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Decision pays dividends for Dierckx

BY JORDAN BUCHER | MARCH 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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The house would rumble and markings were left on the wall where Jonas Dierckx spent countless evenings as a kid hitting a tennis ball against the side of his house in Lommel, Belgium.

Dierckx continued to hone his tennis skills by competing in several international tournaments that helped him to a No. 1 national ranking in Belgium before taking his talents to the college level at Iowa.

International tennis players heading to the United States to play is nothing new. Dierckx, who is one of four international players on Iowa’s 10-man roster, came to the United States for the opportunity to balance athletics with academics — an option that is difficult to come by for many athletes in other countries. 

“I always believed in him and never doubted his abilities as tennis player,” his father Walter Dierckx said. “But I wasn’t sure that his level would be good enough to play in a lineup like Iowa’s.”

Jonas Dierckx’s head coach, Steve Houghton, put any of those worries to rest.

Being thousands of miles away from home wasn’t any easy adjustment for him, who had to overcome a language barrier and adjust to a more aggressive game of tennis, but his father was convinced it would give him a remarkable experience.

“For me, it isn’t so hard because I know he is happy in Iowa,” Watler Dierckx said.

The senior hadn’t originally considered the prospects of heading Stateside to play, but looking back on the previous four years of his college experience, he is convinced he made the right decision, despite a rough freshman year.

“My first year, nerves got the best of me during matches, which prevented me from playing at the level I played at before coming to college,” said Jonas Dierckx, who competed at the No. 5 and No. 6 positions.

The determined Hawkeye returned to Belgium in the summers to play in several international tournaments that helped him gain the confidence and experience he needed to play at the top of Iowa’s lineup. 

On his return to Iowa in the fall of his sophomore year, he made the leap from the bottom of the lineup to the top. He advanced to the semifinals of the Big Ten indoor championships, winning four-straight matches, including a straight-set victory over top-seeded Josh MacTaggart of Indiana.
Rightfully so, Dierckx was named the team’s Most Improved Player for the spring 2012 season.

“I knew the only way to get over these nerves was to play matches, and after that I became more confident and started to believe in myself more,” he said.

Dierckx credits much of his success to Houghton.

“He is very, very coachable, and very respectable,” Houghton said. “He absorbed everything I said like a sponge. The same guy shows up to practice every day and always has the right attitude.”


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