Home / China / Sports

Willis in Wimbledon dreamland

By Reuters in London | China Daily | Updated: 2016-06-29 08:39

World No 772 earns date with Federer after unlikely first-round triumph

For a man whose singles prize money this year had not topped $300, to have won in the first round at Wimbledon is nothing short of a miracle.

For him to face Roger Federer in the next round is pure dreamland.

World No 772 Marcus Willis of Britain earned himself a place in Wimbledon folklore and a spot in fans' hearts by beating Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis - ranked 718 places above him - 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 on Monday, sending the Court 17 crowd into utter delirium.

On a day with little to cheer for home fans, Willis, who had to come through two rounds of qualifying, took to the court against the world No 54 like he owned it.

The 25-year-old saved 19 out of 20 break points and won 72 percent of points on his first serve.

This from a man who described himself as a "loser" and a "fat boy" who had to get himself in shape, who coaches at 30 pounds an hour to pay the bills and had to be persuaded by his girlfriend not to quit the game altogether.

As the cheers were still ringing around the rowdy crowd, British 2013 champion Andy Murray, who starts his campaign on Tuesday as second seed, tweeted: "Marcus Willis, how good is that!"

Congratulations also came from Goran Ivanisevic, who won Wimbledon as a wildcard in 2001.

"Goran just came around and shook my hand. He's my hero," Willis told reporters, in grinning disbelief.

He is now guaranteed to pocket at least $66,000. Next up is Swiss master Federer, who defeated Argentina's Guido Pella in straight sets.

"Obviously, it's an amazing dream come true. I get to play on a stadium court. This is what I dreamed of when I was younger," Willis said.

"I'm going to go out there and try to win the match. I probably won't, but I'm going to give everything, as I have the last seven matches."

Equally captivated

Federer was equally captivated by the Willis fairytale.

"I think it's one of the best stories in a long time in our sport," said the Swiss superstar.

"This is the kind of story we need in our sport. It's a great, great story," added the 17-time Grand Slam champion.

"I'm very excited to be playing him. It's not something that I get to do very often. I'm looking forward to that."

Federer has rarely faced a player of Willis's modest stature, but he admires the underdog's commitment to serve-and-volley.

"I'm not sure I've played someone this low in the rankings," he said.

"It happens sometimes with wild cards in some events, but the guys who get wild cards are not usually coaching. They go to true professionals.

"This is definitely a first for me on this level. This match is different. It's picked up momentum.

"People will hear about it and naturally they are going to support him - and rightfully so, because it's a very cool story."

Willis is the lowest-ranked qualifier in round two of a major since No 923 Jared Palmer at the 1988 US Open.

Bookmaker Ladbrokes is offering odds of 8-1 that he reaches the world top 100 by the end of this year.

After his match, Willis briefly turned fan to cheer on fellow Brit Dan Evans, who endured a rollercoaster battle with Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff before advancing to the second round with a 6-3, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (7), 7-5 victory.

Their compatriots fell by the wayside, however.

British No 3 Kyle Edmund produced an inconsistent performance in his 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 defeat by Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

James Ward had the honor of opening Centre Court action on day one of the tournament, but with defending champion and No 1 seed Novak Djokovic on the other side of the net, there was no shame in his 6-0, 7-6 (3), 6-4 defeat.

Fellow wild cards also went down. Brydan Klein lost to Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 and Alexander Ward lost to Belgium's David Goffin 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.

On the women's side, Laura Robson, on the comeback trail after a long injury layoff, lost to fourth seed Angelique Kerber 6-2, 6-2 and Naomi Broady lost to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-3.


Willis in Wimbledon dreamland

Britain's Marcus Willis returns to Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis en route to a first-round victory at Wimbledon on Monday. Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

Editor's picks