Memories of the biggest win of John Millman’s career will come flooding back when he walks onto Rod Laver Arena tonight to play Roger Federer.
One of the genuine good blokes of the tennis tour was given a day that few get to experience at the US Open in 2018.
As a rank outsider he went toe-to-toe with perhaps the greatest player ever to wield a tennis racquet and got the better of him in a grand slam.
The four-set scoreline, 3-6 7-5 7-6 7-6 will forever be burnt into the brain of the laidback Queenslander.
Now the 30-year-old has the incredible opportunity to repeat history, only this time it will be in his own backyard.
Twenty-eight when he produced the match of his life, Millman was hardly an unknown quantity to the Swiss Master.
But if there was a hint that Federer got caught with his guard down on that occasion, there’s unlikely to be a repeat tonight.
To repeat history, Millman will almost certainly have to exceed the incredibly high level he played to on that magical night in New York.
That’s not out of the question, according to Nine commentator Sam Groth, because he goes into this clash armed with a valuable piece of knowledge.
“He learned that he could stay on the same court as arguably the best player of all time,” Groth told Wide World of Sports.
“He hasn’t beaten Roger over three sets, he’s beaten him over five and that’s been the hardest thing about beating the top guys at grand slams because you have to maintain a level for such a long period of time.
“I think the other thing for Johnny though is that Federer’s going to be very much aware of John too.
“Not that he would take it easy, I mean he would have already been aware of Johnny before because Johnny’s been doing great things but he’s not going to take this lying down, he’s going to come into this knowing that he’s playing against a guy that’s beaten him in a grand slam.”
Millman knocks off seed to make 3rd Round
Just as he was in excellent form when he met Federer at the 2018 US Open, Millman has started this year on fire, playing some superb tennis at the ATP Cup and backing it up in the opening two rounds here.
Even at the ripe old age of 38 though, Federer is defying Father Time with some breathtaking tennis of his own.
As it almost always is, this match will be on his racquet. Millman will need to rely on something going wrong to win it, just as he did in New York.
On that occasion Federer had one of those blue moon type matches where his most effective attacking weapon went missing.
“The Federer forehand broke down that night,” Groth recalled.
“Most guys attack Roger’s backhand, his forehand’s so deadly but there have been times in his career where his forehand’s broken down.
“It doesn’t happen very regularly, there’s a reason why he’s won 20 grand slam titles. Like anyone under pressure, there’s your forehand or there’s your entire game where you’re feeling uncomfortable with things.
“That night Roger didn’t look comfortable, Johnny made him feel uncomfortable and made him work hard for every point.”
Lightning doesn’t often strike twice but if it does, Millman needs to be right on top of his game to take advantage of the opportunity.
“He’s not a young guy anymore, he’s been around for long enough that when these opportunities present themselves you sort of realise later in your career that they won’t present themselves forever,” Groth said.
“I think he’ll just be relishing the opportunity to get out and try and get another win against Federer.”