James Ward believes British tennis is on the rise after he booked his spot in the third round of Wimbledon for the first time with victory over Jiri Vesely.
The 28-year-old had never made it beyond the second round of a Grand Slam heading into his clash with the Czech but sealed the win in four sets 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) 3-6, 6-3.
Victory was doubly significant for Ward as it means the British number three also joins countrymen Andy Murray and Aljaz Bedene by moving into the top 100.
Ward will now return to action on Saturday when he takes on Canada’s Vasek Pospisil and he says he is ready to be the centre of attention.
He said: “Obviously we are doing better, and hopefully we all keep it going. Heather (Watson) was fantastic and Andy (Murray) is doing well again. We’re progressing.
“We are one of the richest nations and rightly people expect results, for whatever reason we haven’t been really getting them but maybe it’s starting to turn around a bit.
“The spotlight is a new thing for me, but I’m enjoying it. I loved the crowd support today, it’s been a good week so far. It would be the ultimate honour to be on Centre on Saturday, it’s a dream of mine.
“After playing an average third set I had to show character and I did. I held a couple of tough games in the fourth so there was some relief in there. He put the pressure on – he wasn’t giving it to me easily.
“It’s great to get through, I can’t ask for anything more than that. Me winning in the third round would be like Arsenal winning the league! Let’s take one step at a time but it’s been a great day.”
Ward came out all guns blazing against the 6″6′ Czech and showed he has what it takes to deal with the mental strains of playing at the top as he kept his cool following six missed break points.
A tie-break win in the second saw Ward edge nearer to the rarest of things – a weekend visit to Wimbledon for a Briton who isn’t Andy Murray.
Vesely had other ideas, romping to the third set but calling for the trainer twice – the man who defeated Gael Monfils at SW19 last year was in clear discomfort.
Ward’s all-important break arrived in the fourth game of the fourth set, crowd on their feet toasting a precious win which fire him into the world’s top 100, making certain of an automatic place in the US Open.
“Being in the top 100 is something you work for in your career,” he added. “There are a lot of good players out there so it’s a big thing for me.”