Prep tennis is new for Johny Mario, but the Chesterton freshman No. 1 singles player is no stranger to the court.
Mario has played tennis for seven years, and he's already taken part in several United States Tennis Association matches.
"He's match tough, mentally tough," Chesterton coach Tom Bour said. "Tennis is all he does. I knew he would be ready for the challenge."
Bour worked with Mario at Northwest Athletic Club in Michigan City a few years ago. The freshman also takes pointers time to time from his dad, John, and uncle, Mark, the duo that started Mario on his path in the game. Most recently, he's taken lessons with Valparaiso coach Tim Shideler. Combined with his USTA play, Mario comes into high school tennis as an experienced player.
Even with those experiences, Mario didn't enter high school with a swelled head.
"I never thought the position would be given to me," he said. "I didn't even expect to be playing No. 1."
Bour fully believes Mario earned his spot on the Times No. 3 Trojans.
"I made it clear on day one (of the season), that everyone here starts at zero," Bour said. "Everyone has a chance."
In six challenge matches, Mario normally won by scores of 8-0 or 8-1.
"He might not necessarily be our best athlete or best doubles player," Bour said. "He is the best player we have."
Mario's game isn't about sheer power, lessons gained from his vast amount of USTA matches.
"He's a scrapper; he's very consistent," Bour said. "He works the point and waits for his opportunity. He doesn't make a bunch of errors.
"He's tough to come back against. Once he gets his teeth in the match with a few-game lead, he will put you away."
Mario played his first prep match Aug. 20, and he won 6-1, 6-2 against Highland's Jeff Michner.
"I just try to play the score," he said. "I just try not to do anything too extraordinary. I believe my opponent is a great player, and I don't want to give him a chance to get back in the game."
There were some butterflies churning in his stomach before the initial match began.
"I did have some nerves," Mario said. "I didn't want to let the team down."
At this point, Mario seems happiest being a team player.
"It's very positive; I'm having the time of my life," he said. "Everybody has been great and so welcoming. Every day, I want to be out there competing for Chesterton."