British wonder Ward marches on

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Published: Thursday 2nd July 2015 by The News Editor

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Great Britain can boast two men in Wimbledon’s third round for the first time since 2002 after James Ward blasted past Jiri Vesely in four sets.

British number three Ward surrendered 65 places in the world rankings to his opponent but produced an accomplished showing to brush past the 21-year-old Czech 6-2 7-6 (7/4) 3-6 6-3.

Shortly after Andy Murray dispatched Robin Haase in straight sets, Ward completed his own triumph to hand Britain two men in Wimbledon’s third round for the first time since the Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski era.

Victory for the other British hope Aljaz Bedene over Viktor Troicki, slated to appear last on Court 12, would send three home nation men into Wimbledon’s third round for the first time since 1999.

Londoner Ward wholly dominated the first two sets for a commanding lead, only for Vesely to edge his way back in and elongate the contest.

World number 45 Vesely upset Ward’s rhythm by battling back in the third set, not least through calling for the trainer three times and the doctor twice to deal with shoulder trouble.

Ward proved with his monster Davis Cup victory over John Isner as Britain beat the United States that he can mix it with the game’s top stars, though, and channelled all that momentum again at SW19.

Davis Cup captain Leon Smith was in the stands to watch Ward push his case still further for the second singles spot in Britain’s forthcoming quarter-final clash with France at Queen’s Club.

Ward now has his best-ever Wimbledon return, and will bank £77,000 whatever happens next.

Far more important than the money for Ward though, was the chance to prove his real major tournament pedigree.

“Now it’s done it’s good because a lot of people will get off my back,” Ward told the BBC after reaching Wimbledon’s third round for the first time.

“I just can’t put it into words; it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

“The draw’s opened up a little bit, you’ve got to take your chances when you can; hopefully I won’t stop here and can carry on.

“I had a bit of a lapse in the third set, but I picked up and it was pleasing.

“I have a lot of belief in myself and a lot of people do out there as well.

“It’s all come from Davis Cup matches where I’ve done very well, and hopefully it can continue.”

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho hailed tennis as one constant penalty shoot-out when taking in the action at Queen’s Club two weeks ago, admitting top soccer players could learn from the nerve required on court.

Arsenal fan Ward had his wobbles but buried more than he skied – especially in shaking off the failure to convert six break points in the eighth match of the second set – to book a third-round tie with either Vasek Pospisil or Fabio Fognini.

Vesely was simply unable to read Ward’s serve in the first two sets, the home star denying his opponent any chances to break.

That service accuracy, coupled with a fine passing game, allowed Ward to take full control.

All looked bleak midway through the second set when Ward blew those six break points, before wasting another as Vesely rallied for a tie-break.

Nerves and frustrations clearly caught up with Ward as he then gifted Vesely an immediate mini-break advantage in that tie-break.

But just when the Czech star expected to level the match, Ward produced a masterful lob to level the battle, then close out for a two-set lead.

Despite repeatedly calling for medical attention, Vesely was able to stop Ward’s progress to claim the third set, but once the 28-year-old recovered his poise there was to be only one winner.

So many times across the years would a British hope choke in the victory headlights, but Ward powered home, breaking in the fourth game then battling to hold in the fifth.

Vesely’s last resistance duly waning, Ward served out the match before drinking in the hard-won adulation of the crowd.

Published: Thursday 2nd July 2015 by The News Editor

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