High School Sports

Kumar focused on No. 1 on the tennis court

Kavir Kumar is ranked No. 1 in singles for Country Day this season and No. 4 in the state.
Kavir Kumar is ranked No. 1 in singles for Country Day this season and No. 4 in the state. COURTESY OF MARY BETH LUXTON

Kavir Kumar was perfect on the tennis court for his Charlotte Country Day team last season, going 17-0 in singles and 16-0 in doubles.

But even after a sophomore season in which he didn’t lose a set, Kumar wasn’t completely satisfied, because the Bucs finished as the NCISAA 3A runner-up.

“I definitely played well last season, but the fact we still finished second by one match is still eating at all of us,” said Kumar, referring to Country Day’s 5-4 loss to Cary Academy in last year’s state-championship match.

“Honestly, I didn’t even realize I was 33-0 until (Charlotte Country Day coaches) told me after the season. You don’t really think about stuff like that during the season; you just focus on the next match.… I would have traded any of those wins for a state title.”

Whether Kumar is playing for Country Day or on the USTA junior circuit, where he competes year-round, he is used to winning big matches.

Kumar, 17, not only moved into the No. 1 singles position for Country Day this season but currently ranks No. 4 in the state, No. 26 in the Southeast region and No. 66 in the nation, according to tennisrecruiting.net, which lists him as a five-star recruit (the top rating for a player).

The Charlotte Country Day junior, whose serve already reaches 110 mph, is on the recruiting radar for several Division I teams.

Kumar has already become a “complete player,” according to Country Day tennis coach Calvin Davis, who also works with some of the top junior players in the Charlotte area with his Tennis Advancement Program.

Country Day coaches “were all really excited to see how well he played last year, but the past is the past, and he won’t dwell on what he did last year,” said Davis, who has 652 career coaching victories at Country Day, including 29 state championships (15 boys, 14 girls).

“Kavir is focused on backing up a great season with another great season this year. I think great players like Kavir are always moving on to the next goal.

“Even though he had a great individual season, he really wanted a team championship. A lot of players get caught up in the ‘me, myself and I,’ but Kavir is all about the team.”

Kumar has shown his leadership skills on and off the court for the Bucs this season, from getting the players ready for practice to helping teammates work on different aspects of their game.

Kumar was named a co-captain with good friend senior Evan Cater, who also was his doubles partner last year.

Kumar and Cater have been close for some time now, as they both moved with their families to Charlotte from Minneapolis in 2013, the same year they played together for The Blake (Minn.) School team that won the Minnesota Class A state championship.

“My last year in Minnesota, Evan and I were a part of a championship team that had great chemistry,” Kumar said. “We both saw how important that is to the success of a team. When you get in tough situations, you’ve all got to believe in each other and trust each other.

“As captains this year, Evan and I understand how amazing winning a state championship feels. But it starts from day one of practice; you can’t just turn it on. So we’ve been trying to make sure everyone on this team is working as hard as they can from the start.”

The Bucs return five of their six singles starters from a year ago, losing former No. 1 Will Turner, who is now playing for Boston College.

Kumar has shifted from No. 2 to No. 1, while Cater (No. 2), freshman Luke McClelland (No. 3), sophomore Maylin van Cleeff (No. 4), senior Naveen Paul (No. 5) and sophomore Jackson Motchar (No. 6) round another talented group, according to Davis.

While it will take a team effort to accomplish their goals, Kumar will play a huge role as the Bucs’ No. 1 player, Davis said.

Kumar fits right into the Country Day tradition of No. 1 greats like Turner, Andrew Gores (playing at North Carolina), Tripp Phillips (associate head tennis coach at North Carolina and U.S. Open doubles’ semifinalist in 2006) and Stuart Sherrill (former University of Georgia player).

Kumar takes the top spot very seriously.

“A lot of the success all of us have had here is because of Calvin,” Kumar said. “He wants to make everybody work to be the best player they can be. I made a tremendous jump in my game last high school season, and I’m looking forward to doing the same thing this season.”

At 6-foot-3, 145 pounds, Kumar hopes to continue to grow into his body and his game.

Despite the success he already has had on the tennis court, Kumar believes he can get a lot better at everything, from developing shots to the mental side of the game.

Kumar is looking forward to putting his skills to the test against some of the Charlotte area’s top players on the Country Day schedule, including Cannon School No. 1 Andrew Redding, Covenant Day No. 1 Will Ockerman, Marvin Ridge No. 1 George Lovitt and Providence Day No. 1 Alex Brea.

“When you play No. 1, you are going to play a lot of the best (junior) tournament players, who bring a different kind of competitiveness, and you won’t get any easy matches,” Kumar said.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge in each match, because it’s a great test of your skills. I’d much rather be tested than not be tested. I want play the against best players.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at jedwardsjr23@gmail.com.