A quite unexpected and phenomenal run through the draw of the ITF Futures $50k in Eastbourne, UK has seen wildcard Tara Moore upset the odds and take out three highly seeded (and ranked) players to reach the final of the event. Meanwhile, in Manchester, both Alex and James Ward are the surprise British survivors in the semi-final of the ATP Challenger.
— British Tennis (@BritishTennis) June 2, 2016
— Sam Barker (@sam25barker) June 2, 2016
The first round of the women’s event had seen three British wildcards secure unlikely victories in the first round, but the second round was the end of the road for two of them: Katy Dunne was drawn against top seed Alison Riske of the USA and fell 6-0 6-2 in a sadly anticipated defeat, while Lisa Whybourn was edged out by Spaniard Georgina Garcia Perez 6-2 6-7(3) 6-3 despite the loss being just her third three-set defeat in 12 this year.
However, Moore, who had beaten the fifth seed Ying-Ying Duan of China in the first round, drew lucky loser Alison Bai of Australia in the second and eased past 6-4 6-2, setting up a huge quarter-final clash with second seed Donna Vekic, the world #96. The Brit played out of her skin to secure a 6-3 2-6 6-1 victory over the Croatian teenager, securing easily her best win of the year and tipping her inside the top 300 in the live rankings – as well as securing her best points haul since 2013.
But it wasn’t over: Moore then faced 8th seed Oceane Dodin of France in the semi-finals, a player who has beaten the likes of Laura Robson, Madison Brengle and Daniela Hantuchova this year, as well as taking Ana Ivanovic to three sets in the opening round of the French last week. However, Moore was unfazed, and the Brit secured a magnificent 6-1 5-7 6-4 victory to secure her place in the final against top seed Riske.
The men’s event has been quite something, with the form book having been turned on its head. With Ed Corrie having qualified and Lloyd Glasspool, Liam Broady, Brydan Klein and Alex Ward all having received wildcards, as well as out-of-form James Ward and third seed Dan Evans entered directly, there was a good chance of at least a couple of British quarter-finalists. However, no-one saw those quarter-finalists being James and Alex Ward: the former’s recent form has been nothing short of abysmal – due mainly, one would think, to the death of his coach Darren Tany at the end of last year – while the latter, while on excellent form, is a clay court specialist who has never excelled on the grass.
But with third seed Dan Evans tumbling in the first round, as well as Liam Broady losing to Australian Sam Groth (Groth’s 5th win out of 21 this year) and Glasspool being edged out by 4th seed Yen-Hsun Lu, it was the Ward namesakes and Ed Corrie – who beat fellow Brit Brydan Klein in three tight sets – who carried the British flag through to the second round.
Out of nowhere, James Ward pulled off a hugely consistent 7-5 6-3 victory over Australian Luke Saville in the first round, winning 8 out of 9 close games and facing just two break points all match, saving both. The Brit even looked better-than-average on the return, winning 65% of second serve return points, up 15% from his 2016 average. Ward then played German veteran Benjamin Becker, the fifth seed, and played another blinder, facing just one break point and winning 85% of points on his second serve, indicating that a return to the grass has clearly come at just the right time for the British Number Five.
Alex Ward, who plies his trade mainly on clay court Futures events, has recently made the step up to hard court (and now grass court) Challengers and has reaped the rewards, going 11-3 win-loss in all Challenger draws this month and reaching a brand new career high of #253 in the process. The progress continues this week: wildcard Ward won 6-7(5) 6-2 6-4 versus Colombian Alejandro Falla, coming back from a set down to win for the sixth time this year, before another comeback victory over German Michael Berrer 4-6 6-4 6-3 – his 11th three-set victory of the year. Ward now faces German Peter Gojowcyzk, who defeated Dan Evans in the first round.
That leaves just Ed Corrie, who, after defeating Klein in the first round, fell 6-1 7-5 to 6th seed Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine.