The roar from James Ward said it all. He had done it. Not only had he just beaten Jiri Vesely, a man ranked 66 places higher than him, not only had he reached the third round at Wimbledon for the first time in his career, but he was now cemented his place inside the world’s top 100.
Ward beat the big and powerful Czech 6-2, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, recovering from a third-set dip and struggling with his serve as he tried to close out the match, and when it was over he howled in delight. By winning his first- round match, he had tiptoed into the top 100 in the rankings but this win should lift him up to the mid-80s from his current position of No 111.
The few rankings spots may not sound like they make much of a difference, but for a player at Ward’s level, the bonuses are huge. He will now gain direct entry into the US Open – another chance to make big bucks and earn more ranking points. He can use his result in SW19 as a launching pad to climb higher later in the year – and he is still in the tournament. At the age of 28 and after a lifetime of trying, he has finally broken through and into his own promised land.
“I just can’t put it into words; it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” he said. “It’s great. Obviously, my ranking goes up. Into the third round of Wimbledon, I can’t ask for anything more at the moment. Still playing this tournament and looking to win another match on Saturday.
“It’s tough to explain. A lot of relief. As I say, those last three service games in that set were tough. He didn’t miss too many balls. He made a lot of returns, put the pressure on to make sure that he didn’t give it to me easy. He held his serve pretty comfortably in the last couple of games, as well. I guess there’s a little bit of relief and I’m just obviously happy that I’ve reached the third round for the first time. Yeah, onwards and upwards.”
Ward was the hero of Britain’s Davis Cup tie with the United States back in March, beating John Isner, then the world No 20, 15-13 in the fifth set. By winning that vital point, he shouldered the workload with Andy Murray and proved himself to be the Scot’s valiant sidekick. Since then, Ward’s results on the regular tour have been unspectacular but he believes his time spent with the world No 3, both in the team competition and in training, has been the foundation for this week’s success.
I just can’t put it into words; it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long timeJames Ward
“It’s always a good help spending time with him at the Davis Cup and off‑season as well, which I’ve been lucky enough to do,” Ward said.
“Good habits rub off on you if you spend enough time around someone. He’s been a big help to me and I’m grateful for that. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, keep learning from him.
“He’s just a good friend above all. We get on really well. We have a lot of the same interests as well outside of tennis. He’s always there supporting, he’s always watching matches. A lot of you guys know that he follows live streams of Challengers, is always there to send you a message when you’ve done well, or pick you up when you need a bit of support. A lot of stuff that he does and says really doesn’t get reported that much. For a few of us, it’s nice to have that support from such a great player.”
Murray may be too busy to follow Ward’s progress closely tomorrow (the Scot plays Andreas Seppi for a place in the last 16) but Ward thinks he may be able to cope alone. He faces Vasek Pospisil, the world No 56 from Canada. Pospisil beat the No 30 seed, Fabio Fognini, 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 yesterday.
“I know Vasek pretty well,” Ward said. “He’s a good friend of mine actually. We spend a lot of time together. In the last few years, we’ve played a couple of times on the Challenger Tour, a couple bigger matches in the semis and finals in the past. We both know each other’s games, so there’s not too many secrets. Look, it’s a great chance for both of us.”
British No 2 Aljaz Bedene was unable to follow Murray and Ward into the third round. The Slovenia-born Bedene lost out to Viktor Troicki in four sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.