(June 27, 2016) World No. 772 Marcus Willis advanced to the second round of Wimbledon on Monday with a victory over No. 54th-ranked Ricardas Berankis 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
The 25-year-old left-handed Brit who came into the tournament as a qualifier, became the lowest ranked qualifier to reach the second round of a major since No. 923 Jared Palmer did it at the 1988 U.S. Open. Palmer defeated wild card Jeff Tarango in the first round before losing to Ronald Agenor in the second round.
Willis is the lowest-ranked player to reach the second round at Wimbledon since No. 861 Tommy Haas in 2015. In the first round, Haas defeated No. 86 Dusan Lajovic – who was ranked 775 places higher. By contrast, Willis’ opponent, No. 54 Ricardas Berankis, is ranked 718 places higher.
Willis, who was a promising junior back in 2007, reaching the Top 15, was the last man invited to participate in a special playoff for British players to gain a wild card entry into Wimbledon qualifying.
The last time a British wildcard into men’s singles qualifying reached the 2nd round of the main draw was No. 661 Chris Eaton in 2008 (d. No. 114 Boris Pashanski, l. Dmitry Tursunov). This was also the last time that any British qualifier won a main draw men’s singles match.
Injuries and a lack of motivation derailed his career and his hope to have a pro career.
“Tore my hamstring twice,” he told media. “Hurt my knee earlier this year. Had a bit of a rough phase. I was down, struggling to get out of bed in the morning.”
“I was a bit of a loser. I was overweight.”
“I just looked myself in the mirror (and) said, ‘You’re better than this.'”
“I was bigged up a lot,” he said. “Then I got dropped in the real world. I lost a lot of confidence, made some bad decisions and went out too much. Lifestyle wasn’t good.”
“I didn’t have the drive. I found it three years ago.
Willis, a teaching pro, was contemplating moving to Philadelphia to teach tennis, but his girlfriend encouraged him to keep playing.
“I met the girl. She told me not to (quit), so I didn’t,” Willis said. “Do what I’m told.”
Willis’ goal for now is to be a top 100 player.
“I want this, week-in and week-out, he said. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, and I’ve got a lot of improving to do as well.”
Willis’ next match will be a Herculean task – he’ll play 7 -time Wimbledon champion and 17-time major champion Roger Federer on Wednesday. Federer defeated Guido Pella 7-6(5), 7-6(3), 6-3.
“I’m not sure he can play on grass,” Willis said jokingly.
“I get to play on a stadium court. This is what I dreamed of when I was younger. I’m going to go out there and try to win the tennis match. I probably won’t. I might not.”
“I think it’s one of the best stories in a long time in our sport,” Federer said. “This is the kind of stories we need in our sport.”
“I’m very excited to be playing him, actually, Federer continued. “It’s not something that I get to do very often.”