Tennis

Great Britain's Marcus Willis has qualified for Wimbledon.

Lucky in love Marcus Willis heading to Wimbledon

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Britain's Marcus Willis may have caused the greatest shock of this year's Wimbledon already and says it is all down to a new girlfriend.

Willis, ranked 775th in the world and the British number 23, won his sixth qualifying match on Friday and will now make his first ever appearance in the first round of a grand slam.

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The 25-year-old from Warwickshire had only played one professional tournament this year but came from a set down to beat Russian Daniil Medvedev, ranked 547 places above him, 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-4.

The left-hander is now guaranteed to pocket at least ?30,000 in prize money and will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Andy Murray and Roger Federer in the locker-rooms at the All England Club.

In fact, should he topple Ricardas Berankis in round one, he would likely face Federer.

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It could have been so different when Willis almost gave up the game to take up coaching in America and it was only after meeting his girlfriend, Jennifer Bate, that he was persuaded to keep faith.

"It would not have been okay to retire not having played at Wimbledon," Willis said.

"I sorted my head out. I was in a bad place and really was at a low point. Time helped and I met a girl and since then it has been very good and my head has been right.

"I have been training and playing French League and German League. I was adamant I was going to America to coach but then I met a girl and she told them I was an idiot and I should keep going."

Willis, who attended Forest School in Winnersh, took time to shape up for the demands of professional tennis and admits people poking fun motivated him to get fit.

He also revealed how he was only handed a route into qualifying after his fellow Briton David Rice took a late slip down the rankings.

"I was a fat boy," Willis said.

"I have got in the gym and worked hard. I appreciate the banter, the lovers and haters. That is part of the game.

"I only got in here because David Rice lost ranking points from last year and he dropped down which enabled me to get last in and I am very lucky. It is an amazing experience."

Willis' good friend Dan Evans, Britain's number four, watched the match at Roehampton and was courtside to congratulate him at the end.

His wonder win was also quickly picked up on social media, where Britain's Jamie Murray tweeted his excitement.

Murray wrote: "Marcus Willis!! I CANNOT wait to see you play at Wimbledon! They are not ready for you! Massive Congrats! Last man in pre quals! @Willbomb90."

Willis wobbled when first serving for the match and was broken, but he eventually held his nerve to seal victory in two hours and 18 minutes.

It means he, and France's world number 791 Albano Olivetti, who beat Britain's Ed Corrie, are the lowest-ranked players to qualify for a slam since 1998.

"I hadn't served out to qualify for Wimbledon before so I can understand it," Willis said.

"I sat down at 5-4 and said to myself, 'you have nothing to lose, go and do your thing'. It means everything to be in that draw."

His success takes the number of British players in the main draw at Wimbledon on Monday to 15.

Teenager Harriet Dart had hoped to join them but she lost a nail-biting deciding set against Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Dart took the opening set but Alexandrova levelled and, although the 19-year-old twice broke with her opponent serving for the match, the Russian came through 2-6 7-5 13-11 after three hours and eight minutes.

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