Lost in all the excitement of Ash Barty becoming world number 1 and Nick Kyrgios facing off against Rafael Nadal is one of the best stories to come out of Australian tennis in quite a while, I wanted to take a look at John Millman today as he looks to reach the 3rd round at Wimbledon.
It isn’t often that a player can knock off Roger Federer at the US Open, or any major for that fact, and still receive such limited publicity. That was the case however with John Millman, who takes on Laslo Djere today in an intriguing second round match-up (Court 14 – 08:00pm AEST).
These two are two of the nicer guys on tour, both with incredible life stories to this point. For those who have never heard of Djere, I urge you to read this piece from the ATP Website for a bit of context of what he has needed to overcome to reach this point in his career.
Millman, currently ranked 64 in the world, is only 9 months removed from a career high ranking of 33. It is hard to put into words just how much Millman went through in the early stages of his career, enduring significant shoulder issues on his way to the top 100. He first caught the eye of many in the mainstream media at the start of 2013, when he took a set off Andy Murray in the second round of the Brisbane International. He made his way into the top 200 before another shoulder injury derailed any momentum.
11 months later, the then 25-year-old made a comeback with a ranking outside the Top 1000. He did it the hard way, winning Future and Challenger events using his ranking alone and very limited help. Fast forward 16 months, and Millman had cracked the Top-100 and was developing a reputation as one of the hardest working players on the tour.
Just when everything seemed to be clicking for Millman, a hip injury forced him to the sidelines again, knocking his ranking from 75 to 142 and outside the cut-off for most major tournaments. Again Millman would rise back late in the year by moving back to the Challenger Tour and playing incredibly consistent tennis, and it has been good to see him stay injury free for an extended period of time.
Millman’s love for tennis is evident, as shown when he turned up for AO Radio’s coverage the morning after losing to Bautista-Agut in 5 sets the previous night, ready to deliver quality insights for listeners.
I wanted to shine a light on Millman, as his performances at the top level of tennis largely goes unnoticed. Let’s take a look into his match tonight against Djere.
The first thing to know about Djere is that clay is far and away his strongest surface, and is the reason for his spike in rankings to sit at 35th in the world currently. His run in South America to start the year was impressive, and included claiming the Rio De Janeiro title, beating the likes of Auger-Aliassime and Ruud on the way. His grass court form however leaves a bit to be desired, having played 5 matches on grass since his Juniors appearance in 2013. Djere was 0-4 on grass coming into Wimbledon, where he gained a 4 set win over Guido Andreozzi in the first round. Djere was the beneficiary of 40 unforced errors from Andreozzi, however as a fellow clay-courter he wasn’t particularly comfortable on the surface either.
Millman has had an unlucky run of opponents in the lead-up to Wimbledon. It started with a vintage performance from Dustin Brown in Stuttgart, the one surface you don’t really want to face Brown on (generally) at the moment in his home country. In Halle the Aussie received the worst draw of all, facing Roger Federer, and to be honest he did a pretty good job of sticking with the Swiss champ. From there, Millman moved to Eastbourne, where he was unable to capitalise on more than 1 of 12 break point opportunities, losing to Verdasco 7-6 4-6 1-6. Millman did lead by a set and break, however a vintage patch from Verdasco turned the tables in his favour.
Millman did a fantastic job in round 1 against Hugo Dellien, who struggled a bit to back up from playing a week in near 40-degree temperature last week at Challenger level. Millman won 40 of 50 points behind his first serve, and didn’t drop serve on his way to a 6-2 6-3 6-4 victory in 98 minutes.
What does John need to do to win?
Experience – Millman needs to play to his strengths today, and looking at the current odds he is favoured to win given his grass court experience. Millman has the stronger serve, and will need to look to attack the second serve of Djere, which can commonly drop short in the service box without a lot of potency.
Surface Comfort – Millman has far more experience on grass, as mentioned earlier. Millman should look to exploit this fact, as he will be more comfortable with the grass and how it plays. A lot of Djere’s success on clay comes down to his movement, however his lack of experience on the grass can play into the hands of Millman today.
Serve Well – It seems obvious, however if Millman can serve at a high percentage, and hit his spots well on his second serve, then it will go a long way to winning the match. He served with good rhythm in round one, so hopefully this can continue today.
Attack the second serve – This may be the most important point. Djere has won less than half of points on his second serve in both his lead-up losses, and could only muster 55% against a clay-courter in Andreozzi. If Djere’s second serve drops short, look for Millman to attack and cut off angles where he can, potentially by rushing the net and forcing the issue.
I think Millman wins today. His game is suited to the grass, and his experience both on the surface and in majors in general will be telling. Djere has only 4 wins at major level, and I don’t see a 5th today. I like Millman to win in 3 sets.