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Inspired Willis makes final of Shrewsbury Futures

12th March 2013

“We few, we merry few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me; Shall be my brother…”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-yZNMWFqvM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

The British Futures circuit wound up in the historic town of Shrewsbury last week, and history enthusiast Gary Lewis lost no time in taking his charge Marcus Willis down to the site of Henry V’s historic battle in 1403, which went down as the bloodiest battle in English history. This was the young Henry’s first taste of battle, and he went on to become one of Britain’s most famous warrior Kings following his victory over the vastly numerically superior French army at Agincourt in 1415, which was immortalised in the St Crispin’s Day speech of Shakespeare’s play Henry V.

The historical reference was not lost on Gary or Marcus, given that Marcus received a tough draw which saw him face second seeded Frenchman Axel Michon. Michon, currently ranked 318 in the world, was fresh from a shock win over the world number 67 Gilles Muller at a challenger in France the previous week. Gary quoted from the famous St Crispian’s Day speech, and an inspired Marcus proceeded to take apart a player ranked several hundred places higher than himself, recorded a highly impressive 6-2, 6-2 win.

The second round match was a different affair altogether, with Marcus going into his match with talented 18 year old Jathan Malik as favourite, having previously Malik at a British Tour event in Sutton prior their second round clash. A break in each set was enough to see Marcus through to the quarter finals, as he advanced courtesy of a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 victory. Having taken out Michon in the first round, the draw was starting to open up slightly for Marcus.

(left to right: Dan Evans, Marcus Willis, Gary Lewis in confident mood in Shrewsbury).

Next up was a qualifier, Yorkshireman George Coupland. Although Marcus was again the favourite based on their respective positions in the world rankings, Coupland was enjoying a good run of form, having advanced through qualifying and then taken out the eighth seeded Belgian, Alexandre Folie in the last 16. It proved to be a tight contest, with Coupland edging a closely fought first set 6-4. Marcus was undeterred, and hit back immediately to force a decider. With the momentum behind him, Marcus was not to be denied a semi final place, as he sealed the required break of serve to seal a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.

A tough encounter with world number 385 and fourth seed Ed Corrie was scheduled for the semi finals. Corrie has enjoyed a hot streak in 2013, winning two of the first six British futures events of the year. The prize for the winner would be a final place against third seeded Dan Evans, who had beaten top seed Josh Goodall in the earlier semi final. The match itself turned into a titanic encounter, the final stats showing very little separated both players. Marcus drew first blood, clinching the first set on a tie break. The second set was equally close, with serve dominating, and a tie break would prove the only way of separating them. Corrie prevailed this time, taking the match into a deciding set. Both players were refusing to give any quarter to his opponent. But it was Marcus who made the breakthrough, consolidating a break of serve and maintaining his advantage to seal a hard fought and thoroughly deserved 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 6-3 win.

Facing Marcus in the final was former Davis Cup player Dan Evans, a player Marcus had famously beaten on the way to sealing his maiden singles futures title at Glasgow. Nevertheless, there was still considerable gap between the two players in the world rankings, and, as the third seed, Evans went into the match as a slight favourite. However, the way Marcus was playing, no one was ruling out an upset. Billed by Gary as the modern Battle of Shrewsbury, over 600 years after the first, the match was extremely hard fought, with serve again dominating as in Marcus’ previous match. The first set went to a tie-break, with Evans landing the first blow to win the first set. There was nothing to separate the two players in the second set, and again the set went all the way to a tie-break. Although Marcus was battling hard and fighting for every point, it was to avail as Evans came out on top in the second tie-break to seal victory 7-6(3), 7-6(1).

Marcus shared his thoughts with BBC Shropshire after the match, and can be viewed below. Marcus now heads to Bath for the next stop on the futures tour, needing only two points to equal his career best world ranking of 563. On the back of this form, manager Gary Lewis has revised Marcus’ target, and both Gary and Marcus are aiming to reach the top 400 by the end of year. If Marcus keeps this up, nobody will be betting against that.

http://www.itftennis.com/procircuit/news/video/video-pro-circuit-interview-with-marcus-willis.aspx

Marcus is sponsored by A1 Pharmaceuticals PLC (www.a1plc.co.uk) and personally managed by A1’s founder and managing director, Pharmacist Gary Lewis.

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