Northville's Kumar Eager to Prove 2021 Title Run Just the Start

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

October 13, 2022

NORTHVILLE – It might sound laughable that a reigning MHSAA Finals champion is out to prove people wrong.

Greater DetroitBut if there was ever an example where that is actually valid, it’s this year’s quest for Northville junior tennis player Sachiv Kumar.

Last year as a sophomore, Kumar stunned many in the tennis community when he won the No. 1 singles title at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final.

Kumar came somewhat out of nowhere, given he entered as the No. 5 seed and had seven losses going into the tournament.

None of that mattered though, as Kumar kept moving his way through the tournament and ended up topping Rochester’s Clayton Anderson in the championship match in a third-set tiebreaker.

Given it was such a surprise, the motivation has been obvious for Kumar since practice started in August.

“Just to say that I could win it again,” Kumar said. “That it wasn’t just luck last time.”

Going into this weekend’s Division 1 Final in Holland, it would be no surprise if Kumar repeated.

Seeded No. 2 going into the tournament, Kumar sports a 29-1 record and has taken his game to another level this fall.

The only loss came in the first match of the year to Anderson during a dual contest between Rochester and Northville.

Kumar had a match point, but ended up losing to Anderson in a tiebreaker to finish off a two-set match that took roughly three hours.

“I play with him a lot through USTA tournaments and other tournaments,” Kumar said. “I play with him like every week.”

Anderson deservedly is the No. 1 seed this weekend. In truth though, Kumar is more of a “1B” seed.

“He has all the shots that he needs,” Northville head coach Bob Young said. “Overhead, volleys, ground strokes. He can just do it all.”

There have been some specific areas where Kumar has improved from last year.

Kumar said his serve has gotten a lot better, while Young said Kumar’s enhanced conditioning has really stood out.

“Last year we struggled with him because of fatigue,” Young said. “There were two or three matches in tournaments in the beginning of the year where he had to forfeit in the third round just because he wasn’t in good enough shape. This year, that hasn’t been an issue at all. He’s been able to coast through everything.”

Success in tennis is certainly in Kumar’s blood, given his older sister, Shanoli, was named Miss Tennis in 2018.

The two have pushed each other constantly throughout their lives, and Shanoli was present at last year’s Final to watch Sachiv win the title.

“I always used to say I was better than her when I wasn’t,” Sachiv Kumar said. “When I was 8 or 9, we used to play like every day. She would coach me and stuff.”

Kumar said he hasn’t figured out his college future, but he will be busy once the high school season is over with traveling to junior tournaments during the winter, spring and summer.

“Every month, I’ll be going somewhere different around the country to play,” he said.

Before that though, he wants to finish his mission that he started in August.

Anderson could very well be waiting again in the final.

Regardless, the motivation is obvious for Kumar this weekend in Holland.

“It sounds nice to win it twice in a row,” he said.

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTO Northville’s Sachiv Kumar prepares to serve during a match his sophomore season. (Photo courtesy of the Northville boys tennis program.)

West Iron Makes Every Point Count Winning Finals Title by Slimmest of Margins

By Jerry DeRoche
Special for

May 30, 2024

KINGSFORD – After a two-year absence, the West Iron County Wykons returned to the top of Division 2 boys tennis in the Upper Peninsula on Wednesday with their razor-thin victory over host Iron Mountain and 2023 champion Ishpeming at Kingsford High School.

With two flight championships and four runner-up finishes, West Iron County recorded 14 points compared to 13 for Iron Mountain and 12 for Ishpeming.

Junior No. 2 singles player Zander Birmingham and the No. 3 doubles duo of senior Ethan Isaacson and junior Keenan Dobson-Donati led the Wykons to their first team championship since 2021.

Second-year coach Jim Anderson was effusive in his praise for his squad.

“I’m thrilled beyond words,” Anderson said. “They put in a lot of work this season and had a ton of commitment, and that showed on the court today. They played with a ton of heart and a lot of grit, and they dug deep for the win.”

Birmingham rolled to his second U.P. championship after having won the title at No. 4 singles in 2023, losing just two games in his two matches on Wednesday, both to Munising’s Levi Westcomb in the final.

“To move up from (No. 4) singles to (No.2) singles and still have the same success means a lot to me,” Birmingham said. “I’m very, very excited and just proud of myself in general.”

At No. 3 doubles, Issacson and Dobson-Donati earned a bye into the second round, then won by forfeit in the semifinals before fighting off Iron Mountain’s Ben Truong and Carter Kassin 6-4, 7-5 in the final.

“Two of the hardest-working kids on the court,” Anderson said of his No. 3 doubles pairing. “Ethan’s a senior and one of the leaders on the team this year, and Keenan’s been moving up the ranks. They had a goal in mind today, and they achieved it.”

In the top flights, Munising’s Carson Kienitz recorded his third U.P. title – his first in singles – by defeating West Iron County’s Caleb Strom 6-4, 6-1 at No. 1, while Iron Mountain’s brother tandem of Reece and Oskar Kangas knocked off Hunter Smith and Caden Luoma 7-5, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles.

Iron Mountain senior Reece Kangas lines up a forehand shot during the No. 1 doubles championship decider.Kienitz, a two-time U.P champion at No. 1 doubles, scuffled a bit early in his match against Strom but rolled to the victory once he got going.

“Pretty much every match that I’ve played I start out really slow and I lose the first couple of games,” the 6-foot-4 junior said. “But I start to learn my opponent and I get in my groove, and I’m able to climb back up and finish it.”

Kienitz did so Wednesday against Strom, who came into the tournament as the No. 1 seed and had defeated Kienitz in their previous two matches.

“I knew he hits it really hard, and he’s a good player,” Kienitz said of Strom. “But instead of playing his game and hitting the ball back hard and making mistakes, I was just playing my game and hitting to his backhand and pushing the net.”

In the top doubles flight, the Kangas brothers also started slowly in the final but won 13 of the final 18 games to record their first U.P. title in their only attempt.

Reece said he had to convince his 6-foot-6 brother Oskar, an all-U.P. Dream Team selection in basketball, to take up tennis this season.

“I definitely had to talk him into it,” said Reece, who played singles his previous seasons. “He was thinking of doing some other sports and I told him, ‘If you and me play doubles this year, it will be a year to remember, especially for me in my senior year.”

To close out their “year to remember,” the Kangas brothers needed to gain some revenge on Smith and Luoma, who had won the previous matchup in the Mid-Peninsula Conference championship.

“We knew it would be tough, they are a quick team and they retrieve a lot, so it’s hard to score on them,” Oskar said of the Ishpeming pair. “But we had a sense of urgency today. It was our last (match) no matter what, so we wanted to go out with a big win.”

The Mountaineers posted two other flight championships. Freshman Braden Kassin outlasted West Iron County’s Dominick Brunswick 7-6, 7-6 at No. 3 singles, and freshman Malakai Broersma fought back to upend West Iron’s James White 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 at No. 4 singles.

Ishpeming won the other two flights. Hayden Hares and Tramon Gauthier knocked off Iron Mountain’s Geno Schinderle and Dylan Lindgren 6-4, 6-4 at No. 2 doubles, while Adam Maki and Ethan Corp topped West Iron’s Jackson Secord and Matthew Swenski 6-3, 6-3 at No. 4 doubles.

PHOTOS (Top) Munising's Carson Kienitz returns a serve during the No. 1 singles championship match at the MHSAA U.P. Division 2 Final on Wednesday in Kingsford. (Middle) Iron Mountain senior Reece Kangas lines up a forehand shot during the No. 1 doubles championship decider. (Photos by Sean Chase.)