Australian star John Millman has questioned the sportsmanship of eighth seed Roberto Bautista Agut after being eliminated in the first round of Wimbledon on Monday evening.
The 32-year-old had all the momentum in the fourth set tiebreak and was in a commanding position to force a decider when Bautista Agut called a medical timeout at 3-3.
With the match out on Court 12, it took a few minutes for the tournament physiotherapist to arrive before providing the Spaniard with treatment courtside. Bautista Agut sat in his seat munching on a banana while Millman practiced his serve to keep moving.
It took more than ten minutes for play to restart and the match quickly shifted with the 33-year-old showing no signs of the injury that forced the halt in play, quickly closing out the match, even amid a dramatic tumble to claim match point, which he promptly converted.
Bautista Agut improved his record against Millman to 6-0 by winning 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) in just over three hours, in a contest that started more than four hours after it was scheduled to begin due to a rain delay on the first morning of The Championships.
Frustrated by the tactic and by the way he handled the moment, Millman didn’t mince his words when he spoke to a collection of Australian reporters on Zoom less than half an hour after coming off the court.
“To be honest with you I am a bit annoyed with that,” Millman said in an expansive post-match press conference on Monday night.
“Obviously it’s a bit raw in the mind and I wish things had played out a little bit differently in that tiebreaker. He stopped for ten minutes; whether we could have got the physio earlier I don’t know but that’s a 3-3 tiebreaker in the fourth set. That’s going to stop momentum.
"Look, I give the benefit of doubt to my opponent; I should have handled it better; I should have gone for a run around the grounds or something if I'd known it was going to be a 10-minute delay. It's just frustrating. I'm still emotional a little bit.”
Millman has endured a frustrating patch after he was forced to withdraw from the French Open moments before his first round match was scheduled to commence, due to a back injury he suffered in Paris in the days leading into Roland Garros.
The Queenslander recovered in time to play at Queen’s and Eastbourne in the build-up to Wimbledon and will now play doubles with Argentinian Guido Pella on Wednesday.
Millman said life on the circuit is a monotonous grind right now, especially for Australians who face two weeks in hard quarantine if and when they return home, meaning he will continue travelling around until the season ends in November.
“I can’t go home, so every week I enter into a tournament; If my body is fit I just go there. Honestly, I don’t want to cry for me but for an Australian tennis player or New Zealand tennis player right now, it is the absolute grind. It’s an absolute grind. It is one of the tough things in tennis. There’s bigger things in life, but in tennis, being an Australian or New Zealander right now is the opposite of the bee’s knees," Millman said.
Five Australians were scheduled to play on the opening day of The Championships, but Millman was the only player to finish with a result.
Alex De Minaur – who rose to a career-high ranking of No. 15 on Monday morning after winning Eastbourne – Sam Stosur and Marc Polmans all had their matches postponed due to the rain.
While qualifier Chris O’Connell will go to bed full of confidence on Monday night after taking the first set off French veteran Gael Monfils before play was stopped ahead of the third-set tiebreak due to poor light, with the score 6-4, 2-6, 6-6 on Court 12.
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