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Hawkeye junior tennis player looks to top last season's success

BY KEVIN GLUECK | SEPTEMBER 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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Junior tennis player Jonas Dierckx traveled around 4,326 miles over the summer just to run, condition, and reach the semifinals in three of 10 tournaments.

Dierckx was simply returning home in an effort to continue to improve. And reaching semis when competing against Association of Tennis Professionals opponents is a good way to start.

Last season, he was named the team’s “most improved player” at the end of the spring by the Iowa coaching staff. Dierckx went 9-4 in singles tournament play, compared with 3-6 his freshman year.

He also earned a berth in the semifinals of the Big Ten indoor championships in October 2011.

“I learned a lot from my freshman year,” he said. “During matches, I was nervous, and I learned how to handle that.”

During his freshman campaign, the Belgian played mostly in the No. 5 and No. 6 positions in singles. As a sophomore, he played a majority of his matches at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions. He even competed in the No. 1 position for two matches.

“When the coaches play you at No. 2 or No. 3, it’s a good thing for your confidence,” Dierckx said. “You showed that you’re a good player and they trust you.”

Head coach Steve Houghton noted the jump Dierckx made in singles last year, particularly against better competition.

“Freshman year, he was in and out of the lineup,” Houghton said. “He responded really well to playing guys who were a lot stronger than whom he played before.”

It wasn’t always easy moving up into higher positions for Dierckx. He said he felt a big difference in level of talent he faced when comparing his sophomore season to his freshman year.

“I learned a lot from it. I won a lot of good matches. I lost a lot of good matches,” he said. “Even though I lost, I felt like I learned a lot.”

He did well in the doubles game, too, going 5-2 in doubles tournaments. He and one of his doubles partners, then-freshman Matt Hagen, won their first four matches in Big Ten spring season. His doubles campaign climaxed at the Big Ten indoor championships, where he and Hagen won the Flight B doubles main draw title.

Assistant coach Steve Nash believes they are a good combination because of how they complement each other mentally and physically. He noted that Dierckx is calm on the court when playing doubles but knows when to challenge his partner.

Dierckx will try to build on his summer; he went back home to Belgium for the second-straight year to train and play in tournaments in preparation for the next college season.

“I worked a lot on my conditioning and ran a lot,” he said. “I think it is important to start practices fit.”

He said the tournaments he competed in against world-class opponents have helped him not only keep his game up to par but also constantly evolving.

“There are a lot of players [in Europe] who play professionally on the tour,” he said. “The level is pretty high there.” 

Houghton believes that the summers Dierckx has spent in Belgium will help contribute to his level of play while at Iowa.

“He really went hard at it as far as playing tournaments,” Houghton said. “I think he would agree that it gave him a lot of confidence.”


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