Marcus Willis says his Wimbledon fairytale has inspired him to finally fulfil his potential after the British qualifier’s astonishing adventure came to a heroic end against Roger Federer.
Willis had captivated the All England Club with his unlikely progress this week and although the world number 772 eventually succumbed to a 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 second round defeat against Swiss star Federer, he departed with a renewed belief that he can hold his own among the elite.
Just months ago Willis, who works as a coach to children and senior citizens at the Warwick Boat Club in the English midlands, was considering calling time on a tennis career that appeared to be going nowhere after he squandered his early potential.
But, persuaded to give it one last shot by his new girlfriend, Willis battled through to the main draw at Wimbledon via six qualifying matches before beating world number 54 Ricardas Berankis in the first round.
The 25-year-old had earned just $200 on the men’s tour this year, and now his bank balance has been boosted by $63,000.
“I’m not here for money. It’s an added bonus, it’s great. I can clear my debts. But I love competing, playing tennis,” he said.
“I will keep training as I have been. That’s not going to change. I have time to hit my peak in a few years.”
“In my junior days I had a blip. It happens. Do I have regrets? Maybe, but I’m getting on with it, not thinking about negativity.”
“I have a lot to work on, a lot to improve. So that’s exciting for me if I’m playing like this.”
Given his desire to remain on the straight and narrow after some wild nights as a youngster, Willis, nicknamed ‘Cartman’ because of his resemblance to the portly character from South Park, doesn’t plan to celebrate his Wimbledon journey too excessively.
“I’m getting old. In my earlier days, I would have gone and done it. But that’s why I’m here, I haven’t been doing stuff like that,” he said.
“I’ll get a meal and go to bed. I just want to relax.”
The 25-year-old’s ranking should rise towards 400 and he is likely to be offered a handful of wild cards into tournaments due to his new-found celebrity.
But first he has to decide whether to take part in the far less glamourous Coventry District League, with matches scheduled in the next few days.
“I might play if I’m feeling okay, but I haven’t thought about that just now. I’m very tired,” he said.
“I think my life will change a little bit, but I still want to keep my head down and keep carrying on to enjoy it.”
From the moment he walked onto Centre Court to a deafening roar, Willis was in dreamland, with one particular highlight a sublime lob over Federer for a winner he will remember for the rest of his life.
“It was all just a blur. I did enjoy myself even though I was getting duffed up,” Willis said.
“I loved getting stuck in, fighting hard. The whole experience was incredible.”
“I played a good point where I lobbed him. I can say I lobbed Roger Federer.”
“Not my standard Wednesday that, playing Roger Federer on Centre Court. Next Wednesday might be quite different.”
For Federer, who has seen virtually everything Wimbledon has to offer in his glittering career, facing a player of Willis’s humble standing was a new experience and he was impressed by the underdog’s performance.
“I said a few days ago, this story is gold. I believe he can make big strides,” he said.
“He has a nice serve. I struggled reading it really and at the net he was very solid.
“I was thinking, This is definitely one of the matches I’ll remember.”