Playing a strong mind game

Mental toughness helps Sherando’s Mikus find success

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

STEPHENS CITY — Chris Mikus has always been mentally tough on the tennis court, but in the last few years that toughness has become even stronger.

Mikus’ mental game has been a big key to his success during his high school career. It certainly is one of the things that helped him have a strong senior season at Sherando.

“I’ve always been proud of my mental game in tennis, but it’s one of those aspects in tennis that I was really able to hone down on in high school season. It’s really come around in the past two years. I’ve always thought that was one of my stronger areas in tennis, is the mental aspect.”

Mikus, the Northern Virginia Daily’s 2013 Boys Tennis Player of the Year, said that for him there are three different parts to his mentality on the court. There’s the pre-point mentality, the during the point mentality and the after the point mentality.

“Before the point you have to clear your mind from the past points and past games. And remember to play each point as it comes and work to fight for each current point,” Mikus said. “During the point, I think the most important aspect is to stay patient, keep the ball in the court, stay consistent and wait for an opportunity. Don’t try to rush the point. Don’t try to go for broke, as far as trying to finish the point before it’s ready. Basically just wait for that opportunity to come, be patient and take the opportunity as it comes.

“And then afterwards no matter what the outcome of that particular point is, it’s important to once again clear your mind and get ready to start the next point.”

The left-handed Mikus used his steady, consistent game to wear down most of his opponents this season.

His mental toughness and consistency helped lead him all the way to the Region II individual singles final. Although he came up short against Loudoun County’s Jack McLister, it was a great way to cap off his senior season.

Mikus said the highlight of his season was the day before the final, when he won his singles quarterfinal and semifinal matches. He also played a doubles match that day with teammate Matt Blaney.

“I think my game was at its highest point in the season at that point,” Mikus said. “I feel like my game was really on that day. I was really focused and determined to make the most out of the opportunity, and I was very happy with my performance that day.”

Mikus had a successful season during the regular season as well. He split two matches with Handley freshman Parker Wilson, and finished as the runner-up to Wilson in the Northwestern District individual singles tournament.

Mikus and Blaney also were runners-up in the Northwestern District individual doubles tournament.

It was Mikus’ first year playing at No. 1 singles, and he said he was very happy with the season he had.

“I think I’m proud of my performance this season,” Mikus said. “I think that it was a good end to the high school career and I think that I made a lot of good improvements. I think playing No. 1 for the team, being team captain, I needed to step up my game from previous years. I think I’m proud of my accomplishment. I think I did a good job as far as improving, and stepping it up to being the No. 1 on the team.”

Mikus followed in a long line of top players over the last few years. Coming up behind players such as Kaleb Nguyen, Trevor and Trey Scott and Nick Lee, Mikus said he knew that the bar had been set high for him.

“Those are big shoes to fill,” Mikus said. “They’re great, great players, and I knew I would try to match their tennis achievements as far as game records and game scores go, but I wanted to also lead the team as far as sportsmanship. Our previous team captains, they were not only great players, they were also great sports and gentlelmen, as [Sherando coach Steve Jennings] would put it. That was one of the traits of the Sherando team captains that I wanted to emulate.”

Mikus helped lead the team to a very successful season. Sherando had a very young squad, with only two seniors in the top six.

The Warriors finished the season 11-8, and advanced to the Region II semifinals. They lost to eventual Group AA state runner-up Briar Woods, but still had a lot to feel good about.

“I think our team had a great season this year,” Mikus said. “I think we had a good group of kids. Not just great kids, but great sports. Just a great group of friendly kids that were supportive of each other. I think we bonded together well, and I think that showed throughout the season. I think we performed a lot better than a lot of people might have expected us to. I couldn’t have been happier by our team’s performance this year — on and off the court.”

When Mikus arrived at Sherando as a freshman, it was his first year in a public school since kindergarten. Mikus spent grades 1-8 at Sacred Heart Academy in Winchester.
He said he couldn’t have come to a better high school than Sherando.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Mikus said. “Sherando’s a great school. Not just the great academics, great teaching staff, great sports, great kids that go here, too. They were the friendliest, most welcoming kids. Even though they had never met me before, they just took me right in. It’s that type of camaraderie that really makes the school great — and that was Sherando.

“I couldn’t be happier anywhere else.”

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com