Last month we delved into the record books to discover who the five most successful juniors are in racketlon history. Now it’s time for the seniors to have their moment in the sun.
As with the juniors list, we’ve decided our top five purely based on major titles won. This includes both World Championship and European Championship titles – the pinnacle of racketlon. This countdown, like the juniors, only focuses on singles and doubles titles.
We’re very lucky in racketlon to have age categories from +40 all the way up to +70. That means that over the years we’ve had an incredible 85 different major winners. But only five can make our list. So it’s time to find out who they are.
5. Graham Cain
World and European Singles and Doubles Titles: 5
We kick things off with the great Dane Graham Cain. A powerhouse of the +60 age category, Cain has managed to win five World and European singles and doubles titles throughout his career.
Cain’s success properly began in 2012 when he won the Men’s +60 Singles title at the World Championships. The Dane would have to wait sometime before adding a second trophy to his collection.
In fact, it was in 2016 and 2017 that he was at his clinical best. In 2016 he took home gold in the Men’s +60 Singles category before also winning the Men’s +65 Singles a year later at the European Championships in Austria.
Perhaps the most eye-catching success has come in his doubles partnership with fellow Dane Steen Hesselbjerg. The two have become almost unstoppable. In 2016 they won the Men’s +60 Doubles title and also lifted the Men’s +65 crown a year later. While not contributing to Cain’s overall total in this countdown, he has also won the Men’s +65 Teams gold with Hesselbjerg in 2018 and 2019.
At this stage, it would be quite a surprise if we did not see Cain pick up more silverware as his senior career continues.
4. Esther Dubendorfer
Next on our list is Esther Dubendorfer. The first of two women on our countdown, Dubendorfer has five World and European titles to her name already.
The reason that Dubendorfer comes in one spot higher than Cain, despite them both having won the same amount, is simply that Dubendorfer has won hers in a shorter period of time.
The Swiss star’s first title came in 2017 as she partnered with Great Britain’s Barbara Capper to win the Women’s +40 Doubles crown. Using the experience from that win, Dubendorfer duplicated her doubles delight into singles success in 2018.
Dubendorfer collected her first singles world title in 2018, fighting off the field to be crowned the Women’s +45 Singles champion. One year later she returned to comfortably defend her title in Leipzig.
2018 and 2019 also saw further doubles success with two new partners. Isabelle Bramhall partnered her in the Women’s +45 Doubles while, a year later, she dropped back down to +40 level to compete with Stine Jacobsen. Both times she took home the gold medal.
Dubendorfer’s racketlon career is, in a way, still in its infancy on the senior circuit and it seems extremely likely that many more world titles will come her way in the future. Could 2021 be a year she adds more to her collection?
3. Levente Nandori
Hungarians have a rich history of success in racketlon’s seniors category but few have been as successful as Levente Nandori. With six doubles titles and three singles titles, Nandori lands at No.3 on our countdown.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Nandori’s resume is his adaptability. He has won six world doubles titles with five different partners. Even more remarkably, he has won all six of these titles across a three year period.
In 2017 it was the Men’s +45 Doubles with Zoltan Czingraber and the Mixed +45 Doubles with Barbara Capper. A year later it was the Men’s +40 Doubles with Thorsten Deck, Men’s +45 Doubles again with Peter Sakovics and the Mixed +45 Doubles, this time with Isabelle Bramhall. Finally, in 2019 he took home the Men’s +45 Doubles for the third year in a row, teaming up with Czingraber once again to lift the title. Talk about domination.
In fact, the +45 age category has really belonged to Nandori for several years. As well as his five doubles categories in this bracket, he has also won the singles title three times. The first came in London back in 2014. A year later the Hungarian defended his title before suffering a shock first-round exit in 2016.
Nandori wasn’t done though, returning at Austria’s 2017 European Championships with the gold medal in the +45 age category for a third and final time… so far.
2. Barbara Capper
The only player on our list to have stepped away from the FIR World Tour, Barbara Capper lands at No.2 with a sensational 11 world titles won in a five year period.
Despite hanging up her rackets after the 2017 European Championships, Great Britain’s Capper leaves the sport as the most decorated female senior of all-time. She does not look like relinquishing that title anytime soon either.
Capper was unstoppable on both the singles and the doubles court and, like Nandori, she won six doubles titles with five different partners. Three of those doubles titles came in Women’s Doubles – winning the +45 in 2015 with Sidse Trier and 2016 with Isabelle Bramhall, as well as the 2016 +40 crown with Esther Dubendorfer.
As well as Dubendorfer, Capper partnered another one of our top-five when she teamed up with Levente Nandori to win the Mixed +45 Doubles tile in 2017. Before that, she had also lifted the crown with fellow Brit Rakesh Gupta in both 2013 and 2014.
Perhaps her most eye-catching achievement came on the singles court though. Between 2013 and 2017 she lifted one singles World title ever year. Four of those came in the +45 category, while in 2015 at the European Championships she dropped down to compete in, and win, the +40 age bracket.
Few players in any era of racketlon history can boast such an impressive period as Barbara Capper had from 2013 to 2017. Capper totally dominated the senior circuit and left behind an undeniable legacy. It might be a while before we see someone replicate what she achieved.
Honourable Racketlon Seniors Mentions
There was a tonne of players who narrowly missed out on making our top-five and, before we reveal our champion, it seems only fitting to give them a shout-out. Five players have four world titles, with a combination of active and retired players on the list.
Legendary figures Peter Bittar, Antonio Zeoli and Jaroslav Schwan all have four titles each. Joining them is Isabelle Bramhall and Volker Sach. Their continued activity means they could very easily add to these titles in the future.
There are a few further names of note on three titles. Hall of Famer Lilian Druve is one of those, while Jack Broe Larsen, Carola Von Heimburg, Steen Hesselbjerg and Graham King all won titles at the 2019 World Championships. Could they add to their collection at the 2021 Championships?
1. Peter Sakovics
One man who you would expect to be walking away from the 2021 World Championships with another gold medal is Peter Sakovics. Unsurprisingly, this racketlon legend tops our list of the most successful racketlon seniors with an unmatched 14 titles.
A decade of domination. That’s the only real way to describe Peter Sakovics on the seniors circuit. The Hungarian stands alone as the only man to have won the world singles title at three different age classes – winning at +50, +55 and +60.
While Capper won five singles title in a row, Sakovics went one better. From 2010 to 2013 he took home the Men’s +50 Singles gold medal before switching to +55 in 2014 and winning that back-to-back.
It would be another three years before he lifted another singles title but in 2019 he returned to the winners’ circle. In his first year eligible for the +50 age bracket he swept aside the competition to win a historic 7th Seniors Singles crown. No one can match that.
His doubles record is also ferocious. Seven titles with six different partners across four different categories. His greatest success has come in Men’s +45 Doubles. Sakovics won back-to-back titles with Volker Sach in 2009 and 2010 before winning again almost a decade later with Nandori in 2018. He was almost 60 when he triumphed with Nandori.
Elsewhere, he won the Men’s +55 Doubles twice, with Antonio Zeoli in 2014 and with Richard Hobzik in 2018. He also has a +50 crown too, alongside Tibor Karolyi in 2017.
At the last World Championships in 2019, he added his first Mixed Doubles World title to his enormous trophy cabinet. Partnering with Germany’s Carola Von Heimburg, Sakovics strolled to the title in the inaugural Mixed +55 Doubles competition, something he will no doubt be looking to defend in 2021.
So there you have it. The definite list of the five most successful seniors in racketlon history. How different will this list look in 10 years? You’ll have to come back and find out.
Sam Barker / FIR Media Officer