A good way to start the month with this needull. Today’s needull is the story of an underdog. Not quite Rocky Balboa, but there are similarities. A tennis player who is about to give up tennis, ranked 772, meets a woman. She inspires him to change. He does change. Qualifies for Wimbledon. Beats world rank 54 to reach second round. Plays Roger Federer in 2nd round. Even though he loses, he does win the heart of the spectators.
The story of Marcus Willis’s wild ride at Wimbledon almost wrote itself. Willis, a twenty-five-year-old from Slough, England, is ranked seven-hundred-and-seventy-second in the world. Before he attempted to qualify for Wimbledon, his only earnings as a professional tennis player this year were the three hundred and fifty-six dollars he made at a low-level tournament. He worked by giving private lessons—to seniors, toddlers, whomever—at the Warwick Boat Club, charging thirty pounds an hour. He lived with his parents. He was about to quit tennis and move to America when, in February—you guessed it—he met a girl, Jennifer Bate, a dentist, and fell in love. She convinced him to stay, turn his life around, and play. “I was a bit of a loser. I was overweight,” he said, following his first-round win. “I just looked at myself in the mirror. I said, ‘You’re better than this.’ ” Willis had to qualify for the qualifying tournament in Wimbledon’s main draw, claiming the last direct-entry spot in the tournament for British hopefuls. He had to win six matches just to make it into Wimbledon’s main draw. The road from Slough is long and winding.