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Marcus Willis: From almost retiring to making the main draw at Wimbledon 2016

British player Marcus Willis overcame debt, obesity and a flagging career to qualify for the main singles draw at Wimbledon.

Marcus Willis Wimbledon 2016
Journeyman Marcus Willis almost quit the sport and is now in the singles main draw at Wimbledon

British tennis player Marcus Willis is ranked 23rd in his country, but almost gave up on his tennis career 5 months ago. The World No. 776 had had a series of lackluster performances on the circuit, and largely plays on the ITF tour. 

He recently crashed out ahead of the quarterfinals at an ITF tournament in Tunisia, and at that point had considered drawing his professional tennis career to a close at only 25-years-old. The Briton had all but decided to take up a coaching job at an academy in the United States after finding no success as a professional tennis player himself, and played the occasional club league match to stay in the sport. 

Now, he has sealed his spot in the main draw at Wimbledon 2016. 

After deciding on his retirement, Willis met new girlfriend Jennifer, whom he credits with single-handedly convincing him to return to his tennis career. 

After entering the main draw, Wllis told the Daily Mail: ‘I am delighted. It means everything. I thought about giving up. I was adamant I was going to go to America and coach. 

‘I had to sort my head out. I was in a bad place, got injured twice and I really was at a low point. I have been coaching, training, playing French club league matches and getting my head back in the game. This makes it really sweet.”

Willis won a number of matches at an event in Roehampton, England to secure a place in the qualifying at Wimbledon, and from there had a strong unbeaten run to reach the stage he has. On a thirteen-match winning streak in the leagues, Willis told the Mail he “took it one day at a time.”

The Briton was also in debt before winning prize money in the lead up to the Wimbledon main draw – as a result of the finish, he is guaranteed a minimum £30,000 payout. But he insists he is not in it for the money, but the love of the game. ‘It’s financially great. I can pay off a couple of credit cards now that I used to finance my tennis. That is great but I’m not here for the money. I love tennis and competing.”

He also overcame body image issues, bullying and fitness problems en route to Wimbledon. The former ‘fat kid’, as he labels himself in the interview, was compared unfavourably to overweight character Eric Cartman from American cartoon sitcom South Park, and carried the nickname ‘Cartman’ for a time.

“I was a fat boy,” he told the Mail. “I appreciate the banter, it’s good fun. I appreciate lovers and haters, it’s part of the game. I have worked hard, got in the gym and got myself in good shape.”

His perserverance and encouragement from his partner have seen Marcus Willis not only enter the main draws but inspire others to never give up no matter the circumstances.

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