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Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk

  • Wimbledon, Day Four

Ward gets into the spirit of Wimbledon

Jo Carter June 28, 2012
James Ward gave British fans plenty to cheer about in his defeat to Mardy Fish © PA Photos
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Sharapova survives scare, Serena sails
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Ward gives Fish a real scare

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As Rafael Nadal walked onto Centre Court for his second round clash on Thursday, most members of the crowd on Centre Court would be counting their lucky stars. But many could be forgiven for wishing they had tickets to Court One as they heard news that British No. 1 James Ward had fended off a match point to force tenth seed Mardy Fish to a fifth set.

Fans have their favourites - Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic all have a strong following - and former champion Lleyton Hewitt has his Aussie contingent. But there is nothing to get the atmosphere buzzing like a good old British upset.

In recent years, the likes of Tim Henman and Andy Murray have ensured there is British interest deep into the second week, but it is the likes of Barry Cowan, Chris Wilkinson and Miles Maclagan who are just as fondly remembered by British tennis fans.

Cowan famously took Pete Sampras to five sets in 2001, Maclagan had match points against former champion Boris Becker while Wilkinson gave six-time Grand Slam champion Stefan Edberg a run for his money in the third round back in 1993.

Such is the expectation on Murray's shoulders that anything less than a semi-final appearance will be considered a failure. But for the fans who camp overnight in the legendary Wimbledon Queue, Ward's clash with Fish is what is it all about.

It is a truly symbiotic relationship - the British fans live in the hope a home favourite can pull off an upset, while it is the home advantage that spurs the British players on and makes them raise their game.

When Ward saved set points before breaking Fish with a huge forehand winner to snatch the second set, the mood on Court One was more reminiscent of a football match than the conservative surroundings of the All England Club, Ward celebrating like he had scored the winning goal in the FA Cup final.

In the end, journalists around the world were forced to abandon headlines of Fish being fried by the world No. 173. But Ward produced a performance that will go down in Wimbledon folklore.

Britain may not have had a singles champion at Wimbledon in 35 years, but it is the likes of Ward and Heather Watson batting above their weight that makes it all worthwhile. And with Nadal being spectacularly dumped out, maybe, just maybe, Murray can break his grand slam duck on the hallowed turf of SW19.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk