Every year in racketlon, a new selection of players qualify to compete on the Seniors circuit. For most of those players, the +40 World Championship title is the first prize that is on their minds.
With only a handful of tournaments taking place in 2020, we have two years worth of new contenders to look at as we head towards the resumption of the FIR World Tour. Remember these names because they will all be contenders for the +40 Men’s and Women’s Singles titles if they decide to enter.
10. Keith Lesser
Having competed on the FIR World Tour for over a decade, Keith Lesser is one of Great Britain’s most recognisable faces. After a couple of quiet years in 2017 and 2018 where he played just two tournaments, Lesser made more of a return in 2019.
Three tournaments in 2019 and the Luxembourg Open in 2020 saw Lesser reach three doubles finals and one singles final – winning the Men’s B Doubles in Luxembourg.
Lesser’s crafty style and experience make him a tough test for anyone on the Seniors circuit. The Brit knows his way around a racketlon court better than most and has wins over a handful of the heavy hitters in the division – including close friend and rival Ray Jordan. He dives into Seniors circuit action for the first time at the IWT London Open – let’s see how he fares.
9. Andreas Escher
Table tennis star Andreas Escher comes in next on the list of players after qualifying to compete this year. Like Lesser, Escher has plenty of experience on the FIR World Tour, having played 85 matches in singles and doubles over the last six years.
Escher’s biggest weapon is his table tennis, and his results are frightening. Since 2015 he has lost just one table tennis set – 21-19 against Bernhard Pilsz. Every single other table tennis set has resulted in a win. In fact, in over 95% of his matches, Escher has won to single digits. That is a scary level of talent to take onto the Seniors circuit and he will have a headstart in almost every match he plays.
His badminton and squash need a little work to truly compete against the heavy hitters in the division but with a strong solid game, he’s a name that no one will want to face.
8. Nicolas Lemercier
Part of the blossoming array of French talent emerging, Nicolas Lemercier first arrived in 2015. He’s been a force at Men’s B level with titles in Antwerp and Oudenaarde to his name.
The question now is whether he can translate that form onto the Seniors circuit. Lemercier took on Duncan Stahl in 2019, falling in the end but winning the first two sets against the Seniors No.1. Squash is his one stumbling block at this time, with a 21-2 loss to Stahl and a 21-4 loss to Loic Cencig. If he wants to really challenge for a World title then he’ll need big wins in table tennis and badminton, his two best sports on paper.
The French contingent is starting to take over the main FIR circuit. Could it be time for them to make a splash on the Senior circuit as well?
7. Mikael Rehn
He may only come in at No.7 on our list because of rankings, but Mikael Rehn is a leading contender for the +40 World title. The table tennis star has been a regular in the Men’s A category for several years and reached a final as recently as 2019 at the IWT Swedish Open.
Strong across all four sports but with speciality at table tennis and squash, Rehn has many standout wins. He has victories over fellow contenders Ray Jordan, Loic Cencig and Bengt Sonnert. He’s also had two close matches with Duncan Stahl and a gummiarm loss to Nikola Mikac, proving he’s right in the mix for a title.
There’s no doubt that Rehn is one of the most eye-catching names to transition into the Seniors circuit. Could he be the 2021 +40 Men’s Singles champion?
6. Loic Cencig
A second Frenchman lands on our list in Loic Cencig. The 2019 Men’s B World Champion is ready to bring his fierce talents to the Seniors circuit as he looks to cause a big splash. A real jack-of-all-trades, Cencig was hugely impressive on his way to the world title, beating the likes of Joerg Kanonenberg and Hans Sherpa.
Cencig already has an advantage over fellow Frenchman Lemercier, after beating him at the 2019 Latvian Open. Perhaps his most eye-catching win came in 2020 against Christian Schaefer where he crushed the Swiss star before tennis, winning every set. With Schaefer making an appearance on this list a little later on, this is a big win and stands him in good stead to have a run at the world title in 2021.
5. Mohammed Tarik Koubaa
The charismatic Moroccan, Mohammed Tarik Koubaa, lands at No.5 on our countdown of the highest-ranked new senior players. Koubaa has been one of the most active players on the circuit over the last five years so it will not be a surprise to see him throw himself into Seniors circuit action.
Koubaa’s speed and height stands him in good stead. While the Moroccan may have struggled to record any landmark wins over the last few years, he has always been close. He is relatively strong across the four categories and will be a name that all players will want to avoid.
Social media has revealed that Koubaa has also remained very active across lockdown, training hard at both long-distance running and his squash as well. We saw him record a good win against Bernhard Pilsz in last year’s Austrian Open presented by GRAWE sidebyside so perhaps he could make a fast start once again at the IWT London Open.
4. Svetlana Kasilova
The first of two women to feature is Svetlana Kasilova. Like Koubaa, Kasilova has remained very active over the last year with several tournament’s in Russia providing her with plenty of opportunities to play competitive matches.
Despite only starting the sport in 2016, Kasilova has become a regular at Women’s B level. She recorded a hugely impressive comeback win against Anna Wall in 2019, as well as beating Katarzyna Myslek and Dianne Baker. She also won the badminton and tennis sets in a loss against Kirsten Kaptein, a fact that is important as Kaptein also joins the Seniors circuit this year.
Russia does not have a huge history of success in Racketlon, especially at the World Champion level. Could Kasilova be the star to inspire a generation of players in the future?
3. Christian Schaefer
Now here comes a really eye-catching name. Christian Schaefer, World Championship quarter-finalist in the Men’s A in 2019, lands at No.3 on our countdown. The Swiss star immediately lands at No.8 on the Senior Singles rankings and will undoubtedly be a force in his first year.
In 2019 alone, Schaefer recorded wins over Benjamin Graenicher, Christian Wiessner, Duncan Stahl and Keith Lesser. The Swiss showed his desire to keep active by being one of only a handful of players to play two tournaments in 2020 – the CHA Luxembourg Open and the IWT Vienna Classics.
With such a strong catalogue of results and the ability to train over lockdown as part of the Swiss National Team, is Schaefer one of the leading contenders in the +40 Singles World Championship? It’s certainly going to take someone very special to stop him.
2. Ray Jordan
Your new No.3 in the rankings, Ray Jordan has been a big name on the FIR World Tour for well over a decade. A powerhouse of the sport, Jordan is unquestionably a front-runner to have a run at the +40 Seniors World Singles title this year.
With a game centred around table tennis and squash, Jordan has revitalised his career in recent years with a podium finish on the IWT Swedish Open back in 2019. While he hasn’t beaten a lot of his senior rivals in recent years, he has had close matches with the likes of Marcel Weigl, Nikola Mikac and Duncan Stahl.
Jordan comes into this circuit with more experience than most and a desire to build on his success with Team GB over the last few years. At No.3 in the rankings, he’s already hunting down Stahl and Mikac above him. Could a first Singles or Doubles world title be within his grasp?
If you join the Seniors circuit and jump straight into No.1 then you’re guaranteed to be top of the pile. Kirsten Kaptein has done exactly that. The Dutch star enters the rankings ahead of the likes of Isabelle Bramhall, Stine Jacobsen and Silke Altmann and will be the top seed heading into the new season.
Kaptein enters the Seniors circuit with an impressive record against a number of her rivals. Including singles and doubles, she is 10-0 against Carola Von Heimburg and 5-0 against Jo Shelley. She has suffered losses to Bramhall, Jacobsen and Altmann but they have all been relatively close, especially against Jacobsen.
The Dutch talisman adds another dimension to the Seniors circuit and brings another big star from the Women’s A category into the mix. The categories have been dominated by the likes of Esther Dubendorfer in recent years – is 2021 when we see a range of new faces battling for the title?
So there you have it. Ten names ready to make their mark on the Seniors circuit. Ten names that we would expect to be leading challengers for the +40 World Single and Doubles titles later this year. With big names like Duncan Stahl, Nikola Mikac, Marcel Weigl, Tommi Laine, Ashutosh Advinash Pednekar, Elmar Schaub Isabelle Bramhall, Silke Altmann, Esther Duebendorfer and Stine Jacobsen already on the Seniors circuit, we’re set for an awesome 2021!
Interested in playing racketlon on the Seniors circuit? All of our tournaments have senior categories across several different age ranges. See our 2021 World Tour here.
Sam Barker / FIR Media Officer
Image Credit / James Pope