Who is Max Mirnyi? The word mirnyi translates to “peaceful” in Russian, and, as someone who has met this great athlete, I can attest to Mirnyi’s peaceful nature in person. When he talks about his work of court, he expresses his ideas in a profound but calm way. However, on the court, Mirnyi is anything but mirnyi. He is a relentless fighter.
MAX TO THE MAX
I return to the original question. Just exactly who is Max Mirnyi? Well, to start, he is a fantastic tennis player with career longevity not often seen in the sports world.
More specifically, he is one of the best doubles players in the history of the game.
He has repeatedly topped rankings in doubles, starting with his first top doubles ranking in 2003. He currently holds 10 Grand Slam titles (six doubles, four mixed doubles). He has won 50 ATP tournaments. While Mirnyi is now considered a doubles specialist, he has also enjoyed a fantastic singles career, finishing in the Top 50 in the ATP World Tour Rankings for seven consecutive years.
He has also excelled at international team competitions. Max has been the leader of the Davis Cup team for more than 22 years and immensely contributed to the team’s success. He has also shined as an Olympian, winning Gold in 2012. Mirnyi keeps on playing and recently made it to the Quarterfinals in the Australian Open.
Talk about full throttle, and with no end in sight!
THE JOURNEY TO GREATNESS
Max Mirnyi’s tennis career started at an early age, when he was only six years old. His father, Nikolai Mirnyi, chose the sport for his son and has accompanied him throughout the years. As a young but talented player, Mirnyi attended the well-known IMG Tennis Academy in Florida, headed by Nick Bollettieri.
Mirnyi’s early career was one that many athletes can relate to, as he faced substantial fnancial pressures. He recalled these difficult times: “We went to ‘satellite’ tennis tournaments with less than 50 dollars. I would play my matches, earn 300 dollars or so when I would win, and then my dad and I would check into a modest motel. If I exited the tournament early and we had a few days until the next tournament starts, we lived in the car.”
However, by the late 90’s, after Mirnyi won his first two Grand Slam tournaments at Wimbledon and the US Open, he was gaining popularity. He was officially appointed National Goodwill UN Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus in December 2002.
Following Mirnyi’s top doubles ranking in 2003, Nikolai Mirnyi published a book about his son’s tennis career called “Mirnyi Tennis.” In 2004, Max married Kseniya and they have had four children together: Melanie, Peter, Demid, and Trophym.
After defeating the Russian team in 2004, Mirnyi was awarded the highest government award given to a civilian, the Order “For Merit to the Fatherland,” because of his outstanding contributions to the nation. In 2013, Mirnyi was also awarded the Tennis Europe Award for his significant contribution to the development and promotion of tennis in all of Europe.
Among Mirnyi’s greatest victories, several events stand out: the French Open (Roland Garros), Wimbledon, the US Open, the Davis Cup, and the Olympics.
Mirnyi won at Roland Garros a total of four times. His first two wins were consecutive in 2005 and 2006 with a Swedish doubles partner, Jonas Björkman. These two finals were especially exciting, as Mirnyi and his partner faced off with the famous American Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, at both finals. The Bryan brothers have always been Mirnyi’s most serious contenders. Throughout his career, he has played against them in the finals of 15 different tournaments with an overall record of seven wins and eight losses. Following five years of no success at Roland Garros, Mirnyi was again able to secure consecutive victories at Roland Garros, although this time with Canadian partner Daniel Nestor (2011 and 2012).
Mirnyi successfully won the Wimbledon Title in Mixed Doubles with partner Serena Williams in 1998. At the US Open, Mirnyi also won the doubles competition in 2000 with the famous Australian tennis player Lleyton Hewitt and, in 2002, with Indian player Mahesh Bhupahti. In Mixed Doubles, Mirnyi was also victorious in NYC three times. In 1998, with Serena Williams, in 2007, with Victoria Azarenka, and in 2013 with Andrea Hlavackova.
Mirnyi’s victories at the Davis Cup were not only important to him, but also for the nation of Belarus as a whole. Almost all of Belarus’s successes at the Davis Cup were associated with Mirnyi. In 1994, he joined the Belarusian team, which had, at the time, only gotten as far as the 3rd Round of the Europe/Africa Group. However, together with Vladimir Voltchkov, Mirnyi led the team to the World Group of Davis Cup. In 2004 and 2005, the Belarusian team defeated Argentina, Russia, and Spain, thereby advancing to the semifinals of the tournament. These were, by far, the most successful years for the Belarusian team in the Davis Cup. The strong Belarusian team lasted until 2007, and, by now, Mirnyi had played a total of 90 matches in 51 meetings as part of the Belarus team in the Davis Cup competition.
Mirnyi has also been an Olympian four times, participating in Sydney, Athens, Beijing, and in London. At the 2012 Olympics in London, Mirnyi won Gold in Mixed Doubles with top Belarusian female tennis player Victoria Azarenka.
FROM TENNIS STAR TO SCHOLAR AND GOODWILL AMBASSADOR
Following his appointment as National Goodwill UN Ambassador in 2002, Mirnyi chose to study International Relations and International Law at the Belarusian State University (BSU). In 2008, Mirnyi completed his Bachelor’s degree. Following this, Mirnyi became a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador in 2011. Although generally advocating for children’s rights, UNICEF campaigns are varied and target all aspects of children’s lives including health, education, dignity and protection.
In response to his appointment, Mirnyi said, “Undoubtedly it is a significant milestone in my life, and I treat it as a great responsibility. I have an excellent relationship with my Dad, and I, myself, am a father of four kids. That is why I have an acute sentience to children’s needs all over the world, particularly in Belarus. I wish that every child had a harmonious life. In the role of UNICEF Ambassador, I will do my utmost to turn it into a reality and to make children’s lives as happy as possible.”
Although he was ofcially appointed in 2011, Mirnyi had already supported many UNICEF activities in Belarus for several prior years. He had assisted with many fundraising events, including those benefiting children suffering from cancer. He also regularly participated in many different UNICEF campaigns such as those promoting healthy living, legal education for children and early childhood development approaches.
“UNICEF Belarus has been cooperating with Max Mirnyi for several years. He has always demonstrated genuine commitment to building a better world for children and has set a personal example of what it means to be a good son and father. Tus, appointment of Max Mirnyi as UNICEF National Ambassador is a logical step forward in the UNICEF — Mirnyi friendship and will strengthen our work for the sake of Belarusian children,” said Yuri Oksamitniy, UNICEF Belarus Representative.
As an athlete, Mirnyi is an obvious choice as a role model for young kids and adolescents. His story is one based on the relentless pursuit of victory, and includes an emphasis on both professional and personal development. Simply put, Mirnyi never settled for anything less than his best, even from an early age.
His passion for children’s health resonates in his work with UNICEF. He was an integral part of a national exercise awareness campaign in Belarus known as Being Fit is Easy (2012 – 2014). The campaign was implemented in a partnership between UNICEF and the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus. Billboards were placed all over the country, providing tips on how to easily and effectively use the urban environment for daily exercise. Tips included how to effectively jog in parks, and how to use city structures such as steps and benches as well as school stadiums. Video trainings were made available and distributed across educational institutions via the Ministry of Education. The campaign also consisted of Q&A sessions with Mirnyi, involving many different topics including fitness, nutrition, training schedules, and physical and personal development. Oksamitniy stated “The objective of the campaign is to provide adolescents and youth with simple and easily available tools for doing sports: tools that demand no sophisticated equipment, professional settings or financial expenditures. It is important to motivate young people to exercise systematically at least three to four times a week for about 30-40 minutes. Tis will contribute to the promotion of their health and wellbeing.”
Mirnyi will continue to use his fame in order to promote UNICEF’s overall mission of attracting attention to Belarus’s most vulnerable children. Recently, he has worked on a campaign targeted at preventing child abuse called Playroom without Violence.
Mirnyi is always on top of his general fitness, often dedicating his off-court efforts to the importance of training routines. In the Belarusian town of Svietlahorsk, Mirnyi gave a master class for young tennis players. Every child was able to do a footwork/tennis specific drill with the UNICEF Ambassador. He then visited the Rehabilitation Centre for Children with Special Needs. Clearly, Mirnyi won’t ever stop, whether on the tennis court or of. The world needs more Mirnyi athletes!