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Wimbledon: James wants to Ward off all his rivals for No.2 spot

By Nick Purewal

Wimbledon hero James Ward insists he remains Britain's second-best player, despite losing the nation's official number-two berth to Slovenia-born Aljaz Bedene.

Arsenal fan Ward defeated Jiri Vesely to reach Wimbledon's third round for the first time, admitting another victory at SW19 would be as big as the Gunners winning the Premier League.

World number 75 Bedene who lost to 22nd seed Viktor Troicki gained a British passport in March after seven years' residency in England, immediately assuming Ward's number-two status.

Ward finally cracked the world's top 100 to join Andy Murray in victory and hand Britain two men in Wimbledon's third round for the first time since 2002, before asserting his place in the domestic pecking order.

"Yeah of course," said Ward when asked if he still considers himself Britain's second-best player behind Murray.

Kyle Edmund entered Wimbledon as Britain's number three, with Ward technically in fourth. Victory over Jiri Vesely should see Ward claim third spot, though he still sees himself as trailing only Murray among the Brits.

"It's something that I've had for a few years now," said Ward, of number-two status.

"Being number two doesn't really change your life too much in this country."

The average age of players breaking into the top 100 is just 21: Ward has bucked that trend at 28 to gain a provisional berth of 87.

That should guarantee automatic qualification for the US Open at the end of August, with Ward pleased to level out a string of Davis Cup victories by finally doing himself justice at a grand slam.

Ward surrendered 65 places in the world rankings to Czech 21-year-old Vesely, but prevailed 6-2 7-6 (7/4) 3-6 6-3 with a bullish and accomplished performance.

Bedene was unable to follow suit, in defeat to Troicki, denying Britain three men in Wimbledon's third round for the first time since 1999.

Likeable Hertfordshire resident Bedene claimed after his first-round victory over Radek Stepanek that his new-found nationality can spur on all the British players to new heights.

Ward producing his best-ever grand slam return under pressure from Bedene proves immediate supporting evidence, and the man himself could not disagree.

"That happens in any country," said Ward.

"The more top players you have got, it has a knock-on effect to everyone else.

"I don't think here will be any different."

Ward will meet world number 56 Vasek Pospisil on Saturday, admitting another triumph would be as big a dream as his hopes for Arsenal.

"Winning in the third round would probably be like Arsenal winning the league next year to be honest," said Ward.

"After that we start thinking about Champions League finals.

"Let's think about Saturday first."

Ward despatched world number 17 John Isner to provide the pivotal win in Great Britain's Davis Cup victory over the USA earlier this year.

The Britons face France at Queen's Club a week after Wimbledon, and Ward's resurgent form ought to nail down that second singles spot alongside Murray.

Belfast Telegraph


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