John Millman has enjoyed his first individual ATP tournament win of the year at the Sardinia Open – but he had to battle immensely hard for nearly three-and-a-quarter hours before subduing Argentine Federico Corica.
The 31-year-old sixth seed’s familiar fighting spirit was in evidence once again on Tuesday as he finally emerged victorious 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 6-3 to book his place in the last-16.
It marked a welcome break for the globetrotting Queenslander who needed a boost after suffering five consecutive first-match exits at the Australian Open, Singapore, Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai.
Indeed, the Australian men’s No.2 player had only won one tour-level match in 2021, in the ATP Cup team event in Melbourne when he defeated the lowly-ranked Greek Michail Pervolarakis.
In a hard-fought clay court tussle with Coria, ranked 42 places lower than Australia’s world No.44, the first set alone lasted an hour and 26 minutes, with Coria saving three set points in an epic 10th game that featured nine deuces.
After finally clinching the opening stanza on the fifth set point in the tiebreak, Coria hit back to take the match into a decider and looked to be on the way to victory when he forged ahead 2-0 in the decider.
It only served to bring the best out of the man from Brisbane, though, as he produced a purple patch of five consecutive games and, after two hours 14 minutes, he had set up his round-of-16 clash with Serbia’s world No.57 Laslo Djere.
Djere, who beat Italian wildcard Federico Gaio 6-4 6-2, has had one previous meeting with Millman at Wimbledon two years ago, where the Australian won easily in straight sets.
Millman, the only Australian in the Sardinia draw, could meet Britain’s No.1 seed Dan Evans in the quarter-finals if he gets past Djere.
Evans, though, may have his hands full in the last-16 with teenage Italian prospect Lorenzo Musetti, who outclassed Austrian Dennis Novak 6-0 6-1, including reeling off the first 10 games, in just 53 minutes.
Earlier on Tuesday, German fifth seed Jan-Lennard Struff produced the performance of the day, saving five match points before beating Portugal’s Joao Sousa 1-6 6-1 7-5.