There are a staggering 17 events in the Junior and Senior competitions at the 2019 Racketlon World Championships, catering for the U13s to the +70s! Of the 472 entries in the 2019 World Championships, roughly half of them are in these categories. The vets and junior events are a crucial heartbeat of the Racketlon community. With that in mind, let us head-on into the previews of all 17 draws!
U13s – Wagner, Dvorak or Someone Else: Who Will Compose the Winning Score in the U13s?
Eleven youngsters will battle it out for the U13s World Title, with the draw dominated by German, French and Austrian players, but the top seed comes from Czech Republic, Lukas Dvorak. The second seed is Alex Wagner and he will be looking to go one step further than he did last year, converting silver into gold.
Boy’s U16s – Can Anyone Stop Luke Griffiths?
Defending champion Luke Griffiths is looking to continue his utter dominance of the U16s category. He has two U16 triple crowns (U16s Singles, Doubles and Teams) already in his career. Can he make it an unprecedented Triple Triple in 2019? He already has the doubles element in the bag, his ninth World or European title in this category.
Griffiths faces a host of rivals both those he knows well from the UK Tour such as fourth seed Matthew Davidson (bronze medallist in 2018) and perhaps his biggest rival, Czech Republic’s David Ersil. Ersil has been in scintillating form on the World Tour this year, two junior titles and 6 silver medals in junior events this season. Another name to keep an eye on is Germany’s Cornelius Reid who comes to Leipzig off the back of an excellent performance at the recent German Championships in the adult categories.
Girls U16s – Steiner Looks to Go One Further in 2019
Austria’s Clarissa Steiner is the top seed in the Girl’s U16s event, a four-player box league event also featuring Britons Claudia Vincent and Alexandra Ogram and Afghanistan’s Shaghyegh Tabatabaie. Steiner finished second with Claudia third last season, so both girls will be hoping to go a step or two further up the podium in 2019.
Boys U18s – A Maiden Champion Will Be Crowned!
A new event for 2019, Luke Griffiths will also be the top seed while once again David Ersil will be the second seed. Both these players face some familiar U16 challenges while some new and different challenges arrive in this new category with players who are also in the U21 category. Amongst them are some talented players including Swiss Yannic Andrey (U21s Silver medallist in 2018) and British National U21s champion, Ross Wilson. All that leaves is the enticing question, who will be the first-ever U18’s World Champion?
Boys U21s – Can Leon Make it Back-to-Back?
In 2017, Leon Griffiths won the U21 Boy’s European Title and Luka Penttinen finished third. In 2018 the same story repeated itself at the World Championships. As we arrive in 2019, second seed Leon Griffiths will be hoping for history to once again repeat itself and for him to make it a second consecutive World Title.
However, the top seed Penttinen will be keen to ensure that history is not repeating himself, and will be gunning for gold. Penttinen has a number of compatriots in the draw for company. He is joined in the seedings by Joel Pennanen (third) and Oskari Laiho (fourth). Also in the draw are a trio of Afghans, one of whom, Mostafa Kazemie opens up his event against Leon. There are also some familiar rivals for both Penttinen and Griffiths in the shape of 2018 silver medallist Yannic Andrey (Swi) and Piers Boden (GB). With both of these in the top half of the draw with Luka, it could be an easier route for Griffiths towards the final.
Girls U21s – 2018 Final Repeat on the Cards, as Severinova Looks to Stop Boden Hat-trick
The 2018 finalists Zuzana Severinova (Cze) and Hannah Boden (GB) are the top two seeds in the Girls U21s. In 2018 it was Boden who emerged victorious, but throughout the 2019 season, Severinova has been one of the form players on the FIR World Tour, with 10 titles elite singles and doubles titles and nine silver medals – including two at the World Doubles Championships. This culminated in her winning the Women’s Victor Racketlon Series.
If these two are to meet, they will have to overcome a number of challenges. For Severinova it would look like Anna Wall (Fin) as a potential semi-final opponent, while Boden has a tricky opener in Nienke Veldkamp (Ned). However, the odds would seem to favour a repeat of 2018 final, can Hannah complete her hat-trick of U21s titles in 2019, adding to her wins at the 2017 European Championships and 2018 World Championships?
Men’s +40s – Fresh Podium Likely for 2019, but who will be on it?
It is a 24-man draw in the Men’s +40s headed by Croatian top seed Nikola Mikac with Austria’s Thomas Wagner as the second seed. The eight seeds get a bye through Round 1 and amongst their number are familiar names such as Uldis Dzirkalis (Lat), Greg Lorkiewicz (Pol) and Tommi Laine (Fin).
There are a host of well-known players amongst the unseeded too, including Morocco’s Mohammed Tarik Koubaa, Jan Port (Cze) and British National Champion Jeremy Krzystyniak. This event certainly looks like being one of the picks of the Seniors events with some very hard-fought competition guaranteed. With none of the 2018 podium in the event this season, there is a definite chance of new medallists in 2019!
Women’ +40s – Voelkel Looking to Defend Her Title
Germany’s Silke Altmann is the top seed, but it is her compatriot Anita Voelkel who is the defending champion in the 2019 competition. For either to be successful they will have to dominate a four player box league. 2018 Silver medallist Terhi Virtanen (Fin) and Mie Kjellser (Swe), who was a silver medallist in this event at the 2015 European Championships, are the other two competitors.
Men’s +45s – Can India’s First World Champion Defend his Crown?
In 2018, Ashutosh Pednekar made history as India’s first-ever Racketlon World Champion when he won the Men’s +45s. Can he, in 2019, become the first Indian to defend a Racketlon World Title? Amongst the seventh’s seeds, rivals for the title will be top seed Germany’s Ulrich Schlepphorst and second seed Marcel Weigl (Aut), in this 32 man draw. All the big names are in Leipzig, and it too looks certain to be a cracker, will more Indian history be made in Racketlon?
Women’s +45s – Defending Champion Dubendorfer the Clear Favourite
With eight tour titles to her name this season, the Victor Racketlon Series Women’s Seniors title, and a brace of World Doubles titles, Swiss Esther Dubendorfer is top seed and a heavy favourite for the 2019 event.
The tournament is a four-player box league and also in the group is Nicole Kamphues (Ger) who is looking to improve on her Bronze medal from 2018. Sweden’s Mie Kjellser brings tons of experience to the party. Finally, India’s Urvashi Thapa completes the set. When you look at the year Dubendorfer has been having, this feels more like a coronation than a competition with respect to the World Title.
Men’s +50s – Can Middleton Make it Four in a Row?
He is only the third seed, but Great Britain’s Richard Middleton will be looking to win a fourth consecutive Men’s +50s World or European title. To do so, he will have to come through a 31 man draw featuring a host of familiar foes including top-seeded Germans Manfred Grab and Ulrich Schlepphorst who are first and second seeds respectively. Also in the mix is fourth seed, German Racketlon President and Victor Racketlon Series Men’s Senior Champion, Frank Kleiber.
This event sees the return of some players to the Racketlon fold and also some debutants in their first events, in what is looking like being a brilliant category.
Women’s +50s – A Second For Shelley?
It was a maiden world title in 2018 for Great Britain’s Jo Shelley as she sealed victory in the Women’s +50s event, but in 2019 she is second seed behind top seed Zuzana Vancurikova (Cze). Joining Shelley and Vancurikova in this five-player box league are Nicole Kamphues (Ger), Jana Severinova (Cze) and Dianne Baker (GB). This event feels wide open. The medals are on offer for the players who want them most.
Men’s +55s – Langston Out To Defend His Title
It was a maiden World Title for Great Britain’s Martyn Langston and as he heads to Leipzig to defend his it, he lines up as sixth seed in this 24 man event. The top seed is the Czech Republic’s Richard Hobzik, with Christian Borner (Ger) second seed.
This draw is packed with big names, including Germans Volker Sach and Frank Kleiber, Hungary’s Zoltan Matesca and Israel’s Iftech Gesser. The winner of this year’s title will have won one of the hardest fought +55s draws of all time!
Women’s +55s – Can Maldre be the First American To Defend a Title?
Last year, Katrin Maldre became the first American to win a Racketlon World title as she clinched the Women’s +55s title ahead of Czech Republic’s Zuzana Vancurikova, with just 10 points between them in their round-robin match. Both ladies will face off against each other in 2019 once again. Will the Czech gain her revenge and a World Title to boot, or will it be a first successful defence by an American? Also returning in 2019 is Great Britain’s Dianne Baker, while Germany’s Carola Von Heimberg joins the mix to try and stop the American.
Men’s +60’s – Shepherd Looks to Defend, But There is a Wolf Amongst the Flock!
2018 saw Bruce Shepherd (GB) claim his first singles world title in the Men’s +60s with a thrilling one-point victory over Slovakian Lubomir Budinsky. Shepherd is back to try and reclaim his title, as the Men’s +60s division grows in size. This year a full 16 draw event is taking place with entries from across Europe and the Atlantic as Dany Lessard – the fourth seed from Canada – and the USA’s Steve de Luca join our established nations.
Perhaps the biggest threat to Bruce, if he wishes to reclaim his crown, comes from one of the all-time greats of the sport. A predator on the court and certainly a wolf in this flock, Hungarian legend Peter Sakovics. 12 titles in 2019 including a Mixed +55s World Doubles Title earlier in the season is just scratching the surface of Sakovic’s achievements in Racketlon. He is the top seed and certainly the man to beat in this year’s +60s event.
Men’s +65s – Defending Champion Hesselbjerg is Unseeded!
Switzerland’s Graham King is the top seed in this 12 man event as the defending champion. Denmark’s Steen Hesselbjerg is unseeded as he defends his title. As a result, Hesselbjerg will if he is to defend his title, play a match more than required of the four seeded players. Joining Graham King (who has dived straight in as top seed in his first season eligible for this category) are second seed Finland’s Markku Merta, third seed Denmark’s Graham Cain and fourth-seeded Czech Jiri Dvorak. Should Hesselbjerg come past the test of Germany’s Dierk Rohwedder, then fourth seed Dvorak is the next man in his sights as he seeks his path to renewed glory.
Men’s +70s – Swedish Legend Eklundh Back For More!
Sweden’s Lennart Eklundh, a true legend of the sport of Racketlon, is seeking another +70’s World Title. However, the top seed is another Swede, Hubert Fromlet and he heads Group A in this six-man, two groups of three, event. With the winners of each group progressing to battle it out for the World Title, Fromlet will be hoping to come past countryman Claes Beckman and Netherlands Steve Rayson. Steve is doubling up his events as he also competes in the Men’s O65s as well! Group B is headed by second seed Rolf Lorenz (Ger) and he is joined by Geoff Jordan (GB) and the defending champion and legend himself, Eklundh. They may be the oldest players in the tournament, but don’t expect any of them to be pulling any punches!
That is, therefore, a round-up of all our Junior and Senior categories, from old to young, you can expect the same level of grit, determination and passion. Whether filled with youthful exuberance or wisened nous, you can be sure of exceptional commitment and full blooded Racketlon duelling!
Bring it on, there are World Champions to be crowned!
James Pope / FIR Contributor