New Kid on the Block

March 10, 2014

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Looking back on his first semester of college, freshman Nils Hallestrand felt like his transition into a college student and a collegiate athlete went well, but felt that were some bumps along the way.

Hallestrand came to the University of Iowa from Danderyd, Sweden, where he was an accomplished junior player. But like many freshmen athletes, it took a little getting used to life and athletics at the collegiate level.

“You are going to have some trouble coming in as an international student and as a freshman in general,” said Hallestrand. “I was struggling a little with my game and school was tough for me from the start, but I think I handled it pretty well and things are going really well for me right now.”

While many student-athletes have fellow freshmen teammates to talk to and relate with, Hallestrand doesn’t share the same luxury as he is the lone freshman on this year’s team. The roster features six seniors on the 10-man roster, and just one other underclassman, but Hallestrand has found having a senior-laden roster has it benefits.

“I would prefer to have another freshman, maybe two, in the dorms with me, but it is what it is,” said Hallestrand. “The nice thing is I have a lot of experience around me. Having six seniors has helped me get settled into the team and school. They have done a great job of bringing me into the program, and I couldn’t ask for better teammates.”

The next adjustment for Hallestrand was to his actual game. In juniors, Hallestrand found success in outlasting his opponent, by battling out lengthy points to secure victories. Not long after the season started this fall, Hallestrand realized there needed to be a change to his game.

The style of play that he had success with in juniors wasn’t translating at the collegiate level. He spent the fall and beginning of the spring season revamping his style of play to one that was more aggressive and better fit.

“I have to play much more aggressively than I did in juniors,” said Hallestrand. “College players hit a lot harder and force me to move a lot more, which isn’t a strength of mine. I need to come up with bigger serves and bigger shots than I have done in the past to put me in a better position to succeed.”

The hard work and changes have paid off. This spring Hallestrand boasts a perfect record, holding a 4-0 record in singles action while playing to an unblemished 3-0 doubles mark. His most recent victory came March 7, when he defeated Dan Rodefeld of Bradley in straight sets (6-3, 6-4). All four of his singles wins have been won in straight sets, including one match where he won by a perfect 6-0, 6-0 score.

Hallestrand is well on his way to successfully navigating his first year as a Hawkeye. He has been a solid contributor to this year’s tennis team which is off to its best start since the 2009 campaign, and achieved its first national ranking since April 2011.

If this year is a sign of things to come, the Iowa men’s tennis team will be glad that the new kid on the block is here to stay.