Once the No. 1 player in New England, it made sense that Rohan Shastri would dominate Berkshire County high school tennis this spring.
But paper and reality are two different things and even Shastri was nervous about his return to the Mount Greylock roster.
"One thing that surprised me was he'd get a little nervous for some of these matches, against players that definitely weren't near his level," said Mounties coach Stephen Bryant. "I think it was he wanted to make sure he did every match for his teammates."
Shastri helped lead Greylock to the Western Massachusetts team title, all while romping through Berkshire County on his way to the state singles championship. Even that trophy, he said after the win, belonged to his school. It was a cap to a season that lived up to expectations.
It's been the best thing ever," Shastri said. "I didn't know what it was going to entail, how well we'd do, how much fun it'd be. Honestly, it's been the best experience of my high school [career]."
Shastri finished the season perfect, never really facing a challenge until Wayland's Will Sharton forced a tiebreaker in the first set of the state championship match. It was another remarkable achievement to bring a state title back to Berkshire County. It was just like how he wowed the New England tennis community by rising to No. 1 in two age groups despite hailing from relatively obscure Williamstown.
But this return to high school tennis -- for the first time since middle school -- wasn't about wins and losses.
"There's plenty of advice he'd give us in terms of ‘Swing through the ball more,' or ‘Don't drop your shoulder.' Technical things," said fellow senior Jonah Majumder. "Also, the mental aspects. He's played in so many matches. He would say, ‘You just got to fight. This is a big point. Don't let yourself get out of this.' ... He knows how to win matches."
Shastri willed his team to victories, leading the Mounties to the Western Mass. title without a loss. Greylock didn't lose until the state semifinals when the Mounties fell to Bromfield.
The senior was an automatic win for Greylock, cruising throughout most of the season. Beyond those in-match adjustments, Majumder said just about everybody on the team got a chance to hit with Shastri. That was a confidence-booster.
"I know my game improved playing him," Majumder said. "I think in my ability to react and my ability to return balls that were hit as hard as he hit the balls. Having to return his shots and his serves was helpful. ... If I can play with Rohan, I can play with anyone."
Shastri fed off his friends, using their support to prop up his own confidence. Having those friends show up in force to the Western Mass. and state individual final was "huge," he said.
And as for those nerves? Shastri said he felt them during his first match of the season against Monument Mountain. It was his first real, competitive match in nearly half a year. He also felt a little tight at the start of every match with Lee's Tanner DeVarennes, who reached the Western Mass. semifinals. It was a feeling he liked.
"I really enjoyed the feeling," he said. "Once you go on court you need to fight, focus, play your game. That kind of fuels my tennis."