Wildcard Millman feeling right at home
It is a daunting prospect - taking on the defending champion in the opening round of your first ATP event - but hometown wildcard John Millman says he is not lost among the big names at this week's Brisbane International.
The 20-year-old from Carindale, only 20 minutes' drive from the Queensland Tennis Centre, will likely take to Pat Rafter Arena on Sunday or Monday against second seed Radek Stepanek.
It will be Millman's first foray on the professional tour, after earning a wildcard into main draw following his run to the semi-finals of the Australian Open wildcard play-offs and impressive recent results on the Futures circuit this summer.
If his wildcard came as a surprise, Millman had to take a seat when he realised he would be facing the world number 12.
"I was having lunch with [fellow Australian] Peter Luczak after we had a hit, when he got an SMS saying he had drawn Andy Roddick," Millman said.
"I walked downstairs and then I got a message saying I got Stepanek.
"We both got the number one and two seeds!"
Nevertheless, Millman says he has nothing to lose and will not be holding back against the reputably feisty Czech.
"He is the defending champion, he beat some really good players to do that like Verdasco, Gasquet and Llodra," he said.
"He is crafty, he is one of those difficult players because he chops it and dinks it and that game isn't seen so much.
"This is uncharted waters for me... you have to control the things you can control.
"For me, you might not be striking the ball so well but the one thing you can control is how you can compete and I'm going to leave nothing on the court."
Millman, who has improved his world ranking to 307 after great results on the recent Tennis Australia Pro Circuit Tour, says he has bounced back from his gutting 6-7 (7-2), 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) semi-final loss to eventual winner Nick Lindahl at the Australian Open play-offs.
"They are the best ones to win, but the worst ones to lose," he said.
"But when there is lows there are highs.
"A couple of weeks later I got the call based on that performance and that tournament."
Home sweet home
Like many aspiring players, Millman has taken the long road to get where he is with the lower tier Futures circuit taking him to far flung places such as Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia.
It is therefore not lost on the local up-and-comer that his big break comes in his own backyard amongst the likes of Roddick, Monfils, Blake and Berdych.
"Being a Brisbane boy this is my slam. This is the biggest tournament for me to date and I wouldn't want to be playing anywhere else," he said.
"I love Brisbane and I can't wait to play in front of my family and friends and hopefully a vocal home crowd."
Unfortunately Millman's parents Ron and Shona, who own and run a tennis centre in Carindale, are holidaying in Europe and will miss their son's unexpected debut.
"They are in Vienna at the moment," he said.
"Dad more so would be spewing because he loves it but I don't think Mum would have watched to be honest.
"She gets too nervous."
But it is the home comfort Millman says will keep the butterflies at bay on the big stage.
"The first couple of days you are excited and nervous all at once," he said.
"But being out there and training with some of the players, you start to feel like you belong a little bit more. The confidence comes with that.
"The courts at Tennyson are familiar to me... I've hit out there for the last year on and off.
"Now that I'm used to those players out there, hopefully I can make that change to the new level and play some good tennis."