Luke Griffiths has been crowned the new Men’s Singles World Champion after an utterly sensational pair of performances on the final day.
The 18-year-old knocked out his brother Leon Griffiths in the semi-finals, before beating Dutchman Koen Hageraats in a gripping final.
That triumph adds a sixth world title to Luke Griffiths’ incredible campaign, having won four Juniors World titles in Vienna and the Men’s Doubles title with brother Leon earlier in the week.
It also makes him the youngest elite Singles World Champion in racketlon history.
Luke Wins Griffiths’ Derby as Hageraats Takes out Lindberg
Before the finals even began, the two players had to come through the semi-finals at Racket Sports Center Graz on Sunday. Koen Hageraats was first on the court against René Lindberg. The Dutchman made his typically fast start, winning the table tennis 21-5. As it turned out, that would be enough.
The pair split the next two sports. Lindberg took the badminton 21-18 before Hageraats won the squash by the same scoreline. Hageraats needed just six on the tennis court but it was Lindberg who made a fast start, racing to a 6-2 lead. Hageraats got his six though, with the score ending at 6-10.
The other match was a family affair as Luke Griffiths took on brother Leon Griffiths. When Luke beat Leon in Sheffield, he started it by winning table tennis. He managed the same in Graz, triumphing 21-17. Leon Griffiths led heavily in badminton. Luke produced a big second half though reducing a 16-6 deficit to eventually lost 21-15.
Things looked slightly bleaker for Luke after the squash. Leon pulled away in the second half to triumph 21-13, leaving him needing 12 points on the tennis court for a win. But Luke produced his first of two sensational tennis sets. After leading 11-7 at the turn, the 18-year-old turned on the style, rattling off a series of winners to win 21-9 and book his place in a first elite singles World Championships final.
Luke Griffiths Beats Koen Hageraats to Become World Champion
Through the first two sports, the final went largely as predicted. Koen Hageraats opened in emphatic style, as always. His scintillating table tennis saw him win 21-3 to establish a big lead. Griffiths then retaliated in the badminton, winning 21-7 to cut the lead to four points.
After an intense week of racketlon, their squash set was brutal. Both players were tested physically, with Hageraats eventually taking it 21-17 to open the gap back up to eight points.
On the tennis court, Griffiths was quite simply brilliant. The young Brit was rock solid from the baseline, barely missing a groundstroke and coping well with the change of pace that Hageraats was throwing at him.
A marathon point at 9-4 felt decisive, with Hageraats eventually putting a forehand in the net to help Griffiths take an 11-4 lead at the change of ends. As with his semi-final, Luke Griffiths ran away with the second half. He lost just two points for the second match in a row, dropping to his knees at 21-6 as a Hageraats groundstroke landed in the tramlines.
At 18-year-old, Luke Griffiths is now the Men’s Singles World Champion. One of the greatest achievements that the sport has ever seen. Last week he became the first player ever to win a World title at Juniors U13, U16, U18 and U21 levels. This week in Graz, he’s added an elite Men’s Singles and Men’s Doubles title to his enormous collection.
It was also a huge week for Koen Hageraats. The Dutchman has been improving throughout the year, winning two titles and making his debut in the World Championships final. With next year’s Racketlon World Championships to be held in Rotterdam, Hageraats will fancy his chances of another crack at the title in his home country.
“To stand on the top of the podium will be an emotional moment for me”
Speaking to National Television after the final, Griffiths said “I’m absolutely shattered. I’m really happy to come through it in the end. It was such a tough start in that match and then a real uphill battle. The tennis at the end was really nervy but I backed myself and I thought I played quite solid. These whole 10 days have been such an emotional rollercoaster and I’m just glad it’s over to be honest. To stand on top of the podium will be an emotional moment for me.
“The main goal was the juniors titles”, Griffiths replied when asked about his pre-tournament expectations. “I didn’t expect all four at all. There are some really talented juniors. As we saw Florian Harca beat the top seed and World No.1 Morten Jaksland. Matt Davidson had a good run-through to the last 16 so I’ve been playing top Men’s Elite matches for a whole week now, let alone just this tournament.
“I think in both matches today my tennis has been spot on. Beating two top-quality tennis players to single figures is not bad. In the final, my badminton was good after having a game of tough table tennis against a really tough player. In the final, badminton and tennis were really key. They’re my best two sports so it’s good to know I can rely on them.
“We both wish each other the best for the next game,” Griffiths responded when asked about the pressures of facing his brother. “He gave me tactics to beat Koen because he played him more recently than I did. I tried to give him some tips against Rene because I played him more recently. Two Griffiths’ on the podium. That’s the best we could ask for and that’s what happened so I’m proud of us both.”
As Luke mentioned, he was joined on the podium by Leon Griffiths, who beat René Lindberg in the bronze medal match.
The full final is available to rewatch here beginning at 10:03 on the Main Channel.
The full results from the OVB Team Thausing Men’s Elite Singles are available here.
Myriam Enmer earlier won the Holding Graz Women’s Elite Singles title. You can read all about how she did that here.
A full report from the final day of the Racketlon World Championships will be coming on Monday.
Sam Barker / FIR Media Officer
Image Credit / rubinfoto.com