Marcus Willis falls short of Wimbledon singles return

Willis's dreams of another day on Centre Court at Wimbledon evaporated as the Englishman lost in the final round of qualifying.

Published: 29th June 2017 11:45 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th June 2017 11:50 PM   |  A+A-

Tennis star Marcus Willis (File | AFP)


LONDON: Marcus Willis's dreams of another day on Centre Court at Wimbledon evaporated on Thursday as the Englishman lost in the final round of qualifying.

The 26-year-old, who defied his ranking of 772 to reach the Wimbledon second round and a Centre Court date against Roger Federer in 2016, lost 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) to Ukrainian Ilya Marchenko in a match where both players required attention from the trainer.

Marchenko, seeded ninth and ranked 117 in the world to Willis's 374, had a problem with his neck while the burly left-handed Englishman called for the trainer and played on with a knee strapped up.

Willis, who won six qualifiers to reach the main draw 12 months ago where his magical run was eventually ended by Swiss star Federer, will have to content himself with appearing in the doubles at the grass court Grand Slam event next week for which he obtained a wild card.

"I was playing on adrenaline. The knee's not great, but I finished the match and I did my best," said Willis, who was watched by his wife Jenny and baby daughter Martha.

"He's a very good player but it would have been nice to have played him when I was 100 per cent."

The doubles is also the consolation for his highly-rated teenage compatriot Jay Clarke after the world ranked 360 let slip a two set lead to lose in five to Austria's Sebastian Ofner.

The 18-year-old, whose talent has been recognised by being invited along to train with both the British Davis Cup team and by world number one Andy Murray at the French Open, went down 2-6, 6-7 (9/11), 6-4, 6-4, 6-1.

However, British honour was saved by the unlikely figure of injury-prone Alex Ward.

The 27-year-old ranked 855 in the world overcame a player ranked almost 700 places above him, Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili, 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 7-6 (8/6), 6-1 to ensure a windfall for him of at least £35,000 (40,000 euros, $45,000).   

Ward, who saw his ranking drop like a stone after a suffering a wrist injury last year, made the most of his chance after losing in the final round of pre-qualifying only to be handed a wild card.

"It will mean everything (to return to Wimbledon), especially having qualified," said Ward, whose sole previous appearance was last year on a wild card invitation where he lost in the first round to David Goffin.

"I feel like I really deserve my place there. It just feels amazing, I'm still struggling to get my head around it."


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