Queen's counting cost of rain

THE R-WORD is banned until after Wimbledon. Drenched organisers of the Stella Artois Championships at London's Queen's Club are faced with refunding almost pounds 500,000 in rain checks to spectators - pounds 50,000 more than the prize- money.

Money, covered by insurance, is paid back if less than two hours' play is completed on the Centre Court. Monday's washout cost the promoters between pounds 200,000 and pounds 250,000, and only 28 minutes had been completed when play was abandoned yesterday.

The Stella Artois Championships was the first event in British sport to offer rain checks, and this is the first time since it started in 1979 that refunds have been made on two days.

Today's Centre Court matches have been re-scheduled for 10.30am, starting with Britain's Tim Henman taking on the Armenian Sargis Sargsian, against whom he retired because of back spasm during the first set of their opening round match at the French Open.

This will be followed by the game between the Australians Pat Rafter and Scott Draper, who had completed only seven games when play was abandoned yesterday. Greg Rusedski, the British No 1 and No 2 seed, is due to play the Frenchman Jerome Golmard on the Centre Court not before 2pm.

All being well, this will be merely the start of business, for the players will be expected to complete two rounds before the end of today's programme.

Spectators arrived yesterday hoping to see the top two British players, who had been given byes in the first round, but all that was possible was the brief encounter of Rafter and Draper. Officials are wondering how they have managed to complete the opening round and to have at least a damp toe in the third round.

Yesterday's heavy showers teased the ground staff and frustrated the spectators, who watched a good deal of nifty footwork as the covers were moved back and forth across the grass courts before play commenced five hours late on the Centre Court at 4.30pm.

Six minutes later, Rafter, the No 3 seed and United States Open champion, and Draper, ranked No 108 in the world, returned to the changing room as the tarpaulin took their place on the court for a further 84 minutes.

Play resumed at 5.50 pm, this time for 22 minutes. When the Aussies returned to shelter, Draper was a break up, at 4-3, and 15-40 down on his serve.

Meanwhile in Halle, Germany, the top-seeded Petr Korda was beaten 7- 6, 6-4, by Paul Haarhuis at the Gerry Weber Open, but the No 3 seed, Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands, sailed into the quarter-finals behind his big serve, beating the German Davis Cup player Tommy Haas, 3-6, 6-4, 6- 1.

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