Melbourne, Australia, 5 May 2023 | Leigh Rogers

John-Patrick Smith has soared to great heights in his career, achieving career-high rankings of world No.108 in singles and world No.52 in doubles.

The enduring 34-year-old from Townsville has also contested 12 consecutive Australian Opens, with a mixed doubles final appearance in 2019 providing a major career highlight.

Doubles is now Smith’s priority. The world No.102, whose season highlights include reaching an ATP Challenger final in Canberra and an ATP semifinal at Delray Beach, provides an insight into his practice habits in our Training Tips series …

What is your favourite time of the day to practice?

To be honest, I’d say mid-morning. It gives you enough time to scramble if you need to get anything done in the morning.

How many hours, on average, do you practice a week?

It depends on whether it is in-tournament or out of a tournament. In-tournament, it is kind of tricky and depends on the schedule and when I’m playing. When I’m not at a tournament, I try to get in some good long on-court sessions to build up a bit of endurance.

Do you like to space out your training sessions, both on and off court, during the day?

I like to get it all done in one hit, that way it frees up the afternoon. There is always something else that pops up. So I try, if possible, to get a hit in then go straight into the gym, so then I’m done for the day.

What is the favourite part of your game to practice?

Serving. I know that if I can serve well in matches, then they tend to be a little bit easier, which is why I like to focus on improving my serve. I like to hit targets and challenge myself to hit as many spots as I can.

Do you focus primarily on your first serve? Or do you also practice your second serve?

I do like practicing my first serve. But you do also need to work on your second serve, in case there are any big moments when you need to step up and hit some good ones. So, I try to make sure I do work on both.

What do you enjoy least about practice?

I don’t like sharing a court. When there are four players on a court, everyone has their own agendas, and that makes it a little tougher.

What do you look for in a practice partner?

It’s always good to practice with someone who is upbeat and brings good morale. Some players can be a ‘Debbie Downer’ a little bit, so I prefer someone who is going to give you a good session.

Do you remember the first time you practiced with a professional player?

I remember when I was 14, I was lucky enough to practice with Sam Stosur at the QAS (Queensland Academy of Sport). I was in high school and was attending a QAS camp. I was a little bit nervous, but it was great.

Are there any practice sessions that standout as your most memorable?

Because I’m a left-hander, I’ve been lucky enough to hit with Novak (Djokovic), Fed (Roger Federer) and Andy (Murray) a bunch. Anytime anyone needs a leftie for a session, I can slide in there. I’ve been lucky in that regard.

What have been your biggest takeaways from practice sessions with these major champions?

Just the way they hit the ball, it’s so clean. They are at a different level to normal players, which is why they are part of the Big Four. It’s like watching a good golfer hit.

Is there any player from history that you would love the opportunity to practice with?

I would say either Ivan Lendl or Andre Agassi. I’ve gotten to know Ivan a little bit since he’s been travelling with Andy (Murray) and we banter a little bit. He was known for hitting the ball so hard back in his times, so it would be cool to see actually how big it was.

How important is to balance repetition with fun and competition during a practice session?

I think it is huge. Especially for kids, they need stimulation. You don’t want to make sessions too boring or you will lose interest. That is why a lot quit.

Are there any practice lessons you’ve learned, that you wish you had known earlier in your career?

Looking back, I probably should have worked harder when I was on the road. I didn’t have anyone pushing me then. I probably work harder now than when I was starting out, which is crazy to me, but I’m more motivated now. I used to just go with the flow. But it is what it is, you learn, and you mature. Life seems to come at you quicker as you get older.

Finally, if you had five minutes remaining in a practice session and could choose to do anything, what would you do?

Probably the bounce game. It’s a fun warm-up game that is challenging. I’d choose that, or maybe a baseline game. I like having a bit of fun.

Read more in our Training Tips series:
> Alex Bolt
> Lizette Cabrera
> Jaimee Fourlis
> Priscilla Hon
> Storm Hunter
> Maddison Inglis
> Jason Kubler
> John Peers
> Max Purcell
> Luke Saville
> Astra Sharma
> Aleksandar Vukic

Book online, play today: Visit to get out on court and have some fun!