'Never seen that': Aussie star at centre of bizarre French Open drama

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Gianluca Mager, pictured here before his match at the French Open.
Gianluca Mager was stunned when Peter Gojowczy walked out onto the court. Image: Channel Nine

John Millman left everyone a little confused on Monday when he withdrew just minutes before his first-round clash at the French Open.

Australia's second-ranked men's player left it until the very last moment before admitting defeat to a debilitating back problem that forced him to withdraw from Roland Garros just minutes before he was due to play Italy's Gianluca Mager.

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The Queenslander had been in constant pain for the last two days, requiring sleeping pills just to find some respite.

But he ultimately took the advice of medics who explained he could make the injury much worse if he competed.

Millman's withdrawal came as a complete surprise to Mager, who looked very confused when 'lucky loser' Peter Gojowczyk came walking out onto court.

Mager was seen asking the chair umpire what had happened with Millman to prompt Gojowczyk replacing him.

"It comes as a shock to us and it would come as a big shock to his opponent," Todd Woodbridge said in commentary for Channel Nine.

"I've actually never seen that happen where a lucky loser has walked out onto the court and the opponent had no idea that that was going to happen."

Jelena Dokic added: "John's opponent looked like he had no idea and you saw him talk to the umpire and the referee and he didn't know what was going on.

"For John, it's so unfortunate. He would have tried to do everything possible to get out there and play, he's such a great fighter and competitor, so obviously there's something that happened."

John Millman, pictured here in action at the recent Italian Open.
John Millman in action at the recent Italian Open. (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)

John Millman shattered over French Open withdrawal

Millman cut a dejected figure as he explained how he felt he had been in his best-ever shape to tackle the clay-court grand slam until suffering the injury two days earlier in a practice hit with compatriot Alex de Minaur.

"It's pretty constant pain, I haven't been sleeping, so I'd been taking sleeping pills to try to sleep. I've been battling," shrugged the 31-year-old.

"I got the medical experts - the ATP physios, the leading French osteopath here and the doctors - and I was headily medicated so I gave myself every opportunity.

"I warmed up this morning but it wasn't good enough to take to the court. I wasn't able to hit a high backhand, I wasn't able to serve and I wasn't able to move.

"I was told that if I played today, I could make it a lot worse than what it was and therefore a lot longer time out on the sidelines."

Millman's withdrawal started a miserable day in Paris for Australia's challengers.

Storm Sanders kept her promise to give it a "red hot go" against overwhelming favourite Elise Mertens, but the Queenslander was eventually overwhelmed after her early gale of winners had shocked the 14th seed.

Sydney wildcard Chris O'Connell was then left "devastated" after a magnificent fightback from two sets down dragged American Tommy Paul into a final-set dogfight, only to fall agonisingly short, losing the 63-minute decider 10-8.

And Jordan Thompson was the next to fall, slogging away for four hours and 23 minutes before losing to Spanish toiler Jaume Munar 6-7 (6-8) 6-1 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

with AAP

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