In our ‘Training tips’ series, John Peers explains why focusing on one percenters is the key to long-term improvement.
John Peers is a two-time Grand Slam doubles champion, an Olympic bronze medallist and has been ranked as high as world No.2 in men’s doubles.
The 34-year-old Australian, who grew up in Melbourne and is now based in Perth, has reached such glittering heights through hard work and dedication.
Peers, also a proud Australian Davis Cup representative, reflects on his biggest practice-court lessons in our Training Tips series …
What time of day do you prefer to practice?
I’m normally a bit of an early bird, so I like to get up and practice in the morning. During training weeks, I’m usually out starting by 7.30am.
Do you practice every day?
I practice six out of seven days. I give myself one day off a week and grind the rest of it. Having a day off helps to freshen up both the body and mind. It’s nice to be able to relax and recharge to go again.
How do you get the most from a practice session?
By making sure things are competitive. You can get a little stale at times but making the practice competitive helps you to have more fun. It doesn’t really matter what you’re working on at the time, finding ways to invent games or make it as close to match play helps you enjoy it more.
Is there a part of your game you least enjoy practicing?
Not really, you just have to get to work and get on with all of it.
In doubles, is it always important to practice with your partner?
There are periods of time where you’ve got to do a lot together, but once you get the hang of what each other wants to do at certain moments, then you’ve got to go back and get the work done that you need to do. Improving your own game also helps the team. At the end of the day, you’ve got to know what the team goals and objectives are so that you don’t leave any holes out there. Sometimes you can go long periods of not playing or training together and then come back and gel straight away, as long as you know what each other wants to do.
Do you remember the first professional player you had the opportunity to practice with?
Not really, it’s a few years ago now. I was lucky enough to be a hitting partner at the Australian Open when I was finishing juniors, so I got the chance to hit with many different players back in the day. I also did that when I was playing US college tennis, as I’d always be back home around the Aussie Open. It was always a fantastic time to be in and around the tournament and see what it was all about.
Do any practice sessions from that time stand out as most memorable?
One of the most exciting was with Rafa (Nadal), which was a lot of fun. That was when he was starting out.
Is there anyone on tour that you haven’t practiced with yet, but would love the opportunity to do so?
The only one I’ve really missed out on is Roger (Federer). All the other guys I’ve played against or practiced with, you get to know all the guys when you’re travelling week in and week out with them.
Who is your favourite player to practice with?
It is always great fun to get on court with Lleyton (Hewitt), especially when he was still playing. He was unreal to practice with. His energy and excitement levels made every practice session unreal.
Were you nervous before your first hit with Lleyton?
Oh 100 per cent. Everyone always is. When you first get out there, he hits this ball that zings in so low, so you really have to be ready for it. He’s a true champion and always great to get on court with.
Do you have any regular or favourite practice partners on tour?
The Aussies really stick together and help each other out. We work hard and it brings all of us up together. We are normally a long way from home throughout the year, so you’ve got to stick together and make sure everyone is there for each other. I got to practice with Ash (Barty) a couple times at Wimbledon, when I was playing mixed with her, which was always great fun.
What advice would you give an aspiring player to get the most from a practice session?
It doesn’t matter how long you are out there for, just try to get one per cent better every single day. Over a long course of time, that one per cent will keep growing and growing if you just keep working on the little things.
Are there any practice lessons you wish you learned earlier in your own career?
Not really, I was lucky enough to have some good coaches growing up and was able to try and work on those one percenters early. At the end of the day, you’ve got to stick with what you’re doing and enjoy it. Half the battle is just staying in the game long enough.
Finally, if you had five minutes left in a practice session and could do anything you wish, what would you choose to do?
For me, it is always a reflex volley drill.
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