Just four matches after losing his five-setter against Roger Federer at the Australian Open, John Millman was having to scramble to find a practice court. AP photo

Millman back in practice after backyard tennis in pandemic

With Australian authorities managing to contain the spread of the virus, the lockdown is being eased

BRISBANE, Australia — Just four matches after losing his five-setter against Roger Federer at the Australian Open, John Millman was having to scramble to find a practice court.

It’s not like he was suddenly an unknown to Aussie tennis fans. More a case of making himself at home as the coronavirus pandemic forced athletes everywhere to think outside of the box.

The professional tennis tours have been suspended. His regular practice venue at the Queensland Tennis Centre, which hosts the season-opening Brisbane International, was shuttered during the lockdown because of strict social distancing restrictions.

So, Millman went the social route, playing on backyard courts that belonged to people he sometimes was meeting for the first time.

“Ït was awesome — really good fun,” he said. “I had a couple of lovely families that welcomed me in and allowed me to keep my eye in. It was really nice. Stuck to the (social distancing) protocols, of course, so we were ticking all those boxes.”

Chris Mahony, Queensland’s National Academy manager, organized for 12 professional players including Millman to have fitness equipment shipped to their homes and for them to maintain contact with trainers via digital and other means. He also organized a half-dozen courts owned by people from within the academy network where players could practice.

Then Millman widened the network to his fan base.

“I think Johnny said something in one of his newspaper articles and before he knew it, he had people contacting him and offering courts,” Mahony said.

With Australian authorities managing to contain the spread of the virus, the local lockdown is being eased gradually and some sports venues are reopening for practice.

So Millman and Co. were back at work on Monday in the shadows of Pat Rafter Arena.

The 30-year-old Millman has seen the highs of lows of being a tennis pro, from reaching the U.S. Open quarterfinals in 2018 after a win over then No. 2-ranked Federer that continued with his run into the Top 40 in the rankings, to playing in the lower tiers “for a couple of hundred bucks a round” after returning from surgeries.

Despite having only 12 competitive matches in 2020, including a grinding four-hour third-round loss to Federer on the centre court at the Australian Open in January, Millman is in no rush for the tours to resume until it is safe for players, staff and officials.

He’s proposing instead some domestic team events in Australia to keep players occupied and give local tennis fans more of a look at Australian talent while international travel bans are in play.

The No. 43-ranked Millman is also happy for the conversation about player compensation to be high on the agenda around the tennis circuit, saying it’s years overdue. Players in some sports have been forced to take big pay cuts because of the coronavirus.

In tennis, Millman said, the problem runs deeper than the pandemic despite a recent push to increase prize money for the early rounds and qualifying tournaments at the Grand Slam events.

“Players outside 100 are struggling all year round whether there is coronavirus or not,” Millman told the Australian Associated Press. “It should be managed better by the ATP, the WTA and the ITF.

“Maybe this starts the discussion, but I won’t hold my breath.”

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There were 410 COVID-19 cases recorded in Alberta Wednesday. (File photo)
Alberta records 410 COVID-19 cases Wednesday

Central zone dropped to 160 active cases

Shaun Isaac, owner of Woodchucker Firewood in Trochu, is awaiting a new shipment during a firewood shortage in the province. All of the wood he has left is being saved for long-time customers who need it to heat their homes. (Contributed photo).
Firewood shortage in central Alberta caused by rising demand, gaps in supply

‘I’ve said “No” to more people than ever’: firewood seller

file photo
Maskwacis RCMP investigate pedestrian fatality

Collision on Highway 2A causing fatality still under investigation.

Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer
City of Wetaskiwin cases rapidly climbing

City of Wetaskiwin reporting 11 active cases of COVID-19

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Sharon Hickin, general manager of the Days Inn Sylvan Lake and the new Lake House Diner, poses for a photo outside the new restaurant. Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News
Pandemic puts extra hurdles in place for new Sylvan Lake businesses

Over the past seven months numerous new businesses have opened in Sylvan Lake, despite the pandemic

Rachel Notley, leader of Alberta’s official Opposition, speaks in Edmonton on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Notley says the government needs to sharply ramp up the number of contact tracers if it wants to get a handle on the rising number of COVID-19 cases. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Opposition calls for more COVID-19 contact tracers as case numbers rise

Alberta has about 800 tracers, and chief medical health officer Dr. Hinshaw says more are being recruited

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. Hospital and health-care workers who staged a one-day illegal walkout returned to work Tuesday while politicians swapped recriminations and accusations in the house over the dispute. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta health staff return to work, surgeries resume after one-day walkout

AHS estimated 157 non-emergency surgeries, most of them in Edmonton, had to be postponed as a result of the walkout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to provide an update on the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Canada has reached a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, surpassing 10,000 novel coronavirus deaths. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta COVID deaths pushes Canada past milestone of 10,000 deaths

Canada crossed the threshold of 5,000 deaths on May 12, a little over two months after the first was reported

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Most Read