March 23, 2011
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Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Friday, Aug. 13, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2010-11 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Junior Marc Bruche quit playing tennis cold-turkey at 17 and a half, and during his three years away from the sport, he served a nine-month stint in the German Army. Bruche’s unorthodox path continues as the No. 1 singles and doubles player for the Iowa men’s tennis program.
Bruche was a top-rated junior player, climbing as high as No. 5 in Germany in the Under-18s. He started playing table tennis as a toddler before moving to the tennis courts adjacent to his house, where he was tutored by a Czechoslovakian coach teaching him the finer points of the game.
Bruche was competing (and winning) at the highest junior level in Germany. He was a three-time International Tennis Federation quarterfinalist and a three-time semifinalist in the Bavarian Championships. The rigors of being so entrenched in the sport from a young age pushed him away.
“I quit playing because I finished high school and was worn out,” said Bruche, who is in his second year as a Hawkeye. “I played on the highest levels when I was 14 to 17 years old.”
After serving mandatory service in the German Army, Bruche was looking to take his life in a different direction.
“I had a rough time, as I had a car accident in the Army,” said Bruche. “I decided I had to change my life. Tennis always set my mind free when I was working hard — I could think better, I felt better. I decided to play tennis again.”
Coaches weren’t exactly lining up at the door for his services as Bruche had been away from the competitive game for three years. One of his friends, who he played with in juniors, had accepted a scholarship to Baylor University and that opportunity opened the door for Bruche.
“I had no idea about other schools, nobody talked to me,” said Bruche. “Obviously, I didn’t play for three years, so nobody knew I wanted to play in college. It was kind of tough to come back and start playing again.
“My first year was just getting back into it and now it’s just progress to get better and better.”
In his first year back in the game, Bruche posted a 7-5 singles record and a 6-7 doubles mark at Baylor. He helped the team claim the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles and advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Bruche wasn’t comfortable in Waco, Texas, so he began exploring other options, which led him to the University of Iowa and head coach Steve Houghton.
“Marc contacted us and it kind of evolved from there,” said Houghton. “He liked what he heard and saw at Iowa, and he saw it as a contrast in styles in what he experienced at Baylor.”
Bruche stepped into the top position on a veteran-laden Hawkeye squad when he arrived on campus. During his first season at the UI, Bruche posted an 11-11 mark in singles play, defeating two nationally ranked opponents, while climbing to as high as No. 15 in the ITA Central Regional rankings. He was also received the team’s Outstanding Newcomer Award.
“He’s been a legit No. 1 since he got here,” said Houghton. “He stepped in and played No. 1, which is exactly what we were hoping might happen.
“The No. 1 is the face of your program; he’s out there, people focusing on that match. He’s done a terrific job to be thrown into that and the Big Ten is one of the top conferences in the nation. To get thrown into that when you first get here and do what he did last year is really amazing.”
Bruche feels he is getting back into his tennis rhythm during his second year in Iowa City, which is boding well for the Hawkeyes. During the fall season, he notched a team-best nine singles victories, and he claimed the Flight A singles title at the Northwestern Invitational.
Bruche carried over his success into this spring, where he has posted a 7-4 record at the top singles position and an 8-3 mark at the No. 1 doubles line.
“It was just a matter of time until I got back into my tennis rhythm after three years of break,” said Bruche. “I have fun when I go out there and try to do my best.”
This year, Bruche has taken on more of a leadership role for the Hawkeyes. He isn’t the most vocal leader on the team, but his actions speak louder than his words.
“I try to lead by example,” said Bruche. “I try to set the tone on the court and compete as hard as I can.”
“I think he feels more comfortable as a leader this year than last,” said Houghton. “I still think it’s more by example, he’s a hard working guy and he’s simply won a lot of matches and has shown other guys how to win.”
At the midway point of his Iowa career, Houghton thinks the sky is the limit for Bruche in a Hawkeye uniform.
“He is capable of being all-Big Ten,” said Houghton. “I think there are honors ahead for him. He has the potential to qualify for NCAAs as a singles player. With another year to go, the sky’s the limit for him. He could achieve national rankings and qualify for the NCAAs.”
Bruche is studying political science with an international business certificate.