Prior to the start of Wimbledon, Marcus Willis had made just $290 on a tennis court in 2016.
The 25-year-old Brit, who still lives at home in Slough with his parents (and needs to pay off credit-card debts), is currently ranked 772nd in the world.
He is nicknamed “Cartman” because he has more of a dad bod than your average professional tennis player. And had his girlfriend (whom he met at an Ellie Goulding concert) not convinced him otherwise, he would have long ago quit tennis to become a coach.
On Monday, he pulled off one of the biggest upsets in tennis history.
In the first round of Wimbledon, Willis stunned world No. 54 Ricardas Berankis in straight sets (6-3, 6-3, 6-4) to advance to the second round of the tournament’s men’s singles draw. The victory, which happened in front of a small and raucous gathering of local fans on an outer court of the All England Club, secured Willis approximately $65,000 in prize money.
That should help with those credit cards.
Willis’ journey to the second round of Wimbledon is an improbable one, to say the least. Merely qualifying for the main draw is the stuff of fairy tales.
To make the first round, Willis needed to win six qualifying rounds (three pre-qualifying and three qualifying), and he benefited immensely from some last-minute withdrawals around him in that stage. As the Telegraph explains:
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.
Having made under $100,000 in career earnings, Willis has on several occasions come close to quitting the sport.
“The end of last year I tore my hamstring again after [playing in] America,” Willis said. “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.”
Luckily, his girlfriend convinced him otherwise.
“I was adamant I was going to go to America and coach [in Philadelphia]. I even called up someone about the visa,” Willis added. “But I met a girl, Jennifer, who basically told me that I was an idiot and that I should keep going. I’m very grateful for her.”
In the second round of the tournament, Willis will face Roger Federer. Among, to say the least, the handful of differences in their tennis resumes, Federer is some 769 spots higher in the rankings.
Win or lose, it’s all gravy for Willis going forward. At the very least, against Federer he’ll certainly have his country behind him. Because after Brexit, and England’s loss to Iceland at the European Championship soccer competition, Willis has become the feel-good story the country needs.
Marcus Willis???????????????????????? how good is that!
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) June 27, 2016
View some scenes from Willis’ historic performance below:
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