Tuesday, 23/1/2018 | 1:47 UTC+0

Marcus Willis Secures Staggering Qualification for Wimbledon

British world #775 Marcus Willis was the only Brit to make it out of qualifying for the grass court Grand Slam, Wimbledon, as he put together a quite remarkable run which involved victories over a top 100 player, a hotly-tipped Russian starlet, and a player who has already beaten Liam Broady this year and performed relatively well on the ATP Challenger circuit.

Willis, who has turned most of his attention to coaching in the last year, had played just one competitive international tournament before Wimbledon qualifying, reaching the quarter-finals of the ITF Futures $10k event in Hammamet, Tunisia, before pulling out due to injury. That was back in January. Always regarded as a player with talent but perhaps lacking the fitness or motivation to fully succeed in the game, could this be the boost that the 25-year-old needs to kick-start his career at the top of the game, in similar style to Dan Evans’ meteoric rise over the last year?

Willis, whose career high is #322, kicked off his qualifying campaign with a quite astonishing victory over 4th seed and world #99 Yuichi Sugita of Japan, coming back from a set down to complete a 1-6 6-4 6-1 victory that nobody expected. Willis continued to shock with a 7-5 6-4 win over Russian starlet Andrey Rublev, who has been tipped by many to be a top 10 player in years to come, although his progress this year seems to have slowed somewhat. Willis’ final qualifying match, which at Wimbledon is best-of-five sets, was another comeback from a set down against Russian Daniil Medvedev, with Willis winning 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-4 to deservedly yet hugely unexpectedly earn his place in the main draw of the third Slam of the year.

There were other Brits who came close: Ed Corrie, also entered into qualifying as a wildcard, reached the final qualifying round after wins over Tommy Paul of the States and 10th seeded German Michael Berrer – the latter 6-0 6-3, no less – but was beaten 7-6(5) 7-6(4) 7-6(3) in cruel fashion by Frenchman Albano Olivetti, ranked even lower than Willis, to be denied at the final hurdle. Elsewhere, Joe Salisbury and Dan Cox reached the second qualifying round, while Lloyd Glasspool and Dan Smethurst were beaten in the opening round.

In the women’s qualifying draw, Harriet Dart was inches away from emulating Willis after two exceptional victories had put her in contention for a place in the main draw too. The Brit had collected 30 WTA ranking points for wins against Fangzhou Liu of China and then 10th seed Risa Ozaki of Japan – both in straight sets – before eventually succumbing in a marathon final set against Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia 2-6 7-5 13-11. Katie Boulter, Lisa Whybourn and Gabi Taylor all won their opening matches but got no further, while Maia Lumsden, Katy Dunne and Freya Christie were all denied in the opening round of qualifying.

In the main draws, Andy Murray has been handed quite possibly the easiest draw he could have wished for, with the Brit facing off against fellow Brit Liam Broady in the first round, before playing either Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan or Alexander Kudryavtsev of Russia – a qualifier – in the second. 26th seed Benoit Paire most likely awaits in the third round, while it could well be Nick Kyrgios in the fourth, followed by Tsonga or Gasquet in the quarter-finals. At worst, Stan Wawrinka awaits in the semi-finals, before either Federer or Djokovic – both of whom are in the opposite half of the draw to Murray – will be the Scot’s most likely final opponent, should he get that far. Djokovic may have to face two Brits in a row in the opening rounds, with James Ward his first opponent and Kyle Edmund or Frenchman Adrian Mannarino waiting in the second. Willis’ reward for qualifying is a tie against Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis, who has been well beaten by Brits all year, before a potential second round match against Roger Federer to relish. In the women’s draw, Johanna Konta is seeded 16th and plays Peruvian Monica Puig in the first round, a player she has beaten on their only previous meeting. Laura Robson’s bad luck continues – she’s drawn against 4th seeded German Angelique Kerber – while Katie Swan and Tara Moore get Timea Babos and Alison van Uytvanck respectively.

Wimbledon Draws

[WC] James Ward vs [1] Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Kyle Edmund vs Adrian Mannarino (FRA)

[WC] Brydan Klein vs Nicolas Mahut (FRA)
[WC] Alexander Ward vs [11] David Goffin (BEL)
[Q] Marcus Willis vs Ricardas Berankis (LTU)
Dan Evans vs Jan-Lennard Struff (GER)
Aljaz Bedene vs [7] Richard Gasquet (FRA)
[2] Andy Murray vs [WC] Liam Broady

Heather Watson vs Annika Beck (GER)
[WC] Tara Moore vs Alison van Uytvanck (BEL)

Katie Swan vs Timea Babos (HUN)
[16] Johanna Konta vs Monica Puig (PUR)
[WC] Laura Robson vs [4] Angelique Kerber (GER)
Naomi Broady vs [17] Elina Svitolina (UKR)


25-year-old University of St Andrews graduate with a rather insane passion for British Tennis. Boston United fan (don't ask). Favourite tennis player: the Brummie bunch - Dan Evans and Lloyd Glasspool.


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