Ambitious Ward targets more than just top 100
Originally published on 27/05/14
The 27-year-old progressed through three rounds of qualifying to reach the main draw in Paris, becoming the first British male to do so since John Lloyd in 1973.
He then made a fine start against No.17 seed Tommy Robredo in the first round on Tuesday as he won a high-quality first set 6-4. However, a 50-minute rain delay did not appear to help the Brit as he was broken in the opening game of the second set. Although he broke back for 4-4, Robredo responded in kind immediately and took the set 6-4. He then broke at the beginning of the third and fourth sets to seal a hard-fought victory in two hours and 53 minutes.
Despite the defeat, Ward says the performance gives him plenty of cause for optimism for the rest of the season and the years ahead.
“Everyone wants this top 100, I'm aiming higher than that,” said Ward, who is currently ranked No.168 in the world. “Obviously that's the first step and it's not going to happen in one week. Even if I made the fourth round I wouldn't be top 100. You got to be realistic and know that it takes a few weeks, a few months to do. But if you're consistent and winning more matches, it's going to happen eventually.
“I'm 27; I'm not 32. People sometimes forget that. I've had injuries in the past when I've had chances to get around 130, 140, but it's not an excuse. You got to take time and work your way up there. I’ve got a coach now who knows the game and I’m looking forward to working with him and seeing how the next few weeks and the rest of the year goes.
“I'm working on my mindset, different routines during matches, things I'm thinking about, areas I'm trying to hit the ball on the court. It's a work in progress and it's not going to change in a week. You can see improvements already but it’s only going to get better.”
The meeting with Robredo was the first time Ward had played a main draw Tour level match on clay since 2007 in Valencia. However, he caused the experienced Spaniard plenty of problems throughout the match, using the drop shot to keep Robredo on his toes and also hitting powerfully into the corners.
“You can't play 30 shot rallies every ball, you have to mix it up,” he explained. “That's just playing into his hands if you want to just stand back and push. You have to mix it up and use the slice, dropshot. It's not about winning every one of those points, but it's putting a bit of doubt in his mind so he couldn't stand 10 feet behind the baseline and know that I am never going to dropshot. Even when you do make mistakes, you have to know you're playing the right tactic.
"I thought I played really well throughout the whole match. There was a little dip first couple of points in the second set, and then in the third I thought he really controlled the game. His forehand was really going off the court. It was tough, heavy conditions. It was raining and it was very difficult. But I fought hard, got back into the match, and, again, had a couple chances sort of in the fourth. He's one of the toughest players to play on clay in the world. I put him up there top five in the last 10 years, so pleased with my efforts and hopefully I can take this sort of form on to the next few weeks.”
Ward will now return to the UK ready for the grass court season which gets underway in less than a fortnight. He is yet to decide whether he will start in Nottingham or head straight to The Queen’s Club where he has a wild card for the Aegon Championships.
"I’ll go back to London and decide if I'm going to play Nottingham or not in the next few days, depending on what the coach wants me to do,” he said. “If he wants me to have a few more days getting ready for the grass and just go to straight to Queen's or use Nottingham for preparation, I don't know. I haven't spoken to him about it yet.”