Ward has Murray in his sights

The national spotlight falls on the All England Club today as Wimbledon fortnight commences, with Andy Murray leading the British hopes over the opening few days. Eleanor Crooks reports.

Great Britain's Andy Murray during a practice session

James Ward admits it will be difficult to ignore the elephant on Court 12 when the British No 2 takes on Lu Yen-hsun in the first round of Wimbledon today.

Ward is bidding to win a second match at the All England Club after claiming one of the biggest victories of his career in the opening round last year against Pablo Andujar.

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That set up a clash with American Mardy Fish, which also went to five sets but Ward came out the loser.

If he beats Lu today, there is almost certain to be a very familiar face awaiting him – Andy Murray.

It would be the first time Murray has faced a countryman at a grand slam, and the first time he has played a British player since a match against Tim Henman in Bangkok in 2006.

It is a tantalising prospect for Ward, and he knows trying to forget about it until it happens is unlikely to be possible.

He said: “I don’t want to think about it too much, but it’s a good incentive to work towards.

“It’s not like people I talk to won’t mention it to me. I can’t really forget it.

“Lu is a tough match, there are no guarantees, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes,” he said.

The draw was relatively kind to Ward, although Lu has a pedigree on grass having reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2010 by beating Andy Roddick.

The 29-year-old reached a career-high ranking of 33rd later that year but has slipped down to 74th and has only once reached the third round at an ATP World Tour event this season.

Ward said: “I have seen him a lot in the Challenger tournaments I have been at. He’s a solid player, he has played well on the grass here in the past so it’s going to be a tough test for me.

“I will be looking at videos of him, of course, and asking around a little bit. But I have seen him a lot so I know how he plays. He knows how I play too so there are no real secrets.”

Ward is one of seven British players in action today, with Murray facing Germany’s Benjamin Becker on Centre Court.

The only other home man in the draw is Yorkshire’s 18-year-old Kyle Edmund, who will make his grand slam debut after being given a wild card.

Beverley’s Edmund has a tall task in every respect against Poland’s 6ft 8in 24th seed Jerzy Janowicz but will take confidence into the match from his first ATP Tour win at Eastbourne last week over the equally tall Frenchman Kenny De Schepper.

Edmund’s debut comes eight years after another hotly-touted British prospect first stepped onto the lawns of the All England Club, and Murray remembers the moment well.

Murray was the prospect and said: “When I played here as a senior for the first time, I actually almost wasn’t nervous. I was so excited to really play here.

“There was no pressure. There was no expectation at all. You’re just playing in a competition that you’d always wanted to since you were a kid.

“Obviously now that changes. There’s a lot more pressure and a lot more expectation, a lot more nerves. There’s still the excitement there. But I think for all British players it’s a huge part of their career.”

Leading the British challenge on the women’s side will be world No 37 Laura Robson, who plays her first match against 10th seed Maria Kirilenko tomorrow.

The 19-year-old has more expectation on her shoulders than ever after her performances at grand slams since losing in the first round here last year to Francesca Schiavone.

Robson hit the big time with a stellar run to the fourth round at the US Open and then knocked out former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in reaching the third round at the Australian Open.

With Murray sidelined by a back problem at the French Open, the spotlight fell on Robson, and it was not something she particularly enjoyed.

The teenager did not play well in an admittedly tough first-round match against Caroline Wozniacki but she is hopeful being the home star will not be too much of a burden.

“I don’t think I’m doing too badly,” she said. “I’m just focusing on my own game and just getting stuck into training.

“I’m not really looking too much online or anything like that, I’m not watching a lot of TV at the moment. I think it’s going to stay like that for the next couple of weeks.”

Four women fly the flag today, with Elena Baltacha taking on Flavia Pennetta, Johanna Konta tackling 16th seed Jelena Jankovic, Anne Keothavong playing Garbine Muguruza and debutante Samantha Murray facing Camila Giorgi.

Wimbledon fans flocking to join the queue for the tournament’s spectacular opening day line-up were yesterday risking disappointment.

By mid-morning it was clear that the queue snaking around Wimbledon Park, opposite the All England Club, was so long that the main show-court tickets would go to those already waiting.

Wimbledon confirmed that was the case at 11.10am, more than 24 hours before play at the championships was due to begin.

The tournament’s official Twitter feed stated: “Currently there are more people in The #Wimbledon Queue than the allocation of Centre & No.1 Court tickets for tomorrow.

“You are strongly advised to wait until the early morning before queuing for Ground Admission.”

Russian Elena Vesnina was an impressive winner of the Aegon International at Eastbourne as she landed the second title of arguably her best year yet on tour.

The world No 36 was coming off three straight first-round losses on clay but showed on the Sussex coast that grass is more to her liking as she beat American Jamie Hampton 6-2 6-1.

Nicolas Mahut won his first ATP World Tour singles title at 31 as he lifted the Topshelf Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, with a 6-3 6-4 win over Stanislas Wawrinka.