An action-packed opening day at the inaugural Luxembourg Open Challenger saw the doubles champions crowned and all the singles categories getting underway.
Current Mixed Doubles World Champion Dan Busby lived up to his name as he and new partner Anna-Klara Ahlmer won the Mixed A Doubles.
There was delight for France in the Men’s A Doubles as Damien Andre and Loic Cencig completed a superb comeback to win the title.
Elsewhere Dara and Beat Ladner won the Mixed B Doubles crown while Keither Lesser and Thomas Olsson triumphed in the Men’s B Doubles.
Mixed A Doubles: Busby and Ahlmer Impress Ahead of Worlds
After entering the World Doubles Championship as a pair, Luxembourg served as a perfect warm-up for Dan Busby and Anna-Klara. In a high-quality mixed doubles field for a challenger, the pair began by coming past Austrian duo Irina Olsacher and Emanuel Schopf.
In the semi-finals they took down Margaux Randjbar and Markus Klement to guarantee a spot in the final. Both of their matches so far were won before tennis.
Lieselot De Bleeckere and Morten Jaksland were the No.2 seeds but they did not make it to the final. After initially overcoming Dolunay Soykan and Jean Michot, they took on Stine Jacobsen and Cornelius Radermacher in the semi-finals.
Jacobsen and Radermacher are also playing together at the World Doubles Championship and proved they are not a pair to be messed with. Impressive badminton and tennis results guided them to a victory over the No.2 seeds and a spot in the final.
The final itself was competitive in all three sports. Ahlmer and Busby edged the table tennis 21-18 before being pegged back 21-19 in the badminton. The top seeds opened up a seven-point lead thanks to a 21-15 squash win an ultimately that was enough. Ahlmer and Busby lost the tennis 15-17 but reached the 15 points they needed to lift the title.
No.2 seeds De Bleeckere and Jaksland took bronze.
Men’s A Doubles: Tennis Comebacks Guarantee Title for French Duo
It may have just been a four-draw but Damien Andre and Loic Cencig had to work extremely hard for their title. The duo opened against the top seeds Tommi Laine and Luka Penttinen and found themselves trailing by seven before tennis. However, an impressive tennis performance earned them a 21-11 and a spot in the final.
They would take on the other seeded pair in the final after No.2 seeds Adarsh Vikram Narayanaswamy and Steffen Neumann overcame Josselin Gade and Simon Puthoste in their semi-final.
Things were looking bleak in the final for Andre and Cencig at the halfway stage. After losing the table tennis and badminton they found themselves trailing by 18. However, a 21-9 squash set followed by a 21-13 tennis set flipped the script and earned the duo a well-earned and hard-fought title in Luxembourg.
Men’s B Doubles: Lesser and Olsson Win Battle of the Seeds
Unlike in the A grades, the B grade doubles went to seeding. The final saw No.1 seeds Bertrand Carlier and Jonathan Rucquoy taking on No.2 seeds Keith Lesser and Thomas Olsson.
Ultimately, the damage in the final was done in the middle sports. Carlier and Rucquoy took the table tennis 21-17 but were taken apart after that. The British-Sweden duo won 21-11 and 21-12 to leave them needing just seven in tennis for the title.
They may have lost the tennis 7-9 but that did not matter as Lesser and Olsson got their hands on the title. German duo Manfred Grab and Thomas Veith claimed bronze.
Mixed B Doubles: Ladner’s Win all-Swiss Showdown
After both beating British duo Alexandra Ogram and David Bennett, the Mixed B Doubles came down to an all-Swiss showdown. Dara and Beat Ladner against Nicole Eisler and Daniel Kurmann.
It ended up being a superb match. Eisler and Kurmann took both the table tennis and squash 21-14. However, a 21-8 badminton loss proved costly and the Ladner’s snuck the eventual win by just four points to claim the title.
Men’s A Singles: Schopf Falls While Other Seeds Stroll into Semis
Emanuel Schopf was the biggest casualty on the opening day of singles action in Luxembourg. The No.3 seed was dealt a rough draw in Cornelius Radermacher, with the German ultimately cruising to victory. Radermacher won all four sports, winning by 21 points and needing just two in tennis. The German then backed that up by beating Christian Schaefer to book his spot in the semi-finals.
For the other three seeds, it was a largely easier ride. World No.1 Morten Jaksland received little bother in his first pair of matches. He brushed aside French pair Anthony Duthuille and Damien Andrew to comfortably advance to the semi-finals in his first tournament of the year.
No.2 seed Dan Busby also had a relatively comfortable ride. Both Steffen Neumann and Loic Cencig took the Brit to tennis but he was able to achieve +22 and +11 wins over them respectively.
Luke Penttinen had a slight crisis in his opening match against Adarsh Vikram Narayanaswamy. The Indian No.1 lead by five heading into the tennis after a crushing 21-4 badminton victory. However, the No.3 seed recovered with a 21-8 tennis set before beating Ray Jordan in the quarter-finals to set up a tie with Morten Jaksland.
Despite both being regular top-10 players, Jaksland and Penttinen have remarkably never met in an FIR World Tour or Challenger singles match before.
Meanwhile, in the second semi-final, history is very much on Radermacher’s side. The German boasts a healthy 2-0 singles head-to-head winning record over Busby. However, Busby does already have a win over Radermacher this weekend, in the Mixed A Doubles final.
Women’s A Singles: Randjbar into Maiden Singles Final
It was a good day for Margaux Randjbar, who emerged victorious from a tough Group B to qualify for her first-ever elite singles final.
The World No.8 impressed in her opening match against former World No.1 Nicole Eisler. In the end, it was her solid tennis that got her over the line, a 21-10 victory giving her a +7 win overall. Randjbar backed that up with a crushing victory over No.2 seed Kirsten Kaptein to seal her spot in the final.
Her opponent though is yet to be decided. Group A is not yet complete with only two of the three matches played on Saturday. Stine Jacobsen opened with a relatively comfortable victory over the returning Lieselot De Bleeckere.
However, it was Group A’s second match that provided a mighty shock. The Belgian wildcard shocked No.1 seed Anna-Klara Ahlmer, winning by +13 in a fiercely competitive match. De Bleeckere won the first three sports – although the table tennis and squash were both 23-21. However, it was a killer 21-10 badminton score that damaged Ahlmer’s chances and, despite winning the tennis, she was unable to battle back.
Technically, Ahlmer can still qualify for the final though. If she beats Jacobsen on Sunday then each woman will have one victory and it will go to points. However, if Jacobsen wins then she is guaranteed to face Randjbar in the final.
The juniors, seniors and other open categories will get a full report, as always, on Monday.
The full results from the opening day of the Luxembourg Open Challenger are available here.
Sam Barker / FIR Media Officer
Image Credit / Duncan Stahl