Teacher revels in facing Federer
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, 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 yesterday, 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-from-a-screenplay couple of weeks that included victories in three matches during a play-off 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 left-hander with a strong serve who slices shots off both wings. "I've gone from one extreme to the other in a matter of days."