By Philip James
James Ward experienced no hangover from yesterday’s dramatic see-saw win, as he notched up another impressive victory this morning to reach the final of the clay-court Challenger tournament in An-Ning, China.
Ward, Britain’s second highest ranked male tennis player, will be aiming for his first Challenger title of the year when he faces Marton Fucsovics in the final tomorrow.
London-born Ward has now won six matches in China, including two rounds of qualifying, his latest victory, a three-set defeat of Tsung-Hua Yang of Chinese Taipei in the semis.
Going into the match the two were evenly matched, just 13 places apart in the rankings (Ward 261, Yang 274) though Yang has mostly made his way in the Futures this year while Ward has persisted in Challengers.
In the first set both men dominated on their first serve but the Brit saw more second serves and earned a single break which was enough to take the set.
After winning just four receiving points in the first set, Yang seemed to get to grips with Ward’s serve in the second, breaking twice to Ward’s once to win the set and level the match.
The third set reverted to the pattern of the first, with first serves the key and Ward was able to take advantage of his opponent only making 36% of them.
He pounced on the first two break points he had to win the set and the match, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 in two hours and three minutes.
Ward in theory should be the favourite to beat 21-year-old Fucsovics, who is ranked 122 places below him, in the final.
But the Hungarian has already risen almost 60 places in the rankings this season and made a Futures clay final where as Ward had only won one match on the red stuff this season before this week.
A lot may come down to fitness; during the main draw Ward has spent six hours on court compared to five for Fucsovics but when you add the qualifying and doubles Ward’s playing time increase to over nine hours.
If he were to win, this would be Ward’s third career Challenger title and first since 2001.