James wards off Adrian’s challenge

To win in any sport, it is a matter of driving home the advantage after getting your nose ahead. Ward did precisely that. After a forehand from Menendez-Maceiras found the net to give Ward the break at 4-2 in the first set, the latter reached back into his quiver to shoot two aces and a service winner to take it up to 5-2.

A combination of solid all-round error-free game gave James Ward a nice booster dose ahead of his country’s clash in the Davis Cup final against Belgium in a month’s time.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Gaurav Rathore, Commercial Director, AirAsia India Ltd, hands over the winners trophy to James Ward.   -  Special Arrangement

The finalists of the $50,000 AirAsia Open ATP Challenger – top seed Adrian Menendez-Masceiras and No. 2 James Ward – have had a pretty long title drought; stretching back up to 2007 for the former and 2013 for the latter.

And when the curtains finally came down at the KSLTA stadium here on Sunday evening, the Spaniard stood staring further down the line for that elusive title, while a combination of solid all-round error-free play gave the Briton a nice booster dose ahead of his country’s clash in the Davis Cup final against Belgium in a month’s time.

To win in any sport, it is a matter of driving home the advantage after getting your nose ahead. Ward did precisely that. After a forehand from Menendez-Maceiras found the net to give Ward the break at 4-2 in the first set, the latter reached back into his quiver to shoot two aces and a service winner to take it up to 5-2.

With the top seed disintegrating in the next game, the first set was soon in the kitty for Ward. The Briton was to repeat the act in the next set too. Four-all can be a tricky situation for the player serving next. A couple of weak serves, an error here, a loose shot there and the set might well be headed in your opponent’s direction.

Not Ward though. Once again – he had begun the match and the second set with smoking aces – Ward came up with a big service game. Lady Luck also smiled upon him as a net cord gave him the game.

Menendez-Maceiras’ game, meanwhile, came across as very reluctant. He very rarely tried to make things happen; the word that comes to mind is pussyfooting. At crucial junctures and trying to stay in the match, the top seed stuck to the baseline and just tried to keep the ball in.

Even Ward was guilty of it at times, a 14-stroke rally to bring the scores to 30-all in game four of the first set exemplifying it. Except for the serve, the entire rally was played using the backhand, the only innovation being a couple of slices by Menendez-Maceiras.

The Spaniard finally grew adventurous when staring at defeat but his trip up the court with Ward stranded in one corner ended with only a weak forehand into the net. Though he managed to save two match-points, his luck finally ran out when another forehand sailed long.

For his week-long efforts Ward walked off with 80 ATP points and $7,200 while Menendez-Maceiras had to rest content with 48 points and $4,240.

The result: Final: James Ward (Great Britain) bt Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (Spain) 6-2, 7-5.