Last year’s Everyman at Wimbledon, Marcus Willis, returns
LONDON (AP) — Everyman’s everyman was back at Wimbledon on Wednesday, only instead of facing Roger Federer on Centre Court in singles, Marcus Willis was playing doubles.
And instead of losing, he was winning.
The straight-out-of-a-movie-script British tennis club instructor was ranked 772nd in the world a year ago when he managed to earn a meeting against Federer in the second round at the All England Club. This time around, he lost in the last round of qualifying for singles.
In doubles, though, he and Jay Clarke were given a wild-card entry for the tournament. And on Wednesday, they thrilled the spectators at Court 9 by coming all the way back after dropping the opening two sets to beat Jared Donaldson of the United States and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan of India 6-7 (4), 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-0, 6-3.
“I’m buzzing right now. It’s what you dream of when you’re a player — coming back at Wimbledon; two sets down; packed crowd going crazy,” Willis said. “It’s a very, very good moment.”
Over a couple of weeks in 2016, as a 25-year-old still living at home with Mom and Dad and charging about $40 per hour for tennis lessons, Willis put together quite a series of very good moments.
He collected three victories during a playoff for low-ranked British players, then another three in qualifying rounds for Wimbledon, getting a chance to play the first tour-level match of his career.
When he won that, too, it set up an improbable encounter with Federer.
That’s where Willis’ unlikely run ended with a three-set loss. He hasn’t played a tour-level main-draw match since; he is currently ranked 380th.
Willis said he hasn’t bumped into Federer at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament yet this year, noting: “The top guys have their own locker rooms, don’t they?”
Since his moment in the spotlight at Wimbledon, some things have changed: He got married and became a father. And some haven’t: He still plays for a local German tennis club.
In the second round of doubles, Willis and Clarke could face the No. 2-seeded duo of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, whose first-round match is scheduled for Thursday.
If they are the next opponents, Willis was asked, could he and Clarke pull off a surprise?
“Yeah,” Willis replied. “Everybody is winnable.”
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