2018 has been John Millman’s year. After turning pro in 2006, he made his first ATP final in Budapest in April, then took two challenger titles by beating compatriots Nick Kyrgios in Kyoto, Japan, and Bernard Tomic in Aix en Provence, France.
In July, he finally cracked the world top 50 when his ranking soared to a career-high 49. And on Monday (US time) he had a stunning win over world No.2 Roger Federer in the round of 16 at the US Open.
Now the 29-year-old Queenslander – a Rio Olympian and big fan of The Killers – has booked a spot in the quarter-finals in New York. For armchair fans wanting to cheer on his next match, here’s a quick guide to our newest giant killer.
He travels light
While other players roll into tournaments with a cast of thousands, Millman prefers to keep things tight, with just his immediate family as his crew. “It’s why I play tennis,” he told ATPWorldTour.com in July. “So my friends and family can enjoy the experience.”
His mother Shona, a primary school PE teacher, was in the stands when Millman hoisted the silverware in Aix en Provence and he paid tribute to her: “Love you Mum.”
The Great Underpant Dash
At Wimbledon this year, Millman was preparing for his second-round match when told his bright underwear contravened the All England Club’s all-white dress code.
The solution? His PE teacher father Ron – known as ‘The Fox’ in tennis circles – raced to a local shop to snatch some more appropriate smalls.
“The Fox delivered. Good man,” Millman said.
I’ve had a few people concerned about the 🦊 whereabouts for my match today. He’s still here, just the one strike, and despite Wimbledon being a big place he managed to find court 6. He’s absolutely knackered now though having played having played each and every point with me. pic.twitter.com/wVEy5mhTTK
— John Millman (@johnhmillman) July 2, 2018
His career record is like a game of Snakes and Ladders
After 12 years on the circuit, baseline slogger Millman’s CV has been a “rollercoaster of rankings,” noted his ‘Getting to Know You’ biography on the official US Open website.
The reason? Three surgeries including a 2013 shoulder reconstruction and 2017 groin surgery. One year he rises to a new career-high ranking, the next he succumbs to injury and slips back.
“It hasn’t come that easy. I feel like I do all the right things, but sometimes it’s not meant to be with my body,” said Millman, who at one point gave up his day job and worked in an office while recuperating.
It's been a frustrating few months but finally found the problem that's been keeping me off court. A massive thank you to Dr Garvey and his team at Sydney Private for operating on me successfully. Also to the Duckworth's for looking after me. All the support I've had from everywhere is greatly appreciated. I'll be back on court soon. #tecnifibre #lottosport
A post shared by John Millman (@johnnyhm) on
That time things turned dangerous in Thailand
In November 2017, there were floods when he won a tournament in Thailand’s Hua Hin.
“The official transport had no seat belts, no nothing. It was an open-air van and, deadset, this thing was just about floating down the highway while we were on it,” he wrote on website PlayersVoice in January.
“I can’t imagine Feds or Rafa doing that.”
Millman found more relaxing Thai water during a post-tournament getaway.
He doesn’t mind being called an ‘Aussie battler’
He used to hate it – and don’t even start him on ‘journeyman’.
But, he said early this year, he’s now come to “respect” the description “because I think it means that I’ve handled adversity and I’ve come out the other side of it.”
One match he’ll never forget
The first time he played a match on Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne was in 2016 against countryman Bernard Tomic.
Why was it so special? “It’s named after one of our most iconic players, and a Queenslander, and that’s very important for me,” Millman said.
He’s not afraid to say what he thinks
Millman got political before and after last month’s vote on changes to the Davis Cup format, hitting Twitter to speak his mind.
He weighed in again on social media on Peter Dutton’s attempted Liberal Party leadership coup:
I’m a proud Queenslander… but not sure Peter Dutton is the answer… 🤨🤷♂️
— John Millman (@johnhmillman) August 23, 2018
He got into tennis by default
Growing up the only son among Ron and Shona’s five children, John had 1.2 ha of property outside Brisbane to roam. Problem was, the only level part was the tennis court.
Keen to beat his three older sisters, John took up lessons. “From a very early age, John was extremely competitive and a very poor loser,” Shona has said. “He soon learned what was acceptable.”
Secret weapon training partner
Before the start of the grass court season, Millman was invited to train in Switzerland by his “hero”, the vanquished Federer. “I’m a big fan of John,” said Federer. “Now we know each other quite well, a super friendly guy.”
Millman was thrilled to take Federer up on his offer: “Any opportunity to hit with the great man, I would take. I would pick up balls for him,” he said before their US Open showdown.