Perhaps no one knows more about the weight of history than the Brits. After unburdening themselves of one, when Andy Murray won the Wimbledon singles title in 2013 after Fred Perry last won it in 1936, they will now look for the second, the Davis Cup, which too was last won by Great Britain in 1936.
That Murray will again take centre-stage when the nation takes on Belgium in the final at Ghent over the last weekend of November is all-too-well-known. But Davis Cup wins are often a triumph of the collective. The second singles player’s role isn’t to be understated.
Until recently, James Ward occupied that coveted position, especially after his defeat of John Isner in March including 15-13 in the final set which helped his country beat the United States. It looked even rosier after Wimbledon when he broke into the singles top 100.
However, 11 straight defeats after that made him lose his Davis Cup spot against Australia in the semifinals. So much so that he has taken to globetrotting on the ATP Challenger tour to get a few wins under his belt. The triumph in Bengaluru last week — his first tier-two title since 2013 — was one such win.
“Of course it’s big,” he said of the title, on the sidelines of the Pune Challenger. “I was playing well and it was just a matter of time. I kept doing the good work and it has paid off.”
Against Australia, captain Leon Smith had selected the then World No. 300 Daniel Evans ahead of Ward on the basis of his ‘gut instinct’. The British No. 2 Kyle Edmund had fallen heavily in practice and could not make his debut in the competition.
But Ward, the World No. 143 denied that the losing streak post-Wimbledon sucked out his self-belief. “I didn’t lose too much confidence,” he said. “I played the best tournaments in the world. I played the Masters, I played an ATP 500 and I played a Slam.
“Every match I played was against a top player. And some of them were very tight and could have gone either way.”
Come November, Edmund might still be in contention as he is considered a superior clay-court player (the final will be on clay). But Ward’s trophy last week and a good finish here in Pune can be big steps towards getting him back into the reckoning.
“Everyone is hopeful of a selection,” he said. “So it’s good to be back to winning ways.”
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