Ward so close in epic battle with Fish

Londoner James Ward played that familiar role of the British nearly man at Wimbledon as he was edged out by Mardy Fish in a five-set second-round thriller.

There have been several cases of low-ranked home players making gallant attempts at glory at SW19 and today was Ward's day in the sun.

Despite being Britain's number two player, he can only boast a ranking of 173rd, but that rarely showed as he pushed the 10th-seeded Fish all the way en route to a 6-3 5-7 6-4 6/7 (7/3) 6-3 loss.

It is 10 years since there were last two British men in the third round of a grand slam and, after Andy Murray won earlier in the day to progress, 25-year-old Ward flirted with the possibility of succeeding where others have failed over recent years.

He unleashed some stunning backhand winners and staved off match point in the fourth set, but eventually he succumbed to the Californian who received his most rigorous workout since returning from a heart scare.

He was watched by Ryder Cup golfer Sergio Garcia, who is staying with Fish, and the Spaniard will have expected to have been congratulating his friend in no time after a rapid start.

Fish wrapped up the opening set inside 33 minutes, breaking with his first chance in the third game and seeing off a break-back threat in the seventh when Ward netted.

He then took the Brit's serve in the first game of the second set.

Fish snagged three more break points in the third game too but, when Ward served his way out of trouble, the momentum of the game changed.

Ward broke back when Fish planted a volley long and, after the pair frittered away six more break points between them, Ward took the set when he planted a one-handed winner wide of his opponent.

The disparity in their rankings was hardly evident - if anything, Ward looked the better player - and the third set started evenly until Ward gave Fish a chance in the seventh game. He failed to take that one, but snared the second of three he earned in the ninth game with a fizzing backhand before serving out to lead two sets to one.

The fourth set followed a similar pattern, with Ward blinking first with a wide backhand in the seventh game, but on this occasion he fought back, breaking back in the 10th and then prevailing in the tie-break having survived match point on his own serve in the 12th.

With a building crowd both in and out of court following the conclusion of Murray's match, the script seemed written for Ward to take it in the decider.

But, despite serve holding through to the eighth game, he lapsed and offered Fish three break points, conceding one of them with the weakest of forehands.

And, after a number of near misses, Fish made sure he closed out on this occasion, raising his arms after sending down an ace.