Tag Archives: backdrop

The Masters: Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus in our five of the best at Augusta National

The Masters: An old Golden Bear and a young Tiger plus Faldo, Mickelson and Crenshaw – five of the best at Augusta

PUBLISHED:

08:59 GMT, 8 April 2013

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UPDATED:

08:59 GMT, 8 April 2013

The Masters almost always produces dramatic golf worthy of the beautiful backdrop of Augusta National.

Here, Sportsmail picks out five of the most memorable tournaments starting with the legend that is Jack Nicklaus way back in 1986.

1) 1986 – Jack Nicklaus

Nicklaus was 46, had not won a tournament in two years or a major in six, and was being written off as a spent force. But the Golden Bear produced one more back-nine charge in the 50th Masters, coming home in 30 for a final round of 65 to beat Greg Norman and Tom Kite by a single shot.

Nicklaus went eagle-birdie-birdie on the 15th, 16th and 17th as Seve Ballesteros squandered the lead by hitting his approach to the 15th into the water short of the green.

Dry Spell: Jack Nicklaus' win in 1986 was his first victory in a major in six years

Dry Spell: Jack Nicklaus' win in 1986 was his first victory in a major in six years

Handing over: Bernhard Langer (left) hands Nickalus his sixth Green Jacket

Handing over: Bernhard Langer (left) hands Nickalus his sixth Green Jacket

2) 1997 – Tiger Woods

Kite was again the runner-up 11 years later, but this time by an incredible 12 shots as Woods tore up the record books to claim his first major title. That had looked distinctly unlikely as the 21-year-old played the front nine of his opening round in 40, but he came back in 30 to lie just three shots off the lead.

A second-round 66 took Woods three clear of Colin Montgomerie, a lead he extended to nine shots after round three and a record 12 after a closing 69 made him the youngest ever winner at Augusta.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

Passing the torch: Tiger Woods tore up the record books to win his first title at just 21-years-old

3) 2004 – Phil Mickelson

'I don't think any Masters will ever compare to the '86 Masters but, for me, this one does.'

That was the verdict of an emotional Mickelson after he had broken his major duck at the 47th time of asking. Mickelson had shared the lead with Chris Di Marco heading into the final round, but struggled to a front-nine 38 before a brilliant back nine of 31, culminating in a decisive birdie on the 18th, was enough to beat Ernie Els by a shot after the South African's excellent 67.

Crowd Pleaser: Phil Mickelson broke his major duck at the 47th time of asking

Crowd pleaser: Phil Mickelson broke his major duck at the 47th time of asking

Only just: A decisive birdie on the 18th hole gave Mickelson the title by just a single shot

Only just: A decisive birdie on the 18th hole gave Mickelson the title by just a single shot

4) 1995 – Ben Crenshaw

At 43, Crenshaw was not quite as old as Nicklaus in 1986, but his second Masters title in 1995 was equally remarkable and emotional.

Harvey Penick, who was Crenshaw's golf coach since he was seven years old, had died the week before and Crenshaw spent the Tuesday of Masters week at Penick's funeral in Austin, Texas.

The image of Crenshaw doubled over in grief and happiness after his final putt dropped – he did not have a single three-putt in 72 holes – has become an iconic Augusta image.

Ben Crenshaw

Ben Crenshaw

Emotional: Ben Crenshaw is hugged by his caddy Carl Jackson after winning for the second time at AQugusta National. Harvey Penick, who had coached Crenshaw since he was seven, died a week before the tournament

5) 1996 – Nick Faldo

Greg Norman had finished third behind Crenshaw in 1995, but it was the manner of his second-place finish to Nick Faldo the following year which was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Norman led from the outset after an opening 63, the joint lowest score ever in a major championship and only the second 63 ever at Augusta, and after adding rounds of 69 and 71 he was six shots clear of Faldo heading into the final round.

However, his lead was down to two shots by the turn and a back nine of 40 – despite two birdies – meant a closing 78 to Faldo's 67 and a five-shot winning margin for the Englishman.

Nick Faldo

Nick Faldo

Picking up the pieces: Nick Faldo took advantage of an awful final round from Greg Norman to win in 1996

Liverpool debts rise to 87.2million after 21.8million loss

In the Red! Liverpool debt rises to 87.2million… and instalments on Downing and Henderson transfers are to blame

– a restructured period designed to bring alignment with the football season.

However, the loss was less than the 49.3million made the previous year and done against the backdrop of no European football, although Liverpool did get to two cup finals, winning one.

Some of the deficit was as a result of investing heavily in the transfer market – and the costs associated with bringing in the likes of Stewart Downing (20million) and Jordan Henderson (16million) in the weeks preceding the accounting period – while offloading other players at a loss.

Costly: Kenny Dalglish unveils his new signings Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Doni and Stewart Downing

Costly: Kenny Dalglish unveils his new signings Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Doni and Stewart Downing

But with the club's owners Fenway
Sports Group firmly focused on the impending arrival of Financial Fair
Play Ayre stressed there was necessary work to be undertaken.

'The key message for me is that we are
continuing to transition to the point we have been working on for
several years under this ownership – which is to continue to improve
revenues and manage our cost base effectively,' he said.

'The biggest cost base without doubt
is player trading and player wages – but these accounts demonstrate that
we are still working hard to improve that.

'I take comfort in the fact that the
work we have done, some of which costs us a lot of money in this period
and beyond, looks pretty painful at the time.

'But as long as you invest in it and
manage it in the right way, then hopefully it bears fruit as we go
forward and gives us a better platform to exist on in a different
environment and in a world where we are expected to break even.

'You never take comfort from any business that makes a loss but I am pleased that we're making the progress we are making.'

In the period relating to these
accounts the club offloaded 11 players, including the likes of Milan
Jovanovic, Christian Poulsen and Raul Meireles – all signings by
previous managers.

The then boss Kenny Dalglish – the
cost of whose sacking last May was included in 9.5million of 'exceptional payments' – wanted reinforcements for his squad and that
meant players had to be moved on to make room.

Lead: Downing scored the opening goal in Liverpool's 4-0 win over Wigan on Saturday

Lead: Downing scored the opening goal in Liverpool's 4-0 win over Wigan on Saturday

Contribution: Henderson has scored three goals for Liverpool this season

Contribution: Henderson has scored three goals for Liverpool this season

Reassurance: Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre

Reassurance: Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre

Boss: Liverpool owner John W Henry

Boss: Liverpool owner John W Henry

CAN'T SCORE STREET

Downing had a well-documented goal drought at Anfield, and his Wikipedia page was hacked to reflect that.

Downing

'We see a big charge within the
accounts for amortisation (depreciation in value) of players that have
been disposed of within the period that perhaps came in on a higher
cost,' Ayre told the Liverpool Echo.

'We've made losses as a result of
selling them but at the same time we've improved our longer-term
position in terms of our wage bill by reducing the wages for those
particular contracts.

'These accounts show investment in the
squad – players like Jose Enrique and Sebastian Coates – and as we have
seen in accounts that flow from that – we will continue to invest in
the squad both for improved playing performance but also a far better
structure in deals that we have with players.

'So we are fortunate in some sense in that we know we are improving in this year and we are continuing to improve.'

In addition to transfer-related costs
captain Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez were among five players who
signed new contracts during the accounting period, since the end of
which FSG have injected 46.8million via a non-interest bearing
intercompany loan.

Turnover increased by 5million but so did wages, with the salary bill now around 142million or 70 per cent of income.

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard

A dejected Luis Suarez

Out of the big league: Liverpool have not played in the Champions League since being eliminated from the group stage in 2009 and this will have affected their financial situation

'It's good to see that even in a year
where we have a downturn in fortunes by not playing European football,
we can bolster our revenues by performing in other areas,' added Ayre.

'It shows that we have a very strong and growing business that sits behind the football club.

'And as we approach things like Financial Fair Play and that type of environment, that puts us in a very strong position.'

The figures do not include the record
25million-a-season six-year sponsorship deal with kit manufacturers
Warrior, which came into effect last summer and could net the club a
similar amount through associated merchandising.

'We've had record sales of their products throughout this year,' said Ayre.

'We've also seen new sponsors come on board, notably Chevrolet and Garuda Airlines.

'If you have got a successfully
performing team and you have got an infrastructure which we now have and
the business ability to deliver revenue, then both of them coming
together would be a fantastic solution for the football club all round.'

VIDEO: Watch highlights of Liverpool's 4-0 win at Wigan on Saturday

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Christmas 2012: Crystal Palace cheerleaders perform Mariah Carey video

All I want for Christmas is promotion… Palace dancers bring Holloway's boys some festive cheer in Mariah Carey video re-make

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UPDATED:

17:27 GMT, 29 November 2012

Crystal Palace are on track for promotion so far this season, and looking to give them a boost with some festive cheer is their loyal team of cheerleaders.

Armed only with some fake snow, skimpy Santa outfits and industrial volumes of hair spray, the Crystals have released a Christmas video that is set to get pulses racing this winter.

Miming to Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas, the girls strutted their stuff against the backdrop of the club’s stadium.

Scroll down to watch the video
Santa's little helpers: Crystal Palace cheerleaders perform a rendition of Mariah Carey's Christmas classic

Santa's little helpers: Crystal Palace cheerleaders perform a rendition of Mariah Carey's Christmas classic

Football League blog

It’s the third video the cheerleading squad have made using pop songs.

Having started with Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe, the girls created their own video to accompany Korean hit Gangham Style.

The latest video features the winner of the Gangham Style competition, Alan Devito, as a very lucky Santa Claus.

Those who watch this video will have the chance to enter another competition, but this time the prize is a brand new iPad, with runners up receiving a Crystals Calendar.

Jingle balls: The Crystals have also released a video performing to Carly Rae Jepson's Call Me Maybe

Jingle balls: The Crystals have also released a video performing to Carly Rae Jepson's Call Me Maybe

DM.has('rcpv1994095200001','BCVideo');

Breeders" Cup 2012: Clouds on horizon as US Dirt puts off European elite

Clouds on the horizon for Breeders' Cup as reversion to US Dirt puts off European elite

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UPDATED:

20:30 GMT, 29 October 2012

A glance across the idyllic scene from the magnificent Santa Anita grandstand suggests all is wonderful in the world of the Breeders’ Cup.

In the foreground, racehorses perform their daily work-out routines on the same circuit where the great Seabiscuit both ran and had his remarkable life committed to cinematic glory.

Not a fleck of white cloud spoils the azure blue sky and in the distance the San Gabriel mountains rise as a striking backdrop as if created by a celestial set designer.

The stage is set: Blue skies bathe the glorious Santa Anita but there may be trouble ahead

The stage is set: Blue skies bathe the glorious Santa Anita but there may be trouble ahead

The stage is set for the 29th Breeders’ Cup, the world’s richest race meeting which will see $25million up for grabs on Friday and Saturday.

But beneath the surface there is a rumble of uncertainty and questions surrounding the fixture which likes to think of itself as the annual world cup of Flat racing.

It may not have the long history of Royal Ascot and the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe in Europe or of the prestigious Kentucky Derby Stateside but the most glamorous race meeting on the globe since 1984 has always had glitter.

Horses like 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Zenyatta added the sort of glamour more associated with that showbusiness mecca just a few miles from Santa Anita, Hollywood.

But, Sir Henry Cecil’s Frankel, the A list topper this year, has not made the trip to California.

A combination of the 1.3million British Champion Day at Ascot, run for the second time this year and one of the growing number of global counter-attractions to the Breeders’ Cup, was his preferred target to the feature 10-furlong Classic on Saturday.

That shows the ever-evolving state of global racing – something that meeting promoters constantly battle.

But it was also a factor that Santa Anita, where John Gosden’s Raven’s Pass became the first British-trained winner of the Classic under Frankie Dettori in 2008, has ripped up its synthetic Pro-Ride surface and reverted to the traditional US Dirt so alien to European runners.

The result is that Aidan O’Brien’s 2011 Ascot Gold Cup winner Fame And Glory and Dermot Weld’s Sense of Purpose – both entered in Friday’s Marathon – plus Tom Dascombe’s Ceiling Kitty (Juvenile Sprint) are the only Europeans being raced on the dirt here.

The secret is in the dirt: The traditional American racing surface is putting off European runners

The secret is in the dirt: The traditional American racing surface is putting off European runners

The hope of a synthetic surfaces, similar to those used in Europe, being more widely used across American to provide a more universal playing field appears to be a dashed dream with the US breeding industry fiercely protective of the Dirt which has helped its bloodlines and studs develop.

That money-talks pressure has largely won over against the fears that Dirt is an animal welfare concern with an overly-high risk of attrition.

There is also disagreement surrounding the use of race-day medication – a regime US racing has developed.

Many want it banned because it allows the fallibility of certain lines to perpetuate with medical protection and penalises the sound and strong during an age where sports across the spectrum are desperate to look clean.

But there are fears from punters that established form will go out of the window and virtually every single racing body in America is keen to keep the status quo for fear of the commercial fall-out.

However, for the first time this year, all the two-year-old races at the Breeders’ Cup will be contested by runners who have been banned from using diuretic Furosemide, something only allowed during training in Britain but which must have cleared the system before a horse races.

Better known as Lasix or Salix – it is used as standard in America as a means of preventing horses breaking blood vessels during racing.

Its Breeders’ Cup ban has infuriated some of the domestic audience. Top New York-based owner Mike Repole has boycotted the meeting in protest.

Marathon runner: Ascot Gold Cup winner Fame and Glory is one of the only European horses this year

Marathon runner: Ascot Gold Cup winner Fame and Glory is one of the only European horses this year

But if the Breeders Cup sticks to its guns, it will also outlaw race-day medication from all races at the meeting next year and that could lead to drastic action, according to British-born trainer Simon Callaghan who is carving out a successful career from his Santa Anita base.

Callaghan said: ‘With no Lasix in the two-year-old races it makes it a fair level playing field, although the American horses have run on it all year and then have to come off it for the Breeders’ Cup.

‘I personally feel that Lasix is something which helps horses and prevents them from bleeding and that would be the feeing of the majority of trainers over here.

'If next year is a totally medication-free meeting, I think some people, although not me, might take a stand and not run their horses.’

Breeders’ Cup President Craig Favel, however, insists there will be no back tracking in their thinking.

Favel said: ‘It has been highly controversial, not so much the Breeders’ Cup but the whole issue of race-day medication.

‘In terms of the Breeders’ Cup, I think the industry has been very supportive but when you put on a championship, you can do it under the rules you present.

‘I talked to (top trainer) Todd Pletcher the other day and thanked him – he disagrees with (the policy) but he is here to run which is a credit to people’s sportsmanship.

‘Life has very few guarantees but our board has made no indication to back off of that.’

If they do stick to their guns, the line up for the 2013 and 30th Breeders’ Cup could be very interesting.

It will be a significant milestone but also a worrying one for the Breeders’ Cup as it strives to maintain its place at the top of the racing world.

F1 Grand Prix of America forced back until 2014

F1 race past Manhattan skyline forced back a year as Bernie runs out of patience

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UPDATED:

09:03 GMT, 19 October 2012

Next year's inaugural Grand Prix of America in New Jersey will be postponed to 2014 because local organisers will not be ready in time, admits Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

'They've run out of time,' said the 81-year-old. 'There's all sorts of things… and they didn't quite think it all through. They've had a wake-up call but the wake-up call came too late.'

The waterfront race, with New York's Manhattan skyline as a backdrop, had been pencilled in for June 16 next year with an asterisk against it.

Dream setting: The race was due to take in views of the New York skyline

Dream setting: The race was due to take in views of the New York skyline

F1: Grand Prix of America under threat, says Bernie Ecclestone

Bernie fires warning to New Jersey race as F1 chief claims circuit doesn't hold a contract

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UPDATED:

18:17 GMT, 25 September 2012

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has again warned the Grand Prix of America is under threat.

Just under four months ago Ecclestone raised doubts as to whether the race in New Jersey, with the Manhattan skyline serving as a backdrop, would take place.

Ecclestone stated then the organisers were late with payments and were attempting to resolve issues internally regarding funds.

Making his point: The F1 supremo has warned the Grand Prix of America is under threat

Making his point: The F1 supremo has warned the Grand Prix of America is under threat

Phil Duncan F1 blog

A further complication arose in August when Tom Cotter, serving as president of the race organisers, resigned from a post he had only occupied for a few months.

Last week, with the release of the 2013 provisional calendar, the GP of America was handed a date of June 16, a week on from the event in Canada, but asterisked as it remains subject to confirmation.

With the calendar due to be finalised at a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council on Friday, at this stage the race is poised to be axed.

Ecclestone said: 'The organisers have not complied with the terms and conditions of the contract, which is now gone anyway. They don't have a contract.'

The door is, however, still ajar for promoter Leo Hindery Jr ahead of the WMSC meeting, but the clock is ticking.

Speaking to The Guardian, Ecclestone added: 'We are pretty close to the final deadline. We have a world council meeting coming up.

'I think if somebody got behind them it could happen in 2013 because they have come a long way with the circuit.'

London 2012 Olympics: Philips Idowu vows to be fit

I'm fine! Idowu vows to be fit for Olympics despite BOA demands amid injury row

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UPDATED:

12:02 GMT, 24 July 2012

Olympics 2012

Phillips Idowu has vowed to go all out for gold after revealing he will be fit to take his place on the triple jump runway at the Olympic Games.

The 33-year-old has been suffering from hip and knee injuries and this week opted out of the Team GB camp in Portugal in favour of staying with his own team of trainers.

But Idowu said: 'I'm fine, I'm ok. Things are being blown out of proportion. The season's goal is still the same – to come away with the Olympic gold medal. That's what I've been looking for since the heartbreak of Beijing.

Exit: Idowu has pulled out of the warm weather camp in Portugal

Exit: Idowu has pulled out of the warm weather camp in Portugal

'Even if the build-up to the Games
hasn't been what I wanted, I'll always come out and jump a season's
best. I'll do everything I can to make sure I'm pain free for the
competition so that I can jump to the best of my abilities. That's the
plan.'

British Olympic officials were angry at Idowu's decision to pull out of the trip abroad and spokesman Darryl Seibel told Sportsmail:
‘We have written to Phillips and his agents asking that he provides the
relevant material relating to his injury and the treatment he is
currently receiving to our chief medical adviser, Dr Ian McCurdie.’

The intervention by the BOA is also set against the ludicrous backdrop whereby he does not communicate with UK Athletics’ head coach Charles van Commenee after a public falling out last year.

No go: Idowu is not joining up with the Team GB camp in Portugal

No go: Idowu is not joining up with the Team GB camp in Portugal

As Sportsmail revealed on July 16, Idowu has moved outside the UKA medical structure and funds his own treatment.

Idowu, who won a silver medal in Beijing four years ago, hasn't performed competitively since June and pulled out of the London Grand Prix at the last minute earlier this month.

He added in the Evening Standard: 'I made the decision to stay in the UK for another week just so I can work with the physio,” he said. “We're trying to get the nerve along the hip and back just to loosen.

Long time no see: Idowu will head into the Olympics lacking practice

Long time no see: Idowu will head into the Olympics lacking practice

'Before Crystal Palace I jarred my hip
slightly doing a weights session so that was a bit irritated but going
into Crystal Palace I was in really good shape.

'I was warming up and running really
well, doing everything really well. Some of the other triple jump guys
in the warm-up area at Crystal Palace were like “it looks like you're
hitting the feeling”. I felt really sprightly.'

Rhythm is a key element of the triple jump and, anyway, Christian Taylor, the American who took his world title last year, is in ominously impressive form.

Brian Barwick: Great Brit Bradley Wiggins a highlight for ITV4

Brian Barwick: Great Brit Bradley a highlight for ITV4

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UPDATED:

19:58 GMT, 12 July 2012

One of the real annual treats of sports television during the summer has become ITV4's coverage of the Tour de France.

Stunning scenery, cyclists getting into sprints, scrapes and scraps,
crazy road-side spectators and now, a British man very much at the front
of the field.

Stunning: Bradley Wiggins and the French mountain backdrop

Stunning: Bradley Wiggins and the French mountain backdrop

eleventh stage of the 2012 Tour de France

eleventh stage of the 2012 Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins is great television on and off his bike, even if his
press conferences can occasionally turn the air blue just like, say,
Westminster Magistrates Court.

But for the Tour's broadcasters in the UK, he is absolute gold dust,
just like his Team Sky colleague and last year's BBC Sports Personality
of the Year, Mark Cavendish.

At last we have our own riders to get
excited about, having lived on a diet of brilliant exponents of this
two-wheeled drama from much further afield.

ITV4, like British Eurosport, carry
large chunks of the Tour live, anywhere between three and five hours
daily, but for many it is their highlights programme at 7pm that is
required viewing. It is a little gem.

A comprehensive pull-together of the
best of the day's stage action, post-stage interviews and analysis, with
a regular feature on some unusual aspect of Tour life.

Chris Boardman

Marvellous: Chris Boardman

At the helm of the company, who put the ITV4 output together, are the vastly experienced Brian Venner and Carolyn Viccari.

Brian, a former BBC Grandstand producer, now in his late seventies, and his distinguished colleague Carolyn have been associated with Tour coverage since the mid-1980s when Channel 4's half-hour highlights show became a cult hit.

ITV took up the reins in 2001 and have benefited in recent years from an upsurge in cycling, both as a sport and a leisure pursuit, in this country.

In a team of long-termers, Gary Imlach has fronted the Tour coverage since 1991. A much underrated presenter, his journalistic instincts have served him particularly well over the years in the balancing act of rightly praising great sporting feats of derring-do, while also reporting with authority about the shadow of drug abuse that has plagued the sport.

He has become well practised in having to switch gears quickly.

Alongside him is the former Olympic champion and Tour veteran, Chris Boardman. His analysis often involves him getting on his bike himself – and the other night giving us a run-down on the use of elliptical chainrings, as you do.

Marvellous stuff.

Ned Boulting is a talented maker of short films and gets a lot into a little. He is also the man asking Wiggins and Team Sky the questions at the end of a stage.

In the commentary box, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen describe the action. Their commentary is taken by broadcasters the world over but you sense at the moment they are relishing the 'UK angle'. However, occasionally they could help the newcomer to this sport by way of a little more explanation.

Finally, away from the riders and their bikes, there is the programme's other great attraction – the stunning French scenery.

Somebody once told me that half the people who watched Ski Sunday tuned in to look at the beautiful snow-clad mountains.

During the Tour de France many viewers must just love France Television's gift of showing us their country's breathtaking summer face.

Mark Cavendish: Image of the week by Kevin Quigley

Kevin Quigley: My image of the week – Mark Cavendish

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UPDATED:

07:34 GMT, 3 July 2012

My image is of Monday's stage two Tour de France winner Mark Cavendish from a recent feature we did in London.

I had only 10 minutes with Mark but with the backdrop of The City, it gave me a perfect setting with the sun going in and out of the clouds.

I asked Mark if he could come up the hill as if he were climbing a big hill in a race.

Lit with an outdoor powered light to the left of me, here is the stunning result.

Nikon D3
24-70mm
iso 100
f.8
Elinchrom dlite 4 with external power pack

Kevin Quigley: My image of the week - Mark Cavendish rides London

Wimbledon 2012: James Ward left to rue missed chance against Mardy Fish

WonderWard: Brave James takes Fish all the way but just comes up short

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UPDATED:

00:44 GMT, 29 June 2012

In the end, he finished disappointed for a third time in a week. But for James Ward there was honour and pride in this most dramatic of defeats.

Being denied an Olympic wildcard and giving up his Arsenal season ticket because it cost too much — only to then claim a serious pay day by reaching the second round — was the colourful backdrop to Ward’s clash with American Mardy Fish.

No chance of the rollercoaster stopping there, though, as the 25-year-old London taxi driver’s son offered his new legion of followers on Court No 1 four hours and 13 minutes of compelling sporting theatre.

Enlarge

So close: James Ward had his chances to claim a memorable scalp

So close: James Ward had his chances to claim a memorable scalp

This was what all the hours on the practice courts at the national tennis centre in Roehampton, funded by the LTA, had been about.

And thank goodness the world No 173 didn’t do himself a serious disservice by accepting such a gallant defeat with anything less than what appeared genuine frustration.

‘Everyone seems to be quite happy but I’m disappointed,’ Ward insisted. ‘It was a great match and I’ll remember the standing ovation for the rest of my life, but obviously I don’t like losing.’

Mardy Fish of the U.S. hits a return to James Ward

Return: Fish was making first appearance since heart op

Ward’s pedigree on grass had previously peaked at overcoming Stanislas Wawrinka, then the world No 14, to reach the semi-finals at Queen’s just over a year ago. But yesterday will clearly stay with him and hopefully inspire him in his quest for even greater feats for some time to come.

Ward said: ‘You know, he played well and so did I. He’s a top player for a reason and he came up with some big points at the right time. Every time I had a chance he came up with a big first serve, you’ve got to expect that. He’s a great player and he went for it and it came off.’

Great Britain's James Ward celebrates winning a set

Boost: Ward celebrates winning a set

Fish also entered the match following an unusual, and unhelpful, run-in. From heart surgery last month to a missed press conference following his first-round win which drew doubts as to his health, the American looked to be up against it in trying to play to his No 10 seeding.

That was until the action started, however. The man from Atlanta swept through the first set with consummate ease to spark fears of a mismatch from the Union flag-waving set.

Flying the flag: A British fan cheers on Ward

Flying the flag: A British fan cheers on Ward

Ward said: ‘There had been a lot of talk about his health but you could see out there he wasn’t really struggling too much. I don’t think he’s the sort of guy that’s going to play for the sake of it. If he didn’t feel like he was ready, I’m sure he wouldn’t be playing. He was fine.’

Although one of a series of stinging forehand winners helped Ward draw level, Fish reclaimed the initiative to go 2-1 ahead before breaking the Briton’s serve to secure an all-too premature match point.

Fighting spirit: Ward refused to give up

Fighting spirit: Ward refused to give up

Cue further proof of Ward’s grit and determination as he not only held his nerve to save it, but went on and clinched the fourth set to take their clash the distance. Great stuff.

Any doubts, or even hopes, regarding Fish’s potential lack of stamina for a sun-drenched fifth set disappeared, however, as the six-time title-winner on the men’s tour tightened the screw at 4-4, forcing Ward into submission.

‘James played well today, he played well enough to win,’ admitted the American. ‘He served as well as anyone has served against me all year. I was very happy to win a match like that. I didn’t feel great after my first-round match, but I feel a lot better now, that’s for sure.’

Relief: Fish celebrates after defeating Ward

Relief: Fish celebrates after defeating Ward

Job done for Fish, and a place in the third round. For Ward, a heroic defeat and an Arsenal shirt, sent by the club, with his name and the No 12, to celebrate his success this year.

Although much to his credit, you could see it was all scant consolation for what Ward really wanted, the victory which he came so close to grasping.