BRITAIN’S James Ward crashed out of the Aegon Championships first round but not before handing a first-set fright to big-serving third seed Milos Raonic at Queen’s Club yesterday.
World No109 Ward snatched the opening set before succumbing 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 to Canada’s Raonic, who is playing his first tournament since April’s Madrid Open after undergoing foot surgery last month.
Raonic will now face Frenchman Richard Gasquet in round two, while Ward was forced to contemplate the elevation of the Aegon Championships to ATP Tour 500 status, which brings with it higher prize money and greater attraction for star names.
“It’s tough s***, you’ve got to deal with it and hope that one day you maybe get a better draw and can sneak in a bit further, win a couple of matches and then maybe it’s a bit different,” said Ward.
Defending champion Grigor Dimitrov, meanwhile, recovered from a break down in the second set to level at 4-6, 6-3 against 2010 winner Sam Querrey, in a match set to be concluded today.
Four-time champion Lleyton Hewitt paid the price for failing to convert match point in the second set as South Africa’s Kevin Anderson surged back to post a 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 6-2 victory. Australia’s Hewitt, 34, was making his 16th and final appearance at Queen’s.
“It was special to come back, knowing it was going to be the last one as well,” said the wildcard, who plans to retire after the Australian Open in January.
“I have played so many big matches in front of big crowds here over the years with big names, quality players.”