As Racketlon enters into its third decade as an international sport, one of its newer elements is the true birth of racketlon careers.
Players beginning their racketlon journey as juniors and growing up into stars of the sport is a new phenomenon but one that is producing a plethora of impressive sporting stories.
None of these shines brighter right now than the story of new women’s singles No.1 Zuzana Severinová.
2013 & 2014 – The Beginning of the Story
Zuzana Severinová began her racketlon career as a young teenager. Her first steps on a racketlon court came at the 2013 IWT Czech Open. While there was to be no trophy success in her first tournament, there was one major victory. She caught the racketlon bug.
The Czech star later travelled to the Netherlands to take her talents to the World Championships – her first time competing on the big stage.
It was a similar story a year later. Once again she battled at the Czech Open, this time taking on high-profile players like Izzy Bramhall and Michi Dickert. A taste of what was to come in her career.
She coupled a Czech Open with a World Championships for the second straight year, making the journey to Poland for the World Doubles Championship. Taking on the likes of Christine Seehofer, Elisabeth Seehofer and Georg Stoisser, Severinová was starting to get a feel for the type of level she would need to reach to become a star of the sport.
2015 – First Titles for Zuzana Severinová
In 2015, Severinová began to become more active on the tour. She took part in four events that year, beginning with a bang as she won the Mixed B Doubles title at the IWT Vienna Classics in January with Alexander Barbunopulos. The same tournament also saw a big singles step forward as she cruised into the Women’s B final. While a first singles title eluded her, there was a definite progression.
It did not take her long to reach another final. Her third Czech Open heralded her best result to date as she once again battled into the final, this time falling to Klara Hladka.
Her first major podium happened on home soil in 2015. The 1st European Championships took place in Prague and Severinová was on hand to battle her way to silverware. She won three out of her four matches to finish with a bronze medal in the Women’s B. There would be no maiden singles title for the Czech in 2015 but the groundwork was laid for a 2016 breakthrough.
2016 – First Singles Title and World Championship Success
It was fitting that her first true singles triumph came at the tournament where it all began; the Czech Open. Severinová won four matches in a competitive Women’s B Singles draw, including producing an impressive 21-3 tennis set in her final match against Esther
That title in Prague opened the door to a couple of opportunities for Zuzana Severinová. Firstly, she was able to compete in her first Women’s Elite Singles draw at the IWT German Open. Secondly, it saw the beginnings of a successful Mixed Doubles partnership with Morten Jaksland.
While the Women Elite Singles debut ended in three defeats, it showed that Severinová was not far from the level needed to compete at the top of the game. Similarly, the partnership with Jaksland heralded no podiums in year one, but fast forward to 2019 and the duo were sweeping up Mixed Doubles titles throughout the year.
Then November arrived, and Severinová enjoyed the biggest moment of her career so far. At the World Singles Championships in Germany, Severinová battled through four intense matches to be crowned the Women’s B Singles champion. Four years of hard work and improvement had paid off as she got her hands on this coveted prize. A perfect way to end a breakthrough season.
2017 & 2018 – Top 10 Breakthrough and First Elite Singles Final
A notable feature of Zuzana Severinová’s career is the enduring consistency. The Czech player has enjoyed gradual improvement every single year, and that was epitomised by her development during both 2017 and 2018.
After her triumph at the World Singles Championships, Severinová made the permanent switch up to the elite category and it paid off immediately. At the 2017 Swedish Open, she beat both Nicole Eisler and Kirsten Kaptein for the first time on her way to a first elite podium finish.
Severinová’s first final of the season came alongside Jaksland in the Mixed Doubles. The duo won a silver medal at the 2017 Latvian Open, losing to Amke Fischer and Kresten Hougaard in the final.
Julia Knake, Lieselot De Bleeckere and Natalie Paul all fell victim to the swinging Czech star, who bulldozed her way into the first elite singles final in Germany. Amke Fischer got the better of her but it was a landmark moment. She had taken out some of the world’s best and reached a first elite singles final.
Then came October’s Malta Open. Three categories, three finals and one gold medal. The gold came alongside Nicole Eisler in the Women’s Doubles but her silver medal in the singles saw her arrive in the top 10 of the women’s singles rankings for the first time. October 2017 was the last time Zuzana Severinová was ranked outside the top 10. It will be a long time before she is again.
That late-season form continued in 2018 as Severinová masterfully reached the final of the Czech Open for the first time. This time, Christine Seehofer was there to stop her from winning her first elite singles title on home soil. She did win the Women’s Doubles crown in Prague though, alongside her fellow countrywoman Zuzana Kubanova in a beautiful moment. There was further success in the Mixed Doubles as she triumphed with Jaksland to snatch a brilliant title.
A slightly less active 2018 season was largely buffered by Christine Seehofer. The iconic three-time world champion got the better of Severinová on three occasions throughout the season to stifle any further success.
2019 – Zuzana Severinová Arrives in Spectacular Style
If 2018 was a slightly quieter season for Severinová, 2019 was a quite-frankly remarkable season. In 10 tournaments throughout the year, Severinová reached a remarkable 21 finals, winning 12 titles. That’s an average of more than two finals every tournament and over one trophy per event.
Five Women’s Doubles and four Mixed Doubles trophies illustrated the danger she posed across all racketlon formats. The true moment of celebration for Severinová came in Riga as she defeated close friend Anna-Klara Ahlmer for the Latvian Open women’s singles title. A women’s singles title at last for the young Czech, who was still a Juniors player as well in 2019.
Unsurprisingly given she was ranked in the top five in the world and winning elite singles titles, Severinová secured her first Juniors World Championship gold medal, winning the Girls U21 Singles crown at the tournament in Leipzig.
Her array of finals and that title in Latvia had seen her end 2019 at No.2 in the world rankings, with just Christine Seehofer ahead of her. One spot away from racketlon history.
2021 & 2022 – The First New World No.1 Since 2015
Continual improvement has been the cornerstone of Zuzana Severinová’s remarkable career. When you reach No.2 in the world though, there are very few places left for you to climb. Luckily, there is one. In May 2022, she reached the top of the world.
Austria was where she made her first move in 2021. A dramatic gummiarm playoff was needed but Severinová was successful to seal her first Super World Tour-level title. Then came the Czech Open. The tournament where she began her racketlon career eight years earlier. The tournament where she won a Women’s B Singles title and finished second in 2019. In 2021, she finally claimed victory on home soil, beating Anna-Klara Ahlmer in arguably the greatest women’s singles final the sport has ever seen.
That weekend in Prague turned out to be unforgettable on many fronts. Two days before beating Ahlmer in the singles final, Severinová had teamed up with Stine Jacobsen to win the Women’s Doubles World Championship crown, her first elite world title.
Then came the Nick Matthew Steel City Open. With ranking points dropping off from 2018, Christine Seehofer’s spot at the top of the world was under threat. That was confirmed when the seven-year World No.1 announced her singles retirement late last month.
That left the door open for Severinová to reach the goal that she’d been looking for since the start of her career. World Number One. In true Severinová style, she reached the top of the mountain by winning a title. The Czech came through a high-class four-player box league in Sheffield to beat both Anna-Klara Ahlmer and Myriam Enmer and win the title.
What does the Future Hold?
After nine years of continued growth, dedication and hard work, Zuzana Severinová is the world’s number one. Not only that, but she is the first new women’s number one for seven years and is now the trailblazer for a new era of racketlon. Her move to the top now sets us up for a truly fascinating 2022.
Her next challenge will be to fight off the challenger her closest rivals Anna-Klara Ahlmer and Stine Jacobsen. Both are within 1,000 ranking points of Severinová so will be desperate to earn their own slice of history. For now, though, it is Severinová who deservedly sits on top of the world.
Congratulations to Zuzana Severinová on her inspiring achievement. An inspiration to young racketlon players across the world, proving that if you work hard it’s possible to achieve your dreams in this sport.
Sam Barker / FIR Media Officer
Image Credit / Filip Rejthars