Tennis: Rain pours on Murray US Open parade

Andy Murray of Great Britain practices during Day One of the 2013 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 26, 2013 in the Flushing neigborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Defending US Open champion Murray's impat
Andy Murray of Great Britain practices during Day One of the 2013 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 26, 2013 in the Flushing neigborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Defending US Open champion Murray's impatience over being forced to wait to start his US Open defence deepened on Wednesday when rain brought a four-hour suspension to the schedule. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Defending US Open champion Andy Murray's impatience over being forced to wait to start his US Open defence deepened on Wednesday when rain brought a four-hour suspension to the schedule.

Third seed Murray was already slated to play his first match almost 48 hours after second seed Rafael Nadal, viewed as the most likely contender to triumph this year, started his campaign.

However, his scheduled 7pm (7am Singapore time) start on the Arthur Ashe Stadium was likely to be pushed back because of the suspension, caused by a combination of rain and the threat of lightning.

By late afternoon, only five of the scheduled 34 singles had been completed before organisers then postponed eight women's second-round singles matches and 20 doubles matches until Thursday.

One of those held over was the second-round clash between reigning women's champion Serena Williams, chasing a fifth US Open title, and Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan.

It was a development which will only serve to darken Murray's already tetchy response to his Wednesday night start.

"I'm playing my first round match at the us open at 7pm on a wednesday...," tweeted Murray on Tuesday in thinly veiled frustration at a schedule which saw even a first-round match in mixed doubles on Wednesday completed before he took the court.

Having ended Britain's embarrassing Grand Slam hoodoo with his US Open breakthrough 12 months ago, Murray starts his first major as a defending champion against Michael Llodra, the 33-year-old Frenchman who is edging towards retirement.

Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na managed to beat the rain to reach the third round.

Third-seeded Radwanska defeated Spanish world number 103 Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, 6-0, 7-5 while Li, the Chinese fifth seed, beat 100th-ranked Swede Sofia Arvidsson 6-2, 6-2.

Radwanska, who has never got beyond the fourth round, was on course for a quick-fire win over Torro-Flor, her second successive Spanish opponent, when she raced through the first set in just 21 minutes, losing just seven points.

But Torro-Flor, dressed in matching colours of blue and pink, made the Pole work for her win in the second set with three breaks of serve.

Radwanska weathered the unexpected storm, going through to a third-round clash against Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, capitalising on her rival's 38 unforced errors and 10 double faults.

"Played first match and then I'm done. I can just relax, watch the others and do treatment and do whatever I want," said Radwanska, who finished her match just before the rain arrived.

Li, playing in her 30th Grand Slam and a New York quarter-finalist in 2009, clinched her third career win over policeman's daughter Arvidsson, who has now not progressed beyond the second round in seven attempts.

The Chinese star will next face either British 30th seed Laura Robson, who knocked her out of the tournament in 2012, or France's Caroline Garcia.

"Both players have improved a lot in the last year," said Li. "I look forward to the chance of playing Laura." Three other former champions were due to complete their matches Wednesday.

Argentine sixth seed Juan Martin Del Potro, who defeated Roger Federer for his only major title in 2009, had played three games against Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez before he was forced off Arthur Ashe court because of the rain.

Venus Williams, the 2000 and 2001 women's champion, was 1-1 with China's Zheng Jie when she too fell victim to the weather conditions.

Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 champion, was to face America's Brian Baker.

Hewitt, now 32 and at 66 in the world, is playing in New York for the 13th time.