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James Ward hopes small margins can make a big difference

By Paul Newman

James Ward will arrive at Wimbledon today in a courtesy car provided by the All England Club, but if the Londoner had not pleaded his case he might have been travelling by tube.

"I think I'm 0.1 miles over the radius of what you're allowed by the club," Ward said yesterday.

"I think it's seven miles and I'm 7.1. So I spoke to the club and they said: 'We'll let you off'."

Ward, 28, who plays one of the biggest matches of his lifewhen he faces Canada's Vasek Pospisil in the third round today, lives in a flat in north London and does not have a driving licence.

When he came to Wimbledon to practise last week he sometimes travelled by tube.

Had he been recognised on the train? "No, there weren't that many people," Ward said.

"I don't think people expect it either. I don't think people were looking out for any players. I don't think they were thinking they would see Roger Federer jumping on the tube."

Ward prepared for his first appearance in the third round by practising with Andy Murray, who is also in action today against Andreas Seppi.

Ward also worked in the gym, did a round of media interviews and was hoping to find time to respond to the "ridiculous" number of messages he had received following his second-round victory over Jiri Vesely on Thursday.

One was from Ivan Gazidis, the chief executive at Arsenal.

Ward, a lifelong Arsenal fan and a friend of the defender Kieran Gibbs, said: "I don't think I will have a problem getting a ticket now. He said everyone at Arsenal is supporting you, we've been watching you.

I've met him a few times from a couple of years ago when I mentioned I was an Arsenal fan at Wimbledon. He invited me as his guest into the directors' box."

Murray, who has welcomed Ward into his training camps in Miami and Dubai in the last two years, also enjoys watching Arsenal, but Ward said with a smile: "I always call him a TV fan. He never comes to the matches - even when we're both in London."

In theory Ward and Murray could meet for the first time in the quarter-finals here,though both would have to win two more matches. Ward or Pospisil next play Dustin Brown or Viktor Troicki, while Murray or Seppi will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Ivo Karlovic.

Ward and Murray have never met in competition but have played sets against each other in practice. "We did a lot in Miami," Ward said. "A few were close and I won a couple. He won his fair share more than me, but that is to be expected."

By winning two matches here Ward has guaranteed that he will break into the world's top 100 for the first time. It has been a long journey. He has been ranked between No. 101 and No. 120 for the last 10 months. Given his excellent results in the Davis Cup - his wins over Sam Querrey and John Isner were the turning points for Britain against the United States last year and this year - it is perhaps surprising that he has not made his breakthrough before.

"I think a lot of people rise to the occasion and like the big stage," Ward said. "I'm one of them but it is not like I am playing terrible throughout the year. I play a lot of tough players and you can see the level of tennis here. No one expected Dustin Brown to beat Rafa Nadal yesterday, but it happens."

Murray agreed that breaking into the top 100 was not easy. The Scot added: "I don't like saying that it is great that James makes the top 100. What is great is that he reaches his potential against what his potential is. Not everybody has the capabilities to get to the top 100, but James really has the capability. And you want to see him reach his potential, which he is getting close to doing."

Pospisil, Ward's opponent, had won only one singles match at Wimbledon before this year, though the world No 56 claimed the doubles title here last year with Jack Sock. He knows Ward well, but they have played only once before, when the Londoner beat him in the semi-finals of a Challenger tournament in Vancouver four years ago.

Murray, meanwhile, will be the clear favourite against Seppi. The Italian, who knocked Federer out of the Australian Open this year, won his first meeting with Murray, on grass at Nottingham nine years ago, but the world No 3 has not dropped a set in their six subsequent meetings.

Belfast Telegraph


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