John Millman: In His Third ATP Final, He’s Third Time Lucky

WASHINGTON, November 2, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Australia’s John Millman became the fifth first-time champion on the ATP Tour this year when he won beat Adrian Mannarino of France, 7-5, 6-1, to capture the inaugural Astana Open crown in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, Sunday afternoon.

The string of 2020 first-time ATP champions began with Ugo Humbert lifting the trophy in Auckland, then Casper Ruud in Buenos Aires. It continued with Thiago Seyboth Wild winning in Santiago, and after the tour relaunch with Miomir Kecmanovic in Kitzbuhel. Sunday, it was the likable Millman’s turn. Not bad considering he faced match points in his quarterfinal match against Tommy Paul on Friday.

Against Mannarino in the final, the Brisbane native won the last five games of the one hour and 48-minute match played behind closed doors at the National Tennis Centre in the capital city of Kazakhstan. He saved all six break-points he faced from Mannarino and broke his opponent’s serve three times. Millman finished with 19 winners against 21 unforced errors. Meanwhile, Mannarino was held to just 10 winners while committing 29 unforced errors.

Millman succeeded in controlling points won on both short rallies – winning 28 points on rallies under five shots – and long rallies, too. He won 23 points on rallies between five and nine shots. Overall, Millman outpointed Mannarino 74-58.

After receiving his first champion’s trophy, Millman addressed his fans and well-wishers. Even though he wore a mask as protection from the coronavirus, one could sense that the Aussie had a big smile on his face as he spoke.

“In Australia, we say when something is an easy choice, we call it a no-brainer,” said Millman during the trophy ceremony. “For me, it’s an absolute no-brainer that this tournament should be a permanent fixture on the schedule. It has been one of the best tournaments I’ve played in this year. …

“This is my first ATP 250 that I’ve won. It’s really special that I could do so in Nur-Sultan. Massive thank you. I’ve enjoyed every minute of being a guest in this great country.”

Later, during his virtual press conference, Millman broke down his title victory over Mannarino. He said: “I thought Adrian was playing great in that first set. … Whenever. You play Adrian Mannarino, it is always going to be a physical match. He makes you work for every point and he is so stingy with his errors. you have to be so low and moving really well because his ball is not really getting up. He is a really good indoor hard-court player.”

Fighting off break points, Millman said, was a difference maker in winning and losing the title match. “I had to fight off those early break points and I really managed to win that first set against the moment of the match.

“After that, I saw the finish line was in sight. That was really pivotal, to fight off those break points and take that one opportunity at the end of the first set. With that, I managed to carry the momentum throughout the match.”

Millman described the feeling of being a first-time ATP titlist. “It is incredible. I am so happy and relieved,” he said. “I just feel very satisfied. It is just a pure moment of satisfaction. … That was my third final, third time lucky, I guess. These things aren’t easy to win and to do so at a place where I felt so comfortable all week, in terms of hospitality, makes it really special. To the win the inaugural Astana Open is special. I am so happy. It has been a big team effort and I am pumped.”

• It’s also worth noting that since 1990, Millman, 31, is the seventh oldest first-time titlist and the second from Australia.

Rublev’s breakout 2020 season 

With his latest title victory at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna on Sunday afternoon, World No. 8 Andrey Rublev leads the ATP Tour with five titles this season. He’s lifted trophies in 2020 at Doha, Adelaide, Hamburg, St. Petersburg and Vienna.

Rublev has also triumphed in 15 straight matches at ATP 500 level events and won three consecutive ATP 500 tournaments.

In addition, Rublev is the first Russian to win five or more titles in a year since 2009. Rublev, who began the year ranked 23rd, has risen in the ATP Rankings to No. 8. His title win Sunday clinched him a spot in the upcoming Nitto ATP Finals in London, starting in two weeks.

ATP Tour releases statement on Nitto ATP Finals

On Saturday, the ATP Tour released a statement concerning the status of the upcoming Nitto ATP Finals. In it, it said that following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent announcement, the Nitto ATP Finals would go on as planned, starting on November 8. However, it would be played behind closed doors at the O2 Arena in London.

Now it can be told

Oh, the joys of being a tennis player and a parent are plentiful. However, there can be dilemmas, too. Last week, during Victoria Azarenka‘s last virtual press conference in Ostrava, following her loss in the singles final of the Ostrava Open, she spoke about how she was looking forward to returning home to the United States to spend Halloween with her four-year-old son Leo.

When a reporter asked Azarenka if Leo had decided on his Halloween costume for this year, she said: “He likes to wear a different costume every day. He’s been with his dad and his grandma. The other day he was Simba (from The Lion King). For Halloween, I said, because he’s into Frozen and Paw Patrol, I wanted to be Elsa.” (Elsa is the snow queen from Disney’s Frozen.)

The 31-year-old Azarenka has plenty of perspective being a mom and with her 2020 season done, she wasn’t bashful about sharing her insights. She continued:

“He said, ‘No, I want to be Elsa.’ Well, I told him ‘Elsa is a girl.’ And he said, ‘I want to be Elsa.’ I said, ‘How about I’ll be Elsa?’ And he said, ‘No, I’ll be Elsa.

“So, that started to be a heated argument,” she recalled with a hint of laughter in her voice.

“His dad suggested he be Olaf. He didn’t take that lightly. It was a blunt no. I still think we’ll figure it out. One previous Halloween, we were all skeletons. So, I think we’ll figure something out.”

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