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Britain’s Willis wins first Wimbledon qualifier

Marcus Willis

Willis won six matches last year to qualify for Wimbledon before losing to Roger Federer in the second round

Britain’s Marcus Willis produced an impressive display to beat Andrej Martin of Slovakia in the first round of Wimbledon qualifying.

Willis, 26, won 7-5 7-5 against Martin, a player ranked 226 places higher at 148 in the world.

He will next face fellow Briton Liam Broady, with three wins required to qualify for the main draw next week.

Willis won six matches last year to get through qualifying, then reached round two before losing to Roger Federer.

Twelve months on, he was the centre of attention on the opening day of qualifying at Roehampton, with his match scheduled on the new televised show court.

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Wimbledon 2016: Marcus Willis – The incredible story of GB qualifier Willis

Asked if he felt any pressure amid all the interest surrounding him, Willis said: “I’m not putting any on myself.”

He added: “It feels very different. Last year, I came here and no-one really knew what was going on, I was happy to be here.

“I’m happy to be here again, obviously, but after what I did last year, doing less could be disappointing.”

Willis became the surprise star of week one at last year’s Wimbledon, after coming through the pre-qualifying and qualifying competitions ranked 772nd, before finally ending his run against Federer on Centre Court.

He has since married wife Jennifer and become a father to Martha, both of whom were courtside to watch him on Monday.

Despite injury problems, he has moved up to 374th in the world, but still required a wildcard to get into the qualifying event.

His grass-court skills came to the fore once again as he saw off Martin with breaks in the 11th game of each set, serve-and-volleying his way to a straight-set win without dropping serve.

“I enjoy playing on grass, I like playing in front of the home crowd,” said Willis. “I like playing tennis, that’s about it.

“You just have to focus on the tennis ball. I’ve been knuckling down and training quite hard.”

‘Marcus is a loveable guy’

Jay Clarke<!–

Jay Clarke reached the quarter-finals of the ATP Challenger Tour in Ilkley earlier this month

Broady, 23, will take on good friend Willis for the eighth time and only the second on grass.

“It’s obviously a fantastic opportunity for us both playing wildcards in the second round of qualifying,” said Broady, who beat Canadian Frank Dancevic 6-2 6-3.

“There will probably be more people rooting for Marcus. He’s a loveable guy and fantastic to watch.”

British teenager Jay Clarke was an early winner on day one – the 18-year-old from Derby seeing off El Salvador’s world number 232 Marcelo Arevalo 6-3 6-4.

Clarke, ranked 360th, recently spent time with the British Davis Cup squad and was invited to practise with Andy Murray at the French Open.

“The first few times you step on court with them, it’s big thing, but you get used to it,” said Clarke.

“I’m just taking it day by day here because a lot can happen.”

Alex Ward, ranked 854th, was another British winner with a 1-6 7-5 6-3 victory over Belarusian seventh seed Egor Gerasimov, the world number 163.

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