Melbourne, Australia, 8 March 2024 | Leigh Rogers

Ellen Perez has made a promising start to the 2024 season, winning her biggest career doubles title and peaking at a new career-high ranking of world No.8.

In our Train with the Pros series, the 28-year-old recalls her most memorable practice sessions and shares advice on how to improve your game.

Do you have a favourite time of day to practice?

Definitely morning – 10 or 11 o’clock is the prime time. It allows me a little bit of a sleep in, but also means you can get your training done with and feel like you’ve accomplished something early. I hate waiting around and feeling like you’re tired and lethargic throughout the day.

What is the favourite part of your game to work on?

I actually really enjoy working on my volleys. I think it’s one of those elements that when I was playing a lot of singles, I didn’t do as much of, and now that I’m transitioning into doubles more, I think it’s the fun part. It’s where you can get creative. It requires a bit of skill and good reaction times.

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

I think I neglect serving a little bit. It’s the part that’s a bit more slow and mundane. It requires a lot of repetition work and I’m someone that likes to be constantly trying something different and doing something that’s fun or exciting.

How do you like to structure your practice sessions?

It depends on the time of the year and what is coming up. In preseason, it’s a lot of drilling and repetition with a focus on volume. Right before a competition, it’s a lot of point play to feel like you’ve practised exactly what’s about to happen in a match scenario.

Do you try to practice with your doubles partner as much as possible?

Throughout the year when we’re at tournaments, I’m always practising with Nicole (Melichar-Martinez). There might be some sessions where I do it alone with my coach if I need to work on some specific things. But if we’re hitting with another team, we always do it together.

Ellen Perez (left) and Nicole Melichar-Martinez won the WTA San Diego doubles title. (Getty Images)

Ellen Perez and American partner Nicole Melichar-Martinez celebrate winning a WTA 500 title in San Diego. Picture: Getty Images

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

My first top player would have been Sam Stosur. I remember she had just won the US Open and I think she was No.4 at the time. I was 14 and training in Sydney, and got the opportunity through Dave Taylor (Sam’s coach at the time). I remember it being the coolest thing ever and one of the most amazing experiences. It’s something I’ve always remembered.

What was the biggest takeaway from that experience for you?

I remember idolising Sam’s kick serve and that was something I was taught to do too. I remember having that moment when I was able to show her my kick serve, and she was super impressed with it. Not a lot of girls are able to do it and it was an element of her game I wanted to emulate. To be able to show her mine and also return her kick serve, that was so exciting.

Are there any other practice sessions that stand out as memorable?

I’ve practised with a lot of the top-ranked players. I’m really good friends with Ons Jabeur and I’ve played a bunch of doubles with her, so done a few practice sessions with her. They’re always fun and light.

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

Justine Henin. She was someone who I idolised growing up and she’s one of the few stars who hasn’t come back. I also really idolised Kim Clijsters and I actually got to hit with her. Hitting with Kim was really cool. I think her ball striking was something I’ve never seen before compared to any other player. She just hit it so deep and so big.

What advice would you share with an aspiring player to get the most out of a practice session?

I think it’s always good to have a target in mind and something you want to achieve in every session. If you don’t go in with something you’re working on and wanting to get out of it, then you can get lost in the session a little bit. It’s also good to focus on getting one per cent better, rather than being consumed in the long-term results.

If you had five minutes remaining in a practice session and could do anything you wish, what would you choose and why?

I’d probably play a game. I really enjoy ‘Ammunition’. It’s played with four players on the court, all starting on the baseline. Then whoever wins the point, gets to go to the net and feed from the net. If you win the next point, you finally get on the board. You can only win a point from the net, so if you lose, you have to retreat, and the other team gets to come forward. It’s really fast and fun, you’re always scrambling to get balls and people are feeding when no-one is ready. It’s a really interactive way to practise your doubles.

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

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