Hawkeye tennis' Dierckx struggling heading into Nebraska meet

BY TOM CLOS | APRIL 04, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa men's tennis sophomore Jonas Dierckx has been in a season-long slide.

Dierckx started the season 3-0 in singles, but he has since gone 1-10 — and all of his losses came in straight sets.

Head coach Steve Houghton said Dierckx's struggles have partly been the result of playing a high level of competition, but he also sees room for improvement.

"He's been playing somewhere between No. 2 and No. 4 for us, so every player he has played is good," Houghton said. "But he would agree that he hasn't played his best tennis yet."

Dierckx said this season has been a trial by fire and agreed that playing top opponents has led to poor results.

"Last year, I was barely in the lineup, so this is my first real season," he said. "It's not that I'm playing worse; it's just that I'm playing a lot of players who are better than me right now."

Senior Tom Mroziewicz, Dierckx's latest doubles partner, said the young Belgian should gain more confidence once the team starts winning again.

"At this point, when the losses start piling up, it's a matter of confidence and believing in yourself," Mroziewicz said. "When he turns that switch and gets that confidence, it will all turn around quickly."

Dierckx said there isn't one area of special concern for him, he needs to continue to work on his game as a whole.

"There's always something to work on but nothing in particular right now," he said. "I've just been playing and working on more tactical stuff than anything else."

Houghton, on the other hand, said he sees an area where his sophomore could improve.

"He's struggled a little bit with his ground strokes, which isn't like him," Houghton said. "He's better than that. When he gets confidence with his ground strokes, the other things will fall into place."

Dierckx's 4-10 singles mark is just one of several statistical issues that have contributed to the team's 1-14 overall record and 0-4 conference mark.

The Hawkeyes will try to begin erasing some of those nightmares when they host No. 68 Nebraska today at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex.

The Cornhuskers (8-9, 1-3 Big Ten) are coming off of their first-ever Big Ten victory, a 4-3 win over Penn State on Sunday.

"They're not in the league of [No. 3] Ohio State or [No. 18] Illinois, but they're probably in the next group," Houghton said.

The Cornhuskers are led in singles by the ranked German senior duo of No. 79 Christopher Aumueller and No. 95 Benedikt Lindheim.

"[Nebraska's] reputation is to be good up high in the lineup, their No. 1 and No. 2 players in particular," Houghton said. "But they're good top to bottom."

Aumueller and Lindheim make up the No. 19 doubles team as well, so Iowa will have added pressure to take better advantage of opportunities to close out doubles matches — something the Hawks haven't been able to do so far this season.

"We've struggled to close matches out," Mroziewicz said. "Against Northwestern [on March 23], we lost the doubles point when we shouldn't have. We've been up in other matches, but we've let our opponents back in."

But Houghton said doubles play has been far from the team's biggest problem.

"I feel good about our doubles," he said. "Singles is more the issue."

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