Even though play on the outer courts was restricted to just a couple of hours because of rain, it did not take away from the day’s main event under Centre Court’s roof.
The highly anticipated match had arrived. You would think that a David v Goliath meeting between a qualifier ranked No.772 in the world and a 17-time grand slam champion would never be box-office viewing – but this was. We all knew it was going to be one-sided, but it didn’t matter.
This was not about the contest, but a story to inspire all underdogs. A story from a nobody to a somebody; from obscurity to stardom.
Roger Federer finally put a skid to the fairytale run of Britain’s Marcus Willis, who had to go through pre-qualifying. His achievement was in just making the 128-player main draw. He then upset Ricardas Berankis in the first round before losing to the Swiss legend 6-0 6-3 6-4. But not before pocketing a cool $66,000 – a nice payday for someone who still lives with his parents.
Willis, 25, has garnered a cult following this week and has been fodder for the British press. He even stole the spotlight that is usually reserved for perennial Brit hope Andy Murray. His back story is moving. Willis did well in juniors, reaching 15th but unable to make the transition in the seniors, and was on the verge of quitting the sport after losing motivation 12 months ago.
His new girlfriend Jennifer, who was in his player’s box, was the catalyst for a change. She urged him not to retire and has reinvigorated his fire.
Even though Centre Court is Federer’s backyard, he was humble enough to let Willis soak up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Federer on Willis:
“It was his moment. I wanted him to have a great time. This story is gold. I hope the press respects his situation.
“He played some great points. He fought hard. Great personality for a Centre Court like this. It’s not easy to come out there and play a decent match. I thought he handled it great.”
Willis on the experience:
“Not my standard Wednesday. It was all just a blur. It was amazing.
“I did enjoy myself even though I was losing. I loved every bit of it. Not the losing bit. I loved getting stuck in, fighting hard. The whole experience was incredible.”
Elsewhere, Novak Djokovic earned a record 30th consecutive win in grand slams – the most in the Open era – by beating Adrian Mannarino 6-4 6-3 7-6. His last loss in majors? The 2015 French Open final to Stan Wawrinka.
Third seed and 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska cruised past Kateryna Kozlova 6-2 6-1. British No.1 Johanna Konta beat Monica Puig 6-1 7-5 while two time champion Petra Kvitova also progressed.