Henman: Good to see Ward back on court
- Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images
Former British number one backs Islington ace to rally
A return to Wimbledon may have come too early for James Ward in the eyes of Tim Henman but the Londoner can finally look forwards with optimism.
Arsenal fan Ward has almost become the forgotten man of British tennis in the last 12 months, with a persistent knee injury forcing him away from the tour.
Back in 2015 the 30-year-old was part of the Great Britain Davis Cup team which lifted the trophy for the first time in 79 years while earlier that same year he was ranked at a career high 89.
He has since tumbled down the rankings with his injury break now seeing him sit outside the world’s top 1,000.
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Only a wildcard from the Wimbledon organisers allowed him to appear at this year’s Championships, a year on from losing to Novak Djokovic in the first round.
Another defeat would follow on Tuesday, this time against Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis as the 2006 Wimbledon semi-finalist proved too strong, winning 6-4 6-4 6-3.
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And while not the result Ward – who admitted afterwards there were stages during the last year where he questioned whether he would ever return to the game he loves – would have wanted, he can at least use the outing as a confidence boost for the months to come.
“It’s good to see James back,” said Henman, after helping lead a coaching session with youngsters from Give It Your Max, a UK charity supported by the Wimbledon Foundation – which is supported by HSBC, the official banking partner of the Championships.
“If he’s fit and healthy then that’s the most important thing. But this was probably six weeks too early for him.
“He really needs to get more matches under his belt. He would have been happy to get the opportunity here but now it’s about him going back to the Challenger Tour and working to build his ranking up again because he was top 100 a couple of years ago and hopefully he can get back there.
“It’s hard when you have an ongoing injury but when you are playing 30 weeks of the year and you’re on the road all the time, you’re not always going to feel perfect but part of the challenge is to manage that.
“He needs to work hard on his knee to make sure it is strong and keep improving his game.”
*HSBC is the Official Banking Partner of The Championships, and shares the fans’ passion that makes Wimbledon unique. Follow @HSBC_Sport.