Andy Murray and James Ward are through to the third round at Wimbledon, a resurgence of sorts for British tennis given the last time two of its men advanced this far was 13 years ago when Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski were contenders, although it is hardly an occasion to get out the bunting and brass bands just yet.
Still, there ought to be no downplaying of their victories on day four, Murray devastating in giving the Dutchman Robin Haase a thorough straight sets hiding on No1 Court, while Ward came through a familiar struggle to beat the difficult Czech Jiri Vesely 6-2, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-3 on No2 Court.
And one and two is where Murray and Ward had been in British tennis until the recent arrival to the cause of Aljaz Bedene, who did well to take a set off the 22nd seed Viktor Troicki.
On a day when Murray threw his wristband into the crowd in celebration of his win and the sweaty item headed for the tender grasp of the Duchess of Cornwall – who was saved the embarrassment of going for the catch by the chairman Philip Brook – it was perhaps a sign of changing times. No boundary here is sacred now.
Ward – who will keep his Davis Cup place ahead of Bedene after the ITF recently denied his right to represent his adopted country – next plays the accomplished young Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who beat the eccentric, dangerous Italian Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in just over two hours on Court 12.
Murray, however, remains the kingpin of the British game. After coming through a tougher examination in the first round against Mikhail Kukushkin, he hit another level against Haase, beating him 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 in under an hour and a half.
His opponent on Saturday is the Italian Andreas Seppi, who finished impressively to see off the precocious challenge of the rising Croatian star Borna Coric 4-6, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-1.
Murray, who is enormously supportive of other British players, was particularly pleased for Ward, who bears the perennial mien of the put-upon underdog, although he was quick to put his achievement in perspective.
“Obviously the draw opened up,” Murray said. “He was to play [David] Ferrer in the first round – an extremely difficult draw. Then playing a lucky loser [Luca Vanni] in the first round, he’s taken advantage of the opportunity that he’s had at a very important time for him, as well, because he hadn’t won so many matches lately.
“After here, he has quite a lot of points to defend. It was very important for him to capitalise on that. He’s won a couple of good matches. Today I saw the last couple of games. Vesely is a tough opponent. It was a good win for James today. He has an opportunity again in the third round.”
Ward was plainly thrilled about his progress, although typically downbeat in his response to even the slightest praise. “It’s great,” he said. “Obviously my ranking goes up, into third round of Wimbledon … I can’t ask for anything more at the moment.”
Asked whether winning back-to-back matches at Wimbledon was comparable to Arsenal, his team, winning two FA Cups in a row, he said, “Winning third round would probably be like Arsenal winning the league next year, to be honest. After that, we start thinking about Champions League finals. Let’s think about Saturday first.”
Ward and Murray have an interest in the north London club, Ward’s driven by birth – he is the son of a Euston cab driver – Murray’s by an admiration for their football. It is a bond that has contributed to the good feeling between them, either as Davis Cup team-mates or campaigning in a slam, which they are doing side by side now, rather than Ward going home early.
“He’s just a good friend above all,” Ward said. “We get on really well. We have a lot of the same interests as well outside of tennis. He’s always there supporting, he’s always watching matches. A lot of people know that he follows live streams of challengers, is always there to send you a message when you’ve done well, or pick you up when you need a bit of support.
“A lot of stuff that he does and says really doesn’t get reported that much. As I said for few of us, it’s nice to have that support from such a great player.”
Murray added: “I’ve spent a lot of time with him over the last 12, 18 months.We’ve done a few training blocks together. He stayed with me in Miami a few times. I watch a lot of his matches online when he’s playing challengers and stuff.”
As for their joint assault on the third round, Ward remains cool-headed rather than sentimental. “Everyone is concentrating on their own thing,” Ward said. “It’s great for British tennis and it’s great for everyone involved that more people are winning matches and doing well. But, as I say, I’ve got to worry about my match. Andy worries about his. Aljaz worries about his as well.”
Murray is looking only towards his match against Seppi. “He has had such good results this year. He made the final a couple of weeks ago in Halle, plays well on the grass. He won against Roger [Federer] at the Australian Open this year. He’s capable of playing some top tennis.”
Ultimately, they are all on their own here.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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