BTT: What are you doing now and where are you living?
JM: I moved roughly eight weeks ago to Sydney from Melbourne as my partner got a new job as a paramedic during COVID. I’m currently finishing my last couple of units in a Bachelor of Health Science degree and getting some coaching hours in when I can.
BTT: What have you done since retiring from tennis?
JM: Being only five months since my last match and with the unfortunate circumstances around COVID-19 I feel like I haven’t been able to do all that much. Feels awful to say as I’d like to think I’m a pretty proactive person. Not being able to visit family back home in WA has been hard however, I’ve felt so much connection with friends and family during this period which I guess is a silver lining through these challenging times.
BTT: Everyone has a favourite tennis memory what is yours?
JM: I have a few but I’m going to say winning the WTA doubles title in Guangzhou with good mate Mon Adamczak. Mon brought it to my attention only a couple of days ago of our little travelling adventure leading into that week. It wasn’t just the win that was so memorable for us, it was the challenges we overcame getting there. We were playing in Hiroshima, Japan the week before. Took a flight to Hongkong, arrived late and couldn’t get a train ticket to Guangzhou. All tickets were sold out and no one spoke a word of English. To make this even more complex we found out that a typhoon was expected and people everywhere were trying to get out. After thinking through all possible options, we ended up getting a bus and walked with our bags across the border. We finally got to the hotel at an ungodly hour and woke the next morning to the typhoon raging around us. Close escape! The tournament was on hold for at least a few days being so dangerous. As I’m sure most players would agree, playing in China comes with its challenges at the best of times so achieving this win together was pretty special.
BTT: What was the professional tennis player experience like for you?
JM: Challenging on a variety of fronts but at times also incredibly rewarding. Not playing is still pretty fresh and I’m finding myself randomly reflecting on different events throughout my career. As a whole, I am incredibly grateful for what tennis has enabled me to see and explore over the years. Growing up in a rural town in Western Australia I would never have imagined leaving home at 13 and travelling all over the world playing a sport I love. I’ve met so many amazing, generous people along the way and learnt so much about culture and people.
At times in my reflections, there are mixed emotions that emerge of frustration, sadness and even some anger. I think for so long I’ve compartmentalised much of my career possibly as a coping mechanism so at the moment I’m feeling a variety of emotions which I’m sure is to be expected over a 16-year journey.
BTT: How important was it to have a close group of friends around you while on the road?
JM: Something I don’t think I realised to its entirety until later in my career. Right now, in these challenging times as I’m sure many would agree, having a sense of connection is so important. I’m fortunate to have built a group of friends throughout my tennis career that are genuine and incredibly special to me. Those I’ve stayed in touch with frequently over this period of isolation have really reinforced just how important connection is.
BTT: Had you been thinking about retirement long before you left the tour?
JM: I think a lot of players go through moments throughout their career where they are not seeing the progression and results they expect of themselves and over time can be disheartening especially with so much time, effort and sacrifice invested. At 20 I took a break from tennis and thought I’d finished as mentally I wasn’t coping well with feelings of disappointment and not living up to what I thought was expected of me. After about 8 months away I realised I missed competing too much and I still had some left to give and prove to myself. The second time round I really tried to emphasise playing for me and I’m glad I made the decision as I played for another 8 years.
2019 wasn’t a great year for me. A little strange looking back as I got a career high in doubles, but I felt like my values were screaming and encouraging for something different and new. Two weeks before Wimbledon I injured my right shoulder while serving in a match at Roehampton. I needed to come home early to rehab with the aim to get back in time for the US Open. Managed to do so but wasn’t confident in performing and it really took a toll on my confidence. After the Asian swing, I came home to prepare for a trip back in Europe for some indoor events and became ill. After many doctor visits and blood tests nothing was coming up, just encouraged to rest. Turned out I developed pneumonia and I was out for about eight weeks. Over this period, I had so much down time to really assess what I wanted, how I felt about competing and my life outside of being an athlete. I knew I wanted to play one more Australian open being my favourite tournament, where I guess my career started and wanted my family there to see me play one last time.
BTT: What sort of preparations did you make for your retirement from the tennis tour, if any?
JM: I’m really fortunate in having an incredibly supportive family and partner that have always been a constant sounding board throughout my career. I also stumbled across The Athlete Advantage (TAA) with a little bit of research because I knew that making the decision and following through wasn’t going to be easy. Going through the stages of the program really helped in preparing for what I felt, experienced and where I could source assistance if needed throughout the stages of transition. Now that I’ve had a little bit of time to adjust with it slowly sinking in, I don’t think you can ever over prepare. You experience such a mix of emotions unique to you and your experience but also very relatable with so many who have gone through the same process.
BTT: What was the transition like for you?
JM: A little hard to answer being still so fresh. COVID-19 threw a spanner in the works with not being able to visit family and with the move to Sydney adding another new element initially made things really challenging. I guess as time progresses you learn to adapt and begin to feel more at ease- something I think all athletes learn to do throughout their careers.
BTT: What are your suggestions for current players for preparing in any way before they actually retire?
JM: Think through and plan your retirement. Having a plan in place doesn’t deviate you away from your performance, if anything I think it helps. Clarity in what you want outside of being an athlete is so important and don’t be afraid to voice any concerns. I also think once retired, having some little goals in place really helps in maintaining a purpose.
BTT: What sort of things, if any, could have assisted you make a better transition?
JM: I do wish I felt more comfortable about being open emotionally both with myself and my tennis. I think as athletes we always feel the need to keep a front up and not let our guard down to avoid any vulnerabilities being exposed. This could have possibly reduced thoughts of isolation not only with transition but throughout my career.
BTT: How important was your network in helping you with the next steps in your career?
JM: Networking is massive. It allows you access to information and access to people. I didn’t really grasp the importance until much later in my career. Naturally being quite a shy person, I would avoid any public occasion where possible which I now regret. I’m finding myself making more of a conscious effort in saying yes to as many new opportunities as possible with the possibility of discovering a new passion and/or meeting new people. In saying this, I have been fortunate to meet a wide variety of people through playing whom have mentored and played a positive influence while experiencing my transition.
BTT: What goals did you set yourself when you quit tennis?
JM: Since my early 20’s I’ve had a real passion for working in the athlete wellbeing and development space. I really want to utilise my experience as an athlete in conjunction with the appropriate education to assist athletes in their personal and professional development.
BTT: How are you still connected to the tennis world?
JM: Obviously a little challenging at the moment with competition and travel on hold however, I coach roughly 10 to 11 hours a week and I’m currently completing the Junior development course. This year Tennis Australia offered the course for former and current players. This was awesome especially throughout isolation being able to see so many fellow players on our video calls discussing and stripping the game right back to a 3- 9+ year old level. Fingers crossed we can complete the practical stages soon when restrictions lift.
BTT: What’s next for you?
JM: Right now, my main focus is to finish my studies, gain further education in the athlete wellbeing and development space while staying involved in tennis through coaching. I’m obviously still adjusting to the move as well as all the various changes, but I think that all takes time. Ultimately the decision to retire was mine and I think it’s important for me to be as proactive as possible in moving forward.