The frustration was evident. The break point conversion of one in 13 said it all. Despite another gutsy effort against a higher-ranked opponent, 26-year-old British wild card James Ward was left to rue his missed chances as he lost 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(11), 7-6(7) to Yen-Hsun Lu.
A win for Ward, ranked No.219, would have guaranteed a first meeting with compatriot Andy Murray in the second round. As it is, the home fans will have to wait at least another year to see two British men face off at The Championships – the last time being in 2001 when Tim Henman took on Martin Lee.
Tennis players often use the mantra of “one match at a time” when responding to questions about potential future opponents. Ward, however, admitted that he was well aware of the opportunity of testing himself against the world No 2 if he beat Lu.
Ward said: “It was a massive prize at the end of it to play Andy in the next round, which everyone was talking about before. If I'd won I would be playing on Centre Court. It would have been nice. Obviously it's tough to think about now. I'm just wishing Andy well and hoping he gets the job done.”
Judging by the volume of support on Court 12, the home fans were also quite keen on an all-British clash, and Ward started well, breaking in the opening game as Lu put a backhand wide. Sadly, it was to be the only time Ward managed to break his opponent’s serve in the entire match.
Although 29-year-old Lu is currently ranked No.75, he has pedigree on the grass having reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2010, and he broke back for 3-3 with a stunning forehand down the line. A nervy tie-break ensued in which Ward double faulted twice but somehow still managed to claim the set.
One loose game from Ward was the difference in the second set as Lu levelled. Ward will be most frustrated, however, with the third set tie-break in which he failed to take any of his four set points. Eventually, after also doing the same, Lu took the tie-break 13-11 on his fifth set point as Ward hit a backhand long.
After saving a match point at 4-5 in the fourth set when Lu hit a forehand wide, Ward claimed three break points to take a 6-5 lead but failed to convert once again. The set went to a tie-break and Lu clinched it on his third match point as Ward netted a backhand slice.
Reflecting on his missed chances, Ward said: “Of course you're frustrated. But if you really go back point by point of those - I don't remember exactly all of them, but I remember five or six that he served to the line. He didn't give me too many looks at second [serves]. Credit to him, he produced big tennis on the big points.”
So it is Lu who now goes on to face Murray, a man he knows well having beaten him in the first round at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, although Murray got his revenge earlier this year with a straight-sets win in Indian Wells.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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