The elements bow to no man or woman, as ballgirls preparing for one of the UK's most prestigious tennis championships found to their cost.

As they were due to train yesterday ahead of this month's Hastings Direct International Championships in Eastbourne, the heavens opened and soaked girls from Cavendish and Moira House girls schools.

A total of 60 girls from both Eastbourne schools have been training since Easter in preparation for the women's tournament at the Devonshire Park International Lawn Tennis Centre from June 14 to 21.

They are taught how to roll balls, give them to players and run on and off court. They also get posture training so they stand and kneel correctly.

Cavendish pupil Rebecca Smith, 15, said: "We feel privileged to be at the championships and that makes us work harder to do well.

"Being so close to the players you see the reactions on their faces when they do well and see they get irritated when they mess up."

Stars including Daniela Hantuchova, Russian pin-up Anna Kournikova, Jelena Dokic, Chanda Rubin and Jennifer Capriati will compete in the championships, widely considered to be the most prestigious women's tournament in Britain after Wimbledon.

Lauren Weston, 15, said: "It's really good fun. You get to see the players close up and some give you their autographs."

The girls, all aged 14 and 15, are drawn from the same two schools every year and train at Hampden Park and Devonshire Park.

PE teacher Ruth McAtamney, 26, said: "The girls have been training really hard.

"It is the third year they have been ballgirls and they really enjoy it - even when it rains."

Councillor Mike Thompson, Eastbourne Borough Council Cabinet spokesman for culture, said: "These championships provide good life experience for the girls and we hope they enjoy it as much as those people visiting."