Wimbledon Lookahead: British tennis instructor faces Federer

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LONDON – Even Roger Federer appreciates the novelty of the journey that brought his out-of-nowhere opponent to their second-round match at Wimbledon on Wednesday.

Who wouldn’t be fascinated by the tale?

Marcus Willis is a 25-year-old British tennis instructor who charges about $40 an hour for lessons, lives with his parents, is ranked 772nd in the world, and had never played a tour-level – let alone Grand Slam – match until a victory Monday.

He was ready to give up on his goal of becoming a full-time professional player until being persuaded by his new girlfriend to stick with it.

He was the last man invited to a playoff for low-ranked Brits to try to earn a wild-card entry for Wimbledon qualifying, won three matches at that event, then another three in qualifying rounds to get into the main draw at the All England Club.

And now Willis will set foot on the grass of Centre Court, the most hallowed ground in the game, to face Federer, considered by many to be the greatest tennis player in history, owner of seven Wimbledon titles and a record 17 Grand Slam trophies overall.

“There’s a lot of cool things that are part of the story,” Federer said. “Probably don’t even know where to start, to be quite honest.”

Looking at the matchup from a tactical standpoint, the third-seeded Federer said: “He can just go and check out all my matches, and he knows everything about me. He’s got an advantage there.”

Yes, not much video out there of Willis, who is sure to hear plenty of support from his countrymen.

It’s early in the tournament, but he certainly has become the talk of the town.

“Look, I mean, anyone can beat anyone in the draw. Amazing things do happen in sport, sometimes. Obviously Roger’s a massive, massive favorite going into the match. I would expect him to win the match fairly comfortably,” said No. 2-seeded Andy Murray, the 2013 Wimbledon champion.

“But Marcus’ game style, it’s pretty old school,” continued Murray, who got a look at the unheralded player’s strokes when Willis spent some time with Britain’s Davis Cup team as a teen. “He serve-and-volleys a lot. He uses a lot of slice. He hits the ball fairly flat. He has great hands. He has great feel.”

Willis clearly is enjoying the ride and he couldn’t stop smiling when he was asked Monday about the prospect of facing Federer.

“I didn’t think I’d be answering these questions in a million years,” Willis said. “He’s a complete player. He’s a legend of the game. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. But I’ve got to go out and try to beat him.”

Other things to look for Wednesday at Wimbledon:

CROWDED SCHEDULE: Because of rain Tuesday that forced the suspension in progress or complete postponement of a total of 30 matches, the Day 3 schedule is packed with a mix of first- and second-round contests. The bad news: There are more showers in the forecast.

STOSUR-LISICKI: Sam Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, takes a 5-2 career record against Sabine Lisicki into their second-round match. But Lisicki is the one with far more success at Wimbledon, including a run to the 2013 final, one other semifinal appearance, and three more quarterfinals. In Stosur’s 13 previous trips to the All England Club, she has never been past the third round.

Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov give Canada 1st Davis Cup title

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MALAGA, Spain — Felix Auger-Aliassime fell to his back behind the baseline, then waited for teammates to race off Canada’s bench and pile on top of him.

A few minutes later, the Canadians finally could lift the Davis Cup.

“I think of us all here, we’ve dreamt of this moment,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Canada won the title for the first time, beating Australia behind victories from Denis Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime secured the winning point when he downed Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4 after Shapovalov opened the day by rolling past Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4.

Seven years after leading Canada to the top of junior tennis, Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov and their teammates finally got to lift the biggest team trophy in their sport.

“We wanted to grow up and be part of the team and try to help the country win the first title,” Shapovalov said, “so everything is just so surreal right now.”

Shapovalov had dropped both his singles matches this week and needed treatment on his back during a three-set loss in the semifinals to Lorenzo Sonego of Italy that lasted 3 hours, 15 minutes. But the left-hander moved quickly around the court, setting up angles to put away winners while racing to a 4-0 lead in the first set.

Auger-Aliassime then finished off his superb second half of the season by completing a perfect week in Spain. He twice had kept the Canadians alive after Shapovalov dropped the opening singles match, and he replaced his weary teammate to join Vasek Pospisil for the decisive doubles point.

This time, Auger-Aliassime made sure the doubles match wouldn’t even be necessary. After his teammates poured onto the court to celebrate with him, they got up and danced around in a circle.

Canada had reached the final only once, falling to host Spain in Madrid in 2019, when Rafael Nadal beat Shapovalov for the clinching point after Auger-Aliassime had lost in the opening match.

But with Auger-Aliassime having since surged up the rankings to his current spot at No. 6, the Canadians are a much more formidable team now. They won the ATP Cup in January and finally added the Davis Cup crown to the junior Davis Cup title Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov led them to in 2015.

Australia was trying for its 29th title and first since current captain Lleyton Hewitt was part of the title-winning team in 2003.

But it was finally time for the Canadians, who were given a wild card into the field when Russia was suspended because of its invasion of Ukraine.

“Look, I think we were very close today,” de Minaur said. “Just wait until the next time we get the same matchup. Hopefully we can get the win and prove that we can do it.”

But Canada will be tough to beat as long as Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov play.

Shapovalov is just 23 and Auger-Aliassime 22, but both already have been Grand Slam semifinalists and Auger-Aliassime ended 2022 as one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour. He won all of his four titles this year, including three straight weeks in October.

He also beat Carlos Alcaraz in the previous Davis Cup stage in September, just after the Spaniard had won the U.S. Open to rise to No. 1 in the rankings. That victory helped send the Canadians into the quarterfinals, which they started this week by edging Germany.

“They’re not kids anymore, that’s for sure. Not after today – well not after the last couple of years,” said Pospisil, the team veteran at 32. “They’ve been crushing it.”

Australia beats Croatia 2-1 to reach Davis Cup final

Day Four - Davis Cup Finals 2022
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MALAGA, Spain – Australia had to fight back twice to reach its first Davis Cup final in 19 years after beating Croatia 2-1.

Lleyton Hewitt’s team recovered from losing the first singles. Then the Australian doubles pair battled back from a set down in the decider.

Australia won its 28th and last title in 2003. It has finally got back to the final.

“I am so proud. Australia has a really rich history in this competition,” said Hewitt, who played a record 43 Davis Cup ties for Australia from 1999-2018.

“We have been fortunate to win it all on a number of occasions a long time ago. And I know what it meant to me as a player to play a final, and I am glad these guys can play it.”

Borna Coric put Croatia ahead by beating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 6-3, but Alex de Minaur leveled after defeating Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2 to send it to the doubles.

Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell then secured the semifinal win against Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic by 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4.

“This is what this team is about, that never-say-die attitude,” De Minaur said.

Canada will face Italy on Saturday in the other semifinal.

In the opener, Kokkinakis struck 11 aces, but Coric was able to break him once in each set.

“On my serve, I felt like it was an ace or he put it back on my toes,” Kokkinakis said.

Cilic, who was on the Croatia team that won the title in 2018, committed 10 double faults. That erratic serve helped De Minaur break Cilic four times and level his head-to-head record with the former U.S Open winner at two wins each.

Thompson and Purcell bettered the more experienced pair of Mektic and Pavic, both ranked in the top 10 in doubles. Thompson and Purcell combined for 13 aces, broke the Croats twice, and never dropped a service game to come back after losing the first-set tiebreaker.

Two-time winner Croatia was the runner-up last year.

“It proved too difficult on the court today,” Cilic said. “(But) for us it has been a great year again after the finals last year to reach the semis.”

The final is on Sunday on the indoor court in Malaga.