Warwick Boat Club tennis coach Marcus Willis caused a huge upset with victory over world number 54 Ricardas Berankis at Wimbledon to set up a second-round clash against Roger Federer.
Roared on by a vocal band of supporters on court 17 - and a packed-out TV audience back at the Boat Club - the world number 772 saw off Lithuania’s Berankis 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
Willis, 25, came through six rounds of qualifying to earn his debut at the All England Club having been persuaded by girlfriend Jenny Bate not to take up a coaching job in the US.
With Bate courtside having been handed an unexpected day off work, Willis again defied his ranking to secure a second-round tie against seven-time champion Federer.
But, while the unexpected rise of the British number 23 has created headlines around the world and even earned Willis a slot of This Morning with Phillip Schofield, his boss at Warwick Boat Club never doubted his talent.
Tennis manager Gavin Henderson, who brought Willis to the club on the recommendation of British Davis Cup winner Dan Evans, said he always felt the Slough-born left-hander had the game to succeed on grass.
“I wasn’t surprised [by his win over Berankis],” said Henderson, who is travelling down to SE1 with his family to watch tomorrow’s game.
“His game is made for Wimbledon - he plays old school tennis.
“It’s serve-volley based on Goran Ivanisevic, it’s not the traditional game.”
Asked about the prospect of playing Federer tomorrow, Willis, who will earn £50,000 for reaching the second round, said: “Obviously it’s an amazing dream come true. I get to play on a stadium court. This is what I dreamed of when I was younger.
“I’m going to go out there and try to win the tennis match. I probably won’t. I might not. But I’m going to give everything, as I have the last seven matches.”
And, according to Henderson, Willis’ approach has not changed from the very first qualifier.
“I’ve asked the question of Marcus before every match and he has never said he will win and never said he will lose. He’s just said ‘game on’.”
n Willis will be taking part in an exhibition match at Warwick Boat Club on Saturday as part of Active Away Tennis Holidays/Warwick Boat Club open day.
Free coaching will be available from 12.30pm, with Willis’ match getting under way at 3pm.