Gilles Muller had always been a dangerous player. He is someone I began to follow in 2014, I just randomly came across him against Djokovic in Melbourne and I liked what I saw but the story goes deeper than that.
August 2004, runner up to Lleyton Hewitt in Washington
July 2005, runner up to Andre Agassi in Los Angeles
July 2012, runner up to Andy Roddick in Atlanta
June 2016, runner up to Nicolas Mahut in Rosmalen
July 2016, runner up to Ivo Karlovic in Newport
In all honesty, not a bad few names on that list.
After a thirteen year wait a trip down under to Sydney changed all that with Gilles winning his first title.
Winning a title isn’t as simple as it sounds and it almost didn’t happen in Sydney as Gilles had to save match point against a tricky Alexandr Dolgopolov in the first round!
Tricky opponents with a variety of skill in Pablo Cuevas and Victor Troicki were dispatched too but Gilles himself is a tricky player.
Gilles is 6’4″ and there is this pre-judgement of a tall player being a bit of a ‘serve bot’ because they’re tall and serve a lot of aces!
Gilles spent around two consectutive years in the top 40 from 2016 onwards and in that time I don’t think anyone of that ‘big serve’ group did a better job and shrugging off that tag than he did.
I loved watching him play, ok he averaged 12.1 aces a match during his career but his game was soo much more!
He was a lefty player and hit sweet groundstroke and was so accomplished at the net, he played with a plan and a great confidence in what he was doing and it propelled him to not only his first ATP title at the age of 33 but his second before Wimbledon against Ivo Karlovic in Rosmalen.
Then… something quite extraordinary happened at Wimbledon.
Before that at the US Open in 2008 he produced a stunning run. His ranking had dropped from 2006 and he spent a lot of time in qualifying for the Grand Slams and the US Open was his first major appearance that year.
Gilles seeded at 15 in qualifying came through his three matches but it was tough and I’m pretty sure had to save match point against Lamine Ouahab in the first round.
His run was ended in the quarter finals by Roger Federer who won his 5th and most recent US Open title in 2008 having not won since but did something incredible before that.
In round two he game from two sets down to defeat Tommy Haas and completed that incredible feat once again in round three to see off Nicolas Almagro before going onto beat Davydenko in four sets before a defeat to Federer.
A truly remarkable run as per his run at Wimbledon in 2017 nine years after his last appearance in a Grand Slam quarter final.
To even get to the quarter finals where he lost Cilic he had to defeat Fucsovics, Rosol (in five) and Bedene before beating Rafael Nadal!
It was an unimaginable performance. Gilles found himself two sets up and before you know it we were at two sets a piece and it looked pretty worrying!
At 9-9 in the fifth and final set he was down break point but came up with a stunning backhand pass with Nadal approaching the net to save the break point. At 13-14 the Spaniard faced match points and it was the man from Luxembourgs lefty forehand which had the final say as he pulled off an incredible 6-3 6-4 3-6 4-6 15-13 win against Rafael Nadal!
When people talk about tennis we naturally gravitate to the biggest names in the game but the best stories and journeys come from players like Gilles. He had that early taste of a final in 2004 but continued to work hard for his first title almost 13 years later and that big win against Nadal.