John Millman of Australia hits a backhand return on the way to victory over Tatsuma Ito of Japan in the first round at the Brisbane International. Photo: William West
Prepare yourself for Millmania. This very evening, it descends on Brisbane. It will intoxicate a select few tennis fans and family members, at the very least, but far be it for me to put a damper on a night of nights for John Millman.
On Pat Rafter Arena, the 23-year-old Brisbanite gets his shot at the big time. It will most likely be a swift affair but Millman is the ultimate glass-half-full guy. A hiding it may be but it will be a hiding well earned and the lessons well learnt.
In theory, it could be more difficult. But only by degrees. Trying to get past world number three Andy Murray is enough on the plate. I'd tell you what odds Millman was if sports gambling sites hadn't been quarantined by the Brisbane International wireless network.
British tennis star Andy Murray. Photo: Matt Roberts/Getty Images
Millman is one of those great early round stories you get in tennis tournaments, a qualifier who pours his soul into simply getting a gig and then finds himself facing one of the best on the planet. In the FA Cup, Murray is Manchester United, with Millman in the role of Crawley.
After spending years fighting his way up the rankings, trying to accrue enough points and enough money to simply keep playing, Millman gets to cash in some of the chips against Murray. He's played once on Pat Rafter Arena, in 2010 against Radek Stepanek, but make no mistake; this is the biggest moment of his career and then some.
Earlier this week, while Andy Murray was delivering his press conference in the main briefing room, Millman bounded in to the Brisbane International press centre for a chat with just two reporters, one being this unshaven scribe, the other The Courier-Mail's Andrew Hamilton.
Riding a wave of energy after beating Japan's Tatsuma Ito in the first round, he gave us both enthusiastic bro-shakes, kicked back in his chair and said he just didn't want this ride to end. Murray, he said, wasn't the end of the line but the ultimate test, one which he has essentially been working towards since he picked up a racquet as a kid.
Murray was on the other side of a partitioned wall being asked about the Olympics and the US Open. Millman was telling us how he played in an Asian event where a pizza was delivered mid-court to an opponent.
He hasn't seen a five-star hotel room in a while but counts all of his tennis adventures as an essential part of the road.
“You do go to some pretty obscure places but that's all part of it. People ask me what's the best thing about playing the tennis and that. I think it's more these obscure places, you meet some good people there. I enjoy that,” Millman said.
Millman takes immense pride in the fact that he has made his way to this point through nothing but talent, iron will and work.
Golf has pros that travel around and sleep in their cars. And tennis has guys like Millman, who have endless wells of self-belief and never for a second think the graft and grind and injuries and brick walls aren't one day going to pay off.
Other Australian youngsters, he noted, have been given enough help and chances. Lose or lose tonight, he's going out on his terms.
Millman is ranked 198 and has already seen his steadily improving form rewarded with a wild card into the Australian Open. Rightly, he views this more as due recognition than as a charity.
“I'm a realist,” Millman said. “But you've got to be in a position to have that luck go your way.”
Millman will need his fair share of luck tonight, as in he'll need Murray to be kidnapped by Scottish separatists on the way to the stadium. But he's worked too hard to be simply making up the numbers.