A TENNIS coach from Warwick who was ready to walk away from playing competitively has taken centre stage on Centre Court at Wimbledon.
Marcus Willis was set to play the biggest game of his career yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) – as The Observer went to press – against seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer.
World ranked 772nd, Marcus came through six rounds of qualifying and saw off Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis – who is ranked 54th in the world – on his debut at the world’s most famous tennis tournament.
The 25-year-old joined the coaching team at Warwick Boat Club in March and was set to move to America after being offered a job as a coach in Philadelphia.
But his dentist girlfriend Jenny Bate encouraged him not to give up competing after his qualification bid for Wimbledon began to gather pace.
Marcus, originally from Slough, was ranked 220th in the world a few years ago, before injury and loss of financial backing saw him nearly walk away from competitive tennis altogether.He was the second lowest ranked player to qualify for this year’s tournament.
Speaking ahead of his match against the Swiss superstar, Marcus said: “I’ve played a lot of tennis over the last few weeks and if I stay calm I will play my best tennis.
“If I think ‘oh I’m at Wimbledon’ I won’t play as well.”
Tennis captain at the Warwick Boat Club, Peter Grant told The Observer, all at the club would be supporting Marcus’ as he attempted to pull off one of the biggest upsets in tennis history.
“Marcus has been playing in the club’s first team since he joined us in March.
“He has worked very hard to get this far – the likes of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic play seven games to make it to the Wimbledon final and Marcus has played six just to qualify.
“He is a remarkable player and the club have given him as much support as we can.”
Fellow Brit and close friend Dan Evans also booked his place in the second round thanks to a 3-2 victory over Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff in three hours and 17 minutes, which was his first ever win in the men’s singles at Wimbledon.
Evans was due to play Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov on Wednesday but as the Observer went to print, the wet weather looked to have postponed any action on Court Two.
It has been quite the year for Evans who has climbed inside the world’s top 100 after slipping down to 772 back in May last year.
His recent form can be credited to the part he played as Britian won the Davis Cup which saw the 26-year-old claim three ATP Challenger titles.
Evans took the first set against Struff before the pair traded tie-break wins. Evans then survived an injury scre to take the fourth set to progress into the next round.
“It was a good one, tough one,” said Evans. “I really enjoyed it, every part of the match, even the second set. It was good to get the win in the end, get another Brit through.”
Speaking about his friend Willis’ progress, Evans added: “He’s a good guy, friendly, harmless. Not a bad bone really. He’s a bit of a clown. What you see is what you get with him.
“He’s just a bit of a joker, just enjoys himself. You know, he’s a really nice guy, one of my good friends.”