Tennis

Millman covets top 50

BRISBANE’S cashed-up former tennis battler John Millman believes his teak-tough finish to the season proves he is capable of a personal-best ranking next year.

After missing the first five months of the season due to abdominal surgery, Millman typically fought it out to the end of his schedule, improving his ranking from No.190 to No.128 over the course of his last five events, all Asian Challengers.

It also earned the 28-year-old for a main-draw wildcard into the Brisbane International, which starts on Sunday week.

Millman will use his third-last protected tour ranking entry of No.81 to make the main draw for the Australian Open.

“I have proved I am an ATP player and I am hoping I can push into the top 50 for the first time – I’ve been No.60 before (May, 2016),’’ Millman said after training at the Queensland Tennis Centre.

“That Challenger title in Vietnam, it was a $ 150,000 tournament so that’s my biggest. It was really sweet.

“I’m pleased I can start the year healthy and with five months of no ranking points to defend. It’s been a productive pre-season and my body has come through it well.’’

Millman has earned more than $ 800,000 in prizemoney in the past two years but there is one number of which he is the most proud.

The Brisbane right-hander won himself an Australian Davis Cup player number _ No.108 _ after he was selected to play in September’s semi-final in Belgium.

He joined a brotherhood of players extending back to Sir Norman Brookes in 1905 at a stage in his career when he admits he had thought “the opportunity had passed by’’ him.

Millman said selections for Australia’s February 2-4 tie against Germany at Pat Rafter Arena would be swayed by performances in Australia events up to the Australian Open.

Thanasi Kokkinakis, Jordan Thompson and Millman are in the mix to be the second singles player alongside Nick Kyrgios.

Millman said it was an “incredible honour’’ to win his Davis Cup spurs, having fought out a four-set loss to Belgium’s world No.12 David Goffin on the first day of the semi-final.

“I didn’t get the result I really wanted and I’d love to have another crack at it, especially in Brisbane,’’ he said.

The Queenslander said his increased income in the past two years meant he did not have to budget in his tennis planning the way he once had to.

“I’m not going to lie. It’s a nice incentive to push on through injuries and putting in the hard work.

“It also allows me to invest in my tennis little. When you can’t pay those bills you have to make cutbacks on your tennis. When you are paying Grand Slams it’s where a fair chunk of that income is from and allows you to plan the year out a bit more.

“I was lucky enough to get one Declan Pearce, a young coach from Brisbane, to come with me to tournaments in Japan and Thailand,’’ he said.

“Previously I wasn’t making that sort of money. It shows me how much the top guys can get a head start over the rest of the players.’’

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