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ATPWorldTour: Behind The Lines… With Max Mirnyi
In a candid interview at The Queen’s Club, “The Beast”, Max Mirnyi, opens up on a variety of subjects.
Veteran tennis writer Robert Davis first met Max Mirnyi in Veria, Greece, as a skinny 17 year old without an Emirates ATP Rankings point at an ITF Satellite tournament. Mirnyi went on to become No. 1 with three different doubles partners, won 10 Grand Slam championship titles and the 2012 London Olympics mixed doubles gold medal.
What do you make of your current Emirates ATP Doubles Ranking?
Life being a professional tennis player teaches us to come through adversities. I have come to terms with the understanding that my current doubles ranking, No. 42, is a situation I have to deal with. For a few reasons that are clear to me, I am where I am today in the [Emirates] ATP Rankings. The Rankings do not lie and do not play favourites. For professional tennis players, it is very simple; we have a ranking system in place that may seem harsh, but it is pretty accurate. We are ranked where we are for a reason, or multiple reasons. According to your ranking most times we can tell if we are better or worse than this time last year.
I would not say that this is harder now than in 2009, when I had to make the choice to stop singles and become a doubles player only. Then, I had to tell myself, and accept that I am a doubles player and I might be viewed differently by other players, especially those I have competed against for many years on the singles court. It was not easy but I came through that and now I am at peace with that decision.
You are known and respected by your peers for your professionalism and always sticking to your early morning yoga rituals and post-match gym routines no matter how exciting the win or painful the loss. Can you explain?
I give a lot of credit for any success that I may have had to my childhood and parental guidance. Up until the age of 14 years old, I was very emotional, win or lose. My father [Nikolai] spent a lot of time with me. He would always say, ‘Maxim, don’t hang your shoulders when you lose. Keep working, Maxim.’ Or, after an exciting win, he would say, ‘Maxim, keep your cool and go back to work. Wins and losses are not permanent, Maxim. Everything good or bad will pass. Just worry about improving yourself!’
Certainly it is much easier said than done but my father was very persistent with that message to me time and time again. It soon turned into my motto, with which I was determined to make the most of my career. I also learned to understand that the work I do today will most likely not show in results tomorrow or even this week, but possibly three or four months down the road.
From a junior making the transition to the professional game, learning about yourself and how to go about your day on the tour with its wins and losses; to finding a way of trying to keep a fresh look at things. Also for ways to improve while adapting to new challenges that the game brings. If I enter a tournament and am capable of playing I treat it as the most important tournament. I do not give any less or any more consideration whether it is an ATP World Tour 250, a Master’s 1000 or a Grand Slam championship. I will put out 100 per cent physical and mental effort every time and then accept the results.
I have heard from some of your former partners that you are very deliberate and disciplined with your planning and scheduling. Can you tell me a little more about that?
If I rewind the tape back over my career, I have never had to call off a single practice, gym session or a training camp – much less a tournament. However, let me be clear. I, with my team, put a lot of thought into my planning. And based on my current state at the time there might be a four or five-day or even seven-day training week. I might be on the road for five or six weeks in a row, or sometimes just one. There were times when I had no weeks off training during the year, sometimes there were eight. But whatever we decided to do, I got done. I believe in the importance of discipline in following through with your plan.
Doubles teams chop and change a lot more today than in the past, and throughout your career you have played with some great partners. What lessons, if any, did you learn on the doubles tour? If you are playing together and both giving maximum effort, then working out and solving problems during the match as a team is a skill just like serving or volleying or hitting ground strokes. I don’t like it when someone comes up and says, ‘Hey, Max, you played really well but your partner let you down a bit.’ If you don’t have that skill to solve problems then you will probably lose more than you win. I have been really fortunate to play with some great partners during my career – Lleyton Hewitt, Mahesh Bhupathi, Jonas Bjorkman, Daniel Nestor and Roger Federer to name a few. And each of those players had that great ability, the skill to figure out the solution when things were not going well in the match or during the season.I have weathered many storms with those guys.
You have won just about everything there is to win in tennis, except the Davis Cup. You have a wife and four young children at home, several successful business ventures including the Max Mirnyi Sports Center in Minsk, a degree in international law, and you are a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. What does the future hold for you?
Not knowing how much longer you can compete at the highest level, or if this is my last Wimbledon or not, can be very difficult to go through. There are a lot of emotions involved. The only thing that I am sure of right now is that whatever event I am entered in I am going to continue putting myself in position to be at my best to win. I will continue to tick off the boxes that my profession requires each day. I have an inner-peace knowing that I can look in the mirror and know that I never cut corners, looked for shortcuts or gave less than my best at all times. That is most comforting in times of doubt.
An exhibition showcasing Max Mirnyi’s 20-year career and memorabilia is now open until October 2015 at Mir Castle in Minsk, Belarus. In addition to his trophies and awards, exhibits features include family photos and personal items.