Wimbledon hero Marcus Willis aiming to return to All England Club in 2023
It was a story that was ripped from the pages of a comic book, as British qualifier Marcus Willis made it through to the second round at Wimbledon to face the great Roger Federer.
Back in the summer of 2016, Willis’ story made headlines around the world as he was front and back page news courtesy of a moment in the spotlight that captured the hearts of tennis lovers.
Here was a hero who came from nowhere and rubbed shoulders with the greatest player of them all on the court he had made his own. It was a fairytale everyone bought into.
A glorious lob over the great Federer on Centre Court was a highlight of his straight-sets defeat, yet Willis failed to build on that moment and continue his rise up the tennis ladder.
Now, six years later, the 32-year-old is eyeing up a return to Wimbledon in the men’s doubles tournament.
This is an unlikely tale that could reach a thrilling crescendo next June, with Willis currently playing his way through ITF World Tour events across Europe and when he sat down with Tennis365, he was in Greece with his partner Scott Duncan.
He admits his Wimbledon dream may seem somewhat distant, but some success in the ITF Futures events means he is aiming to play on the ATP Challenger Tour next year as he looks to climb the rankings.
Britain currently has eight male players in the top 100 of the ATP doubles rankings and Willis is ultimately aiming to join that list as he looks to make a return to the hallowed grass courts at the All England Club.
“Playing at Wimbleodn was everything I wanted to do as a kid and it’s something I think I can do again,” Willis told Tennis365 in an exclusive interview.
“If I can compete there again and win more matches, then that’s a dream come true.
“Then I’d love to play the US Open and play every Grand Slam. That’s my real goal. I’ve only ever played the junior events in the Slams so I’d like to do that now.
“I don’t see a reason why I can’t do it. My goal was to get back to Wimbledon in two years and now it could potentially be one.”
“I started this journey last summer and I set myself a goal of getting into the top 500 within a year. My goal was to get there by next July, but I’m already there now.
“Now I am re-evaluating. I want to start getting into Challengers around March or April of next year and then we can look to push on and get into the top 250 of the ATP Rankings.
“I look at British players like Henry Patten and Julian Cash, who are up to around 85 in the world, and this time last year they were playing the kind of tournaments I’m in now.
“Doubles has always been my forte and even though I am 32 now, I was still pushing good players when I played in exhibition matches so I just decided to have a go at it and see how far I could get up the rankings.
“I never wanted to quit playing professionally. There were not too many tournaments I could get into and we didn’t have many events in the UK to play, so that forced me to stop.
“After a couple of years of perspective, doing some coaching and playing for my French league team, I stayed in good match shape and when I started this in July, I was ready to go.
“My first tournament was at Roehampton at the National Tennis Centre and that got me my first ranking points.
“It has been a massive help for all the British players that we have so many tournaments being staged in this country now.
“There are opportunities to make points now and once you have points, you have a chance to travel and build some momentum.”
Willis is playing against rising stars in tournaments that offer limited prize money, but he has the backing to have one final shot at his tennis dream.
“I’m blessed to have a private sponsor who is helping me to travel because the prize money is not great at this level, but hopefully we can keep winning and that will allow us to play some ATP Challengers next year,” he added.
“I have had some breaks in the last few months as I got into a tournament as the third alternate and ended up winning that and that gave me some points to launch from.
“I love playing tennis. This is something I can’t do in ten years’ time, so this is my last chance saloon.
“I’m excited to see where I can take this. The youngsters are playing some good ball out there and I know this won’t be easy.
“But I made five finals in six tournaments so that meant I didn’t have a lot of time in between matches, as that’s the time I hate.
“I’ve always loved playing matches and thankfully I’ve played a lot in the last few months. Long may that continue.”
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