• French Open

Ward ready for Roland Garros debut

ESPN staff
May 26, 2014
James Ward won a dramatic final qualifier against Blaz Rola © Getty Images

James Ward has spoken about just how difficult it is to make a living further down the tennis rankings.

Ward, 27, played in the main draw at Roland Garros for the first time after becoming the first British male to come through the qualifying rounds since John Lloyd in 1973.

The Londoner, who lost to Tommy Robredo on Monday, collected £19,000 for reaching the first round to ease the financial pressure on a player yet to break into the top 100.

"It's difficult," Ward told BBC Sport. "You're paying your coach, you're paying for your food, you're paying for your hotel, you're paying for your travel - for two people.

"If you lose in the first round at a Challenger event you get $300 (£178), minus tax. I mean it's embarrassing. But you've got to win matches."

Ward was handed a wildcard at Queen's two years ago, and had his best run at an ATP event when he reached the semi-finals. He has also been given four wildcards into the first round of Wimbledon in his career.

Gunning for glory

  • Arsenal fan James Ward was at Wembley to see Arsene Wenger's men comeback from 2-0 down to beat Hull and win the FA Cup - and he says it helped him during French Open qualifying.
  • "I probably should have been in Paris preparing early but I went to the FA Cup final on the Saturday and came here on the Sunday.
  • "It was an unbelievable day - nine years without a trophy and then to be there to experience it. At 2-0 down I was thinking, 'Oh no, everyone who knows I'm at this game is going to absolutely slaughter me.'
  • "It actually worked out to be better that way. coming back from 2-0 down and the drama of winning in extra time. Someone said to me [during qualifying] 'Fight like the Arsenal' and I thought, 'Why not?' It worked for me."

"I'm obviously lucky and grateful to have the opportunity during the grass season to earn some money and play tournaments for big points," he added.

"You're being handed the opportunity to get into the tournament but you've still got to win matches, otherwise it's a waste of time.

"There's a lot of other guys who don't have a Grand Slam in their country and the other support, so it's very difficult from 100 to 250 to make a living."

Currently ranked 168th - 31 places below his career-high from 2012 - Ward is determined to get himself into the world's top 100.

"There's a good level of tennis up to 250, a lot of the top guys have said it, and it's difficult," Ward said.

"Each week you're fighting against good players and it's no different here.

"I don't want it to stop now. I feel like I've stepped up this week, and especially ahead of the grass it's a nice time. Hopefully I can take this form forward into the next few weeks."

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