by Kevin Craig
Marcus Willis, the No. 772-ranked player in the world, put on an astounding performance on Monday at Wimbledon, continuing his improbable run that began even before the qualifying event last week.
Willis beat Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania in straight sets by a score line of 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 thanks, in large part, to the massive crowd support he had on Court 17.
Berankis, a player who has shown spurts of great talent on the ATP World Tour level, was simply unable to crack through the spirited performance from Willis, winning only one of 20 break points that he saw and was simply unable to ever get a foothold in the match.
Early breaks in each set allowed the Brit to play confidently throughout the match as he put on display his great touch around the net and his “unorthodox” game that has the ability to frustrate any opponent.
The confident display never wavered from Willis, and an unreturned serve on match point gave him the biggest win of his career over the 53rd ranked Berankis and a spot in the second round.
The 25-year old had absolutely no intentions of playing in Wimbledon this year, and was close to even calling quits on his professional tennis career. Having only played one event since September of 2015, Willis found himself looking for tennis teaching jobs around the world. After an inspiring conversation with his girlfriend and a bit of luck, though, Willis found himself back on court looking to fulfill one of his biggest dreams.
Willis, in order to fulfill that dream, had to play in a pre-qualifying event just to earn his spot in the main qualifying event for Wimbledon, and his entry into the pre-qualifying event only came when a player had travel issues and was unable to make it to the tournament site in time.
Some impressive performances in the pre-qualifying earned Willis a wild card into the qualifying event, where he was able to dispatch three very talented players, one of which is currently inside the Top 100, to continue his magical run into the main draw of Wimbledon.
“I’ve always wanted to play at Wimbledon. I just never thought it would happen,” said Willis.
He is getting his opportunity to play at Wimbledon now and is taking full advantage of it. His prize for reaching the second round? £50,000 and a match against seven-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer.
“I think it’s one of the best stories in a long time in our sport,” said Federer of Willis’ run.
“I’m not sure he can play on grass, that’s good,” said Willis jokingly. “I get to play on a stadium court. This is what I dreamed of when I was younger.”
When Willis was younger, he was one of the highly touted juniors coming up through Great Britain with a lot of promise.
“When I was a junior, yeah, I was talented…Then I got dropped in the real world,” said Willis. “I lost a lot of confidence, made some bad decisions, went out too much, lifestyle wasn’t good…I didn’t have the drive.”
Thankfully, though, for Willis, he has regained that drive and will now get to play on arguably the biggest stage in tennis on Wednesday; Center Court at Wimbledon.
“Two, three, four years ago, [playing at Wimbledon] was looking very unlikely. Now I’m here. I’m going to enjoy every minute,” said Willis.