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D.O.B – 09/02/1987 (22)
Home – Euston
Training base – Roehampton NTC
Plays – Right handed / Two handed backhand
World ranking (as of 15/06) – 224
British ranking – 4
Clothes sponsor – Fila
Rackets – Wilson
Best Win – vs Vincent Spadea (ranked 105) 6-0 5-2 ret.
Pro career singles titles – 1 – Sarasota challenger event, Florida, 11/05/2009
Records – Played in the longest unofficial match in tennis history against Chris Eaton – 6 hours 40 minutes
Style – Big serve, comfortable off both wings, brilliant shot maker
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Exclusive By Mark Weatherup December 2008
Tennis star James Ward has spoken for the first time about a Christmas family heartache which nearly caused him to hang up his racket.
The brave 21-year-old Brit – who is now ranked fifth in the country – told how his father’s life or death brain operation almost saw him quit the sport completely.
But Yuletide will be different this year in the Ward household as dad Jim continues to make a recovery and son James dedicates his victories to him
Speaking for the first time about the most difficult period in his life Ward said:” It’s been very difficult but dad persuaded me to carry on and never lost faith in me.
“I was so close to quitting because he was bailing me out financially and I didn’t have any money to travel to tournaments which take place around the world.
“But I wanted to win for him and after a few months I got my head together and was inspired by his belief in me.”
It was only two years ago this Xmas that London taxi driver Jim, 54, suffered a stroke and discovered he had a tumour behind his left ear.
James said: “It wasn’t cancerous but it could have been life threatening and had to be removed.
“He also had a stroke and I was very worried about him. That made him realise there was a serious problem so he was lucky to get away with it.”
Jim went into hospital a week before Christmas and had a gruelling six hour operation which removed the tumour.
“When I heard the news I was in Spain practicing at a training camp and it knocked me for six and had to stop playing.
“To suddenly find out something like this and then not be able to be with him was terrible.”
James returned home to England for a couple of months trying to come to terms with his Dad’s illness. When he returned to Spain to carry on training he wasn’t able focus as his mind was elsewhere.
“I wasn’t training as well as before as the whole situation was difficult for me emotionally and my tennis suffered as a result.”
However his father’s condition improved over time and James re-found his spark for tennis.
“Throughout the whole ordeal my Dad was always encouraging me to go on and do something for myself.
“I still wanted to play when he was ill but it got to a point where I didn’t really know what to do.
“Thankfully he started to get better so that was a big weight lifted off my shoulders and I started playing again.
“My form improved and I began to get a few more world ranking points and suddenly I started to once again believe that I could actually get somewhere.”
James, from North London, played for Middlesex as a junior but quit Britain and the Lawn Tennis Association set up at 16 following in the footsteps of Andy Murray who trained on the clay courts in Spain.
Over the last four years he has trained religiously and his hard work and dedication is now paying off. In the last twelve months alone he has jumped from 560 in the world rankings and is now ranked 293 in the world.
He has had a string of good results this year which includes winning two £10,000 Challenger events in France and Spain. Plus he has also attracted generous sponsors who have contributed to the cost of his travel.
“In the last year I’ve been playing so well and got some good wins and this in turn has eased the pressure off my father as he doesn’t have to work so hard in order to pay for me.”
Jim is now much better however there have been some repercussions from the stroke. The muscles in one side of his mouth are weak and he can’t close his left eye properly but other than that he is back to full fitness.
“The experience has certainly changed my outlook on life as nobody thinks this kind of thing can happen to them.
“I really appreciate the fact I get to travel around the world playing the game I love so I always make the most of everything I do and hopefully I’ll be able to one day make it into the top 100 in the world. Christmas this year will definitely be special.”
Exclusive by Ben Pearce – firstname.lastname@example.org