It all comes down to this. 18 international tournaments in 2019 have all led us to Leipzig. Finally, we will crown the Racketlon World Champions.
The big question heading into the tournament is will the unbeaten streaks continue, or will we have new names on the trophy? Defending champions Christine Seehofer and Jesper Ratzer are both on sensational unbeaten runs that stretch back many years. Seehofer is going for a 3rd straight title, Ratzer a 5th.
No one else in the draw has won an elite singles World Title. No one has beaten these two on the singles court for a very long time. Will they keep the streak going, or will someone write a new chapter in the racketlon history books?
Men’s A First Quarter: Top Seed Jaksland Leads Draw
France’s Sylvain Ternon is the player unlucky enough to have draw World No.1 Morten Jaksland in the opening round. The badminton specialist faced Jaksland earlier this year at the IWT French Open where Jaksland’s dominance over the final two sports guided him to victory.
The winner of that match will face either Rene Lindberg or Greg Lorkiewicz. History would suggest that Lindberg is the slight favourite after he won their only previous meeting. The Swede also has form on his side after recently winning the IWT Swedish Open, his first elite singles title.
No.8 seed Rav Rykowski is the other seed lurking in the first quarter and will open against Germany’s Christian Wiessner. While Rykowski is the favourite there are some question marks around his form. Last time at the IWT Finnish Open he suffered two surprising losses to Nicolas Lenggenhager and Rene Lindberg. Wiessner boasts plenty of pedigree as the 2018 World Doubles Championship and this may be a match to keep an eye on.
The final match in the top quarter sees Cornelius Radermacher and Ray Jordan meet for the first time. With wins over top-10 players Kresten Hougaard, Dan Busby and Duncan Stahl in 2019, Radermacher is a real dark horse in this draw. A potential second-round contest again Rykowski could be a real showstopper.
Men’s A Second Quarter: Wildcards Galore in Intriguing Quarter
Infamous for getting awful first-round draws at major tournaments, World No.3 Dan Busby looks to have got a kinder draw this time around – or so it seems. The World Mixed Doubles champion opens against wildcard Thorsten Lentfer. The prospect of facing a wildcard may sound appealing but Busby actually lost to Lentfer at last year’s World Championships. Busby does seem to be finding form at the right time though, winning two UK Racketlon titles this month for the loss of just one set.
The winner of that match is guaranteed to face a wildcard. Paul Sach and Koen Hageraats – both wildcards – collide in the first round. For both players, this is an elite World Championships debut and a big opportunity to make a run.
6th seed Benjamin Graenicher is the other seed in this section and his campaign begins against Austria’s Stephan Schmutzer. With a win over Kresten Hougaard and two over Emanuel Schopf, Schmutzer is a dangerous player and could be a potential banana-skin for Graenicher’s hopes of reaching the latter stages.
The final match in quarter two pits Nikola Mikac against Christian Schaefer. Schaefer owns a 1-0 head-to-head advantage, but it was a tight match. This is a contest that both players will believe that have a great chance of winning.
Men’s A Third Quarter: Real Chance for a Surprise Semi-Finalist
If any quarter of the draw is likely to see a surprise semi-finalist it is this one. The only quarter not to include an elite Racketlon World Champion, this section has an air of openness to it.
No.4 seed Arnaud Genin leads the pack but has not been at 100% fitness in recent months, leaving him vulnerable to a potential upset. Nicolas Lenggenhager is his opponent in the opening round. History is on Genin’s side after the Frenchman beat Lenggenhager relatively comfortably back in June this year. This match will almost certainly produce the highest quality badminton set of the first round.
There’s another France versus Switzerland match next up. Mandrin Mouchet takes on Oliver Buhler with Mouchet favourite based on their previous head-to-head. Both players are making their elite World Championship singles debut.
Austria’s Emanuel Schopf is the other seed in this section. The No.7 seed opens against Latvia’s sole representative Arturs Zaicevs. The two have never met before in singles but did meet in a doubles match in 2018, with Schopf and partner Hans Sherpa winning.
The winner will face either Bernhard Pilsz or Michal Horacek in what is a fascinating contest. The two have met twice before on the FIR World Tour, with both matches being extremely close. They split the two-matches leaving this as one of the most competitive first-round encounters on paper.
Men’s A Quarter Four: Heavyweights Lurk in Section Four
No quarter at the World Championships is more fascinating than this one in the Men’s A. Alongside No.2 seed Kresten Hougaard and No.5 seed Luka Penttinen is defending champion and former World No.1 Jesper Ratzer and current U21 World Champion Leon Griffiths.
No.5 seed Luka Penttinen will certainly feel like he drew the short straw. He faces defending champion Jesper Ratzer, who is currently on a winning streak of over 100 singles matches. Ratzer, who nowadays only plays the World Championships, had to enter the tournament on a wildcard, which is why Penttinen has been able to draw him in the first round.
There’s another return in the second match in this quarter as Morocco’s flagbearer Mohammed Tarik Koubaa plays for the first time this season. He takes on Michal Kurek, who is one of the stories of 2019. The Pole won the Men’s E at the last World Championships but has flown through the ranks, picking up a handful of Men’s B titles on the way. Now, the squash phenom gets to test himself at the highest level and on the biggest stage.
The final two matches are particularly juicy. There’s a battle of the former FIR Presidents as Kresten Hougaard meets Marcel Weigl in what is likely to be an intense affair. Whoever comes through that could face the daunting task of U21 World Champion Leon Griffiths. The fast-improving Brit opens against Simon Vaclahovsky in what is a rough draw for the German.
A few of Racketlon’s biggest names are guaranteed to fall in this quarter. Most likely, one of Kresten Hougaard, Leon Griffiths or Jesper Ratzer is going to reach the semi-finals. The big question, is who will it be?
Women’s A: Can Anyone Stop Seehofer
Boasting one of the most loaded fields in recent history, the Women’s A event is primed to be a sensational affair. The big question on everyone’s lips though, is can anyone stop Christine Seehofer from winning a third World Championships singles title?
Women’s A Top Half: Seehofer Headlines Top Half but Faces Early Tests
Christine Seehofer’s title defence begins with a first-round clash against Germany’s Amke Fischer. Given the two contested a final just last month, this is a clear sign of the quality of this draw. These two also met in the final of the 2016 World Championships, with Seehofer winning by 10 points. While Fischer has not beaten Seehofer since 2014, she has taken her to tennis twice this year in three matches, a feat that few other players can boast.
The winner of that match will take on the winner of Stine Jacobsen against Margaux Randjbar in the quarter-finals. Last month Jacobsen came within four points of beating Seehofer, the closest anyone has come in a very long time. If it ends up being a Seehofer versus Jacobsen quarter-final then get the popcorn ready because it could be one of the matches of the tournament.
Anna-Klara Ahlmer is the other seed in the top half of the draw. The No.3 seed has been dealt a very tough draw against Silke Altmann. The German player has historically had Ahlmer’s number, beating her on both of their two previous meetings.
The winner of that match is guaranteed to take on a wildcard. Anna Wall and Barbara Walsky – both wildcards – meet in an intriguing encounter. Much of the mystery surrounding this match comes from Walsky, who is actually making her FIR World Tour debut.
Women’s A Bottom Half: Open Half Could See Anyone Reach Final
The bottom half of the Women’s A draw has thrown up four excellent matches. The first match pitches former World Championship finalist Bettina Bugl against Natalie Paul. The two have a rich and competitive history on the FIR World Tour, with Paul leading the head-to-head 5-2. However, with Paul being largely inactive this year on the tour, does that give a slight advantage to Bugl?
There’s guaranteed to be one British player in the quarter-finals with Izzy Bramhall and Hannah Boden meeting in the first round. Remarkably, this is the duo’s first meeting on the FIR World Tour. This is also the only match in either elite draw to feature two players from the same nation.
The next match in the bottom half sees the return of former World Championship semi-finalist Martina Meissl. The Austrian plays her first match in almost two years but faces a tough opener against 2018 World Championship runner-up Astrid Reimer-Kern. This is a first meeting between the two and it will be great to see how Meissl does on her return to the sport.
Last but certainly not least is a battle between World No.2 Zuzana Severinova and World No.6 Nicole Eisler. These two won a doubles title together this year at the IWT Club La Santa Open but now head to opposite sides of the net to face-off. The No.2 seed holds a 3-0 head-to-head advantage heading into this clash.
That is the complete breakdown of the FIR World Singles Championship elite draws. Will we see Jesper Ratzer and Christine Seehofer continue their racketlon dominance, or will there be a new name on the trophy?
Sam Barker / FIR Media Officer
Image Credit / Rene Zwald