Australian tennis star John Millman has been accused of using a dodgy service trick during his nail-biting five-set defeat to Roger Federer.
The unseeded Millman, 30, was beaten by the Swiss champion, 38, in a tight match in front of a packed crowd at Rod Laver Arena on Friday at the Australian Open.
But eagle-eyed fans noticed Millman rubbing two tennis balls on his damp and sweaty top before a crucial serve late in the fourth set.
The action is supposed to roll down any excess fluff on the ball and cause it to skid off the court, but fans are divided about whether the move is against tennis rules.
John Millman (pictured) was spotted rubbing a tennis ball against his body, which some fans thought was an ‘illegal’ move
According to the USTA tennis rules, a player ‘may not take any action that materially changes the condition of the ball.’
It says: ‘Therefore, a player may not use a ball to wipe off perspiration.’
The move isn’t mentioned in International Tennis Federation rules.
Former Dutch tennis star Sven Groeneveld, who coached Maria Sharapova, noticed the move during Friday’s match and said it ‘throws the timing’ of an opponent.
‘Millman applying the old trick in speeding up the first serve by rolling the ball on his (I assume) wet shirt before he serves?’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘Is that legal in tennis I know it’s not in other ball sports like cricket and baseball? Do we have a rule in tennis?
‘The ball skids through first and throws of the timing of your opponent not only on the one serve but it disturbs the consistency of your timing on other shots.’
Millman also claimed a majority of the crowd at Rod Laver Arena supported Roger Federer
John Millman (pictured) was noticeably distraught after losing the four-hour battle with Roger Federer
Fans were quick to agree with Groeneveld, accusing Millman of bending the rules.
‘It shouldn’t be legal. It’s basically a “spitball” but it’s a “sweat ball,’ wrote one.
‘This is pure cheating and the player isn’t supposed to do anything that will change the way the ball is gonna behave and when you wet the balls they speed up. Milman was in clear violation of rules in here,’ claimed another.
But former Australian doubles star Todd Woodbridge came to Millman’s defence, saying it was no different to putting a tennis ball in the pocket of a wet pair of shorts.
And despite playing the five-set match on home soil, Millman admitted the crowd turned on him in support of Federer.
Home favourite Millman claimed the opening set before Federer hit back, eventually losing 10-8 in the fifth set after more than four hours on court,
John Millman (pictured, left) had hoped to defeat Swiss champion Roger Federer in the third round of the Australian Open
The Queenslander was heckled by members of the crowd at the Rod Laver Arena, who wanted the Swiss 20-time Grand Slam winner to clinch another victory.
‘I love the support. Roger probably had a little bit more tonight,’ Millman said after the match.
‘There was a guy trying to heckle me, calling me a few things, and then I called him something back.
‘I love playing in Australia. We don’t get to do it too much. Puts us at a real disadvantage throughout the year that we don’t get to play too much in Australia. I think Australians are at a disadvantage because of that. I try to make the most of it when I’m back here.
Roger Federer (pictured) took in the acclaim of the crowd after surviving a third-round scare
‘Very grateful that everyone stayed and watched the battle and, you know, some of them got behind me.’
Meanwhile Federer praised Millman and said he ‘deserves all the support’.
‘It is nice. He deserves all the support. He is such a great fighter,’ Federer said.
‘You gave me more than you have to. If they cheer on my opponent, it’s all good. It’s not personal, I know that.’
A disappointed Millman took to Twitter on Saturday morning after his loss, writing: ‘Well that sucked….’.
Roger Federer (pictured, right) hugged John Millman (left) after winning his Men’s Singles third round on day five of the 2020 Australian Open