Great Britain are the new Racketlon World Champions. They defeated Germany on a historic night in Leipzig which saw Great Britain etched into the racketlon record books.
Izzy Bramhall sealed the victory for Great Britain after defeating Amke Fischer at tennis. Bramhall was joined on the podium by emotional teammates Dan Busby, Duncan Stahl, Luke Griffiths, Leon Griffiths and Hannah Boden.
While Great Britain have improved dramatically at the junior and senior level in recent years, this is the first time they have won Racketlon’s most prestigious team event. They came agonisingly close in 2018 but fell four points short to Austria in the final.
This year, defending champions Austria were defeated by Germany in the group stage, eventually finishing 4th after a loss to Denmark.
The FIR Nations Cup was one by Great Britain 2 who won an all-British final against shock finalists Great Britain 3. India achieved a historic first Racketlon World Team Championship gold medal after storming to the FIR Challenge Cup title.
World Cup: Great Britain Battle to Historic Gold
Germany vs. Great Britain. One team desperate to win on home soil, one team desperate to win a first-ever crown. The match certainly lived up to its billing.
Both teams lined up as expected. Cornelius Radermacher would face Dan Busy while Amke Fischer was chosen over Natalie Paul to take on Izzy Bramhall. The doubles saw Joerg Kanonenberg and Paul Sach face Luke Griffiths and Duncan Stahl. Lastly, the red-hot Christian Wiessner faced Leon Griffiths.
Early table tennis wins for Radermacher and Fischer gave the Germans a slender advantage before the Brits battled back to lead by five heading into the badminton. The badminton looked to be a turning point for Germany. The won the first three badminton sets for a five-point overall lead, swinging the match in their favour. However, Leon Griffiths struck in superb fashion. The U21 Singles World Champion carved up Wiessner, winning 11-1 to reestablish GBs five-point advantage.
The door was now ajar for GB, who took full advantage in the squash. Overall, they won the squash by 18 points, winning three of the four sets and moving 23 points ahead overall. It looked as though Germany would battle back, with Cornelius Radermacher going 7-0 up. Busby refused to go down without a fight, clawing five points back to leave Bramhall needing a low win for the title. Showing no signs of nerves, Bramhall fought past Fischer, winning 11-4 to seal a first World title. Despite the celebrations of her teammates, Bramhall made sure she shook Fischer’s hand before celebrating herself.
“All week it’s just been a really good team effort”
After the final, we caught up with Dan Busby to talk about what it felt like to win a Team World title after 2018’s disappointment.
“It’s amazing. Obviously last year was heartbreaking. Calum not being here was a big loss when we found out a few weeks ago that he had an injury. But we didn’t let morale drop in the team and Izzy and Luke in the team this year make a big difference. They more than cover for him in terms of what we lost from Calum.
“All week it’s just been a really good team effort. We’ve done it with all four men playing – none of us has had a rest at all. It’s just been a really good team effort. Even to team selections and thinking about what’s the best way to play this match as a group decision every time. We just backed ourselves and believed and we did it.”
Luke Griffiths was making his Elite team GB and, at just 16-years-of-age, remarkably won all four of his doubles matches. “Unbelievable”, Busby described his performance. “He’s not put a foot wrong in any of our four team matches at all. In fact, he’s done the complete opposite – he stepped right up to the mark. His table tennis has just been outstanding all week. We thought about throwing him into the singles as a bit of a wildcard option for this match but we decided to stick to what we knew and he’s just been amazing.
“The Danish team were saying that they were just amazed that at 16 years he doesn’t suffer under the pressure in these big occasions. In fact, he does the opposite – he really plays really well and just plays the big matches so well and that’s really promising for the future.”
Isabelle Bramhall was the other new addition to this years GB squad. “Obviously we always want Izzy if she’s available but various injuries and operations over the years have made it difficult for her to commit”, explained Busby.
“As soon as she makes herself available we obviously have her in the team. Hannah is an amazing youngster and played her part in this as well but equally knows that she’s probably not playing her best at the moment and Izzy is the selection that we go for and Hannah’s been so supportive with that which is great.”
Busby was also keen to acknowledge their Germany opponents in the final. “The Germans are great. We’ve got lots of really great friends in that team.
“Obviously for them, they want to do it at home. For them as well they’re always at their strongest if their tournament’s at home because they have a few players who don’t travel to other tournaments so we know they were strong here. We had them as slight favourites to win the tournament before the week started. We were delighted they weren’t in our group, to be honest, so the draw worked quite well there. There are some excellent racketlon players over there, players that just don’t have a weakness.”
FIR Nations Cup: Great Britain 2 Retain Title After Beating Familiar Faces
After successfully lifting the trophy in 2018, Great Britain 2 returned looking for a repeat. They landed in Group A alongside Austria 2 and Switzerland 2. Fronted by Luke Barnes, who dropped down from GB1, GB2 quickly set about advancing to the final. They overpowered Austria 2 before completely dismantling Switzerland 2. With France 2 being forced to withdraw before the tournament, two wins were enough to see them into the final.
Group B was a much more fascinating affair. The Netherlands landed in this group alongside Germany 2, Czech 2 and Great Britain 3. The Netherlands were the favourites to emerge and reach the final but were dealt a blow when star men Koen Hageraats and Guidi Weijel were forced to miss the first two matches. This left Great Britain 3 and Germany 2 both able to secure comfortable wins.
With the Czech 2 team losing all three matches, the top of the table was settled by a shootout between GB3 and Germany 2. Last year, GB3 failed to win a game in this division. In 2019 they defied all expectations, edging past Germany 2 – thanks in part to a superb performance from Kathryn Schutterlin – to reach an unexpected final.
As expected, the final went heavily the way of GB2. Knowing each other’s games inside-out, GB2 were able to dominate from front to back, winning every sport on the way. A superb achievement for both GB2 to retain their title, and for GB3 to reach their first Nations Cup final.
Challenge Cup: Historic World Title for India
There was more intrigue surrounding the Challenge Cup than any other open category. This was because of the debut of not one, but two India teams. The USA also returned to join India while Germany 3, Austria 3 and GB4 made up the numbers.
Germany 3 and the USA were the two teams to progress to the finals from Group A. Germany 3 used their experience to defeat both teams and top the group. Meanwhile, USA’s advancement was thanks to a slender +12 win over India 2 with Katrin Maldre’s +21 victory proving decisive.
India would have one team in the semi-finals though. India 1 crushed both Austria 3 and GB 4 to book itself a semi-final date with the USA. In the end, neither semi-final was close. India 1 heavily defeated the USA with Austria 3 following suit with a rampant win over Germany 3. That set up a mouthwatering final between India 1 and Austria 3.
Martina Meissl, retuning to racketlon after two years away, was Austria’s bright spark. She crushed Sushmita Panigrahi by 29 points to give Austria a fighting chance. But the Indian men had produced superb results across the board. Adarsh Vikram Narayanaswamy blew away Daniel Csuk while Sidharth Nandal and Ashutosh Avinash Pednekar teamed up to win the doubles.
The title belonged to India. The new kids on the block turned up and stormed the Challenge Cup. A historic moment in 2019 but only the start. When India return in 2020 at Rotterdam it will be the Nations Cup from them. A new challenge. Another World Championship medal?
The full Racketlon World Team Championship results are available here.
Sam Barker / FIR Media Officer