Millman riding the wave
After a lengthy battle with injury, John Millman is in the form of his life heading into the US Open and enjoying the spoils that his career-high ranking brings.
John Millman will begin his US Open campaign verging on the world’s top 70 and as a direct Grand Slam entrant for the first time in his career.
These are incredible milestones, given that just 12 months ago, he was ranked outside the top 1,000.
The affable Queenslander missed nearly a year of competition from 2013 to 2014 as he recovered from debilitating shoulder surgery.
Yet having returned to the tour with a bang, he achieved a career-high ranking of No.71 12 days ago – he’s currently at 72nd – and is loving every minute of being on court.
“I’m enjoying soaking it all up, and I’m enjoying the joy it’s brought other people to have me playing at this stage, because a lot of people have worked hard and backed me and believed in me to get me to this stage and it’s starting to come to fruition now,” he said on Saturday in New York.
“You’ve got to keep working hard and you’ve gotta keep ticking the boxes because you want to stay here as long as possible. It’s inevitable that in (time) you won’t be able to have these types of experiences again, so you have to make the most of it when you can, and that’s what I plan to do.”
Millman’s meteoric rise and subsequent top 100 breakthrough was made possible by some excellent results in 2015.
Most notably, he qualified for the main draw of Wimbledon and reached the second round, and came within a set of an upset victory over Marcos Baghdatis.
Since then, he has won back-to-back ATP Challengers on hard court in the United States – the perfect lead-up to the year’s final Grand Slam event – and has been putting the finishing touches on his preparation this week in New York.
For the first time, he enters a major tournament on the strength of his own ranking rather than having to come through qualifying or rely on a wildcard.
“It’s a good feeling to be in direct and not having to go through qualifying,” he said.
“I feel like I’m going in with plenty of matches and good form, so hopefully it translates on Monday.
“(Given I’m at this higher level now) it’s still probably a little bit different gearing up for a best-of-five-set tournament, because they’re not the easiest of things and I’m sure they’re going to be pretty testing conditions.
“I’ve always had confidence that my game could be at a pretty good level if I stay fit and healthy and I’ve managed to do so for the majority of this year, so in terms of playing ability I’m at the level I should be, and (I feel) that I do belong at this level.”
Up first for the 26-year-old is Sergiy Stakhovsky, the Ukrainian most famous for his shock defeat over Roger Federer in the second round at Wimbledon two years ago.
“Stakhovsky’s been a top 100 player for a long time now, he’s pretty established in there and he’s a good player – I’m under no illusions it’s going to be an easy match at all,” Millman said.
“He’s got a good serve, likes to come in, he has good hands, and the courts are playing pretty quick right now so I think it will probably suit his game style.
“But I feel like I’m playing good tennis and I feel like I can get the win if I play well.”