Northampton’s Alex Ward was almost lost for words after sensationally booking his place in the main draw of this year’s Wimbledon championships.
Ward overpowered Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-7 6-4 7-6 6-1 in four sets to become the only British player to successfully secure their place at this year’s All-England Club through the qualifiers, held this week at the Bank of England Sports Centre in Roehampton.
The 27-year-old Cobblers fan’s progress is even more remarkable given he was knocked out of pre-qualifying, and only won a place at this week’s competition via a wildcard.
And the British number 19, who had already beaten Egor Gerasimov and Go Soeda to set up the clash with the 32-year-old Russian, could not contain his glee as the reality of gracing the greatest tennis stage of them all started to sink in.
“It feels incredible, I’ve never won a match in Wimbledon qualifying before this year,” said Ward, currently ranked 855 in the world.
“I’ve lost four times, it just feels amazing, I’m still struggling to get my head around it.
“I lost in the final round of pre-qualifying, 7-6 in the third set and had two match points, and thought that was it.
“Luckily, they opened up two more wildcard slots and gave me one of them, so it really is unbelievable.
“With each match I got better and better.
“I kept training hard and kept believing in the months and weeks where I wasn’t playing well, fortunately it’s come together for Wimbledon, the best tournament!”
Ward, who missed six months of last year with a wrist injury, played in the 2016 men’s singles last year, but was beaten by Belgian hitter David Goffin.
And given the choice this year, Ward has voiced his preference for a less glamorous tie as he targets maintaining his winning momentum.
“It’s been a bit of a struggle this year and I haven’t won a lot of matches to be honest,” said Ward, who is currently playing without a coach.
“Some people have asked whether I prefer Roger Federer on Centre Court or a more winnable draw, and the way I am playing it would be great to get a more winnable match.
“Especially having come through qualifiers, I really feel like I deserve my place there this year.
“It can be tough at the futures tournaments, but days like today make it all worthwhile.”