Northamptonshire’s number one tennis player Alex Ward admits he struggled to adjust to the pace of the grass courts as he went out in the first round of qualifying for Wimbledon at the Bank of England Sports Centre in Roehampton.
The British number eight went down 6-3, 6-4 to Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis, the 21st seed.
Ward had won his last two singles tournaments on the clay courts in Belgium, last Sunday, and Portugal but on his first grass court appearance since June 2012 he was undone.
“I’m pretty gutted. I didn’t play great but I’d just come off the clay so I suppose it’s to be expected,” Ward said.
“It’s just annoying I couldn’t get into the match more. It was tough adjusting to the grass but I had a few small chances that I wasn’t able to take. He played well, made it tough and he’s a good grass court player but I feel I could’ve done better.
“I just thought generally my ground strokes weren’t consistent enough. He made it tough for me and I made some errors from the back.
“He keeps the ball flat and low which on these courts is really tough. He forced me into mistakes and he’s a good player.”
From the start Ward struggled to cope with the Berankis serve, winning just five points in the first set, while his own serve was broken twice.
He improved in the second set, losing just seven points in his first four service games.
But after saving three match points in his fifth service game, he was unable to save a fourth to give Berankis victory.
Ward says he will consider moving to the grass courts earlier in the future so that he is in a better position for such tournaments.
“Next time I’ll try and give myself better preparation coming in,” he added.
“Winning my last two tournaments gave me confidence coming into these qualifiers although it probably would’ve helped if they were on grass rather than clay.
“It’s difficult to adjust in such a short period of time. I had an hour on the grass in the morning and I think that was the first hit I’ve had in two years on the grass. But I gave myself a chance and it’s just frustrating.”
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