Sunday, April 06, 2014

"Finally the Mailman has come back to tennis"

Yes, it’s been a while but this entry is an extensive interview with John Millman who is returning to the tennis tour on Monday after being out for 11 months with a shoulder injury.

There are many topics discussed. He is a well spoken and articulate individual which is rare on the tennis tour. You can read more about him at his site where his blogs are quality over quantity John Millman . Second of all I would like to thank John Millman for participating in this interview and answering the questions before his flight to Chengdu where starts the comeback on the Futures Tour.

Millman will be missing his girl

How and when did you start playing tennis?

I started playing tennis at about three years old. I remember playing fixtures at four, winning my first trophy for being the youngest player to play fixtures at Laffs tennis club.

What were your memories as a child growing up with 4 older sisters?

We always grew up in an active and competitive environment. Everyone is really close to one another, although I admit I would have loved a brother!

Did your upbringing give you an advantage when dealing with the ladies?

I really don't think it did! Although being a part of a large family has helped my communication skills immensely.

You finished your schooling (Year 12) before going on tour. What benefits did you gain from this decision?

I think the big thing about school is not just learning about math or science but it's the social skills you learn to develop. It has given me friends outside of tennis as well as good contacts outside of the game.

Currently you’re recovering and planning a comeback from shoulder surgery. How is that progressing and when can we see you back on the tour?

It has been a long road to get back fit. I suffered a labarum tear in Munich and have since had surgery. I'm planning to be back playing next week however in China. Back on tour!

Your career has been interrupted by injuries. Can you list the injuries you have suffered and how do you manage to keep positive during these moments?

I've had three shoulder injuries- two have required surgery. They are the main ones. Obviously you pick up niggles from overuse but it can be tough when you have a serious injury. I guess you have to have a team around you that you trust and you have to constantly work hard to avoid the negative thoughts. My life outside of tennis has helped with my family and friends being a constant rock of support to me when times are tough.

Tennis Australia (TA) never gave you any funding as a youngster. Why do you think you were overlooked and did the snub help you to become more determined to succeed?

I probably didn't get as much funding when I was developing as a player. I think this probably came down to a number of reasons. A few times there were changes in criteria which probably didn't help. I also chose a different pathway to a lot of my peers who played full time at an earlier age instead of doing full time school.

At the end of the day I was obviously seen as not as good of an investment as others. But I hold absolutely no animosity or grudges towards anyone. They have a tough job to decide where money goes and realistically not everyone can get funding. I have to go on record saying that the support I have received as my career has progressed has been great and I am extremely thankful. I play for the enjoyment of competition and the experience of it all.

How much of a role have your parents had in funding your career while you were trying to establish yourself on Tour?

My parents are amazing. They have always been supportive of any decision I make and never push me into doing anything. They put my sisters and myself through private education working five jobs between them to do so. I was determined if I were to pursue a tennis career to do so on my own accord. Therefore I refused to let them fund me. Instead I had to find a way to pay for myself. Club tennis, airport floors and close friends have always been there for me.

What have been your experiences of playing on the Futures & Challenger Tour? Can you elaborate on the pizza story in Gimcheon?

It's normally the glamorous side people see on TV but the reality of it all is vastly different. The future and challenger tour can be a grind, testing conditions in testing places. Gimcheon was another one of those testing places. The majority of us had been in South Korea for four weeks and Gimcheon was the last stop. I had experienced hospitalisation earlier due to food poisoning as had others.

A lot of people were playing it safe in the last tournament, wanting to stay healthy. This meant Pizza Hut for dinner every night. They didn't deliver to the hotel though because it was too far away so we'd have to wait around the courts and get it delivered to the courts. I was with another Australian, Matt Barton. We'd finished our pizzas and were waiting for the last match to finish. Nima Roshnan and Michael McClune were in a dog fight doubles match. A few bad calls and Nima was fired up. They had won the first easy but the second was tight.

Nima's girlfriend had ordered pizzas for them, hoping they'd arrive when they finished so they would be able to eat that night. Michael was serving to stay in the second set at 30-40 5-6. You could hear the motorized scooter from ages away. It arrived but instead of the guy coming to the small crowd of about ten people he opened up the gate and walked straight on the court, trying to deliver the pizza to the boys playing doubles. There was mayhem, the umpire couldn't control the situation and the pizza guy wanted his money. Michael double faulted and Nima went nuts at the whole situation. It was pretty funny.

The ITF haven’t raised the Futures prize money from 15k since the 80s. Challenger prize money has decreased 30% from 1995 while the main level tour has increased 20% since then. What can be done to readdress some of the balance?

I think if you want to do something or change something enough you make it a priority. Future and Challenger prizemoney has not been a priority to those that have a greater influence in the game and therefore nothing has been done about it. There needs to be more representation from future and challenger players on the ATP council because right now it's so top heavy and of course therefore they are going to have invested interest in themselves. It's probably one of the biggest disgraces in the game.

Do you believe that the current ATP Player Representatives doing enough to ensure that the players who earn the vast majority of money through prize money and not sponsorship are able to survive?

I definitely do not think they have made this a priority and therefore the game has suffered. So many players have quit due to not being able to finance themselves. Less prizemoney but more expenses... It doesn't add up.

Understanding that most of your injuries have occurred on a clay surface, are you working to overcome the challenges of playing on clay?

The shoulder is put under more stress on the clay I've found. Heavier conditions, more balls above head height, more stress on the shoulder. I've worked so hard to get stronger in these areas and I guess what gives me the confidence that I have a lot of faith in the team I've assembled behind me.

How important was winning your first challenger title in Sacramento?

It was a milestone to tick off. It gave me confidence to know I can easily compete at this level.

Millman vs. Murray Brisbane

What are your favourite tournaments?

I guess you are more likely to enjoy places where you have had success. My favourite tournament is definitely the Brisbane International. I have great support there.

Who are your best friends on tour?

I get along with mostly everyone. Obviously when there are Australians around I'll spend time with them but I feel as if I have good relations with most people.

Biggest jerk on the tour?

I'll keep that one to myself.

What’s the worst place you have stayed in so far on tour?

That would have to be a place in Rome. This hotel was a shocker. The walls were falling down from the mildew everywhere and it felt like I was sleeping in a swamp.

Name the best and worst matches you have played in your career so far?

Worst match- I got humiliated by Jesse Witten at French qualies. After the match I was so ashamed I went and sat behind a tree near the transport. Only to see Jesse didn't bother with a shower, with his girlfriend got on the bus home.

Best match- probably when I played Andy in Brisbane. I mean the atmosphere was indescribable.

Millman speaking after the Murray match

Where did your love of football come from and did you play as a youngster?

My Dad played and therefore I played growing up. It was great fun and my passion for the game grew the more I travelled. It really is the world game.

You’re a big Liverpool fan. What do you think it’ll take for them to qualify for the Champions League & challenge for the title consistently?

We are on the right track now. Playing some of the most exciting football in Europe. I really like our owners, Fenway Sports Group, they have a sustainable plan and a clear vision. Brendan Rodgers has been a revelation and the exciting brand of football he demands is being religiously schooled throughout the academy. I think that consistency will bode well for the future.

Are the Socceroos (Australian national football team) going to Brazil as tourists. If not, then what can they get out of this experience?

I am looking forward to watching the Biggest Sporting Event in the World. I do think with the group they have been drawn in it will be tough to get to knock-out stages. Having said that Ange is a good manager and you can never right off an Australian! Please though Ange let Matt Smith lead your defence and somehow get the classy Thomas Broich Australian citizenship.

Showing the Liverpool love

What do you think about the length of season?

It's too long. Tennis is more physical than ever before.

What solutions would you propose for the calendar to reduce or maybe not reduce the amount of tournaments?

I do think the calendar should be reduced so players get more of an off season. Maybe take away a few ATPs and have more challengers!

Do you have any particular opinions regarding the schedule relating to court surfaces and geographical locations?

Tennis is a world game and therefore I agree that tournaments should be worldwide and I don't particularly have a problem with the schedule regarding court surfaces.

The ATP is meant to be a joint union between players and tournament directors but it appears that the ATP is looking out more for the tournament directors than the players. Are there ways to improve the organisation to have a better representation and reputation among the players?

I think there has to be a compromise and don't necessarily believe players on the ATP tour are being hard done by. The players who should be disappointed are those playing Futures and challengers. This is what I mean when I say we are concentrating on the wrong things and not prioritising the things that should be prioritised.

Willy Cañas said “The ATP practices discrimination from an economic standpoint, like any multinational corporation. It’s just another of millions that there are in the world. Point being that I accept it, but I'm not buying into it that it is a group of players that decide (players union) because it isn't like that”. Do you believe that Willy is correct on this particular issue?

On certain issues I do agree with that.

How widespread do you believe doping is on tour?

In my opinion I do unfortunately believe that doping does exist on the tour, however I have no evidence to back this claim.

Are you surprised that nothing happened to Agassi when he admitted to taking drugs and his positive result was not made public?


Have you ever been tested out-of-season/at an unreasonable or ridiculous hour?

No I don't have a problem with testing I just wish it would be enforced more.

Since the Tennis Integrity Unit has existed do you believe match fixing has been on the decrease or not as the players caught have been lower ranked players?

Match fixing exists in the game but after speaking to the guys at TIU I think they are doing a good job.

What would it mean if you got the opportunity to play Davis Cup?

I think representing your country is the greatest honour.

Do you think offering ranking points for Davis Cup participation is a good idea?

I do. I think it encourages a stronger competition.

Are you going to be continuing to play league tennis in Germany? What is the overall standard and what are the benefits of playing there?

Financially it has really been necessary to play in the league. Also the people I have become close friends with have been great. The overall standard is strong but I'm trying to avoid playing on clay this year.

What division are your club playing in and can they get promoted to the highest level?

We play Badenliga but this is a great effort considering how small our town is. We probably won't ever play Bundesliga 1 because we try to keep our core group of local club players.

What are your goals for the rest of 2014 personally and professionally?

Stay fit and exceed the level that I was at before injury, fulfilling my potential.

What’s your take on the current state of Australian tennis? Yes, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis have big futures but are the structures in place to produce more top quality players?

I think it's in a good place. People forget just how many people are playing this game competitively worldwide. I think the national academy set up is great, as are the better facilities we seem to have now.

Word Association (first word or phrase)

Luis Suarez - Fighter
State of Origin dominance - Expected
Manchester United - Disliked
Rimouski - Don’t want to be playing a Canadian there
Crème brulee - mmmm my sister Bronte nails it the best.
Robert Smeets - Great brother
The Mailman or the Milkman - Either as long as they are saying it affectionately towards me

Once again would like to thank John for his time and a very enjoyable interview.

A licky boom boom down.


Scott Campbell said...

Good luck to you John for his comeback. Such a man of integrity and grit. If these qualities account to success in the tennis world he will be number one in no time. I think also one cannot disregard the effect family/friends/fans have on people as well. John loves the interaction and support. I loved this interview!

justin said...

Nice work. Good lad that Mailman. I thought it was his foot he dropped off the tour for. Important thing is that he got to a level of play that was quite ok for the ATP main tour, so hopefully the road back there is unhindered by any doubt as to whether he belongs.

andy said...

Good stuff mate. Love the Mailman's determination and will to succeed. Hope he can make it back to where he was before the bung shoulder.. Speaks very well too... Loved the pizza story.. So many unheard stories on tour..

Marc said...

Love the interview Johnny is well spoken and answered some tough questions with honesty and clarity.

Hope his comeback goes well and no more long term injuries he has had enough of them.

Martine said...

Great interview, Nils! I enjoyed it very much!
Mailman looks like a down to earth guy with a great personality
Best of luck for him with the comeback!
And looking at that first picture, you understand that I just have to like him hehe!


Denys said...

Loved this interview and Millman shows his vibrant personality and abilities to think differently from the average pro tennis player. I remember the serve he gave Giorgio di Palmero one of the ATP managers.

Hopefully he can fight through the Futures and rebuild his ranking.