FRESH from beating former world No.5 Tommy Robredo, little-known Australian John Millman declared he doesn't feel out of place among elite tennis company.
The world No.191, who threatened to upset Olympic and US Open champion Andy Murray after pinching a set off him at the Brisbane International last week, continued his impressive start to 2013 in sweltering heat at the Sydney International on Tuesday.
The Apia International heats up
A searing heatwave in Sydney has seen players having to endure potentially dangerous conditions at the Apia International on Tuesday.
The 23-year-old, who has failed in eight attempts to qualify for a grand slam, has been a handed a wildcard entry into the Australian Open.
His recent record, which includes the qualifiers for the Brisbane International, stands at five wins from six matches.
Adding merit to the Queenslander's first-round victory at the Sydney International was the ease in which he dismantled Robredo, 6-3, 6-4. ''Every time I walk on the court against these guys I get the feeling that I belong,'' Millman said.
''That's another good example today against Tommy. The conditions were tough for both of us. I think I may have handled it a little bit better today. I have a lot respect for Tommy. I've watched him play for a long time. I'm sure he will kick on. I know he's come back from a tough last year, too. I think he came back from a bit of injury.
''So I'm sure he'll kick on, and it'll just prove that it was a very good win later on in the summer.''
The wildcard entry into the Sydney International has set up a challenging second-round match against tournament third seed Andreas Seppi. He will provide the unheralded Australian with a true assessment of how he is placed leading into his maiden grand slam on home soil, but Millman is relishing the opportunity to take on the Italian world No.23.
''I've heard a lot about him,'' Millman said. ''I saw him play a little bit in Eastbourne. I know he was defending champion this year. I'm not sure how he went in 2012. Everyone I've spoken to, and I'll do a little bit more research a little bit later, but he's a tough bugger. He'll definitely make me work out there.
''It's going to be a really stern challenge for me, but one that I'm going to look forward to. Like I said, it's not every day I get to play against these types of players. I just want to take it with both hands and really test myself out there. That's what it's about.''
Millman, who is still 12 positions away from equalling his career-best 179th rank, has been plagued by a shoulder injury in the past year. While he struggled to find form upon his return from injury, Millman believes he's found the right balance in his game to improve his results.
''I played a lot last year and, towards the end of the year, I kind of was getting a little bit tired, a little bit jaded, so I took a week off and I've come back really fresh,'' he said. ''Being … injury-free really helps. I'm also confident. I've been hitting the ball well. With every match you play, you kind of feel a little bit more confident against these players. You kind of almost feel like you belong here, and I think that's a good thing.''
Twitter - @MichaelChammas