Unseeded John Millman won through to his first ATP 500 final with a straight-sets defeat of Reilly Opelka at the Japan Open, setting up a showdown with world No.1 Novak Djokovic.
The 30-year-old Australian qualifier posted a 6-3 7-6(4) victory over the 210cm-tall American on Saturday in 90 minutes in their first meeting.
World No.80 Millman saved match points to beat Bradley Klahn in early qualifying to get into the main draw. He has gone on to win six-straight matches in Tokyo.
Millman is expected to jump to No.58 in next week’s rankings. He reached a career-high No.33 in October 2018.
From the quallies to the final…
— ATP Tour (@atptour) October 5, 2019
“That was a pretty good match. It’s always difficult playing against someone like Reilly who has got such a massive serve,” Millman said.
“I was really happy to take the few little chances I had and took care of my own service games pretty well.
“I get to play a final of an ATP 500 in such a special place like Tokyo. For me, that’s why you play. That’s why you go through the graft and some of the tougher times, to give yourself an opportunity like this. It’s pretty special.”
Millman, winning 86 per cent of first serve points, saved both break points he faced as Opelka sent down 13 aces.
Millman broke Opelka’s opening service game for a 3-0 lead. After saving a set point in the 10th game of the second to level at 5-5, he won the last four points of the tiebreak to secure the win.
The Queenslander’s only other ATP final was last year in Budapest, where he lost to Marco Cecchinato.
Millman will face Djokovic, a 6-3 6-4 winner over third-seeded Belgian David Goffin, the 2017 champion.
The Serb reached his fifth final this season, not dropping a set in his four matches at Ariake Colosseum. Competing in Tokyo for the first time, he is trying to win a title on his tournament debut for the 10th time.
After controlling the first set, Djokovic broke Goffin in the first game of the second. Down 15-40 in the second game, he fought back to hold serve and never looked back.
Djokovic, retiring with a shoulder injury against Stan Wawrinka in the US Open fourth round, has shown no lingering effects in Tokyo.
“I’m very satisfied with the way I’ve been playing the whole week,” Djokovic said. “It’s been a very positive week on the court. Hopefully, I’ll be able to crown it tomorrow with a trophy.
“The conditions are playing quick here. The surface doesn’t bounce that much, so you’ve got to be very low and quick on return as well. It definitely was not easy when both of us were serving well.”
The 32-year-old Djokovic is aiming to be year-end No.1 for the sixth time to tie Pete Sampras’ mark.
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