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ANDY MURRAY received a free pass into the semi-finals of the AEGON Championships at the Queen’s Club yesterday and was then joined in the last four by the battling British wildcard James Ward.
Murray, the world No.4, who received a walkover in the quarter-finals after opponent Marin Cilic withdrew due to injury, would have been sitting with his feet up at home watching Ward, who is ranked 212 places below him, fight his way past Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-2, 6-7 (14-16), 6-4 in an early evening battle witnessed by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Today will be the first time in Murray’s career that he has had another British player for company in the semi-finals of a tour event; Murray meets old foe Andy Roddick before Ward takes on France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who knocked out a tired Rafael Nadal in three sets 6-7, 4-6, 6-1.
Ward had already done for the defending champion, Sam Querrey of America, earlier in the day after they resumed a match which had stopped at a set apiece the previous night. Ward won the deciding set 6-4 and was back on court three hours later to take on Mannarino.
The British No.2 won the first set 6-2 and served for the match at 5-4 in the second before a string of errors gave Mannarino a lifeline. The set went into a tight tie-break in which Ward had seven match points, but he failed to take any of them and Mannarino won it 16-14.
Despite going an early break down in the decider, Ward fought back and took his eighth match point at 5-4 on Mannarino’s serve when the Frenchman netted at 15-40.
It is the best week of Ward’s career, but he will have to raise his game against Tsonga, the world No.19, today. Ward revealed that he planned to ask Murray, who has beaten Tsonga four times, for some tips ahead of his semi-final. “I will send him a message later and see what he has got for me,” he said.
Before Ward took to the court, Murray was having a light hit indoors on the next court to Cilic, who hit for all of two minutes before walking over to the Scot and telling him that he was unable to play their match due to problems with his knee and ankle.
Today, Murray resumes his rivalry with Roddick after two years in which they haven’t played each other, their last meeting coming at Wimbledon in 2009 when the American won a tight four-set match. Murray leads their head-to-head record with six wins to Roddick’s three, but is expecting a tough test against the four-time Queen’s Club champion.
The early matches on tour between the two had an extra edge to them, with the teenage Scot often appearing to get on Roddick’s nerves. Murray acknowledges the tension was there, but the Scot was keen to stress that the pair now get on well.
“Maybe [it was there] early on in our careers a little bit,” he admitted. “I think both of us were probably more fiery quite a few years ago. I’ve always got on well with him off the court and used to practice with him quite a lot. Maybe when I was working with Brad [Gilbert, his former coach] it was probably a bit more intense, because he worked with him as well. But in the last few years I haven’t felt that at all.”
One of Roddick’s finest wins was that victory against Murray at Wimbledon two years ago. The American, who beat Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-2 yesterday, still remembers it well. “It was a great result for me, especially on the heels of the way he was playing at that moment,” said Roddick. “People were talking about the Murray and Roger [Federer] final already. I had to play one of my best matches and that is a credit to his level, where it is consistently.”
Having come straight to the Queen’s Club on Monday from Roland Garros, where he clinched his sixth French Open title, Nadal had spoken of his tiredness and it showed in his defeat by Tsonga. The world No.1 will head home to Mallorca for a few days of rest before returning to London to prepare for Wimbledon next Wednesday.