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Milicevic aces her way to the top

Junior Mia Milicevic practices her forehand at tennis practice with the WJ girls tennis team. “Sometimes I don’t like [tennis] because you’re alone but most of the time, I do like it for that reason because it really is just you out there. I do experience being part of a team at WJ but in tournaments and when I’m playing outside of school, I like that rush when I win a point because I did it all by myself,” Milicevic said. (Courtesy Mia Milicevic)

Junior Mia Milicevic played many sports as a kid, including soccer and swimming; however, one of her childhood hobbies has followed her as she has grown up in the last eight years. Tennis has been a constant aspect of her life, from her childhood to her teenage years and now, as she moves toward adulthood.

Milicevic’s parents never forced her to start or continue playing tennis; however, as all parents do, they encouraged her to dig deeper into the sport, which manifested in her competing in tennis tournaments.

“[My parents] encouraged me to start and continue [playing in] tournaments and they pushed me into it a little more because I was more nervous about the competing part but I learned to like it after,” Milicevic said.

As Milicevic grew up, she began playing more and more, meeting with her tennis coach three times a week for practice and joining local teams. However, tennis, which often features one or two players at a time instead of a whole team, can have its ups and downs.

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Eight-year-old Mia Milicevic holds her racket at one of her childhood tennis practices. Since 2016, Milicevic and her racket have been inseparable. “My dad put me in tennis and when I was a lot younger I played soccer, but we were just trying out options. It’s not that I didn’t like soccer, but we just tried it out and I loved [tennis] from the beginning.” (Courtesy Mia Milicevic )
“When you play a team sport [and] you mess up, there’s [the comfort that] other people are also making mistakes, so there’s a little bit less pressure on you. When you play alone, all the blame is on you if you miss,” Milicevic said.

While this uneasy pressure can be difficult to deal with, the WJ girls’ tennis team has helped ease that feeling.

“Sometimes, I do wish I picked a team sport because I see the [team] dynamic in lacrosse and soccer and they are a lot more hype and tennis is a quiet sport so it’s a little hard, but being a part of a team at WJ, I really really like that because when I play outside of school, you practice with your team, but at games, it’s all you,” Milicevic said.

On the WJ girls’ tennis team, Milicevic plays singles #1, a position to which her ex-DI tennis coach and Dad have greatly contributed to.

“I’ve never had a different coach, I’ve been with him [since I started playing] and I love him, but my dad understands things that my coach doesn’t understand sometimes, like my mental stuff which is a big part of tennis. It’s a lot of mental,” Milicevic said.

Milicevic is also co-captain of the girls tennis team, along with sophomore Elizabeth Martin.

“Being a co-captain with Mia [Milicevic] is really nice because she helps me a lot, like taking out the balls and leading the team in practice. She knew she was going to be captain before, and we were both new captains but she had a lot of experience … Mia [also] brings a lot of spirit to the team. She’s always spirited and happy and brings a lot of motivation and hypes us up before every game,” Martin said.

Milicevic also works hard to build community for the girls’ team, working with Martin and tennis coaches to make matches and practice the best they can be. Milicevic along with Martin led the team on a 10-2 regular season run, losing only to Churchill and Whitman.

“I really like having Mia [Milicevic] as a co-captain. She is really positive and she does little pep talks before matches and she encourages the team a lot. She’s a really positive influence on the whole team and pushes all of us to be better,” junior Christina Simpson said.

Along with spreading the love for tennis inside WJ, Milicevic also teaches younger kids how to advance their skills in the sport.

“I teach little kids tennis and I really enjoy that. Sometimes, they don’t listen, but it’s more than just [a job], I want them to have fun when I’m teaching them and also teach them to love the sport,” Milicevic said.

Milicevic wants to continue her tennis career after high school and into her collegiate years but is unsure what role tennis will play after college.

“My coach [is my athletic role model]. He’s awesome, he played DI tennis at Towson, and even since he’s in his 40s, he’s still super athletic, super committed, super dedicated. He even goes out of his way to make time for me and his other students. I don’t know if I want to teach tennis as a profession, but I want to be more like him,” Milicevic said.

This story was originally published on The Pitch Online on May 24, 2024.