Tennis: Rain wipes out play at Kooyong

Tennis: Rain wipes out play at Kooyong
Kei Nishikori of Japan hits a backhand return during a tennis training session in Melbourne on January 13, 2015.

MELBOURNE - Steady rain wiped out play at the Kooyong Classic on Tuesday, although Japanese headliner Kei Nishikori managed to secure an indoor practice session as the Australian Open countdown heats up.

Nishikori, the US Open finalist and world number five, tops the bill at Kooyong for the annual eight-man tune-up prior to the first Grand Slam of the season.

After a dry and sunny few days, wet weather which had been forecast for last weekend finally reached Melbourne, drenching courts both at Melbourne Park and Kooyong.

Officials had little choice but to cancel the opening programme of what is scheduled to be a four-day tournament.

Nishikori, who won the title a year ago by beating Czech Tomas Berdych, instead managed to have a hit under the closed roof of the Hisense arena at Melbourne Park.

Asia's top player arrived in Melbourne after reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane, where he lost in three tie-break sets to Canadian Milos Raonic, a fellow member of the next generation who has also moved into the top 10 with a ranking of eight.

While Nishikori now has a Grand Slam final on his record, the Florida-based 25-year-old is not in a rush to try to take a permanent place among the elite in the sport.

Instead, the Japanese, coached by former Chinese-American great Michael Chang, is prepared to take a slow, steady course toward the top.

"My goal is to maintain my top five ranking," Nishikori said in the run-up to the first major of the season. "I also want to stay healthy. I don't want to look farther ahead than that." Washed out by the weather was the showcase opening match between Nishikori and world number 274, Australian Jordan Thompson.

Also postponed was Frenchman Gilles Simon against Spain's Fernando Verdasco, Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov versus Serbian Filip Krajinovic and Spaniard Feliciano Lopez against Richard Gasquet of France.

The event guarantees players three warm-up matches under identical conditions and surface as they will find at the Australian Open, which begins on Monday.

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