THE TRUE spirit of sport was epitomised by Marcus Willis when he took to Centre Court at Wimbledon.
The 25-year-old looked like the cat who got the cream throughout the match despite losing in straight sets to seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer yesterday (June 29).
Ranked 772nd in the world, the Warwick tennis coach came through six rounds of qualifying, saw off Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis on his debut at the world’s most famous tennis tournament and became the nation’s new favourite underdog.
It took seven games for Willis to get his name on the board, but when he did the roof of the court nearly came off thanks to the cheers of “shoes off if you love Willis!”
The British number 23 will take home £50,000 for making the second round and is set to jump some 350 places in the world rankings from 772 to 416. Previously this year his earnings totalled just $350.
Talking after the match, Marcus said: ” I was nervous. I mean, Centre Court, the atmosphere is amazing.
“I did enjoy myself even though I was getting duffed up. I loved every bit of it – not the duffing bit.
“I loved getting stuck in, fighting hard. I can say I lobbed Roger Federer.
“I’m obviously disappointed to lose, it’s a natural feeling and I’m very competitive.”
And Federer – who let Willis walk onto court first and even left at the end of the match to let his opponent relish in the cheers of his supporters – said what an ‘unbelievable energy’ Marcus brought to Centre Court with his play, the fans and his enthusiasm.
On court the pair were dressed almost identically all in white with headbands to match. Marcus’ polo shirt even bore Federer’s trademark ‘RF’ logo and he revealed he had bought the top for the Grand Slam last year which he had hoped to play in.
Tennis captain at the Warwick Boat Club, Peter Grant said: “We had about 20 juniors and 100 members in the club to watch Marcus. It was a great atmosphere and he did us all proud.
“He said to us at the club before any of this happened, ‘whatever happens, I will be back at work’.”
He is set to play in the club’s first team tonight in the Coventry and District Lawn Tennis League. The team are trailing leaders Hampton in Arden by just three points.