Iowa men’s tennis characterized by diversity


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Lefteris Theodorou was the No. 1 amateur player in Greece for his age group, making a name for himself against some of the best under-18 players Europe had to offer.

Now, living in a new country and leaping to the college level of competition, he will embark on a new chapter in his tennis career.

“I have a coach and an organized training environment, which I never had before,” Theodorou said. “That’s why I wanted to go to college, and I feel like this place benefits me the most, and in turn, I can be a benefit to this program.”

The native of Athens is one of three players on the roster to come from a foreign country.

Sophomore Nils Hallestrand arrived in Iowa City a year ago from Sweden, and senior Andress Estensorro is from Bolivia.

“I had to make the leap last year as a freshman,” Hallestrand said. “It was tough for me coming in; you just need to grind it out and learn how to practice.”

Last spring, Hallestrand demonstrated potential for the Hawkeyes, compiling a 5-1 record in singles and a 5-2 mark in doubles.

For a team that lost six seniors from last season and will have four freshmen in the mix come spring, Estensorro is one of only two seniors on this year’s squad.

 “I never had trouble with moving to a new country,” Estensorro said. “Tennis-wise, the change in coaches was the hardest part about the transition.”

One of the freshmen, Stieg Martens, is from Belgium and will be eligible to compete by spring play (Martens will not be on the roster until he is eligible for competition).

“We all come from all different places,” freshman Josh Silverstein said. “But we’re a big family, and we’re going to compete hard together.”

Silverstein’s words are no exaggeration — the team consists of players from five different countries — including the United States — and four different states.

That’s about as diverse of an eight-man roster as they come, and the foreign players have adjusted to the new setting with relative ease. Although Theodorou has only been in Iowa City a couple of weeks, one might not know it by his presence around his teammates.

“If you came and watched one of our practices, you would never guess he was a foreign player,” Silverstein said. “He’s a people person; he’s going to be a big part of the team this year.”

Theodorou’s mother lived in the United States until she was 14, and he grew up speaking English. He also became accustomed to traveling across Europe and North America for tournaments before moving here to begin his college career.

“The great thing about tennis is it’s an international sport,” head coach Steve Houghton said. “These guys travel a lot for the sport; they tend to adjust quickly and Lefteris is no exception.”

While the jump in competition appears to be the only major concern for Theodorou and other foreign freshmen, there is one thing about America that has been tough for him since he has moved here.

“The food here is very different; it hurts my stomach,” he said. “It’s going to take some getting used to.”

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