Rain hampers Murray’s title bid

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Andy Murray’s Australian Open preparations have been hampered by the unseasonal weather, as rain continued to mar the build-up to the first grand slam of the year.

Compared to the devastating floods that have hit Queensland, Melbourne has not been badly affected, but the conditions have proved a challenge for players and officials alike.

Murray had planned to repeat the warm-up schedule that served him so well last year – playing in the Hopman Cup with Laura Robson and then an exhibition match at Kooyong before the start of the tournament.

But the Scot’s meeting with Marin Cilic, who he beat in the semi-finals in Melbourne 12 months ago, fell victim to the rain yesterday and seems unlikely to be rescheduled.

The match was outside the Kooyong Classic itself, and tournament director Colin Stubs said: “Precedence has to go to the matches of the players who signed up. Andy didn’t.”

The rain also meant the second day of Australian Open qualifying was washed out – the first time a whole day’s play has been lost to the weather since 1988.

British trio Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson and Katie O’Brien were all scheduled to play their first-round matches, and must now hope for better weather tomorrow.

One player who did manage to complete a match was Elena Baltacha, who was beaten 6-3 6-4 by Roberta Vinci in the second round of the Hobart International.

The contest began on Tuesday, but the British number one was philosophical about the delay, and declared herself content with her preparations after struggling with illness.

The 25-year-old, who has twice reached the third round in Melbourne, said: “It’s been a strange week. I don’t think I’ve been at a tournament with so much rain. To be honest, seeing the images of what’s happening in Queensland, you put everything in perspective. It’s not that bad.

“At the end of the day, we’re only playing a tennis match.”