With Marin Cilic officially withdrawing from the Australian Open this morning, this set all the British fans in an excited although muted ( as no one wishes injury on any player, Cilic has withdrawn with a shoulder problem – the latest in a long list of withdrawls) spin. British Number 2 James Ward who is ranked 101 (or 107 depending on where you look) was the next in line from the alternates to be a replacement. We had known we needed one more withdrawal to save him having to go through qualifying (although he would have been top seed in that), but we were not sure at this stage if this was the one – we’d seen rumours already that Cilic was pulling out, so we needed confirmation that this meant James was in.
This means a couple of things, firstly we will have 2 British men in the main draw of the Australian Open, and it also means that James Ward is the first British male other than Murray to earn direct entry into the singles main draw of a slam since Tim Henman at the 2007 US Open. We will have 3 men in the qualifying draw (released on Monday) those being Kyle Edmund, Liam Broady and Brydan Klein (I’ll also be keeping my eyes on James McGee (IRE) and Aljaz Bedene*(SLO) during the qualifying stages).
James spent some of the off season training in Miami with Andy Murray, and I’m hopeful this will have helped James, to the extent that he will win a round or 2 at the slam. Mainly because his ranking and his bank balance will breathe a little easier. Now we just need to make sure Andy and James don’t meet in the first round! <yikes>.
*Aljaz has entered all his paperwork and sat both the English test and the Citizenship test, as he would like to become a British player (he had wanted to be able to be picked for the Davis Cup team, however if what I’m hearing from the ITF is correct, they say he hasn’t submitted his request to be able to play for GB in time (they changed the rules on 1st January 2015 so that if you have played for one country in Davis Cup, you will not be eligible to play for another), whereas the LTA are saying it has been – will have to come back on that one!, however he will be British soon.