Marcus Willis claims the All England Club “punished everyone” when they forced Dan Evans to enter pre-qualifying for Wimbledon by overlooking him for a wildcard.
If Evans qualifies he will ultimately do so at the expense of Willis, one of his closest friends within tennis and his opponent in Friday’s second round.
The world number 340 will also have to play again later on Friday – the first time since returning two months ago from a drugs ban that he will have had two matches in a day – and face three further opponents to reach Wimbledon.
Those involved in the first round from July 2 are guaranteed £39,000 in prize money, and the 27-year-old Willis, whose profile grew when he reached the second round to face Roger Federer two years ago, is at risk of missing out to his in-form friend.
Former player and current TV presenter Sue Barker is among those who have already been critical of Evans not receiving a wildcard, having served his year-long ban for testing positive for cocaine in April 2017, and world number 730 Willis said: “It punishes everyone.
“There could be more British tennis players at Wimbledon this year but there’s not. It’s a shame. It’s life. It’s what happens every year unfortunately. It’s a shame that everyone who plays him here is going to get punished as well.
“I can beat him, I have before. If I beat him then it’s a player who served his time, was honest, got on with it, and that means him missing out when he would be one of the best players in the main draw. He should be in the main draw because that is his level.
“It’s a shame for the tournament because he and myself have got the best chance of winning matches and qualifying for main draws. It’s a shame that one of us isn’t going to have the chance.
“He shouldn’t be here. He’s a top player. He served his time for taking a recreational drug, which obviously was not smart but was he really cheating or was he harming himself? He’s served his time, come back, won an awful lot of matches.
“I don’t agree with it at all but there’s always controversy with the wildcards. We’re used to it. No one is really that surprised.”
Unlike Evans, Willis is also still recovering his sharpness and abilities following an inconsistent period undermined by injury.
“It’s been a tough couple of years,” he said. “(We) had a baby, got married, I tore my hamstring again then did my elbow. It’s been difficult. I’m just taking it a match at a time now.
“It’s been frustrating for me. It’s nice that I’m back playing again and in a lot less pain, but I feel like I’ve got two left feet when I come to the net. I’m very rusty, and it’s frustrating because I know I can play good tennis.
“I need matches. I didn’t request a wildcard. I’m not ready at the moment.”