Portage first-year tennis coach Scott Garrison figured senior John Fannin could handle the pressure-packed rigors of No. 1 singles.
Fannin is also a diver, and he placed 17th at last year's state meet.
"You're on a diving platform all by yourself ... you're the only one performing ... everyone is watching you," Garrison said. "(In tennis), there are 12 courts, and everyone else is playing. What he lacks physically is outweighed mentally."
Fannin was 7-1 entering Tuesday's match with Crown Point in his initial season at No. 1. He's been a key cog in the Times No. 10 Indians' 5-2 start.
"Tennis and diving are two different sports," said Fannin, who's done both since he was a freshman. "Diving has helped me prepare mentally. I have the ability to visualize in my mind how to do things."
The senior is also sixth, academically, in a class of 600-plus students.
"He's very much like a sponge, almost to the point where I don't know if he hears what I'm saying until he shows me," Garrison said. "He's able to relate to things."
That understanding transferred to physical parts of Fannin's tennis game.
"He's got a great two-handed backhand," Garrison said. "He knows to stay low and get his body into position.
"He can catch the ball on the rise, and he can keep the ball deep. He also puts a lot of pace and spin on the ball."
Fannin suffered his lone loss of the season Aug. 22 against Griffith. The match, itself, was suspended at 2-2 and it will be finished at some point this season. Garrison said Fannin was ill but still took the court.
"Nothing felt right that day; it was the worst match of my life," Fannin said. "It was a wake-up call for me. I had to step it up a bit. I had to keep fighting. I could never give up on anything."
That approach helped in a victory over Lake Central's T.J. Ruzga on Sept. 5. Fannin rallied for a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win.
"I was up 5-4 in the first set, and he came back to win," Fannin said. "He had a really good forehand, so I just tried to move him around more."
Even with his quality start, Fannin isn't getting ahead of himself.
"I just tell myself to stay in the present," Fannin said. "Going into this year, I knew it would be tough. I just have to keep things in perspective."