Taxi for Pablo Andujar! James Ward marches on
"South of the River guv? Love to." Certainly if the journey is to Wimbledon, to see the Euston cab-drivers' son James Ward win a second-round place at Wimbledon for the first time.
The 25-year-old Davis Cup player showed resilience and talent to defeat the world No 36, Spain's Pablo Andujar, 4-6, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Ward will now play the American No 10 seed, Mardy Fish.
Yesterday's opponent was a year older and 137 places higher up the rankings than Ward but the grass surface was a leveller. Andujar had lost in the opening round on two previous visits to SW19, so one of these men would be going into uncharted territory.
The lean and wiry Ward lost a closely-contested first set by a break but then swept Andujar away to take the second 6-0 in 21 minutes. The Spaniard rallied to win the third 6-3 but Ward responded again, producing an ace when he needed it to serve out in the fourth.
Ward had not previously gone the full distance in a Grand Slam match but he had five-set experience in the Davis Cup, notably in the fabled Wimbledon play-off of 2009 when the then-Davis Cup captain, John Lloyd, decided that players had to compete for wild cards. Ward and Chris Eaton duelled for six hours and 40 minutes before Eaton prevailed 21-19 in the final set.
In preparation, perhaps, for another marathon yesterday, both players took extended comfort breaks before the fifth set. The interruption seemed to affect Ward as he quickly slipped to a 3-0 deficit. Amid rising tension and with both players irked by line calls, he pulled back to 3-3.
There followed an exchange in Spanish to which the umpire took exception – until Ward, who spent several years training in Valencia, explained that he had been asking Andujar "if he was OK", the Spaniard having slipped to do the splits at a crucial point.
Ward proceeded to break again and hold serve and he then took the set and the match with a sixth consecutive game – a demoralised Andujar double-faulted on Ward's first match point.
Yesterday the Wimbledon website had a blank space and the legend "photo not available" on its page for Ward. They may be able to find a picture of him now, as a lot more people now know what he looks like. Should he go on to defeat Fish, Ward's days of anonymity will be over.
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