Monday 24 October 2016

Willis earns fed match-up

World number 772's shock win delivers date with Swiss master

Marcus Willis celebrate with his mother after his win on Court 17 at Wimbledon. Pic: Getty Images
Marcus Willis celebrate with his mother after his win on Court 17 at Wimbledon. Pic: Getty Images

World number 772 Marcus Willis proved the unlikeliest of home Wimbledon heroes yesterday, sealing a fairytale 6-3 6-3 6-4 victory over Ricardas Berankis, ranked more than 700 places above him.

Cheered on by a packed and rowdy crowd, who adapted the infectious song about Northern Ireland footballer Will Grigg to support him, the Briton showed all the guts and guile he needed to get through two rounds of qualifying, as well as the coaching he does to pay the bills.

Just winning the first-round match has guaranteed 25-year-old Willis £50,000, so it was no surprise he fist-pumped and saluted every winner against the world number 54 from Lithuania like he was lifting the trophy on the final Sunday.

He saved five break points in the eighth game of the final set before serving it out and he was greeted by near delirium on Court 17. Willis' Wimbledon fairytale has delivered a date with Roger Federer, possibly on Centre Court, who had a straight-sets win over Argentina's Guido Pella, 7-6(5) 7-6(3) 6-3.

A player similar to Federer, Grigor Dimitrov used to tire of being labelled 'Baby Fed' so his slide out of the limelight at least spared him the awkward comparison with the Swiss great as he prepared for Wimbledon. There were signs yesterday though that the Bulgarian was starting to rediscover the form that took him past Andy Murray into the Wimbledon semi-finals two years ago. Unseeded and cast out to Wimbledon's Court 16 to face American Bjorn Fratangelo, Dimitrov, the one-time boyfriend of Maria Sharapova, won 6-3 6-4 6-2 to reach the second round.

It snapped a sequence of five first-round defeats for the 25-year-old who is still to reach the heights many predicted after he won the Wimbledon junior title in 2008. There has never been any doubt about Dimtrov's shot-making prowess, hence the comparison with Federer, but consistency has been a thorn in his side since he reached eighth in the ATP rankings in 2014.


Rather than complain about being sent to Court 16, an upbeat Dimitrov, 37th in the world, used that as a positive.

"I played my first round there as a junior before I won the tournament. So I took it as a good sign," he said.

It was not quite the triple bagel that Novak Djokovic was aiming for during the opening 41 minutes of his first-round match but the Serbian is unlikely to be too disappointed after he beat Britain's James Ward 6-0 7-6(3) 6-4.

The holder of all four grand slam titles opened his Wimbledon defence by jumping out to a 6-0 3-0 lead before the Briton fought back slightly. "I was really flawless, I felt great," said the 29-year-old Djokovic.

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