Match points saved, Millman triumphs in battle of the veterans

10 January 2023, by Adelaide International Tennis

John Millman has triumphed in a battle of the veterans at the Adelaide International 2, the 33-year-old Australian utilising all his fighting spirit as he outlasted Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas in three tight sets.

The 33-year-old Millman was chasing a first ATP main draw victory since August 2022 in the South Australian capital and after two hours and 36-minutes, the tenacious Queenslander emerged with a 4-6 6-3 7-6(6) win.

Saving two match points in the third-set tiebreak, Millman’s victory over the 34-year-old set a second-round meeting with another Spaniard, Alejandro Davidovich-Fokina.

“I’m feeling fantastic … it’s always good when you win it 7-6 in the third,” said a delighted Millman, who having fallen to world No.148 in recent months, can sense a resurgence as a qualifier in the ATP 250 tournament.

“A few factors contributed to that (drop), but I feel refreshed,” Millman added, thanking Brisbane-based physical performance coach Dirk Spits for helping him achieve the necessary physical gains.

“Now I’m here playing some pretty good tennis. Moving well and not in much pain.”

The Australian has showed as much in wins this week over Bernabe Zapata Miralles and countryman Chris O’Connell, which set up the main-draw match with Ramos-Vinolas on Adelaide’s Centre Court.

A determined Millman worked hard for opportunities against Ramos-Vinolas, recovering from a first-set deficit to level after the second set and force a third-set decider.

After the pair exchanged early service breaks, Millman made critical inroads against his 38th-ranked opponent, claiming another service break to take a 4-3 lead in that final set.

But consolidating again proved difficult, Ramos-Vinolas fighting back immediately before the match progressed so a tiebreak. Some stunning winners from each player were negated by untimely errors, with Millman saving two match points before holding one of his own.

The Australian managed it superbly as he increased his aggression to force the Spaniard into another critical error. “Even at age 33, I’m still trying to add little bits to my game,” said Millman, explaining an experimental approach in venturing to the net.

“Obviously that’s something that probably could have won me a few more matches earlier in my career and hopefully I can add to it in my next match.”

Jason Kubler continued an impressive day for local competitors in Adelaide, the Queenslander claiming  a straight-sets victory over higher-ranked Tomas Martin Etcheverry in the first night match.

A wildcard at the ATP 250 tournament, Kubler required two hours and 10 minutes to record a 7-6(2) 7-5 victory over the world No.80 from Argentina, setting a second-round contest with  No.6 seed Miomir Kecmanovic.

Kubler sits at a career-high world No.86 after wins over Dan Evans and Albert Ramos-Vinolas at the United Cup in Sydney and served with deadly efficiency against Etcheverry. He recorded 10 aces, only one double fault and saving all five break points that he faced.

Earlier, Tommy Paul capitalised on the bigger moments against Australian opponent O’Connell, who entered the main draw as a lucky loser after exiting to Millman in qualifying.

The 28-year-old O’Connell held his own against the eighth-seeded American, who claimed crucial service breaks in the final game of each set as he secured a 6-4 7-5 victory in exactly 90 minutes.

Paul climbed to a career-high world No.28 last season and was relieved to launch his first main draw match of 2023 on a winning note.

“(It’s) always tricky first match of the season, so I’m pretty happy with how I played,” said Paul, who has since dropped to No.35 in the rankings. “Hopefully (after a good 2022 season) I keep going up, little by little.”

The 25-year-old will have to make further inroads when he faces rising Brit Jack Draper in the Adelaide International 2 second round.

Other men to advance on Day Two in Adelaide were Swedish qualifier Mikael Ymer, a three-set winner over Emil Ruusuvuori and Soonwoo Kwon, who eliminated qualifier Tomas Machac in straight sets.

Switzerland’s Marc-Andrea Huesler required three sets to eliminate 2022 finalist Arthur Rinderknech, and Robin Haase, a lucky loser, claimed a comeback 3-6 7-6(8) 7-6(3) victory over Benjamin  Bonzi.