Britain begin with a flourish

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The Independent Online


reports from Glasgow

Britain dominated a keenly contested opening day of the Maureen Connolly Trophy match against the United States here and are in a strong position to win the 21- and-under women's transatlantic team competition for the third year consecutively.

Lucie Ahl, Mandy Wainwright and Lizzie Jelfs, Britain's highest-ranked female player at No 224 in the world, refused to be deterred by setbacks in winning the opening three singles rubbers, and Wainwright partnered Kate Warne-Holland in a doubles success which gave Britain a 4-0 lead.

Equally important, Ann Jones, the team captain, saw enough close points at the Scotstoun Leisure Centre to be wary of an American recovery today and tomorrow, even though Britain need to win only two of the seven remaining matches.

Jelfs, making her debut in the event, which is presented by ADT Auctions, consolidated the earlier efforts of Ahl and Wainwright by defeating Kristin Sanderson, 7-6, 6-2. The 19-year-old from Oxfordshire had to endure an uncertain opening set in which she was unable to convert any of three break points at 4-4 and saved two set points at 5-4 before winning the tie-break, 7-3. Jelfs then recovered from losing her serve in the first game of the second set and went on to win in 70 minutes.

Ahl and Wainwright are both in the process of playing their way back to form after taking a break from the sport. Ahl, from Devon, missed most of the summer because of a wrist injury, and Wainwright, from Essex, decided to take time off after Wimbledon to work on her game.

Both gave resolute performances yesterday. Ahl fought through two hours and 34 minutes against Farley Taylor, forcing her way back from 0-3 in the final set to win, 6-4, 2-6, 6-7. Wainwright saved two set points in an opening set tie-break in defeating Marissa Catlin, 7-6, 6-4, after an hour and 55 minutes. Warne-Holland, a 20-year-old from Stockport, marked her first appearance by joining Wainwright in a 6-6, 6-4 win against Catlin and Sandy Sureephong. The 19-year-old from Chingford has lost only one of her 10 matches since first appearing in the competition in 1992.

The five Americans are ranked below their opponents, which is hardly surprising since three are collegiate players and two are still at high school and have yet to gain a point on the WTA Tour computer.

Nerves and errors contributed to the excitement, and on occasions the umpires had to prompt the ballgirls to keep the ammunition flowing.

The Americans may have experienced the feeling that it was not to be their day when four team members, overlooking that they were in tip-up seats, rose to execute a Mexican wave in support of Taylor towards the end of the opening match and collapsed on their posteriors.

Sanderson was unable to stop one particular passing shot from Jelfs because her shirt collar became attached to one of her ear-rings, something that has yet to befall Andre Agassi.

Wainwright took the prize for fashion by sporting a Union Jack bandana. It was presumed that she was following Greg Rusedski's patriotic statement at Wimbledon, but it transpired that she was merely covering a hairdresser's over-enthusiasm with the scissors.