Iowa men's tennis team sweeps season opener


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The Iowa men’s tennis team started its spring season strong with a pair of 7-0 victories in a double-header against Illinois State and Western Illinois in the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex on Feb. 1.  

“Everybody on the team came out ready to play, and it really showed,” senior Michael Swank said. “[We] did what we know we can do, and this is the most confident I’m feeling about our team. We have the best opportunity to win the most matches in the Big Ten this year since I’ve been here.”

The Hawkeyes kicked off the day against Illinois State. Iowa only dropped one set in the victory over the Redbirds — a team Iowa had fallen to in its previous two outings. In singles play, five of the six matches were won in two sets. Playing in the No. 2 singles spot, senior Juan Estenssoro rallied to a 6-0, 6-4 win after falling 6-2 in the first set.  Senior Jonas Dierckx, playing No. 1 singles, defeated Jakub Eisner (6-5 [7-4], 6-4). 

“It’s was a great turnaround, not only to beat them but to beat them 7-0,” said Iowa head coach Steve Houghton, who is in 33rd year at the helm. “The guys that have been around awhile and have lost to them the past two times especially found pleasure in beating them.”

Freshman Nils Hallestrand made his college début, defeating Dylan Steffens in two tiebreaker sets to clinch the win at the No. 6 singles spot.  

The No. 3 doubles team of Hallestrand and senior Joey White posted decisive victories in both of its matches of the day (6-1, 6-0).

“In these dual matches, there is a lot more pressure compared with the tournaments in the fall. You play for the team, and your spot is important for the team outcome," said Hallestrand, a native of Danderyd, Sweden. “After my first set of singles, I felt like I could relax a little bit because I knew I could play at the level I needed to.”

“It was a very typical freshman performance. For him to come out as a freshman and win a couple matches is great,” Houghton said. “He’s a key guy for us, but his big issue is to swing a lot harder than he does at the ball. Today was a good first step, but he has a few more steps to make.”

The Hawkeyes resumed competition at 3 p.m., handily beating Western Illinois.

“I tell the guys that when we play these teams that aren’t quite as strong to challenge themselves, to play as well as you can play, and don’t pay a lot of attention to the opposition,” Houghton said. “These matchups are good buildups to tougher ones we’ll face later on.”

The doubles teams of Dierckx/Estenssoro and Hallestrand/White posted a pair of 6-0 victories at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots; the third doubles match featuring senior Brian Alden and Swank was not completed because Iowa had clinched the event. In singles plays, all matches were decided in two sets.

Houghton was pleased overall with the performances he saw from his team in its home-opener. 

“I thought it was a very business-like job on our part today in winning both matches,” he said. “I was concerned guys would come out in the second match and still be enjoying the first one, but they did a really good job of coming out and taking care of business.”

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