Marcus who? The tennis coach who has stunned Wimbledon

Marcus Willis of Great Britain celebrates victory during the Men's Singles first round match against Ricardas Berankis. Photo / Getty Images.
Marcus Willis of Great Britain celebrates victory during the Men's Singles first round match against Ricardas Berankis. Photo / Getty Images.

A British qualifier ranked outside the top 700 in the world and playing his first tour-level singles match has provided the feel-good story of the day at Wimbledon.

Marcus Willis, a 25-year-old lefthander who has been working as a tennis coach, stunned 53rd-ranked Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 in front of a wildly cheering crowd on tiny Court 17 at the All England Club.

When Willis held serve to close out the match, he ran to hug friends and family in the stands.

Willis saved 19 of 20 break points against Berankis, who was playing in his fourth Wimbledon and 15th Grand Slam.

Willis won three matches in a special British Lawn Tennis Association event just to earn a wild card into qualifying for Wimbledon.

He then won three all three qualifying matches to make it into the main draw.Willis and No.

791 Albano Olivetti, who also qualified for the main draw, are the two lowest-ranked players to qualify for the main draw at a Grand Slam since No. 1,122 Mark Knowles at 1998 Wimbledon.

How good (or bad) is he?

Willis, the 25-year-old from Wokingham who attended Forest School in Winnersh, is ranked behind 22 other Britons in the domestic rankings and his standing of 772 in the world means only fellow qualifier Albano Olivetti (791) has a lower ranking. It makes the pair the lowest-ranked players to qualify for a Grand Slam since 1998.
How did he get to play at Wimbledon?

He qualified for the Championships after Scott Clayton's last-minute withdrawal from Roehampton; and he only got his spot in that event when fellow Brit David Rice fell out of the ranking places. He then had three fighting wins through the rain and wind to earn a first?round shot at world No 54 Ricardas Berankis at SW19.

He almost gave up the sport

Willis has his girlfriend, dentist Jenny Bate, who he met at an Ellie Goulding concert, to thank for convincing him to not give up. Having been coaching at Warwick Boat Club, as well as playing club tennis in France and Germany, a coaching career in America was on the cards with a job, in Philadelphia, set to start on June 13 - until his qualification bid began to gather pace.

"The end of last year I tore my hamstring again after [playing in] America. Start of this year I was in a really bad place, didn't want to get out of bed. Couldn't find the motivation to do anything really. I was very close to packing it in. I needed to get some money behind me.

"But I sorted my head out. I was in a bad place and really was at a low point. Time helped and I met a girl and since then it has been very good and my head has been right.

"I have been training and playing French League and German League. I was adamant I was going to America to coach but then I met a girl and she told me I was an idiot and I should keep going."

Playing for peanuts

Willis has earned just £258 on this season's circuit. Reaching the quarter-finals of a Futures event in Tunisia in January was the only recognised level of tennis he had played until Roehampton. His career prize money has not topped £72,000 until now. He still lives with his parents and has had to rely on credit cards to stay afloat - which he now intends to pay off.

Career-best pay day

All three victories in qualifying at Roehampton came against players - Yuichi Sugita, Andrey Rublev,Daniil Medvedev - ranked more than 500 places above him and he came from a set down in two of those matches - including the third-round match that guaranteed him a career-best pay day of £30,000.

He was nicknamed Cartman due to his weight

During a spell in the United States, locals called the then hefty Willis "Cartman" after the 'big-boned' character in the satirical cartoon South Park. He took it in good spirit and says he has lost a bit of weight since then.

"It was hilarious. I was massively overweight and I made the quarter-finals of a Challenger and kept winning five in the third. I've got myself in much better shape. I've still got to improve and still a few kilos to get rid of but I'm doing it slowly and I'm fit. I can last. I'm in the best shape of my life."

He trained with Andy Murray at junior level

The world No 2 said on Saturday that left-handed Willis, known to his friends as Willbomb, is an unconventional and talented player who causes most opponents problems. Willis was flattered.

"I used to train with him (Murray) a little bit when I was a junior and I was a hitting partner a couple of times with the Davis Cup. I get on really well with him. He is an inspiration to all of us."

Federer could be waiting next

After overcoming Berankis, and the biggest rankings difference of the first round (718 places), he will likely face the ultimate end (or start) to the fairytale - Roger Federer on Centre Court.

The 18-time Grand Slam champion, and seven-time Wimbledon winner, faces Guido Pella in the first round.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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