French Open: James Ward becomes first British man in 41 years to qualify for Roland Garros
Last Updated: 23/05/14 7:03pm
James Ward became the first British man since 1973 to come through the French Open qualifying tournament after a marathon victory over Blaz Rola.
The British No 3 ended the 41-year wait by beating Slovenian Rola 4-6 6-4 12-10 and in doing so became the first British male to qualify since John Lloyd.
Ward, who stole the headlines during Great Britain’s Davis Cup triumph over USA on clay earlier this year, was forced to battle for his place after failing to serve out at 5-4 before saving two match points at 6-7.
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Ward had never won a match before at Roland Garros but was impressive in his first two qualifiers, particularly in a second-round win over America's Ryan Harrison.
Rola is ranked at a career-high 94th and has enjoyed a fine season, and he broke the Ward serve to take the opener on his fifth set point.
Ward has had some notable wins on clay, particularly against American Sam Querrey in Davis Cup in February, and he fought back well to level the match.
He had the upper hand in the decider when he broke for 4-3 and then saw a match point go begging.
That came back to bite him when he served for the match as Rola broke back, and it was Ward under pressure at 7-6 behind.
There were a lot of tough moments in that third set obviously serving for it and saving match points. It was a long, tough match.
But the Londoner, who had never qualified at a Grand Slam before, held firm to save two match points and then took his third chance to break for 11-10.
Serving for the match a second time he took the chance, clinching victory on his second match point when Rola sent a shot over the baseline.
Andy Murray delayed his press conference to watch his Davis Cup team-mate, and the Scot said: "It was great.
"They are the sort of matches you need to win, to fight through and find a way to win.
"There were a lot of tough moments in that third set obviously serving for it and saving match points. It was a long, tough match.
"But if you want to break through and get on to the tour, everyone goes through them. It's a big win for him."
Heather Watson will join Ward in the main draw if she beats Estonian teenager Anett Kontaveit on Saturday morning but compatriots Johanna Konta and Dan Cox both lost on Friday, ending their hopes of reaching the tournament proper.
Despite edging a tight opneing set 7-6 (7-5), British No 3 Konta went on to lose the second set 7-5 before enduring a 6-0 reverse in the decider against Ukrianian Yuliya Beygelzimer.
Cox provided less resilience as he fell to a straight-sets defeat against Italian Paolo Lorenzi, who sealed his place in the main draw with a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) triumph.