Adding to the grandeur storyline of the fortnights, ‘fairy tales’ are wholly welcomed at Grand slams and this is especially the case when the protagonist is a native of the country. At this year’s Wimbledon, the first week’s attention has been focused on Marcus Willis, the world number 772 and, as a Brit in England during the time Wimbledon is taking place, it’s impossible not to take in the enthusiasm that erupts when a countryman/woman is doing well.
Here’s the back story: Prior to his Wimbledon adventure, Marcus had become a part-time coach at the Warwick Boat Club. The extract from his bio on the club’s website looks like this:
Having had successes as a junior player, his career halted when, to quote, he was ‘dropped in the world. [I] played a few years in Romania, losing. I lost a lot of confidence, made some bad decisions, went out too much, lifestyle wasn’t good. Yeah, I didn’t have the drive’ [wimbledon.com]. He turned to coaching as a source of income and was on the verge of moving the role to America when his girlfriend, with fairy dust covered support and optimism, told him something along the lines of:
“hey, why don’t you give this pro tennis another shot? My brother thinks you’re really good and, as he’s a lover of tennis, I think he knows what he’s talking about. You might as well give it a go. We believe in you.”
So he powered his way through pre-qualifying and then through qualifying, winning 6 consecutive matches and dismissing players 500 places above his ranking, to secure a position in his first Wimbledon.
From a press point of view, this wasn’t much to be excited about. It was only after his first round win, knocking out Ricardes Berankis 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, that his name came to light. Who is this man? Where has he come from? From a period of weight gain and partying? From a coaching job? From on the verge of giving up? And who is this pretty lady by his side? She’s the one responsible for this turn of events? AH, IT’S TOO CUTE AND WONDERFUL. And he’s playing Roger, the GOAT, in the second round? TOO. MUCH. TO. HANDLE. Newspapers go crazy.
One particular excitable touch, apart from the much loved montages with dramatic music, from the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage was the pop-up message at the bottom of the screen during Djokovic vs Mannarino match stating ‘Next up: Roger Federer verses Marcus Willis.’ I could be wrong but this is something I rarely see. It’s like it was an eagerly awaited reality show (Living With an Underdog?) or the network premiere of a movie (Maybe to be a reality?)
And it was a moment, seeing him hit rallies with THE Roger Federer and trying to fight his way around the superiority. Marcus walked onto the court to overwhelming cheers, causing him to smile in disbelief, and he left side by side with Roger, stopping to sign autographs as though he was the winner. And throughout the match, the British crowd showed support in their loud and excitable manner, waving shoes and stuff like that.*
Despite losing in straight sets, “the day belonged to Marcus.” While from an attention point of view it’s very momentary and I imagine that many Brits (Note: those who aren’t dedicated tennis fans) will have forgotten it in six months time, for Marcus it was no doubt a turning point- both in mentality and career.
(Although the next day he did go back to Warwick to compete in a scheduled doubles club match which (FIY) he won)
To sum up, Roger put it nicely when he said: “This is the kind of stories we need in our sport. I think it’s a great, great story [and] it was a pleasure for me to play against him.”
Because these kind of events in whatever the sport are refreshing and fun, no?
Written by Frankie
*”Shoes off if you love Willis” was a (unexplainable) chant by a group of supporters.