The 2020 FIR World Tour got off to an entertaining start in Austria at the IWT Vienna New Year Classics.
Rav Rykowski returns to the final for the second year-in-a-row after knocking out top seed Emanuel Schopf. He’ll face surprise finalist Oliver Buhler, with the World No.11 defeating fellow countryman Benjamin Graenicher to reach his first elite singles final.
In the Women’s A Singles, Christine Seehofer was in typically brilliant form, winning her two matches without dropping a set.
The full and extensive report on the other categories, including junior and senior categories, will be released on Monday.
Men’s A Singles: Rykowski Rolls Through Field
After crashing out of November’s World Championships in the first round, there were questions marks about how Rav Rykowski would respond. He put any fears to bed with a stunning Saturday in Vienna.
Rykowski opened with an intriguing match against Janez Makovec. The Slovenian had beaten Rykowski in the past but the Pole was not prepared to lose again. Rykowski dominated the middle two sports, winning 21-7 and 21-5 to advance to the semi-finals.
Top seed Emanuel Schopf was Rykowski’s semi-final opponent. Schopf had looked great in his quarter-final match against Christian Schaefer, but was no match for Rykowski on the day. The Pole won comfortably once again, resulting in him reaching the final without using his tennis racket.
Men’s A Singles: Buhler Makes His Breakthrough
Until the semi-final stage, the bottom half of the draw played out largely as expected. Two of racketlon’s rising stars triumphed in their opening match to reach the quarter-finals. Michal Kurek defeated Anthony Duthuille to set up a match against No.4 seed Oliver Buhler while Bernhard Pilsz beat Nikola Mikac to face No.2 seed Benjamin Graenicher.
As expected, the two seeds were victorious, with both winning by 15 points or more to set up an all-Swiss semi-final. Buhler and Graenicher met less than a year ago, with Graenicher cruising to victory before tennis. Today was a very different match.
Buhler stunned Graenicher early on by winning the table tennis 21-16. A 22-20 badminton victory followed by a 21-11 squash win swung the match back in Graenicher’s favour on paper. With Buhler’s superb tennis level though, Graenicher was always going to struggle to get the 15 points he needed. In the end, Buhler won 21-7. A remarkable win and remarkable breakthrough for Buhler who should now rise into the top-10 for the first time in the upcoming rankings.
Rykowski and Buhler have never met before in a singles match. Can Buhler upset another higher-ranked player or will Rykowski finally get his hands on the IWT Vienna New Year Classics trophy?
Women’s A Singles: New Year, Same Story for Seehofer
It might be a new year and a new decade but nothing has changed for Christine Seehofer. The World No.1 looked in typically unbeatable form on Saturday, strolling to big victories over both Bettina Bugl and Elisabeth Seehofer. Perhaps most impressive, is the fact that Seehofer won all eight of her sets, with the 21-17 squash scoreline against sister Elisabeth the closest she came to losing one.
The leaves Seehofer needing to just beat Martina Meissl on Sunday to maintain her unbeaten streak, win the title and win the Triple Crown. A perfect start to the season is looking extremely likely. Behind her, Elisabeth Seehofer is in the best position to win silver. She beat Meissl by seven and now just needs to beat Bugl to finish second.
Things can get complicated if Bugl beats Elisabeth Seehofer on Sunday, something she has done before. If that happens, and Meissl loses to Christine Seehofer, then we will have a three played with a 1-2 record. If that happens, the silver and bronze medals will be decided by points difference.
The report from day one of the tournament is available here.
The full results from the IWT Vienna New Year Classics are available to view here.
Sam Barker / FIR Media Officer
Image Credit / rubinfoto.com