“But that’s the life of a tennis player.” When James McGee said this sentence in the middle of our interview, it brought something in mind: his blog and his ideas.
Consequently, after talking about his first match, we ended up discussing his blog, prize money, sponsorship, and the abuse the players receive on the social networks when they lose.
Our interview with James McGee – Second part
(Note: It would be unfair to the conversation not to leave this part of the interview as it was discussed, which is why we left it, basically, uncut.)
BATennis World: I’m kind of missing the blog, actually!
James McGee: [laughs] Thanks for bringing it up. I need to get back on that. Were you reading it?
BATW: Yes, of course.
BATW: Yeah, because I remember you talking about, like, the prize money issues and everything. And that was so interesting! Because that’s something that even us, like media or even fans, we don’t know about that.
JM: OK, well, that’s the slap on the wrist that I needed in order to get back writing.
JM: No, actually, sometimes you need a slap on the wrist. I sort of avoided it, for a number of reasons. I felt that this year… It’s been a good year in the fact that I played all the Slams in terms of qualifying. I haven’t qualified in. I had a chance in Australia. But I felt like I haven’t performed my best this year. I feel like I’m capable of a lot more. There’s a lot of reasons that go into it.
Sometimes when you’re writing a blog, I don’t want to come across as… I would like to explain it as matter-of-fact, that these are the things that are happening, as opposed to “Oh, I’m finding it so difficult!”, I’m complaining, I’m struggling. I’m aware of how I’m perceived in that way and I don’t want to come across as a guy who’s complaining.
I want to come across as someone who’s doing his best. But these are the challenges that I face. And of course, when you’re not in the top 100, as everyone knows, financially, it is extremely difficult. Not just paying for yourself, but paying for a coach. That’s the reality of professional tennis. When you’re at this level, at the Montreal Masters, it’s great, because you’re making prize money, you’re making points. The hotel’s great, you’re staying at the Marriott, there’s a fantastic atmosphere, and all this. But at the Challenger Tour and the lower levels, it’s a lot more difficult because you’re playing for less prize money, it’s very difficult to make a living. These are the challenges that you have to face.
Obviously coming from Ireland it’s a lot more challenging because we’re not coming from a Federation that has a huge amount of money, such as England, Australia, America, France, or any of the big tennis federations. So I’ve done the best with what I have and I’m going to try and do better. I’ve been consistently around 200 or top 200 for a good four or five years in my career. Obviously, I’ve always wanted to be in the top 100, but in order to do that, there’s going to have to be funds available. So I’m constantly looking for sponsorship. I’m trying to get the word out there that I am looking for sponsorship. That’s the reality of where I’m at.
BATW: You’re talking about the Futures, and everything. You guys get a lot of flack when you lose. I see that and when players complain about it, I always share it. Is there a way to change things? How do you guys react to that?
JM: You’re talking about getting a lot of flack from the bettors?
BATW: Yes, all the threats and everything.
JM: I laugh. I try and take a different approach and just laugh and I do the opposite of what they’re expecting. They’re expecting anger and returned anger and I just laugh. I feel sorry for a lot of them. I think they’ve obviously either haven’t been brought up very well, they have anger issues, and they’ve got gambling issues.
I feel sorry for people like that, so I don’t allow myself to be involved in that type of anger or hatred that you all can see. It is quite disgusting what you see sometimes from bettors, in terms of either death threats or things like “hey, you should retire”. I can’t obviously use the language… You can imagine what language is being used by the worst of the worst. It just shows that you see an ugly side of people when they lose money and when they’re angry. People can be ugly but I don’t want to get involved in it.
What can we do about it? It’s a really good question. I got to sit down and think about it. I’m not too sure right now, other than maybe having someone monitor the accounts, delete those accounts of people that are sending such hateful messages. That’s what comes to mind right now.
Huge thanks to James McGee for his time and his insights about a side of tennis that is not as widely known as it should.