Men’s tennis optimistic headed to Wisconsin

BY AMIE KIEHN | APRIL 23, 2009 7:29 AM

The night before what could be the last match for the Hawkeyes, seniors Greg Holm and Christian Bierich spent it they way their time at Iowa began — together.

The Big Ten men’s tennis tourney will begin today in Ann Arbor with the ninth-seeded Hawkeyes facing eight-seeded Wisconsin. The No. 36 Badgers come into the first-round match falling in the national rankings after their crushing 7-0 loss to top-seeded Ohio State on Sunday.

Iowa closed the regular season with a 4-3 victory over Purdue, and the Hawks hope the momentum from the victory Sunday continues in their 8 a.m. match today.

“I think it is going to be a really good match,” Bierich said. “I think we have a really good chance to win, because everyone feels good after the Purdue match. Everyone has confidence on every spot, and everyone has been winning lately, so I think it’s going to be good.”

His inspired effort in the victory over Purdue’s Slavko Bijelica broke a 3-3 tie and clinched the win for Iowa. The senior’s last regular-season match came down to him, exactly as he had imagined.

Needless to say, the native of Sweden is feeling very good. Although Bierich’s opponent, Wisconsin’s Moritz Baumann, beat him (6-2, 2-6, 6-2), Iowa’s top player is not focusing on past defeats.

“I am just going to play amazingly, that is what I am going to do,” he said and then laughed at his strategy.

Jokes aside, he is confident in the Hawkeyes’ ability to overcome the Badgers and advance to face Ohio State.

“It just can’t be our last match because everyone is excited about it and going to play really hard,” he said.

For the Hawkeyes to move pass the first round, they need to claim the doubles point. Last time out, the Badgers nabbed it. Holm and Nikita Zotov lost, 8-5, in their doubles match against Wisconsin, and they plan a different outcome this time.

“I am going to do everything I can to win,” Holm said. “I know I will be playing doubles, so I’ve been focusing a lot on doubles — getting confident with every shot and just go out there and do it.”

Junior Tommy McGeorge and freshman Tom Mroziewicz won singles matches in the Hawkeyes’ last meeting with Badgers. McGeorge defeated Wisconsin’s Michael Dierberger (3-6, 7-6, 10-4), and Mroziewicz won his bout (6-3, 7-5).

Iowa head coach Steve Houghton recognize the Badgers are stiff competition but knows anything can happen come tournament time.

“One thing we have going for us is it is be playing on a neutral site,” Houghton said. “I think the Purdue match gave us some momentum, so that our guys will enter the match with a lot of confidence.”

If Iowa wins the early morning match, on Friday the Hawkeyes will face the Buckeyes, who finished 28-1.

“This match could be very meaningful if we can win it, in terms of moving up the rankings and improving our chances for NCAAs,” Houghton said.

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