Federer’s classy tribute to Aussie conqueror
JOHN Millman's stunning victory over Roger Federer in the fourth round of the US Open has thrust the Australian world No.55 into the international spotlight.
But the Aussie battler has been working for more than a decade on his overnight success.
Millman is a journeyman in every sense of the word, winning 17 Challenger and ITF tournaments so far in his career.
Writing for Players Voice in January this year, Millman opened up about his experiences on the tour.
"It's so hard to maintain relationships. I travel 10 and a half months a year and that's tough. On my family, my friends, my girlfriend - yeah, it's extremely challenging for everyone. It's not just a sacrifice for me, it's a sacrifice for them," he wrote.
"To succeed in this sport you do have to be a little bit selfish, but it's not the same as being disrespectful, and I think some tennis players are not as appreciative as they should be for all the help that they get.
"You go back to that little kid inside you when you first started travelling. I was 18, and I had to do an apprenticeship. I wasn't good enough to go from being a junior to being top 100 within one or two years.
"I'm the first to say my game wasn't ready, and I wasn't mature enough or good enough, but they're some of my best memories of tennis.
"You're a lot more bright-eyed and a little bit more open to the whole journey. It was tough, you'd be sleeping on floors of train stations and airports and literally playing just so you can afford to get a flight out of wherever you were."
It's that type of dedication that has earned the respect of his peers - Federer included.
"John, well, I love his intensity," the Swiss champ said after his loss.
"He reminds me of David Ferrer and those other guys that, you know, I admire a lot when I see them, when I see how they train, the passion they have for the game. I love his intensity."
But the ever-classy Swiss maestro didn't stop there, acknowledging Millman's game too.
"He's got a positive demeanour about himself on and off the court. I think he's got a great backhand that he can protect very well down the line and crosscourt. When you attack there in the wrong way, he will punish you, punish you every time for it," Federer said.
"Yeah, then he has options, now especially where it's a bit slower, to return in and return back."
Federer invited Millman to train with him in Switzerland earlier this year in preparation for the grass court season.
"We were looking for somebody who was a great guy, who could train hard," he said.
"He was like, 'Yeah, absolutely, I'm ready to come.' We had a great few days, a good time together."
The Brisbane-born Millman started playing tennis as a four-year-old, because his four sisters all played the sport.
The 2018 season has been the best of his career so far. Having reached his first ATP final in the Hungarian Open in April, he has registered his best performance in a grand slam in moving through to the US Open quarter-finals, where he will face Novak Djokovic
Millman had previously made the third round in the Australian Open (2016), Wimbledon (2016) and the US Open (2017).
The Australian also has the Olympic rings tattooed on his right bicep after representing his country at the 2016 Rio Games.
Those results are just the tip of the iceberg for the 29-year-old Millman, who turned professional in 2006 but broke into the top 100 for the first time in 2015.
He is expected to be Australia's second-highest ranked singles player following the US Open. A win over Djokovic could propel him even higher than his live ranking of 37.
Millman's career has had its fair share of setbacks with injuries and cash flow issues affecting him in the past.
The Aussie suffered a shoulder injury in 2011, causing him to miss the second half of the season. It reared its head again in 2013-14 and required surgery, pushing the Queenslander's ranking as low as 1193.
After his performance against Federer, those setbacks become part of the experience.
"You do all those moments in rehab, you do all that for something like this," Millman said after the match.
"It all becomes a little bit more rewarding. I'm just incredibly lucky that I've had a great group of people, not just in tennis, but friends and family back home who have helped me stay positive and stay upbeat because there were plenty of moments where I was pretty negative and down on myself."
A defining feature of Millman's career has been the way he carries himself in tournaments.
Reputations mean little to the no-fuss Aussie. When asked if he believed he could beat Djokovic in the quarters as well, Millman replied, "Yeah, why not?"
"I've never played anyone's reputation," he said. "That's been a constant with me for, you know, ever since I played the game. Because I think if you do that, then you start behind the eight ball straight away.
"But, you know, that's a great thing about tennis, that's the great thing about sport: there's always upsets that can happen. I would have dearly liked to have taken my chance when I played him (Federer) in Brisbane a few years ago. That kind of played on my mind a little bit going into this match.
"I'm probably in a little bit of disbelief," he added.
"I have so much respect for Roger and everything he's done for the game. He's been a hero of mine."
"I felt like a bit of a deer in the headlights to begin with. The feet weren't moving. Roger had it on a string, he was manipulating me around the court."