Storm keeps Henman and Rusedski waiting

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The Independent Online

Britain's Davis Cup World Group play-off against Austria was rained off here yesterday. The tie is scheduled to start at 9.30am today.

After days of glorious sunshine in this lakeside Alpine resort, the anticipated 3,500 spectators awoke yesterday to thunder and lightning and a steady downpour.

Any prospect of play was abandoned at 4.20pm. Stefan Fransson, the referee, said it was hoped the first day's two singles matches - Tim Henman versus Stefan Koubek and Greg Rusedski against Jurgen Melzer - and the doubles rubber would be played today. Henman and Rusedski are due to play Melzer and Julian Knowle in the doubles.

"I cannot require the players to play both singles and doubles tomorrow, I can only ask them," Fransson said. "There is also a rule that if a singles match takes more than 45 games then the players can rest for two hours before playing doubles."

Cloudy conditions were forecast for today, and clouds and showers for tomorrow, when the reverse singles matches between Henman and Melzer and Rusedski and Koubek are due to be played. The tie may be extended to Monday.

Asked if it was wise to organise an outdoor tennis event so late in September, Martin Reiter, the tournament director, said this was the first time for 15 years that rain had stopped play in Portschach.

Bill Babcock, the grand slam supervisor, representing the International Tennis Federation, said: "Nations make their own arrangements within our rules. If we insisted that nations staging ties outdoors also had to offer a suitable indoor alternative, ties may not be played in beautiful settings like the one here."

This is the first time a day's play has been lost in a tie involving Britain since 1985, when a match against Israel at Eastbourne was completed indoors on a Monday.

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