- Men’s Results
- Women’s Results
- Junior Results
- Vladislav Klym & Geke De Boer win the Opens
- Thomson Runner-Up in the Open
- Daniel Kavanagh walks away with two titles
- Kennedy’s inspire through the generations
- Largest European Open in history
- WPH Junior Clinic huge success
- 1-Wall Racquetball Launched
- Klym wins the Open, beating GB’s Thomson 21-14
- Brian Kennedy beats father Eugene in Challenger
- Grant makes the Open Semis
- 15 year old Daniel Kavanagh wins the Open Plate
- Geke de Boer beats no.1 seed Scheffer 21-17 to claim Open
- Briednhann makes the semis
- Steel, Mills and Greasley make the quarters
- 55 juniors play in 6 different grades
- Titles for Metayer, Hansen, Kavanagh, Kehoe, Doyle & Doyle
- Top pros run clinic for the juniors
- Great entry from Rossall School and Watford Girls
On February 1-2 the largest European wallball tournament, outside of the World Championships, took place at Merchant Taylors’ School, Northwood. A whopping 110 players – 55 of them juniors, battled it out over two hard fought days. Between them the players accrued over 20 hours of court time and played a staggering 234 matches. In the end we saw a new champion emerge in both men’s and women’s fields, strong performances from the Brits and surely several stars of the future.
The draw in the Men’s Open was incredibly strong this year and some of the top players in the world went at it hammer and tong right from the beginning. The opening rounds went to seeding but special mention must go to Tanguy Metayer of Belgium – a 17 year old with all the shots in the book. He pushed no.4 seed Potiez hard in the last 16 but couldn’t quite hold on. Another cracking match was the all Dutch affair of Drent vs Steenstra. Both players hit hard and dived like ungraceful dolphins. At one stage Drent managed to hit 3 balls at once and there followed a short, but much needed, injury time out. Steentra eventually scraped to victory and earned a place in the quarterfinals against GB number 1, Grant.
The quarters saw the first major upsets. Klym and Grant both had high quality games but progressed safely, but the other two matches were dramatic to say the least. Hans Wassenaar of Holland has been improving steadily over the past year and his power and prowess is undeniable. He took his A game to Sebastien Potiez of Belgium and defeated the favoured seed. But the possible match of the tournament was taking place on the next-door court. Luke Thomson of Great Britain was up against the 3rd seed, Guillaume Dumoulin of Belgium. The pair previously faced each other last year and it was the foreigner who came through that closely fought clash. This time it was different. Thomson hit the jet stream and stormed to an 18-8 lead – it looked like it was in the bag. But then Dumoulin came back as only he can. In a nerve wracking finale Thomson managed to hold on and took the match 21-18, much to the relief of his white faced mother and the cheering of the crowd!
He progressed to the semi-final where he would face Grant in an all British encounter, which guaranteed at least one Brit in the final. This game was a topsy turvy affair. Grant had been serving wonderfully this tournament and had notched up more aces than anyone else. He started the match on similar form and drew first blood. Luke did not let it phase him though. He came back at Grant and began to play sublime wallball – serving and killing almost everything. Grant began to make an uncharacteristic amount of unforced errors and Luke capitalised, taking advantage of Dan’s weary arms to race to a 19-9 lead. Again it looked in the bag. But then things changed. Grant started to serve deep and Thomson began to tighten up. One point, then another went by and before the crowd knew it Grant had match point! 20-19! The pressure of situation was immense and in a devastating shock, Grant managed to serve wide. Luke had one more life left. He stayed strong and focussed and cleared up 2 points to win the match 21-20. An exceptional end to the semi and one which saw Luke ‘Tekkers’ Thomson progress to his first Open final.
Here he played Vlad Klym of the USA, the favoured no.1 seed. Klym had beaten Wassenaar in the semi-final in a solid game. Despite a strong comeback, Klym’s victory was never in doubt. In the final it was Thomson who got off to a better start. His wallball was flawless and he rolled out several winners to take an early lead. Vlad then dug deep and the game became nip and tuck – 10-9 at Thomson’s time-out. But at 16-14 down Thomson made a shocking hand error and Klym went 3 points clear. The American then closed the match spectacularly with a trademark cross court kill and Luke made his way over to congratulate his opponent after a wonderful tournament. Klym, last year’s finalist, is the new UK Open Champion.
The men’s Open plate was won by 15 year old Daniel Kavanagh of Ireland. He beat the favoured Peter Van Der Schoot in the final, much to the delight of the 50 strong Irish crowd whose loud vocal support spurred on the Irishman.
In the women’s Open the top 8 seeds progressed to the quarter-finals without trouble. 4 Brits and 4 Dutch ladies began to battle it out. Sarah Greasley, who has been improving steadily over the past months put in a tremendous performance (especially after coming straight from the airport onto the court and playing 4 games in a row). She was beaten by no.1 seed Miranda Scheffer 21-5 but learnt much more about the game she is quickly becoming adept in. Alexandra Steel also fell at this stage but can hold her head high after putting in both an exceptional group stage performance against Briedenhann and then a solid show in the quarter against Siegersma. Alexandra is clearly on form and this is her best result to date; all the more impressive due to the lack of sleep she’d had the night before after tournament organiser duties left her with far from ideal preparation. Finally, Mills, the youngest GB lady at this stage, couldn’t put up a defence against De Boer’s impressive left hand.
In the semi-finals De Boer once again dominated and beat an off-colour Harmke Siegersma to reach her second final of the season. In the other semi Miranda Scheffer, the number 1 seed, was pushed to the wire by GB no.2 Kathleen Briedenhann. Kathleen has had an exceptional season and her training and focus is really paying off. She stunned Miranda with strong attacking movements and impressive drives, but Miranda’s experience showed and she eventually managed to penetrate Kathleen’s defence and close out the match with a beautiful right handed kill.
In the final Geke De Boer was simply sublime against Miranda. Geke’s left hand is really quite remarkable and her ability to spike the ball to either corner left Miranda on the floor and panting for breath. Although Miranda made a late comeback, it was Geke who thumped the ball hard to a well fought victory and her first UK Open title.
In the Men’s Challenger grade several first timers mixed in with the experienced social players. There were some tremendous games and the sportsmanship on court was superb. Special mention must go to Andrew Ibbetson of UCL who, after never playing before, reached the semi-final. The final was a true showing of the values of wallball. Eugene Kennedy faced up against his son, Brian Kennedy. If ever there’s an example of how wallball is a sport for life, this is it. Both Brian and Eugene played exceptionally well to reach the final and this match was no different. Neck and neck the whole way through, it was Brian who eventually came out on top as the Kennedy torch was passed from father to son with a 15-12 scoreline. The Kennedy’s really showed off the values of the game – friendly, sporting, great play and an inspiration to us all.
The Half-Time show
On the Sunday the Junior tournament took place but it’s worth taking a moment to mention a few other things that took place this weekend.
The WPH proudly sponsored the UK Wallball Open this year and it’s no small truth that their support is one of the main reasons why this year’s tournament almost tripled in size from last year. On the Sunday, just before the Open finals, top players Klym, Thomson, Scheffer and Wassenaar ran a clinic for the 50 children present at the event. All the kids relished the opportunity to learn from the best. The coaches were an inspiration and the kids could be seen laughing and practicing what they’d learnt for the rest of the day. We hope this unforgettable experience will help to consolidate wallball in their futures.
Daniel Grant and Daniel Tristao also took to the court before the final to demonstrate 1-Wall Racquetball. World Outdoor Racquetball (WOR) had supplied the hugely popular Ektelon Fireballs for the event and were keen for us to show Europe this incredibly fun sport. Played on the same court and with virtually the same rules as wallball, 1-Wall Racquetball adds a new layer of versatility to the walls. Great for the hard hitting youth and the less mobile older player, 1-Wall Racquetball is a sport that UK Wallball is proud to put into development in Europe.
As with all international events there is an opportunity to play and try the age old domestic versions of wallball. Over the weekend all of our guests were also invited to try Rugby Fives. The Irish and the Dutch relished the game under the careful tutorship of Alexandra Steel, Penn Chai and Andrew Ibbetson. It really was a spectacle to see and we hope that their enthusiasm will help to increase fives participation over the coming years.
The junior tournament was a huge success this year. We were a little worried about running a junior tournament on the Sunday but all our fears were cast aside as we saw the awe in the children’s faces as they watched the Open semi-finals and finals. The energy on Sunday was through the roof and, although there were a few tears, we are pleased to say that the majority of children had a really great day.
A 25 strong contingent of Irish children joined up with like minded kids from Belgium, Holland and the UK to play in 6 different grades. A special mention must go to Rossall school who brought 10 children down from Yorkshire to play in the weekend’s events. They took the game magnificently and UK Wallball will be working hard to ensure a wallball base is set up in the North in the near future.
The Boy’s u10 bracket beggared belief and the final was almost more impressive than the men’s Open. Mark Doyle and Robbie Hills both played exceptionally well and the crowd gasped at the fantastic display of junior wallball on offer. One rally saw 3 dives, 2 lobs and a flat rolling kill shot – clearly the rally of the tournament! In the end it was Doyle who walked away with the title with an unrepresentative scoreline of 15-4.
In the Boy’s u13 bracket Cian Kehoe was never troubled on his way to victory and we hope he keeps up his strong play in years to come. In the Girl’s u13s Cora Doyle managed to top a winner-takes all round robin to score the title. Special mentions here to Appoline Potiez of Belgium who came 3rd and Jodie Keeling from Ireland, an 8 year old who punched well above her weight.
The Boy’s u16s was a seriously high quality bracket and the two favourites of James Prentice and Daniel Kavanagh (who had already won the Men’s Open plate) made it through to the final. Daniel was on serious form and raced to an early lead, but James, who has more shots to his repertoire began to claw back against his harder hitting opponent. The rallies were long and exciting and the crowd ‘ooh’d and ‘ahh’d at the fantastic athleticism. In the end Daniel closed it out 15-10 to bring home his second title of the tournament.
In the Girl’s u18s Anna Hansen from Rossall School was untouchable. She thrashed everyone on her way to victory in extremely impressive fashion. But we must not forget to mention Elleanor Barret of Watford Girls School, who reached the final after never having played before. What a tremendous achievement. In the Boy’s u18s two Open players faced up in the final and Tanguy Metayer overcame Robin Dautrebande in an all Belgian affair to accept the medal around his neck.
And so that’s it from the WPH UK Open 2014. Special thanks must go to the UK Wallball Board and the volunteers who made the tournament run unbelievably to schedule over the weekend; our sponsors WPH Live, WOR and EMC, without whom the tournament never would have happened; to Stephen, Geert, Seb, Maddy and all the others who brought so many players over; and finally to all the players and spectators who came together to make this year’s tournament a truly magnificent success. Thank you one and all and see you next year.