LONDON (Reuters) - Seven-times Wimbledon champion Roger Federer has been warned - take 772nd-ranked British qualifier Marcus Willis lightly at your peril.
“I don’t think Roger is going to have played anyone like Marcus. I know that for a fact. It will be tricky,” Liam Broady, Willis’ fellow Britain, said on Tuesday.
“That’s what Marcus always is. He makes opponents win matches. He serves well, serves big, puts pressure on.
“Obviously, Roger’s the greatest player of all time. But personally, I think it will be a really interesting match-up.”
Willis, who almost quit to take up coaching and had to battle through six rounds of qualifying, stunned Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis, ranked 718 places above him, on Monday.
Some of his play, including rarely seen sliced forehands, bamboozled Berankis.
It set Wimbledon abuzz, but a repeat against 34-year-old 17-times grand slam champion Federer would seem barely credible even for the most far-fetched Hollywood plot.
Or would it?
“Stranger things have happened, I know that,” Broady, beaten 6-2 6-3 6-4 by world number two Andy Murray, said.
“He’s so tricky, he’s so talented. He’s very aware of what he’s doing on the court, how to make it awkward for people.”
Murray was also asked about Willis’ chances.
“Amazing things do happen in sport sometimes,” Murray, who pointed to England’s defeat by Iceland at Euro 2016, said.
“Obviously, Roger’s a massive, massive favorite going into the match. I would expect him to win fairly comfortably.
“But Marcus’ game style, it’s pretty old‑school. He serve-and-volleys a lot. Uses a lot of slice. Hits the ball fairly flat. Has great hands. Great feel.
“Very few guys play like that now. It’s just amazing, an amazing opportunity for him.”
Perhaps the best advice came from Broady though after his own Centre Court debut against Murray.
“By the end of the second set, most of the third, it was just kind of a match against another guy,” the 22-year-old said.
“Sometimes you watch on TV. You think that the top players in the world are superhuman. They’re so good at what they do that you forget they’re just men. Obviously they’re spectacular at tennis, but they are just men.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Alison Williams