August 8. As many Roger Federer fans know, it’s the date of the Swiss’ birthday. Unfortunately for Federer, he wasn’t able to celebrate his 35th at the Rio Olympics because of a season-ending knee injury.
Three days earlier, a solemn dispatch from Federer, wherever he may be, crossed roughly 6.08 million Twitter timelines:
Wish I was there with you pic.twitter.com/7cItiTCtL5— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) August 6, 2016
There was celebrating from another tennis player on August 8, someone who will forever be connected to Federer, having played him in one of the unlikeliest Centre Court contests of all time this June. Marcus Willis, then ranked No. 772, managed to qualify for Wimbledon and then improbably won his first-round match over Ricardis Berankis to become the lowest-ranked qualifier to reach the second round of a Grand Slam tournament since 1988.
Besides the obvious financial boon, Willis' reward was a match with Federer. He handled himself admirably in a 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 defeat:
Where has Willis been since? He’s now up to No. 475 in the rankings, but he hadn't played any matches since Wimbledon—until yesterday. In his debut for Mylan World TeamTennis, Willis played in the men’s singles portion of the match for the New York Empire, a franchise also making its debut this summer. They faced the Washington Kastles, the league’s unquestioned dynasty, in D.C.
And what do you know—Willis surprised us again, clinching the contest for New York to the delight of coach Patrick McEnroe and his teammates:
Federer and Willis, connected once again, each celebrating on August 8. Who would have guessed that the Brit would be the one doing so on the court?