NOT QUITE THE TENNIS AFTERLIFE


Photograph: Getty Images

Altering a winning environment is always a significant moment for a tennis player and a move that requires careful consideration.

But as players age, their priorities in life change as responsibilities build elsewhere, as is the case with people in all walks of life.

It is harder to retain a singular focus and finding a solution that allows success on and off the court is important to ensuring their careers can continue to flourish.

Sam Stosur, the US Open singles champion who is still among the best doubles players in the world, has made a drastic change to at least one element of her preparation recently.

It has nothing to do with her technique, nor with securing a new coach, for example, as she transitions from the singles court into becoming a doubles specialist.

The change is entirely to do with what Stosur is now looking for in life.

As a younger woman entrenched in the top-10, it was all about location, location, location.

The former world No. 4 would look for apartments close to good restaurants or high streets and close to the tennis courts to enable her to maximise her time and potential.

But as a mother to Genevieve, the four-time doubles major winner and her partner Liz Astling now scour the maps around AirBNBs carefully, with parks instead of restaurants now of prime importance.

“I have to find a night light online now, because Evie is obsessed with the fairies coming at night,” she said.

“You have different priorities with your shopping. You pick your AirBNB because it is close to a park now, not because it is close to the good restaurants. But it is good fun.”

Stosur cannot wait to see her family, who arrive in Europe next week and will be with her through the entire grass court season culminating at Wimbledon in July.

The grand slams present one of the rare periods where Dasha and Luke Saville get an opportunity to spend time together when on the road.

As with any good marriage, managing their personal lives with their careers is a balance.


Wednesday at the French Open was a good day, not least because they both managed a win.

Dasha, who has made significant progress this year on the comeback trail from serious ankle and Achilles heel injuries, crushed dual-Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Luke and his Davis Cup teammate Jordan Thompson also managed to win their opening round in the doubles.

But it was not the only victory of the day.

They were fortunate to be scheduled for a similar time, which meant neither party had to sneak around the hotel room to avoid waking the other, and it also meant they could dine together at night.

“Probably it doesn’t help … if we are not on the same schedule,” Daria Saville said.

“If he has to wake up super early, sometimes I’m like, ‘But, agghh, I have a late match today,’.

“But (this week) we were thankfully on the same schedule, which was good.”

That actually presented a distraction on the court, for they were checking each other’s progress as the results around the grounds popped up on the scoreboards during changes of end.

The couple ended up playing at the same time on Wednesday, which Dasha labelled a “good day”, and again on Friday when beaten. That, not surprisingly, was a “shit day” for both of them.

The symmetry of their day was such that Dasha actually ducked in to have a chat to her husband for the first time since both played in a side interview room on the way to her own press conference.

“I was looking at his live scores and watching his matches and thinking, ‘It is either going to be a really bad day for us or a really good one,” she said.

Luke Saville is just delighted to be able to spend time with his wife after the difficulty COVID-19 posed for the couple.

The former Wimbledon boys champion spent eight months abroad last year as his then girlfriend continued her rehabilitation in Melbourne.

The 2020 Australian Open doubles finalist got back to Victoria as Daria dashed off to the Czech Republic for representative duties at the Billie Jean King Cup in November.

“You can’t control the schedule or order of play and today we were both playing at the same time,” he said on Friday.

“We got up at the same time, hit together, left at pretty similar times from the hotel and it’s business as usual. But we’re always supporting each other.

“If one’s getting up early or the other’s late, it can disrupt the other one a little bit, but we’re professionals.

“We can adjust and whatever’s thrown at us, we can just make it work. You’ve got to prepare at any time and face any sort of obstacles.”

John Millman is not ready to hang up the racquet, as battle-weary as he looked after a straight sets loss to Seb Korda on Tuesday in a match tighter than the scoreline suggests.

Sitting with reporters after the loss, the 32-year-old acknowledged that a back issue he has been nursing in recent years can make performing from one tournament to the next difficult.

“As you get older the body is probably not amazing, I’ll be honest with you,” he said.

“The back is a real battle. On the days when you feel good, you want to capitalise. But some of those days are few and far between.

“Tennis isn't going to be forever for me, that's for sure, and I look forward to a time when I don't have to play, and I can spend a bit of time at home, because it's not all glitz and glamour.”

While Stosur has her hands full with her daughter and the Savilles are in the honeymoon period after their wedding late last year, Millman’s extracurricular activities have been administrative.

Lately the former US Open quarterfinalist’s life as a member of the ATP Players Council has been particularly busy.

As soon as the COVID-19 regulations eased on the tour and around the globe more generally, the Ukraine conflict began with significant implications for tennis.

The 12-strong ATP Players Council, which features Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal among others, has had to deal with the ramifications on the men’s tour since February.

There was initial angst surrounding the ban of Russians and Belarusians from Wimbledon and then the controversy flared further when the decision to strip rankings points was made.

Millman, who aired his views strongly earlier this week and was expecting to cop some backlash on social media as a result, said the administrative challenges over the past couple of years had taken a toll.

“Oh, it is wearing,” he said.

“If you ask anyone from the Council, it is wearing, for sure.”

Stosur is considering life after tennis and is looking to mentor players in the future.

Saville has no doubt she will be a hit.

She said her compatriot has been of great help and that the advice she passed on while they were in Strasbourg recently was a factor in her good showing at Roland Garros this year.

“We spent so much time together in Strasbourg,” she said.

“My coach was not there … but we had a good chat and went out for dinner and we came up for a plan for how I was going to play at Roland Garros.

“I thought I was playing well … but some things I was still not happy about and (she and Rennae Stubbs) were like, ‘You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself’.

“Sam, in particular, she texts me straight after my matches and she is always someone I have looked up to.”