It’s been more than two years since I last played in the Elite Men’s category at an International Racketlon event, following my nasty injury in 2017, my year out in 2018 and my comeback (and final) year in the juniors last year. What better way to return than by playing in the two fantastic events that currently make up the Asian Swing?
Like most of the Racketlon community, I play the sport for the competitive side of the game but also for the change to travel, meet old and new friends and to experience new cultures. Well, I certainly wasn’t disappointed with my trips to Thailand and India as they provided me with all that, and more!
3rd CHA Thailand Open – Racketlon in Paradise
In its 3rd year now Frank Kleiber has established this event as a must-play for any player wanting to play Racketlon in a great venue and with winter sun; certainly, with daytime temperatures around 30C (86F) and dawn to dusk sunshine, it didn’t disappoint!
I actually travelled out a few days before the start in order to acclimatise, overcome the jet lag (not as bad as I envisaged), practice, and spend New Year’s Eve watching the fireworks in Pattaya with Frank and his family, plus Bob Tink. I’m glad I did too as Frank is (like most Germans!) a great host and he showed us all where we could get good food, cheap beer and the best massages in Pattaya! What’s not to like!
The tournament itself was held in the sports centre within the players’ hotel, which incidentally is the biggest I have ever stayed in (and one of the largest in the world!), so from a convenience perspective, it was great. I played Men’s Doubles (with Patrick Moran from the USA) and we were quickly introduced to the table tennis and badminton skills of the Hong Kong and Indian players present (plus Leigh Sands’ squash!), so sadly we didn’t medal but we had great fun and it allowed me to get used to the courts. Thanks for playing, Patrick.
Playing the doubles really benefitted me for the singles though where I had some good matches and wins against solid first-timer Gourav Rakshit (India) and Leigh Sands (Australia) before receiving a walkover over Mohammed Tarik Koubaa (Morocco) who had to return home to Dubai as his wife gave birth! Congrats Mohammed!
This put me into the final against Indian badminton specialist (and good all-rounder) Sidharth Nandal. It was a close match but I managed to secure the 16 points I needed in tennis with the scores being 21-17, 15-21, 21-13, 16-17 9+5) to pick up my 1st elite international title! After the two years where I wondered if I would ever compete at this level again, I was over the moon! It just shows, hard work does pay off!
1st CHA Indian Open – Palaces and Potential!
Having spent a few days after the tournament holidaying in Thailand with some sunshine and beach days, Frank, Bob and I headed off to India together for round two, the inaugural Indian Open! However, things didn’t get off to a great start! Unfortunately, we missed our connecting flight in New Delhi and had to stay overnight there. This meant that we all arrived in Udaipur on the day of the event, only hours before our scheduled matches; obviously not the best preparations… but for those of you that know about my previous overnight in getting to the World Champs in Denmark, I am used to these kinds of things!
Once again, the facilities at the tournament venue (The Field Cup) were superb with weather conditions cooler than I expected (and forgetting to pack the long sleeves!) but I was feeling great after Thailand if a little tired from the journey. I played Men’s Doubles with FIR President Duncan Stahl (honoured thanks Duncan) but he was suffering from an elbow injury which spoiled our chances of winning the title against some strong pairs. Nevertheless, Duncan’s arm held together long enough for us to sneak a good win before it really affected him in the singles and he had to withdraw after his 1st round loss.
From my perspective I was pretty pleased with my singles performance again, only losing narrowly 21-16, 10-21, 19-21, 18-14 (-4) in the semi-final to the eventual winner Abhinava Kashyap Akshinthala (India), before picking up another medal, this time bronze. My only regret was eating such a big spicy meal the night before 9as I’m just not used to spicy food!) and it really affected me before, during, and after the match!
One of the things I most loved about India was the hospitality; wherever I went I (and the rest of the players) were treated like royalty and everybody was so kind and friendly. The players party was held in a literal palace, prizes for podium finishers were great due to there being many kind sponsors and I can only see Racketlon in India becoming massive in years to come! Well done to all the organisers involved in making the first Indian Open very successful! A great start for an exciting future here…
I didn’t really know what to expect from Thailand or India, having never visited these countries before, but I will be putting them on my ‘must play’ list for future years. It was great to play new opponents from countries where Racketlon is growing amazingly quickly but it would also be great to have even more European players making the trip next year? You won’t be disappointed!
The existing “Sun, Sea and Racketlon” tour events in Club La Santa and Malta are fantastic too but Thailand and India also offer the chance to play new players and experience unique cultures and hospitality. I loved the experience and will definitely be back (if I can get in the draws!). Until next time, Asia…
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Piers Boden / Former World No.16 & CHA Thailand Open Champion
Image Credits / Leigh Sands, Seppo Raiski, Frank Kleiber and Piers Boden
Read the original blog written by Piers here.