Smooth and steady, Livonia Churchill’s No. 1 singles player Sean Mulka controlled Monday’s match against his Farmington opponent like a surgeon completing a routine operation.
The junior, who was promoted to the top spot in the Chargers’ lineup following the graduation of former No. 1 player Jonathan Martin, made the game look easy, winning 6-1, 6-0.
Mulka is the first to admit, however, that the precision he has developed came with a price.
“I started taking tennis lessons in the fifth grade and they definitely helped,” he said. “But lessons just tell you what to do. If you actually want to get good, you have go out and hit a lot of balls.”
The younger brother of former Churchill singles player Joe Mulka, the current Charger ace grew to like the racket sport so much in middle school that he gave up the two other sports he played – baseball and soccer – to focus on excelling at tennis.
Quick, agile and well-conditioned, Mulka said he never tires of trekking up to the Churchill courts throughout the non-snowy months and practicing with friends.
“I try to hit every day if I can, at least for an hour, during the spring and summer,” he said. “I’ll meet Matt Smith, who is our No. 2 singles player, or Johnny Zhou up here and we’ll hit for a couple of hours. I honestly never get tired of playing.”
Mulka may not have mastered the grueling mental side of the sport, but he’s close. Case in point: a remarkable comeback victory earlier this season when he rallied to defeat Walled Lake Northern’s No. 1 player in three sets after dropping the first set 6-0 and falling behind in the second 4-0.
“The thing I like best about tennis is that it’s one-on-one, you against your opponent,” he said. “No matter what the score is – whether I’m winning by a lot or losing – I try to keep playing hard.”
While casual observers of the sport tend to focus on the players’ racket-swinging arm, the most-important fundamental is the positioning of the lower part of the body, Mulka revealed.
“There’s more footwork involved than most people think,” he said. “Your swing can be perfect, but if you’re not moving your feet and getting in the right position, you’re going to struggle.”
Like the bulk of the Chargers’ tennis roster, Mulka is an exceptional student. With several advanced classes on his current docket, he owns a stellar 4.3 grade-point average.