The streak came to an end Thursday, though Pinecrest Academy sophomore Adam Rocko made his St. Francis opponent at No. 1 singles work until the very end of a 6-7, 7-6 (3), 10-8 loss.
And that was it. Rocko moved on, because it was never about the 21 straight victories for the 6-foot-2 right-hander. He found more disappointment that his loss might have prevented the Paladins from dropping a 3-2 match in a Region 6-A matchup that could have an impact on seeding for the region tournament.
Yet, there’s no escaping Rocko’s sparkling 21-2 record in just a season and a half of varsity tennis. Rocko has quickly become one of the top players in the county and in the state for the Class of 2016. Rocko is ranked 33rd among sophomores in Georgia by the Tennis Recruiting Network.
"I try not to think about it that much," Rocko said. "It’s more about the team and how they’re winning. … That’s really all that I’m focusing on."
Of course, the way an incredible stretch of dominance got started for Rocko was with utter failure.
In the first match of his high school career, Rocko was obliterated by then-Milton senior David Durham. It was a windy day. Durham was left-handed with crazy spin on his shots and impressive speed on his serves.
Rocko was overwhelmed, losing 6-1, 6-1 to Durham, who is now plays at Kennesaw State.
"He crushed me," Rocko said. "I was like, ‘Is this how it’s always going to be?’"
Rocko answered that question his very next match – and the next one and the next one.
By this past Thursday, Rocko had stretched his unbeaten streak to 21 matches.
"I want to win," Rocko said, "and I want to help my team win, but it’s not about the streak."
Rocko was classically introduced to the sport when he was 7 – his parents signed him up for lessons in their Cambridge subdivision in Johns Creek. Pretty soon he played in ALTA events in the neighborhood to get exposed to the match atmosphere.
But Rocko’s coach saw something in him, so at 9 he started competing in USTA tournaments around Georgia. He started admiring professional players like Roger Federer for his classic style and efficiency, and Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic for their youthful athleticism. By the time he reached high school, Rocko was serious about tennis.
But Rocko also found time for basketball. It was a nice diversion from tennis after three months of tournament after tournament, weekend after weekend, to go from the ultimate individual competition to the ultimate team sport. This past season, he played sparingly on varsity averaging 2.5 points and 1.7 rebounds a game.
"It helps me get tough," Rocko said. "A lot of it is mental, because in basketball you have to fight and scrap. When we do line drills, it helps me get in shape."
That’s one of the missing pieces to Rocko’s tennis game, he said. He’s got the consistent ground stroke to volleyball all match. He’s got the serve that can touch 100 miles-per-hour.
The next step is to learn how to attack.
"I’m more of a player who likes to sit back and hit ground strokes all the time," Rocko said. "I’m working on that right now, trying to hit harder and attack more to score more points at the net."