Australia, 1 March 2024 | Jackson Mansell

Dane Sweeny has achieved several impressive firsts so far in 2024.

The 23-year-old made his Grand Slam main-draw singles debut at the Australian Open. After earning his spot through qualifying, Sweeny valiantly extended 22nd seed Francisco Cerundolo to five sets in the opening round.

He then broke into the world’s top 200 in February after progressing to a first ATP Challenger final.

The hard-working Sweeny also practised with world No.1 Novak Djokovic at Rod Laver Arena during the Australian Open, an experience he fondly recalls in our Train with the pros series …

What is your favourite time of day to practice and why?

I like to have slow mornings, have a coffee, and read and write for a bit. So if I had to choose, probably midday or early afternoon. I like to do just one big session lasting two to three hours. I like just doing it in one block, so you don’t have to warm up twice.

How many hours, on average, do you spend on the practice court per week?

It varies a little bit, but I’d say somewhere between 15 and 20 hours on average.

Do you have a favourite part of your game to work on?

I’d say my forehand is probably the shot I like to hit the most. I’m pretty obsessed with technique and how the ball is feeling, technical stuff. It can be to my detriment sometimes, as I’m trying to think about it too much.

Do you have a least favourite part of your game to work on?

Serving can be a little bit boring sometimes.

What advice would you give to an aspiring player to try and get the most out of a training session?

I’d say that tennis isn’t everything, keep a holistic approach to life and not try to get too down about tennis. As much as we need to take it seriously to be good at it, it’s not the be all and end all. Although there’s a lot more to life than tennis, it is a beautiful game if you have a holistic approach to it. So try and have a balanced life.

Can you remember the first professional player you had the opportunity to hit with?

I have an early memory of practising with Hyeon Chung at the Brisbane International maybe six years ago. I think that was just before he made the Australian Open semifinals as well. That was pretty cool.

Can you recall any particular training sessions that you were super nervous for?

I was pretty nervous for (Novak) Djokovic, that would have been up there. When I was younger, I was nervous as well to hit with Ash Barty.

Dane Sweeny and Novak Djokovic embrace after a practice session at Australian Open 2024. Picture: Tennis Australia

Dane Sweeny and Novak Djokovic embrace after a practice session at Australian Open 2024. Picture: Tennis Australia

Tell us what the practice session with Djokovic was like?

I was a bit tight, I wanted to make sure I was a good enough hit for him, but it was unbelievable.

First of all, just his aura and being around the greatest of all time, with Goran (Ivanisevic) there and his team. I’ve seen him on TV and to actually have him there in real life, was pretty cool and he’s such a nice guy. I trained with him a couple of times and he was talking to my mum and my sister just about life. My Mum’s from Malta, so they were talking about visiting Malta and stuff. He just kept it really laid back.

But from a tennis side of things, just his ability (was incredible). He just looks like he’s in second gear and he’s hitting the ball a metre from the baseline every time with such good pace and he’s so consistent. I was doing all I can to keep up. I’m in gear six and he’s just chilling in gear two, so it was just amazing how efficient and clean his ball striking was.

Have you hit with many of the world’s top-ranked players?

I haven’t hit with a bunch of the top guys, but Djokovic and Jannik Sinner are definitely the best two I’ve hit with. I warmed up with Jannik during the Australian Open as well. They’re both super nice, down-to-earth, calm and made me feel very comfortable.

Are there any players on tour you would most like to hit with?

Carlos Alcaraz. Like Sinner, I just think he’s going to be the next guy to take over the game and I’d love to train with him.

If you could choose anyone from tennis history to practice with, who would it be and why?

Definitely Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. I’m a bit intimidated by Rafa’s spin on his forehand, so that would be a bit scary. But Federer, I think, definitely would be unreal.

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

I would say hitting forehands as hard as I can. I just feel like that promotes a lot of looseness. I feel like that gives me confidence to swing at the ball really hard in matches. On both sides, I can get a bit passive and tight in my arms, so it just promotes being loose and it’s so fun.

> READ MORE: From our “Train with the pros” series

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