Australian Open: Marc Polmans joins John Millman and Jordan Thompson as Aussie men in second round


January 21, 2020 18:42:40

Marc Polmans lobbed up at Melbourne Park ahead of the Australian Open ranked 133 in the world and with the experience of only one major tournament under his belt.

Key points:

  • Australian wildcard Marc Polmans had never won a match at a major until beating Mikhail Kukushkin in a five-set thriller
  • Countryman John Millman claimed the opening two sets against Ugo Humbert, before winning in four
  • Jordan Thompson is through to the Australian Open second round for the third time

Naturally, Polmans’s arrival did not attract the headlines afforded to the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer, nor did his name stand out in the men’s draw.

But the 22-year-old Australian now finds himself a fan favourite at this year’s tournament after vindicating his selection as a wildcard with his maiden victory at a major.

Joining countrymen John Millman and Jordan Thompson in the second round of the Australian Open, Polmans lit up the lively crowd on court seven with a 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 (8/10), 6-4 triumph over the vastly more experienced Russian Mikhail Kukushkin in four hours and 17 minutes.

His victory was followed by Ajla Tomljanovic’s upset win over Latvian 31st seed Anastasija Sevastova in the women’s draw, with the Australian recording a convincing 6-1, 6-1 result.

Polmans could become one of the feel-good stories of the Australian Open. Aside from his first-round appearance at last year’s tournament, his 2019 season pretty much consisted of the qualifying rounds at the other three majors and a series of second-tier ATP Challenger events.

As recently as last week he was unable to advance from qualifying at the Adelaide International; hardly the form line to suggest he would make his way past the first round in Melbourne,

But Polmans — sporting a legionnaires cap similar to that worn by the legendary Ivan Lendl at the Australian Open in the late 1980s — showed few signs of nerves against Kukushkin, who faced an uphill battle when his much younger opponent claimed the first two sets.

The 32-year-old Kukushkin did win the third and fourth sets, although Polmans had two match points in the latter before a deciding fifth set was forced.

South Africa-born Polmans had lost his only previous five-set match, but he coolly broke Kukushkin’s serve at 5-4 to spark an animated on-court celebration in front of his freshly minted fan base.

Twenty-fourth seed Dusan Lajovic awaits Polmans in the second round, after the Serbian beat former Australian Open semi-finalist Kyle Edmund in straight sets.

Millman gets gritty to win through

It was hardly pretty and could have been described as a grind, but more importantly for Millman it was effective.

Day two results (men’s draw)

  • Dominic Thiem (AUT, 5) def. Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-3, 7-5, 6-2
  • Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP, 9) def. Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-2, 6-2, 7-5
  • Fabio Fognini (ITA, 12) def. Reilly Opelka (US) 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (10-5)
  • Diego Schwartzman (ARG, 14) def. Lloyd Harris (RSA) 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
  • Stan Wawrinka (SUI, 15) def. Damir Dzumhur (BIH) 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-4
  • Karen Khachanov (RUS, 16) def. Mario Vilella Martinez (ESP) 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
  • Ernests Gulbis (LAT) def. Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN, 20) 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4
  • Benoit Paire (FRA, 21) def. Cedrik-Marcel Stebe (GER) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 6-0

That is one way to sum up his four-set victory over France’s Ugo Humbert in their first-round clash, an encounter lasting three hours and 24 minutes.

As tournament organisers fought through the slog of getting through the backlog of matches carried over from the rain-interrupted day one, Millman produced a tradesman-like display to beat Humbert 7-6 (3-7), 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 and guarantee a spot in the second round for the fourth time.

The match — one of 96 to be played on day two — was peppered with marathon games, highlighted by the fact the opening set took one hour and 14 minutes to be completed.

“I’d rather win quicker,” Millman told his media conference with a smile.

“Unfortunately, that’s the type of tennis that I have built a brand on. I try to bring physicality. I try to bring toughness — mental and physical toughness — when I go out there and play tennis.

“I think people know that about me. They know that I’m not going to go away. And that’s just my brand of tennis.”

It was a typical Millman performance, one where his back appeared to be against the wall at times, yet the 30-year-old still found a way to dig himself out of trouble under the sun on a packed court three.

Day two results (women’s draw)

  • Karolina Pliskova (CZE, 2) def. Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-1, 7-5
  • Belinda Bencic (SUI, 6) def. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) 6-3, 7-5
  • Madison Keys (US, 10) def. Daria Kasatkina (RUS) 6-3, 6-1
  • Ons Jabeur (TUN) def. Johanna Konta (GBR, 12) 6-4, 6-2
  • Alison Riske (US, 18) def. Yafan Wang (CHN) 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 6-3
  • Donna Vekic (CRO, 19) def. Maria Sharapova (RUS) 6-3, 6-4
  • Zarina Diyas (KAZ) def. Amanda Anisimova (US, 21) 6-3, 6-4, 6-3
  • Marie Sakkari (GRE, 22) def. Margarita Gasparyan (RUS) 6-2, 6-2

His fighting qualities came to the fore in the fourth game of the match — which lasted longer than 10 minutes — when he saved five break points to hold serve, an effort that pleased Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt, who was sitting in the crowd.

Millman, who famously beat Roger Federer in the 2018 US Open, later faced a set point on his serve but saw that off as well to level at 5-5, before winning the first set in a tiebreak when Humbert drove a forehand return into the net.

Despite what the scoreline may have suggested, the second set resembled the arm wrestle that was the first but the 21-year-old Humbert drew on the confidence he gained from winning the Auckland lead-up event last week to claw his way back into the match by winning the third.

The fourth set appeared to be heading toward a tiebreak before Millman took his opportunity on the Humbert serve when leading 6-5 and with a double fault he sealed victory and a spot in the last 64 against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz.

Thompson followed Millman on Court Three and was impressive in wrapping up his first-round match against Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3,6-2.

The 25-year-old, ranked 10 spots below Bublik at 66, now has the chance to make the third round for the first time in Melbourne, however he faces the difficult task of getting past Italy’s 12th seed Fabio Fognini.

The wins from the Australian contingent followed a day one where Ash Barty was the only Australian of five to progress to the second round.

In a suspended match completed today, local qualifier Max Purcell fell in straight sets to Italian young gun Jannik Sinner, while James Duckworth went down in five sets to Slovenian Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-4.






First posted

January 21, 2020 15:01:50

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