LONDON (AP) — Marcus Willis originally was scheduled to spend Monday teaching tennis to a group of 5-to-10-year-old kids, among others, at Warwick Boat Club in central England.
Instead, Willis wound up with grander, and more lucrative, plans: playing — and winning! — a match at Wimbledon.
And on Wednesday, Willis’ students will need to find a substitute yet again, because he will be busy at the All England Club, standing across the net from none other than Roger Federer in the second round.
Now there’s something to brag about to friends: “The guy who coaches me is playing Federer at Wimbledon.”
Quite surreal, to choose the pitch-perfect word Willis used more than once to describe the series of events that brought him to this point. He is, after all, a 25-year-old with admittedly something of a beer gut who resides with his parents — “Living the dream,” Willis joked — makes about $40 an hour for giving tennis lessons when he’s not competing at local club tournaments, is ranked 772nd and never had played a tour-level match until Monday.
His 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over 54th-ranked Ricardo Berankis before a wildly supportive and singing crowd of fellow Brits at tiny Court 17 was by far the most intriguing development on Day 1 of the grass-court Grand Slam tournament. There were ho-hum straight-set victories for past champions Federer, Novak Djokovic and Venus Williams, for example, and a half-dozen exits by lower-seeded players.
Willis truly made news, becoming the worst-ranked qualifier to reach the second round at any major since No. 923 Jared Palmer at the 1988 U.S. Open.
“One of the best stories in a long time in our sport,” said Federer, who beat Guido Pella 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-3 in his return to Grand Slam tennis after missing the French Open with a bad back.
Willis’ take on his surprising success: “This doesn’t happen, really.”
French Open champion Garbine Muguruza was extended to three sets before winning her first-round match at Wimbledon on Monday.
The second-seeded Spaniard beat Camila Giorgi of Italy 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 on Centre Court.
The match was effectively decided in the third game of the final set, which lasted more than 10 minutes and included five deuces and six break points. The game ended with Muguruza breaking for a 2-1 lead when Giorgi hit a forehand into the net.
The players stayed on serve the rest of the way, with Muguruza serving out the match at love.
Muguruza lost in the last year’s Wimbledon final to Serena Williams.
Five-time champion Venus Williams won her opening match at Wimbledon for the 17th time when she beat Donna Vekic of Croatia 7-6 (3), 6-4.
Vekic, who was 1 year old when Williams made her Wimbledon debut in 1997, had two set points in the first set serving at 6-5 but blew them both on errors. Williams ran through the tiebreaker.
In the second set, Vekic had a break chance for 5-3, but another unforced error squandered it.
Williams broke for 5-4 and served out in her 19th Wimbledon, a record among active players.
“The first set had some hairy moments, down some set points, but that’s where experience kicked in … lots of it,” Williams said.
Former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic blamed an injured right wrist for causing her problems during a surprising 6-2, 7-5 loss in Wimbledon’s first round against a qualifier ranked 223rd and making her Grand Slam debut.
Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion who was seeded 23rd at the All England Club, was beaten by 21-year-old Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova on Monday.
Calling the exit “disappointing,” Ivanovic said her wrist had been bothering her for two weeks. She said she plans to take time off and not play until the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August. Ivanovic thinks there is “enough time” for the wrist pain “to settle down” so she can represent Serbia at the Summer Games.
Ivanovic was a 2007 semifinalist at Wimbledon but has not made it past the fourth round since then, including second-round exits in 2013 and last year.