IVAN Lendl returned to centre court after a lengthy stop-start rain-delay hoping to put the finishing touches to his first-round opponent Albert Chang - but rain once again was the winner as organisers of the Salem Open attempt to deal with a massive backlog of matches.
The second-seeded American, leading 5-3 in the first set from Tuesday afternoon, twice walked on to centre court yesterday at Victoria Park in front of a handful of ardent fans who had hoped to catch their first glimpse of the other Chang - top-seeded Michael, who meets compatriot David Wheaton.
But rain, in the form of an annoying light drizzle, continued to play havoc with the schedule as four first-round matches still remain outstanding.
Lendl was supposed to take the court at 2 pm yesterday, but he hardly warmed-up before it started to drizzle.
He had to wait until about 9 pm last night before returning to the centre-court, but another downpour put paid to the evening's matches.
In other first-round matches, American Chuck Adams leads Australian qualifier Sandon Stolle 3-0 in the first set while Dutchman Joern Renzenbrink leads Stephane Simian, of France, 3-1.
Play will resume this morning.
Michael Chang, looking for his first title in Hong Kong, arrived at the complex early yesterday afternoon but returned to his hotel at about 5.30 pm with only about 20 fans there to wave goodbye as he was driven away.
Rain has been one of the most prominent players in the history of Open tennis in Hong Kong.
But only once has this formidable foe forced a tournament to be cancelled. That was in 1974 when the Hong Kong Open was cancelled at the semi-final stage.
Then tournament director Ken Catton remembers that the surviving players, who included Australian great Ken Rosewall and American power-server Roscoe Tanner, won a battle to share out the prizemoney.
The incident also saw the birth of the rain insurance concept, which is now adopted by many tournaments around the world.
Catton said: ''At the time, we argued for about five hours with the players on what would happen to the prizemoney.
''The players felt they should get it while we were saying that they should not be paid for something they didn't play for.
''After that we were one of the first tournaments to start rain insurance.'' Salem Open tournament director David Baukol is also no stranger to rain-delays in the five years of the tournament's existence.
''We try to be optimistic,'' said Baukol, who is being guided by the experience of Association of Tennis Professionals tour supervisor Tom Barnes. ''Tom is calm, so I can be. It is still only Wednesday (yesterday).'' Chang and Wheaton are the only players yet to hit a ball in competition. Lendl, should he beat Albert Chang, takes on Russian Andrei Olhovskiy in the second round.