Table Tennis: Valiant Chen wins over crowd

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CHEN XINHUA, the man who quit China for England, tested the world No 1, Jean-

Michel Saive, almost to the limit yesterday before bowing out amid uproar at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham in the quarter-final of the European Championships, writes James Leigh.

Chen lifted an English crowd like never before, but he was subdued until the MC got the crowd going with requests for chants of 'Ooh aah Chen Xinhua'. By then Chen was two games down, but when the crowd realised they had been too restrained, the effect was electric.

In the third, he went to 13-3, lost the lead, and dramatically rebuilt it as the 4,000 crowd produced the loudest support of the tournament.

Chen won that game 21-15 and the crowd were once again in a frenzy as he went to 19-17 in the fourth. Saive, clearly wobbling, decided to go for it. Three booming forehand loops rescued a situation that had been getting desperate. Chen had lost 21-11, 21-12, 15-21, 21-19, but he had won English hearts.