Melbourne, Australia, 11 May 2023 | Leigh Rogers

Luke Saville, a former world No.1 junior and two-time Grand Slam boys’ singles champion, is one of Australia’s leading players.

The 29-year-old has excelled at doubles in recent years, achieving a career-high ranking of world No.23 and representing Australia at the Olympic Games and in the Davis Cup competition.

Saville, currently ranked world No.86 in doubles, is now making singles his priority. In the past 10 months, his singles ranking has soared from outside the world’s top 1000 to verge on a top-400 return.

In our Training Tips series, Saville reveals a positive attitude on the practice court is the key to his success …

Do you have a favourite time of the day to practice?

I’d say morning. I’m an early riser and a bit of a morning person. So I like to get my work done and then shut it down and enjoy the rest of the day, or do what I have to do to prepare for the next day of training or matches, or whatever it might be.

How many days a week do you practice?

Five to six. I usually take at least one day off after training throughout the week.

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

I’d say about 15 hours on court roughly, then I do a fair bit of stretching and running which adds up to a couple of hours a day as well. So, all up it would be a 30-hour training week I’d say.

Do you like to split your practice sessions up or complete them all close together?

It just depends probably on how I’m feeling that day and when my coaches can see me. Usually I like splitting it up, but sometimes I’ll do longer sessions because that is what is required in longer matches. You need to be able to stay focused and concentrate over a sustained amount of time, as you never know how long a match can go for.

Do you have a favourite part of your game to practice?

I’ve got my strengths and weaknesses, so try to dedicate more time to my weaknesses and working on those ones. My strength is probably around the net, I feel very comfortable around there, and hitting some big groundstrokes is really enjoyable for me.

Is there a part of your game that is your least favourite to practice?

No, not really. I’ve got to keep working on my serve. You never probably do enough on your serve I’d say, so I’ve got to keep trying to mix in that. It’s important to discuss with your coach what you want to do that day and work out your priorities, then go from there and try to balance it out.

Do you remember the first professional player you practiced with?

This is not specifically the first time, but when I was between 16 and 18 I had some good hits at the Australian Open with Rafa (Nadal) and Roger (Federer). Ever since they stop and greet me and ask me how I’m going, which is obviously a huge buzz – even now when I’m a pro myself. There was one year at the Australian Open when I was having a day off and the practice desk called my coach at the time and said Federer was looking for a hit on Rod Laver Arena from 12-2pm. That was at about 9 or 10 in the morning, so I said ‘alright, well I’m not having a day off anymore’. I got off the couch and got ready. That was leading into the tournament, so then he hit with me for the rest of the two weeks. I think he wanted some continuity. It was very motivating to give him the best hit possible, it was a great experience.

Were you nervous before your first practice session with Roger?

Yeah, most likely. I think we hit then played some games and he obviously touched me up very easily. But even now, it is still a buzz to see the top guys around. The aura they have is unmatched.

Is there anyone on tour you haven’t practiced with yet, but would love the opportunity to do so?

Probably (Novak) Djokovic. Even though I’ve hit with him a little bit and warmed him up before, he’s just such an incredible player. Actually, no, I’d say (Carlos) Alcaraz. I haven’t hit with him yet and his game is just scary with the things he can do.

Do you have regular practice partners on tour?

Not really, but the Aussies really stick with each other. We travel so many weeks of the year, so we have a lot of camaraderie and spend a lot of time together off court. It’s always good to practice with each other, but you can also get a little comfortable practicing with the same guys, so changing it up is important.

Is it easy to find hitting partners on tour or can it be a little stressful?

You build up enough friendships and a contact list in your phone, then once you see the draw and what day guys are playing you can message them to ask. Practice desks (at tournaments) are great too, you can put yourself down as looking or see who else is on that list. Sometimes it can be stressful, especially if the schedule comes out late and you’re the first or second match on, then you can find yourself scrambling to find someone to warm up with. A lot of tournaments do have hitting partners though, so usually it works out.

Is there any player from history that you’d love the opportunity to hit with?

Maybe Rod Laver in his prime. I’ve read his book and he’s such an idol and such a big figure in Australian tennis and tennis in general. Just to rewind the clock and hit with their racquets and the surfaces they played on would be just an incredible experience.

What advice would you share to an aspiring player to get the most out of their practice sessions?

I have the attitude of leaving it all out there every session. I like to pride myself on that and getting the best out of myself. I think respecting your opponents, coaches and everyone who is there for you is important, because they don’t have to be there. I think it is very important to remember that everyone in your corner wants the best for you, so have good manners and recognise that they are taking time out of their day and lives to help you get the best out of yourself. It is easy to become very selfish and focused on your own stuff, which you need to be to an extent because it is a very tough sport, but you see a lot of the top players do have very good values and manners. I like seeing that to be honest.

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

Probably play some points. It’s always good to play as many points as you can. The top players are so match tough, they obviously hit a great ball. I mean, everyone these days hits so well up and down the middle, but when it comes to point play and handling pressure situations, that is what the top guys do the best. So, I think trying to play as many points as possible is ideal.

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
> Astra Sharma
> John-Patrick Smith
> Aleksandar Vukic

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