It has been quite a journey for Central Magnet senior tennis player Nathan Zou.
As a freshman, he burst upon the scene and won the TSSAA singles championship, and other titles figured to ensue.
However, a stress fracture in his back slowed his improvement somewhat until this season when reached the finals again on Friday.
"I've worked my but off to get here," Zou said after winning his semifinals match on Thursday.
Paired against a familiar opponents in the championship match on Friday in Brentwood sophomore Donovan Janicek, Zou wasn't at his best while his opponent was extremely sharp in all phases.
The result was a 4-6, 3-6 setback to end his spectacular career.
Just two days earlier, Zou defeated Janicek in the team finals in singles play, but Janicek was too much for the senior on Friday.
"I beat him two days ago really, really easily, and I think I just came out a little too confident," Zou said. "That was probably a mistake, but that's what tennis players do in general, and that is to overlook their opponent. He played a really good match."
Zou and Janicek were tied at 4-4 in the first set, but the Bruin sophomore won two key deuce points to win the first set and dominated the second.
“First of all, he's really a great player," Janicek said. "Playing him two days ago, I kind of used that as a match to figure out my strategy for this one. I knew I had to be consistent.”
Zou, who helped the Tigers to a state team runner-up finish and will play collegiately at the California Institute of Technology, said it has been "four" great years at Central.
"When I came in here, Central had never made a state tournament or had a state champion," he said. "To be able to put myself in that position that means a lot to me and for our school.
"Everything I do I want to make Central stand out more because I love this school that much. It just means a lot to me."