For professional tennis players, maintaining a healthy lifestyle off the court is a critical factor in realizing their ambitions between the lines. Commitment and dedication to time in the gym not only prepares the body for battle and increases stamina, but is essential for injury prevention.
Few have been preaching this philosophy more than John Millman has this year. After undergoing a third significant surgery in his young career, the Aussie is putting an emphasis on maintaining a consistent workout regimen in the gym and keeping a nutritious diet, as he seeks to continue rising in his comeback from groin surgery in February.
The longtime Tecnifibre player has more than demonstrated that he can enjoy a successful career on the ATP World Tour and compete with the best in the game. Having ascended to a career-high of No. 60 in May 2016, the World No. 218 is hoping to stay off the operating table as he looks to push his standing in the Emirates ATP Rankings back inside the Top 100.
Early in his career, the Brisbane native underwent a shoulder repair and once again needed a shoulder reconstruction in 2013, which forced him to the sidelines for more than 12 months. He would come back with a vengeance, claiming back-to-back Challenger titles in Traralgon, Australia, and Yokohama, Japan, and earning a nomination for 2015 Comeback Player of the Year. This year, following a run to the final at the Lexington Challenger and a third round finish at the US Open, he is drawing on those experiences for motivation.
Millman spoke to ATPWorldTour.com while competing at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He will face Yuki Bhambri in Friday’s quarter-finals.
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) October 24, 2017
John, talk about how the comeback is going. Are you training any differently now than you were before the groin surgery?
Every injury presents another set of challenges. This one was really tough because movement is a big part of my game. Even when I was on the sideline, I couldn’t do so much. Any core work was completely out of the question. The whole idea was to make sure we repair the conjoint tendon properly, down to all the small details. Once we were confident it was repaired, there was a massive emphasis on strengthening up that area with a lot of squatting and core exercises. Trying to get the adductor muscles as strong as possible.
What’s your routine in the gym and what are you focusing on these days?
Unfortunately the more injuries I have, the more time I’m spending in the gym. Obviously I have to keep track of my shoulder with many exercises. That’s another serious injury that you don’t want to come back from again. But now I’m a lot more interested in my hip mobility and turning on my trunk. Just trying to get that area switched on as much as possible.
Tennis is so physical and I’m probably more aware now of what muscles I’m using down there, in terms of my truck, my hip and my groin. They are all related. The gym is all about just switching it on before I go out to hit. Just giving it every shot to be as free and loose as possible. I’m definitely doing a lot of weights too, because it’s important to keep that strength up. But that’s not necessarily before I go out to play.
How do you stay focused and motivated through these setbacks?
I’ve always felt that I’ve done the little things well and been professional. I have been a little unlucky with my body, but I’ll continue to be professional and do those little things. It was challenging then and I still am facing the challenges from it now. Every now and again I’ll feel little niggles and some days feel better than others. You just hope you have more of the better days than the not-so-good ones. You have to trust the process and that over time, if you keep working at it, eventually you’ll have more good days.
After having such a successful return following the shoulder surgery in 2013, how much confidence does that give you to know you’ve done it before?
You have to draw upon those experiences and I guess that’s the motivating thing. I feel that if I can get fit, I can get to that high level. You take the little wins and I think that’s important when you get back from injury. That is, going a bit deeper in the US Open where I reached the third round and before that I reached the final at the Lexington Challenger. And I represented my country in Davis Cup. You get these little wins that spur you on. There’s no doubt that it’s challenging and I’m just hopeful that I can keep getting better and make the small improvements.
What was the biggest lesson you took from your previous surgeries that helped prepare you for this rehab and comeback?
For me, the difference between this surgery and the other two is that I was competing week in and week out on the ATP World Tour and winning matches. I was doing well [rising to a career-high of No. 60 in May 2016]. Whereas a few years ago, there was a little of the unknown with my career. My career-high then was around No. 130. Now, I have that belief that I could get back to the Top 100. My game is in the right spot when everything is firing. I think that spurs you on.
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) October 26, 2017
Movement and agility are a big part of your game. What particular challenges did a lower-body injury present to you?
This one proved to be quite tricky, once it starts impacting your movement. It’s such an important part of my game. That’s what has probably held me back the most. Sometimes your body gets to that point where it lets you down a little bit and it’s difficult to face. You have to do all those little things to win the battle and I’m hopeful that I’m doing them right. I really trust in myself and the experts around me that it will continually get better.
Finally, talk about how diligent you are with your diet.
My diet has always been pretty good. I’ve always tried to eat as best as possible, but I’ll have a cheat meal here and there. That’s probably frowned upon but we’re all human. That’s all part of it. I find my diet to be pretty good. I’m lucky that I don’t normally put on too much weight. If I eat well, then I’ll be able to manage my weight and decrease chances of injury.