Ward fights back to make main draw

James Ward watched Arsenal win at Wembley

James Ward watched Arsenal win at Wembley

First published in National Sport News © by

James Ward channelled the fighting spirit of his beloved Arsenal to end a 41-year wait for a British man to qualify at the French Open.

The Londoner's 4-6 6-4 12-10 victory over Slovenian Blaz Rola made him the first British player to successfully negotiate the men's qualifying draw since John Lloyd in 1973.

Ward had never won a match at Roland Garros before and his preparations were not exactly textbook, the 27-year-old delaying his journey to Paris so he could go to Wembley to watch Arsenal beat Hull 3-2 in the FA Cup final last Saturday.

Ward said: "I probably should have been in P aris preparing early but I couldn't say no to the old Arsenal.

"It was an unbelievable day. Nine years without a trophy and to be there and to experience it.

"To be honest, at 2-0 down after 10 minutes, I was thinking: 'Everyone who knows I am at this game is going to absolutely slaughter me.'

"It actually worked out better that way, to come back from 2-0 down, the drama, then winning in extra time.

"Someone said to me earlier on today: 'Fight like the Arsenal.' And I thought: 'Why not?' And it worked for me."

Ward's match was certainly not short of thrills and spills, with the world number 169 seeing a match point go begging at 5-3 in the decider.

He was then broken by Rola, ranked 75 places higher, when he served for the match and had to save two match points at 6-7 before finally completing the job after three hours and one minute.

"I thought it was game over when I was two match points down, but I served well," said Ward.

"Someone in the crowd went to me: 'Two big serves.' I thought: 'Why not?' I missed the first and I thought: 'That's the end of that one.' But I found a way back."

Ward's victory guarantees him prize money of £19,400, almost two thirds of his earnings so far this season.

Andy Murray spoke out this week, as he has on a number of occasions, about the need to improve prize money below the ATP Tour.

Not surprisingly, it is a subject Ward feels passionately about, and he said: " Andy's always put his name forward to do that. He understands.

"I speak to him about things all the time, we're pretty close now. He sees his level and the level I'm playing at, Challengers and playing ATP qualifying, it's completely different.

"Of course it's difficult (to make a living). I've been asked this question for the last five years and it's the same reply every time.

"It's very difficult because you're paying my expenses, my coach's, you're paying your food, the hotel, your travel, for the two people, and if you lose first round you're getting 300 dollars, minus tax. It's embarrassing really."

Ward is hopeful new ATP executive chairman and president Chris Kermode, formerly the tournament director at Queen's and the ATP World Tour Finals, will address the subject but doubts the will of many at the top to change things.

He said: "If they felt strongly enough about it, I'm sure they would come out and say it.

"But it's tough, it's understandable because why should they bother? Their life's happy, they're earning enough money, and granted they're the best players so they should be earning the best. I'm not disputing that for one minute.

"The gap is way too big, everyone talks about it but nothing gets done.

"There shouldn't be such a massive gap to the guy who can't even get transport leaving here because he's lost in first round qualies, it's embarrassing really.

"In the past, at the US Open you get refused entry the day after you lose. What's that about? When you're in the top 200 players in the world and you have to get somebody to pick up your laundry because you left it in there the day before."

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