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Ward squeezed out in California

James Ward's luck did not quite hold as he lost a close three-setter to Feliciano Lopez at the BNP Paribas Open in California.

The British number three was given a lucky loser spot on Sunday morning when Juan Martin del Potro pulled out because of a wrist injury.

Ward's last match on US soil was his stunning five-set victory over Sam Querrey in San Diego in February that helped Britain's Davis Cup team reach the quarter-finals.

He fell just short this time, with world number 37 Lopez recovering from a set down to win 3-6 6-2 6-4.

Ward could take just one of 10 break points, and he said: "Every time I had a break point he served an ace at 134mph. Too good.

"It was another big match. I've played a lot of big matches in the last few weeks since Davis Cup and I've showed my level's been up there.

"I took a gamble on staying here rather than going to Dallas (for this week's Challenger tournament) and it paid off, and it nearly paid off even better."

Ward lost his final qualifier to Paul-Henri Mathieu on Wednesday but, with all the seeds having a first-round bye, there is always a chance of picking up a later lucky loser spot at the weekend.

Going straight into round two meant Ward was guaranteed a pay day of at least USD16,000, but the 27-year-old was certainly not prepared to settle for that.

He had beaten Lopez the only previous time they had met, at Eastbourne in 2010, and Ward was clearly the better player in the opening set.

He finally took his seventh break point to lead 4-2, and the only slight wobble came when he served for the set.

On his first set point he shanked a forehand high into the stands before double-faulting on the second, but on the third he planted a forehand winner well out of reach of Lopez.

Ward had the chance to break again at the start of the second but could not take it and Lopez took advantage to level the match.

But if he thought he had done the hard work, he was made to think again as Ward refocused at the start of the decider.

He was the one pushing for the break but Lopez hung tough and then pounced when Ward served to stay in the match.

Ward knew Del Potro might pull out so decided in stay in Indian Wells while other players higher up the list for a lucky loser spot headed to Dallas.

He said: "I found out I was in about 11am. I went out to practise with Gilles Simon because I said I would warm him up, then someone sent me a message.

"I didn't know until I was hitting some balls. It seemed like everyone else knew. But it didn't make a difference. I still had a few hours to prepare so it was good.

"I was in Dubai last week and saw Del Potro pull out after a set. He was struggling with his wrist. Yesterday he played doubles to test it out and I guess today it didn't feel too good.

"I was lucky because two of the other guys who were above me went to Dallas. I was four or five out. But you take your chances when they come.

"I was the first lucky loser in Marseille a couple of weeks ago and didn't get in. It's the only tour event of the year so far where no one's pulled out. I thought that was bad luck and sometimes it changes round."

Ward's next tournament will be a Challenger on clay in Panama in a week's time ahead of the Davis Cup quarter-final against Italy in Naples, where he is firmly in pole position for the second singles spot alongside Andy Murray.