Wimbledon 2015: Murray, Ward and Bedene enjoy ‘win-win’ of British company
Andy Murray and James Ward share the weight of the nation in the second round at Wimbledon on Thursday
While all the focus for British fans is firmly on world No3, former Wimbledon champion and second only to Novak Djokovic in points this year, Andy Murray is not alone in carrying the weight of a nation in the second round at his home Grand Slam.
This year, to the delight of all concerned, he is joined by two others, the first time since 2002 that more than one Briton was still in action in Round 2 and 16 years since there were three: Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski and Danny Sapsford.
I think everyone’s picked their game up. Everyone’s been playing well coming into the tournament
Murray had the company of James Ward, ranked 111, and taking on the hugely talented, and huge, 21-year-old Czech, Jiri Vesely, while Aljaz Bedene, playing in his first Wimbledon since gaining a British passport, was already ranked in the top 100, at 75, but took on an even more testing opponent in No14 Viktor Troicki, lately from the Stuttgart final and the Queen’s semi-final, so with plenty of grass wins under his feet.
But what was it like for the Britons to have the company of team-mates?
“For me, it’s nice. I know all of them fairly well. A lot of the guys—I’ve obviously spent a lot of time training with James, more the last 12, 18 months. Aljaz I don’t know so well.
“Yeah, it’s good for British tennis. The more wins and more players we can have in these events, it makes a difference.
“But what I do enjoy is being around the other British players, chatting to them, helping them, practising with them. You know, being around them is good for me, as well. So it’s win win really.”
Ward, who has played such an important role in helping Great Britain to the Davis Cup quarter-finals, has never got beyond the second round at Wimbledon before, but hoped this time it would be his day:
“You just keep knocking at the door. I’ve had a few injuries recently. Sat at the same ranking for a while. It’s been quite frustrating, maybe not getting the results that a lot of you guys expect, and also the expectations I have of myself.”
But he expressed a sense of pride that the home nation was making a mark this year:
“I think everyone’s picked their game up. Everyone’s been playing well coming into the tournament. Everyone’s ranking is improving. It’s good to have a few more guys playing well and winning matches.”
For Bedene, the progress here has been particularly special, and rather emotional:
“Well, I mean, winning as a Brit, and my first win in a Grand Slam here at Wimbledon, it feels amazing. I was really happy. I was trying to visualize it at 4 4 [in the fifth set] when I made the break. I got tears in my eyes. Yeah, it was really emotional. I feel really happy.”
As for the roar of crowd support:
“I felt amazing, got goosebumps. Yes, all the emotions came out when I lifted the arms after… I don’t know if the British passport just help me get through today but definitely the crowd helped me go through with it.”
As luck would have it, all three are drawn in the same quarters, played on the same afternoon. But Ward and Bedene would have to get to the fourth round to meet one another, and the quarters to meet Murray.
On both counts, that would be a story well worth writing here in the UK.