(March 6, 2015) GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – It was always going to be a tough ask for James Ward to come up against John Isner and pull out the same kind of miraculous win he did against Sam Querrey in San Diego.
The British No. 2 has been working hard on his fitness, and it showed as he kept pace with Isner in the first set, even building up enough of a head of steam to lead 4-2 in the first set tie-break before the US No. 1 thumped home five points in a row to deny him.
The crowd was kept at bay after their noisy enthusiasm in the first match when Isner broke to pick off the second set, and it was sure to be a long way back for the Londoner.
But there is something about Davis Cup that brings out the best in James Ward. Jim Courier may have described him as streaky but when he has his good patches, they can be hugely impressive, as he pushed through a third set tie-break and this time there was no relinquishing any advantage.
For a time it looked as though Isner would pick up the pace and close this out in the fourth set but somehow Ward found a way to push through again, and from what had looked like a winning position, Isner was facing yet another marathon.
Ward seemed to have the fresher legs – Courier had expressed his admiration for Ward’s energy and performance in San Diego even when he was down, whereas Isner looked increasingly more tired. He could barely even stretch for balls but denied suffering from cramp in his post match press conference.
Losing 15-13 in the fifth hurt, as he very candidly shared as he faced the media with Jim Courier at his side. After having won the epic match at Wimbledon, he admitted he had lost tough matches before, but this was quite raw.
He said: “I’ve lost a lot of tough matches before. They suck. Simple as that. It’s brutal and I’m barely going to sleep tonight. It’s awful.”
He continued: “I’m healthy, mentally I’m certainly a bit shaken right now, but I’ve got to be a professional and bring my best on Sunday. Tomorrow I’ll rest. I don’t feel too chipper right now, but as Jim said I’ll let it rip on Sunday if the match is live.”
For Ward, the 6-7(4), 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(3), 15-13 win was just as emotional, and he sounded quite choked up as he gave his on-court post-match interview, saying: “This is by far the best atmosphere I’ve ever been part of in the Davis Cup. I would prefer it if I didn’t have to play these five-set matches every time, but the crowd was incredible and really helped.”
Great Britain ends day one up 2-0, need just one more victory to clinch the tie. The doubles rubber will be played on Saturday with Bob and Mike Bryan trying to keep tie hopes alive for the US when they face the British team of Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot.
Ros Satar is a British sports journalist and a writer at Livetennis.com.