Men's tennis aims to be aggressive

BY JACK ROSSI | OCTOBER 02, 2013 5:00 AM

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Be aggressive — that’s what the coaches of the Iowa men’s tennis team are telling their players this year.

For the past few years, the team’s style has been to grind it out and win points. No more.

Head coach Steve Houghton, who has followed a grind-it-out approach, believes an aggressive style is a better for the team.

“An awful lot of guys on our team are not necessarily geared that way,” he said. “It’s a lot of big guys, big shots, big serves. So I think this is a better fit for our team.”

So what does an aggressive style of play mean exactly?

The team now wants the players to find opportunities to attack the net and control the baseline. Instead of waiting for errors, the goal is to force the opponents to make errors.

Assistant coach Ross Wilson has worked with drills to get the Hawkeyes in a position to control the baseline and maintain their offensive position.

“I hit a nothing [a softly hit] ball,” Wilson said. “The guys try to get their weight back and then forward into the shot so it penetrates the other side of the court, and as soon as they do that, they’re looking to stay up on the baseline.”

The footwork is also very important, and for Houghton, it begins with the mindset.

“Start with the mindset,” he said. “If your mindset is to be aggressive and look for opportunities to make big shots, then I think actually helps your footwork.”

And the players are buying into the new system and enjoy the change of pace during practice.

“It’s a real positive approach this year,” junior Matt Hagan said. “Last year, it was a little more laid-back. Maybe at times we weren’t as focused or giving it the red light, whereas now we are giving it 100 percent every single ball. It’s more intense.”

The next step for the Hawkeyes is to translate their play into tournaments and be ready for Big Ten play in the spring.

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