Men’s tennis sweeps Creighton in first match of spring

BY BEN ROSS | JANUARY 31, 2011 7:10 AM

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Fans gathered at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex on Sunday to cheer for the men’s tennis team in its season-opener against Creighton. They didn’t know what to expect from a young team that contains only two seniors and a handful of players who have never competed in singles before.

What they got was a sensational performance from all players, who won in a fashion that head coach Steve Houghton likes to call “high-percentage tennis.”

“I was pleased that we won all our matches,” he said. “I get to see these players every day in practice, but today, I got to see their reactions in games. I was pleased with a win, especially an opening-day win.”

Houghton was happy with the way all of his players competed in the 7-0 victory, and he was especially impressed with the play of sophomore Garret Dunn. Listed at 6-8, the Tempe, Ariz., native looks as if he should be playing center on hardwood, not dominating singles and doubles play on a tennis court. Even though this was his first singles match at Iowa, he was able to play at a high level and looked like a confident senior.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Dunn’s play was his serve, which helped him cruise to a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Creighton’s Gabe Nagy.

“Being tall has its pluses and minuses,” the sophomore said. “It helps with my serve, but my speed and footwork need improvement. My serve is something I can fall back on. I have lived off it a lot.”

Dunn looked dangerous in doubles as well. He and partner senior Nikita Zotov cruised to a 8-1 win in their match.

Another player who has impressed fans since last season is junior Marc Bruche. Bruche, who hails from Hölsbrunn, Germany, played in the No. 1 singles spot on Sunday and beat Billy Paluch in straight sets (7-5, 6-3). The junior sees a lot of improvement in his game since last season, and he credits his increased maturity and comfort.

“I was expecting to win for the first time,” he said. “I felt more comfortable. I had a hard time in the first set; my opponent made me play a lot of balls I didn’t need to. I have a long way to go.”

Bruche certainly looked as if he was more comfortable than his opponent, who voiced displeasure in his game with a series of grunts and four-letter words that aren’t fit for print. But that didn’t faze the junior.

“He wasn’t winning the long rallies, he was frustrated,” Bruche said. “I honestly don’t think about it.”

Bruche also cited his success to assistant coach Steve Nash, who provided him words of confidence in-between sets.

“[Nash] reminds me of the stuff we do in practice,” Bruche said. “It helped me because he reminded me of my strengths, and that gave me confidence.”

Houghton isn’t too worried about such a large win affecting the Hawkeyes’ attitude.

“They know how our schedule works,” he said. “Our guys see this match for what it is, no overconfidence.”

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