but just how high can they climb?
The draw for the FIR World Cup will be completed on Tuesday 19 November, the day before the tournament begins.
Sam Barker / FIR Media Officer