Federer 'excited' to play British boy from nowhere
WIMBLEDON heavyweight champions Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer were overshadowed by a new British hero on Monday in the stocky frame of world number 706 and old-folks tennis coach Marcus Willis.
World number one Djokovic cruised to an easy 6-0, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 victory over Britain's James Ward, comfortably demonstrating why his recent French Open triumph allowed him to pass the US$100 million (S$135 million) prize money barrier.
That staggering sum was then put into thrilling perspective courtesy of beefy 25-year-old Willis, nicknamed "Cartman" after the South Park cartoon character and who had earned just US$65 in prize money this year before Monday.
The fairytale continues with an unlikely match-up against seven-time champion Federer and a guaranteed £50,000 (S$90,270).
Willis defeated Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, ranked 652 places above him, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 out on a raucous Court 17 where fans sung "walking in a Willis wonderland".
The club player who makes a living as a coach teaching youngsters and senior citizens tennis skills at US$30 an hour, and still lives with his parents, had been on the verge of quitting in February.
But then he met dentist Jenny Bate who became his girlfriend.
She persuaded him to have one more shot and not go to Philadelphia where he had been offered a job as a coach.
"She told me not to go so I didn't. I do what I'm told," quipped the tournament sensation.
The gamble has paid off in spectacular style for a man who is the lowest-ranked qualifier to make the second round of a major since Jared Palmer at number 923 at the 1988 US Open.
Willis was last into the pre-qualifying competition for Wimbledon. He he played three matches and battled through three more ties to book a place in not only his first Grand Slam event but also his first main tour contest.
Federer, whose last major triumph was at Wimbledon in 2012, saw off Argentina's world number 51 Guido Pella, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.
The 34-year-old's 303rd Grand Slam singles victory moved him within three of Martina Navratilova's record.
"I'm really excited to play against him (Willis). It's a huge moment for him, his story his unbelievable," said Federer.