Tennis teacher Marcus Willis plays Roger Federer on Centre Court at Wimbledon,
LONDON — How much money might you be willing to pay for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to play tennis against Roger Federer on Centre Court at Wimbledon?
Or merely for the chance to emerge from the tunnel leading out to the green grass there and hear the full-throated yells of nearly 15,000 standing, clapping spectators pulling for you?
Or, perhaps best of all, for the chance to look up at a guest box and see your parents, sister, brother and cousin leaping out of their seats, rejoicing, after you conjured up a beautifully curled lob that floated over the man considered by many to be the sport’s greatest player in history and landed in to win a 14-stroke exchange?
Marcus Willis, who lives at home with Mom and Dad and works as a tennis instructor at a club in central England, got to experience all of that and more Wednesday, and it didn’t cost the 25-year-old a dime. Actually, Willis earned the biggest paycheck of his career despite winding up with the sort of result everyone expected when a guy ranked 772nd in the world somehow found himself across the net from the man who spent more weeks at No. 1 than anyone: a 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 victory for Federer in the second round at the All England Club.
“I did look up twice as I bounced the ball, and saw Roger Federer, and thought, ‘Oh, haven’t seen this before,’” Willis said. “Yeah, it was surreal. … I had to get used to it and play.”
He earned the right to be out there against the 17-time Grand Slam champion thanks to an improbable, straight-fromcouple of weeks that included victories in three matches during a playoff for low-ranked British players, three more in the qualifying rounds at Wimbledon, and then another Monday in his very first tour-level match.
“It’s all been incredible and a bit of a blur,” said Willis, a lefthander with a strong serve who slices shots off both wings. “I’ve gone from one extreme to the other in a matter of days.”
Willis, who charges about $40 per hour for lessons, leaves with a check for 50,000 pounds (about $67,000).