Malcolm Avore was undefeated in the regular season as a freshman, he was perfect as a sophomore and he was unblemished as a junior. But the Hall-Dale tennis standout faced a new challenge going into his senior and final season.

Avore was going to have to lead the Bulldogs, taking over No. 1 singles after playing in the second spot as a junior. If he was concerned with the challenge, Avore didn’t show it.

“I think there was a little bit of pressure, but with my coach and all my teammates supporting me, there wasn’t a whole lot,” he said. “I knew I’d be playing the best guys from every team, I knew that would be more of a challenge than second singles was, but everyone was really supportive of me so it didn’t take that much of a pull on me.”

He didn’t play like it, either. Avore thrived in his final high school season, compiling an overall record of 11-1 and leading the Bulldogs to the Class C South semifinals.

“Never lost a regular-season match in his high school career. That’s pretty impressive,” coach Dan Bence said of Avore, who went 10-0 during the regular season. “But especially at No. 1 singles, to go undefeated in the regular season, that’s a real accomplishment.”

Avore had already made a name for himself over the course of his first three years, but he went to work making sure he’d be ready for that top level of competition that was waiting for him. Avore works at A-Copi Tennis and Sports Center in Augusta and owns a free membership there as a benefit, and he went to work wearing it out during the offseason.

“Pretty much any day when I didn’t have work or if I didn’t have anything school-related that I had to do, I was just trying to get out and play,” he said.

The result from that work was an improvement in Avore’s consistency, and an ability to hang in against players who would be more difficult to finish off with one shot.

“In the past couple of years … I would lose some points because my opponent would hit a good shot, but more often than not I would lose the point instead of my opponent winning the point,” he said. “And I think this year, just the long rallies, I forced my opponent to win the point a lot more than I would lose it.

“(I’d) get impatient and think ‘I need to end this point, so I’m just going to hit the ball really hard. And if I win the point, I win the point. If I miss, I miss,’ ” he said. “But I just try to stay calm in every match I play, and know that if I have to hit five more shots, I can hit five more shots.”

Bence could see it from the moment Avore showed up for the start of the season.

“He’s always been a good volleyer,” he said. “The two years in doubles (as a freshman and sophomore) really helped with his volley. And then this year, his ground strokes from the baseline and in were improved.”

With his strengthened approach to play, Avore was borderline automatic for the Bulldogs. He rarely trailed in any of his matches, battering his opponents with an unbreakable poise and a cerebral attack.

“Malcolm’s a very smart player,” Bence said. “He doesn’t overpower anyone, but he can figure out the weaknesses and take advantage of that.”

“I think I have pretty good awareness of where the ball’s going,” Avore said. “What side it’s going to, if it’s a drop shot, if I’m getting lobbed, if someone’s trying to pass me when I’m at the net.”

As for himself, however, and how he would be attacking, Avore matched his game plan to suit whomever he was playing.

“With those tougher guys you do have to adapt more and you have to be willing to play differently or be more aggressive or a little more patient,” he said. “When normally you’d want to hit a different shot, sometimes you’ve got to stretch your ability for something different. I think this year, more than last year, I had to adapt to whomever I was playing against.”

As his opponents would tell you, he figured it out.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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