French Open 2014: James Ward wins through by ‘fighting like the Arsenal’

Gunners fan is first British man to get past French Open qualifiers since 1973


Six days after watching his beloved Arsenal break their own fruitless run, James Ward ended an even longer sequence of British failure on Friday. By beating Slovenia’s Blaz Rola 4-6, 6-4, 12-10 in more than three hours of fierce competition, the 27-year-old Londoner became the first British man to come through the qualifying tournament to earn a place in the main singles draw at the French Open since John Lloyd in 1973. He will be the first British man other than Andy Murray to play in the singles at Roland Garros since Tim Henman’s retirement in 2007.

Ward, who will learn his first-round opponent when the qualifiers are placed in the main draw on Saturday, had failed to win a single match in three previous attempts to qualify, but the world No 169 followed up his first-round victory over Moldova’s Radu Albot with highly creditable wins over Ryan Harrison, who has long been hailed as one of America’s most promising young talents, and Rola, the world No 94.

“I probably should have been in Paris preparing early but I couldn’t say no to the old Arsenal,” Ward said, having watched Arsène Wenger’s team beat Hull City in the FA Cup final. “It was an unbelievable day – nine years without a trophy and to be there and to experience it. To be honest, at 2-0 down after 10 minutes, I was thinking: ‘Everyone who knows I am at this game is going to absolutely slaughter me.’

“Someone said to me earlier on today: ‘Fight like the Arsenal.’ And I thought: ‘Why not?’ And it worked for me today.”

Ward was with the Arsenal players after the final. “I have friends who are very friendly with them, which is lucky,” he said. “I talk to Bacary Sagna a lot, but he’s obviously just left so I have to speak to someone else for tickets next year. If anyone out there wants to throw a few my way, then why not?”

Accomplishing a feat that he said compared with his excellent results in the Davis Cup – Ward enjoyed a crucial win against Sam Querrey that inspired Britain’s World Group victory over the United States in San Diego earlier this year – required mental as well as physical strength. The British No 3  failed to convert a match point when he led Rola 5-3 in the final set, was broken when he served for the match at 5-4 and saved two match points when trailing 7-6.

Securing a place in the main draw will also please Ward’s bank manager. First-round losers at this year’s French Open will earn €24,000 (about £19,400), an increase of more than 14 per cent on last year. Before arriving in Paris, Ward had played 12 tournaments this year, mostly on the Challenger circuit, and had won a total of just $52,900 (about £31,400) in prize money.

Considering the costs of travel (Ward has played in Australia, Hawaii, Dubai, Panama, Florida, California and several other locations this year already) and of employing a coach, it is very hard for players at his level to make ends meet. Murray is among those who have argued that Challenger and Futures tournaments should increase their prize money substantially.

“It’s very difficult because you’re paying your expenses and your coach’s,” Ward said. “You’re paying for your food, hotel and travel for two  people and if you lose in  the first round you’re  getting $300 minus tax. It’s embarrassing.”

Ward said he did not begrudge the top players their rewards – the singles champions here will earn €1.65m (£1.33m) – but added: “There shouldn’t be such a massive gap to the guy who can’t even get [free] transport leaving here, because he’s lost in the first round of qualifying. Even in the past, at the US Open you get refused entry the day after you lose. What’s that about?

“You’re in the top 200 players in the world and you have to get somebody to pick up your laundry because you left it in there the day before. Those are the sorts of things that need to change.”

Murray welcomed Ward’s success in joining him in the main draw. “What he can achieve is really up to him and how much he wants to achieve,” the world No 8 said. “If you look at his results, he’s beaten very good players. He has the form in big matches to suggest that he could be ranked 50, 60 or 70 in the world.”

Heather Watson will today attempt to become the only Briton in the women’s singles when she faces the 18-year-old Estonian Anett Kontaveit in the final round of qualifying. In yesterday’s second round Watson beat Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova 4-6, 6-2,  7-5. Johanna Konta, the British No 3, went out in the third round, losing 6-7, 7-5, 6-0 to Yuliya Beygelzimer, also of Ukraine. Dan Cox lost 6-3, 7-6 to the top qualifying seed, Italian Paolo Lorenzi, in the second round.

Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum