The Perkins senior has dropped just two matches this season, both to the same opponent, Lima Central Catholic foreign exchange student Pierre Desprat.
Both losses left a bitter taste in his mouth, but Manickam said that might be just what he needs this weekend as he makes his third state appearance in Division II singles action on the outdoor courts at Ohio State University in Columbus.
“I just need to play my game,” Manickam said. “Just continue practicing how I have been. It’s not really so much about forehands and backhands anymore as much as it’s about how you play in key points of a match.
“That is the big difference,” he added. “That’s what I have learned through this season and during those two losses”
Manickam takes a 29-2 season record and a 106-22 career record into his final matches in a Perkins uniform. He holds the school record for wins in a career, previously held by Doug Linden.
“Manickam worked very hard during the offseason developing a much improved serve and volley game, however, what he really improved on was his mental game,” Pirates’ coach Joe Taylor said. “He is more confident, assertive, and in control of his matches from the very beginning”
Manickam also picked up win No. 100 earlier this month.
“It felt pretty cool actually” Manickam said of the milestone. “I knew this season that I would eventually get it. I really hadn’t been keeping track at all during it. It was just a neat experience to be able to do that and share it with my teammates. It was really cool”
Manickam placed third at the district tournament last weekend, and will take on Gahanna Columbus Academy’s Jacob Wareti in the opening round of the state competition at 9 a.m. Friday in Columbus.
“Every match from here on out is going to be a grind” the Oberlin College commit said. “I have to continue to practice hard. That’s basically what I learned is that every match is going to be a grind. Everyone I play is going to make a lot of balls. I just have to make more. I just have to continue playing well”
Manickam’s action was brief last year, as he fell out of the first round in a 6-2, 6-3 loss to Worthington Christian’s Joel Montgomery. Montgomery is back this year, but in the lower half of the Div. II bracket.
As a freshman, Manickam also qualified for state and drew Chris Diaz from Bishop Watterson. He fell 6-0, 6-0, as Diaz went on to claim the state singles championship in Div. II.
“I think I have a good chance,” Manickam said of winning his opener. “I am not nervous at all so that is a positive. I feel pretty good and I am just looking forward to competing and having fun — and having a good match”
He also said he feels more confident in his game.
“Definitely my ability to come to the net has improved a lot,” he said. “It’s actually something I look to do in matches now. Before I kind of didn’t like doing it, but this season I forced myself to practice it, and I can see a big difference in my ability to do that right now. Overall, my shots on both sides are much improved and I think I am just playing a lot better”