Anna-Klara Ahlmer and Nicolas Lenggenhager are the top two seeds as international racketlon returns to Romania for the first time in seven years.
Lenggenhager is joined in the Romanian Open Challenger men’s elite draw by Morocco’s Florian Harca and Austria’s Florian Harca while Myriam Enmer is the No.2 seed in the Women’s Singles.
The tournament is taking place this weekend in Bucharest, Romania, and features players from three continents, including a whole host of new Romanian players.
Men’s A Singles – Lenggenhager Headlines Fresh Draw
Romania has never had an elite men’s singles champion in racketlon history. Could this be the weekend that it changes? The four seeds, who all receive a bye, are ultimately not Romanian, although they haven’t won a title either.
Nicolas Lenggenhager is the top seed in the tournament. The left-handed Swiss star came close to nabbing a title at the 2019 IWT Finnish Open but just missed out. The world No.20 enters the tournament as the favourite but will have the weight of expectation on his shoulders.
The other seeded players are Morocco’s Mohammed Tarik Koubaa, Austria’s Florian Harca and Germany’s Christian Borner. Koubaa could become the first player from the African continent to have ever won a Men’s Elite singles title while Harca is also chasing a first title in his young career. Borner is the only non-Romanian player to have competed in both the 2014 IWT Romanian Open and the 2021 Romanian Open Challenger.
Fresh from competing at the IWT Swiss Open, Molnar Gergely and Nicolas Champod are back competing at the top level. Gergely begins against Horia Naumescu while Champod plays Radu Ionescu.
The bottom half features Romanian trio Tiberiu Iacomi, Bodgan Ilie and Dan Gongu, with Eric Duran completing the picture. Two of the five Romanians, Horia Naumescu and Bogdan Ilie, are making their international racketlon debut. Will we have a shock run from one of the unknown Romanians, or will one of our seeds lift their first-ever elite singles title?
Women’s Singles – Ahlmer Chasing Glory in Bucharest
Anna-Klara Ahlmer headlines a six-woman field as the World No.3 looks to secure the fourth singles title of her career. The Swedish star lands in Group A alongside Gaelle Wavre and Irina Sanderson.
Given Wavre and Sanderson are entering just their second tournament, experience and quality both lie with Ahlmer, she is the favourite on paper to advance to the final.
Group B features an intriguing mixture of players. The highest seed is the USA’s Katrin Maldre, although she is just one ranking spot above rising star Myriam Enmer. Joining these two is a late entry from local player Madaline Ilie. Very little is known about Ilie so there is plenty of question marks over how she will get on.
Men’s A Doubles – Harca and King Headline the Field
The Men’s A Doubles title is an impressive mixture of regular players and unknown quantities. Top of the bracket is Florian Harca and Graham King. Youth and experience team up as both chase the first title together in beautiful Bucharest. They begin their campaign against Romanian duo Dan Gongu and Marius Ilie.
Teaming up for the second tournament in a row, Nicolas Champod and Nicolas Lenggenhager are the No.2 seeds. Like Harca and King, the Swiss pair begin their campaign against a Romanian duo. In fact, there are four all-Romanian pairs in the competition, with now of the eight players currently holding a ranking. That leaves a big feeling of uncertainty around this draw.
Nestled in amongst that uncertainty is the regular faces of Radu Ionescu and Ersoy Korer. The Romanian-Turkish pair are teaming up and looking to cause an upset as they start against Eduard Craciun and Daniel Lapadat. The final non-Romanian pair sees France’s Eric Durand partner Peter Robic.
Women’s Doubles – Ahlmer and Enmer the Clear Favourites
Just like in the Women’s Singles, Anna-Klara Ahlmer is the clear favourite to lift the title. That is helped by the fact the Swede is partnering with Myriam Enmer. The two are joined in a three-team box league by Katrin Maldre and Ana Maria Anghel. Anghel is competing in her first international racketlon title but is in safe hands alongside the experienced Maldre. The final pair is Madalina Ilie and Irina Sanderson. The Romanian duo team up looking to impress as they compete in their home country. It’s hard to see anyone stop Ahlmer and Enmer from taking home the crown – but stranger things have happened in racketlon.
Mixed Doubles – Intrigue Surrounds Mixed Doubles Draw
By far the most open doubles category is the Mixed Doubles draw, which has a healthy balance of experienced players. Katrin Maldre and Graham King are the top seeds in the draw, with the experienced duo receiving a bye through to the semi-finals.
They will face either Irina Sanderson and Tiberiu Iacomi or Myriam Enmer and Nicolas Champod. Both pairs are in the infancy of their racketlon careers and teaming up for the first time.
One duo that is not teaming up for the first time is Gaelle Wavre and Nicolas Lenggenhager. After storming to the Mixed B Doubles title at the IWT Swiss Open, the pair are back alongside each other. It’s not an easy start for them though, as they face Anna-Klara Ahlmer and Mohammed Tarik Koubaa in what is likely to be one of the matches of the day.
Ahlmer and Koubaa are the highest ranked and have the most experience. Remarkably, given his ranking of No.5, Koubaa is actually yet to win a Mixed Doubles title at the elite level. Will his time finally come in Romania?
Men’s B Singles – Razvan Back to Defend Title
It may be one of the longest title defences in racketlon history as, seven years after winning the Men’s B Singles title, Turlea Mihai Razvan is back. The squash star beat Christian Borner in the final on that day. With Borner competing in the A category this time, can anyone stop Razvan from triumphing once again?
The honest answer is we do not know. Six of the eight players competing in the draw are making their international racketlon debut. While unhelpful for a tournament preview, this is likely to lead to a fascinating draw as six newcomers battle to get to grips with the sport.
Joining Razvan and the rookies is Peter Robic. The Austrian enters as a wildcard as the media guru looks to get his hands on a title for the first time in his career. Could he flourish in Bucharest?
Seniors +40 Singles – Koubaa Leads an Impressive Line-Up
The last category that we’re going to glance over also happens to be the biggest, with 14 players taking part in the Seniors +40 Singles.
Mohammed Tarik Koubaa is the No.1 seed with the world No.11 looking for a trademark victory to move him inside the top-10 of the seniors rankings.
Given there is a large number of newcomers competing, the draw has not been kind to him. After receiving a first-round bye he’ll face either Eric Durand or Radu Ionescu, both of whom have racketlon experience.
The other seeds are Graham King, Christian Borner and Ersoy Korer. While Borner and Korer both face Romanian players in the first round, King receives a bye. The Swiss legend will either face Romania’s Dan Gongu or Moldova’s Grigore Capris, as the two battle to advance through to the second round.
Former Men’s B champion Turlea Mihai Razvan is a dangerous unranked floater in this draw but the reality is that any number of players could come through to cause an upset.
The full Romanian Open Challenger draw is available here.
Interested in entering an international racketlon tournament? We still have lots of events taking place in 2021 with entry open to players of all ages and abilities.
Sam Barker / FIR Media Officer
Image Credit / Rene Zwald & Jonas von Sachs