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Ward positive after Wimbledon exit

PUBLISHED: 09:00 05 July 2017

James Ward in action at Wimbledon (pic Anthony Devlin/PA)

James Ward in action at Wimbledon (pic Anthony Devlin/PA)

PA Wire/Press Association Images

World number 1,085 bows out to Baghdatis

A little more than a month into his comeback from nearly a year out with a knee injury, James Ward can be forgiven for falling into the trap of taking positives from a first-round loss at Wimbledon.

So often the line trotted out by British also-rans after a predictable loss following a wildcard, Islington’s Ward has done enough in his career to extricate himself from that pigeonhole.

And following a year of rehabilitation work on a knee injury that has dogged him for years, and regularly being able to watch his beloved Arsenal, Ward can justifiably say he is just happy to be back on the court.

In the end, 2006 Wimbledon semi-finalist Marcos Baghdatis proved too much for Ward, who is now ranked 1,085 in the world following his injury lay-off, as he beat the Brit 6-4 6-4 6-3.

“I was definitely in the sets here. I just looked at the stats and there was eight points difference through the match over three sets. That’s not much,” said Ward.

“I didn’t expect to be off for as long, and obviously it was gutting. It was nine months. It’s difficult.

“You can’t just come back in. I feel like I’m practicing well, training well, and then you get out on the match court and it’s different.

“There is only so much training you can do. You have to be playing matches and over the grass it was difficult.”

Having dropped so far down the rankings Ward will inevitably find life tough over the coming months, with unfavourable draws in lower-level tournaments.

But the 30-year-old, who played a crucial role in Britain’s rise up the tennis ladder to eventually win the Davis Cup in 2015, is not down about his prospects and targeted playing at the 2018 Australian Open as a realistic goal.

“There were times I never knew if I was going to play tennis again,” he added. “I was in the gym every day rehabbing with a physio.

“And it was tough, because you just don’t know when it’s going to get better. You see very small improvements. Sometimes you go backwards.

“Now I’m at a stage where I’m not completely 100 per cent pain-free, but I don’t know if I ever will be. So that’s what I maybe have to live with.

“That’s why I have a physio with me all the time to help that. That’s the main thing at the moment, to just try and stay healthy and play as many tournaments I can until the end of the year.

“Maybe set a goal of making Aussie quallies next year and see how it ends up.”

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