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Photograph: Tennis ACT

21-year-old Australian Dane Sweeny has claimed his maiden pro tour title at the ITF M25 tournament in Canberra, defeating fellow Australian and No. 1 seed Akira Santillan 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in the final.

A relieved Sweeny spoke to The First Serve following his breakthrough win: "Relief I think is probably the best way to describe it. Just a sigh of relief to get over that final hurdle. I’ve made a final before but to actually win a tournament, it’s a good feeling for sure.”

Sweeny has enjoyed a fantastic start to the 2022 season which included reaching the third round on the doubles court at the Australian Open before his maiden title this week in Canberra.

"I feel like the pieces of the puzzle are slowly starting to come together. I knew it was only a matter of time before results were going to come my way with the hours I put in, so it was just almost like a waiting game,” Sweeny said.

The Australian has credited his recent success to improving his mental approach to the game.

“I think I can put it down to my mental approach to my tennis. I’ve definitely made a lot of gains in that regard. I think I’ve been competing really hard and even when I haven’t been playing my best tennis I’ve found a way to dig out the win which is good to see,” Sweeny explained.

In improving the mental side of his game, an element which Sweeny believes has enabled him to achieve greater success on the court is the use of meditation.

“There are a lot of emotions when you play a match. To be honest I think meditation has enabled me to not get so caught up in my emotions during a match,” Sweeny said.

”Obviously they’re still going to come, there’s still going to be negativity and anger and frustration. I feel like meditation has enabled me to create a space where I can witness those emotions and feelings come over me rather than get so identified and attached to them. I think that really helps put those emotions aside and enables me to be in the present moment and just focus on what I need to do to win.”

“I try to do it before every point especially if I’m getting quite emotional. I think before each point is great just to be present and witness what’s going on and not get so caught up in it in your head. When I feel like my emotions are getting the better of me, that’s when I really lock in and adopt that approach.”

Meditation has helped Sweeny gain a healthier relationship with the sport and his recent results would certainly suggest that the unique approach is paying off.

“Everyone’s on their own path and my path led me down the pathway of meditation. I think it’s been such a big influence and such a big reason of why I’m starting to not just get good results, but really have a healthier relationship with my tennis and just enjoy the whole journey and not to expect so much of myself and not let expectations get the better of me. I’m really just enjoying the journey as a whole right now. I’m riding the wave,” Sweeny exclaimed.

There will be five more ITF tournaments played in Australia and Sweeny plans on playing all five before hitting the road to continue his season.

”I’m going to be playing the next five tournaments [in Australia] over the next coming seven weeks,“ Sweeny said.

“In regards to what my schedule looks like after that, it just depends on how well I do. I’ll head overseas regardless very soon after the last tournament in Canberra. I’m hoping just to have a full time Challenger schedule, so I need to try and get inside that top 400, 350 to enable myself to do that.”

The Australian has steadily risen up the ATP Rankings in the last 24 months. Currently sitting at 519 in the ranks, the title should push Sweeny above his career-high ranking of 463 to sit just inside the top 450.

“I guess we’ll see what my ranking is after these next five tournaments, that’ll dictate what I do afterwards.“

As for his goals for the season - Sweeny is not one to write down a rankings goal for a season, but this year, as he continues his quest up the rankings, he did.

“At the start of this year, like everyone does, I actually wrote out some goals. I haven’t really been one to do ranking goals but for some reason this year I did - maybe to spark some more motivation and make sure I’m doing everything I can,” Sweeny explained.

”I think I wrote down top 250 by the end of the year, similar to that goal is to try and have a good enough year where I can get an Australian open main draw wildcard for singles in 2023. That will probably mean I have to get top 250 by the end of the year anyways.“

Sweeny will compete in Canberra in the upcoming week before the ITF tournaments in Australia move to Bendigo.


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