Exits leave Murray standing alone

Published: Tuesday 20th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Andy Murray found himself in the familiar position of being the lone British player remaining in a grand slam following defeats for James Ward, Heather Watson and Kyle Edmund in the Australian Open on Tuesday.

While Watson and Edmund lost in straight sets to Tsvetana Pironkova and Steve Johnson respectively, Ward won the opening set against 31st seed Fernando Verdasco and – after losing the second 6-0 – was a break up in the third on court seven.

However, the British number two was then broken back and failed to convert a set point in the tie-break, eventually losing it 8-6 as Spaniard Verdasco raised his game at the crucial moment.

Ward had been in confident mood ahead of the match after joining Murray in his winter training camp in Florida and qualifying for the main draw via his world ranking, which reached a career-high of 101 earlier this month.

But the writing was firmly on the wall when he lost his serve in the opening game of the fourth set on his way to a 2-6 6-0 7-6 (8/6) 6-3 defeat in two hours and 42 minutes.

That meant sixth seed Murray, who takes on Australian Marinko Matosevic in the second round on Wednesday, was the last British player left in the singles just after 3:30pm local time on the second day.

Ward said: “It was a very high level from both of us and he said that to me at the end. But obviously I had chances, especially at 5-4 and serving in the tie-break. I will go away and look at it again and if I am in the same position again try to do something a little different.”

The 27-year-old admitted not holding onto his lead in the third set proved crucial, adding: “Of course if I hold serve twice more I am up 2-1 up but it was very tough conditions. It was very windy and we both broke each other when serving into the wind. It came down to a few points.”

Ward said he will now head back to London to attend the funeral of his grandmother, who passed away recently. “I don’t want to make excuses but it’s difficult. We’re a very close family and it was a bit of a shock,” he added.

Watson came into the year’s first grand slam on the back of winning the second WTA Tour title of her career in Hobart on Saturday.

That elevated the British number one to a career-high world ranking of 38, but it was soon apparent she was not 100 per cent as she lost three of her first four service games in the blustery conditions to trail 5-2.

At that point the 22-year-old called the trainer to court 10 for a lengthy consultation, during which she took on some fluids and energy gel. It briefly did the trick as she immediately retrieved one of the breaks of serve and held to make it 5-4, but former Wimbledon semi-finalist Pironkova took her second chance to serve out the opening set and raced through the second 6-0.

Watson did not think her problems were related to the glandular fever which ruined her 2013 season, but said she had woken up “in sweats” and added: “It’s really frustrating, especially at the one time I really wanted all my energy and wanted to be 100 per cent, but it happens and I should have handled it better.

“I get this at different times. I have a day or two here and there where I feel like this so I’m going to see the doctor afterwards because I can’t let this affect me any more. I’m not sure if it’s to do with my schedule, I just think it’s to do with my body and how it works but I’ll find out about that and go and see the doctor.

“I did not celebrate (winning in Hobart) too much because I had the Australian Open on my mind, but it’s a real shame. It sucks.”

Edmund had won three matches in qualifying to make the main draw but went down in straight sets to world number 38 Johnson, a player ranked 154 places above him who served 17 aces and faced just one break point.

The 20-year-old from Yorkshire said: “I felt I did not play too badly but came up against a very good opponent who was serving very well and I was not quite able to get into his service games.

“There was not much rhythm in the match because it was tough to get into points. My serve has definitely improved but today it came in and out so I need to be more consistent and also work on my returns.

“It’s been a good experience to win three matches in qualifying so I just need to move forward with it and keep improving.”

Published: Tuesday 20th January 2015 by The News Editor

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