Brendan Mailloux, a senior at Portland High, is seeded seventh in the Maine high school singles tournament, which starts this weekend. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Gavin Glider had Brendan Mailloux as a U.S. history student for two years at Portland High before coaching him on the boys’ tennis team.

Moving from western Massachusetts to Maine prior to his sophomore year, Mailloux earned a spot at No. 3 singles. As a senior, he was elected captain in both cross country and tennis. He now plays No. 1 singles for the 8-1 Bulldogs, who have lost only to York High.

“He’s one of those kids who is an old soul, wise beyond his years,” Glider said. “When you talk to him, you feel like you’ve known him forever.”

Q: How has your tennis season been going?

A: Really well. We came in not really know what was going to happen. But it feels great to be out here and to do so well after missing a season, it’s unexpected but it’s been great.

Q: What’s behind your improvement from third to first singles, and a No. 7 seeding in the state singles tournament?

A: I really tried to work on my fitness once we all kind of went into lockdown. I think that’s helped on the court.

Q: What did you do early on during the pandemic?

A: Mainly just running and working out in my basement. You really couldn’t go to gyms, so I would try to go for a run every day and do some strength (training) afterward. I also learned to juggle. My mom made it her goal over quarantine to juggle and just from watching her, I picked it up in about an hour. She was all mad at me. I started cycling as well. My dad’s done it since college.

Q: You were unbeaten in singles until a forfeit earlier this month against Falmouth’s top player, Aiden Hendry. What happened?

A: I learned from experience you should not play tennis the day after getting your second (COVID) shot. I was up 4-1 in the first set and I ended up losing the set 5-7. My whole body just shut off. Funny enough, (Hendry) was also feeling it, because he got his shot the day before.

Q: How did the pandemic affect your tennis last year?

A: It was certainly tough at first because of the whole unknown. But as summer arrived, people definitely wanted to get outside. I live a 10-minute walk away (from Deering Oaks) and I would come down and play with my dad and courts were completely full, all times of the day. Tennis is a great sport because you’re already socially distanced from people. I felt safe enough that over the winter I played inside once a week in Falmouth.

Q: Was it difficult to move to Portland from Massachusetts?

A: It’s certainly a bigger city compared with East Longmeadow. I had spent the last 13-14 years of my life there. My family was part of the community.

Q: How was the transition?

A: That first summer I felt so desolate and isolated. I sort of kept in my room, even though Portland is a great city to get out and explore. I missed having those connections, being able to play tennis with a friend. During the school year I really tried to make sure I got out, joined clubs and met new people. That was my goal going into sophomore year.

Q: What clubs did you join?

A: Band, cross country and tennis.

Q: What instrument do you play?

A: Percussion. It’s certainly weird having virtual rehearsals, but it’s been good.

Q: Do you have college plans?

A: I’m going to American University in Washington, D.C., to study international relations.

Q: Why does that interest you?

A: Just to be able to figure out why the world works. Not so much how, but seeing the reasons why countries make certain decisions and seeing how those will affect relationships or the world into the future.

Q: Any idea of your career plans?

A: I got an Air Force ROTC scholarship, so I’ll see how that works out. I hope to work at something in the government.

Q: The singles tournament gets underway this weekend. How does it feel to be seeded seventh in the state?

A: It’s sort of hard to comprehend. Sophomore year I lost 8-1 in my first match in the qualifying round, and now I’m the seventh seed in the state tournament. It’s exciting. I certainly was not expecting to be in this position.

Q: How would you describe your playing style?

A: I think I’m versatile on the court. I’m not the hardest hitter. I don’t hit the biggest serves. But I can get most balls back and I play strategically.

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