DANIELLE AND DONOVAN Mitchell began their tennis careers several years ago at the Metropolitan Racquet Club. - Jay Anderson, Metro Racquet Club
Both players, whose older brothers also played tennis, credit their parents for their love of the game.
“My mother introduced me to the game,” Donovan said. “I was influenced by my father who was an avid player at the club. Our two older brothers, Dion and Darrell, played tennis although they didn’t play in the college.
“I started playing because of my dad,” Danielle said. “He introduced me to the game when I was 6 years old. My mother also wanted me to play.”
Donovan started playing competitive tennis at age of 12 on the United States Tennis Association (USTA) junior tour. The tour included tournaments at Schoolcraft College, the Livonia YMCA, the Redford Parks and Recreation, and the Southfield Parks and Recreation. He also played in tournaments sanctioned by the American Tennis Association, a Black international tennis association.
Mitchell played his prep tennis at Mumford High School where he was team captain and played No. 1 singles his junior and senior years for the Mustangs. He was a PSL All-City selection all four years. However, he said his toughest competition came outside the city.
“When it came to competition, the PSL was a walk in the park,” he said. “My toughest challenges came outside the city.”
While at Mumford, Mitchell competed in the state regional competition. As a sophomore, he lost in the first round of the Class A State Final. He didn’t qualify for the state regional his junior year, but bounced back his senior year before losing in the Class A regional final.
He tried out for the Wayne State men’s tennis team as a walk-on and made the squad. He went 4-2 overall and 1-2 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). He was 3-0 in singles matches, playing one game at No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 singles. However, he didn’t play his sophomore year due to academics.
“I had a task of trying to study, travel, practice and playing games at the college level,” he said. “I dropped below a 2.0 grade point average my sophomore year.
“However, I worked on my classes and my grades and got my GPA up to a 2.34. I’m shooting for a higher GPA this semester. I find it as a sort of redemption.”
Majoring in business management with a concentration on real estate and hotel management, Mitchell is currently playing on the USTA circuit to get ready for the upcoming GLIAC tennis season. He has plans to play on the ATA Tour upon finishing WSU.
“I have a few sponsors who want to back me playing pro tennis,” he said, “but I have to concentrate on WSU first.”
Danielle, 15, is entering her sophomore year at Renaissance High with a good chance at playing at the No. 2 singles spot for the Phoenix.
“I know last year’s No. 2 player, Crystal Thomas, has graduated and I know I can move up to the No. 2 singles,” she said. “To play at the No. 1 singles, I have to challenge for that position.”
Currently playing on the USTA junior circuit for the summer, Mitchell, like her brother, said most of the competition in the PSL isn’t as challenging, but is good practice to work on her game.
“The PSL isn’t as competitive as the USTA because most of the players are still learning to play the game themselves,” she said. “When I got to the Class B regional last year, I lost in the first round in three sets.”
Mitchell is playing on the USTA junior circuit to improve and sharpen her game for the upcoming high school season.
“My goal is not just to win the PSL title, but to win at the state regional,” she said.
Mitchell, who has been playing tennis since the age of 6 at the Metropolitan Racquet Club, started playing competitively at age 12 on the USTA circuit. This summer, after struggling through a few tournaments, Mitchell managed to finish fourth at the USTA tournament at Schoolcraft College in July.
“They’re both nice kids,” said Jay Anderson, the Mitchell’s coach at Metro Racquet Club and also the head coach at Renaissance High. “Danielle is very competitive, but needs to bend her knees when she plays. Once she works on a few pointers in her game, Danielle can beat anyone and be the best in the state.
“Donovan is a ‘silent killer’ on the court. He has all the attributes to be a top professional player in the USTA. With his height (6-6) and the way he hits the ball, he can go further than current Black professional players Steve Campbell and MaliVai Washington.”
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