‘I have so much respect’: Fed’s classy message to Millman
John Millman will be shattered after coming within an inch of talking out 20 time major champion Roger Federer in a five set classic that so, so nearly went his way.
It was 12.49am when Federer finally won 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (10 -8) the winning blow arriving with hardly an empty seat on Rod Laver Arena, the unbearably tense match decided on a first to 10 points, super tie-break after Milliman had led 8-4.
It was some ask to follow on directly from the giant slaying Coco Gauff but these two men did so wonderfully.
It played out largely as expected, a gutsy, Aussie battler against a man looking for his 100th win at the Australian Open.
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Federer is one the very few players who will cause a crowd to feel guilty for wanting him to lose, any prospect of his demise gut wrenching for the neutral, Swiss fans and flags dotted everywhere.
Millman, the 30-year-old underdog does not have a big game, but is a trier and a buoyant crowd grew ever more appreciative, willing him on. Lleyton Hewitt, sat courtside to support the Queenslander as he has done with all the Aussies this week, is a big fan.
Millman's early serve was exceptional, solid and crunching, the first set in 32 minutes deservedly his but gradually, it changed, the second set tie-break to Federer, the third set his too.
But the Swiss was out of sorts, Millman breaking to 4-3 in the fourth set after an 18 shot baseline rally and taking the set shortly after.
Before play, Federer led Millman 2-1,their match in a humid New York 17 months a belter with Millman destroying him in four sets.
I was out on my feet, gone, was the gist from Fed in NYC. He was not about to let it happen in Melbourne and so it eventually proved.
"It was tough. Thank God it was a super tie-break otherwise I would have lost," he said
"John played a great match, he's a good guy, a great fighter. It came down to the wire in the end, I had to keep my focus and make the right decisions.
At 8-4 (down) in the tie-break, the Swiss champion was getting ready to explain himself in the ensuing press conference he said.
"What a match John deserves over half of this. I never really felt comfortable, John did a great job of keeping me on the back foot."
Speaking after the match, Federer said he couldn't pinpoint why Millman gives him so much trouble.
"He's got great attitude, and that's why I mumbled something to him at the net just saying, I have so much respect for you, and it's such a pity, I'm so sorry, but well played, and all that stuff, because I really feel that way for John.
While proud of the fight he showed, Millman admitted the tiebreak loss was a tough one.
"Probably rather lose it like 10-5 or something," he said.
"Obviously would have been great to have served an ace and have a few matches and put it to bed.
"It didn't happen. You know, I played some all right tennis to get there, to that stage. I could have gone away easily in that fourth set. Roger was playing pretty well. Had the momentum. I thought I turned it around pretty well. (I) left everything out there."