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20.12.07

Cann steps up bid for third English National title

ENGLISH National champion Elizabeth Cann has hit form just at the right time as she prepares to defend her title at Manchester Velodrome in just over six weeks.

The 28-year-old Jersey player, ranked No 38 in the world, reached two finals in the last four weeks, winning the Yonex Irish Open and finishing runner-up in the Bank of Scotland Centenary Scottish International Championships.

And only last week she reached the quarter-finals of the Italian International in Rome before losing to eventual winner and second seed Juliane Schenk of Germany.

Now she is looking forward to the English National Championships at Manchester Velodrome from February 1-3 when she will be aiming to win the women's singles title for the third time since the tournament moved to Manchester five years ago.

"Everything has just come together recently," said the Milton Keynes-based England No 2. "I am coached by Yvette Yun Luo at the National Badminton Centre but I have also had some coaching recently off men's singles coach Asger Madsen. It's good to get different ideas from the coaches. It's just been a question of everything you learn on the practice courts coming together in the tournaments."

Already she has identified her main rivals. "I would expect Tracey Hallam (Staffs) and Jill Pittard (Warks) to be the main dangers," she said, well aware that she has beaten both of them in finals in achieving her two titles triumphs. "I am confident but I am going to have to work hard and play well if I am to retain the title."

Pittard, who lost to Cann in this year's final, has also hit form recently, winning the Welsh Open title at the start of December.

She and Cann will be among as many as 140 players from up to 30 counties competing in the Championships, which will once again be staged in Manchester thanks to the successful partnership between BADMINTON England, Manchester City Council, top badminton brand Carlton, footwear giants Hi-Tec and retailers sportdiscount.com with additional support from the Manchester Evening News.

Among the other big names competing will be Commonwealth gold medallists and former world champions Nathan Robertson (Notts) and Gail Emms (Herts), the Olympic silver medallists, and defending mixed doubles champions Anthony Clark (Notts) and Donna Kellogg (Derbyshire).

In the men's singles Nick Kidd (Bucks) will be bidding for a third men's singles title, Emms and Donna Kellogg will be out to retain their women's doubles title while the end of Robert Blair (Leics) and Clark's partnership could lead to new winners of the men's doubles title. Scottish Centenary Open winners Blair and David Lindley (Notts) will be the fancied pair but young stars Robert Adcock (Notts) and Robin Middleton (Yorks) might be the heirs apparent.

The big question is will Clark enter the men's doubles with a surprise partner of will he simply continue to concentrate on mixed doubles in the countdown to the Beijing Olympics.

It has all the makings of another successful English National Championships and Councillor Mike Kane, Manchester City Council's Executive Member for Arts and Leisure, said: "We are looking forward to seeing these players renewing their rivalry once again Manchester.

"We are very pleased to welcome back the National Badminton Championships to Manchester in 2008 as part of our exciting calendar of sporting events.

"There will be something sporting for all the family in Manchester in 2008. Our regular calendar of sports championships will be taking place alongside the Manchester World Sport 08 programme, which includes three World Championships, making Manchester THE place to be for sport."

Tickets are now on sale from www.ticketmaster.co.uk or by phoning them on 0844 847 1552 to make credit card purchases (Tickets cost between £8 and £12 with concessions for BADMINTON England members or Under 16s and senior citiizens).