Players wait for clear skies on opening day


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The Independent Online

According to Judy Murray's message on Twitter, it was just like "a crap day in Scotland" as Hurricane Irene passed over New York City yesterday. The weather was nothing like as bad as some had predicted, although the US Open site remained closed and players were forced to seek indoor training facilities on the eve of the year's final Grand Slam event.

With the city's entire public transport system shut down for most of the weekend there had been fears that there might be a delay to today's scheduled start, but tournament organisers announced last night that play would start at 11am as planned on most courts. Damage to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was described as "minimal".

Roger Federer, who meets Colombia's Santiago Giraldo, is the only one of the top six men's seeds due to play today. It will be the five-time champion's first appearance at a Grand Slam event since he turned 30, though he insisted passing the milestone had changed nothing. "I'm still as professional," he said. "I'm still as hungry. Everything's still completely normal. It's just a number that's changed. I'm ready to go."

Novak Djokovic, the world No 1, will begin his attempt to win his third Grand Slam title of the year tomorrow against Conor Niland, a 29-year-old Irishman. Earlier this summer, Niland qualified at Wimbledon to make his first appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam event. In the Open era, no Irishman has ever played in the main draw here, but, remarkably, Niland will be joined by a fellow countryman, Louk Sorensen having also qualified to earn a first-round meeting with Robin Soderling.

While Andy Murray is the lone Briton in the men's singles – the world No 4 will not play his opening match against India's Somdev Devvarman before tomorrow – there are four British women in the draw. Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong and Heather Watson are there by dint of their world rankings, while Laura Robson came through the qualifying competition, winning her final two matches on Friday.

Robson, who fell at the final hurdle in qualifying here in 2009 and 2010, will be playing in the main draw of a Grand Slam event other than Wimbledon for the first time. She is due to play her first match today against Japan's Ayumi Morita, the world No 46, while Watson is scheduled to play Maria Sharapova later in the afternoon.

Although 17-year-old Robson won her Grand Slam junior title before 19-year-old Watson won hers – the former triumphed at Wimbledon in 2008 while the latter won here the following year – progress has not been easy for the younger of the two Britons. She has been hampered by injuries and growing pains and is currently working with her third coach in the last year.

Having parted company with both Martijn Bok and Patrick Mouratoglou, Robson now works at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton with Luke Milligan, one of the Lawn Tennis Association's coaches.

"I'm happy with the situation at the moment," Robson said. "By the looks of it I'm going to play tournaments in Asia [after New York] and it'll be the same team for that as well."