Tennis: Wood moves into double figures

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THE good news from Germany is that Steffi Graf's right foot is responding sufficiently well after surgery for the Wimbledon champion and world No 1 to contemplate a return to the tour in Philadelphia early next month. The encouraging news from Sussex is that Britain is guaranteed a player in the world top 100 next week.

Clare Wood ensured this modest but welcome gain by winning her first-round match in the Autoglass Classic here at the Brighton Centre yesterday, when the four other Britons, including the 33-year-old Jo Durie, were eliminated.

Wood, a 25-year-old local, defeated the American, Amy Frazier, who was ranked 48 places above her, at No 56, 6-3, 7-6. The win will lift her from No 104 to No 92 even if she fails to advance beyond a second-round match against Leila Meskhi, the eighth seed, from Georgia.

Though nine double faults and a number of inaccurate first serves smudged an otherwise impressive performance, Wood did well to recover her composure after a dubious call on the first of two match points at 5-3 in the second set sent her tottering towards the tie-break, which she won 7-1.

Durie lost to Manon Bollegraf, a Dutch qualifier, 7-6, 7-5, the tie-break evaporating 7-0.

Three of the youngsters who helped Britain win the recent Maureen Connolly Trophy match against the United States also failed to progress beyond day one, though the 17-year-old Julie Pullin posed numerous problems for Larisa Neiland before the sixth-seeded Ukrainian won 7-6, 6-4.

Pullin made four errors when she was two points from taking the opening set, serving at 5-3, 30-0. Neiland, at No 34, ranked 343 places above the left-hander from Hove, then rescued herself at 5-6, 0-30 before dominating the tie-break, 7-1.

After five consecutive service breaks in the second set, Pullin gained a 4-2 advantage, but Neiland was sufficiently sure of herself by this time to win the next four games. Mandy Wainwright, a 17-year- old from Essex, was presented with few opportunities by Anke Huber, the second seed, who won 6-0, 6-3, and Karen Cross, a qualifier from Exeter, managed to take only one game from Christina Singer, a German ranked No 87.