Melbourne, Australia, 15 May 2013 | Vivienne Christie


Whether you go by his “milkman” nickname or prefer the “mailman” variety, there is no question that after his best Australian summer, John Millman is set to deliver further success yet.

John Millman doesn’t hide his bitter disappointment, or perhaps it’s more a case of the fact that one of the most genuine characters you’ll meet on the professional tour can’t hide it. After his best summer yet, the 23-year-old Queenslander has just lost a marathon first-round Australian Open to Tatsuma Ito. Having held a break point for the chance to serve for the match in the fifth set, Millman is struggling with the sense of a lost opportunity.

“It’s really disappointing for me now because you kind of want to peak at this one and I let myself down out there today,” admits Millman, who had defeated Ito in the first round of Brisbane.

“Hopefully I learn from it and do better.”

Pleasingly, Millman has indeed done so, and consolidated the form that made him one of the country’s most exciting prospects during a sizzling Australian summer. After the Australian Open Millman travelled to Tasmania for the Burnie Challenger and won the trophy, following that up with a run to the Kyoto Challenger title in Japan in early March. By the time he’d won three matches to qualify for the ATP event in Munich, the Queenslander was ranked inside the world’s top 130, peaking at a career-high ranking of No.126 on 1 April.

The reward for his stellar efforts? A wildcard into the French Open, marking the first time he will ever appear in the main draw at Roland Garros.

Considering the support networks the likeable Millman has established in a tennis career that had its early beginnings on the backyard court of his family’s Brisbane home, continued form improvement seems inevitable. Millman was drawn into the game by his four tennis-playing sisters and encouraged but never pushed by parents Shona and Ron. An association with Gary Stickler, who also coached Pat Rafter, stretches back to his teenage years. Completing his high school studies – rather than leaving to turn professional – has ensured he also maintains a solid network of friends away from the sport.

This grounded approach helped Millman endure the toughest period of his young career, when recovery from a shoulder injury in 2011 was followed by the tough graduation to the often gruelling Challenger circuit. While he hopes those days are mostly behind him now, Millman is empathetic to those players working hard to maintain a living in a similar way.

“My bank balance was probably down to about $2500 before Brisbane so that would give me a return flight to Europe and back, so it’s been good that I’ll have that (financial aspect) out of my mind,” he says.

Understanding those challenges so well will no doubt fuel the young Aussie’s ambitions as he sets about improving on his best Australian summer throughout 2013. And Millman is actually well on the way to achieving an attainable target in the not too distant future. “I want to get inside that top 100,” says Millman, ranked No. 141 on 13 May.

“That’s the goal. That’s what motivates me at the movement.”

A strong performance at the upcoming French Open, beginning Sunday 26 May, would go a long way to helping him realise that goal.

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