By Niall Clarke
- Ward faces Milos Raonic on Monday
- Reached the semi-finals at Queen’s in 2011
James Ward will kick off his Queen’s tournament against world number eight Milos Raonic on Monday.
The British number four is a former semi-finalist at this event, but if he is to go that far this year he first must find a way to get past the big serve of Raonic.
The 28 year old comes into the match in poor form after back to back defeats at Challenger level recently. In Manchester he lost to another big server in Sam Groth, before losing early in Surbiton to fellow Brit Brydan Klein.
Ward has become a regular feature at the annual Aegon Championships. In 2011 he defeated Stan Wawrinka in a semi-final run which was eventually ended by Jo Wilfried Tsonga. Last year, the Brit made round two before losing to eventual champion Grigor Dimitrov.
What awaits him in the first round this year is one of the biggest and best serves the game has ever seen. The man who possesses this weapon is 24 year old Canadian, Raonic.
Raonic is making his return to action after missing the back-end of the clay season due to a foot injury that hindered him in Madrid.
The 24 year old made the Wimbledon semi-finals last year, so has the game and credentials on grass to make a big impact at this tournament. Though one must wonder if he is one hundred percent recovered from his recent injury.
Raonic will be making his Queen’s debut this week, having played Halle since 2011. At the German event last year, he lost in the opening round to Peter Gojowczyk in straight sets.
The key for Ward here will be patience. He will not get many looks in to the Raonic serve as it is one of the best in the game. The Canadian can hit 130-140 MPH on his serve consistently, so break points opportunities will be rare for the Brit.
If he can hold his own serve, a rare opportunity may present itself and if it does, Ward must be ready to take it as he will not get many. If he fails to take them, then the best chance he will have is in a tiebreak which is probable with Raonic.
Ward must not lose concentration at any second, because Raonic will take advantage of any lapses on serve. If the Brit loses serve the set will more than likely go to Raonic.
Ward and Raonic are scheduled on Centre Court, not before 3:30pm BST.