Racketlon is a combination sport in which competitors play a sequence of the four most popular racket sports: table tennis, badminton, squash, and tennis. It originated in Finland and Sweden and was modeled on other combination sports like the triathlon and decathlon.
In racketlon a player competes against an opponent, or a doubles pair, in each of the four biggest racket sports: table tennis, badminton, squash and tennis.
One set is played in each sport, in the order from the smallest to the biggest racket. Each of the four sets are played with running score to 21 points, with a margin of two points needed to finish a set. In team competitions, however, the individual matches are played to 11 points.
Each player serves two serves at a time, and except in table tennis, this is always one serve from the right side and one serve from the left side of the court. Lots are drawn to decide who starts serving in table tennis, and this player will also start serving in squash.
The winner of a racketlon match is the player or doubles pair who has won the most points in total. When a player leads a match with more points than there are points left for the opponent to obtain, the match is over.
If the score is tied after all four sports, a "gummiarm"-point is played. This is a single extra point played in tennis, with only one serve to start off the rally. Lots are drawn to decide the server, and the winner of this rally wins the entire match.
In doubles, the squash set is played individually. One player from each pair plays until someone reaches 11 points. From here, the rest of the game is finished by the two remaining players.
With the exception of the above-mentioned rules, all rules that apply to the four individual sports also apply for racketlon.
In 1929, Fred Perry won the table tennis world championships. Five years later he won three consecutive Wimbledon titles, and also became the first player ever to win all four grand slams. Little did he know that he was a racketlon pioneer.
The first known multi-racket sports probably originated somewhat simultaneously and independently in different European countries, although suggestions have been made that the more organised form of racketlon had Finland and Sweden as pioneering countries.
In the mid 1980s in Finland, a member from each of the four national racket federations got together and formed a game called "mailapelit". In this game, the order of play was determined by a draw, and the scoring system was as it is today. The first Finnish national championships were held in Helsinki in 1986.
In Sweden, racketlon can be traced back to the late 1980s, where the first tournaments were organized by Peter Landberg, who later named the game. Before that, the game was called racketmästerskap, meaning "racket championships". The first Swedish national championship was held in 1990. The original counting methods of the individual sports was preserved. To decide the winner of a match, complicated conversion tables were used. The simpler Finnish scoring system was adopted in 1994 at the Swedish national championship. In Swedish competitions there was a fixed order of play, starting with table tennis, then squash, then badminton and finally tennis. In order to simplify the sport, the order was later changed to the current format, going from the smallest to the biggest racket. This order also minimised the squash players' advantages of running their opponents tired. In the beginning, each player would serve five serves at a time. Later on, this was changed to the current format of two serves at a time, to make the number of serves in a set more equally distributed.
Other European countries also had multi-racket sports forming at this time. Germany had their "Mehrslägerturniere", Austria their "Racket 4 kampf", France had their "Tournoi des Quatre Raquettes," and in Belgium they had their "King of Rackets" tournament. This tournament was a huge knock-out tournament played in groups. In England there are vague traces of something called "Quintathlon," which included golf.
In 2001 the first ever international racketlon tournament took place. It was the Gothenburg Racketlon World Open in Sweden, and it was considered the first ever world championship in racketlon. There were participants from six countries (Finland, Sweden, Scotland, France, Germany and Bulgaria), and Finland won it all. Katja Aminoff became the first female World Champion in racketlon, and Mikko Kärkkäinen the first male World Champion. On the way to his victory, he defeated the Swede Magnus Eliasson in the quarterfinal, and that match became their first encounter in a year-long rivalry. International participants from the 2001 World Championship then traveled home and became local racketlon pioneers themselves, by arranging international tournaments in their own countries.
Since then one milestone after another have been reached. The first official world ranking system was introduced right after the 2001 World Championship. The first international racketlon tournament in Finland was played in 2002, and in the same year, the first racketlon tournament outside Scandinavia took place, in Scotland. The English Open also had its debut in 2002. At the second World Championships in Gothenburg 2002, a national team competition was added for the first time. The premiere of the International World Tour was in 2003, and in 2005 competitions in doubles were made possible. The international Racketlon Federation (IRF) was formed in 2003, and changed its name to Fédération Internationale de Racketlon (FIR) in 2005.
As of June 2016, the International World Tour contains 23 events divided into six challengers, 12 International World Tour tournaments, two Super World Tour tournaments and three World Championships (singles, doubles and national teams).