John Millman: “Tennis has never been so competitive before”

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John Millman - https://flic.kr/p/unSuLS - CC BY-SA 2.0)

Tennisportalen had a chance to sit down and talk to the openhearted and extremely humble Australian John Millman during the recent edition of IF Stockholm Open. The 78th ranked Millman talked about the struggles on tour, why he thinks tennis has never been so competitive before and what a Davis Cup debut would mean for him.

 

So John, your first visit in Sweden and the IF Stockholm Open, tell us about your thoughts and impressions so far of the “Venice of the north”.

I like it a lot! It’s a really nice venue to play at and the conditions are great also. The tournament should be very proud as they are putting together a great product and Stockholm is such a beautiful city! I visited the old town just nearby and it’s a really nice place. I hear it’s the Venice of the north! Pretty cold but I can deal with that because everyone is so accommodating and they appreciate tennis which is great.

You have a lot of Aussies on the ATP-tour and on the challenger circuit as well. Do you guys hang out and train together regularly?

Yeah, absolutely! One of my good friends is Chris Guccione (doubles specialist) and we get along really well. Always really fun to have a few Australians on tour and that’s what’s really good about Australian tennis right now, there is a lot of guys in both singles and doubles. I count for the doubles players as we got some guys that do really well there too now, Carsten Ball, John Peers and Chris too obviously. It makes it a bit more fun with the Aussies around and you always have someone to hang out with, that’s important for me because when you are on the road for so long it’s nice to see some friendly faces.

We are all spread out in Australia as it’s such a big place but I practise at the national academy in Brisbane where the Brisbane Internationals is at. We have a great group of people that I hit with and some great coaches, it’s a lot of fun! 

How long have you been playing on tour?

Since I finished school, I was 18 and started playing out on the lower circuits of the tour but I’ve had what you would call an interrupted career with a lot of injuries. I have been back on the road since last august (2014) after my shoulder surgery and thankfully my team have got my shoulder in a lot better condition and I think it’s a lot more manageable now. It’s getting stronger and I’m just blessed to be fit and healthy and being in the position to play in this tournament because that’s why you do the rehab and to play in these events.

How does a typical training day for you look like?

I’m probably a bit smarter these days, I try not to bash myself too much. Historically I like to work pretty hard and keep it  quality on court. Pre-season would be pretty intense and I play a lot tennis. Right now for me in my career it’s more about managing myself and managing my loads.

What do you think is the biggest difference between the challenger and ATP-level?

In my opinion there is plenty of guys on the challenger circuit who can compete on the atp circuit. Tennis in my opinion has never been so strong, it’s a doggy-dog world out there, especially in the challengers. You just want to get up there and win these kinds of tournaments. I think for me it’s about confidence and exposing myself in these tournaments more and more, getting me that belief I can compete on the tour and that’s what I strive to do. I want to compete at these tournaments and for me it’s about having confidence and belief in my game and I do now.

Whats your take on the amount of prize money on Futures and Challengers, is it mandatory for ITF to increase it in order to prevent match-fixing for example?

In an ideal world that would be the answer. It’s just a matter of where you get the money from which I’m sure guys are scratching there heads trying to find the answers. In an ideal world, I would like to see more players making money, not just at the top level but the players ranked amongst the top-200 being able to clear money. There is a difference in making money and clearing money and just breaking even. We play in an ultimate competitive sport and that should be the goal down the track but right now I’m just trying to take care of my business. Coming from Australia, it’s extremely hard because we have to travel  for so long. I know plenty of guys who grind it out on futures and challengers and it would be great to see those guys make the next step and make more money in the tournaments because they work so hard too. 

Australia nowadays have a lot of quality on the challenger circuit as you mentioned before with players like JP-Smith, Benjamin Mitchell, Jordan Thompson and James Duckworth to mention a few. Do you think they are ready for the next step and what do they need to do in order to get over the hurdle – in this case breaking entry into the ATP?

I don’t think they are limited to challengers, definitely not because I see great potential there and you got some extremely good players so I think the future is bright for the Australian tennis. Not just everyone coming through but guys who have been learning their trade a little bit and that’s what i’ts about too and not just jump on the scene when you are 18-19 years old and are incredible talented straight away. Some people have to work a little bit more and I think you can put me among them since I didn’t get here over the night and had to work for it. I have a lot of respect for those guys who are out there competing and I have no doubt that we can see other Australians, maybe people that we don’t know their names yet, cracking it into the top-100. It’s a great place to be coming from right now because of just how competitive it is and having guys that seems to be making the next step.

You have been present at two Davis Cup-ties recently and is currently ranked among the highest in the country. How close do you think you are to the Australian Davis Cup-team?

It would be the biggest honor for me to play Davis Cup for my country and as you said, I have been present at two ties (Kazakhstan, Great Britain) and obviously the next step would be to be selected into the team. I’m not gonna tell people they should select me and hopefully my performances can do that and I will work extremely hard to get that because representing your contry, I think there is no bigger thrill. To be able to just have some ties with Lleyton Hewitt was great and to see how we operates and it would be a great honor to get that chance but you gotta make it happen and thats what I will try to do. 

You were close to outmaneuver Roger Federer in the Brisbane Internationals of 2015 where you took the first set and had the break in the second set as well. Can you describe for us how it is to play these top-level guys? 

Yeah, I’ve been very lucky to have a couple of good matches in Brisbane and in my home tournament in front of friends and family which is so important for me. Playing against Federer who achieved so much in the game, those are experiences, matches that you are not going to forget too easily. It was awesome and I wish I could of won that but I think you just can’t be happy and just be playing against him. I can use that experience and do better because they are the matches you wanna play.

There is a lot talk about the Ymer brothers in Sweden. Mikael played a very good encounter here in Stockholm against Alexander Zverev in his ATP debut and Elias is starting to make a name for himself out there. What do you know about the brothers? 

Me and Elias have been playing a couple of tournaments together at challengers. I saw a little bit of Mikaels match against Alexander Zverev here in Stockholm and obviously both brothers are extremely talented. You gonna be hearing a lot of them in the future because they both got some serious game and it’s an exciting time to watch their careers progress. I don’t know Mikael that much but Elias is a very good guy and I love watching tennis too. Im a fan of tennis and i’m a fan of seeing those good guys go well and it will be good to see them progress and hopefully we will see more of them soon on a bigger stage.

We would like to thank John Millman for taking the time to speak to us and wish him all success in his future endeavors!

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