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Wimbledon: Bedene and Ward are flying the flag for Great Britain

By Nick Purewal

Great Britain has four men in the second round at Wimbledon for the first time since 2006 after Aljaz Bedene and James Ward swept to victory late yesterday.

Bedene scrapped past veteran Czech battler Radek Stepanek in five sets while Ward claimed a four-set victory over Italy's lucky loser Luca Vanni, the duo joining Liam Broady and Andy Murray in round two at SW19.

The last time Britain had such a strong second-round men's collective in south west London, Tim Henman and Andy Murray were flanked by Jamie Delgado, Martin Lee and Richard Bloomfield.

Slovenia-born Bedene tasted his first Wimbledon victory after taking full British citizenship earlier this year, seeing off Stepanek 7-5 1-6 4-6 6-3 6-4.

And just minutes after the 25-year-old had booked a second-round clash with Viktor Troicki, Ward completed his 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-4 6-3 victory over a visibly-flagging Vanni.

Stepanek might be in the latter throes of an illustrious career, but Bedene was always going to be in for a fight against an opponent once ranked No 8 in the world.

Last summer, Stepanek dumped 2013 Wimbledon champion Murray out of the Queen's Club tournament, so Bedene was right to approach this tie with caution.

After all the recent battles over his bid to represent Britain in Davis Cup action and general conjecture on his nationality switch in general though, there can be little doubt Bedene will be delighted to shine under the Wimbledon microscope.

Counting War of the Worlds producer Jeff Wayne - the Hertfordshire tennis captain - among his firm friends, Bedene has been a British resident for the last seven years.

Though his passport only came through in March, Bedene will hope victory at Britain's showpiece event can help convince the general public of his loyalties.

Tennis' governing bodies have blocked Bedene's attempt to represent Britain in Davis Cup action, so he will miss out on the forthcoming quarter-final with France.

A fine run at Wimbledon would ease those frustrations however, and seeing off Stepanek is a strong start.

Wildcard Ward has reached the second round at Wimbledon for the second time - and in light of Kyle Edmund's defeat to Alexandr Dolgopolov earlier in the day may just have boosted his own chances of selection for that Davis Cup showdown with France.

Edmund lost out 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 6-2 to Ukraine's Dolgopolov at the start of yesterday's action, to leave him still waiting to break into the top 100 rankings.

Ward had been slated to meet Spain's David Ferrer in the first round, but the eighth seed pulled out before the event with an elbow injury.

The 28-year-old Londoner seized his chance against World No 113 Vanni and will now face the winner of the match between Jiri Vesey and Paolo Lorenzi in the second round.

Belfast Telegraph


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