John Millman’s 2023 Australian Open campaign ended when he was bundled out of the tournament in straight sets by Russian star and 2022 finalist Daniil Medvedev.
Despite the 2nd round exit, it wasn’t the last time we saw or heard from the Aussie tennis ace at Melbourne Park.
Millman stepped into the commentary booth for Channel 9 and made an immediate impression with his enthusiasm and his ability to articulate what was happening in front of him on the court.
Having first dabbled with commentary in 2016 whilst battling a groin issue, Millman’s recent media exploits have provided him with the opportunity to ready himself for life once he does eventually hang up the racquet.
Millman explains to The First Serve that he’s enjoyed his foray onto the other side of the net and is keen to continue furthering his journalistic skillset.
“It’s something that I’ve got more involved in as I’ve moved on in my playing career.
“I think with tennis that because it’s only on our screens for one month of the year it can be difficult with the media side of things but It’s something that I enjoy doing.
Millman says one of the major reasons he’s taken up the opportunities so far in media land are to help grow the game in his home country.
“I just love tennis and I’d love to get as many people involved as possible.”
Affectionately regarded as a bit of a journeyman himself, Millman explains how a greater focus should be placed on a player’s ‘story’ when they step onto the court.
“I think sometimes we’re not great at story-telling in tennis.
“The commentary can leave a bit to be desired when trying to explain to the audience just how deep tennis goes and what it takes to get to the top level.
“The general punter at home (in Australia) doesn’t realise how big tennis is.
“In Australia it’s only in our faces one month of the year and we can forget just how big it is and that it’s a truly global sport.
“When you hear about the journeyman who is 30, 40 or 50 in the world, (at the moment) we are selling ourselves short and not telling some of the best stories in the sport.
“I think that’s an important part of commentary and I’d like to think that when I’m doing it, I can bring that to the table.
“I’d like to be able to get people in Australia to understand just how good these guys are that are in the top 100. They aren’t recognised enough and they are some of our best athletes in Australia.
“I want to change the narrative and paint a truer picture of what the tour is like and what sacrifices players make.”
In recent weeks Millman has also been writing comment pieces for www.news.com.au which has included articles published on equal prizemoney and fellow Australian player, Nick Kyrgios.
He says he’s not setting out to make big calls for quick clicks online but is rather aiming to call things exactly as he sees them.
“I think the most important thing is that it must come from a genuine place and not just to push people’s buttons for the sake of it.
“You just have to keep that level of respect there because it can be easy for people to step over the line.
“I’ll always be honest when I’m in the commentary box or when I’m writing but I do think that a lot of the stuff is justified by the message you’re trying to deliver.”
Millman also believes that the ATP Tour is in great shape commercially as we begin to see a changing of the guard at the pointy end of the rankings.
“It’s a really big transition time.
“There’s been a clear strategy from ATP management to ready ourselves for when the big 3 retire.
“They’ve been preparing for this with the introduction of the Next Gen series and introducing the audience and the consumer to the next wave coming through because they knew just how influential it would be for them in a monetary sense.
“I think they’ve prepared the audience really well because there’s been a real push over the last five or six years centred around the next wave of top players whether it’s Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime, Alcaraz or Sinner.
“You can see already just how popular these players are.”
Despite the foresight on of the ATP, Millman says the same unfortunately can’t be said of the WTA and their plans for life after Serena Williams.
“They seemed content that she would be around forever.
“I don’t think they were as innovative in generating that buzz of the next big player and now they are trying to play catch-up.”
In his recent write-up on Nick Kyrgios, Millman expressed his belief that the uber-talented 28-year-old can go one better at Wimbledon this year and take out the title if things go his way.
Kyrgios isn’t the only Aussie that Millman believes has what it takes to become a major champion though, highlighting just how far world no.18 Alex de Minaur has come in the past 12 months.
“Alex is one of my very good friends and he’s the type of person we should get around because he embodies all the qualities you want in your local champions.
“Our biggest names are coming to the end of their career and if you get the right draw and you don’t have to topple one of them then you’re much more likely to succeed.
“For Alex, early on in his career he put himself in the position to take on some of the really top players and he would fall short and as a result some self-doubt would creep in but in recent times, he’s started to knock off those top players on a regular basis.
“I think he’s just starting to enter into that mode where he has the conviction to beat those really top players and that readies you to make a really deep run in a grand slam.
“Then when you’ve made a deep run there’s no reason why you can’t win it.”