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Page last updated at 08:09 GMT, Sunday, 17 May 2009 09:09 UK

Ward ends British drought on clay

James Ward
Ward took a set off Marat Safin at Queen's in 2008

Briton James Ward claimed the biggest title of his career with a 7-6 4-6 6-3 victory over Australia's Carsten Ball in the Sarasota Challenger final.

The win makes Ward the first Briton in more than a decade to lift a trophy on clay at Challenger level or above.

Ward, 22, was ranked 271 in the world but that is now expected to rise to about 225, almost certainly earning him a coveted Wimbledon wildcard.

Ward came through qualifying to win the title, winning seven matches in all.

"I am absolutely knackered," Ward told reporters in Florida following his victory, before explaining to US journalists that the word meant "very tired".

Ward has a decent chance of being British number two in time for the Davis Cup in September

Jonathan Overend
BBC tennis correspondent

Ward has trained at an academy near Valencia, in Spain, for the last few years. He took a set off former world number one Marat Safin in the first round of Queen's in 2008.

"This is an outstanding result for James Ward and one which hopefully will be noted by those in charge of wild cards this summer and Davis Cup selection later in the year," said BBC tennis correspondent Jonathan Overend.

"He was unfortunate to miss out on the Davis Cup team for the last match with Ukraine, but now has a decent chance of being British number two in time for the next tie against Poland in September.

"Winning a title on clay is tough at any level, and to do it after playing qualifying makes it especially impressive."

Ward's run included a win over former world number 18 Vince Spadea.

The draw also included Belgian Xavier Malisse and up-and-coming Americans Scoville Jenkins and Donald Young.

Tim Henman is believed to be the last British man to lift a clay-court title at the top two levels, when he won the Seoul Challenger in 1995.

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see also
Safin recovers to end Ward hopes
09 Jun 08 |  Tennis

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