As he changed sides during a recent match, Mount Hebron's No. 1 boys' singles player Rohan Nabar dribbled a tennis ball between his legs, bouncing it back and forth between his hand and racket as he moved.
Learned from countless practice hours, dribbling is a concentration exercise that indicates a player is in control and thinking his way through a match.
It's fitting that Nabar dribbles, considering he is always in control on the high school tennis courts, methodically working through points, shot by shot, forcing opponents to make mistakes.
"He's placing shots. He can put it anywhere he wants," Centennial Coach Jean Vanderpool said. "It frustrates [opponents]. It causes them to be impatient. They try to pound it back at him, and when they do that, [the ball] loses control and goes out."
A defending county and region champion, Nabar is the best boys' tennis player in the county and among the best in the region. The 6-foot-2, 130-pound All-Met player hasn't lost a singles match -- or set -- to a county opponent in three seasons.
Last season, he lost in the semifinals of the state championships and was expected to make another run deep into the tournament this season.
Except Nabar has decided to play doubles in the county championships, which means, if his team wins, he must play doubles in the regional and state events.
He said he wants to give someone else a chance to win the county tournament. In the fall he will attend Salisbury University, where he will play tennis and study business, and he wants to relax during his final high school days.
Besides, he doesn't see the fun in defeating opponents he -- and everyone else -- knows he could beat handily.
"I feel like a bad guy coming out here beating these guys 8-0," Nabar said.
"That's not what I'm about. I don't like taking away people's confidence."
Coaches and opponents say Nabar's crushing victories would be harder to take if he weren't so unassuming and gregarious.
Playing April 1 at Centennial, Nabar exited the bus with his arm in a sling, telling everyone he dislocated his shoulder. It was an April Fools' joke that Vanderpool said was warmly accepted.
On the court, Nabar said he doesn't antagonize opponents with the common self-motivating jargon like "Oh, yeah," and "Come on." Instead he cranks a forehand, wins the point and readies for the next.
Nabar's nonchalance allows lesser skilled opponents to enjoy their few glorious moments.
During the first game of the match, Atholton's Brent Stewart stayed low and whipped a two-hand backhand cross for a winner against Nabar. He lost the game -- and eventually the match, 8-0 -- but the shot put a smile on his face as they changed sides.
"I got a point," Stewart said to teammates watching.
"You won?" a teammate said through a black wire fence.
"No, I got a point," Stewart said.
Stewart said Nabar showed class on the court, clapping when he hit a winner and handling his victory with maturity.
"He really didn't have an attitude about it," he said. "I've played against kids who were beating me, and they'd get an attitude when they hit a bad shot. He seemed to have it in perspective."
Mount Hebron Coach Jen Remult said Nabar made a wise decision to forgo singles at the county tournament because he needs to have fun after playing under stressful conditions for so many years.
Nabar, 18, started playing tennis when he was 6 and gradually advanced to regional and national tournaments. For years he took private lessons and practiced daily. At one point, he was ranked 13th by the Mid-Atlantic Tennis Association boys' 18 division and No. 1 in the state.
But last year Nabar lost in the third round of a national tournament in Georgia and found himself disliking his favorite sport. He continued to play, making it to the state semifinals but didn't enjoy the competition.
The idea of traveling to national tournaments to secure rankings and the dream of playing at a Division I tennis school no longer excited him. He took time off and hasn't played tournaments this year. There are no more private coaches or after-school programs.
"I thought I was going to get burned out," Nabar said. "So I took some time off. I'm glad that I did; I like tennis a lot more than I did."
And nonchalant or not, Nabar still wants to complete his high school career undefeated in the county.
"I do, but if I don't, it's not the end of the world," he said. "If someone does [beat me], props to them. But I'm not going to give it to them."