Ward makes damp exit as weather hits build-up

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The Independent Online

The rain is nothing like it has been in the flood-hit state of Queensland but bad weather in other parts of the country is starting to affect players' preparations for the Australian Open, which starts here on Monday.

There was no play at all yesterday in the women's warm-up tournament in Hobart, with Britain's Elena Baltacha among those waiting in vain to go on court, while competitors in the qualifying tournament for the year's first Grand Slam event, as well as some of those who are at Melbourne Park just to practise, were having to dodge the showers. Andy Murray hit with Novak Djokovic before chalking up his first victory of the year over the world No 3 in an indoor football match which the Scot described on Twitter as "Serbia vs rest of the world".

The day began with only one British man in the qualifying event and ended with none after James Ward was beaten 6-3, 6-4 in the first round by the veteran Chilean, Paul Capdeville. Ward was up against it from the start after dropping his serve in the opening game. His defeat means Murray will once again be the lone Briton in the men's singles next week.

Weather permitting, Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson and Katie O'Brien were due today to begin their attempts to join Baltacha, the British No 1, in the main draw for the women's singles. Keothavong, who is at No 118 in the world rankings as she continues her comeback from a serious knee injury, was drawn to play Darya Kustova (world No 163), of Belarus. Watson, who has climbed to No 149 after her run to the quarter-finals in Auckland last week, was facing China's Yi-Miao Zhou (No 298), while O'Brien (No 173), hoping to make the main draw here for the third year in succession, was up against Luxembourg's Mandy Minella (No 137).

Juan Martin del Potro lost in the second round of his comeback tournament in Sydney. The former world No 4, who missed almost all of last year with a wrist injury, was beaten 6-2, 7-5 by Germany's Florian Mayer. The tournament's top seed also lost as Sam Querrey was beaten 6-4, 6-3 in just 62 minutes by Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov.

The top two women's seeds in Sydney, Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva, had already gone out, but Kim Clijsters moved impressively into the semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, confirming the Belgian's position as the favourite to win the women's title here.