Even with injury worries, Scotland provided the best hope for a home triumph at Wimbledon 2010. Andy Murray and Elena Baltacha—the strongest competitors in the men's and women's singles—looked to forge an impressive run when the 133rd installment of The Championships kicks off at the All London Club in England on Monday.
Murray is a proven title contender and Baltacha comes equipped with the ability to defeat seeded and top 10 ranked opponents.
And now the pressure is firmly on the Scottish pair to bring home the bacon.
The men’s draw has been left with no English representation, the first-ever such occurrence in the title's long and illustrious history. It comes as a major blow to the fans.
Alex Bogdanovic was left out of the wild-card list after too many consecutive first round defeats at Wimbledon. He almost made it via the qualifying route, but achingly lost 24-22 in a tense final set against Nicolas Mahut. He therefore joins other English hopefuls Dan Evans and Josh Goodall who also exited in qualifying for the Grand Slam event.
On the women’s side there were six British women in competition. Yet, the most accomplished English woman, Anne Keothavong, has a devastatingly poor record at the courts of SW19. She is rarely expected to do well and as such is never afforded optimistic attention or expectation upon her shoulders.
So have the organizers of Wimbledon made the right decision in denying English representatives for what is such an historical and traditional event? Even despite the lack of real English talent since Tim Henman’s exit, is it really fair for a sport to deny its own creators inclusion in the fortnight of grass court action?
Many will voice their opinions on the career of a player like England's Bogdanovic. He has seemingly been stuck in a rut for a large portion of his career—certainly his eight consecutive first round defeats at Wimbledon did not help his cause.
Yet he is a player ranked in the top 200, and has been for some time. Should this not warrant him a position in the first-round draw?
Of course the opposing view of this will now be a lack of killer instinct. Bogdanovic was unable to finish off his final qualifying round opponent to make the draw. He held his fate in his own hands for once, and he stuttered.
It is also easy to say that he would have just gone out with nothing more than a whimper if a wild-card had just been given instead, anyway.
The story of today, thought, is that of James Ward. This week he joined Baltacha in the quarterfinals at Eastbourne. Her journey was more spectacular as she enacted revenge on her Wimbledon conqueror from last season. However, his accomplishment was just as riveting.
Due to a blood disorder Ward's ranking slipped from the top 250, but this week's heroics should really have warranted him a position as a wild-card. He seems able to cause an upset.
He has taken some responsibility for this as he chose to play at Eastbourne rather than go through the qualifying rounds for Wimbledon. But sadly the decision was out of his hands.
The most controversial opinion surrounding this lack of support for Ward has come from former Davis Cup captain John Lloyd. He has regarded the decision not to give Ward a wild-card a choice that is built upon the foundations of Roger Draper and his job security.
Lloyd believes that Draper, in disallowing Ward an entry, is behaving in a way that allows the LTA’s executive to be spared his blushes. He proclaims that Draper is making a decision that will save his own career at the expense of the actual players.
It is hard not to take this idea on board as Ward seems capable enough. With six British women and only two British men currently in attendance for the draw we have to remember that the more likely outcome is that the men will prove more successful.
Baltacha, even given her new found high ranking position, is not assured a second round fixture. She will have to fight for it, just like the rest of the women. They look the most fragile when compared with Scots Murray and Jamie Baker on the men's side.
What could stop Andy Murray from being the soul survivor into round two, or definitely into the second week? James Ward would have been unlikely to form a major dent in the minds of the sports supporters but at least he could have given us an occasion.
Whether the decision to leave the men's game without an English player is born out of teaching its players a lesson is another matter. There are some who believe that the lack of support for English players has been put in place to inspire those within the lower rankings to up their game and prove themselves worthy for future seasons.
Now with the outcome of only Scottish representation in the men's side you would hope that this is going to be the resultant outcome. In the following years we hope another Tim Henman will come into fruition.
Whether this is James Ward remains to be seen, but we can always live in hope.