She convinced him to stay, turn his life around, and play. “I was a bit of a loser. I was overweight,” he said, following his first-round win. “I just looked at myself in the mirror. I said, ‘You’re better than this.’ ” Willis had to qualify for the qualifying tournament in Wimbledon’s main draw, claiming the last direct-entry spot in the tournament for British hopefuls. He had to win six matches just to make it into Wimbledon’s main draw. The road from Slough is long and winding. In the first round of the main draw, Willis faced Ricardas Berankis, a twenty-six-year-old Lithuanian ranked fifty-third in the world—by far the best opponent Willis had ever faced. Playing an unusual slice-and-volley game—not one a top player would see very often—he beat Berankis in straight sets. “Shoes off if you love Willis,” the fans on Court 17 serenaded him, to the tune of the Village People’s “Go West,” and they took off their shoes and waved them. (When asked to explain why, Willis said, “I can’t.”) Then, in the second round, Willis stepped onto Centre Court—to face Roger Federer, of course. Willis dressed up just like him—wearing not only Federer’s classic white Nike bandana headband but an R.F.-branded shirt he bought last year. (“I’m glad [Federer] didn’t ask for it back,” Willis joked afterward.) Like Federer, he has a regular-guy physique—he recently lost fifty-five pounds—and a quick, affable smile. From a distance, you could hardly tell which one was the seventeen-time Grand Slam champion—at least when they weren’t playing. Their encounter had the vibe of a raucous exhibition match. Instead of the typical polite applause, chants echoed under the closed roof. The crowd gave Willis a standing ovation when he hit a warmup serve in, and Willis raised his arms as if in victory. For a while, it seemed as if that might be as close as Willis would get to winning anything. He lost the first set 6-0. There were smiles—from both players—and a few shots that seemed like screwing around Willis plays with a heavy slice—even sometimes off his forehand—and likes to chip, hit drop shots, scramble, serve and volley, and junk it up with unusual spin. The result could make for entertaining points. With Federer serving at 2-0 in the first set, Willis drew Federer in with a short backhand slice and then hit a high lob; Federer twirled and took it over his left shoulder. Willis sprinted in and flicked it across the net with a forehand slice as he fell. Federer punched the ball back deep into the corner, and somehow Willis made it back and dug out a spectacular backhand lob. Federer applauded. He worked by giving private lessons—to seniors, toddlers, whomever—at the Warwick Boat Club, charging thirty pounds an hour. He lived with his parents. He was about to quit tennis and move to America when, in February—you guessed it—he met a girl, Jennifer Bate, a dentist, and fell in love. Willis would lose the next two sets very respectably, 6-3, 6-4. The relative competitiveness of the last two sets, and the normal-looking scoreline, brought the match closer to reality. Federer floats on, as Federer does. But there were a few moments in the match—and many more in his narrow, if straight-set, win over Guido Pella in the first round—that served as reminders that this year has been, for him, far from a dream. After the Australian Open, he slipped while giving his daughters a bath and tore his meniscus. He has struggled with his back. In his warmup tournaments before Wimbledon, his movement was clearly hampered. Wimbledon is probably his best chance to win another major, and he has a good draw. But if he doesn’t improve his play, Federer, now the third-ranked player in the world, has about as good a chance of defeating Novak Djokovic as the seven-hundred-and-seventy-second. By the end of the match, Willis’s headband was askew. The Nike swoosh hovered around his ear. He pulled it off after the last point, before he went to the net to shake Federer’s hand—just Marcus Willis now, and not a pretend contender. Afterward, he sat in his chair. For the first time, he didn’t smile. He looked sombre. This is the hard thing about Hollywood endings: What do you do when they’re over? te story of Marcus Willis’s wild ride at Wimbledon almost wrote itself. Willis, a twenty-five-year-old from Slough, England, is ranked seven-hundred-and-seventy-second in the world. Before he attempted to qualify for Wimbledon, his only earnings as a professional tennis player this year were the three hundred and fifty-six dollars he made at a low-level tournament.