John Millman has his eyes on a place in the final four at the US Open.
John Millman has his eyes on a place in the final four at the US Open.

Djokovic heaps praise on ‘great fighter’ Millman

JOHN Millman can leave his first Grand Slam quarter-final without regrets or self-recriminations.

The Brisbane right-hander's 6-3, 6-4 6-4 loss to the indomitable Novak Djokovic was delivered without much indication, at least until midway through the third set, that the underdog had been unable to play with the intensity of his upset over Roger Federer.

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John Millman, of Australia, gestures during the match against Novak Djokovic. Picture: AP Photo/
John Millman, of Australia, gestures during the match against Novak Djokovic. Picture: AP Photo/
  • Millman dragged Djokovic into long, searching rallies and four-time US Open champion John McEnroe said the Australian's level of play was "similar'' to the standard at which he played in his memorable fourth-round win.

    "I was struggling, he was struggling, we were all sweating," Djokovic said.

    "I was just trying to hang in there and try to find a way to win the match.

    "But definitely it was not easy conditions to play in."

Millman indeed took the fight to the reigning Wimbledon champion in a showdown featuring the last two players to topple Federer this season. Just as he did against Federer, Millman dropped the opening service game of the match to fall behind 3-0.

 

And as against Federer, that was enough to lose the first set after Djokovic benefited from a lucky net chord and then fought off a break point in the final game to serve the set out.

How competitive Millman was against Djokovic, a 13-time Grand Slam champion, is illustrated by his tally midway through the third set of 24 winners (to 29 by Djokovic) and 46 unforced errors (to 55 by Djokovic).

Millman served four double-faults only, but three came in two service games in which he was broken.

Millman has more than doubled his earnings for the year with his $662,000 US Open prizemoney .

The 29-year-old's rankings rise from No.55 to No.37 will see him become a guaranteed direct entry for the year's remaining Tennis Masters Series without need to qualify. He will also be ranked highly enough to be a direct entry for the Brisbane international in January.

"I was very tested. Credit to John for putting up a great battle,'' Djokovic said.

"He is truly a great fighter and had an amazing tournament. To come out after a win like that and fight for three years, he deserves a round of applause."

The lung-busting rallies were appearing to take their toll on Djokovic.

Upon missing a gimme volley - after Millman retrieved a lob with some incredibly scrambling - and then pushing a return wide, Djokovic staggered back into position before tipping water over his head at the changeover.

There was more drama three games later as Millman left the court "to change his attire due to the humid conditions".

 

The USTA later released a statement, saying he was allowed because the excessive sweat on the court could have proved hazardous.

After saving 11 of 12 break points, Millman wasn't able to fend off a 13th as Djokovic delivered a hammer blow to snatch the second set and leave Millman facing tennis's version of mission impossible.

 

Novak Djokovic yells to his support box during a tense second set. Picture: AP
Novak Djokovic yells to his support box during a tense second set. Picture: AP

 

Djokovic had won all 183 of his grand slam matches in which he'd enjoyed a two- sets-to-love lead.

But there was one final twist, the former world No.1 dropped serve for the only time after receiving successive shot-clock violations and then dragged a forehand wide to allow Millman to level up the third set.

But, not to be denied, Djokovic broke straight back to take the match to enhance his perfect semi-final record in New York to 11 from 11.

 

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