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British wild cards find it tough going

James Ward sizes up a forehand stroke
by Kate Mason
Monday 23 June 2014

Four out of the five British wild cards were knocked out on Day 1 of the Gentlemen’s Singles Championship. James Ward (154), Daniel Cox (214), Kyle Edmund (320) and Dan Evans (143) all suffered defeats so only Daniel Smethurst (234), who plays on Tuesday, remains in the draw.

The best performance came from diminutive English youngster Cox. He may be ranked outside the world top 200 but he showed huge potential in his 2-6, 6-7(3), 7-6(6), 3-6 defeat by the world No.42 Jeremy Chardy.

A first set riddled with errors opened with the 23-year-old Brit losing his first service game to 15. "The start was actually really tough because obviously with nerves and everything I did find it quite hard," Cox said. Chardy’s powerful snapped forehands and precise serves proved too much for the younger man.

In a more comfortable second set, he took Chardy to a tie-break. But Cox’s opening serve again let him down and struggled to recover from the mini-break and went 2-0 down. But he was gaining confidence all the time. When Cox forced another tie-break in the third, it was his Gallic opponent who lost focus. The Brits in the crowd grew increasingly raucous and he finally clinched the fourth set point to win it 8-6.

Chardy broke twice to go 3-0 up in the fourth. Both men exchanged breaks recklessly. The seventh break of the set was Chardy’s and when Cox served at 3-5 down to stay in the match. Cox wailed as he blasted his forehand long and the French flapped tricolors to celebrate their latest win.

On No.2 Court Dan Evans took a set from Andrey Kuznetsov in a passionate display. In an unpromising start Britain’s second-highest ranked man lost his first set 6-1 in 21 minutes. A first serve percentage of 56 told part of the story, as did nerves. On paper, Evans had the best chance of the English men as Kuznetsov’s world ranking is 118; Evans’s 143.

In the second set the Lincolnshire man continued to force his serve, producing six double faults to Kuznetsov’s zero. Though he faltered at 5-6, gifting the Russian the second set, in the third he surged to 4-1.

A tight fourth set could have gone either way. Evans was now the more impressive player. In the sixth game in particular his outstanding retrieving and backhand slices prompted an ecstatic admirer to declare “I love you Evo!” to the approval of the crowd.

The resurgence was too late. Despite vigorous applause before each Evans serve, the tie-break – and the match – went with the world No.118 from Moscow: 6-1, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(5).

North Yorkshire’s Kyle Edmund, the lowest ranking player in the gentlemen’s singles, opened strongly – going 2-0 up but Austrian Andrey Haider-Maurer broke back in the third, ultimately taking the first set 6-3.

Edmund settled into his rhythm in a slower second set, forcing a tie-break. There, he rushed to an early 3-1 lead before losing four straight points to the Austrian. At 6-3 down he played a superb whipped forehand winner, but the 7-4 breakerk was Haider-Maurer’s. The  third set was as quick as the first with Haider-Maurer taking swift advantage of his inconsistency to seal the match 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2.

27-year-old James Ward kept pace with No.17 seed Mikhail Youzhny in the opening games, matching his powerful baseline strokes. The 27-year-old’s doublehanded backhand was in particularly fine form, letting Ward take his second service game to love.

But an abrupt break from the Russian in the sixth game tilted the set in the more experienced man’s favour and he took it 6-2. The second set echoed the first. A Ward double fault handed Youzhny the sixth game. Then, at 5-2 down, the world No.154 sent a routine forehand long to lose the game and second set.

Again he opened well in the third, sending a brutal forehand drive past Youzhny’s racket to claim the first point. The crowd cheered gratefully but could not lift their man. Youzhny goes through to the second round for his fifth consecutive year 6-2, 6-2, 6-1.

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