Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Master of the rackets shines on world stage

Mancer stars in four-sport tournaments

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SO! What's your racket? Is it tennis, squash, badminton or table tennis? What about all four?

It isn't as strange as it may seem. In fact, Max Woosnam, who won the tennis gold and silver medals (singles and doubles) at the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games was almost as proficient at table tennis as he was on the grass court.

Woosnam once defeated American comedian Charlie Chaplin in a game of table tennis, using a butter knife instead of a paddle.

There doesn't seem to be any evidence that either Woosnam or Chaplin played squash or badminton, but even if they did, they probably didn't play them all in the same tournament.

Winnipegger Evan Mancer did though, and much to his surprise he was good at it. Mancer took fifth place in the singles and fourth in the team competition while playing for Canada at the World Racketlon Championship tournament Sept. 3-5 in Vienna. Team Canada made it to the semifinals against the winning team of Austria, and then played for the bronze medal against Germany, but not before recording a major upset. "In the team event, we beat Sweden in the quarter-finals," said the 6-foot-4, 37-year-old investment counsellor. "We were told afterwords that Sweden had only ever lost once before in the team event. I was also told that fourth place was the best showing that any non-European country has ever done in this tournament."

He has his wife Jas to thank for getting him involved in racketlon. "I was only vaguely aware that the sport existed, but Jas noticed that there was a super world tour event in Montreal in June. She thought it would be a sport made for me."

24-point lead

At Montreal, Mancer drew the No. 1-ranked player in the world Christoph Krenn of Austria in the quarter-final. "I won my first match, but he had about a 24-point lead on me after the badminton and table tennis. I beat him 21-1 in squash, but in tennis, which was his best sport, he beat me but it was reasonably close."

Krenn encouraged Mancer to give the European tournament a try, so he worked throughout the summer on his badminton and table tennis skills, and was invited to play on the national team.

"Based on my the result against Krenn (I had no other rankings), I was given a wild card into the elite draw at Vienna, which is usually reserved for only the top 50 in the world."

Again, he was hoping to slip in under the radar at Vienna, but his reputation had beaten him to the tournament via the Internet. "My first match was against Marcel Weigl of Austria, the No. 8-ranked player in the world. Right from the start in the table tennis and badminton, I could see he was trying to take it to me as much as he could. I was down quite a bit heading into the squash but I turned it around and won that match as well as the tennis and made it into the quarter-finals."

In racketlon every point counts as the results of the games (up to 21 points) of table tennis, badminton, squash and tennis are added up to determine the winner.

In the team matches, every point of every discipline and of every player count. The games, or sets, in each discipline are up to 11 points instead of 21 and all players in the lineup must play, in order, table tennis, badminton, squash and tennis.

Mancer, who has been ranked No. 1 in the province in both tennis and squash, as well as in the top 15 in Canada, says the point scoring system makes it quite interesting.

"You'll see a national level table tennis player for instance, playing me and even though I am only going to get less than five points almost for sure, they are still smacking their racket on the table if they lose any points at all. They know that when the tables are turned, they are going to be in the same spot as I am."

allan.besson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 16, 2010 C6

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