Not many people would have heard of James Ward before his unbelievable run at Queens last week. Before the tournament, he was ranked 216th in the world but last week he beat three players ranked in the top 50, including the reigning champion Sam Querrey, to reach his first ever semi final on the ATP World Tour. Who exactly is James Ward?
James Ward is 24 and is from London. He is the son of a London Cabbie and he only began playing tennis at the age of 11, turning professional in 2006 at the age of 19.
With only 25 ATP World Tour appearances to his name, he has amassed just under £250,000 in career prize money. The £23,000 that he won at Queens doubled his yearly prize money with his biggest previous payout coming from a first round appearance at the Sydney Open in January, where he received a cheque of around £4,000. This relatively small amount of prize money stems from the fact that Ward plays the majority of his tennis on the ATP Challenger Tour.
Ward spends much of his time traveling around the world and entering tournaments where the prize money for the winner rarely exceeds £8,000 as compared to the £2,000,000 or so on offer for winning a Grand Slam. The gulf between the top players in the game and those outside the top 200 is clear to see.
He does have one challenger title to his name which came in May 2009 at a Clay Court event in Florida in which he won around £7,000. Despite this, he does have a few important Davis cup victories to his name, winning both of his ties against Tunisia earlier this year to help Britain to win as well as get a quarter final appearance at Eastbourne last year.
When all of this is taken into account, it is remarkable that Ward was able to reach the semi's at Queens. To say that he surpassed himself is an understatement. He is now in the public eye and will have a small degree of expectation when Wimbledon starts. Ward's best ever showings have come on the grass in Britain, just as British tennis is crying out for another hero to rival Andy Murray. Perhaps, Ward has just been a late bloomer and his best showings are ahead of him. We shall see.