Briton shocks Wimbledon – and it’s Federer next
She persuaded me not to retire early, says player ranked 772nd now facing tie against Roger Federer
Marcus Willis, ranked 772nd in the world, delighted British tennis fans on the first day of Wimbledon as he toppled Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis, who is positioned 718 places above him, in straight sets to secure a second-round clash against Roger Federer.
FIVE months ago Marcus Willis had given up on his tennis-playing career and was making plans to move to the US to start a coaching job.
But after a series of lucky coincidences the player ranked 772nd in the world yesterday saw his prize money for the year go from just £220 to £50,000.
The 25-year-old wild card pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Wimbledon history by beating Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis – ranked 54 – in straight sets
Willis, who usually coaches amateurs, will now be plunged into the spotlight of a centre court tie against Roger Federer.
Willis, from Slough, Berks, only resurrected his career after his new girlfriend persuaded him to give the sport one last chance.
Another piece of luck saw Willis, who still lives with his parents and has credit cards to pay, claim his spot at the tournament after another player could not get back to the UK in time to register.
Speaking after the match, he said: “I had options in Philadelphia. Nothing was dead set. But, yeah, it was an option I had. Don’t know if I would have gone or not.
“But, yeah, I met the girl. She told me not to, so I didn’t. Do what I’m told.”
He added: “More than I’ve earned this year. It’s amazing. It’s lovely.”
Willis thanked his friends from Loughborough University for cheering him on from the stands and said he would celebrate with a “nice meal” and an early night.
His girlfriend, dental surgeon Jennifer Bate, 30, had not expected to make it to the match, but she took her seat just in time after her work appointments were cancelled at the last minute.
She said: “I was meant to be at work today. Last week, the suction had been a bit dodgy so we cleaned it all out and thought it would be fine. I got in this morning and we managed to do the first patient, but it wasn’t working that well, and then it stopped working.
“I got so stressed. I’d come to work and I was missing the game. I called my boss to ask what to do and he said we would have to get the engineer in. So we had to cancel all the patients for the afternoon.
“I wasn’t even going to be here. I was not expecting this – that was incredible tennis.”
Ms Bate said it was “instant attraction” when the pair met at an Ellie Goulding concert, and added: “It’s been quite intense, travelling and watching matches, but we’re crazy about each other.”
She said: “A week after I met him he said he was going to America and he’d given up on tennis. My brother loves tennis and said to me ‘this guy is a big deal’ and so I told him we believed in him, give it a shot, it’s worth it – and he did. “He wants it so much and has worked really hard for this.” After his win, Marcus ran over to his girlfriend and hugged and kissed her before jumping into the arms of his chanting friends.
She said: “He just said to me ‘I love you’.”
Ms Bate said she believed she would have many more opportunities to watch Willis. She said: “He’s got plenty more in him.”
‘It’s been quite intense, travelling and watching matches, but we’re crazy about each other’
Girlfriend Jennifer Bate, below, and, right, with shock winner Marcus Willis