GOAT conqueror Millman is the unheard of Aussie we've been looking for
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GOAT conqueror Millman is the unheard of Aussie we've been looking for

And yea, verily, though Australian male tennis has laboured long and hard, at last she has given us the son we have been looking for.

After long years of tantrums, tanks and talents wasted we the people weren’t asking too much.

We just wanted a bloke who was going to have a go, see? We didn’t care if he was generally more anonymous than a wrong number, and as a matter of fact, that might make it even better.

Yes, give us a journeyman who's gone through long years of average results, of injuries, of satellite circuits, of being thumped from one tournament to the next, but who gets toughened along the way.

Just so long as he has a go.

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Have-a-go hero: John Millman shocked the US Open, and himself, by knocking Roger Federer out in the fourth round.

Have-a-go hero: John Millman shocked the US Open, and himself, by knocking Roger Federer out in the fourth round.

Photo: EPA
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Enter John Millman, a Queenslander – Queenslander! Queenslander! Queenslander! – who has been out on the circuit for years with barely a mention in dispatches, who nevertheless on Monday night in New York found himself up against the greatest men's player of all time, Roger Federer, who hadn’t lost to an Australian at a major this century.

As a matter of fact, when Millman was near blown off the court 6-3 in the first set it is very likely the only person who still had any belief that the strapping 29-year-old might be able to triumph anyway was Millman himself, and maybe his Mum and Dad watching back in Queensland.

But watch what happens now. Millman steadies, as he launches into the second set. His serves start to bite and twist and scythe. His forehand is more confident, and his backhand is not defensive, it is offensive, testing Federer.

Most importantly, when Federer gets to a set point on the second set regardless, our man doesn’t blink and fights back to win it 7-5. Ah, say it, Richie Benaud: “Marvellous effort that.”

Power and passion: Millman unleashes a forehand in his memorable win.

Power and passion: Millman unleashes a forehand in his memorable win.

Photo: AP

But anyone who knows anything about tennis, and the rest of us besides, knew that having taken a set off the great Federer at the US Open would be enough for any man, and the superior pedigree of the Swiss man would soon reassert itself, as our bloke would surely fall away.

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But Millman keeps on keeping on anyway. Does he care when Federer gets to set point in the third set, too? Does he, hell. Again, Millman fights back to take out the third set too, 7-6.

Two sets to one, up against the mighty Federer? Could this really be happening? No-one seems more shocked than the mighty Federer himself, whose game starts to fall away, while Millman grinds down even harder, pounding the ball as punishment for having denied him all these years.

As the crowd looks on – it has to be said, mostly appalled – our big Aussie battler from Central Casting just keeps belting them down to not only get to a tie-breaker but lead that tie-break ... 6-1.

Five match-points for the victory of your life mate! Don’t blow it. Television sets all across Australia, from Darwin to the Derwent, Palm Beach to Perth are being switched on, as the word spreads, as we will you on.

Federer saves one. 2-6. He saves two! 3-6. No! No. Noooo! It is not going to happen, is it? Are we up to set a new world record for greatest choke ever?

Gracious: Greatest of all-time, Federer was a gentleman in defeat.

Gracious: Greatest of all-time, Federer was a gentleman in defeat.

Photo: Abaca

Millman serves and Federer returns like what he is – the GOAT, the Greatest Of All Time. Millman, however, gives as good as he gets and then some, forcing Federer to dig deep and hit ... a little too hard.

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Federer’s forehand sears, soars and lands ... out! Millman wins! The most unheard of tennis player we’ve never heard of beats Roger Federer in the round of 16 at the US Open to record his first victory over a top 10 player in his entire career and hand Federer his hat at the hands of an Australian in a Major for the first time since 1999.

On the ESPN commentary, John McEnroe calls it “one of the greatest upsets in the history of tennis.” Could anything be finer? Yes, that would be Millman’s grace and humility in victory.

“I'm probably in a little bit of disbelief. I have so much respect for Roger and everything he's done for the game,” he says in his on-court victory interview. “He's a hero of mine. Today he was not at his best but ... I’ll take it.”

Not surprisingly, Federer is equally gracious.

“I'm a big fan of John,” he says. “Maybe not that many people know him, but he's a real hard-working guy out there and those are the guys who have all the respect from us top players in the locker room. We know each other quite well, a super friendly guy, and I'm very happy for him that he's gotten so far.”

They don’t call Federer a champion on and off the court for nothing. But today is Millman’s day, providing a win to thrill a nation. Next stop, Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals. Of course, Djokovic should dust him easily. But that’s what Federer thought!

Go you good thing, John Millman. We are all with you and will be all watching. No pressure, mate, but you are the bloke we have been looking for.

Peter FitzSimons is a Herald journalist, columnist and author, based in Sydney. He is also a former Wallabies player.