Watch ‘Showtime’ on the tennis court

BY BEN ROSS | MARCH 02, 2011 7:20 AM

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With the nickname “Showtime,” one would think that Austen Kauss may possess an otherworldly ability to act, or play an instrument, or at least have an affinity for the quality programming offered on the premium cable channel with the same name. But the senior men’s tennis player contends that the alias doesn’t really say much about him. He says the nickname started three years ago at an Intercollegiate Tennis Association tournament in Lawrence, Kan.

“I was playing in an exhibition match, and one of my teammates saw me playing,” Kauss said. “I was wearing a plain, sleeveless shirt during the match, and he called me ‘Showtime.’ ”

The name stuck, and it has followed Kauss around for the rest of his time at Iowa.

He has played tennis long before Showtime became his court name, however. His grandmother got him hooked when he was 6 years old, and he participated in his first tennis tournament when he was 10.

Head coach Steve Houghton didn’t select any captains this year, but he said the two seniors — Nikita Zotov and Kauss — are the leaders of the squad. Kauss said he loves his role as a team leader, citing how his teammates pay it forward.

“I take a lot of pride in [being a team leader],” the Overland Park, Kan., native said. “I motivate people when they’re having a bad day. It’s motivation to see other guys raise their level after hearing what I say.”

Sophomore Garret Dunn agrees with Kauss, saying the two are able to “pump each other” up during matches.

“Everyone plays better while he’s being supported,” Dunn said. “He’s always been a good role model. He’s definitely the most fired up and supportive at practices and matches.”

The encouragement Kauss receives from his teammates is reflected in the success he has had this season. The senior is 5-2 in singles matches and is undefeated at home. Even though the finance major has enjoyed success playing tennis at Iowa, he doesn’t see playing tennis competitively in his future.

Kauss said he would like to study criminal or business and commercial law next year, with the UI College of Law topping his list.

“I’m planning on going to law school next year,” he said. “I haven’t decided where yet, but I will probably play tennis leisurely. I loved playing every minute of college tennis, but I don’t see myself wanting to play professionally.”

With the Big Ten season looming and the first conference match set for March 6 against Illinois, Kauss still has time to make lasting memories of his final season as a Division-I athlete — whether it be on the court or during his free time, much of which he spends watching TV on his couch.

“I really enjoy watching tennis,” Kauss said. “Roger Federer is my favorite; he makes it look so easy.”

While his four seasons spent at Iowa have surely been filled with lasting memories, Kauss pointed to his team’s upset win over Michigan in Iowa City his sophomore year as one of his fondest.

“Beating Michigan at home my sophomore year, being a part of that, it was a huge rush of adrenaline.”

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