John Millman finished short of claiming his first ATP title after losing the final of the Japan Open in straight sets to Novak Djokovic.
The Australian was no match for the world No.1, going down 6-3 6-2.
The 30 year-old enjoyed a remarkable run through to what was just his second ATP final, winning a total of six matches including two in qualifying and surviving three match points in his opening-round qualifier against American Bradley Klahn.
But Djokovic, the reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion, played at another level on Sunday afternoon in Tokyo.
Millman started confidently and pushed Djokovic in the opening service game on Sunday but was effectively playing catch-up for most of the set.
Djokovic required just one break in the fourth game to eventually take it 6-3.
Things started inauspiciously for the Queenslander in the second, getting broken after holding a 40-15 advantage.
From there, it was all the Serb as he charged through the set to claim his first title in Tokyo, fourth of the year and 76th of his career.
“Obviously the key was to try to fight off the resistance early in the match because he didn’t have much to lose playing finals from qualifications,” Djokovic said.
“He came out and played pretty well but I made that crucial break and I was serving very well which allowed me to get a set advantage.”
Djokovic is making a push to finish as year-end No.1 for the sixth time, which would tie the mark held by Pete Sampras.
He now stands alone in third place on the ATP Tour this year with 46 tour-level wins, breaking a tie with Roger Federer. The only players ahead of him are Daniil Medvedev (54) and Rafael Nadal (48).
Millman was gracious in defeat.
“It sounds silly to say, but I hope everyone all around the world realises just how good you are,” Millman said.
“You’re an absolute champion and you’re the type of person that’s going to be remembered forever. Your legacy is continuing to build and will live on long after you finish playing. But I’m sure you’ve got a fair few more years left.”
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