Cage fighter gives Londoner Ward the punch to claim a prize scalp

If it is true that British players can be too soft, then James Ward is doing his best to change the image. The 24-year-old Londoner has taken on a former cage boxer as his fitness coach and yesterday recorded the best victory of his career, beating Stanislas Wawrinka, the world No 14, 7-6, 6-3 here in the second round of the Aegon Championships.

Ward, the world No 216, is the second highest-ranked Briton behind Andy Murray, but his career has stalled in the last two years. Recognising the need to improve his strength, he recently turned to Diego Visotzky, a former Argentinian cage fighter, having been introduced to him by a trainer in Spain.

"He's taught me a lot and given me a lot of discipline – and obviously I'm not going to answer him back too many times," Ward said. "If he goes in the ring and messes around, he's going to get beaten up. It's the same sort of principle on court. If you don't go in there prepared, you go down a break early on and it's tough to fight your way back."

Visotzky has never worked in tennis before. "He was walking around tournaments for a long time with all his fighting gear on, so I had to give him a lot of Fila stuff to make him try and blend in," Ward said. "He looked like he was a bodyguard. I don't need one of them just yet."

Did Ward find him scary? "A little bit," the British No 2 smiled. "You should see a picture of him." Had the Argentinian put him in a cage yet? "No, but he keeps getting me in headlocks, which isn't nice. Not too much back-chat."

The grass-court season brings the best out of Ward, who won four matches at last week's Challenger event in Nottingham. He beat a fellow British wild card, Dan Cox, in the first round here and followed it up with a polished performance against Wawrinka. The Swiss, who is Roger Federer's regular Davis Cup doubles partner, reached the fourth round at Wimbledon two years ago before losing in five sets to Murray but struggled in his season-opener on grass. Ward now meets Sam Querrey, the defending champion.

It was a good day all round for Ward after he was awarded a wild card into Wimbledon. Other wild cards went to his fellow countrymen Cox (world No 273) and Dan Evans (No 300), along with five British women: Heather Watson, whose rise to No 93 in the world rankings came too late to earn a place in the main draw, Katie O'Brien(No 216), Naomi Broady (No 231), who reached the second round of the Aegon Classic at Edgbaston yesterday by beating France's Caroline Garcia, Laura Robson (No 234) and Emily Webley-Smith (No 247). Elena Baltacha (No 74) and Anne Keothavong (No 110) were ranked high enough at the cut-off date to go straight into the main draw.

Murray came through his doubles match here last night alongside brother Jamie unscathed, though the Scots were beaten 6-3, 6-4 by Xavier Malisse and Ken Skupski. The world No 4 crosses swords again with Malisse in his opening singles match this afternoon.

Andy Roddick was relieved to win his first match for three months, beating Feliciano Lopez 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. The 28-year-old American, who pulled out of the French Open with a shoulder injury, has won the title here four times.

Federer upset the organisers of the Halle tournament, where he usually prepares for Wimbledon, by pulling out to rest. "My body, especially my groin, really needs a rest," he said.

Ralf Weber, the event director, was not impressed. "Our plans for the past year have been nearly exclusively with Roger [here]. I clearly expressed my disappointment to his management."

Wimbledon wild cards

Women

1. Heather Watson Age 19 Ranking 93 (Highest ranking current). First Round at last year's tournament.

2. Laura Robson Age 17 Ranking 237 (Highest ranking 189, October 2010). First round last year

3. Katie O'Brien Age 25 Ranking 276 (Highest ranking 174, October 2007). Second round in 2007

4. Naomi Broady Age 21 Ranking 345 (Highest ranking 314, December 2010). First appearance in the main draw

5. Emily Webley-Smith Age 26 Rank 279 (Highest ranking 241, November 2009). Second round in 2004

Men

1. Daniel Cox Age 20 Ranking 273 (Highest ranking 273). Debut in Wimbledon main draw

2. Daniel Evans Age 21 Ranking 602 (Highest ranking 466, February 2011). First round in 2009

3. James Ward Age 24 World No 258 (Highest ranking 240, June 2010). First round in 2009

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'