We have a new set of British National Racketball Champions for 2023!
A highly enjoyable and top quality weekend of Racketball has come to an end at Edgbaston Priory in Birmingham, and we have a new group of Racketball National Championship title holders! This was our largest spread of entries to date, with the youngest being 12 years old and the most senior at 85. A really amazing display of how accessible the game is to players of all ages and abilities.
We were lucky to be hosted once again by the fabulous Edgbaston Priory club in Birmingham and we must say a big thank you to the club, it's staff, and it's Head of Squash Mike Edwards for making us feel so welcome and to opening its facilities (and more importantly it's bar!!) up to us for the weekend.
The event was also very fortunate to have several sponsors, all of whom either contributed to the prizes for all the finalists, or to the entry gift bags & tournament shirts which all players recieved upon signing in. Thank you to all the below for their kind support of the tournament, it is really appreciated by all involved and without it we wouldn't be able to make the event as great as it is!
Go Greek Wholesale Foods
Bond Adams Solicitors
Birford Cable & Harness
Also to Collis Sheik & Tariq Choudhry for their support in getting some of the sponsor contacts set up!
Our full list of Championship winners below:
Open - Mike Harris
Ladies - Amber Marshall
B Grade - Colin Griggs
Juniors - Ben Jones
O35s - Mike Tolman
O40s - Dan Soar
Ladies O40s - Elspeth Edwards
O45s - Mat Lowery
O50s - Simon Parke
Ladies O50s - Tina Wotherspoon
O55s - Jim Lord
Ladies O55s - Leslie Sturgess
O60s - Neil Baldwin
Ladies O60s - Leslie Sturgess
O65s - Graham Holmes
O70s - Graham Greensall
Ladies O70s - Melodie Ripley
O75s - Howard Thompson
O80s - John Shingler
You can find the full draws and results from the weekend's action HERE
A rundown of the weekend's action - the big matches, the upsets and surprises!
This year's event saw a mixture of results, from previous winners retaining their titles for another season, to brand new Champions and upset victories. The former saw last year's Men's and Ladies Open winners Mike Harris and Amber Marshall both take the British title once again, both with 3/0 victories but pushed hard within that scoreline against opponents who were featuring in their first Open category Championship finals - Matt Bedwell and Elspeth Edwards.
In the Master's age groups, Leslie Sturgess managed to take the Ladies O55s and O60s titles in solid 3/0 victories, and Howard Thompson defeated his perennial O75s rival Pete Hamlett in a brutal 3/2 Final to retain his once again.
In terms of new winners, there were plenty across the age categories who were winning either their very first Racketball National Championship title, or their first in their respective age groups. Notably Mat Lowery taking the very last match of the tournament in a tough 3/1 final vs Ian Cox in the O45s, and Simon Parke playing probably the match of the tournament vs Mike Gregory in the O50s Final, winning 3/2 in a really tough encounter with both players showcasing some phenomenal racket skill and nous throughout.
It was great to see the Junior event back again, this time with Ben Jones from Devon taking the title without dropping a game through the event. Kudos to Aedan Matamisa for coming 2nd at just 12 years old! In the Ladies side, Elspeth Edwards took her first O40s title (though not her first National title as I was reliably informed, having made an error in previous write ups!) Local member Tina Wotherspoon also doing excellently to win her first Nationals title in the O50s!
As mentioned there were also some rivalries renewed across the draws and some of the matches definitely didn't disappoint. UK Racketball Series regulars Paul Norton and Callum Arnott met in the O35s semi final and had a brilliant match with both players using all angles and corners of the court to brutalise each other. Arnott eventually taking the match 3/2 11/9 in the 5th game. Collis Sheik & Graham Holmes renewed their Over 65s's rivalry, Sheik having won in the Scottish Open against Holmes earlier in the year. Graham however found that extra mileage where it mattered, managing to see Collis off 3/2 11/8 in the 5th game to take the O65s National title!
Sufficient to say, the standard across the weekend was absolutely brilliant. Thank you to all of those who took part and made it such an enjoyable and exciting event to be involved in. We already have 2024's date in the diary - 20/21st July, so we are planning ahead to try and make it bigger and better! Now however we look toward the Bluebell Wood British Open Championships in Sheffield on the 7th/8th October for our next dose of Major Racketball Championships action.
It is time! The Karakal sponsored British Racketball National Championships in association with Digital Office is back, and we have a bumper draw of players across all the categories! Let's get right down to it to see who could potentially do the damage across the events...
In the Men's and Ladies Open events both reigning Champions are returning once more. Mike Harris in the Men's and Amber Marshall in the Ladies. Harris will have Scotland's Matt Bedwell as the 2nd seed in his draw, the pair met already this season in the Scottish Open Final with Harris taking a tight 2/0 win. If both make it through this could be a tough battle. In the Ladies Marshall faces opposition from the likes of Elspeth Edwards and Rebecca Symmonds, both regulars in the UK Racketball Series and will be looking to try and cause an upset!
A strong O35s draw will have a new Champion at the end of the event, as current holder Chris Hall is out injured. Yorkshire's Mike Tolman is top seed, with southern opposition from IOW's Callum Arnott in the bottom of the draw. Arnott potentially facing a tricky semi final vs Series regular and crowd favourite Paul Knocker Norton! Norton will also be looking for an O40s title, as he is 2nd seed there to Bournemouth's Alexis Smith. The pair recently played in Leamington with Smith coming out on top but let's see what happens on the day! Both won't have an easy way through though with the likes of Dan Soar, Colin Griggs and Paul Holdway all capable of causing upsets in early rounds!
The Ladies Over 40s has Elspeth Edwards as its top seed and she will have to battle her way past local players Sarah Roberton and Myra Price if she is to have a chance to clinch a first National title. A very punchy Men's Over 45s line up has at least 4 players all very capable of coming through as winners. Matt Lowery and Adam Giles sit as top two seeds, but with John Dewis, Barry Talbot and others all waiting in the wings, there could be some serious showdowns in the latter stages of this one.
The above however pales in comparison to the Men's O50s draw, which on paper is one of the strongest entry lists we have ever had for a Nationals age group. Last year's finalists Chris Morris (reigning Champion) and Chris Wase (runner up) are only 3/4 seeds in the category they so regularly dominate, as last year's O45s Champion Mike Gregory comes in as top seed, and then ex Squash world number 3 and previous Racketball Nationals Open Finalist Simon Parke as number two! Chuck top Irish player Nick Staunton, and current O50s Nationally ranked No 1 player Phil Hall in as two of the 5/8 seeds, this is really going to be a massive scrap to the title! Keep an eye out for these games!
In the Over 55's previous National Champion Jim Lord returns from injuiry as 1 seed in his first event back for a number of years. Last year's Champion Jonathan Edwards slots in at 2, with Charlie Journeaux and Paul Dodds as two very tough 3/4 seeds. Patrick Osbourn leads the Over 60's draw, looking to extend his period of dominance over the age group, but with the likes of John Cordeaux, Martin Greenslade and Neil Baldwin also competing this could be the hardest draw he has had to face down yet.
Due to some smaller draws in the other Ladies Masters categories we have combined them into a one group of matches, with the winners of their respective age groups then coming away with titles. Nationals multiple title winner Lesley Sturgess is one of the favourites to come away with the O55s and O60s wins, but there will be some great matches across the days, and it all depends on who can come up with the goods on the spot! In the Men's O65s, Edgbaston stalwart Collis Sheik sits on the top of the draw, but Devon's Graham Holmes, himself a regular feature in this and other Series events will be gunning for him, if both can make it through.
It has been really great to see increased uptake in the older Masters categories, no more exemplified than by the O70s and O75s where we have had 13 and 11 entries respectively. In the O70s Graham Greensall looks to continue his form from winning several Series event titles in 2023 already, but he faces a challenge in Scotland's Colin Cruickshank as the 2nd seed, whom he lost to in the Scottish Open earlier on this year. Howard Thompson and Peter Hamlett will renew their O75s rivalry in this year's event having done battle in the final last year. However with Adrian Groves and Hans Billson as their 3/4 seeds they have a tough taskl ahead of them.
Finally we have two box draws for the Junior event and the Over 80s, where all those competing are doing so for the first time in these categories! A chance to have two completely new Champions for 2023 which is really great to see.
Patrick Osborn has done some research and created the below graphic to highlight where the British Nationals players have all come from (according to their Sporty HQ player info.) It is really interesting to see where the big pockets of Racketballers hail from! Would love to see those purple patches really dotted all over the map over the coming seasons...
On Saturday 1st July we visited our next venue in the 2023 Karakal UK Racketball Series - Leamington Squash and Tennis Club, for the West of England Open!
This fantastic venue provided us with some of the best court viewing situations we could ask for in the Series, not just because of the brilliant 6 court set up they have there, but also because of the high quality Racketball that was on show! It was clear to see lots of our players were getting well tuned up and ready for the July National Championships.
Kicking off this time with the Over 70s and we had a strong three way playoff between Billson, Lowe and Wright. Billson and Wright went hammer and tongs at each other first up with Wright winning 13/11 in the 5th game! Richard Lowe however proved to be a very capable and impressively mobile competitor, taking (a potentially pretty leggy by that point) Billson and Wright down 3/0 each to take his first Series title of 2023. He looks like one to watch in the O70s Nationals!
Patrick Osborn continued his seemingly invincible run of form by sweeping aside all who came across him 2/0. Taking out other top runners Graham Holmes and Robin Chipperfield on his way to another Series age group title. Chipperfield doing well to come through a busy second O60s group. In the O50s it was the return of the bionic man as Chris Morris playing his first Series event back (after a terrible injury in last year's Series Finals event) managed to come through unscathed himself, winning all his matches 2/0 along the way. His final opponent Nev Buckle did brilliantly to see his way through a strong 50s draw with the likes of Dodds, Wardle and Billington in his way. A very competitive 50's draw here and with all of them plus several other high fliers playing the Nationals it could well be the draw to watch out for!
In another strong category - the O40s, regular Series combatants Alexis Smith and Paul Norton met in a high quality, expansive racket ability match, with Smith seeing out a tight 2/0 win. Norton picking up some very valuable Series ranking points though to extend his lead at the top of the tree going into the halfway point of 2023. The B Grade was a busy event this time round, with 11 entrants in it. There were some great games across the rounds, with the likes of Manson/Melvin, Mcclelland/Symmons and Symmons/Da Costa all going the distance 2/1. In the end though it was the mercurial Nick Jenkins who fought his way to the top of the pile, taking out Tim Melvin 2/1 in a quality final.
Our strongest A Grade and Doubles draws of the 2023 season were a joy to watch all the way through (though not fun to schedule around!) Matches of note were Rawlins and Giles taking close to an hour to battle out a 2/1 win to Rawlins, Manson/Hindmarch vs Strong/Phipps and Norton/Giles vs Smith/Jenkins all also providing some brilliant high class Racketball across the day. In the end though there could only be one winner and Oli Rawlins took the A Grade over Craig Chappell 2/0 (with Chappell unfortunately picking up a slight niggle earlier in the day to hamper his efforts.) The Doubles Final was a brutal 45 minute long exchange between Phipps/Strong and Giles/Norton, in which the former managed to overturn a 4/8 deficeit in the 2nd to get back to 1/1 in games, and then storm through to take the 3rd 11/7! A prime showcase of how classy and intricate Doubles Racketball can be and I highly recommend you go to our Facebook page and watch it back to see how good it was:
You can find all the photos and videos of the day here:
And finally results on Sporty HQ here:
Thanks to all who played and made it such a great day. Also to Leamington and Jason Pike for having us. We hope to be back to such an excellent venue next year!
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