LONDON, June 29 — Wimbledon was swamped by heavy rain today bringing the schedule to a soggy halt but clearing the way for a sharper focus on overnight sensation Marcus Willis.
The world number 772 has played seven matches already to reach the second round where he will face 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer as two tennis worlds collide under the Centre Court roof.
Willis, who makes his living coaching children and senior citizens at a rowing club in the English midlands, has been the unlikely rags-to-riches story of the week.
Having never played a tour match before Wimbledon, the sturdily-built left-hander, dubbed ‘Cartman’ after a portly character from cartoon series South Park, finds himself facing a man who has won 79 matches more than him at the All England Club.
Federer has career earnings just shy of the US$100 million (RM401 million); Willis has banked around just US$200 this year and still lives with his parents.
“This is the kind of story we need. I think it’s great. I’m very excited to be playing him actually. It’s not something I get to do very often,” Federer said.
Willis is the lowest-ranked qualifier to make the second round of a major since Jared Palmer at number 923 at the 1988 US Open.
“I don’t think I have ever spoken to Federer. I don’t think he was at the Tunisia Futures event this year,” joked Willis.
Only four matches were completed by mid-afternoon today as rain, which had already curtailed the schedule yesterday, refused to budge.
In all, 62 ties were due to be wrapped up but after just 15 minutes of play was possible on the outside courts, organisers put the restart time back to 1600 local time (1500GMT) at the earliest.
Under the Centre Court roof, Polish third seed Agnieszka Radwanska reached the last 64 with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova to preserve her record of having never lost in the first round at Wimbledon.
Radwanska, the 2012 runner-up, will face either Karin Knapp of Italy or Ana Konjuh of Croatia for a place in the last 32.
Such was the ease of her victory that Radwanska part of her news conference facing questions over the Brexit vote and reports of hostility towards the Polish community in Britain.
“Well, I know there’s a lot of Polish people working, living here. I’m not aware of every comment, so I don’t think I should comment on it,” she said.
Czech 10th seed Tomas Berdych, the runner-up in 2010, just had enough time to complete his first round tie held over from yesterday.
He defeated Croatia’s Ivan Dodig 7-6 (7/5), 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (7/2) and next faces Germany’s Benjamin Becker.
“It’s good to be done, especially when my opponents finished yesterday,” said Berdych.
World number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic is also under roof to face France’s Adrian Mannarino who was celebrating his 28th birthday on Wednesday.
Having already won the Australian and French Open titles this year, Djokovic, who has triumphed at Wimbledon for the last two years, is halfway to becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to clinch all four majors in one year.
Victory on Wednesday against the French left-hander would give Djokovic, who holds all four Slams, a 30th successive win at the majors — just seven behind the record streak set by Don Budge in 1938.
Elsewhere today, Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori, hoping to make the Wimbledon last eight for the first time, faces France’s Julien Benneteau.
The rain caused a number of high interest second round matches to be cancelled until tomorrow.
Second seed and newly crowned French Open champion Garbine Muguruza against Slovakian qualifier Jana Cepelova was shelved.
Matches featuring Venus Williams, a five-time champion, against Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari and Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber’s tie with Varvara Lepchenko of the United States were also called off.
Two-time champion Petra Kvitova, the 10th seeded Czech, was due to face injury-plagued Sorana Cirstea of Romania in her first round clash. — AFP