Tennis: Pullin's poise brings spoils back to Britain: The American dream ends before time

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN won the Maureen Connolly Trophy with a day to spare, only their fourth victory in the 21 years of the event and the first since 1988. Fittingly, Julie Pullin, a 17-year-old from Sussex, provided the opening and concluding flourishes of the 21 and under women's contest against the United States to make amends for losing her two singles matches when Britain lost 6-5 in Memphis a year ago.

Pullin defeated Pam Nelson, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to add to earlier victories by Shirli-Ann Siddall and Lucie Ahl to give Britain a 6-2 lead with three matches to be played today in the event, sponsored by ADT Auctions.

Siddall defeated Lisa Pugliese, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, in a match between the respective No 5 players. The 19-year-old from Dorset, beset by injuries for most of the year, recovered just when her opponent threatened to take the initiative.

Ahl, the British No 4, atoned for Thursday's loss to Nelson by defeating Nicole Hummel, 7-5, 7-6. The 19-year-old recovered after trailing 1-4 in the first set and kept her nerve after double-faulting to be be broken when serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set. She then saved a set point before going on to win the shoot-out.

A year ago, Pugliese was America's top-ranked player at 18-and-under and had improved her senior world ranking to No 450. Yesterday's match turned back in Siddall's favour in the fifth game of the final set, which the Briton required eight break points to secure.

The Americans desperately needed character after Siddall gave Britain a 4-1 lead. They could hardly have found a bigger one than the ambidextrous Rachel Jensen, who serves right-handed and hits groundstrokes left-handed.

Jensen, a late substitute, won an entertaining, if erratic, contest against the British No 2, Karen Cross, 6-4, 7-6, to give the Americans a temporary respite. On Tuesday afternoon, Jensen was practising at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida when she was asked if she would like to travel to Scotland as a replacement for the injured American No 1, Anne Miller. 'Sure,' she said, 'I'll just hit a few more balls.' She was then informed she had an hour to catch a plane from Sarasota in order to connect with an 8.40pm flight to Glasgow.

Jensen did just enough yesterday to confuse Cross, a 19-year-old left-hander from Devon, to win 6-4, 7-6. Ahl and Pullin ensured that Jensen's team-mates did not capitalise further. Sterling Albion.

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