Table Tennis: Douglas in old routine

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The Independent Online
DESMOND DOUGLAS, returning to the international stage yesterday for one more curtain call at the age of 38, could not have scripted it better as he reached the second round of the European Championships before his home crowd with a 21-16, 22-20, 21-8 victory over the Slovakian, Patrik Marek, at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, writes James Leigh.

It is four years since Douglas last played a major international tournament. But it was hard to believe it, for Douglas has not put on a gram of weight, and if he has lost a split second or two with his reflexes Marek could not reveal it.

There were plenty of close-to-the- table hitting, blocking and counter- hitting exchanges, especially when Marek served, and the player 16 years older rattled his way through those. There were some enterprisingly creative topspin forehand loop attacks from Douglas, too, and he kept these up even when the pressure was on as Marek came from 13-7 down to 19-19 in the second game.

Today Douglas plays the Olympic quarter-finalist, Ding Yi, a Chinese- born Austrian.

Later, the England coach Paul Day was given a red card and expelled from the court for illegally coaching Skylet Andrew in a match in which the left-handed Londoner held two match points against France's Olivier Marmurek before losing 21-12, 21-23, 21-12, 16-21, 23-21.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 51

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