Now, a focus on singles play

The Baltimore Sun

After playing a number of sports when he was younger, Atholton sophomore John Healey found tennis to be his favorite, and he has concentrated on the sport for the past five years. After winning a state title in mixed doubles with partner Julia Southerland last year, Healey is focusing on singles play, with the state tournament set to begin Friday at College Park. This season, Healey has finished runner-up at the county championship and in District V play. Healey, who maintains a 3.8 grade-point average, plays tennis throughout the year, competing in the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section as well as some lower-level national tournaments. He also enjoys going to concerts - he recently saw Kanye West perform - and college sports. His favorite television show is The Office.

What is it about tennis?

I was never really big into the team sport thing. I kind of like the whole idea of having what happens to you, it's up to you, and not have to have a game come into someone else's hand where you can't control it.

What are your strengths on the court?

Normally, when I'm on, I'm pretty mentally stable and I'm hitting my forehand and serves well. Also, most of the time, if I'm playing really well, I'm coming to the net a lot to try to end points quickly.

How important is the mental aspect to your game?

A lot of players underestimate the mental aspect of the game. You have to be pumped to play because if you come out flat, you can get rolled over pretty easily. You always need to be on it - with your technique and game plan to execute everything well.

What do you do to prepare for a match?

I don't like to think about a match a lot until about 10 or 15 minutes before I play because I normally overanalyze things. So I'm usually pretty lax until 10 or 15 minutes before I play. Then I like to stretch out, listen to some music before I go out on the court, and I'm fine.

What was it like winning the state's mixed doubles championship last year as a freshman?

It was pretty fun. I kind of expected that in the beginning of the year I wasn't going to be playing singles because [Wilde Lake's] David Nguyen and [Cantennial's] Ryan Lissner were playing. So Julia Southerland and I talked about maybe playing mixed doubles together, and then we started joking around about winning states. And then we got to states and then we got to the state final and won. It was a fun trip.

How do you think you'll do playing singles at states this week?

The singles draw - it's so much more of a challenge as opposed to mixed doubles because you have all the top kids in the state playing, so it should be interesting to see how that goes. I'm really looking forward to it.

What are the advantages of being left-handed?

Being a lefty, especially on your serve, it can disorient an opposing player because they're used to playing to the other person's weaker shot, which would generally be their backhand. But in my case, it would be my forehand. And then with the serve, the spin goes the opposite way, so it throws them off.

If you could sit down with anyone in the world and ask them anything, who would it be?

I'd want to talk with Roger Federer because he's the best tennis player now and maybe ever. I want to see how he does it and what it's like. He's just so calm on the court. Being the best tennis player in the world, you have so much pressure, everyone is out to get you. You're the one guy that everybody is chasing. He's changed the game - he's brought a completely new dynamic to the game that has never been seen before.

What's the best advice you've received?

My tennis coach tells us it's not practice that makes perfect, it's perfect practice that makes perfect. He's always telling us it's not just how long you practice, but it's the quality of practice.

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