Table Tennis: Lomas looking for four in a row: Tough outlook for England No 1 in European Championships

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LISA LOMAS, having won three major medals in the past three months, hopes to gain at least one more during the individual events of the European Championships, which start at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham today.

The England No 1 has proved she is this country's best woman player by leading England to the Commonwealth silver medal in January, the European League silver in February, and the European team bronze this week, and she now has to battle through the 128-strong women's singles, in which she won the silver last time.

This will be a particularly formidable journey for Lomas, who remains principally a defender and therefore covers three times as much ground as many of her opponents. She showed signs of tiredness towards the end of the team event and may have to meet Europe's top-ranked woman, Otilia Badescu, in the last 16.

One rest day, yesterday, could prove to be insufficient for some of the leading men. The men's singles, which start today, have provided a minefield of shocks in the past as tired team heroes failed to last a long course, and it may be particularly difficult for the world champion, Jean-Philippe Gatien, and the Olympic champion, Jan-Ove Waldner, who gave so much of themselves in an emotional men's team final on Wednesday in which the world champions, Sweden, lost 4-3 to France.

This may help the world No 1, Jean-Michel Saive, who could be the freshest of this famous trio since Belgium failed to reach the later stages. In the quarter-finals Saive should play England's other No 1, Chen Xinhua, to whom he lost in the European league in February.

Desmond Douglas, who has a record 11 English national titles, starts a brief international comeback today. One hopes it will not be too brief, but the 38-year-old has a potentially tough second-round meeting with Ding Yi, the Olympic quarter-finalist.

'This is a one-off appearance for me,' Douglas said. 'I have no plans to make a complete comeback. I shall probably retire again after this tournament.'

In the qualifying rounds for the men's singles yesterday, Brentwood's Andrew Eden crashed to defeat. Eden lost from a strong position - the Polish player, Piotr Szafranek, trailed 14-19 in the crucial third game but won the last seven points to take the match, 21-19.

'I lost my nerve completely,' Eden said. 'I did not believe that I could lose when I led 19-14 in that last game.'

(Photograph omitted)

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