Tomlins' injury hurting Iowa tennis

BY TOM CLOS | APRIL 18, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa men's tennis team has searched for a savior to stabilize the bottom of its singles lineup all season long.

It appeared the Hawkeyes had found one on Feb. 18.

Sophomore Chase Tomlins was fresh off of a 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 victory against Illinois State, improving his record to 2-0 in singles. More importantly, both of his wins had come in the No. 5 and No. 6 positions ā€” two spots in which the Hawkeyes had struggled all season.

"He was playing really well," head coach Steve Houghton said. "He was having success early on."

Then, like almost everything else this season for Iowa, a problem surfaced.

"I suffered a hip-flexor strain," Tomlins said. "It happened right before Illinois State."

Tomlins lost five-straight singles matches following his 2-0 start.

Houghton said the main problem with the injury is that Tomlins' range of motion is limited following each match, which in turn forces him to sit out of practice for several days following a meet.

"We've really had to pick and choose what to do with him," Houghton said. "It's the type of thing where he'll play a match, and then he has to rest it for two or three days."

Tomlins said the situation has made it difficult for him to get into any sort of rhythm.

"It's been tough because every time I get a chance to play, it sets me back a couple of days," Tomlins said. "Usually I have to sit out the next match and battle back the next two or three days in practice."

Houghton said Tomlins is the type of player who benefits most from the exercises run in practice, which compounds the issue.

"It's not that he's just missing matches, but along with it, a lot of practices," Houghton said. "He, as much as anybody, needs to hit a lot of balls and get a lot of repetitions. The injury has really limited him."

Tomlins agreed his game has taken a hit because of the lack of training.

"Not getting to practice has really hurt me mentally and physically," he said. "It's been difficult."

Senior Chris Speer, who has battled a torn tendon in his right hand throughout the season, said he knows exactly what Tomlins is going through.

"Being hurt is the worst thing ever," Speer said. "Chase and I both want to be out there at 100 percent, and when we're not, it hurts not only us but the rest of the team, too."

Speer recently returned from his injury. He said there's no secret to recovery; he just had to follow his regular routines and have a good attitude, he said.

"Stretching more, icing, and different things like that," Speer said. "When people are injured, they tend to be down on themselves, but we're trying to keep each other motivated."

Tomlins said he'll continue to work in practice for the remainder of the season with hopes of getting more playing time before the season is over.

He admitted that he won't be completely healthy until next fall, though.

"I probably won't fully recover until the end of the season," Tomlins said. "[The training staff] said to take some time off after the year so I can come back 100 percent."

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