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Bolivian freshman tennis player adapts to change

BY RYAN MURPHY | SEPTEMBER 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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Coming to a different country to play a sport is a challenge — especially when you're forced to play that game differently.

Freshman tennis player Andres Estenssoro, a native of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, has had to make adjustments to his game and adapt to a different court style than the one he played on in his prep career.

In Bolivia, he played predominantly on clay courts, as opposed to the hard court used more commonly in the United States. On hard courts — used in the U.S. Open, for example — the ball bounces lower and moves faster, providing less time for the players to react than on the slower clay courts used in the French Open.

Estenssoro said the transition hasn't been easy, but near-constant practice has helped him adapt to the different style of play.

"It's difficult to change from clay to hard court because the ball is faster, but it's something you can adapt to," he said. "We're practicing a lot, so it's not as difficult [as it could be]."

Fellow freshman and fellow Bolivian Alejandro Rios noted that the different surfaces force them to play the game slightly differently.

"Because the balls move a lot faster, you play a lot closer to the net," Rios said. "You have more time to get set up on clay."

Estenssoro did not compete in the Hawkeyes' first tournament of the fall season last weekend, because Iowa head coach Steve Houghton said both freshmen were acclimating to the hard-court game.

However, Houghton said, he expects Estenssoro to be a contributor for the program once he gains more experience on the hard court.

"It's still a bit of a transition getting used to playing on the hard courts," Houghton said. "He'll play in some tournaments [in the fall], it'll just be a bit further along in the schedule."

Estenssoro chose Iowa over Tulsa, Louisville, and Wichita State — where his brother, Juan, plays.

The right-hander was a decorated player in Bolivia; he was ranked the No. 1 doubles player in the country and was also slotted as the No. 2 singles player. Estenssoro said the Iowa coaches and players have eased the transition for him and that the Hawkeyes are the perfect fit.

Rios in particular has helped Estenssoro with his transition, the latter said. The two freshmen, who have known each other since they were 9, have worked to adjust both on the court and off.

Rios said getting to play college tennis with Estenssoro is a huge help in getting acclimated at Iowa.

"We're lucky to have that," Rios said. "To come to a college with your best friend, especially when you're a foreigner, it's really great."

The 5-9 Estenssoro said Rios has become like a brother to him because of their shared experiences.

"Sometimes, it's difficult when you are far away from your home country," he said. "He's part of my family because we're living the same thing right now."


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