Payiavlas sets his sights on the prize | News, sports, jobs

Staff photo / Neil Madhavan. Warren G. Harding Anthony Payaflas looks at a backhand punch during Tuesday’s practice at Trumbull Country Club. Payiavlas is one of the top four rankings in this week’s local singles tournament in Akron.

Warren Tennis star Roger Federer has always prioritized the mental aspect of the game.

Imitating his idol, senior Anthony Paellas Harding has spent time improving the mental aspects of his tennis in recent months in preparation for his latest singles matches taking place in the top division regionally and statewide.

“When I started playing my first few tournaments, I let the game get the best of me – I let my feelings get in the way,” Payiavlas said. “But I think in the last year and a half, I’ve been focusing more on (the mental side) than my actual game of tennis, and I’ve let my tennis take care of itself. I have the right mindset (now). I have that positive side and always try to learn from my mistakes” .

Last year, after finishing fifth in the Northeast Championships to qualify for the states, Payiavlas bowed out in the first round in straight sets to the state’s final runner-up. He said he learned a lot from that experience.

“At that point, tennis is definitely important, but your mindset is about more than just the game of tennis,” Payiavlas said. “Because you’re on such a big stage, you can’t let your emotions get the best of you. When I’m there (on the court), I just try to get into my little territory and let tennis take care of itself.”

With such an increased focus on the mental side of his game, Payiavlas has a renewed sense of vitality and is hoping to qualify once again for this weekend’s District Championship again next week for the State Championships to chase the state singles title he always dreamed of achieving.

“That’s what I’ve been working and training for,” Payiavlas said.

To get into the zones, Payiavlas swept the sectional tournament in Solon last week, losing just one game in 12 sets across six matches to win the sectional title.

He’s one of the top four seed in the District Championships that begins with the opening rounds this morning at Springside Tennis Club in Akron and concludes with championship matches on Saturday morning.

The level of competition takes a step up by moving from counties to counties and eventually to states, but the traditional core player feels that his keystrokes combined with his fresh mindset will drive him far.

“I’m an athlete so I try to make sure I get every ball,” Payiavlas said. “That’s my main mentality is to try not to give up (free points) – to try to stay consistent, make every ball and try to use depth and length on (my shots).”

After the tournaments are over, Payiavlas has tennis and tennis lessons to look forward to at Denison University in the fall.

The three-star recruit, according to the Tennis Employment Network, has a close friend who currently plays for Big Red. This friend put Payiavlas on coach David Schilling’s radar and the rest is history.

“(Schilling) started the hiring process and I fell in love with him (and the other coaches),” Payiavlas said. “Then I went on an official visit and loved the campus and loved the players on the team.”

Payiavlas said he plans to major in finance or anything business-related, but for now, his focus is only on tournaments for the next two weeks.

“The first couple of years was a tutorial for me – I went there and found out about the (Lindner Family Tennis Center at Cincinnati State Championships),” Payiavlas said. “Now I can build from that and try to win states.”

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