By Terry Jacoby/weloveannarbor.com
When Nikhil Gunaratnam was around 8 years old he picked up a tennis racket. He hasn’t put it down since and has become one of the top young high school tennis players in the area – and in Ann Arbor, that’s really saying something.
“When I think about Nikhil, two words come to mind – composure and competitor,” says Skyline coach Derrick Wilson. “Nikhil made a big jump to one singles this season putting him up against some of the best tennis players in the state every week. At no time, no matter what the match score was, have I ever seen Nikhil lose his composure or give any hint whatsoever that he was frustrated, worried or upset in any way.”
Playing in the very competitive SEC and Skyline’s very tough out-of-conference schedule, Gunaratnam, only a sophomore, has faced a majority of teams ranked in the top 10, if not the top five in the state.
“Nikhil has faced every one of these challenges with a level of determination and competitiveness that I have rarely seen,” says Wilson. “Regardless of who is across the net, Nikhil is going to give everything he has to compete with that opponent.”
Gunaratnam began his high school career last year playing three singles as a freshman. “I did very well last year going 25-6 and being seeded No. 6 at states,” he said. “I lost in the quarterfinals at states.”
He said this season isn’t about wins and losses. It is big picture kind of stuff at this point in his young career. But that doesn’t mean he can’t win a big match. He certainly has the game and the composure.
“I have been doing just as well as I have expected,” he says. “A highlight of my season is beating Saline. Earlier in the season, the Saline one singles player beat me bad but about a week later I played one of the best matches of my life and beat him in three sets.”
He said his personal goals this season include getting better and improving his skills.
“The goals as a team are to improve and hopefully get to states,” he says. “We should definitely get to states next year.”
He says the Eagles are a “fun” team to be a part of and that helps make the game fun.
“The tennis team is a fun team,” he says. “Although we graduated about 10 seniors last year we still have great team chemistry. All of the guys know each other and many of us have classes together.”
Gunaratnam, the son of Naresh Gunaratnam and Aruna Sarma, started playing tennis when he was about 8 years old. “I started playing in a small facility of two courts called Ann Arbor Tennis Academy (A2TA) and I now play at Liberty Athletic Club,” he said. “I like that tennis is just me out there playing and that all my wins and all of my losses are because of me. It is fun to just go out there and smack the ball and especially win.”
Gunaratnam, who has a 4.0 grade-point average, is focused on getting better before setting any long-term tennis goals.
“My goal for tennis this year is to improve my skills,” he says. “Jumping to one singles as a sophomore is a very tough jump so I didn’t expect to win much. I just hope to get better as a player and eventually win these matches. Next year I hope to win the majority of my matches.”