War hero come professional tennis player Jim Willard volunteered to join the Australian Infantry Force during World War I and served his country for the duration of the conflict as a member of the 34th Battalion. He was awarded the now-discontinued Military Medal for his bravery during a March 1918 raid when he continued to fight the enemy and help evacuate wounded soldiers despite being injured himself. Near the end of the war he received a bar on this decoration for facing heavy fire to deliver a critical message to battalion headquarters.
Willard took up tennis after the conflict and competed in the 1924 Summer Olympics, where he made it to the third round of the singles tournament before being defeated by India’s Sydney Jacob. In the doubles, alongside partner James Bayley, he progressed to the second round, but was defeated by eventual gold medalists Vinnie Richards and Frank Hunter. He also participated at that year’s Wimbledon Championships, but was defeated by Patrick Wheatley in the round of 64. He competed actively in the precursors to the Australian Open through 1932, winning two mixed doubles titles with Daphne Akhurst (1924 and 1925) and coming in as runner up once with Akhurst (1926) and once more with Youtha Anthony (1927). He was runner-up in the singles event in 1926 and the doubles tournament in 1928. Internationally he competed at Wimbledon once again in 1930 (and was eliminated by New Zealand’s Buster Andrews in the opening round) in addition to the 1930 Davis Cup, where he and Harry Hopman made it to the semifinals, losing to eventual European Zone champions Placido Gaslini and Umberto De Morpurgo of Italy. He found more success with Hopman at that year’s French Open, succumbing only in the final to 1924 silver medalists Henri Cochet and Jacques Brugnon.