Andy Murray dines at the finest Japanese restaurant in London; John Millman’s idea of a treat is a Domino’s pizza. Andy Murray is the world No 2 and is chasing his second Wimbledon title; John Millman is just delighted to be here in the main draw as a direct entry. Such are the differences between life at the top and the bottom of the tennis heap.
Today the two men will do battle for a place in the fourth round, the second meeting of their professional careers. Murray won the first, beating Millman in his home town of Brisbane three years ago. It was not easy, either, and it took the Scot the full three sets to get the job done so it is no wonder he has due respect for his lower-ranked opponent (the Australian is the world No 67, down from a career high of No 60 reached in May).
“He played extremely well that day,” Murray said. “He was ranked, I want to say, about 200 at the time. I came off the court and I said to Danni Vallverdu, who I was working with, ‘He’s top 50 for sure if he keeps going’.
“He moves well. He has a great attitude. He’s played a few good matches there in Brisbane. He played a great match against Federer there a few years ago, too. But obviously it’s a different surface, different place. The match-up will be a bit different on a grass court, as well.”
Whatever the outcome of today’s encounter – and the odds are obviously stacked heavily in Murray’s favour – Millman will have plenty to discuss with the Scot afterwards. Two years ago, his ranking was down in the 1,100s and he did not break into the world’s top 100 until last year when he was 26. Most of his life has been spent schlepping around the lower reaches of the professional game, scratching out some sort of existence.
He has slept in airports and railway stations (so much cheaper than hotels or B&Bs) and he has seen life from the other end of the telescope to his opponent today – which brings us to that pizza.
He and fellow Australian Matt Barton were at the Gimcheon tournament, a tiny event in Korea with an even tinier prize money fund, when they fancied a pizza. As they sat and watched the last match of the day, the pizza arrived in a tuk-tuk and was presented to the man receiving serve on court – with a demand for payment.
As Millman told the Age newspaper in Melbourne, moments like those make you appreciate life’s little luxuries when you get them but they are memories that will live with him forever.
“Matty has it on film, and it’s hilarious,” Millman recalls. “There’s so many of those moments, and it makes you appreciate it more when you have your good times in the main draws of the slams and bigger tournaments.”
On a more serious note, he may well be chewing Murray’s ear today. The world No 2 is newly elected to the ATP’s Player Council and has made it plain that he wants to see a fairer redistribution of wealth throughout the sport. Millman backs him to the hilt in that and knows from experience what it is like on the bottom rung of the ladder.
“I’m no special case there,” he said. “In fact, the large, large majority of players are doing it extremely tough, and that’s why I think more of them should be making money. The grand slams are so glamorous and you’re staying in nice hotels or apartments... it’s beautiful. And then there’s the flipside.”
Not that Millman is complaining. Three summers ago, he thought his career was over following surgery for a serious shoulder injury. As he began the long, laborious process of rehab and recovery, he worked for a friend’s financial company in order to pay the bills.
“I was dressed up in a suit each day going in,” he said. “I always wanted to get back into it. And I think I really have an appreciation of these moments right now, because there was a big time there where I wasn’t too confident.”
But he did recover and is now, he feels, a better player than before the surgery and at last, at the age of 27, he is beginning to understand his own game. Facing Murray will be familiar experience after that Brisbane encounter but facing Murray on a main show court in SW19 will be a whole new world.
“He’ll probably have a bit more support,” Millman said. “I don’t think anyone was going for him back in Brizzie. I have never been inside Centre Court or Court 1. If I do get to play on one of those big courts, for me, that’s what tennis is all about. I would never have dreamed a couple of years ago that I would ever be in this position. So I plan to make the most of it.”