Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 26 JUNE
Playing Roger Federer on Centre Court tends to have that effect, when you’re the world No.772.
But actually, it turns out Willis wasn’t the only one making lifetime memories. In Federer’s long career, the seven-time Wimbledon champion will have won many matches by a similar margin to his 6-0, 6-2, 6-4 second round victory here but the extraordinary element of folklore in this match made it utterly unique for him, too.
“As I was playing, I was thinking, ‘This is definitely one of the matches I'll remember’,” said Federer afterwards, without prompting. “I'll remember most of the Centre Court matches here at Wimbledon, but this one will stand out because it's that special and probably not going to happen again for me to play against a guy 770 in the world. That's what stands out the most for me – the support he got, the great points he played. This story is gold.”
“That’s very kind,” responded Willis, still buoyant at the end of a draining competitive experience. “I’m absolutely exhausted. I’ve earned myself a beer, I think. It was incredible – not my standard Wednesday. It was surreal when I bounced the ball and looked up and saw Roger Federer.
“I was so nervous. I played OK. He’s class. Came out firing, put me under the cosh. He’s tough. He makes you feel like you've got no time. It was all just a blur. I did enjoy myself even though I was getting duffed up. I loved every bit of it – not the duffing bit. I loved getting stuck in, fighting hard.”
He can slice easily, he chips it really well, cross court and down the line
It was Willis who walked out on the Court first, to a predictably gigantic ovation of the kind Federer will have heard many times. Federer would not take credit for allowing Willis that moment.
“I said to him, ‘You have the choice. I don't know what you want to do’,” recounted the Swiss. “I wanted the cooler experience for him. I don't know what the cooler experience is walking ahead of me or behind me, going out first on Centre Court or not. But I wanted the cooler experience for him. I thought it was cool that he got out first because it's his moment, in my opinion. I wanted him to have a great time.”
And something else for Willis to tell his grandchildren – this assessment of the Briton’s tennis by the greatest player of all time: “What I like about his game is he reads it well.
He knows when you're coming in.
He was a true gent today, as he always is.
He can slice easily, he chips it really well, cross court and down the line. He sees when it's short and he steps into the court and he goes for it. Then he has a nice serve – I struggled reading it, especially on the ad side. He was doing a great job of mixing that up.
“I had to put my head down and focus really hard to get the lead in the first set, and I was relieved when I got the break in the third. I must tell you, it’s not easy for him to come and play a decent match. He handled it great. He can make great strides.”
Willis, on hearing that, nodded.
“Very kind. He was a true gent today, as he always is. I would agree with him. I've got things to work on. Part of me now, rightly or wrongly, is feeling frustrated because I can play better than that. But I want to be here. I’m good enough. This is where I want to play tennis.”