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Ameritech win makes long trip worthwhile for Maleeva

CHICAGO (02-12-95) -- Please come to Chicago. We need another top player. From Tokyo where she'd played in another tournament, Magdalena Maleeva listened to a cry for help.

She agreed to come. She's glad she did.

"I felt a little responsible because they were missing a player," said Maleeva said after beating Lisa Raymond 7-5, 7-6 (7-2) Sunday in the Ameritech Cup finals.

With Mary Joe Fernandez forced to pull out because of illness, Maleeva, the No. 11 player in the world, endured a long plane ride, arriving in Chicago Monday night after the tournament had already started.

In Tokyo, she'd beaten Mary Pierce and reached the semifinals. But no time to savor or rest.

"I had to sub for Mary Joe. It was hard because I hadn't been home in two months. I wanted to go home and enjoy my victory over Pierce," said Maleeva. "But I talked it over with my coach and we decided to come."

As the third seed, Maleeva got a bye and was able to skip another match when she was awarded a walkover after an opponent became ill. That meant she didn't have to play a singles match until Friday.

And despite jet lag early in the week, she appeared fresher Sunday because she'd played only two previous matches, including a victory over Gabriela Sabatini in Saturday's semifinals.

"Maggie is tough. She came in with a lot of confidence after beating Gabby," said Raymond, who had beaten Maleeva in their only previous meeting.

"I didn't get off to a good start and I didn't have it in me today. She's on a roll," added Raymond, who was unseeded but beat three seeded players to make her second career final.

Maleeva, who'd upset Martina Navratilova in the tournament last year, earned her fourth career WTA Tour victory Sunday. Earlier in the week, she passed the $1 million in career prize money at age 19.

She needed to play well against the hard-hitting Raymond, a two-time NCAA champion.

"I kept repeating to myself that I had to be more aggressive. If you let her play she'll beat you," said Maleeva.

Raymond took a 4-2 first-set lead with an early break. But Maleeva picked up her serve and began chasing down nearly every ball. She won five of the final six games and broke Raymond at love in the 12th game to take the set 7-5.

Maleeva got another break in the fourth game of the second set and then fought off two break points in the next for a 4-1 lead.

Raymond got the break back in the seventh game and held to pull even. But Maleeva took over in the tiebreaker, winning the first five points and then clinching with a topspin lob as Raymond charged the net.

Maleeva earned a winner's check of $79,000.

"After yesterday I felt I played well and I was able to relax," said Maleeva, who will celebrate by taking six weeks off before the clay court season begins.