After Handling Adversity, Dierckx Eyes Big Season

Jan. 14, 2013

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Junior Jonas Dierckx had the best singles record for the University of Iowa men’s tennis team this fall, and when the Hawkeyes return to action for the spring season, they will be expecting more of the same.

Dierckx has developed into one of the team’s leader, with talent and confidence on the court and the right attitude off it. Yet, that wasn’t always the case for the Lommel, Belgium, native.

After arriving to Iowa in the fall of 2010, Dierckx dealt with the same issues many student-athletes endure when first getting to campus. But, being thousands of miles away from his home, he went through a lot more than just that. Dierckx had to adjust to his new home, being away from family, learning to speak English all the time and adjusting to collegiate tennis.

The variety of obstacles Dierckx faced his freshman season showed in the results, as he went 5-12 in his rookie campaign.

“He really struggled right away his first year, even though we could see that he had all the skills we were hoping he’d have,” said UI head coach Steve Houghton. “It was a huge double-transition for him, just from being a freshman in college far from home and then adapting to collegiate tennis. It was a tough adjustment period.”

For me personally, my goal is to work as hard as I can without having any regrets after each match. Another important goal I’ll have is to help the other players on the team who face the same challenges I did my first year here.

Despite dealing with multiple mental issues, it was apparent Dierckx had the same skill-set that Houghton expected he’d have when recruiting him. Houghton discovered Dierckx through the Internet, and initiated conversations through email. After competing against a current Hawkeye in a few European tournaments, Houghton had all he needed to know to make an offer. After speaking with Bart van Monsjou, a Dutch tennis player who graduated from Iowa six years ago, Dierckx was ready to commit as well.

After a rocky freshman season, Dierckx was able to put everything together. He was a completely different player when he returned to Iowa City for his sophomore year. Nothing symbolized that more than his performance in the 2011 Big Ten Indoor Championships. Dierckx won the Flight B Doubles Title, and then went on to win four straight matches in the singles bracket. After knocking off the top-seeded player in the field in the quarterfinals, it was clear Dierckx had overcome that adversity.

“That victory gave me a big confidence boost,” said Dierckx. “He was not only a highly ranked player, but someone that uses all the tricks in the book to make his opponent lose confidence. Beating him and reaching the semifinals in the Big Tens made me realize that I can challenge the highest ranked players in the nation.”

One of the biggest factors holding Dierckx back was handling pressure and being nervous, and after the big victory at the Big Ten Indoors, it was apparent that he had overcome it. Since that point, Dierckx has followed the upward trajectory each coach hopes to see from their student-athletes.

He posted 15 singles victories and 13 doubles wins his sophomore season, and is poised to improve on that mark this season. Dierckx went 9-4 this fall, which included consolation bracket championships at the Penn Invitational and Big Ten Indoor Championships.

“To his credit, throughout all the adversity he faced, he was able to put it all together and he has been very solid since then,” said Houghton. “I think he is going to make a similar jump this year as to what he did between his freshman and sophomore season. I expect not only will he be playing the top guys in the league close, but will get over the hump and starting beating those guys.”

Dierckx played at the No. 1 or 2 singles position for 12 matches as a sophomore, and Dierckx described the difference between the two seasons as day and night. Dierckx will likely be playing one of the team’s top positions when the season begins on Jan. 25 against Illinois State. The Belgium-native has high aspirations for the season, and deservedly-so.

“As a team, going to the NCAAs is definitely our goal this season,” said Dierckx, who has 42 career wins. “For me personally, my goal is to work as hard as I can without having any regrets after each match. Another important goal I’ll have is to help the other players on the team who face the same challenges I did my first year here.”

Houghton and the Hawkeyes returned seven letterwinners from last year’s squad. Iowa will host its first six matches of the season at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex to begin the spring season.