2016 in review: Willis’ Wimbledon fairytale
Originally published on 25/12/16 00:00
While the 2016 Championships ended with a second Wimbledon title for a British player ranked No.2 in the world, the first few days were dominated by the story of the man from Slough ranked 770 places below the eventual champion.
World No.772 Marcus Willis, who had considered quitting the tour to coach full time, scraped into the LTA's pre-qualifying Wimbledon play-offs as the last entrant in the 16-player draw before coming through six qualifying matches just to be in the main draw. On his Wimbledon debut he upset Ricardas Berankis to become is the lowest-ranked qualifier to reach the second round of a Grand Slam since No.923 Jared Palmer at the 1988 US Open.
His second round opponent was none other than seven-time champion Roger Federer. The careers of the two players were poles apart. Federer, one of the most famous athletes in the world, had earned more than $98,000,000 in prize money (not to mention millions more in endorsement fees), while Willis had amassed just $95,000 since making his professional debut a decade earlier. Two years ago he launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund another year on tour.
"It’s an amazing dream come true," Willis said of the opportunity to face Federer. "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. But I'm going to give everything, as I have the last seven matches."
While Federer ended Willis' Wimbledon fairytale in straight sets, the Brit was only broken once in the second and third sets as he lost 6-0 6-3 6-4.
"It's not my standard Wednesday," Willis said. "I'm absolutely exhausted. But I've earned myself a beer, I think."