Fairytale over but club coach Willis left inspired

Marcus Willis summed up the surreal experience of taking on Roger Federer on Wimbledon's Centre Court with typical understatement as 'not my standard Wednesday'.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 30th June 2016, 12:01 am
Marcus Willis waves as he leaves Centre Court with Roger Federer following defeat at Wimbledon.
Marcus Willis waves as he leaves Centre Court with Roger Federer following defeat at Wimbledon.

The 25-year-old’s standard Wednesday involves coaching club players for £30 an hour at Warwick Boat Club.

Instead, he was lapping up the adulation of 15,000 fans who have been captivated by his story and giving arguably the greatest player of all time some uncomfortable moments before going down 6-0 6-3 6-4 in round two.

Nothing has been standard since Willis came through six qualifying matches to earn his place at the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament.

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Players ranked 772, who last played a tournament in January, are not supposed to feature at grand slams, let alone win a match, as Willis did in spectacular fashion against 54th-ranked Ricardas Berankis on Monday.

He and his girlfriend Jenny, who convinced him not to give up his professional tennis dreams earlier this year, have barely been out of the media over the last 48 hours and when Willis walked on to Centre Court it was to a deafening cheer.

He held up his arm in acknowledgement and amazement, grinning and shaking his head at the lunacy of it all.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “Not my standard Wednesday, that. Next Wednesday might be quite different.

“It was all just a blur. I did enjoy myself even though I was getting duffed up. I loved every bit of it. Not the duffing bit. I loved getting stuck in, fighting hard.”

On paper it was the ultimate mismatch, a player competing in just his second tour-level match against someone who has won more than 1,000 of them.

The gulf was summed up by the fact Willis was wearing a shirt with Federer’s logo on that he bought for last year’s Wimbledon only to not even make qualifying. He made sure to enjoy all the good moments, even celebrating when he finally landed a serve in the warm-up.

But the reality of the task soon became clear as Federer reeled off the first seven games.

The loudest cheer of them all came when Willis ended that run in the second game of the second set and thereafter it was competitive.

The British No 23, who lives with his parents in Wokingham, even had a chance to lead 4-2 in the third set but Federer gave Willis the respect of taking the match extremely seriously and he had too much in the end.

Willis certainly showed the talent he possesses, and to this point has not made the most of. His touch at the net won him numerous points while he picked out the highlight as a lob over Federer in the opening set that Andy Murray would have been proud of.

“I can say I lobbed Roger Federer,” he said.

“I was nervous. I mean, Centre Court, the atmosphere is amazing. I thought I played okay. I was in games. I just didn’t get on the board. He makes you play. He’s class. Put me under the cosh, came out firing. There were a lot of 15-15s, 15-30s. I didn’t get on the board until the second. I don’t think I deserved to lose 6-0, but there you go.”

British No 1 Johanna Konta overcame Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig and an awkward rain delay to win her first ever singles match at Wimbledon. Konta led 6-1 2-1 when play was suspended on Tuesday afternoon, but despite losing the first three games when the match resumed, she battled back to win 6-1 7-5.

Wimbledon faces a major matches backlog after showers caused much of yesterday’s play to be lost to the weather. Heather Watson and Dan Evans’s matches were both halted.

Watson won the first set 6-3 against Germany’s Annika Beck but conceded the second 6-0 and was 1-0 down in the decider. Evans went off at 6-6 in the first set against Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov.

While the weather was causing havoc on the outside courts, world No 1 Novak Djokovic was playing under the Centre Court roof against Adrian Mannarino.

The defending champion wrapped up a 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7/5) win in two hours and five minutes and with it secured an Open-era record of 30 successive grand slam victories.