Wimbledon - Reginald Brace: Willis puts smile on tennis’s face with treasured moments

Sam Querrey celebrates beating Novak Djokovic on day six of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Club, Wimbledon.
Sam Querrey celebrates beating Novak Djokovic on day six of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Club, Wimbledon.
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JUST when I thought that being embedded in a waterlogged car park was destined to be the abiding memory of the first week of my 57th Wimbledon along came Sam Querrey to derail Novak Djokovic, the closest thing to a machine in modern tennis.

Querrey was a buoyant, deserving victor over a subdued, strangely morose Djokovic who rarely showed the vitality which made him the reigning holder of four Grand Slam titles .

All the ebullience was generated from the American’s side of the net as Djokovic sank into a trough of Serbian despair.

The well of inspiration had run dry and there were no excuses from the loser, only praise for his beaming conqueror. Djokovic made too many mistakes on critical points to deter Querrey’s progress to the fourth round and whatever lies beyond.

So, goodbye Novak. In retrospect he has had an amazing year, but Querrey was a rampant reminder that nobody is unbeatable in the modern game. Not even Djokovic, whose legendary ability to escape from tight corners finally crumbled before his opponent’s relentless onslaught.

Other treasured moments in a rain bedraggled week that culminated in middle Sunday play for the first time in 12 years? Well, it was impossible to look beyond Marcus Willis against Roger Federer in the second round.

Call it more of an exhibition match than a serious contest; showbiz rather than sport. But it left a rejuvenating imprint on the tournament.

Suddenly, tennis was fun. The players received a standing ovation. Willis was given the rare accolade of a round of applause at his press conference. This was tennis with a smile on its face.

Willis sliced, chipped and pulled off outrageous half-volleys with one knee on the ground. He revelled in being the underdog, feeding off the crowd’s support. Federer was the impeccable straight man.

It was one of those contests that lodge in the memory, not for its tensions but for the sheer pleasure it created – comforting proof that the game is not all about swopping metronomic blows from the baseline. There is still room for laughter or joy at the totally unexpected. Willis is apparently rededicating himself to tournament competition after a period spent coaching and playing league tennis in France and Germany. Good luck to him.

Whatever the future holds he can treasure his moments on the world’s most celebrated court.

From a Yorkshire standpoint, Kyle Edmund is still seeking his first victory in the men’s singles after losing to Adrian Mannarino of France in straight sets. This follows defeat at the same stage to Alexandr Dolgopolov last year, Andreas Halder-Maurer in 2014 and Jerzy Janowicz in 2013.

The Beverley player could not cope with Mannarino’s reliability from the baseline. His physique is good and the shots are there. The missing link is probably in the mind; the confidence to make the crucial breakthrough he has the assets to achieve.

He is almost there. The coming year could be vital.

Tara Moore, who has Doncaster links, was a second round victim of Svetlana Kuznetsova, the battle hardened Russian who is a former French and US Open champion. Her defeat in three sets 6-1 2-6 6-3 scarcely reflected a feisty performance full of good omens for the future. As with Edmund, a player whose best years could be ahead.