Table Tennis: Chen aims to turn tables

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The Independent Online
CHEN XINHUA, the England No 1, is seeking revenge against Desmond Douglas, the English national champion a record 11 times, in what could prove the match of the season in the Cleveland International 5-star Open, which begins with players from seven countries at the Thornaby Pavilion tomorrow.

The two table tennis legends could meet in a repeat of last year's semi-final when Douglas surprised everyone by beating Chen and going on to take the title at the age of 37.

Although it is now almost four years since the left-hander retired from internationals he is still dangerous, remains unbeaten in the British league this season, and has several times been sounded out by the England manager, Donald Parker, for a possible recall.

'I still practise hard and feel good,' Douglas said, and speculation is increasing that the local hero might consider a comeback for the European Championships in Birmingham in March.

However Chen, even at the age of 33, is a better player than a year ago, and is the top seed. The former World Cup winner has a contract with Ochsenhausen in the German Bundesliga reported to be worth a six-figure sterling sum annually and he is in better physical shape now than at any time since helping China to the world team title in 1987.

Chire Koyama, the world No 21 from Japan, is the top seed in the women's singles and may meet England's European silver medallist, Lisa Lomas, in the semi-finals.

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