Willis, Who Played Federer At Wimbledon As World No. 772, Retires
In June 2016, Willis was giving tennis lessons at Warwick Boat Club in Great Britain for £30 an hour. The Brit got into Wimbledon pre-qualifying, and won his way into the qualifying draw as the No. 772 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
Willis’ run to the main draw was improbable at the time, but looks even more remarkable today. In the second and third round of qualifying, Willis defeated Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev. Less than five years later, both Russians are inside the world’s Top 10.
The lefty didn’t stop there, advancing to the main draw. Willis defeated Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis, and then in a fairytale moment, he played Roger Federer on Centre Court. While his dream run ended against the Swiss legend, fans still remember the Brit’s efforts.
“I’ve travelled around the UK, Europe and the world. I’ve met brilliant people, made friends for life and experienced things I couldn’t have imagined when I first picked up a racquet and sponge ball a quarter of a century ago,” Willis wrote on Instagram. “I’m beaming with pride and I’m proud that I found my path to The All England Club main draw in the craziest and toughest way possible.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it’s 100 per cent the right one. It’s time to say game, set and match. I’ve played the greatest player of all time at the greatest tournament on the greatest court and I know I worked tirelessly to make that dream come true.”
Willis’ last professional match came in doubles qualifying at Wimbledon in 2018.