Jacqi Jacques dove into tennis at age 9 because, for one reason, she liked the pretty tennis dresses.
Four years later, Jacques (which she pronounces Zhock) would wear army fatigues if they gave her an edge. She is a precocious tennis warrior, a Beyer High freshman who already has taken ownership of the Modesto Metro Conference.
She still likes the apparel, of course, but she'll trade her lunch money for 6-0, 6-0.
"I don't think I'm cocky at all," Jacques said. "I have a goal and I want to reach it. Everyone has the will to win, but not everybody has the will to work."
Jacques, 13, has the will to work. Her spotless record serves as testimony.
"I don't think I've seen a more competitive athlete," Beyer coach Steve Clark said. "There's never a letdown with her even when the match is lopsided. Her intensity stays. That's just who she is."
Her numbers so far:
— 14-0 for the season and 10-0 in the MMC
— No dropped sets
— Only six dropped games in conference
Modesto High senior Mackenzie Cook won her first 51 straight MMC matches until Jacques ended the streak last month 6-0, 6-4 (the only time in the MMC Jacques has yielded four games in a set). Then, in the awaited rematch, Jacques rolled 6-0, 6-1.
This just in: She's hard to beat.
"I want to be the best," she says.
Jacques, 5-foot-7, pounds the ball from the baseline. She'll increase the pace until her opponent runs out of angles, energy or both.
"She's all business on the court. She's not going to be your friend," Clark said. "She's not mean or unpleasant to be around. She's focused about doing her job."
Weekends do not mean idle days for her. In fact, the opposite is true. She's ranked 10th in Northern California's 14-and-under bracket by the United States Tennis Association, and she often seeks stiffer competition in Sacramento in weekend events.
Losing in these tournaments doesn't exactly ruin her day. She equates losing with fingernail-scraping on the chalkboard, of course, but there is a tradeoff.
"I take it as a lesson," Jacques said. "I have problems sometimes with shot selection, like I have the weapon but I don't know when to shoot it. My second serve can be a weak spot."
Marcus and Debra Jacques, Jacqi's parents and both Grace Davis graduates, noticed how their older daughter (Symone is 11) could ride a bicycle at age 3. They encouraged their daughters to try the individual sports, and both quickly were attracted to tennis.
Jacqi was home-schooled for three months as a sixth-grader while she was motored to and from the Gorin Tennis Academy in Granite Bay. The thought flashed that a future as a professional player might be in play.
"I told them (at Gorin) that we're not raising a tennis player. We're raising a nice girl who plays tennis," Marcus said. "We've all heard the stories about young athletes who leave home and things don't go good. We've decided that if she keeps up with her schoolwork, she's fine."
Today, Jacques receives lessons from local instructors Fong Li and Leticia McCaig. Tennis remains important for the right reasons, she says. She hopes to earn a tennis scholarship, preferably to UC Davis so she can study dermatology.
By the way, if she comes off as a goal-minded perfectionist, she's OK with it. She doesn't need to be the next Maria Sharapova, her idol, but climbing such a mountain isn't a bad quest.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2302.