Early start at SW19 after wash-out

Last updated at 10:40 24 June 2004

Wimbledon officials are hoping an early start to the next two days at the All England Club will help make up for lost time because of rain.

The inclement British weather, synonymous with the Wimbledon fortnight, meant no play was possible at all on the third day of the 118th championships.

Greg Rusedski was one of many players kept waiting by the rain.

The British number three had been due to meet Italian Davide Sanguinetti in a first-round clash on court one which had been held over from Tuesday.

That encounter has now been scheduled for second match on court two today, after it was announced all matches on the outside courts on June 24 and 25 would begin at 11am, with matches on Centre Court and court one on both days starting at noon.


All men's doubles matches have also been reduced to best of three sets up until, but not including, the quarter-finals in a bid to ensure the schedule is not disrupted further.

Rain had been falling intermittently throughout yesterday morning and afternoon, although hopes rose when the sun broke through at 2.40pm and again 20 minutes later, only for heavy drizzle to return.

Defending champion Roger Federer was one of five top-10 men's seeds to fall foul of the weather yesterday when Wimbledon officials cancelled all second-round ties involving the top half of the men's draw and the bottom section of the women's.

The top-seeded Swiss was scheduled to face Colombian Alejandro Falla in the fourth match to be played on court one.

Lleyton Hewitt, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Carlos Moya and Sebastien Grosjean must all wait until today for the chance to advance to the third round.

In the women's draw, the rain hit the clash between third seed Venus Williams and Croatian Karolina Sprem.

Clearer skies

French Open champion Anastasia Myskina and 1999 Wimbledon winner Lindsay Davenport must also wait for clearer skies.

British fans hoping to see homegrown talent were also left frustrated.

Anne Keothavong, one of four British women to reach the second round for the first time in 15 years, was due to meet 13th seed Maria Sharapova in an eagerly-anticipated clash on court 18.

Emily-Webley Smith, a wild card like British number one Keothavong, must now defer her match against 31st-seeded American Amy Frazier.

Inclement weather interrupted play on both the first two days, with 45 first-round matches still to be completed before yesterday.

Encouraging forecast

Organisers are encouraged by the forecast for the end of the week and have no plans yet to use the middle Sunday to make up for lost time.

"We're not unduly concerned," said tournament referee Alan Mills yesterday morning.

"Officially, we're 45 matches behind and, if we were thinking of playing on Sunday, that would not be until Friday.

"Obviously, we would like not to play on the middle Sunday."

The middle Sunday has been used just twice in the 118-year history of the championships.

In 1991 only 52 out of a scheduled 240 matches were completed by the end of the fourth day while in 1997 two days were completely washed out.

Organisers also have the option of making earlier starts in a bid to reduce the backlog.

Paying members of the public are entitled to a full refund if there is less than one hour's play throughout the day.

Before yesterday, the last washout at the All England Club was in 1999, with a total of only 31 days lost overall in the tournament's 118-year history.

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