Infotainment Factory: Why Aussie embraced name he once hated

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Saturday, 12 January 2019

Why Aussie embraced name he once hated


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Aussie tennis underdog John Millman used to cringe at being described as a “battler” or a “journeyman”, but in recent years, he’s embraced it.

“I've matured a little bit and I take it as a real compliment,” Millman exclusively told Wide World of Sports.

He explained that while he once would have felt disrespected by such a tag, now he wears it as a sort of badge of honour, an invisible scar that serves as a reminder of the blood, sweat and tears that got him to where he is today.

“I think when you describe me as a journeyman or a battler, what comes to my mind is someone who has really had to work hard for the success that has come their way.

“It hasn't always been easy. There's been a lot of speedbumps and I've come out the other side when other people have written me off.

“I've come to appreciate that tag a little bit more as I've gotten a bit older, because I can really identify it with what makes Australia great.

“We're underdogs, we don't mind getting our hands dirty and working hard to make a living.”

With its million-dollar paycheques and constant international travel to exotic locations, the life of a professional tennis player could hardly be compared to that of a ‘Working Class Man’, but there’s no doubt Millman’s tumultuous story would fit right in alongside the ballads in a Jimmy Barnes songbook.

There isn’t a nook of the world the Brisbane product hasn’t visited in his 13 years as a professional on tour. He’s had form struggles, injury setbacks, incredible highs – most recently defeating Roger Federer at the 2018 US Open – and of course, many lows – he is still yet to win a career title.

But no matter the slog or lack of trophies in the cabinet, the name ‘Millman’ and phrase ‘never give up’ have become synonymous.

The 29-year-old puts that down to the dedicated people in his life that have helped him pursue a career in tennis, and continue to drive him.

“I always feel pressure when I play in Australia, regardless of what draw I get or what tournament it is. The reason for that is when I walk on court, I'm not playing for myself. I do feel an obligation for all the people that have sacrificed a lot of their expertise, time, and effort in me,” Millman said.

“Whether that's friends, family, coaches, physios, doctors, there's quite a big list. They've done so much for me and I really want to give them my best showing every time I step on court. That can be anywhere in the world, but especially in Australia.”

The term ‘tanking’ has been at the centre of many debates surrounding Australian tennis stars of late, but it’s a word that is never associated with Millman.

“I've always put quite high expectations on myself and my performance. I'm a big believer in going out and giving absolutely everything, and if I don't come out on top I'll be disappointed, but I can live with myself,” Millman said.

“I don't feel like I have a lot to prove, because I've had some pretty good moments that I'm proud of in my career, but I do feel an added amount of responsibility just because of all the people who have helped me out.”

The Queenslander is preparing for another Australian Open campaign after a mixed performance in lead-up events in Brisbane and Sydney. He was defeated by Grigor Dimitrov in the round of 16 at the Brisbane International and was beaten in a rain-interrupted, very late-finishing quarter-final at the Sydney International, all while he battled sickness.

With the help of some herbal remedies and a bit of rest before his round one match against Federico Delbonis in Melbourne, in true Millman fashion, there’s little doubt in his mind he’ll be raring to go come Monday, despite still not being 100 per cent.

“I'm still a little clogged up, but I'm getting better each day. I feel like I've got plenty of matches under my belt and I feel like my game is in a good place which is really positive,” he said.

“I play Federico, who’s a really big left-hander; loves to play on the clay courts. He's actually a very tricky customer.

“I played him at Båstad last year [Swedish Open in July] and he got me there so I'm going to have to play some really good tennis. But that's what you expect at an Australian Open. There's no such thing as an easy draw and obviously I'll get practice in with some lefties to get used to that.”

Millman said he will also lean on the vocal Aussie crowd as much as he can to help him get over the line in the opening grand slam of the year.

“I love getting the energy from the crowd and from my box and my supporters,” he said.

“I play a physical brand of tennis, I work hard for my points, I really try to play with high energy.

“The other 40 weeks we're travelling, we've got crowd support going against us, but that's what makes it worthwhile being at home, and makes Australia such a fun place to play.”

John Millman spoke to Wide World of Sports on behalf of Mastercard, the Official Payment Partner of the Australian Open Series, for their initiative breaking down the physical barriers that divide neighbours, their backyard fences, and replacing them with tennis nets for neighbours to rally together.

Aussie tennis underdog John Millman used to cringe at being described as a “battler” or a “journeyman”, but in recent years, he’s embraced it.

“I've matured a little bit and I take it as a real compliment,” Millman exclusively told Wide World of Sports.

He explained that while he once would have felt disrespected by such a tag, now he wears it as a sort of badge of honour, an invisible scar that serves as a reminder of the blood, sweat and tears that got him to where he is today.

“I think when you describe me as a journeyman or a battler, what comes to my mind is someone who has really had to work hard for the success that has come their way.

“It hasn't always been easy. There's been a lot of speedbumps and I've come out the other side when other people have written me off.

“I've come to appreciate that tag a little bit more as I've gotten a bit older, because I can really identify it with what makes Australia great.

“We're underdogs, we don't mind getting our hands dirty and working hard to make a living.”

With its million-dollar paycheques and constant international travel to exotic locations, the life of a professional tennis player could hardly be compared to that of a ‘Working Class Man’, but there’s no doubt Millman’s tumultuous story would fit right in alongside the ballads in a Jimmy Barnes songbook.

There isn’t a nook of the world the Brisbane product hasn’t visited in his 13 years as a professional on tour. He’s had form struggles, injury setbacks, incredible highs – most recently defeating Roger Federer at the 2018 US Open – and of course, many lows – he is still yet to win a career title.

But no matter the slog or lack of trophies in the cabinet, the name ‘Millman’ and phrase ‘never give up’ have become synonymous.

The 29-year-old puts that down to the dedicated people in his life that have helped him pursue a career in tennis, and continue to drive him.

“I always feel pressure when I play in Australia, regardless of what draw I get or what tournament it is. The reason for that is when I walk on court, I'm not playing for myself. I do feel an obligation for all the people that have sacrificed a lot of their expertise, time, and effort in me,” Millman said.

“Whether that's friends, family, coaches, physios, doctors, there's quite a big list. They've done so much for me and I really want to give them my best showing every time I step on court. That can be anywhere in the world, but especially in Australia.”

The term ‘tanking’ has been at the centre of many debates surrounding Australian tennis stars of late, but it’s a word that is never associated with Millman.

“I've always put quite high expectations on myself and my performance. I'm a big believer in going out and giving absolutely everything, and if I don't come out on top I'll be disappointed, but I can live with myself,” Millman said.

“I don't feel like I have a lot to prove, because I've had some pretty good moments that I'm proud of in my career, but I do feel an added amount of responsibility just because of all the people who have helped me out.”

The Queenslander is preparing for another Australian Open campaign after a mixed performance in lead-up events in Brisbane and Sydney. He was defeated by Grigor Dimitrov in the round of 16 at the Brisbane International and was beaten in a rain-interrupted, very late-finishing quarter-final at the Sydney International, all while he battled sickness.

With the help of some herbal remedies and a bit of rest before his round one match against Federico Delbonis in Melbourne, in true Millman fashion, there’s little doubt in his mind he’ll be raring to go come Monday, despite still not being 100 per cent.

“I'm still a little clogged up, but I'm getting better each day. I feel like I've got plenty of matches under my belt and I feel like my game is in a good place which is really positive,” he said.

“I play Federico, who’s a really big left-hander; loves to play on the clay courts. He's actually a very tricky customer.

“I played him at Båstad last year [Swedish Open in July] and he got me there so I'm going to have to play some really good tennis. But that's what you expect at an Australian Open. There's no such thing as an easy draw and obviously I'll get practice in with some lefties to get used to that.”

Millman said he will also lean on the vocal Aussie crowd as much as he can to help him get over the line in the opening grand slam of the year.

“I love getting the energy from the crowd and from my box and my supporters,” he said.

“I play a physical brand of tennis, I work hard for my points, I really try to play with high energy.

“The other 40 weeks we're travelling, we've got crowd support going against us, but that's what makes it worthwhile being at home, and makes Australia such a fun place to play.”

John Millman spoke to Wide World of Sports on behalf of Mastercard, the Official Payment Partner of the Australian Open Series, for their initiative breaking down the physical barriers that divide neighbours, their backyard fences, and replacing them with tennis nets for neighbours to rally together.

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