WCF Association Croquet World Championships 2020 - Preview
15-23 February, Melbourne, Australia
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February sees the second major international croquet event in 2020, following the GC World Teams Championship in New Zealand. This singles event will see 80 players battle to become World Champion (currently Paddy Chapman of New Zealand, who lives and plays in Nottingham).
The format is identical to the WCF Simon Carter GC World Championship which graced UK shores last summer: eight blocks of 10, with the top four in each block going through to the main knockout. The blocks will be single games, and the knockout stage will be best of 3 or 5. There will be a range of other consolation events, which are prestigious trophies in their own right.
Conditions are likely to be dry and very hot, with Atkins Quadway hoops (square carrots, unpainted uprights) providing additional challenge. Expect long matches and lower numbers of peeling turns compared to top UK events. Games should be untimed; if time limits imposed, expect some low scores.
The players are selected based on a mixture of world ranking and WCF Member Nations sending representatives. Australia dominates the mix with 29 players, England have 15, and New Zealand 12. There are six places which are up for grabs via a Qualifier event 9-12 Feb.
Who is favourite?
Take your pick from an elite group: Robert Fletcher (AUS), Reg Bamford (SA), Mark Avery (ENG), Jose Riva (ESP), Malcolm Fletcher (AUS), Paddy Chapman (NZL). Many on this list are based in England and thus are out of season for a February southern hemisphere event; however the Fletcher brothers have not played competitive AC in over 12 months, so it's a tough one to call. Mark Avery was runner-up in the inaugural AC World Championship of 1989; back to his best and now ranked world #2, can he go one better?
GC World Champion Ben Rothman (USA), 2016 winner Stephen Mulliner (ENG), Open Champion James Death (ENG), NZ Open Champion Aiken Hakes (NZL).
Ones to watch:
As ever, there are plenty of new/young faces looking to upset the established order. Ed Wilson (AUS) is a precocious home youngster looking to do well, Matthew Essick (USA) despite being only 21, has been representing the USA for 5 years, Logan McCorkindale (NZL) is making leaps and strides in his second full season, and James Galpin (ENG) was the one of the CA's most improved AC players last year. Meanwhile, Chris O'Byrne (ENG) had the world's largest AC ranking increase in 2019; can he pull off some big shocks?
Richard M Smith
Andrew Gregory, Tom Weston hoping to progress through the Qualifiers