Alex Lewis was a leader on and off the court this season for the Birmingham Seaholm High School boys tennis team.
Alex Lewis was a leader on and off the court this season for the Birmingham Seaholm High School boys tennis team.

Alex Lewis was a dynamic doubles player and a ‘great leader’ for the Birmingham Seaholm High School boys tennis team.

Alex Lewis had an outstanding career for the Birmingham Seaholm High School boys tennis team.

He won two state championships. He went 71-13 in three seasons in the Maples’ lineup.

But those numbers don’t tell the entire story.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a player like Alex in our program’s history,” said Seaholm coach Nick Shaheen, who has been the Maples’ coach since 2018 after two years as an assistant coach.

Shaheen pointed to Lewis’ intelligence and athleticism on the tennis court, the leadership skills the senior exhibited this fall as one of Seaholm’s three captains, and Lewis’ diligence in the classroom, where he has a 3.991 grade-point average.

“As a coach, Alex is exactly the kind of student-athlete you want on your team,” Shaheen said. “Great teammate. Great leader.”

Lewis said he’ll remember more than the state titles when he looks back on his four seasons on the Seaholm boys tennis team.

“The team was inclusive starting in my freshman season,” he said. “It was a brotherhood.”

Shaheen was glad to hear that.

“It great to know being on the team had that kind of impact on him,” he said.

Lewis’ first two seasons on the team weren’t exactly memorable.

He didn’t crack the Maples’ perennially strong doubles lineup as a freshman and his sophomore season was shortened and challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic. He went 15-6 at No. 4 doubles with partner Alex George.

But Lewis went 26-3 as a junior playing with George at No. 3 doubles and won the Division 2 state championship.

This season, Lewis was 30-4 with longtime friend Zane Chutkow at No. 1 doubles and won the Division 2 state title.

“You need trust and great communication to be a winning doubles team because the match moves so quickly. Alex and Zane had that trust and communication,” Shaheen said.

Lewis said Chutkow, also a senior, was one of his closest friends on the team. They’ve been friends and tennis practice partners since they each attended Birmingham Covington School.

“Zane and I were successful this season because we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses on the court and when one of us was struggling, the other was supportive,” Lewis said.

“We didn’t have any issues. And we brought energy to every match. You need that when you’re playing doubles teams with the same tennis skills that you have.”

Lewis and Chutkow beat Birmingham Groves’ Jake Rosenwasser and Dylan Wolf 6-3, 6-4 on Oct. 15 in Midland in the state championship match.

It was the fourth time the crosstown rivals played during the season, and the fourth time Lewis and Chutkow won.

The Seaholm duo beat the Groves duo 6-4, 6-2 and 7-5, 7-5 in dual matches between the Maples and Falcons during the regular season and 6-3, 6-0 in the regional title match at Groves, helping Seaholm win the regional team title.

“There was no bad blood between us and those guys from Groves,” Lewis said. “It was a friendly competition.”

Lewis said he tried to put out of his mind the fact that it was a Seaholm vs. Groves match for a state championship. He didn’t want that to distract him.

“But it was kind of hard,” he said. “Our match was one of the last matches of the state tournament and there were a lot of people from Seaholm and Groves watching.”

Lewis and Chutkow beat Rosenwasser and Wolf in straight sets for the fourth time this fall, but it wasn’t easy.

“In sports, you’re most vulnerable when you’re very close to something you want very badly because you know there is something to lose,” Shaheen said.

“Alex and Zane were up 5-2 in the second set of the state championship match. They needed to win one more game to be the state champs. But they started to slip. When it was 5-4, I told them to just go out there and have fun. They did that.”

The victory by Lewis and Chutkow helped Seaholm secure third place in the state tournament team standings with 22 points (Midland Dow won with 32 points). Groves tied with Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central for fifth place with 18 points.

Lewis and Chutkow didn’t lose a set at the state tournament. They beat doubles teams from Traverse City Central, White Lake Lakeland and Okemos before facing their familiar foes from Groves.

Lewis was one of Seaholm’s three captains this season. The captains were chosen by Shaheen, who said Lewis fulfilled his role flawlessly.

“Before the season, I told our captains that sometimes a line needs to be drawn between being a friend and a teammate, and being a captain,” Shaheen said. “Sometimes a decision will need to be made that will be good for the team in the long term.”

Shaheen said Lewis was particularly good about making sure Seaholm teammates were there when their support was needed during a match.

Lewis’ parents are Steven and Jennifer Lewis. Alex, 17, has a brother Ryan, 19, a former Seaholm tennis player who is now a sophomore at Michigan State University.

Alex said he’s considering his college options. He doesn’t plan to play tennis in college, but he’ll continue competing in the sport.

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