England in danger of relegation

Table Tennis
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The Independent Online
Desmond Douglas produced an improbable victory over the world No 11, Liu Guoliang, but England still lost 3-1 to the second seeds and hosts, China, in Tianjin yesterday. Two defeats in a day for both the men and the women left each team at risk of relegation from the top category of the World Championships.

Douglas won 21-12 14-21 21-11, an astonishing achievement at the age of almost 40 and after five years' absence from the England squad. His close to the table hitting often spread his opponent from wing to wing, and although Liu got in first more often in the second game he could not stop the former European Top 12 champion attacking his way to a wonderful win in the third game.

England enjoyed their high point about half an hour after that when the national champion, Carl Prean, came within three points of bringing down the world No 2, Wang Tao, despite a knee injury, before losing 21-14, 19-21, 7-21. During that match Prean crashed into the barriers and later in the day he was sidelined again, which seemed to affect the team's morale as they slumped with surprising speed to a 3-0 defeat by Austria.

This match saw Douglas lose 21-13, 21-16 to the Olympic quarter-finalist Ding Yi, although the killer blow came when England's leading player, Chen Xinhua, lost 21-15, 16-21, 21-15 to the world No 103, Werner Schlager, ranked 87 places below the Chinese-born Yorkshireman, but whose forehand loop proved potent.

England's women lost 3-0 to South Korea and 3-1 to Taiwan, with the only success coming from Lisa Lomas, who won the opening singles against Chen Chin Chan. Lomas and Andrea Holt lost the doubles 22-20 in the final game against Chen and Xu Jing, which left England with a struggle for survival over the next two days.