London, UK | AFP | Accustomed to the anonymity of the secondary circuits and a part-time tennis coach for £ 30 an hour, Marcus Willis lives a fairy tale at Wimbledon, where he will challenge seven-time London champion Roger Federer in the second round on Wednesday.
Ranked 772 on the world list, the 25-year-old Briton gave the big surprise in the first round by eliminating a player who leads him by 718 places, the Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis (54th). And he did it in three sets, in what was his first victory on the main circuit.
“This is surreal,” said the 1.91-meter left-handed tennis player, whose injuries recently led him to think about stopping playing and spending his time teaching full-time.
But finding his girlfriend Jennifer put him off: “He told me I was an idiot and I had to go on.”
The dentist was not planning to attend her boyfriend’s game on track 17. But a lucky incident at work allowed her to break free.
“It will seem strange, but her material was spoiled, forcing her to cancel her afternoon appointments. I was glad he could come, “explained Willis, who shouldn’t have played at Wimbledon at first, either.
He entered the tournament due to the last minute drop of his compatriot Scott Clayton in the rankings. Willis won all three of his qualifying games and jumped into the main draw.
These days of glory for Willis are reminiscent of the script for the romantic comedy “Wimbledon”, released in 2004. As the protagonist of the film, the Briton rebels in the temple of tennis.
– ‘Surreal’ –
With his first-round win, Willis has already made £ 50,000 (almost $ 67,000), which is more than two-thirds of his total career earnings from doubles and singles before starting Wimbledon.
Powerful but irregular server (14 direct and 11 double faults on Monday), Willis has lost ten kilos in recent months (90 kg currently) and seems to be in his best form.
This year he had only won 320 euros in the Future (tennis third division) tournament in Hammamet (Tunisia). On Wednesday he will face Federer, a winner of 763,000 euros this year, in which he has not yet won a tournament.
To dispose of a salary, Willis offers tennis lessons to the children for £ 30 an hour in Warwick, the town where he resides, not far from Coventry.
He also disputes the German and French team championships. A few weeks ago I was playing for the small club in Capdenac-Gare (4,500 inhabitants), in the south of France, in total anonymity.
On Wednesday he will do it against Federer in front of thousands of spectators. “He is a tennis legend, a fantastic player. I have great respect for him, but I have to try to beat him, “said Willis, who was congratulated by his idol, Croatian Goran Ivanisevic, winner of the 2001 tournament.
“He shook my hand, it was surreal,” said the man of the day at the Wimbledon premiere.