The 26-year-old from Slough won six matches to reach the Championships last year, before meeting seven-time champion Roger Federer in the second round.
That day Willis delighted the Centre Court crowd with some audacious shot-making, and even elicited the odd smile and nod of appreciation from the Swiss superstar, as he went down to a plucky 6-0 6-3 6-4 defeat.
A year on, and three miles down the road at Roehampton, Willis — having thus far missed out on a Wimbledon wildcard — took on Slovakia’s Andrej Martin in the first qualifying round.
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Since his SW19 heroics Willis has halved his world ranking to 387, but was still facing a player 241 places higher.
Nevertheless, in front of around 150 spectators — including baby daughter Martha who was believed to have been conceived during his Wimbledon run — Willis ran out an impressive 7-5 7-5 winner.
He took the first set in 25 minutes, throwing in the trademark lob which famously beat Federer along the way, before breaking his opponent in the 11th game.
Willis repeated the trick in the second set, breaking Martin to love before serving out to secure another higher-ranked scalp.
The victory set up an all-British clash with Liam Broady, who beat Canadian Frank Dancevic 6-2 6-3, in the second qualifying round.
The winner of that showdown will then face one further qualifying match to reach the Championships, which begin next Monday.