LOUGHBOROUGH, UK – James Ward made the final of the inaugural ATP Challenger event, the Brits first challenger final since 2015.
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Brit of the Week
James Ward needed a wildcard to enter the inaugural ATP Challenger event in Loughborough. Having spent nine months out of action recovering from knee surgery, the Brit only returned to the circuit in February.
In the first round Ward was up against fellow wildcard Lloyd Glasspool. The former British number two was pushed hard by Glasspool in the first set, before breaking towards the end to take the lead. In the second set Ward was unstoppable, dominating Glasspool, and losing only one game to move into the second round 7-5, 6-1.
The second round saw the Brit up against the second seed Christian Harrison. The American stayed toe to toe with Ward and forced a tiebreak. However, the Brit dominated the breaker and the seed only managed to get two points. In the second set Ward was able to break the serve of Harrison and hold on for the win, moving into the next round 7-6(2), 6-3.
In the quarter-final Ward was up against Teymuraz Gabashvili. The Russian pushed the Brit hard in the first set, and Ward needed to break right at the end of the set to edge ahead. In the second the Russian appeared to be injured as the Brit broke serve, Gabashvilli couldn’t continue and retired from the match handing the Brit a spot in the semi-final 7-5, 5-4.
The semi-final saw Ward playing Maximilian Neuchrist for a final berth. The Austrian struggled to hold serve in the first set, with the Brit seemingly breaking at will. The wildcard only lost one game. In the second set Neuchrist regrouped and tried to get the better of the Brit. Ward was not to be beaten though and booked his spot in the final 6-1, 6-4.
In the final Ward was against the eighth seed Hiroki Moriya. The Japanese player was all over the Brit at the start, with Ward struggling to hold serve. The second set started well for Ward as he broke Moriya and consolidated the break, however the seed managed to break back and level the score. The Brit and Moriya then exchanged a couple of service breaks, before the seed served for the match. Ward fought back and the pair exchanged breaks again before the Japanese player had to serve out for a second time to lift the trophy 6-2, 7-5.
Although not getting the win, the final is a great end to the week for James Ward and should bring confidence going forward to the grass season.
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