Federer plays cameo role to end Willis fairytale
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[June 30, 2016]
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Few players have
reduced the great Roger Federer to a role as secondary attraction on
Wimbledon's Centre Court but for one hour and 25 minutes on
Wednesday he had just a walk-on part in the Marcus Willis fairytale.
The seven-times champion enjoys too much deep-rooted affection at
the All England Club to be cast as a real pantomime villain, but for
once the cheers were all behind the 25-year-old local hero on the
other side of the net.
Federer's 81st Wimbledon match, of course, ended in victory.
Even the most over-egged Hollywood script could not have had him
losing to world number 772 Willis, whose transformation from a 30
pounds ($40.30) an hour tennis coach to Wimbledon sensation has
captured the imagination of the sporting world.
But the swaggering Swiss was at least made to break sweat under the
closed roof before claiming a 6-0 6-3 6-4 victory.
Willis had his photo taken with Federer, 34, before the warm-up and
could hardly stop grinning.
He even celebrated a practise serve with a raised fist as his
friends went through their song-list at court side.
But when Willis lost the opening set in 25 minutes without managing
a game you feared the worst.
So when he did finally trouble the scoreboard, holding serve in the
eighth game, the deafening roar rivalled the one heard when fellow
Briton Andy Murray ended 77 years of pain by beating Novak Djokovic
in the 2013 final.
From then on the quirky left-hander's unorthodox shots kept 17-times
major champion Federer guessing at times, especially his
grass-hugging backhand slices and cheeky drop volleys.
Federer joined in with some dazzling party pieces of his own but
played largely within himself -- smiling occasionally as Willis
bathed in an unfamiliar spotlight.
Afterwards he paid Willis the ultimate compliment.
"I'll remember most of the Centre Court matches here at Wimbledon,
but this one will stand out because it's that special and probably
not going to happen again for me to play against a guy 770 in the
world," Federer told reporters.
"The support he got, the great points he played. In some ways, I
enjoyed it as much as I possibly could, but I also had to put my
head down and focus hard to get the lead."
[to top of second column]
Great Britain's Marcus Willis waves to the crowd after losing his
match against Switzerland's Roger Federer REUTERS/Tony O'Brien
Federer broke for a 5-2 lead in the second and closed it out two
games later but was pushed harder in the third as Willis, who
survived six qualifying rounds before stunning Lithuania's Ricardas
Berankis in round one, kept his nose in front.
Federer, moving well after missing the French Open with a back
injury, looked a touch relieved when he broke at 4-4 in the third
set, though, and claimed victory when Willis sliced a backhand long
in the next game.
"Today again, after the match, I just said he played great and I
wished him the best for the rest of the year," Federer said. "I said
a few days ago, this story is gold."
Willis, cheered on by his parents and his girlfriend who persuaded
him to continue his professional career rather than coach in the
U.S., walked off with his head held high.
His mates sang "Shoes off, if you love Willis! -- a bizarre chant
they started when he was beating 54th ranked Berankis.
"I have had a fantastic couple of weeks. I will keep going and do
what I have been doing," said Willis. "There is life after Wimbledon
and I want more experiences like this. I've earned myself a beer
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Ken Ferris and John
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