John Millman remains Australia’s last hope in singles action at the US Open, after Ashleigh Barty was defeated overnight.
Barty was vying to reach the second round in New York for the first time, but struck 31 unforced errors and four double faults in an injury-riddled 6-2, 6-4 loss to home hopeful Sloane Stephens.
“Sloane played a really good match and sort of took control and took me out of it a little bit,” Barty admitted.
“But I had a lot of opportunities and I couldn’t quite consolidate on a few, especially early.
“She definitely deserved to win more than I did. A former top-15 player, she’s obviously riding a very big wave of confidence at the moment so it was always going to be tough.”
Barty has enjoyed a resurgent run since returning to tennis, following a brief stint in the women’s big bash league.
She won the WTA Kuala Lumpur event earlier in the year and reached the final in Birmingham, as well as the quarterfinals in Strasbourg and Nottingham.
This was Barty’s career best run at the US Open, but since exiting the grand slam, she now shifts her focus to the Australian Open.
Her ranking is set to climb to 36th in the world after this week, putting her on track for a top 32 seeding at her home slam.
“That’s the ideal,” Barty said.
“I’ve got two tournaments in Asia that we’ll target and hopefully play well at and Case (Casey Dellacqua) and I are very close to the doubles champs so hopefully we can consolidate that, maybe this week.
“But if not, we’ll keep working, keep striving and it’s just exciting to be able to start where we are with the Australian summer.”
Meanwhile, Millman now carries the nation’s hopes singlehandedly in New York.
The 28 year old is currently enjoying a career-best run at the final grand slam of the year, given he had never previously won a main draw match at Flushing Meadows.
He now has a chance at making history by becoming the lowest ranked player since 1985 to make the US Open last 16.
Not many people tipped him to overcome fiery compatriot Nick Kyrgios in the opening round. Granted Kyrgios was hampered by a shoulder injury, but Millman prevailed 6-3 1-6 6-4 6-1 before backing it up with a solid 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-1 win against Malek Jaziri.
It’s an especially remarkable run for the World No. 235 who was eligible to play this fortnight because of his protected ranking.
Millman reached a career high 60th in the world last year but he has since plummeted down the rankings due to inactivity after undergoing surgery to repair a groin tear.
Next up for Millman is 33rd ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber, another welcome test for the Australian.
Kohlschreiber boasts the 1-0 advantage against Millman, following a straight set 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory in their only previously encounter in 2015 at Metz, France.
He has also reached the US Open fourth round on three previous occasions.
But a positive Millman is relishing in the cooler conditions in New York this week and has his sights firmly set on a potential fourth round meeting with Roger Federer.
“I have felt really good here. The conditions here at the US Open are definitely slower than they have been in the past, the ones that I’ve played before,” Millman said.
“That’s probably due to the weather. It’s not quite as hot and the courts might be slightly rougher and the balls don’t seem to flying through.
“That, all in all, really suits me and I felt comfortable pretty much from the start.”
Millman and Kohlschreiber will play on Court 17 tomorrow. Barty and Dellacqua will also feature in doubles action.