A rackets website like ours has to talk about racketlon, which is a sport of racket sports. Or a rackets equivalent of the heptathlon or as they also call it, The Ironman of Racket Sports; i.e. an event consisting of multiple racket sports which is won by the player or team who earns most points by the end of all the sports involved.
Let’s dig deeper into what racketlon is then.
What is Racketlon?
Racketlon, which was first played in Sweden and Finland, consists of a combination of the four popular racket sports, tennis, table tennis, squash, and badminton (although pickleball fans would so love that to be a part too!).
A player – or players of a team – compete against another in all these four sports with points awarded for every match played in those sports.
What’s the History of Rackletlon; when did it start?
The sport was played in Sweden and Finland in the mid-80s but according to the official Racketlon body, the FIR, they credit famous tennis star Fred Perry for the inadvertent birth of the sport.
The reason? Because he was one of the first multi-racket-sport champion, having won the Wimbledon and other Grand Slams in tennis and a table tennis – or ping pong – champion in 1929 in Budapest.
Four people, who were a part of the four bodies heading the aforementioned four sports, met and formulated a new sport in Finland called ‘mailapelit’, or “racket games”. Sweden saw one of its first tournaments played in 1989, with Peter Landberg, a two-time champion organising the competition.
More than 200 people participated in the maiden Swedish Championships in the year 1990. The rules of the sport changed to reflect the current rules but before that things were slightly different – and more complicated (check the rules section below).
While the sport was played in Finland and Sweden for starters, there were different variations of Racketlon in different countries; Germany had Schlägerturniere and three, four or five racket sports were involved in that game, including golf. England hosted Quintathlon which had sports like tennis, squash, rackets, real court tennis and golf.
The first ever Racketlon World Cup or as it was called, the World Open, was played in 2001 in Gothenburg, and six countries participated in the tournament. Finland stood out as the best side, followed by Sweden while France, Scotland, Germany and Bulgaria were the other four.
Since then Racketlon as spread to various parts of the world with more and more countries taking to it.
What are the Racketlon Rules?
As mentioned earlier, racketlon consists of four sports, played one by one in the following order: TT, badminton, squash and tennis. One set of every sport is played with 21 points in each of these sets. The player or team scoring most points after the four sets in those four sports wins the tie.
The earlier rules used in Sweden were different though. What they did was to play every sport the way it was supposed to be played; i.e. tennis to six games in a set, ping pong to 21 points and so on and used a complicated formula to calculate who won at the end.
This was so difficult to calculate, many a times the match would be over and the players wouldn’t know who had won the match. It was only after the Swedish players came in touch with the Finland rules, they realised they had better and more straightforward rules which could be adopted.
Currently, according to the official rule-book, the FIR notes “each rally must count” and that the score is a running one across the four sports; i.e. it doesn’t restart with the change of sport.
In the doubles event, the sport of squash is played out individually till a player reaches 11 and then the other set of players take over.
Every player gets two serves before it changes over to the opposition.
The next obvious question is what happens in case the match ends in a tie; i.e. both sides, individuals or teams end up with same number of points. If this is the case after the four sports are completed, a “gummiarm”-point is played out with a toss deciding who will serve in the sport of tennis.
The winner of this rally wins the match. To makes thing fairer, the server gets no second service.
Since most players are proficient at only one or two sports, there’s a lot of strategy involved in the sport of racketlon.
Can a Racketlon match end early?
Yes, it can. This typically happens when a player or a team cannot win the match even if they were to win all the remaining points left in the match without conceding any point. However, this rule doesn’t apply in case of tournament play where the points are used to also calculate the point difference at the end of the league stages of the competition.
Which is Racketon’s Governing Body?
The Federation of International Racketlon is the official governing body of this sport, and they organise tournaments each year in different parts of the world. The calendars for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 and for every subsequent years can be found here.
The FIR was formed in 2000 in Austria but when the move to Switzerland was opposed in 2018, it was dissolved and a new body was formed that year based out of Switzerland.
In 2020, where the outbreak of coronavirus became a huge concern world over, the racketlon tournaments were also affected but according to the schedule, the Thailand Open, Vienna New Year Classics, Indian Open played in Udaipur, and Luxembourg Open were some of the tournaments played while there were a few others too like the Nick Matthew Steel City Open in Sheffield, the Berlin Open, Swiss Open among others.
Racketlon World Championships
There is a world championships or the world cup of racketlon which is played each year at different venues. In 2020, the Racketlon World Championships Singles and Team events will be played from August 19-23.
The racketlon competitions are played for different categories and different age-groups, including the men’s singles and doubles, women’s singles and doubles, mixed doubles and the same categories for seniors and juniors, thereby having 15 different categories in which the sport is played. Their Rackletlon Rankings can be found here.
Current Famous Racketlon Players
Some of the top players who play the sport of Racketlon include Morten Jaksland, Arnaud Genin, Kresten Hougaard, Christine Seehofer, Zuzana Severinova, Anna-Klara Ahlmer, Dan Busby and Bettina Bugl among others. All of these players have been ranked in the top five at some point in their careers.