James Ward’s finest grand slam showing ended in an agonising five-set defeat to Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, with Wimbledon’s second week remaining just out of reach.
Ward’s SW19 heroics were brought to a deflating end by his 25-year-old friend 6-4 3-6 2-6 6-3 8-6.
The 28-year-old British No 4 had thrilled the south west London crowds by dispatching Luca Vanni and Jiri Vesely for his best grand slam return, but could not quite repeat the feat against the world No 56.
The London cabbie’s son was just unable to complete what would have proved a remarkable victory.
Ward left Court One and admitted it would take time to appreciate the bigger picture.
“Not right now no,” conceded Ward, when quizzed if he could cling to a week when he has broken into the world’s top 100 for the first time and banked £127,000.
Three years ago Arsenal fan Ward was forced to sell his season ticket to fund his tennis career and while he will bemoan his fate in failing to progress, the nation will toast a worthy competitor for an overdue breakthrough.
“It’s mixed emotions, I didn’t play to the best of my ability,” he said. “I gave myself a chance, but he lifted and you’ve just got to give credit to him.
“I’m sure I’ll look back on the good things, get ready for Davis Cup and get ready to go again.”
If Davis Cup hero Ward’s singles place for the upcoming quarter-final against France was in any doubt, this Wimbledon adventure has ended the argument.
Ward pulled off a stunning victory over world No 17 John Isner to hand Great Britain the victory over the USA that set up a quarter-final with France.
That Queen’s Club clash follows hot on Wimbledon’s heels, from July 17 to 19, hence Ward’s immediate recalibration.
Another huge challenge that the 28-year-old can also focus on is the US Open. His provisional ranking of 87 means he will secure automatic qualification for September’s Flushing Meadows slam for the first time.
When Ward stole a service break to sprint off court punching the air in the third set, the gritty home hope had full control.
The man who lives opposite Euston station steamed to a second-successive set and looked primed to close in on another impressive victory.
Instead, from nowhere, Pospisil remedied his faltering serve, turning his first-serve success-rate from 49 to 59 per cent to deny Ward in cruel fashion.
Even as Pospisil turned the tide Ward refused to give in, and where Heather Watson had gritted teeth in defeat to Serena Williams, the Londoner followed suit.
The result proved the same however, Ward fending off one break point with an ace in the deciding set, but being unable to defend two.
Pospisil seized that break to serve out the match with few issues, and set up a fourth-round meeting with Viktor Troicki.
Roger Federer insists he is no longer obsessed by eclipsing Pete Sampras to claim a record eighth Wimbledon title.
Swiss Federer marched imperiously past big-serving Australian Sam Groth and set up a fourth-round meeting with Roberto Bautista Agut.
Groth’s consolation was blasting Wimbledon’s second-fastest serve on record at 147mph.
The unfazed seven-time champion shrugged off one-time Australian Rules Football star Groth’s chief weapon to prevail 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5/7) 6-2, before responding “not much to be honest” when asked if chasing that elusive eighth crown still drives him.
“No, this one doesn’t give me extra something,” said Federer. “It used to be more the case, you know, trying to equal Pete; that stuff.
“Weeks maybe at world No 1, also what Pete was holding; much more talk about that.
“Now this is more something like you talk about for a couple weeks, it’s gone again and then you have to wait a year if you don’t do it.
“I just take Wimbledon as such, what a huge tournament it is, what an opportunity it is.”
Dustin Brown’s Wimbledon success story may be over but the German insists his shock second-round victory over Rafael Nadal will stay with him for life after he was beaten in four sets by Viktor Troicki on Saturday.
Brown was unable to reach the heights of his stunning win on Centre Court and joined Nadal’s previous low-ranked conquerors – Lukas Rosol, Steve Darcis and Nick Kyrgios – in failing to go through another round at SW19 after beating the Spaniard.
The 30-year-old qualifier produced a number of outrageous winners to enthral the crowd on Court Three, but he was too inconsistent and it was Troicki who progressed with a 6-4 7-6 (7/3) 4-6 6-3 victory.
“I’m happy with my tournament,” Brown said. “When I came to ‘qualies’, if someone would have said ‘sign here for beating Rafa, making second round and qualifying’, I would have signed that paper.”
Brown added: “It’s a lot of new experiences. It’s been great.”