Jurgen Melzer Competes Right-Handed in European Racketlon Championships

Jurgen Melzer

Every year since 2002, Jurgen Melzer has spent the last few weeks of his summer competing in one of the biggest events in his sport – the US Open. In 2017 he still competed in one of the biggest events in a sport. The only difference is that the sport was Racketlon, not tennis.

Instead of gliding across the blue courts of Flushing Meadows, he found himself a little closer to home. This summer he was on court in a quaint country club on the outskirts of Vienna, taking part in the 2017 European Racketlon Championship.

What is racketlon?

It is not unfair to say that the majority of people have not heard of Racketlon. The sport, originating in Scandinavia in the 1980s, has a growing community around the world and especially in Europe.

The sport itself is a combination of four different racket sports. Athletes compete against their opponent in table-tennis, then badminton, then squash and lastly tennis. Each individual sport is played to 21, with the winner holding the largest cumulative points total. The trick to winning? Consistency across all four events.
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Did Jurgen Melzer win his event?

Jurgen Melzer was joined in Vienna by 350 other athletes from around Europe. The former top 10 singles and doubles player had a major hindrance though. The reason he was not competing at the US Open was that a left-wrist injury was keeping him out of the game. The solution was simple. Melzer would compete at the tournament with his right hand. In fact, in order to keep his protected ranking on the ATP Tour, he would have to play right-handed.

The quality of racketlon athletes is higher than one might expect and, due to his switching of hands, the three-time Grand Slam doubles champion was moved into the amateur doubles category. Racketlon operates on a tiered system ranging from A-E grades, A for elite players and E for beginners. Inclusivity is a major proponent of the sport.

Even in the B/C tier, playing with his weaker hand meant Melzer was nowhere near one of the strongest players. Luckily he chose his partner wisely, competing with 2009 World Racketlon Champion and fellow Austrian Christoph Krenn.

Melzer and Krenn did not win the event. They did win three matches though, before getting knocked out in the semi-final. It seemed an interesting dynamic for Melzer to be competing in. Rarely would a player of his calibre be relying so heavily on a partner on court. This was understandably the case though in badminton and squash. Much less so in tennis unsurprisingly.
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Other famous faces in racketlon

Jurgen Melzer is not the only famous racket sports player to get involved in racketlon. Judy Murray, mother of Andy and Jamie, was part of the Scotland team which won bronze at the 2002 World Teams Championship. Current squash world #6, Sarah-Jane Perry, was British Racketlon Champion in 2011.

More recently three-time world squash champion, Nick Matthew, organised a racketlon tournament at a local school, and has hinted that at some point in the future he could give racketlon a go.

While Jurgen Melzer may not have won his event at the tournament, it was still a victory for all involved. For Melzer, he was able to fill the US Open-sized-gap in his summer by still competing on court, for one day at least. For racketlon, the inclusion of the Austrian gave the sport some publicity in it’s ongoing battle to be more widely known.

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