Marcus Willis: Most Exciting Player You’ve Never Heard Of


Marcus Willis: Most Exciting Player You’ve Never Heard Of

With the prominence and glamour of the ATP tour, it is easy to overlook Futures and Challenger events. The excellence exhibited every week at the top echelons of the game mean that, to a certain extent, lesser ranked players and tournaments get overlooked – virtually unnoticed in the mainstream sports media.

Marcus Willis is 24 years old, from the UK, currently ranked 364 in the world, plying a career on the lower rungs of the tennis ladder. Many casual tennis fans seem to dismiss these types of players as an irrelevancy, focusing on the very apex of tennis talent. It could also be said that, due to the abysmally low prize money on offer at many Futures and Challenger tournaments, the ATP and ITF do not exactly bend over backwards for lower-level competitors either; at least in terms of financial reward.

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Willis’ game style is intriguing – with deft, dexterous drop volleys being the complete antithesis to the big lefty serve he possesses. The forehand is either topspin, with an extreme western grip, or chopped with slice, and the backhand is a combination of a conventional, driven two-hander, or sliced, with the right hand remaining on the racquet handle until contact. Points are constructed with use of the big serve, allowing the drift into net far more rewarding, where the archetypal drop volley leaves the opponent exceedingly ineffectual.

Willis’ second round match against Tennys Sandgren, at the Knoxville Challenger in 2014, is particularly effective in articulating the manner in which he plays. During their match, it was almost as if Sandgren knew he was going to win, and that Willis’ style of tennis was something of great amusement – not worthy of the conventional method he exhibited himself. Ergo, Sandgren cannot have found it that comical after the conclusion of the match when he had lost; Willis’ variety and variation disconcerted and demoralised him into capitulation.

In the third game of the final set, Sandgren knocked his racquet twice against the exterior of the court, as if to signal complete resignation, and a yearning to leave the physical and psychological cage he had been entrapped within. Although Willis ended up losing in the quarter-final to fellow Brit Liam Broady, his performances at this tournament signified that he belongs at this level, and on a far more consistent basis.

During the tournament Willis tweeted a screenshot of some antagonistic comments he had received by a mindless moron, which focused upon his weight, whilst also being labelled “Cartman,” the South Park character. Two out of his three qualifying matches went the distance, as did the first and second round of the main event, completely rebutting the notion that “Cartman” needs better fitness, or that his weight is a significant impediment. Of course, his conditioning can be improved, as can be said for most other players.

Whilst many look to the very best for inspiration and entertainment, I find myself gaining far more enjoyment from seeing a player such as Willis executing a well-timed drop shot/lob combination, than a Djokovic vs. Nadal grind fest.

Next: Top 10 Fastest Serves of All Time

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