Australia, 26 April 2024 | Leigh Rogers

Arina Rodionova’s perseverance is paying off in 2024, with the Australian notching several impressive milestones.

The 34-year-old became the oldest woman to debut inside the world’s top 100 in singles in February. Then in April, she scored her first victory representing Australia in the Billie Jean King Cup competition.

The hard-working Rodionova provides an insight into her practice routines and offers valuable advice in our Train with the Pros series.

Do you have a favourite time of day to practice?

I’d say around 11am. It gives you enough time to sleep in and have a relaxing cup of coffee, then by the time you do your mobility and warm-up, it’s time to hit.

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

I don’t love playing points in practice, I lose focus pretty quick for some reason. I like doing different drills and running side-to-side, which is basically what I do on court. I enjoy doing two-on-ones or one-on-ones. It can be a bit tough, but you can make it short and sharp.

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

Probably high balls, I don’t love working on those. They’re not my favourite shot and maybe that’s why.

A lot of top-ranked players say they prefer playing points in practice, why is that not the case for you?

It’s not really a competition when you’re playing points in practice. I prefer a lot of drills and repetition. Last year I played a lot of matches, so I didn’t need to play points outside of the tournaments. This year is looking a little bit different, but I just prefer to do drills. I play tournaments almost every week, so I don’t forget how to play points.

Can you recall the first opportunity you had to practice with a professional player?

My sister (Anastasia) was a pro player, and she is seven years older than me, so it was probably her. I became pro myself when I was 14, so it was a long time ago.

Having an older sister playing tennis must have been a huge advantage and inspiration for you?

Of course. It was nice to have family on tour. It was definitely helpful.

Do any particular practice sessions throughout your career stand out as the most memorable?

I enjoy when my practices are fun and there’s music playing. I like doing fun drills, rather than doing the same thing over and over and over. Practices during World TeamTennis over in America were always a bit of fun. There’d be boys and girls on court, we’d being doing random stuff. It was always different and engaging.

Who are your favourite players on tour to practice with?

There are a few girls I’ve been hitting with lately, particularly the Dutch girls, Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove and Arianne Hartono, as well as Aleksandra Krunic. I like to practice with someone who has a nice consistent ball so that you can get some rhythm. I don’t love playing with big hitters, because they try to hit a winner off everything and it’s not exactly very pleasant when you’re trying to practice and find rhythm. There are some girls I’ll probably never practice with again on tour. I shouldn’t say their names but if you’re playing on tour, you’d know those people.

Is there anyone from tennis history you’d most like to have a hit with?

I’d say Martina Hingis, but we did get to play World TeamTennis together and that was fun. It was great to talk to her about her experiences. She was an amazing tennis player, so there was a lot to learn from her.

You’re known for your supreme fitness. Do you prioritise off-court training over on-court training?

It depends. If I’m playing a lot of matches, then I don’t actually spend a lot of time in the gym because I want to recover and be fresh for my next match. If I do have a spare week, then I do like doing gym. I also like going for long runs. So, if I feel like it and my body feels good, then I’ll go for a 10-kilometre run. I like doing sprints too, but the bike is not my favourite. I actually really don’t like it, but sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. But running is something that definitely helps me.

What advice would you share with an aspiring player to maximise their training sessions?

It depends on your age, but for most young players, it’s important to get hours on court. When you’re young, your intensity is not as high. Even if you think you’re working hard, you’re probably not. Putting in the hours and the hard work always helps. It might not help in the next week, but in the month or year after, it’s going to help for sure.

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

Probably volleying, that’s always fun. It’s not very hard, but still improves your skills and your reactions. You just have to try not to get killed at the net.

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

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