Rain frustrates at Felixstowe

TENNIS: British tennis' traditional summer accompaniment – no, not strawberries and cream, but the drip, drip of cold drizzle – washed out the opening day of the main draw for the LTA Ladies' $25,000 tournament in Felixstowe yesterday.

TENNIS

British tennis' traditional summer accompaniment – no, not strawberries and cream, but the drip, drip of cold drizzle – washed out the opening day of the main draw for the LTA Ladies' $25,000 tournament in Felixstowe yesterday.

Rain didn't stop play. Play didn't even get started.

Round one was eventually cancelled for the day at 3.30pm after showers overnight and throughout the morning and early afternoon left the uncovered grasscourts greasy and dangerous underfoot. By the cruelest of ironies, the sun then broke through the clouds.


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Elena Baltacha, the sixth seed but now the event's biggest drawcard following her run at Wimbledon, was scheduled to be second match on against India's Manisha Malhotra, so decided not to travel to Bath Road, practising instead on an indoor court in Ipswich.

Alan Jones, Baltacha's coach for the last three years, said: "Conditions here at Felixstowe with wet, damp grass and the ball keeping low are part of the learning curve for Bally. And she's playing an opponent who slices the ball and comes to net so she'll have to change her game."

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Jones, who previously tutored Jo Durie, the former British No 1, patently believes that Baltacha has the shots and attitude to make an impact on the sport: "It's not going to be easy, but she really wants to a tennis player. That's what really excites me."

"Bally is prepared to work and listen and has shown that there is a way forward. What she achieved at Wimbledon was a bonus – there was dosh to be had. The next stage is to see whether she can win on hard and clay courts. I won't be predicting this week, though."

Such is the interest in Baltacha's story – 'Wimbledon star makes her next appearance in sleepy Suffolk' – that the LTA provided a member of their communications staff yesterday to help out Team Baltacha, coaches Jones and Durie.

Tournament director Julie Piper, who will now to squeeze an extra 16 matches into the remaining four days, said: "I'm very disappointed as we are now a day behind. But we can't play because the players might get injured and it would wreck the courts."

Felixstowe Lawn Tennis Club is also hosting the 106th East of England Championships this week – sponsored by Bloor Homes.

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