Melbourne, Australia, 15 May 2020 | Leigh Rogers

Melbourne teen Connor Joyce enjoyed an online video chat with his hero John Millman this week after winning an ATP Tour Fan Essay Contest.

The contest, open to writers aged 18 and under, asked fans to write an essay of 500 words or less on how an ATP Tour player had motivated or inspired them. Joyce wrote about Australian John Millman’s Australian Open 2016 second-round victory Gilles Muller.

> Learn more about the ATP Tour’s Fan Essay Contest 

After Joyce was named as one of four worldwide winners of the competition, Millman congratulated him via a Zoom call on Tuesday night.

“We talked about his Australian Open match in 2016 and my writing more generally,” said the 16-year-old of his chat with the world No.43.

“To have John take the time to express his appreciation for my writing truly meant a lot to me. I have been a huge fan of John’s for a few years now, so I was very grateful for him to have read my article and then respond to it, not only to myself but also on his social media channels. For me, it is evidence of the genuine person that he is – obviously a true competitor on the court, but also the way he conducts himself off it, especially with his fans.”

Joyce said he chose to write about Millman’s Australian Open 2016 win because it was an unforgettable experience watching as a fan.

“I was there from the start of the first set right through to the last point of the fifth set. For almost four hours I was completely engaged and was amazed at how involved the Show Court 3 crowd was, especially down the stretch of the decider,” he recalled.

“For John Millman, an unseeded Australian who I had never heard of before the match, you could see what the moment meant to him, triumphing in front of his home fans after so many years of hardship and sacrifice.”

Joyce, a year 11 student, is a keen tennis player and hopes to work in sport after finishing school.

“I love sport, both playing and watching it,” he said. “I follow a range of sports and would love to work in the sports industry some way or another.”

Read Joyce’s winning essay:

On a warm Thursday evening in Melbourne, fans began to pack into Show Court 3 ahead of a battle between the experienced Gilles Muller and homegrown Australian John Millman. Being just 12 at the time, I took a decent interest in tennis, mostly playing it and watching some of the Australian Open. On the fourth day of the 2016 major, I was purely following my father and cousin to watch this unseeded Australian, not knowing how the match would change my outlook on tennis and life.

Millman went down early, but as he always did, rallied back to lead two sets to one. Lines started to build outside the stadium as word began to spread about this true blue Australian. After an enthralling three hours and 38 minutes, the 3,000 fans in the arena and everyone waiting outside erupted as Millman took the fifth set 7-5 and reached the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time.

At the time, I was thrilled. It was and still remains the best match I have watched live. The joy on Millman’s face being shared by every single Australian in the crowd was purely unmatchable. Seeing him stay back for more than an hour after the match, signing autographs and taking photos with every fan as a ‘Millman’ chant rang out around Melbourne Park, only added to the incredible experience.

Yet, it wasn’t until later that I realised the magnitude of the victory for Millman. He’s had a tennis journey like no other.

Millman has endured shoulder and groin surgeries, back injuries and other moments stretched across 10 years where his career appeared all but over. His ranking has risen and plummeted on countless occasions and he has travelled just about everywhere on the planet, from the bright lights of New York to the depths of Gimcheon.

After years of ATP Challenger Tour matches and qualifying rounds in majors, that Thursday was the moment Millman’s career finally took a turn for good. It was a true story of perseverance and commitment on display as a local hero had his name being sung repeatedly by his growing fan base.

This match made me love tennis. It’s an individual sport, but there is no better feeling than triumphing in front of a home crowd who have stuck by you for almost four hours. I have spent countless hours and days at the Australian Open since, but have yet to witness a moment come anywhere close to the storyline of this one.

This match led me to become the biggest Millman fan going and has inspired me more generally to never give up on your dreams. In life, you will be knocked down time and time again. But it is those who are determined, those who possess the Millman attitude, that will come out on top in the end.