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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By SYDNEY OCKER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa junior Josh Silverstein is mentally ready to get back on the tennis courts.
Silverstein spent the summer competing in tournaments across the East Coast and Midwest. He won a wild card tournament in his home state of New York, playing on clay courts.
“When I was a junior I used to play on clay a lot, but college tennis is only hard courts,” said Silverstein. “Clay is different, very slow. The matches are almost twice as long.”
Playing on clay can take a toll on the body that college players aren’t always used to.
“The points last longer, you have to be in good shape so the more aggressive player tends to be a little worse on clay and the more of a grinder-type of player tends to do better.”
The physicality of playing on the clay courts and the nature of tennis as a sport has helped Silverstein become a stronger athlete mentally.
“I found myself standing five feet behind the baseline trying to get to as many balls as possible to try breaking down my opponent,” he said. “It was tiring and tough on my body.
“It was a mental battle I had with myself. There are a lot of times you get frustrated on clay and if you work past that you build up your mental strength.”
In the summer Silverstein was playing for himself, but on campus he’s a member of UI men’s tennis team. The experience he gained and his growth mentally will help the entire team.
“Over the summer I put myself in a lot of positions to become mentally stronger,” he said. “At this point we practice three hours a day. We can all make shots and hit balls all day, but to stay mentally strong is the hardest part. Over the course of the summer I put myself in a lot of positions to become mentally stronger.”
Last spring, Silverstein won 13 singles and a team-best 14 doubles matches. He expects to help the team more this year because of his mental approach.
“The mental side has to be at least 80 percent of the game,” said Silverstein. “In tennis, you’re alone on an island and it’s the most frustrating sport out there so you have to make peace with yourself and understand you’re going to make mistakes.”
Silverstein plans to travel to Oklahoma in October to compete in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All-American Championships for the first time. It’s a challenge he’s ready to tackle.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “The best college players will be there so it will be a good chance for me to establish myself and make a name for my team.
“I’m in good shape and my head is competitively strong right now. I am excited and thirsty for competition.”