Shellshocked John Millman sent a chilling warning to Rafael Nadal’s rivals after playing a bit-part role in the Spaniard’s rampant return to Wimbledon.
“He’s a class act, he’s a champion and, yeah, he abused me out there,” Millman said after being swept aside 6-1 6-3 6-2 in a first-round mismatch.
After missing last year’s edition with a career-threatening wrist injury, Nadal brutally dispatched Millman in less than two hours to showcase his credentials for a third crown on London’s hallowed grass courts.
The rout continued Nadal’s stunning renaissance after he failed to drop a set – and conceded just 35 games – in landing a mind-boggling 10th French Open crown last month.
“I absolutely can’t imagine playing him on clay. I reckon if the French Open was tomorrow and I drew him first round after playing him just then, I’d be probably a be a little bit intimidated,” Millman said.
“I know it’s a different surface, but that’s not normal what he did at the French Open.
“If you look at his last 24 sets – because I’ve added to that – it’s not normal, the scorelines.”
Millman had pegged Nadal alongside the similarly resurgent Roger Federer as the two title favourites this fortnight and nothing he experienced on Monday has changed his mind.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have played the big four now,” the Queenslander said.
“I’ve played Andy (Murray) and ‘Rog’ (and Novak Djokovic). For me, though, how it matched up, Rafa’s a whole new animal.
“He has the ability to shrink the court with everything. You feel like when you’re serving – which I probably didn’t do that well – that you have to hit the tiniest spot.
“Off the ground, you have to hit the tiniest spot. Relentless abuse.”
Millman had pushed two-time Roland Garros semi-finalist Dominic Thiem to five sets at last year’s US Open, but never looked like becoming the fifth straight player ranked outside the top 100 to send Nadal packing from Wimbledon.
Celebrating his 50th match at the spiritual home of tennis, fourth-seeded Nadal at one point had Millman sprawled on the court, face-planted into the turf.
“I am happy that I am here playing again in Wimbledon and with positive feelings in terms of health. That’s the most important thing,” Nadal said after setting up a second-round clash on Wednesday with fellow left-hander Donald Young.
“I played with passion. I played with determination on what I wanted.
“I could do things better, yes, but not too many.”