Cesar Nava learned a valuable lesson about complacency this season.
The defending Central California Conference singles champion entered 2014 with his sights set on an undefeated league run.
But the Golden Valley High junior had his goal cut short early on. Merceds Rex Cabrera has served as Navas chief competitor the last three years, so he didnt overlook their first meeting of the season. Nava acknowledged, however, that he wasnt as prepared.
I was shocked when I lost, Nava said. He took the first set pretty easily, but I had my chances to get back in it in the second. I broke him at 3-3 and was leading 5-3. I just couldnt finish it.
I learned I have to play my best every time out. I wasnt as mentally ready to play that day as I should have been and it cost me.
The 6-1, 7-6 (5) loss served as a reminder for the rest of the season.
With his focus rekindled, Nava didnt drop a set in league the rest of the way. He defended his title, sweeping through the CCC Championships, and beat Cabrera 6-2, 6-3 in the final. The impressive run earned him a second straight Sun-Star Boys Tennis Player of the Year nod.
What I saw in Cesar was a determination to work hard and get better, Golden Valley head coach Tim Garcia said. He was pretty focused on what he wanted to accomplish. Hes the type of guy that once he knows what he wants to do, he can make it happen.
Nava focused on improving his backhand and speed of serve to elevate his game.
There were definitely things I knew I needed to improve coming into this season, Nava said. I tried to fine tune my forehand to control the point more and my backhand was pretty weak. I was able to turn it into a decent weapon, being able to hit it deeper and with more spin.
My serve also got better. I feel pretty good when it gets up into triple digits.
Despite the tweaks, the postseason served as a reminder that Nava has plenty of room for improvement heading into his senior campaign.
The GV star had hopes of a Divison I Singles Tournament run, but drew the defending section champ in the opening round. He exited the tournament in straight sets.
I could have done better, but I got frustrated, Nava said. Id move him around the court and set up the perfect shot, just to miss it.
I was too hyped up. I thought I had to play my best on every play to beat him, so I kept trying to hit the perfect shot.
Just like his first loss of the season, the early postseason exit has given Nava a new focus.
The leagues not really strong enough to prepare me for that kind of competition, so Im going to try and get in as many tournaments next year as I can, Nava said. A lot of the best guys in the area spend their summer playing at (Modesto Junior College), so Im going to try to get out there as much as possible, too.
I want a chance to prove Im better than what I did this year.
Sun-Star staff writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.