TABLE TENNIS: Douglas does it again

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The Independent Online
TABLE TENNIS

BY JAMES LEIGH

Desmond Douglas's return after five years on the sidelines saw the 11- times former national champion win the deciding match in a 3-2 victory over the Netherlands at the World Championships in Tianjin, China, yesterday. It was a win that may have an important bearing on whether England remain in the top category at the next championships.

Douglas, aged 39, answered the call for his country because Matthew Syed, the England No 1, is doing his final exams at Oxford University, and yesterday the left-handed veteran showed that both his fast and slow looping forehand and his reflex blocking are all still in excellent working order.

With the match score at 2-2 the Jamaican-born left-hander squeezed out a crucial 21-17, 17-21, 21-18 victory over the 6ft 5in Gerard Bakker, enabling England to capitalise on the excellence of their leading man, Chen Xinhua. The Chinese-born Yorkshire player aced Bakker no fewer than 12 times in his straight-games win and also came from behind to beat the Dutch No 1, Trinko Keen, in three games.

Douglas lost to Keen but in the opening match of the day had come within two points of an outstanding win over the world No 59 from Belgium, Philippe Saive, before losing 17-21, 22-20, 19-21.

"It's great to be playing for England again, although I still regard it first and foremost as a job," said the man who first played for his country more than 20 years ago.

England lost 3-0 to the strong Belgian team with Alan Cooke, who had a disappointing day with three defeats, losing 18-21 and 11-21 to the world No 1 Jean-Michel Saive.

However, two more victories should see England's men safe in the top category for the next World Championships in 1997, when they are in Manchester.

England's women also had a varied day, losing 3-0 to the Germans and winning 3-0 against Lithuania, with Andrea Holt and Lisa Lomas winning comfortably in both singles and doubles.

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