© Shenzhen Open 2017

Akira Santillan conducts a kids' clinic at the Gemdale Pingshan International Tennis Academy on Sunday.

Smart Scheduling Shifts Santillan's Focus To Top 100

Young Aussie back on court at this week’s Shenzhen Open in China

Australian Akira Santillan has forged a memorable 2017 - and as a bonus, he's picked up a few pointers as to how to make his 2018 season on the ATP World Tour even more constructive. At just 20 years old, the #NextGenATP star is still learning how to balance his training regimen with tournament play.

If the 2017 season has taught him something, it's to pace himself, and to put in the time on the practice courts. "I've played too many tournaments in a row this year and it doesn't suit me,” Santillan said.

"I usually play better when I go practise, play my first tournament and get a good result. I'll learn from that and go and play three or four tournaments, practise, do the same thing over and over, instead of playing many tournaments in a row."

Currently No. 20 in the Emirates ATP Race to Milan, Santillan enters this week’s Shenzhen Open event well rested and with hopes of maintaining his form. He is coming off a busy and productive summer run - he won the Nielsen Pro Tennis Championship Challenger in July, then claimed his first ATP World Tour match win a week later at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open in Newport, Rhode Island.

And despite falling in the third round of the US Open qualifying, Santillan hardly considers the loss a setback. In that match, Santillan battled back from a set down to force a third set before ultimately falling to American JC Aragone 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.

"It was a bit of a tough loss, but it was also a good result," Santillan said. "It was also a confidence [booster] for the rest of the season."

The Australian opens his Asian swing campaign as a wild card and plays Evgeny Donskoy in the first round in Shenzhen. Taking his own advice, Santillan decided to take a break from tournament action after the US Open in an effort to be at full strength to close out the year.

"I had a good three-week break before coming to Shenzhen," Santillan said. "Just to recover, practise and have some time off to be ready for the next swing in Asia."

When it comes to ending the year, Santillan has a target but is also careful not to look too far ahead. "I still haven't made my goals for next season; I'm focusing on now," Santillan said.

"My goal [for this season] is to break the Top 100 [in the Emirates ATP Rankings]. If I achieve my goals for this season, I'll focus on a Top-50 finish next season."