The Karakal British Racketball National Championships, in association with Digital Office, are back this weekend, and have a bumper draw of players across all categories!
Reigning Champions, Mike Harris (Men's) and Amber Marshall (Women's) are both returning to defend their titles against some stiff opposition, so, let's take a look at some of the main contenders for the open and other titles.
Scotland's Matt Bedwell is the 2nd seed in the open event. He and Mike Harris have met already this season in the Scottish Open final with Mike taking a tight 2/0 win. If both make it through this could be a tough battle. Amber faces opposition from the likes of Elspeth Edwards and Rebecca Symmonds. Regulars in the UK Racketball Series, both will be looking to cause an upset!
A strong Mens O35s draw will see a new Champion at the end of the event. Current holder Chris Hall is out injured, so Yorkshire's Mike Tolman is top seed, with opposition from the likes of Callum Arnott, Dan Soar, Colin Griggs, Paul Holdway and Paul Knocker Norton who is also 2nd seed in the O40s.
The Ladies Over 40s has Elspeth Edwards as top seed, but 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.
This years Men's O50s draw is one of the strongest we have seen for a Nationals age group. Last year's finalists Chris Morris (reigning Champion) and Chris Wase (runner up) are 3/4 seeds, whilst last year's O45s Champion Mike Gregory comes in as top seed, with 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!
In the Over 55's, previous National Champion Jim Lord returns from injury as top seed with last year's Champion Jonathan Edwards sloting in at 2 with Charlie Journeaux and Paul Dodds at 3/4.
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, the other Ladies Masters categories have been combined 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.
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.
Good luck everyone!