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Prean forced to withdraw

Carl Prean has had to withdraw from the English Open which starts today at the Thornaby Pavilion, following a groin injury which will keep him out of action for two weeks.

It means that not only will the eighth-seeded former English International champion miss the top open tournament in Europe this season, but also next week's European Nations' Cup in Karlsruhe, at which England had been hoping to win a medal.

England's two singles seeds at Thornaby will therefore be Chen Xinhua and Lisa Lomas. Lomas, seeded No 8, is recovering from an arm injury which has affected her form this season, and which may make it hard for her to reach the final stages of a draw which has another former Chinese player, the French champion Wang Xiaoming, as top seed, and the European champion from Sweden, Marie Svensson, as second seed.

Chen, the Yorkshire-based former Chinese international, is seeded fourth, although the title is likely to be fought out between the Swedes, who will be defending the World team title in May, and the new threat from China, Kong Linghui.

Peter Karlsson is top seed, Jorgen Persson third, and Mikael Appelgren, the former European Champion, seventh; all players who have helped Sweden dominate the men's game since 1989.

Kong is seeded second, but is struggling with a shoulder injury sustained in China's six-match series victory against England earlier this week.