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Tennis

Federer takes on outsider Willis at Wimbledon

Roger Federer is seeking an eighth title at Wimbledon.
Roger Federer is seeking an eighth title at Wimbledon. Reuters/Paul Childs

Marcus Willis was a talented junior who, by his own admission, squandered his gifts pursuing a hedonistic lifestyle. Roger Federer wavered for a while during his own youth but knuckled down and eventually ruled the world.

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Federer has claimed 17 grand slam titles and nearly 80 million euros in prize during his illustrious career. Willis' income is barely 80,000 euros.

Federer is attempting to win Wimbledon for an eighth time. Willis, 25, is playing in the main draw for the first time. He will never eclipse the Swiss maestro.

But he will give him a game on Wednesday afternoon when they meet in the second round on the lawns of London SW19.

Willis, 25, reached the second round after beating the world number 54 Ricardis Berankis in straight sets on Monday in the first round.

Not the favourite

"I check out from the hotel every morning," said Willis. "I'm not the heavy favourite in any match that I play."

Willis went through six qualifying rounds to reach the main draw. His coach Matt Smith attributed his results to a better mental approach.

"A lot of people are saying he's come out of nowhere," he said. "But that's not the case. He's done a lot of work. A couple of years ago he was 320 in the world but had a couple of injuries. Berankis was not playing a world number 772, he was playing a superb tennis player who has just had a run of bad luck."

Federer takes Willis seriously

Federer admitted on the eve of the tie that he would not treat Willis lightly and hailed the Briton for espousing serve and volley tactics.

"This match has picked up on momentum," said Federer. "People will support him and rightfully so because I think it's a very cool story which will make it difficult ... plus he plays well. It's not like he can't play otherwise he wouldn't be where he is. So it's going to be interesting."

Willis was on the verge of giving up professional tennis after a series of injuries and poor results. He supplemented his meagre professional earnings by coaching at a country club in the English Midlands. On the verge of going to the United States to work, he said he was dissuaded from going by his new girlfriend.

"I met her and she told me not to go, so I didn't. I do what I'm told," he quipped.

If he beats Federer, the Swiss for one will wish he hadn't been so obedient.

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