Fairy tale over as Federer knocks out No. 772 Willis

- Nick McCarvel Special for USA TODAY Sports

“Unfortunat­ely, we don’t have enough of those stories anymore,” Roger Federer said.

Federer likes a feel-good story. A story that you can sit down with, drink a cup of coffee over, bring up over beers with friends and be certain it will be a hit.

Great Britain’s Marcus Willis had been that at Wimbledon. He lost Wednesday on Centre Court at the hands of Federer, a feelgood story for a nation in political tumult and desperate to feel good, even through sport.

“It’s all been incredible and a bit of a blur,” Willis told reporters. “I’ve gone from one extreme to the other in a matter of days. Playing that match was good, but I’m obviously disappoint­ed to lose. … I’m very competitiv­e. It’s just all been incredible for me.”

Willis, 25, donned the glass slipper this week in a sport that has few remaining Cinderella­s. He is a teaching pro, ranked No. 772 in the world and was the last player to make the cutoff for the prequalify­ing event, six matches away from the main draw. He won three times in prequalify­ing and thrice in qualifying before shocking world No. 54 Ricardas Berankis in a first-round match Monday.

Oh, and Willis was considerin­g quitting tennis and moving to the USA until recently, when girlfriend Jennifer Bate talked him out of it.

“I looked up twice as I bounced the ball (to serve) and saw Roger Federer and thought, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen this before,’ ” Willis said. “It was surreal.”

Surreal for Willis but really entertaini­ng for tennis fans — including Federer.

“This story is gold,” Federer told a packed media room. “It’s not (like) he got a wild card into qualifying and is ranked 300; he comes from much further than that.”

Willis was the lowest-ranked qualifier to win a Grand Slam tournament match since American Jared Palmer won his opener in the 1988 U.S. Open at 17.

Czech player Tomas Berdych joked of Willis’ seven match wins in the event (the number needed to capture a Grand Slam): “It’s like he’s won the title.”

In tabloid-happy Britain, Willis was the nation’s savior, according to several newspapers. He appeared on a slew of evening TV shows, and Wednesday afternoon when he walked out, Centre Court roared. Willis could only giggle.

Even if his ending wasn’t the happiest, his moment in the spotlight brought joy.

“I have gotten messages saying, ‘Thanks so much. I believe in myself now,’ ” he said. “It’s nice. I don’t know the effect of what I’ve done, but people seem happy for me. People got behind me. It’s amazing.”

 ?? SUSAN MULLANE, USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Marcus Willis’ feel-good story captivated a nation.
SUSAN MULLANE, USA TODAY SPORTS Marcus Willis’ feel-good story captivated a nation.

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