Southfield-Lathrup tennis player wins OAA Blue singles title
LATHRUP VILLAGE — Standing 5 feet, 1 inch, Southfield-Lathrup No. 1 singles player Donovan Luttrell hears the snickering from some of his opponents when he takes the court.
“They laugh, and they don’t take me seriously at the beginning,” the junior said.
That soon changes when the rallies begin.
Luttrell finished the season 9-0 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division and as the division tournament champion.
“What happens often is these kids underestimate him. They look at his size, and they think easy victory,” coach Dan Minadeo said. “Then after a few games and they’re losing, they think to themselves, ‘Why am I losing to this kid?’ Then after they drop the first set, they’re very frustrated, they get off their games and start making more errors.”
Luttrell’s style of play is based on consistency. He doesn’t try to dazzle his opponent with anything special. Instead, he moves them around the court and looks for a weakness.
“So he’s like a little backboard, really,” said Minadeo.
“I just stay in a relaxed mode, the same mentality,” Luttrell added. “I try to keep what they’re doing out of my head, play my own game and see how they are going to face up to that.”
Luttrell added that he’s emboldened when he sees his opponents begin to get frustrated with his consistency.
“That’s when I know I have them. I just stay calm, continue to get the ball back, and then they want to try and do everything,” he said. “I know they can still be dangerous, but I think I have an advantage on them.”
Going into the Blue tournament Oct. 4, Lutrell admitted that he had doubts if he was as good as he had shown during the regular season.
“I see these kids that have been playing a lot longer than me; they’re stronger and bigger,” he said. “The first time when I beat them, maybe I took them off-guard. But that second time, they knew what was coming.”
“It gave validation that he is a good tennis player,” Minadeo added.
Last season, Luttrell played No. 1 for Lathrup and finished third in the division. This time around, he earned a bye in the first round of the tournament and then won his two matches for the title without losing a set.
“It was a relief,” he said. “When I got that last point, it was like, I finally did it.’
The tennis season came to a close following the regional round of the state
tournament. Southfield High and Lathrup were in action in the Division 2 Birmingham Groves regional Oct. 11. The top two teams in each region and any team scoring 18 points advanced.
In the Groves region, the host team, Seaholm and Berkley earned state finals bids.