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Millman battles body as finish line looms

John Millman loves his horses and would recognise better than most when an old favourite thoroughbred is toiling in the final furlong.

After a bruising, draining and ultimately losing slog at the French Open, Australia’s popular tennis trojan was left pondering how long it might be before his own last race was run – and what might come next.

“I know my level is there, it’s just the body sometimes. I play physical tennis, I probably won’t be able to walk much tomorrow,” reflected the Australian stalwart after his defeat by young gun, Sebastian Korda.

“As you get older the body is not amazing. The back is a real battle. The body just has to cooperate.

“On the days when you feel good, you want to capitalise, but some of those days are fewer and further between…”

The world No.91 also didn’t really need it pointing out that his tenure in the world’s top 100 was in jeopardy after being in that proud position for four years.

Recognising his questioner was not trying to retire him, Millman nodded, “Yep, I’m nearly 33, for sure … 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 spent a bit of time at home – because it’s not all glitz and glamour.”

The Queenslander was reflecting on his own future on a day he caused a major stir with his attack on Wimbledon over its “unilateral” decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players and a scathing critique of the mess surrounding the governance of tennis.

It was so impassioned that it couldn’t help but make his listeners wonder if Millman, an ATP Player Council representative, might one day be an administrator trying to solve the problems in a fractured game.

“Probably not,” reckoned Millman. “I thought once upon a time, yes. But I don’t know right now.”

His ATP role, he admitted, had been taxing, especially during COVID times.

“That kind of really takes it out of you. It’s wearing, because you do want genuinely to work for the best interests of the players.”

When he does finally call it a day after giving 110 per cent of himself, he reckoned there were other things that would take priority.

“To begin with, I’d like to take a bit of time out and work on my golf game and work on building up those relationships that I have had to forego for the last 15 years by spending 11 months away,” he said.

“That is important when I finish up eventually. Obviously, I am passionate about my sport, I’m passionate about my country, and I’m passionate about Queensland. We will see…..”

And then there’s some more fun to enjoy with his racing, as part of a syndicate of owners in some decent horses, headed by a recent winner Youngblood and a promising two-year-old Hang Five.

But for the moment, he’s still hanging tough on the tennis court. So what keeps him going?

“It’s a job,” he said. “Not every week you love it, it’s not the most enjoyable at times when you’re really battling with your body – but it’s your job.

“You don’t love every day when you go to work, do you?”

Millman, though, has always looked as if he adores it and still does, never believing on the run-in that the winning line is beyond him.

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