CERES — Luis Ochoa says he was destined to play tennis well before he was born.
"When my parents got married, they wanted a sport the two of them could play together," said Ochoa, who just finished his senior year at Ceres High. "They both liked tennis and it was a sport they knew the kids could play, as well."
Luis was the first, followed by a sister and brother. True to their parents' plan, each picked up a racquet early and they have never put it down.
Luis is not only the top player in his competitive family, he's the best in the Stanislaus District — and is The Bee's Tennis Player of the Year.
"I remember being a kid while still in Mexico and seeing my dad's tennis trophies," he said. "I didn't really know what he got them for, but I needed to get some, too."
Luis has achieved that goal, taking the Valley Oak League singles' title the last two seasons and leading the Bulldogs to the league title this spring.
"Winning a team title was a big deal for me, because I saw how much work we put into it," said Ochoa, who graduated with three fellow seniors. "I thought we had a good shot last year, but we were fourth.
"We talked after the season about working harder. I go to the (Modesto Fitness & Racquet Club) pretty much every day, and Raul (Massie) and Wilson (Liang) go into a summer league. It made a big impact."
Ochoa, who will enroll at Fresno City College in the fall to play for its ultra-competitive program, was 33-1 as a senior and a combined 64-4 the last two years. He's leaving, but the Bulldogs welcome his siblings the next two years.
Sister Marifer is going to be a freshman in the fall, while brother Julio arrives in 2011.
"Julio is a lot like I was. He saw the trophies when he was younger and now wants to be the one to win the most," said Ochoa, praising parents Alfredo and Lupita for the work ethic they stressed while the kids were growing up. "They influenced not only my tennis, but everything in life."
Ochoa typically plays an aggressive game, attacking rather than sticking on the baseline to serve and volley. That carries some risk, however.
"If you're not on top of your game, you're giving your opponent a lot of chances to get the ball past you," he said. "If you've been working hard on your game, though, it's a very effective style because it forces your opponent to make fast decisions and leaves them out of position for a return."