'One of the people' - Why #Millmania resonates with the common man

Flashback: Federer falls to Millman in four sets (2:34)

No. 2 Roger Federer wins the first set but loses the next three, including two via tiebreak, in falling to John Millman in the US Open's fourth round. (2:34)

MELBOURNE, Australia -- When he was making his unlikely run at the 2018 US Open -- a quarterfinal berth with a fourth-round victory over Roger Federer to boot -- John Millman wasn't going out of his way to do anything different.

In fact, he made a splash on social media when during his on-court interview, and after eliminating arguably the greatest player of the modern era, he said he was particularly concerned about his NFL fantasy draft, which was scheduled for some six hours later.

"It's 1 o'clock [in the morning] now. I probably should try to get a recovery. I've got a 7 o'clock in the morning fantasy draft," Millman said at the time. "I'm second pick. I don't know whether to go [Todd] Gurley or Le'Veon Bell."

It resonated with a legion of new American tennis fans who might previously had never head of the 30-year-old Brisbanite, but as Millman tells ESPN after his first-round victory over Ugo Humbert at the 2020 Australian Open, he's always been just "one of the people".

It's why every year around January, whether he's playing his home tournament in Brisbane, or elsewhere around the continent, you might see #Millmania trending on Twitter.

It was coined around seven years ago by a journalist before Millman faced Andy Murray at the 2013 Brisbane International. It was one of the local's first big tournament matches after an injury-interrupted start to his career.

But the public, especially on social media, have breathed new life into the term, rallying behind the cause of one of Australian sport's more likable characters. It's because he's just like us -- he goes to the local shops, still drives his sister's car and loves watching Liverpool and the Brisbane Lions in his downtime.

And as you'd expect, Millman loves the banter he has with the public.

"I love [Millmania]," the world No. 47 laughs. "I think I first heard it a few years ago, and I think it's just represents people coming and supporting me. I'm someone who really likes to use the crowd, and they know that and they love to give me a bit of energy.

"I hope that people resonate with the fact that I'm just an Australian out there trying to give it a crack, and I think the fans get that. They've given me some great memories, and long after I finish playing tennis I'll remember the crowd support I've had here."

But it's the memories Millman gives back to the fans which sends Millmania peaking every year, and it's little wonder why.

"Can you get a couple more drinks please, maybe a Gatorade?" he asked a ball kid following his first-round win. He pointed to a fan in the stands who must have spent most of the three hours and 24 minutes it took the Queenslander to see off Humbert in the sun.

And well after the cameras had been turned off at Melbourne Arena following his second-round win over 31st seed Hubert Hurkacz, Millman spent 20 minutes slowly pacing up the sidelines, signing every novelty ball and taking every selfie than any fan asked for.

And no matter whether it's a five-set loss, a three-set win or anything in between, Millman digs in with a grit that would make Lleyton Hewitt -- who has been present in the box for Millman's two matches so far -- proud.

"Not just Lleyton but (coaches) Jaymon Crabb and Tony Roche. ... These are guys that are in and around that Davis Cup setup that I admire so much," Millman tells ESPN. "I just love tapping into their knowledge, experience and energy. They give a lot, not just when you see them out on court, but they're at practice sessions.

"Lleyton actually warms me up for my matches -- so there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes that goes unnoticed, and I'm so grateful that I've had their support throughout my career."

And while both of his wins at this year's tournament have been typically 'Millman-like'; that is, long rallies and a slog from start to end, he says that isn't by design.

"The conditions [at Melbourne Park] have been pretty slow out there recently," he says. "The courts are ripping up these balls and there aren't many free points to be had. There have been some pretty extended rallies out there, but these best-of-five encounters are tough, it's physical tennis.

"You're never going to play a match that isn't physical, so you need to use the crowd and the energy around the place and hopefully it helps you get over the line."

That's why he loves the public access courts -- particularly Court 3. The scene for many of his Australian Open triumphs -- as well as epic losses -- he says the "cauldron"-like atmosphere is unmatched around the world.

"I like to consider myself one of the people, one of the folk, and the outside courts are where you get the die-hard fans," he says. "Court 3 especially has actually given me some really memorable matches in the past, and it's a great cauldron which creates a great atmosphere every time I step out there.

"The support I get in Australia is really special. It really is one of the reasons you play tennis. I think we're lucky as Australians that we get to start off the year down here, and to tap into these loyal fans is something I don't take for granted."

But Millman hardly has a niche following anymore. Sure, he likes the raucous confines of the show courts in Melbourne, but he's once again ranked inside the top 50 and has his sights set on rising further up the rankings.

"I'd love to be seeded for one of these things," he laughs, referring to a Slam. "I think I got up to about 33 [in the world] so I was one spot out from being seeded a while back."

One thing which has also eluded the 30-year-old is a main draw win at the French Open -- it's the only major at which he hasn't tasted main draw success.

"I'd love to [get a win in Paris], geez, I don't think I'm a bad clay court player ... but the French Open wins have alluded me. Maybe I've had a couple of rough draws," he says of last year's tight five-set loss to fifth seed Alexander Zverev in the first round, "But it's something I'd like to tick off. I feel like I can win [on clay] and I'll give myself every opportunity.

"I'd also love to play at the Olympic Games again -- 2016 was a super special time for me, and obviously the Davis Cup and the ATP Cup, so being able to represent my country is something that gets me excited."

But for now, Millman must once again turn his attention to facing Roger Federer at a Grand Slam, set for Rod Laver Arena on Friday night, despite his cheeky wish for a draw on an outside court.

"I'm one for the people, so I might ask (tournament director) Craig (Tiley) if we can schedule [the match against Federer] out here on Melbourne Arena," he said after his win over Hurkocz.

Even though the match is to be on Rod Laver, with the "corporates" as Millman says, he's sure rowdy fan support and #Millmania once again trending on Twitter.