Tennis: Rain fails to save Wilkinson

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THE GREAT volleyer in the sky clearly does not like the Nottingham Open. Last year they had to scuttle indoors just to get the rain-sodden thing finished and this time the prime attraction, Greg Rusedski, has withdrawn after sustaining an injury last week. Let us just say that a search is on for the person who ran over the black cat.

It was not wholly bleak yesterday, but it came pretty close. The wretched weather reduced play to just one match completed and, true to form, the casualty was a home player who could have tempted a few more people in from the streets if he had mustered a decent run.

Chris Wilkinson, the 28-year-old British No 3 from Southampton, has been eclipsed in recent years by Rusedski and Tim Henman but he has grabbed the spotlight on occasions, particularly at Wimbledon where he has reached the third round three times. Which is three times as far as he got here, losing 6-2, 6-2 to Jordi Burillo in less than an hour.

Burillo became the first Spaniard to win a match at Queen's Club last week and unlike many of his clay-court obsessed compatriots does not approach grass surfaces with all the enthusiasm of a rabid hay fever sufferer. He broke Wilkinson four times in all while his own first serve had a perfect record of 19 points at 19 attempts.

"At least I got to see the match," Wilkinson said, referring to England's World Cup opener against Tunisia. "I think I've got a pretty good chance against anyone on grass, but he just played better than me. He has a big serve and the courts are slow so he could get his ground strokes going. It was a day when you have to say `congratulations' and move on."