John Millman has vindicated an Olympic call-up by charging into the Wimbledon third round with an impressive upset of 26th seed Benoit Paire.
Millman learned of the ITF’s decision to ratify Tennis Australia’s nomination of him for the Rio Games shortly before taking the court against the volatile Frenchman, who he beat 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 4-6 6-2 on Thursday.
Millman was at his energetic and enthusiastic best against the stylish, but error-prone, world No.23 in the two-and-a-half hour win.
Paire produced some of the finest shots of the tournament and frequently had Millman hurtling around the court as he dictated play – but the moments of brilliance were tempered by 63 errors to the Australian’s 18.
Millman will face either second seed Andy Murray or Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun in the third round.
Paire engaged in a war of words with chair umpire Carlos Ramos throughout the match, starting with an angry tirade in French about his racquet not being restrung quick enough shortly after being broken by Millman in the sixth game.
“It’s normal that my racquet just lies there, is it?” he questioned, while pointed at his racquet on the ground next to the umpire’s chair.
Millman was unable to capitalise, however, with Paire breaking back before sarcastically bellowing “yes, yes, come on!” to the crowd who were getting behind the Australian.
Aggrieved, he again spoke to Ramos, who delivered a warning to the crowd: “As a courtesy to the players, please wait until the point is over. Encourage them as much as you can, but wait until the point is over”.
Millman took the first set in a tense tiebreak, and broke Paire in the opening game of the second set to take the early advantage.
He had a further four break points in the third game, but was unable to convert.
It didn’t matter, however, with the affable Millman taking a stranglehold on the match with by producing a late break to take the second set in 43 minutes.
Paire controlled the third set with an early break.
But, egged on by Davis Cup coach Lleyton Hewitt, Millman bulldozed his higher-ranked rival in the fourth set – snatching two breaks as the Frenchman unravelled, receiving a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct, to bring a speedy halt to the match.
And he will be joined in Rio by injured star Thanasi Kokkinakis, along with women’s stars Samantha Stosur and Daria Gavrilova.
World No.67 Millman and Kokkinakis have been entrusted with the men’s singles spots following the withdrawals of top-20 pair Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic.
Doubles pair John Peers and Chris Guccione will also be on the plane for the Games, which start in August, while Stosur and Gavrilova will play both doubles and singles.