Liam Broady was dealt another blow in the ATP Challenger in Nottingham this afternoon as he was knocked out by fellow Brit Alexander Ward in the first round of the competition by a 6-2, 4-6, 6-7 scoreline on Centre Court.
Who would prevail in the Battle of the Brits?
This was always going to be a fascinating encounter, mainly due to the fact that it guaranteed at least one British player would be in the second round of the competition. Broady, currently ranked No.164 in the world, came into this match in relatively poor form. The 24-year-old had failed to qualify for the French Open following a 7-6, 7-6 defeat to Zdenêk Kolár and followed this up with a 7-6, 6-3 defeat to Jérémy Chardy in the Surbiton Trophy. However, he would have been looking forward to trying to put this recent disappointment behind him on home turf.
In comparison, Ward came into this match as the underdog. The 28-year-old is currently ranked No.315 in the world and has failed to win any ATP Tour titles to date. He was also beaten in the Surbiton Trophy as Alex de Minaur easily dismantled him by a 6-4, 6-1 scoreline. Ward would have come into this match aware of Broady's recent form and would have been looking to cause an upset.
Broady aggressive from the start
Despite his poor form, Broady showed no signs that he was lacking confidence in the early stages. He was very aggressive in his play and picked up two early breaks to race into a 3-0 lead. However, Ward did respond to this by coming close to breaking Broady's serve but ultimately failing, before holding with a perfect service game to get himself on the scoreboard at 4-1.
It took until about midway through the opening set for Ward to really settle into the game. He was beginning to play a lot better and made Broady fight for every single point. However, this was not enough to prevent Broady from holding his final two services games to take the opening set by a 6-2 scoreline.
Ward fights back
Broady was able to carry this momentum into the start of the second set as he immediately broke. Ward did everything he could to try and immediately break back in the second game, including an outrageous backhand return which was arguably shot of the match. However, Broady remained composed and held his serve to take a 2-0 lead.
Ward's luck then began to turn, starting with a perfect service game to get him on the scoreboard in the second set. He then managed to break Broady's serve for the first time in the match before holding with yet another perfect service game to turn the game around 3-2 in his favour. Despite this poor passage of play, Broady was able to remain calm and eventually got the set back on level terms at 4-4.
The key moment of the set came in the ninth game as Ward just about managed to hold his serve despite numerous opportunities for Broady to break. This turned out to be key as Ward broke in the following game and took the second set 6-4 to send the match into a deciding set.
Ward wins tie-break to cause huge upset
Ward undoubtedly had the momentum going into the third set and made this count by holding with a perfect service game in the opening game of the final set. However, Broady was not prepared to give in and started to produce the tennis he showed he was capable of in the opening set, as he raced into a 3-1 lead.
That early break looked as though it may have been enough for Broady to secure a place in the second round as both players consistently held their serve throughout the set. However, the key moment came in the tenth game. Broady was leading 5-4 and had the opportunity to serve the match out. Ward did not give up and took the second of two break point opportunities to level it up at 5-5.
Both players were able to hold their nerve in the following two games to send the match into a tie-break decider, much to the delight of the large crowd. The tie-break was a very tight affair, with Broady on the back foot for the majority of it. In the end, Ward was able to take the tie-break 9-7 and subsequently the match by a 2-1 scoreline.