Roger Federer says Marcus Willis' tennis journey is "one of the best stories in a long time in our sport"

By Char Adams
Updated June 28, 2016 12:40 PM
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Just a few months ago, Marcus Willis had less than $300 in prize money and considered quitting his tennis career. Now, he’s making his way through Wimbledon – and he has his girlfriend to thank for it.

The 25-year-old Briton stunned the nation on Monday when he beat out Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in the Men’s Singles first round on opening day of the prestigious tennis tournament.

But just four months ago he was on the verge of quitting the sport to become a coach in Philadelphia. It was his new girlfriend, Jenny Bate, who talked him out of it.

“She told me not to, so I didn’t,” Willis told ESPN. “Do what I’m told.”

Bate gushed about Willis’ performance after Monday’s tournament and told reporters that she didn’t do much to change Willis’ mind, according to Sports Illustrated.

“We met and it was that instant attraction and a week after knowing him, he said ‘I’m going to America. I’ve given up on Tennis.’ “Bate said. “So I said, ‘Come on, we believe in you. Give it one more shot. It’s worth it. It’s worth anything … get back in it. ‘ And he did!”

Bate said she and Willis have been together for about five months and Willis’ tennis career has only added to the whirlwind romance.

“We’re crazy about each other,” she said. “We wake up every day and just look at each other and burst out laughing, thinking, ‘Is this a dream? Is it real? What next?’ ”

An unlikely victor, Willis is ranked world No. 772, but will soon face off against world No. 3-ranked Roger Federer.

“It’s an amazing dream come true. I get to play on a stadium court,” he told ESPN. “This is what I dreamed of when I was younger.”

For Willis, qualifying for Wimbledon was just a pipe dream.

“I was a bit of a loser,” he said. “I was overweight. I don’t know. I just looked myself in the mirror, I said, ‘You’re better than this.’ ”

Even after getting through six qualifying matches and moving on to the second round, Willis wasn’t sure his winning streak would continue. So unsure, in fact, that the athlete hadn’t even committed to a lengthy hotel stay.

“I check out every single morning,” he told the Times. “I mean, I’m not a heavy favorite for any match I’ve been playing.”

But the underdog has proven himself worthy of the tournament, and even has a fan in his next opponent: Roger Federer – who said he has been following Willis’ story for some time.

“I followed it before I even saw him in my section of the draw,” the world No. 3-ranked tennis pro said, according to ESPN. “It’s one of the best stories in a long time in our sport.”

“He added: “This is the kind of story we need. I’m very excited to be playing him actually.”

Federer said he watched Willis take on Berankis, saying, “It was cool to see how pumped he was.”

“I just like the idea of him To beat a guy of Berankis’ caliber in straight sets shows you how tough he is,” Federer said, according to ESPN.

Willis isn’t as optimistic about facing the tennis great, though.

“I’m going to go out there and try to win the tennis match. I probably won’t,” he said. “But I’m going to give everything, as I have the last seven matches.”

For now, Willis is enjoying his latest victories – and he has the Instagram photos to prove it.

“Best.Day.Ever. #willyonarampage #bulldogs #fight,” he captioned a picture of himself celebrating with a crowd of supporters.